Lesson 3: Honoring the Priesthood

Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B, (2000), 19–26


The purpose of this lesson is to help us understand the sacred power of the priesthood and increase our desire to honor it.

Introduction

  • Sing “High on the Mountain Top” (Hymns, no. 5; or Gospel Principles, 338).

“Two missionaries laboring in Hong Kong had been invited to dinner at the apartment of Brother and Sister Wong. The table was set with an assortment of tin bowls and plates. Sister Wong smiled politely at the two missionaries from the corner of the room where she labored over the smoking burner. Presently she set bowls and platters of food on the table. The elders were surprised at the dinner. There were bowls of rice, but there were also platters of shrimp and other oriental delicacies, all far beyond the means of this humble refugee family. Brother Wong pronounced a blessing and the meal commenced; but Brother and Sister Wong held back, taking only token portions for themselves, but urging the food on the two elders. The elders could sense that the gesture was sincere, and while they recognized that they were eating up finer food than the Wongs could ever afford for regular meals—food that cost the Wongs probably the equivalent of a whole month’s salary—still the elders did not want to offend or hurt or refuse, where such evident sacrifice was involved.

“It was a difficult meal to eat; wanting to accept the gift so obviously given from the heart, yet realizing that hardship and hungry days—sacrifice—made the gift possible. Brother and Sister Wong and their sons merely sampled the dinner. But when it was completed, they expressed their own satisfaction and were anxious to know if the elders had had enough. As everyone stood to allow Sister Wong to clear away the dishes, one of the elders took Brother Wong by the hand and with deep emotion said: ‘Why have you honored us in this way, at such great expense to yourselves?’ With quiet gentleness that could only come from leaving his home and country and accepting the truth in a foreign land, Brother Wong said: ‘We did this for you because you hold the priesthood, and God has sent you here to teach us’” (Life and Teachings of Jesus, New Testament Volume 1 [Church Educational System manual, 1974], 134).

  • How did Brother and Sister Wong show honor to those bearing the priesthood of God? Why is it important that we honor the priesthood we hold?

Priesthood—The Greatest Power on Earth

The priesthood is the greatest power on earth. It is not only the power of God given to men on the earth to do His work, but it is the same power by which our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ perform Their work. In fact, it was through the power of the priesthood that the Savior created the earth.

It is a great privilege for us to be given this priesthood and its power.

We call the higher priesthood the Melchizedek Priesthood to avoid using the name “the Son of God” too often, but the priesthood is actually the Savior’s priesthood.

Many of us do not understand how powerful the priesthood is. At the time of Enoch, God made a promise “that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course, to put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command” (Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 14:30–31; see also John Taylor, The Mediation and Atonement [1882], 85; italics added).

Those who hold the priesthood represent Christ. Therefore, we must do what He would have us do if we are to have His power. We must obey His commandments and try, whenever we exercise the priesthood, to act how He would have us act.

Elder H. Burke Peterson explained: “I understand that there is a difference between priesthood authority and priesthood power. … All of us who hold the priesthood have the authority to act for the Lord, but the effectiveness of our authority—or if you please, the power that comes through that authority—depends on the pattern of our lives; it depends on our righteousness” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1976, 50; or Ensign, May 1976, 33).

If worthy, we have power to bless our families, receive revelation for our priesthood callings, perform miracles, and overcome Satan. The priesthood is the power by which ordinances are performed, temple work is done, and the gospel is preached. We could not receive any of these ordinances and blessings without the power of the priesthood.

  • Invite a few class members to share how they have seen the power of the priesthood in their life.

Personal experience helped one young missionary understand the power of the priesthood:

This missionary and his companion went up into one of the poorer districts of a city to give a discussion. The young couple who were investigating the Church were extremely poor. Of most worth to them was their infant daughter, who at the time was extremely ill. Her little face looked blue and black. She kept closing her eyes as if she were falling asleep. The father and mother were mourning and crying. They realized their precious little daughter was about to die. The thought came strongly to this young missionary, “Use your priesthood!” And so he asked the father to take his little daughter in his arms. The missionary and his companion then placed their hands on the tiny head of the baby and proceeded to exercise their faith and give her a blessing. The voice of the Spirit told them to bless her that she would gain her health and grow up to be a fine young woman. That blessing was fulfilled. The child was restored to good health.

The young missionary rejoiced in the Lord for the opportunity of being His servant. His experience was thrilling and yet sobering. It taught him something of God’s mighty power, to which His servants have access through the priesthood.

  • Why is our faith important in exercising priesthood power?

Honoring the Priesthood

President Harold B. Lee related the following: “I remember a story told by one of our servicemen once. He was invited to an officers club where a drinking party was going on, and the men were conducting themselves in a rather riotous manner. He noticed one apart from the rest who seemingly wasn’t interested in what was going on, and so he sidled off to this man who, like himself, was not partaking, and said, ‘You don’t seem to be very much interested in this kind of party.’ This young man straightened himself to his fullest height and said, ‘No, sir, I don’t engage in this kind of a party because, you see, I am a member of the Royal House of England.’ And our Latter-day Saint officer said, just as proudly, ‘Neither do I, because I am a member of the Royal House of God’” (Ye Are the Light of the World [1974], 22; see also 1 Peter 2:9).

Because this is the Savior’s priesthood, we should honor it as Christ would have us honor it. Elder James E. Talmage wrote about his ordination to the priesthood and the feelings he had as he tried to honor it:

“As soon as I had been ordained, a feeling came to me such as I have never been able to fully describe. It seemed scarcely possible that I, a little boy, could be so honored of God as to be called to the priesthood. … I forgot that I was but an eleven-year-old lad; I felt strong in the thought that I belonged to the Lord, and that he would assist me in whatever was required of me. …

“The effect of my ordination [as a deacon] entered into all the affairs of my boyish life. I am afraid that sometimes I forgot what I was, but I have ever been thankful that oft-times I did remember, and the recollection always served to make me better. When at play on the school grounds, and perhaps tempted to take unfair advantage in the game, when in the midst of a dispute with a playmate, I would remember, and the thought would be effective as though spoken aloud—’I am a deacon; and it is not right that a deacon should act in this way.’ On examination days, when it seemed easy for me to copy some other boy’s work, … I would say in my mind, ‘It would be more wicked for me to do that than it is for them, because I am a deacon.’

“… The sense of the great honor of my ordination made all service welcome. …

“The impression made upon my mind when I was made a deacon has never faded. The feeling that I was called to the special service of the Lord, as a bearer of the priesthood, has been a source of strength to me through all the years. When later I was ordained to higher offices in the Church, the same assurance has come to me, on every occasion,—that I was in truth endowed with power from heaven, and that the Lord demanded of me that I honor his authority. I have been ordained in turn a teacher, an elder, a high priest, and lastly an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, and with every ordination there has come to me a new and soul-thrilling feeling which I first knew when I was called to be a deacon in the service of the Lord” (Incidents from the Lives of Our Church Leaders [deacon’s instruction manual, 1914], 135–36).

  • How did Elder Talmage honor the priesthood?

President Harold B. Lee counseled: “We must say, ‘Because I am a holder of the priesthood of the living God, I am a representative of our Heavenly Father and hold the priesthood by which He can work through me; I can’t stoop to do some of the things that I might have done otherwise because of my fellowship with the priesthood of God. …’

“And that is what the holders of the priesthood must say to themselves: ‘We can’t be holders of the priesthood and be like other men. We must be different’” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1973, 115; or Ensign, Jan. 1974, 97).

Church leaders have given much instruction on how members should honor the priesthood. President Brigham Young said that “men who [hold] the holy Priesthood, who are charged with words of eternal life to the world, should strive continually in their words and actions … to do honor to the great dignity of their calling and office as ministers and representatives of the Most High” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1954], 130).

President David O. McKay said: “God bless you men of the priesthood. May you hold it with dignity and righteousness that comes from within, not from without. To hold the priesthood of God by divine authority is one of the greatest gifts that can come to a man. He is greatly blessed who feels the responsibility of representing Deity. He should feel it to such an extent that he is conscious of his actions and words under all conditions” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1967, 152–53; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1967, 109).

  • According to Presidents Young and McKay, how should priesthood holders honor the priesthood?

Elder Robert L. Simpson explained:

“To bear the priesthood of God with dignity means … that we move about with a quiet dignity, not only at the sacrament table but also at work, at school, and even as Dad walks along the roadway on his way to work; we are priesthood holders; we are different, not particularly better than anyone else, but we’re different. A representative of God dresses properly; he’s always modest. … And most certainly, our bodies, as well as our clothing, should be very, very clean. …

“… Sometimes a priesthood holder has need to improve his speech. There is no dignity in the extreme use of slang. Profanity is an insult to God. …

“… We rob God if we fail to observe the law of tithing. (See Malachi 3:8.) No priesthood holder stands with greater dignity than when his financial account with the Lord is up to date and paid in full.

“No priesthood holder stands with less dignity than when his body is not maintained and regarded as a temple of God. … Brethren, we are indeed without dignity when we violate Heavenly Father’s law of health [by using alcohol, drugs, or tobacco]” (in Conference Report, Melbourne Area Conference 1976, 38).

  • What did Elder Simpson suggest that could help us bear the priesthood with dignity? (List the responses on the chalkboard. The responses might include having humility, dressing properly, being modest, being clean, using proper speech, paying tithing, and obeying the Word of Wisdom.) What else should we do to honor the priesthood?

  • Have class members ponder what they can do to better honor the priesthood they now hold or will hold someday.

Conclusion

The priesthood is the power of God. As such, it is the greatest power on earth. We can honor the priesthood by remembering that we hold the authority of God and that the Lord requires that we honor that authority. We bear the priesthood with dignity when we obey the commandments and do all we can to be righteous.

Challenge

Ponder these questions: Is there anything I am doing that is not right for a priesthood holder to do? Am I taking my priesthood seriously enough that it influences all my actions? Pray diligently to get the inner feeling that Elder Talmage described. Try harder to bear the priesthood with dignity by improving your life.

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Read Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood, Part A, lesson 2, “The Priesthood from Adam to the Restoration.”

  2. 2.

    Prepare to have the class sing “High on the Mountain Top” as an opening song (Hymns, no. 5; or Gospel Principles, 338).

  3. 3.

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