Unanswered Questions about the Priesthood

As President Uchtdorf said in his in general conference talk last October, “Sometimes questions arise because we simply don’t have all the information.”[i] And as Managing Director of Public Affairs for the Church, Michael Otterson, stated last month, “I suppose we do not know all the reasons why Christ did not ordain women as apostles, either in the New Testament or the Book of Mormon, or when the Church was restored in modern times.”[ii]

It’s important to recognize how much we don’t know, and here are some unanswered questions about what in contemporary Mormonism is understood to be the priesthood, including LDS priesthood keys and some LDS priesthood offices.

Q1. Why are there so few references to priesthood in the Old Testament (8 total, in Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Ezra, Nehemiah)? Note that there are 600+ references to priests, however, many of them being Levites, others being priests of gods besides the God of Israel.

Q2. Why aren’t there any references to priesthood in the Book of Genesis, that is, from the creation accounts throughout the time of the patriarchs and their contemporaries, such as Abraham and Melchizedek? Note that Melchizedek is referred to as a priest, though (one of 6 total references to priests in Genesis, all the others being Egyptian priests).

Q3-4. Why are there so few references to priesthood in the New Testament (7 total, in Hebrews and 1 Peter), and why aren’t there any references to it in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry? Note there are references to priests in the gospel accounts (130+), but none of them are Jesus’ disciples (unless somehow the father of John the Baptist counts), and many of them are his enemies. According to Acts 6:7, it was not until after his death that some priests become followers of Jesus.

Q5-6. Why are there so few references to priesthood in the Book of Mormon (7 total, in Alma; cf. Hebrews), and why aren’t there any references to it in the account of Jesus’ establishment of his church in 3 Nephi?

Q7-8. Conversely, why are there so many references to priesthood in the Doctrine and Covenants (100+), and where did this emphasis on priesthood come from if not from the Bible or Book of Mormon?

Q9. How can there be references to priesthood in the Books of Moses and Abraham (8 total), when there is none in the Book of Genesis?

Q10. Why are there references to priesthood keys only in the Doctrine and Covenants and in Joseph Smith History (26 total), not in the Bible or Book of Mormon? Note that in Matthew 16:19 there is a reference to Jesus giving “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” to Peter, but there is no reference to priesthood.

Q11. Why are there prophetesses in the Bible (e.g. Deborah) but none in contemporary Mormonism?

Q12. Why is there a female deacon (Romans 16:1, “servant” in the KJV) and a female apostle (Romans 16:7) in the New Testament but none in contemporary Mormonism?


i. President Uchtdorf went on to say, “and we just need a bit more patience. When the entire truth is eventually known, things that didn’t make sense to us before will be resolved to our satisfaction.”
ii. Otterson went on to state: “We only know that he did not, that his leaders today regard this as a doctrinal issue that cannot be compromised, and that agitation from a few Church members is hindering the broader and more productive conversation about the voice, value and visibility of women in the Church that has been going on for years and will certainly continue (the lowering of the age requirement for female missionary service was consistent with this conversation).”


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