Saturday, June 28, 2008

Faith and the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood

June 29th, 2008 – Sweetwater 2nd Ward – Sacrament Meeting

My overwhelming task this afternoon is to rehearse to you within the context of my own preparations the message behind President Eyring’s talk entitled Faith and the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood given at the Priesthood Session of General Conference. While simple regurgitation may work, my audience base is significantly more feminine than President Eyring’s was when he first delivered it. As such, I have tried to reach an understanding of the heart of his message and will endeavor, with the help of the Spirit, to reach all congregational demographics with a message of inspiration.

I understand that last week Brother Hoch specifically addressed the topic of the oath and covenant of the priesthood and just minutes ago we were blessed to hear from Elder Clark on The Blessings of the Temple. My goal today will mirror that laid out by President Eyring, when he said: “My purpose…is to help you grow in your confidence that you can and will rise to the blessings of the oath and covenant of the priesthood.” I would also like to show the correlation and cohesiveness between the three.

The priesthood is the eternal power and authority of God. Through the priesthood God created and governs the heavens and earths. Through this power He redeems and exalts His children, achieving His work and His glory, by bringing to pass “the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). God gives priesthood authority to worthy male members of the Church so they can act in His name for the salvation of His children. Priesthood holders can be authorized to preach the gospel, administer the ordinances of salvation, and govern the kingdom of God on the earth.

By gaining entrance into this great brotherhood comes much responsibility. Many of you know of my fondness for comic books. In the comic book Spider-man, there is a phrase, which has endured for generations and which has been a guiding factor for the main character, Peter Parker, and his determination to serve and protect the community as Spider-man. The saying goes as follows: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

I have seen that ideology put into real life application by those who have attained worldly power, whether it is influence or wealth. Typically we tend to focus on the negative examples of those who achieved great power, failed to wield the responsibility with honor, and the historical horrors they have inflicted upon humanity over the generations. However, I have also seen the tremendous good that gracious philanthropists do in giving back to make the world a better place to live.

As I grew older, and my gospel understanding matured, I realized that I didn’t need to be bit by a radioactive spider so that I too may make a difference in the world. I have also come to learn that Spider-man’s motto, “With great power comes great responsibility,” does not apply to the Priesthood of God. In fact, I have found the opposite to be true.

With great responsibility comes great power. President Eyring says, “As you will try to keep your covenants, the Savior has promised His personal help. He has said that as you go forward in honoring the priesthood: ‘There I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.’”

How often have we heard the stories about brethren giving priesthood blessing that struck to the soul of those being blessed without knowing full backgrounds of the situation? How many of us have personal experiences that have secured our faith in the power of the priesthood beyond that of the abilities of mere mortal men?

The Lord is behind this great work and though we may feel weak or unworthy remember these words of President Eyring: “The very fact that you have been offered the oath and covenant of is evidence that God has chosen you, knowing your power and capacity. He has known you since you were with Him in the spirit world. He has allowed you to find the true Church of Jesus Christ and to be offered the priesthood. You can feel confidence because you have evidence of His confidence in you.”

Inevitably whenever talks or classroom lessons are given regarding the Priesthood, it is more often than not, that questions arise concerning the roles of women and the Priesthood. However, Sunday sacrament meetings and the subsequent meetings on the Lord’s Day are for the uplifting of the Saints through the revealed word of the Lord. As such, the personal revelations and individual speculation also known as the doctrine according to Brother Shelby will not be making the airwaves today. However, I have found a few responses from the Brethren that will address what little we know about the eternal purposes behind the division of roles.

President Gordon B. Hinckley has declared, "A few Latter-day Saint women are asking why they are not entitled to hold the priesthood. To that I can say that only the Lord, through revelation, could alter that situation. He has not done so, so it is profitless for us to speculate and worry about it." ("Ten Gifts from the Lord," Ensign, November 1985, 86; quoted in Harrison and Richards, 187).

Elder Neal A. Maxwell declared, "We know so little, brothers and sisters, about the reasons for the division of duties between womanhood and manhood as well as between motherhood and priesthood. These were divinely determined in another time and another place." ("The Women of God," Ensign (May 1978): 10).

Of myself, I simply add that the great and oft-mentioned patriarchal promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob could not have been made without their faithful covenanted companions being Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel.

For all that we do not know, that which has been revealed WILL enable us to achieve Celestial glory through obedience to the laws pertaining to that kingdom. Recall the words from the Lord: “And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord; For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me; And he that receiveth me receiveith my Father; And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him. And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood” (D & C 84:35-39).

Furthermore, we know that the fullness of the blessings promised in the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood are not to be enjoyed alone. In fact, they cannot be obtained alone. Doctrine and Covenants 131:1-3 says: “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood (meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage); And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.”

But together, man and woman, when united together as husband and wife “…by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise…” and they continue faithful in the magnifying and fulfilling of their covenants by enduring to the end in faith, then shall the promise of eternal life apply: “and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fullness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever” (D&C 132:19).

Let us not think that once we are sealed in the temple of the Lord that all will be easy or every calling will come without challenges. President Eyring said, “You may at times need reassurance, as I do, that you will have the strength to meet your obligations…The Lord foresaw your need for reassurance. We are promised that as we keep our covenants and magnify our callings we ‘are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of (our) bodies’ (D&C 84:33).”

If we are to fulfill our potential we must get there step by step. Let us imagine we are creating a map that will guide the way to exaltation by checkpoints known as temporal gospel ordinances. Sisters would have four checkpoints: Baptism, Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, Receiving the endowment, and temple sealing or the New and Everlasting Covenant of marriage. Brethren we have five checkpoints. We share the same four but have the oath and covenant of the priesthood inserted as the third checkpoint in our quest for exaltation.

Both in the world and in the church today, there are so many different distractions that can take us away from those activities of the highest priority levels. Many of us fall into the trap of confusing action or activity with progression. However, distractions can lead us to forget WHY we are doing our church callings and as a result, risk losing our faith. Achieving 100% Home or Visiting Teaching is pointless if we forget that our main objective is to ensure that our assigned families “might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ…(Moroni 6:4).

Lest we become as Lehi’s rebellious offspring and their families when forgetting WHY we are doing something and becoming stuck in a rut of spiritless activity, or even worse, willful disobedience to the commandments of God. Alma used this example of his ancestors to teach the lesson to his son Helaman: “They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey…And now, my son, I would that ye should understand that these things are not without a shadow; for as our fathers were slothful to give heed to this compass (now these things were temporal) they did not prosper; even so it is with things which are spiritual (Alma 37:41,43).

How can we maintain fresh in our memories the glorious blessings promised to us if we keep our covenants? How can we ensure that the shadows of darkness do not cloud over us and begin to dim our lights? President Eyring shares: “You can do it in simple things. When you meet with your quorum, you can decide to see them as brothers in the family of God. There will be someone in your quorum or priesthood group who is in need. He may not show it. You may not be able to see it with your eyes. But God know and invites you to be His servant in helping him.”

On a more personal level a few years ago, partially inspired by an old talk by the late President Faust, I decided to come up with a list of things I could share with my brother that he could do to develop a more firm faith in and relationship with the Savior.

First – Daily prayer.
Second – Daily scripture study.
Third – A daily act of kindness or service to another.
Fourth – Daily repentance.
Fifth – Daily sharing of testimony.

As an addendum, I have recently added to the list monthly temple attendance. I have heard Bishop Hurdsman, on multiple occasions, counsel us as ward members to seek to attend the temple at least monthly.

Let us make the temple our spiritual fortress of solitude. Let us go there often to ponder, receive instruction and communicate with our Father. May we within those walls, solidify our faith in the covenanted priesthood blessings. It is my prayer that we may all realize the closing promise of success: “Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sine save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God. And now, my brethren, I would that ye should humble yourselves before God, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest” (Alma 13:12-13).

I testify that God lives. Jesus is the Christ, the Creator and my Redeemer. This is His church and in it resides the authority and the keys of the priesthood. I testify that as we serve in the Kingdom, we will be sanctified and cleansed, and our faith in the covenanted blessings of eternity will become more real in our lives. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

1 comment:

Nicole Shelby said...

your talk went really well today...

and i must say i'm impressed...few people could almost double the length of time on their talk and still have it flow so smooth...