The following was my first talk as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was given December 26, 2010 in the St Cloud Ward in St Cloud, FL.
Good morning and Merry Christmas. In the past when I have been up in front of you it has always been with my eyes closed. This promises to be a different experience for me.
I am privileged this morning to be able to speak to you about the priorities of a righteous priesthood holder. Men who hold the priesthood have many duties and responsibilities. The priesthood manual part b lesson 9 lists a few of the responsibilities of the Melchizedek Priesthood:
- We should be personally converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and be thoroughly committed to living its principles.
- We should teach our families the principles of the gospel and treat them with love and understanding.
- We should be worthy to hold a temple recommend, obtain the blessings of the temple for ourselves and our families, find the names of our ancestors, and perform temple ordinances for them. We should promote “[the turning of] the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers” by keeping family records and by maintaining family organizations.
- We should provide for ourselves and our families and help those in need through the welfare program of the Church.
- We should engage in appropriate missionary activities, such as helping family members prepare for and serve full-time missions, friendshipping nonmembers, providing referrals for the missionaries, serving full-time missions, and financially supporting missionary work.
- We should understand our full responsibilities as home teachers and diligently “watch over … and be with and strengthen” those we are called to serve.
- We should serve diligently in our Church callings, perform other Church and quorum duties, and participate in appropriate Church meetings and activities, thereby building the kingdom of God.
- We should “honor, obey, and sustain the law; be loyal citizens and good neighbors; and improve the community in which [we] live.”
When we are given the Melchizedek Priesthood, we are given the power to bless the spiritual lives of others. The Melchizedek Priesthood “administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest”. Through the power of the Melchizedek Priesthood, we can consecrate oil, bless the sick, confer the priesthood and the gift of the Holy Ghost, ordain others to priesthood offices, dedicate graves, give blessings of comfort, bestow father’s blessings on our children, and participate in the higher temple ordinances.
Of course there are other responsibilities of priesthood holders. And there are duties specific to elders and high priests. All of these duties and responsibilities are very important. The question to consider today is what are the priorities. There is one foundational component, and then a most basic responsibility that must be priorities. The basic responsibility is our obligation to our families.
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve writes in the May 2006 Ensign,
As I meet with priesthood leaders, I often ask about the priorities of their various responsibilities. Usually they mention their important Church duties to which they have been called. Too few remember their responsibilities at home. Yet priesthood offices, keys, callings, and quorums are meant to exalt families. Priesthood authority has been restored so that families can be sealed eternally. So brethren, your foremost priesthood duty is to nurture your marriage—to care for, respect, honor, and love your wife. Be a blessing to her and your children.
In Genesis 2:24 we read, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Elder L. Tom Perry says, “God in his divine plan ordained that marriage was to bring about his basic organizational unit, the family.”
In a talk called “Being a Righteous Husband and Father” at the October 1994 Priesthood Session of General Conference, President Howard W. Hunter said, “A man who holds the priesthood regards the family as ordained of God.Your leadership of the family is your most important and sacred responsibility. The family is the most important unit in time and in eternity and, as such, transcends every other interest in life.”
President Hunter later quotes President Harold B. Lee: “The most important of the Lord’s work you and I will ever do will be within the walls of our own homes.”
President Hunter, “Effective family leadership, brethren, requires both quantity and quality time. The teaching and governance of the family must not be left to your wife alone, to society, to school, or even the Church.”
Our relationship with our spouse is the very foundation of our family. We cultivate unity and spiritual depth together. My wife has been such an inspiration to me. I remember hearing her bear her testimony in public for the first time at Cullen’s baptism which was a month before my baptism. She said so many things in such a short time. For the first time in our many years together I felt the magnitude of her convictions. Her faith is so intense. It is so much a part of her. It emanates from so deep within her. It is warm and beautiful. I knew that she loved God and that she believed in Jesus Christ, but I really was stunned and enlightened by her testimony. That testimony and the help of missionaries and many men in this ward brought me from atheism to deep faith. She was such an inspiration to me that I knew then that for her, for our family, and for me, I needed to approach the scriptures, prayer and God again with a renewed expectation that I would find what she had. I wanted to have faith like her. I wanted to be like her. I am so grateful for her and to her, she is so much more than I deserve.
I am sure we all have stories of the adoration, the deep love and respect that we have for our wives. We cultivate a strong relationship with kind words and deeds, with that very adoration, and the help and guidance of our Heavenly Father. This relationship is a model for our children. And, we are to be spiritual leaders to our children. In the Marriage and Family Relations Participant’s Study Guide in Lesson 10 The Sacred Roles of Fathers and Mothers (Part I: Fathers Roles) we find a short list by President Ezra Taft Benson that is a guide for us in this role. The list was originally published in the October 1987 Ensign. President Benson writes,
With love in my heart for the fathers in Israel, may I suggest ten specific ways that fathers can give spiritual leadership to their children:
- Give father’s blessings to your children. Baptize and confirm your children. Ordain your sons to the priesthood. These will become spiritual highlights in the lives of your children.
- Personally direct family prayers, daily scripture reading, and weekly family home evenings. Your personal involvement will show your children how important these activities really are.
- Whenever possible, attend Church meetings together as a family. Family worship under your leadership is vital to your children’s spiritual welfare.
- Go on daddy-daughter dates and father-and-sons’ outings with your children. As a family, go on campouts and picnics, to ball games and recitals, to school programs, and so forth. Having Dad there makes all the difference.
- Build traditions of family vacations and trips and outings. These memories will never be forgotten by your children.
- Have regular one-on-one visits with your children. Let them talk about what they would like to. Teach them gospel principles. Teach them true values. Tell them you love them. Personal time with your children tells them where Dad puts his priorities.
- Teach your children to work, and show them the value of working toward a worthy goal. Establishing mission funds and education funds for your children shows them what Dad considers to be important.
- Encourage good music and art and literature in your homes. Homes that have a spirit of refinement and beauty will bless the lives of your children forever.
- As distances allow, regularly attend the temple with your wife. Your children will then better understand the importance of temple marriage and temple vows and the eternal family unit.
- Have your children see your joy and satisfaction in service to the Church. This can become contagious to them, so they, too, will want to serve in the Church and will love the kingdom.
President Spencer W. Kimball in the May 1976 Ensign tells us that fathers “must preside as Jesus Christ presides over his Church—in love, in service, in tenderness, and in example.” In our families we are doing the same type of work that Jesus did with his family. We are preparing our children for full lives in the gospel, in Christ’s church. We are holding their hands and walking with them, sometimes carrying them, in that path. The example we must be, the example that President Kimball is talking about, at least in part, is the example we are to our children. In order to be able to do that work, any sacred work, to be that example that we need to be, we must be worthy. We must understand that before we can establish and maintain the type of family that has been described, we must first consider ourselves. We must know and follow the commandments faithfully and always. How we live, who we are, what we do and how we treat others is the evidence of how to live in this life that we provide for our children. In the eyes of our children and others, our actions define us. We must live the example in our hearts and in our deeds. As President Kimball said we have the perfect example. Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reiterates this point for us. In the October 2008 General Conference he said,
The perfect role model for use of the holy priesthood is our Savior, Jesus Christ. He ministered with love, compassion, and charity. His life was a matchless example of humility and power. The greatest blessings from the use of the priesthood flow from humble service to others without thought of self. By following His example as a faithful, obedient priesthood bearer, we can access great power. When required, we can exercise the power of healing, of blessing, of consoling, and of counseling, as the quiet promptings of the Spirit are faithfully followed.
We cannot do these things if we are not worthy. The foundational component is our worthiness. We know this from experience, and we have been told often. The Priesthood Manual part B in Lesson 4 the Purpose of Priesthood Ordinances we read, “Heavenly Father requires that the ordinances of the gospel be performed by men who hold the proper priesthood authority. Only when an ordinance is performed by this authority will our Father in Heaven approve it.” If we are to be able to attend to the needs of our family, the blessings, baptisms, ordinances, etcetera, we must be prepared. We must be able. We must be worthy. Often, too, our ward family and our extended church family, they need us to be there, able, willing and worthy. We do need each other.
Our families are our first priority. The foundation that allows us to properly attend to that priority, to our family, is our worthiness as priesthood holders. As the Apostle Paul addresses the Christians in Ephesus, in Ephesians 5:25 he tells husbands: “Love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” As with so many things, so too in the case of priesthood priorities, Jesus Christ is our perfect example. President James E. Faust explains, “Since the primary purpose of the Church is to help the family and its members, how well the father functions in his responsibility is of utmost importance.” If we are “personally converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and [we are] thoroughly committed to living its principles [then] we [will] teach our families the principles of the gospel and treat them with love and understanding.”
I testify that the priesthood is real. That it has been restored. It is the authority and power of God on this earth. As priesthood holders we have duties and responsibilities. Fulfilling these begins with our own worthiness and in our homes with our families. I leave these thoughts with you in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.