Sunday, June 03, 2007

Priesthood: The Power that Connects Us

A couple of weeks ago I took Devin on a fathers-and-son’s camp out. This is a yearly ritual in the LDS church. We are blessed in Augusta, GA to live next to one the largest man-made reservoirs east of the Mississippi river in Clarks Hill/Strom Thurman Lake, which is surrounded by nearly 10 state parks and recreation areas on both its Georgia and South Carolina side. After dinner, as part of the activities, there was to be a fireside. As part of the program, several young men who ranged from Deacons, Teachers, and Priests in the Aaronic Priesthood to a newly ordained Elder in the Melchesidek Priesthood prepared some insightful thoughts on the life of Joseph Smith as it related to their experience with officiating in the priesthood.

A Deacon of the Aaronic Priesthood arose first who was about 13 years old and told the story of Joseph Smith’s vision. He told how Joseph, not being much older than he was, was curious about which of all the churches was true and which he should join and read in the Bible that he should ask God in prayer. And, on one spring morning in 1830, Joseph knelt in a private grove of trees near his home and there beheld a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ who told him that none of the Churches were true and that Joseph was called to do a marvelous work at some future date.

Next a Teacher of the Aaronic Priesthood arose, who was about 15 years old, and old the story of Joseph Smith ‘s visitation by the angel Moroni. It had been a few years after the First Vision, and Joseph knelt in prayer at home with a desire to repent of his sins and was visited several times throughout the night the next morning by the angel Moroni who showed Joseph Smith the location of the Gold Plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated.

Then a Priest of the Aaronic Priesthood arose, who was about 18 years old, who told how Joseph, not being too much older that he was permitted by the angel Moroni finally to take the Gold Plates and interpreters from the place where they were are proceed in the work of translation of the Book of Mormon. He told of the immediate persecution which arose and how many of his neighbors tried to kill him and broke into his home to steel the Gold Plates once word got out that he had them.

Then an Elder in the Melchesidek Priesthood arose, who was about 23 years old, who told how Joseph at his age published the Book of Mormon and who while translating the Gold Plates read about the need for baptism by water and felt he should pray to God about the necessary authority to baptize. And in response to their prayer appeared John the Baptist who laid his resurrected hands on the head of Joseph and Oliver Cowdery and conferred upon them the Aaronic Priesthood that has the authority to administer the sacrament, to baptize with water, and the blessing of the ministering of angels. And there in the Susquehanna River where they were, Joseph and Oliver baptized each other the first members of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Last Days.

And then at a later date, they were visited by a resurrected Peter and James, and a translated John who laid their hands on Joseph and Oliver’s head who bestowed upon them the keys of the Melchesidek Priesthood which has the authority to baptize with fire or, in other words, give the gift of the Holy Ghost; to give blessings to the sick; and to administer in the ordinances and covenants of the Temple. And with this priesthood authority restored to Earth after the keys were lost with the death of Christ’s Apostles and after long years of a spiritual and temporal dark age; Joseph was commanded to reorganize and restore the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Each of these boys expressed their feelings and testimony that they could relate to the story of Joseph Smith. They had asked similar questions of God in prayer such as: was the Church of Jesus Christ really God’s only true church, and if Joseph Smith really saw God and Jesus Christ and the Angel Moroni, and if the Book of Mormon was really God’s word like the Bible. And they each said that God had answered their prayers and that they knew for themselves that these things were true.

And then they expressed gratitude for their responsibilities in the Aaronic and Melchesidek Priesthoods which gave them opportunities to help others and serve God and Christ and for the connection they felt with Joseph Smith that the priesthood they had been given by their fathers had helped them connect to not only Joseph but also the Prophets in the Bible and Book of Mormon. And helped them resist tempation and to commit themselves to an honest and virtuous life as a disciple of Christ. And they expressed their gratitude that they felt the priesthood was preparing them to be men and future fathers, to get married and have a family of their own one day and be able to enjoy their family forever.

And that is what the Priesthood is all about. It is about making connections with one another that will survive death and go on into the next life. Because it’s our relationships with our spouse, family, children, neighbors, and friends that are the treasure that we can lay up in store and enjoy in heaven. And it’s the keys of the Priesthood of the Son of God who was called an High Priest after the order of Melchesidek which has the power to seal us up to God and Christ, to seal us up to eternal life, and to also seal us together as husband and wife. It is only that power and authority of God's love that can strengthen our relationships such that they will stand up not only in this life but also will extend into the next.

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