Hastening the Work of Salvation: High Council

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Members of the High Council have the responsibility to help strengthen and train leaders and members of the Elders quorum and High Priest group in the ward or branch in which they are assigned. Part of this responsibility lies in helping hasten the work of salvation by encouraging those who bear the priesthood to strengthen their brethren, particularly those who have left the gospel fold or become casual in their attendance and testimonies. The Church has a series of videos focused on how various church leaders play a role in hastening the work of salvation. Here is a brief video about the role that high councilors play.

Here’s the link to the video (I’d embed it but it kept auto-playing and until that is fixed, I’ll just link to the video).

The Church also has a short document describing the responsibilities high councilors over missionary work in a stake have regarding hastening the work of salvation. This is found here (as a PDF): http://www.lds.org/bc/content/shared/english/wwlt/hasten/hastening-the-work-high-councilor-eng.pdf?lang=eng

New! Watch Priesthood Session Live Online

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that for the first time ever, the priesthood session of General Conference will be available to watch live online. Read the press release about General Conference. Specifically of interest:

“As part of a continued effort to make general conference proceedings more accessible to members around the globe, the priesthood session will be shown live for the first time through expanded channels, including LDS.org, the Mormon Channel and BYUtv.”

This is welcome news to those who live some distance from church buildings.

Path to the Temple

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At the start of His ministry, Jesus went out to the desert to fast. He spent 40 days fasting. After He finished His fast “he…hungered” (Luke 4:2). I would have been hungry before the end of the 40 day fasting period, but that’s just me. After His fast, the Savior had an interesting experience with Satan. It’s interesting not so much because of Satan’s intrusions but rather because of what Jesus experienced in spite of Satan.

At the end of His fast, while Jesus was still in the desert, Satan tempted Him to turn stones into bread. He who created the earth, turned water to wine, and walked upon water could have turned stone to bread. Doing so would not have been a sin. What He did not do – what would have been a sin – is follow Satan’s command. After the desert, Jesus went up to a high mountain. There He was again assailed by Satan, who this time wanted Jesus to worship him. Lastly, Jesus went to the temple in Jerusalem. There Satan tried again to tempt Him, this time quoting scripture. Jesus again cast Satan aside.

The progression of these three experiences and locations is interesting. In the first, Jesus wandered in the desert, much like the children of Israel being led by Moses out of Egypt. They searched for the promised land, a land where they could grow and prosper and build a temple. The children of Israel wandered for 40 years in similitude of the Savior’s 40 days.

In the second experience, Jesus went on top of a high mountain, as Moses did to speak with the Lord. There, like the Savior, Moses was confronted by Satan (see Moses 1:12-16) who commanded him to worship him. Moses cast Satan away, just as Jesus did.

Then in the third experience, Jesus traveled to the pinnacle of the temple, an elevated place upon that elevating building. After His visit to the temple Jesus “returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region roundabout.” (Luke 4:14). Jesus was endowed from on high and began His ministry in earnest and with great power that others now saw and recognized (see Luke 4:15). It is not coincidence that the Savior visited the temple before He started His ministry.

This progression of wandering in the desert, communing with God on the mountain, and gaining great power at the temple is the path we must all take – it is the path from natural man or woman to sanctified man or woman. This path also can be viewed as a priesthood path (I’m not saying this is what Jesus experienced it just mirrors the progression of and through the priesthood). Prior to these experiences, Christ was baptized (Luke 3); then He wandered in the desert like the children of Israel (Aaronic/Levitical priesthood); next He went to the mountain top like many of the prophets of old (Melchizedek priesthood); and lastly, He went to the temple (endowment). Satan, of course, tried to stop Him in this process, but was unsuccessful. Do we respond like the Savior and cast Satan aside when he tries to tempt us to leave to path of salvation? Do we get turned aside by baubles or false idols, or do we follow the Savior to the temple?

Reflections on Churches

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The other day I was driving through town (I live in the southern United States where churches are particularly abundant). I paid attention to the names of different churches I passed. There were “Living Water” churches, “Missionary” churches, “Blessings” churches, “Miracles” churches, “Community” churches, “Family” churches, “Covenant” churches, and “Grace” churches (in addition to Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, and more). The three that really stuck out to me were a “Temple” church, a “Church of the Apostle”, and a “Church of Prophecy”.

I thought that it was interesting that the churches would reference temples, apostles, and prophets (implied from “prophecy”) in their names yet have none of those in their churches. I know the Catholic Church claims apostolic authority (papal lineage through Peter) but this particular “Apostle” church was not Catholic. The churches might have been founded in recognition of the significance of the temple and apostles (I’ll combine prophets and apostles) but they were founded without either apostles or temples (see also Ezek. 37:26), which are vital parts of Christ’s Church.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a restoration of Christ’s church with both apostles and temples. We claim authority from Jesus Christ, given to Joseph Smith and passed on to subsequent prophets and apostles (just as Elijah’s authority passed on to Elisha). We make much of covenants as well in the LDS Church. We believe in grace, family, miracles, blessings, missionary work, and Christ as the source of living water. The LDS Church encompasses all truth; we accept all good and all truth, regardless the source (“We are after the truth. We commenced searching for it, and we are constantly in search of it, and so fast as we find any true principle revealed by any man, by God, or by holy angels, we embrace it and make it part of our religious creed.” Pres. John Taylor). However, necessary covenants and ordinances are only performed through proper authority (see also: Priesthood).

The Churches are most likely doing good (I qualify that statement because there are some churches that spread hate and evil) but they are lacking the authority that was restored to Joseph Smith. It is through this authority that we have apostles, prophets, and temples in the LDS Church.

Keys to the Ministering of Angels

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Today in Priest Quorum we discussed the responsibilities and duties of Priests. Compared to Deacons and Teachers, Priests have three main additional responsibilities:

  1. Blessing the Sacrament
  2. Baptizing
  3. Helping ordain other Priests, Teachers, and Deacons

When I was Priest age, I stood in on ordinations of fellow Priests. It was always a wonderful experience; something that helped prepare me better for the responsibilities of the Melchizedek Priesthood, namely, the laying on of hands. While ordinations are not a primary role of Priests, they are able to help from time to time.

Another part of our lesson focused on one of the blessings that Priests (and all Aaronic Priesthood holders) have – the keys to the ministering of angels (see D&C 13; D&C 107:20). We had a discussion about what this phrase means. Ministering angels can be seen or unseen; they can be not yet born, deceased, or mortal individuals.

One of my favorite stories from the life of Wilford Woodruff (that my father used to tell to my brother and me) was included in the lesson manual (although it’s a little different from the version I learned from Wilford Woodruff’s Leaves From My Journal):

President Wilford Woodruff experienced the ministering of angels when he was doing missionary work as a priest and was impressed to warn a formerly active Church member named Father Hakeman to repent and become active again.

“I was once moved upon to go and warn old Father Hakeman. … He had been in Jackson County during the persecution period. … We went a good deal out of our way for the purpose of visiting Father Hakeman. I had a vision the night previous, in which was manifested to me the trouble that lay before us, but that the Lord would deliver us. We arrived at his house on Sunday morning. He was taking breakfast. We had had breakfast at the place where we stayed overnight. I saw a Book of Mormon on his shelf. He did not seem to pay any attention to us, or to take any interest in us. I took up the Book of Mormon, and said, ‘You have a very good book here.’

“‘Yes,’ said he, ‘but it is a book that came from the devil.’

“That opened my eyes. He had been an elder; he had been in Zion; had been persecuted there and driven out; but I found that he had apostatized, and he was our enemy. I saw he would do anything he could against us.

“We left him and went to Brother Hubbard’s and stayed with him three weeks, during which we took our axes and cleared some land for him. I was strongly impressed three times to go up and warn Father Hakeman. At last I did so, according to the commandment of God to me. The third time I met with him, his house seemed to be full of evil spirits, and I was troubled in spirit at the manifestation. When I finished my warning, I left him. He followed me from his house with the intention of killing me. I have no doubt about his intention, for it was shown to me in vision. When he came to where I was, he fell dead at my feet, as if he had been struck with a thunderbolt from heaven. I was then a priest, but God defended me and preserved my life. I speak of this because it is a principle that has been manifest in the church of God in this generation as well as in others. I had the administration of angels while holding the office of a priest. I had visions and revelations. I traveled thousand of miles. I baptized men, though I could not confirm them because I had not the authority to do it.

“I speak of these things to show that a man should not be ashamed of any portion of the priesthood. Our young men, if they are deacons, should labor to fulfil that office. If they do that, they may then be called to the office of a teacher, whose duty it is to teach the people, visit the Saints and see that there is no evil or iniquity carried on. God has no respect for persons in this priesthood any further than as they magnify their callings and do their duty” (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, sel. G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946], pp. 297–98). (Source).

Wilford Woodruff, a Priest in the Aaronic Priesthood, was protected by God, by ministering angels. As a missionary I had similar, although much less dramatic experiences. I’ve felt ministering angels at other times in my life as well.

Heavenly Father loves each of us, His children. One of the strongest manifestations of this love is through the Priesthood. We are given access to some of God’s power. This power is given so that those who hold it can bless the lives of other people. But I want to return to what it means to hold the keys to the ministering of angels.

Keys lock and unlock objects. They allow the key holder to control access to things. Holding the keys to the ministering of angels means that those with the Aaronic Priesthood do not just receive the ministering of angels, they are able to call upon angels when needed. So instead of being passive recipients of the comfort and protection of angels, those with the Aaronic Priesthood can actively call for the blessings and comfort of angels. All of this, of course, if dependent upon worthiness and God’s will but God gives His priesthood to men so that they have opportunities to use His power, not independently from God but inter-dependently with Him. It’s a remarkable power that God gives to men.

Cloven Tongues of Fire

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There is a phrase in the book of Acts – “cloven tongues of fire” – that describes an experience of great power. The context of the phrase is day of Pentecost. During this great outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord, many great sights were seen, many great sounds were heard, and many great feelings were felt. We read, “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:2-4).

I started thinking about the term “cloven tongues of fire”. What does that phrase mean? How it is phrased in Acts makes it seem like those present saw flames around them. This might be the case but we get clarification of what this phrase means in the Doctrine and Covenants, part of the canon of scripture for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We read: “Let it be fulfilled upon them, as upon those on the day of Pentecost; let the gift of tongues be poured out upon thy people, even cloven tongues as of fire, and the interpretation thereof.” (D&C 109:36).

Cloven means split. Cloven tongues are like the tongues of snakes. But in this instance, the cloven tongues refer to speaking in tongues. This is a gift from the Holy Ghost. There are at least two ways of looking at these cloven tongues of fire.

  1. On the day of Pentecost, some people spoke in tongues – plural. They said something in one language but other people heard it in another. We know this is the case: “The multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilæans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?” (Acts 2:6-8). Thus, these cloven tongues are really just that – speaking in tongues (multiple) at the same time.
  2. Another interpretation (pun intended) is that tongues are cloven because there is the message of the spoken words and the message of the Holy Ghost. These two things are not always the same thing. What is said and what the Spirit teaches us can be different. Both interpretations are correct.

What’s important to keep in mind is that speaking in tongues is only effective if there is someone who can understand it or interpret it. Generally, it is not the case that the Holy Ghost will bless someone with the gift of tongues in order for them to speak some unknown language without an interpreter. That’s why people speaking gibberish purportedly under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost are not really given the gift of tongues. This is not to say that people cannot speak in an unknown language – such as Adam’s “pure and undefiled” language (see Moses 6:5-6:46) – but again, when this occurs there will almost always be someone who is able to understand and/or translate it by the same power of the Holy Ghost.

The gift of tongues – even cloven tongues of fire – is evident in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today as are the other miraculous events of the day of Pentecost. We have missionaries who learn languages quickly, who teach the gospel filled with the fire of God. There have been cases where missionaries or  apostles have said things they didn’t know how to say in another language or that those listening understood what was being said even though they did not understand the words.

What about someone like myself who served as a missionary in the United States, speaking my native English? The cloven tongues of fire is only one gift of many from the Holy Ghost. Still, there were many times when I spoke and the tongue of the Spirit spoke too – it was a fire that burned brightly within others and myself. Additionally, because of the blessings of the Holy Ghost, my command of English improved. This is not usually how we think of the gift of tongues but it can, and often is, the case that your own language skills will improve so that you can improve teaching the gospel.

“Cloven tongues of fire” is a phrase that provides powerful imagery. The most important implication of it is that it is a gift of the Holy Ghost. When the power of God rests upon us we can know, feel, and do great things. This is a power that touches many but was largely lost from the earth until the Priesthood and ordinances of God were restored to Joseph Smith. The gift (not just influence) of the Holy Ghost is one of the greatest and most important components of the Restoration.

In closing, Pres. Packer gave a great talk on this topic in the April 2000 General Conference. Pres. Packer said:

“In every language, the Spirit of God—the Holy Ghost—guides, or can guide, every member of the Church. Everyone is invited to come and repent and be baptized and receive of this sacred gift. Despite opposition, the Church will flourish; and despite persecution, it will grow. Joseph Smith was asked, ‘How does your religion differ from other religions?’ He replied, ‘All other considerations were contained in the gift of the Holy Ghost.'”

The power of the Holy Ghost is real. When with us, we can receive great blessings so that we are better able to share the gospel with others and bless the lives of others. The flaming fire of the Spirit is a call to responsibility; it is a call to be lights on hills to others who are lost in the darkness of disbelief. It is a call to speak with the power of God so that others might bask in His light and love.

Anyone For Tennis?

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Image from and available for use under the CC license: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tennis_Racket_and_Balls.jpg

One time I went with a friend to play tennis. While we were playing the tennis balls we brought with us all either went flat or broke or were lost. So we were stuck with a conundrum, do we stick around and try to find another ball or do we just go home, or do we stay there and try to play tennis without a ball? Being the creative people we were, we decided to try and play tennis without a ball. My friend and I grabbed out racquets and started playing the game. We just imagined we had a ball. It was great fun and we’ve never played better tennis since – aces every serve. It did get boring after a while though.

Anyone think that that our game of “tennis” probably was not very effective? Maybe we could have been more creative and made up a new game that didn’t need a ball. The problem is that that wouldn’t quite be tennis any more. Maybe we could have tried to make a ball out of something else; but again, it wouldn’t quite be correct. Or, maybe we could do like we did and just pretend that we had a ball. There are a number of possibilities. Maybe we could have borrowed a ball or gone and purchased some new balls. Well, since I’m being hypothetical, what if all tennis balls (and anything like a tennis ball, such as a racquetball ball) in the world and all ways of manufacturing them were destroyed? There would be no way to play the game of tennis (other than virtually, but that’s not the same). None of these scenarios for playing tennis make a lot of sense and none of them are quite tennis anymore.

OK, I admit that my story was made up, it didn’t happen (but it could have). It is an allegory for something that happened a long time ago.

Following the death of Christ’s original Apostles, there was a loss of God’s authority on the earth (at least to those in Israel and that part of the world; His authority lasted for a few hundred years in the Americas). This was like losing the ball in a game of tennis. So what happened then? What did members of the church and church leaders do? Well, the “players” started improvising. Some of them made up a new but similar game. Others tried to make their own ball. It wasn’t the original, only a copy of it. Still others just carried on and pretended they had a ball. What else could they do?

The trouble is that this loss of the proverbial tennis balls happened a long time ago. Now most people have forgotten how tennis is supposed to be played. Most don’t realize that there should even be a ball. Others know that there should be a ball but believe that they can make it themselves – that it really doesn’t matter where the ball comes from. A crumpled up paper one is just fine. Others deny there ever was a ball. Still others state that the balls were only necessary a long time ago and that they are unnecessary now.

But the fact still remains that tennis ceased being tennis a long time ago (again, referring to the allegorical tennis here). Then one day a young man was visited by someone really old who had been around when tennis was still tennis. This young man received a new tennis ball and was told how tennis really was supposed to be played because by then a lot of the rules had changed. He was ridiculed because everyone knew that tennis really didn’t need to be played with a ball, or you could make your own ball if you really wanted one. You certainly didn’t need a fuzzy green ball to play. A lot of people told him and those who accepted that version of tennis that their tennis was not the real tennis.

This does not mean that the other games that were created once all the tennis balls were lost were bad games, they just were not quite right and thus not tennis. Just as it is pretty ridiculous to try and play tennis without a ball, so is it to try and maintain Christ’s church without the priesthood authority to do so. Thankfully, God has restored His priesthood to the earth so we can once again play “tennis”.

New Duty to God

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The new Duty to God program is an example of the Lord “raising the bar” for our youth. With this renovation of the program young men are provided opportunities to act more as agents for themselves unto the Lord rather than be acted upon as passive participants in and partakers of the gospel. What do I mean by this?

When I was a young man the Duty to God program was this: go to church, go to seminary, give talks on occasion, be involved in your quorums, and be a worthy bearer of the priesthood. Those are all wonderful duties but there was little choice in the program – either you did it or you didn’t. In an interview just after I turned 18 my Bishop said, “You did everything for Duty to God” and I received the award. I really didn’t have to go out of my way to earn it. Because there was little choice in the program, it was what I call a GPS Duty to God program – do this, turn here, drive 6 years, merge right, and arrive at your destination. You didn’t really have to think or act for yourself; you in some ways were acted upon. Then the Duty to God program changed. There were checklists and projects and “choose 8 of the following 13” activities to do. The program was very involved and, frankly, sometimes overwhelming – manageable, but overwhelming. It was inspired and taught the young men a lot of good skills and traits but it was still basically a GPS Duty to God program – you drive along and turn when the pleasant voice tells you to turn. There were a few more choices but the program was largely set and scripted.

Now we have the new program. The new Duty to God program takes away the step-by-step directions and leaves much of the decision-making to the young men as they follow the Spirit and seek input from parents and leaders. The destination is known and there are guideposts but the GPS is turned off; it is up to the young men to create their own paths. With the new program the preparing, planning, and travelling of the journey are as important as arriving at the destination. It doesn’t matter if you drive a Porsche or a Pinto or if you take a freeway or a scenic byway as long as you drive the Lord’s way. The goal is to build righteous men who are independent agents and who know and serve the Lord.

The new Duty to God program is founded upon the Lord’s principles of learn, (plan and) act, and share. You learn something, do something about what you learned, and then return and report.  That’s like life – I don’t just mean our mortal life. In the pre-earth life we learned, in this life we are doing, and in the next life all of us will return and report on our activities of mortal life. That is the Lord’s pattern of growth.

Now that we’ve learned, let’s move on to action, or at least plans for action. Quorum meetings and mutual activities are a great time to help young men learn and fulfill their duties to God. Ideally, what we talk about in quorum meeting on Sunday will be reinforced in some way during mutual. This is not always possible but with planning ahead the young men should be able to fulfill a Duty to God activity: learning, acting, or reporting about their actions. We need not make the Duty to God program the entire focus of mutual but we can easily devote at least one activity per month to it.

How can we accomplish this? First, I’d like to borrow a question from Elder Bednar about planning mutual activities. When planning we should ask: “What are the things that should happen to the [young men] as a result of this activity?”1 In other words, what is our goal – our desired outcome – for the activity? Even more than that – what is our goal for the young men? This is where the Duty to God program enters in – it provides such goals as: serve others, live the Word of Wisdom, learn about careers, learn about missionary work, and so forth. But in order to answer Elder Bednar’s question we phrase the goals differently. For example, if we want to have an activity focused on the Word of Wisdom, the goal for the activity could be to have the young men make a strong commitment to live the Word of Wisdom. Now we have our desired outcome. With the destination in mind, it should be easier to think of ideas for activities. Here’s one quick idea: the young men could play basketball or some other game but with modifications. The “smokers” can only play on their knees; the “drinkers” have one arm tied behind their backs; the “fruits and vegetables” get an extra point for every basket they make; and so on. This might be slightly cheesy but my point is that with a goal in mind a fun activity can also be memorable, educational, and even converting if it invites the Spirit. Leaders need to be “clear about the ultimate objective and the target and the mission”1 so that the young men can better plan and plan better mutual activities.

Elder Hales said, “Church leaders regularly plan priesthood activities and Scouting pow wows and encampments—but do those activities always accomplish their most important purpose? I have learned that what makes a priesthood or Scout activity most meaningful to a boy is not just getting a merit badge but having the opportunity to sit and talk with a leader who is interested in him and his life.”2 Are we focusing on what’s important?

The Duty to God program is about effecting change in the lives of the young men. After all, nothing in the Church is about the programs – it is about the people. A stake priesthood meeting, for example, is not done so the stake presidency can check an item off their to-do list; that meeting is held so all can learn their duties as priesthood holders. People, not programs, are the Church. The Duty to God program was made for the young men; they were not made for it.

The Lord said, “Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence. He that is slothful shall not be counted worthy to stand, and he that learns not his duty and shows himself not approved shall not be counted worthy to stand” (D&C 107:99-100). So we must all learn and act and I will add, share in order to be found worthy to stand.

The Aaronic Priesthood holders here in this room will be among the future leaders of the Church. How can they lead if no one teaches them? Elder Ballard recently said this to church leaders: “We try to teach every leader that one of your primary responsibilities is to raise up those that’ll be…better leaders than you ever were”3. This is where the Aaronic Priesthood and the new Duty to God program come in. Just as 40 years in the wilderness prepared the Israelites for the fruits of Canaan, just as the Mosaic Law prepared the Lord’s people for the coming of the Messiah, just as John the Baptist cried as a lone voice in the wilderness proclaiming the coming of the Savior, the Aaronic Priesthood prepares young men for the Melchizedek Priesthood. It is the forerunner – the schoolmaster – that helps train young men to be faithful followers of Christ. The Duty to God program is designed to help prepare young men for the Melchizedek Priesthood and the blessings of the temple because these things lead them to Christ. I pray that we take the things we learn in this meeting and from the Spirit and share them with others in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

1)   http://feeds.lds.org/~r/EnrichmentSeries/~3/2vvN-EZMJlQ/hr-2010-02-leadership-elder-david-a-bednar-conversation-eng.pdf

2)   http://beta.lds.org/liahona/2010/05/our-duty-to-god-the-mission-of-parents-and-leaders-to-the-rising-generation?lang=eng&format=conference&view=speakers

3)   http://www.lds.org/gospellibrary/leadership/2010-06-003-leadership-workplace-counseling-conversation-eng.pdf

Preparing for the Melchizedek Priesthood

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This past Sunday our lesson for the Young Men was on preparing for the Melchizedek Priesthood. The LDS Church’s Aaronic Priesthood Manual 2 had a nice summary of the ordinances that bearers of the Aaronic Priesthood and those who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood can perform. The lists go beyond ordinances but they make up the bulk of them.

Power of the Aaronic Priesthood

  • 1. Prepare, administer, and pass the sacrament.
  • 2. Baptize (priests only).
  • 3. Receive the ministering of angels.
  • 4. Go home teaching.
  • 5. Look after the physical needs of the Saints.
  • 6. Collect fast offerings.
  • 7. Ordain other priests, teachers, and deacons (priests only).
  • 8. Take charge of meetings in the absence of elders.

Power of the Melchizedek Priesthood

  • 1. Confer the gift of the Holy Ghost.
  • 2. Name and bless infants.
  • 3. Administer to the sick.
  • 4. Consecrate oil for anointing.
  • 5. Dedicate graves.
  • 6. Confer the Melchizedek and Aaronic priesthoods and ordain to offices in those priesthoods.
  • 7. Look after the spiritual needs of the Saints.
  • 8. Preside at meetings.
  • 9. Enter the temple and receive all temple ordinances.
  • 10. With the proper keys, officiate in all temple ordinances.
  • 11. Have power and authority over all the offices in the Church (see D&C 107:8).
  • 12. Do all things an Aaronic Priesthood bearer can do.

One thing that I’ve been thinking about recently is the something contained in this list, namely that those who are ordained Priests in the Aaronic Priesthood have the authority to baptize others (of course, under the direction of their Bishops – all things are done in the proper order with the proper oversight in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) but they cannot confirm those same people as members of the Church nor can they bestow upon them the gift of the Holy Ghost.

This is like the law that Jehovah gave to Moses and the law that He, as the Savior, gave during His mortal ministry. The Mosaic Law was preparatory for a higher law. It was a schoolmaster that led the House of Israel to Christ, although it had largely been corrupted by the time Jesus was born. The Mosaic Law was focused on outward ordinances (those ordinances were supposed to reflect inner change and covenant). These ordinances were done through the authority of the Aaronic (technically Levitical but those terms are basically interchangeable) Priesthood. But those ordinances were incomplete without the Melchizedek Priesthood. Christ was the great High Priest of the Melchizedek Priesthood: “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 5:8-10).

Just as the Mosaic Law was incomplete without Christ, so is baptism without confirmation and the reception of the Gift of the Holy Ghost. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half – that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith, p.314). The Law of Moses was incomplete without the confirmation given by Christ.

Priests in the Aaronic Priesthood can baptize but they cannot confirm. They cannot complete the baptism of fire, which is really what purifies and sanctifies the baptized through the Atonement of Christ. The Aaronic Priesthood is preparatory. It is only half the Priesthood. What is amazing is that God allows young men starting at the age of 12 to bear that great responsibility. Aaronic Priesthood holders have primary responsibility for the physical aspects of the Church (of course all Melchizedek Priesthood holders still have the Aaronic Priesthood so they too are responsible for the physical needs of Church members and sometimes more so than the young men). Those who hold the Aaronic Priesthood are directly responsible for the Sacrament, which is one of the most sacred of all ordinances performed in the Church. The Sacrament was instituted by the Savior shortly before His death. Jesus blessed and broke and passed the bread and wine. He delegates this great responsibility to the young men of the Aaronic Priesthood today.

There is no greater responsibility for men in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than the responsibility they hold as bearers of the Priesthood for even family responsibilities are Priesthood responsibilities. There are typically only six to seven years between when a young man receives the Aaronic Priesthood and when he receives the Melchizedek Priesthood (all of this is contingent upon worthiness and personal and family desires). The teenage years are crucial for spiritual development. They are the time for young men to prepare for the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Mormon Identity Podcast Notes – Women in the Scriptures

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From the latest Mormon Identity podcast entitled Women in the Scriptures (part 1) with Robert Millet and Camile Fronk Olson.

“And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they had been naked. And they sewed fig-leaves together and made themselves aprons.” (Moses 4:13; emphasis added).

I’ll quote Camille Olson’s insight:

“I suddenly saw that where they had no recognized that they were unclothed before, they now saw a need to be covered. And knowing in Hebrew the word for covering or to cover is kaphar that is also sometimes translated as atonement. Suddenly this had a new meaning to me because they realized they have need of a covering that only Christ can provide. You notice that in that same verse they start looking at fig trees to try to make them a covering and it doesn’t work…. So what happens? The Lord finds a covering for them. He gives them the covering…from an animal skin. You think what does it cost the animal to provide that covering? And it is his life. And suddenly you can see a lamb that has given its skin, its covering to cover Adam and Eve and as they leave the Garden. And suddenly you get the imagery of the way the Lord protects us, the way He covers our sins through repentance, the way He covers our debts when we come to Him in a whole variety of ways that He covers us and that there is no other covering that will do that.”

Robert Millet and Camille Olson go on to talk about how the faithful are clothed with power from on high or clothed in the robes of righteousness. What I think was the key insight in what Sis. Olson said was her comment about how Adam and Eve saw that they had been naked and that they now needed covering. They had transgressed the law of God and so were no longer completely pure. Their covering of fig leaves was not sufficient; they had need of garments of animal skin that not only covered more of their bodies but also were symbolic of the covering of sins (atonement) the Lord provides. In other words, the sacrifice required by the animal(s) to make the coverings of skin was in similitude of Christ’s sacrifice.

Now on to Rebekah, wife of Isaac. [All words are (mostly) Camille Olson’s]:

“I think an important piece to remember is what takes place two chapters before [the issue of the birthright], before those boys are even born. Isaac and Rebekah have been married 20 years and not had any children. Isaac prays on behalf of his wife that she can conceive a child and she does. But Rebekah is the one who feels something seems very unusual inside of her as she is carrying what – she doesn’t know at the time – will be twins. And interestingly, it’s clear in chapter 25 of Genesis she prays to the Lord and the Lord answers her directly…. It was between Rebekah and God, and God reveals to her that she is carrying two children and more than that it will be the younger one who will be the leader. And there is nothing that says she ever told anyone that or if she was given permission to tell anyone. All we know know is they [Jacob and Esau] get older; the assumption is that the elder one will receive the birthright, Esau will receive the birthright. Isaac and Esau seem to have a camaraderie, they relate to each other, it seems to be his favorite one. Rebekah feels an affinity towards Jacob and you wonder if that didn’t start even before they were born because of this revelation.

“But Isaac is old, he can’t see really clearly and he is ready to give the birthright blessing. Rebekah knows what’s going to happen; Isaac has sent out Esau to get him something to eat and Rebekah springs to action to make sure that the one that the Lord wants to receive the blessing actually does…. I think there is a tremendous responsibility [about if we receive a revelation that we do all we can to make it come to pass]. We love the Epistle of James. Faith without works is dead. And we think faith and works is praying but as I read that epistle it is faith is praying with true faith but then the works are that we are willing to act on what we receive and it takes great faith in what we received by way of an answer and Rebekah does it!… Revelation from the Lord automatically assumes action [on our part]…. Well Rebekah is ready to act and so while Esau is away she puts her plan into motion. Jacob is a little concerned thinking, ‘I’ll look like I’m a deceiver.’ And Rebekah is willing to take all the responsibility. So she sends Jacob to get – the wording in Genesis chapter 27 is – ‘the goodly raiment’ that belongs to Esau. And along with this is a description of Esau being very hairy and Jacob not being hairy and Rebekah having goat’s hair put on Jacob’s hands and neck.

“I’m telling you; I’m reading this and I’m thinking as hairy as some men I know I don’t know anyone that’s more like a werewolf; I mean this is hairy! But I found something. Once in a while in Rabbinic literature you come across some things that really seem to resonate with what we know from revelation in modern day. [In other words,] legends of the Jews. And here’s one that that goodly raiment was the same covering that Adam and Eve had been given as they left the Garden and it had been handed down from generation to generation, now given to Abraham, then to Isaac and Isaac now giving it to the birthright son who will be the priesthood leader to govern in the affairs as Adam was originally called to do that. [It is sometimes called the garment of light]. And if it is what we’re seeing from the Garden it is an animal skin. Well no wonder it would feel like a goat or a lamb! And he is covered with that. Isaac, not seeing puts his hands on Jacob or this son or this son that he knows is to receive the birthright. I love Hebrews chapter 11 where it says “by faith Isaac blessed Jacob” with that birthright blessing. I think the idea that he [Isaac] is not doing this because this is the son he would like to give it [the birthright] to but he is being led by the Spirit to do it…. Isaac [still] gives Esau a wonderful blessing, he could have retracted [Jacob’s] blessing but he reiterates it.”

I like how Sis. Olson points out that Rebekah was only being “tricky” because she was fulfilling revelation. Jacob was the chosen one and was to receive the birthright. Isaac recognized this finally and Jacob’s birthright stuck. Esau was not someone who held his birthright as very dear and was unfaithful to it by selling it. Jacob was faithful. Even more, Rebekah was faithful to the revelations of God. The other specific part I enjoyed of the previous quote was the discussion of the animal skin that was either that given to Adam or made after its fashion (and with the same symbolism and power). This is a teaching Sis. Olson and Bro. Millet revisit.

“Joseph gets the birthright [from Jacob] and incidentally, the covering, the robe [the coat of many colors], which we don’t know what that means, what exactly that is describing but it seems to be the same covering or at least the same symbolic covering that has been so desired in previous generations. [Bro Millet now: ‘Two clarifications here. We’re talking here about not necessarily about the same garment being conveyed {from Adam} but we’re talking about a symbol, a message, a doctrinal message that’s being conveyed that the Lord is passing through the generations the rights of priesthood governance and supervision and oversight of a family to worthy people…. Personal righteousness actually supersedes birth order {in obtaining the birthright and priesthood blessings}’]. The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers in heaven…. A lot of people got confused with the symbolism of an animal skin and the actual power. Later in Zechariah chapter 13 verse 4 we read about evil men who wore a rough garment with the intent to deceive. Now if you think about Elijah the prophet who wore an animal skin garment and that’s very similar to what John the Baptist wore. The Savior said of John the Baptist [paraphrasing], ‘What did you expect to see? A man in royal raiment? They’re in the palaces but here is a prophet.’ In the Sermon on the Mount the Savior gave a warning that false prophets were wolves in sheep’s clothing. Some could get caught up with the symbol being the source of power rather than Christ and the Atonement truly being the source of power; thinking you could just put on an animal skin [and] you would have that power.”

This is similar to themes Hugh Nibley wrote about in his great book Temple and Cosmos: Beyond This Ignorant Present (The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol 12 : Ancient History). I really like the connection Camille Olson makes between the garments given to Adam and Eve, the hairy clothing that Jacob wore at his mother’s encouragement, the special clothing Joseph was given, the garments of Elijah and John, and the Savior’s cautions about wolves in sheep’s clothing. Throughout the scriptures, the Old Testament (and Book of Mormon) in particular, certain articles of clothing have often held special and symbolic meaning. The doctrines, rites, ordinances, and practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are a continuation of this. These garments are symbolic of priesthood power; they are symbolic of covenants; they are symbolic of the covering that Christ’s Atonement provides for us and our sins.

I enjoy all these Mormon Identity podcasts but this one had a few parts that really jumped out at me.