I couldn’t understand how God could trust part of his limitless power to such limited, fallible people—until I learned how the priesthood and the Atonement are inextricably connected.
When I was in the MTC, I sometimes struggled to understand how much was expected of me as a representative of Jesus Christ and how wide the gap was between who I was and who God wanted me to become. My feelings of inadequacy—my weaknesses, my sins, and my inexperience with missionary work—sometimes pushed me toward the point of just giving up and going home.
While sitting in the celestial room of the Provo Utah Temple, thinking about the people I was going to serve, I was touched profoundly by Ether 12:37: “If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore, thy garments shall be made clean. And because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong.” I learned that through priesthood power, my shortcomings ultimately wouldn’t matter, and I was going to go out and offer the priesthood’s redeeming and edifying power to others.
My understanding of the relationship between the priesthood and the Atonement of Jesus Christ has developed even more since that time. In the general conference talk “The Priesthood and the Savior’s Atoning Power,” Elder Dale G. Renlund likens the priesthood to a rocket and the Atonement to the rocket’s payload. He explains that for Christ “to make His atoning power accessible, He has delegated a portion of His power and authority to men on earth.” The priesthood and the Atonement are inseparably connected, for without the priesthood it would be impossible for us to access the Atonement’s healing power, and without the eternal possibilities made real through the Atonement, the priesthood would have little reason to exist—no payload to deliver.
I received further insight while reading a book called The Missionary’s Little Book of Answers, which contains the following passage: “Some make a mockery of repentance, falling into a continuous cycle of sin and repentance. Others say that if you sin again, it was not real repentance. The Book of Mormon makes allowance for human frailty. It is comforting to know that when one slips after repenting, the door to repentance remains open if a person has sincere intentions to change” (p. 86). This passage encouraged me and caused me to reflect on something I’d noticed as a priesthood bearer: It doesn’t even take an egregious transgression to make recipients of priesthood blessings—both men and women—feel unworthy. Because we’ve made covenants with God, he holds us to a high standard, and the Holy Ghost makes us more sensitive to even small indiscretions.
This is actually a good thing. Because we are brought to a heightened awareness of our smallness before God, we can derive greater awe from the priesthood’s ability to lift us above our earthly stations so we can accomplish more than we ever could have done by ourselves. We become witnesses to one of God’s greatest miracles: the Atonement’s power to change us from natural men to the children of Christ.
The responsibility of bearing God’s priesthood can weigh heavily upon every man, just as the responsibility to live worthy of the blessings of the priesthood can feel overwhelming to all of us. Yet we can take comfort in knowing that with the exception of Jesus, every miracle God has ever wrought by man has been through an imperfect vessel. Whether we are channeling priesthood power to someone else through blessings and ordinances or are receiving blessings ourselves, all that is required of us is continual repentance. And the more we improve, the more God will trust us with his children’s welfare and with his power to lift us all to higher ground.
Read Elder Dale G. Renlund‘s full talk, “The Priesthood and the Savior’s Atoning Power,” to learn how the Atonement enabled a man to regain his priesthood privileges.
Source: LDS General Conference
—Alex Hugie, Mormon Insights
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Find more insights
Read Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s talk “The Doctrine of the Priesthood” for an eloquent discourse on the grand scope of the priesthood.
Want to see priesthood power in action? Check out the Mormon Message “Power of God.”
To learn about Satan’s “perfect lie” and how Christ is with us throughout our imperfect path, check out the Mormon Insights article “Chasing Perfection.”