I understand that the LDS church institutes that Aaronic Priesthood. In the Old Testament, this was specifically reserved to the tribe of Levi and the family of Aaron.

and you shall gird Aaron and his sons with sashes and bind caps on them. And the priesthood shall be theirs by a statute forever. Thus you shall ordain Aaron and his sons. Exodus 29:9 ESV

In the LDS Church, is this the same priesthood? If so, what is the doctrinal precedent where people other than Jews from the tribe of Levi and the family of Aaron can be given that priesthood? Who receives that Aaronic priesthood today and how long is it held?

1 Answer 1


In the Doctrine and Covenants 107:13-17 we read:

13 The second priesthood is called the Priesthood of Aaron, because it was conferred upon Aaron and his seed, throughout all their generations.

14 Why it is called the lesser priesthood is because it is an appendage to the greater, or the Melchizedek Priesthood, and has power in administering outward ordinances.

15 The bishopric is the presidency of this priesthood, and holds the keys or authority of the same.

16 No man has a legal right to this office, to hold the keys of this priesthood, except he be a literal descendant of Aaron.

17 But as a high priest of the Melchizedek Priesthood has authority to officiate in all the lesser offices, he may officiate in the office of bishop when no literal descendant of Aaron can be found, provided he is called and set apart and ordained unto this power by the hands of the Presidency of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Verses 16 & 17 get to the heart of your question. Only Aaron and his sons have a legal right to the authority. When a descendant of Aaron is not present, then a High Priest in the Melchizedek Priesthood can officiate in the office of bishop, which in LDS theology is the presiding authority in the Aaronic Priesthood.

Today, all worthy young men, starting at age 12 can be ordained to an office in the Aaronic Priesthood. There are a total of four offices: deacon, teacher, priest, and bishop. The worthy 12-years olds are ordained to the office of a deacon. When they turn 14, if they are still worthy, they are ordained to the office of a teacher. At 16 they can be ordained a priest.

Later, (age 18 or so) they can, with approval from their priesthood leaders, be advanced to the Melchizedek Priesthood, and ordained to the office of an elder. This is why LDS missionaries are referred to as "Elder."

The duties of the Aaronic Priesthood are spelled out clearly in the Doctrine and Covenants. We also teach the young men of the church that the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood are:

  1. Become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and live by its teachings.
  2. Serve faithfully in priesthood callings and fulfill the responsibilities of priesthood offices.
  3. Give meaningful service.
  4. Prepare and live worthily to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and temple ordinances.
  5. Prepare to serve an honorable full-time mission.
  6. Obtain as much education as possible.
  7. Prepare to become a worthy husband and father.
  8. Give proper respect to women, girls, and children.

(Taken from Handbook 2: Administering the Church)

EDIT: Slight update based on new General Handbook(2020) 10.1.2 Aaronic Priesthood Theme

The Aaronic Priesthood quorum theme can help each young man understand his divine identity and his purpose as a priesthood holder. Young men and their leaders repeat the theme at the beginning of quorum meetings and at other quorum gatherings. The theme reads as follows:

“I am a beloved son of God, and He has a work for me to do.

“With all my heart, might, mind, and strength, I will love God, keep my covenants, and use His priesthood to serve others, beginning in my own home.

“As I strive to serve, exercise faith, repent, and improve each day, I will qualify to receive temple blessings and the enduring joy of the gospel.

“I will prepare to become a diligent missionary, loyal husband, and loving father by being a true disciple of Jesus Christ.

“I will help prepare the world for the Savior’s return by inviting all to come unto Christ and receive the blessings of His Atonement.”

As to how long they hold the priesthood, as long as they remain worthy, it is not taken from them. More responsibilities are added as they progress, but "once a deacon, always a deacon."

If you are interested in knowing more about the particular duties of the Aaronic Priesthood in the LDS faith, I would be happy to share them as well. But you probably have to ask that as a separate question.

  • 5
    The wording from verse 16 from the quote above can be a bit confusing. It's been explained as the term "legal right" meaning an inherent right: A literal descendant of Aaron holds the right to the bishopric by birthright; anyone else must be called to the office.
    – Mason Wheeler
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 22:50
  • just to note the age when one receives the priesthood is policy and can/has changed: christianity.stackexchange.com/a/63756/22319
    – depperm
    Commented May 8 at 14:52

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