The Priesthood and the Savior’s Atoning Power by Dale G. Renlund Lesson Plan
Note: This is a challenging talk to discuss in Relief Society. It has the potential to encourage women to view ourselves as excluded from the power of the priesthood – to be acted upon rather than to act. In this lesson outline, I’m intentionally sidestepping the rocket in the room that is women not currently holding priesthood offices to focus on a more expansive interpretation that invites women to act in their current circumstances to further the purpose of the priesthood.
Elder Renlund teaches, “…the purpose of the priesthood is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel. We have the priesthood so that we can help Heavenly Father’s children be relieved of the burden of sin and become like Him. Through the priesthood, the power of godliness is manifest in the live of all who make and keep gospel covenants and receive the associated ordinances.”
Women can and do invite others to come unto Christ. We make and keep covenants and participate in ordinances that allow the power of godliness to be made manifest in our words and deeds.
Ask the sisters to consider a time when they have, in some way, invited those around them to come unto Christ. It may be a powerful experience to invite returned missionaries in the group to share their experiences teaching the gospel or to invite women from a variety of circumstances to explain how they invite others to Christ in their day to day lives. Another approach might be to introduce and explore women from the scriptures like Abish (Alma 19) or Martha (john 11) as exemplars.
The most vital line to my thinking is when Elder Renlund teaches that the power of godliness is manifest in the lives of all who make and keep gospel covenants and receive associated ordinances. Impress upon the sisters that, as we make and keep covenants, the power of godliness will manifest itself in our lives. This is both an incredible promise and a great responsibility.
Now might be a good time to emphasize that every woman who holds a calling in the ward or who has made and kept baptismal or temple covenants is contributing to fulfilling the purpose of the priesthood and therefore has need of the power of godliness in her life.
Elder Oaks, in his April 2014 talk “The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood” teaches, “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.”
Now that we understand that women are contributing to the purpose of the priesthood, how can we better contribute to that purpose and find the power of godliness in our lives?
Elder Renlund teaches, “God intends priesthood to be used for more than just a class on Sunday or as a service opportunity.”
Each of us is assisting our Heavenly parents and Jesus Christ in the work of the gospel. Each of us has a work to do that we can better perform as we more fully understand the covenants we have made.
What covenants do we make? Although Elder Renlund’s talk focuses on the Aaronic and Melchezideck priesthood offices, I would suggest that this lesson focus on the baptismal and temple covenants that all women can make. I might also encourage the sisters to read the talk to understand the duties of those priesthood offices and consider the ways that sisters may also perform those duties (read the room on that one!).
To discuss baptismal covenants, read Mosiah 18:8-11. Ask the sisters to consider how the power of godliness has been made manifest in their lives as they “mourn with those that mourn” or “stand as a witness of Jesus Christ.”
To discuss temple covenants, you might start with this lesson from President Rosemary Wixom, who taught, “keeping covenants protects us, prepares us, and empowers us” (April 2014 Conference). You might ask the sisters to consider a time they were prompted to act after visiting the temple. When we recognize the power of godliness in our lives, what promptings have we felt?
Sometimes we make covenants, but struggle to keep them. Elder Renlund teaches, “The atoning blood of Christ can thereby be applied in our lives as we experience the sanctifying influence of the Holy Ghost and receive the blessings God promises.”
The scripture Elder Renlund cited here is Mosiah 4:2. It might be helpful to read this particular scripture out loud and ask the sisters to consider a time in their lives when they needed the Atonement. How can the Atonement of Jesus Christ help us to find the power of godliness again?
End this lesson by asking the sisters to consider the covenants they have made and to find a way this week to invite the power of godliness into their lives. My hope is that the sisters would feel empowered to act on promptings and inspiration, to continue to develop the skills and traits of a disciple of Christ, or to seek the healing influence of the Atonement where needed.
I tried all throughout this lesson overview to figure out how to use that rocket metaphor. I couldn’t do it, but if it worked out for you, I think it would be fascinating and potentially edifying to invite the class to come up with their own metaphors for the purpose and power of the priesthood and how it functions in our lives (perhaps no umbrellas please!).