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Priesthood Power, Priesthood Authority

Confirmation laying on of handsHow often have you given a blessing for the sick, or even for the critically injured or ill?  Many of us have had this experience, and I’m interested in knowing whether or not your thought patterns are like mine – in other words, abject fear and panic!  After all, the implied expectation is that you will be able to give this person a miraculous blessing that will heal them or even bring them back from near death.  We might question whether or not we’re worthy enough to work a miracle; to exercise the power of the priesthood.  And when you feel nothing, you default to something like, “your body will heal itself”, or “the spirit will guide the doctors and nurses”.  I suspect that most of the time, we don’t receive a distinct impression of the Lord’s will, and we have no idea whether our blessing will be effective or aligned with the Lord.

Another type of blessing is the “comfort” blessing, where a person is asking for a blessing of advice or comfort or general well-being.  I give these blessing frequently in my capacity as a jail instructor or among family members.  I usually have thoughts running through my head before I give the blessing, but then I’m unsure whether the thoughts are my thoughts, or the Lord’s thoughts.  I must now ask myself if there is any room for uncertainty when doing the Lord’s work.

Diana and I were visiting with some close friends today when our friend told a story of how Lorenzo Snow raised Ella Jensen from the dead.  Whether this story is true or not (I strongly suspect that it is) is irrelevant to this post, but it is relevant in that it highlighted the fact that the power of the priesthood includes the power to raise the dead.  The Melchizedek priesthood also conveys the power to heal the sick, to move mountains, to change the course of rivers…to create the universe.  We read of such power being invoked in the scriptures, but any such accounts in our current day are typically met with skepticism.  We seem to think that the days of such things are past, or that only special people can exercise that power.

I can quote a plethora of scriptures that contradict this idea, but I will quote only one – Mormon 9:15 – which says:

And now, O all ye that have imagined up unto yourselves a god who can do ano miracles, I would ask of you, have all these things passed, of which I have spoken? Has the end come yet? Behold I say unto you, Nay; and God has not ceased to be a God of miracles.

Clearly, if the priesthood granted this power in “ancient times”, it grants this power now, but what of the idea that only “special” people can exercise the fullness of the priesthood?  Again, I quote only one of many scriptures that address and clarify this concept.  D&C 84:33-38 says:

For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.

 They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.

 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 receiveth my Father;

 And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’skingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.

Equally clearly, the power of the priesthood to work what we consider to be miracles in accordance with God’s will and for the blessing of His children exists today just as it did when Enoch commanded mountains and rivers in the protection of his people from their enemies (Moses 7:13), when Moses parted the Red Sea, and when Christ raised Lazarus from the dead.

If I hold the same priesthood, and if this power comes with the priesthood, and if we don’t work miracles in our day, what has changed?  If God has not changed, and the priesthood has not changed, and if, as Moroni said, “the end” has not come yet, then that only leaves one thing – I must conclude that I have not been faithful enough unto the obtaining of the priesthood and the magnifying of my calling to fully receive the priesthood.  I have not let charity fill my bowels. I have not let virtue garnish my thoughts unceasingly such that my confidence waxes strong in the presence of God. (D&C 121:45)  If I had sufficient faith and confidence, I would approach a blessing of mortal or eternal consequence knowing that I have the power.

But that is not all.  I must know the Lord’s will in the matter.  Moroni told us in Chapter 10, verse 23:

And Christ truly said unto our fathers: If ye have faith ye can do all things which are expedient unto me.

Alma and Amulek, as they were watching the burning of the wives and children of the believers in Ammoniah (Alma chapter 14), knew that they had the power to save the victims, but Alma also had the ability to recognize the Lord’s will in the matter.  Even faced with the horrific slaughter of innocent women and children, he understood the importance of listening to the Holy Ghost in order to discern the Lord’s will before exercising the awesome power of the priesthood.  I, in order to know the Lord’s will, must be clean from sin, humble, obedient, and free from selfishness, jealousy, and fear.  My confidence, sans pridefulness, must wax strong.  I, like Alma, must have the courage and the faith to ask, to listen and only then to execute.

A corollary to this is that one’s personal worthiness has little to do with the power of the priesthood.  Rather, worthiness affects one’s ability to discern the will of the Lord and pronounce it through the blessing.  Worthiness affects one’s faith, which, combined with the faith of the recipient, determines the power and effectiveness of the blessing.

During our Independence Day discussion, my poor friends were assaulted with a passionate declaration of the following epiphany:

When I give a blessing from now on, I must approach it as if I KNOW that I have the power, and I only need to ask the Lord for His authority.

Further reflection makes it clear that the formula for being able to render this type of service for the blessing of Heavenly Father’s children is the same as that for:

Receiving the Holy Ghost

Receiving our Calling and Election

Receiving the Second Comforter

Preparing for Zion

This formula includes obedience, humility, and seeking, asking, knocking.  It involves an intensely active quest to see the face of the Lord, seek the “Joy of Christ”, and become charity.  It involves submitting ourselves to the will of the Lord for our life.  It involves magnifying our individual calling, that we may truly receive and exercise the fullness of the priesthood.  It involves, above all, believing in the power of God to fulfill His promises – all of them.

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