The Eternal Blessings of the Priesthood

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Priesthood is the Power of God
Power in the priesthood, the power to bless and guide and teach, the power to forgive and forget, the power to give positive direction to a family. . . .comes through righteousness. The laying on of hands we all received is not enough. Priesthood power comes to those prepared to receive it as a result of the righteous patterns of their lives (H. Burke Peterson, “Prepare the Heart of Your Son,” Ensign, November 1982, p.43).

It was President J. Reuben Clark, Jr. who stated, “The Church is the organized Priesthood of God, the priesthood can exist without the Church, but the Church cannot exist without the priesthood.” In this treatise, I would like to spend just a few moments speaking about the Restoration and the power of the Priesthood.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated,

The doctrine of the priesthood is known only by personal revelation. It comes, line upon line and precept upon precept, by the power of the Holy Ghost to those who love and serve God with all of their heart, might, mind and strength” (see Doctrine and Covenants 98:12; Doctrine and Covenants 121:45).

Elder McConkie further stated,

Priesthood is power like none other on earth or in heaven. It is the very power of God himself, the power by which the worlds were made, the power by which all things are regulated, upheld, and preserved. It is the power of faith, the faith by which the Father creates and governs. . . . Faith and Priesthood go hand in hand. Faith is power and power is priesthood.

Restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood

Using those few thoughts as our premise, I now invite you to turn back the pages of Church history to the notable date of 15 May 1829. That date is of significance to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because of the marvelous event which occurred. That event was the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood.

Imagine what a wonderful experience this must have been for Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery when John the Baptist spoke to them. Standing before them was a man who had lived upon the earth more than 1,800 years earlier. He was speaking in English to two young men as he placed his hands upon their heads. His was a resurrected body; theirs were mortal bodies. They felt his hands and understood the words he spoke. From this experience we learn that resurrected beings are tangible. They can move and act, and they can speak and be understood.

Among other things, he told them that while the authority that he had given them authorized them to baptize, it did not include the authority to bestow the Holy Ghost. He indicated that another order of the priesthood was necessary for this, and that it would later be given them by Peter, James, and John.

Restoration of the Priesthood

That marvelous event did take place when the Melchizedek Priesthood [the greater priesthood] which was titled the “Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God” was restored. We do not know the exact location of the event, but we learn from the description given in Doctrine and Covenants 128:20, that Peter, James and John appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery “in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna county, and Colesville, Broome county, on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times!” We also do not know the exact date that this event took place, however, by piecing together various accounts and bits of history, it is agreed that it might have occurred in June 1829.

In Doctrine and Covenants 27: 12-14, we are given some insights about this greater priesthood. We read these words,

And also with Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them; unto whom I have committed the keys of my kingdom, and a dispensation of the gospel for the last times; and for the fulness of times, in the which I will gather together in one all things, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; and also with all those whom my Father hath given me out of the world.

The Priesthood has been restored upon the earth, and everyone has the privilege and opportunity to partake of its many blessings,  but what of the night before the dawn of these marvelous events of the Restoration? What happened when the gospel sun went down and the Priesthood was taken away?

Elder Bruce R. McConkie describes these events in his address given during the April 1978 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ. What follows are a few brief excerpts from that address:

When the gospel sun went down almost two millennia ago, when the priesthood was taken away and a dreary dusk descended in the congregations that once had known light, when light and truth no longer shone forth from heaven, and when those on earth no longer were taught and directed by apostles and prophets, then spiritual darkness reigned. Darkness covered the earth and gross darkness the minds of the people. (See Isa. 60:2.) The dark ages had their beginning, and the light of heaven no longer dwelt in the hearts of those who professed to worship Him whose we are.

The vision of all became as the words of a book that is sealed. (See Isa. 29:11.) The prophets and seers were silenced; the holy scriptures were no longer made available to the masses of men; none could see the way to perfection; none knew the way back to the Eternal Presence. Earth’s pilgrims, walking in and by forbidden paths, were lost in the blackness of the night.

True, the heaven still teemed with stars, an uncounted host of them, for there were many wise and good people who reflected forth to others such light and truth and goodness as they had. And month after month a new moon arose to reflect such of heaven’s truths as came by instinct and from reason. . . . .But the light of heaven no longer shed its rays on the strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life.

The dominant religion of the day was one of fear, ignorance, and superstition; it was a religion, imposed by the sword, which denied the agency of man.

It was a long, dark night. There were jackals in the shadows, wolves in the forests, coyotes everywhere. Lions roared and the fangs of the serpent sank again and again into human flesh. The black plague swept Europe. Wars were everywhere. Morality and decency had few supporters. The terrors of the night were real and the night was long—long and dark and black.

In Germany and France and England and Switzerland and elsewhere groups began to break away from the religion of centuries past. A few rays of light were parting the darkness of the eastern sky.

When the set time had fully come—when the day for the promised restoration of all things was at hand—the Lord in heaven, in his infinite wisdom, mercy, and goodness, sent from the courts of glory that eternal spirit whose foreordained mission it was to usher in the dispensation of the fulness of times. Joseph Smith began his mortal life. It was December 23, 1805. The sun was then just hidden by the mountain peaks.

Then one glorious day in the spring of 1820—our tradition says that it was on April 6—the sun arose to view. The great God with the Lord Jesus at his right hand came down from heaven; stood personally in a grove of trees in western New York; called young Joseph by name; commanded him to join none of the churches of the day, for they were all wrong; told him that all their creeds were an abomination in the sight of heaven; and said that the professors of religion were all corrupt, that they drew near to the Lord with their lips, but their hearts were far from him, that they taught for commandments the doctrines of men, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. (Joseph Smith History 1:19).

From that moment the stars no longer shone; the moon hid her face. Their reflected glimmerings were no longer needed to pierce the blackness of the night. The dispensation of the fulness of times was about to be given from God in heaven to man on earth.

President Gordon B. Hinckley commented on one of the Lord’s reasons for endowing mortal men with this authority:

In a revelation given in 1831, which has become Section 1 of the Doctrine and Covenants and is known as the preface to that book of revelation, the Lord set forth one of the great purposes for the restoration of the gospel in this the dispensation of the fulness of times. He said that, among other reasons, the gospel was restored so that “every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world (Doctrine and Covenants 1:20).

It does not say that every man shall speak in the name of God the Lord. The meaning is that every man may speak, provided he is worthy and receives the priesthood.

President Hinckley further commented on Priesthood authority when he said:

What is this remarkable gift and power that has come to us with no price other than our personal worthiness? The Prophet Joseph Smith described it on one occasion in these words: “The Priesthood is an everlasting principle, and existed with God from eternity, and will [exist] to eternity, without beginning of days or end of years (History of the Church 3:386).

It is veritably the power of the Almighty given to man to act in His name and in His stead. It is a delegation of divine authority, different from all other powers and authorities on the face of the earth. Small wonder that it was restored to man by resurrected beings who held it anciently, that there might be no question concerning its authority and validity. Without it there could be a church in name only, lacking authority to administer in the things of God. With it, nothing is impossible in carrying forward the work of the kingdom of God. It is divine in its nature. It is both temporal and eternal in its authority. It is the only power on the earth that reaches beyond the veil of death. Said the Lord to His chosen Apostles: “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19).

It includes the right to receive of the things of God. It carries the responsibility to instruct. It holds the authority to govern. It grants the power to bless.

What are the result, blessing, and goal of this Priesthood Restoration? President Lorenzo Snow once stated, “The object of the priesthood is to make all men happy, to diffuse information, to make all partakers of the same blessings in their turn” (Journal of Discourses 9:22). President Brigham Young stated,

The priesthood of the Son of God is the law by which the worlds are, were, and will continue forever and ever. It is that system that brings worlds into existence and peoples them, gives them their revolution—their days, weeks, months, years, their seasons and times by which they are rolled up as a scroll, as it were, and go into a higher state of existence” (Journal of Discourses 15:127).

I will end this treatise with the words of a letter from the Prophet Joseph Smith to the Church at Nauvoo as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 128:20-24:

20 And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets—the book to be revealed. A voice of the Lord in the wilderness of Fayette, Seneca county, declaring the three witnesses to bear record of the book! The voice of Michael on the banks of the Susquehanna, detecting the devil when he appeared as an angel of light! The voice of Peter, James, and John in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna county, and Colesville, Broome county, on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times!

21 And again, the voice of God in the chamber of old Father Whitmer, in Fayette, Seneca county, and at sundry times, and in divers places through all the travels and tribulations of this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! And the voice of Michael, the archangel; the voice of Gabriel, and of Raphael, and of divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the present time, all declaring their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little; giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope!

22 Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing. Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free.

23 Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness. Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solid rocks weep for joy! And let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together, and let all the sons of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever! And again I say, how glorious is the voice we hear from heaven, proclaiming in our ears, glory, and salvation, and honor, and immortality, and eternal life; kingdoms, principalities, and powers!

24 Behold, the great day of the Lord is at hand; and who can abide the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap; and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Let us, therefore, as a church and a people, and as Latter-day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple, when it is finished, a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation.

Priesthood Power

A dispensation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has now been established with prophets, seers, and revelators. The Church and Kingdom of God has been established, and the inhabitants of the earth “may receive it, and be prepared for the days to come, in the which the Son of Man shall come down in heaven, clothed in the brightness of his glory, to meet the kingdom of God which is set up on the earth” (Doctrine and Covenants 65:5). May we reflect on the wonder of that which we have and may we exercise it in righteousness and faithfulness.

Be it known to all men, let it be proclaimed by the very trump of God, let angelic choirs sing of its wonders and glory, let all the hosts of men stand in awe as the voice from heaven declares that God has in these last days restored the fullness of his everlasting gospel.

Let every eye see, every ear hear, every heart be penetrated – for the voice of God is heard again. Angels again are coming from the courts of glory to declare eternal truths to mortal men. The gift of the Holy Ghost is being poured out upon the faithful, and thousands again shout praises to the Holy One of Israel (Bruce R. McConkie, “What Think Ye of the Book of Mormon?“, Ensign, November 1983).