Messages from the Doctrine and Covenants: The Priceless Gift of the Priesthood

William W. Parmley

Messages from the Doctrine and Covenants:

When I was 17 years old, I left home to attend Harvard University. I was excited but also nervous at the prospect of living on my own for the first time. Before I left, my father put his hands on my head and gave me a priesthood blessing, assuring me that things were going to be all right. That blessing was a source of great peace and comfort to me.

That is only one of many experiences I had as a youth in which my father exercised his priesthood in my behalf. Each time he ordained me to a priesthood office, each time he pronounced a priesthood blessing upon my head, my testimony of the priesthood was increased, and my relationship with my father was strengthened.

The priesthood has been defined as the authority given to man to act for God. However, the scope and majesty of the priesthood cannot be conveyed in just this simple statement. The Prophet Joseph Smith defined priesthood as “an everlasting principle, [that has] existed with God from eternity, and will to eternity, without beginning of days or end of years.” 1 President John Taylor (1808–87) said the priesthood “is the government of God, … for it is by that power, agency, or principle that all things are governed on the earth and in the heavens, and by that power that all things are upheld and sustained. … It is the power of God delegated to intelligences in the heavens and to men on the earth.” 2

The priesthood is a wonderful gift and blessing. Do we appreciate its power and significance as we should?

The Restoration of the Priesthood

To better understand the importance of the priesthood, let’s briefly review how it was restored.

Following the death and Resurrection of the Savior, the Apostles governed the Church through its many trials and persecutions. After their deaths, the Great Apostasy occurred as the people strayed from the true Church, and the priesthood was taken from mortals on the earth.

In order for the restored Church to be organized, the priesthood of God had to be returned to the earth. On May 15, 1829, John the Baptist restored the Aaronic Priesthood, through the laying on of hands, to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery (see D&C 13). Soon thereafter, Peter, James, and John restored the Melchizedek Priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery (see D&C 27:12). With the higher priesthood restored, the Church could be organized, and all of the necessary ordinations and ordinances could be carried out.

On April 3, 1836, in the newly completed Kirtland Temple, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received a remarkable visitation from heavenly beings. First, the Lord appeared and instructed them. Subsequently, Moses appeared to deliver the keys of the gathering of Israel. Next, Elias appeared and committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham. Last, Elijah appeared to restore the sealing powers of the priesthood and thus begin the great work of turning the hearts of the children to their fathers (see D&C 110).

A Source of Power

All members of the Church today have benefited from those momentous events in the early years of the Restoration.

The priesthood is a source of great power. I remember one occasion when I was asked to participate in giving a blessing to a man who was seriously ill. He had just had major surgery and was lingering between life and death.

I offered to give a ride to the stake patriarch, who would be pronouncing the words of the blessing on this man’s head. I hurried to his home, anxious to be on our way and give the needed blessing. But when I arrived, the patriarch taught me an invaluable lesson. He invited me into his home and said, “Let’s have a prayer and find out what the Lord would have us do, and then let’s go do it.” He offered a humble prayer, full of faith, and then said, “Now I know what the Lord wants us to do.”

After we arrived at the man’s bedside, I anointed him. The patriarch then laid his hands on the man’s head and said words I had never heard uttered in quite the same way. He commanded every organ in the man’s body to quickly heal. Needless to say, the man recovered and was able to leave the hospital soon thereafter.

Of course, not every blessing turns out this way. Many times it is not the will of the Lord that an individual be healed. But this experience was a testimony to me of the power of the priesthood and of the importance of seeking the Lord’s will in exercising that priesthood.

The Priesthood in Everyday Life

Sometimes I worry that many men exercise their priesthood in a limited way. They may tend to use it only on Sunday or when fulfilling a specific priesthood assignment. Then they put the priesthood aside for the rest of the week.

In my calling as a Seventy I attend many stake priesthood leadership meetings. I often ask those in attendance, “How did you use your priesthood last week?” Usually the men will think for a minute, and then someone will say, “I blessed my wife.” That will be followed by several similar responses. Finally someone might say, “I presided at family home evening” or “I presided at family prayer this morning.”

Priesthood holders should be using their priesthood multiple times a day. It should be a natural part of their lives. They should preside over family prayer, family home evening, and family councils. They should set a good example in their family by engaging in personal prayer and scripture study, living the commandments, paying a generous fast offering and a full tithe, attending all meetings, going to the temple, and sharing the gospel with others. They should better understand when someone needs a good word or a pat on the back, for the priesthood can help them increase their sensitivity to the promptings of the Spirit.

Because the priesthood is the authority to act for God, a priesthood holder should frequently ask himself, “What would the Savior do if He were here?” The answer to that question is, He would bless people. He might not necessarily put His hands on their head, and He might not necessarily raise them from the dead. But He would be helping and serving others at all times.

Priesthood holders are frequently admonished to magnify their callings in the priesthood. As Elder Delbert L. Stapley (1896–1978) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “To magnify is to honor, to exalt and glorify, and cause to be held in greater esteem or respect. It also means to increase the importance of, to enlarge and make greater. … Can a man magnify his calling who is not willing to sacrifice and consecrate all for the building of God’s kingdom in righteousness, truth, and power in the earth?” 3

President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke about the importance of worthiness when exercising the priesthood: “Your authority comes through your ordination; your power comes through obedience and worthiness. … Power in the priesthood comes from doing your duty in ordinary things: attending meetings, accepting assignments, reading the scriptures, keeping the Word of Wisdom.” 4

The priesthood is a priceless gift that blesses the lives of both men and women. Let us not underestimate its significance. It is the very power and authority to act for God and is one of the great blessings of the Restoration.

Helps for Home Evening

  1. 1.

    Invite family members to write down a few words and phrases that describe what they think the priesthood is and what they think it is not. Have them find answers to these questions in the article: What is the priesthood and how was it restored? The priesthood is a “source of great power” to do what? How can priesthood holders magnify their callings?

  2. 2.

    Discuss what a gift is and how the priesthood is a priceless gift. Invite family members to share how the priesthood has blessed their lives. According to the article, what are some ways the priesthood can be used in everyday life?

[photo] Photograph by John Luke, posed by model

[illustration] Inset: The Restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood, by Kenneth Riley

Show References


  1.   1.

    Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 157.

  2.   2.

    “On Priesthood,” Millennial Star, Nov. 1847, 321.

  3.   3.

    In Conference Report, Apr. 1957, 76–77.

  4.   4.

    That All May Be Edified (1982), 29–30.