Second, in mortality, priesthood is the power and authority that God gives to man to act in all things necessary for the salvation of God’s children. The blessings of the priesthood are available to all who receive the gospel.
May we be worthy recipients of the divine power of the priesthood we bear. May it bless our lives and may we use it to bless the lives of others.
As the Prophet Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he found mention of baptism for the remission of sins. On May 15, 1829, he and his scribe Oliver Cowdery went into the woods to inquire of the Lord concerning baptism. As they prayed, 'a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light.' This messenger was John the Baptist, the prophet who had baptized Jesus Christ centuries earlier. John the Baptist, now a resurrected being, laid his hands on Joseph and on Oliver and conferred upon each of them the Aaronic Priesthood, which had been taken from the earth during the Great Apostasy. With this authority, Joseph and Oliver were able to baptize one another.
The offices of the Aaronic Priesthood are bishop, priest, teacher, and deacon. With the authorization of the presiding priesthood leader (usually the bishop or branch president), deacons pass the sacrament. They help the bishop or branch president watch over Church members by giving service and assisting with temporal matters such as gathering fast offerings. Teachers may perform all the duties of deacons, and they also receive other opportunities to serve. They prepare the sacramental bread and water and serve as home teachers. Priests may perform all the duties of deacons and teachers. With the authorization of the presiding priesthood leader, they may also bless the sacrament, baptize, and ordain others to the offices of priest, teacher, and deacon.
The Aaronic Priesthood is 'an appendage to the greater, or the Melchizedek Priesthood' . It is often called the preparatory priesthood. As a priesthood holder serves in the Aaronic Priesthood, he prepares to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, to receive the blessings of the temple, to serve a full-time mission, to be a loving husband and father, and to continue in lifelong service to the Lord.
The priesthood is God’s eternal power and authority. God accomplishes His work by the priesthood. He created all things by this power, and He governs the earth and heaven by it. We read in the Pearl of Great Price that the priesthood, 'which was in the beginning, shall be in the end of the world also' .
God and Jesus Christ have given worthy male members of the Church the power of the priesthood so that they can help 'to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man' . The priesthood is the authority of God given to men to act in all things for the salvation of mankind.
Those who hold the priesthood have the authority to act in God’s name. Speaking to all priesthood bearers, President Joseph Fielding Smith said:
'We are the Lord’s agents; we represent him; he has given us authority which empowers us to do all that is necessary to save and exalt ourselves as well as his other children in the world.'
'We are ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our commission is to represent him. We are directed … to do what he would do if he were personally present'
In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord has made it clear to us that we must live righteously to have not only the authority, but also the power of the priesthood:
'Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?'
'Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—'
'That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
'That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man' .
The source of the power of the priesthood is God, who works through the Holy Ghost. To have the Holy Ghost direct us in using the priesthood, we must keep the commandments and live worthily. Power in the priesthood comes to us only from our Heavenly Father through the Holy Ghost. With the power of the priesthood, we can do the Lord’s work; without that power, we cannot.
If we live for it, ours can be a power given us from our Heavenly Father that will bring peace to a troubled household. Ours can be a power that will bless and comfort little children, that will bring sleep to tearstained eyes in the wee hours of the morning. Ours can be the power that will bring happiness to a family home evening, the power to calm the unsettled nerves of a tired wife. Ours can be the power that will give direction to a confused and vulnerable teenager. Ours, the power to bless a daughter before she goes on her first date or before her temple marriage, or to bless a son before his departure for a mission or college. Ours, my young brethren, can be the power to stop evil thoughts of a group of boys gathered together in vulgar conversation. Ours can be the power to heal the sick and comfort the lonely. These are some of the important purposes of the priesthood.
Desire It - We must first have a desire to develop power in the priesthood. The scriptures teach that men receive from the Lord according to their desires .
Live Righteously - We should strive to keep all the commandments of our Heavenly Father. By living righteously, we may have the Holy Ghost for our constant companion, and He will direct us to do the things we should do . Righteous living includes learning to control our thoughts, words, and actions.
Be Humble - 'He that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed' . We should be willing to accept and follow our leaders’ counsel, complete the assignments given to us by our priesthood leaders, and listen to and follow the promptings of the Spirit. Other ways we can show humility include (1) honestly considering the righteous desires of family members, even though they may not be exactly the same as our desires; (2) listening—even to the smallest child; (3) putting the welfare of the family ahead of our own comfort; and (4) speaking in a voice that always reflects our love and concern for others.
Study - We must search and ponder the scriptures. Only by studying the scriptures personally can we know God’s will and live the gospel. We also need to study our priesthood manuals in order to know our specific duties as priesthood holders. President George Albert Smith taught, 'It is your duty first of all to learn what the Lord wants and then by the power and strength of His holy Priesthood to [so] magnify your calling … that the people will be glad to follow you' (in Conference Report, Apr. 1942, 14).
Pray - We must ask our Heavenly Father what He would have us do. We should always pray for guidance in using the priesthood correctly. Concerning the power of prayer, President Gordon B. Hinckley taught: 'Prayer unlocks the powers of heaven in our behalf. Prayer is the great gift which our Eternal Father has given us by which we may approach Him and speak with Him in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Be prayerful. You cannot make it alone. You cannot reach your potential alone. You need the help of the Lord' (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley , 470).
Love Others - Jesus Christ has taught us that the power of the priesthood is founded on love and that we should love all people . Love begins at home. We should love our families and be concerned for their welfare. One way we show our love for our family members is by using the priesthood to direct and bless their lives.
Use the Priesthood to Bless and Strengthen Our Families - When we use the priesthood, we are examples to other priesthood holders, to the world, and, perhaps most importantly, to our families. As our family members see us use the priesthood, they will know that we are servants of the Lord and will come to us when they need help. All families should experience the blessings which come when fathers and sons use the priesthood for the benefit of their families.