Sunday, February 10, 2013

Doctrine and Covenants Lesson #8 The Restoration of the Priesthood



INTRODUCTION

(Have a display of various items [tools] on the table: a magnifying glass, wire whisk, calculator, trowel, tuning fork, wrench, come, thermometer, toothbrush, and a Swiss Army knife.)

What do all these items have in common? (They are all tools.)  We can use each of these tools to accomplish a specific purpose, if we have the understanding of how they are to be used.  The Swiss Army knife is unique on this table in that it can be used for many different purposes.  The Priesthood of God is even better than a Swiss Army knife because it can be used to accomplish every good purpose, if we have the authority to use it, and the ability to understand how.  It is the greatest all-purpose tool there ever was or will be.

(Ask the class to finish this sentence.)  The Priesthood is the power and authority (or the tool) by which:
(And here are some possible answers)

  • All things exist
  • All things are governed
  • The Plan of Salvation operates
  • The Gospel is preached
  • The ordinances of Salvation are performed
  • We are sealed up unto eternal life
  • The Lord will govern all nations of the earth.

The Priesthood operates by love.  It exists for the purpose of blessing and serving others.  By serving others, we are also blessed. We have another lesson coming up on the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood, and how we should exercise Priesthood power, but the basic summary is that it must be done in love.

THE RESTORATION OF THE AARONIC PRIESTHOOD

Before the Book of Mormon was published, before the Church was organized and named, the priesthood was restored.  This had to come first, as the Priesthood was the tool for building the entire kingdom.  Only the First Vision, the tutoring by Angel Moroni, and most of the translation of the plates preceded the Priesthood chronologically.  All three of these things were necessary to prepare Joseph to receive the Priesthood.  Read D&C 84:18-21.

Joseph Smith wrote a simple factual account of the restoration of the Priesthood found in Joseph Smith-History 1:68-73, but let’s read Oliver Cowdery’s very poetic and emotional account of it.  You can find this in the very back of your Joseph Smith-History as a footnote.  (Read the last 3 paragraphs)  This took place May 15, 1829.

INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE

Now, as the lesson progresses, I want each of you to think of your experiences with the Priesthood.  How have you seen the power of the Priesthood manifested in your life?  As a priesthood holder, what have your feelings been when baptizing someone, or performing another sacred ordinance?  What experiences have you had receiving blessings through priesthood leaders who do not live in your home?

THE HISTORY OF THE AARONIC PRIESTHOOD

Aaronic Priesthood history has passed through four distinct periods in this dispensation:

  1. 1829-1845: There were no age guidelines, but Aaronic Priesthood bearers were mostly adults.  Their primary duty was to visit members in their homes, to remember and nourish them as the Book of Mormon states.
  2. 1846-1877: After the temple endowment was broadly available, more men were ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood in order to be sealed in the temple and to serve missions.  There were a few men left in the Aaronic Priesthood.  So a lot of times men were called to be “acting” priests, teachers, and deacons, even though they held the Melchizedek Priesthood.  Deacons served as the meetinghouse custodians.
  3. 1877-1908: By now the quorums were on a ward level, and the First Presidency instructed that all worthy young men be ordained to the Priesthood, and schooled in its use as teens.  Boys from 11-18 received the priesthood, and generally stayed as deacons until they received the Melchizedek Priesthood.  The deacons were still custodians, not involved in the sacrament.
  4. 1908-present.  The Aaronic Priesthood was restructured to be a preparatory priesthood for boys.  A worthy boy was ordained a deacon at age 12, teacher at 15, priest at 18, and elder at 21.  Teachers and priests began to serve as junior home teachers, an apprentice to the Melchizedek Priesthood.  In the 1930s, an adult Aaronic Priesthood program was begun for converts and those returning to activity.  The ages of advancement changed back and forth for a little over the years, until the present guidelines of 12, 14, 16, and 18.  (Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History, Garr, et.al., p.1)

Our youth have tremendous priesthood opportunities and responsibilities that the youth of Joseph Smith’s day generally did not have.  As the youth have become more valiant, the priesthood ages have been reduced.  Or is it the other way around?  Elder James E. Talmage was in the early group of boys who were ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood.  His recollection of his ordination as a deacon was printed in the 1914 deacons’ instruction manual: 

“It seemed scarcely possible that I, a little boy, could be so honored of God as to be called to the Priesthood … The effect of my ordination … entered into all the affairs of my boyish life … When at play on the school grounds, and perhaps tempted to take unfair advantage in the game … I would remember … “I am a deacon, and it is not right that a deacon should act in this way.”  On examination days, when it seemed easy for me to copy some other boy’s work … I would say in my mind, “It would be more wicked for me to do that than it is for them, because I am a deacon.”  (Incidents from the Lives of our Church Leaders [deacons’ instruction manual, 1914], pp.135-36, quoted in Gospel Doctrine manual)

And so the priesthood offers a great opportunity to our young men to begin to become godly at a younger age.  (Read aloud D&C 20:46-47.)  

THE RESTORATION OF THE MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD

The Melchizedek Priesthood was restored the same spring that the Aaronic Priesthood was.  They are actually the same priesthood; the Aaronic is just a part of the Melchizedek.

LYMAN WIGHT, THE FIRST HIGH PRIEST

Last week, we talked about the first man (after Joseph and Oliver) to be baptized in this dispensation.  Now, in keeping with my desire to acquaint us all better with some of the early Saints, let me tell you about the first man ordained as a high priest, after Joseph and Oliver received the priesthood.  This took place at the fourth general conference of the Church, June 3, 1831, one year after the church was organized.  There were 2000 members by now in attendance.  John Whitmer, the newly appointed Church historian, recorded: 

“[Joseph] laid his hands upon Lyman Wight and ordained him [a high priest] after the holy order of God.  And the Spirit fell upon Lyman, and he prophesied concerning the coming of Christ … He said the coming of the Savior should be like the sun rising in the east, and will cover the whole earth.  So with the coming of the Son of Man; yea, He will appear in His brightness and consume all [the wicked] before Him; and the hills will be laid low, and the valleys be exalted, and the crooked be made straight, and the rough smooth.   And some of my brethren shall suffer martyrdom for the sake of the religion of Jesus Christ, and seal their testimony of Jesus with their blood.  He saw the heavens opened and the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Father, making intercession for his brethren, the Saints.  He said that God would work a work in these last days that tongue cannot express and the mind is not capable to conceive.  The glory of the Lord shone around.”  (HC 1:175-176)



Lyman, at times, was an excellent example of a priesthood bearer, and at other times he was a very poor example.  Let’s look at excellent first.  Read section heading to D&C 103.  Brother Wight had volunteered for this journey as a messenger, even though he only had three day’s provisions for the journey.  He knew the Saints needed the guidance of their Priesthood leader.  When he got to Joseph Smith, this is what the Lord told him to do.  Read D&C 103:30-34.  He then journeyed through Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan – everywhere that there was a little pocket of Latter-day Saints – mustering volunteers for Zion’s Camp.  Then he marched in the camp himself, second in command to Joseph Smith, walking from Michigan to Clay County, Missouri, without stockings on his feet.



Photograph of Lyman Wight's second cabin 
at Adam-Ondi-Ahman (BYU archives)


While Brother Wight served in the Adam-Ondi-Ahman stake presidency, he was taken captive by the mob militia and charged with treason and murder.  The leader of the mob, General Wilson, said to him, “Colonel Wight, we have nothing against you, only that you are associated with Joe Smith.  He is our enemy and a damned rascal.  If you will come out and swear against him, we will spare your life.”


Lyman defiantly replied, “Joseph Smith is not an enemy to mankind, he is not your enemy, and is as good a friend as you have got.  Had it not been for him, you would have been in hell long ago, for I should have sent you there, by cutting your throat, and no other man but Joseph Smith could have prevented me, and you may thank him for your life.”

Wilson responded, “Wight, you are a strange man; but if you will not accept my proposal, you will be shot tomorrow morning at 8.” 

Lyman said, “Shoot and be damned.”  (Who’s Who in the Doctrine & Covenants, p.342-3)
He was not killed, but he was imprisoned for about a year.  He was chained to the prophet in the squalor of Richmond Jail, and he was also present in the horrible confinement of Liberty Jail.

In 1841, he was ordained an apostle.  In this capacity, his assignments were to help build the Nauvoo Temple and the Nauvoo House hotel.  He successfully carried out these assignments, and in the process, baptized 200 individuals in Kirtland and brought them to Nauvoo.

10 years earlier, when Brother Wight was called on a mission, the Lord gave him some counsel.  Read D&C 52:7-9.  The Lord knew this would be an especial problem for Brother Wight, for he underlined his statement in verse 12.  Read D&C 52:12.  Brother Wight had a lot of difficulty with false doctrine, especially later in his life.  He tended to be extremely outspoken, as we have seen, and sometimes caused great difficulties for the Saints with the opposition because of his outbursts. After the death of the prophet, he lead a splinter group of the Church (150 people) to Texas where he expected to convert many Lamanites and establish Zion.  Eventually, his fellowship was withdrawn from the Church in order to stop what was being called “The Texas Epidemic.”  He ended up aligning himself with the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (now known as the Community of Christ), believing Joseph Smith III to be the proper successor to his father.  He died of a sudden epileptic seizure in 1858.

Fortunately, Brother Wight is still alive on the other side of the veil, with more opportunities to learn about the power of godliness, and may well have advanced beyond any of us here.  The difficulties that those early Saints went through are impossible for us to imagine, but we might do well to learn from Brother Wight’s mistakes, as well as from his good works.

CLASS SHARING
Ask the questions in “Invitation to Participate” again, and let class members share their feelings and stories.  If they do not take all the time, you can share the following story.

CHUCK ALLEN, A PRESENT-DAY HIGH PRIEST

Let me tell you about a modern-day Priesthood holder, Brother Chuck Allen, who lives in Nauvoo, Illinois.  Brother Allen’s trade is woodworking, and his specialty is antique reproduction.  He has worked on Mark Twain’s boyhood home, among other places.  He was once working to build the 126 windows and the doors for the Nauvoo Temple.

When he was asked to do this, he was overjoyed; tears filled his eyes, and he rushed home to tell his family.  But the task was incredible.  He had to create windows that look historic, with the wavy glass and the square wooden pegs, while at the same time meeting the present-day building code.  There was no one for Brother Allen to go for advice.  As he worked, he was enlightened, taught, and moved upon in so many small ways that he has come to declare, “The Spirit knows woodworking.”

One example: One day, so overburdened and exhausted he had to clear his mind – he left the wood shop to drive to Keokuk to get some dog food.  He had been mulling over how to create the star-patterned windows at the top of the temple.  “And suddenly, in 1/100th of a second, I saw it,” he said, “the picture of a poly wood ring about four inches wide that slips over five posts that I could use to mark the ends of my star points.”



To do this awesome task, building these windows, Brother Allen used the experience he has gained throughout his life as a woodworker, and even more so, the experience he has gained in life listening to the Spirit and relying upon God.

When Brother Allen and his wife were a young married couple with two babies, they discovered that their oldest, their first-born son who was 18 months old, had cystic fibrosis.  This is a horrible disease which coats the lungs in fibers.  The suffering is intense, and the expectation was that the baby would not live to see his fourth birthday.  It is a genetically-transmitted disease which Brother and Sister Allen had not been aware they carried.  They immediately made a decision not to have any more children, since there was the distinct possibility that they might pass on to them suffering and early death.

Brother Allen says, “Yet, as time passed, I came to realize that this mortal life is the time that my wife and I have been given to organize our eternal family, and we needed to reconsider our initial feelings and decision.  I felt that we needed to go forward with trust and accept whatever challenges the Lord had in store for us … I presented this priesthood understanding to my sweetheart and she readily agreed.”

Over the years, they had a total of six children.  The fifth one, a daughter, also was born with the disease.  For a 30-year period, they cared for and prepared their two terminally ill children for their passing.  (More details of this story are found in Charles W. Allen, Children of Promise, Allyn House Publishing.)

 “That responsibility created an environment in our home that was unlike any I had ever known or been acquainted with.  Your normal and petty concerns don’t seem important … Every day in those thirty years that I left home for work, I wondered if a child would be gone by the time I returned that evening.  These experiences tend to get your attention…

“Our son progressed long past his fourth year with the blessings of new techniques and medication and passed away a few days short of his sixteenth birthday … Not long after my son’s passing, I was fearful that our sweet little six-year-old daughter would be passing away soon, so I felt that our family would be better off moving from Missouri, where we lived at the time, to the valley east of Spokane where I was raised and had numerous long-time family friends.  I made the trip to my boyhood area to check things out and felt convinced that we needed to make the move … Our [family] decision was unanimous [to move at the end of the school year].

“A little more than a month later, the stake president, Dell E. Johnson, called to say he wanted to meet with me after church the following Sunday … [He told me that he had heard about the pending move and thought it would be a mistake.  I replied that I was confident in my family’s decision, that I knew that I could serve the Lord wherever he lived.  President Johnson] hesitated and looked down at the floor momentarily as I sat there with my arms folded, feeling good about the firmness of my stand and decision.  He then looked up and into my eyes and said, ‘Sometimes we make decisions that remove us from the blessings of our foreordination.’  I instantly realized that this visit went to a different level and it was a shock to my understanding.  I asked him, ‘Are you telling me by the authority you hold as the stake president and my High Priest Quorum president that it is the Lord’s will that I not move?’

“He softly answered, ‘Yes, I am.’  When he said that, I knew immediately there was no room for questions.”

You know, the early Saints were so often told where to move and what to do by their Priesthood leaders.  This seldom happens to us.  I wonder how we would handle that.

To continue in Brother Allen’s words, “I have my free agency, that is true, but the greatest thing I can do with my free agency is to make choices that will place me and my family in line for the greater blessings and to conform with the will of the Lord.”

Brother Allen was called as branch president, and later as bishop, and was able to help members with terminal conditions because of his experiences.  But he left his career of woodworking, because his memories of working in the shop together with his son were more than he could bear.  He tried some other jobs, and also spent some time disabled until he had used up all his disability insurance.  When the family had $51.69 in their checking account, he withdrew $50 to make a trip to Bolivia.  His wife made do with garage sales and food supply during the three-week trip.  To make a long story short, through the workings of the Spirit, this trip to Bolivia prompted him to return to his proper place as a window and door maker.  He was concerned about what his wife would think, but when he returned home, she had been directed by the Spirit to encourage him in that same area.

The Allens’ daughter had the advantage of additional research, and lived to the age of 19.  Although it was difficult, Brother Allen chose to speak at her funeral so that he could teach his remaining children.  “I wanted them to know that when they are confronted with a choice, that they could not consider taking the path of least resistance, for there are no character-building opportunities and celestial rewards down that road.”

On the wall of his wood shop hang the many patterns he has made for the windows of the Nauvoo temple.  For the one interior and 126 exterior windows, 16,000 pieces were required with each piece taking an average of 25 steps.  These steps had to be accomplished in a tight, unyielding time frame.

One day, as he entered his wood shop, the enormity of the task hit him.  “Can I pull this thing off?”  he asked himself.  The Spirit answered, “You’re not pulling anything off.  You’re just a tool in the process.  This is the Lord’s program.” (Meridian Magazine.The original article includes photos.) 

CONCLUSION

Joseph Smith might have been the only one of his day who actually viewed the enormity of the task that faced the early church.  He saw the vision, the whole scope of the project.  But he also saw the majesty of the Priesthood, the greatest tool that ever was.

It doesn’t matter whether we are men or women, because the entire church functions under the power of the Priesthood.  Through the Priesthood, all of us have the opportunity to be forgiven, all of us have access to the Holy Ghost, all of us can make temple covenants.  All the blessings of the Priesthood are available to all of us, and as the Priesthood enhances our efforts, we become the most powerful tools in the Lord’s hands, able to accomplish anything, if we only remember, as Brother Allen stated, “This is the Lord’s program.”

(If you are interested in my talk on women's role in relation to the priesthood, follow this  link.)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful as always! You make my calling so much easier. Thank you so much for all you do.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the time and effort you put into your lessons and for sharing them! I learn so much. Thank you!