Doctrine and Covenants 121:34–46 is a portion of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s inspired letter from Liberty Jail. In this portion of the letter, the Prophet teaches principles about the power and authority of the priesthood. He explains why many are called but few are chosen and how priesthood holders can draw upon the powers of heaven to serve others.
In what ways do you think exercising the priesthood can be compared to turning on a lamp?
Write Priesthood holder next to the lamp in the illustration. In this lesson, light from the lamp represents blessings people can receive from God through the service of a priesthood holder.
In your study of Doctrine and Covenants 121 today, consider how a priesthood holder’s righteousness affects his ability to help other people receive the blessings of the priesthood. Although these verses are directed to priesthood holders, they contain principles that apply to all Church members.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 121:34, giving attention to the question in this verse. You may want to mark the question.
To increase your understanding of what it means for a priesthood holder to be “called” and “chosen,” read the following statement by President James E. Faust of the First Presidency to priesthood holders: “We are called when hands are laid upon our heads and we are given the priesthood, but we are not chosen until we have demonstrated to God our righteousness, our faithfulness, and our commitment” (“Called and Chosen,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2005, 55).
In Doctrine and Covenants 121:35–39, we learn why some priesthood holders are not chosen. Read Doctrine and Covenants 121:35–36, looking for a lesson every priesthood holder should learn. You may want to mark what you find.
Write Powers of heaven next to the electrical outlet in the illustration. In this analogy, electricity represents the powers of heaven.
Notice the phrase “rights of the priesthood” in verse 36. A man receives the right to exercise the priesthood when priesthood authority is conferred upon him by the laying on of hands. The right to act with this authority depends on a man’s worthiness. On the illustration, label the electrical cord Priesthood authority.
Imagine that you plug the cord of a lamp into the power source, but the lamp does not light up. You examine the lamp and find that the light switch is not in the “on” position. Next to the light switch (on the cord in the illustration), write Principles of righteousness.
Complete the following in your scripture study journal:
In this analogy, how is following the “principles of righteousness” like turning on the switch of a lamp?
Based on what you learn in Doctrine and Covenants 121:36, complete the following statement: Priesthood holders can draw upon the powers of heaven only if they …
Read Doctrine and Covenants 121:37–38, looking for what happens to a priesthood holder’s ability to draw on the powers of heaven if he does not live righteously. You may want to mark what you find. (In verse 38, the phrase “kick against the pricks” refers to an animal resisting a sharp stick used to guide it toward a desired destination. For us, this phrase refers to resisting direction from the Lord and His servants.)
Review verses 35 and 37, looking for unrighteous attitudes and actions that weaken a priesthood holder’s connection with the powers of heaven. You may want to mark your findings. Then read the following examples. Look for attitudes and actions that are mentioned in verses 35 and 37. In the blanks provided, list those attitudes and actions.
To fit in with some of his popular peers, a priesthood holder joins them in making fun of a classmate at school.
A teachers quorum president loves sports, and he refuses to participate in the planning of any quorum activity that does not involve soccer or basketball. Whenever the quorum participates in an activity or gives service, he demands that the other young men do as he says because he is the quorum president.
In connection with the warning about priesthood holders who “undertake to cover [their] sins” (D&C 121:37), consider the account of King David in 2 Samuel 11. After David committed the sin of adultery with Bathsheba and she became pregnant, he tried to cover up his sins, ultimately arranging the death of her husband, Uriah. Can you think of other situations in which people try to cover their sins?
What are the dangers of setting your heart on the things of the world and aspiring to the honors of men?
Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: Why do you think the attitudes and actions listed in Doctrine and Covenants 121:35, 37 prevent priesthood holders from drawing on the powers of heaven?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 121:39–40, looking for why some people begin to exercise unrighteous dominion (control over others).
After teaching about attitudes and actions that weaken the connection between priesthood holders and the powers of heaven, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught about attitudes and actions that strengthen that connection. Read Doctrine and Covenants 121:41–45, looking for attitudes and actions that help priesthood holders draw on the powers of heaven. Consider marking these attitudes and actions as you find them. As you read, it may be helpful to know that in verse 41, the word only means “except,” and to act with love unfeigned and without hypocrisy or guile is to love people sincerely and genuinely and to have righteous motivations.
In your scripture study journal, write about why the qualities listed in Doctrine and Covenants 121:41–45 are important for priesthood holders. Also answer the following question: Why are these qualities important for all Latter-day Saints to possess? Choose one principle of righteousness mentioned in these verses, and set a goal to live that principle better.
In verse 43, the word reproving refers to telling someone that he or she is doing something wrong, usually in a gentle or kind manner. The word betimes means “early” or “in a timely manner.” The word sharpness could refer to the need to express ourselves clearly. Why do you think it is important for a priesthood leader to reprove clearly, at the right time, and according to the guidance of the Holy Ghost? Why do you think it is important to show increased love after reproving someone? When have you benefited from such correction?
Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
Why do you think it is important for priesthood holders to be gentle and kind in the way they interact with others?
What do you think it means to “let virtue garnish [your] thoughts unceasingly” (D&C 121:45)? What are some things you can do to keep your thoughts virtuous?
How can the principles in Doctrine and Covenants 121:41–45 help all of us as we interact with each other?
Living these principles of righteousness helps us become more like Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and better able to bless the lives of others.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 121:45–46, looking for the blessings that come to priesthood holders who draw on the powers of heaven through righteous living. Consider marking what you find.
As you read these verses, it may be helpful to know that a scepter is a staff carried by a king or queen. It is a symbol of authority and power.
As you ponder the command to “let virtue garnish [your] thoughts unceasingly” (D&C 121:45), it may be helpful to know that when this revelation was given, one meaning of the word garnish was “to adorn,” which suggests making a close connection. Another meaning was “to fit with fetters”—in other words, “to restrain.” (See Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language, facsimile of the first edition [1828; repr., 1967], “garnish.”) From these definitions, we learn that we should allow virtue to accompany and control our thoughts.
In your scripture study journal, write about a priesthood holder you know who lives in a way that helps him draw on the powers of heaven. How have you been blessed through his service?
Spend some time repeating Doctrine and Covenants 121:36 aloud until you can recite it from memory. Then recite it to a family member. To help you apply the principles in verses 41–42, make a list of the attributes described in these verses. Place the list where you can read it.
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Doctrine and Covenants 121:34–46 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: