The strength of a priesthood quorum

I have learned over the years that the strength in a quorum doesn’t come from the number of priesthood holders in it. Nor does it come automatically from the age and maturity of the members. Rather, the strength of a quorum comes in large measure from how completely its members are united in righteousness. That unity in a strong quorum of the priesthood is not like anything I have experienced in an athletic team or club or any other organization in the world.

Henry B. Eyring, “A Priesthood Quorum,” October 2006 General Conference

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Truth is always harmonious with itself; piety is often the cloak of error

The First Presidency (Joseph F. Smith, Anthon H. Lund, and Charles W. Penrose) wrote the following in 1913 about those who make false claims or declare erroneous doctrines:

“When visions, dreams, tongues, prophecy, impressions or any extraordinary gift or inspiration conveys something out of harmony with the accepted revelations of the Church or contrary to the decisions of its constituted authorities, Latter-day Saints may know that it is not of God, no matter how plausible it may appear. Also they should understand that directions for the guidance of the Church will come, by revelation, through the head. All faithful members are entitled to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for themselves, their families, and for those over whom they are appointed and ordained to preside. But anything at discord with that which comes from God through the head of the Church is not to be received as authoritative or reliable. In secular as well as spiritual affairs, Saints may receive Divine guidance and revelation affecting themselves, but this does not convey authority to direct others, and is not to be accepted when contrary to Church covenants, doctrine or discipline, or to known facts, proven truths, or good common sense. No person has the right to induce his fellow members of the Church to engage in speculations or take stock in ventures of any kind on the specious claim of Divine revelation or vision or dream, especially when it is in opposition to the voice of recognized authority, local or general. The Lord’s Church ‘is a house of order.’ It is not governed by individual gifts or manifestations, but by the order and power of the Holy Priesthood as sustained by the voice and vote of the Church in its appointed conferences.

“The history of the Church records many pretended revelations claimed by imposters or zealots who believed in the manifestations they sought to lead other persons to accept, and in every instance, disappointment, sorrow and disaster have resulted therefrom. Financial loss and sometimes utter ruin have followed. . . .

“Be not led by any spirit or influence that discredits established authority, contradicts true scientific principles and discoveries, or leads away from the direct revelations of God for the government of the Church. The Holy Ghost does not contradict its own revealings. Truth is always harmonious with itself. Piety is often the cloak of error. The counsels of the Lord through the channel he has appointed will be followed with safety. Therefore, O! ye Latter-day Saints, profit by these words of warning.”

In Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 4:285–86.  Also found in Doctrine and Covenants Institute Student Manual, Enrichment J-7: Keys for Avoiding Deception.

Priesthood Patterns of Service

Henry B. Eyring  I have been impressed with the patterns evident in the instruction we receive from the Lord’s servants. Below are several of these patterns as taught by President Eyring and President Uchtdorf:

1.

I close now with this counsel to the Lord’s priesthood servants.

  • Ponder deeply and diligently in the scriptures and in the words of living prophets.
  • Persist in prayer for the Holy Ghost to reveal to you the nature of God the Father and His Beloved Son.
  • Plead that the Spirit will show you what the Lord wants you to do.
  • Plan to do it.
  • Promise Him to obey.
  • Act with determination until you have done what He asked. And then
  • pray to give thanks for the opportunity to serve and to know what you might do next.

Henry B. Eyring, “Act in all Diligence,” April General Conference, 2010 (formatting mine)

2.

The example [our young people] most need from us is to do what they must do.

  • We need to pray for the gifts of the Spirit.
  • We need to ponder in the scriptures and in the words of living prophets.
  • We need to make plans which are not only wishes but covenants.
  • And then we need to keep our promises to the Lord.
  • And we need to lift others by sharing with them the blessings of the Atonement which have come in our lives.
  • And we need to exemplify in our own lives the steady and prolonged faithfulness that the Lord expects of them.

As we do, we will help them feel from the Spirit an assurance that if they will persist, they will hear the words from a loving Savior and Heavenly Father: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant….”

Henry B. Eyring, “Help Them on Their Way Home,” April General Conference, 2010 (formatting mine)

3.

Now, we come to the question of how best to help those you are called to serve and rescue. That will depend on your capacities and on the nature of your priesthood relationship to the person who is in spiritual peril. Let me give three cases which may be your opportunity at times in your priesthood service.

Let’s start when you are an inexperienced junior companion, a teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood assigned with a seasoned companion to visit a young family. Before preparing for the visit you will pray for strength and inspiration to see their needs and know what help you could give. If you can, you will have that prayer with your companion, naming those you will visit. As you pray your heart will be drawn out to them personally and to God. You and your companion will agree on what you hope to accomplish. You will work out a plan for what you will do.

Whatever the plan, you will watch and listen with great intensity and humility during the visit. You are young and inexperienced. But the Lord knows their spiritual state and their needs perfectly. He loves them. And because you know He sends you to act for Him, you can have faith that you can sense their needs and what you can do to meet your charge to help. It will come as you visit face-to-face in their home. That is why you have this priesthood charge in the Doctrine and Covenants: “Visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties.”

And then you have an added charge which takes even greater discernment:

“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, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking;

“And see that the church meet together often, and also see that all the members do their duty.”

You and your companion will rarely receive inspiration to know the details of the degree to which they are meeting that standard. But I can promise you from experience that you will be given the gift to know what is well with them. And from that you will be able to encourage them. There is another promise I can make: you and your companion will be inspired to know what changes they could make to begin the spiritual healing they need. The words of what you are charged to have happen in their lives will almost certainly contain some of the most important changes the Lord would have them make.

If your companion feels an impression to urge change, watch what he does. You will likely be surprised at the way the Spirit guides him to speak. There will be the sound of love in his voice. He will find a way to tie the needed change with a blessing that will follow. If it is the father or mother who needs to make a change, he may show how it would lead to happiness for the children. He will describe the change as a move away from unhappiness to a better and safer place.

Your contribution during the visit may seem to you small, but it can be more powerful than you may think possible. You will show by your face and manner that you care for the people. They will see that your love for them and the Lord makes you unafraid. And you will be bold enough to bear your testimony to truth. Your humble, simple, and perhaps brief testimony may touch the heart of a person more easily than that of your more experienced companion. I have seen it happen.

Henry B. Eyring, “Man Down!”, April 2009 General Conference (emphasis added)

4.

Brethren, I invite you to consider the words spoken by the servants of God this weekend.

Then get on your knees. Ask God, our Heavenly Father, to enlighten your mind and touch your heart. 

Plead with God for guidance in your daily lives, in your Church responsibilities, and in your specific challenges at this time.

Follow the promptings of the Spirit—do not delay.

If you do all this, I promise that the Lord will not leave you to walk alone.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Why of Priesthood Service,” 2012 April General Conference

Stretching through service

…tonight I wish to encourage priesthood holders who at times feel overwhelmed with their responsibilities. That is a challenge I have spoken of before. I return to it because it returns so often in the lives of those I love and serve.
Most of you have discovered that your priesthood duties will stretch you to the point that you wonder if you can stretch that far.
…the more faithful service you give, the more the Lord asks of you….He increases our power to carry the heavier load.
The tough part of that reality, however, is that for Him to give you that increased power you must go in service and faith to your outer limits.
It is like building muscle strength. You must break down your muscles to build them up. You push muscles to the point of exhaustion. Then they repair themselves, and they develop greater strength. Increased spiritual strength is a gift from God which He can give when we push in His service to our limits. Through the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, our natures can be changed. Then our power to carry burdens can be increased more than enough to compensate for the increased service we will be asked to give.
That helps me understand when I see someone else who makes priesthood service look easy. I know that they have either passed hard tests or that the tests lie ahead. So rather than envying them, I stand ready to help when the going gets harder for them, because it surely will.

“O Ye That Embark,” by President Henry B. Eyring, October 2008 General Conference

Just when all seems to be going right, challenges often come in multiple doses applied simultaneously. When those trials are not consequences of your disobedience, they are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more (see Prov. 3:11–12). He therefore gives you experiences that stimulate growth, understanding, and compassion which polish you for your everlasting benefit. To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain.

Richard G. Scott, “Trust in the Lord,” Ensign, Nov 1995, 16

Teaching quorums according to the covenants

“God wants His quorums taught ‘according to the covenants.’ Covenants are solemn promises. Heavenly Father has promised us all eternal life if we will make and keep covenants. For instance, we receive the priesthood with a covenant to be faithful in helping Him in His work. The people we baptize into His Church promise to have faith in Jesus Christ and to repent and to keep His commandments. Every covenant requires faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to His commandments to qualify for the forgiveness and purified hearts necessary to inherit eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God.”

Henry B. Eyring, “A Priesthood Quorum,” Ensign, Nov. 2006, 43

Two channels to God: Priesthood governance and personal testimony

In closing, I refer to the relationship between obedience and knowledge. Members who have a testimony and who act upon it under the direction of their Church leaders are sometimes accused of blind obedience.

Of course, we have leaders, and of course, we are subject to their decisions and directions in the operation of the Church and in the performance of needed priesthood ordinances. But when it comes to learning and knowing the truth of the gospel—our personal testimonies—we each have a direct relationship with God, our Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, through the powerful witness of the Holy Ghost. This is what our critics fail to understand. It puzzles them that we can be united in following our leaders and yet independent in knowing for ourselves.

Perhaps the puzzle some feel can be explained by the reality that each of us has two different channels to God. We have a channel of governance through our prophet and other leaders. This channel, which has to do with doctrine, ordinances, and commandments, results in obedience. We also have a channel of personal testimony, which is direct to God. This has to do with His existence, our relationship to Him, and the truth of His restored gospel. This channel results in knowledge. These two channels are mutually reinforcing: knowledge encourages obedience (see Deuteronomy 5:27; Moses 5:11), and obedience enhances knowledge (see John 7:17; D&C 93:1).

We all act upon or give obedience to knowledge. Whether in science or religion, our obedience is not blind when we act upon knowledge suited to the subject of our action. A scientist receives and acts upon a trusted certification of the content or conditions of a particular experiment. In matters of religion, a believer’s source of knowledge is spiritual, but the principle is the same. In the case of Latter-day Saints, when the Holy Ghost gives our souls a witness of the truth of the restored gospel and the calling of a modern prophet, our choice to follow those teachings is not blind obedience.

Dallin H. Oaks, “Testimony,” Ensign, May 2008, 26–29

"Did He ask easy things of His disciples then?"

President Henry B. Eyring said this in last October’s Priesthood Conference:

“You can get assurance in your service. You can forget yourself and begin to pray for and love those you are to serve. And you can choose what to do and measure success by the degree to which it changes the hearts of the people you serve.

“But it is never going to be easy for you or for those you serve. There will always be pain in service and in the repentance necessary to bring the power of the Atonement to change hearts. That is in the nature of what you are called to do. Think of the Savior, whose service you are in. At what point in His mortal life can you see an instance when it was easy for Him? Did He ask easy things of His disciples then? Then why should it ever be easy in His service or for His disciples?”

Ensign, November 2007, p. 57, emphasis added.

Postscript:
President Eyring, in a 1997 BYU Devotional, made a similar remark:

“You are the future of the Church. God knows that. And so he now asks more of you than he has asked of those who were here before you, because the kingdom will need more.”

See: http://stephenjones.us/2008/04/01/the-plan-of-salvation-eyring/