Priesthood—Its Power and Vitality
July 1972

“Priesthood—Its Power and Vitality,” Ensign, July 1972, 119

Priesthood—Its Power and Vitality

A major recurring theme of this conference, including the seminar of the Regional Representatives of the Twelve, mentioned either directly or indirectly by nearly every speaker, has been the importance and necessity of the priesthood. I want to address my remarks to this subject. The vitality and power of the priesthood on the earth today are greater than at any other period in the world’s history.

On March 28, 1835, in Kirtland, Ohio, in a meeting with the Council of the Twelve, the Prophet Joseph received a singularly important revelation on priesthood:

“There are, in the church, two priesthoods, namely, the Melchizedek and Aaronic. …

“Why the first is called the Melchizedek Priesthood is because Melchizedek was such a great high priest.

“Before his day it was called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God.

“All other authorities or offices in the church are appendages to this priesthood.” (D&C 107:1–3, 5.)

It is vital that we understand this foregoing thought. President Joseph F. Smith said:

“There is no office growing out of this Priesthood that is or can be greater than the Priesthood itself. It is from the Priesthood that the office derives its authority and power. No office gives authority to the Priesthood. No office adds to the power of the Priesthood. But, all offices in the Church derive their power, their virtue, their authority, from the Priesthood. If our brethren would get this principle thoroughly established in their minds, there would be less misunderstanding in relation to the functions of government in the Church than there is.” (Gospel Doctrine [Deseret Book Co., 1939], p. 148.)

There are three presiding quorums in the Church chosen from the body of the priesthood:

“Of necessity there are presidents, or presiding officers growing out of … those who are ordained to the several offices in these two priesthoods.

“Of the Melchizedek Priesthood, three Presiding High Priests, chosen by the body, appointed and ordained to that office, and upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church, form a quorum of the Presidency of the Church.

“The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world— …

“And they form a quorum, equal in authority and power to the three presidents previously mentioned.

“The Seventy are to act in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Twelve … in building up the church and regulating all the affairs of the same in all nations. …” (D&C 107:21–24, 34.)

What is the priesthood? President John Taylor said:

“… 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 that 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. It is the power of God delegated to intelligences in the heavens and to men on the earth. …” (The Gospel Kingdom [Bookcraft, 1943], p. 129.)

In order to gain exaltation a man must obtain, then magnify, the holy priesthood.

“For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.

“They become … the elect of God.

“And … therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.

“And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.” (D&C 84:33–34, 38–39.)

But we must remember that it is on condition of magnifying the priesthood we obtain. There is great energy being expended and much emphasis given to the operation and administration of this priesthood in the Church today.

“Therefore, let every man stand in his own office, and labor in his own calling; … that the system may be kept perfect.” (D&C 84:109–110.)

Standing in their responsibility, the high priests in the Church today have the overall priesthood responsibility to do genealogical research and perform temple ordinances. Through the priesthood they are to see to it that everyone in the Church, in proper time and order, saves his kindred dead. This means that all members are to—

  1. have their personal book of remembrance.

  2. complete research on at least their four generations.

  3. live worthy to obtain a temple recommend.

  4. attend to temple ordinances for the dead.

The seventy are to stand in their own office and labor in their own calling, which is priesthood missionary work. The seventy, as missionaries, are specialists in teaching. As members, our strength is in finding and fellowshiping. United we form a productive team to carry the message of the restoration to all of our Father’s children.

Elders standing in their office and calling have a place in welfare work. However, they share a major responsibility for the perfecting of the Saints through priesthood home teaching. The president of the elders quorum has the unique calling to administer the gospel to more people in the ward than anyone else except the bishop. Priesthood home teachers are to—

“… visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties.

“… watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them;

“… see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking;

“And see that the church meet together often, and also see that all the members do their duty.” (D&C 20:47, 53–55.)

Each one of these specific duties is designed by the Lord to strengthen the home. You will notice that the word teach is mentioned only indirectly in this scriptural instruction. Perhaps if we as home teachers could catch the whole vision of what our duty is, then the teaching would eventually be done by the ones the Lord ordained to give instruction in the home.

Though priesthood home teaching has not yet come into the dignity of its calling, we may yet come to understand that it is one of the loftiest concepts of service in the Church. One thing is certain: it is service that saves.

The priesthood in the Church is a mighty bulwark against the advance of evil. There is no power on earth that can withstand the thrust of the adversary except a body of righteous men who honor their priesthood in their homes.

The young men of the Aaronic Priesthood have not been neglected. The Lord in his wisdom has seen fit to call you young men early in your lives to service in the kingdom. Sometimes, because you do not understand the program of the Church, you think that the Church is neglecting the vital issues. In the vernacular, you “want a piece of the action.”

In this church there is a call to youth and there is plenty to do, if you will but follow the counsel of your leaders. It is not intended that you just “take the bit in your mouth” and run. A wise saying aptly applies: “The hand that holds the reins is not the power that pulls the load.” The vigor and energy of youth united with the wisdom of mature men make a great team. That is the way the Lord has designed the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods to work together.

Why do we call upon you to live in purity? So that you will be fit servants to make your contribution to the kingdom of God.

Sixty-six years ago President Joseph F. Smith said:

“We expect to see the day, if we live long enough (and if some of us don’t live long enough to see it, there are others who will), when every council of the Priesthood in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will understand its duty; will assume its own responsibility, will magnify its calling, and fill its place in the Church, to the uttermost, according to the intelligence and ability possessed by it. When that day shall come, there will not be so much necessity for work which is now being done by the auxiliary organizations, because it will be done by the regular quorums of the Priesthood. The Lord designed and comprehended it from the beginning, and He made provision in the Church whereby every need may be met and satisfied through the regular organizations of the Priesthood.” (Conference Report, April 1906, p. 3.)

We are just beginning to see the day when the strongest men in each office of the priesthood are to be called to priesthood leadership.

We call upon those of you who are now prospective elders to rise to your potential. Become the spiritual leaders in your home. Take upon yourselves the mantle of this responsibility. Perform the service that will save and exalt you and your loved ones in the kingdom of God. This is no ordinary call to serve, nor is this a frantic appeal. It is a solemn warning to get your personal life in order; to regulate the affairs of your family; to reach out to serve your fellowmen and bless the lives of others through this divine power.

This church with its inspired leadership is already battling the adversary. The struggle in which we are engaged is not some distant day in the future. It is now! If we do not see this clearly, it is because we do not understand the signals that come from the Brethren today.

After listening to conference for three days, the message of this conference is clear. It is to arise, assume your priesthood responsibility, and carry off the work of the Lord. This has not been a common conference. Nor is it just “the best conference ever.” We have heard a clarion call to repent, to begin now to magnify this great power which is vouchsafed in this church.

Oh, my brethren, I plead with you to rise up. Shake off the shackles of indolence and sloth and go forward.

In the encouraging words of the Prophet Joseph: “Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! …” (D&C 128:22.)

I want to testify that Jesus is the Christ. I testify that he is the great High Priest forever. I testify that God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ did appear to the Prophet Joseph Smith and instituted anew in this day the church of Jesus Christ, empowering him with God’s power.

I testify that these men hold the keys of the holy priesthood, that there is power and inspiration in what these Brethren say. There is no other group of men in all the world like these men. They have not come to position through a political party, nor have they won a popularity contest. They have been called by prophecy and by the laying on of hands. Things will be well with us and ours to the extent that we listen to and follow their inspired counsel. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.