Feast upon the Word Blog

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RS/MP Lesson 13: “The Priesthood” (Gospel Principles Manual)

Posted by NathanG on July 4, 2010

This lesson provides a transition from discussing the basis of the plan of salvation to how the plan is fulfilled in our lives.  We will discuss the priesthood this week and the organization of the priesthood next week. 

What is the priesthood?

“The priesthood is the eternal power and authority of God.  Through the priesthood He created and governs the heavens and the earth.”  In the first lecture on faith Joseph Smith discusses that faith is the principle of power which existed by which the Father framed the world.  We also see that in John 1:3 “All things were made by [the Word]; and without him was not any thing made that was made.  It seems for us to understand the priesthood we must understand how it is connected with faith as well as to the Word or to Jesus Christ.   This has been difficult for me to put together in a simple manner, which I’ll try to show examples of my difficulty in the following sections.

The creation gives a model of what one of the fundamental aspects of the priesthood is.  The account of the creation in Abraham uses the word “ordered” several times.  The priesthood seems to be a power to organize or order.  This is the power, as the manual states, allows God to accomplish his purposes in bringing about his eternal purposes.

The first paragraph of the manual makes an interesting claim.  “By this power the universe is kept in perfect order.”  What does this mean?  I’m not sure. 

The second paragraph is summed up nicely by the bullet point. “Think about the significance of God allowing worthy men and boys to hold His priesthood.”

Why Do We Need the Priesthood on the Earth?

This question is best answered by the endowment; however, I’ll stick to what is discussed in the lesson manual.

The priesthood allows for the proper and authorized administration the ordinances of the gospel.  These ordinances, when preceded by faith in Jesus Christ and accompanied by covenants that direct the lives of those receiving the ordinance, will lead our lives to our Heavenly Father, and we will be prepared to receive all blessings he desires to bestow on us.  The priesthood keys allow for the correct manner of performing the ordinances to be received, the right for the ordinance to be performed, and the delegation of the responsibility of performing the ordinance by qualified priesthood bearers. 

The third paragraph of this section discusses that the priesthood “is needed…so we can understand the will of the Lord and carry out His purposes.”  How is it that the will of the Lord is received because the priesthood is on earth?  If someone were to pray and receive an answer to their prayer, is it by faith or by the priesthood that the answer, or the “will of the Lord” is received?  Is it by the priesthood when it is delivered to someone you have priesthood stewardship over, and by faith when it is for yourself?  What about the auxiliaries of the church?  How about Joseph Smith and the first vision, was that by faith or by the priesthood (when he had not yet received the priesthood).  I would again suggest that the answer may be better explained by the order of the endowment and remembering the keys of the Aaronic priesthood in D&C 13.

How Do Men Receive the Priesthood?

This essentially reiterates it is received by worthy males by the laying on of hands and provides some historical instances of the same happening.  We should consider the phrase receiving the priesthood similarly to receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.  The ordination simply provides a means where a man can gain power in the priesthood through faith and obedience.  The effort must be placed to receive the priesthood.  This should also aid in reading the oath and covenant of the Priesthood.  We are to receive the priesthood, not simply be ordained to the priesthood.

How Do Men Properly Use the Priesthood?

This question should have the two following endings added “…in the church?” and “…in the home or family?”

D&C 121 provides the instruction for proper use of the priesthood,  which is largely quoted in this section.

The priesthood presides over and orders the church and family, but in a way that is gentle and with meekness.  Church members and family members should be drawn to righteousness and never coerced into righteousness. 

In addition to ordering and presiding, many blessings are given by the priesthood.  We administer to the sick.  We give blessings of comfort and counsel.  What gives these blessings efficacy?  Is it the power of the faith of the person blessing, or the faith of the person receiving?  Is it through power of the priesthood?  How should this be separated, or should it be separated?  How should we understand priesthood blessings and faith when considering the order of things described in D&C 42:43-48?  The person that has not faith to be healed will have the elders of the church called to administer to them, and if they die, they die unto God, and if they live they live unto God.  Furthermore, he that hath faith to be healed that is not appointed unto death shall be healed.  So is it faith, priesthood, or simply the will of God that brings about the results of priesthood blessings?

What Blessings Come When We Use the Priesthood Properly?

My own answer is that the priesthood gives men the opportunity to take part in something useful, which in turn keeps us from having time to sin.

The manual quotes again from D&C 121 with the great blessings at the end of that section, much of which seems similar to blessings of the temple.  I find the promise that “thy confidence [shall] wax strong in the presence of God” to be particularly reassuring and comforting. 

We conclude with President McKay’s words that “he will find the priesthood a never failing source of happiness–a well of living water springing up unto eternal life.”

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