Sunday School lessons for Gospel Doctrine Class

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Priesthood: “The Power of Godliness”

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 Why are you grateful to be a member of the Church? 

Of the things about the church you are grateful for which ones would be possible without the priesthood?

Most likely, none of the them would be possible without the priesthood.  For example lets say your grateful for eternal marriage. This would not be possible without the sealing power of the priesthood. Even something as simple as unity in the Church would not be possible without prophets, apostles, and other priesthood leaders, who help us gain a “unity of the faith” (Ephesians 4:13, 10–12)

The lesson this week discusses the priesthood and some of the covenants and blessings that are associated with it.

Restoration of the priesthood and its offices

The Aaronic Priesthood and the Melchizedek Priesthood were restored to the earth in 1829,  following this the Lord gradually revealed priesthood offices, quorums, and councils as needed to provide leadership for the growth of the Church.  Here is a timeline with references for the complete restoration: 

Aaronic Priesthood: 15 May 1829 (D&C 13) Melchizedek Priesthood: May or June 1829   (D&C 128:20)

In May of 1829, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery knelt near the Susquehanna River. They had just read about baptism in 3 Nephi and wanted to know where they could find the authority that Jesus had given His ancient disciples. In answer to their prayers, John the Baptist appeared and laid hands on their heads to confer the authority they needed to baptize each other.  But the restoration of priesthood authority was not immediately accompanied by a restoration of priesthood organization. Individual priesthood holders could perform ordinances, but how were they to work together to do the work of the Lord?  Joseph Smith received the revelation known as Section 20. This section provides instructions regarding the duties of elders, priests, teachers, and deacons. Reference is also made to apostles, presiding elders, traveling bishops, high councilors, high priests. Below is a time line of established offices of the priesthood and linked instruction to the office.

Apostles, elders, priests, teachers, and deacons were established in April 1830 (D&C 20:38–60)

The office of Bishop: 4 February 1831 (D&C 41:9–10)

The office of ward bishops began in Nauvoo in 1841 with Newel K. Whitney and George Miller each presiding over a ward. That number grew to thirteen wards by 1842.

"Their main tasks were to process tithes and to assist newcomers and aid the poor, which they accomplished with donated fast offerings. Bishops also carried a major responsibility for dealing with ward members in cases of wrongdoing. However, bishops rarely conducted Sunday worship meetings; such services were held outdoors on a citywide or stake basis or in individual homes. Nauvoo bishops collectively organized and directed the work of deacons, teachers, and priests quorums in the city." (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p119)

By the time of the exodus from Nauvoo there were three types of bishops:
  • General bishops - they became trustees for the Church.
  • Ward bishops.
  • Traveling bishops - sent beyond Nauvoo to receive Church funds.
In 1849, Salt Lake City was divided into 19 wards.
  • When the Saints first settled in Utah, the norm was for each settlement to have a president and at least one bishop. This became the nucleus for a new stake.
  • Bishop Whitney died in 1850. He was replaced by Edward Hunter. Bishop Hunter was given two counselors thus forming the first presiding bishopric.
  • On April 6, 1847, Bishop Newel K. Whitney became the first presiding bishop for the entire Church.

High priests: June 1831 (heading to D&C 52)

Twenty-three men were ordained as high priests at this conference, including Joseph Smith.  For a time, high priest quorums were organized in each ward with their own presidencies. In 1877 Brigham Young stated that stake presidents had responsibility for the high priest quorums.

First Presidency: 1832–33 (D&C 81; 90)

Jesse Gause and Sidney Rigdon were called to be counselors to Joseph Smith. Gause only served until December 1832. He was excommunicated for being unfaithful. Frederick G. Williams was ordained to replace Gause in March 1833.

After the death of Joseph Smith in 1844, the First Presidency was not reorganized until 1847. The Quorum of the Twelve presided over the Church during this period. In 1847, the First Presidency was reorganized with Brigham Young as president. After the death of Brigham Young and his successor, John Taylor, the First Presidency remained unorganized for up to three years.
  • When Wilford Woodruff became the president, he instructed Lorenzo Snow (president of the Quorum of the Twelve) that it was the will of the Lord to have the First Presidency reorganized shortly after the death of the President.
  • Lorenzo Snow followed this counsel and the First Presidency was reorganized eleven days after the death of President Woodruff. That pattern has been followed since that day.
Patriarch: 18 December 1833 (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith [1976], 38–39)

Joseph Smith, Sr., was ordained the first Patriarch to the Church.  Additional information was revealed on this important office in 1835 (see D&C 107:39-56).

After Joseph Sr.'s death, Hyrum, was ordained to this office since he was the oldest son. Hyrum served until his martyrdom in 1844.

  • From the time of Joseph Sr. until 1979 the Church patriarch was in the Smith hereditary line, except for a ten year period from 1932 to 1942, when acting patriarchs were called.
  • In 1979, the position of Church patriarch was retired due to the number of stake patriarchs available throughout the world.

  • High council: 17 February 1834 (D&C 102)

    This first high council included the First Presidency and had jurisdiction over the whole Church. Later that year a separate high council was organized in Missouri.  Following the organization in 1835 of the "traveling high council," the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, stake high councils concerned themselves only with stake matters

    **Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: 1835 (D&C 107:23–24)

    This is where it all starts to come together...

    On February 8, 1835, the Prophet invited Brigham and Joseph Young to his home in Kirtland.
    At the Prophet's request, the Young brothers sang for him.While they sang the spirit of the Lord was poured out upon them, and the Prophet related a vision he had received: "Brethren, I have seen those men who died of cholera in our camp [Zion's Camp]; and the Lord knows, if I get a mansion as bright as theirs, I ask no more." (Joseph Smith and the Restoration, p294)

     On Feb 14 1835 after a commandment from the Lord the Prophet Joseph called together all of the men who had participated in Zion's camp.  These men were to be called to the ministry and from among them twelve were to be called as apostles.  Under the hands of the prophet, the Three witnesses to the book of Mormon had been blessed and authorized to select the twelve and they were so ordained.

    . They called the Twelve in the following order
    • Lyman E. Johnson.
    • Brigham Young.
    • Heber C. Kimball.
    • Orson Hyde.
    • David W. Patten.
    • Luke S. Johnson.
    • William E. McLellin.
    • John F. Boynton.
    • Orson Pratt.
    • William Smith.
    • Thomas B. Marsh.
    • Parley P. Pratt.
    After having been called the Twelve scarcely knew what to do.  They determined that they would go out to preach the gospel; as they were about to leave on March 28 1835 they wrote a letter to Joseph stating " We therefore feel to ask of him whom we have acknowledged to be our Prophet  and seer that he inquire of God for us, and obtain a revelation if consistent that we may look upon it when we are separated that our hearts may be comforted.  Our worthiness has not inspired us to make this request but our unworthiness.  We have unitedly asked God our Heavenly Father to grant unto us, through his seer, a revelation of His mind and will concerning our duty that coming season,. even a great revelation, that will enlarge our hearts, comfort us in adversity, and brighten our hopes amidst the powers of darkness."

    The Prophet wrote in response.  "In compliance with the above request, I inquired of the Lord and recieved for answer the following:"  D&C 107 was then received and recorded.  The first 58 Verses were given March 28 and the other verses were revealed on later occasions. 

     Elder John A Widtsoe wrote of section 107:  "on that day the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints received a revelation which is one of hte most remarkable documents in the possession of man.  It stands absolutely unique; there is none like sets forth in plainness and simplicity tha organization of the quorums of the priesthood, the mutual relations of hte quorums to one another, the judicial system of the church is forshadowed and outlined and there is a wonderful picture of the early priesthood. I doubt whether any other such documents of the same small extent, the same few number of words, lies at the foundation of any other great human institution...It is so comprehensive in its brevity, so magnificent in its simplicity that we have found no occasion up to the presetn to wish that it might have been more complete." 

    Seventies: 1835   (D&C 107:25)

    Verse 25 in section 107 explains that these are the highest quorums.  This was the beginnign of the quorums in the church.  Church organizations was put together a little at a time as it was needed and desired.  This continues today.  

    "The Seventy are also called to preach the gospel, and to be especial witnesses unto the Gentiles and in all the world—thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling"

    First Quorum of the Seventy: 1835 (D&C 107:26, 93–97)

     In our day the Lord continues, as stated, to guide the priesthood and has added he calling of Area Authority Seventies and the accompanying organization of the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Quorums of the Seventy to guide the growth of the church.

    The oath and covenant of the priesthood

    In addition to revelations about priesthood offices and government, the Lord revealed principles about receiving and exercising the priesthood  He revealed the oath and covenant of the priesthood, which is found in D&C 84:33–44. These verses outline (1) the covenants a man makes with the Lord when he receives the Melchizedek Priesthood and (2) the covenants the Lord makes with faithful Melchizedek Priesthood holders.

    Elder Carlos E. Asay of the Seventy said: “Of all the holy agreements pertaining to the gospel of Jesus Christ, few, if any, would transcend in importance the oath and covenant of the priesthood. It is certainly one of the most sacred agreements, for it involves the sharing of heavenly powers and man’s upward reaching toward eternal goals” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1985, 56; or Ensign, Nov. 1985, 43).


    Elder Bruce R McConkie teaches us that "The oath is the solemn attestation of Deity, his sworn promise, that those who keep their part of the covenant shall come forth and inherit all things according to the promise." (Mormon Doctrine, p480)

    President Joseph Fielding Smith teaches:  "The covenant on man's part is that he will magnify his calling in the priesthood, and that he will live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God, and that he will keep the commandments.

    "The covenant on the Lord's part is that if man does as he promises, then all that the Father hath shall be given unto him; and this is such a solemn and important promise that the Lord swears with an oath that it shall come to pass." (Conference Report, Apr 1970)

    • Man Promises:  D&C 84:33, 36, 39–44
      • To obtain the Priesthood
      • Magnify callings
      • Receive the Lord's servants
      • Beware concerning himself
      • Give diligent heed to the words of Eternal life
      • Live by every word of God 
    What does it mean to magnify a calling?  D&C 107:99; Jacob 1:17–19

    President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “We magnify our priesthood and enlarge our calling when we serve with diligence and enthusiasm in those responsibilities to which we are called by proper authority. … We magnify our calling, we enlarge the potential of our priesthood when we reach out to those in distress and give strength to those who falter. … We magnify our calling when we walk with honesty and integrity” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 63; or Ensign, May 1989, 48–49).

    What does it mean to receive the Lord’s servants? (D&C 84:36).

    To accept the leaders called of God and heed there teachings. As we accept the message and ordinances of the gospel from the Lord’s servants, we also receive the Lord.

    The Lord Promises:  D&C 84:33–34, 38, 42

    Sanctify us by the Spirit (verse 33).
    Renew our bodies (verse 33).
    Give us the blessings promised to Abraham and his posterity (verse 34).
    Make us His elect, or chosen (verse 34).
    Give us all that the Father has (verse 38).
    Give His angels charge over us (verse 42).

    President Joseph Fielding Smith:  "Your able service does not go unnoticed by that God whom you serve and in whose work you are engaged. He has blessed you and he will continue to bless you with the good things of the earth, and he will hold in reserve for you the riches of eternity."


    President Marion G. Romney taught: "Now, I do not think this means that all who fail to magnify their callings in the priesthood will have committed the unpardonable sin, but I do think that priesthood bearers who have entered into the covenants that we enter into--in the waters of baptism, in connection with the law of tithing, the Word of Wisdom, and the many other covenants we make--and then refuse to live up to these covenants will stand in jeopardy of losing the promise of eternal life." (Confernce Report, Apr 1972)

    The Lord reveals why some priesthood holders are not able to exercise the priesthood with power  D&C 121:34–40 What are some of those things?  
    "Setting their hearts on the things of the world, aspiring to the honors of men, attempting to cover sins, gratifying pride or vain ambition, and exercising unrighteous dominion"

    What about Women and the Priesthood? 
    “the blessings of the priesthood are not confined to men alone. These blessings are also poured out … upon all the faithful women of the Church. … The Lord offers to his daughters every spiritual gift and blessing that can be obtained by his sons, for neither is the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man in the Lord” (Joseph Fielding Smith, in Conference Report, Apr. 1970, 59; ).

     The organization of the Relief Society on March 17, 1842, marked a significant step for the church.  The Prophet told  the sisters he would organize the women “in the Order of the Priesthood after the pattern of the Church.  The women were then organized according to the law of Heaven.  The Prophet Joseph declared to the Society, “I now turn the key to you in the name of God and this Society shall rejoice and knowledge and intelligence shall flow down from this time. "  Joseph  also spoke of ordaining women and said that Relief Society officers would preside over the Society.  By so doing Joseph Smith delegated priesthood authority to women in the Relief Society.

    The second aspect of Joseph Smith’s teachings to the Relief Society that may be unfamiliar today is his endorsement of women’s participation in giving blessings of healing. “Respecting the female laying on hands,” the Nauvoo Relief Society minutes record, Joseph said that “it is no sin for any body to do it that has faith,” and admonished, “if the sisters should have faith to heal the sick, let all hold their tongues, and let every thing roll on.” Some women had performed such blessings since the early days of the Church. At that time, Latter-day Saints understood the gift of healing primarily in terms of the New Testament’s teaching that it was one of the gifts of the Spirit available to believers through faith. Joseph Smith taught that the gift of healing was a sign that would follow “all that believe whether male or female.”

    During the 19th century, women frequently blessed the sick by the prayer of faith, and many women received priesthood blessings promising that they would have the gift of healing. “I have seen many demonstrations of the power and blessing of God through the administration of the sisters,” testified Elizabeth Ann Smith Whitney, who was, by her own account, blessed by Joseph Smith to exercise this gift. In reference to these healing blessings, Relief Society general president Eliza R. Snow explained in 1883, “Women can administer in the name of JESUS, but not by virtue of the Priesthood.”

    Women’s participation in healing blessings gradually declined in the early 20th century as Church leaders taught that it was preferable to follow the New Testament directive to “call for the elders.”
    By 1926, Church President Heber J. Grant affirmed that the First Presidency “do not encourage calling in the sisters to administer to the sick, as the scriptures tell us to call in the Elders, who hold the priesthood of God and have the power and authority to administer to the sick in the name of Jesus Christ.”

    The relationship between Latter-day Saint women and priesthood has remained remarkably constant since Joseph Smith’s day. As in the earliest days of the Church, men are ordained to priesthood offices, while both women and men are invited to experience the power and blessings of the priesthood in their lives. Men and women continue to officiate in sacred ordinances in temples much as they did in Joseph Smith’s day.  Joseph taught that men and women can obtain the highest degree of celestial glory only by entering together into an order of the priesthood through the temple sealing ordinance. That understanding remains with Latter-day Saints today.

    Principles for using the priesthood   D&C 121:34–46  D&C 121:40-46

    The Lord reveals principles for using the priesthood. He also reveals promises to those who use it righteously. these principles apply generally to all human relationships and are important for those who don't hold the priesthood as well.  In March 1839, Joseph Smith remained incarcerated in jail at Liberty, Missouri. In his frustration, the Prophet called out to the Lord and asked how long the Saints would continue to suffer. The Lord spoke words of comfort and peace. As part of this same revelation, the Lord instructed Joseph on principles for using the priesthood. 

    v34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?

    v35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—

    v36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

    v37 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.

    v38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.

    v39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

    v40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.

    1.  Principles that will help priesthood holders exercise the priesthood with power

    v41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

    v42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—

    2.  Principles for giving correction or discipline are revealed

    v43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
    v44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.

    3.  Keep evil or unvirtuous thoughts out of our minds,  keep evil or unvirtuous thoughts out of our minds
    v45 Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.

    4.  Keep The Holy Ghost Close
    v46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.

    5.  Live in Righetousness

    Priesthood endows men with the power of God. That priesthood power can only function if a man lives his life in righteousness  

    Gordon B. Hinckley said: “It has been my privilege on various occasions to converse with Presidents of the United States and important men in other governments. At the close of each such occasion I have reflected on the rewarding experience of standing with confidence in the presence of an acknowledged leader. And then I have thought, what a wonderful thing, what a marvelous thing it would be to stand with confidence—unafraid and unashamed and unembarrassed—in the presence of God. This is the promise held out to every virtuous man and woman” ( Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 66).

    The priesthood may be used only in righteousness and a spirit of love as a means of serving and blessing others. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve said:  “Those who hold the priesthood must never forget that they have no right to wield priesthood authority like a club over the heads of others in the family or in Church callings. … Any man who … seeks to use the priesthood in any degree of unrighteousness in the Church or in the home simply does not understand the nature of his authority. Priesthood is for service, not servitude; compassion, not compulsion; caring, not control” ( Ensign, Nov. 1993, 78)D&C 121:41-46

    Elder Rudger Clawson teaches us:  "How extremely sacred is the Holy Priesthood, which is nothing more nor less than divine authority committed unto man. . . . 'Whoso, (meaning any man and every man), 'is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling,' will enter into the possession of all things, for he will become a joint heir with Jesus Christ, the Lord, in such possession. Now, I ask you, what more could a faithful high priest receive than the promise of this blessing? Could he receive any more if he were an apostle? Could he receive any more if he were a counselor in the Presidency of the Church? Could he receive any more if he were the President of the Church, than a promise which gives to him a joint heirship in all things? No, he could not. And so it is with the faithful seventy, and so with the faithful elder in the Church.

        "There is no need for envy. There is no need for overweening ambition. There is no need to reach out and try to grasp that to which we are not entitled. The essential thing is that every man should see to it, that he obtains the High Priesthood. If he advances no further than the office of an elder but is faithful in the magnifying of his calling, he will enter into his glory and exaltation and will receive the fulness of which the record speaks." (Confernce report, Oct 1917)

    In conclusion, the Priesthood is an amazing gift, to all mankind.  I can hardly imagine how we could live life and complete our missions here on earth without it, physically, mentally, spiritually, or temporally. If we live righteously, and do all we can do to keep our covenant, the blessings we receive are beyond comprehension. 



    Doctrine and Covenants 84:33–44; 121:34–46
    Studies in Scripture Vol 1 Doctrine and Covenants Robert L Millet
    Conference Reports 1917, 1970, 1972
    Mormon Doctrine Bruce R McConkie
    Joseph Smith and the Restoration
    Encyclopedia of Mormonisem
    Joseph Smith Teachings of Priesthood, Temple and Women Church History  Priesthood, Temple and Women
    Restoring Ancient Order, Revelations in Context  Restoring Ancient Order
    Within the walls of Liberty Jail Revelations in Context  Within the Walls of Liberty Jail
    The Joseph Smith Papers Joseph Smith Papers Revelation 22-23
    Our Heritage, pages 26–27 Our Heritage
    Gospel Doctrine Class

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