The following document was published in a Church periodical known as The Improvement Era in a question and answer section prepared under the direction of the Council of the Twelve. It is significant for grappling with the question of spiritual gifts and their relationship to the priesthood as a whole. See Improvement Era, October 1931, Page 735.
[Question:] Can any one, without the Priesthood, pray and have his prayers answered? Or receive the Holy Ghost, with its gifts and manifestations?
[Response:] The answer is Yes. Men, women and children who do not hold the Priesthood have had their prayers answered millions of times in the history of Christianity the world over and in the history of this dispensation. Men, women and children also receive the Holy Ghost after baptism through the laying on of hands.
May one have revelations and visions of heavenly beings, without the Priesthood?
Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery did so. In May, 1829, John the Baptist appeared to them, and that was before either of them had been ordained. It was John, in fact, who conferred the Priesthood upon them. This function of having visions, of course, was exceptional in their case.
If, then, one may pray, may have his prayers answered, may have the Holy Ghost bestowed upon him, and may exercise many of its gifts, without holding any Priesthood, what is the place of Priesthood on the earth?
Chiefly Priesthood functions in connection with organization. That is, the greatest need of Priesthood is where there is a service to be performed to others besides ourselves.
Whenever you do anything for, or in behalf of, someone else, you must have the right to do so. If you are to sell property belonging to another, you must have his permission. If you wish to admit an alien to citizenship in our government, you cannot act without having been commissioned to do so by the proper authority.
Now, a religious organization, or the Church, is in the last analysis a matter of service. You baptize someone, or you confirm him, or you administer to him in case of sickness, or you give him the Sacrament or the Priesthood, or you preach the Gospel to him–what is this but performing a service?
Now, when it comes to earthly power to perform a definite service, we call it the power of attorney in the case of acting legally for someone else, or the court and the judge where it is a question of acting for the government.
But in the Church of Christ this authority to act for others is known as Priesthood.