[Editor: This is the ninth article in a series of excerpts from Jeffrey M. Bradshaw’s new book, entitled “Temple Themes in the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood.” Links to the full series are found at the end of the article. Color and black-and-white editions of the book are available on Amazon.com and at selected LDS Bookstores (including EbornBooks, BYU Bookstore, and the FAIR LDS Bookstore). An iBooks version is can be purchased from the Apple iBookstore. Downloadable articles and a pdf version of this book are available at www.templethemes.net
In previous articles, we have examined the significance of each of the phrases of D&C 84:34, a key verse in the passage describing the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood:
They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.
The ordinance of the endowment portrays the process of the Saints becoming “the sons of Moses and of Aaron,” and the sealing ordinance of celestial marriage symbolizes their becoming “the seed of Abraham.” Continuing with this description of the required sequence of temple blessings, the phrase “the church and kingdom” refers to the blessings of the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood, belonging to one who is made a “king and a priest unto God, bearing rule, authority, and dominion under the Father.”[i] Correspondingly, worthy women may receive the blessings of becoming queens and priestesses.[ii]
It is fitting for these blessings to be associated with the name of Melchizedek, because he was the great “king of Salem” and “the priest of the most high God,”[iv] who gave the priesthood to Abraham.[v] Later kings of Israel, as well as Jesus Christ Himself, were declared to be part of the “order of Melchizedek,”[vi] which was originally called “the Order of the Son of God.”[vii]
Figure 2. The Church and Kingdom
Because of the sacred nature of the ordinance that confers the fulness of the priesthood, very little detail about it has been given in official church publications. For example, Elder McConkie described this ordinance, along with those ordinances leading up to it, only in very general terms:[viii]
In setting forth as much as can, with propriety, be spoken outside of the temple, the Lord says that “the fulness of the priesthood”[ix] is received only in the temple itself. This fulness is received through washings, anointings, solemn assemblies, oracles in holy places, conversations, ordinances, endowments, and sealings…[x]
As with all prior covenants and ordinances, the Savior Himself set the example for us to follow. Summarizing the exacting requirements expected of those who receive this final ordinance of the temple, the Prophet Joseph Smith said:[xi]
If a man gets a fulness of the priesthood of God he has to get it in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained it, and that was by keeping all the commandments and obeying all the ordinances of the house of the Lord.
Although other temple ordinances had been administered to selected saints in Nauvoo beginning in 1842, the ordinance conferring the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood was not administered by the Prophet until the final months of 1843. On 6 August 1843, Brigham Young said that “if any in the Church had the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood, he did not know it.”[xiii] However, on 22 November 1843, he finally received this much-awaited ordinance.[xiv] In later instructions at the temple, President Young said:[xv]
Those who... come in here [i.e., the Nauvoo Temple] and have received their washing and anointing will [later, if faithful,] be ordained Kings and Priests, and will then have received the fulness of the Priesthood, all that can be given on earth. For Brother Joseph said he had given us all that could be given to man on the earth.
In contrast to the priesthood ordinances discussed previously which are available to all faithful members of the Church in this life, this crowning ordinance of the temple is now almost always reserved as a blessing for the hereafter. Indeed, even if the ordinance could be performed in this life, the realization of the blessings it portends could not be made fully effective in mortality. Emphasizing the anticipatory nature of this ordinance, Brigham Young explained that “a person may be anointed king and priest long before he receives his kingdom.”[xvi]
Antiquity of the Royal Priesthood
Although the concept of a “royal priesthood”[xviii] expressed in the ordinance conferring the fulness of the priesthood is foreign to most people today, it is perfectly consistent with ancient religious practices.[xix] For example, Wyatt summarizes a wide range of evidence indicating “a broad continuity of culture”[xx] throughout the ancient Near East wherein the candidate for kingship underwent a ritual journey intended to confer a divine status as a son of God.[xxi]
Scholars have long debated the meaning of scattered fragments of rituals of sacral kingship in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms, but over time have increasingly found evidence of parallels with ancient Near East investiture traditions.[xxii] In this regard, one of the most significant of these is Psalm 110, an unquestionably royal and—for Christians—messianic passage.[xxiii] A well-known scholar of the Psalms, John Eaton, summarizes the import and setting of these verses as part of:[xxiv]
… the ceremonies enacting the installation of the Davidic king in Jerusalem… Items of enthronement ceremonial seem reflected: ascension to the throne, bestowal of the sceptre, anointing and baptism signifying new birth as the Lord’s son (v. 3[xxv]), [and] appointment to royal priesthood[xxvi] … As [in Psalms] 2, 18, 89, [and] 101, the rites may have involved a sacred drama and been repeated in commemorations, perhaps annually in conjunction with the celebration of God’s kingship, for which the Davidic ruler was chief “servant.