Power IN the Priesthood

A teacher once asked in a Relief Society lesson, “What have you gained from the gospel?” My testimony was not great at the time so I thought I would struggle to find an answer. Instead, the answer confidence came quickly to mind. My favorite blessing in the gospel is the added confidence and power I feel when I have the Spirit.

Perhaps it is because I have often felt powerless and useless that this is what I focus on the most in the gospel. I want to find all the ways to increase my power. This might also be why priesthood has been a difficult gospel topic for me.

 About a year and a half after I returned from my mission, I was in a Sacrament Meeting listening to a man talk about the priesthood. He went over the two branches, the different offices and blessings, all the things I had heard before. He kept using the phrase, “Power of the Priesthood” repeatedly. “By the power of the priesthood, we can do this,” and “with the power of the priesthood, we can do that.” It started to make me mad.

I kept thinking that priesthood power was this separate and special kind of power that I would never have because I would never hold a priesthood key. Did that mean that this man was more powerful than me? Even after all I had done to learn and grow, why was I still unworthy of this other power when any man, even a 12-year-old boy, could have it?

That’s not true, I thought. I know I have power. No one can tell me I don’t have power.

I was thinking of that experience I had in the cemetery as a young missionary. I had felt the darkness and then I had been surrounded by light and I saw myself carrying that light and pushing back the darkness. The Lord had told me then that my light would always be stronger than the darkness, and I had no cause to fear. I knew I had power.

As I remembered this in that Sacrament Meeting, the image of myself in my mind changed slightly. Instead of the light emanating out from me at the center, the light was a column reaching up into heaven. I stood within the base of that column and pulled down light from heaven as fast as I could because I wanted so much of it.

The Spirit whispered, there is Power IN the Priesthood.

I understood, in that moment, that I stood in a conduit that connected me to heaven. The breadth and strength of that conduit determined how much and how fast I could gather light and power from heaven. The conduit was made of priesthood. Each covenant I made, each blessing I received, each calling I accepted and for which I was set apart, added to the walls of my conduit.

Even in only that one event from my mission, I could see the support of the priesthood. I prepared myself by making covenants sealed by the Melchizedek Priesthood. I had been called to a specific Mission by Apostles with priesthood. I was set apart as a missionary by my Stake President with priesthood. I was assigned to a specific area and trainer by my Mission President who had priesthood. That morning, I was given a priesthood blessing of comfort and counsel by my Zone Leader who exercised his priesthood keys. I was surrounded and supported by priesthood. Because of priesthood, I had power. That is the purpose.

Priesthood keys were not given to men so that men could have priesthood power. Priesthood keys were given to the children of god so that the power of God could cover and bless all of God’s children.

There is so much that makes us feel powerless in this world. My favorite part of spirituality, the greatest blessing from my faith, is the development of my personal spiritual power. This is also my hope for all of God’s children. May you find your power.

Know the Doctrine, Purpose of Commandments: Part 4

Christ said that if any one “will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine” (John 7:17). This is my favorite reason, my purpose, for keeping commandments, because there is a connection between learning and doing. Somethings you can learn theoretically or intellectually through study, but to know the nuances, details, and further implications, you have to do it. See it in action. Black and white becomes blazing technicolor when you live it.

The health code that I’ve mentioned before in parts 2 and 3 of this series is about how to take care of your physical body. While the Lord does promise physical health, He did not title it a health code. He called it a “word of wisdom” and among His promises of health are also promises of “wisdom and great treasures of knowledge” (D&C 89:19).

In Doctrine and Covenants section 130, verses 20-21 read: 

There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—and when we obtain any blessings from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.  

But the verses 18-19, immediately preceding those oft quoted verses about obedience, say: 

Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.   

This has made me wonder, what if the blessing is the knowledge? What if each commandment is linked to a doctrine and by living that commandment you are gaining knowledge of that doctrine? 

 I do not think the Lord is merely testing our ability to form habits. Commandments are not arbitrary; they have a purpose. They are expressions of love for each other, for God, and they prepare us to live with Him again. We are ready for the kingdom of God when we can love as He loves, do as he does, and know what He knows.

Commandments are how we bring doctrines to life. We see them in full-scale technicolor reality and thereby learn things we could have never realized without living them.

I have done this, so far, in two ways. First, by learning a doctrine in the scriptures that I wanted to use in my life and then purposefully living the commandment that could best bring it into my life. Second, by living the commandment and openly asking God to teach me how to do it better and why I’m doing it. 

For the first example, when I prayed about my mother’s breast cancer, I wanted to know the will of God, if she would be healed or not. The full story is here and here, but essentially I learned in an Institute lesson that the Father-child relationship we share with God means that when we pray we can be united with Him and our wills aligned as one. My Institute teacher used Enos as an example and I went home and followed that example as best I could. I prayed with greater consistency than ever before and with more purpose and sensitivity. In the end, I learned the doctrine about my connection to God, His love for me, His awareness of me, and His willingness to teach and show me His will such that I would love it and accept it as my own. This doctrine is no longer a story in the scriptures for me—it is my own story and it is a part of my foundation.

Many years after this, my step-father was undergoing a surgery that had him feeling very scared. I was living too far away to go home to help him, but I wanted to help, and I wanted to be there for him however I could. I thought of fasting and the promises of fasting in the scriptures, but, to be honest, I hated fasting. I would often have blood sugar problems that left me feeling faint, and it felt like torture. I simply never understood how torturing myself would please God and earn me blessings. I wanted to fast for my step-father, and I asked Heavenly Father to teach me how to do it correctly and to help me understand why the heck I’m even doing it and how it works. 

As I went through that day, focused on my fast, on my step-father, and the Spirit helping me understand it, I learned about the connection between the physical and the spiritual. The weaknesses that they each have at times but how they can work together to strengthen the other. I learned to love fasting because I loved my spirit and my body in a new way because they were connected in a new way. The doctrine of our temple bodies is not an abstract idea any longer. For me, it is reality and it is another stone in my foundation. 

Commandments as a list of “to-do’s” leaves me overwhelmed. Commandments as a list of “should’s” and “should not’s” leads to a binding perfectionism in which I will inevitably fall short and then berate myself. Commandments as learning tools helps me stay in a growth mindset. I see myself as a growing thing—not a broken one, not a weak one, not a stupid one. If something is too hard, I’m not there yet, but given time and a little more experience, I will be. I can keep learning “line upon line, precept upon precept” (D&C 98:12) and trust God when He says I do not have to run faster than I am able (D&C 10:4). 

We are all learning something. We learn at different rates, we learn things in a different order. We have various experiences and our lessons will be tailored to us personally. There are somethings that I will never know as well as someone else who has lived another life than me. Learning from one another is yet one more way to keep us united. Sharing with each other the hard things to help them become easy.

The full scripture my mother quoted to me in that hallway when I was 13 reads like this:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matt 11:28-30, emphasis added

Life is hard. Learning is hard. But with the right teacher and a good study group, the possibilities are endless.