I perceive that priesthood was originally an inner experience of Divine Power and Presence in humans, a deep Realization when they subdued their egoic psychological “natural man” self in consciousness, and perceived their real Being underneath it in Glory, beyond words. I believe humans eventually organized this mystical experience, and the knowledge of it, instituting it into the “ordination” to an “office” of “priesthood,” meant to indicate those who had direct experience of God. Those who had greater or deeper experiences of God were ordained to higher priesthoods.
Many today are “ordained” in many religions throughout the world, but most it seems have never themselves actually experienced this direct Divine Power and Presence in themselves, or know very little about it (1 Tim. 1:7, BHT). Ordination often has a “form of godliness,” but often “denies the power thereof” (2 Tim. 3:5). We’re counseled to stay far away from that kind of thing. Why? Because it is nothing more than the ego parroting that it is God, and it deceives in its wake. In fact, Joseph Smith claimed he was counseled by God in his First Vision to avoid that in all the churches of his day:
“…they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” (JS-H 1:19)
Maybe we should also avoid this form of godliness that denies God’s power in today’s religions too. Would that be what Joseph would have done, if he were alive today? Clearly, Joseph organized priesthood and ordination many years later in the early LDS Church, but it was long after that first enlightenment experience.
Anyone, of any gender, may experience the direct Power and Presence of God, if they sincerely seek it. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). God loves all equally. God gives these experiences directly to the individual, without any human mediator of any kind, although others may certainly help guide people towards it. But at the end of the day, the individual experiences it within their own Being and consciousness.
Ordination is a human institution, it seems to me, and rarely indicates what it originally was formed to indicate—those who had direct understanding and experience of God’s Power and Presence. It seems it is now mostly a sign and show of ego, the trappings of eminence, the “black robes of a false priesthood” as Nibley said. The human ego takes over, nearly always. This is why we must “watch and pray always, lest we enter into temptation” (Luke 21:36). And that prayer is not the simple thanks and asks type of prayer; it is deep communion in consciousness.
Priesthood ordination has often come to mean service. But it is not only service, I perceive. Anyone can serve others in many different capacities without a special ordination. Originally I think those who had direct experience of God’s Power helped guide others to have that same direct experience. They became the “priests” who had the “priesthood.” They “served” others so that those others could come to know God, even as the priests themselves had come to know God. Their mission was in helping others to come into At-one-ment in God, because this is Realization, Awakening, Enlightenment, Resurrection, Rebirth, Conversion, Liberation, Salvation.
It is possible that in the early LDS Church the words “priests” and “priesthood” maintained their original meaning of those who had real actual experiences and direct understanding of God’s Divine Presence and Power, and could then go out into the world and help gather others into that Presence too, into this knowledge of God deep within them.
This “knowing God” is Life Eternal (John 17:3), and is the whole goal and entire purpose of all religions and spirituality, I believe. But it is not the knowing that we are usually familiar with. It is not intellectual knowing or knowledge. It is experiential knowing, sometimes called gnosis, or intuitive perception. It is a knowing beyond reason. When one comes to know God for one’s self, when one enters the “kingdom of God” within (Luke 17:21), then all other things fall naturally into place in one’s life (Matthew 6:33). One is naturally filled with Love, God’s Love, and wants to share that Love with one and all (1 Tim. 1:5), in whatever capacities or skills or talents that they are gifted with as human Beings (Romans 12:4-21).
I was once ordained as a High Priest in the Melchizedek Priesthood of the LDS Church, one of the highest offices and priesthoods available to most “lay” members of the church. I served as a first counselor in a bishopric and in a high priests group leadership. But none of that meant that I had first-hand direct personal experience of God’s Power and Presence. Yes, I had many spiritual experiences, where I felt a warm “burning in my bosom,” but this did not compare with experiences that I had later, where I felt the whole bottom of my ego drop out of my Soul, and Light flood my Being with the abundant Joy and Love and Understanding of my Self, God, and Reality. This was in a whole new class of experience entirely and completely unknown to me before as I served as a High Priest, and in many other callings throughout the church. And I can tell you with certainty, it wasn’t because I was ordained to a “priesthood” that I had these experiences of God.
God endows Light and Power where God will, in whomever God will, not according to humanity’s egoic dictates or selfish whims. We can’t control God, or God’s Power, packaging it up and serving it out to those we like, those who we deem most worthy of God’s Love (D&C 121:35-37). We never have, and we never will.
We are all in God, each and every one of us, of every gender, in every moment. And when our ego falls away, and we are simply aware of what is, without judgment or concept from our egoic mind, then we can perceive God directly without our egoic filter. Then we can know our Being, which is One and the same with God’s Being, the Being that is Existence and the Universe itself (John 17:11, 21-23, 26; Acts 17:28). If this seems odd, it is because your ego is telling you so, I perceive. Once we realize this Light and Power of our true Being, then it may become reasonable to want to share it with others, in the Pure Love of Christ.
Then we know how to serve Love, knowing God our Selves.