The priesthood is one of the most important aspects of Mormon life. Seen as authority of act in the name of God on this earth, no religious ordinances are considered valid without the authority of the priesthood. Traditional Christianity has a much different view of priesthood, as spelled out in the Bible.
[Related: Reassessing Priesthood After Mormonism]
Mormon beliefs about priesthood
The LDS priesthood is limited to men and is divided into two levels: the Aaronic Priesthood (lesser), and the Melchizedek Priesthood (greater). Each priesthood has three different offices, each with its own set of duties and roles. The Aaronic Priesthood includes deacons, teachers, and priests. The Melchizedek Priesthood encompasses elders, seventies, and high priests. A person has to be worthy in order to receive the priesthood. The priesthood operates in a very structured hierarchy.
What the Bible says about priesthood
In the Bible, there is only one high priest, our Lord Jesus Christ. His priesthood is completely unique.
Hebrews 7:24-25 (NIV) But because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
As our Lord and Savior, he is able to completely save because he has the right priesthood. He is able to intercede for us before God. Jesus is not only the high priest, but the perfect sacrifice as well.
[Related: Priests in the Old Testament]
Every Christian is now a priest
All followers of Christ have access to God and the right to act in obedience to his commands, regardless of gender or any other factor. Jesus took our sins, so we are able to come directly to God through him.
1 Peter 2:5 And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.
There is no hierarchy of priesthood. You don’t have to be deemed worthy by some priesthood holder. In our relationship with Christ, we are priests. We have the right to worship God and act for him without any mediator except Jesus.
[Related: Priesthood and Authority in Church After Mormonism]