Thursday, July 29, 2004

Priesthood Power and Purity

This is the first entry from my new scripture study.  In the past, I’ve taken a more superficial approach to studying the scriptures:  merely reading them instead of searching them.  I’ve decided to begin with a careful scrutiny of what doctrines are contained in the Book of Mormon.

The results from this first study were quite remarkable.  Just after the first day of reading I realized that I have been missing a lot of the Book of Mormon.    I also realized that the real task will be to narrow down what I study.  It is all a testimony to me of how great this book is.  It is clearly a sacred document truly given to us by God. 

Topic:  Priesthood Power and Purity

Summary: I’ve heard many times that our power in the priesthood comes from our own virtue or purity that we have developed.  If we are impure, we basically can’t use the priesthood at all.  I think of Nephi (3rd) who received the sealing power because the Lord knew that he was so pure, he would never ask anything contrary to the Lord’s will. (!)  In my study, I found that one of the reasons we have the priesthood is so that we can become pure.  In fact, what I read says that ultimate purity (perfection?) is attained though our priesthood callings. 

I also got a feeling as I read that once we become pure (this appears to be attainable in this life), we will realize some things that are not apparent now.  It appears attainable because it is written there are a “great many” who have become pure through this order of the priesthood.  I also have the feeling that becoming pure means that we will know in a definite way what it means to be sanctified. 

Finally, purity is attained as a direct result of “works of righteousness”.  We cannot become pure without going through the process of faith and acting on that faith. 

Study notes:

My first foray was to read about the priesthood in Alma 13, which has some very interesting things to say about the priesthood calling.  First, I read about how our calling into the priesthood points us toward Christ. 

  • Alma 13:2  And those priests were ordained after the order of his Son, in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption.     

Alma 13: 16 Reiterates this Idea- we are ordained in a manner so that we know where to look for redemption. 

  • Alma 13:3 - And this is the manner after which they were ordained -- being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to echoose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.

First, we were known by God before we were born (just like Jeremiah).  We were prepared there.  Perhaps we were taught all of the gospel so that we would recognize it here?
It is not clear to me whether “faith and good works” applies to what we did in premortality or what we would do in our life.  Perhaps it means both, but it is clear that there is a mortal component in which God expects us to exercise faith and to choose good over evil. 

From the bible dictionary:  According to the O.T. things or places were holy that were set apart for a sacred purpose; the opposite of holy is therefore common or profane.  So to me, “holy calling” means that God Himself set us apart in the pre-existence to receive the priesthood.  We would have a sacred purpose in coming to Earth.  (I hope I am fulfilling it!)

It appears that there was a “preparatory redemption” made for those who would receive the priesthood?  What would a preparatory redemption be?  I found this quote from Theodore M. Burton (assistant to the twelve):  “Thus, you and your fathers were reserved to be born at a time and in a place where you could not fail to hear the gospel preached and accept the holy priesthood. Thus, a preparatory redemption was made for you through a priesthood heritage from your fathers and mothers.”

I’m not sure my commentary here reflects the depth of the thought I had while reading this chapter.  It impresses me that the very manner in which we are called and ordained is designed to point us to Christ.  We who hold the priesthood were put on Earth for the express purpose of exercising it.
  • Alma 13: 10  Now, as I said concerning the holy order, or this high priesthood, there were many who were ordained and became high priests of God; and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish;  
    11 - Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb.
    12 - Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin 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.
    13 - 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 starts out here by laying out the requirements for being ordained a high priest: faith, repentence, and righteousness before God.

 “sanctification” and having our “garments washing white”  are major happenings. When does one know one has been sanctified?  When does one know one’s garments have been washed white?  I have the feeling there are definite things that occur so that there is no question for the person who receives these blessings.  Purity is a result of the righteous exercise of the priesthood.  The key to detecting purity is the degree to which a person tolerates sin.  A truly pure person cannot tolerate the least bit of sin. 

  • Alma 5:26-31 And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?
    27 Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins?
    28 Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life.
    29 Behold, I say, is there one among you who is not stripped of envy? I say unto you that such an one is not prepared; and I would that he should prepare bquickly, for the hour is close at hand, and he knoweth not when the time shall come; for such an one is not found guiltless.
    30 And again I say unto you, is there one among you that doth make a mock of his brother, or that heapeth upon him persecutions?
    31 Wo unto such an one, for he is not prepared, and the time is at hand that he must repent or he cannot be saved!
    36 - For behold, the time is at hand that whosoever bringeth forth not good fruit, or whosoever doeth not the works of righteousness, the same have cause to wail and mourn.

To be cleansed by the blood of Christ, we must be stripped of pride, envy, and mocking behavior.  We must bring forth good, which is to say, "works of righteousness."

In Jacob Chapter 3, we read that ancient Nephites lost their purity through violations of the law of Chastity. 

  • 2 Nephi 9: 47 - But behold, my brethren, is it expedient that I should awake you to an awful reality of these things? Would I harrow up your souls if your minds were pure?    
    51 - Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy.  Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness

When we are not pure, we must be “harrowed up” and abandon trivia and amusements.  In  lesson 1 of our new manual, Heber J. Grant explains by analogy of what it means to feast on the word of Christ.  He said that coming to church and listening, but then not doing anything about what we hear is like going to a great big meal and just smelling the food.    By “feasting”, therefore, Nephi means that we should be doing!




1 comment:

Brad said...

Wonderful! Thank you. I was inspired last night to teach about "power in the priesthood" at our annual high priests quorum meeting. Your thoughts on this subject, together with an April 2001 General Conference talk by Elder John H. Groberg titled "Priesthood Power" give me some things to ponder as I prepare to teach our high priests. And I am taking them to heart for myself as well.