My dear brethren, I prayerfully seek your faith as Iundertake the overwhelming responsibility ofaddressing this great body of priesthood holders. May Iexpress my profound appreciation for your loyalty,faithfulness, and devotion. The work of God our Fathergoes forward as never before because of yourcommitment and devotion to this holy work.
Brethren, we must never let the great powers of theholy priesthood of God lie dormant in us. We are boundtogether in the greatest cause and the most sacredwork in all the world. To exercise these great powers,we must be clean in thought and action. We must donothing which would impair the full exercise of thistranscendent power.
Priesthood is the greatest power on earth. Worlds werecreated by and through the priesthood. To safeguardthis sacred power, all priesthood holders act under thedirection of those who hold the keys of the priesthood.These keys bring order into our lives and into theorganization of the Church. For us, priesthood power isthe power and authority delegated by God to act in Hisname for the salvation of His children. Caring for othersis the very essence of priesthood responsibility. It is thepower to bless, to heal, and to administer the savingordinances of the gospel. Righteous priesthoodauthority is most needed within the walls of our ownhomes. It must be exercised in great love. This is true ofall priesthood holders—deacon, teacher, priest, elder,high priest, patriarch, Seventy, and Apostle.
I first learned the principle of priesthood caring frommy own father and grandfather, but I have also seen itmanifested by thousands of worthy men. I learnedgreat lessons of priesthood caring as a teacher in theAaronic Priesthood. I was assigned to serve as a juniorhome teaching companion to a great Scandinavianimmigrant named Algot Johnson from Malmo, Sweden.I learned to admire everything about him, including hisendearing Swedish accent. He taught me the truemeaning of the Lord’s instruction to the teachers:
“The teacher’s duty is to watch over the church always,and be with and strengthen them;
“And see that there is no iniquity in the church, neitherhardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, norevil speaking;
“And see that the church meet together often, and alsosee that all the members do their duty.” 1
Brother Johnson had paid a great price to leave hisbeloved Sweden and come to the United States. He wasvery dedicated. Despite the difference in our ages, webecame lifelong friends. When he became our wardSunday School superintendent, he asked for me to behis counselor. I was only 17 years of age. He was asuccessful contractor, and when I returned home fromWorld War II, he built my first home. When I graduatedfrom law school, I did legal work for him, and when Ibilled him for my legal services, he paid me more than Iasked. That did not happen very often. I cite thisexperience to emphasize the importance of giving everyAaronic Priesthood holder the opportunity to serve as ajunior companion to faithful Melchizedek Priesthoodholders.
The duty of home teachers cannot always be satisfiedwith a once-a-month visit. They need to be caring andwilling to serve as the need arises. I know of membersof one high priests group who take tools when they gohome teaching. We do not expect home teachers to beable to fix everything, such as computers and otherhighly technical equipment. They can, however, offertheir wisdom and experience in assisting their assignedfamilies to find the needed help. Caring home teachersshould make appointments in advance, if possible.Aaronic Priesthood home teaching companions canlearn lifelong lessons and be greatly blessed by servingwith faithful Melchizedek Priesthood seniorcompanions. Brother Robert F. Jex shares his faith-strengthening experience as a junior home teachingcompanion many years ago:
“My legs felt like gelatin and there was a knot in mystomach as we approached the door. I was sure that Iwas going to faint as my [home teaching] companiontold me that this was my door.
“… I was a 15-year-old home teacher climbing the stairsto the apartment of Sister Rice, a widow living in theBountiful (Utah) First Ward. Don Gabbott, mycompanion, was to teach me a great lesson that nightabout the nurturing role of priesthood bearers to shut-ins who are cut off from the mainstream of Churchactivity.
“Brother Gabbott had given me a topic to present to thefive families assigned us, and I was frightened. … I [had]prepared … some notes on a paper, but I was unsure ofhow to take the lead in the presence of a high priest.
“The response to our knocking was slow. … I was aboutto suggest that no one was home. Then the shrunkenfigure of a frail, aged sister, came around a corner inthe hallway. She seemed uncertain of what waited heranswer at the door. Her face brightened as sherecognized Brother Gabbott. We were invited into herliving room and asked to take a seat.
“After a short greeting, Brother Gabbott looked at me asif to say, ‘Okay, Bob, it’s time to give our message.’ Theknot in my stomach tightened as I began to speak. Icannot recall what I said—it doesn’t really matter—for Iwas the pupil in the classroom of priesthood duty andresponsibility. As I glanced up from my notes at theconclusion of my remarks, my eyes fell upon the tear-stained cheeks of that sweet, sensitive sister. Sheexpressed her gratitude for the presence of priesthoodbearers in her humble home.
“I was speechless. … What had I said that had been soprofound? What could I do? Fortunately, BrotherGabbott came to my rescue by bearing his testimonyand asking if there were any needs in the home. Therewere.
“Sister Rice said that she had not been feeling well andasked that she be remembered as we offered ourprayer before leaving. She then turned to me and askedif I would offer that prayer. By that time, I was soovercome by the spirit of the occasion … [and]surprised that I was asked to pray when someone olderand more experienced and trusted was present.Automatically, I consented and offered a benedictionupon that home teaching visit, asking that a specialblessing of health and strength be given to that faithfulsister whom I barely knew but quickly came to love andrespect.
“Twenty-five years have passed since my introduction tohome teaching in the home of Sister Rice, and she haslong since passed away. But I cannot pass that orange-brick fourplex on Bountiful’s Main Street withoutthinking about the experience provided by BrotherGabbott and a faithful sister who knew theappropriateness of calling upon the powers of heavenembodied in an obedient high priest and an insecure,frightened teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood.” 2
I wish to say a word to our faithful and devotedbishops. I recently reread in the Melchizedek PriesthoodLeadership Handbook the responsibilities of the bishop.These responsibilities are heavy and often quitedemanding. Some duties the bishop cannot delegate,but others can and should be handled by hiscounselors, fathers, home teachers, and quorumleaders. Many years ago we were taught by PresidentHarold B. Lee a fuller meaning of the direction from theLord: “Let every man stand in his own office, and laborin his own calling.” 3 He said: “It becomes theresponsibility of those of us who lead to let, to permit, togive opportunity for every man to learn his duty. … Helpis not helpful if we assume the prerogatives that belongto that individual.” 4 This fuller understanding alsomeans that presiding officers of the Church should becareful not to usurp the responsibilities and duties ofthose they are called to direct.
Bishops, as you serve in this great calling, you may beable to influence more lives for good than at any othertime in your life. While you are enjoying the mantle of abishop and presiding high priest, you will have specialspiritual endowments of wisdom, insight, andinspiration concerning the welfare of your people. Aspresident of the Aaronic Priesthood and of the priestsquorum, you have particular interest and concern forthe youth, both boys and girls.
I have discussed the duty of priesthood leaders andmembers to care for their families, quorums, wards,and stakes. I should like now to discuss another aspectof priesthood responsibility, which is our privilege tosustain those in authority over us. Wilford Woodruffrecorded a remarkable account which illustrates theimportance of this responsibility.
In the early days of the Church, President BrighamYoung asked Wilford Woodruff to take his family toBoston and gather the Saints from New England andCanada and send them to Zion. With a company of 100,they arrived at Pittsburgh at sundown. BrotherWoodruff recorded:
“We did not want to stay there, so I went to the firststeamboat that was going to leave. I saw the captainand engaged passage for us on that steamer. I had onlyjust done so when the spirit said to me, … ‘Don’t goaboard that steamer, nor your company.’ Of course, Iwent and spoke to the captain, and told him that I hadmade up my mind to wait.
“Well, that ship started, and had only got five milesdown the river when it took fire, and three hundredpersons were burned to death or drowned.” 5 What ifthe Saints had not followed the counsel of WilfordWoodruff? All wisely chose to be obedient. Had they notdone so, they would have perished.
In my lifetime, there have been very few occasionswhen I questioned the wisdom and inspiration given bykey priesthood leaders. I have always tried to followtheir counsel, whether I agreed with it or not. I havecome to know that most of the time they were in tunewith the Spirit and I was not. The safe course is tosustain our priesthood leaders and let God judge theiractions.
In the early days of the Church, many fell away becausethey would not sustain Joseph Smith as the Lord’sanointed. In fact, the Prophet Joseph said of some ofthe leaders in Kirtland that “there have been but twobut what have lifted their heel against me—namelyBrigham Young and Heber C. Kimball.” 6 Because oftheir faithful loyalty, the Lord called Brigham Young tolead the Church west, and when the First Presidencywas reorganized, Heber C. Kimball was called as FirstCounselor to Brigham Young.
I do not speak of blind obedience, but rather theobedience of faith, which supports and sustainsdecisions with confidence that they are inspired. Iadvocate being more in tune with the Spirit so we mayfeel a confirming witness of the truthfulness of thedirection we receive from our priesthood leaders. Thereis great safety and peace in supporting our priesthoodleaders in their decisions.
The priesthood of this Church carries the responsibilityto help move the work of righteousness in all the world.Priesthood service requires us to set aside our selfishinterests and desires. Brethren, we need to prepare sothat we are able to accept priesthood callings shouldthey come. We should try to live providently withrespect to our personal lifestyles. Living providentlymeans living well within our means and providing forfuture needs and events. We should avoid the bondageof crushing, unnecessary indebtedness. We should alsotry to have some savings to tide us over for a rainy day.In short, we should seek to manage our affairs so thatwe are better able to accept the calls which might cometo us now, as well as in the future.
You young men need to understand that this greatestof all powers, the priesthood power, is not accessed theway power is used in the world. It cannot be bought orsold. In the book of Acts, we learn that a man calledSimon wanted to buy the priesthood power of theApostles to lay on hands and bestow the Holy Ghost.“But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee,because thou hast thought that the gift of God may bepurchased with money.” 7 Many of you watch andadmire linebackers, power forwards, and centers, aswell as those who wield wealth, fame, and political andmilitary power. Worldly power often is employedruthlessly. However, priesthood power is invoked onlythrough those principles of righteousness by which thepriesthood is governed. The Lord has said:
“No power or influence can or ought to be maintainedby virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by loveunfeigned;
“By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatlyenlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile. …
“Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men,and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thythoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence waxstrong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of thepriesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews fromheaven.” 8
We are told that “many are called, but few are chosen.” 9 One who is chosen is one who is the object of divinefavor. 10 Brethren, how may we be chosen? We may bechosen only when we are chosen by God. “Ye have notchosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you,that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that yourfruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of theFather in my name, he may give it [to] you.” 11 Thishappens only when the heart and soul are transformed,when we have striven with all our heart, might, mind,and soul to keep all of the commandments of God. Ithappens when we have kept “the oath and covenantwhich belongeth to the priesthood.” 12 Thus, we may“become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seedof Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the electof God.” 13
President Stephen L Richards, a former Counselor inthe First Presidency, said, “I have reached theconclusion in my own mind that no man, however greathis intellectual attainments, however vast and far-reaching his service may be, arrives at the full measureof his sonship and the manhood the Lord intended himto have, without the investiture of the Holy Priesthood,and with that appreciation, my brethren, I have giventhanks to the Lord all my life for this marvelous blessingwhich has come to me—a blessing that some of myprogenitors had, and a blessing which more than anyother heritage I want my sons and my grandsons andmy great-grandsons to enjoy.” 14
Brethren, may we strive to keep the oath and covenantof the priesthood and qualify for and receive all of thesupernal blessings God has for His faithful sons, I prayin the name of Jesus Christ, amen.