Chapter 15: The Holy Priesthood

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley, 2016


“I love the priesthood of this Church. It is a vital, living thing. It is the very heart and strength of this work. It is the power and authority by which God, our Eternal Father, accomplishes His work in the earth.”

From the Life of Gordon B. Hinckley

In 1980, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley and his wife, Marjorie, participated in a three-week tour in Asia, speaking at area conferences and participating in the dedication of the Tokyo Japan Temple. Before returning home, they traveled to the Japan Sendai Mission, where Elder Hinckley presided over the creation of the first stake in the mission. Just before a meeting with the new stake presidency, Elder Hinckley approached the mission president, Kiyoshi Sakai. “He asked a surprised President Sakai if he had any consecrated oil and then added, ‘I am so exhausted; would you give me a blessing?’ President Sakai remembered, ‘I was so afraid and felt too weak to bless an Apostle of the Lord. I told him I could not give the blessing in English. Elder Hinckley said Japanese would be fine. So Elder Hitoshi Kashikura, the Regional Representative, and I proceeded.’ After the blessing had been pronounced, Elder Hinckley said simply, ‘Thank you, thank you. Now I can go home tomorrow.’

“The next morning Elder Hinckley looked strong and healthy, and when President Sakai asked how he felt he responded, ‘Dai Jobu, more than fine. I am well.’ A few days later President Sakai received a letter of thanks from Elder Hinckley, who wrote: ‘… I so much appreciate the blessing which you gave me. I immediately began to feel better after that. My recovery was quick and total. Sister Hinckley and I are deeply grateful for the privilege of staying in your mission home.’”1

President Hinckley frequently testified of the blessings of the priesthood, from miraculous but temporary blessings of physical healing to eternal, binding blessings through temple ordinances. He declared, “I believe that in His priesthood rests divine authority—the power to bless, the power to heal, the power to govern in the earthly affairs of God, the power to bind in the heavens that which is bound upon the earth.”2

woman receiving blessing

“With [the priesthood], nothing is impossible in carrying forward the work of the kingdom of God.”

Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley

1

God has restored the priesthood and the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

Priesthood power and authority [were] given to men anciently. The lesser authority was given to the sons of Aaron to administer in things temporal as well as in some sacred ecclesiastical ordinances. The higher priesthood was given by the Lord Himself to His Apostles, in accordance with His declaration to Peter: “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19).

The full restoration of the priesthood involved the coming of John the Baptist … and of Peter, James, and John. … It involved Moses, Elias, and Elijah, each bringing priesthood keys to complete the work of restoring all of the acts and ordinances of previous dispensations in this, the great, final dispensation of the fulness of times.

The priesthood is here. … We know, for we have seen, the power of this priesthood. We have seen the sick healed, the lame made to walk, and the coming of light and knowledge and understanding to those who have been in darkness.3

The Prophet Joseph Smith described [the priesthood] on one occasion in these words: “The Priesthood is an everlasting principle, and existed with God from eternity, and will [exist] to eternity, without beginning of days or end of years.” (History of the Church, 3:386.)

It is veritably the power of the Almighty given to man to act in His name and in His stead. It is a delegation of divine authority, different from all other powers and authorities on the face of the earth. Small wonder that it was restored to man by resurrected beings who held it anciently, that there might be no question concerning its authority and validity. Without it there could be a church in name only, lacking authority to administer in the things of God. With it, nothing is impossible in carrying forward the work of the kingdom of God. It is divine in its nature. It is both temporal and eternal in its authority. It is the only power on the earth that reaches beyond the veil of death.4

2

The priesthood is the power and authority by which God accomplishes His work.

I love the priesthood of this Church. It is a vital, living thing. It is the very heart and strength of this work. It is the power and authority by which God, our Eternal Father, accomplishes His work in the earth.5

The holy priesthood carries with it the authority to govern in the affairs of the kingdom of God on the earth. Under the revelations of the Lord, the Church is to be presided over by three presiding high priests. They are to be assisted by a council of Twelve Apostles, who in turn are to be assisted by … the Seventy. A Presiding Bishopric of three are responsible for temporal affairs under the direction of the Presidency. All of these are priesthood officers. That power divinely given is the authority by which they govern. It is so in the stakes and the wards with presidencies and bishoprics. It is so in the quorums. The auxiliary officers carry forth their work under direction and delegation from the priesthood. Without the priesthood there might be the form of a church, but not the true substance. This is the church of Jesus Christ, and it is governed by that authority which is “after the Order of the Son of God.” (D&C 107:3.)6

3

The blessings of the priesthood are to be enjoyed by all.

[The priesthood] … is a part of the plan of God our Eternal Father to bless the lives of His sons and daughters of all generations.7

The holy priesthood includes the power to bless. For those of the Aaronic Priesthood, it carries with it the authority to administer to the congregation the emblems of the flesh and blood of the Lord, who gave His life as a sacrifice for all. The sacrament and the partaking of these emblems is the very heart of our sabbath worship. It includes a renewal of covenants with God. It carries with it a promise of His Holy Spirit to be with us. It is a blessing without peer to be enjoyed by all and made possible by the authority given to worthy young men. …

The Melchizedek Priesthood carries with it the authority to bestow the Holy Ghost. How great a blessing it is to have the ministering influence of a member of the Godhead, having received that gift under the hands of those who acted with divine authority. If we continue to walk in virtue, we may enjoy the fulfillment of the promise made by the Lord when He said: “The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.” (D&C 121:46.)

The priesthood includes the power to bless the sick. Is there anyone within my hearing who has not exercised or felt that divine power? Can any of us have any doubt concerning its efficacy? We could tell of miracles, sacred and wonderful, that we have witnessed within our own experience. …

This holy Melchizedek Priesthood carries with it the power to bless with prophecy, to comfort, to sustain, to direct. We have patriarchs in our midst who, under the authority that they hold, declare lineage and pronounce blessings for our guidance. These blessings may become as an anchor to which we may hold to keep us steady through the storms of life.

In its ultimate expression the holy priesthood carries with it the authority to seal on the earth and have that sealing effective in the heavens. It is unique and wonderful. It is the authority exercised in the temples of God. It concerns both the living and the dead. It is of the very essence of eternity. It is divine power bestowed by the Almighty as a part of His great plan for the immortality and eternal life of man.

How precious is the gift of God that has come to us.8

4

Sons of God who hold His divine authority must be true to the very best that is in them.

Every worthy man, regardless of nationality, ethnic background, or any other factor, is eligible to receive the priesthood. His obedience to the commandments of God becomes the determining factor. Its bestowal is based only on worthiness before the Lord. …

Such is the wonder of this priesthood. Wealth is not a factor. Education is not a factor. The honors of men are not a factor. The controlling factor is acceptability unto the Lord.9

The time has come for all of us who have been ordained to either the Aaronic or the Melchizedek Priesthood, and to any of the offices therein, to reflect upon our lives, to assess our shortcomings, and to repent of those matters of conduct which are at variance with the high and holy commission we have received. …

No man, young or old, … who has been … ordained, can regard lightly that which he holds. He is in partnership with God and has resting upon him a solid and sacred obligation so to live as one worthy to speak and act in the name of God as his qualified representative.10

Even though those in authority lay hands upon our heads and we are ordained, we may through our behavior nullify and forfeit any right to exercise this divine authority.

… “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

“By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile” (D&C 121:41–42).

Now, my brethren, those are the parameters within which this priesthood must find expression. It is not as a cloak that we put on and take off at will. It is, when exercised in righteousness, as the very tissue of our bodies, a part of us at all times and in all circumstances.11

We must be true to the very best that is in us. We are sons of God honored to hold His divine authority. But we live in a world of evil. There is a constant power, pulling us down, inviting us to partake of those things which are totally inconsistent with the divine priesthood which we hold. …

To you men I issue a challenge. Run from the tide of sleaze that would overcome you. Flee the evils of the world. Be loyal to your better self. Be loyal to the best that is in you. Be faithful and true to the covenants that are associated with the priesthood of God.12

To every officer, to every teacher in this Church who acts in a priesthood office, there comes the sacred responsibility of magnifying that priesthood calling. Each of us is responsible for the welfare and the growth and development of others. We do not live only unto ourselves. If we are to magnify our callings, we cannot live only unto ourselves.13

Many men seem to think that because they have been ordained, the priesthood is theirs in perpetuity to exercise as they choose. They feel they can break a covenant and a commandment here and there, and sin in this way or that, and yet still have within themselves the power of the priesthood and that God will ratify that which they speak in His holy name and in the name of the Redeemer. This becomes mockery, and I believe that in such an exercise, they take the name of God in vain. They profane the name of His Beloved Son. They desecrate the sacred gift which came through ordination, and the authority which they have lost because of transgression. …

… I lift a warning voice to all, boys and men, to shun sin. Transgression is incompatible with divine authority. Avoid pornography as you would avoid the plague. Avoid sexual sin of any degree. Shun dishonesty and deceit. I plead with you to rein in any element of pride or vain ambition. I ask you to look into yourselves to see that there is no attitude of dominion or compulsion over your wives or your children. …

… I am satisfied that our Father in Heaven is not pleased with any man or boy who accepts ordination and then indulges in evil. In the very process of accepting ordination he enters into an oath and covenant between himself and his God.14

No man, be he youth or elder, is living up to the standards of the priesthood who demeans or degrades womanhood, who fails to accord that measure of respect to the daughters of God which our Father in heaven would have them accorded.15

Let us be good husbands and fathers. Any man who is a tyrant in his own home is unworthy of the priesthood. He cannot be a fit instrument in the hands of the Lord when he does not show respect and kindness and love toward the companion of his choice. Likewise, any man who is a bad example for his children, who cannot control his temper, or who is involved in dishonest or immoral practices will find the power of his priesthood nullified.16

The wife you choose will be your equal. … She is not your servant, your chattel, nor anything of the kind. How tragic and utterly disgusting a phenomenon is wife abuse. Any man in this Church who abuses his wife, who demeans her, who insults her, who exercises unrighteous dominion over her is unworthy to hold the priesthood. Though he may have been ordained, the heavens will withdraw, the Spirit of the Lord will be grieved, and it will be amen to the authority of the priesthood of that man. Any man who engages in this practice is unworthy to hold a temple recommend. …

… If there be any … who are guilty of such behavior, I call upon you to repent. Get on your knees and ask the Lord to forgive you. Pray to Him for the power to control your tongue and your heavy hand. Ask for the forgiveness of your wife and your children. …

I am confident that when we stand before the bar of God, there will be little mention of how much wealth we accumulated in life or of any honors which we may have achieved. But there will be searching questions concerning our domestic relations. And I am convinced that only those who have walked through life with love and respect and appreciation for their companions and children will receive from our eternal judge the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: … enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matt. 25:21).17

5

A priesthood quorum can be an anchor of strength for its members.

I am confident that the Lord intended that a priesthood quorum should be far more than a class in theology on Sunday mornings. Of course, the building of spirituality and the strengthening of testimony through effective gospel teaching is an important priesthood responsibility. But this is only a segment of the quorum function. Each quorum must be a working brotherhood for every member if its purpose is to be realized. …

… The priesthood quorum is the Lord’s organization for men of the Church, just as the Relief Society is the Lord’s organization for women of the Church. Each has among its responsibilities, basic to its reason for being, the assisting of those in need.

When the Relief Society was organized the Prophet Joseph said of the women of the Society: “They will fly to the relief of the stranger; they will pour in the wine and oil to the wounded heart of the distressed; they will dry up the tears of the orphan and make the widow’s heart to rejoice” [Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 452]. I would hope that the same might be said of the men of the priesthood.

It will be a marvelous day … when our priesthood quorums become an anchor of strength to every man belonging thereto, when each such man may appropriately be able to say, “I am a member of a priesthood quorum of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I stand ready to assist my brethren in all of their needs, as I am confident they stand ready to assist me in mine. Working together, we shall grow spiritually as covenant sons of God. Working together, we can stand, without embarrassment and without fear, against every wind of adversity that might blow, be it economic, social, or spiritual.”18

ward council meeting

Church leaders and members—both men and women—work together to “carry forth their work under direction and delegation from the priesthood.”

6

In homes and in the Church, men and women work together to move the Lord’s kingdom forward.

The men hold the priesthood, yes. But my wife is my companion. In this Church the man neither walks ahead of his wife nor behind his wife but at her side. They are co-equals in this life in a great enterprise.19

There is strength and great capacity in the women of this Church. There is leadership and direction, a certain spirit of independence, and yet great satisfaction in being a part of this, the Lord’s kingdom, and of working hand in hand with [holders of] the priesthood to move it forward.20

I thank my Eternal Father for the restoration of the holy priesthood, that “every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world” (D&C 1:20). I have seen the beauty and wonder of that priesthood in the governance of this remarkable church. I have felt its power flow through me to the blessing and the healing of the sick. I have seen the ennoblement it has given to humble men who have been called to great and serious responsibility. I have seen it as they have spoken with power and authority from on high as if the voice of God were speaking through them.

I thank the Lord for the testimony he has given me of the wholeness of the gospel, of its breadth and reach and depth. It is designed to bless the sons and daughters of all generations of time—both the living and the dead.21

Suggestions for Study and Teaching

Questions

  • Review President Hinckley’s teachings in section 1 about the restoration of the priesthood. What experiences have helped you gain a testimony of these truths?

  • President Hinckley taught, “The holy priesthood carries with it the authority to govern in the affairs of the kingdom of God on the earth” (section 2). How does this truth apply in stakes and wards? in quorums? in Relief Society? How does priesthood authority strengthen your service in God’s kingdom?

  • In section 3, review the blessings we all can receive through the priesthood. In what ways have you experienced the power and blessings of the priesthood?

  • What can we learn from President Hinckley’s teachings about the difference between priesthood authority and priesthood power? (See section 4.) What do you think it means for a priesthood holder to “be true to the very best that is in [him]”? Why must priesthood holders “not live only unto [them]selves”?

  • In section 5, what impresses you about President Hinckley’s descriptions of priesthood quorums and Relief Society? What can we do in our ward or branch to follow his counsel?

  • Why do men and women need to work together as “co-equals” to accomplish the Lord’s work? (See section 6.)

Teaching Help

“Ask questions that require learners to find answers in the scriptures and the teachings of latter-day prophets” (Teaching, No Greater Call [1999], 62).

Show References

    Notes

  1.   1.

    Sheri L. Dew, Go Forward with Faith: The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley (1996), 377.

  2.   2.

    “The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” Ensign, Mar. 1998, 5.

  3.   3.

    “Four Cornerstones of Faith,” Ensign, Feb. 2004, 6–7.

  4.   4.

    “Priesthood Restoration,” Ensign, Oct. 1988, 71.

  5.   5.

    “Why We Do Some of the Things We Do,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 54.

  6.   6.

    “Priesthood Restoration,” 72.

  7.   7.

    Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (1997), 475.

  8.   8.

    “Priesthood Restoration,” 72.

  9.   9.

    “The Stake President,” Ensign, May 2000, 49.

  10.   10.

    In “News of the Church: Priesthood Restoration Honored,” Ensign, July 1983, 76.

  11.   11.

    “Personal Worthiness to Exercise the Priesthood,” Ensign, May 2002, 52.

  12.   12.

    “Loyalty,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2003, 58–59.

  13.   13.

    “Magnify Your Calling,” Ensign, May 1989, 47.

  14.   14.

    “Only upon Principles of Righteousness,” Ensign, Sept. 1992, 70.

  15.   15.

    In “News of the Church: Priesthood Restoration Honored,” 76.

  16.   16.

    “Reaching Down to Lift Another,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 52.

  17.   17.

    “Personal Worthiness to Exercise the Priesthood,” 53–54.

  18.   18.

    “Welfare Responsibilities of the Priesthood Quorums,” Ensign, Nov. 1977, 86.

  19.   19.

    “This Thing Was Not Done in a Corner,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 49.

  20.   20.

    “Women of the Church,” Ensign, Nov. 1996, 68.

  21.   21.

    “My Testimony,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 52.