My take on this is that:
1) If the basis for the Authority of the Catholic Church is Political and not Spiritual (i.e. from God), then forgt about Peter and Apostolic Succession.
2) If the basis for the Authority of the Mormon Church is all a myth because the Joseph Smith story and the Book of Mormon is all a myth, then forget about Mormonism and the Priesthood, no matter how many scriptures they quote from the Old and New Testaments.
3) If the basis for Authority is the Bible as the Word of God (like so many Protestants believe), then that is a problem for me, as the dilemma of the Bible is the ability of so many scholars from so many different Churches and Denominations all interpret it diferently. If we cannot know with certainty what is the correct interpretation of Scripture in all its fulness, then we cannot understand God's Will from the Bible.
So what are we left with? IMHO, we are left with the fact that only God knows who is a True Christian or not. Therefore, leave all Religious Institution out of the equation. And also leave the incomprehensible Bible out of the equation. We must not build a relationship based on the "God of the Book". We must not build our relationship based on the "God of a Church or Organization" which is based on External Connections. The answer does not lie in external form or symbolism or ritual. These are simply tools or mechanisms or "compasses" to lead us to turn inward to find God and Spirituality. "The Kingdom of God is within you." (see also the Gospel of Thomas) Authority is a kind of "permission" from God to do things in His Name. What better Authority than to go within, connect with, and be touched by God, and then from this "spiritual genuineness" go forth in the world. Then by your fruits they shall know the true disciples, and even true miracles can become manifest.
"Be still, and know that I AM God."
Having said all this, if Jesus' words to Peter are true: "...And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. And the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it (my Church)." I do not see the Church as being an Organization, but rather the "body of believers", who have this genuine, authoritative, spiritual connection with God. God knows who they are, and they have existed since the time of Christ in unbroken succession since then until now. I also will go so far as to say that there are "True Christians" even inside all kinds of religious organizations professing Christianity, even the JW's and Mormons. I believe in my heart of hearts that the God of the Universe gives us all the freedom and free agency to love God each in their own way, and within the great diversity of belief systems, for the simple reason that the outer form of dogma and ritual and political structure has little or nothing to do with what is in the heart of the true believer. God knows His Own, no matter where, or what station he or she occupies. This is the same as saying God will love and bless and authorize us regardless of race, colour, creed or religion. My God is big enough to handle and contain all this in our humanity! Amen.
Nice to hear from you. You are a man of few words. I wish I had your talent.
Montanism taught a universal priesthood of believers, but also went overboard when they began to impose their will on the less "spiritual" Christians. They also went overboard in their prophesying (i.e. as a doomsday cult), and they predicted that they were living in the last days. The Lord was going to come in a few years, and begin the 1000 year reign in Pepuza. They also believed in "New Prophesy" and lived by the "Rule of Faith". They kinda died out when their prophesies did not come to pass. The Catholic Church declared them to be "heretics".
The Donatists preached a "Moral Authority". They insisted the moral worthiness of a minister affected the efficacy of the sacraments he administered. They refused to accept the spiritual authority and sacraments of the bishops and priests who had fallen away from the Church. They also taught that a small regional church had the right to determine the standards of holiness, regardless of the consensus of the rest of the Church.
I see the "Moral Authority" of the Donatists as being deficient in that it appears to me to be a case of those claiming to be in authority judging those who they deemed to be apostate or unholy. It is an authority that starts from the bottom "Man", from which judgement is made and announced, which then proceeds upwards to God. Who are they to judge? Only God can be the Judge.
The Montanists too, it appears to me, set themselves up as judge and jury. Those who saw themselves as more holy judged those who they saw as "less spiritual". Their fruits became manifest when the false prophecies were exposed for all to see, well-meaning though it might have been. Personally, I think God, knowing their hearts, may forgive them for that, because they too face the problem of "Interpretation", and so it is not too difficult to be wrong. Instead of worrying about when the end of the world was going to come, they should have been concentrating on their relationship with God. That is what really mattered.
Glad you visited this thread. You and I could have some interesting discussions on Mormonism.
I have some real difficulty accepting the Old Testament at face value, especially when I discover that the account of creation in Genesis was actually borrowed from earlier cuneiform Chaldean or Babylonian texts. I have similar problems with the story of Noah and the Flood, and also the accounts about Abraham and Job, to mention a few. Then there is the account about Moses in Egypt. Remember how he was raised in the Pharoah's household. Obviously he would have been taught the Egyptian belief system growing up. Now we have the first five books of the Bible- Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy which are attributed to Moses, for which scholastic research has had to question this premise. The point I am making is, all of the O.T. scriptures you quote proving how "Authority and the Priesthood" work must stand subordinate to the overriding question of how much you can accept of the O.T. authenticity, given its various backgrounds and origins respecting the different books over hundreds of years. There are also some huge questions of the same nature when it comes to the New Testament. The Egyptian connection is a real problem for the Bible in terms of its claim to Divine Inspiration.
Again, I see the whole problem in this light: Does the God of the Universe really care about all these documents, words and assertions made by man in the name of God over the centuries? Don't you find it significant that Jesus Christ appears not to have written a single word of Scripture? To me that says one thing: Finding God and Spirituality does not depend on the written word. The written word is only supposed to lead you to go inside yourself to find God. Nothing else. When it says that "there is no other name under heaven whereby man can be saved" I believe it means that we must follow the spiritual pathway and example that Jesus set for us to follow. He is the "Wayshower".
I will have much more to say on these subjects along the way.