Fundamental governing principles define the priesthood, taught President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, in his priesthood session talk on March 31. He focused his remarks on four such principles:
1 — The Priesthood
The Melchizedek Priesthood, he said, is the divine authority God has delegated to accomplish His work “to bring to pass the … eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
In 1829, it was conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by the Savior’s apostles, Peter, James and John (Doctrine and Covenants 27:12). It is sacred and powerful beyond description.
“The keys of the priesthood are the powers to direct the exercise of priesthood authority. Thus, when the apostles conferred the Melchizedek priesthood upon Joseph and Oliver, they also gave them the keys to direct its exercise.”
But not all priesthood keys were conferred at that time. The entire keys and knowledge necessary for “this dispensation of the fullness of times” was given “line upon line.”
“The Melchizedek Priesthood is not a status or a label,” said President Oaks. “It is a divine power held in trust to use for the benefit of God’s work for His children. We should always remember that men who hold the priesthood are not ‘the priesthood.’ It is not appropriate to refer to ‘the priesthood and the women.’ We should refer to ‘the holders of the priesthood and the women’.”
2 — A Ministry of Service
Consider what Jesus Christ expects from those who hold His priesthood — and how they are to bring souls unto Him.
To teach this principle, President Oaks cited a teaching from President Joseph F. Smith:
“It has truly been said that the Church is perfectly organized. The only trouble is that these organizations are not fully alive to the obligations that rest upon them. When they become thoroughly awakened to the requirements made of them, they will fulfill their duties more faithfully, and the work of the Lord will be all the stronger and more powerful and influential in the world.”
President Smith also cautioned: “The God-given titles of honor … associated with the several offices in and orders of the Holy Priesthood, are not to be used or considered as are the titles originated by man; they are not for adornment nor are they expressive of mastership, but rather of appointment to humble service in the work of the one Master whom we profess or serve. ...
“We are laboring for the salvation of souls, and we should feel that this is the greatest duty devolving upon us. Therefore, we should feel willing to sacrifice everything, if need be, for the love of God, the salvation of men, and the triumph of the kingdom of God upon the earth.”
3 — The Offices of the Priesthood
The offices in the Melchizedek Priesthood have different functions.
“The Doctrine and Covenants refers to high priests as ‘standing presidents or servants over different stakes scattered abroad,’” he said. “It refers to elders as ‘standing ministers to my church.’”
A high priest officiates and administers in spiritual things. He should also feel obliged to set an example for others, particularly young people.
An elder is a minister of Jesus Christ and is commissioned to stand in the Lord’s place as an agent. He is a shepherd.
In the important function to minister in the sheepfold of the Good Shepherd, there is no distinction between the offices of high priest and elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood. In section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord declares: “High priests after the order of the Melchizedek Priesthood have a right to officiate in their own standing, under the direction of the presidency, in administering spiritual things, and also in the office of an elder [or any office in the Aaronic priesthood].’”
President Oaks reminded priesthood holders of the seriousness of their responsibilities to magnify their office and teach the word of God. All who hold the priesthood have the divine power “that even governs entrance into the celestial kingdom of God.”
It is essential that all proclaim Christ and His gospel to the world.
4 — Priesthood in the Family
A father who holds the priesthood presides in his family by the authority of the priesthood he holds, he said.
“He has no need to have the direction or approval of priesthood keys in order to counsel the members of his family, hold family meetings, give priesthood blessings to his wife and children, or to give healing blessings to family members or others.”
Fathers who magnify their priesthood in their own family further the mission of the Church as much as anything else they might do.
“My beloved brethren: the magnifying of the holy priesthood you hold is vital to the work of the Lord in your families and in your Church callings,” he said.
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