This last week, the 15th of May, marked the anniversary of the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by John the Baptist. The talks given today in Sacrament meeting were focused around this topic, and I thought I would share a few of my own thoughts on the subject of Priesthood.
The Priesthood is commonly defined in the Church as “the power and authority to act in God’s name, delegated to man.” This is an accurate definition, but I’m not a big fan of it. On the LDS.org Gospel Library of Gospel Topics under Priesthood it states, “The priesthood is the eternal power and authority of God.” I love that definition because it is simple and explains very well the immensity of what the Priesthood is and can do. It is indeed “the eternal power and authority of God”, it is the means whereby God acts and is obeyed, it is through the Priesthood that all things are done in the universe. The fact that he has chosen to ordain mortal men to this same Priesthood exemplifies the trust and the hope that our Father in Heaven has in us and for us.
Priesthood is an eternal principle, not just a temporal organizational tool. It is not just the means whereby God has chosen to organize his church on this earth so that it functions properly, it is the means whereby the earth itself was organized and governed. It has existed long before our finite minds can conceive, and it will yet exist long after this earth shall pass away. And God loves us so much that he allows us to touch a part of that power, to utilize a portion of that authority to do His work here for His children.
The most important aspect of the Priesthood, though, to me, is the fact that the Priesthood is the power by which families are exalted. It is through the Priesthood power that families are sealed together for eternity and it is through the Priesthood in the home that families are brought closer together and learn the eternal principles necessary to stay together forever. Family is not only the cornerstone and basic unit of society, it is the primary focus of God’s entire plan. And it is through the Priesthood that men and women are taught how to be the fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, parents and children that God would have us be for now and in the eternities.
There are some who look at the Priesthood and the Church organization from an external perspective and believe that it is unfair that only men are allowed to be ordained to the Priesthood or to hold certain offices and callings in the Church. This may seem unfair and sexist, but I honestly don’t believe it is. I believe that anyone who says that women have no say in the Church because they do not have the Priesthood or hold certain callings does not understand the Priesthood of God and how it is meant to function. Not to say that there aren’t men who hold the Priesthood who are abusive, unfortunately, knowing the nature of men there surely must be men somewhere who misunderstand their Priesthood duty and responsibilities and their relationship with God’s children. But the Priesthood is supposed to be used to bring the children of God together, it is to be used to bless the lives of the children of God, and it is to be used to love and serve one another.
And we are taught in scripture that the Spirit of the Lord can withdraw from a man and he can lose his Priesthood if he misuses or abuses it (Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-46). The way I understand it, if I do not use my Priesthood to bless my family and those around me, then I am in danger of losing it. And if I do not use my Priesthood to preside in my home in love and righteousness, meaning that my wife is an equal partner in all things, then I am in danger of losing my Priesthood. I am a big fan of what the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians,
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”
Though that is sometimes used to perpetuate the idea that women are subject unto their husbands, meaning they should defer to him in all things and not do things for themselves, we need to keep reading because it is the next verse that holds the key of understanding how the Priesthood is meant to preside in the home.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.
Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. And how did Christ love the church? How did he preside over the church? How did he interact with the church? He did all things in love and humility and gentleness and meekness. Obviously, we would do no better than to take Jesus Christ as our model when preparing to become men of the Priesthood and men of God. He himself said, “What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Nephi 27:27). That is the way the Priesthood is meant to be used in our everyday lives. Because it is “the eternal power and authority of God” we must only do those things that our God would do, were he here. We must use the Priesthood as He would use it, and this is our preparation to become like he is. As we learn how to use the Priesthood to preside in our own homes, in our own families, we are learning how to use the Priesthood to preside in the Church and in the eternities beyond.
God has trusted us with a very impressive gift, but he has not left us alone. He grants unto us the Holy Ghost to guide us, He has given us Jesus Christ, His Son, as a chief example of a righteous Priesthood holder, and he has helped ordinary men become extraordinary in his service, giving us plenty of role models and men to emulate in our lives. I am grateful for my father, first of all, and for all of the worthy men whom I have known over the years who have shown me what it means to be both a father and a Priesthood holder, though the two terms should be synonymous. And I am thankful to my Father in Heaven for his trust in me that he has given me his Priesthood and continues to teach me how to live up to the great responsibility that this is.