Lesson 11: The Importance of the Priesthood

The Latter-day Saint Woman: Basic Manual for Women, Part A, (2000), 76–81


The purpose of this lesson is to help us understand what the priesthood is and how it can help our family gain exaltation.

Priesthood—The Power to Act for God

God’s work is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). God and Jesus Christ have given men authority and power to do Their work on earth. “[The priesthood] is nothing more nor less than the power of God delegated to man by which man can act in the earth for the salvation of the human family, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, and act legitimately” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 139–40).

John the Baptist appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on 15 May 1829 and conferred upon them the Aaronic Priesthood. Soon after, Peter, James, and John conferred the Melchizedek Priesthood upon them. Then on 6 April 1830 Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery ordained each other elders in the priesthood.

The priesthood is conferred upon worthy male members of the Church. Then, as in the case of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, they may be ordained to an office in the priesthood. After the Aaronic Priesthood is conferred, they may be ordained to the office of a deacon, teacher, or priest. After the Melchizedek Priesthood is conferred, they may be ordained to the office of an elder or high priest; high priests may be ordained by special calling to the office of bishop, patriarch, Seventy, or Apostle. These offices are all callings in the priesthood, and each office has different responsibilities.

When men hold the priesthood they can perform the sacred ordinances of the gospel, such as baptism, confirmation, administration of the sacrament, and others. (Lesson 12, “Priesthood Ordinances,” will discuss this subject.)

Priesthood Power Comes through Righteous Living

Joseph Smith taught a fundamental principle of the priesthood: “The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and … the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness” (D&C 121:36).

President N. Eldon Tanner illustrated the importance of righteous living and the power of the priesthood in the following story:

“When I was a bishop I had six boys in my ward old enough to be ordained elders. I could only recommend five of them, because one of them wasn’t ready. We had talked about it several times, and he had said to me, ‘I am not worthy.’ He felt very bad about it, but he didn’t expect to be recommended. … His uncle came to me and said, ‘You are surely not going to hold that boy back with his five friends going forward.’ He pled with me to let him go. He said, ‘You will be driving him out of the Church if you don’t.’

“I explained to this man, ‘The priesthood is the most important thing that we can give this boy. We are not handing the priesthood out. … This boy and I understand each other, and he is not ready to be ordained an elder.’ And he wasn’t recommended.

“A few years later I was attending general conference … , and a young man came up to me and said, ‘President Tanner, you wouldn’t remember me. I am the boy whom you didn’t recommend to be ordained an elder.’ As he put his hand out, he said, ‘I want to thank you for it. I am a bishop now in California. If you had recommended me when I wasn’t worthy, I possibly never would have appreciated what the priesthood is and what is expected of one, and surely I would never have been a bishop as I am today’” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1973, 122; or Ensign, July 1973, 94).

  • Why was it better for this young man to wait to be ordained until he was prepared?

The Lord said that men receive blessings of the priesthood only through righteous living. Men must magnify their priesthood callings by fulfilling their priesthood assignments. They must also lead their families in love, kindness, and patience. (See D&C 121:34, 41–42.)

Sister Yu Kum Ok of Korea told the following story about her husband, who honored his priesthood in their home:

“I am a housewife with one son and two daughters. I am thirty-four. I was married in 1964. I would like to express my testimony.

“I was baptized on September 14, 1974, and I am proud of my husband, who is a real Latter-day Saint in Korea. Even though he was baptized just four years ago, I think he is such a great person; he made up his mind to be a Jesus-like man. … I didn’t know anything about the meaning of life. I had questions, such as, Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we supposed to go? I thought that there was no God, and that Jesus was a mere normal person. All I had in mind was to help my husband and keep my children strong and growing. I never cared about salvation, that is to say, everlasting life.

“But now I am quite different. I know the meaning life really has. Through the deeds and words of my husband, I have come to know what Mormonism really is. My husband never drinks, smokes, no coffee, no tea, and he comes home right after he finishes his work. He never takes offense, and he likes to play with the children, wash the dishes, keep the house clean, never tells a lie, always tries to speak soft words and do house chores as willingly as he can. All these things, I see through my own eyes. I think there is no other miracle like this. My husband was converted into quite another person.

“After my husband was converted, I wondered what made him so different a person. Finally I understood. It was the Book of Mormon, which he always read. I made a decision to enroll in an institute class to learn about the Book of Mormon, and I studied with American missionaries whom my husband introduced to me. At last I was baptized by my beloved husband. I think, this same power-spirit that made my husband quite another person now influences and blesses me also.

“Now I want to live for time and eternity with my husband and children in the home of celestial glory. I would like to be a devoted Relief Society member, good mother, and good wife who sustains always in the doings of the priesthood holder, my husband” (“A Real Latter-day Saint” in Leon Hartshorn, comp., Inspirational Missionary Stories [1976], 30–31).

By changing himself and honoring the priesthood, this man inspired his wife to want to be a better wife, mother, and daughter of God.

  • How would this sister’s resolve to live righteously influence her husband and her children? How can our righteous living influence our husbands and our children? What effect would this have on our eternal life?

The Priesthood Is Necessary for Family Exaltation

We must do certain things to achieve exaltation and live with our Father in Heaven. With the help of the priesthood, we can do all of them.

President Brigham Young said: “Much has been said about the power of the Latter-day Saints. Is it the people called the 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 be prepared to receive glory, immortality, and eternal life” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1954], 131–32).

The Lord has given us commandments and gospel principles. Obedience to them is necessary for family exaltation. Although we can obey some of the commandments without the priesthood, the ordinances of exaltation depend on priesthood power. Baptism, confirmation, temple marriage—all depend on priesthood power. Without these ordinances, we cannot be exalted.

Some of us may feel disadvantaged because we are not married or because our husbands or fathers are not members of the Church or do not honor their priesthood. We should be patient and loving with them. We should keep praying that someday they will be touched by the Spirit of the Lord. Meanwhile, we can receive ordinances through other righteous priesthood bearers.

“Our Heavenly Father has made it plain to the children of men that only under the hands of those who possess divine authority may we obtain the power to become members of the Celestial kingdom” (George Albert Smith, in Conference Report, Apr. 1934, 28).

  • Read Doctrine and Covenants 132:19. What priesthood ordinance mentioned in this scripture is necessary for exaltation? What is exaltation? How may a family be exalted?

“Exaltation is life in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom with our Heavenly Father. A couple who is living worthily may be sealed in the temple. As children are born to them, they become part of this family unit. Or a family joining the Church later and proving their worthiness may obtain the sealing ordinance in the temple. In both cases, worthily enduring to the end is essential for exaltation” (Learn of Me and Listen to My Words: Laurel Course A [1977], 118).

Conclusion

Through the restoration of the priesthood, Heavenly Father has given us the power to gain exaltation. We should receive the sealing ordinances and live righteously. We should be living for eternity, not only for the moment. We should strive to be worthy of and to receive the priesthood ordinances that will bring exaltation.

Challenge

Read Gospel Principles chapters 13 and 14 to learn more about the priesthood. As part of a family home evening lesson, discuss the importance of the priesthood.

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Study Gospel Principles chapter 13, “The Priesthood,” and chapter 14, “Priesthood Organization.”

  2. 2.

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