Priesthood Authority?


It’s time to teach about the Priesthood at Beginnings New. I’m not saying I’ve thought well about this yet, but I think that Elder Oaks’ talk on Priesthood Authority in the Family and the Church has some striking and not-usually said points in it that deserve much thought!

My favorite part of this talk was this concept:

When my father died, my mother presided over our family. She had no priesthood office, but as the surviving parent in her marriage she had become the governing officer in her family. At the same time, she was always totally respectful of the priesthood authority of our bishop and other Church leaders. She presided over her family, but they presided over the Church.

That little paragraph has had me thinking for the last seven years about what he was implying. First, he used the word “preside.” This seems more than just saying she was their “legal guardian.” Earlier in the talk, he explained that he was confused that after his father died, she took over all of his leadership in the family, even those he had associated with the priesthood.

In another talk by Elder Oaks, he said something similar:

All priesthood authority in the Church functions under the direction of one who holds the appropriate priesthood keys. This is the priesthood line. But the authority that presides in the family—whether father or single-parent mother—functions in family matters without the need to get authorization from anyone holding priesthood keys.

What does this imply about mothers? I have to admit that when I hear something a little different than what I’m used to, I start to wonder what it implies about the subject as a whole; sometimes what appears as an exception can actually teach us what the whole is all about!

Is he talking about some right to preside that comes by virtue of giving birth — that comes with parenting in general? Is he talking about a right to preside based on the temple sealing? He doesn’t say the latter, but then he is talking about priesthood authority.. what is he implying, here? That there is a different sort of priesthood that comes with parenting? I wouldn’t be too shocked, actually. What does the word “priesthood” really  mean, anyway? Being set a part to do God’s work? Couldn’t we be given some special authority when we are given a child? Something like everyone receiving the light of Christ when they are born, whether they know it or not?

I really, really want to think sometime about the significance of a priesthood office versus the priesthood itself. I don’t want to talk about it on a blog, but there’s got to be some way to think about this after you’ve gone to the temple. What you receive there doesn’t match up with what we do in the church, at least not exactly. So what is the difference between priesthood power and priesthood office?

And what do we mean by priesthood authority?

Authority to do what, exactly? To do God’s work? Is that too broad – does that happen just by having that power, not by being specifically authorized? (Am I making sense here?) Or, sometimes we use “authority” to mean authorized to preform ordinances in a way that is binding on both sides of the veil. You know, I think that is what Joseph Smith called the power to seal or bind – in D&C 128. We usually just call one kind of ordinance the sealing, but in the language of 128 then baptisms also need to be done with the sealing power to be “authorized” right? Is that one way to talk about priesthood authority?

And finally, do we mean authority as in simply “right to preside” – or, who’s in charge? And I don’t mean that in a overbearing sense, I just mean, who is it that God’s going to see as having stewardship here? Who’s he going to reveal things too? Is that what Elder Oaks is referring to, mostly?

As a tangent (so not about “authority” here), Sister Beck gave me some things to think about too (in a talk I reviewed here). She was referring to that primary song which has the line, “mine is a home where ev’ry hour is blessed by the strength of priesthood power.” Rather than associating that with only fathers, she thinks about it this way:

It isn’t just when Dad is there. It isn’t just when Mom is there. It isn’t just when a priesthood ordination or blessing is being performed. It’s every hour as covenants are made and kept.

Much to think about… 🙂

And that’s a good thing. 🙂

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3 responses to “Priesthood Authority?

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