No Big Deal?


Adapted from an April 1991 general conference address.
We must take the priesthood seriously because the Lord does.
Elder J. Richard Clarke

When a young man I know was on his mission, his mother prayed each day, reminding the Lord, in detail, of her son’s needs. One day she concluded that maybe she shouldn’t take so much of the Lord’s time with her long list of concerns. She said, “I just condensed it to, ‘Heavenly Father, please bless Bob to honor his priesthood.’”

If that simple plea were fully realized in our lives, it would satisfy most needs and prevent most problems. “Bless me, Father, to honor the priesthood.” This should be our daily petition.

At a recent stake priesthood meeting, a young man was sustained to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. When congratulated, the boy’s response was surprising: “Why? That’s no big deal, is it?”

No big deal? If he only knew how big! I wondered how he reached such a conclusion. If I were his father, his bishop, his quorum adviser, how would I feel to hear that response?

We often say impulsive things as youth that we probably would not say with more maturity. I hope this young man is now serving a mission and getting a better idea of what it really means to bear the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Receiving priesthood power

President Ezra Taft Benson said: “The greatest power in this world is the power [of the] priesthood. … No greater honor or blessing can come to man than the authority to act in the name of God” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 219). What a privilege! What a trust!

Live righteously to merit the power of the priesthood

To have the priesthood conferred upon us does not automatically bless us with power any more than receiving a driver’s license makes us a responsible driver. The Lord declared, “The powers of heaven [can] be controlled … only upon the principles of righteousness” (D&C 121:36).

The power of the priesthood comes gradually. Even our Savior grew “grace for grace” until He received a fulness. (D&C 93:12–13). We may also, if we are true and faithful to our covenants.

“Be ye clean”

However, we may forfeit priesthood power when we commit transgression. Spiritual powers are sensitive and withdraw from evil influences. As Peter warned, we must escape “the corruption that is in the world” (2 Pet. 1:4).

I was proud of a young priest from Georgia, who reported his experience at a rock concert. He observed the drinking, dress, profanity, and general crudeness of the young people there. He said, “I suddenly remembered who I am and felt that I was out of place, so I left.”

Sometimes we forget who we are. The other day, I stopped at a magazine shop to buy a newspaper. I was shocked to see a man whom I knew well, a high priest, viewing a magazine in the “adults only” section. He was unaware that I saw him. I was quite disappointed. The thought occurred to me: What if I had been his son, who looked to his dad as a hero?

I remembered a conversation between a father and son in Arthur Miller’s play AllMy Sons. The son discovers that his father has compromised ethical principles in business. Knowing that losing his son’s esteem is one of the greatest losses he could have, the father says, in effect, “Son, I know; I’m sorry. But really, I’m no worse than anyone else.”

The son replies, “Dad, I know; but I thought you were better.”

For those who bear the priesthood, young men or adults, there is only one standard of moral decency. Any film, television show, music, or printed material unfit for youth is also unfit for parents.

Those who rationalize acceptance of immoral material on grounds of maturity or sophistication are deceived. Those who excuse transgression by saying, “Well, I’m not perfect,” may be reminded that conscious sin is a long way from perfection. We would do best to consider this counsel of President Brigham Young: “‘Be … as perfect as [you] can,’ for that is all we can do. … The sin … is [not doing] as well as [you know] how” (Journal of Discourses, 2:129–30).

Be faithful in Christ

Brethren, we are the sons of God. We have been commissioned of Jesus Christ to bear His holy priesthood and to build up His church. In order to do so, we need to live righteously.

In his last tender letter to Moroni, Mormon concluded, “My son, be faithful in Christ” (Moro. 9:25). I believe that would be the loving counsel of every father or mother to a son: Be faithful in Christ. So may we be, and honor His priesthood.

[photo] Photography by Jed Clark

[illustration] Illustrated by Del Parson