The following is from a sermon given by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
August 27, 1843
History of the Church, (5:554-556) Version
Respecting the Melchizedek Priesthood, the sectarians never professed to have it; [They claim priesthood, but not called Melchizedek by name.] consequently they never could save any one, and would all be damned together. [Not the power to assist in receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost at the time of Joseph Smith.] There was an Episcopal priest who said he had the priesthood of Aaron, but had not the priesthood of Melchizedek and I bear testimony that I never have found the man who claimed the Priesthood of Melchizedek. The power of the Melchizedek priesthood is to have the power of “endless lives;” for the everlasting covenant cannot be broken. [Laying on of Hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, which opens the door to ascension in the Everlasting Covenant.]
The law was given under Aaron for the purpose of pouring out judgments and destructions. [For the purpose of separating the righteous from the wicked and preserving their lives.]
The sectarian world are going to hell by hundreds, by thousands and by millions. [Those who follow the path to perdition. Not the same as a son of perdition.]
There are three grand orders of priesthood referred to here. 1st. The King of Shiloam. (Salem) had power and authority over that of Abraham, holding the key and the power of endless life. Angels desire to look into it, but they have set up too many stakes. [Angels are referring to those exalted souls who have not yet ascended to their 4th estate, which requires a condescension of glory.] God cursed the children of Israel because they would not receive the last law from Moses. [This is what we refer to as Melchizedek Priesthood.]
The sacrifice required of Abraham in the offering up of Isaac, shows that if a man would attain to the keys of the kingdom of an endless life; he must sacrifice all things. [An important note regarding Abraham. He was the Dispensation head who would establish the covenant line of God’s people. His sacrificial test of Isaac was prepared before the foundation of the world as a sign and foreshadowing of the covenant with the House of Israel.] When God offers a blessing or knowledge to a man, and he refuses to receive it, he will be damned. [Whether in this life of the next.] The Israelites prayed that God would speak to Moses and not to them; in consequence of which he cursed them with a carnal law. [And thus they did not receive the higher priesthood, or relationship, needed to come into the presence of God.]
What was the power of Melchizedek? ‘Twas not the Priesthood of Aaron which administers in outward ordinances, and the offering of sacrifices. [temporal ordinances] Those holding the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood are kings and priests of the Most High God, holding the keys of power and blessings. [Sealing Power in Heaven and Earth] In fact, that priesthood is a perfect law of theocracy, and stands as God to give laws to the people, administering endless lives to the sons and daughters of Adam.
Abraham says to Melchizedek, I believe all that thou hast taught me concerning the priesthood and the coming of the Son of Man; so Melchizedek ordained [set apart for future events] Abraham and sent him away. Abraham rejoiced, saying, Now I have a priesthood. [relationship with God]
Salvation could not come to the world without the mediation of Jesus Christ.
How shall God come to the rescue of this generation? He will send Elijah the prophet. [The return of the Melchizedek priesthood.] The law [How to acquire this priesthood] revealed to Moses in Horeb never was revealed to the children of Israel as a nation. [But, was received by individuals at times, such as prophets.]
Elijah shall reveal the covenants to seal the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers. [First shall be last, and the last shall be first. The rise of the 144k servants to restore Zion in the last day.]
The anointing and sealing is to be called, elected and made sure. [These servants.]
“Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God, abideth a priest continually.” The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right from the eternal God, and not by descent from father and mother; and that priesthood is as eternal as God Himself, having neither beginning of days nor end of life. [From before the foundation of the world, bestowed upon the High Priest and Priestesses of the 4th estate. See Alma 13]
The 2nd Priesthood is Patriarchal authority. Go to and finish the temple, and God will fill it with power, and you will then receive more knowledge concerning this priesthood. [Our current temple endowment barely touches upon this priesthood. Had Joseph’s life not been taken more would have been revealed. Listed as the “2nd Priesthood” is not to imply that it is second in acquiring. It is the second to be taught in the forthcoming temple that Joseph was hoping for.]
The 3rd is what is called the Levitical Priesthood, consisting of priests to administer in outward ordinance, made without an oath; but the Priesthood of Melchizedek is by an oath and covenant. [These are second estate Priests who are seeking their Second Comforter and help to lead the people toward a fullness of the Priesthood. There will be an abundance of these in Zion to help those who are new to Zion to prepare their minds for greater things. This particular priesthood will not exist on the earth during its terrestrial and celestial state.]
The Holy Ghost is God’s messenger to administer in all those priesthoods. [4th listed, and certainly not in order is the Lord’s Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost, as often these terms are used interchangeably). All communication from God to us comes via his Spirit.]
Jesus Christ is the heir of this Kingdom–the only begotten of the Father according to the flesh, and holds the keys over all this world.
Men have to suffer that they may come upon Mount Zion and be exalted above the heavens. [The mystery of condescension.]
I know a man that has been caught up to the third heavens, and can say, with Paul, that we have seen and heard things that are not lawful to utter. [The Throne of God is beyond comprehension. Much of what you will witness there is not permitted to share, especially to those unprepared to receive it. During Joseph’s day even fewer were able to receive than today.]
Understand that the priesthood of God is analogous with the degree of relationship we have with Him. It is available to both men, women and children according to their faith. Nothing can be done in His name without permission; otherwise, we are taking His name in vain.
Priesthood categories could be defined as such:
Aaronic = temporal, telestial, perfunctory, earthly ordinances, 2nd Estate
Levitical = temporal, telestial, transitional, earthly ordinances, 2nd Estate, introductory to the higher priesthood (These priests are on the path to ascension.)
Melchizedek = terrestrial, heavenly ordinances, High Priest and Priestess, Dominions, 4th Estate, 144k, sealing power of Heaven, from before the foundation of the world.
Patriarchal = Highest priesthood, Celestial, includes Matriarchal, Fullness of glory, Omnipresence, Omniscient, Omnipotent, power of creation in its fullness, without end. (5, 6, 7, 8th Estate)