Scriptural Discussion #1: Priesthood Ordinations—By The Power Of The Holy Ghost


Moroni said, “And after this manner did they ordain priests and teachers, according to the gifts and callings of God unto men; and they ordained them by the power of the Holy Ghost, which was in them.” (Moroni 3: 4)

The Lord said, “And, behold, you are they who are ordained of me to ordain priests and teachers; to declare my gospel, according to the power of the Holy Ghost which is in you, and according to the callings and gifts of God unto men;” (D&C 18: 32)

The Lord said, “Every elder, priest, teacher, or deacon is to be ordained according to the gifts and callings of God unto him; and he is to be ordained by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is in the one who ordains him.” (D&C 20: 60)


Next Scriptural Discussion: #2 SCRIPTURES—MEN TO BE JUDGED BY

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  1. I wonder if this is a commandment or a promise. Perhaps both. A commandment, and a promise that if faithfully given, the Holy Ghost will attend, and a certain power, as well as the authority, will dictate the affairs. But is the commandment to only act according to the influence of the Holy Ghost and remain mute otherwise? Or is it to proceed with faith that the Holy Ghost will inspire and direct and guide and provide a power in the hour of need?

    I am reminded of a story by President Hinckley. He was giving a talk at some distant location several decades ago, while in the twelve. Despite his best efforts, he thought the talk was a dismal failure. He did not understand why it was so ineffective, but he truly felt so. Some time (probably years) later, he talked with an individual who was present at the meeting, and the individual thanked President Hinckley for his talk, indicating that it was a life-changing experience. President Hinckley, though the vessel, was apparently unaware of the Lord’s working through Him. Perhaps it can be so for Priesthood ordinations or blessings. We strive with all our might, and of course come up far short. The grace of Christ is the gift of God to those with a broken heart and contrite spirit. And the Spirit touches hearts, though perhaps not the one involved in the blessing as much as others.

    This brings up another question: why are certain individuals touched more strongly by the influence of the Holy Ghost than others in the same circumstances? If one’s faith or distraction or idolatry or cynicism is in the way of their own spiritual blessings, might it not interfere with the spiritual blessings of others?

  2. Thanks for your comments.

    What I find interesting in these scriptures is what is not mentioned, namely, the priesthood authority. In other words, there is no mention of the Melchizedek or Aaronic priesthoods being used, only the power of the Holy Ghost. Also, I find the expression “which is in [the one who ordains]” quite curious.

    I think these are commandments. D&C 20: 60 makes it plain that this is the way ordinations are to be performed with the words, “is to be ordained.” But everything in the scriptures, including all commandments, are also promises. The Lord giveth no commandments, save he prepares a way, etc. So a commandment becomes a promise of fulfillment if we exercise faith towards that end.

    My understanding is that the Lord works “according to the faith of the children of men.” So, less faith, less heavenly works, more faith, more heavenly works. We in the modern church have manifestations which correspond to our condition of faith: “And again, to some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know the differences of administration, as it will be pleasing unto the same Lord, according as the Lord will, suiting his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men.” (D&C 46: 15.) As we generally have little faith, we generally have little manifestations, or the gifts are administered in a manner that corresponds to our little amount of faith. The higher administrations are, more or less, withheld from us due to our economic practices: “He who is appointed to administer spiritual things, the same is worthy of his hire, even as those who are appointed to a stewardship to administer in temporal things; yea, even more abundantly, which abundance is multiplied unto them through the manifestations of the Spirit. Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld.” (D&C 70: 12-14.) Luckily, despite our stinginess and lack of faith, the Lord is still merciful and allows us to have some degree of manifestation of the Holy Ghost.

    The above scriptures, though, do seem to indicate that our lack of faith not only is detrimental to ourselves, but also to those who receive ordinations under our hand. This is in keeping, of course, with Alma’s principle of seeing eye-to-eye (Alma 36: 26.) If the man who ordains me an elder sees darkly, with little manifestation attendant, and I look up to him, being a new convert (not knowing any better), I’ll probably become just like him, with attendant little and lower manifestations. On the other hand, if someone like Alma, who eventually was translated, ordains me, with higher manifestations present, and I look up to him as a new convert, my standard will be much higher and the pattern will repeat in the same way.

    All of us, though, having free agency and access to the scriptures and the ability to obtain as much faith as we desire to obtain, can surpass those who ordain us and start a new, higher pattern, if we want. But normally, this doesn’t happen.

  3. Thank you for your comments. Agreed regarding commandments and promises. There are surely other scriptural examples of commandments/promises as one.

    An interesting idea to me is the notion that all we are to do should be “In the name of Jesus Christ” (i.e. Mosiah 18:8-10, 3 Nephi 27:7). Or in 3 Nephi 18:16, “I am the light; I have set an example for you.” So all ordinances (done explicitly in the name of Jesus Christ) should reflect the character of the Savior. And how can an ordinance reflect the Savior if the individual participating in the ordinance is unwilling to take upon them the name of Christ?

    Ideally, then, the standard is not the person who ordains or blesses (I can think of a blessing as an ordaining of a blessing, hence the term “ordination” or “ordained” here may not be just confined to Priesthood ordinations or ordinances relating to callings), but the Savior. And so the individual receiving the ordination should look up to the true giver of the blessing, Jesus Christ, and have that as the standard. Now it’s true that personal righteousness varies from Priesthood bearer to Priesthood bearer. But if we truly believe in righteous exercising of Priesthood authority and the Lord’s grace, then to me it seems that any worthy, striving individual can truly speak in the name of the Lord. Otherwise, the blessing or ordination is really a fraudulent act, as it is not performed in the name of the Lord.

    It has been curious to me also that there are certain ordinances (sacrament and baptism come to mind) where individuals unworthily administering ordinances nonetheless carry some validity to the ordinance. For instance, the story is told of a woman baptized by a missionary, who she later discovered was quite unworthy. She asked the Mission President if she should be re-baptized, and he left it up to her. The baptism, though performed by an apparently unworthy individual, was still valid in the eyes of God! This is an interesting and curious notion.

    But for ordinances that require direct spiritual communication to be completed (i.e. a Priesthood blessing), such, I believe, is not the case.

    Your discussion of faith as proportional to blessings is right on. I also believe, however, that there is an element to that discussion sometimes neglected: the Lord’s will. I once had an individual try to convince me that with faith, anything can be accomplished, period, for that is what the scriptures teach. He had searched the scriptures diligently, I believe. But he missed a very key point: no amount of faith in Jesus Christ can operate something counter to His will, and there is no guarantee that a desire on our part (even if we feel it is righteous) is truly in keeping with the Lord’s will, either in substance, manner given, or timetable. Even the Savior prayed, “Not my will, but thine, be done,” after asking that the cup pass from Him. Was having the cup pass from Him a righteous desire? It surely did not seem to be a wicked desire. And yet He was willing to sacrifice what He wanted for what the Father wanted. This ultimate act of submission is also an ultimate act of faith, as in Abraham sacrificing Isaac, or Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, et al, commanded to practice polygamy, against their individual wishes. (In all probability, the mortal cases had significantly less understanding and knowledge than the Savior in the garden did, so perhaps it is unfair to group those together so closely.) And so no matter how much faith we have, we must not neglect the will of the Lord. Scripture is full of instances where those with strong faith nonetheless are bound by the Lord’s conditions (Alma 14:10-13 comes to mind).

    I say this not by way of contention or argument, but simply trying to flesh out the discussion a bit more. Moroni 7:33: “If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.” This principle was greatly misunderstood in a book we read as missionaries about unlocking the powers of heaven. There was much discussion about this idea of building faith or having great faith to accomplish mighty miracles, but the complementary idea that anything must be done in the Lord’s way and His time were neglected, and so for me personally (and for others, also) much frustration resulted.

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