Priesthood: A sacred trust

Bearing the priesthood is a sacred trust. Holders of the Melchizedek and Aaronic priesthoods function best when they use it to bless and help others.

The priesthood is not something that is conferred upon men and boys and then left to sit unused. Bearing the priesthood means work, not idleness; it means service, not slackness; it means accepting responsibility - a sacred responsibility.The priesthood is not to be used lightly or abused. God did not entrust the priesthood to men to exercise unrigheous dominion or to be abusive or dictatorial. Indeed, the Lord declared that if a man acts unrighteously "the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of than man." (D&C 121: 37.)

Holders of the priesthood exercise their authority through "gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge . . . without hypocrisy, and without guile." (D&C 121:41-42.)

When Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received the Aaronic Priesthood under the hands of John the Baptist 165 years ago this month, they were entrusted with a sacred charge. Later, under the hands of Peter, James and John, they were ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood and "confirmed . . . to be apostles and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things. . . . 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." (D&C 27: 12-13.)

Today more than 2 million men and boys are entrusted with the priesthood of God. They are learning their duties from those who have gone before, by keeping their baptismal covenants, by studying the scriptures, reviewing the lives and works of the prophets and apostles and by praying for divine guidance.

The Aaronic Priesthood handles the temporal affairs of the Church. Young men progress in the priesthood, giving service to others by blessing and passing the sacrament, by assisting Melchizedek Priesthood holders in home teaching duties and by watching over the Church. They learn their duties by responding to calls and instruction from leaders. By performing their priesthood responsibilities and growing in the gospel, young men, by the time they are 19 years of age, have had a wide range of experiences in exercising priesthood power.

"Melchizedek Priesthood bearers, when you have an Aaronic Priesthood young man as your companion, train him well. Use him effectively in working with your families and in teaching them. Have these young men feel of your love of home teaching, so that when they become senior companions they will love their calling and magnify it as you have." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation Vol. 3, Pg. 141.)

They then are ready to receive the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood with its oath and covenant. President Ezra Taft Benson said: "The oath of the Melchizedek Priesthood is an irrevocable promise by God to faithful priesthood holders. The covenant of the Melchizedek Priesthood is that a priesthood holder will magnify his calling . . . will give diligent heed to the commandments of God, and will live by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God." (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 228.)

It is a sacred time in a man's life to be endowed with power from on high, to possess the rights, power and authority pertaining to the priesthood, to exercise it on behalf of others, to magnify one's calling through service in the kingdom and to bless the lives of countless members and nonmembers alike.

The oath and covenant of the priesthood means that a man helps to bless the lives of others, especially those of his family. A righteous husband knows that his wife shares the blessings of the priesthood. They are one in purpose and move the Church forward by honoring their sacred covenants together. They share the blessings of the Father through their faithfulness and good works. By magnifying their lives they can be sealed by that same priesthood for all eternity in the House of the Lord. They become in essence partners with God in rearing children and moving the work of the Church forward.

For each man who honors the priesthood, this promise is given: "They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God. . . . All that my Father hath shall be given unto him . . . For you he shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God." (D&C 84:34, 38, 44.)

President David O. McKay remarked: "God help us all to be true to the ideals of the priesthood - Aaronic and Melchizedek. May He help us to magnify our callings and to inspire men by our actions - not only members of the Church, but all men everywhere - to live higher and better lives, to help them all to be better husbands, better neighbors, better leaders, under all conditions." (Conference Report, October 1967.)

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