“The Priesthood: God’s Gift of Love,” Ensign, Feb. 1993, 15
Recently a missionary nearing the end of his mission was having a difficult time feeling the spirit of his work. One day his mission president received a call from the elder’s mother. “My eighty-year-old mother is dying,” she said. “She lives about an hour away from where my son is serving. Would it be possible for him to give her a blessing?” His grandmother was not a member of the Church but was a woman of faith.
The president concurred and sent another missionary from the mission office with the missionary. When they arrived at the hospital, the elder and his grandmother lovingly greeted each other and visited a short while. Then he said: “Grandmother, I understand you’d like me to give you a blessing. Before I do, would you say a prayer so we can have the Spirit present for the blessing?” She accepted the invitation and recited the Lord’s Prayer.
The young man said, “That was beautiful, Grandmother. Now I wonder if the Lord would want you to ask for what you want.” Then he took her hand and tenderly taught her how to pray. With that she offered a humble, sincere prayer from her heart, thanking Heavenly Father for her family and her blessings and asking him to be with them as the elder gave her a blessing.
Tears flowed freely as she finished. Her grandson’s companion anointed her, and her grandson sealed the anointing. He blessed her that through the influence of the Holy Spirit, she would gain greater knowledge of God and feel the truth of the gospel in her heart. He blessed her that she would desire to read the Book of Mormon and that she would feel peace and joy for the remainder of her mortal life.
After the blessing he gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon and asked her to read it. She promised she would. She began reading the Book of Mormon and lived in peace, free of pain, until she passed away three weeks later. There was no question that through the use of the priesthood, the power of God had been manifested, resulting in blessings for the grandmother and also for the young man, who served the remainder of his mission with enthusiasm.
Grasping even a glimpse of the glory of God’s priesthood can and does change men and women. Those who gain such an understanding want to be better people, serve with full heart and capacity, and love as Christ loves.
Consider the cosmic scope of priesthood power. Brigham Young said, “The priesthood of the Son of God is … the law by which the worlds are, were, and will continue for ever and ever. It is that system which brings worlds into existence and peoples them, gives them their revolutions—their days, weeks, months, years, their seasons and times and by which they … go into a higher state of existence.” (Journal of Discourses, 15:127.) According to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Melchizedek Priesthood “is the channel through which all knowledge, doctrine, the plan of salvation, and every important matter is revealed from heaven.” (History of the Church, 4:207.)
It is through the power of the priesthood that messengers from God came from the eternal worlds to Joseph Smith and delivered “the keys of the Priesthood, in order that all the ordinances may be attended to in righteousness.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 172.) The first of these messengers who delivered priesthood keys was John the Baptist, who on 15 May 1829 personally ordained Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to the Aaronic Priesthood. (See D&C 13.)
Shortly thereafter, Peter, James, and John came from heaven and conferred the Melchizedek Priesthood upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. (See Bible Dictionary, “Peter”; D&C 27:12–13.) “And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
“Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.” (D&C 84:19–20.)
Seven years later in the Kirtland Temple, more heavenly beings appeared to Joseph and Oliver. First, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared in his majesty. “His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:
“I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father. …
“I will appear unto my servants, and speak unto them with mine own voice. …
“Yea the hearts of thousands and tens of thousands shall greatly rejoice in consequence of the blessings which shall be poured out, and the endowment with which my servants have been endowed in this house.” (D&C 110:3–4, 8–9.)
Immediately following that vision, Moses appeared and committed the keys of the gathering of Israel. Then came Elias, who “committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham.” Last came Elijah, who conferred the sealing power of the priesthood by which things bound or loosed on earth are bound and loosed in heaven. (See D&C 110:11–15; Matt. 16:19.)
The heavens literally opened up, and powers from eternal worlds were brought back to earth for our blessing and exaltation. We mortals do not fully comprehend the vastness and importance of this priesthood power. But what little we do grasp is a great blessing to us.
Through priesthood power, millions have been brought to a knowledge of God and his church and have been partakers of the divine gifts. Several years ago in Germany I witnessed the newness of life that can come as a result of this power. The members of our branch were rejoicing over the conversion of a young father whose wife was already a member. When this young man came up out of the waters of baptism, his expression was radiant. Afterward he said, “I’m clean! I’m new! I can’t express the joy I’m feeling right now!” Through his repentance and through the priesthood ordinance of baptism, he had tapped into the power of the Lord’s atonement and had been purified.
That same blessing is experienced weekly as members worthily partake of sacramental emblems blessed by priesthood authority. “For this is in remembrance of my blood of the new testament, which is shed for as many as shall believe on my name, for the remission of their sins.” (JST, Matt. 26:24.)
Little do we comprehend how Christ, through priesthood ordinances, has opened the way to find him! It amazes me how each of these ordinances not only prepares us to find joy in the eternities, but joy here and now. Lehi taught that “men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Ne. 2:25.) Everlasting joy is the ultimate goal of Christ’s priesthood ordinances and blessings.
These blessings become most evident in the temple. As worthy members, through priesthood power, make sacred covenants with their Father in Heaven, the plan of salvation is revealed and they are endowed with blessings that extend into the eternities. Couples kneel at the temples’ altars and, through the authority restored by Elijah, form new and potentially eternal family units. Through the faithfulness of these couples, the very priesthood that binds them together will assist them as they bring children into the world and rear them in righteousness.
Sometimes in the rush of everyday living we lose this vision. Robert L. Millet, dean of religion at Brigham Young University, told me of a time when he was a young husband and father. One day he was sitting on the floor with Church books piled around, studying for a lesson. His little two-year-old daughter came to him and said, “Daddy, play with me.”
He replied, “Daddy’s busy, sweetheart. Please go play somewhere else.” And he went back to his books.
Soon his little nine-month-old son crawled onto his lap. Exasperated, he called to his wife and said, “Honey, will you please keep the children away. I’m trying to study!” She came to his rescue, and he turned back to his books.
Suddenly a power beyond his control turned him to see her playing with the children, and he heard the words, “Behold the plan of salvation.” He immediately left his books and spent some time with his family. He said, “I’ve never forgotten the lesson I learned that day: when I’m with my family, loving them, helping their lives be filled with security and happiness, that’s when I’m really using the priesthood power I’ve been given.”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks said of the priesthood, “We know that the priesthood is the power of God delegated to men to act for the blessing and salvation of all mankind. While we sometimes refer to priesthood holders as ‘the priesthood,’ we must never forget that the priesthood is not owned by or embodied in those who hold it. It is held in a sacred trust to be used for the benefit of men, women, and children alike.” (Ensign, May 1992, p. 36.)
And how is this trust to be used? My own father provides an example. When I was a child, I thought my dad would probably be the next President of the Church. At the time he didn’t hold any office of prominence in the Church. Neither was he well-educated, having completed school only through eighth grade, due to ill health in his youth. These were not the criteria for the way I felt about him. The way he lived was what impressed me.
As I watched him, I can distinctly remember thinking that he lived his life much as Jesus must have, though I knew he was not perfect. Most of the time he had the right mix of gentleness and firmness as he taught and lived the principles of the gospel. I saw him honor my mother and treat her with affection and respect.
I watched them make family decisions together. They often gathered the family around and told us of answers to their prayers, of guidance the Lord had given them. My father often led us in prayer as we fasted together for special family needs. Many times I had the opportunity of feeling his strong, loving hands on my head as he blessed me, and I always felt he was blessing me just as Jesus would have.
As I matured, I began to realize that it was the way he used the priesthood power he had been given that caused me to hold him in such high esteem. Somehow he had caught the vision of what the Savior meant when he said, “What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” (3 Ne. 27:27.) He understood 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 121:41–42).
My father was always a dedicated follower of the Lord. Through that dedication, he fulfilled the most important priesthood calling a man can receive on the earth—that of patriarch to his own family. The only calling equal to it is the one my mother received as she stood throughout their lives as his eternal companion, joining her faith with his and enjoying every possible blessing of that priesthood.
It seems to me that the words priesthood and love are almost synonymous. One woman who is suffering the deep hurt caused by an erring husband says, “I could not make it now without the blessings of the priesthood.” Her husband’s misdeeds caused her pain almost beyond bearing. But she decided to stand by him and help him repent. “The wounds are so deep and painful that at times I think I can’t go on. Then I seek a priesthood blessing from my bishop or home teacher. Time and time again during those blessings, I have felt an immediate renewal of my spirit and the ability to forgive and love unconditionally,” she says. “I have felt the peace and love of the Savior pour over my whole body, and then I know I can go on.”
Some may ask, What kind of blessings come through priesthood blessings? Or, What kind of blessings dare we ask for? The Apostle James said, “Ye have not, because ye ask not.” (James 4:2.) The blessings are limitless, dictated only by our Father’s will and our faith to ask, as was the case with a young couple in Colorado. She was expecting their second child. Their first little boy was nearly two and seemed possessed by jealousy. Whenever his mother held someone else’s baby, he went into fits of anger. “It was extreme jealousy, beyond the normal,” the father says. “Once when my wife picked up a doll, he had a fit, hitting the doll and prying it away from her.” They feared for the safety of their new baby and were concerned about the psychological well-being of their little son.
The night their new little boy was born, the father returned home to his son, asleep in his bed. Without waking him, he gently laid his hands on the boy’s head and, through the power of the priesthood, blessed him to be filled with love for his new little brother and to feel no jealousy, only acceptance.
“From the very first moment he saw his little brother,” his mother says, “he has treated him with tenderness and care. There has never been evidence of even a tinge of jealousy.” The boys are ten and twelve years old now. Their father adds, “There is an extraordinary bond of love between these two boys.”
It is through this same power that we are set apart for callings in the Church, callings that we sometimes feel incapable of performing. Maybe we feel unprepared, unworthy, or overburdened. At such times, we may fail to remember that we are an integral part of a grand eternal plan that is being directed by priesthood power from on high, and because of that, God will help us.
A faithful member illustrates the power of being set apart by priesthood authority. He and his wife had received a mission call to the Dominican Republic. Though he had a history of heart problems, his great desire was to serve this mission. When he was set apart, his stake president blessed him with the power to complete his mission. While he was at the Missionary Training Center the heart pains returned, and he began to think a mission would not be possible after all.
Then Elder Dallin H. Oaks came to speak to all the missionaries. In his talk he said, “Some of you are having some doubts in your mind concerning your missions. Let me remind you that you have been set apart by a power so great that you can’t even comprehend it.”
These words hit him with a jolt. He thought, He’s right. The Lord called us, and we have been set apart by one having authority from God. Now we need to leave it in the Lord’s hands. He later said, “We went forth on our mission and never looked back.” They served faithfully for the entire eighteen months, and when their humble, inspiring mission report was given, it was obvious that they had accomplished a work even beyond their expectations.
Think of the millions of patriarchal blessings that have been given as a result of priesthood power. Through them, we not only learn of our lineage in the house of Israel, but we receive personal instruction regarding our foreordinations and opportunities to be afforded us. One patriarch explained that “the promises given to Abraham and his seed are being fulfilled during this dispensation. Through patriarchal blessings, we receive among other things, inspired promises, admonitions and declarations of caution customized to us individually that lead us to the fulfillment of our premortal foreordinations, though these ordinations are not always mentioned.”
One mother remembers the comforting assurance she received as her mentally impaired daughter’s patriarchal blessing was given. The promises revealed to her daughter regarding her life here and hereafter have brought them both a comfort and peace that could have been attained no other way.
Another example of the quiet workings of the restored priesthood happened in Vancouver, Washington, to a man in his forties. He was coming back into full activity in the Church but was hampered by his lifetime habituation to coffee. After confessing his weakness to his bishop and asking for help, the bishop gave him a blessing to overcome the temptation. The following day at work he walked into the employee lounge and was greeted by the smell of coffee. But instead of the usual urge to drink some, he was overcome with nausea. Never again did he have the desire to drink coffee. That was nearly thirty years ago. He has been faithful ever since, enjoying the blessings of the priesthood and the ordinances of the temple with his family.
Since the restoration of the priesthood, there have been countless blessings of healing pronounced and received. Such blessings are possible because those pronouncing the blessing have the power to speak for God. “And the elders of the church, two or more, shall be called, and shall pray for and lay their hands upon them in my name; …
“And again, it shall come to pass that he that hath faith in me to be healed, and is not appointed unto death, shall be healed.” (D&C 42:44, 48.)
Sometimes these blessings are fulfilled instantly; other times our faith is tested. That’s when the words the Lord spoke to Joseph Smith have personal meaning: “Rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks;
“Waiting patiently on the Lord, for your prayers have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded with this seal and testament—the Lord hath sworn and decreed that they shall be granted.
“Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, saith the Lord.” (D&C 98:1–3.) We must allow for God’s timetable, and the blessings will come.
In the meantime, I’ve noticed, he helps us through the waiting period. All members of the Church have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost to comfort and guide them through troubled times. And how did we get this wondrous gift? “And they shall receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, even as the apostles of old.” (D&C 35:6.) In every case, the gift of the Holy Ghost is given by the power of the priesthood. All gifts and blessings from God tie back to that great power.
As temples, chapels, and homes are dedicated, and as iron curtains tumble and missions are opened from ocean to ocean, the loving hand of God’s priesthood continues to bless in countless ways. Contemplating these blessings cannot help but fill us with the deepest sense of gratitude, a gratitude we need to express to the giver of these wondrous gifts.
And yet, with all of the blessings available, perhaps we barely tap the divine resources available to us. What are we missing that could be ours if only we properly honored and used this sacred power? Through faith in Jesus Christ and the inspired use of his priesthood power, we could be blessed by miracles of which we have never even dreamed.