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Editor’s Note: Our friend and longtime Meridian writer Larry Barkdull passed away. To remember and honor him this is one of a series of his past articles that we are republishing regularly.
Priesthood ordinances are performed for specific purposes. The administration ordinance has a single purpose: to heal the sick and afflicted, unless the recipient is appointed unto death.
“And the elders of the church, two or more, shall be called, and shall pray for and lay their hands upon them in my name; and if they die they shall die unto me, and if they live they shall live unto me… And again, it shall come to pass that he that hath faith in me to be healed, and is not appointed unto death, shall be healed.”[i]
Of course, the Lord understands that there are many levels of faith that can result in varieties of and timetables for healings. If a person does not have the faith to be healed promptly, or if the Lord chooses to allow the condition to linger as part of his “purposeful plan,”[ii] we believe that the administration, coupled with nurturing, will comfort, eventually heal, or at least improve the recipient’s condition.
“And whosoever among you are sick, and have not faith to be healed, but believe, shall be nourished with all tenderness, with herbs and mild food, and that not by the hand of an enemy.”[iii]
Nevertheless, we must remember that the Lord has unequivocally stated that the purpose of this ordinance is to heal the sick and afflicted, exempting those who are appointed unto death. Elder Bruce R. McConkie writes, “[The recipient] shall be healed unless he is appointed unto death.”[iv]
Notwithstanding, the administration ordinance functions by faith and according to the Lord’s thoughts and ways.[v] The revelation in D&C 42 continues with repeats of the two qualifiers–faith and appointment to death—and the Lord promise:
“And again, it shall come to pass that he that hath faith in me to be healed, and is not appointed unto death, shall be healed. He who hath faith to see shall see. He who hath faith to hear shall hear. The lame who hath faith to leap shall leap.” [vi]
Clearly, if we doubt the purpose, use, or criteria of the administration ordinance, we are mistaken and lack faith in the ordinance. But also clearly, the Lord can employ whatever means and time frame he chooses to determine or affect the healing. Implied or spoken, every blessing should contain the phrase of submission: “Nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.”[vii]
Our responsibility is to recognize that the administration is a priesthood ordinance with a specific purpose and performed in a singular way; therefore, we must consider it as effective as any other ordinance of the Holy Priesthood.
Do We Really Believe in Jesus Christ and His Power?
The Melchizedek Priesthood is the Holy Priesthood after the order of the Son of God.[viii] To hold the high priesthood suggests that we have a testimony of the reality of Jesus Christ. Alma taught that we, who qualify to hold the priesthood here on earth, had premortally (in that “first place”[ix]) “conformed to the image of [God’s] Son.”[x] That is, we loved the work of redemption in the premortal world and distinguished ourselves to receive the high priesthood in mortality.
Having been “called and prepared from the foundation of the world…on account of [our] exceeding faith and good works,”[xi] we become lights or types of Jesus Christ that through our lives we might show God’s children “what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption.”[xii]
According to President J. Reuben Clark, we, who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood, are of that group that Abraham called,
“…the noble and great ones.… Following upon this general principle, the Prophet Joseph said: ‘Every man who has a calling,’ every man, ‘to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the grand council of heaven before this world was’…. I do not know whether we have a right to interpret the Prophet’s statement,…but I like to think that it does include those of us of lesser calling and lesser stature. We have been told ever since I was old enough to remember that those who are coming forth among the Latter-day Saints were choice spirits, and I like to think that perhaps in that grand council something at least was said to us indicating what would be expected of us, and empowering us, subject to the re-confirmation here, to do certain things in building up the kingdom of God on earth.”[xiii]
We believe in Jesus Christ; we have always believed in him. He gave us authority to bless his children in the premortal world, and he gives us authority to bless his children in this world. “To build up the kingdom of God,” as President Clark said, is to bless God’s children, and blessing God’s children can only take place by and trough the authority of and faith in Jesus Christ. In Lectures on Faith, Joseph Smith taught that faith in Jesus Christ is built on the following three pillars[xiv]:
1. Faith that He actually exists. We often skip over this criterion and move on to the next. But consider this: when an urgent situation invades our lives, we always review our testimony to re-verify our belief that the Lord truly lives. If we harbor the slightest doubt of the Lord’s reality, our faith is weakened as we attempt to act in his name.
2. Faith in His characteristics, attributes and perfections. That the Lord exists leads to the question, What is He like? Jesus Christ is like God the Father in every way. They are perfect beings, who are not progressing to develop moral attributes of character. The Prophet Joseph Smith listed their perfections as 1) Characteristics: everlasting, merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abundant in goodness, unchangeable, a God of truth that cannot lie, no respecter of persons (shows no favoritism), a God of love[xv]; 2) Attributes: total knowledge of everything past, present and future, total power, total justice, total judgment, total mercy, and total truth.[xvi]
3. Faith that we are worthy before God. Although a man may be ordained to the priesthood and be given the authority to act in the Lord’s name, that man only gains the power of the priesthood through righteous living.[xvii] When called upon to act in the Lord’s name and bless his children, a priesthood holder might go to his knees and ask the Lord to search him for worthiness (although we would expect that this is an ongoing process). The Holy Ghost seems to quickly respond to the question: What do I need to repent of? Why would the Holy Ghost not be anxious to answer such prayers, assuming that they are offered with “real intent”?[xviii]
A good measurement of a man’s worthiness is his ability to honestly answer the temple recommend questions and constantly try to mirror God’s attributes and characteristics. We might take King Benjamin teaching as a guide for increasing our faith through worthiness: “[A priesthood holder] yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” [xix]
The Power of the Words of God
There is a vast difference between the way man works and God works. To accomplish most things, man must exert physical effort; God, on the other hand, works by faith[xx] and the power of words. The Nephite prophet, Jacob, said,
For behold, by the power of his word man came upon the face of the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word. Wherefore, if God being able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created, O then, why not able to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure?[xxi]
Clearly, God works by faith and the power of words.
The word of God is the language of the priesthood, therefore the word of God is sure. It never fails. “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”[xxii]
In salvation-essential ordinances, those who hold the priesthood are authorized to speak the word of God, and those actions are recorded both on earth and in heaven.[xxiii] Then, if the person who receives the ordinance remains worthy, those words of God spoken in the ordinance will never fail. In the non-salvation-essential ordinances, such as administrations, the Holy Spirit dictates the word of the God. If, in such ordinances, priesthood holders speak the word of God as dictated by the Holy Spirit in faith, and if in faith the recipient receives the word of God and lives worthily, those inspired words are likewise valid.
Therefore, we must act in righteousness and with full and complete faith that we are annunciating the word of God as the Spirit communicates it is to us. Then, subject to the qualified conditions listed herein, the words that we speak “shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled.”
In Lectures on Faith, Joseph Smith taught about the power of the word of God:
We understand that when a man works by faith he works by mental exertion instead of physical force. It is by words, instead of by exerting his physical powers, with which every being works when he works by faith. God said, “Let there be light: and there was light” (Gen 1:3). Joshua spake and the great lights which God had created stood still (Joshua 10:12-13). Elijah commanded and the heavens were stayed for the space of three years and six months, so that it did not rain; he again commanded and the heavens gave forth rain (1 Kings 17:1; 18:1, 41-45). All this was done by faith. And the Savior says: “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say to this mountain, Remove…and it shall remove (Matt 17:20); or “say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up…and… planted in the sea; and it should obey you” (Luke 17:6). Faith, then, works by words; and with these its mightiest works have been and will be performed.[xxiv]
Enoch learned and spoke the word of God by which he performed mighty miracles:
And so great was the faith of Enoch that he led the people of God, and their enemies came to battle against them; and he spake the word of the Lord, and the earth trembled, and the mountains fled, even according to his command; and the rivers of water were turned out of their course; and the roar of the lions was heard out of the wilderness; and all nations feared greatly, so powerful was the word of Enoch, and so great was the power of the language which God had given him.[xxv]
Other prophets have testified of the power of the word of God:
- Paul: “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”[xxvi]
- Moroni: “Who shall say that it was not a miracle that by his word the heaven and the earth should be; and by the power of his word man was created of the dust of the earth; and by the power of his word have miracles been wrought?[xxvii]
- Nephi: “Now ye know that Moses was commanded of the Lord to do that great work; and ye know that by his word the waters of the Red Sea were divided hither and thither, and they passed through on dry ground.”[xxviii]
The Power of the Name of Jesus Christ–the Word of God
The words of God flow from the Word or the Word of Power or the Word of God—all names for Jesus Christ. Moses learned that Jesus, the Word of God, is the foundation upon which are built the words of God: “And he [Moses] beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof. And it came to pass that Moses called upon God, saying: Tell me, I pray thee, why these things are so, and by what thou madest them? …And by the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth.”[xxix]
Clearly, the words of God emanate from the Word of God. Jesus Christ is both a person and the universal “Word”[xxx] of authority and power. Elders are authorized to use this “Word”–Jesus Christ–to speak the words of God by means of blessings and ordinances. The Lord explained that the power to become Godly is manifested by means of priesthood ordinances:
And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh.”[xxxi] When a man has the Melchizedek Priesthood conferred upon him, he has the name of Jesus Christ “put upon him” so that he may represent the Lord and speak the words of God by use of His name. The Lord explained to Abraham, “Behold, I will lead thee by my hand, and I will take thee, to put upon thee my name, even the Priesthood….[xxxii]
The power of the name of Jesus Christ is unequaled. During His mortal ministry, Jesus ordained the Seventy, gave them power to use His name then sent them on missions, part of which was to perform administrations as a sign that the representatives of the kingdom of heaven had come to the people. He instructed the Seventy,
Heal the sick therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of heaven is come nigh unto you [i.e. We have come with power as authorized servants from the kingdom of heaven and have authority to use the name of Jesus Christ to bless you.
“When the Seventy returned from their missions, they were astonished at the power of the name of Jesus Christ: “And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.[xxxiii]
Through the ordinance of baptism we first receive the name of Jesus Christ; through the ordinance of confirmation we are adopted into Jesus’ family.[xxxiv] But having a new family name–Jesus Christ–and a new family–The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–do not mean that we have the authority to use the name of Jesus Christ to speak for and act in the Lord’s place. Priesthood is required for that.
Therefore, when a man worthily qualifies to receive the priesthood, he has conferred upon him the authority to use the name of his adopted father, Jesus Christ, to bless the members of the family of Jesus Christ, and also to bless other people who are not yet members of that family. An Elder also receives the authority to invite other people into the family of Jesus Christ.
Concerning the importance of the name of Jesus Christ, the Lord commanded us to “take upon you the name of Christ… Behold, Jesus Christ is the name which is given of the Father, and there is none other name given whereby man can be saved [now or in the future]…for in that name [Jesus Christ] shall they be called at the last day.”[xxxv]
Miracles Follow Faith.[xxxvi]
Do we really believe in the power of the priesthood? Do we believe, as Moses said:
…every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course; to put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world[xxxvii]
A careful reading of the Lord’s injunction to His Nephite disciples suggests that signs and miracles follow or attend Elders who truly believe:
And these signs shall follow them [Elders] that believe–in my name shall they [Elders] cast out devils; they [Elders] shall speak with new tongues; they [Elders] shall take up serpents; and if they [Elders] drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they [Elders] shall lay hands on the sick and they [the recipients] shall recover….”[xxxviii]
Then the Lord offered His disciples the following words of comfort, which, when considered from an Elder’s point of view, should increase his faith and give him courage to act in the Lord’s name: “And whosoever [an Elder] shall believe in my name, doubting nothing, unto him [an Elder] will I confirm all my words, even unto the ends of the earth.”[xxxix] In other words, when we are on the Lord’s errand, He will not let us fall; He will confirm the words that we speak in His name “unto the ends of the earth.”
President Brigham Young made the following declaration of his faith in the Lord’s name and power to heal through His servants:
“When I lay hands on the sick, I expect the healing power and influence of God to pass through me to the patient, and the disease to give way. I do not say that I heal everybody I lay hands on; but many have been healed under my administration…When we are prepared, when we are holy vessels before the Lord, a stream of power from the Almighty can pass though the tabernacle of the administrator to the system of the patient, and the sick are made whole; the headache, fever or other disease has to give way.”[xl]
The administration ordinance is one of the great restored miracles of the last days. Our understanding of it and our faith to employ it, as it has been revealed, has and will result in numerous and wonderful healings.
[i] D&C 42:44, emphasis added
[ii] Spencer W. Kimball, Tragedy or Destiny, a devotional assembly at Brigham Young University, December 6,1955
[iii] D&C 42:43
[iv] Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p. 379
[v] Isaiah 55:8
[vi] D&C 42:48-51, emphasis added
[vii] Luke 22:42
[viii] D&C 107:3
[ix] Alma 13:3, 5
[x] Romans 8:28
[xi] Alma 13:3
[xii] Alma 13:2
[xiii] J. Reuben Clark, Jr., Conference Report, October 1950, p.169-171; See Abraham 3:22 and Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 365.
[xiv] Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith 3:2-5
[xv] Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith 3
[xvi] Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith 4
[xvii] D&C 121:36-46; See H. Burke Petersen, “Priesthood—Authority and Power,” Ensign, May 1976
[xviii] Moroni 10:4
[xix] Mosiah 3:19
[xx] Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p. 176-177
[xxi] Jacob 4:9, emphasis added
[xxii] D&C 1:38, emphasis added
[xxiii] See D&C 128:8
[xxiv] Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith 7:3, emphasis added
[xxv] Moses 7:13, emphasis added
[xxvi] Hebrews 11:3, emphasis added
[xxvii] Mormon 9:17, emphasis added
[xxviii] 1 Nephi 17:26, emphasis added
[xxix] Moses 1:29-32, emphasis added
[xxx] See John 1 chapter heading and 1:1-5
[xxxi] D&C 84:21
[xxxii] Abraham 1:18, emphasis and comments added
[xxxiii] Luke 10:9,17, emphasis added
[xxxiv] JST Ephesians 1:5; 2:19
[xxxv] D&C 18:21-24, emphasis and comments added
[xxxvi] Ether 12: 12, 15-16, 18
[xxxvii] JST Genesis 14:30-31
[xxxviii] Mormon 9:24-25, emphasis and comments added
[xxxix] Mormon 9:24-25; D&C 132:59, emphasis and comments added
[xl] Brigham Young, “Healing the Sick,” Discourses of Brigham Young, p.162