In point four from my anonymous objector, the issue of authority was raised as a reason why he feels that Mormons aren’t Christian. He wrote that Mormons believe “…[other churches] don’t have the authority to act in His name.” I previously wrote about the importance of authority to act in the name of Christ, but perhaps it deserves another visit to make the response complete.
He pretty much nailed this one. I confess, we do believe that there was an apostasy and that the keys of the priesthood were taken from the earth with the death of the early Apostles. Maybe it’s the naive Mormon in me coming out, but I find it hard to believe that this isn’t an important issue to other Christians. I would hope that this is important to anyone who believes in baptism or priesthood ordination.
When our missionaries teach the doctrine of the apostasy to those who are investigating our church, they use dialog that is carefully crafted to not offend. I am going to be blunt. This is the most important difference between the LDS Church and other churches that claim to follow Jesus Christ. It is this authority that gives power and vitality to the Mormon Church. A major focus of the message of the restoration is that angelic messengers ordained Joseph Smith.
Authority from Christ is important
We proclaim that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only church with the authority to administer the ordinances of salvation. That is a strong statement and a bold claim. We are not hesitant in teaching to the world that we are the only source where you can receive baptism and other ordinances that are recognized by the Savior as being valid, authorized and efficacious in the world to come.
The Latter-day Saint view of authority as the divine right to preach, act in the name of God and direct the Lord’s church is distinctive from other Christian churches. We do not believe in a continuous or unbroken line of authority from the early apostles. We also do not believe that authority can be found in the inerrancy of the Bible. Nor do we believe that one receives authority simply because of a sense of “calling” to the ministry.
While there is much truth in other churches, there is something missing. We have that missing piece, which is the authority of the Priesthood. We offer that same authority to all followers of Christ. It is true that we do not confer the authority upon women. We do not ordain women to be ministers in our church. This is by direction and revelation from God and will not change. With that authority we are confident that the ordinances we perform are recognized by God.
Validity of religious experiences of others
The issue of authority has come up so many times in stories and articles about the Church that the Public Affairs department has dedicated an entire Newsroom article to the subject. The piece focuses on acknowledging many good things about other Christian religions. We do not dismiss or diminish the validity of other people’s religious experiences. For example, you will find these statements there:
“Members of other churches who accept Jesus Christ and try to live by the principles he taught are entitled to divine guidance and inspiration in their lives. Faithful Christians who are not Latter-day Saints still go to heaven, and those who live according to all the truth and light they have will open themselves to further light in the hereafter.”
“Informed Latter-day Saints do not argue that historic Christianity lost all truth or became completely corrupt. The orthodox churches may have lost the ‘fullness’ of the gospel, but they did not lose all of it nor even most of it. Many Evangelicals caricature or overstate the actual LDS view, which is that the orthodox churches are incomplete rather than corrupt.”
Summary and conclusion
I think it is our confidence in our position of authority that unnerves some of our Christian friends. This confidence is often misunderstood as arrogance. We do not mean to be offensive. We do not mean to imply that others can not or do not have valid religious experiences. But authority to act in the name of Jesus Christ is something about which I would want to be very sure. Without that confidence, it is easy to dismiss the claims of others in speaking for God.
I was baptized by an ordained priest when I was eight years old. I was ordained to the Aaronic priesthood when I was but twelve years of age. I had the Melchizedek priesthood conferred upon me when I was nineteen, ordained an Elder and set apart as a missionary. I was later ordained a High Priest and set apart in various priesthood leadership capacities in the Church. I know from personal experience that there is something to this priesthood. It is real.
Holding the priesthood and acting in the name of the Lord has blessed my life in so many ways. It is a privilege for which I am deeply grateful. Bearing the priesthood has shaped who I am. Serving in the priesthood has taught me how important it is to be very careful how I act because I am a representative of Jesus Christ. That is an awesome responsibility. It is a marvelous blessing to be part of the large army of the priesthood spread throughout the earth today.