I have published nearly 400 blog posts over 12 years. I have addressed a wide variety of topics, including very controversial issues. And it is a bit surprising to me that one of the most consistently popular posts was on the Elder/High Priest transition. Only a couple of posts have received more clicks, searches, unique visitors and comments – and they were not Mormon themed. That post was made shortly after my 40th birthday, and I was still just an Elder. And now I am a 50 year old Elder.
I believe the relatively high level of interest in the Elder/High Priest transition post represents an under-rated, quiet controversy in the church. Many of the comments on that post represent good, faithful men who are at least a little disappointed that they have not been ordained High Priests while many of their peers have been. I admire these men, who keep on going in the church without complaint, in spite of times when they feel unwanted and unappreciated. I have sympathy for the good sisters of the church who serve so well without being able to hold the priesthood and certain callings, yet they can take some small comfort in not taking it personally. The men I am talking about here are eligible for advancement to this priesthood office, yet have not been invited.
I think most of the folks reading this post probably know some good brother who attends the High Priest’s group in spite of holding the office of Elder. He is likely around retirement age or so, and most of his peer group are High Priests. It makes me wonder why should bishoprics and Stake Presidents be stingy with ordination in these cases? What harm would it do? For all practical purposes these men are part of the High Priest group already. And this leads me to the question that is the title of this post – What is the distinction between the Elder and High Priest offices of the Melchizedek priesthood?
A glance at the scriptures actually tells us very little. High Priests preside over spiritual things – whatever that means. And while it makes sense that the Prophet, Stake President and Bishop are presiding High Priests, what distinction is there between the rank and file High Priest and Elder? For the most part, it seems that there isn’t any. Is there an important distinction that I am missing?