(This article was adapted from The Pillars of Zion series. To receive your free PDF copies of Portrait of a Zion Person, click here.)
In this four-part series on the oath and covenant of the priesthood, we have discussed, our covenantal agreements, which are faithfulness, obtaining the Aaronic Priesthood and Melchizedek Priesthood, receiving Christ and his Father, living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, and magnifying our calling and callings in the priesthood.
The oath and covenant of the priesthood is called the covenant of exaltation. To unleash the power of the priesthood to obtain exaltation, we have learned that we must extend charitable service. We have also learned that the act of giving charitable service wraps us in safety and security-priesthood blessings inherent in the priesthood covenant. In this fourth and final part of this series, we will explore additional ways to magnify one’s priesthood calling.
Magnifying Our Priesthood Calling by Bearing Testimony
We cannot overemphasize the fact that God calls us to the priesthood for the express purpose of assisting him in doing his work: to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. Because this work is the work of God, it requires the authority and power of God, and we must exercise our priesthood to accomplish it.
President Wilford Woodruff said, “We [priesthood holders] have a labor laid upon our shoulders . . . and we will be condemned if we do not fulfill it.” He also said, “If we . . . , bearing the priesthood, use that priesthood for any purpose under heaven but to build up the Kingdom of God, . . . our power will fail.”
Part of our priesthood responsibility is bearing testimony of the truth. The following verse lies adjacent to the oath and covenant of the priesthood: “Therefore, go ye into all the world; and unto whatsoever place ye cannot go ye shall send, that the testimony may go from you into all the world unto every creature.” It is our priesthood obligation to raise our voices in testimony.
A testimony is a “declaration made under oath or affirmation by a witness in court to establish a fact-a public avowal . . . to give witness-a firsthand account.” Effectively, we are saying, “I put my character on the line to avow that what I say is true.” Therefore, the opposite of testimony would be perjury.
Bearing testimony fulfills the law of witnesses. Effectively, we are saying, “We add our witness to others that have been given.” For example, Alma “began to speak unto [Zeezrom], and to establish the words of Amulek.” And we read: “Moses did not only testify of these things, but also all the holy prophets, from his days even to the days of Abraham.” And to this group we add our testimonies. Clearly, the weight of multiple testimonies serves to establish the truth.
We do God‘s work by bearing testimony. By covenant, we are to stand as witnesses of God at all times. To that end, the Lord has placed upon us the “testimony of the covenant.” President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote, “People are converted by their hearts being penetrated by the Spirit of the Lord when they humbly hearken to the testimonies of the Lord’s servants.” Zion is established, and we establish ourselves as Zion people by bearing testimony. On the other hand, those who are “not valiant in the testimony of Jesus” forfeit their celestial inheritance and their “crown over the kingdom of our God.” The terrestrial kingdom is their likely destiny.
The result of our bearing testimony is sanctification and renewal: “Nevertheless, ye are blessed, for the testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon; and they rejoice over you, and your sins are forgiven you.” That is, our sincere testimony becomes part of the record of heaven and simultaneously purifies the heart!
In another place we read, “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God.” Our testimony of Christ summons his testimony of us! And in still another place, “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” Our testimony makes us one with God. Clearly, God blesses those who bear testimony in word and example.
Why does God give such honor to sincere testimony? Because bearing testimony is an act of charity; that is, because we love him, we are willing to advocate and endorse him-and if we love our fellowmen, we will want to help them find the truth. Mormon wrote, “If a man be meek and lowly in heart, and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity; for if he have not charity he is nothing; wherefore he must needs have charity.” Significantly, the ultimate testimony that we can bear is with our lives.
The law of increase has impact on the bearing of testimony. By bearing testimony, a testimony grows. Brigham Young said,
A man who wishes to receive light and knowledge, to increase in the faith of the Holy Gospel, and to grow in the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, will find that when he imparts knowledge to others he will also grow and increase.
Be not miserly in your feelings, but get knowledge and understanding by freely imparting it to others. . . . Wherever you see an opportunity to do good, do it, for that is the way to increase and grow in the knowledge of the truth.
Clearly, the bearing of testimony magnifies our priesthood calling, and thus sanctifies and renews us. Our sins are forgiven, our witness is recorded as part of the eternal record of the truth, we are made one with God, and the Lord in turn commends us to the hosts of heaven. Ultimately, the bearing of testimony is an act of love, one in which we unashamedly stand forth, place our character and reputation on the line, and give solemn testimony of God. Bearing testimony is a confession of truth that summons great blessings from God.
The Ultimate Magnification of Our Calling
Beyond every calling in the priesthood, the one calling that stands supreme is to become like God. That calling can be accomplished only through the ordinances of the temple. It is by means of these priesthood ordinances that “the power of godliness is manifest.” Only these sacred ordinances hold “the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.” Without these ordinances, “no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live [eternal life].”
If we expect to become like God, “overcome” all things, become part of “the church of the Firstborn . . . into whose hands the Father has given all things,” become “priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory; . . . priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son,” and become “gods, even the sons of God,” among those of whom it is said, “all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ‘s, and Christ is God’s”-we must magnify our priesthood calling.
We do that by going to the temple to receive the holy ordinances, including the endowment of priesthood knowledge and power. These ordinances culminate with eternal marriage and the fulness of the priesthood. Elder McConkie said,
In setting forth as much as can, with propriety, be spoken outside of the temple, the Lord says that the fulness of the priesthood‘ is received only in the temple itself. This fulness is received through washings, anointings, solemn assemblies, oracles in holy places, conversations, ordinances, endowments, and sealings. (D&C 124:40.) It is in the temple that we enter into the patriarchal order, the order of priesthood that bears the name the new and everlasting covenant of marriage‘ [D&C 131:2].
Temple ordinances and eternal marriage lead to the “fulness of the priesthood,” and only by receiving that fulness can we ultimately magnify, or enlarge, our calling and progress to become like God. This is exactly how Jesus magnified his calling. Joseph Smith said, “If a man gets a fullness of the priesthood of God he has to get it in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained it, and that was by keeping all the commandments and obeying all the ordinances of the house of the Lord.”
A man might serve faithfully in the Church and have numerous callings, but if he is capable and has the opportunity, and then chooses to neglect (1) to make temple covenants and receive temple ordinances, and (2) to marry for eternity in the temple and thus enter into the patriarchal order of the priesthood, he has not magnified his priesthood, and he is violating the terms of the oath and covenant of the priesthood.
Zion is established in the life of an individual by fulfilling these essential priesthood qualifications; because they lead to divine knowledge, power, and an eternal kingdom, they also lead to Zion and eventual exaltation.
The Three Stages of the Priesthood Covenant
We take upon ourselves the oath and covenant of the priesthood and magnify our calling in three stages:
1. Ordination to the priesthood.
2. Temple endowment.
3. Temple marriage.
Note that two of the three stages involve both worthy men and women. The following information comes from an address given by BYU professor Chauncey Riddle at the Sperry Symposium in 1989:
There are three stages by which one takes upon himself the oath and covenant of the holy priesthood and receives the power and authority of the Son of God [see D&C 68:2-4]. The first stage is to receive the priesthood, which one does by receiving ordination, being set apart to a calling, and by functioning faithfully in that calling under the guidance and instruction of the Holy Spirit. Those who thus function carry out the mind and the will of God. If they do this faithfully, they will be given progressively greater power and responsibility in their stewardships, but this does not necessarily mean church position [see Matthew 25:14-30]. To receive the priesthood does mean that one fully accepts the priesthood authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that one will be subject to those who preside over him in that priesthood.
The second stage of receiving the oath and covenant of the holy priesthood is to receive one’s personal endowment in the holy temple of God. First, the endowment consists of special blessings that are given to the person so that he can bear the power of God in this world without being destroyed by the abundant evil that will confront and oppose his labors to do the work of God in the power of God. Second, the endowment is a set of instructions and understandings that assist the person to understand mortality and his role therein.
Third, the endowment involves covenants that the person makes, special promises to bear the burden of the work of the Lord in righteousness and purity. These promises are covenants of the oath and covenant of the priesthood [see D&C 84:39]. The oath is action taken by God, who cannot lie nor sin in any way. Men, who can and do sin and lie, make covenants with God that they might escape sinning altogether and wield the power of God in righteousness, and they do this altogether for the glory of God, as part of their worship of him for his goodness, for his righteousness [see D&C 82:19].
The third part of the oath and covenant of the holy priesthood is to receive the covenant of marriage in the temple. This is God‘s marriage, eternal marriage, the establishment of a new eternal kingdom in the pattern of godliness, to do the supreme work of godliness eternally. Blessings are bestowed, covenants are made, and power and authority to act in the priesthood roles of husband and wife, father and mother, are given [see D&C 131:1-4].
As we achieve each stage of the oath and covenant of the priesthood, we progressively receive more responsibility and more power. That power speaks to the reasons we entered into the covenant of the priesthood in the first place: (1) to become like Christ, and (2) to have the power to bring people to Christ. These reasons are central to becoming a Zion person and abiding faithfully in the oath and covenant of the priesthood.
This article was adapted from The Pillars of Zion series. To receive your free PDF copies of Portrait of a Zion Person, click here. Would you like to help our Internet missionary project? Click here: www.gospelideals.org. And LIKE us at www.facebook.com/gospelideals.
 D&C 84:33.
 Moses 1:39.
 Woodruff, Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 102.
 Woodruff, Conference Report, Apr. 1880, 83.
 D&C 84:62.
 Eyring, “Faith and the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood,” 61-64.
 American Heritage Dictionary, s.v. “Testimony.”
 Deuteronomy 19:15.
 Alma 12:1.
 Helaman 8:16.
 Mosiah 18:9.
 D&C 109:38.
 Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:36-37.
 D&C 58:13.
 D&C 76:79.
 D&C 62:3.
 Luke 12:8.
 1 John 4:15.
 Moroni 7:44.
 D&C 135:1.
 Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, 335.
 D&C 84:19-22.
 D&C 76:53-60.
 D&C 95:8.
 McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 315.
 Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 308.
 D&C 84:41-42.
 Riddle, “The New and Everlasting Covenant, “ 232-33.