To Honor and Magnify the Priesthood

What it means to me personally.

May 15, 2016

I'd like to share what it means to me personally to honor and magnify the priesthood.

Alma taught that the Priesthood and its ordinances are given "that [we] might look forward to [the Son of God] for a remission of [our] sins". (Alma 13:1,16) This makes sense when we consider the original name of the Melchizedek priesthood, which was:

The Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God

The purpose of the priesthood and its ordinances is to bring people to the Savior. It follows that the most important work in the priesthood that we could perform is the work that will influence and lead our families in that direction. Consider that, if a rift were to suddenly divide your family, very little else would be a priority until some sort of balance can be regained. This is evidence of the family's importance and priority. Let's follow the counsel of Elder Bednar in his October 2009 talk where he reminded us that:

“...the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Liahona, Oct. 2004, 49; Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102). For these and other eternally important reasons, we should be more diligent and concerned at home.

We can each reflect on what we can do to obey that counsel.

Beyond working for the salvation of our families, we are invited to participate in helping others to progress in their journey back to our heavenly home. The opportunities come in many forms. We can simply help those around us when we see the opportunity.

We may have the privilige of being assigned as a home teacher to members of our ward. In carrying out this assignment, do your best to be a consistent presence with your companion in the lives of the families you visit. Report your efforts regularly to your quorum leaders even when you feel you have failed. In these situations remember that returning and reporting is a divinely established pattern and will be a catalyst for future success. "Home teaching is one way Heavenly Father blesses his children" (Handbook 2, 7.4) and it's a two-way street.

We may be called to serve in any number of capacities in our ward or stake. To the extent that we are able, these opportunities should be pursued with great enthusiasm and earnestness. Let us not be like Laman and Lemual, who desired to withhold their labor. Striking a balance between all of the responsibilities and opportunities that life presents can be daunting and confusing for us, mere mortals.

Mosiah 4:27

27 And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.

D&C 123:17

17 Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.

It is fitting for us to be gathered in a meeting such as this on this day, the 15th of May. Exactly 187 years ago today, John the Baptist, a resurrected Priesthood holder appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdry and conferred on them the Aaronic Priesthood. In that restorative event, the Baptist uttered these words, revealing much about the effect that honoring and magnifying the Priesthood would have:

D&C 13:1

1 Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.

(I recently noticed that the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels was, itself, a manifestation of those very keys!) Notice the prominent place of repentance and the atonement of Jesus Christ in Johns's declaration. I will summarize the importance of this idea relative to my talk by saying:

We honor the Priesthood when we, as its bearers, repent and are cleansed from sin through the atonement of Jesus Christ. We magnify the Priesthood when we preach repentance to others, inviting them to repent and be cleansed in like manner.

I came to this conclusion as I studied Alma 13 which relates some details about the ministry of Melchizedek himself, the all-time MVP of priesthood service. Alma taught:

Alma 13:18

18 ...Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace..

Alma admits two verses later that he's not giving us every detail and indeed, there must be more to the story than "he preached, they repented, and there was peace", but Alma assures us that what he said is sufficient. So what does it really mean that Melchizedek preached repentance and why was it so effective? Surely it goes beyond reminding people that they are sinners and that they really should stop it. Such a statement is a nagging one at best, hypocritical at worst. Jacob, Nephi's younger brother by several years gives a very empathetic description of his ministry that I find helpful:

Jacob 1:7,19

7 Wherefore we labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God, that they might enter into his rest...

19 And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence...

The sins of the Nephite people effectively became Jacob's sins as he labored to lead and teach them. Could we even say that he, somewhat like the Savior but in a different way, took upon him the sins of his people. I certinaly don't mean that he atoned for their sins. That wasn't possible for anyone but Jesus Christ to do. But he probably suffered with many of them through the repentance process. The four sons of Mosiah expressed this same idea in this way:

Mosiah 28:3

3 Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble.

Let us invite others to repent from a standpoint of empathy and with a genuine concern for their welfare. There's one other insight I'd like to share about Jacob's description of his role as a Priesthood leader. He said that he "magnified [his] office unto the Lord." In using the word "magnified" he reminds me of a magnifying glass, a tool which allows the viewer to focus on objects and details that would otherwise be blurry or go unnoticed. I like to visualize that Jacob was, to his people, like a magnifying glass which allowed them, as they hearkened to his words to focus on the Savior and his atonement in a way that wasn't possible without him.

As I've described the effect of a magnifying glass, I am almost certain that in your mind you imagined a magnifying glass that was clean enough to see through, not one that was dirty or smudged. Can you see a connection in this analogy to our own worthiness as priesthood holders which has a bearing on our effectiveness in leading others to Christ? Jacob provided his people with a crystal clear view of the Savior.

3 Nephi 8:1

1 And now it came to pass that according to our record, and we know our record to be true, for behold, it was a just man who did keep the record—for he truly did many miracles in the name of Jesus; and there was not any man who could do a miracle in the name of Jesus save he were cleansed every whit from his iniquity—

Returning to Alma's way of describing it from Alma Chapter 13:

Alma 13:1-2

1 And again, my brethren, I would cite your minds forward to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments unto his children; and I would that ye should remember that the Lord God ordained priests, after his holy order, which was after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people.

2 And those priests were ordained after the order of his Son, in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption.

I pray that we will remember that:

We honor the Priesthood when we, as its bearers, repent and are cleansed from sin through the atonement of Jesus Christ. We magnify the Priesthood when we preach repentance to others, inviting them to repent and be cleansed in like manner.

-Michael Whatcott