“The Privilege of Holding the Priesthood,” Ensign, Nov. 1975, 77
Brethren, it is a great thrill to think that we are part of a congregation of 225,000 men and boys. Some of you are a little darker, some of you have slant eyes, but you are all men and brethren, and we love you. We are grateful that you are associated with us tonight in this great meeting.
You have been hearing some very solid, firm doctrine here tonight. I want to begin by telling you a story. I suppose all of you young men learned the Articles of Faith before you became a member of the priesthood. I am wondering if you have retained in your mind those articles. I wonder if you know them word-perfect. Would you like to tell your fathers when you go home, if you know the Articles of Faith word-perfect?
Some years ago a young Primary boy was on a train going to California in the days when we traveled on trains. He was all alone. He sat near the window watching the telephone poles go by. Across the aisle from him was a gentleman who also was going to California. The attention of the gentleman was called to this very young boy traveling all alone without friends or relatives. He was neatly dressed and well-behaved. And this gentleman was quite impressed with him.
Finally, after some time, the gentleman crossed the aisle and sat down by the young man and said to him, “Hello, young man, where are you going?”
He said, “I am going to Los Angeles.”
“Do you have relatives there?”
The boy said, “I have some relatives there. I am going to visit my grandparents. They will meet me at the station, and I will stay with them a few days during the school vacation.”
The next questions were “Where did you come from?” and “Where do you live?”
And the boy said, “Salt Lake City, Utah.”
“Oh, then,” said the gentleman, “you must be a Mormon.”
And the boy said, “Yes, I am.” There was pride in his voice.
The gentleman said, “Well, that’s interesting. I’ve wondered about the Mormons and what they believe. I’ve been through their beautiful city; I’ve noticed the beautiful buildings, the treelined streets, the lovely homes, the beautiful rose and flower gardens, but I’ve never stopped to find out what makes them as they are. I wish I knew what they believe.”
And the boy said to him, “Well, sir, I can tell you what they believe. ‘We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.’” (A of F 1:1.
The businessman was a bit surprised but listened intently, and the boy continued, “‘We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.’” (A of F 1:2.)
And the traveling companion thought, “This is rather unusual for a mere boy to know these important things.”
The boy went on: “‘We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.’” (A of F 1:3.) And the gentleman was amazed at the knowledge and understanding of a mere boy—he was yet to be a Scout. But he continued and gave the fourth Article of Faith A of F 1:4 and said, “‘We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.’”
“That is wonderful,” said the gentleman. “I am amazed that you know so well the doctrines of your church. I commend you.”
With a good start and with encouragement, Johnny continued. “‘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.’” (A of F 1:5.)
“That’s very solid doctrine, my boy,” the gentleman said. “I am curious now to know how they get called of God. I can understand how they would receive the call and be established with the laying on of hands, but I wonder who has the authority to preach the gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.”
They discussed the matter of calling and sustaining and laying on of hands. Then the lad said, “Would you like to know more?”
The gentleman thought that was very unusual for a boy in these tender years to know what the Church taught, and he said, “Yes, go on.”
So Johnny quoted, “‘We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, viz., apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, etc.’” (A of F 1:6.)
That brought some other discussion. “You mean that your church has apostles such as James and John and Peter and Paul, and prophets such as Moses, Abraham, Isaac, and Daniel, and also evangelists?”
And the boy responded quickly, “Yes, even evangelists. We call them patriarchs and they are appointed in all parts of the Church where there are stakes. And by inspiration they give to all the members of the Church, as required, what is called a patriarchal blessing. I have already had my patriarchal blessing, and I read it frequently. Now we have twelve apostles who have the same calling and the same authority as given to the apostles in the days of old.”
The gentleman came back with these questions: “Do you speak in tongues? Do you believe in revelations and prophecies?”
And the boy brightened up as he quoted, “‘We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, etc.’” (A of F 1:7.)
The gentleman gasped. “This sounds like you believe in the Bible!”
And the boy repeated again, “We do. ‘We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.’” (A of F 1:8.)
The gentleman discerned that we believe both in the scriptures and in revelation. And the boy quoted, “‘We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.’” (A of F 1:9.) And then he continued, “‘We believe [also] in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion will be built upon this [the American] continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.’” (A of F 1:10.)
The gentleman was listening intently. He showed no interest in crossing the aisle back to his own seat. Then Johnny came in again. He said, “‘We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.’” (A of F 1:11.) He then continued, “‘We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.’” (A of F 1:12.)
And then as a final contribution, the boy repeated the thirteenth Article of Faith A of F 1:13. “‘We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.’”
This youngster relaxed now as he finished the Articles of Faith. The gentleman was clearly excited, not only at the ability of this young boy to outline the whole program of the Church, but at the very completeness of its doctrine.
He said, “You know, after I have been to Los Angeles a couple of days, I expect to go back to New York where my office is. I am going to wire my company that I will be a day or two late and that I am going to stop in Salt Lake City en route home and go to the information bureau there and hear all the things, in more detail, about what you have told me.”
I am wondering how many of you know the Articles of Faith? How many of you big men, as well as the little men? Do you know them? Have you repeated them? You are always prepared with a sermon when you know the Articles of Faith. And they are basic, aren’t they? I would think it would be a wonderful thing if all the boys, as they learn them, would learn them word perfect. That means that you don’t miss and you don’t forget.
Shall I tell you how I did it? I think I have told you before, but I used to milk cows. I typed with two fingers, and I would type out these Articles of Faith on little cards and put them down in the corral right by me when I sat on the one-legged stool and milked the cows. And I repeated them over, I guess 20 million times. I don’t know. But at any rate, I have claimed that I could say the Articles of Faith now after these many, many years and could say them word-perfect. And I think it has been most valuable to me. Will you do that, my fine young men?
Now to you older men, I want to quote a few scriptures to you. Going to the book of Hebrews, written, I think, by Paul, we read:
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
“Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
“Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
“Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” (Heb. 1:1–4.)
And that reminds us of the 132nd section where he promises that those who have received this new and everlasting covenant and who live up to the covenants President Romney has been talking about will exceed the angels. He goes beyond the gods and angels that are waiting there to guard the gates.
“For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?” (Heb. 1:5.)
The heavens may be full of angels, but they are not like the Son of God, and we could add they are not like you who have qualified for this high calling to be exalted in the Lord’s kingdom through the blessings that he has promised.
“And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.” (Heb. 1:6.)
That is the Son of God. That is Jesus Christ, whom we worship, with all our souls, all our minds and might and strength. He it is who is the Son of God.
“Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.” (Heb. 2:1.) We should let them slip. Oh, I hope, as we find our way in this great program that we will never let these glorious things slip.
“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.” (Heb. 2:3.)
Peter, James, and John, Paul, others of the brethren—we heard this great plan of salvation from them, after they had heard it from the Lord who established it.
“For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (Heb. 2:10.)
Brethren, 225,000 of you are here tonight. I suppose 225,000 of you may become gods. There seems to be plenty of space out there in the universe. And the Lord has proved that he knows how to do it. I think he could make, or probably have us help make, worlds for all of us, for every one of us 225,000.
Just think of the possibilities, the potential. Every little boy that has just been born becomes an heir to this glorious, glorious program. When he is grown, he meets a lovely woman; they are married in the holy temple. They live all the commandments of the Lord. They keep themselves clean. And then they become sons of God, and they go forward with their great program—they go beyond the angels, beyond the angels and the gods that are waiting there. They go to their exaltation.
You remember in the 132nd section it says that Abraham received all that he received in this same manner, and that Abraham already was on his throne. He had his exaltation. It’s been a long time since he died, of course.
And then Paul speaks again: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14) by being subject to death, and going into that experience, and then coming forth from the dead a resurrected being.
“For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.” (Heb. 2:16.)
And so through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, through David finally, the Lord became the Son of God through Abraham.
“Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the holy calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus [Jesus, a high priest like you are high priests, many of you; he was an apostle like these brethren on the stand are apostles].
“For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. …
“Wherefore I was grieved with that generation [the Lord said, speaking of the people who were in Egypt and were subject to the bondage of that country.]—“Wherefore, I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.
“So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.” (Heb. 3:1, 3, 10–11.)
Sometimes we have thought of rest as being a place where we get on the chaise lounge, or in our sneakers, or we get outside and lie on the grass, something where we are at rest. That isn’t the kind of rest that the Lord is speaking about. It is he who is the most dynamic, the one who works the hardest, puts in the longest hours, and lives the closest to his Heavenly Father who is rested—rested from his labors, but not put away from his work.
Now I would like to give another few lines from another scripture. This one is in the Pearl of Great Price. This is a priesthood meeting, of course. All of you hold the priesthood; it is a great privilege to hold the priesthood, a great privilege. And let me read to you a few lines from your father Abraham to show you how important it was to him. He says:
“And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest [this other kind of rest, the kind that you work at] for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.” (Abr. 1:2.)
It was ten generations, I believe, from Adam to Noah, and then it was ten generations, I believe, from Noah to Abraham. He inherited the blessings of the fathers. And who are the fathers? They were the righteous men who were the patriarchs to the nations in those first years.
He says, “It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time [When was that? I guess we would say when Adam was placed on the earth], yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundations of the earth to the present time, even the right of the firstborn, on the first man, who is Adam, our first father, through the fathers unto me.
“I sought for mine appointment unto the Priesthood according to the appointment of God unto the fathers concerning the seed.” (Abr. 1:3–4.)
This is something that we are heir to, we were born heir to it, and all we need to do is qualify for it to obtain this blessing, without which we never could go to the temple. And never going to the temple, we could never be sealed. And therefore, we could have no families; we could not go on with our work.
“My fathers having turned from their righteousness, and from the holy commandments which the Lord their God had given unto them [they] utterly refused to hearken to my voice.” (Abr. 1:5.)
So Abraham had to leave. He left Chaldea and went north up the river until he came to Haran—what is now Turkey. And then from there to Palestine.
Now if I haven’t wearied you with this reading, I should like to read another two or three lines and then close.
“And his voice was unto me [after the Lord struck down the man who was taking Abraham’s life on the altar.—“His voice came to me and he said]: … my name is Jehovah, and I have heard thee, and have come down to deliver thee, and to take thee away from thy father’s house, and from all thy kinsfolk, into a strange land which thou knowest not of. …
“As it was with Noah so shall it be with thee; but through thy ministry my name shall be known in the earth forever.” (Abr. 1:16, 19.) And he says, “I will … put upon thee my name.” (Abr. 1:18.) My name. The name of Jesus Christ. The priesthood is called the “Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God.” (D&C 107:3.) And then Melchizedek’s name was given to the priesthood so we wouldn’t repeat too often the name of the Son of God. And in connection with that, I frequently think we use the names of Deity a little too much, probably; a little too intimately, I think. There is a good example, that the Lord gave the priesthood the name of the Melchizedek Priesthood to avoid the repetition.
Now, one other thought before I close, and that is this: “I shall endeavor, hereafter,” Abraham said, “to delineate the chronology running back from myself to the beginning of the creation, for the records have come into my hands, which I hold unto this present time [and this is very important in connection with some of the other work we have considered during this conference]. …
“But the records of the fathers, even the patriarchs, concerning the right of Priesthood, the Lord my God preserved in mine own hands; therefore a knowledge of the beginning of the creation, and also of the planets, and of the stars, as they were made known unto the fathers, have I kept even unto this day, and I shall endeavor to write some of these things upon this record, for the benefit of my posterity that shall come after me.” (Abr. 1:28, 31.)
Brethren, it is really something to hold the priesthood—to hold this advancing priesthood from deacon to teacher to priest—and then to hold the priesthood which is permanent, permanent as long as we are worthy of it and which can be our shield and our way unto the eternal worlds. I pray the Lord will bless us that we may never consider it a common, ordinary thing to just be an elder—“He is only an elder.” “He is only a seventy.” “He is only a high priest.” To be a high priest, a high priest, is really something in the life of any man. And to consider it less than unusual and wonderful would be to not understand the blessings that have been given.
Now this comes from the doctrines we possess. The Lord has said, “I am the Almighty.” “I am Jesus Christ.” “I am Jehovah.” He is the one we worship. We sing about him in nearly every song. We pray about him in all our prayers. We talk about him in all our meetings. We love him, and we adore him. And we promise and rededicate ourselves over and over and over that we will from this moment forth live nearer to him and to his promises and to the blessings which he has given us. I say this to you with all of our affection and love in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.