Priesthood authority is what comes from ordination; priesthood power is what comes through righteous living, Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy affirmed in a Church News interview May 1.
Elder Jensen is assistant executive director of the Melchizedek Priesthood Department of the Church.In discussing priesthood power, Elder Jensen made frequent reference to the scriptures, particularly Section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
Citing verse 34, which states that many are called but few are chosen, he said: "Being called may refer to receiving priesthood authority, and being chosen might happen when, as priesthood bearers, we live righteously enough to actually draw on the powers of heaven."
That happens often in ordinary ways, he added.
"Maybe as Latter-day Saints, we are a little too interested in the extraordinary, the spectacular, the extravagant, when what really brings us progress in the gospel and would give us power in our priesthood would be just a day-to-day observance of the ordinary, simple things of the gospel."
He cited Alma 37:6 in the Book of Mormon, which states that great things are brought to pass by small and simple means. "And that's true in our lives. Daily prayer, daily scripture study, observing the commandments that take us to the temple, going to the temple, and being `others' oriented are just some of the small things which, if we do them consistently, will put us in the position to have priesthood power."
Elder Jensen recalled attending BYU in 1964 when a controversy was raging about proper standards for LDS dances. Someone wrote a letter about the matter to President David O. McKay, and the prophet's response was published in the student newspaper. In essence, he said young Latter-day Saints should always dance so that any time, priesthood bearers would be worthy to leave the dance floor and administer a priesthood blessing to someone.
"And I've thought since then that if we could all live our lives in such a way that at any time we would be worthy to go lay our hands on someone's head, we would be living in the spirit of priesthood power," he remarked.
Elder Jensen related an incident given in the autobiography of Parley P. Pratt. Elder Pratt had gone with the Prophet Joseph Smith to Montrose, Iowa, where many of the saints were ill. The elders of the Church had been blessing the saints, but they had not been getting well.
Joseph Smith healed a man that very day. He then instructed Elder Pratt to tell the elders not to use the form of their priesthood until they obtained the power of the priesthood.
"I think often, when we're not living right and aren't close to the Lord it's possible for us to use the form without the power," he commented. "That's probably never more apparent than in that moment when we're asked to administer to someone who is ill and would very much like our blessing to be efficacious, particularly if that person is a family member. The objective of every priesthood bearer should be to live so that any time he could give a blessing to the sick and have it be one of power from righteous living."
Numerous incidents from the life of the Savior illustrate the proper exercise of the priesthood, Elder Jensen said. He noted that the Master cast a devil out of a child after His disciples had tried unsuccessfully to do so. Jesus explained to them, "This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." (See Matt. 17:14-21.)
"Maybe putting the Savior's experience in terms of our modern desire to convert or reactivate people, there are some spirits that will only come into the Church through much prayer and fasting on our part."
Pure motives are essential to priesthood power, Elder Jensen said, adding, "Rather than desiring office or position, what we should desire are the spiritual gifts that will bless lives."
In connection with that, he said priesthood bearers should be honest in saying only what they are prompted to say when giving priesthood blessings. He recalled that when he was bishop, an elderly sister in his ward told of having received a blessing from a man in her ward as she was about to give birth to a child.
"He gave her a wonderful blessing. But when he was finished she looked at him with tears in her eyes and said.
I appreciate the blessing, but you did not mention my baby.' And he said,Sister, there is no blessing for your baby.' The baby was stillborn a week later.
"I think if you have priesthood power, if there is a blessing, you will give it, and if there is none, you will have the courage and confidence to say nothing or to say there is no blessing."
Elder Jensen emphasized the need to honor moral agency when exercising one's priesthood. He cited D&C 121:41, which states that no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood except by persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness and love unfeigned.
"Joseph Smith did not say,
I teach them correct principles and then I give them a quota,' orI teach them correct principles and then I give them a budget assessment,' " he pointed out. "The Prophet said, `I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.' A priesthood bearer can invite and encourage but must never compel others."