Chapter 18: The Priesthood

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997), 125–30


President Brigham Young was ordained as one of the original Twelve Apostles in this dispensation. As part of the blessing given him in his ordination, he was told that “the Holy Priesthood [was] conferred on him, that he may do wonders in the name of Jesus; that he may cast out devils, heal the sick, raise the dead, open the eyes of the blind, go forth from land to land and from sea to sea” (HC, 2:188–89). He declared that the priesthood that was conferred upon him is a “perfect system of government, of laws and ordinances,” which, “when properly understood,” empowers the righteous that they “may actually unlock the treasury of the Lord” (DBY, 130, 131).

Teachings of Brigham Young

The Lord directs His work in heaven and on earth through the priesthood.

If anybody wants to know what the Priesthood of the Son of God is, it is the law by which the worlds are, were, and will continue for ever and ever. It is that system which brings worlds into existence and peoples them, gives them their revolutions—their days, weeks, months, years, their seasons and times and by which they are rolled up as a scroll, as it were, and go into a higher state of existence (DBY, 130).

The Priesthood of the Son of God, which we have in our midst, is a perfect order and system of government, and this alone can deliver the human family from all the evils which now afflict its members, and insure them happiness and felicity hereafter (DBY, 130).

This Priesthood has been on the earth at various times. Adam had it, Seth had it, Enoch had it, Noah had it, Abraham and Lot had it, and it was handed down to the days of the Prophets, long after the days of the ancients. This High Priesthood rules, directs, governs, and controls all the Priesthoods, because it is the highest of all (DBY, 131).

When we talk of the celestial law which is revealed from heaven, that is, the Priesthood, we are talking about the principle of salvation, a perfect system of government, of laws and ordinances, by which we can be prepared to pass from one gate to another, and from one sentinel to another, until we go into the presence of our Father and God (DBY, 130).

It is not in my being called a Quaker, a Methodist or a “Mormon” that is the true cause of contention between these two great powers—Christ and Belial [the wicked]; but it is in the fact that God has established his Kingdom upon the earth and restored the holy Priesthood which gives men authority and power to administer in his name (DBY, 76).

The Gospel has brought to us the Holy Priesthood, which is again restored to the children of men. The keys of that Priesthood are here; we have them in our possession; we can unlock, and we can shut up. We can obtain salvation, and we can administer it (DBY, 130–31).

If you are satisfied, in your sensitive powers and faculties, that God has revealed the holy Priesthood, established his Kingdom upon the earth, restored the fulness of the Gospel, and set his hand to gather the House of Israel, this will answer your purpose just as well as though you went into heaven to see for yourselves (DBY, 429).

This law has not always been upon the earth; and in its absence, other laws have been given to the children of men for their improvement, for their education, for their government, and to prove what they would do when left to control themselves; and what we now call tradition has grown out of these circumstances (DBY, 130).

There is no act of a Latter-day Saint—no duty required—no time given, exclusive and independent of the Priesthood. Everything is subject to it, whether preaching, business, or any other act pertaining to the proper conduct of this life (DBY, 133).

The Lord Almighty will not suffer his Priesthood to be again driven from the earth (DBY, 131).

When the faithful Elders, holding this Priesthood, go into the spirit world they carry with them the same power and Priesthood that they had while in the mortal tabernacle (DBY, 132).

Much has been said about the power of the Latter-day Saints. Is it the people called Latter-day Saints that have this power, or is it the Priesthood? It is the Priesthood; and if they live according to that Priesthood, they can commence their work here and gain many victories, and be prepared to receive glory, immortality, and eternal life, that when they go into the spirit-world, their work will far surpass that of any other man or being that has not been blessed with the keys of the Priesthood here (DBY, 131–32).

Church leadership in 1853(click to view larger)

The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1853.

The priesthood keys “unlock the treasury of the Lord.”

The Priesthood is given to the people and the keys thereof, and, when properly understood, they may actually unlock the treasury of the Lord, and receive to their fullest satisfaction. But through our own weaknesses, through the frailty of human nature, we are not capable of doing so (DBY, 131).

Did they destroy it when they took the life of Joseph? No. “Mormonism” is here, the Priesthood is here, the keys of the Kingdom are here on the earth; and when Joseph went, they did not go. And if the wicked should succeed in taking my life, the keys of the Kingdom will remain with the Church (DBY, 134).

The ordinances of the house of God are for the salvation of the human family. We are the only ones on the earth at the present time, that we have any knowledge of, who hold the keys of salvation committed to the children of men from the heavens by the Lord Almighty; and inasmuch as there are those who hold these keys, it is important that they should be acted upon for the salvation of the human family. The building of temples, places in which the ordinances of salvation are administered, is necessary to carry out the plan of redemption, and it is a glorious subject upon which to address the Saints (DBY, 396–97).

We speak the truth and lie not, whosoever believes that Joseph Smith, Junior, was a Prophet sent of God, and was ordained by him to receive and hold the keys of the holy Priesthood, which is after the order of the Son of God, and power to build up the Kingdom of God upon the earth, to gather the House of Israel, to guide all who believe and obey to redemption, to restore that which has been lost through transgression—whosoever believes this, believing in the Lord, and obeying his commandments to the end of their lives, their names shall not be blotted out of the Lamb’s book of life, and they shall receive crowns of glory, immortality, and eternal life (DBY, 5).

Receiving and exercising priesthood power requires personal righteousness.

An individual who holds a share in the Priesthood, and continues faithful to his calling, who delights himself continually in doing the things God requires at his hands, and continues through life in the performance of every duty will secure to himself not only the privilege of receiving, but the knowledge how to receive the things of God, that he may know the mind of God continually; and he will be enabled to discern between right and wrong, between the things of God and the things that are not of God. And the Priesthood—the Spirit that is within him, will continue to increase until it becomes like a fountain of living water; until it is like the tree of life; until it is one continued source of intelligence and instruction to that individual (DBY, 132).

Men who are vessels of the holy Priesthood, who are charged with words of eternal life to the world, should strive continually in their words and actions and daily deportment to do honor to the great dignity of their calling and office as ministers and representatives of the Most High (DBY, 130).

When the holy Priesthood is upon the earth, and the fulness of the Kingdom of God has come to the people, it requires a strict obedience to every point of law and doctrine and to every ordinance which the Lord reveals (DBY, 132).

Were your faith concentrated upon the proper object, your confidence unshaken, your lives pure and holy, every one fulfilling the duties of his or her calling according to the Priesthood and capacity bestowed upon you, you would be filled with the Holy Ghost, and it would be as impossible for any man to deceive and lead you to destruction as for a feather to remain unconsumed in the midst of intense heat (DBY, 132).

Until a selfish, individual interest is banished from our minds, and we become interested in the general welfare, we shall never be able to magnify our holy Priesthood as we should (DBY, 133).

The holy priesthood brings sacred blessings to individuals and families.

This Priesthood has been restored again, and by its authority we shall be connected with our fathers, by the ordinance of sealing, until we shall form a perfect chain from Father Adam down to the closing up scene [see D&C 128:18] (DBY, 400). I plead with the Elders of Israel day by day, when I have an opportunity, to live their religion—to live so that the Holy Ghost will be their constant companion; and then they will be qualified to be judges in Israel, to preside as Bishops, presiding Elders, and High Councilors, and as men of God, to take their families and friends by the hand and lead them in the path of truth and virtue, and eventually into the Kingdom of God (DBY, 136–37).

Suggestions for Study

The Lord directs His work in heaven and on earth through the priesthood.

  • According to President Young, what is the priesthood? (See also D&C 84:17–22.)

  • How should everything we do “pertaining to the proper conduct of this life” be subject to the priesthood? How would this affect your actions at home, at church, at school, and at work?

  • What will the priesthood permit faithful elders to do in the spirit world?

  • How do we, as members of the Church, live according to the principles and order of the priesthood? (See also D&C 20:38–60.) What influence has the priesthood had on your life? How can you make the priesthood’s influence and power more effective in your life and in your family’s life?

The priesthood keys “unlock the treasury of the Lord.”

  • Why didn’t the keys of the priesthood leave the Church with the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith?

  • How do the keys of the priesthood “unlock the treasury of the Lord” and bring salvation to the human family?

  • What did President Young teach about priesthood keys? (See also D&C 107:18–20, 35; 132:7.) What do those keys authorize the Lord’s servants to do?

Receiving and exercising priesthood power requires personal righteousness.

  • How will a priesthood bearer’s personal life influence his ability to act in behalf of the Lord? Why is personal righteousness so important? (See also D&C 107:99–100; 121:41–46.)

  • How can “men who are vessels of the holy Priesthood” honor their office and calling? What blessings come to members who fulfill the duties of their callings?

  • How are selfishness and priesthood power incompatible? Why must we banish selfishness if we are to magnify the priesthood? (See also D&C 121:37.) In what ways is selfishness a problem among us today? How can we overcome selfishness?

The holy priesthood brings sacred blessings to individuals and families.

  • How has the priesthood blessed and strengthened your family? Why is priesthood power so important in forming eternal families? (See also D&C 128:18; 131:1–4; 132:19.)

  • What might priesthood bearers do to “take their families and friends by the hand and lead them in the path of truth and virtue”?