Doctrine of the Priesthood Part 2- D&C 84

April 12, 2011    By: Matt W. @ 11:12 am   Category: Scriptures

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?


  1. A close reading of the Oath and Covenant seems to have two parts, for two different groups.

    The Oath is to those who become Priests and then High Priests (their bodies will be Sanctified), and the Covenant is with those who ‘receive’ the Priesthood by accepting and heeding to the message presented by the Priests in the Church, including the Gospel and its associated Covenants. This is what is equivalent to ‘receiving the Lord’. Those who accept (recieve) the Priesthood representatives are also given the promise of Sanctification.

    Read in this light, it appears to say that all diligent and obedient members of the Church receive the Covenant and its associated blessings of being given all the Father has, in addition to sanctification. The Oath is a promise from God to uphold and sustain those who are obedient to Him.

    Thus, the curse given is not for those who are not ordained to the priesthood, but for those who either reject, or turn from the Covenant as presented and officiated by the Priesthood.

    That’s not how it’s explained today, but that appears to me to be the plain and context-considered meaning of the text.

    Comment by David Tayman — April 12, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

  2. The blessings of the Oath & Covenant are promised to all those who receive his servants. Women also receive his servents as they receive the ordinances of the priesthood, just as men do. Men cannot bless themselves, nor perform ordinances on themselves.

    It is in the ordinances of the gospel that the power of godliness is manifest. The blessings (including those of the Oath & Covenant) are in the ordinances, available to all who receive them (men and women).

    Comment by Paul — April 12, 2011 @ 1:36 pm

  3. Without peeking, my understanding of the oath and covenant of the priesthood is tied up closely with Hebrews 6-7 and its reference to the story of Abraham from Genesis. The oath refers to an oath sworn by God to Abraham in order to prove to him that he would receive the promised blessings. Because God could swear by nothing greater he swore by himself. Joseph expanded on this reference in his own sermons in which he explained his concept of having one’s calling and election made sure. In Joseph’s theology, the oath is alternatively called the “more sure word of prophecy” which is what makes one’s election “sure.” (This is how Abraham was able to be “sure” he would get the blessings, because God swore an oath). The way it goes in Hebrews, Abraham received promised blessings first, then later received an oath after proving he was willing to sacrifice Isaac, and then was blessed by Melchizedek when he paid tithes to him. Joseph saw in this story an initial endowment, a more sure word of prophecy, and a second anointing. Given this context, the meaning of the covenant seems obvious.

    Of course, none of this has anything to do with what we say in church about the oath and covenant of the priesthood.

    Now I will go back and finish reading your post.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 12, 2011 @ 2:16 pm

  4. Okay, finished reading the post, seems like we are mostly on the same page. Glad you mentioned the JST of Gen 14, which is key here.

    Where does this leave faithful women?

    Because the highest ordinances (marriage) are only entered into by couples, women are fully included in the oath and covenant of the priesthood, as I understand it. Whereas they are not included in the administrative functions of the priesthood, they are included in the covenants of the priesthood and their associated blessings.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 12, 2011 @ 2:26 pm

  5. Because the highest ordinances (marriage) are only entered into by couples, women are fully included in the oath and covenant of the priesthood, as I understand it. Whereas they are not included in the administrative functions of the priesthood, they are included in the covenants of the priesthood and their associated blessings.

    Where does this leave faithful single women?

    Comment by Keri Brooks — April 12, 2011 @ 2:43 pm

  6. Jacob J- that (#3) was excellent. Since you so readily allude that this is precursor to the initial endowment, more sure word of prophecy and second anointing, isn’t it fair to say that it is the endowment, and not sealing (marriage), that begins the inclusion of women in the covenants and the associated blessings? After all, the women there make the covenants as well as the men.

    Comment by Matt W. — April 12, 2011 @ 4:23 pm

  7. Keri, same place as faithful single men.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 12, 2011 @ 6:47 pm

  8. Matt, absolutely. I only said it the way I did because I was answering a question about the oath and covenant of the priesthood which is tied in all directions to the concept of one’s calling and election being made sure.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 12, 2011 @ 6:52 pm

  9. #7 – Not really, since you still get to hold the priesthood.

    Comment by Keri Brooks — April 12, 2011 @ 7:15 pm

  10. Keri, I agree that men hold the priesthood and women don’t, but I’m not sure of your point, can you expand?

    Comment by Jacob J — April 12, 2011 @ 7:33 pm

  11. The oath and covenant is to obtain the priesthood and to magnify your calling, then the blessings named will be yours.

    Comment by el oso — April 13, 2011 @ 4:46 pm

  12. If we obtain the priesthood, magnify our calling, receive His servants, receive Him, we will be sanctified and receive all that the Father has.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — April 14, 2011 @ 5:40 am

  13. I think I disagree with your thought #1. Faithful women are able to receive all the blessings faithful men are. Magnifying can mean going the extra mile so to speak, it can also mean to focus and make clear. It is quite vague, thus can mean different things in different situations.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — April 14, 2011 @ 5:42 am

  14. Matt W, I think Toscano’s thoughts correspond to a large degree with yours and Jacob J’s:

    Comment by gomez — April 14, 2011 @ 6:21 am

  15. Eric: I think I disagree with your thought #1 How so? Do you not agree that is the accepted reasoning, or do you not agree the text is more complex than that? After all, the text says we enter the covenant when we receive the priesthood, but that part of the covenant itself is to receive the priesthood. Why would we covenant to do something we’ve already done? (Personally, I think this points to the endowment, as Jacob suggests.)

    Gomez: I’d read that as well.

    Comment by Matt W. — April 14, 2011 @ 7:05 am

  16. I agree that there are progressions in this, but I view it as a linear type progression. I do not see some mysterious circle. The covenant simply involves the priesthood.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — April 14, 2011 @ 8:33 am

  17. Keri, I thought about it some more and now I have a guess at your point. You might be thinking that I mean to say that women have access to the oath and covenant through marriage while men can get the priesthood while single. Just to clarify my position, I am saying that the oath and covenant is only available to couples. Single men with the priesthood do not receive the oath and covenant of the priesthood, as I understand it.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 17, 2011 @ 10:27 am

  18. In reading up on section 107- I liked that Steven Harper put forth the idea that vs. 99-100 were a restatement of the oath and covenant. To whit- learn your duty, do your duty(to the best of your ability), and you will receive blessings.

    99 Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence. 100 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.

    Comment by Matt W. — April 20, 2011 @ 9:57 pm

  19. Let’s see if I can remember.

    The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. We covenant to:

    1) Receive the priesthood in good faith.
    2) To magnify our callings.
    3) To follow the commandments.
    4) To live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God.

    The other side of the covenant is:

    1) Sanctification by the Spirit unto the renewing of our bodies.
    2) To be numbered among the elect.
    3) To receive all that the Father has (to become a joint-heir with Christ, that is, to eventually become part of the Church of the Firstborn, wherein we are all made joint-receptors of the blessings due to the Firstborn Son, Jesus Christ).

    This is the covenant.

    The oath is one made by God. It is an oath made on His own perfect name that He will fulfill his part of the covenant. There is no oath that exists or can exist that is stronger than this one. There is no higher name for God to swear on, than upon His own exalted Name and Godliness.

    Comment by Bobby — June 12, 2011 @ 9:57 pm