The oath and covenant of the priesthood is called the covenant of exaltation. To unleash the power of the priesthood to obtain that great blessing we must give 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.)
The oath and covenant of the priesthood is called the covenant of exaltation. To unleash the power of the priesthood to obtain that great blessing we must give charitable service—the power to lift, comfort, act for and deliver damaged and hurting souls to Christ. In this third part of a four-part series, we will explore charitable service as it applies to one’s priesthood calling.
We cannot magnify our priesthood calling without freely offering charitable, selfless service—a central hallmark of a Zion person. The Lord said, “Men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; for the power is in them.”
While anyone can give charitable service, only men and women who have received the new and everlasting covenant can give charitable service that has the power to save another person. More specifically, such saving service is a priesthood privilege and a priesthood responsibility, according to President Marion G. Romney, which “can be done properly only by men who are magnifying their priesthood—who know the gospel, conform their lives to its standards, and enthusiastically give dedicated service.” Of course, the same could be said of women who are living their covenants.
Service is the lifeblood of Zion. The selfishness of Babylon must give way to the selflessness of Zion in order that Zionlike attributes might be established in a covenant person. The spirit of charitable service cannot be mandated; that spirit is a condition of the heart that motivates a person to lift another. It is no wonder, then, that Zion is described as having no poverty of any kind.
Priesthood Service and Zion
Zion people, who are people who abide in a Melchizedek Priesthood society, can neither tolerate lack nor endure poverty abiding among them. They attack misery wherever they find it. They abolish every form of scarcity, hurt, impairment, injustice, illness, and sorrow. They think of their brethren like unto themselves, and they are familiar with all and free with their substance, that others might be rich like unto themselves. Therefore, they insist on having “all things common among them; therefore there [are] not rich and poor, bond and free, but they [are] all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift.” Consequently, there never could be a happier people.
Zion people “love one another and serve one another.” They “succor those that stand in need of [their] succor,” and they “administer of [their] substance unto him that standeth in need.” They “will not suffer that the beggar [put] up his petition to [them] in vain, and turn him out to perish.” Zion people “bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light,” and they “are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.”
King Benjamin pointed out that there are blessings that flow only from dedicated service. These things we must learn if we hope to become Zionlike. For example, service allows us to retain “a remission of [our] sins from day to day, that [we] may walk guiltless before God.” Therefore, King Benjamin exhorted us, “I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.” And of course, the astonishing statement regarding service: “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”
In Doctrine and Covenants 42, “the law of the Church,” we read the following verse: “For inasmuch as ye do it unto the least of these, ye do it unto me.” The implication is intriguing. Because God lacks for nothing and is in no need of our service to him, he passes our desire to serve him to serving his children, who do need our help. As we transfer our service from him to his children, he does not forget our wanting to express our love to him. He counts our service to his children as service to him, and he rewards us accordingly.
God can be in debt to no one—not even an implied debt. Therefore, when we serve him by serving one of his children, he “doth immediately bless [us]; and therefore he hath paid [us]. And [we] are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever.” To arrest any hint of debt or imbalance in the checks and balances of heaven, God quickly erases any claim by immediately blessing us in excess of our service. Therefore, we live forever in his debt. We are always awarded more blessings than we expend in service, and for that reason we are gratefully “unprofitable servants.”
It is upon the principle of service that we progress toward perfection. By receiving grace (the Lord’s help) for grace (our service and blessings to others), we grow from grace (light, truth, power, and perfection) to grace (more light, truth, power, and perfection). According to John the Baptist’s testimony, Jesus grew in grace (light, truth, power, and perfection) by giving grace (service and blessings to others):
“And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at first, but received grace for grace. And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness.”
Likewise, we progress toward a fulness incrementally—grace to grace—by keeping the commandments and giving service, for which the Lord blesses us—grace for grace: “For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace.” Clearly giving and receiving grace are central to the priesthood covenant.
Grace to Grace by Grace for Grace
The above definitions of grace are in addition to the common definition: the Lord’s help, strength, or enabling power. Jesus’ grace is ever evident in the unequalled service that he proffers. Here is a formula for receiving his help or grace: We come unto Christ in humility and faith, having done all we can do, and then he makes up the difference. Consequently, we will never lack. In this, we again hear overtones of Zion: no lack and divine help to accomplish our work.
Pertaining to the concept of no lack, we recall again the Lord’s abundant grace to the wandering Israelites, as recorded by the prophet Nehemiah:
This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations; yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go. Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst. Yea, forty years didst thou sustain them in the wilderness, [so that] they lacked nothing; their clothes waxed not old, and their feet swelled not.
The Lord never forsook them. He was with them both day and night. He constantly instructed them. He provided manna and water to sustain them. For four decades of wandering, they lacked nothing! Amazingly, neither their clothing nor their shoes wore out. The Israelites experienced the Lord’s grace.
We see these two elements of grace—no lack and divine help—in an incident in the Savior’s life. Just before Jesus entered Gethsemane, he reminded his apostles of their early missions when he had purposely placed them in a condition of lack by sending them out with neither purse nor scrip. He had expected them to give grace (service) by means of his grace, that is, by relying completely on him and on nothing else. Now he asked them, “When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing.”
They needed to internalize this lesson in order to fulfill their priesthood assignments. They had learned from that experience that what had initially appeared to be a condition of lack was not one after all; the Lord had provided his grace (divine help) to sustain them in proportion to the grace (service) they proffered to the people. The situation had been carefully orchestrated by the Lord to teach them to trust him while they served. Their service would produce blessings of sustenance for the people, and by serving they (the servants) would never lack.
The apostles needed to understand the inherent safety and security that derives from the new and everlasting covenant and the oath and covenant of the priesthood. These covenants contain the Lord’s promise of sustaining grace. Therefore, the apostles needed firsthand experience to see if the Lord would be true to his promise. Without his grace, they could neither survive nor gain the necessary power to fulfill their priesthood calling.
Similarly, we need experience with the Lord and the covenants. We need to know that our lack is resolved by service; as we give grace, we receive grace. That is the formula. When we experience a lack of something, we can go to the Lord and he will take care of us in proportion to how we take care of his children.
Moreover, because we are under covenant to represent and emulate the Lord, we must demonstrate by word and deed that we, like Jesus, will abide in the new and everlasting covenant and the oath and covenant of the priesthood by giving his children help, strength, and enablement. The Lord is clearly our example of priesthood service, and by covenant we have agreed to do as he would do.
If Any of You Lack
James, the Lord’s brother, offered a solution for those of us who lack in a specific way: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.” Personalized, this scripture could read: “If I lack anything, I can ask of God, who will give to me abundantly, and he will never chastise me for having asked for his help. Instead, he will help me.” This is the promise of grace!
Grace allows our lack to be swallowed up in Christ’s abundance. We come unto him in humility and faith, we do all we can do, which must include offering service, and then we have the assurance that he will make up the difference. By living this principle, we never need lack for anything. Our lack might include any physical, emotional, or spiritual deficit. Also, we might experience lack when we minister to the Lord’s children. In any of these situations, when we experience lack and attempt to remedy the situation, we almost certainly will come up short; that is the condition of mortality. In some way, we will lack sufficient ability or resources to counter the lack. Both the new and everlasting covenant and the oath and covenant of the priesthood provide that we can draw upon the Savior’s resource and power as we minister to his children.
On two remarkable occasions, the apostles experienced the Lord’s grace when they came up short in attempting to minister to people who lacked something. These occasions were when Jesus fed the five thousand and later the four thousand. In each case, hungry people were in immediate need of help, and the apostles could manage only scant resources.
Jesus’ response was identical in both cases: Bring all that you have or your best effort to me; I will bless it; you will have enough to feed the people until they are filled. Then, when it is your turn to eat, you will have enough. In fact, you will have more than you started with. Your responsibility is to feed my sheep, not to worry about having enough. Just go forth and minister, and I will multiply your efforts so that you never lack.
When we go to the Savior for his grace, we will not encounter someone who is lacking in grace. The Savior is full of grace. We can obtain a fulness of grace as the Savior did: by extending grace to others. We grow in our capacity to give grace by covenanting to consecrate our best efforts and resources to the Lord, taking those efforts and resources to the Lord and asking for his blessing and help, and then going forth in faith to feed the Lord’s sheep. In return, he multiplies our efforts and resources, thus providing us more grace to give away.
It is a formula that applies to other gospel principles: “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” We could say, “Blessed are those who extend grace, for they shall obtain more grace.” Elder Mark E. Petersen said, “Love and understanding—cooperation and brotherhood—will reproduce themselves in the hearts of others when given willingly and sincerely.”
For instance, if we were given a kernel of corn and ate it, the kernel would be gone forever. But if we were to plant the kernel and nourish it, the kernel would soon grow into a stalk with several ears and many kernels. Then, if we were to eat just a few of the kernels and plant the rest, the kernels would become a field of corn and a huge harvest. And it all began with a single kernel!
As we humbly seek and receive the Lord’s grace, then extend that grace to others, the Lord will give us more grace, and the cycle of receiving and giving will continue until we are filled with grace. If we do not stop the cycle by hoarding the Lord’s blessings, we will grow from grace to grace by giving grace for the grace until we are perfected by grace. Elder Boyd K. Packer said, “As you give what you have, there is a replacement, with increase!”
Of charitable service, President Gordon B. Hinckley promised that we cannot extend merciful blessings to God’s children and not experience a harvest of merciful blessings in return. These promises of safety and security in exchange for charitable service are inherent in the oath and covenant of the priesthood.
This article was adapted from The Three Pillars of Zion. To receive your free PDF copies of this 8-book series on Zion, <a href="http://www.
<hr class=’system-pagebreak’ ></a>pillarsofzion.com/”>click here.
 D&C 58:27–28.
 Romney, “‘The Oath and Covenant Which Belongeth to the Priesthood,’” 43.
 Jacob 2:17.
 4 Nephi 1:3, 16.
 Mosiah 4:15–16.
 Mosiah 18:8–9.
 Mosiah 4:26.
 Mosiah 2:17.
 D&C 42:38.
 Mosiah 2:24.
 Mosiah 2:21.
 D&C 93:12–13; emphasis added.
 D&C 93:20; emphasis added.
 LDS Bible Dictionary, s.v. “Grace,” 697.
 2 Nephi 25:23: “for we know that it is by grace that we are saved [helped], after all we can do.”
 Nehemiah 9:18–21; emphasis added.
 Luke 22:35.
 James 1:5; emphasis added.
 Mark 6:35–44; 1–9.
 D&C 93:11.
 Matthew 5:7.
 Petersen, Conference Report, Oct. 1967, 67.
 Packer, “The Candle of the Lord,” 54–55.
 Hinckley, “Blessed Are the Merciful,” 68.