This continues my series on the homework assignment Elder Uchtdorf gave us during the priesthood session of General Conference, to read sections 20, 84, 107, and 121. After my write up on these four sections, I may return with some thoughts and additional areas of study.
First, a test: What is the oath and covenant of the priesthood? Don’t peek anywhere, just think of it in your own words and if you have something, post it in the comments before reading any further. (I say this because I admit I had no recollection of what it was, and not as some sort of “gotcha”.)
Context here is very important. It was revealed in September 1832, 2 and ½ years after Section 20 was received. The Prophet was very active in translating the bible at this time, and there is a lot of connection here between his understanding of the work he did with the book of genesis, particularly. It was received while Joseph was meeting with six Elders, freshly returned from missions, and in a time when the Prophet’s mind was pregnant with the proposed temple in Missouri, and the Zion to come forth from its successful construction and dedication. It was in this context that Joseph framed this revelation. It is basically impossible, and very fitting, to disconnect the priesthood here described from the woven tapestry of missionary work, temple work, and the building of Zion.
A brief overview of the first 42 verses:
1. After establishing that the temple would be built and the glory of the Lord would rest there, the revelation begins to discuss explicitly priesthood as a thing which can be transferred from person to person. (vs. 1-17)
2. There are two priesthoods. The greater priesthood has two functions: To Administer the Gospel, and second to unlock the knowledge of God. The Power of Godliness is made visible in the ordinances of the priesthood, and would not be visible without these ordinances. This is because you cannot see God without the ordinances. (vs 18-22)
3. From Moses to John the greater priesthood was denied the people due to unwillingness. The lesser priesthood included baptism and repentance and faith and the Carnal Law. Also, offices of the priesthood are explained and separated between the two priesthoods (vs. 23-31)
4. Vs. 6-31 were a giant aside, like a tv show recap for anyone jumping in at the middle. “Previously in the revealed word of God….”, In a lot of ways, this covers a lot of ground Joseph Covered in his translation of Genesis. Anyway, when you get to verse 31, It is good to think back to the earliest verses where the temple is established and God’s glory is resting there.
5. In this temple, those holders of the two priesthoods will make an offering to God, and because of this are filled with glory. For whoever obtains the two priesthoods and magnifies their calling is sanctified by the spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. They become heirs to the promises made to Moses, Aaron, Abraham, the church and kingdom, and the elect of God. (vs 31-34)
6. All those who receive the priesthood, receive Christ. All those who receive Christ’s servants, receive Christ. Those who receive Christ receive the Father, and those who receive the Father receive all that he has. This is according to the oath and covenant of the priesthood. If you receive the priesthood, you receive the oath and covenant. And if you break the covenant, you’re in trouble. You are also in trouble if you don’t receive the covenant. (35-42)
1. The accepted understanding of the oath and covenant of the priesthood is that we receive/obtain the priesthood and then magnify it, and in doing so, God ultimately will give us all that he has. I think this is one of those situations similar to the Word of Wisdom, where what the scripture literally says and means has become less important than the accepted understanding of it., because to me, the scripture itself is less clear than the accepted understanding.
2. The Oath in the Oath and Covenant is most plausibly explained by reading the JST vs. around Abraham in Genesis 14:25-40, where Melchizedek is ordained to the priesthood, after the order of Enoch, where God makes an Oath by himself to grant power to those ordained to the priesthood, according to their faith.
1. Where does this leave faithful women?
2. What does it mean to magnify the priesthood?