Come Follow Me: Doctrine and Covenants 84 “The Power of Godliness”

The Spirit Gives Light to Everyone

As you read these verses, note the contrast between light and darkness in these verses and consider the meaning of this metaphor:

And I now give unto you a commandment to beware concerning yourselves, to give diligent heed to the words of eternal life.

For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.

For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
D&C 84:43-45

  • What do you think of when you hear this metaphor about light?
  • How has your “diligent heed to the words of eternal life” brought light, truth, and “the Spirit of Jesus Christ” into your life?

And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.

And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father.

And the Father teacheth him of the covenant which he has renewed and confirmed upon you, which is confirmed upon you for your sakes, and not for your sakes only, but for the sake of the whole world.
D&C 84:46-48

It is interesting that within this “revelation on priesthood,” these verses indicate that the Spirit gives light to everyone, not just priesthood holders or even church members.

  • Why is it important to remember that everyone has light from the Spirit?
  • How can we see the light in everyone?
  • How do we behave differently when we recognize others’ light?
  • How can our individual covenants benefit the whole world?

The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood

Joseph Smith received what he called a “revelation on priesthood” in September 1832.  This revelation was directed toward elders returning from their missions and is now known as the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood:

For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.
They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.
And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;
For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;
And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;
And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.
And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.
Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved.
D&C 84:33-40

And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.
D&C 84:88

While these verses were originally directed specifically at elders in the priesthood, many of blessings described apply to anyone who serves the Lord.

All who have made sacred covenants with the Lord and who honor those covenants are eligible to receive personal revelation, to be blessed by the ministering of angels, to commune with God, to receive the fulness of the gospel, and, ultimately, to become heirs alongside Jesus Christ of all our Father has. 
M. Russell Ballard, Men and Women and Priesthood Power, 2014

  • How did the Lord promise to support His apostles and missionaries in these verses?
  • How might these promises apply to the work  He has asked you to do?

Men and the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood

Only males are currently ordained to offices of the Melchizedek and Aaronic priesthoods in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Speaking in the Priesthood Session of General Conference, President Monson taught male priesthood holders:

We need to know the oath and covenant of the priesthood because it pertains to all of us. To those who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood, it is a declaration of our requirement to be faithful and obedient to the laws of God and to magnify the callings which come to us. To those who hold the Aaronic Priesthood, it is a pronouncement concerning future duty and responsibility, that they may prepare themselves here and now.
Thomas S. Monson, Our Sacred Priesthood Trust, April 2006

These two priesthoods are described in this section:

Melchizedek Priesthood

And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.
Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh;
D&C 84:19-21

And again, the offices of elder and bishop are necessary appendages belonging unto the high priesthood.
D&C 84:29

Aaronic Priesthood

And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel;
Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins…
D&C 84:26-27

And again, the offices of teacher and deacon are necessary appendages belonging to the lesser priesthood, which priesthood was confirmed upon Aaron and his sons.
D&C 84:30

Some of the most visible roles of the Aaronic Priesthood in modern Latter-day Saint congregations are preparing and passing the Sacrament, but these duties are not described in scripture.

There are some things about the priesthood that every elder should know…Some of these principles are found in the scriptures, others in the handbooks. Some of them are not found in either. They are found in the Church. You might call them traditions, but they are more than that. They are revelations which came when the Brethren of the past assembled themselves, agreed upon His word, and offered their prayers of faith. 
Boyd K. Packer, What Every Elder Should Know—and Every Sister as Well, 1993

Differentiating between Priesthood and Priesthood Holders

While we sometimes refer to priesthood holders as “the priesthood,” we must never forget that the priesthood is not owned by or embodied in those who hold it. It is held in a sacred trust to be used for the benefit of men, women, and children alike.
Dallin H. Oaks, the Relief Society and the Church, 1992

  • How is the priesthood different from priesthood holders?
  • Why would it be important to differentiate between the priesthood and priesthood holders?

The priesthood is “without father, without mother, … having neither beginning of days, nor end of life” (Heb. 7:30), nor maleness nor femaleness. It is head to them both. Male and female alike come under it and must understand their true relationship to it, one to serve as priest within it, the other eventually as a priestess. Men here are given the priesthood power, but both man and woman must bring themselves into submission unto it, rather than she unto him as a person. The man must assume the same relationship of honor and obedience to priesthood truths and doctrines that the woman does. That is, it precedes them both. For the man to assume that because he “holds” the priesthood that it is his or that he is somehow exalted in importance is a serious distortion.
Gib Kocherhans, The Name “Melchizedek”: Some Thoughts on Its Meaning and the Priesthood It Represents, 1980

  • How is priesthood different from maleness?
  • What are some of the risks of failing to distinguish between priesthood and priesthood holders?

Women and the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood

Although the oath and covenant of the priesthood as found in Doctrine and Covenants 84 speaks directly to men ordained to priesthood office, many of the promises and blessings given there also apply to covenant-keeping women.

As I have served in Church callings as well as in my family—all parts of our Father’s work—many times I have experienced the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise in Doctrine and Covenants 84:88 that “whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.”

It is important that women understand that we, too, will be blessed to receive “all that [our] Father hath” when we receive, or heed and hearken to, the Lord’s servants (Doctrine and Covenants 84:38).

I encourage you to study and learn how the oath and covenant of the priesthood blesses you and those you love. Every woman who makes and keeps covenants with God and who participates worthily in priesthood ordinances has direct access to the power of God!
Jean B. Bingham, General Relief Society President, The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood Is Relevant to Women, 2020

  • Have you ever experienced the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise: “whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up”? What was your experience  like?

We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman—young or old—is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties. 
Dallin H. Oaks, The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood, 2014

Many of the responsibilities assigned to priesthood holders in the scriptures are regularly delegated to Latter-day Saint women, such as teaching, proselytizing, caring for the poor, and presiding over groups of women and children. (D&C 20:57-59; 84:112; 107:10; 133:8) However, women are currently banned from other scriptural priesthood responsibilities, such as officiating priesthood ordinances in public settings (women do officiate in the temple), judging member worthiness and presiding over mixed gender adult or adolescent groups. (D&C 20:38-45; 107:71-72; 133:8)

Among other things, Latter-day Saint women preach sermons in Sunday meetings and the Church’s general conference; serve full-time proselytizing missions; perform and officiate in holy rites in the Church’s temples; and lead organizations that minister to families, other women, young women, and children. They participate in priesthood councils at the local and general levels.
Joseph Smith’s Teachings about Priesthood, Temple, and Women, 2016

Nauvoo Relief Society

Organization of the Relief Society, by Nadine Barton

At its inception, Joseph Smith envisioned the women’s Relief Society as a “kingdom of priests.”

The [Relief] Society should move according to the ancient Priesthood, hence there should be a select society separate from all the evils of the world, choice, virtuous  and holy— [I am] going to make of this society a kingdom of priests as in Enoch’s day— as in Paul’s day.
Joseph Smith, Nauvoo Relief Society Minutes, 1844 

  • Do you think the Relief Society has fulfilled this vision? Why or why not?

Quorums and Societies

As the Prophet Joseph Smith began establishing the Church in this dispensation, the Lord directed him to follow similar inspired patterns. When he set the course for the Relief Society, he told the sisters they were organized “under the priesthood after the pattern of the priesthood.” This gave the sisters official responsibilities in the restored Church and the authority to function in those responsibilities. This was a pattern similar to that given to a president of a quorum of elders, who was to counsel with his presidency…

The word society has a meaning nearly identical to that of quorum. It connotes “an enduring and cooperating . . . group” distinguished by its common aims and beliefs. When Joseph Smith organized the sisters, he told them that “there should be a select society, separate from all the evils of the world, choice, virtuous, and holy.” …

It is true that each of us is responsible for becoming a faithful, covenant-keeping disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Some may argue that we can accomplish this as individuals without the benefit of a supporting group. But President David O. McKay said that if priesthood men only needed “personal distinction or individual elevation, there would be no need of groups or quorums. The very existence of such groups, established by divine authorization, proclaims our dependence upon one another, the indispensable need of mutual help and assistance.
Julie B. Beck, General Relief Society President, Why We Are Organized into Quorums and Relief Societies, 2012 

  • How does being organized into quorums and societies help us to better further the work of the Lord than we could as individuals?

Therefore, let every man stand in his own office, and labor in his own calling; and let not the head say unto the feet it hath no need of the feet; for without the feet how shall the body be able to stand?

Also the body hath need of every member, that all may be edified together, that the system may be kept perfect.
D&C 84:109-110

  • How can we follow this scriptural counsel in our own societies, quorums and wards?

Temples and Priesthood

The Lord begins this “revelation on priesthood” (Doctrine and Covenants 84, section heading) by teaching that a temple will be built in Zion (see verses 1–5).

It is interesting that in the oath and covenant of the priesthood, the Lord uses the verbs obtain and receive. He does not use the verb ordain. It is in the temple that men and women—together—obtain and receive the blessings and power of both the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods.
Paul B. Pieper, of the Seventy, Revealed Realities of Mortality, 2016

  • What is the relationship between temples and the priesthood?
  • How do temples and temple ordinances help fulfill the purposes of the priesthood?

The temple is the only setting in which Latter-day Saint women are currently allowed to officiate priesthood ordinances.

Men and women continue to officiate in sacred ordinances in temples much as they did in Joseph Smith’s day.
Joseph Smith’s Teachings about Priesthood, Temple, and Women, 2016

With the exception of the sacred work that sisters do in the temple under the keys held by the temple president, which I will describe hereafter, only one who holds a priesthood office can officiate in a priesthood ordinance.
Dallin H. Oaks, The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood, 2014

  • What blessings come from officiating priesthood ordinances?
  • How do these blessings differ from blessings that come from receiving priesthood ordinances?

Consider and contrast the following quotes, delivered two decades apart from each other, by two apostles who served together in the same quorum:

When men and women go to the temple, they are both endowed with the same power, which by definition is priesthood power.
 M. Russell Ballard, Men and Women and Priesthood Power, 2014

Some members of the Church are now teaching that priesthood is some kind of a free-floating authority which can be assumed by anyone who has had the endowment…The priesthood is conferred through ordination, not simply through making a covenant or receiving a blessing.
Boyd K. Packer, What Every Elder Should Know—and Every Sister as Well, 1993

  • Do you see these quotes as complementary or contradictory? Why?
  • How do you interpret the differences between these two perspectives?
  • Do you think Elder Packer and Elder Ballard were talking about the same thing when they used the word priesthood? Does the word priesthood have multiple meanings?

A New Song

Until all shall know me, who remain, even from the least unto the greatest, and shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, and shall see eye to eye, and shall lift up their voice, and with the voice together sing this new song, saying:
The Lord hath brought again Zion;
The Lord hath redeemed his people, Israel,
According to the election of grace,
Which was brought to pass by the faith
And covenant of their fathers.
The Lord hath redeemed his people;
And Satan is bound and time is no longer.
The Lord hath gathered all things in one.
The Lord hath brought down Zion from above.
The Lord hath brought up Zion from beneath.
The earth hath travailed and brought forth her strength;
And truth is established in her bowels;
And the heavens have smiled upon her;
And she is clothed with the glory of her God;
For he stands in the midst of his people.
 Glory, and honor, and power, and might,
Be ascribed to our God; for he is full of mercy,
Justice, grace and truth, and peace,
Forever and ever,
Amen
D&C 84:98-102

  • What do we learn about Jesus Christ from the “new song” in these verses?
  • What can we do in our day to help bring about the conditions described in this song?

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at aprilyoungb.com.

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