Of all the people in the world, the Latter-day Saints are equipped to save their children in powerful ways. But too often, we live beneath our privileges. What is that extraordinary power? The Holy Priesthood.
(Note: This article is adapted from Rescuing Wayward Children. Follow this link to learn more.)
Of all the people in the world, the Latter-day Saints are equipped to save their children in powerful ways. But too often, we live beneath our privileges. What is that extraordinary power? The Holy Priesthood.
The blessings given to Abraham flow to us by and through the Melchizedek Priesthood. What the ancients called entering into the order of the Son of God is today called entering into the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood. This can only happen in the temple. Both worthy men and women enter into this highest order of the priesthood in the temple.
The “order of the Son of God” centers on God’s promise to Adam to provide a Savior to redeem him and his children[i] from their fallen condition and give them all the necessary laws and ordinances of the gospel to empower and teach them how to regain God’s presence. This was the plan of salvation, and it was to be administered by “the order of the Son of God.” This order of the priesthood contained the power that Adam sought to bless his family and “bring them into the presence of God.”[ii]
President Benson was asked how Adam brought his family into the presence of the Lord. His answer was that Adam ministered unto his family the priesthood order of the Son God. That is, they entered into a temple and received their blessings.[iii] Likewise, we obtain the power to bring our children into the presence of God by going to the house of the Lord and entering into “the order of the Son of God” by means of the ordinances, including eternal marriage when the opportunity arises. Let’s discuss the differing orders of the priesthood so we might better understand the unique saving power of each.
The Restoration of Priesthood Orders and Powers
Joseph Smith said, “All Priesthood is Melchizedek, but there are different portions or degrees of it.”[iv] That is, there is but one priesthood, which is Melchizedek, and it is “the highest and holiest Priesthood, and is after the order of the Son of God, and all other Priesthoods are only parts, ramifications, powers and blessings belonging to the same, and are held, controlled, and directed by it.”[v]
The Melchizedek Priesthood has a variety of orders, for example, Aaronic, Melchizedek, and Patriarchal. Each of these priesthood orders needed to be restored. The earliest recorded reference to priesthood restoration was in 1823, when Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith and prophesied, “I will reveal [restore] unto you the Priesthood by the hand of the Elijah.”[vi] But to which order of the priesthood was Moroni referring?
The restoration of the priesthood began on May 15, 1829, with the appearance of John the Baptist, who restored the Aaronic Priesthood. Shortly thereafter, apparently in June 1829, Peter, James, and John restored the Melchizedek Priesthood, including the “keys of the kingdom of God,”[vii] which authorizes men to perform the ordinances of salvation and commissions them to preach the gospel of salvation throughout the world.
Now the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods had been restored, but in 1823, Moroni had prophesied that Elijah would come and reveal yet another priesthood order—the patriarchal order of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Joseph Smith learned that this priesthood order could not be restored without a temple. When the Prophet was expounding on these three priesthood orders, he made the following statement concerning the patriarchal order of the priesthood: “[This] Priesthood is Patriarchal authority. Go to and finish the temple, and God will fill it with power, and you will then receive more knowledge concerning this priesthood.”[viii]
Shortly after the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, April 3, 1836, Elijah appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and committed to them the keys of the patriarchal order of the priesthood, which had power “to turn [seal] the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers.”[ix] This patriarchal order of the priesthood is entered into by husbands and wives when they are sealed in the temple.
The patriarchal order is, in the words of Elder James E. Talmage, “a condition where ‘woman shares with man the blessings of the Priesthood,’ where husband and wife minister, ‘seeing and understanding alike, and cooperating to the full in the government of their family kingdom’ (James E. Talmage, Young Woman’s Journal 25, October 1914, 602–603). A man cannot hold this priesthood without a wife, and a woman cannot share the blessings of this Priesthood without a husband, sealed in the temple.”[x]
To turn the hearts of parents and children to each other is, according to Joseph Smith, the same as sealing their hearts together: “Elijah shall reveal the covenants to seal the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers.”[xi] “In order to facilitate this linkage, Elijah revealed, ‘the covenants of the fathers in relation to the children, and the covenants of the children in relation to the fathers.’”[xii] That is, Elijah revealed the sealing keys of the priesthood whereby covenants and ordinances are bound on earth and in heaven, and therefore they carry “efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead.”[xiii]
But Elijah’s mission was greater still; Elijah’s charge was also to restore the “fulness of the priesthood,” which includes the fullness of the temple covenants and the “ordinances of the house of the Lord.”[xiv] Therefore, the Lord commanded the saints to build a temple for the purpose of endowing them with power from on high: “Yea, verily I say unto you, I gave unto you a commandment that you should build a house, in the which house I design to endow those whom I have chosen with power from on high . . . .”[xv]
To endow means “to equip or supply . . . to place, receive . . . bestow . . . provide.”[xvi] When a college receives an endowment, the principal is typically placed in a fund where it spins off income perpetually—the endowment is structured to give continually. Just so, God endows us in the temple with knowledge and power that bless us eternally. By relying upon the Lord’s endowment and by growing in our understanding of it, we receive greater and greater power to bless our family and others.
Of the connection of the endowment to the fullness of the priesthood, Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote, “It is only through the ordinances of his holy house that the Lord deigns to ‘restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood.’”[xvii] And Joseph Smith said: “If a man gets a fulness 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.”[xviii]
What the Restoration of the Priesthood Means to Parents
Elijah’s appearance in the Kirtland Temple was preceded by the appearances of the Savior, Moses, and Elias.
That Moses and Elias came and restored keys should hold enormous significance for parents. Moses committed the keys of the gathering of both the dead and the living of the family of Israel. This suggests that individually we are now in possession of the priesthood capacity to gather our families “from the four parts of the earth”[xix]—an interesting statement when considered in the context of wayward family members who have strayed.
For what purpose is the gathering of families? Elder McConkie wrote, “Israel gathers for the purpose of building temples in which the ordinances of salvation and exaltation are performed for the living and the dead.”[xx] On an individual level, this statement suggests that we now have power to gather or call our family to the temple to receive the crowning ordinances of salvation.
Elias, whose office is that of forerunner,[xxi] appeared after Moses and “committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed.”[xxii] President Joseph Fielding Smith, explaining this, said, “Elias came, after Moses had conferred his keys, and brought the gospel of the dispensation in which Abraham lived. Everything that pertains to that dispensation, the blessings that were conferred upon Abraham, the promises that were given to his posterity, all had to be restored, and Elias, who held the keys of that dispensation, came.”[xxiii]
The keys restored by Elias comprise the power to organize families into eternal units. That is, because of Elias, our children and grandchildren can now be blessed with the gospel of Abraham (the new and everlasting covenant), which is the right to receive the priesthood, all gospel blessings, ordinances, and sealings, including eternal marriage and eternal life. This right flows to our children because we, like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their wives, have entered into the Abrahamic Covenant or are living worthy of that future blessing.
Joseph Fielding McConkie wrote of the next step in the restoration of saving ordinances: “Simply stated, Elijah was sent in 1836 to reveal keys of the priesthood and sealing powers that had not yet been fully operational in this dispensation. Elijah restored the keys whereby families organized in the patriarchal order through the powers delivered by Elias could be bound and sealed for eternity.”[xxiv]
Why is the patriarchal priesthood important to us? Because patriarchal priesthood is family priesthood, and entering into this order of the priesthood directly affects and eternally empowers both fathers and mothers to do the work of redemption among their posterity. President Joseph Fielding Smith said,
Through the power of this priesthood which Elijah bestowed, husband and wife may be sealed, or married for eternity; children may be sealed to their parents for eternity; thus the family is made eternal, and death does not separate the members. This is the great principle that will save the world from utter destruction.[xxv]
Imagine Elias and Elijah laying their hands upon your head to give you a priesthood blessing. Elias speaks first and offers you the same covenant of the gospel that Abraham received—the new and everlasting covenant. When you agree to its terms, Elias, blesses you with everything that was promised to Abraham: you and your posterity now have the eternal right to the priesthood, the gospel, and eternal life. Central to these blessings is the promise that your marriage might become eternal and that you might have eternal posterity. Additionally, you are promised, as was Abraham, that you and your posterity will receive a promised land in this world and a promised inheritance in the celestial world to come.
Now that you have entered into the new and everlasting covenant, which includes the new and everlasting covenant of marriage,[xxvi] Elijah confirms these blessings with a seal that cannot be broken. Then, as a final blessing, because you have proven faithful at all hazards, he blesses you with the fulness of the priesthood, which in the ultimate sense means your being sealed up to eternal life; that is, Elijah makes everything that has been done more sure.[xxvii]
Because of your righteousness, Elijah extends to you a promise for your children, which is in addition to the promise made by Elias. The promise is this: As you turn your heart to your children, their heart will turn to you and the Abrahamic covenant that you have made. Because you have received the fullness of the priesthood, you now have more power to ask for a turning (a conversion opportunity) to happen, subject to Heavenly Father’s will and your children’s agency. Elijah’s blessing guarantees that no matter what happens in time or eternity, these children are yours.
When Elias and Elijah finish their blessing upon your head, the Savior receives you into His embrace. You are home at last, and your spouse and your children are there with you.
Ultimate Salvation is Eternal Marriage and Family
Of the interwoven tapestry of the restoration of the priesthood, Joseph Fielding McConkie wrote:
Joseph Smith taught that ultimate salvation is found only in the eternal union of man and woman. Every priesthood, grace, power, and authority restored to the Prophet Joseph Smith centers in the salvation of the family. Peter, James, and John restored the Holy Priesthood, thereby authorizing men to perform the ordinances of salvation; Elias restored the ordinance of eternal marriage and the promise of an endless seed; and Elijah restored the sealing power and the fulness of the priesthood by which husband, wife, and children are bound eternally.
These doctrines build on the assurance of the Book of Mormon that the resurrection is corporeal and thus that women will be resurrected as women and men as men, the bond of their love ever intact. Thus, as baptism is the gate to the strait and narrow path leading to eternal life, eternal marriage becomes the door through which all who inherit that glory must enter. None enter alone. The man and the woman must stand side by side.
Couples in turn must be bound in eternal covenant with their righteous progenitors and with their posterity. In that eternal and restored system we know as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, salvation is a family affair.[xxviii]
Joseph Smith said, “How shall God come to the rescue of this generation? He will send Elijah the Prophet . . . Elijah shall reveal the covenants to seal the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers.”[xxix] Personalizing this statement by the Prophet, we might ask, “How shall God rescue our children?” And the answer is, “He will send Elijah to our children to reveal to them their parents’ covenants, which have the power to seal their hearts to ours.” That is, by virtue of our covenants, the spirit of Elijah reaches out to our children to reveal to them our covenants and seal or turn their hearts to ours.
Righteousness and Priesthood Power
Elder Russell M. Nelson said, “A distinction . . . exists between priesthood authority and priesthood power. When ordained to an office in the priesthood, one is granted authority. But power comes from exercising that authority in righteousness.”[xxx]
A man who sanctifies himself has greater power in the priesthood than a man who does not; a man or woman who sanctifies himself or herself by honoring his or her temple covenants has greater power to ask for and receive blessings than a man or woman who does not; a husband and wife who sanctify themselves in the patriarchal order of the priesthood have greater power to bless their family than a couple who does not.
“Ann,” a mother in Utah, wrote of her experience with the temple and its incredible power to save her children:
For many years, I had been feeling like I did not go to the temple often enough. Because my husband was traveling in his work, I was alone many evenings of the week, so I decided that it would be a good time to volunteer as an ordinance worker.
When the temple matron’s counselor took me on a tour of the temple and explained my duties, she invited me to put my own name on the temple prayer roll, as well as the names of my children. I should do this each week, she said, and I would receive special blessings for my temple service. She couldn’t possibly have known that I was also struggling with how to help my two teenage sons, who had gotten into drugs and associated evils, including a debilitating depression affecting their self-worth. It seemed that every good thing I had tried to instill in my sons was thrown out the window when they got into drugs.
I served in the temple for six years. My boys’ names were on the temple’s prayer rolls every single day during those years. I watched as small miracles happened to them until, eventually, they found the gospel. My youngest boy found a girl who helped him pull out of his problems and work toward a temple marriage. She and her family were able to encourage my boy when he would no longer listen to me. Today, both boys are married and sealed to wonderful girls. There is no doubt in my mind that my efforts to cleanse myself, learn, and serve in the house of the Lord brought these miracles and helped my sons choose to come back into full fellowship with the Lord. The blessings that came to my children and me far out-weighed the blessings of service that I gave as a temple worker.
The requirement to sanctify ourselves to obtain greater power in the priesthood hearkens back to the Lord’s commandment to abide in Him, the true vine.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.[xxxi]
We, the branches, grow from the true vine and draw our nourishment from it. Note in Jesus’ teaching that the branches are already producing, but the husbandman (God) wants them to produce more. To that end, He begins to prune—to “purge and purify.” The branches must endure this purging and purifying process if they hope to gain greater strength to produce more fruit.
The husbandman cuts from the branch anything that saps its strength, and he carefully directs the growth so that that branch can perform optimally. For a while the branch may look (and probably feel) pitiful and barren. It might not produce much fruit for a season. But the husbandman knows that in time the purging and purifying procedure will cause the branch to bring forth more than it ever has. Remaining attached to the true vine and enduring the purging are the keys.
Here is Christ’s promise: As long as we, the branches, remain in Christ and He in us, our nourishment and strength will never fail. “Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” [xxxii] Parents of wayward children have urgent things to ask of Christ. To the degree that we are in Him and He is in us, and to the degree that we submit to the Father’s process of sanctification, we are promised that we can draw strength from the true vine to ask for and receive blessings.
Like the analogy of the true vine and its branches, “the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven.” It is our degree of righteousness that measures the strength of our connection to the powers of heaven—“the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.”[xxxiii] Therefore, the Father purges and purifies us to bring forth more fruit; that is, as we become more righteous, we receive more priesthood power.
This article is adapted from Rescuing Wayward Children. Follow this link to learn more.
[i] See Alma 13:2.
[ii] See Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 159.
[iii] See Ezra Taft Benson, “What I Hope You Will Teach Your Children about the Temple,” Ensign, August 1985.
[iv] Joseph Smith, The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 180.
[v] Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 166–167.
[vi] D&C 2:1.
[vii] Ezra Taft Benson, “What I Hope You Will Teach Your Children about the Temple,” Ensign, August 1985.
[viii] Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 5:554–55.
[ix] D&C 110:15.
[x] Encyclopedia of Mormonism, “Patriarchal Order of the Priesthood,” 1067.
[xi] Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 323, emphasis added.
[xii] B.H. Roberts, History of the Church, 5:530.
[xiii] D&C 132:7.
[xiv] Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 308.
[xv] D&C 95:8, emphasis added.
[xvi] American Heritage Dictionary, “Endow.”
[xvii] Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, “Restoration of the Gospel: 10. Temple Ordinances,” 637, emphasis added.
[xviii] Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 308, emphasis added.
[xix] D&C 110:11.
[xx] Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 539.
[xxi] See Encyclopedia of Mormonism, “Elias,” 449.
[xxii] D&C 110:12.
[xxiii] Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Volume 3, 127.
[xxiv] Joseph Fielding McConkie, Joseph Smith: The Choice Seer,187.
[xxv] Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Volume 2, 118, emphasis added.
[xxvi] See D&C 131:2.
[xxvii] See Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 337–338.
[xxviii] Joseph Fielding McConkie, Joseph Smith: The Choice Seer, 193–194.
[xxix] Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 323, emphasis added.
[xxx] Russell M. Nelson, “Personal Priesthood Responsibility,” Ensign, October 2005.
[xxxi] John 15:1–8.
[xxxii] John 15:7.
[xxxiii] D&C 121:36.