The Savior on his travels from Capernaum where He had spent the previous day, entered a city called Nain. This journey would have taken all day. It was a 25 mile walk which also seemed to have been an upward hike. Nain was located on the northern slope of Mount Moreh.1 As Jesus entered the city, He encountered a funeral procession. There He saw a widow preparing to lay her only son to rest, the paul bearers and a multitude of towns folk. I imagine that this was a solemn scene with quiet mourning and probably the soft sobs of this grieving woman. Having just entered the city, Jesus had every reason to pass this sad but normal scene and go on to find refreshment, a place to rest and then perhaps a place to teach. Why did He notice this woman, the widow?
The scripture says:
“And when the Lord saw her, he had acompassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was adead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother”.2
I find this story fascinating because it was so random, at least in my mind it was. Perhaps for the Master it was not. Did the Savoir stop out of duty, because of the covenants He had made or because as the scriptures say He simply had compassion on her. Of course we cannot know for certain all the reasons why but it is instructive to know that Jesus was a bearer of the Holy Priesthood and as such He had the authority and the power to help her. As a bearer of the priesthood He also had a duty to help if He could and as a baptized member of the church, He had made covenants to mourn with those that ‘mourn and to comfort those that stand in need of comfort’3. We also know that his compassion was a manifestation of His unending love for mankind. These three words, duty, covenant and love should influence all our actions as members of the church but especially as bearers of the priesthood of God. As we internalize the powerful meanings, that each of these words carry, it will change not only why we serve or minister to our brothers and sisters but also how. I would like to direct my remarks to the men of the church who hold or aspire to hold the priesthood of God.
“The priesthood is the authority and power of God. It has always existed and will continue to exist. Through the priesthood, Heavenly Father accomplishes His work “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. God grants authority and power to His sons and daughters on earth to help carry out this work “.4
Our Heavenly Father invites us to participate in the accomplishing of His work on the earth through the delegation of Priesthood authority. This means that in order for His work to be done we need to do it. It is true that the Lord can do His own work, but He would rather delegate, especially if there are men and women willing and able to do it. The simple truth is that men who hold the priesthood have a duty to God and His work. Through this process we grow and become like Him.
“Inscribed beneath Robert E. Lee’s bust in the Hall of Fame are his words: “Duty is the sublimest word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.”
Many people don’t mind doing what we ought to do when it doesn’t interfere with what we want to do, but it takes discipline and maturity to do what we ought to do whether we want to or not. Duty is too often what one expects from others and not what one does”5.
Are we bound by duty? Do we feel the obligation of our duties tug at our hands and feet? Have we sought diligently to learn our duties? The scriptures teach by way of a warning:
“Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence. He that is slothful shall not be counted worthy to stand, and he that learns not his duty and shows himself not approved shall not be counted worthy to stand.”6
The offices of deacon, teacher, priest, elder and high priest, all come with specific duties and responsibilities. These duties are outlined in (but not restricted to) Doctrine and covenants 20, 107, 84, 121, Alma 13 and in the General Handbook of the Church. Each time a brother advances in the priesthood he does not relinquish the duties he previously held. He simply adds more duties to those he had before. Have you been a deacon and never passed the sacrament? Are you a teacher or priest but have never baptized or ministered to someone? Are you an elder that has never performed a priesthood blessing? If this is the case, I invite you with all the love in my heart to step into your duties. Don’t wait for someone to ask you. Volunteer by asking your leaders to include you so that you can magnify your office.
When I was being interviewed to be ordained as a deacon, my branch president asked me “What are the duties of a deacon?” Prior to that question, I had no idea that being ordained as a deacon meant I had specific duties or that I needed to learn them. My main focus was to be able to pass the sacrament as I had seen the other deacons do, but that was it. Consequently, I stumbled through his question, but being a wise Branch President, he smiled and lovingly invited me to go home and study, not just to pass an interview but to learn my duties carefully so I could effectively be of service to the Lord. Two years later when I was being interviewed to be ordained a teacher my branch president asked, “What are the duties of a teacher?” This time I was prepared. I knew what they were and by extension I knew what I would be doing after ordination.
When we know and fulfill our duties, we are in the service of the Lord and we will know it and feel it.
“A covenant is a sacred promise between God and His children. God gives the conditions for the covenant, and His children agree to obey those conditions. God promises to bless His children as they fulfill the covenant. Members make covenants with God as they receive the ordinances of salvation and exaltation. All who endure to the end in keeping their covenants will receive eternal life”.7
In D&C 84:33-44 and beyond we read of the scared oath and covenant of the priesthood. Brethren who hold the priesthood make promises to the Lord and in return He offers promised blessings. Worthiness thus becomes a key focus when one enters into a covenant with Him and being morally and spiritually clean a prerequisite to fostering confidence and power in the priesthood.
There are three interesting phrases in the oath and covenant.
- For whoso is afaithful unto the obtaining these two bpriesthoods
- ..all those who receive the apriesthood, receive this boath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved.
- And wo unto all those who come not unto this priesthood
A careful look at these phrases reveal that we have three options as men of who are eligible to hold the priesthood of God.
One is to receive the priesthood faithfully which means to become worthy and ready to fulfil our duties. Usually this Oath and Covenant is shared with those who will receive the melchizedek priesthood. Aaronic priesthood holders need to know that they are also making the same covenant as a deacon, teacher or priest. Notice that the first line talks about “these two priesthoods”. A person who chooses this option will neither hide nor shirk but will become a servant of the Lord. He will embrace the challenges and blessing of the Covenant.
Two is to accept the responsibilities, attempt to make the covenant but later break it. We can break the covenant by doing nothing, by becoming unwilling or by becoming unworthy with little desire to repent.
Three we can avoid accepting the responsibility of holding the priesthood. When the time comes for ordination we can withdraw or decline.
Based on the scriptures, only one option comes with a multitude of blessings- even “all that our Heavenly Father has”. The other two options come with much unpleasantness. One of the words in the scriptures that I am personally most scared of is the word “wo”. This is what the lord declared to those who may choose either option two or three.
Brethren, it is simple. Option one brings joy, joy in service and joy in life. Making and keeping scared covenants is at the heart of the Lord’s work. Let us evaluate in the coming weeks as we partake of the sacrament how we are honoring the covenants we have already made.
The Prophet Joseph taught that “love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God. A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.”8
We must remember that all of us can serve with vigor, vitality and enthusiasm but without love our service will be empty. Service with love invites powerful miracles in our lives. The Savior’s miracles had everything to do with duty and covenants but his motive, was always love.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin taught: “Love is the beginning, the middle, and the end of the pathway of discipleship. It comforts, counsels, cures, and consoles. It leads us through valleys of darkness and through the veil of death. In the end love leads us to the glory and grandeur of eternal life”.9
My dear Brothers, duty, covenant and love are words that should bring meaning to everything we do in the service of the lord. May we ponder carefully on each of these words and how they influence us and our actions.
I know that there are many who are acting with great understanding of these words. My plea today is to those who don’t yet feel the fire of duty, the assurance of covenants and the motivation of love. Those who don’t apply the invitations these words engender, will suffer from the spiritual disease of half-heartedness, intermittent spirituality and eventual complacency and slothfulness.
I close with President Nelson’s impassioned plea:
“Brethren, we hold the holy priesthood of God! We have His authority to bless His people. Just think of the remarkable assurance the Lord gave us when He said, “Whomsoever you bless I will bless.”4 It is our privilege to act in the name of Jesus Christ to bless God’s children according to His will for them. ……Brethren, there are doors we can open, priesthood blessings we can give, hearts we can heal, burdens we can lift, testimonies we can strengthen, lives we can save, and joy we can bring into the homes of the Latter-day Saints—all because we hold the priesthood of God. We are the men who have been “called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of [our] exceeding faith,” to do this work”.10
I testify that God is the author of this work and He has deliberately delegated some of His authority to men and women here on earth to bless the lives of His children. I testify that in His son we see duties carried out to perfection, covenants made and kept with perfection and love freely given to perfection. In His Son we have a perfect example of who we are to be every day. As we learn our duties, are bound by them, make and keep our priesthood covenants and demonstrate our love for God and His children we will have power and authority to act in the Name of God and His Beloved Son Jesus Christ and we like all prophets of old will bring about miracles, in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.
- Bible Dictionary
- Luke 2: 11-15
- Mosiah 18:8-10
- General Handbook of Instruction (3.0)
- October 1980 General Conference: Let Every Man Learn His Duty: Elder Joseph B. Wirthlinn
- D&C 107:99–100.
- General Handbook of Instructions (3.5.1)
- History of the Church, 4:227.
- October 2007 GC: The Great Commandment: Joseph B. Wirthlin
- Ministering with the Power and Authority of God: By President Russell M. Nelson: April 2018 GC