Sunday, November 13, 2011

Is Priesthood Power Automatic?

In church the teacher began the third hour with this question.  "What is more important, the living prophet? Or the scriptures?"

What do you think?

Even posing the question shows how far our culture has come in it's view of Church office.  I had to differentiate between the "office" within the organization, and the heavenly power of the Priesthood.  Although culturally our mindset makes the two synonymous, there is a difference.  Elder Packer has actually addressed these two things when he comments that we as a church have been good about distributing the "authority" of the priesthood but it has raced ahead of distributing the "power" of the priesthood.  See: Boyd K Packer.  The Power of the Priesthood. April 2010.  

During the class, after about 5 comments supporting the idea that the living prophet is more important, the class as a whole then concluded that indeed the living prophet is more important than the scriptures.  The living prophet as we all know has come to refer to the current President of the Church, the man taught as holding, and able to exercise all priesthood keys.  When he passes away, we'll sustain his successor to the position.  In the minds of members, that person's importance is superior to the Scriptures containing God's word.

When a man becomes a member of the 12, or President of the Church, it appears it's then, and not before that he acquires the title "The Prophet", culturally speaking.  From the view of our present culture, the "position" in the church also bestows or is synonymous with the "power" of God to be a prophet.  Not everyone may see it this way, however it seems to be extremely common.  So to truly decide the original question of importance requires more than a cultural assumption.  

We sustain all 15 members of the Quorum of the 12 and First Presidency as "Prophets, Seers, and Revelators".  We sustain them as that, because that is the position they occupy.  As I've been taught and read in D&C this is how the Church has been set up.  So, from there the question arises:  Does being sustained (or ordained) to a position or title, automatically guarantee the position holder the respective power from heaven to act as those? Or does the sustaining grant them only the "right" or authority to act as such for the Church?  You see how this could be a meaningful distinction?  One obligates God to bestow power.  The other obligates man to connect with God or else remain powerless.  The 'right' or "authority" to do something vs the heavenly Priesthood Power to carry it out is different.  For me this helps clarify the original question.  I can see in scripture many people who clearly have the power of heaven, most of whom held no religious office. 

Is Priesthood power automatic upon ordination to an office?  If it does, it would seem ambition to gain high positions, or aspiring to be president of the church gains you the ability to act as God with God's power.  That's just wrong.  

Jesus held no position of authority, yet He clearly held God's power.  Christ in Matthew 23 says the scribes and Pharisees sit "in Moses' seat" (or a legitimate position with legal rights to act in the Church) yet were not worthy of being followed "but do not as they do".  So you can hold office, but not be worthy of being followed.  So then how can office alone be more important than scripture?  Christ said to listen to and observe what they bid you to do, but he taught NOT to do as they do.  "For they say and do not."

The scriptures contain God's word, He has confirmed it and taken responsibility for those words.  The question of importance posed at the beginning of the post is one each of us can and should answer.  The implications are an extremely important indicator.  


  1. Thanks for sharing. Some related thoughts that may be of interest:

  2. Anonymous: Interesting article. Yeah, within 8 verses of the Book of Mormon we read of Lehi seeing God. It's as if that were one of the main messages of scripture.

    I find the scriptures so important mainly because they teach such a unique message, which includes promises as well as examples of me being able to receive the power of Godliness in my own life.