Snapshots of Life

Sunday, May 19, 2013

To Administer in Spiritual Things

I was asked to speak in the adult session of stake conference this weekend.  What follows is the result.  Blogging appears to be dying, which I think is a bit sad because I like to see what people are up to.  I really would like to post more often.  The writing is cathartic for me, but finding the time is the issue.  Anyway, I'm sorry that like 8 out of the last 10 posts have been church talks, and spread out months apart at that.  I think I've given 6 talks in the past 1.5 years...I'm hoping for a break for awhile.

We have long been taught that the priesthood is the authority of God delegated to men on earth to act in all things for the salvation of mankind.  Given that we are an adult audience tonight I will focus my remarks primarily on the Melchizedek priesthood.  It was revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith that another name for this priesthood is The Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God.  An “order” is a group or body of persons of the same occupation or pursuit.  The word “priesthood” comes from the translation of the Greek word hierosyne (hē-e-rō-sü-nā), whose root word indicates sacred – given or devoted to God.  Thus, in being ordained to the Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God, we enter into a body of persons who have given themselves over to God and committed to the occupation and pursuit of His work on the earth in the pattern of His Beloved Son.  Brothers and sisters, as those who have been clothed in the holy priesthood, are we living up to our privileges? 

We learn from the Book of Mormon that we have been “called and prepared from the foundation of the world” with a “holy calling” to hold the priesthood of God in the latter days (see Alma 13:3, 7-8).  We receive this marvelous power with a covenant, in which we pledge to magnify our calling in the order (D&C 84:33).  In so doing we become “the seed of Abraham” and inherit the covenant of Abraham (D&C 84:34).  We are called to become “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation” (Pet. 2:9) with a charge to bless all the families of the earth, beginning with our own. Consider the profound blessing and responsibility of the priesthood!

Let us here remember that the priesthood is not just a manly issue, it is fundamentally a family issue.  The fullness of the priesthood is only received by man and woman together!  I say this with genuine sensitivity for any and all who may feel that such a statement is exclusionary, invalidating, or hurtful.  I join with you in rejoicing in a Heavenly Father whose grace is fully sufficient for any and all circumstances.  “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now [we] know in part; but then shall [we] know even as also [we are] known…” (Cor. 13:9-10).  One thing is certain, that the blessings of the priesthood can be extended to all people, men and women alike.  The priesthood is primarily concerned with salvation and no man can receive salvation by performing the ordinances, only by receiving them himself, and then honoring the associated covenants.  “Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.” (D&C 84:20-22).

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we make the bold and miraculous claim that this priesthood of which I have spoken was restored to the earth through angelic ministers, even those three ancient apostles Peter, James, and John.  They received the priesthood directly from Jesus Christ the Lord.  They conferred the priesthood upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by the laying on of hands and ordained them apostles.  The 3 witnesses to the Book of Mormon, of which Oliver Cowdery was one, then sought out and ordained 12 apostles in the latter-day as part of a restoration of all things.  One of those men was Brigham Young.  President Young later ordained Joseph F. Smith an apostle, who ordained David O. McKay an apostle, who later ordained LeGrand Richards an apostle.  Elder Richards ordained my maternal grandfather, Glen R. Balli, a high priest in the Melchizedek priesthood, who later ordained my father, Carl J. Sorenson, to the office of high priest in that same priesthood.  In 1999, when I was 18 years of age, my father laid his hands upon my head conferring upon me the authority of the priesthood of Melchizedek, then ordaining me to the office of Elder.  And so there exists an unbroken chain of priesthood authority from the Lord himself to my father and then to me.

Several years ago before I was married, I was in the height of what was definitely the most intense personal suffering I have ever experienced.  The details are insignificant but the pain of my soul was very real.  Unfortunately, it seems that too often we men tend to have a more difficult time seeking blessings than the sisters.  I had never to that point in my life, as far as I can recall, gone to my father to solicit a blessing.  That is not to say that I had not received them from him, but I had never gone to him to ask for one.  My dad is a good and humble man.  He exercises the priesthood with more power through meekness than I have seen in any other man.  On this night I was so overwhelmed, so desperate that I humbled myself and went to him.  I shared my agony with him and my mom.  My parents, including my dad, embraced me and expressed words of love as I sobbed in their arms like a little child.  Then, my dad placed his loving and humble hands upon my head and blessed me through the power of the priesthood.  He is my mortal father, but in that sacred moment he was also a servant of the living God.  He was the spokesman for my Eternal Father and a representative of Jesus Christ.  I was not immediately healed, but for the first time in several nights I was able to sleep and I received some measure of comfort.  More importantly, as I look back there is no question that that blessing was a turning point in my journey.  I had been blessed by the authority of the priesthood, yes, but I had also been blessed by the power of the priesthood through the faith and righteousness of my father.  I further testify that my mom’s faith, righteousness, and prayers enhance that priesthood power.

Authority in the priesthood comes by way of ordination through the laying on of hands by the Lord’s authorized administrators.  All those who hold the priesthood have the authority to exercise it within their stewardship.  Power in the priesthood, however, is the spiritual capacity to influence circumstances through the grace of Jesus Christ.  It is manifest according to the degree of understanding, faith, obedience, and righteousness of the holder (see David A. Bednar, Ensign, May 2012).  I am grateful that my father has always had the authority of the priesthood.  I am additionally grateful that he has exercised power in the priesthood.  Hear the words of President Boyd K. Packer:

…Distributing the authority of the priesthood has raced, I think, ahead of distributing the power of the priesthood. The priesthood does not have the strength that it should have and will not have until the power of the priesthood is firmly fixed in the families as it should be…it is now our responsibility to activate the power of the priesthood in the Church. (Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, May 2010).

Indeed, the revelations repeatedly remind us that “many are called, but few are chosen” (D&C 121:34).  Why?  Because we too often honor men more than God, we hide our sins, and gratify our pride, and focus on worldly ambition.  We treat our positions of trust and responsibility as positions of control, domination, or manipulation.  But in such circumstances the power of the priesthood cannot be connected with the powers of heaven, for they are withdrawn! (see D&C 121:35-37).  Principles of righteousness are the keys to maintaining priesthood power.  Notice that principles of righteousness go beyond following an enumeration of sundry commandments.  Obedience to the commandments is important to be sure, yet the principles of righteousness that the Lord chose to specifically list in discussing priesthood power are traits of the inner man.  Persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, and genuine love; kindness, knowledge, charity, and virtue, these are ways of being even more than ways of doing.

We are called to follow the Savior.  He is the vine and we are the branches.  To bear fruit in our priesthood ministry we must abide in Him, which means that we will walk as he walked.  We will draw living water and spiritual nutrients from the Source of life and truth (see John 15:4-11 and 1 Jn. 2:6).  There are many images of masculinity perpetuated in popular culture.  Two in particular seem to dominate.  One is the man who is a complete doofus – emotionally inept and unable to communicate or engage in any kind of healthy relationship outside of a sporting activity.  The other is the Casanova – the man who is absorbed in himself with a life revolving around the pursuit of status, money, sex, or all three.  We are inevitably impacted by these messages, but ours is a call to a different path – the holy priesthood after the order of the Son of God.

President Lorenzo Snow taught, “There are men in this Church who are as good in their hearts and feelings as men ever were, but lack faith and energy, and do not obtain really what is their privilege to receive. If their faith, their energy and determination were equal to their good feelings and desires, their honesty and goodness, they would indeed be mighty men in Israel; and sickness and disease and the power of the evil one would flee before them as chaff before the wind…the dead will rise; and everything that was ever done by man since the days of Adam, you will be able to do through the power of God and through a proper ambition.”  (Lorenzo Snow, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church Series, pg. 212).

Callings in the priesthood within the Church will come and go, but our calling in the home is eternal.  It is in the family where the power of the priesthood is perhaps more important than in any other setting or circumstance.  The Proclamation on the Family states that fathers have the responsibility to “provide the necessities of life and protection for their families”.  For years I thought of this as primarily physical protection, but few are the occurrences when physical protection is required.  Much more often, it is spiritual protection, through the priesthood, that is needed most in our day.  Pres. Packer proclaimed, “Now, fathers, I would remind you of the sacred nature of your calling. You have the power of the priesthood directly from the Lord to protect your home. There will be times when all that stands as a shield between your family and the adversary’s mischief will be that power. You will receive direction from the Lord by way of the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, May 2010).
In the Melchizedek priesthood we are called to “administer in spiritual things, agreeable to the covenants and commandments of the church” (D&C 107:12).  How many of us truly know and live the doctrine of the priesthood pertaining to home and family?  President Snow declared, “Men who wish to retain their standing before God in the holy priesthood must have the spirit of prophecy, and be qualified to administer life and salvation to the people; and [even] if they cannot do it to the world they must do it at home, in their families…that their hearts may be inspired with words of life at their firesides, in teaching the gospel to their children. (Lorenzo Snow, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church Series, pg. 133).

As husbands and fathers, holding the sacred priesthood, we fulfill our call to administer in spiritual things by teaching the gospel, fostering faith, and promoting spiritual practice as an equal partner with our spouse wherever possible.   We also perform ordinances and provide priesthood blessings for our wives and children.  What a beautiful way for a man to serve and minister to his family.  We are unique in the world of religion in this divine privilege to participate with God in offering healing, comforting, and saving ordinances to our own families.  Think of that!  This, I am convinced, is one way for men to create profound emotional and spiritual bonds with their children, of the type that develop so naturally in relationships with a loving mother.

The priesthood is also a channel that facilitates revelation.  President Dieter F. Uchtdorf stated, “The Prophet Joseph Smith explained that the priesthood is a ‘channel through which the Almighty commenced revealing His glory at the beginning of the creation of this earth, and through which He has continued to reveal Himself to the children of men to the present time.’…If we are not seeking to use this channel of revelation, we are living beneath our priesthood privileges” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Ensign, May 2011).  We learn from revelation that the power of the priesthood unlocks the privilege of having the heavens opened and enjoying the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant (see D&C 107:18-19).  May I suggest that few blessings compare to such a thrilling promise.  Though most of us have a long journey to make before the blessed day when we enjoy the presence of the Father, we can grow in light and truth until that perfect day!  It is done through revelation, line upon line.  No setting is more suited to teach this doctrine, to testify of it, and above all to model it, than the family.
I count it as one of the great and humbling privileges of my life to bear the priesthood of the living God!  It is a sacred and beautiful experience to exercise that priesthood, and to receive inspiration from on High in behalf of those I love the most – my wife and children.  I testify of both the authority and power of the Holy Priesthood to bless lives, to work miracles, and to save souls.  May we each more fully come unto the Father and hearken unto the voice of the Spirit that He may “teach [us] of the covenant”, which He has confirmed upon us for our benefit and for the benefit of the whole world (see D&C 84:47-48).  God grant that in so doing our “confidence will wax strong in the presence of God and the doctrine of the priesthood will distill upon our souls as the dews from heaven” (D&C 121:45).  It is then that the scepter of power in the priesthood – that scepter of righteousness and truth – will be ours forever and ever.  In the name of the Great High Priest, even Jesus Christ, amen. 

No comments: