Last night I got to sit in on a meeting with Elder Perry of the quorum of the twelve apostles and Elder Clayton of the presidency of the Seventy. I was there with about 500 other priesthood leaders representing about 38,000 members in 11 stakes. I happened to be in the front row, so when the chorister was late, I got to stand up and lead everyone in a few hymns. It’s awesome to hear all those voices. There’s a great, peaceful feeling sharing the same room with hundreds of men united in song and purpose, determined together to serve Jesus Christ. That feeling stayed with me through the entire meeting and I left feeling edified and having some new ideas and direction.
The purpose of the meeting was to address a few large concerns that have been on the minds of the brethren recently. I’ll list each one and mention what was discussed.
Limited Understanding of Sacred Covenants
Many brothers are entering into priesthood covenants without a good understanding of what the oath and the covenant of the priesthood is. It’s a very serious commitment and many are ordained with little understanding of it. Elder Perry quoted 1 Tim 5:22 (“Lay hands suddenly on no man.”) and taught that we should carefully teach about the oath and covenant of the priesthood before we ordain brethren.
We reviewed principles of the priesthood including the following:
- The priesthood is the power and authority by which God created and governs the universe.
- It is the portion of his power given to mortal men for salvation.
- The blessings of the priesthood are available to all who desire them.
- The priesthood is directed by individuals who possess keys. Keys entitle one to receive revelation to guide and direct others.
- When we enter into the oath and covenant of the priesthood, we make an oath to:
o Magnify our callings through doing our duty and following personal revelation
o Give diligent heed to the words of eternal life
o “Live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God”
- God promises
o Physical support
o Adoption into the family of Abraham
o Eternal Life and “All that the Father hath”
- If we desire eternal life, we must enter into this covenant. If we enter into this covenant and abandon it, we cannot be forgiven in this life or the next. It’s a very serious promise.
- With the priesthood, there is a line of authority (D&C 84:33-37) - we act for the Savior.
Response to the rescue has been poor
Our prophet is very concerned about the rescue of individuals, especially those who have the priesthood and those who have had the opportunity to receive it. Our progress as a church in the 2 ½ years since he spoke on this has been essentially zero. To explain this, Elder Clayton gave a classic quote from Stephen L. Richards:
“A quorum is three things: first, a class; second, a fraternity; and third, a service unit. Within it the men of the Priesthood learn of the principles of the Gospel, establish true brotherhood, and carry forward the work of Christ. It is a God-given association from which they derive more of lasting advantage than from any other fraternal organization in our society. Its prime purpose is to encourage and safeguard the individual."
Elder Clayton said that we often forget the rest of that quote:
“I fear we have some men who have received the Holy Priesthood who feel themselves too big and too important to associate with their brethren in the quorum. I am sorry for them. They are making a great mistake. For it is they, chiefly, who are retarding the progress of the work of God. I am certain that I am right when I say that if all of the men of the Priesthood would be loyal to their quorums the work of the Church would be accelerated beyond anything we have ever known”
The point here is that it is the failure of priesthood quorums that is causing our failure. We had an open participation section where we answered three questions:
1) What have you seen in quorums that really works to encourage a feeling of brotherhood?
2) What encourages the brethren to use the priesthood in their own homes?
3) What examples have you seen of Elders Quorum Presidents using their keys?
The main points that came out of this discussion is that quorum presidents have a responsibility to follow revelation, to teach their quorums, and to bring them together in love.
Elder Perry taught how quorum leaders can cooperate with full time missionaries to help bring people back. Missionaries have the time and calling to teach, and quorum leaders have the right to personal revelation which will guide them to those who are ready. The leaders also have the authority to personally minister to families and invite them to recommit to the gospel and have the missionaries teach them.
In elder Perry’s opinion, the most important callings to fill in a ward are: Bishop, Clerk, and Elder’s quorum president. These callings have a significant part in this process.
Protecting Religious Freedom
Political movements that are seeking to limit religious freedom require the efforts of a large, united priesthood body to oppose them. The LDS church is well-respected among leaders of other religions. One of the great reasons for this is our participation in the California proposition 8 contest. As a church, we are unique in that other organizations have no head. These organizations are led by councils and committees. We have one head – the savior Jesus Christ, who acts through his senior apostle on the earth. This enables us to accomplish great things.
Elder Perry challenged us to rescue 10% of the elders and prospective elders who have fallen out of activity in the church. If we did so, we would activate 250,000 men worldwide. Imagine that!