(Read and Follow the Directions)
This started out as a little note in my reading this morning, which got lost due to a technological quirk. But I liked the thread I was following, and so I tried to re-create it and write it down again. Good plan, but then it morphed into this big old three-page thought process. It’s a sort-of analogy, and I don’t know how well it fits, but this is my way of working and weeding through my ideas. Here again, I remind you. This is me in my raw form. I don’t speak for or represent the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in any official capacity. I just want to actively live the gospel every day, and I’d like to do it with friends. 😉
“I urgently plead with each one of us to live up to our privileges as bearers of the priesthood.” – Elder Russel M. Nelson to the ordained priesthood brothers of the Church. “The Price of Priesthood Power” April 2016 LDS General Conference
I have been giving this some thought, and although I’ve heard others speak the platitude to women, “Men hold the priesthood. Women bear children,” I’ve never really bought in to that concept. To clarify, I consider myself a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but I never appreciated the semi-joking, semi-condescending tone of this comment, and I sensed that the person saying it didn’t buy into it any more than I did. Which could explain why I wanted to punch the person who said it. (I make no claim to perfection, only to trying to progress.)
But today I’ve given that obnoxious phrase more thought than I have before. How does bearing children relate to bearing the priesthood? Does it at all?
Elder Nelson’s talk refers over and over to increasing “power in the priesthood.” I’ve heard that phrase many times in a place and context that are very sacred to my heart, and in those times the words are spoken directly to me and by me. I have power in the priesthood of God for myself and my posterity, yet I do not bear the priesthood of God, but I have born children, and I believe that families and motherhood (and fatherhood) are eternal.
For this reason I have given more thought to what it may mean for a man in my church to “bear the priesthood.” The only way I can think to do this, is by comparing it to how a woman “bears children”.
For a woman, the act of bearing a child begins at conception, when her body undergoes changes which are often painful and disruptive to her life. No woman who has ever been pregnant would call morning sickness convenient or enjoyable, likewise the back pain that comes as the body adjusts its contours to accommodate a growing baby, but these are part of what comes with the body’s adjustment to the changes needed to create a safe place for a baby to grow and develop. Because of her love for a child she’s never even met, a woman must be willing to labor this way, and continue for the rest of her life, even after the baby is born.
If “bearing the priesthood” is supposed to be, to the men who have been ordained to it, the same all-encompassing, sacrificial experience, then they must be willing to submit themselves to the possible requirement to sacrifice nearly all their physical comforts in the effort to bring the blessings of the priesthood into the world, to guide and direct the affairs of the Church, and help others receive the ordinances that signify a person’s decision to take upon themselves the name of Christ. They must “labor” to bring to pass the purposes of God in His church. This is what they have been specifically called to do. Elder Nelson put it this way,
I urgently plead with each one of us [men] to live up to our privileges as bearers of the priesthood. In a coming day, only those men who have taken their priesthood seriously, by diligently seeking to be taught by the Lord Himself, will be able to bless, guide, protect, strengthen, and heal others. Only a man who has paid the price for priesthood power will be able to bring miracles to those he loves and keep his marriage and family safe, now and throughout eternity.
When a woman carries a baby in her body, she also experiences new effects on her mind. Many women experience unsettling dreams or nightmares which disrupt sleep patterns that impact the way she lives her days. She may nap more, she may be more careful to avoid shows with disturbing images or ideas. All her decisions are influenced by the needs of the baby growing within her and the family that it will be born into.
A righteous, ordained priesthood holder will consider carefully the needs of those he has been called to serve. What are the physical and spiritual needs of his family? What needs have the families he home teaches? Does he serve in other leadership roles where he needs to support the spiritual progress of members of the Church? Does he do his best to seek Christ-like attributes? Are all his decisions influenced by the needs of others who see to follow a path that will return them to Jesus Christ?
Regardless of whether we are men or women, or have families of our own or not, we can still have the blessings of priesthood power in our lives and homes. “Power in the priesthood” is not restricted to us as members based on whether we have been ordained to bear the priesthood authority. Power in the priesthood comes as we keep the covenants we have made with God, and take seriously the work that He has called us to do, and the way we use the talents He has given us to return, and lead others, to Christ.
These things sound idealistic, and they are. Yet if we don’t work toward an ideal, what purpose is life? I don’t have to be perfect now. I live and make choices the best I can, repent when I wander, and have hope in Christ’s atonement, so that I can become perfected in him and return to live with my Father in Heaven someday.