THE TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH OF THE INDEPENDENCE AND KIRTLAND TEMPLES
(See Kirtland Temple.)
This blog provides supplementary material for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "Come, Follow Me" scripture lessons to enhance personal understanding or family study. It is not an official Church site, nor is it endorsed by the Church, but simply represents the personal research and testimony of the author. For the official Church website, go to www.churchofjesuschrist.org.
THE TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH OF THE INDEPENDENCE AND KIRTLAND TEMPLES
(See Kirtland Temple.)
Rather than focus specifically on the verses and history of Sections 106-108, which are about priesthood and its order, I am going to focus this post on how to use priesthood in our everyday lives as women and men of God. (Also because I spent all my time this week preparing this for a sacrament meeting talk in the married student ward in which I serve and received a great deal of enlightenment personally as I did so.)
THE ORDER OF THE PRIESTHOOD
The oath and covenant of the priesthood can be found in Doctrine and Covenants 84:33-44. Here is the first part of it.
“For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken [Melchizedek and Aaronic], and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.
“They become the sons [and daughters—the present temple ceremony shows us this term is neutral] of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.
“And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;
“For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;
“And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;
“And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.
“And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.
“Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved” (D&C 84:33-41).
Elder M. Russell Ballard has told us, “The blessings and promises of the oath and covenant of the priesthood pertain to both men and women” (M. Russell Ballard, Visiting Teaching Message, Ensign, April 2014).
SO WHAT IS THE OATH?
The oath comes from God our Father, an immutable promise that the ordinances that issue from the Melchizedek Priesthood will save and exalt us. (See Heb. 7:21.)
The covenant is the promise we make with God to use priesthood power to gather, unite, and sanctify our family and His entire family through the saving ordinances offered through His Restored Church. This is the New and Everlasting Covenant of the Gospel, the highest order of which is the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage.
President Ezra Taft Benson said, “Adam and his posterity were commanded by God to be baptized, to receive the Holy Ghost, and to enter into the order of the Son of God… This order is…an order of family government where a man and woman enter into a covenant with God—just as did Adam and Eve—to be sealed for eternity, to have posterity, and to do the will and work of God throughout their mortality” (ETB, August 1985 Ensign).
President Oaks tell us, “The Church exists to provide the doctrine, the authority, and the ordinances necessary to perpetuate family relationships into the eternities” (DHO, April 2020 General Conference).
My husband created this visual of the scaffolding currently around the Salt Lake Temple which illustrates this idea perfectly. The scaffolding is like the Church priesthood organization that supports and strengthens the family priesthood organization.
When we enter into the Fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood in the temple, we enter into a Family Priesthood and we covenant, with our temple sealing, to bring spirit sons and daughters to earth and nurture them to return to our Heavenly Parents.
Elder Oaks said, “The greatest power God has given to His sons cannot be exercised without the companionship of one of His daughters, because only to His daughters has God given the power ‘to be a creator of bodies’” (General Conference April 2014). But His daughters also cannot do it without His sons.
In the conception of a child, a mother and a father are the conductors of priesthood power, connecting heaven and earth and physically facilitating the entry of a spirit child into an earthly body. In pregnancy, childbirth, and infancy, ideally, a mother’s body creates an environment of safety and nourishes the baby as it grows through the power of God.
My husband and I have had the marvelous privilege of being parents through biology, through adoption, and through guardianships. In every instance, we can testify that priesthood power accompanied the entrance of that child into our family.
Just as priesthood power in the family brings spirit children to earth and ideally into family life, priesthood power in the Church brings humans back to God. As there is only one way to enter earth life—in a family—there is only one way to enter the Celestial Kingdom: being reborn into the Family of God, the House of Israel. We do this by entering into the New and Everlasting Covenant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and accepting all the ordinances carried out by those authorized and ordained with priesthood authority. After this life (which includes earth life and spirit world life), Christ’s ultimate priesthood power allows the spirit to re-enter a now glorified resurrected physical body.
Priesthood authority is an order of stewardships that helps you know who you can trust as authorized leaders to receive revelation for the Church or for you. It also makes sure that everyone has a link to priesthood blessings.
Priesthood keys are the authority to give authority. “Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties” (DHO 2014).
For example, our ward chorister can receive revelation by virtue of priesthood authority about which hymn to sing when it is particularly important. Last week in our ward, the speaker had hoped and prayed that “Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?” might be sung in the meeting to emphasize the message of her talk, but asking for a hymn change at the last minute is insensitive to the practice efforts of the organist. The chorister, however, had previously been inspired to choose that very hymn. This is priesthood authority exercised in a Church calling.
As spouses and parents, we also have familial priesthood authority. We can receive revelation for our family members and the spirit can ratify it to them. Can you think of times in your life that those in stewardship over you have guided you through revelation?
HOW PRIESTHOOD OPERATES
To the woman at the well in Samaria, Jesus Christ offered living water. Water was the greatest force known to ancient Israel. They didn’t know about electricity or jet propulsion. But they knew about water and its mighty power—to heal, to give and sustain life, and to change the shape of the land.
The Priesthood is a living power, a flow from God through humans to other humans, linking them back to God. A person ordained to the priesthood is not really a priesthood “holder” but a priesthood bearer, a conductor through which God’s power can flow to others. Knowing this is essential to understanding how to call upon this power. You have never heard anyone—not even a prophet of the Lord—say, “I was terribly sick, but fortunately I hold the Priesthood so I gave myself a blessing.”
The key to using priesthood power is the desire to bless others. It’s an inverted pyramid scheme, with Christ at the point on the bottom serving everyone who ever lived. In our ward, the Bishop and the Relief Society president are at the bottom. In the home, it’s the parents, forgoing their wants for their children’s needs. You are more like Christ when you are at the bottom, washing feet and faces, stopping issues of blood, looking for those on the fringes, watching for prodigals to return, giving even your body for others. This is where the real joy is: in helping others to progress. This is God’s work and His glory.
The rules for using priesthood power are clearly laid out in D&C 121:
The short version is to:
“Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly;
“THEN shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall FLOW unto thee forever and ever” (D&C 121:45-46).
Satan will try to influence you into abandoning your covenants, your priesthood power. I guarantee it. He will do this through priestcraft. Priestcraft is not a flow of power to others but a hoarding of power to oneself. This is contrary to the nature of God. Study the Book of Mormon carefully to recognize priestcraft. Never give up your covenants, no matter what!
Signs that you are being influenced by priestcraft include desires that are focused on yourself.
Rather than being shocked by new information that challenges your viewpoint of the Church or the gospel, get excited! Revelation comes in response to questions. This is your chance to “level up!” If you are interested enough to ask and motivated enough to study and trusting enough to wait for answers, God knows you have the capacity to receive and be responsible for the answers.
In a similar vein, do not think there is something wrong when you have problems. You will have lots of big problems! Our purpose on earth is to solve problems as we covenant with God, receive priesthood power, use it to bless others, and draw heaven and earth together in one eternal family. This brings great joy (eventually if not immediately).
General Relief Society President Linda K. Burton issued this call to every female member of the Church through the Visiting Teaching Message in April 2014: “I invite you to memorize the oath and covenant of the priesthood, which can be found in Doctrine and Covenants 84:33-44. By doing so, I promise you that the Holy Ghost will expand your understanding of the priesthood and inspire and uplift you in wonderful ways” (Visiting Teaching Message, Ensign, April 2014).
President Linda K. Burton
To ensure that this call reached every woman in the Church, President Burton’s invitation and promise was quoted in General Conference that month by Elder Oaks (April 2014).
President Nelson restated the call to women to study the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood in the October 2019 General Conference. You men, of course, have also been encouraged to memorize the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. If we have the oath and covenant memorized, we can take it to the temple with us and learn more from the blessings there.
Recently President Nelson has said, “The heavens are just as open to women who are endowed with God’s power flowing from their priesthood covenants as they are to men who bear the priesthood. I pray that truth will register upon each of your hearts because I believe it will change your life” (RMN, “Spiritual Treasures,” October 2019 General Conference).
THE MELCHIZEDEK FAMILIAL PRIESTHOOD IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
After his resurrection, Jesus Christ appeared to his followers and invited them to accept “the promise [the oath] of the Father” if they would tarry in Jerusalem until they were “endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).
“[The 11 remaining disciples then] went up into an upper room [and] continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:13-15). The congregation numbered about 120. They kept their sacramental covenant to meet together to worship and remember Christ.
At the day of Pentecost, 50 days after the Passover during which Jesus was crucified, this same group “were all with one accord in one place.” (Acts 2:1). The sound of the power of God came as a rushing wind and filled the house where they were sitting and “cloven tongues like as of fire…sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:2-4). Word of this spread and many came to see.
Peter announced to them, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; and it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit…” (Acts 2:16-18).
“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added about 3,000 souls” (Acts 2:41). Notice the genderless term “souls” instead of “men.”
I add my testimony to President Nelson’s, President Oaks’, and President Burton’s that an ongoing effort to better understand and experience priesthood power in our families and in our callings will change our lives and the lives of those we influence. It will insulate us against the power of the Adversary and fortify us to meet the challenges life will hold for us with faith and confidence in the Lord. If we cling to our covenants, we will experience the incredible joy of union with our Heavenly Parents and family.
Additional source: Barbara Gardner, The Priesthood Power of Women: In the Temple, Church, and Family, Deseret Book, 2019