The following is taken from Daniel Tyler, "The Gospel Principles: Priesthood", The Juvenile Instructor 13/06 (15 March 1878): 71.
We have seen the importance of faith, repentance, baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, and the spiritual gifts. We will next proceed to examine the authority by which the gospel was preached, and how the Christian church was organized.
While Jesus was on the earth, all will admit, He was the President of the Church He had organized; and after His death His Apostles took the lead in all matters pertaining to the Church. As that was not a gathering dispensation, it is probable there was not any local first presidency organized. The Twelve Apostles, with Peter, James and John as the foremost, took the lead, Peter being the President. The highest office in the Church was that of an Apostle. Jesus, the Redeemer of the world, was an Apostle. Paul, in his epistle to the Hebrews, says, "Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus."
We read that Melchisedek is called a great High Priest, and it is probable that Paul alludes to Jesus as the great High Priest after the order of Melchisedek. Melchisedek lived contemporary with, or at the same time as, Abraham, and was probably Shem, the oldest son of Noah, who lived until one hundred and fifty years after Abraham was born, being almost a second Adam. He was the oldest living man, and, from the blessing given him by his father, must have been the greatest and best of his sons. Being the oldest, he also held the birthright over all others. Canaan (or the descendants of his brother Ham) was to be his servant, and Japheth, the other brother, was to dwell in his tents. Or, in other words, be a renter or sojourner, having only a temporary residence, while the eternal and permanent inheritance was that of Shem. He would naturally be the "righteous king," or "king of righteousness," which the name Melchisedek signifies, and would be the most proper Patriarch to bless Abraham, whose father forfeited that right by being a worshiper of idols. If this conclusion be correct you can readily see how this man could be such a great High Priest, having the presidency over all the earth.
As to the equality of authority among the Apostles, Paul said he was least of all the Apostles; yet there was nothing Peter could do but what he could do so far as priesthood went.
I said that the Apostleship was the highest grade of priesthood. Paul, the Apostle, says: "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues."
This same Apostle understood that wherever the Church of Christ was this same Apostleship should take the lead until the Church should all be united and become perfect. He says, speaking of Christ: "And he gave some, apostles; and some prophets; and some, evangelists; and some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive."
How plain this is! Not only is the Apostleship the first office in the Church, but must remain until all Saints are united and perfected. In fact, it continues forever, and presides in the eternal world, Jesus being in His glorified condition the "great Apostle and High Priest of our profession."
Jesus also said, "You twelve shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Again, John saw the names of the Twelve Apostles written on the twelve gates of the New Jerusalem during the millennium, thus showing that next to Jesus they presided over the holy city.
It was quite proper, then, that when Joseph Smith ordained the first Apostles in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he should reprove Elders who took him to task for not first ordaining them High Priests. He supposed that "Elders in Israel" ought to understand so plain a proposition of scripture as that the Apostleship embraced every other authority of the Church.