Are You a Kohen? You Could be a Mormon Bishop.
If your last name is Kohn, Coen, Kahn, Kahan, Cohen, etc., you may have priestly, patrilineal descent from Aaron, the brother of Moses. While the temple still stood, your ancestors performed the daily and holiday duties associated with sacrificial offerings. Now, no longer attending to those duties, your status and role depend mostly on which stream of Judaism you affiliate with.
Your lineage sets you apart from the other sons of Levi and the rest of the tribe of Israel, those not descended from Aaron. While your progenitors conducted these rituals, the Levites assisted them. The Levites participated in creating music and song, and even cleaned up after your ancestors. Being a descendant of Aaron is something special for Jews. It’s special to Mormons, too.
The Aaronic Priesthood Is Part of Mormonism
Mormons hold that in 1829, Aaronic priesthood authority was restored to two men — Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery — at the hands of the resurrected John the Baptist. This is jarring, I know, especially since the Baptist was a “New Testament” figure. Nevertheless, he was a Levite and a Kohen by birth. In conferring and restoring the authority of this priesthood, John said:
“Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness” (Joseph Smith History, 1:69).
Later, the higher, or Melchizedek, priesthood was restored. These two priesthoods administer all the affairs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). In Mormon tradition, all worthy men and boys aged 12 and over may be ordained to the Aaronic priesthood, and 18 and older to the Melchizedek priesthood. There is no professional training for these priesthood holders.
What Early Mormon Revelations Say About the Priesthood
The Doctrine and Covenants is a collection of early revelations to prophets of the restoration, mostly to Joseph Smith. Section 84 is called a revelation on priesthood. Near the beginning of the section, there is a short accounting of Moses’ priesthood lineage: Jethro — Caleb — Elihu — Jeremy — Gad — Esaias. While Esaias received this priesthood under the hand of G-d, he lived at the time of Abraham, who received his higher priesthood from Melchizedek, who could trace his priesthood lineage back to Adam.
Section 84 then discusses the priesthood of Aaron, also confirmed by the Lord. This priesthood continued even after Moses and the higher priesthood of Melchizedek were taken away as the Israelites entered the Promised Land. Aaron’s priesthood administered in the tabernacle and then the ancient temples. Those who honored, and those who today honor, that priesthood are sanctified.
Section 107 gives more information about the priesthood and talks about the calling of a bishop. A bishop is a congregational leader in Mormonism, much like a rabbi. The office of bishop, however, is a “calling” not a vocation. The Mormon bishop serves without pay and continues in his normal profession, whether he is a plumber, a doctor, or a lawyer.
The section says the following:
“No man has a legal right to this office [that of bishop], to hold the keys of this priesthood, except he be a literal descendant of Aaron” (D&C 107:16).
The section goes on to say that a man holding the higher Melchizedek priesthood may fill the office “when no literal descendant of Aaron can be found…”
So, if you are a Kohen and desire to be a Mormon bishop (assuming you have converted to Mormonism and observed its strict laws), here’s some selections from the official job description for you:
What a Mormon Bishop Does
• Bishops have the sacred duty to seek out and care for the poor and the needy (Means are provided through the church welfare system to help the poor materially.)
• Act as the presiding high priest.
• Act as a righteous judge when members transgress.
• Perform civil marriages, funerals or other formal life events where the bishop presides.
• Be responsible for missionary work that takes place locally.
• Look after the physical condition and maintenance of church buildings.
• Meet with each member family annually to discuss their tithes and donations.
• Conduct, plan, and organize weekly worship services lasting 3 hours each Sunday.
• Oversee the ordinance of the sacrament.
• Meet weekly in various councils including Bishopric meeting, ward council, Priesthood executive committee and other auxiliary meetings as necessary.
• Shepherd all finances and assure they are properly accounted for.
• Counsel individuals, couples and families on matters from finances to marriage counseling to addiction.
• Hold down a full time job, provide for your family, make personal weekly time with wife and children; make family first in practice not in theory, and find time to attend to personal needs and hobbies— i.e., exercise and non-religious activities (for personal sanity).
I hope to see many Kohanim reporting to the LDS Church office building in Salt Lake City.