My priesthood session notes

Couldn’t tear yourself away from the Final Four? Husband out of town? Fall asleep after the opening prayer? Don’t worry — read my notes from priesthood session and you’ll be able to talk with your family and friends tomorrow about that great joke that President Monson told.

Notes from Priesthood Session

Anything in quote marks is probably not an exact quote.

Music was by a BYU priesthood choir — I got to the ward building a few minutes late, so I’m not sure if it was BYU Men’s Chorus or some other group.

Elder Holland
Began by quoting from a talk by Pres. McKay, in which he asked the question, “If at this moment you were asked to say in one sentence what the distinguishing feature of the LDS Church is, how would you answer?” Pres. McKay answered his own question by answering “divine authority by direct revelation.”

Then quoted Pres. Hinckley: “It is a delegation of divine authority, different from all other powers and authorities on the face of the earth. Small wonder that it was restored to man by resurrected beings who held it anciently, that there might be no question concerning its authority and validity. Without it there could be a church in name only, lacking authority to administer in the things of God. With it, nothing is impossible in carrying forward the work of the kingdom of God.” (from this talk).

And then a quote from Pres. Faust along the same lines. Taking these three quotes as the foundation of his remarks, Elder Holland said that the priesthood, with its keys, ordinances, sealing power, and divine origin, is not only a uniquely identifying feature, but is indispensable to the Church.

He then recounted the story of the priesthood on the earth from the time of Christ’s mortal ministry, starting with the bestowal of keys to Peter:

Matt 16:19: “And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

He then talked about the transfiguration and the appearance of Moses and Elijah to the Savior. The death of the apostles led to the loss of the priesthood on the earth for 1400 years, until the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in May 1829, which came after they prayed concerning a question about baptism that they had as they worked on the translation of the Book of Mormon. This was followed some weeks later by the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood by Peter, James and John, which included the keys of the apostleship.

On April 3, 1836, the rest of the keys were restored to this dispensation by visitation in the Kirtland Temple by Moses, Elijah, and Elias.

The priesthood authority derives from more than “mere social contract.” One does not obtain it by ecclesiastical training or commission from a congregation. This was understood by many in Joseph Smith’s day, people who longed for sanction from God to act in his name. The Restoration should have “eased centuries of anguish” for these people seeking divine authority to act. Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley, expressed it thusly:

So easily are Bishop’s made,
By man’s or woman’s whim;
Wesley his hands on Coke hath laid,
But who laid hands on him?

Within the priesthood, lines of authority from even the newest deacon can be traced back to Jesus Christ.

He then recounted the story of Robert B. Thompson, who had been called to travel as a missionary with Heber C. Kimball. This was in 1837(?), a time in Kirtland when the Saints were struggling financially, politically, and internally. In the midst of these struggles, Joseph Smith sent many priesthood holders on missions, which ultimately proved to be a great blessing to the Church, but which in the short term required great sacrifice on the part of the men being called, and even greater sacrifice on the part of their families, who would be left without support. Elder Thompson recalls walking into the Kimball home to meet his companion, and happnening upon a very moving scene, in which Elder Kimball was praying with his family for their protection and support while he served the Lord as a missionary, He then blessed his wife and children as a father and a priesthood holder, It was an extremely emotional and moving scene.

Elder Holland said that such scenes have been replayed hundreds of thousands of times in homes around the world, and that he had had similar experiences both in his personal life and in his apostolic ministry. He testified of the priesthood’s capacity to bring blessings into our lives.

Note: He uses the full name of the Melchizedek Priesthood near the end of the talk.

Elder Neil L. Anderson

Addresses his remarks to the Young Men of the church. Begins by recounting the story of an unnamed friend who works as an FBI agent working on organized crime. On a drug bust, he broke into an apartment. There was a man at the door, and two people in the apartment. The people in the apartment were trying to destroy evidence — the man at the door surprisingly smiled at the FBI agent, who made an instant judgment that the smiling man was not a threat, and proceeded to move towards the people at the table who were destroying evidence. After the FBI agent was inside, with the man at the door at his back, he got the impression, “Beware of the evil behind the smiling eyes.” He turned around just in time to stop the smiling man at the door from drawing his gun and shooting him.

The talk revolves around the theme “Beware of the evil behind the smiling eyes.”

All good comes from God, and evil from the devil. “The devil is a liar and a loser.” There is great inequity between the power of the source of good and the source of evil, but evil is allowed to have influence on this earth so we can have a choice. “The opportunity to choose good over evil is precisely why we are here.”

Some suggestions:

  1. Talk to your parents. They love and care for you.
  2. Follow the prophet.
  3. Let the Holy Ghost be your guide
  4. Gain your own testimony of the Savior. “Read the Book of Mormon when no one is watching.” Joseph Smith searched the scriptures because he desired knowledge. He went to the Sacred Grove by himself.

Elder Robert C. Oaks
Takes as his text “Who’s on the Lord Side, Who? Now is the Time To Show.”
There are 3 million priesthood holders: 50% Aaronic Priesthood, 50% Melchizedek Priesthood
Many are AWOL.

We all made covenants when we received the priesthood. What is the priesthood? The power to act in God’s name. What does this mean? For Aaronic Priesthood holders, it means in part preparing and administering the sacrament. Remember that Jesus Christ administered the first sacrament. We stand in for the Savior when we perform this function today. Melchizedek Priesthood holders are referred to the 84th section of the D&C.

One of the great accounts of the sealing power being granted in the scriptures is that of Nephi, son of Helaman (Hel. 10:7).

Heavenly Father trusts us to share his power. We have been given careful instruction on how to transmit that authority — by laying on of hands.

Story of army of Helaman, with reference to their physical and spiritual strength. We see picture of Elder Oaks, 11 year old grandson Andrew, who is in a wheelchair. He is handicapped physically, but this is not a handicap to his ability to receive and exercise priesthood power when he turns 12.

Elder Oaks was a pilot in the USAF. His squadron was a very close-knit group. “Take care of your wingman. Constantly check his 6 o’clock.” they would say, meaning be sure to watch for enemies coming up behind your fellow pilots. Similarly, we should take care of our fellow quorum members.

Pres. Hinckley has said of our day, “I don’t know that things were any worse in Sodom and Gomorrah.” Elder Dallin H. Oaks said in a recent devotional that the signs of the Second Coming are all around us, and this was said even before the recent hurricane season, and the tsunami in the Indian Ocean. We should prepare ourselves.

Notes: This talk made extensive use of pictures and video. They were distracting to me. You can tell that he is military — lots of military metaphors throughout. We know one of his sons, apparently.


Choir and Congregation sing “High on the Mountaintop”. Surprisingly, the congregation in our chapel managed not to race two measures ahead of the choir.


Pres. Faust
Comments on the the new members of the Quorums of the Seventy, certifies that they are worthy to serve.

Question of a young man: “What will be my place in this world, and how will I find it?”

Awaiting a mission call, and then serving a mission are short-term answers to this question. His mission became like a North Star to guide him in his other pursuits in life. If we faithfully persevere in church callings, the Lord will bless us beyond our dreams. A mission can help us learn this lesson.

Some lessons learned as a missionary as recounted to him by someone:

  1. How to organize time
  2. The importance of hard work
  3. Leadership skills
  4. People skills
  5. The importance of gospel study
  6. Respect for authority
  7. Value of prayer
  8. Humility and dependence on the Lord

Many of his high school peers who were talented failed to reach their potential because they did not learn to persevere, while others with fewer gifts succeeded because they worked hard (Note: includes plumbers and electricians with the doctors and lawyers as successful people).

Marie Curie persevered in trying to isolate radium from pitchblende. Her husband Pierre, after their 480th failed attempt, was frustrated, but she would not give up.

Story of President Snow, who in 1864 as a missionary to Hawaii capsized and nearly drowned. Onlookers felt he could not be revived, but his companions refused to give up on him (including Alma Smith, who was shot in the hip at Haun’s Mill). They performed the then novel process of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, which proved effective. (Note: any Terri Schiavo commentary here? I doubt it, but someone is sure to read into this).

Examples of perseverance from Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Gordon B. Hinckley

Some might wonder, “How long do I have to be a home teacher?” George L. Nelson served as a home teacher until he was 100 years old.

Pres. Monson

Also welcomes new Seventies, thanks those released to emeritus status.

Tells Pres. Faust he likes to read obituaries, which often say “Gone Fishing” or “Gone Hunting.” He saw one the other day that said “Gone Home Teaching.”

Quote from Joseph F. Smith on the priesthood: it is the power and authority delegated by God to man. It must be loved and respected.

The oath and covenant of the priesthood applies to all of us. Melchezidek Priesthood holders are required to obey laws of God and magnify our callings. Aaronic Priesthood holders should study oath and covenant to prepare now for future duties and responsibilities.

Quote from Pres. Romney.
Quote from Pres. Kimball on how we can fail not only through transgression, but by inaction, failing to do our duty.

It’s best to work for a cause. Doing one’s duty brings happiness and peace.

Quote from Rabindranath Tagore:

I slept and dreamt that life was Joy.
I woke and saw that life was Duty.
I acted, and behold, Duty was Joy.

part of our duty is to learn what the Lord wants.

Magnify our calling: build it up in dignity and importance, to make it honorable and commendable to all men (My notes are a bit garbled here, but I found it interesting that the definition seemed to focus on the opinions of others, and not the Lord.)

How do we magnify our calling? Perform service that pertains to it. “Learn your duty, then do it.”

Robert Louis Stevenson: “I know what pleasure is, for I have done good work.”

Serve inactives. Act on promptings now. However, patience may be required. Story of Harold Gallagher, whom Pres. Monson visited as a bishop. Bro. Gallagher turned him away at the door, but the guilt of the experience haunted him and prompted him to return to church later in life.

Quote from Stephen L. Richards: “For practical purposes, the priesthood is the perfect plan of service.” Story of Adele, a widow whose home was renovated by volunteers. All were blessed by the experience. (Funny aside: He was invited to attend at her request, because he had taken her to the hospital at the birth of one of her children. Her husband was on a hunting trip: Before he left, he told Pres. Monson that he had $90, with which he could either buy food, or go hunting. He chose to go hunting, but asked Pres. Monson, then his bishop, if he would take his wife to the hospital if she went into labor, as she was due in five days. He then went hunting, and came back empty-handed).

If you are shy, remember that you are on the Lord’s errand, and you are promised His help.

Somewhat irrelevant story of a youth temple trip.

Quote from Shenandoah: “If we didn’t try, the we don’t do, and if we don’t do, then why are we here?”

Pres. Hinckley
There are hundreds of worthy men that are capable of being General Authorities. His 63 year old son was called this morning to be a Seventy. He did not advance his name, and recused himself from discussions involving him. He is very sensitive to nepotism. His son is worthy and qualified to serve. “He had a great and wonderful mother. I wish I could recommend his father.”

Addresses gambling, which is a topic of many letters and conversations he has had recently. We are against it.

Poker, betting on races, slots, roulette, etc. It is addictive, leads to other destructive habits and practices, can lead to the loss of lots of money, robs wives and children of support and security.

References the recent poker craze, quoting extensively from NYT article. TV poker programs are popular, and online poker is popular as well. (Note: he speaks here as if he’s speaking to a Utah audience specifically, not the Church as a whole. Probably unintentional.)

Reads letter from mother of 19 year old online poker player.

Utah and Hawaii are only states without legalized lotteries and gambling of some form. Poker is a gateway. Kids learn to get something for nothing, then travel outside the state to gamble legally.

Gambling is a process that takes money but does not offer a fair return in goods and services (note: this seems to be the fundamental objection).

Comments on state-run lotteries. Twenty years ago he remarked upon it.

Tithing is a blessing. Recounts a conversation with a leader from another church which raises money through bingo. Pres. Hinckley asked, “what about tithing?” The other leader said that he wishes it would work, but does not expect it to.

Some say, “I pay $5 to see a movie, I pay $5 to play poker. What’s the difference?” They are not the same thing. The difference is that in poker, you do not receive value in return.

From the early days of the church, gambling has been disowned. Quote from Joseph Smith, 1842, on how the Saints did not participate in horse racing and gambling, among other things, with other Missourians, and were they were therefore targeted for persecution.

1844, Brigham Young calls for closing of gambling houses in Nauvoo. Other quotes from Joseph F. Smith, Heber J. Grant, Dallin H. Oaks (from a Ricks College Devotional, 05 Jan 1987 “Gambling–Morally Wrong and Politically Unwise” can’t find it online).

Pres. Hinckley adds his own: it seems like harmless fun, but intensity is evident on the faces of the players, and can lead to addiction.

If you don’t gamble, don’t start. If you do, quit now.

You should be doing something better with your time. Read — you’re not likely to get too much of that. Good music, dancing, hiking, cycling (Note: interesting how dancing makes it onto this list).

He is currently reading Soul Searching:The Religious Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers from Oxford University Press (for a good review, seeRomney Biddulph’s post here). The study notes that LDS youth know more about their faith, are more committed to it, and are more likely to abide by its teachings than their peers. We ask more and are more likely to get it. Early morning seminary is cited as an example. It is hard, but blessings come. There is no time to play poker for these high school students.

It’s a waste of time.

The keys of the ministering of angels are promised to us, but playing games of chance will drive them away.

(Note: Pres. Hinckley continues his excellent tradition of ending meetings a few minutes early).

Then he announced that Sunday School was being eliminated from the three-hour block.

22 thoughts on “My priesthood session notes

  1. Sometimes I feel to say “amen” to your comment, dan w. I’d heard that there’s an experimental program going on w/o Sunday School in some parts of the Church… was this just a rumor?

  2. CJ: I’ve heard of these experimental groups, though I have no real evidence that they exist.
    However, when my wife lived in Jordan (no, not utah, in the middle east), they had 2 hour church each week. I forget, but it seems like they had sacrament meeting every sunday and rotated between sunday school and priesthood/relief society.

  3. Bryce, that choir gave one of the best performances I remember with More Holiness Give Me at the end. On the last verse, there was a really cool obbligato line going on in the organ.

  4. Bryce,

    Thank you! I too wasn’t able to make it, and wondered at what had transpired.

  5. Bill, thanks for reminding me about “More Holiness Give Me.” That was a cool obbligato line. I remember thinking it would have been difficult to play. I liked all of the arrangements in general — interesting, yet understated, without a lot of flourishes.

  6. “I pay $5 to see a movie, I pay $5 to play poker. What’s the difference?”

    He prefaced it by saying that it was mentioned by one of “our young men”. I can’t remember where, but I thought he might have been quoting someone in the bloggernaccle.

  7. J. Stapley:

    That might have been at Kulturblog (link here). I can’t imagine that this would be the direct source of the quote, as the wording is different, and Kulturblog isn’t a Mormon blog per se.

  8. The thing is not everyone who does gaming does it exclusively to strike a jackpot. Many do it for the entertainment aspect. In that regard, the 5$ in both situations pays for entertainment.

    Arturo, I’ll see your fin, and raise another.

  9. So does this mean the NCAA Tourney is out from now on (I usually put $5 into the pot)? How about the kinds of bets that Arturo just placed (betchya $5 he says “phat” before the nights out)? What about betting for food (betchya the last slice of pizza I make this shot)? How about just betting (betchya I can jump higher than you)?

  10. I think the point is ultimately that there is a danger to gambling and playing it is like playing russian roulette in a way. Same with drugs. Most people are able to do drugs in their youth with relatively little effect. They don’t get addicted. They don’t get arrested. They don’t get in much trouble. The worst that could be said is that it interferes, in some cases with schooling. However it is russian roulette in that some get addicted and ruin their life.

    I recently had a good friend kill himself because of addiction. (The double suicide in Provo some of you may have read about last month) An other friend who is a former AP and former Elders Quorum president is now a heroin junkie. An other one is dead from a heroin overdose. I’m sure none of them thought that was a likely outcome.

    I’ve only gambled twice, and lost a few thousand each time. (More than enough for my lifetime) Of course the main reason I was gambling was that the woman I was on a date with, a rather attractive model, wanted to. Kind of dumb mistake in hindsight.

  11. I’ve been intrested in the church’s position (and members interpretation of it) on cards and gambling since I’ve joined. As far as I can tell gambling = bad, cards = no real position. I just would like to point out that my playing cards (yes, even poker) without gambling for money with my family has proved to be some of the more wholesome and enriching activities we’ve done together. Would any of you veiw playing a card game as part of family home evening as innapropriate? What about getting together weekly with friends to play for chips?

  12. I’d put playing poker for non-money in the same category as caffeine. Not recommended, not prohibited. Certainly not worth making a big deal out of it.
    Gambling is bad. Family games are good.
    I’d happily do it, but if someone else felt it was too close to gambling and chose to not do it, I would respect their opinion and not think they were “wrong.”

  13. In a Happy Valley seminary not too many years ago, the principal informed us that face cards were evil and then proceeded with the explanation about Mary, Joseph and Jesus being represented in the Queen, Jack and Joker respectively.

    Some of my more ‘take every word that proceedeth forth out of the mouth of the all-wise seminary teacher’ refused to play with face cards again. Probably to this day.

    I’ve never googled that to try and make a connection, though I might just to satisfy my own curiosity brought back to life by this post. However, I do personally believe face cards are quite harmless.

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