Saturday, June 15, 2013

Fathers' Day Talk

Here is a sneak preview of the talk I'm giving in church tomorrow for fathers' day.  Todd, you can go ahead and read it now, since you know sitting alone with the kids in sacrament meeting you will be lucky to hear a single word.

When I met my husband, he had recently returned from his mission, and was serving as second counselor in our ward’s elder’s quorum presidency.  I was 18 years old, newly arrived at college, and had no thought of marriage any time in the next five years, at least.  Todd pretended to play along with my “let’s just be friends” scheme for a couple of months as long as we were frequently together.  On my mom’s advice, I got a job working long hours at a nursing home to try to deter him, but Todd realized that the nursing home was in a really terrifying part of town, and refused to let me walk home from my late shifts in the dark.  In the end this probably just led to more time together.  He pressed steadily on, trying to impress me with some really terrible (I mean sweet) poetry, and his best romantic views of the Tucson skyline.   One time, after this had gone on for several weeks, we were watching a movie at Todd’s sister’s house with his sister and her roommates, when Todd got a call from someone in our ward asking for a blessing for a family member.  He unceremoniously left me at his sister’s house with a group of people I barely knew for what felt like a really long time.  When he FINALLY came back, looking harried and exhausted, I looked at him, and, probably for the first time, thought, “This is a man I could marry.” I saw then that he was a person who was willing to drop anything, to make any sacrifice, to honor his commitment to represent Jesus Christ as a priesthood holder.
I had seen this before.  Book of Mormon leader of Nephite armies, Moroni is described in Alma 48:12-13 as

...a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people; a man who did labor exceedingly for the awelfare and safety of his people.
13 Yea, and he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ, and he had asworn with an oath to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion, even to the loss of his blood.”

As a teenager, I had written in the margin of my scriptures next to these verses, “Qualities in the man I marry.”  Verse 17 in the same chapter continues,

“17 Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto aMoroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the bdevil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.”

On this fathers’ day, it is the men who aspire to these qualities: faith, humility, hard work, and willingness to sacrifice anything in the cause of Christ to whom I would like to pay particular tribute as I discuss the blessings of the priesthood.  

Although my own father wasn’t present for many of my formative years, I have always been blessed with wonderful examples of worthy, humble priesthood holders. My grandfather, uncles, home teachers, youth leaders, bishops, seminary teachers, neighbors, and even some high school teachers, have been willing to bless and serve me and my family, even when it was inconvenient.  As they have humbly tried to do what Christ would do, their abilities have been magnified, their weaknesses diminished, and we have all been strengthened together.  

What is the priesthood?
Simple answer: The power of God.  The power by which the worlds were created.  The power that governs the earth.  

Elder David A. Bednar: “The Powers of Heaven” Apr. 2012
“The priesthood is the authority of God delegated to men on the earth to act in all things for the salvation of mankind.  Priesthood is the means whereby the Lord acts through men to save souls. One of the defining features of the Church of Jesus Christ, both anciently and today, is His authority. There can be no true Church without divine authority.”

The fifth article of faith, a statement of our core beliefs, says, “We believe that a man must be acalled of God, by bprophecy, and by the laying on of chands by those who are in dauthority, toepreach the Gospel and administer in the fordinances thereof.”

The “divine authority” of the priesthood must be conferred through the physical act of placing the hands of one who has authority on the head of the person designated to receive that authority.
In modern revelation it has been explained that there are two priesthoods, known as the Aaronic priesthood and the Melchizedek priesthood.  (D&C 107:1-4)

The Aaronic priesthood spoken of in the Old and New Testaments was restored to the earth in the spring of 1829 when a resurrected John the Baptist appeared to the prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey and physically placed his hands upon their heads to confer that authority.  With the Aaronic priesthood, young men in the church have the authority to bless and pass the sacrament, just as Jesus did when he was on the earth, both in Jerusalem and in the Americas, as we learn in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon. Aaronic priesthood holders also have duties to teach, baptize, and administer in the temporal affairs of the church. Worthy young men can receive the Aaronic priesthood when they are 12 years old.  

The Melchizedek priesthood, called in scripture the “greater priesthood,” (D&C 107:3) was also restored to the earth in May of 1829, when Peter, James, and John appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey, and conferred the Melchizedek priesthood upon them by the laying on of hands.  

In Doctrine and Covenants 84: 19-21 this priesthood is described: “And this greater apriesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the bkey of the cmysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the dknowledge of God.
20 Therefore, in the aordinances thereof, the power of bgodlinessis manifest.
21 And without the ordinances thereof, and the aauthority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is bnot manifest unto men in the flesh;”

The ordinances necessary for salvation are administered through the Melchizedek priesthood, and a man must be a Melchizedek priesthood holder in order to enter the holy temple and be sealed to his family for time and all eternity.    Under the authority of the Melchizedek priesthood, the church is governed.  Melchizedek priesthood holders, with authorization from presiding priesthood leaders, can confer the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Blessings of healing, comfort, and guidance are available to all through the power of the Melchizedek priesthood.  

I am deeply grateful that Heavenly Father has mercifully entrusted His divine authority to mankind in this generation.  I have been blessed beyond measure by the opportunity to participate in ordinances of salvation administered through the priesthood.  Through this priesthood power, my family has been sealed together for time and all eternity.  Through priesthood power, I have received blessings of comfort, guidance, and healing at different times in my life.  I know that the words of those cherished blessings were inspired by a loving Heavenly Father.  These blessings are available to all people.

A mistake frequently made by individuals outside of our church, and unfortunately, occasionally made by members of the church, is mistaking the authority of the priesthood for “dominion.”  Priesthood holders receive the priesthood for the express purpose of doing the work of Jesus Christ on the earth, and acting as his representatives in teaching and providing the blessings and ordinances that He would provide if He were present.  While it is true that priesthood responsibilities include presiding over the auxiliaries of the church, Heavenly Father does not authorize abuse of His power.  

Doctrine and Covenants 121:36-39 read:
“ ... the arights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be bcontrolled nor handled only upon the cprinciples of righteousness.
37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to acover our bsins, or to gratify our cpride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or ddominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens ewithdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to akickagainst the pricks, to bpersecute the saints, and to cfight against God.
39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the anature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a littlebauthority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise cunrighteous dominion.”

The revelation continues in verses 41-44 with a description of appropriate use of the priesthood, and qualities sought by worthy priesthood holders, in language reminiscent of the verses describing Moroni that I read a few minutes ago.  

“41 No apower or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the bpriesthood, only by cpersuasion, by dlong-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
42 By akindness, and pure bknowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the csoul without dhypocrisy, and without eguile
43 aReproving betimes with bsharpness, when cmoved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase ofdlove toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of adeath.”

I don’t think that that could be more clear.  Gentleness, meekness, humility, and love are necessary to exercise priesthood power.  To represent Jesus Christ, a person must emulate his qualities in every way they know how.  Priesthood authority cannot be used for personal advancement, and holding an office in the priesthood does not place any man above another person.  

Similarly, that men hold the priesthood does NOT make the role of women less important than the role of men in the eyes of our Heavenly Father.  It does not indicate that women of the church hold a position that is in any way second class.
 
M. Russell Ballard “This is my work and Glory” May 2013
“In our Heavenly Father’s great priesthood-endowed plan, men have the unique responsibility to administer the priesthood, but they are not the priesthood. Men and women have different but equally valued roles. Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman. In other words, in the eternal perspective, both the procreative power and the priesthood power are shared by husband and wife. And as husband and wife, a man and a woman should strive to follow our Heavenly Father. The Christian virtues of love, humility, and patience should be their focus as they seek the blessings of the priesthood in their lives and for their family.
It is crucial for us to understand that Heavenly Father has provided a way for all of His sons and His daughters to have access to the blessings of and be strengthened by the power of the priesthood. Central to God’s plan for His spirit children is His own declaration: “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).”

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President Spencer W. Kimball said this: “When we speak of marriage as a partnership, let us speak of marriage as a full partnership. We do not want our LDS women to be silent partners or limited partners in that eternal assignment! Please be a contributing and full partner” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 315)

Single women also participate in partnership with the priesthood leadership of the church through ward councils.  

Dallin H. Oaks “Priesthood Authority in the Family and the church” Oct. 2005
“It is. . . imperative to have an effective ward council, where male and female ward officers sit down together regularly to counsel under the presiding authority of the bishop.”)
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Our Heavenly Father is perfectly merciful.  This is obvious because he has provided the priesthood to allow us imperfect beings to receive ordinances and blessings through His power.  He is also perfectly just, withholding the blessings of the priesthood from no person who honestly seeks them.  Through the priesthood, every person on earth has the possibility of qualifying to be with their family for eternity, and to live with our Heavenly Father.

M. Russell Ballard  “This is my work and Glory” May 2013
“The same priesthood power that created worlds, galaxies, and the universe can and should be part of our lives to succor, strengthen, and bless our families, our friends, and our neighbors—in other words, to do the things that the Savior would do if He were ministering among us today.
And the primary purpose of this priesthood power is to bless, sanctify, and purify us so we can live together with our families in the presence of our heavenly parents, bound by priesthood sealings, participating in the marvelous work of God and Jesus Christ in forever expanding Their light and glory.”

I honor you men who are willing to make any sacrifice to represent Jesus Christ- whether it be sacrificing your time for a demanding calling in the church, leaving your family on Christmas day to help give a blessing to my sick child, or arriving at church early week after week to help prepare the sacrament.  All of you fathers, grandfathers, future fathers, faithful home teachers, and humble representatives of Jesus Christ, thank you.

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I would like to close with a verse of scripture about the blessings of the priesthood.  I have loved this verse from the very first time I read it, both for the simple truth that it teaches, and because it reads like poetry.  

Doctrine and Covenants 121:45
45 Let thy abowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let bvirtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy cconfidence wax strong in thedpresence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the edews from heaven.”

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T-minus 19 hours until delivery. How is that for prepared?

Happy Fathers' Day!!!

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