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.
Basically, we believe that a minister has to have authority from God. In today's Christianity, this idea seems to have been lost. Let's say I wanted to become a police officer. So I buy myself an outfit, strap on a gun, and start arresting people and giving out traffic tickets. Eventually, people are going to wonder about my credentials. Where is my badge? Am I recognized by the state as an officer? Who gave me the authority to go around arresting people?
Well, it is the same in God's kingdom. You can't go around claiming you have authority unless you are properly credentialed. Authority doesn't come from theology school. Jesus never attended one. The Apostles never got a 4 year degree. That's the world's way not the Lord's.
In the Lord's way, you have to be called by prophecy which means by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. You have to be called by those who are the recognized officers of the church. You have to receive your commission by the laying on of hands.
Paul received his call in this manner. The leaders of the Church at Antioch were inspired of the Holy Ghost to call Paul and Barnabas on a mission:
So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed... (Acts 13:2-4)
That's it! Done. End of story. That is the Lord's way of calling his disciples. That is the pattern of calling and setting apart all officers in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The next question is how did the church officials in Antioch get their authority? The answer must be the same way. The issue, then, is the authority of the church. Where does it come from? The Latter-day Saints believe in Restoration of authority not a continuous line of succession from the days of Christ.
Orson F. Whitney
Many years ago a learned man, a member of the Roman Catholic Church, came to Utah and spoke from the stand of the Salt Lake Tabernacle. I became well-acquainted with him, and we conversed freely and frankly. A great scholar, with perhaps a dozen languages at his tongue's end, he seemed to know all about theology, law, literature, science and philosophy. One day he said to me: "You Mormons are all ignoramuses. You don't even know the strength of your own position. It is so strong that there is only one other tenable in the whole Christian world, and that is the position of the Catholic Church. The issue is between Catholicism and Mormonism. If we are right, you are wrong; if you are right, we are wrong; and that's all there is to it. The Protestants haven't a leg to stand on. For, if we are wrong, they are wrong with us, since they were a part of us and went out from us; while if we are right, they are apostates whom we cut off long ago. If we have the apostolic succession from St. Peter, as we claim, there is no need of Joseph Smith and Mormonism; but if we have not that succession, then such a man as Joseph Smith was necessary, and Mormonism's attitude is the only consistent one. It is either the perpetuation of the gospel from ancient times, or the restoration of the gospel in latter days." (LeGrand Richards, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1950], 3)
A man must be called of God
You don't get to call yourself. There is no self-election, no democracy of one. God calls whom He will. Jesus reminded his disciples, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you" (John 15:16). Paul was not self-appointed. He was chosen by the Lord as well (Acts 9). Speaking of the office of high priest, he said, "no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron" (Heb. 5:4).
It seems logical enough but there are those who have ignored this doctrine and taken the honor unto themselves. They have built up churches and adorned them. They have set themselves up as a light to the world and asked their believers for money. The Book of Mormon calls this priestcraft, "for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion" (2 Ne. 25:29).
David O. McKay
Herein lies one secret of the strength of this great latter-day work. Its origin consists not in the whims, the desires, or the aspirations of men, but in the order and the will of Christ himself, the author of our eternal salvation. If one man could assume the right to speak in the name of the Lord, other men would have the same privilege. These many men, all presuming to say, "Thus saith the Lord," yet not seeing "eye to eye" on important elements of God's kingdom, the inevitable result would be confusion, and sincere men and women would be driven from, not attracted to Christ's Church, yet eventually would be made to suffer for not having obeyed the principles of life and salvation.
Yet the real cause of their failure to accept these eternal principles would be the fact that unauthorized men arrogated to themselves the right to officiate in things pertaining to God. Herein lies the explanation of the discordant condition existing among jarring creeds in the so-called Christian world today. Men who have no right so to do are officiating in the name of Christ. The result, of course, is confusion. Whatever else may be said of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the strength of his position in regard to divine authority must be recognized. (Gospel Ideals: Selections from the Discourses of David O. McKay [Salt Lake City: Improvement Era, 1953], 166)
Called of God, by prophecy
The church officers at Antioch were fasting and praying when they were inspired of the Holy Ghost to call Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:2-4). To be called of God by prophecy means to be called of God by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.
Latter-day Saints are very familiar with this process. When the Bishop extends a call to service, he does so after prayer so that he may obtain the will of God. James E. Faust said, "Bishops... while you are enjoying the mantle of a bishop and presiding high priest, you will have special spiritual endowments of wisdom, insight, and inspiration concerning the welfare of your people." ("Power of the Priesthood," Ensign, May 1997, 42)
Boyd K. Packer
When there is a need for someone to serve, the leaders talk about it and pray about it-often more than once. They seek a confirmation from the Spirit, for calls should be made prayerfully and accepted in the same spirit. ("Called to Serve," Ensign, Nov. 1997, 7)
Gordon B. Hinckley
Contrast the Lord's way with the way of the world. The Lord's way is quiet, it is a way of peace, it is without fanfare or monetary costs. It is without egotism or vanity or ambition. Under the Lord's plan, those who have responsibility to select officers are governed by one overriding question: "Whom would the Lord have?" There is quiet and thoughtful deliberation. And there is much of prayer to receive the confirmation of the Holy Spirit that the choice is correct. ("God Is at the Helm," Ensign, May 1994, 53)
By the laying on of hands
The laying on of hands is a standard set by God when transferring authority, activating priesthood keys, administering the gift of the Holy Ghost, or blessing the sick. It connects the recipient with the authority of the administrator. It is a physical manifestation of a spiritual endowment. It connects the servants of God to God himself by an appropriate line of authority.
"Many honorable people with pure motives have devoted their lives to the service of Christ and their fellowman. We know they will be rewarded abundantly in the eternities for their devoted and Christlike efforts. But with respect to priesthood authority and its ordinances, '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' (A of F 1:5; see also D&C 42:11).
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints could not assert that it is the Lord's true church unless its own claim to authority were consistent with these principles. Our testimony is that the Church meets the scriptural standard in every way. Joseph Smith was literally called of God. He was ordained and authorized through the ministering of heavenly messengers. John the Baptist ordained him to the Aaronic Priesthood, and the ancient Apostles Peter, James, and John ordained him to the holy apostleship, conferring on him the keys of directing the kingdom-the authority for mortals to preside on earth in Christ's name as his earthly representatives. Moses, Elias, and Elijah conferred on him vital keys (see D&C 110:11-16).
"These powers continue in the Church. All who have been ordained to the priesthood in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have received it through a chain that links them to Joseph Smith's ordinations under the hands of God's heavenly servants. Individuals are called through the spirit of revelation by those possessing priesthood keys, and they are ordained and set apart by them. They, in turn, become the Lord's authorized servants, and their works are valid and acknowledged of God." (Kent P. Jackson, "I Have a Question," Ensign, Feb. 1995, 62-63)
By those who are in authority
Robert E. Wells
"Any ordinances performed without that authority are as invalid as a forged signature on a loan. Many baptisms and confirmations and other ordinances are performed by well-meaning people, but if those people lack the proper authority, they have no promise that the ordinance will be validated in this or the next life. Many, we fear, will be disillusioned when they arrive on the other side and find that the ordinances performed for them were invalid and the authority those who performed the ordinances thought they had is nonexistent. Sincerity or faith alone is not enough." (The Mount and the Master [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 201)