Hymn text by John Craven, 1929-1993. View the full text of this hymn.

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There has been plenty of talk recently about who should hold the Priesthood.

I’m in no position to say who “should” hold the Priesthood, if it should be any different than it is right now. I can’t pretend to know the mind of the Lord or the word of the Lord on the matter, but until we hear the voice of the Lord tell us something different through His prophet I know it’s what the Lord wants for us right now.

But to be clear, the Priesthood is worth it. It is, as we know, literally God’s power held by mere mortals. While there are many things that give fleeting or apparent power in this world—money, office, military might—there is one Greater power that created all those things. There is no scenario where any person or earthly possession can overpower that God who made them; there is no tower we can build to get to heaven ourselves, for the Lord created every brick.

The first two verses of this rarely-sung hymn, “The Priesthood of Our Lord”, teach us this:

…pow’r by earthly standards
Comes by rank or wealth or sword;
But the pow’r above all others
Is the priesthood of our Lord.

It is ours, the total armor–
Priesthood held by Christ, our Lord–
If, as brethren, we are worthy
Of the Spirit’s whispered word.

Is the Priesthood really ours? Its benefits are ours, which is what we really learn here. The Priesthood can be wielded either as a shield, in protecting ourselves and our families from the fiery darts of the adversary, or as a metaphorical sword, as the power given to us to go forth proclaiming the Gospel, perfecting the Saints, and redeeming our dead.

Metaphorical, for sure. While the Priesthood bestows certain rights on the holder, those rights are heavily contingent upon principles of righteousness. This Priesthood can only be used to do what the Lord wants, when the Lord wants it, and if a Priesthood leader presumes to use those keys or that authority for something other than the Lord’s will, then Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.

So if the Priesthood itself isn’t ours, whose is it? Who decides who holds it and how it gets used?

How can that even be a question? This “pow’r above all others” is clearly the Priesthood of our Lord. It’s His Priesthood, His power that he has mercifully and impressively decided to give to us, his ever imperfect, unvaryingly unprofitable servants. Elder Dallin H. Oaks made this pretty clear in the recently-concluded April 2014 General Conference: “Ultimately, all keys of the priesthood are held by the Lord Jesus Christ, whose priesthood it is. He is the one who determines what keys are delegated to mortals and how those keys will be used.”

We live in a day of blinding Gospel light; a dispensation marked by the Priesthood being again on the earth after centuries of darkness. We have ordinances, correctly performed by those holding God’s authority; we have continuing revelation through the Lord’s prophet, who holds those Priesthood keys; we have temples, eternal families, and revealed scripture, as well as divinely-inspired church organization, youth programs, welfare systems, education programs—what Martin Luther, John Calvin, and all the other inspired men and women that lived in darker times would have given to live in our day!

Instead of presuming to know the mind of the Lord on who should hold the Priesthood, perhaps we should take a moment to thank the Lord for his infinite mercy in giving us—all of us—the blessing of His Priesthood on the earth. Perhaps before returning to our personal opinions on who should hold the Priesthood, whatever they may be, we can find some joy in that we, as people in God’s church, hold His Holy Priesthood at all.

Let us venture forth in freedom
With the priesthood as our guide–
Deacons, teachers, priests, and elders,
Seeking virtue side by side.

Ultimately, we can amend this last verse. Let us venture forth in freedom, with the priesthood as our guide—deacons, teachers, priests, elders, Beehives, Mia Maids, Laurels, Relief Society sisters, and all other worthy members of the Lord’s restored church—not at odds, but seeking virtue side by side.

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