I’ve been thinking about a scripture that’s been on my mind for some time, and I can’t shake it. It’s in Matthew 11 where Christ invites us to take his yoke upon us and learn of Him, because His yoke is easy and his burden is light.
In preparing for a lesson I would teach, my studies and thoughts led me to another topic as well: The Priesthood. Just what is it, really? And what is it’s purpose? What’s the big deal? Why is it even needed?
This led me to the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament. Reading the Book of Hebrews was particularly difficult at first because of the language used (KJV), and I had to really think about what Paul was trying to teach about Christ as the Great High Priest.
Back in Old Testament times, the High Priest was the one who’d perform the main ordinances in behalf of the people. He would present to God the offerings of Atonement offered by the people. He would act as the Advocate before God, in behalf of the people he represented. Symbolically, he would be acting out who Jesus Christ is (our Advocate and Mediator with the Father) and what he would eventually do in our behalf (be the offering for our sins, our pains, our weaknesses). All of the rites and ceremonies the Israelites/Jews performed represented something, some aspect, some role, of who Christ is and what he does for us. So the High Priest would ultimately represent, symbolically, Jesus Christ. And to be selected to become a High Priest was considered a humbling, revere-able calling, for who could ever, truly, match what the Prophesied Savior would be and do?
And then, in trying to digest everything and make connections, the following thoughts came together for me, which shed a much greater understanding than what I had before:
The Priesthood: The “Vehicle” to be a Priest after the manner of Christ.
In another perspective, it is “How we can become like Christ…with Heavenly Help.”
The Priesthood consists of two things: Authority and Power
Authority To Act: which enables us…
…To Act, Commissioned by Jesus Christ (“Called”, “Authorized”) ;
…To Act in the name of Jesus Christ (“represent Him”);
…To Act as Jesus Christ would (“in the same manner as Him”);
…To Act with Jesus Christ (“doing the work with Him”).
Power is The Ability To Do—
When you have the Priesthood, you have the power to do what Jesus Christ does:
…To Create, Organize,
…To Build, Establish, Teach,
…To Repair, Restore, Heal, Strengthen, Uplift
…To Purify, Cleanse, Purge, Bring out the Best
…To Help Endure, Retain, Remain, Preserve
…To Mediate, Advocate, Save, Forgive,
…To Make Whole (to Complete, to Perfect, To Finish)
Further, the Priesthood is not something we declare or claim, on our own, to have. We do not “take it upon ourselves”.
We are “ordained” into it: We are invited, authorized, and commissioned by Him, either directly or through those He’s already commissioned. He gives us the assignment, the spiritual and temporal resources and, incrementally, the ability to do the work with Him. We, then, become Earthly mortals whose internal Heavenly Capacities are brought out and magnified through Heaven’s help.
The power is offered and extended to us, and our job is to receive it, to accept it, preserve it, and use it to benefit others. The Authority and Power are effective only with the condition that we trust God, love Him, listen to His instructions and do accordingly,…as we desire, choose, and strive to live as Him, even if we’re not told or compelled to do so. When we do not live nor strive to be as the Christ we agreed…and claim…to represent, then we limit or even choke the effectiveness of the power of the Priesthood.
The Priesthood is an Authorized Assignment from Christ to Represent Him…not an Arrogant Aggrandizement of ourselves to Appear Like Him.
It is a Power given to us by Christ to help make others better…not a Power we claim to help make us appear better (or greater) than others.
Furthermore, the Priesthood is not some deep, magical, supernatural power, especially as Hollywood portrays such mysticism. No. It is, however, Heaven’s power given to us on Earth expressly to do God’s purposes…not ours.
Symbolically, the Priesthood may be like the Yoke spoken of in Matthew 11:28, 29-30, the instrument that connects two oxen together for the purpose of carrying a load, and simultaneously connects the load to the two oxen:
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
The Hebrew phrase for verse 30 is “yom yom ya’amos-lanu” and can be translated as “who daily carries our burden for us”. (source)
When we accept the Yoke of the Priesthood, we willingly “bind” ourselves to Christ with this “yoke” (commissioned responsibility). We agree to Be With Christ, Walk with Him, Walk the same paths as He does, Lead with Him, Work with Him, and help Carry the Burden that He carries…just as oxen that are yoked together stay together, walk together, walk the same paths, work together, and carry the burden with the yoke…together.
And when we bind ourselves to Him, He enables us to carry the burdens we aren’t able to carry by ourselves. In other words, we need His Priesthood because we can’t do this all on our own. While we are His companion and offer to Him what strengths and gifts we have in doing the work, He offers us His strengths and gifts to enable us to do the work as well. Together, we carry the burden. And what is that Burden? That Burden…is “Light”: Truth. Service. Love. Joy. Hope. Faith. Strength. Endurance. Perseverance. Forgiveness. Cleanliness from Sin. Encouragement. Peace. And ultimately, to offer all the opportunity of returning and living with God the Father and the Eternal Family once again.
The Priesthood, then, becomes not only our Heaven-established training ground and Heaven-sent training tools to be like Christ, but eventually, it becomes the vehicle for helping all of us develop a deeper relationship with Christ…for not only will we work for Him, and work with Him, but we will also Be With Him as we strive to Be Like Him.
The LDS Lamplighter