Saturday, June 8, 2013

My Sunday School Lesson Recap: "P"riesthood and "p"riesthood - Power, Authority and Keys

Last Sunday was the first lesson about the Priesthood and Priesthood Keys.  I used the lesson to go into detail about what the Priesthood is and isn't and the difference between the Priesthood, the priesthood, power, authority and keys.  It was titled, "Priesthood and priesthood" - and I wrote each term above on the chalkboard, with definitions or descriptions under each one added as the lesson progressed. 

1) We started by reading from D&C Section 121.  I mentioned that we nearly always read the first part (Joseph's plea to the Lord) as completely separate from the last part (how to use the Priesthood) but that they are the beginning and end of the same section and, I believe, important to understand together.  I had them read verses 1-6, and I described what was happening in Joseph's life - that he was in the Liberty Jail for months under extreme duress as he heard about all the terrible things that were happening to his people.  I told them that I view this as the moment he finally "broke".  We read the verses and translated them into wording teenagers might use.

"Where are you, God?  Where are you hiding? How long will you watch and listen to your people suffer without helping them?  God, come out of hiding.  Let you anger and fury loose and wipe out our enemies!  If you remember us, we will praise you forever." 

Their translation of God's response was:

"My son, chill out.  Be at peace." 

God then went on to teach Joseph why the request had been an attempt to have God use the Priesthood unrighteously (the use of compulsion through the authority of the Priesthood - verses 36-37) - and he told Joseph how to use it righteously (verses 41-44). 

2) We read from the Bible Dictionary, in which "Priesthood" is not included, but "Priests" is.  It says that OT priests acted as mediators between God and the people - that they were able to "draw nigh to God" but the people weren't.  I pointed out that this structure was the same as the Catholic Church throughout the Middle Ages - and that it extended to the people being illiterate and not being able to read the Bible for themselves, relying totally on the Priests to tell them what it said and meant.  That changed dramatically with the Gutenberg Bible and the people being able to read and interpret on their own - and the subsequent rejection of the "Priesthood" being embodied in men and, instead, the "priesthood (of believers)" not requiring mediators between God and the people. 

I asked the students which model we have in the LDS Church, and they recognized that we have both "The Priesthood" and "the priesthood" - since we accept communication from God to church leaders but also personal revelation.  I told them that this structure is more complicated and can be messier than only having one of the models, but that I see it as an aspect of the "Restoration of ALL Things".  This means that the LDS Church has designated Priests, but it also allows everyone, male and female, to be priests.  (I will get into Priests and Priestesses and how this plays out in the temple in a later lesson.) 

2) I asked the students to define "Priesthood".  One of them said it is "the power of God" - so I wrote that on the board.  Another one said it is "the authority to act in the name of God" - so I wrote that also.  I then added that it is "an obligation to serve" and wrote that on the board, telling them I would talk about that later. 

3) Given those definitions and what we had discussed up to that point, I asked them what the difference is between "Priesthood" and "priesthood".  That stumped them, so I added "to perform ordinances" under Priesthood and "to hear and share God's word and do his work" under priesthood.  I called Priesthood the "administrative, formal" Priesthood and priesthood the "informal" priesthood. 

We talked about how every person ever born has the light of Christ and can receive revelation from the Holy Ghost - how every baptized member has committed to take the Lord's name upon them and renews that commitment each Sunday through the sacrament - how every temple endowed member makes covenants and receives promises relative to the priesthood (more detail in a future lesson), etc.  I mentioned that men are the only ones in the Church right now who can administer Priesthood ordinances outside the temple, but every member can speak and act in God's name and, therefore, every member (men, women and children) has that type of priesthood. 

4) We defined "authority" as "permission or right, given by someone to someone else".  Thus, young men in the Aaronic Priesthood have differing things they are authorized to do.  They have the same general authority, but they are authorized to do different things. 

5) We defined "power" as strength or ability, and we talked about how someone can have authority but no power - either due to general unworthiness or, going back to D&;C 121, by trying to compel someone to do what they say "by virtue of the priesthood" (lower case, interestingly).  I used them as examples, looking at one of the young women and mentioning that if she received personal revelation and tried to compel me to follow it, she would be using her priesthood authority unrighteously and, thus, would lose her priesthood power. 

6) I asked them what the purpose of Priesthood ordinances is.  That got some blank looks at first, so I asked them whom the "target" of the ordinances is - the people performing them or the people receiving them.  They got that distinction as we used baptism, the sacrament and healing blessings as examples.  I asked about vicarious temple ordinances - and I pointed out that those ordinances are a bit different in that we can receive the blessings of humility and having our hearts turn to our ancestors - that I don't see temple ordinances in quite the same way as non-temple ordinances, since I see just as much benefit to the "performer" as for the "recipient".

Thus, each and every one of them, male and female, regardless of the type of P/priesthood they hold, only can magnify that divinely representative power and authority righteously by serving others in the way that D&C 121:41-44 describe.  The performance of ordinances, notwithstanding, and the way those responsibilities have been assigned differently over time, in the way they are required to exercise what they have been given there is no difference between them; they all progress individually in exactly the same way.  

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