(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:
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.