The Holy Priesthood

If asked to state in one sentence or phrase the most distinguishing feature of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what would be your answer?  David O. McKay posed that question at the beginning of his general conference talk 80 years ago. He then gave his answer, “Divine authority by direct revelation.”1


Gordon B. Hinckley speaks of that divine authority in Chapter 15, The Holy Priesthood. He teaches us that the priesthood is “the power of the Almighty given to man to act in His name and in His stead. It is a delegation of divine authority, different from all other powers and authorities on the face of the earth. … Without it there could be a church in name only, lacking authority to administer in the things of God. With it, nothing is impossible in carrying forward the work of the kingdom of God.  It is divine in nature. It is both temporal and eternal in its authority.  It is the only power on the earth that reaches beyond the veil of death. … How precious is the gift of God that has come to us.”


Jeffrey R. Holland similarly reminds us, “The priesthood of God, with its keys, its ordinances, its divine origin and ability to bind in heaven what is bound on earth, is as indispensable to the true Church of God as it is unique to it and that without it there would be no Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”2


The priesthood is the most distinguishing feature, different from all other powers and authorities, indispensable and unique! It is, as President Hinckley teaches, “part of the plan of God our Eternal Father to bless the lives of His sons and daughters of all generations.”


That is very important to state again since it seems that some people get caught up in who holds the priesthood rather than who is blessed by the priesthood. The priesthood is given to us from a loving Heavenly Father to bless the lives of His sons and daughters. While the word priesthood is sometimes used to describe the men in the Church who hold the priesthood, Dallin H. Oaks has reiterated, “men are not ‘the priesthood.’ Men hold the priesthood, with a sacred duty to use it for the blessing of all of the children of God.”3


Elder Oaks has also stated, “The blessings of the priesthood are available to women and to men on the same terms. The gift of the Holy Ghost and the blessings of the temple are familiar illustrations of this truth.”3


M. Russell Ballard said, “While the authority of the priesthood is directed through priesthood keys, and priesthood keys are held only by worthy men, access to the power and the blessings of the priesthood is available to all of God’s children.”4  


And Sheri L. Dew, speaking directly to the women of the Church, echoes these teachings, “Sisters, some will try to persuade you that because you are not ordained to the priesthood, you have been shortchanged. They are simply wrong, and they do not understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. The blessings of the priesthood are available to every righteous man and woman. We may all receive the Holy Ghost, obtain personal revelation, and be endowed in the temple, from which we emerge ‘armed’ with power. The power of the priesthood heals, protects, and inoculates all of the righteous against the powers of darkness. Most significantly, the fulness of the priesthood contained in the highest ordinances of the house of the Lord can be received only by a man and woman together. … We as women are not diminished by priesthood power, we are magnified by it.  I know this is true, for I have experienced it again and again.”5  


The priesthood is meant to bless our lives, both here and hereafter, and to give us power to withstand the evils around us. While the lesson mentions several ways the priesthood does this, I would like to focus on three specific ways we can be continually blessed by the priesthood – the sacrament, the Holy Ghost and the temple. I am profoundly grateful for these blessings, which are part of my life because of the precious gift of the priesthood! 


The Sacrament


“The most important event in time and eternity is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He who accomplished the Atonement has given us the ordinance of the sacrament to help us not only remember but also claim the blessings of this supreme act of grace. Regular and earnest participation in this sacred ordinance helps us continue to embrace and live the doctrine of Christ after baptism and thereby pursue and complete the process of sanctification.” – James J. Hamula6 


“The sacrament and the partaking of these emblems is the very heart of our sabbath worship. It includes a renewal of covenants with God.  It carries with it a promise of His Holy Spirit to be with us.” -Gordon B. Hinckley7


“The ordinance of the sacrament is a holy and repeated invitation to repent sincerely and to be renewed spiritually. The act of partaking of the sacrament, in and of itself, does not remit sins. But as we prepare conscientiously and participate in this holy ordinance with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then the promise is that we may always have the Spirit of the Lord to be with us. And by the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost as our constant companion, we can always retain a remission of our sins.  We truly are blessed each week by the opportunity to evaluate our lives through the ordinance of the sacrament, to renew our covenants, and to receive this covenant promise.” -David A. Bednar8 


The Holy Ghost


“The Holy Ghost is real. He is the third member of the Godhead. His mission is to testify of truth and righteousness. He manifests Himself in many ways, including feelings of peace and reassurance. He can also bring comfort, guidance, and correction when needed. The companionship of the Holy Ghost is maintained throughout our lives by righteous living. The gift of the Holy Ghost is conferred through an ordinance of the gospel. One with authority lays his hands on the head of a new member of the Church and says words such as these: ‘Receive the Holy Ghost.’ This ordinance alone does not change us in a noticeable way, but if we listen and follow the promptings, we will receive the blessing of the Holy Ghost. Each son or daughter of our Heavenly Father can come to know the reality of Moroni’s promise: ‘By the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.'” -Boyd K. Packer9

“The Holy Ghost does not become operative in our lives merely because hands are placed upon our heads and those four important words are spoken. As we receive this ordinance, each of us accepts a sacred and ongoing responsibility to desire, to seek, to work, and to so live that we indeed ‘receive the Holy Ghost’ and its attendant spiritual gifts.” -David A. Bednar10


“Stay close to the Spirit, and the Spirit will stay close to you. … One of the privileges we enjoy as Latter-day Saints living in the fulness of times is the gift of the Holy Ghost.” -Gary E. Stevenson11


Temple


“In its ultimate expression the holy priesthood carries with it the authority to seal on the earth and have that sealing effective in the heavens. It is unique and wonderful. It is the authority exercised in the temples of God. It concerns both the living and the dead. It is of the very essence of eternity.” -Gordon B. Hinckley7 


“Until you have entered the house of the Lord and have received all the blessings which await you there, you have not obtained everything the Church has to offer. The all-important and crowning blessings of membership in the Church are those blessings which we receive in the temples of God.
“As you and I go to the holy houses of God, as we remember the covenants we make within, we will be more able to bear every trial and to overcome each temptation. In this sacred sanctuary we will find peace; we will be renewed and fortified.”  -Thomas S. Monson12


The power that can be derived from the sacrament, the Holy Ghost and the temple is immeasurable! That power is available to every woman and man who is willing to make and keep sacred covenants and live obedient lives. D. Todd Christofferson encourages us to “qualify for and receive all the priesthood ordinances you can and then faithfully keep the promises you have made by covenant. In times of distress, let your covenants be paramount and let your obedience be exact. Then you can ask in faith, nothing wavering, according to your need, and God will answer.”13


It is that type of obedience that President Hinckley speaks candidly about in one section of the lesson. He asks the priesthood holders to reflect on their lives to ensure that they are in line with the teachings of the gospel. He reminds them of their “solid and sacred obligation so to live as one worthy to speak and act in the name of God as his qualified representative.” He teaches, “Every worthy man, regardless of nationality, ethnic background, or any other factor, is eligible to receive the priesthood.  His obedience to the commandments of God becomes the determining factor. Its bestowal is based only on worthiness before the Lord.” Just as obedience and worthiness are the determining factors for men to be able to hold the priesthood, they are also the determining factors for us all to enjoy the blessings and power of the priesthood. We would all do well to do a little self-evaluating. For as Linda K. Burton taught, “Righteousness is the qualifier for each of us to invite priesthood power into our lives.”14


May we each accept President Hinckley’s challenge that, if followed, will enable men and woman alike to be blessed by priesthood power, “Flee the evils of the world. Be loyal to your better self. Be loyal to the best that is in you. Be faithful and true to the covenants that are associated with the priesthood of God.”

References:

  1.  David O. McKay – Conference Report 1937, page 121
  2.  Jeffrey R. Holland – Our Most Distinguishing Feature

  3.  Dallin H. Oaks – The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood

  4.  M. Russell Ballard – Let Us Think Straight

  5.  Sheri L. Dew – It is Not Good for Man or Woman to be Alone

  6.  James J. Hamula – The Sacrament and The Atonement

  7.  Gordon B. Hinckley – Priesthood Restoration

  8.  David A. Bednar – Always Retain a Remission of Your Sins

  9.  Boyd K. Packer – The Witness

10.  David A. Bednar – Receive the Holy Ghost

11.  Gary E. Stevenson – How Does the Holy Ghost Help You?

12.  Thomas S. Monson – The Holy Temple – A Beacon to the World

13.  D. Todd Christofferson – The Power of Covenants

14.  Linda K. Burton – Priesthood Power – Available to All

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