The Powers of Heaven
Elder David A. Bednar
Of the Quorum of the Twelve
The priesthood is the authority of God delegated to men on the earth to act in all things for the salvation of mankind. Priesthood is the means whereby the Lord acts through men to save souls. One of the defining features of the Church of Jesus Christ, both anciently and today, is His authority. There can be no true Church without divine authority.
Ordinary men are given the authority of the priesthood. Worthiness and willingness-not experience, expertise, or education-are the qualifications for priesthood ordination.
The pattern for obtaining priesthood authority is described in the fifth Article of Faith: “We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof” (Articles of Faith 1:5). Thus, a boy or a man receives the authority of the priesthood and is ordained to a specific office by one who already holds the priesthood and has been authorized by a leader with the necessary priesthood keys.
A priesthood holder is expected to exercise this sacred authority in accordance with God’s holy mind, will, and purposes. Nothing about the priesthood is self-centered. The priesthood always is used to serve, to bless, and to strengthen other people.
The higher priesthood is received by a solemn covenant that includes the obligation to act in the authority (see D&C 68:8) and the office (see D&C 107:99) that have been received. As bearers of God’s holy authority, we are agents to act and not objects to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:26). The priesthood is inherently active rather than passive.
President Ezra Taft Benson taught: “It is not enough to receive the priesthood and then sit back passively and wait until someone prods us into activity. When we receive the priesthood, we have the obligation of becoming actively and anxiously engaged in promoting the cause of righteousness in the earth, because the Lord says: He that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned’ (D&C 58:29)” (Ezra Taft Benson, So Shall Ye Reap, 1960, 21).
President Spencer W. Kimball also pointedly emphasized the active nature of the priesthood. “One breaks the priesthood covenant by transgressing commandments-but also by leaving undone his duties. Accordingly, to break this covenant one needs only to do nothing” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, 1969, 96).
As we do our best to fulfill our priesthood responsibilities, we can be blessed with priesthood power. The power of the priesthood is God’s power operating through men and boys like us and is the result of faithfulness, obedience, diligence, and personal righteousness. A boy or a man may receive priesthood authority by the laying on of hands but will have no priesthood power if he is disobedient, unworthy, or unwilling to serve.
“The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and. . .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” (D&C 121:36-37; emphasis added).
Brethren, for a boy or a man to receive priesthood authority but neglect to do what is necessary to qualify for priesthood power is unacceptable to the Lord. Priesthood holders young and old need both authority and power-the necessary permission and the spiritual capacity to represent God in the work of salvation.
A Lesson from my Father
I was reared in a home with a faithful mother and a wonderful father. My mom was a descendent of pioneers who sacrificed everything for the Church and kingdom of God. My dad was not a member of our Church and, as a young man, had desired to become a Catholic priest. Ultimately, he elected not to attend theological seminary and instead pursued a career as a tool and dye maker.
For much of his married life, my father attended meetings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with our family. In fact, most of the people in our ward had no idea that my dad was not a member of the Church. He played on and coached our ward softball team, helped with Scout activities, and supported my mother in her various callings and responsibilities. I want to tell you about one of the great lessons I learned from my father about priesthood authority and power.
As a boy I asked my dad many times each week when he was going to be baptized. He responded lovingly but firmly each time I pestered him: “David, I am not going to join the Church for your mother, for you, or for anyone else. I will join the Church when I know it is the right thing to do.”
I believe I was in my early teenage years when the following conversation occurred with my father. We had just returned home from attending our Sunday meetings together, and I asked my dad when he was going to be baptized. He smiled and said, “You are the one always asking me about being baptized. Today I have a question for you.” I quickly and excitedly concluded that now we were making progress!
My dad continued, “David, your church teaches that the priesthood was taken from the earth anciently and has been restored by heavenly messengers to the Prophet Joseph Smith, right?” I replied that his statement was correct. Then he said, “Here is my question. Each week in priesthood meeting I listen to the bishop and the other priesthood leaders remind, beg, and plead for the men to do their home teaching and to perform their priesthood duties. If your church truly has the restored priesthood of God, why are so many of the men in your church no different about doing their religious duty than the men in my church?” My young mind immediately went completely blank. I had no answer for my dad.
I believe my father was wrong to judge the validity of our church’s claim to divine authority by the shortcomings of the men with whom he associated in our ward. But embedded in his question to me was a correct assumption that men who bear God’s holy priesthood should be different from other men. Men who hold the priesthood are not inherently better than other men, but they should act differently. Men who hold the priesthood should not only receive priesthood authority but also become worthy and faithful conduits of God’s power.”Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord” (D&C 38:42).
I have never forgotten the lessons about priesthood authority and power I learned from my father, a good man not of our faith, who expected more from men who claimed to bear God’s priesthood. That Sunday afternoon conversation with my dad many years ago produced in me a desire to be a “good boy.” I did not want to be a poor example and a stumbling block to my father’s progress in learning about the restored gospel. I simply wanted to be a good boy. The Lord needs all of us as bearers of His authority to be honorable, virtuous, and good boys at all times and in all places.
The Rescue for Real Growth
Bishop Richard C. Edgley
First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric
One Sunday morning some 30 years ago, while serving in a stake presidency, we received a telephone call from one of our faithful bishops. He explained that his ward had grown so rapidly that he could no long provide a meaningful calling to all worthy members. His plea to us was that we divide the ward. While waiting for such approval, we decided as a stake presidency that we would visit the ward and call these wonderful, worthy brothers and sisters to be stake missionaries.
About the third person I visited was a young female student attending the local university. After chatting for a few moments, I issued the call to serve as a missionary. There was silence for a few moments. Then she said, “President, don’t you know that I am not active in the Church.” After a few moments of silence on my part, I said, “No, I did not know you were not active.” She answered, “I have not been active in the Church for years.” Then she said, “Don’t you know that when you have been inactive, it’s not all that easy to come back.” I responded, “No. Your ward starts at 9:00 a.m. You come into the chapel and you are with us.” She answered, “No, it is not that easy. You worry about a lot of things. You worry if someone will greet you or if you will sit alone and unnoticed during the meetings. And you worry about whether you will be accepted and who your new friends will be.”
With tears rolling down her cheeks she continued, “I know that my mother and father have been praying for me for years to bring me back into the Church.” Then after another moment of silence she said, “For the last three months I have been praying to find the courage, the strength, and the way to come back into activity.” Then she asked, “President, do you suppose this calling could be an answer to those prayers?” My eyes started to water as I responded, “I believe the Lord has answered your prayers.” She not only accepted the call, she became a fine missionary. And I’m certain she brought much joy, not only to herself, but to her parents and probably other family members.
There were several things I learned from this and similar interviews-
- I learned that many less-active members have loved ones on their knees daily, petitioning the Lord for help in rescuing their loved one.
- I learned that it is not all that easy or comfortable for a less-active member to just walk back into the Church. They need help. They need support. They need fellowship.
- Yet I learned we have less-active members who are willing and trying to find the path back to activity.
- I learned that many less-active members will hold callings if asked.
- I learned that a less-active member deserves to be treated as an equal and be viewed as a son or daughter of a loving God.
Over the years I have wondered how this interview might have gone had I approached her as a less-active Church member. I leave you to be the judge.
Reactivation has always been an important part of the work of the Lord. While the rescue is a responsibility of every member, holders of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood have the responsibility to lead out in this work. After all, that is what priesthood service is all about-bringing all people to the exalting covenants bringing peace, happiness, and self-worth.
… A few months ago after meeting with new converts, less-active and reactivated members, a gentleman about my age came to me and said: “I am one who has been less active most of my life. I fell away from the Church early in my life. But I am back now and I work in the temple with my wife.” To let him know that everything was okay, my response was something like this: “All is well that ends well.” He responded, “No, all is not well. I am back in the Church, but I have lost all of my children and my grandchildren. And now I am witnessing the loss of my great-grandchildren-all out of the Church. All is not well.”
In our family we have an ancestor who joined the Church in Europe in the early days of the Church. One son became inactive. Sister Edgley and I have attempted to track the inactive descendants of this ancestor.
It is easy for my wife and me to conclude that during the following six generations, and under reasonable assumptions, there could be a loss of up to 3,000 family members. Now project two more generations. The loss could theoretically approach 20,000 to 30,000 of our Father-in-Heaven’s children.
Aaronic Priesthood: Arise and Use the Power of God
President Adrian Ochoa
Of the Young Men General Presidency
Perhaps the greatest joy I experience as counselor in the Young Men general presidency is seeing the Aaronic Priesthood holders around the world exercising the power of the Aaronic Priesthood. But sometimes I also witness, with a sad heart, so many young men who do not understand how much good they can do with the power they hold.
The priesthood is the power and authority of God Himself to act in the service of His children. Oh, if only every young man, every Aaronic Priesthood holder, could fully comprehend that their priesthood possesses the keys of the ministering of angels. If only they could understand that they have the sacred duty to help their friends find the pathway that leads to the Savior. If they only knew that Heavenly Father will give them the power to explain the truths of the restored gospel with such clarity and sincerity that others will feel the undeniable truthfulness of the words of Christ.
Dear young men of the Church, let me ask you a question that I hope you will carry in your heart for the rest of your life. What greater power can you acquire on earth than the priesthood of God? What power could possibly be greater than the capacity to assist our Heavenly Father in changing the lives of your fellowmen, to help them along to the pathway of eternal happiness by being cleansed of sin and wrongdoing?
Like any other power, the priesthood needs to be exercised to accomplish any good.
You are called to “arise and shine forth” (see D&C 115:5), not to hide your light in darkness. Only those who are brave will be counted among the chosen. As you exercise the power of your sacred priesthood, your courage and confidence will increase. Young men, you know that you are at your best when you are in the service of God. You know that you are happiest when you are anxiously engaged in a good work. Magnify the power of your priesthood by being clean and worthy.
I add my voice to the call Elder Holland made to you six months ago from this pulpit. “I am looking,” he said, “for men young and old who care enough about this battle between good and evil to sign on and speak up. We are at war. … I ask for a stronger and more devoted voice, a voice not only against evil …, but a voice for good, a voice for the gospel, a voice for God” (“We Are All Enlisted,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2011, 44, 47).
Families under Covenant
President Henry B. Eyring
Of the First Presidency
There is a father listening tonight who has come from inactivity because he wants the assurance of that gift with all his heart. He and his wife love their two small children. Like other parents he can foresee heavenly happiness when he reads these words:
That father listening with us tonight knows the path to that glorious destination. It is not easy. It took faith in Jesus Christ, deep repentance, and a change in his heart that came with a kind bishop helping him feel the Lord’s loving forgiveness.
Wonderful changes continued as he went to the holy temple for an endowment that the Lord described to those who he empowered in the first temple in this dispensation. It was in Kirtland, Ohio. The Lord said:
“Wherefore, for this cause I gave unto you the commandment that ye should go to the Ohio; and there I will give unto you my law; and there you shall be endowed with power from on high;
For my recently activated friend, and for all the priesthood, a great work ahead is to lead in saving the part of Israel for which we are, or will be, responsible, your family. He knew that requires being sealed by the power of the Melchizedek Priesthood in a holy temple of God.
He asked that I perform the sealing. He and his wife wanted it done as soon as possible. With the busy time of general conference approaching I left it to the couple and their bishop to work with my secretary to find the best date.
Imagine my surprise and delight when the father told me the sealing is set for April 3. That was the day in1836 when Elijah, the translated prophet, was sent to the Kirtland Temple to give the sealing power to Joseph Smith and to Oliver Cowdery. Those keys reside in the Church today and will continue to the end of time.[iii]
It is the same divine authorization given by the Lord to Peter as He had promised:
The return of Elijah blessed all who hold the priesthood. Elder Harold B. Lee made that clear as he spoke in general conference:
“I hold the priesthood; you brethren here hold the priesthood; we have received the Melchizedek Priesthood-which was held by Elijah and by other prophets and by Peter, James and John. But while we have authority to baptize, while we have authority to lay on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost and to ordain others and do all these things, without the sealing power we could do nothing, for there would be no validity to that which we did.” He went on: “The higher ordinances, the greater blessings which are essential to exaltation in the kingdom of God, …can only be obtained in certain places…no man has the right to perform except as he receives the authority to do it from the man who holds the keys…there is no man upon the face of the earth who has the right to go forth and administer in any of the ordinances of this gospel unless the President of the Church, who holds the keys, sanctions it. He has given us authority; he has put the sealing power in our priesthood because he holds those keys….”[v]
That same assurance came from President Boyd K. Packer as he wrote of the sealing power. Knowing these words are true is a comfort to me, as it will be to the family I will seal on April 3rd:
“Peter was to hold the keys. Peter was to hold the sealing power to bind or seal on earth or to loose on earth and it would be so in the heavens. Those keys belong to the President of the Church-to the prophet, seer, and revelator. That sacred sealing power is with the Church now. Nothing is regarded with more sacred contemplation by those who know the significance of this authority. Nothing is more closely held. There are relatively few men who hold this sealing power upon the earth at any given time-in each temple are brethren who have been given the sealing power. No one can get it except from the prophet, seer, and revelator and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”[vi]
At the coming of Elijah not only was power given to the priesthood but also hearts were to be turned.
“The spirit, power, and calling of Elijah is, that ye have power to hold the key of the revelation, ordinances, oracles, powers and endowments of the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood and of the kingdom of God on the earth; and to receive, obtain, and perform all the ordinances belonging to the kingdom of God, even unto the turning of the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the hearts of the children unto the fathers, even those who are in heaven.”[vii]
That feeling of his heart turning has already come to my friend and to his family.
It may have come to you in this meeting. You may have seen in your mind, as I have, the face of your father or your mother. It may have been a sister or a brother. It may have been a daughter or a son.
They may be in the sprit world or continents away from you. But joy came from a feeling that connections with them are sure because you are or can be bound to them by priesthood ordinances that God will honor.
Willing and Worthy to Serve
President Thomas S. Monson
President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
From the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Priesthood is an everlasting principle and existed with God from eternity and will to eternity, without beginning of days or end of years.”[vii]
From the words of President Wilford Woodruff we learn: “The Holy Priesthood is the channel through which God communicates and deals with man upon the earth; and the heavenly messengers that have visited the earth to communicate with man are men who held and honored the priesthood while in the flesh; and everything that God has caused to be done for the salvation of man, from the coming of man upon the earth to the redemption of the world, has been and will be by virtue of the everlasting priesthood.”[vii] President Joseph F. Smith further clarified: “The priesthood is. . .the power of God delegated to man by which man can act in the earth for the salvation of the human family, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, and act legitimately; not assuming that authority, not borrowing it from generations that are dead and gone, but authority that has been given in this day in which we live by ministering angels and spirits from above, direct from the presence of Almighty God.”[vii] [Close quote]
And finally from President John Taylor: “What is priesthood? It is the Government of God, whether on earth or in the heavens, for it is by that power, agency, or principle that all things are governed on earth or in the heavens, and by that power all things are upheld and sustained. It governs all things, it directs all things, it sustains all things and has to do with all things that God and truth are associated with.”
How blessed we are to be here in these last days, when the priesthood of God is upon the earth. How privileged we are to bear that priesthood. The priesthood is not so much a gift as it is a commission to serve, a privilege to lift, and an opportunity to bless the lives of others. With these opportunities come responsibilities and duties. I love and cherish the noble word duty and all that it implies.
In one capacity or another, in one setting or another, I have been attending priesthood meetings for the past 72 years-since I was ordained a deacon at the age of twelve. Time certainly marches on. Duty keeps cadence with that march. Duty does not dim nor diminish. Catastrophic conflicts come and go, but the war waged for the souls of men continues without abatement. Like a clarion call comes the word of the Lord to you, to me, and to priesthood holders everywhere: “Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence.”[vii]
The call of duty came to Adam, to Noah, to Abraham, to Moses, to Samuel, to David. It came to the Prophet Joseph Smith and to each of his successors. The call of duty came to the boy Nephi when he was instructed by the Lord, through his father Lehi, to return to Jerusalem with his brothers to obtain the brass plates from Laban. Nephi’s brothers murmured, saying it was a hard thing which had been asked of them. What was Nephi’s response? Said he, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”[vii]
When that same call comes to you and to me, what will be our response? Will we murmur, as did Laman and Lemuel, and say, “This is a hard thing required of us”? Or will we, with Nephi, individually declare, “I will go. I will do”? Will we be willing to serve and to obey?
At times the wisdom of God appears as being foolish or just too difficult, but one of the greatest and most valuable lessons we can learn in mortality is that when God speaks and a man obeys, that man will always be right.
When I think of the word duty and how performing our duty can enrich our lives and the lives of others, I recall the words penned by a renowned poet and author:
I slept and dreamt
That life was joy.
I awoke and saw
That life was duty.
I acted, and behold-
Duty was joy.”[vii]
Robert Louis Stevenson put it another way. Said he: “I know what pleasure is, for I have done good work.”[vii]
The Why of Priesthood Service
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Of the First Presidency
Recently I have been thinking about two significant callings I received as a priesthood holder in the Church.
The first of these callings came when I was a deacon. I attended with my family the branch of the Church in Frankfurt, Germany. We were blessed with many wonderful people in our little branch-one was our branch president, Brother Landschulz. I admired him a great deal, even though he always seemed to be rather serious, very official, and most of the time was dressed in a dark suit. I remember as a young man joking with my friends how old fashioned our branch president was.
It makes me laugh to think about this now, because it is very possible that the youth of today view me in a very similar way.
One Sunday, President Landschulz asked if he could speak with me.
My first thought was, what did I do wrong? My mind raced over the many things I might have done that could have inspired this branch-president-to-deacon talk.
President Landschulz invited me into a small classroom-our chapel did not have an office for the branch president-and there he extended a call to me to serve as deacons quorum president.
“This is an important position,” he said, and then he took his time and described why. He explained what he and the Lord expected of me and how I could receive help.
I don’t remember much of what he said, but I do remember very well how I felt. A sacred, divine spirit filled my heart as he spoke. I could feel that this was the Savior’s Church. And I felt that the calling he had extended was inspired by the Holy Ghost. I remember walking out of that tiny classroom feeling quite a bit taller than before.
It has been nearly 60 years since that day, and I still treasure these feelings of trust and love.
As I was thinking back on this experience, I tried to remember just how many deacons there were in our branch at the time. To my best recollection, I believe there were two. However, this may be an exaggeration.
It really didn’t matter, whether there was one deacon or a dozen, I felt honored, and I wanted to serve to the best of my ability and not disappoint either my branch president or the Lord.
I realize now that the branch president could have merely gone through the motions when he called me to this position. He could have simply told me in the hallway or during our priesthood meeting that I was the new deacons quorum president.
Instead, he spent time with me and helped me understand not only the what of my assignment but, more importantly, the why.
That is something I will never forget.
The point of this story is not merely to describe how to extend callings in the Church (although this was a wonderful lesson of the proper way to do it). It is an example to me of the motivating power of priesthood leadership that awakens the spirit and inspires action.