Lesson 1: The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood

Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B, (2000), 2–7


The purpose of this lesson is to help us understand the oath and covenant of the priesthood and how to magnify our callings.

Introduction

Elder Reed Smoot was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1900 until his death in 1941. During much of this time he was also an outstanding member of the United States Senate. Many people encouraged him to run for president of the United States. But they told him he would have to give up his religion because people at that time would not elect a Mormon for president. He said, “If I had to take my choice of being a deacon in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or being President of the United States, I would be a deacon” (quoted in Bryant S. Hinckley, The Faith of Our Pioneer Fathers [1956], 202).

  • Why do you think Elder Smoot placed such value on the priesthood?

Elder Smoot had to meet certain requirements to be a United States senator. Likewise, in order for us to receive the priesthood we must meet certain requirements. We must be interviewed by our priesthood leaders, who ask us certain questions to determine our worthiness to receive the priesthood and our willingness to accept sacred priesthood responsibilities.

  • What are some of the questions that our priesthood leaders might ask?

After Elder Smoot was elected as a senator, he took the oath of office and promised to fulfill his duties in the government. In the same way, when we receive the priesthood we promise to fulfill our duties to the Lord.

The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood

We receive the holy priesthood by an “oath and covenant.” This means that Heavenly Father gives us His oath (guarantee) that we can have the power and blessings of the priesthood if we covenant (promise) with Him to do certain things. “Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of [the] Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved” (D&C 84:40).

President Marion G. Romney explained the meaning of a covenant: “A covenant is a contract, and a contract is an agreement between two or more [people]. If I should enter into a covenant with you, I would promise you something in consideration for you promising me something. If I entered into agreement with you to pay you a certain sum of money for an automobile, and you promised to give me the automobile for that sum of money, that would be a covenant. Now, in a covenant of the priesthood, we promise the Lord, and he promises us something in return for what we do give him” (in Conference Report, Korea Area Conference 1975, 36).

The oath and covenant of the priesthood is explained in Doctrine and Covenants 84. This section clearly describes the promises we make and the promises the Lord makes when we receive the priesthood.

  • Write on the chalkboard Our Promises and Lord’s Promises. List under these headings the promises we make and those promises the Lord makes as they are discussed.

Our Promises to the Lord

In the first half of verse 33 the Lord identifies our part of the covenant: “For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling …”

  • According to this verse, what is our part of the covenant? (We promise to magnify our callings.)

To magnify our callings is to do our best in accepting and carrying out all our priesthood duties so we can enlarge the Lord’s kingdom on earth. When we receive the priesthood we also promise to be faithful and keep all the commandments.

The Lord’s Promises to Us

The Lord promises that if we keep our part of the covenant, we will be “sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of [our] bodies” (D&C 84:33). We can expect to be strengthened in body and spirit as we fulfill our callings.

We may also “become the sons of Moses and of Aaron” (D&C 84:34). The sons of Moses and Aaron administered the ordinances of salvation to the children of Israel. We have the same privilege of administering these sacred ordinances through the priesthood today.

The Lord promises that we will become “the seed of Abraham” (D&C 84:34). In other words, we may receive the blessings promised to Abraham and his seed.

God covenanted with Abraham and his seed that through them all the nations of the earth would be blessed with the gospel. It is through the power and authority exercised by faithful priesthood bearers that these blessings are given to the world.

The Lord also promises that faithful priesthood holders will “become … the elect of God” (D&C 84:34). This means that we priesthood bearers who magnify our callings and enter into all of the sacred saving ordinances of the priesthood will be given the fulness of the Father’s kingdom.

Then the Lord says, “All that my Father hath shall be given unto [them]” (D&C 84:38).

President Spencer W. Kimball explained: “Have you ever stopped to [count] the blessings, the powers that the Lord has? All power, all influence, all strength will be yours, and this is according to the oath and covenant of the holy priesthood which you bear” (in Conference Report, Buenos Aires Area Conference 1975, 51).

There is no doubt that the Lord will fulfill His promises to the faithful and obedient. The responsibility, therefore, is ours. Failure to keep our promises to the Lord will prevent Him from giving us all that He is prepared to give us.

Magnifying Our Priesthood Callings

We have promised, in covenant with our Father in Heaven, to magnify our callings.

  • In what ways can we magnify our priesthood callings?

When the Aaronic Priesthood is conferred upon us, we are ordained to an office in that priesthood: deacon, teacher, or priest. Each of these offices is a calling with certain duties and responsibilities. Offices in the Melchizedek Priesthood are elder, high priest, patriarch, Seventy, and Apostle. (See Gospel Principles chapter 14, pages 85–93, for an explanation of these callings.)

“God gives priesthood authority to worthy male members of the Church so they can act in His name for the salvation of the human family. …

“A man receives the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood when an authorized priesthood holder confers it on him and ordains him to an office in that priesthood (see Articles of Faith 1:5; D&C 42:11). No man can take this honor unto himself (see Hebrews 5:4)” (Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2: Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders [1998], 161).

President Spencer W. Kimball said:

“This priesthood is not a plaything. It isn’t something just to hold and forget about. It is about the most important thing in all the world, and we receive it with an oath and covenant. …

“… The Lord knew that we were weak humans and might be tempted, and he said that that is why he asked us to pray night and morning and all the time. That is why he gave us home evening so that we could remind ourselves frequently. That is why he gave us priesthood meetings, where we would go and mingle with our brethren and keep ourselves reminded” (in Conference Report, Korea Area Conference 1975, 40–41).

Before anyone can magnify his priesthood calling he must know what is expected of him. He must first “learn his duty, and [then] act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence” (D&C 107:99).

The following story shows that President Kimball understood his duties and magnified his calling as a deacon:

“I remember when I was a deacon. … I thought it was a great honor to be a deacon. My father was always considerate of my responsibilities and always permitted me to take the buggy and horse to gather fast offerings. My responsibility included that part of the town in which I lived, but it was quite a long walk to the homes, and a sack of flour or a bottle of fruit or vegetables or bread became quite heavy as it accumulated. So the buggy was very comfortable and functional. … It was a very great honor to do this service for my Heavenly Father; and … it is still a great honor to perform this service.

“I am a deacon. I am always proud that I am a deacon. When I see the apostles march up to the stand in a solemn assembly to bless the sacrament, and others of the General Authorities step up to the sacrament tables to get the bread and the water and humbly pass it to all the people in the assembly and then return their emptied receptacles, I am proud that I am a deacon, and a teacher, and a priest” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1975, 117; or Ensign, May 1975, 79).

  • What was President Kimball’s attitude about his priesthood calling? How can the way we magnify our callings influence others?

Receiving Help in Magnifying Our Callings

President Marion G. Romney said: “In order to magnify our callings in the priesthood, three things at least are necessary: One is that we have a motivating desire to do so. Another is that we search and ponder the words of eternal life. And a third is that we pray” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1973, 116; or Ensign, July 1973, 89; italics added).

  • What three things did President Romney say are necessary for us to magnify our callings? (List the responses on the chalkboard. Responses should include having a desire, studying the scriptures and the words of the living prophets, and praying.)

If we do these things and keep the commandments, Heavenly Father will help us magnify our callings.

Elder Orson Pratt, one of the great missionaries of the Church, believed this with all his heart. When he was called on a mission to Scotland, there were only 80 members of the Church in that country. The previous missionaries to Scotland had been forced to leave the area amid a shower of stones, rubbish, and abuse. When he arrived in early 1840, “he traveled … to Edinburgh, the capital. On the day after his arrival there, he climbed a rugged, rocky hill that rises in the middle of a natural park, commanding a magnificent view of the ancient city. Locally it was called Arthur’s Seat, but it is affectionately known by the Saints as Pratt’s Hill. There Orson Pratt pleaded with the Lord to give him two hundred souls to convert. The Lord heard and answered that prayer” (Muriel Cuthbert, “Strong Saints in Scotland,” Ensign, Oct. 1978, 36).

Elder Pratt magnified his calling, and because of this, others were blessed. By 1853, just 13 years after Elder Pratt climbed the hill and pleaded with the Lord for help, there were 3,291 members of the Church in Scotland.

Conclusion

“The blessings of the Lord are offered to the Saints and to the world through the ministrations of those who hold his holy priesthood. … Holding the priesthood is not a light or small thing. We are dealing with the Lord’s power and authority, which he has given to us by the opening of the heavens in this day so that every blessing might again be available to us” (Joseph Fielding Smith, “Blessings of the Priesthood,” Ensign, Dec. 1971, 98).

The Savior has promised by oath and covenant that when we magnify our priesthood callings, we will receive all that our Father has. The greatest gift He has for us is eternal life (see D&C 14:7), and we have the promise that it can be ours and that we can help others obtain it. We should think often about the great blessings the Lord has promised us if we are faithful. As we do so, our desire to keep our covenants will increase and lead us toward eternal life.

Challenge

Decide today that you will magnify your callings. Study the scriptures to receive inspiration; then pray earnestly for help. Keep in mind the oath and covenant of the priesthood, remembering that our Heavenly Father wants to give you all that He has. Be generous with your service to others, using your offices and callings in the priesthood to bless their lives.

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Read Doctrine and Covenants 84:1–48. Become especially familiar with verses 33 to 44.

  2. 2.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.