(This article was adapted from my eight-book series on Zion. Meridian readers can receive a free PDF copy of the first book. (Click here to receive your FREE BOOK.)
In this series of five articles on the Constitution of the Priesthood, we will discuss:
Beyond the glorious new and everlasting covenant, the centerpiece of the Restoration is the Holy Priesthood. The oath and covenant of the priesthood has the power to both “call” and “choose” an individual to eternal life. But sadly few respond. In this series of five articles, we will explore the doctrines of the calling and choosing associated with the priesthood.
The Constitution of the Priesthood
President Stephen L Richards called Doctrine and Covenants 121:34–46 “The Constitution of the Priesthood.”[i] This is that constitution:
Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and 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, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
Hence many are called, but few are chosen.
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; that he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.
Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.
This constitution contains some the greatest blessings and one of the harshest indictments pronounced by the Lord upon priesthood holders. Endowed women are not exempt. The denouncement, “Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen,” applies equally to them. Anyone who has entered into the new and everlasting covenant and received the priesthood blessings of the temple should understand the principles contained in the Constitution of the Priesthood. Therefore, as with other sections of this book describing priesthood principles, women can benefit from the discussion.
In the Constitution of the Priesthood, the Lord divides the totality of priesthood holders into two groups: (1) those who respond to the call to eternal life,[ii] magnify their calling to eternal life, and thereafter obtain the promise of exaltation, and (2) those who neglect or reject the call to eternal life, take casually or ignore that calling, and forfeit exaltation.
There are only two choices, and each of us, male and female, belongs to one of those two groups. Why would “many” be placed in the second group? The Lord gives us the answer: “Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and [they] aspire to the honors of men.”[iii]
We could divide and define the groups as Zion people and Babylon people. Hugh Nibley taught that these two groups are mutually exclusive; they represent two ways that are heading in opposite directions. We cannot choose to belong to both.[iv] To attempt to do so summons the Lord’s ominous denouncement: “Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man!”[v] This statement hangs over our heads like a sword. The implication is amen to the exaltation of that man!
A Satanic Strategy
Looking forward to our day, Nephi saw a frightening satanic strategy to carefully deceive men and women. Nephi saw Satan lulling us into supposed carnal security and thereby convincing us to abandon our birthright blessings, take our eyes off Zion, and quietly persuade us to sacrifice the promise of eternal life. Satan’s strategy was designed to trick us into minimizing our covenants, including the oath and covenant of the priesthood.
Satan’s tactic is one that he had employed anciently, one that he had taught to Cain. He has successfully used it ever since, convincing untold thousands that they can simultaneously focus on money and Zion. Because it is impossible to serve both God and mammon, Satan knows that he can thereafter dupe us into setting aside and abandoning our priesthood covenant, which will cause us to spiral downward into temporal and spiritual destruction.
Here is what Nephi foresaw in his words: “And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.”[vi]
Few prophecies are repeated more often by Latter-day Saints. We quote this verse regularly in classes; we trumpet it from the pulpit; and yet many of us will fall into the
A Test of Loyalties
President Ezra Taft Benson taught, “When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims of our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities.”[vii]
To Moses, the Lord revealed our covenantal relationship to God: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God. . . . Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.