Quoting President David O. McKay's statement that the most distinguishing feature of the Church is the divine authority of the priesthood, Elder David A. Bednar declared, "We make the distinctive declaration that priesthood authority has been conferred by the laying on of hands directly from heavenly messengers to the Prophet Joseph Smith."
Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve, in his priesthood session talk, observed, "Ordinary men are given the authority of the priesthood. Worthiness and willingness — not experience, expertise or education — are the qualifications for priesthood ordination."
A priesthood holder is expected to exercise this sacred authority in accordance with God's holy mind, will and purposes, Elder Bednar said, adding, "Nothing about the priesthood is self-centered. The priesthood always is used to serve, to bless and to strengthen other people."
Elder Bednar said the higher priesthood is received by a solemn covenant that includes the obligation to act in the authority and office that have been received. "As bearers of God's holy authority, we are agents to act and not objects to be acted upon," he said, alluding to 2 Nephi 2:26. "The priesthood is inherently active rather than passive."
He warned that for a boy or a man to receive priesthood authority but neglect to do what is necessary to qualify for priesthood power is unacceptable to the Lord. "Priesthood holders young and old need both authority and power — the necessary permission and the spiritual capacity to represent God in the work of salvation," he said.
Elder Bednar shared a personal experience regarding his father who was not a member of the Church while Elder Bednar was in his youth and who as a young man had desired to become a Catholic priest but instead pursued a career as a tool and dye maker.
Because the father attended LDS Church meetings faithfully, most in the ward had no idea he was not a Church member.
"As a boy I asked my dad many times each week when he was going to be baptized," Elder Bednar related. "He responded lovingly but firmly each time I pestered him: 'David, I am not going to join the Church for your mother, for you or for anyone else. I will join the Church when I know it is the right thing to do.'"
On one occasion, when Elder Bednar asked the question, the father responded with a reference to Church teachings about the priesthood and said, "Each week in priesthood meeting I listen to the bishop and the other priesthood leaders remind, beg and plead for the men to do their home teaching and to perform their priesthood duties. If your church truly has the restored priesthood of God, why are so many of the men in your church no different about doing their religious duty than the men in my church?"
Elder Bednar said, "I believe my father was wrong to judge the validity of the Church's claim to divine authority to the shortcomings of the men with whom he associated in our ward. But embedded in his question to me was a correct assumption that men who bear God's holy priesthood should be different from other men."
He said he has never forgotten the lessons about priesthood authority he learned from his father, who eventually was baptized. "I did not want to be a poor example and a stumbling block to my father's progress in learning about the restored gospel," he said.