“Chapter 13: Priesthood, the Government and Power of God,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor (2011), 117–26
“Chapter 13,” Teachings: John Taylor, 117–26
To John Taylor, the priesthood, in addition to being the authority to act in God’s name, was also a powerful force by which great things could be accomplished. He taught that priesthood bearers should be active in using the priesthood to serve others and to bring to pass God’s righteous purposes. He encouraged all priesthood holders to attend to their duties and magnify their callings, stating that “the teacher or deacon who fulfils his duties is a great deal more honorable than a president or any of the twelve who does not.”2
President Taylor also recognized and appreciated the authority of those who used their priesthood to serve him and his family. His humble respect for priesthood authority was exemplified by a story that his son Moses W. Taylor once related regarding an evening in the Taylor home when the family was visited by the home teachers. “One of the two was a boy sixteen years of age,” the younger Taylor recalled, “and that night it was his turn to preside. Father called the family together and informed the teachers that we were all there and said: ‘We are in your hands and await your instructions.’”
The boy then asked President Taylor if they prayed as a family and privately, if they treated their neighbors well, attended church regularly, and supported the authorities of the Church. “These questions were answered one after another by my father just as humbly as the youngest member of the family would have answered them. After the teachers had concluded their labors, they then requested my father to give them some instructions.
“He told them that he was pleased with them for their faithfulness and thanked them for calling and urged them to call on the family as often as they could for he realized the great good that a man holding the priesthood—which is the power of God—could do his family, and told them that there was no office in the church where greater good could be done than in that of a teacher. He told them to pay particular attention to his children and counsel them as a father.
“‘I am not often home,’ said he, ‘for my church duties call me away so much and I fear if my children do not frequently get good counsel, they may be led astray.’”3
What is priesthood? … I shall briefly answer that it is the government of God, whether on the earth or in the heavens, for it is by that power, agency, or principle that all things are governed on the earth and in the heavens, and by that power that all things are upheld and sustained. It governs all things—it directs all things—it sustains all things—and has to do with all things that God and truth are associated with. It is the power of God delegated to intelligences in the heavens and to men on the earth; and when we arrive in the celestial kingdom of God, we shall find the most perfect order and harmony existing, because there is the perfect pattern, the most perfect order of government carried out, and when or wherever those principles have been developed in the earth, in proportion as they have spread and been acted upon, just in that proportion have they produced blessings and salvation to the human family. And when the government of God shall be more extensively adopted, and when Jesus’ prayer, that he taught his disciples, is answered, and God’s kingdom comes on the earth, and his will is done here as in heaven [see Matthew 6:10], then, and not till then, will universal love, peace, harmony, and union prevail.4
[Priesthood] is … the principle and power by which [God] regulates, controls, dictates and manages His affairs, His worlds, His kingdoms, His principalities, His powers, His intelligences, and all things that are underneath Him and above Him, and with which He has to do.5
The power manifested by the priesthood is simply the power of God, for he is the head of the priesthood … ; and it is upon this principle that all the works of God have been accomplished, whether on the earth or in the heavens; and any manifestation of power through the priesthood on the earth is simply a delegated power from the priesthood in the heavens, and the more the priesthood on the earth becomes assimilated with and subject to the priesthood in the heavens the more of this power shall we possess.6
God has organized a priesthood, and that priesthood bears rule in all things pertaining to the earth and the heavens; one part of it exists in the heavens, another part on the earth; they both co-operate together for the building up of Zion, the redemption of the dead and the living, and the bringing to pass the “times of the restitution of all things;” [see Acts 3:21] and as they are thus closely united, it is necessary that there should be a communication between the one and the other, and that those on the earth should receive instructions from those in the heavens, who are acquainted with earthly as well as heavenly things, having had the experience of both, as they once officiated in the same priesthood on the earth.7
It is the intercourse and communication of the priesthood in heaven, that gives power, life, and efficacy to the living priesthood on the earth, and without which they would be as dead and withered branches: and if any man has life, or power, it is the power and life of the priesthood, the gift and power of God communicated through the regular channels of the priesthood, both in heaven and on earth; and to seek it without, would be like a stream seeking to be supplied with water when its fountain was dried up, or like a branch seeking to obtain virtue when the trunk of the tree was cut off by the root: and to talk of a church without this is to talk of a thing of naught—a dried fountain, a dead and withered tree.8
No man [can] guide this kingdom. He cannot unless God be with him and on the side of the elders of Israel. But with him on their side, all things will move on aright, and the intelligence and the revelations of God will be poured out. His law will be made known and the principles of truth be developed; or it is not the kingdom of God. And we all of us ought to humble ourselves before God, and seek for the guidance of the Almighty. …
There is a principle associated with the kingdom of God that recognizes God in all things, and that recognizes the priesthood in all things, and those who do not do it had better repent or they will come to a stand very quickly; I tell you that in the name of the Lord. Do not think you are wise and that you can manage and manipulate the priesthood, for you cannot do it. God must manage, regulate, dictate, and stand at the head, and every man in his place. The ark of God does not need steadying [see 2 Samuel 6:3, 6–7], especially by incompetent men without revelation and without knowledge of the kingdom of God and its laws. It is a great work that we are engaged in, and it is for us to prepare ourselves for the labor before us, and to acknowledge God, his authority, his law and his priesthood in all things.9
We want to minister for God in time and throughout the eternities that are to come. We have started in, and we will try by the help of God and the light of His Holy Spirit, and the revelations that He will give to us from time to time—we will try and operate and co-operate with the Priesthood in the eternal worlds either on this earth or in the heavens. We shall operate until the work that God has designed pertaining to this earth shall be accomplished, and the living and the dead saved so far as they are capable of being saved according to eternal laws that exist in the heavens, and according to the decrees of the Almighty. …
I say continually, “O God, lead me in the right path: O God, preserve me from all error; O God, I am a poor, feeble, weak, erring human creature, surrounded with infirmities. I need Thy help all the day long. O God, help me.” That is my feeling, and the feeling of my brethren of the First Presidency, and of the Twelve and others. We feel that we need the help of the Almighty. We will try and be humble, and be faithful and true to our covenants. And if we listen to counsel and obey the laws of God, and do the things that He requires at our hands, He will help us and bless us, and He will bless Zion and preserve Israel.10
What is this priesthood given us for? That we may be enabled to build up the Zion of our God. What for? To put down wrong and corruption, lasciviousness, lying, thieving, dishonesty, and covetousness, with every kind of evil, and also to encourage faith, meekness, charity, purity, brotherly kindness, truthfulness, integrity, honesty, and everything that is calculated to exalt and ennoble mankind, that we may be the true and proper representatives of God our Father here upon the earth, that we may learn to know his will and do it; that his will may be done on earth as in heaven.11
To bring about this desirable end—to restore creation to its pristine excellency and to fulfil the object of creation—to redeem, save, exalt, and glorify man—to save and redeem the dead and the living, and all that shall live according to its laws, is the design and object of the establishment of the priesthood on the earth in the last days. It is for the purpose of fulfilling what has not heretofore been done—that God’s works may be perfected—that the times of the restitution of all things may be brought about, and that, in conjunction with the eternal priesthood in the heavens (who without us, nor we without them, could not be made perfect), we may bring to pass all things which have been in the mind of God, or spoken of by the Spirit of God, through the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world was. …
The priesthood in the heavens are uniting with us to bring about these purposes, and as they are governed by the same principle, that our works may agree—that there may be a reciprocity of action, and that God’s will (so far as we are concerned) may be done on the earth as it is in heaven. It is this which we have to learn, and this which we must do to fulfil our calling, and render our works acceptable in the sight of God and of the holy angels, and also in the sight of our brethren, who are associated with us in the priesthood in the kingdom of God on the earth.12
The priesthood is placed in the church for this purpose, to dig, to plant, to nourish, to teach correct principles, and to develop the order of the kingdom of God, to fight the devils, and maintain and support the authorities of the church of Christ upon the earth. It is our duty all to act together to form one great unit—one great united phalanx [or organized body], having sworn allegiance to the kingdom of God; then everything will move on quietly, peaceably, and easily, and then there will be very little trouble.13
The Priesthood always was given for the blessing of the human family. People talk about it as though it was for the special benefit of individuals. What was said of Abraham? “In thee and in thy seed”—what? I will confer blessings upon thee. O, that is all right so far as it goes. But “in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” [See Abraham 2:11.] Let us act in the capacity of benefactors, and if we are descended of Abraham, let us walk in his footsteps and make ourselves worthy of the promises, let us extend our feelings wide as eternity, and seek to bless and benefit, lift up and ennoble all around us; that we may all rejoice together and be exalted by the same principles which have been revealed for the benefit of all men. …
If I were a Bishop—I do not know what I would do, but I know what I should do. I should feel like saying, Father, thou hast committed a number of souls to my care; help me to look after their temporal interests and also to promote their spiritual welfare, and see that they are properly instructed in the laws of life: help me also to teach the teachers that go among the people, that they may go full of the Holy Spirit to bless and benefit the people, that with the aid of my brethren I may be a Savior among them. That is the way I ought to feel and to do if I were a Bishop; and that is the way you Bishops ought to feel and to act, and do it humbly with a desire to do good. And then, if I were a Priest, Teacher or Deacon, and was going around as an instructor among the people, I would want to watch over their welfare.14
[Jesus said], “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.” If you love me, if you are my friend and my disciple, “Feed my Lambs.” That was not very hard to do; he had been called for that purpose. “He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He said unto him, Feed my Sheep.” And the third time the Savior put the same question to Peter, and which on being answered as before, he said to him, “Feed my Sheep.” [See John 21:15–17.] What is the duty of the Apostles; the Presidents of Stakes, the High Priests, and Seventies, especially of those that are generally presiding? If Jesus was here, he would tell you to lay aside your nonsense, your follies and weaknesses, and act more like men and Saints and go to work and “Feed my Sheep.”15
If we understand ourselves and our position, it ought to be with us, the kingdom of God first and ourselves afterwards. If we can learn to accomplish a little thing, the Lord will probably tell us to do a greater, because we are prepared to do it. … If we are the people of God, and he is trusting to us to accomplish these great purposes, we have got to do a little more than we have done, and we have got to be willing and obedient to the dictation of the Spirit of the Lord and his servants whom he had placed over us. If we do this, every labor we engage in will be joyous and pleasant to us, peace will reign in our bosoms and the peace of God will abide in our habitations; the Spirit of the Lord will brood over us, and we shall be full of joy and rejoicing all the day long, and so it will be to the end of the chapter. I know of no other way to accomplish all this work, only to be taught of the Lord, and for that purpose he has organized his holy priesthood.16
There is as much devolving upon the priests, the teachers, and the deacons, and those of the lesser priesthood as there is upon any other members of the church. When they do not fulfil their duties, what is the result? People go to the twelve, or to the First Presidency; they pass the more immediate authorities; and confusion and disorder exist; and valuable time is occupied almost needlessly; … and all this for the want of men’s knowing their duties and doing them.
But while we are contending over little things what becomes of us? We are losing sight of our callings; we forget that this kingdom was established upon the earth for the purpose of introducing righteousness and the laws of heaven upon the earth, and of blessing mankind and of saving the living and the dead. We forget what we are here for, and what the kingdom of God is established for. It is not for you or for me or anybody else alone; it is for the interests of the world and the salvation of mankind. We are expected, every one of us, to perform the various duties and responsibilities devolving upon us. If we neglect them, are we not guilty before God? Whence come the difficulties that we have in our midst? Because as I have said in many instances the priesthood do not perform their duties, are not vigilant and faithful.17
I have noticed some in my travels, those, who, like the disciples of Jesus of old, evince a great desire for power, and manifest a very anxious disposition to know who among them shall be greatest. This is folly, for honor proceeds not from office, but by a person magnifying his office and calling. If we have any honor proceeding from or through the priesthood, it comes from God, and we certainly should be vain to boast of a gift when we have no hand in the gift, only in receiving it. If it comes from God, he ought to have the glory and not us, and our magnifying our calling is the only way or medium through which we can obtain honor or influence.18
What is the priesthood of God? What blessings are available to us through the priesthood? How do you feel when you consider that God has entrusted to man the power of the priesthood?
What can each family member do to strengthen the power of the priesthood in the home?
Why is it important that priesthood holders receive continual guidance from the Lord?
How does the priesthood help to “redeem, save, exalt, and glorify man”?
How have you and your loved ones been blessed through the righteous use of the priesthood? How can women share in the blessings of the priesthood?
What are some opportunities for priesthood service in your area? What can priesthood holders do to help strengthen homes where there is no priesthood bearer?
Read D&C 84:33–34. What does it mean to magnify a priesthood calling? What does it mean to magnify any calling in the Church? In what ways can we help those in our ward or branch who are attempting to magnify their callings?