(This article was adapted from The Three Pillars of Zion. To receive your free PDF copies of this 8-book series on Zion, click here.)
The oath and covenant of the priesthood remains an enigma for too many of us. And yet, it comprises the actual covenant of exaltation. In this second part of a four-part series, we will explore what it means to magnify one’s priesthood calling.
As we have discussed, our agreements in the oath and covenant of the priesthood are faithfulness, obtaining the Aaronic Priesthood and Melchizedek Priesthood, and magnifying our calling in the priesthood. Additionally, we agree to receive Christ and his Father and live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
If We Magnify Our Calling . . .
Possibly the central agreement of the covenant of the priesthood is to magnify our calling. Of interest, the covenant states that we agree to magnify our calling rather than our callings. There is a difference between the calling of the priesthood and callings in the priesthood. What, then, is the singular calling to which the covenant refers?
A review might be in order. Alma said that our experience with the priesthood began premortally, in the “first place,” where we were “called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of [our] exceeding faith and good works.”
In that premortal setting, we qualified to be called and elected (selected) for eternal life. In this life, when we are baptized and enter into the new and everlasting covenant—we are “called into the fellowship of Jesus Christ.” Then as we progress in the Covenant and receive the oath and covenant of the priesthood, we are called again to eternal life. Therefore, our calling in the priesthood is the call to eternal life, or, in other words, to become like God. And therefore, the Lord said, “All they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord; . . . and he that receiveth me receiveth my Father.”
Magnifying Our Calling and Callings
Of course, magnifying our calling assumes that we will magnify all of our priesthood callings. According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, we magnify each of our callings by taking our responsibilities seriously, making them honorable in the eyes of God’s children, and making them glorious to the Lord. Additionally, we magnify our callings by functioning faithfully under the guidance of priesthood leadership and the instruction of the Holy Ghost.
Our various priesthood callings—like our singular calling—hearkens back to the premortal world: “Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world,” said Joseph Smith, “was ordained to that very purpose in the grand council of heaven before this world was.” It is the magnification of our singular calling and our various callings that provide the key to our eventual glory; that is, the end-result of our present labors is to become like God.
The seriousness of magnifying our calling is set out in Doctrine and Covenants 121:34, 40: “Many are called, but few are chosen.” That is, “many are called to the priesthood, but few are chosen for eternal life.” Institute instructor S. Brent Farley taught,
One who magnifies his calling to the priesthood will understand 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.” He will know that “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.” (D&C 121:36, 41–42.) One whose service is characterized by those qualities is magnifying his priesthood calling, and he has the foundation for success for the various priesthood tasks and offices he may hold throughout his life. He will also use these principles in his home.
Interestingly, the word virtue means both “moral excellence” and “power.” The phrase “by virtue of the priesthood” means “by the power of the priesthood,” and that power is developed only by virtue of character, or moral excellence. A terrifying chain of events occurs when moral virtue slips. According to Doctrine and Covenants 121, when our hearts are set upon the things of this world and we aspire to the honors of men, we will then attempt to cover our sins, gratify our pride and our vain ambitions, and then we will begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
These conditions result in the heavens withdrawing, the Spirit of the Lord being grieved, and the cessation of priesthood authority and power. The cycle leads to breaking our covenant to magnify our priesthood calling. On the other hand, when our hearts are set on the things of God and we aspire for God’s approval, we will repent, seek first for the things of the kingdom of God, and demonstrate charity. These conditions result in the heavens drawing near, the Spirit of the Lord becoming our constant companion, and receiving an increase of priesthood power. Now we are fulfilling our covenant to magnify our priesthood calling.
What does it mean to magnify a calling in the priesthood? Elder McConkie explained:
Now, to magnify as here used means to enlarge or increase, to improve upon, to hold up to honor and dignity, to make the calling noble and respectable in the eyes of all men by performing the mission which appertains to the calling in an admirable and successful manner. So to magnify a calling in the ministry requires brethren first to learn what duties go with their respective offices and callings and then to go to with their might and do the work assigned them. By doing this, which includes within it the requirement to “give diligent heed to the words of eternal life,” and to “live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God” (D. & C. 84:43–44), they are assured of an eventual inheritance of eternal life in the kingdom of God.
Again we see the connection of our various priesthood callings to our singular overriding priesthood calling. Our leaders teach us that there are four ways that we magnify our various callings in the priesthood:
- By learning our responsibility and fully accomplishing it.
- By doing our very best in our assignments.
- By consecrating our time, talents, and resources to the Lord and his work as our leaders request and as the Spirit whispers.
- By teaching and being an example of the truth.
The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob described the result of faithfully magnifying a calling in the priesthood: “We did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, . . . [teaching] them the word of God with all diligence; . . . [and] laboring with our might.”
Melchizedek also set an example of magnifying a priesthood calling:
Now this Melchizedek was a king over the land of Salem; and his people had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone astray; they were full of all manner of wickedness; but Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace.
” “And his people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven.
Because we are of the same order of the priesthood as Melchizedek, and because we take upon ourselves the title Melchizedek when we receive the priesthood, we, by covenant, are expected to magnify our calling and callings as did this “great high priest.”
As the high priesthood pertains to Zion, we note the following item of interest: The priesthood order of Melchizedek is “after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son.” Enoch’s order is the order of Zion, which order is also the order of Melchizedek and the order of the Only Begotten Son. We become Zion people by entering into priesthood covenant and magnifying our priesthood calling, as did Melchizedek, Enoch, and Jesus Christ.
Three Ways to Magnify Our Calling
President Marion G. Romney explained that magnifying our singular priesthood calling consists of at least three steps:
1. Obtaining gospel knowledge.
2. Personal righteousness by compliance with gospel standards.
3. Giving dedicated service.
Obtaining Gospel Knowledge
We cannot magnify our calling without searching the scriptures and the words of the prophets. Especially important is the Book of Mormon, which contains “the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” The Book of Mormon, said the Prophet Joseph, is “the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”
How could we expect to be on the Lord’s errand, minister to his people, represent him to the covenant people and the inhabitants of the world, stand in his stead, speak his words, and teach his children the words of eternal life, if we are not conversant with his words?
The Nephite prophet Jacob drew a connection between priesthood power and gospel knowledge: “Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea.”
Power in the priesthood, Jacob said, comes by searching “the prophets,” that is, by searching the scriptures. By so doing, we become familiar with the voice of the Spirit, we enjoy “many revelations,” and we develop the “spirit of prophecy.” Jacob stated that “all these witnesses” from the Spirit increase our hope, faith, and spiritual experience, until our confidence in Jesus Christ and his name become “unshaken,” and we truly can perform many mighty miracles. Clearly, obtaining and applying gospel knowledge serve to magnify our priesthood calling.
We cannot magnify our priesthood calling if 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” or to “exercise unrighteous dominion.” How could we expect to represent and exemplify the Lord, as the covenant of the priesthood requires, if our personal lives are contrary to his? We might gain a trivial knowledge of gospel facts, but if we do not live the gospel, “Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.”
Personal righteousness describes a Zion person, and personal righteousness consists of pure knowledge, pure actions, and pure motives. Zion is the pure in heart. “Zion is pure,” writes Hugh Nibley, “which means ‘not mixed with any impurities, unalloyed’; it is all Zion and nothing else.” The covenantal deportment of a Zionlike priesthood holder is set forth in the scriptures:
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.
In the oath and covenant of the priesthood, we covenant to “keep the commandments of God, to live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of Deity, and to walk in paths of righteousness and virtue.” These criteria are absolutely essential if we wish to magnify our priesthood calling.
To attain to personal righteousness is to exemplify the Master, whom we must come to know and love. We do this by serving him and keeping his commandments: “If thou lovest me thou shalt serve me and keep all my commandments.” It is a principle with promises: “And unto him that keepeth my commandments I will give the mysteries of my kingdom, and the same shall be in him a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life.”
To attain to personal righteousness leads to receiving the fulness of the priesthood: “And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments. He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.” Can we not see the essence of Zion in these promises?
As a model for magnifying our calling through our personal conduct, President Romney directs us to Doctrine and Covenants 42, “the Law of the Church,” which comprises the law of Zion. There are at least twenty points made in this revelation that paint a portrait of a righteous priesthood holder:
1. The Lord’s “first commandment” in Doctrine and Covenants 42 is to “go forth in my name.” The covenant of the priesthood commissions us and makes it possible for us to lift up our voices, “preaching the gospel . . . with the sound of a trump,” declaring the word of God like unto the angels.
2. Our sights should be set upon becoming Zion people, so that we might become the Lord’s people.
3. We are to accept priesthood assignments and stand in the offices to which we are called.
4. We are to “observe the covenants and church articles to do them,” and use them as our text when teaching, as directed by the Spirit.
5. We are to strive to receive the Spirit before attempting to teach.
6. We are to boldly speak and prophesy according to the promptings of the Spirit.
7. We will not kill, steal, lie, commit adultery, or speak evil—nor will we avoid repentance.
8. We will love our wives with all our heart, cleave unto none else, and lust after no other women.
9. With special regard to Zion, we will “remember the poor, and consecrate [our] properties for their support that which [we] have to impart unto them,” agreeing that we are stewards over the Lord’s property and accountable for our discharge of our stewardship.
10. We will consecrate our surplus to the bishop “to administer to the poor and the needy” and for the building up of the Church and the establishment of Zion.
11. We are to forsake pride and costly apparel, and create beautiful things with our own hands.
12. We are to do all things in cleanliness before the Lord.
We are to be industrious.
14. We are to minister in the Lord’s name by healing the sick, blessing the afflicted, and nourishing and bearing the infirmities of those who are of weaker faith until they are made whole.
15. We are to stand in our stewardship and not take anything from a brother without paying him fairly.
16. We are to ask the Lord for intelligence with the expectation of receiving revelation, knowledge, and the mysteries of the kingdom.
17. We are to be faithful to everything that the Lord reveals.
18. We agree to become Zion people by taking upon us the new and everlasting covenant, the oath and covenant of the priesthood, and the law of consecration.
19. If we lack anything, we are to ask of God, who will give to us liberally.
20. If someone offends us, we are to “take him or her between him or her and thee alone; and if he or she confess thou shalt be reconciled. . . . And thus ye shall conduct in all things.”
Personal righteousness allows one to be a representative of Zion and therefore a vessel of blessedness. The Beatitudes given by the Lord to his disciples in Jerusalem and later to the Nephites describe this state of blessedness. President Harold B. Lee called these sermons that contain the Beatitudes “the constitution for a perfect life.” Additionally, President Romney directed us to the instructions for personal conduct given in Doctrine and Covenants 59 and Doctrine and Covenants 88, particularly verses 117–26. These instructions include at least twenty-two points of personal conduct that describe Zionlike righteousness:
1. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength.”
2. “In the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him.”
3. “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
4. “Thou shalt not steal . . . ”
5. “Neither commit adultery, nor kill, nor do anything like unto it” [i.e., we should avoid any type of sexual sin or anything that approaches the taking of life].
6. “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things. . . . And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.”
7. “Thou shalt offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.”
8. “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.”
9. “And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.”
10. “Organize yourselves.”
11. “Prepare every needful thing.”
12. “Cease from all your light speeches, from all laughter, from all your lustful desires, from all your pride and light-mindedness, and from all your wicked doings.”
13. “Appoint among yourselves a teacher, and let not all be spokesmen at once; but let one speak at a time and let all listen unto his sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified of all, and that every man may have an equal privilege.”
14. “See that ye love one another.”
15. “Cease to be covetous.”
16. “Learn to impart one to another as the gospel requires.”
17. “Cease to be idle.”
18. “Cease to be unclean.”
19. “Cease to find fault one with another.”
20. “Cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.”
21. “And above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace.”
22. “Pray always, that ye may not faint, until I come.”
The Lord promises that “he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.” These are aim and consummate blessings of the oath and covenant of the priesthood.
In the next part of this series, we will discuss how power in the priesthood is unleashed through charitable service.
This article was adapted from The Three Pillars of Zion. To receive your free PDF copies of this 8-book series on Zion, click here.
 D&C 84:33.
 Alma 13:3.
 Alma 13:3–5.
 1 Corinthians 1:9, 26–27; Hebrews 3:1.
 D&C 84:35, 37.
 Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 850.
 Riddle, “The New and Everlasting Covenant,” 232.
 Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 365.
 McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 482.
 Farley, “The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood,” 42–43.
 McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 481.
 D&C 107:99–100.
 Kimball, “Becoming the Pure in Heart,” 5.
 Asay, “The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood,” 43.
 Jacob 1:19.
 Alma 13:17–18.
 JST Genesis 14:34.
 D&C 107:2.
 D&C 76:57.
 Romney, “‘The Oath and Covenant Which Belongeth to the Priesthood,’” 43.
 D&C 20:9.
 Smith, History of the Church, 4:461.
 Jacob 4:6–7; emphasis added.
 D&C 121:37, 39.
 D&C 121:37.
 D&C 97:21.
 Nibley, Approaching Zion, 26–27.
 D&C 121:41–43.
 McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 480.
 D&C 42:29.
 D&C 42:29.
 D&C 63:23.
 D&C 93:27–28.
 D&C 42, heading.
 D&C 42:4, 6.
 D&C 42:9.
 D&C 42:10.
 D&C 42:13.
 D&C 42:14.
 D&C 42:16–17.
 D&C 42:19–21, 24–25.
 D&C 42:22–23.
 D&C 42:30–32.
 D&C 42:34.
 D&C 42:40.
 D&C 42:41.
 D&C 42:42.
 D&C 42:43–52.
 D&C 42:53–54.
 D&C 42:56, 61–62, 65.
 D&C 42:66.
 D&C 42:67.
 D&C 42:68.
 D&C 42:88–93.
 Matthew 5:1–11; 3 Nephi 12:1–12.
 Lee, Decisions for Successful Living, 56–57.
 D&C 59:5.
 D&C 59:5.
 D&C 59:6.
 D&C 59:6.
 D&C 59:6.
 D&C 59:7, 21.
 D&C 59:8.
 D&C 59:9.
 D&C 88:118.
 D&C 88:119.
 D&C 88:119.
 D&C 88:121.
 D&C 88:122.
 D&C 88:123.
 D&C 88:123.
 D&C 88:123.
 D&C 88:124.
 D&C 88:124.
 D&C 88:124.
 D&C 88:124.
 D&C 88:125.
 D&C 88:126.
 D&C 59:23.