Lesson 25: Priesthood: “The Power of Godliness”

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, (1999), 140–44


Purpose

To help class members gain a greater understanding of the priesthood and seek the blessings that come from using it righteously.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Prayerfully study the following scriptures and other materials:

    1. a.

      Doctrine and Covenants 84:33–44; 121:34–46.

    2. b.

      Doctrine and Covenants 107 (supplemental scriptures).

    3. c.

      Our Heritage, pages 26–27.

  2. 2.

    Review the material for this lesson in the Class Member Study Guide (35686). Plan ways to refer to the material during the lesson.

Suggestions for Lesson Development

Attention Activity

As appropriate, use the following activity or one of your own to begin the lesson.

Invite class members to share reasons why they are grateful to be members of the Church. Write their responses on the chalkboard.

  • Which of these things would be possible without the priesthood?

Most likely, none of the things class members have listed would be possible without the priesthood. For example, if class members express gratitude for eternal marriage, point out that 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; see also verses Ephesians 4:10–12).

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

Discussion and Application

Prayerfully select the lesson material that will best meet class members’ needs. Encourage class members to share experiences that relate to the scriptural principles.

1. Order in the restoration of the priesthood and its offices

The Aaronic Priesthood and the Melchizedek Priesthood were restored to the earth in 1829 (see lesson 8). Following the organization of the Church in 1830, the Lord gradually revealed priesthood offices, quorums, and councils as needed to provide leadership for the growth of the Church. The following time line summarizes this restoration. Write it on the chalkboard and review it with class members. The scripture references may be omitted from the chalkboard.

Aaronic Priesthood: 15 May 1829 (D&C 13)

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

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

Bishop: 4 February 1831 (D&C 41:9–10)

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

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

Patriarch: 18 December 1833 (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith [1976], 38–39)

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

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

Seventies: 1835 (D&C 107:25)

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

Explain that in our day the Lord continues to give revelations about the organization and responsibilities of the priesthood to guide the growth of the Church. One example of this is the calling of Area Authority Seventies and the accompanying organization of the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Quorums of the Seventy in 1997 (see lesson 42, pages 247–48).

2. The oath and covenant of the priesthood

Write Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood on the chalkboard. Explain that in addition to revelations about priesthood offices and government, the Lord revealed principles about receiving and exercising the priesthood. For example, 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).

As you discuss the oath and covenant of the priesthood, emphasize that “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; or Improvement Era, June 1970, 66; see also Alma 32:23).

  • Write Priesthood holders covenant to on the chalkboard. What do priesthood holders promise as part of the oath and covenant of the priesthood? (See D&C 84:33, 36, 39–44. Summarize class members’ responses on the chalkboard.)

    Priesthood holders covenant to:

    1. a.

      Be faithful in obtaining the Aaronic Priesthood and the Melchizedek Priesthood (verse 33).

    2. b.

      Magnify their callings (verse 33).

    3. c.

      Receive the Lord’s servants (verse 36).

    4. d.

      Give diligent heed to the words of eternal life (verses 43–44).

  • What does it mean to magnify a calling? (See 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).

  • How have you been blessed by someone who magnified his or her calling?

Explain that as we magnify our callings, it is important that we find the correct balance so we do not neglect our families. Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve said:

“Sometimes, unintentionally, even certain extracurricular Church activities, insensitively administered, can hamper family life. Instructively, after the resurrected Jesus taught the Nephites, He said, ‘Go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said,’ and pray and prepare ‘for the morrow’ (3 Nephi 17:3). Jesus did not say go to your civic clubs, town meetings, or even stake centers!” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1994, 120; or Ensign, May 1994, 89).

  • What does it mean to receive the Lord’s servants? (D&C 84:36). Explain that as we accept the message and ordinances of the gospel from the Lord’s servants, we also receive the Lord.

  • Write The Lord covenants to on the chalkboard. What blessings does the Lord promise as part of the oath and covenant of the priesthood? (See D&C 84:33–34, 38, 42. Summarize class members’ responses on the chalkboard.)

    The Lord covenants to:

    1. a.

      Sanctify us by the Spirit (verse 33).

    2. b.

      Renew our bodies (verse 33).

    3. c.

      Give us the blessings promised to Abraham and his posterity (verse 34).

    4. d.

      Make us His elect, or chosen (verse 34).

    5. e.

      Give us all that the Father has (verse 38).

    6. f.

      Give His angels charge over us (verse 42).

  • The Lord promises that if we are faithful, we will become “the seed of Abraham … and the elect of God” (D&C 84:33–34). What are the blessings and responsibilities of the seed of Abraham? (See Abraham 2:9–11.) Abraham 2:11 indicates that “all the families of the earth [will] be blessed” through the priesthood. How can this be accomplished?

  • The crowning promise in the oath and covenant of the priesthood is that we can receive “all that [the] Father hath” (D&C 84:38). How can knowledge of this promise help us in times of adversity? How can it help us in times of plenty?

3. Principles for using the priesthood

Teach and discuss D&C 121:34–46. Explain that in these verses the Lord reveals principles for using the priesthood. He also reveals promises to those who use it righteously. In addition to their application to priesthood holders, these principles apply generally to all human relationships. Therefore, they are also important for those who do not hold the priesthood.

  • In D&C 121:34–40, the Lord reveals why some priesthood holders are not able to exercise the priesthood with power. According to these verses, what prevents them from doing this? (Answers could include 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 are some examples of caring too much for “the things of this world”? (D&C 121:35). How can seeking what the world offers keep us from receiving what the Lord offers? How can a person overcome this problem?

  • What are some ways that people “exercise unrighteous dominion”? (D&C 121:39; see also verse D&C 121:37). What are the consequences of doing this? How can a person overcome a tendency to exercise unrighteous dominion?

Emphasize that 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” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 105; or Ensign, Nov. 1993, 78).

  • In D&C 121:41–42, the Lord reveals principles that will help priesthood holders exercise the priesthood with power. What are these principles? How can we apply these principles as we interact with family members, neighbors, associates at work, and others?

    You may want to discuss how to apply these principles in specific situations, such as when helping a child make a decision or complete a task, when making decisions in Church councils, when someone has failed to fulfill an assignment, or when there are serious differences of opinion.

  • What principles for giving correction or discipline are revealed in D&C 121:43–44? (Explain that betimes means “promptly” or “soon.” In the context of this passage, with sharpness means “clearly” or “precisely,” not “severely” or “roughly.”) What experiences in your life have confirmed the importance of these principles? How do the consequences of disciplining with love differ from the consequences of disciplining with anger?

  • What does it mean to “let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly”? (D&C 121:45). How can we keep evil or unvirtuous thoughts out of our minds? (See D&C 27:15–18.) How can we more actively fill our minds with virtuous thoughts?

  • What does the Lord promise if we are “full of charity” and “let virtue garnish [our] thoughts unceasingly”? (See D&C 121:45–46.) What does it mean to be confident in the presence of God? (See the following quotation.) What blessings do we receive when the Holy Ghost is our constant companion?

    While serving in the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder 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” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 66; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1970, 73).

Conclusion

Bear testimony of the importance of the priesthood. Express your gratitude for the oath and covenant of the priesthood and for the blessings the Lord promises if we are faithful. Encourage class members to seek more fully the blessings of the priesthood.

Additional Teaching Ideas

You may want to use one or both of the following ideas to supplement the suggested lesson outline.

1. Presiding quorums in the Church

An important part of the restoration of priesthood authority was the organization of the presiding quorums of the Church. Counselors had been called to assist the Prophet Joseph as early as March 1832 (D&C 81:1), and the First Presidency was formally organized one year later (see the heading to D&C 90). In February 1835, twelve men were called and ordained to be Apostles, and the Quorum of the Twelve was formed. Soon afterward, the Prophet organized the First Quorum of the Seventy.

2. The importance of priesthood service

Invite a priesthood holder in the ward to share a priesthood experience with the class, such as administering the sacrament to a homebound person, assisting with a priesthood blessing, or serving a mission. Have this priesthood holder discuss the feelings he had as he provided this service. Have him bear his testimony of the priesthood and the importance of using the priesthood to serve others.