The priesthood of God is a sacred trust given to bless men, women and children so they can return as families to live eternally together in God's presence, said the Relief Society general president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Friday morning.
Speaking to thousands of people — mostly women — gathered on BYU's Provo Campus for 2013 Women's Conference, Sister Linda K. Burton called righteousness the qualifier to invite priesthood power into their lives.
The annual conference — which attracts Latter-day Saint women from across the United States and from numerous foreign countries — is co-sponsored by BYU and the Relief Society.
Sister Burton, and her counselors in the Relief Society general presidency, Sister Carole M. Stephens and Sister Linda S. Reeves, said they came to the conference with a clear purpose — "to express our support for living prophets, proclaim our faith and covenants, express our love for [the women of the church], and demonstrate our devotion to our Heavenly Father to accept and embrace the requirements of the gospel, particularly today in regard to the doctrine of the priesthood."
Sister Burton said LDS women are privileged to live in this season of the history of the church when questions are asked about the priesthood. "There is great interest and desire to know and understand more about the authority, power and blessings associated with the priesthood of God," she said. "We hope to instill within each of us a greater desire to better understand the priesthood."
Sister Burton said since the beginning of time the Lord has accomplished his work through the power of his priesthood.
"By it the heavens and earth were created. By it the effects of the fall were overcome though the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Because the authority of the priesthood is entrusted to man to bless Heavenly Father's children he wants us to invite the power of the priesthood into our homes to bless and strengthen our families and our individual lives."
Latter-day Saint women cannot stand up and teach something they do not understand, she said.
She called the priesthood the eternal power and authority of God by which he blesses, redeems and exalts his children. The priesthood cannot be used for selfish means, she added. "Jesus Christ is the perfect example of how the priesthood is to be used to bless,lift, comfort and strengthen others."
Sister Burton asked the women how they can better know the doctrine of the priesthood for themselves.
First, seek to be worthy of the gift of the Holy Ghost. "Because the doctrine of the priesthood is best understood by revelation, it is essential to have the help of the Holy Ghost to reveal and distill the doctrine upon our souls," she said.
Second, attend the holy temple. "We know that the temple is the most holy of any place of worship on the earth and is the ideal setting to learn about the priesthood by the spirit of revelation," she said. "In the temple we are all taught together, make covenants with our Heavenly Father, and receive sacred priesthood ordinances together."
Third, study the scriptures. "Searching, pondering and studying the scriptures are invitations for the Holy Ghost to reveal to us important truths about the priesthood."
She asked LDS women to memorize eight verses found in Doctrine and Covenants 84:33-40 and to ponder Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-46.
"Look for the principles in these verses that govern the righteous exercise of priesthood power," she said. "Look for warnings and promises from the Lord, and apply them to yourself. In order to qualify for the blessings of priesthoodpower, we would do well to ponder these verses and ask ourselves questions such as: Is my heart set upon the things of this world? Do I aspire to the honors of men or women? Do I try to cover my sins? Am I prideful? Do I exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon my children, my husband or others? Am I earnestly striving to practice righteous principles such as: persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, unfeigned love (meaning genuine, sincere or heartfelt love), kindness? Does virtue garnish my thoughts unceasingly? Do I long for the Holy Ghost to be my constant companion?"
Sister Burton called "influence" a complementary gift to priesthood power. "Speaking to the women in the church, President Howard W. Hunter urged, 'We entreat you to minister with your powerful influence for good in strengthening our families, our church, and our communities.'"
Sister Stephens spoke about helping her daughter move to Havre, Mont. They arrived Saturday evening and their daughter contacted her new bishop Sunday morning. A short time later, a young man — driven by his mother — arrived at the home to collect fast offerings.
When Sister Stephens later reflected on this experience, she realized that the Lord had blessed her daughter's family three ways that day: "First, we were blessed through the deacon, an Aaronic Priesthood holder; we were blessed through the bishop, who held the Melchizedek Priesthood and the keys to preside over the ward; and through a mother supporting her son in accomplishing his work, the Lord's work."
Women and men who righteously make and keep sacred priesthood covenants and ordinances will inherit "all that [the] Father hath," said Sister Reeves, quoting Doctrine and Covenants 84:38. "This is promised to every faithful man and woman, single or married, for we know that every faithful man or woman,single or married, will not be denied any of our Father's greatest blessings. God, our Heavenly Father, and our Savior, Jesus Christ, have given us all that is needed to receive the highest degree of the celestial kingdom and dwell with them and our loved ones in power and glory forever and ever."