Priesthood, the Responsibility to Represent God (David O. McKay Lesson 12)

Priesthood in the Church

There are three requisites for priesthood holders. The first requisite for the priesthood holder is to understand what priesthood is. The second, how priesthood should be exercised. And the third, how to magnify this priesthood.

We are the Lord's agents. "Wherefore, as ye are agents, ye are on the Lord's errand; and whatever ye do according to the will of the Lord is the Lord's business" (D&C 64:29). When one becomes a holder of the priesthood, he becomes an agent of the Lord. He should think of his calling as though he were on the Lord's errand. That is what it means to magnify the priesthood. Think of the Master asking each of you, as this young boy did of Joseph and Mary, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" Whatever you do according to the will of the Lord is the Lord's business.

The priesthood is held by men. Women do not hold the priesthood. Some have thought that they might and do to some extent. I read two statements to indicate what the Church's position is with reference to the place of woman as she relates to the priesthood: President Joseph Fielding Smith, quoting from his father, says:

"Does a wife hold the priesthood with her husband, and may she lay hands on the sick with him, with authority? A wife does not hold the priesthood with her husband, but she enjoys the benefits thereof with him; and if she is requested to lay hands on the sick with him, she may do so with perfect propriety."

When this is done the wife is adding her faith to the administration of her husband. The wife would lay on hands just as would a member of the Aaronic Priesthood, or a faithful brother without the Priesthood, she in this manner giving support by faith to the ordinance performed by her husband. (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-56], 3:177.)

I want you to get the distinction that he makes there—the husband performs the ordinance by the authority of the priesthood, and she (if she joins with him in such an experience) would do it only to add her faith to his, but not by any authority of the priesthood.

Brother John A. Widtsoe has added another note to this matter when he says:

By divine fiat, the Priesthood is conferred on the men. This means that organization must prevail in the family, the ultimate unit of the Church. The husband, the Priesthood bearer, presides over the family; the Priesthood conferred upon him is intended for the blessing of the whole family. Every member shares in the gift bestowed, but under a proper organization. No man who understands the gospel believes that he is greater than his wife, or more beloved of the Lord, because he holds the Priesthood, but rather that he is under the responsibility of speaking and acting for the family in official matters. (Evidences and Reconciliations, comp. G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1960], pp. 307-8.)

And so we begin to see priesthood as it relates to the entire membership of the Church.

Women are guardians of the priesthood. I suppose having heard my lovely [wife] Joan you understand what she means when she says, "The woman must be the guardian of the priesthood." If you would see how she guards me and how she sanctifies me every day I live with her, you can understand that she is a living example of what she is talking about. I am so grateful that the Lord has permitted her to come into my life. I have said, "With an angel on the other side pulling for me, and a living angel on this side boosting for me, somehow I ought to make it."

There are two guiding principles of the priesthood. Now, how does the priesthood operate in the Church? There are two guiding principles. The first is what is commonly known as the doctrine of common consent. The Lord, speaking of the doctrine of common consent, said: "All things shall be done by common consent in the church, by much prayer and faith, for all things you shall receive by faith" (D&C 26:2).

The next principle which guides in the operation of the priesthood is one which is clearly set forth by the Lord in the forty-second section of the Doctrine and Covenants and eleventh verse, which, if we understood, would free many of the follies from which they now suffer because they do not understand. This is what the Lord said: "Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church" (D&C 42:11).

President [J. Reuben] Clark, in his great work called On the Way to Immortality and Eternal Life, page 139, has given us a definition of priesthood which embodies this principle but is stated a little differently. Note how he has defined priesthood: "The priesthood of God is the authority delegated to man by God to act for Him and in His name [now note] in the matters and to the extent which He stipulates when He bestows the endowment."

In other words, while we all may hold the Melchizedek Priesthood, we may only exercise it within such specified limits as are indicated when we receive the endowment or the key by the laying on of hands for each conduct.

Violations by priesthood holders will be publicized. I want to tell you something. If any one of you men holding the holy priesthood ever commit a crime or step out of line, that is going to be dramatized and publicized much more than any publicity you will get for the organization of this stake. Make no mistake about it.

Study the scriptures to understand the priesthood. We need to study those scriptures which pertain to priesthood to be fully advised in the priesthood of the spiritual phases of our calling. Every priesthood holder should study thoroughly sections 20, 42, 68, 84, 107, 111, 121, and 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants. He should also study and understand Paul's message to the Hebrews, especially the fifth and seventh chapters. (Furthermore, the book of Alma, chapter 13, will give you a point of view about priesthood that reaches way back to premortal life and shows you the relation of the premortal life to this life so far as priesthood is concerned.) If any man will study these teachings and put them into practice in his life, he is going to be a better officer in his professional life as well as in the Church.

Study two key revelations to understand the priesthood. There are two great revelations which must be read and understood and almost committed to memory if you would understand the priesthood. I refer first to one of the greatest of all the revelations we have ever had, the 107th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, and then to the eighty-fourth section. There are other scriptures which deal with priesthood, but those are the two great revelations on the subject.

Teaching the gospel is the most important priesthood responsibility. We have all been telling you that this is the most important, and this is the most important. It is all the most important. One cannot say, "Let not the head say unto the feet it hath no need of the feet" (D&C 84:109), and so on, using the illustration. They are all important, and none should be said to be more important than the other. Every phase of priesthood work is important. That we must all understand. After it is all said and done, brethren, our greatest responsibility is to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to teach the doctrines of the kingdom. If we fail in that, we have failed in the most important thing all of us should be doing.

Priesthood success is measured in part by our ability to love. Our success [in priesthood programs] will be measured in part by our capacity to love those whom we seek to lead and to serve. When we truly love others it can eliminate the bad motives that often prevail in human relationships. When we truly love others we will act in their eternal interests and not to meet our own ego needs.

Priesthood is the power of God given to man. What is priesthood? Well, we've had the definition—it's the power of the Lord given to man to act for Him in things pertaining to salvation. But I have a different definition that to me seems more accurate. Priesthood is the power by which the power of the Almighty works through man.

The priesthood is the center, the core, the power by which all the activities of the Church are to be directed.

The Lord has told us how to determine proper authority. The Lord has very plainly set forth a test by which anyone may challenge any and all who may come claiming, clandestinely, to have received some kind of priesthood authority. Now, this is what the Lord said in the forty-second section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 11: "Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church."

Now, if one comes claiming that he has authority, ask him, "Where do you get your authority? Have you been ordained by someone who has authority, who is known to the Church, that you have authority and have been regularly ordained by the heads of the Church?" If the answer is no, you may know that he is an imposter. This is the test that our people should always apply when some imposter comes trying to lead them astray.

Priesthood quorums are the basis of real strength. When we began our study of what has been called the "Correlation Program," we found that in priesthood work there were so many committees and task forces outside of priesthood organizations that the central core and strength of the Church on which the kingdom of God is founded—the priesthood—was being sidetracked, as it were, in favor of temporary committees to respond, as it was thought, more quickly to the solution of the problem. It was like giving aspirin for a headache rather than searching for the real cause of the headache. We were prone, to use an old illustration, instead of building a fence around the edge of the cliff, to place an ambulance down in the valley.

Instead of that we have now called upon the priesthood quorums to assume the responsibilities, as the Lord has given it to them, "to watch over the Church always, and be with and strengthen them" (D&C 20:53). It may be a longer process, but in the ultimate it will be the program upon which real strength will be maintained.

The priesthood can strengthen the auxiliaries. In the April conference several years ago, President Joseph F. Smith made a statement which has guided the thinking of our Brethren somewhat when he said:

We expect to see the day, if we live long enough (and if some of us do not live long enough to see it, there are others who will), when every council of the Priesthood in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will understand its duty, will assume its own responsibility, will magnify its calling, and fill its place in the Church, to the uttermost, according to the intelligence and ability possessed by it. When that day shall come, there will not be so much necessity for work that is now being done by the auxiliary organizations, because it will be done by the regular quorums of the Priesthood. (In Conference Report, April 1906, p. 3.)
Now, there has been some misunderstanding about that statement. This did not mean that we would eliminate the auxiliaries heretofore established, but it meant that we would increase the responsibility of the priesthood quorums in strengthening these existing organizations by becoming more involved in order to give priesthood emphasis to every phase of the Lord's work.

Priesthood holders must be different. The holders of the priesthood must say to themselves: "We can't be holders of the priesthood and be like other men. We must be different, because priesthood means a fellowship in the royal household of the kingdom of God."

Activation of prospective elders is urgent. We [now] call [those men who are not fully active] "prospective elders"; we call them that because we want them to see the goal of becoming elders one day and being worthy to take families to the temple and to be sealed in the house of the Lord. We have some anxiety that we were relaxing our efforts, and yet we have hundreds of thousands of our young people together with their fathers and mothers who have never been to the temple yet, which means that unless somebody wakes up before it's too late, they will not be all together in family relationships after the resurrection. Are you doing all you can within your own circle to see that that program is fostered and taught and carried forward?

Many are foreordained who are not chosen. Joseph Smith said this to us: "I believe that every person who is called to do an important work in the Kingdom of God was called to that work or was foreordained to that work before this world was." Then he said, "I believe that I was foreordained to the work that I am now called to do." (See History of the Church 6:364.)

Here comes an ominous warning. Despite that calling, the Lord put into the mind of the Prophet Joseph Smith [the following, recorded in D&C 121:34- 36]: "Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen." In other words, suggesting that because we have our agency here there were many who were foreordained to a greater work than they prepare themselves to do here. Now He said, "And why are they not chosen?" Then He gives two reasons why men fail of their appointments: first, "Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world," and second, they "aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—that the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven."

There is order in the Church. Sometimes a former temple president asks, years after his release, if he can have permission to go back into the temple to perform another sealing, perhaps for a grandchild. His request is denied. When a member releases the keys that he formerly held, the keys do not belong to him anymore. They belong to somebody else, and he doesn't have the authority he once had, because there is order in the Church.

The kingdom of God exists wherever there is one authorized to perform the saving ordinances. What do we mean, then, when we say the kingdom of God? What constitutes the kingdom of God on the earth? The Prophet Joseph Smith gave this explanation. He said whenever there is an elder or an authorized servant of the Lord holding the holy priesthood, authorized to perform the saving ordinances of the gospel, there is the kingdom of God on the earth (see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938], p. 274). Think of that—whenever there is one holding the priesthood, authorized to perform the saving ordinances, then you have the kingdom of God, whether you have Apostles and prophets and a complete organization. That's not the criteria, but whether or not there is someone who can perform the saving ordinances of the gospel.

Newly baptized men need the priesthood. It's my feeling that if a male member has really been converted, that almost simultaneous with his baptism he is ready to take the first step in the Aaronic Priesthood. He should be assigned to some kind of activity that puts that priesthood power into action. He should be made to feel at home in his new community. We should recognize and put ourselves into his place and be familiar with him and seek earnestly to try to see it from his standpoint, to lead him from where he is now in dress, habits, leisure time, conduct, social life, books he reads, and such like. We will [then] begin to understand more how we must fellowship.

Proper appearance is important when we officiate in the priesthood. When we officiate in the name of the Lord, as holders of the priesthood, we are doing it in the name and in behalf of our Heavenly Father. Priesthood is the power by which our Heavenly Father works through men, through deacons, through teachers, through priests, and I have a feeling that we are not impressing that upon our young men. They are not taking the understanding of their priesthood as seriously as they might. If they did they would always want to appear at their best when they are exercising their priesthood. Their hair would be properly groomed; their clothing and appearance would reflect the sanctity they should feel in the performance of their priesthood duties. I have had that same feeling. I have never performed an ordinance, such as administering to the sick, without first excusing myself, if I were out in the garden or somewhere, until I was properly clothed, to make the best appearance I could, because I felt in so doing I was drawing close to the Lord Himself, and I want to appear at my best in His presence.

The priesthood has always been on the earth. President [J. Reuben] Clark said something that startled some folks years ago. He said, "It is my faith that the gospel plan has always been here, that his priesthood has always been here on the earth, and that it will continue to be so until the end comes" (in Conference Report, October 1953, p. 39). When that conference session was over there were many who said, "My goodness, doesn't President Clark realize that there have been periods of apostasy following each dispensation of the gospel?"

I walked over to the Church Office Building with President Joseph Fielding Smith and he said, "I believe there has never been a moment of time since the creation that God has abandoned the earth to Satan. There has always been someone holding the priesthood on the earth to hold Satan in check." And then I thought of Enoch's city with perhaps thousands who were taken into heaven and were translated. They must have been translated for a purpose and may have sojourned with those living on the earth ever since that time. I have thought of Elijah—and perhaps Moses; for all we know they were translated beings, as was John the Revelator. I have thought of the Three Nephites. Why were they translated and permitted to tarry? For what purpose? An answer was suggested when I heard President Smith make the above statement. Now, that doesn't mean that the kingdom of God has always been present, because these men did not have the authority to administer the saving ordinances of the gospel to the world. But these individuals were translated for a purpose known to the Lord. There is no question but what they were here.

Power in the Priesthood

The priesthood is necessary to perform ordinances. In addition to having the gospel and the organization of the Church, the priesthood was necessary for the express purpose of giving power to those called to administer in the ordinances necessary to achieve the salvation the Lord has designed for His purpose.

The strength of the Church lies in the power of the priesthood. Some have speculated that the strength of this church lies in the tithing system; some have thought in the missionary system; but those who understand rightly the word of the Lord understand full well that the strength of the Church is, fundamentally, in neither of these. The strength of the Church is not in a large membership, but the real strength of this church lies in the power and authority of the holy priesthood which our Heavenly Father has given to us in this day. If we exercise properly that power and magnify our callings in the priesthood, we will see to it that the missionary work shall go forward, that the tithing shall be paid, that the welfare plan shall prosper, that our homes shall be safe, and that morality among the youth of Israel shall be safeguarded.

We must pay the price to have priesthood power. Now, to you who are male members of the Church: You have a right to hold what is called the priesthood of God. Priesthood means two things: not merely authority to act in an office, but it means power as well as authority. But again, that is a blessing that only comes to him who pays the price. Some have hands laid upon their head to receive this power and this authority, but never receive it. And why can't they receive it? The Lord has told us two things: because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and second, they aspire so much to the honors of men (see D&C 121:35). Will you think back to those of your acquaintance and see why it is that some fall by the wayside in spiritual matters, and you will find the answer in one of those two things. Either their hearts were set so much upon the things of this world—was it money? was it social position? was it things in the educational world?—or they were aspiring so much to the honors of men that they couldn't be bothered with things in the Church. Yes, if you would be leaders in the Church and hold these privileges, you must pay the price.

Priesthood holders represent the Lord. Now then, you brethren called to certain specific positions, you are set apart to certain callings. What does it mean to have hands laid upon your head? Let me take you to the thirty-sixth section of the Doctrine and Covenants and read to you a verse that you may have skimmed over and haven't seen the significance of. This is a revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet to Edward Partridge, the first Presiding Bishop. This is what the Lord said: "And I will lay my hand upon you [Edward Partridge] by the hand of my servant Sidney Rigdon, and you shall receive my Spirit, the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which shall teach you the peaceable things of the kingdom" (D&C 36:2).

Do you see what He is saying—that whenever you perform a service by the authority of your priesthood it is as though the Lord were placing His hand on that person by your hand in order for you to bestow the blessings of life, of health, of priesthood, or whatever it may be. And whenever we exercise our priesthood, we are doing it as though the Lord were there with us, and through us, helping us to perform that ordinance.

Live worthy of revelation. Brethren of the priesthood, when you are called to a position, you fathers in the home, you have a right to have the blessings of the priesthood, and you have a right to have the revelations of the Spirit to guide and direct you if you are living so that the Lord can open the windows of heaven to you and give you direction in the specific callings to which you are called. Brethren, in order to receive that, you have to live for it. You have to qualify.

The power of the priesthood is wonderful in times of crisis. Some years ago I went to a stake conference where the Manti Temple is located down in southern Utah. It was a dark, stormy night and it was snowing. As we left our meetings and went to the home of the stake president, we stopped there in the car and looked up at the temple situated high on a hill. As we sat impressed by the sight of that beautifully lighted temple shining through the snowy and dark night, the stake president said something to me that was very meaningful. He said, "That temple, lighted as it is, is never more beautiful than in a storm or when there is a dense fog." To understand the importance of that, may I say to you that never is the gospel of Jesus Christ more important to you than in a storm or when you are having great difficulty. Never is the power of the priesthood, which you hold, more wonderful than when there is a crisis in your home, a serious illness, or some great decision that has to be made, or there is a great threat of flood, or fire, or famine of some kind. Vested in the power of the priesthood, which is the power of Almighty God, is the power to perform miracles if the Lord wills it so, but in order for us to use that priesthood, we must be worthy to exercise it. A failure to understand this principle is a failure to receive the blessings of holding that great priesthood.

Priesthood power is bestowed by God. I was sent back years ago to New York to select a patriarch. We decided upon a certain man and went to his home. He had been out with his sons on the welfare farm pitching manure all day and was tired and weary. After he had changed his clothes and came in, I made him more weary when I told him what it was I had come for—that he was to be called as the patriarch to that stake. The next morning in conference he bore a remarkable testimony. Then afterwards we went to the Manhattan Ward, where I was to ordain him. The office is down in the basement where there is no [natural] light.This is the story as told by the stake president's wife: "As you walked over to put your hands on DeWitt Paul's head, I thought to myself, He is a man with whom we socialize. We have gone on trips with him, to dances, and he has been in our social group. Now part of his responsibility is to declare the lineage from which each one has come in these blessings. He hasn't been a student of ancient languages—how is he going to know? "With these thoughts in my mind, you walked over and put your hands on his head, and a light came from behind you and went right through you and into him. And I thought to myself, Isn't that a strange coincidence that the sunlight has come in just at that moment. And then I realized that there was no sunlight. I was witnessing the answer to my question. That light came from somewhere beyond Brother Lee and went through Brother Lee into this patriarch. Then I knew where he was going to get that information—by the revelations of Almighty God."

Faith is the activating force of the priesthood. Remember, faith is the activating force of priesthood, without which, priesthood is not effective in your lives.

Priesthood power requires keeping our covenants. And with reference to the priesthood, when the Lord discusses in the eighty-fourth section [of the Doctrine and Covenants] the oath and covenant, exactly the same principle is implied. By the laying on of hands we get the promise of power and authority, but it will not be ours—worlds without end—unless we keep our part of the covenant.

Priesthood increases individual power. Why is it important to ordain men to the priesthood almost simultaneously with baptism?

These were answers that came to me as I thought about this question. Priesthood defined is the power of God given to man to act for Him in all things pertaining to the salvation of man—and I should add, within the limitations of each endowment of authority by the laying on of hands. Now, if to hold priesthood is to give men power of God to act for Him, and if we give that power to a newly baptized member, what does it do to the member?

Well, it increases his individual power over himself, over his natural powers to combat successfully the powers of the adversary, and all our new converts need that, don't they? It gives him power to maintain his place at the head of his own household in solving his family problems. It gives him power to influence friends and relatives to accept the gospel.

The day of miracles is not past. One of the General Authorities recently told us of an experience he had many years ago, before he came to Salt Lake to serve with us. His son was an athlete when the family was living in Idaho. This young man had practiced and practiced in order to play on his high school team, where they were competing for the championship of the state of Idaho. He said that one day the telephone rang at his business office and his young son said to him, "Dad, I have broken my arm. I am here at the doctor's office. They have taken an x-ray and my arm is broken." His father said to him, "Son, are you sure?" "Yes," he said, "the doctors have taken an x- ray and they say the bone is broken." The father told us, "Oh, how my heart was saddened because I knew how much he wanted to play in the championship game." But he said to his son, "I will be right over." When he arrived he said, "Let's go home, son, and tomorrow we'll fast and pray with the whole family." They fasted and prayed all the next day, and the father was prompted to take his son to another doctor. The second doctor took another x-ray and said to the boy, "Did you say your arm was broken? There is no break in your arm that I can see." Two weeks afterward that son played on the championship team.

You ask me by what power is that done? That's the power of Almighty God working through those who have the priesthood. His father who was a holder of the priesthood administered to him, and by the authority of the holy priesthood as he was moved upon, blessed his son that he would be healed from his infirmity.

I know that power by which those miracles can be performed. This is a day of miracles. They are happening among us all the time if we only live in such a way that God can use us as His instruments by which these miraculous things can be done. I say to you the day of miracles has not passed.

Great miracles can happen to the faithful. May I impose upon you for a moment to express appreciation for something that happened to me some time ago. I was suffering from an ulcer condition that was becoming worse and worse. We had been touring a mission; my wife, Joan, and I were impressed the next morning that we should get home as quickly as possible, although we had planned to stay for some other meetings.

On the way across the country, we were sitting in the forward section of the airplane. Some of our Church members were in the next section. As we approached a certain point en route, someone laid his hand upon my head. I looked up; I could see no one. That happened again before we arrived home, again with the same experience. Who it was, by what means or what medium, I may never know, except I knew that I was receiving a blessing that I came a few hours later to know I needed most desperately.

As soon as we arrived home, my wife very anxiously called the doctor. It was now about eleven o'clock at night. He called me to come to the telephone, and he asked me how I was; and I said, "Well, I am very tired. I think I will be all right." But shortly thereafter, there came massive hemorrhages which, had they occurred while we were in flight, I wouldn't be here today talking about it.

I know that there are powers divine that reach out when all other help is not available. We see that manifest down in the countries we speak of as the underprivileged countries where there is little medical aid and perhaps no hospitals. If you want to hear of great miracles among these humble people with simple faith, you will see it among them when they are left to themselves. Yes, I know that there are such powers.

The Lord can heal sick souls as well as bodies. I was over in Tokyo back in 1954 with instructions to visit all the servicemen in Korea. The war had just then stalemated, you remember, in South and North Korea. And we were holding a conference at Tokyo and with all the servicemen. A group of these sailors came up, and the last of the group was a man who had his right arm in a sling. And as he was introduced, he put out his left hand to acknowledge the introduction and he said: "I'm not a member of the Church, Elder Lee, but I understand you're going down to the Philippines. We hope to be down there when you're down holding conference in Manila. I hope I can tell you when I get there that I'm now a member of the Church."

Well, a month or so passed. I had forgotten the circumstance, until as we started the meeting there at Clark Field just out of Manila, in walked a group of sailors. And suddenly I remembered this Tokyo experience. And I looked for this man, and there he was. His arm wasn't in the sling now. And after the meeting was over, we went to one of the homes for a little open house where we could chat with these boys and their wives—some wives were there. And in a corner he said: "You remember when I shook hands with you—I had my arm in a sling. I'd had a bad infection and I sat through that meeting in agony—I thought my arm was going to drop off. I walked up and shook hands, and then we were to go out and board the bus and go back to the Oklahoma Harbor. And as I walked off the stand, suddenly that throbbing pain left me. I thought, "That's strange. I very carefully took my arm out of the sling," and he said, "I didn't need the sling anymore. The pain had stopped—the infection subsided. And I knew that there was something in that meeting that I had come in contact with that had caused the pains in my body to cease."

Now he said: "I've got a sweet wife back in the United States, and I've dealt her all the misery that I guess a husband could give. I don't know why she stayed with me. I've done about everything that's wrong. But I'm going to try to live so that I can go back now and prove that I'm worthy of her, God being my helper."

A few years later I was with Brother Stapley down in Richmond, Virginia, and right down in the front was this man and that lovely wife he was talking about. We sustained him as a counselor in the elders quorum. Three months later, I was there again to patch up my mistakes of the three months before, and this time he was sustained as a member of the high priests quorum. The last I heard of him he was serving as a bishop over in the Hawaiian Islands. In this church, there is a power that the Lord has, through men, to heal not only sick bodies but to heal sick souls. And the greatest miracles I see in this church are the latter—the healing of souls of men who are sick.

Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods

Priesthood holders may be foreordained. The history of the Melchizedek Priesthood did not begin with this earth. The prophets understood the premortal existence of priesthood. The Apostle Paul expressed it when he said, "Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually" (Hebrews 7:3). That men who are called of God to the authority of the ministry on earth may have been selected for such an appointment even before they took mortal bodies is clearly evident from the scriptures [quotes Abraham 3:22-23; Alma 13:3-4; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938), p. 365].

Aaronic Priesthood holders are our future Church leaders. We might say that much depends upon the successful development of the Aaronic Priesthood. This is a trite but true statement. In fact, the future of the stake, its growth and development, depends largely upon the training and education of the young men of today. For that reason, the supervision of the Aaronic Priesthood work in all the stakes should be carefully undertaken and wholeheartedly carried forward in accordance with the standards as have been specified.

What is the relationship of Scouting and the Aaronic Priesthood? May I say to you: Scouting will be successful in this church only as it relates to and maintains a definite relationship with the Aaronic Priesthood. May I put it in a negative way and say that when Scouting fails to be the activity program for the priesthood, it will cease to be a functioning part of the Church program.

Instilling standards is the work of Aaronic Priesthood leaders. Aaronic Priesthood leaders, your success will be determined by the standards you develop in the boys you lead. This also you must not forget. Your great joy will be to see them go on missions, go to the house of the Lord to be married, and become trusted citizens in the household of the Lord.

Aaronic Priesthood holders represent the Lord. The other night I had a group of young Cub Scouts, who are about the age to become ordained deacons, and I said to these young men, "When you get to be deacons, what will be the duties of a deacon?"

And they all said, "The duty of the deacon is to pass the sacrament."

And I said, "Now I would like you to think of this a little differently. That isn't the way to explain the duty of a deacon. What does it mean to pass the sacrament? When a deacon carries the emblems of the bread and water which have been blessed to the good of those to whom it shall be passed, it is then a renewal of a covenant that if they will keep the commandments of God and remember the Lord Jesus Christ, for whom those emblems stand, they will have the Spirit of the Lord to be with them."

A deacon, then, has the responsibility of representing the Lord to carry these emblems and thus be the Lord's agent in submitting these to the body of the Church.

When you ask a teacher what are his duties, he may answer, "Well, it's to do home teaching." But suppose you say to him, "When you do home teaching you are representing the Lord, to visit the home of each member, to see that they are doing their duty, and to see that they are all keeping the commandments of God."

The duties of a priest: The priest "is to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize, and administer the sacrament, and to visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties" (D&C 20:46-47). They should have in mind when they are acting in those capacities it is as though they were acting for and responsible to the Lord.

Melchizedek Priesthood holders are defenders of the faith. May I [relate] a dream or a parable taken from one of the prophets of the Old Testament, in which was depicted a watchman on a high tower overlooking the countryside, watching for enemies that might be coming to destroy, enemies that were in evidence by clouds of dust of approaching camels or horses, or whatever they had. The watchman was reporting hour by hour down to his lord in the courtyard, "All is well, All is well," or he reported if he saw any dangers.

But in the dream or the parable the lord asked: "Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?" (Isaiah 21:11) suggesting that more to be feared than the enemies that come in the daytime that you can see are the enemies that come in the night.

Now, it is about the enemies that come in the night I want just to make one reference.

The term elder, which is applied to all holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood, means a defender of the faith. That is our prime responsibility and calling. Every holder of the Melchizedek Priesthood is to be a defender of the faith.

There are insidious forces among us that are constantly trying to knock at our doors and trying to lay traps for our young men and women, particularly those who are unwary and unsophisticated in the ways of the world. I speak of the battle against liquor by the drink, gambling, prostitution, and pornography, and of our efforts to aid Christian people who desire to have one day dedicated to keeping the Sabbath day holy: "And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day" (D&C 59:9). Defenders of the faith should be alert, then, to see to it with all their influence that there is an opportunity given to the working man, the boy and the girl, the husband and the wife to have one day in the week when they can be with their families and have one day consecrated as a day of rest. Watchmen, be alert to the "dangers of the night"!

Quorum leaders should visit homes. Since home teaching was inaugurated on a quorum basis by quorum leaders, there has been, in some stakes, almost a total absence of visitations of quorum leaders to their inactive members, besides the home teaching visit. And therein is a vacuum I think we ought to close and say to these quorum leaders, "Now, this doesn't mean because we have home teaching that you shouldn't be visiting your inactive members. You, as quorum leaders, should work month after month to reactivate them."

Home Teaching

Proper home teaching incorporates real caring. If there are administrations to be attended to, these successful [home] teachers are prepared with a bottle of consecrated oil to administer to the sick, and they report that illness to the bishop of the ward promptly. If they find conditions of need, someone who needs to be administered to for his temporal [needs], that report is made at once to the bishop of the ward, who sees to it that their needs are thus supplied. If they find a man who is having difficulty with his family problems or business problems, he makes a report to the bishop. He acts as an arbitrator: where he finds disputes in a neighborhood, as between families, or a feeling against the bishop of the ward or against priesthood quorum officers, this man endeavors to be the peacemaker and bring all contending parties into a condition of agreement. He is on the lookout for children who are over eight years of age who have not been baptized; he endeavors to see that they are baptized; the same with children who have not been taken to the sacrament meeting to be blessed. He keeps in touch constantly with all the sacrament meetings of the ward, and goes to the sacrament meeting early and shakes hands with all newcomers. He makes a mental note to see whether or not his families are in attendance at meetings. If they do not happen to be there, on his way home, sometimes he stops in and says: "I did not see you at sacrament meeting; I came to see if there is any illness in your home, because no one was there." So he checks these people to make sure they are doing their duty.

I found in these wards where good [home] teaching is being done that the bishop dignifies the [home] teacher by inviting him to assist in ordinations and the blessing of children from the families whom [he visits].

Time will not permit my going into detail on more of these matters, but I know that where the priesthood of the Lord undertake the responsibility as the Lord has intended they should assume it, more good will result, and these who are in need of counsel, these parents who are unwisely permitting their children to go into places of danger, might be counseled by the wise [home] teacher. Thousands who are denying themselves the blessings of the priesthood, thousands who have not been sealed to their families, where they have gone out into forbidden paths, where they are spiritually sick, where they need the ministration of someone who cares for their welfare—that is the place where the [home] teacher must function.

Home teaching is missionary work. Home teaching then means "watching over the Church" as the scriptures have defined it. Missionary work is but home teaching to those who are not now members of the Church, and home teaching is nothing more or less than missionary work to Church members.

Home teachers are to assist parents. The name of home teaching was given to this movement to distinguish it from ward teaching. When this was discussed with President David O. McKay, some suggested we should call them watchmen—"priesthood watchmen"—but the President wisely counseled that we had better not let the membership of the Church think of the priesthood as detectives, that it would be better to call them the priesthood home teachers.

Home teaching, in essence, means that we consider separately each individual member of the family who constitutes the entire home personnel. Home teaching, as distinguished from ward teaching, is to help the parents with home problems in their efforts to teach their families the fundamentals of parental responsibility, as contrasted with merely bringing a message, a gospel message, to the entire family. Quorum leaders were given the responsibility of selecting, training, and supervising quorum members in visiting with and teaching assigned families of their own quorum members.

Effective home teaching focuses on the total needs of the family. Among the things lacking is a real and widely shared vision of what home teaching is. It includes giving and teaching lessons, to be sure, but it really is a sense of stewardship that looks to the total needs of the home. It may be just as helpful to a widow to have home teachers make arrangements for her lawn to be mowed and her garbage cans to be set out as it is to remind her in a lesson of the dignity of work; as the human life span lengthens, we must remember the loneliness of the old and seek to provide them with home teachers and visiting teachers who will see to their need for something as simple as conversation and their need for expressions of concern that go beyond a brief visit and lesson. Elder [Spencer W.] Kimball told me yesterday that he heard one home teacher say, "Well, I've done my home teaching for the month. I get it all over with the first two days of the month." But to one who senses what real home teaching is, his job is never done. Sometimes, again and again and again he must go back to repeat that stewardship where a need is evidenced.

The key to effective home teaching lies in the ability of the home teachers and the family to build a relationship in which all are comfortable enough that practical things can be done to help, and significant and specific inquiries can be made about conditions in the home without giving offense or being ritualistic. This relationship can be built on love and trust, but love and trust require a concern that goes beyond the giving of a lesson; they involve having home teachers who know their families and their needs and respond to these needs specifically and appropriately. If we had this kind of home teaching, we could see how family home evening and home teaching are aimed at common objectives and how they can be mutually supportive so far as the gospel in action is concerned.

Quality home teaching is needed. Unless there is a constant improvement in the performance of family members, then there must be careful reexamination of the quality of the home teaching and watching over of the families assigned by each team of home teachers. I was shown in my last stake conference 94 percent home teaching, and yet they had diminished in holding family home evening, and attendance at sacrament meeting was going in the opposite direction. There is clear evidence that we are getting quantity, but we are not getting quality home teaching.

Home teachers are guardians. Maybe the [home] teacher should be charged more clearly to describe his mission to watch over—to strengthen—to see that members do their duty. There's our failure. They think themselves as teachers of the gospel message only. Maybe we ought to be calling them home guardians or sentinels and to [have them] report their stewardship to the fathers of the ward. We must do something to change the emphasis from teaching to a guardians-watching-over-the-Church kind of concept. Until we can get that into their minds, we are not going to do the kind of home teaching that is going to get results.

Home teachers must strengthen families. Brethren of the priesthood, you who are home teachers, when you see families that are on the verge of divorce, when you see incorrigible children that haven't found their way, parents who seem to have lost contact with their children—brethren of the priesthood, you have a responsibility to stay with those families and not let them drift apart until you have done everything within your powers to stop this trend of divorce.

Home teachers can help stem the tide of evil. When our home teachers are made to realize and are schooled in their responsibilities to teach and urge parents to assume their responsibilities, we will be able to stem the tide of evil which is sweeping over the world.

The home is a place of preparation. [From a dedicatory prayer.] May we realize that [the preparation for the glorious coming of the Savior] must be done primarily in the home and not left merely to the teachers in buildings such as these. And if there be those parents who have not the genius or the disposition to gather their children around about them and teach them, may the priesthood of thy people rise up unto their responsibility and be true home teachers, which means not to merely think of the family en masse, but to look to the welfare of every individual child. May they look to the father, the mother, the teenagers, the grandparents, that they may all be persuaded to step forward, to climb higher to the purpose for which they are put here upon this earth.

Exercising the Priesthood

The priesthood must not be used unrighteously. The penalty if we do use our priesthood unrighteously is that the heavens withdraw themselves and the Spirit of the Lord is grieved. When we lose the Spirit, our priesthood authority is taken from us and we are left to ourselves "to kick against the pricks" when we are being irritated by the admonitions and instructions of our leaders. Then we begin to persecute the Saints, which means to criticize and finally to fight against God, and the powers of darkness overtake us if we do not repent and turn from that evil course.

Our task is to magnify the priesthood. [The Lord] says, "Whoso is faithful unto the magnifying [of] their calling" (D&C 84:33). I want you to think what those words mean. What does it mean to magnify? Have you ever seen a magnifying glass? When you hold a magnifying glass over something it makes that thing look bigger than you could see it with the naked eye; that's a magnifying glass. Now, he said, if anybody magnifies their priesthood—that is, makes it bigger than they first thought it was and more important than anyone else thought it was—that is the way you magnify your priesthood. It just takes on a new luster.

The priesthood will grow when magnified. If you will just remember to tie everything [to] and teach your people [to] work through the priesthood; give the priesthood responsibility and then tell them to magnify it. Teach them how, give them marching orders, and then see that they do it, and you will see the priesthood grow.

The priesthood can help us to cope with adversity. The power of the priesthood is to be exercised in order to cope with adversity and affliction.

These are times of trouble. God expects us to cope with adversity and affliction. May our peace come by using the power of the priesthood, and [may we] teach our people to do likewise.

The priesthood must be a force of righteousness in the world. Brethren of the priesthood, if we will be united and let our light shine, and not hide our light under a bushel but exercise it righteously, and let our priesthood callings be an eternal revolution against the norms of society or against any proposals that fall below the standards as set forth in the gospel of Jesus Christ or as laid down by the Constitution of the United States written by inspired men, then we will be a force in the world that will be "the marvelous work and wonder" which the Lord said the kingdom of God was to be.

Priesthood holders should feel a weight of responsibility. One of the mission presidents, with a group of his missionaries back in the eastern states some years ago, was meeting in a hall with pillars that ran down the center of the hall, and he said to one of the missionaries, "Get up and push that pillar over."

"Well," said the missionary, "I can't."


"Because the weight of that ceiling is all on top of the pillar."

Then the president asked, "Suppose that weight were lifted off. Could you push the pillar over then?"

The missionary replied, "Why, sure, I think I could."

Then the president said, "Now, brethren, you and I are just like one of those pillars. As long as we have a weight of responsibility in this church, all hell can't push us over; but as soon as that weight is lifted off, most of us are easy marks by the powers that drag us down."

Now we want to put a weight of responsibility on every holder of the priesthood and on every father in every home. You must remember that if we are to multiply the number of those who are so-called inactives, who haven't been to the temple, by the average-size family, you are counting up to hundreds of thousands of members of this church who, unless we do something about it, will not be sealed together in the temple and will not, therefore, belong together in family relationships in the hereafter.

Remember that activity is the soul of spirituality.

The business of the Church is to save souls. The qualities of acceptable priesthood leadership are also carefully defined in (D&C 121). One is to preside over the Church with patience and longsuffering, with gentleness and meekness, with love unfeigned. If one must discipline and reprove with sharpness, he must do it when moved upon by the Holy Ghost and then show forth afterwards an increase of love, lest the one whom he has reproved would think him to be an enemy (see D&C 121:41- 43). In all our priesthood callings we must never forget that the business of the Church and kingdom of God is to save souls, and that all over whom we preside are our Father's children, and He will aid us in our endeavors to save every one.

Priesthood holders represent the Lord. Brethren, I am afraid that some of our elders do not understand this, that when they are officiating as elders of the Church, or as seventies or as high priests, it is as though when they perform the ordinance, the Lord through them is acting upon the heads of those for whom they minister. I have often thought one of the reasons why we are not magnifying our priesthood is because we don't understand that as holders of the priesthood, He is working through us by the power of the holy priesthood, and I would wish that we could all have that feeling, and so teach our young people what it means to hold the priesthood and to magnify it.

Never take the priesthood into unholy places. Brethren, in your hands is given a sacred trust not only to have the authority to act in the name of the Lord, but to so prepare yourselves as clean and pure vessels so that the power of Almighty God may be manifested through you as you officiate in the sacred ordinances of the priesthood. Never take your priesthood into places where you would be ashamed to have the President of the Church see you.

Father's blessings help children face challenges. Another blessing that can come is a father's blessing, which can help us face some of life's greatest challenges. One of the sweetest experiences of my life came to me when my oldest daughter, then a university student and faced with some of life's greatest decisions, came to my office and asked if I would give her a father's blessing.

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