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Lesson 1: The Priesthood

“Lesson 1: The Priesthood,” Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part A (2000), 2–8

“Lesson 1: The Priesthood,” Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part A, 2–8

Lesson 1

The Priesthood

The purpose of this lesson is to help us understand what the priesthood is and how to magnify our callings in the priesthood.


Ask class members to think of the time when the priesthood was given to them. The Spirit of the Lord was undoubtedly present as they received the priesthood by the laying on of hands from those with authority. As class members ponder that experience, invite them to ask themselves these questions:

  1. What actually happened to me that day?

  2. Was I a different person after receiving the priesthood?

  3. Am I a different person today because I hold the priesthood?

  4. Have I been able to serve others through the priesthood?

  5. Is my Heavenly Father pleased with the way I use the priesthood?

The Priesthood Is the Power of God

“When we [act] in the name of the Lord, as holders of the priesthood, we are doing it in the name and in behalf of our Heavenly Father. Priesthood is the power by which our Heavenly Father works through men” (Harold B. Lee, in Conference Report, Apr. 1973, 128; or Ensign, July 1973, 98).

The priesthood is God’s eternal power and authority. God accomplishes His work by the priesthood. He created all things by this power, and He governs the earth and heaven by it. We read in the Pearl of Great Price that the priesthood, “which was in the beginning, shall be in the end of the world also” (Moses 6:7).

God and Jesus Christ have given worthy male members of the Church the power of the priesthood so that they can help “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). The priesthood is the authority of God given to men to act in all things for the salvation of mankind.

Those who hold the priesthood have the authority to act in God’s name. Speaking to all priesthood bearers, President Joseph Fielding Smith said:

“We are the Lord’s agents; we represent him; he has given us authority which empowers us to do all that is necessary to save and exalt ourselves as well as his other children in the world.

“We are ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our commission is to represent him. We are directed … to do what he would do if he were personally present” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1971, 47; or Ensign, June 1971, 49).

Priesthood Power Comes through Righteous Living

“All of us who hold the priesthood have the authority to act for the Lord, but the effectiveness of our authority—or if you please, the power that comes through that authority—depends on the pattern of our lives; it depends on our righteousness” (H. Burke Peterson, in Conference Report, Apr. 1976, 50; or Ensign, May 1976, 33).

In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord has made it clear to us that we must live righteously to have not only the authority, but also the power of the priesthood:

“Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?

“Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—

“That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

“That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man” (D&C 121:34–37).

  • In these verses, the Lord reveals why some priesthood holders are not able to exercise the priesthood with power. Why would these things keep us from having power in the priesthood?

The source of the power of the priesthood is God, who works through the Holy Ghost. To have the Holy Ghost direct us in using the priesthood, we must keep the commandments and live worthily. Power in the priesthood comes to us only from our Heavenly Father through the Holy Ghost. With the power of the priesthood, we can do the Lord’s work; without that power, we cannot.

  • Show visual 1-a, “Priesthood holders administer to the sick today just as Christ did anciently.”

“If we live for it, ours can be a power given us from our Heavenly Father that will bring peace to a troubled household. Ours can be a power that will bless and comfort little children, that will bring sleep to tearstained eyes in the wee hours of the morning. Ours can be the power that will bring happiness to a family home evening, the power to calm the unsettled nerves of a tired wife. Ours can be the power that will give direction to a confused and vulnerable teenager. Ours, the power to bless a daughter before she goes on her first date or before her temple marriage, or to bless a son before his departure for a mission or college. Ours, my young brethren, can be the power to stop evil thoughts of a group of boys gathered together in vulgar conversation. Ours can be the power to heal the sick and comfort the lonely. These are some of the important purposes of the priesthood” (H. Burke Peterson, in Conference Report, Apr. 1976, 50–51; or Ensign, May 1976, 33).

  • Ask the assigned priesthood holder to share his experience showing the power of the priesthood in his life.

Developing Power in the Priesthood

There are several things we can do to develop power in the priesthood:

Desire It

We must first have a desire to develop power in the priesthood. The scriptures teach that men receive from the Lord according to their desires (see Alma 29:4; D&C 4:3; 6:8; 7:1–3).

Live Righteously

We should strive to keep all the commandments of our Heavenly Father. By living righteously, we may have the Holy Ghost for our constant companion, and He will direct us to do the things we should do (see 2 Nephi 32:5). Righteous living includes learning to control our thoughts, words, and actions.

Be Humble

“He that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed” (Alma 32:15). We should be willing to accept and follow our leaders’ counsel, complete the assignments given to us by our priesthood leaders, and listen to and follow the promptings of the Spirit. Other ways we can show humility include (1) honestly considering the righteous desires of family members, even though they may not be exactly the same as our desires; (2) listening—even to the smallest child; (3) putting the welfare of the family ahead of our own comfort; and (4) speaking in a voice that always reflects our love and concern for others.


We must search and ponder the scriptures. Only by studying the scriptures personally can we know God’s will and live the gospel. We also need to study our priesthood manuals in order to know our specific duties as priesthood holders. President George Albert Smith taught, “It is your duty first of all to learn what the Lord wants and then by the power and strength of His holy Priesthood to [so] magnify your calling … that the people will be glad to follow you” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1942, 14).


We must ask our Heavenly Father what He would have us do. We should always pray for guidance in using the priesthood correctly. Concerning the power of prayer, President Gordon B. Hinckley taught: “Prayer unlocks the powers of heaven in our behalf. Prayer is the great gift which our Eternal Father has given us by which we may approach Him and speak with Him in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Be prayerful. You cannot make it alone. You cannot reach your potential alone. You need the help of the Lord” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [1997], 470).

Love Others

Jesus Christ has taught us that the power of the priesthood is founded on love and that we should love all people (see D&C 121:41–42, 45–46). Love begins at home. We should love our families and be concerned for their welfare. One way we show our love for our family members is by using the priesthood to direct and bless their lives.

Use the Priesthood to Bless and Strengthen Our Families

When we use the priesthood, we are examples to other priesthood holders, to the world, and, perhaps most importantly, to our families. As our family members see us use the priesthood, they will know that we are servants of the Lord and will come to us when they need help. All families should experience the blessings which come when fathers and sons use the priesthood for the benefit of their families.

The priesthood can make a difference in our homes. President David O. McKay said, “A home is transformed because a man holds and honors the priesthood” (“Priesthood,” Instructor, Oct. 1968, 378).

  • In what ways have you or your family been blessed because of the priesthood?


“We should all realize that there is nothing in the world more powerful than the priesthood of God” (N. Eldon Tanner, in Conference Report, Apr. 1976, 63; or Ensign, May 1976, 41).

In the following story, President N. Eldon Tanner explained the importance of being worthy to receive the priesthood:

“When I was a bishop I had six boys in my ward old enough to be ordained elders. I could only recommend five of them, because one of them wasn’t ready. We had talked about it several times, and he had said to me, ‘I am not worthy.’ He felt very bad about it, but he didn’t expect to be recommended. … His uncle came to me and said, ‘You are surely not going to hold that boy back with his five friends going forward.’ He pled with me to let him go. He said, ‘You will be driving him out of the Church if you don’t.’

“I explained to this man, ‘The priesthood is the most important thing that we can give this boy. We are not handing the priesthood out. … This boy and I understand each other, and he is not ready to be ordained an elder.’ And he wasn’t recommended.

“A few years later I was attending a general conference … , and a young man came up to me and said, ‘President Tanner, you wouldn’t remember me. I am the boy whom you didn’t recommend to be ordained an elder.’ As he put his hand out, he said, ‘I want to thank you for it. I am a bishop now in California. If you had recommended me when I wasn’t worthy, I possibly never would have appreciated what the priesthood is and what is expected of one, and surely I would never have been a bishop as I am today’” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1973, 122; or Ensign, July 1973, 94).

We must all learn “that the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness” (D&C 121:36). To receive power from God, we must become worthy of it.

We should always remember that we hold God’s authority and power and that we represent Him. When we exercise the priesthood, we should ask ourselves, “What would Jesus Christ have me do in this situation? Am I acting the way He would have me act?”


Commit yourself to carefully study the instructions of this priesthood manual and to accept the challenges which are given in each lesson. By completing these challenges, you will develop power in the priesthood, become closer to our Heavenly Father, and be of greater service to others.

Additional Scripture

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. Study Gospel Principles chapters 13, “The Priesthood,” and 14 “Priesthood Organization.”

  2. Study Doctrine and Covenants 121:34–46.

  3. Assign a priesthood holder to share an experience he has had which demonstrates the power of the priesthood.

  4. Ask each class member to bring his scriptures to priesthood meeting each week and to be prepared to read and mark the specific scriptures in each lesson.

  5. Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.