Power. Women and men have been contending for it since the beginning of time. Strength. Might. The ability to do or act. Based on these definitions, we all have a desire for power.
In the Church, we talk a lot about the priesthood, or God’s power on the earth. From conversations that I’ve had with women and men over the years, there are some things we get wrong when it comes to understanding God’s power and who has access to it.
First, it’s important to acknowledge that there is already power in every kind, moral man and woman. When a person resists the negative influences in their surroundings and keeps the two great commandments to love God and love their neighbor—whether or not this person has made formal covenants with God to do so—there is already godly power at work in that individual’s life.
But let’s say a good woman or man encounters the restored gospel. She makes a covenant at baptism into the Church of Jesus Christ that promises her she can receive priesthood power: God’s power. Is her life and power vastly different from before? Yes! I believe her good power is greatly magnified by her covenants in three concrete ways.
1. Magnification of Knowledge
When she encounters truths that are unique to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, she learns she is literally the child of Eternal Parents, and they want to help her become like Them. She learns not only that Jesus Christ saves her from her own sins when she repents but also that He will share His enabling power to help her overcome, step by step, all her circumstances and limitations. She learns there is a meaningful plan for her time on the earth and that opposition is part of powerful lessons for her experience. She learns that in the existence after this life, people are still learning about the gospel and growing. She learns that in the temple it is possible for her to connect to her family who has preceded her, and she can bless her family who comes after her.
“God grants to us not only a gift of power to help us accomplish His work but also a personal, redemptive power that changes our nature.”
With this expanded sense of understanding, she receives the invitation to make covenants with God. This is the nature of covenants. They almost always involve learning new truths about God and His plan. When we make covenants, we promise to bend our will and our desires to help with that plan. God grants to us not only a gift of power to help us accomplish His work but also a personal, redemptive power that changes our nature. It’s a covenant sandwiched by knowledge on one side and power on the other. This new knowledge comes to us in learning about the gospel before baptism, through the gift of the Holy Ghost, in the temple endowment, in the sealing, and in all the personal tutoring we receive from the Spirit of the Lord. It is, at its heart, the power of ongoing revelation.
In one way, the blessings of making covenants with God could be like obtaining a university education. The “graduate-degree-seeking student” isn’t better than one who has a high school diploma—God loves and values them the same—but with an opportunity to sacrifice and become more disciplined, the one student is qualified to do more. She cultivates useful skills, she has access to institutions and knowledge, and she belongs to an academic community that can spark new findings and research. Making covenants with God is similar in a way. It includes discipline and sacrifice as we learn about and receive a higher law. And the beautiful thing is that covenants are open to the humblest of people, with no requirement for money, position, or worldly education. By making our most sacred covenants, the Spirit opens up great treasures of knowledge to us as we sacrifice, consecrate, obey the law of the gospel by living it in hard circumstances, and stay faithful in our relationships.
2. Magnification by Community
The person who has not yet made covenants with God has the power of their convictions and their righteous actions, but they could often feel alone. When the Lord organized quorums and Relief Societies after a priesthood pattern, He was giving community to His sons and daughters. We are all seeking for greater knowledge about how to bless those we love with power and how to support each other in the process. We teach each other. We comfort one another. We accept one another—or we should. A worldwide community of faith is a great gift.
3. Magnification to Act in God’s Name
When we serve in any calling or leadership position—when we are set apart to preach the gospel as a missionary, when we are part of a ward or stake council, or when we serve as a Primary teacher—we are not just acting with our own measure of power. We are serving in authorized positions in the work of God, and each position brings specific spiritual gifts. If the first magnification was “going to school,” this third magnification is “qualified for the job” because you have experiences and discipline that give you credentials to do the Lord’s work. However, those called of God to do His work—like you and me—are still learning, making mistakes, repenting, and trying again to be better and do better.
Let me share an example. The good person yet to make covenants we are hypothetically discussing could be my own mother. My mom was raised in a good but nonreligious home in Southern California. She and her little sister sometimes walked to a Protestant Sunday School because they liked learning about Jesus. She was honest, helped her neighbors, worked hard, and didn’t drink alcohol or party. She and my dad got married in a Baptist church because it was pretty. If the missionaries had never come along, my parents would have lived a good life.
But because my mother was baptized and endowed in the temple and received priesthood power through those covenants, her life turned outward. She delayed her own plans for 30 years to raise seven kids. She helped build up the wards where she lived, she ministered as a visiting teacher to sometimes sad and difficult people, and she taught Primary and activity days and Cub Scouts. She served a series of Church-service and full-time missions. She completed the temple work for thousands of her ancestors from Norway.
My mom poured her life’s energy into making other lives better. That is the essential nature of priesthood power. Most importantly, her covenants built progressively to give her access to greater knowledge of the divine, a global community of consecrated people like her, and authorized work to do that which impacts well beyond this mortal life. She would not have had any of those if she had remained simply a good woman of the earth.
Doctrine and Covenants 121 is specifically for us—covenant women and men—on what it means to be endowed with priesthood power. We are taught that “no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood” and that priesthood power is effective “only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned” (verse 41). In other words, priesthood power can’t be used to control unrighteously; it can be used only to love.
This is one of the most transcendent promises in all scripture. It is about priesthood, and it is for all of God’s daughters and sons. My testimony is that as we make covenants with God, we will make an eternal difference—not just for ourselves but in the way we magnify and lift others. This is the power that Jesus Christ shares with us. It pours down on us like a mighty rain, if we will turn our faces to it.
This is the first in a series of articles by the Relief Society General Presidency on this topic and is adapted from their address “Endowed with Priesthood Power,” given at BYU Women’s Conference in May 2019.