Priesthood Authority Given to Men on Earth
God gives priesthood authority to worthy male members of the Church so they can act in His name for the salvation of His children. Priesthood holders can be authorized to preach the gospel, administer the ordinances of salvation, and govern the kingdom of God on the earth.
Male members of the Church may begin their priesthood service when they reach the age of 12. They begin by holding the Aaronic Priesthood, and they later may qualify to have the Melchizedek Priesthood conferred on them. At different stages in their lives and as they prepare themselves to receive different responsibilities, they hold different offices in the priesthood, such as deacon, teacher, or priest in the Aaronic Priesthood and elder or high priest in the Melchizedek Priesthood. (For specific information about the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods, see pages 3–4 and 101–2.)
For a male member of the Church to hold the priesthood, an authorized priesthood holder must confer it on him and ordain him to an office in that priesthood (see Hebrews 5:4; D&C 42:11; Articles of Faith 1:5).
Although the authority of the priesthood is bestowed only on worthy male members of the Church, the blessings of the priesthood are available to all-men, women, and children. We all benefit from the influence of righteous priesthood leadership, and we all have the privilege of receiving the saving ordinances of the priesthood.
Priesthood and the Family
The most important exercise of the priesthood takes place in the family. Each husband and father in the Church should strive to be worthy to hold the Melchizedek Priesthood. With his wife as an equal partner, he presides in righteousness and love, serving as the family’s spiritual leader. He leads the family in regular prayer, scripture study, and family home evening. He works with his wife to teach the children and help them prepare to receive the ordinances of salvation (see D&C 68:25–28). He gives priesthood blessings for direction, healing, and comfort.
Many members do not have faithful Melchizedek Priesthood holders in their homes. However, through the service of home teachers and priesthood leaders, all members of the Church can enjoy the blessings of priesthood power in their lives.
The exercise of priesthood authority in the Church is governed by those who hold priesthood keys (see D&C 65:2; 124:123). Those who hold priesthood keys have the right to preside over and direct the Church within a jurisdiction. For example, a bishop holds priesthood keys that enable him to preside in his ward. Therefore, when a child in that ward is prepared to be baptized, the person baptizing the child must receive authorization from the bishop.
Jesus Christ holds all the keys of the priesthood. He has given His Apostles the keys that are necessary for governing His Church. Only the senior Apostle, the President of the Church, may use (or authorize another person to use) these keys for governing the entire Church (see D&C 43:1–4; 81:2; 132:7).
The President of the Church delegates priesthood keys to other priesthood leaders so they can preside in their areas of responsibility. Priesthood keys are bestowed on presidents of temples, missions, stakes, and districts; bishops; branch presidents; and quorum presidents. A person who serves in one of these positions holds the keys only until he is released. Counselors do not receive keys, but they do receive authority and responsibility by calling and assignment.
Exercising the Priesthood Righteously
If you are a priesthood holder, remember that the priesthood should be a part of you at all times and in all circumstances. It is not like a cloak that you can put on and take off at will. Any ordination to a priesthood office is a call to lifelong service, with the promise that the Lord will qualify you to do His work according to your faithfulness.
You must be worthy in order to receive and exercise priesthood power. The words you speak and your everyday behavior affect your ability to serve. Your behavior in public must be above reproach. Your behavior in private is even more important. Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord declared that “the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness” (D&C 121:36). He warned priesthood holders:
“When we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man. Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself” (D&C 121:37–38).
There are amazing blessings and privileges given to men because of and in order to exercise the priesthood, but there are also great responsibilities.
Some time ago I was visiting with Connie Whitney and I was whining about the priesthood session of general conference. At the time you couldn't see it at home and I always looked forward to getting the Ensign so I could read all that the men had been taught. It seemed to me that when speaking to women sometimes things were a little sugar coated and I thought maybe we weren't getting our marching orders like we needed to have. But in the priesthood session the general authorities were so punch you in the face clear about what the men needed to do and how to do it. They always seemed to get some pretty serious marching orders. President Whitney overheard the conversation and came into the living room and said “You have a complaint Sister? So I voiced my thoughts again and asked him if he knew why the talks were geared like that? And he proceeded to tell me!
He explained that the priesthood holder is directly responsible for returning his family to Father in Heaven. He carries the burden of teaching the gospel and seeing that ordinances and things are done so that his family may return and be together. He will have to answer for all that he did or did not do to teach and lead his family in correct principles and return them home safely.
Then President Whitney asked me if I had a problem with that! I replied that I did not and thank you Sir! Which is the proper response when having just been told how things should be.
I will never forget what he told me. I looked at my boys and husband with new eyes. I realized that they not only held Gods power to act in their hands but that they had an awesome, overwhelming responsibility and I vowed at that moment that I would do all in my power to help carry that burden, whether it was by encouraging, sustaining them in callings, making sure there was peace in our home so that the spirit could be present, whatever it took to help them be able to accomplish the things Father in Heaven has called them to do.
As a Prophet of the Lord, President Hinckley gave to us the Family A proclamation to the World. Lets read 2 of those paragraphs
Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord.” parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives – mother and father – will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.
The Family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, father are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.
This is a priesthood document, given to us by a prophet and apostles, by the inspiration and power of God. It is clear and concise and if lived by will help us to know how to live our lives and raise our families.
Now there had been much uproar of late that men hold the priesthood and the church just wants all the women barefoot and pregnant. This document talks about our separate yet equal responsibilities, it talks about the partnership that we should have in our homes. We are the literal children of God, he entrusts us as women to be the bearer, trainer, teacher, comforter and all other things to other literal children of God. If he loves us and wants us to succeed, he loves and wants our children to succeed. He can probably think of no greater calling or responsibility than that of motherhood. It truly is a sacred calling, a lifelong calling and not one to be avoided or pitied or looked down upon in any manner.
President Hinkley once said, we are here to assist our Heavenly Father in His work and His glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. Your obligation is as serious in your sphere of responsibility as is my obligation in my sphere.
Wow!! That's quite a statement
President Uctdorf tells us
if your circumstances are less than ideal, please take comfort in knowing that the Lord will support and enhance your efforts, sanctify your decisions and actions, perfect them through the tender mercies of Christ and consecrate your performance that it may be for the welfare of your soul and the souls of those you serve.
They were both talking about ward councils, but it absolutely applies to families and family councils.
Elder Dallin H Oaks teaches us about 2 lines of communication
In the personal line we pray directly to our Heavenly Father and he answers us by the channels he has established, without any mortal intermediary. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ and he answers through His Holy Spirit and in other ways.
This form of communication is based on our worthiness and is so essential that we are commanded to renew our covenants by partaking of the sacrament each Sabbath day.
The personal line is of paramount importance in personal decisions and in the governance of the family. He cautions that we should use this power and not be constantly running to a bishop or stake president or other authority to make our decisions for us, personal decisions and family governance should be taken care of with personal communication with the Lord.
2, The priesthood line
This line of communication has the additional and necessary intermediaries of our Savior, the church and it's appointed leaders.
During his earthly ministry Jesus Christ conferred the authority of the priesthood that bears his name and he established a church that also bears his name. In this last dispensation, his priesthood authority was restored and his church was reestablished through heavenly ministrations to the Prophet Joseph Smith. This restored sisterhood and this reestablished church are at the heart of the priesthood line.
The priesthood line is the channel by which God has spoken to his children through the scriptures in times past. And it is this line through which he currently speaks through the teachings and counsel of living prophets and apostles and other inspired leaders. This is the way we receive the required ordinances. This is the way we receive calls to service in his church. His church is the way and his priesthood is the power through which we are privileged to participate in those cooperative activities that are essential to accomplishing the Lords work.
We are counseled to not underestimate the importance of the priesthood communication. Going our own way and defining doctrine or starting competing programs will lead us astray.
and like the personal line, the priesthood line of communication cannot fully function properly in our behalf if we are not worthy. When we cut ourselves off from the presence of God, the Lord and His servants are seriously inhibited in giving us spiritual help and we cannot obtain it for ourselves.
Elder Oaks also taught
While we sometimes refer to priesthood holders as the priesthood, we must never forget that the priesthood is not owned by or embodied in those who hold it. It is held in a sacred trust to be used for the benefit of men, women, and children alike.
He then quoted Elder John A Widtsoe who said
Men have no greater claim than women upon the blessings that issue from the priesthood and accompany its possession.
Sister Sheri Dew taught us
Sisters, some will try to persuade you that because you are not ordained to the priesthood you have been short changed. They are simply wrong, and they do not understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. The blessings of the priesthood are available to every righteous man and woman. We may all receive the Holy Ghost, obtain personal revelation, and be endowed in the temple, from which we emerge armed with power. The power of the priesthood heals, protects, and inoculates all of the righteous against the power of darkness. Most significantly, the fullness of the priesthood contained in the highest ordinances of the house of the Lord can be received only by a man and woman together.
Sister Jack former RS president said,
It is significant to me that the women were organized under the authority of the priesthood. We sustain the priesthood and are sustained by its power. The sisters of the church treasure our opportunity to be full partakers of the spiritual blessings of the priesthood.
I've asked Sister Judy Humes to tell us the story of Amanda Barnes Smith and how priesthood power and knowledge was granted to her.
Amanda Barnes Smith was present on April 28, 1842, when Joseph Smith taught Relief Society sisters about gifts of the Spirit. She knew the truth of his teachings, for she had been blessed with the gift of revelation about four years earlier at a time when she needed the Lord’s help to save her son.
In late October 1838, Amanda and her husband, Warren, with their children and other members of the Church, were on the way to Far West, Missouri. They stopped at a mill to make some repairs on their wagon. While they were there, a mob attacked Latter-day Saints who were working at the mill, killing 17 men and boys and wounding 15. Amanda, who had hidden during the attack, returned to find Warren and their son Sardius among the dead. Another son, Alma, was severely wounded. His hip had been blown off by a gun blast. Amanda later told of the personal revelation she received so her son could be healed:
“I [was] there, all that long, dreadful night, with my dead and my wounded, and none but God as our physician and help.
“Oh my Heavenly Father, I cried, what shall I do? Thou seest my poor wounded boy and knowest my inexperience. Oh Heavenly Father direct me what to do!
“And then I was directed as by a voice speaking to me.”
Amanda was directed to make a lye, or washing solution, from the ashes of their fire to clean the wound. Then she was directed to make a poultice out of cloth and slippery elm to fill the wound. The next day she found some balsam and poured it into the wound to soothe Alma’s pain.
“‘Alma, my child,’ I said, ‘you believe that the Lord made your hip?’
“‘Well, the Lord can make something there in the place of your hip, don’t you believe he can, Alma?’
“‘Do you think that the Lord can, mother?’ inquired the child, in his simplicity.
“‘Yes, my son,’ I replied, ‘he has shown it all to me in a vision.’
“Then I laid him comfortably on his face, and said: ‘Now you lay like that, and don’t move, and the Lord will make you another hip.’
“So Alma laid on his face for five weeks, until he was entirely recovered—a flexible gristle having grown in place of the missing joint and socket, … a marvel to physicians.
“On the day that he walked again I was out of the house fetching a bucket of water, when I heard screams from the children. Running back, in affright, I entered, and there was Alma on the floor, dancing around, and the children screaming in astonishment and joy.”
Through the spiritual gift of revelation, the Lord taught Sister Smith how to care for her son. She, like Elizabeth Ann Whitney and countless others, received “joy and strength” and “fresh revelation of the Spirit” because of her faithfulness.
We hear stories of pioneer women and even my grandmother who in the absence of a priesthood holder laid their hands upon heads to give blessings of healing. This is done through the power of the priesthood in accordance with that woman's worthiness and the gifts she has been given. This is not a common practice in our day as we usually have ample priesthood holders around.
Single sisters have equal access to the priesthood. Elder Oaks tells of his mother becoming a widow at a young age. He says that she, as surviving parent, presided in their home. She always honored and respected the bishop and other church leaders but they presided over the church, she presided at home and she taught her children to honor and respect the priesthood.
Another young man tells of his father leaving the family shortly before the boy left on his mission. He worried about his mom and knew how much she appreciated her father and brothers and members of the ward for the priesthood service they performed in her home. But he said, she did not have to wait for a visit in order to have the blessings of the priesthood in her home, and when visitors left, those blessings did not leave with them. Because she was faithful to the covenants she had made in the waters of baptism and in the temple, she always had the blessings of the priesthood in her life. The Lord gave her inspiration and strength beyond her own capacity, and she raised children who now keep the same covenants that have sustained her.
President Hinckley told the Relief Society sisters
Let me say to you sisters that you do not hold a second place in our Father's plan for the eternal happiness and well being of His children. You are an absolutely essential part of that plan.
Without you the plan could not function. Without you the entire program would be frustrated.
Each of you is a daughter of God, endowed with a divine birthright. You need no defense of that position.
There is a strength and great capacity in the women of this church. There is leadership and direction, a certain spirit of independence, and yet great satisfaction in being a part of this, the Lord's kingdom, and working hand in hand with the priesthood to move it forward.
I have had a rough month, I am one of those that struggles to feel Father in Heavens love. I have to be constantly reminded that he knows me, that he loves me, that he knows my heart, my needs, my struggles, and he is ever patient with me. Don't be afraid to ask him and then take the time to listen! He will speak to you in a way that you can understand, but we usually have to get rid of all the noise in our life first, so give him the time to answer you.
My goal with these lessons this year is that we all will be able to know and feel our Father in Heavens love for us. Knowing that will color every aspect of our lives! The priesthood is the power of God, motherhood is a scared gift. Hold tight to those things this month, pray about them, learn what Father has in mind for you where ever you are in life. He will comfort and reassure you, he will testify of the priesthood to you, he will help you to know all things that you need to know. He may let us struggle a bit to help us learn to depend on him and to grow, but he will answer.
May we all have a greater understanding of the priesthood and the power it is in our life. May we come to understand it better so that we may use it appropriately, sustain the men who hold it, teach our sons about it. Do not let the priesthood be your last resort when you have done everything else you can think of, remember that God has given us this gift to bless our lives and our families, therefore he cannot bless us through the priesthood if we aren't using it! And I do truly believe that he wants to bless us.