D&C 121 notes from Summer 2011

Looking through the archives I couldn’t find any posts I did on our Summer Study group from last summer! So, I am going to add some questions and thoughts now, by looking through the notes I made in my scriptures. (I’m doing this in preparation to teach YW Lesson 15 on the Melchizedek Priesthood.)

First, I remember we read the entire letter(s) this came from, and it was very helpful. Some of the parts that were taken out (for sake of space, I imagine) helped us to put things into their context.

Here are some thoughts and questions, somewhat randomly:

  • v. 35 – do minds sometimes understand, but hearts still don’t? (We’ve got this written out for us, and yet, it still applies…)
  • v. 35 – Any aspiring means we can’t see priesthood for what it is.
  • verses 36-37 are chiastic (?)
  • both 36 and 37 talk about control
  • v. 37 – “Amen” – we talked about its various meanings. Here seemed to be used as “goodbye” but usually it means to agree, or put approval on?
  • v. 38 – “ere he is aware” we liked that phrase, and thought it could be used to describe other parts of this passage (for example, v.45 when then doctrine of the priesthood distills. Perhaps that also comes without us quite realizing.)
  • v. 38 – seems so drastic. We can think of many more situations were someone is misusing the priesthood, in home or the church, but they don’t seem to fight against anything. They just aren’t very effective leaders or patriarchs. (To me, it reminds me of D&C 42:14, when we interpret that to mean if you don’t have the spirit you won’t actually teach anything, though you might still give a lesson and be doing something you think – and others think – is good and right. That’s usually what I think of myself as the main priesthood problem. If someone came into a ward and demanded that everyone listen to them in some overbearing, ridiculous way, then we’d all think they were crazy and report them and things would be fine. There isn’t much room for what it sounds like is going on here today, even though things were definitely possible then (especially as we read in the letter!). What I see today is more of the flaky, half-version of things, but I think this also often stems from theses same problems mentioned in D&C 121. Or, at least, maybe I’ve always thought to go that direction because this section exists?)
  • v. 39 why the words “a little authority, as they suppose,” ? Why the “as they suppose”? Are we emphasizing that the Priesthood is not really authority over anyone at all? Or that there are some with authority and some without, but the tendency is that “almost all men” when they receive the priesthood think they have authority and use it unrighteously?  Is it unrighteous because it is not what God wants? Is it unrighteous because they didn’t actually have authority? It is that they can’t see the priesthood outside of “the honors of men”? My guess is that “authority” is really what is given, but it isn’t at all the authority we are used to in the world, and that makes all the difference.
  • v. 40 – This marks the wrapping up of the question opened in verse 34.
  • I keep thinking of the talk by President Packer, where he said, “We have done very well at distributing the authority of the priesthood. We have priesthood authority planted nearly everywhere. We have quorums of elders and high priests worldwide. But distributing the authority of the priesthood has raced, I think, ahead of distributing the power of the priesthood.”
  • I see this quotation of Joseph F. Smith later in President Packer’s talk: ” The father presides at the table, at prayer, and gives general directions relating to his family life whoever may be present.” I don’t at all disagree, but I think we can use this as an illustration of how to understand D&C 121. A man is told his has the authority to preside over his family. If he then takes this to mean, in any degree, that he can “cover his sins” by looking in control and superior, or “gratify his pride” by telling his wife and kids what to do, or “gratify his vain ambition” by feeling like his has a higher position in that group, or “exercise control or dominion or compulsion” on any of the souls in his family, then his has missed the point entirely. The point is not, and never is, that THE PERSON has control over anything. Rather, the person has a solemn job to figure out whatever God is asking him to do for his family. Right? Indeed, if a man enjoys his position because of any of the above reasons, then “the Spirit of the Lord is grieved” and so are his family members!
  • (In other words, it seems to me that having the authority to “act in God’s name” doesn’t mean that whatever we do is okay with God! It means we have the responsibility to figure out what God would be doing, or rather, what the Spirit is tells us to do right then and there!)
  • I am also thinking about President Kimball’s quotation (from Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball page 316) where he says, “We have heard of men who have said to their wives, ‘I hold the priesthood and you’ve got to do what I say.’ Such a man should be tried for his membership. Certainly he should not be honored in his priesthood.” Elder Oaks used this quotation in his talk “Priesthood Authority in the Family and the Church.”
  • I am also thinking of Jacob’s speech in the Book of Mormon, and how the fathers had not treated their wives and kids in the right way. I don’t know how much that had to do with their supposed authority? Or just justification from the past.
  • v. 41 – As I saw suggested on the Feast Wiki this morning, the “only” here could be read in (at least) two ways. 1, that power or influence is maintained only  by the things in the list (persuasion, love, etc.), or 2, that the priesthood can exercise power or influence, but only as it is done through love, persuasion, etc. The first suggests that power comes with or without priesthood, and the second suggests that it is a combination of the two. This second reason seems to support verse 36.
  • List includes: persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness and meekness, love unfeigned, kindness, pure knowledge
  • List sounds to me like things Paul says. Ways of describing charity.
  • See also D&C 107:30
  • Next to the list in verses 41-42, I have written “Adam and Eve.” But I can’t remember why. Was it related to knowledge? I guess I’ll come back to that.
  • v. 42 “enlarge the soul” – this reminded us of Alma 32
  • v. 42 – what is without hypocrisy? the knowledge (it is pure)? your soul? I think I vote for your soul
  • v. 42 – is your soul enlarged, or the people you are persuading etc? does your knowledge help them enlarge?
  • And if so, are we helping them without us having any hypocrisy or guile (because we aren’t covering our sins with the authority we have), or, are they enlarging in such a way that they do not have hypocrisy or guile in them?
  • v. 42 – “guile” is a word worth thinking more about here. I think of Adam and Eve here, and also Ammon… Do we teach and persuade but never trick/use guile?
  • v. 43 – “increase of love” – probably this is related to vs. 41-42, where love is already mentioned
  • v. 45 – “household of faith” is also from Galatians 6:10
  • v. 45 had lots of minor changes. Before, it read: “Thy bowels also being full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrines of the priesthood distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.” (The main difference is that there are no “let”s. In the original, it seems to assume that thy bowels are full of charity, rather than a command to do so, or, an if/then statement.)
  • v. 45 – it’s interesting that only after you exercise the priesthood in the right way that the doctrine of the priesthood distils upon the soul. 🙂
  • v. 45 – Perhaps  the priesthood doctrines distil without us noticing right when it happens, like the morning dew. As I mentioned earlier, we liked applying the phrase “ere he is aware” to this verse too.
  • “dews from heaven” – what ideas does this bring to mind? without noticing the exact moment is one. Also, gracefully – you don’t demand dew! Regularly. Often. Morning – peace, calm, cool, after the nighttime of dark? Needed. Gift/given to keep things alive. Water. Small amounts. Small amounts spread out. Falls upon all the plants, not just some. Only in some seasons?
  • v. 46, in the original letter, would run right into section 122. (Here’s a view of just that part.) It makes a big difference, I think, to recognize that there shouldn’t be a break here, and that section 122 is still Joseph talking to us, not God to Joseph. I should read that letter again sometime.
  • v. 46 – “dominion” and “compulsory” are both ideas in v. 37
  • v. 46 – here someone has the authority and honor they thought they were getting or seeking after back in vs. 35-37, but here it “flows” to someone without compulsion.
  • That idea is what we get in D&C 122:2, where people come to you to seek counsel, authority, and blessings
  • D&C 122:4 uses “influence” and this reminded us of v. 41 in D&C 121. That makes me read v. 41 as saying that power and influence can be claimed by virtue of the priesthood, and used for “trouble,” but it can’t be maintained. It won’t last. D&C 122:4 says that it will be for “a small moment.”

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