The authority and power held by certain officers in the church. The Book of Mormon referred to the high priesthood as God’s “holy order, which was after the order of his Son,” and indicated that Melchizedek, a biblical figure, was a high priest “after this same order” [Alma 13:1, 14]. Beginning with the June 1831 general conference, numerous elders in the church were ordained to the high priesthood. Joseph Smith taught that “the order of the High priesthood is that they have power given them to seal up the Saints unto eternal life” [Minutes, 25-26 October 1831]. Smith declared that the high priesthood had power “from on high to preach the Gospel” [History, circa Summer 1832]. A September 1832 revelation referred to the high priesthood as the greater priesthood and specified that the offices of bishop and elder were appendages to it [Doctrine and Covenants 84:18-29]. The circa April 1835 “Instruction on Priesthood” explained that before Melchizedek’s day, “it was called the holy priesthood, after the order of the Son of God,” but to avoid “too frequent repetition of his name,” it was afterwards referred to as the Melchizedek priesthood [D&C 107:2-4]. Following this instruction, the high priesthood was often referred to as the Melchizedek priesthood by Joseph Smith and others.
Retrieved with permission from The Joseph Smith Papers.