"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."
Incidentally, all the Articles of Faith have been put to music to help the kids in the Church remember them better, and this one had one of my favorite tunes...or so I assume, based on the fact that it's one of about three I remember the tune to. Here's a link to a site where you can hear it. (The play button is on the top left of the screen.)
Actually, I was trying to think of what I would say about this article, and it occurred to me just how long it's been since we've had any kind of discourse on the Articles of Faith and what they mean. This one goes into several things, I think, but this is all just my own (and Athena's, where she chimes in, as if you'll know what's her and what's me) thoughts on the matter.
Let's break it down, take out some of those modifiers. First, we believe that a man (or woman) must be called of God to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof. I don't think it's a secret that the LDS Church has a lay clergy, which means we don't send people to bishop school or anything like that, and we don't pay them. There are some positions in the church that are paid positions, but those are generally the ones that take up so much time that whoever is in that position doesn't have a chance to earn a separate living.
But anyway, for example, I was a Relief Society teacher for like a year or so. I didn't go to evangelical school or anything...though I did go to BYU, which is an LDS school, but only the religion classes are the ones that teach anything about religion. (Of course, most of the classes are taught by LDS people, so you do get an LDS point of view in, say, science classes, but that point of view is still very scientific as well.) But the point is, I didn't get that calling because I'm smart or anything--I got it because the Relief Society president was inspired ("by prophecy," you could say) that I should be the person teaching on the second Sunday of every month.
When I got the calling, I was then set apart--I had hands laid on my head by people in authority, in an ordinance (called "setting apart") that was how I got my authority as a Relief Society teacher.
The other thing this article mentions that's important is "those who are in authority." I think when most LDS people hear the term "authority" in a religious context, they think of the priesthood, and that's definitely a part of it. I actually got to teach a Relief Society lesson on the priesthood, and I came up with an analogy that I thought was pretty good, where the priesthood is like a Disneyland nametag.
Back in December, we were at Disneyland, and we discussed the possibility of blackmailing a couple of cast members into surrendering their nametags, so we could wear them and tell all the crowds waiting on Main Street for the fireworks that we need them to get up and evacuate the park immediately. Maybe tell them there was some kind of huge giveaway at California Adventure. But we needed the nametags if we wanted any hope of the guests listening to us. Why? Because the nametag shows them that the person wearing it is officially a Disneyland cast member, and so they have the authority to direct the crowds.
So, while you can't steal it like you can a nametag (and you all know we would never do that, right?), we believe that the priesthood is the authority from God to direct the church, perform ordinances like baptisms, etc. etc. Even within that, there's a line of authority that needs to be followed. I was set apart by the bishopric of our ward--I don't think the bishopric of another ward could have officially set me apart for a calling in our ward.
...And that's the brief outline of our interpretation of that Article of Faith. I think it covers everything, but of course feel free to ask questions if I left anything out, or if something didn't make sense. Or if you're just curious about something.
Today I'm thankful for Mom and Steve being kind enough to drive us around running errands yesterday, having a big canister of toffee, having a bunch of boxes with which to organize all our stuff, Article of Faith songs, and finally being all caught up on Psych to where we stopped watching it a couple of years ago.