We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.
The claim by Mormonism that it, and it alone, has the proper authority to administer the gospel of Jesus Christ is part of what sets it apart from the rest of Christianity and makes it the target of contempt from many other faiths. The priesthood is the power and authority to act in the name of God, perform the ordinances of the gospel, and officiate in the Church of Jesus Christ. Mormonism teaches that this authority originates from Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, the priesthood was conferred upon Adam and passed down through a patriarchal lineage. In the New Testament, the Lord established His church through twelve apostles to whom He personally gave the priesthood.
According to Mormonism, the early Church of Jesus Christ met with great persecutions and divisions after the resurrected Lord ascended into heaven. The apostles were killed or died, and the priesthood was no longer on the earth. The restoration of the priesthood was accomplished through the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith. He received many angelic visitations in the early 1800s, one of which was from Peter, James, and John of the original twelve apostles. They conferred the priesthood upon Joseph Smith. He then had the authority to organize and officiate in the Church of Jesus Christ, perform the ordinances of salvation, and give the priesthood to others.
In order to have the priesthood, one must be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost. Then, to confer the priesthood, a priesthood holder places his hands on the head of the person who is to receive it and proclaims by the power of his own priesthood and in the name of Jesus Christ that he confers the priesthood to this man (by name). This is the only way to give the priesthood and authority of God to another. Each holder of the priesthood in the Mormon Church can trace a lineage of priesthood confirmation directly to Jesus Christ, evidence of the authority they now have.
Mormonism teaches that all who have ever held the priesthood have been called of God. A very few, like Adam and Joseph Smith, were called directly by God to be prophets. All others were/are called of God by prophecy, which is given to members of the priesthood officiating over the position that the newly-called are to enter. In ancient times, a select few were called, and the priesthood was passed father to son in a patriarchal order. In these latter days, the work of the Lord is rapidly increasing and all who are keeping the commandments and living worthy to hold the priesthood are called by the priesthood leaders presiding over their congregations.
The ordinances of the gospel are necessary for salvation and must be performed by a priesthood holder. Baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, blessing of the sacrament, the performance of Priesthood Blessings, and ordinances performed in Mormon temples require the authority of the priesthood. No one can assume this authority; it must be conferred by the laying on of hands. If performed without the authority of the priesthood, then ordinances are not valid in the eyes of God. In addition, the preaching of the gospel must be done with authority. Mormonism sends several thousand missionaries throughout the world every year. Each missionary has had the priesthood conferred upon him. They have the authority from God to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and administer baptism and bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost. This is not to say that any believer is forbidden from sharing the gospel with others, but in order to convert to Mormonism and be found repentant and worthy for baptism, Mormon missionaries must teach and prepare the person. Women are also missionaries, and have every authority to preach, just not to baptize or give the Holy Ghost.