Each must strive to learn his duty and then to do it to the best of his ability. As we do so, we provide the means by which our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, can accomplish Their work here upon the earth. It is we who are Their representatives here. In the world today we face difficulties and challenges, some of which can seem truly daunting. However, with God on our side we cannot fail. As we bear His holy priesthood worthily, we will be victorious. Now to you who hold the Aaronic Priesthood, may I say that I sincerely hope each of you is aware of the significance of your priesthood ordination. Yours is a vital role in the life of every member of your ward as you participate in the administration and passing of the sacrament each Sunday. I had the privilege to serve as the secretary of my deacons quorum. I recall the many assignments we members of that quorum had the opportunity to fill. Passing the sacred sacrament, collecting the monthly fast offerings, and looking after one another come readily to mind. The most frightening one, however, happened at the leadership session of our ward conference. The member of our stake presidency who was presiding called on a number of the ward officers to speak. They did so. Then, without the slightest warning, he stood and said, “We will now call on one of our younger ward officers, Thomas S. Monson, secretary of the deacons quorum, to give us an accounting of his service and to bear his testimony.” I don’t remember a single thing I said, but I have never forgotten the experience or the lesson that it taught me. It was the Apostle Peter who said, “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.”
I wish to speak of the relationship that a man holding the priesthood should have with his wife and children. With a knowledge of the plan of salvation as a foundation, a man who holds the priesthood looks upon marriage as a sacred privilege and obligation. It is not good for man nor for woman to be alone. Man is not complete without woman. Neither can fill the measure of their creation without the other. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God. Only through the new and everlasting covenant of marriage can they realize the fulness of eternal blessings. As a matter of priesthood responsibility, a man, under normal circumstances, should not unduly postpone marriage. Brethren, the Lord has spoken plainly on this matter. It is your sacred and solemn responsibility to follow his counsel and the words of his prophets. . . A man who holds the priesthood leads his family in Church participation so they will know the gospel and be under the protection of the covenants and ordinances. If you are to enjoy the blessings of the Lord, you must set your own homes in order. Together with your wife, you determine the spiritual climate of your home. Your first obligation is to get your own spiritual life in order through regular scriptural study and daily prayer. Secure and honor your priesthood and temple covenants; encourage your family to do the same. Take seriously your responsibility to teach the gospel to your family through regular family home evening, family prayer, devotional and scripture-reading time, and other teaching moments. Give special emphasis to preparation for missionary service and temple marriage. As patriarch in the home, exercise your priesthood through performing the appropriate ordinances for your family and by giving blessings to your wife and children. Next to your own salvation, brethren, there is nothing so important to you as the salvation of your wife and children.
Brethren who hold the holy priesthood are authorized to administer to the sick in the household of faith, so that the faithful saints may be restored to health and vigor if they are not “appointed unto death.” And so it goes through all the realm of church service. The blessings of the Lord are offered to the Saints and to the world through the ministrations of those who hold his holy priesthood, who represent him, who are in fact his servants and agents and are willing to serve him and keep his commandments. Now my plea to all the brethren of the priesthood is that they use the authority which they have received to bless first themselves and then their fellowmen—acting always in harmony with the established order of the Church. Those who can and are worthy should respond to calls to preach the gospel at home and abroad. Husbands should bless their wives and children. All of us should qualify for the blessings of the house of the Lord, which are priesthood blessings bestowed upon us. My dear brethren, this matter of holding the priesthood is not a light or a small thing. We are dealing with the Lord’s power and authority, which he has given to us by the opening of the heavens in this day so that every blessing might again be available to us, as they were when man was first placed upon the earth. It is my prayer that we may all learn our duties; that we may hold the priesthood in high regard; that we may magnify our callings; and that we may use our priesthood to bless ourselves, our brethren, and all who will give heed to the message of salvation which we carry to all parts of the world. I wish to give my blessing at this time to all those who have received the priesthood, who have been ordained, who hold some office, and who are faithful therein. We are under the responsibility not only of receiving this priesthood for our own benefit, but to bless and benefit those who are scattered upon all the face of the earth who are willing to repent and to receive the gospel; and we will take this message of salvation to all parts of the world. That is our responsibility.
As men of the priesthood, we have an essential role to play in society, at home, and in the Church. But we must be men that women can trust, that children can trust, and that God can trust. In the Church and kingdom of God in these latter days, we cannot afford to have boys and men who are drifting. We cannot afford young men who lack self-discipline and live only to be entertained. We cannot afford young adult men who are going nowhere in life, who are not serious about forming families and making a real contribution in this world. We cannot afford husbands and fathers who fail to provide spiritual leadership in the home. We cannot afford to have those who exercise the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God, waste their strength in pornography or spend their lives in cyberspace (ironically being of the world while not being in the world). Brethren, we have work to do. . . Our quorums also form a brotherhood of mutual support. President Gordon B. Hinckley once said: “It will be a marvelous day, my brethren—it will be a day of fulfillment of the purposes of the Lord—when our priesthood quorums become an anchor of strength to every man belonging thereto, when each such man may appropriately be able to say, ‘I am a member of a priesthood quorum of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I stand ready to assist my brethren in all of their needs, as I am confident they stand ready to assist me in mine. … Working together, we can stand, without embarrassment and without fear, against every wind of adversity that might blow, be it economic, social, or spiritual.’”
Winning or losing in basketball fades from our thoughts when we contemplate our duties as bearers of the priesthood of God—both the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood. We have a solemn duty to prepare ourselves through compliance with the commandments of the Lord and in responding to the calls we receive to serve Him. We who have been ordained to the priesthood of God can make a difference. When we qualify for the help of the Lord, we can build boys, we can mend men, we can accomplish miracles in His holy service. Our opportunities are without limit. Though the task seems large, we are strengthened by the truth: “The greatest force in this world today is the power of God as it works through man.” If we are on the Lord’s errand, we are entitled to the Lord’s help. That divine help, however, is predicated upon our worthiness. To sail safely the seas of mortality, to perform a human rescue mission, we need the guidance of that eternal mariner—even the great Jehovah. We look up, we reach out to obtain heavenly help. Are our reaching hands clean? Are our yearning hearts pure? Looking backward in time through the pages of history, we find a lesson on worthiness gleaned from the words of the dying King Darius. Through proper rites, Darius had been recognized as legitimate king of Egypt. His rival, Alexander the Great, had been declared legitimate son of Amon. He too was Pharaoh. Alexander, finding the defeated Darius on the point of death, laid his hands upon his head to heal him, commanding him to arise and resume his kingly power, concluding, “I swear unto thee, Darius, by all the gods that I do these things truly and without faking.” Darius replied with a gentle rebuke: “Alexander my boy … do you think you can touch heaven with those hands of yours?” Brethren, as we learn our duty and magnify the callings which have come to us, the Lord will guide our efforts and touch the hearts of those whom we serve.
The challenge is to be more profitable servants in the Lord’s vineyard. This applies to all of us, whatever our age, and not alone to those who are preparing to serve as full-time missionaries, for to each of us comes the mandate to share the gospel of Christ. May I suggest a formula that will ensure our success: first, search the scriptures with diligence; second, plan your life with purpose (and, I might add, plan your life regardless of your age); third, teach the truth with testimony; and fourth, serve the Lord with love. Let us consider each of the four parts of the formula. . . Brethren, may each one of us search the scriptures with diligence, plan his life with purpose, teach the truth with testimony, and serve the Lord with love. The perfect Shepherd of our souls, the missionary who redeemed mankind, gave us His divine assurance: “If it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! “And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!”
In order to investigate the subject of the Priesthood so important to this as well as every succeeding generation, I shall proceed to trace the subject as far as I possibly can from the Old and new Testament. There are two Priesthoods spoken of in the Scriptures, viz the Melchisadeck and the Aaronic or Levitical Altho there are two Priesthoods, yet the Melchisadeck Priesthood comprehends the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood and is the Grand head, and holds the highest Authority which pertains to the Priesthood the keys of the Kingdom of God in all ages of the world to the latest posterity on the earth and is the channel through which all knowledge, doctrine, the plan of salvation and every important matter is revealed from heaven. Its institution was prior to “the foundation of this earth or the morning stars sang together or the Sons of God shouted for joy,” and is the highest and holiest Priesthood and is after the order of the Son [of] God, and all other Priesthoods are only parts, ramifications, powers and blessings belonging to the same and are held controlled and directed by it. It is the channel through which the Almighty commenced revealing his glory at the beginning of the creation of this earth and through which he has continued to reveal himself to the children of men to the present time and through which he will make known his purposes to the end of time—Commencing with Adam who was the first man who is spoken of in Daniel as being the “Antient of days” or in other words the first and oldest of all, the great grand progenitor of whom it is said in another place he is Michael because he was the first and father of all, not only by progeny, but he was the first to hold the spiritual blessings, the plan to whom was made known the plan of ordinances for the Salvation of his posterity unto the end, and to whom Christ was first revealed, and through whom Christ has been revealed from heaven and will continue to be revealed from henceforth. Adam holds the Keys of the dispensation of the fulness of times, i.e. the dispensation of all the times have been and will be revealed through him from the begining to Christ and from Christ to the end of all world the dispensations that have [been and] are to be revealed.
Modern scripture suggests that priesthood holders are to “bring again Zion” as prophesied by Isaiah. Modern scripture also indicates that elders are to be “standing ministers”. This means that stake presidents and bishops count on strong elders quorums in carrying out the mission of the Church—to invite all to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him—through proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the Saints, and redeeming the dead.The challenges in building a strong quorum are great. The quorum is in a state of constant change. Likely there are insufficient active members to cover home teaching assignments. Adult male converts often move away or can’t be located. Prospective elders often outnumber the active elders. Faithful elders often travel or move for employment or educational reasons. Some are called as high priests or receive major assignments outside the quorum. So the question is, how does an elders quorum that is in constant flux grow in strength? President Stephen L Richards, First Counselor in the First Presidency, taught: “A quorum is three things: first, a class; second, a fraternity; and third, a service unit. Within it the men of the Priesthood learn of the principles of the Gospel, establish true brotherhood, and carry forward the work of Christ. It is a God-given association from which they derive more of lasting advantage than from any other fraternal organization in our society. Its prime purpose is to encourage and safeguard the individual.” By President Richards’s definition, the way to build a strong quorum is to: Strengthen the bond of brotherhood among all quorum members, Learn fundamental doctrines and priesthood duties, Fulfill service assignments involving the entire quorum. Following are a few practical suggestions on how to accomplish these quorum-building activities.
Now I shall say a few words to you about the priesthood and those keys which the Lord has conferred upon us in this final gospel dispensation. We hold the holy Melchizedek Priesthood, which is the power and authority of God delegated to man on earth to act in all things for the salvation of men. We also hold the keys of the kingdom of God on earth, which kingdom is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These keys are the right of presidency; they are the power and authority to govern and direct all of the Lord’s affairs on earth. Those who hold them have power to govern and control the manner in which all others may serve in the priesthood. All of us may hold the priesthood, but we can only use it as authorized and directed so to do by those who hold the keys. This priesthood and these keys were conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by Peter, James, and John, and by Moses and Elijah and others of the ancient prophets. They have been given to each man who has been set apart as a member of the Council of the Twelve. But since they are the right of presidency, they can only be exercised in full by the senior apostle of God on earth, who is the president of the Church. May I now say—very plainly and very emphatically—that we have the holy priesthood and that the keys of the kingdom of God are here. They are found only in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
My brethren, I reiterate that, as holders of the priesthood of God, it is our duty to live our lives in such a way that we may be examples of righteousness for others to follow. As I have pondered how we might best provide such examples, I have thought of an experience I had some years ago while attending a stake conference. During the general session, I observed a young boy sitting with his family on the front row of the stake center. I was seated on the stand. As the meeting progressed, I began to notice that if I crossed one leg over the other, the young boy would do the same thing. If I reversed the motion and crossed the other leg, he would follow suit. I would put my hands in my lap, and he would do the same. I rested my chin in my hand, and he also did so. Whatever I did, he would imitate my actions. This continued until the time approached for me to address the congregation. I decided to put him to the test. I looked squarely at him, certain I had his attention, and then I wiggled my ears. He made a vain attempt to do the same, but I had him! He just couldn’t quite get his ears to wiggle. He turned to his father, who was sitting next to him, and whispered something to him. He pointed to his ears and then to me. As his father looked in my direction, obviously to see my ears wiggle, I sat solemnly with my arms folded, not moving a muscle. The father glanced back skeptically at his son, who looked slightly defeated. He finally gave me a sheepish grin and shrugged his shoulders. I have thought about that experience over the years as I’ve contemplated how, particularly when we’re young, we tend to imitate the example of our parents, our leaders, our peers. The prophet Brigham Young said: “We should never permit ourselves to do anything that we are not willing to see our children do. We should set them an example that we wish them to imitate.”
Every one of us has been foreordained for some work as His chosen servant on whom he has seen fit to confer the priesthood and power to act in his name. Always remember that people are looking to you for leadership and you are influencing the lives of individuals either for good or for bad, which influence will be felt for generations to come. Our great responsibility might be more emphatically stated or clearly understood if we realize that there is only one member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for approximately every 999 people in the world and only one member of this church per every 333 Christians, approximately. There are more priesthood holders in the world today than ever before in the history of mankind, with greater power and influence, and of equally great importance, and with greater challenges and problems to meet. The world needs that power and strength and influence to give leadership in helping to meet, solve and overcome the problems caused by the wickedness so rampant in the world. The Lord has set up his church in these the latter days to do just that. The future progress of the Church, and, in fact, the future of the world, depends on how we magnify the office which we hold in the priesthood. Every deacon, every teacher, every priest, every holder of the Melchizedek Priesthood has an individual responsibility and privilege to combine forces with the Savior in being tools in his hands and helping him to accomplish his work and his glory, which is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. No other people have this same authority or special call. It is hard to imagine and impossible to calculate the tremendous influence we would have if every one of us would honor his priesthood, and magnify his calling, and really try every day and in every way to use his influence to meet the onslaught of Satan. Too many of us seem to take the priesthood which we hold for granted; we fail to realize what the Lord expects of us, or we don’t have the conviction, courage, and fortitude to stand up for the right and be counted, to be different when necessary.
I should like to offer what I have chosen to call “Four Bs for Boys.” They are: (1) Be Smart, (2) Be Fair, (3) Be Clean, and (4) Be True. . . You are youth of the noble birthright. You may not at this time know what that means. It means that behind you are great men and women who did wonderful and brave things. They made decisions that were not easy to make, and in many cases they paid a terrible price for those decisions, some of them even giving their lives rather than forsake the truth they had embraced. In 1897, when President Wilford Woodruff was ninety years of age, a great gathering of children and youth assembled in this Tabernacle. This elderly man, who had known so much of sorrow and trouble, as well as love for the Lord and His great work, stood before that congregation and said in measured words: “I cannot expect to tarry a great while longer with you, but I want to give you a few words of counsel. You occupy a position in the Church and Kingdom of God and have received the power of the holy priesthood. The God of heaven has appointed you and called you forth in this day and generation. I want you to look at this. Young men, listen to the counsel of your brethren. Live near to God; pray while young; learn to pray; learn to cultivate the Holy Spirit of God; link it to you and it will become a spirit of revelation unto you, inasmuch as you nourish it.”
Differences exist in practice and organization between the Lord’s Church and man-made institutions. Men and women may form associations for and among themselves and be governed by stipulations that are mutually acceptable. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, however, is neither a democracy nor a republic. His is a kingdom—the kingdom of God on earth. His is a hierarchical church, with ultimate authority at the top. The Lord directs His anointed servants. They testify to all the world that God has again spoken. The heavens have been opened. A living linkage has been formed between heaven and earth in our day. That supreme authority is supported by a firm foundation following an organizational pattern established anciently. Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone, with Apostles and prophets and all the gifts, powers, and blessings that characterized the Church in earlier days.
When hands are laid upon one’s head to be ordained or set apart, both the conveyor and the recipient of that priesthood authority bear obligations and accountability. Let me illustrate. Suppose you own keys to something of value in your life—a vehicle, a home, or a fine instrument. If you loan those keys to another with the intent that he or she use your property, you have certain obligations. You as the lender have a duty toward your borrower’s success. So you teach and train adequately to protect the user and, at the same time, safeguard your own valuable property. The receiver also has obligations. He or she must know applicable laws and obey them, take care of your property, and report back on how well he or she has used it. The same concepts apply to keys of the priesthood. Temple presidents, mission presidents, stake presidents, district presidents, bishops, branch presidents, and quorum presidents hold priesthood keys of presidency. Their keys control the power of their unit of the Church. That the mission of the Church be accomplished, those leaders not only call and release, but they also train and hold accountable those whom they call. Thus, members who receive priesthood ordinations or callings to serve in the Church have obligations of obedience and accountability. Every priesthood quorum has a president, whether it is a quorum of deacons, teachers, priests, elders, or high priests. Each president holds keys of authority. Quorum activities and opportunities for service are authorized by the president who holds those keys. Although a quorum president holds keys, his counselors do not. Auxiliary presidents do not hold keys. Counselors and auxiliary presidents serve on assignment from one holding keys who, in turn, has delegated authority for each of them to act. When one is released from his calling in the priesthood, if keys have been conferred, those keys are relinquished, to be given by proper authority to the new leader. When a bishop is released, for example, his priesthood ordination to the office of bishop remains, but his priesthood keys to serve as the bishop of the ward are conferred upon the new bishop.
A few months ago, my beloved Ruth, Elder Holland and his sweet Patty, and I accompanied a group into the fascinating old city of Jerusalem to look for the door with the name of Hyde carved on it. The enchanting smells of the open containers of spices and the sounds of men selling their wares were exhilarating. As we entered St. Saviour’s Monastery, looking for the door, we entered into old passageways surrounded by stone walls. We were told that some parts of the walls went back to the time of the Crusaders. On one wall hung an assortment of ancient rusted keys. Some of these keys were huge. All were larger than the keys we use today. Many of them were very ornate. Many of the doors the keys were made to open no longer exist, or if they do, the keys and the locks would be too rusty to open them. Today I speak of keys other than those of metal. The keys I speak of never rust. These are the keys of life and salvation in the kingdom of God. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “I will give you a key that will never rust, if you will stay with the majority of the Twelve Apostles, and the records of the Church, you will never be led astray.” The Prophet also stated: “The Priesthood is everlasting. The Savior, Moses, and Elias, gave the keys to Peter, James, and John, on the mount, when they were transfigured before him.” Peter, James, and John conferred the keys of the kingdom of God upon the Prophet Joseph and ordained him to be an Apostle and a special witness of the name of the Savior and to bear the keys of his ministry. Keys that pertain to the gathering of Israel, the dispensation of Abraham, and, indispensably, the keys of sealing were conferred upon the Prophet by Moses, Elias, and Elijah in 1836.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church, and His Church is governed by and through priesthood authority and priesthood keys. Priesthood keys are the authority God has given to priesthood leaders to direct, control, and govern the use of His priesthood on earth. The exercise of priesthood authority is governed by those who hold its keys. Those who hold priesthood keys have the right to preside over and direct the Church within a jurisdiction. Those who have priesthood keys—whether that be a deacon who has keys for his quorum or a bishop who has keys for his ward or a stake president who has keys for his stake or the president of the Church who holds all priesthood keys—literally make it possible for all who serve or labor faithfully under their direction to exercise priesthood authority and have access to priesthood power. All men and all women serve under the direction of those who have keys. This is how the Lord governs His Church. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “The Priesthood is an everlasting principle, and existed with God from eternity, and will to eternity, without beginning of days or end of years” President David O. McKay further explained:Priesthood is inherent in the Godhead. It is authority and power which has its source only in the Eternal Father and his Son Jesus Christ. . . . In seeking the source of the priesthood, . . . we can conceive of no condition beyond God himself. In him it centers. From him it must emanate. Priesthood, being thus inherent in the Father, it follows that he alone can give it to another.
Priesthood is the authority and the power which God has granted to men on earth to act for Him. When priesthood authority is exercised properly, priesthood bearers do what He would do if He were present. We have done very well at distributing the authority of the priesthood. We have priesthood authority planted nearly everywhere. We have quorums of elders and high priests worldwide. But distributing the authority of the priesthood has raced, I think, ahead of distributing the power of the priesthood. The priesthood does not have the strength that it should have and will not have until the power of the priesthood is firmly fixed in the families as it should be. President Harold B. Lee stated: “It seems clear to me that the Church has no choice—and never has had—but to do more to assist the family in carrying out its divine mission, not only because that is the order of heaven, but also because that is the most practical contribution we can make to our youth—to help improve the quality of life in the Latter-day Saint homes. As important as our many programs and organizational efforts are, these should not supplant the home; they should support the home.” President Joseph F. Smith made this statement about the priesthood in the home: “In the home the presiding authority is always vested in the father, and in all home affairs and family matters there is no other authority paramount. To illustrate this principle, a single incident will perhaps suffice. It sometimes happens that the elders are called in to administer to the members of a family. Among these elders there may be presidents of stakes, apostles, or even members of the first presidency of the Church. It is not proper under these circumstances for the father to stand back and expect the elders to direct the administration of this important ordinance. The father is there. It is his right and it is his duty to preside. He should select the one who is to administer the oil, and the one who is to be mouth in prayer, and he should not feel that because there are present presiding authorities in the Church that he is therefore divested of his rights to direct the administration of that blessing of the gospel in his home. (If the father be absent, the mother should request the presiding authority present to take charge.) The father presides at the table, at prayer, and gives general directions relating to his family life whoever may be present.”
While serving as a mission president, I observed that there was a dramatic increase in the spirituality and leadership skills of young men during their mission years. If we could somehow quantify these qualities over their Aaronic Priesthood and mission years, perhaps they would look something like the blue line you see on this graph. In my mind there are at least three key factors that contribute to such dramatic growth in the mission years: (1) we trust these young men as never before, (2) we have high but loving expectations of them, and (3) we train and retrain them so they can fulfill those expectations with excellence. One might appropriately ask, “Why could not these same principles be employed with deacons quorum presidents?” If that were done, perhaps the growth would commence much earlier and look more like the green line on the graph. For a moment, may I address how these principles might apply to a deacons quorum president. . . . I learned a great lesson in the mission field: missionaries generally rise or fall to the mission president’s level of expectation, and so it is with deacons quorum presidents. If they are expected only to conduct quorum meetings and attend bishopric youth committee meetings, then that is all they will do. But you leaders can give them a greater vision—the Lord’s vision. And why is vision so critical? Because with increased vision comes increased motivation. Inherent in every calling in this Church is the right to receive revelation. Hence, these deacons quorum presidents need to know they have the right to receive revelation to recommend their counselors, the right to receive revelation concerning rescue of the lost, and the right to receive revelation to train the quorum members in their duties.
One of the distinguishing features, and a very important feature, of the true church of Christ is its priesthood, the authority of God. It is widely distributed among the male membership of the Church, boys and men, Fathers and sons, and its blessings are shared by our mothers daughters and wives. Do we fully understand and appreciate what it means to us? What is it and what is its significance to those of us who have been blessed with it? President Joseph F. Smith said: [The priesthood] is nothing more nor less than the power of God delegated to man by which man can act in the earth for the salvation of the human family, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and act legitimately; not assuming that authority, nor borrowing it from generations that are dead and gone, but authority that has been given in this day in which we live by ministering angels and spirits from above, direct from the presence of Almighty God . . . President Taylor said: [Priesthood] is the power of God delegated to intelligences in the heavens and to men on the earth. So priesthood transcends this mortal life. Its power and greatness has been referred to by prophets, modern and ancient. In my own heart I can conceive of nothing greater that man can possess than the priesthood of God, coupled with a burning testimony of the divinity of this work. The two should always be coupled together. Priesthood is the very heart of the Church. We may have the priesthood without the Church, but never the Church without the priesthood. . . Now, there is much of that spirit among the priesthood of the Church. I thrill with it, my brethren, and I am grateful to be associated with men who carry that spirit. I have been impressed in reading the revelations, that there are at least four significant things pertaining to this priesthood which have been emphasized by the Lord to his prophets. If I may, I would like to refer to those four items.
Tonight I wish to address matters which have been much on my mind of late and which I have felt impressed to share with you. In one way or another, they all relate to the personal worthiness required to receive and exercise the sacred power of the priesthood which we hold. May I begin by reciting to you from section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants: “The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and … the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. “That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but 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.” Brethren, that is the definitive word of the Lord concerning His divine authority. We cannot be in doubt as to the obligation this places upon each of us who bear the priesthood of God. We have come to the earth in troubled times. The moral compass of the masses has gradually shifted to an “almost anything goes” position. I’ve lived long enough to have witnessed much of the metamorphosis of society’s morals. Where once the standards of the Church and the standards of society were mostly compatible, now there is a wide chasm between us, and it’s growing ever wider.
The scriptures are very plain in their application to each of us, my brethren. For instance, Nephi quotes from Isaiah saying, “O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments—then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea” The words of Lehi are a clarion call to all men and boys of the priesthood. Said he with great conviction: “Awake, my sons; put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust”. There is not a man or boy in this vast congregation tonight who cannot improve his life. And that needs to happen. After all, we hold the priesthood of God. If we are boys who have received the Aaronic Priesthood, we are entitled to the ministering of angels to guide and direct, to bless and protect us. What a remarkable and wonderful thing that is. If we have had conferred upon us the Melchizedek Priesthood, we have been given the keys of the kingdom that carry with them eternal powers. These were spoken of by the Lord when He laid His hands upon the heads of His disciples. With this priesthood comes a great obligation to be worthy of it. We cannot indulge in unclean thoughts. We must not partake of pornography. We must never be guilty of abuse of any kind. We must rise up above such things. “Rise up, O men of God!” and put these things behind you, and the Lord will be your guide and stay. Said the prophet Isaiah, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness”. Some of you young men seem to delight in dressing in a slouchy manner. I know that it is a sensitive subject, but I believe it is unbecoming to young men who have been ordained to the holy priesthood of God. Our language at times matches our dress. We indulge in profanity, taking the name of the Lord in vain. God has spoken plainly against this.
Priesthood is God’s power. It is to be used in saving souls. It is not shared with young men or older men simply to sit on or to hold in name only. It is shared with the expectation that the receiver will exercise it in behalf of himself and others. The priesthood is to be honored, and callings within the priesthood are to be magnified. One of the grandest concepts in the gospel of Jesus Christ is the concept that men can and should be more than passive observers in the cause of saving souls. One Church leader taught: “In our preexistent state … we made a certain agreement with the Almighty. … We agreed … to be not only saviors for ourselves but measurably, saviors for the whole human family. We went into a partnership with the Lord. The working out of the plan became then not merely the Father’s work, and the Savior’s work, but also our work”. . . I pray that all of us will appreciate more perfectly the words of the Savior: “Ye are the salt of the earth.” I pray that we will carry this designation faithfully and honorably. Please remember that men—like salt—lose their savor through contamination; remember also that men who fail to use their priesthood power in behalf of others are like salt without savor.
We have something that this world needs to hear about, and these interviews afford an opportunity to give voice to that. One of the most extensive was with Mr. Mike Wallace of the CBS “60 Minutes” program. . . For the most part, this is from the material not used in the broadcast. Here are Mr. Wallace’s questions and my extemporaneous, unrehearsed answers: Question: “Are there any conflicts between your convictions about families and women’s roles with the family and the aspirations of some women to occupy leadership positions in your church?” Reply: “We have a few women who feel that women should hold the priesthood. We have a great women’s organization. I believe it is the largest women’s organization in the world — our women’s Relief Society. They have their own officers who preside over their own organization. They carry forward a tremendous program of education among women. I think they are happy. They are doing a great work . . . ” . . . Mr. Wallace: “Why must only men run the Church?” Reply: ” ‘Only men’ do not run the Church. Men have their place in the Church. Men hold priesthood offices of the Church. But women have a tremendous place in this church. They have their own organization. It was started in 1842 by the Prophet Joseph Smith, called the Relief Society, because its initial purpose was to administer help to those in need. It has grown to be, I think, the largest women’s organization in the world with a membership of more than three million. They have their own offices, their own presidency, their own board. That reaches down to the smallest unit of the Church everywhere in the world.”
I especially ask the young men of the Aaronic Priesthood to sit up and take notice. For you, let me mix in an athletic analogy. This is a life-and-death contest we are in, young men, so I am going to get in your face a little, nose to nose, with just enough fire in my voice to singe your eyebrows a little—the way coaches do when the game is close and victory means everything. And with the game on the line, what this coach is telling you is that to play in this match, some of you have to be more morally clean than you now are. In this battle between good and evil, you cannot play for the adversary whenever temptation comes along and then expect to suit up for the Savior at temple and mission time as if nothing has happened. That, my young friends, you cannot do. God will not be mocked. So we have a dilemma tonight, you and I. It is that there are thousands of Aaronic Priesthood–age young men already on the records of this Church who constitute our pool of candidates for future missionary service. But the challenge is to have those deacons, teachers, and priests stay active enough and worthy enough to be ordained elders and serve as missionaries. So we need young men already on the team to stay on it and stop dribbling out of bounds just when we need you to get in the game and play your hearts out! In almost all athletic contests of which I know, there are lines drawn on the floor or the field within which every participant must stay in order to compete. Well, the Lord has drawn lines of worthiness for those called to labor with Him in this work. No missionary can be unrepentant of sexual transgression or profane language or pornographic indulgence and then expect to challenge others to repent of those very things! You can’t do that. The Spirit will not be with you, and the words will choke in your throat as you speak them. You cannot travel down what Lehi called “forbidden paths”5 and expect to guide others to the “strait and narrow” one—it can’t be done.
I am confident that the Lord intended that a priesthood quorum should be far more than a class in theology on Sunday mornings. Of course, the building of spirituality and the strengthening of testimony through effective gospel teaching is an important priesthood responsibility. But this is only a segment of the quorum function. Each quorum must be a working brotherhood for every member if its purpose is to be realized. There must be instruction in principles of personal and family preparedness. If effectively taught, such instruction will become preventative welfare, because the quorum member and his family, equipped with such knowledge, will be the better prepared to handle many difficulties that might arise. The teaching of financial and resource management, home production and storage, the fostering of such activities as will promote physical, emotional, and spiritual health might all be the proper and legitimate concerns of the presidency of the quorum in behalf of its members. Furthermore, the quorum becomes a resource of organized and disciplined manpower available to the bishop and stake president in carrying forward the production and processing of welfare commodities. It is in the quorum that the strong hands of willing men are found to thin the beets, to haul the hay, to build the fences, and to carry forward the myriad requirements of our welfare projects.
What Every Elder Should Know – and Every Sister as Well: A Primer on Principles of Priesthood Government
How blessed we are to be here in these last days, when the priesthood of God is upon the earth. How privileged we are to bear that priesthood. The priesthood is not so much a gift as it is a commission to serve, a privilege to lift, and an opportunity to bless the lives of others. With these opportunities come responsibilities and duties. I love and cherish the noble word duty and all that it implies. In one capacity or another, in one setting or another, I have been attending priesthood meetings for the past 72 years—since I was ordained a deacon at the age of 12. Time certainly marches on. Duty keeps cadence with that march. Duty does not dim nor diminish. Catastrophic conflicts come and go, but the war waged for the souls of men continues without abatement. Like a clarion call comes the word of the Lord to you, to me, and to priesthood holders everywhere: “Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence.” The call of duty came to Adam, to Noah, to Abraham, to Moses to Samuel, to David. It came to the Prophet Joseph Smith and to each of his successors. The call of duty came to the boy Nephi when he was instructed by the Lord, through his father Lehi, to return to Jerusalem with his brothers to obtain the brass plates from Laban. Nephi’s brothers murmured, saying it was a hard thing which had been asked of them. What was Nephi’s response? Said he, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”
Job, that righteous man of old, joined in the question when he asked, “What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?” One need not grope for answers to these penetrating questions when in your presence here in the historic Tabernacle or with you in the many meeting places throughout the world where you have assembled. “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation” “Ye … are … a spiritual house, an holy priesthood” As bearers of the priesthood, we have been placed on earth in troubled times. We live in a complex world with currents of conflict everywhere to be found. Political machinations ruin the stability of nations, despots grasp for power, and segments of society seem forever downtrodden, deprived of opportunity and left with a feeling of failure. We who have been ordained to the priesthood of God can make a difference. When we qualify for the help of the Lord, we can build boys, we can mend men, we can accomplish miracles in His holy service. Our opportunities are without limit. Though the task looms large, we are strengthened by the truth: “The greatest force in this world today is the power of God as it works through man.” If we are on the Lord’s errand, we are entitled to the Lord’s help. That divine help, however, is predicated upon our worthiness. To sail safely the seas of mortality, to perform a human rescue mission, we need the guidance of that eternal mariner—even the great Jehovah. We reach out, we reach up, to obtain heavenly help. Are our reaching hands clean? Are our yearning hearts pure?