This month, our Relief Society Visiting Teaching message has been on the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. Taking Sis. Burton’s challenge, I read and studied it and was really happy to learn some wonderful things.
Simply put, the oath and covenant of the priesthood (found in D&C 84:33-44) is a two-way promise; that when ALL faithful members willingly receive the priesthood (and all its responsibilities) Heavenly Father will, in turn, give us ALL that He hath. Read on to discover how this involves women.
Joseph Smith had an incredible responsibility in organizing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For the first time–EVER–the fulness of the gospel would be available to all of God’s children.
When Joseph gathered the women together in Nauvoo, he told them that the Church was not fully organized until
- The priesthood was restored. 1
- The women were organized under the priesthood. 2
- The temple was completed. 3
This all needed to happen so the purpose of God could be fulfilled. His purpose is found in Moses 1:39. “For behold, this is my work and my glory–to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
If you’re anything like me, you struggle to keep the various roles of the priesthood straight. A helpful way to break it down is to look at these three parts: priesthood keys, priesthood authority, and priesthood power.
are the right to preside in God’s name. These keys allow us to receive the rights, ordinances, and covenants of God that lead toward exaltation.
We believe in a Patriarchal Order and Jesus Christ has granted the responsibility of the keys of His priesthood to be given to righteous men. Women spend a lot of time mourning the fact they don’t hold keys. We don’t know why this is so, but we are missing the entire purpose of God’s Plan if we dwell on this when there is so much more at stake.
When women are set apart to serve in the Church, they receive priesthood authority to perform their responsibilities.
The Relief Society was organized under the priesthood giving it an authority unlike any other women’s society on the earth. “Because it was established by a prophet who acted with priesthood authority to give women authority, sacred responsibilities, and official positions within the structure of the Church, … women were organized, as Apostle John Taylor remarked at the founding meeting, “according to the law of Heaven.” 4
In fact, an example of this authority in action is found at the very first meeting of the Relief Society when the men wanted to name this organization “Benevolent Society” and the women pressed their authority to call it “Relief Society.” 5
There is much required when it comes to authority. While speaking at a Relief Society conference, President Joseph Fielding Smith taught, “You can speak with authority, because the Lord has placed authority upon you.” He also said that “the work which [Relief Society does] is done by divine authority … to serve under the directions of the bishops of the wards … , looking after the interest of our people both spiritually and temporally.” 6
I remember listening to Sis. Beck and her presidency teach at a training meeting that a Relief Society president is not there to overburden the bishop with little decisions or problems she encounters. She has the authority to make many decisions on her own and to receive revelation to solve problems that come up. The authority given to fulfill our callings is a serious responsibility that has been placed on willing and righteous shoulders to help build the kingdom of God.
Those who work under the authority of the bishop are there to support him, help him, and relieve him as much as possible, working as a finely tuned, mobilizing unit. All are called to the work of salvation and that takes careful and complete responsibility. Elder Oaks said, “Whoever exercises priesthood authority should forget about their rights and concentrate on their responsibilities.” 7
“is the power of God that emanates from the priesthood, which power is as available to women–particularly endowed women–as to men.” 8
Women have priesthood power in their homes, in their communities, in their callings, and in their own lives. In the 19th Century, when Joseph Smith gathered the women to organize them under the priesthood, as their prophet, he gave them more power than any other women on the earth at that time. We have continued to be blessed by the priesthood power all women have in order to fulfill our responsibility in building up the kingdom of God.
For some reason, it’s hard for a woman to feel powerful. The world tends to put women down and women believe it. A righteous woman needs to recognize the power she receives because the priesthood is on the earth today. She needs to feel Heavenly Father close to her and she can do this by asking for priesthood blessings (unlimited), pleading with the Lord in her own personal prayers, believing the scriptures that show God’s love for all of His children, including her, and going to the temple to receive her gift (endowment) from Him.
The temple is where we all sit together to receive equal instruction from Heavenly Father. We need to know His will in order to fulfill His will and the vehicle to make all things happen is His priesthood. Elder Oaks said, “When men and women go to the temple, they are both endowed with the same power, which is priesthood power.” 9
“When a man and a woman are sealed in the temple, they enter together, by covenant, into an order of the priesthood. If they are faithful to their covenants, they receive honor, immortality, and eternal life, exaltation and glory in all things, and a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Some do not have the opportunity to marry in this life, and many experience broken family relationships. Because God is just, every child of God will have the opportunity, either in this life or in the next, to accept the gospel and receive all promised blessings (including eternal marriage), conditioned upon faithfulness.” 10
So, what is the oath and covenant of the priesthood? It is the priesthood given to man to fulfill the purposes of heaven, or as President Joseph F. Smith explained: “The power of God delegated to man by which man can act in the earth for the salvation of the human family.” 11 Don’t let the word “man” scare you. Man and woman were sent to earth to work as a team to fulfill the purposes of the Lord. We are meant to save ourselves, our families, and our dead to present them all to our Heavenly Father because He wants us all back home.
Elder M. Russell Ballard said,
“None of us can afford to stand by and watch the purposes of God be diminished and pushed aside. I invite particularly the sisters throughout the Church to seek the guidance of heaven in knowing what they can do to let their voice of faith and testimony be heard. The General Authorities and the sisters who are general officers cannot do it alone. The full-time missionaries cannot do it alone. Priesthood leaders and auxiliary leaders cannot do it alone. We must all defend our Father in Heaven and His plan. We must all defend our Savior and testify that He is the Christ, that His Church has been restored to the earth, and that there is such a thing as right and wrong.” 12
Sisters, let us wake up to our situation, using the power we have been given, to perform our labor and work of the Lord. Read carefully this quote from Sister Julie B. Beck.
“As sisters become more aligned with the purposes of Relief Society, the vision of the prophets will be fulfilled. President Kimball said, ‘There is a power in this organization [of Relief Society] that has not yet been fully exercised to strengthen the homes of Zion and build the Kingdom of God—nor will it until both the sisters and the priesthood catch the vision of Relief Society.’ He prophesied that “much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world will be drawn to the Church in large numbers.” 13
While men have been given priesthood keys to function in their offices, let us women recognize our own God-given authority and power. Let us recognize our responsibility. Let us look to God and please Him. Let us use His priesthood power well. Let us mobilize and build the kingdom of God together.
1 D&C 27:12-13.
2 Sarah Kimball states this in her journal (Woman’s Exponent, Sept. 1, 1883).
3 Nauvoo RS Minute Book, Apr. 28, 1842.
4 Gospel Topics Essay, Joseph Smith’s Teachings about Priesthood, Temple, and Women.
5 Joseph Smith Papers
6 Joseph Fielding Smith, “Relief Society—an Aid to the Priesthood,” Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1959.
7 Dallin H. Oaks, “The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood,” Ensign, May 2014.
8 Sheri Dew, The Beginning of Better Days, 52
9 Dallin H. Oaks, “The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood,” Ensign, May 2014.
10 Gospel Topics Essay, Joseph Smith’s Teachings about Priesthood, Temple, and Women.
11 Dallin H. Oaks, “The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood,” Ensign, May 2014.
12 M. Russell Ballard, “Men and Women and Priesthood Power,” BYU Speeches, Aug. 20, 2013.
13 Julie B. Beck, “The Vision of Prophets regarding Relief Society: Faith, Family, Relief,” Ensign, May 2012.