“Authority, Ordinances, and Preparation,” Liahona, August 2021
The scriptures are rich in references to the Second Coming, an event eagerly awaited by the righteous and dreaded or denied by the wicked. “Let the cry go forth among all people,” the Lord warned at the outset of the Restoration. “Behold and lo, the Bridegroom cometh. … Prepare yourselves for the great day of the Lord” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:10; see also 34:6).
We are living in the prophesied time “when peace shall be taken from the earth” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:35), when “all things shall be in commotion; and … men’s hearts shall fail them” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:91). We are surrounded by challenges on all sides, but with faith in God, we trust in the blessings He has promised those who keep His commandments and prepare.
As part of our preparation to meet Him, the Lord has commanded, “Stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly” (Doctrine and Covenants 87:8). What are those “holy places”? Surely they include the temple, attended by those who keep their covenants faithfully. Surely they include places of service by faithful missionaries and others called by priesthood authority. As we stand in holy places, we exercise and are subject to priesthood authority and we seek the ordinances required for exaltation and eternal life.
Thirty years ago, I had an experience with how priesthood authority in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints differs from other kinds of authority. The wife of a prominent Protestant minister came to my office. For many years she and her husband had served the Lord with great diligence in a Christian ministry. Now she wanted to join the restored Church, but she had a reservation.
She came to ask me why she had to be baptized when she had already been baptized a Christian by her minister husband, who had baptized many people in his congregation. She asked, “Are you telling me that my husband didn’t have any authority to baptize all those people he baptized?”
The Spirit came to my aid, as we pray for in these situations.
“No, I am sure your husband had authority for those baptisms,” I replied. “He had all the authority his church, his congregation, and the laws of the land could give him. He used that authority in baptizing, performing marriages, employing persons for the physical needs of his church building, and appointing persons to participate in its worship services. We don’t question that authority, but we want you to know of a different kind of authority: the power God delegates to mortals.”
I explained that what causes us to require baptism for persons converted to the restored Church of Jesus Christ is the need for baptism by the divine authority Jesus gave to Peter and the other Apostles. With that authority, He told them whatsoever they bound on earth would be bound in heaven (see Matthew 16:19; 18:18). In other words, it would be valid and effective beyond the veil of death to satisfy the requirements of heaven. I testified to her that this authority has been restored and now exists only in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sometime later, both this woman and her husband were baptized. I have known them for many years as faithful members.
The importance of authority is evident in many scriptural accounts of our Savior’s earthly ministry. We read that the people He taught “were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:28–29; see also Mark 1:22; Luke 4:32). In a synagogue they were “amazed” that “with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him” (Mark 1:27; see also Luke 4:36). Jesus told the questioning scribes “that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins” (Mark 2:10; see also Luke 5:24).
Later, the chief priests and elders asked Him by what authority He acted (see Matthew 21:23–27; Mark 11:27–33). They did not meet His requirement for an answer. But what He later said and did reveals His answer. When He called His Apostles, He “ordained” them (John 15:16), “that he might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils” (Mark 3:14–15; see also Matthew 10:1; Luke 9:1; Acts 8:18–19). When He called the Seventy, He gave them “power” (Luke 10:19).
The Savior had divine power and authority, and He shared it. As John the Baptist said, the Father “hath given all things into his hand” (John 3:35).
The most familiar examples of the exercise of priesthood authority involve ordinances. Ordinances and priesthood are inseparable. An ordinance is a sacred act of eternal significance, done with priesthood authority. It accompanies the making of covenants and the promising of blessings. Ordinances of the restored Church of Jesus Christ include baptism, the partaking of the sacrament (the most frequent ordinance in the Church), and the ordinances of the temple, including marriages for time and all eternity and the gift of what we call the endowment, which consists of knowledge, covenants, and promised blessings.
The requirement of ordinances is God-given and has eternal effect. “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:20). And “all who will have a blessing at [the Lord’s] hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:5).
The ordinances of salvation and exaltation are fundamental in God’s great plan for His children. Jesus taught that salvation in the kingdom of God comes from being “born of water and of the Spirit” (John 3:5). Exaltation (eternal life, “the kind and quality of life that Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son live”1) comes from the higher covenants and ordinances of the temple (see Doctrine and Covenants 14:7; 84:38; 88:107; 132:16–17, 20–21). Our prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, has taught: “This life is the time to prepare for salvation and exaltation. In God’s eternal plan, salvation is an individual matter; exaltation is a family matter.”2
In modern revelation, we are told that he who fears the Lord will “be looking forth for the great day of the Lord to come, even for the signs of the coming of the Son of Man” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:39). In the final period before the end of His mortal ministry, Jesus spoke of His Second Coming. He described the tribulations that would come first and the importance—notwithstanding those tribulations—of being “ready” (Matthew 24:44). Then He declared, “Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing” (Matthew 24:46; see also Luke 12:37, 43).
President Nelson has taught, “We are just building up to the climax of this last dispensation—when the Savior’s Second Coming becomes a reality.”3 The signs of that Second Coming are all around us and seem to be increasing in frequency and intensity. Worldwide, we are experiencing or learning of earthquakes, famines, typhoons, floods, pestilences, and armed conflicts. But not all these signs are threatening. A positive sign of the times is the prophesied gathering of Israel, which President Nelson has declared “is the most important thing taking place on earth today.”4
As this gathering proceeds, we are establishing stakes “for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth” (Doctrine and Covenants 115:6). We are also accelerating the building of temples, where the faithful can gather in their own homelands to make the covenants that allow them to be eligible for eternal life (see Doctrine and Covenants 84:19–22; 131:1–3).
As the Book of Mormon teaches, “This life is the time for men to prepare to meet God” (Alma 34:32). Are we preparing?
What if the day of His coming were tomorrow? If we knew that we would meet the Lord tomorrow—through our death or through His coming—what would we do today? What confessions would we make? What practices would we discontinue? What forgiveness would we extend? What ordinances would we seek? What additional things would we do to fulfill our covenants? If we could do those things then, why not now? If our lamps of preparation are drawn down, let us start immediately to replenish them.