Chapter 26: The Oath and Covenant of Priesthood

“Chapter 26: The Oath and Covenant of Priesthood,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual (2000), 69–71

“26: Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, 69–71

Chapter 26

The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood


Because the responsibility of holding the priesthood is so great, all who receive it do so by an oath and a covenant. Honoring the covenant means that “the man who accepts the priesthood also accepts the responsibilities that go with it. He promises that he will give service and make himself approved” (Joseph Fielding Smith, in Conference Report, Apr. 1966, 102).

Doctrinal Outline

  1. The Melchizedek Priesthood is received by an oath and a covenant.

    1. A covenant is a solemn promise between two parties (see Genesis 6:18; 17:1–8; 1 Samuel 18:3; D&C 82:10).

    2. Oaths are sworn affirmations that we will be true and faithful to our promises (see Numbers 30:2; Alma 53:11; 1 Nephi 4:35–37).

    3. God uses oaths to confirm His promises to us (see Genesis 26:3; Deuteronomy 7:8; Jeremiah 11:5; Acts 2:30; Moses 7:51).

    4. In accepting the covenant of the priesthood, a man promises to receive the priesthood and to magnify his callings in it (see D&C 84:32–39, 43–44).

  2. Righteousness is the key to priesthood power and eternal life.

    1. God is trying to make His mortal children a nation of priests and kings (see Exodus 19:6; Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:6; D&C 76:55–56).

    2. “The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven” and can be controlled only upon the principles of righteousness (D&C 121:36; see also vv. 34–35).

    3. Those who hold the priesthood are to lead and govern only by love, kindness, and persuasion (see D&C 121:41–46).

    4. Priestcraft is a counterfeit of priesthood and causes us to err (see 2 Nephi 26:29; Alma 1:2–12; Micah 3:11; D&C 33:4).

    5. Corrupt men lose the power of the priesthood (see D&C 121:37–40).

    6. Righteous men gain eternal life by faithfully observing the oath and covenant of the priesthood (see D&C 84:33–39; 121:45–46).

Supporting Statements

  1. The Melchizedek Priesthood is received by an oath and a covenant.

    • “A covenant is a binding and solemn agreement entered into by at least two individuals. It requires that all parties involved abide the conditions of the compact in order to make it effective and binding” (ElRay L. Christiansen, in Conference Report, Oct. 1972, 44; or Ensign, Jan. 1973, 50).

    • “To swear with an oath is the most solemn and binding form of speech known to the human tongue; and it was this type of language which the Father chose to have used in the great Messianic prophecy about Christ and the priesthood. Of him it says: ‘The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.’ (Ps. 110:4.)” (Joseph Fielding Smith, in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 92).

    • “In ancient dispensations, particularly the Mosaic, the taking of oaths was an approved and formal part of the religious lives of the people. These oaths were solemn appeals to Deity, or to some sacred object or thing, in attestation of the truth of a statement or of a sworn determination to keep a promise. These statements, usually made in the name of the Lord, by people who valued their religion and their word above their lives, could be and were relied upon with absolute assurance. (Num. 30.)” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 537–38).

    • “Beginning in the meridian of time the law whereunder men might take oaths in righteousness was done away, and the saints were commanded to refrain from their use. …

      “No such restriction on oath taking, however, applies to Deity. Both in ancient and modern times he has spoken to his saints with an oath. (D. & C. 124:47.) The great covenant made with Abraham that in him and in his seed all generations should be blessed was made by God with an oath in which Deity swore in his own name (because he could swear by no higher) that the covenant would be fulfilled. (Gen. 17; Deut. 7:8; 29:10–15; Luke 1:67–75; Heb. 6:13–20.)” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 538).

    • “When we receive the Melchizedek Priesthood we do so by covenant. We solemnly promise to receive the priesthood, to magnify our callings in it, and to live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God. The Lord on his part promises us that if we keep the covenant, we shall receive all that the Father hath, which is life eternal. Can any of us conceive of a greater or more glorious agreement than this?” (Smith, in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 91).

    • “Now, you made an oath, when you received the priesthood. You made an oath, and you cannot with impunity ignore that oath. You promised. When the stake president or mission president interviews, or the bishop or branch president, he asks promises: ‘Will you? Do you? Have you done? Will you continue to do?’ And with that oath and the promise, you move forward into your service in the Melchizedek Priesthood” (Spencer W. Kimball, in Stockholm Sweden Area Conference Report 1974, 99).

    • “One breaks the priesthood covenant by transgressing commandments—but also by leaving undone his duties. Accordingly, to break this covenant one needs only to do nothing” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 497).

    • “The Lord has made clear that they who receive his priesthood receive him. And I think that means more than just sitting in a chair and having somebody put his hands upon your head. I think when you receive it, you accept it. You do not just merely sit. ‘And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.’ Can you imagine anything greater? Shouldn’t we be frightened, almost awed as we contemplate the honor we have and the responsibility we have that has come from the oath and the covenant” (Kimball, in Stockholm Sweden Area Conference Report 1974, 100).

    • “It is of utmost importance that we keep clearly in mind what the magnifying of our callings in the priesthood requires of us. I am persuaded that it requires at least the following three things:

      “1. That we obtain a knowledge of the gospel.

      “2. That we comply in our personal living with the standards of the gospel.

      “3. That we give dedicated service” (Marion G. Romney, in Conference Report, Oct. 1980, 64; or Ensign, Nov. 1980, 44).

    • “They shall be ‘sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.’ I present to you the thought that President David O. McKay, who was in his nineties, President Joseph Fielding Smith, who was in his nineties, and all the Presidents of the Church since almost the beginning became men of advanced age, that their bodies were renewed, and their spirits were sanctified” (Kimball, in Stockholm Sweden Area Conference Report 1974, 99).

    • “Have you thought of that? ‘All that my Father hath’: to be a God; to be a great leader; to be perfect; to have all the blessings which you can ascribe to your Father in heaven—all that is available to you and me as we hold the priesthoods, particularly the Melchizedek Priesthood, which of course comes only after the Aaronic Priesthood” (Kimball, in Stockholm Sweden Area Conference Report 1974, 99).

    Moses ordaining Aaron
  2. Righteousness is the key to priesthood power and eternal life.

    • “Whenever the Lord has a people on earth he offers to make them a nation of kings and priests—not a congregation of lay members with a priest or a minister at the head—but a whole Church in which every man is his own minister, in which every man stands as a king in his own right, reigning over his own family-kingdom. The priesthood which makes a man a king and a priest is thus a royal priesthood” (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:294).

    • “Most men are inclined to abuse authority, especially those who wield it who are the least prepared to hold positions of trust. It has been the characteristic of men in power to use that power to gratify their own pride and vain ambitions. More misery has come to the inhabitants of this world through the exercise of authority by those who least deserved it, than from almost any other cause. Rulers of kingdoms in the past have oppressed their subjects, and where they had the power they have sought to increase their dominions. We have had some horrible examples of misplaced ambition which, in recent years, placed the very existence of humanity in peril. These conditions still prevail in high places bringing fear and consternation to the troubled world.

      “There should not, however, be any of this unrighteous ambition within the Church, but everything should be done in the spirit of love and humility” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:178).

    • “The priesthood cannot be conferred like a diploma. It cannot be handed to you as a certificate. It cannot be delivered to you as a message or sent to you in a letter. It comes only by proper ordination. An authorized holder of the priesthood has to be there. He must place his hands upon your head and ordain you. …

      “I have told you how the authority is given to you. The power you receive will depend on what you do with this sacred, unseen gift.

      “Your authority comes through your ordination; your power comes through obedience and worthiness” (Boyd K. Packer, That All May Be Edified, 28–29).

    • “There is no limit to the power of the priesthood which you hold. The limit comes in you if you do not live in harmony with the Spirit of the Lord and you limit yourselves in the power you exert” (Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 498).

    • “Priesthood and priestcraft are two opposites; one is of God, the other of the devil. When ministers claim but do not possess the priesthood; when they set themselves up as lights to their congregations, but do not preach the pure and full gospel; when their interest is in gaining personal popularity and financial gain, rather than in caring for the poor and ministering to the wants and needs of their fellow men—they are engaged, in a greater or lesser degree, in the practice of priestcrafts” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 593).

    • “The faithful in the priesthood are those who fulfill the covenant by ‘magnifying their calling’ and living ‘by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.’ (D&C 84:33, 44.) Far more seems to be implied in these requirements than token obedience—far more is needed than mere attendance at a few meetings and token fulfillment of assignments. The perfection of body and spirit are implied, and that includes the kind of service that goes far beyond the normal definition of duty. ‘Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen.’ (D&C 121:34.)” (Spencer W. Kimball, “The Example of Abraham,” Ensign, June 1975, 4).

    • “Now, the sealing for eternity gives to you eternal leadership. The man will have the authority of the priesthood, and if he keeps his life in order he will become a god. … The Lord created this earth for us and made it a beautiful place to live. He promised us that if we would live the right way we could come back to him and be like him” (Spencer W. Kimball, in São Paulo Brazil Area Conference Report 1975, 43).

    • “What, then, is the doctrine of the priesthood? And how shall we live as the servants of the Lord?

      “This doctrine is that God our Father is a glorified, a perfected, and an exalted being who has all might, all power, and all dominion, who knows all things and is infinite in all his attributes, and who lives in the family unit.

      “It is that our Eternal Father enjoys this high status of glory and perfection and power because his faith is perfect and his priesthood is unlimited.

      “It is that priesthood is the very name of the power of God, and that if we are to become like him, we must receive and exercise his priesthood or power as he exercises it.

      “It is that he has given us an endowment of heavenly power here on earth, which is after the order of his Son and which, because it is the power of God, is of necessity without beginning of days or end of years.

      “It is that we can enter an order of the priesthood named the new and everlasting covenant of marriage (see D&C 131:2), named also the patriarchal order, because of which order we can create for ourselves eternal family units of our own, patterned after the family of God our Heavenly Father.

      “It is that we have power, by faith, to govern and control all things, both temporal and spiritual; to work miracles and perfect lives; to stand in the presence of God and be like him because we have gained his faith, his perfections, and his power, or in other words the fulness of his priesthood” (Bruce R. McConkie, in Conference Report, Apr. 1982, 50; or Ensign, May 1982, 33–34).