Tag Archives: Priesthood

Hymn #51 – Sons of Michael, He Approaches

This is a really unique hymn, which is probably why I have never heard it sung or performed anywhere, ever. It deals with a very specific doctrine–that is, the return of Adam (Michael) to Adam-ondi-Ahman to head a great gathering in which the keys of the Priesthood throughout history will be accounted for and returned unto Christ prior to the establishment of His Millennial Reign.

The story, though, starts a long time before that; specifically, in the twilight of Father Adam’s mortal life:

Three years previous to the death of Adam, he called Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, and Methuselah, who were all high priests, with the residue of his posterity who were righteous, into the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and there bestowed upon them his last blessing.

And the Lord appeared unto them, and they rose up and blessed Adam, and called him Michael, the prince, the archangel.

And the Lord administered comfort unto Adam, and said unto him: I have set thee to be at the head; a multitude of nations shall come of thee, and thou art a prince over them forever.

And Adam stood up in the midst of the congregation; and, notwithstanding he was bowed down with age, being full of the Holy Ghost, predicted whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation.

This was an incredible event in the history of the young human race. It was the crowning event of the life of Adam, father of us all, and confirmation of his dedication and righteousness. He delivered unto his posterity a blessing of faith and righteousness. His calling and election were, if they had not been already, made certain. He was promised power, glory, and a princely role in the next life. His righteous generations surrounding him, I imagine it was quite possibly the happiest day of Father Adam’s mortal life.

Three years after this glorious council, Adam died, having been faithful in all the Lord asked of him. Elder Mark E. Peterson taught, “After [Adam’s] mortal death he resumed his position as an angel in the heavens, once again serving as the chief angel, or archangel, and took again his former name of Michael. In his capacity as archangel, Adam, or Michael, will yet perform a mighty mission in the coming years.”

This mighty mission is described in prophecies both ancient and modern. The first mission* given to Michael is that of once again gathering the holders of the Priesthood of God at Adam-ondi-Ahman (the same site as his last great council) prior to the Second Coming of Christ. The biblical prophet Daniel foresaw this event, referring to Adam/Michael as “The Ancient of Days”:

I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.

A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him:thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened….

[B]ehold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.

And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

Regarding this ancient prophecy, the Prophet Joseph Smith was told, “Spring Hill [Missouri] is named by the Lord Adam-ondi-Ahman, because, said he, it is the place where Adam shall come to visit his people, or the Ancient of Days shall sit, as spoken of by Daniel the prophet.”

To bring it all together, let’s turn to Joseph Fielding Smith talking about this council:

“This gathering of the children of Adam, where the thousands, and the tens of thousands are assembled in the judgment, will be one of the greatest events this troubled earth has ever known. At this conference, or council, all who have held keys of dispensations will render a report of their stewardship. Adam will do likewise, and then he will [surrender] to Christ all authority. Then Adam will be confirmed in his calling as the prince over his posterity and will be officially installed and crowned eternally in this presiding calling. Then Christ will be received as King of kings, and Lord of lords….[I]t is a gathering of the Priesthood of God from the beginning of this earth down to the present, in which reports will be made and all who have been given dispensations (talents) will declare their keys and ministry and make report of their stewardship according to the parable….When all things are prepared and every key and power set in order with a full and perfect report of each man’s stewardship, then Christ will receive these reports and be installed as rightful Ruler of this earth. At this grand council he will take his place by the united voice of the thousands who by right of Priesthood are there assembled. This will precede the great day of destruction of the wicked and will be the preparation for the Millennial Reign”

The sheer scope of this boggles the mind. All men who have ever or will ever hold keys of the Priesthood will be summoned to this event, in which they will stand accountable for their use of these keys. All keys will be returned unto their source, even Christ. Michael will be crowned with his promised blessings and Christ will return as King and Lord of Earth.

Now that we’ve gotten all THAT understood, the text of the hymn becomes significantly clearer. The preparation for the return of Christ is culminated in the return of Michael, and this hymn recognizes the joy and majesty inherent in this event.

One interesting thing here (and maybe it’s just me that never really thought about it) is the degree of reverence, almost worshipfulness, that will be extended to Michael. The hymn suggests we will bow low before him, hail his reign, raise aloft our voices in a torrent power of song, break forth in dancing, and, again, raise a chorus that will rebound through space.

And, on reflection, why not? This man is the starting point of everything Our Father set in motion on the earth. He, by the side of Jehovah, aided in creating the planet and all things in it. He was the First Man, our spirit brother choice enough to be the first human on Earth. He and his glorious wife, Eve, Mother of our generations, made the bold and essential choice to fall that man may be. They lived the Gospel of Christ throughout their mortal lives, through joys and sorrows. They demonstrated faith and righteousness second to none.

Adam gets a bad rap in the Bible and throughout most of Christendom (though not as bad as Eve, whose treatment at the hand of her children is often egregiously offensive). He is regarded as the source of original sin and the great failure of mankind. He is considered the weakling who couldn’t keep from eating that one fruit and thus damned us all to a life in the lone and dreary world. Though these ideas are loosely based in truth, the restored gospel shows that they barely glimpse the great scope of Adam’s role. Adam, the Man, was declared a prince in his lifetime and will be a prince eternally. Michael, the Archangel, will usher in the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ on the earth. As far as I can tell, Michael is second in Priesthood only to the Lord. He is, literally, the patriarch of our race.

There is some debate about this event’s breadth. It is suggested that any who have held priesthood keys will account for them. “Today the members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles hold those keys. Priesthood keys are also given to the Presidency of the Seventy; presidents of temples, missions, stakes, and districts; bishops; branch presidents; and quorum presidents—including Aaronic Priesthood quorum presidents.” That’s quite a lot of people. The hymn (and the prophesy of Daniel) talk about thousands of people, even “ten thousand times ten thousand,” which would not be a small, quiet gathering. On the other hand, Joseph Fielding Smith said:

When this gathering is held, the world will not know of it; the members of the Church at large will not know of it, yet it shall be preparatory to the coming in the clouds of glory of our Savior Jesus Christ as the Prophet Joseph Smith has said. The world cannot know of it. The Saints cannot know of it—except those who officially shall be called into this council—for it shall precede the coming of Jesus Christ as a thief in the night, unbeknown to all the world.

Whatever its size, whoever its attendees, it will be a glorious day. But it will herald greater days yet, as Christ returns in triumph. Whether I will (in the flesh) participate in either of these events is unknown to me. I hope I can. Either way, the return of Michael is an event to be greatly anticipated, when “the ancient one [shall] reign in his Father’s house again.”

*The other missions of Michael, beyond the scope of this hymn, include calling forth the resurrection of the dead (D&C 29:26) and commanding the forces of God’s armies at the last great battle with Satan (D&C 88:110-115).

Hymn #319: Ye Elders of Israel

It’s kind of a shame that this hymn was pigeonholed in the “Men” section of the hymnbook. It’s understandable, of course, given that it’s addressed to the “elders of Israel”, which could very easily mean “the men of the church”. But it’s such a marvelous missionary anthem, on par with “Called to Serve” I think, and much has changed since Cyrus Wheelock wrote it nearly 200 years ago.

There are now over 80,000 missionaries serving worldwide, with young women now making up about 25% of that number.¹ In order to better accommodate the growing number of sister missionaries, meet their needs, and take advantage of their unique perspective, the mission structure has changed to include a mission leadership council consisting of both Elders and Sisters.²

For the purposes of this post, and given the current demographic of missionaries in the field, I’m going to insert “and sisters” into the first line of this hymn like so:

Ye elders and sisters of Israel, come join now with me
And seek out the righteous, where’er they may be—
In desert, on mountain, on land, or on sea—
And bring them to Zion, the pure and the free.

Yes, it messes with the rhythm of things a bit, but I want to be clear that the exhortations in this hymn are not just for the boys.

Brother Wheelock served five missions of his own, including acting as a mission president of the Northern States Mission.³ Missionary work was undoubtedly a large part of his identity and a cause close to his heart. Not everyone feels a strong urge to spread the gospel message, though. I, for one, struggle to share my testimony and invite friends to church. Fortunately we’ve got Brother Wheelock to encourage us.

The harvest is great, and the lab’rers are few;
But if we’re united, we all things can do.
We’ll gather the wheat from the midst of the tares
And bring them from bondage, from sorrows and snares.

Sure, the harvest is overwhelmingly great, and the laborers are indeed few in comparison, but we aren’t asked to “seek out the righteous where’er they may be” by ourselves.

Members are invited to share the gospel with friends. Full-time missionaries teach and prepare these people for baptism. Ward mission leaders and ward missionaries provide support and help fellowship potential and new members. Ward leaders find callings for new members to help them feel welcome and needed. Home and visiting teachers check in with members at least monthly to ensure that their spiritual and temporal needs are being met. Helping one person become an active, participating, faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a massive group undertaking.

And so it is for all members, not just new ones. A united ward and stake should provide support for every member, new and old, young and not-so-young, single and married, parents and child-free. We ought to be united in helping one another learn about and use the Atonement so that none of us remains in bondage. We ought to “mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of being comforted” (Mosiah 18:9).

We’ll go to the poor, like our Captain of old,
And visit the weary, the hungry, and cold;
We’ll cheer up their hearts with the news that he bore
And point them to Zion and life evermore.

Once we join God’s kingdom, we are committed to strengthening it and helping it grow. Whether that means serving a full-time mission or providing service for those in need, our goal is to be “like our Captain of old”: our Savior, Jesus Christ.

O Babylon, O Babylon, we bid thee farewell;
We’re going to the mountains of Ephraim to dwell.

Let us, like the Elders and Sisters serving in Israel, rise above the world around us and commit ourselves to a higher standard. Let us turn our hearts and minds to the needs of our brothers and sisters. Let us seek out the “mountains of Ephraim”–whether they be temples, church meetinghouses, or the homes of the righteous–and dwell therein.

Ye readers in Israel, come join now with me!

 

Sources: 1, 2, 3

Hymn #39: O Saints of Zion

O Saints of Zion, hear the voice
Of Him from courts on high.
Prepare the pathway of the Lord;
His reign on earth is nigh.
(O Saints of Zion, verse 1)

When Joseph Smith was guided to restore the true church of Christ, he needed to know what it should be called. By revelation, the church received this name: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is indeed the Church of Jesus Christ, and we are indeed in the latter days, the last days before the second coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

However, many of us don’t really pay any attention to that. We certainly recognize how the Gospel makes our own lives better, and we express appropriate gratitude for those blessings. But the mission of the church is not simply to bless the lives of its members—the Church exists to prepare the whole world for his coming. When we read the revelations, that mission is undeniable. (See D&C 65)

Of course, the work of preparing the world does not just fall upon the church collectively—it falls upon us individually. Along with the Gifts of the Spirit and the Priesthood blessings we receive are covenants we have made; covenants to be witnesses of Christ at all times, in all things, and in all places that we may be in. Covenants to make known His works and His words. We are active participants in this preparatory work—or at least we should be. We have been called to “make straight the way of the Lord.”

Sometimes it’s easy to just ignore all that, and focus living the Gospel privately. Yes, we do believe in doing good for the sake of good without any need for public recognition. Christ chastised the Pharisees for making obedience a spectator event, after all. But while our obedience to God’s commandments is a personal matter, His call to obey is for the entire world.

It’s hard to look at the world around us and see how it could ever be prepared to receive the Lord. There are many wonderful people here, of course, but there is also so much hatred and bitterness and simple spiritual apathy. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed at the enormous task before us. And yet, God has prepared us for this very task. The Book of Mormon tells of the sons of Mosiah who went among the Lamanites, a people who had rejected every previous invitation to come unto Christ. Through their prayers, fasting, service, faith, and diligence, many of the Lamanites were brought unto Christ—including their king himself!

The Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored. Priesthood authority is spreading throughout the world as it never has before. The Gift of the Holy Ghost, the very Comforter that Christ promised to send, is available to more and more people every day. The mighty blessings of the temple roll forth throughout the world, touching hearts and guiding minds in preparation for the return of the Lord himself. There has never been a better time for inviting the world to come unto Christ!

Prepare the supper of the Lamb;
Invite the world to dine.
Behold, the mighty Bridegroom comes
In majesty divine.

Hymn #27: Praise to the Man

Today marks 170 years since Joseph Smith was martyred at Carthage Jail in Illinois. It’s been a long time. To put it into perspective, the United States has only been a country for 238 years, and the signing of the Declaration of Independence seems like it was forever ago.

What has happened in 170 years? Did Joe Smith’s little band of followers–those darn Mormons–just fall apart and disappear without him, as I assume his assassins hoped might happen?

We all know the answer to that is a big fat NO.

According the 2013 statistical report given in last April’s General Conference, there are now over fifteen million members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Over 100,000 missionaries–including full-time and church service missionaries–are currently preaching the gospel and serving communities in need. 141 temples dot the globe with several more in various stages of completion.

The stone “cut out of the mountain without hands” of which Daniel once spoke continues to fill the earth. “The God of heaven” has “set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed.” Indeed “it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.”

Joseph Smith restored God’s kingdom to the earth. With his First Vision and subsequent visits from divine messengers, he opened the last dispensation. He received the necessary priesthood keys to provide each of us with the ordinances of salvation. What a great responsibility! What a sacred and honored duty! “Hail to the Prophet” indeed!

But here’s the thing. Even as we praise him, we acknowledge that Joseph Smith was just a man. We often hear him referred to as “the boy Joseph”; he was so very young, after all. Even this hymn of praise does not paint him as anything but what he was: a hero, a martyr, a prophet, yes, but at the end of the day still just “Brother Joseph.”

He was a man like any other man. He made mistakes and struggled under the weight of his calling and wondered, as we all sometimes do, “O God, where art thou?” (see D&C 121). This makes it easy for skeptics to find fault with him, claiming that such a flawed mortal could never have done what he claimed to do. Why would a perfect God use an imperfect man to restore His gospel? How can the church be true if Joseph Smith himself was not above reproach? Why do we believe in a prophet who is just so…human?

To anyone who asks such questions, I respond as Alma does:

Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise. And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls. (Alma 37:6-7)

God does great things with imperfect people like Brother Joseph. Like you. Like me. Those statistics I cited above are not the result of wishful thinking or magic powers. A great deal of sacrifice from so many of God’s children has gone into building His kingdom in these last days.

Joseph Smith’s legacy gives me hope that I too can play a role in this great work. I may never commune with Jehovah in this life, and I certainly wasn’t “blessed to open the last dispensation.” But I do have a purpose here. I believe I was foreordained to accomplish amazing things. I believe you were too. If we can fight in the “conflict of justice” with the same faithfulness Joseph Smith showed, we too can “mingl[e] with Gods” and be “crowned in the midst of the prophets of old” someday.

Each of us has divine potential. Each of us has a place in proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the saints, and redeeming the dead. Each of us has something to contribute, however small or simple.

After all, a 14-year-old boy who was willing to ask the right question at the right time has helped bring about the salvation of millions.

So what small and simple things will you do today?

Hymn #325: See the Mighty Priesthood Gathered

This is a great hymn. It has a regal tune and a great message. I hope you’ll take time to listen to it.

Every six months at the General Conference priesthood session, someone will note that this meeting likely represents the largest gathering of priesthood holders in the history of the world. This is significant, but not just for the obvious reasons.

Most simply, the growth of the priesthood parallels the growth of the Church as a whole, so a larger priesthood body implies a larger body of Latter-Day Saints as a whole. As the truths and covenants of the Gospel are necessary for all mankind, the growth of the priesthood body is a welcome indication that more of God’s children are finding the peace and understanding that the Gospel brings.

However, the growth of the priesthood is also meaningful in its own right. We are engaged in God’s work, and it is directed through his Priesthood. Our purpose is not merely to teach everyone about the restoration of the gospel—we also seek to make its accompanying ordinances and covenants available to all mankind. While in past dispensations the covenants of salvation have been available only to a few select nations, in these latter days God has made them available to all. The mission of the priesthood is to bring these ordinances and covenants to all the world.

This is no small undertaking. It involves planning for entire nations and concern for individual families. It’s no wonder that the priesthood body is often described in military terms—there’s organization and structure needed to effectively span the world.

Of course, when we talk about the spread of the gospel, we often talk about missionary work. And yes, missionary work is important. But the work of the priesthood is the duty of every ordained priesthood holder, not just those called on full-time missions. We are to spread the Kingdom of God to new lands, but also to establish it, to make it stable and secure.

So let’s look at some of the lyrics. The song opens with this phrase:

See the mighty priesthood gathered;
Firm in serried ranks they stand–
Son and father jointly serving,
Gathered in from ev’ry land.

The work of the priesthood is not just for 19-year-old missionaries, or just for bishops. It spans generations; fathers and sons serve together. In fact, fathers have a sacred duty to train their sons in this calling, to teach them the ways of the Lord.

Line on line, truth is revealed,
Till all darkness flees away
In the face of perfect knowledge,
Where celestial laws hold sway.

As we listen to our prophetic leaders, truth empowers us. We are better able to withstand the darkness of this world and the chaos it brings with it. Truth brings peace and order, and as the priesthood is strengthened throughout the world, peace and order will prevail.

Come, ye sons, and walk uprightly,
As your noble fathers trod

“Walk in the faith of your fathers.” Isn’t this same message repeated over and over throughout the scriptures? The prophets of ancient Israel taught it over and over. Nephite prophets taught the same. After all, sons and fathers can hardly serve together if the sons abandon the faith of their fathers. How great the importance, then, to teach our children, to guide them to a personal relationship with God.

Till Satan’s pow’rs are vanquished,
Bound in chains he conquered lies,
And our glorious hallelujahs
Loudly sound across the skies,

This is our goal: to vanquish Satan’s powers, and to bring praise of God throughout the world. Christ will come again, to reign personally upon the earth. Every six months as priesthood bearers throughout the world gather, we are reminded of this noble and holy purpose.

This is no small work. Let us not be easily distracted. The Kingdom of God is rolling forward, and it is our opportunity to be a part of that great work.

Hymn #4: Truth Eternal

In John chapter 8, we have record of one of my favorite teachings in all of scripture:

31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;

32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

In the following verses, Jesus first indicates that the promised freedom will make us free from sin. Crucially, though, when we are free from sin through the Son of God, Christ indicates that the truth ultimately leads us to Eternal Life, the greatest of all gifts of God. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”

The fourth hymn in our hymnal is titled “Truth Eternal.” In it, we sing of the same Truth that Christ taught his disciples, the truth that brings freedom.

Truth eternal, truth divine,
In thine ancient fulness shine!
Burst the fetters of the mind
From the millions of mankind!

Truth is not new; it is an unchanging constant from the beginning. When the fulness of truth was restored by Joseph Smith, it was the same ancient truth that has been taught by prophets through the ages, the truth that frees each of us from sin.

Of course, this eternal truth does nothing for us on its own. Truth cannot free us from sin, or exalt us, unless we act upon it. We rejoice to have the ancient truths restored to the Earth, but that alone is not enough. With knowledge comes responsibility, responsibility we willingly accept as we make various covenants. We should not think that through simple membership in Christ’s church, we will be burst free of the fetters that bind us. That blessing requires action from each of us. It requires following through on the covenants we have made.

Truth again restored to earth,
Opened with a prophet’s birth.
Priests of heaven’s royal line
Bear the keys of truth divine!

This restored makes powerful and significant claims. It is appropriate, then, that the veracity and authority of it was restored not just through visions, but actual visitation by those who administered this same truth anciently. What a marvelous claim to make!

The visitations of Moroni, John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Elias, Elijah, Moses, and surely many others lend divine authenticity to the restored Gospel. Though it can seem simple in our day-to-day lives, the restoration of the gospel was a divinely orchestrated event that speaks of careful planning and specific intent. When we take this truth into our lives and when we seek to share it with others, we are participating in a grand event. As has been said, it is a marvelous work and a wonder.

Truth shall triumph as the light
Chases far the misty night.
Endless ages own its sway,
Clad in everlasting day.

We frequently sing hymns that speak of the great battle that is currently raging over the hearts and beliefs of people worldwide. How encouraging it is to know that truth will triumph. In the face of our own frailties and weaknesses, God is still able to prevail. There is no reason for despair, no reason to abandon a sinking ship. In the end, all will know the truth, the truth that, if they will accept and act upon it, will make them free.

Hymn #25: Now We’ll Sing with One Accord

This is a hymn we don’t often hear in church. I don’t think I’ve ever sung it in sacrament meeting, although it turns out that I have at least heard it once. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang this hymn during the April 2009 General Conference. WordPress doesn’t allow us to embed the video here, sadly, but you can view it here. You should, or at the very least, listen to the hymn via the link we’ve provided at the top.

Notice anything unusual about the hymn? The rhyme scheme is unique among the hymns we’ve talked about so far this year. While most LDS hymns follow an ABAB scheme, this hymn uses AAABCCCD. The fourth and eighth line of each verse don’t rhyme with anything else in the verse, causing them to stand out from the rest of the lyrics. Perhaps even more interesting is that the fourth lines of the first, second, and third verses all rhyme with each other, and they in turn rhyme with the last line of the fourth verse. It’s an unorthodox technique that serves to tie the verses together, while drawing attention to the non-rhyming lines within each verse.

So why those lines in particular? How do they tie this hymn together? Well, first we’ll have to start with understanding what this hymn is all about. The first two lines tell us that “now we’ll sing with one accord/for a prophet of the Lord,” and those attentive enough to review the topics found at the bottom of each hymn will see that the prophet in question is Joseph Smith. (Even if you hadn’t, you could be forgiven for assuming the hymn was about Joseph Smith; “the prophet” virtually always refers to Joseph Smith within LDS psalmody.) We sing about his role as restorer (“brought the priesthood back again”) and as translator (“for the Gentile and the Jew/he translated sacredly”). We sing boldly, as we do with many of the hymns of the restoration. The claim of a modern-day prophet is a bold one, as are the claims of continuing revelation and restored authority from on high, and the tone of the hymn reflects that boldness.

So we’re singing about the restoration and Joseph Smith; what about those four lines in each verse that tie the hymn together? Let’s take a look at them and see. In verse one, the line that sticks out is “cheers the Saints as anciently.” We receive revelation and guidance from the Lord as did His faithful in years past. That’s cause for cheer. It’s easy to feel adrift in a sea of conflicting messages. The clarity of the gospel message helps us to keep our bearings straight, and it brings us joy.

In the second verse, the special line is “in its ancient purity,” referring to the restored authority of the priesthood. It was restored through Joseph, yes, but the authority is the same as it ever was. It is the authority of God given to man to direct His work as though He were here. It was given to men in ancient times, and it is given to us today. The line in the third verse dovetails with that theme nicely: “He translated sacredly.” Joseph translated the Book of Mormon, a book of scripture that shows us that God spoke to more than one group of people. He translated the book not because of his expertise in Meso-American languages, or because of his mastery of ancient scripture, but because he received authority from God to do so. It’s the same authority held by ancient prophets like Moses and Abraham, and it’s the same authority held by modern prophets like Thomas S. Monson today.

The hymn concludes with the line “purer for eternity,” referring to Zion. It will spread throughout the earth during the Millennium as every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus is the Christ. And again, it has little to do with our own efforts (though we do, and will, work toward building the kingdom) and instead much to do with the power of the Almighty. This is His work, and it will not fail. The gospel has been restored to Earth, never to be taken again.

We sing about Joseph Smith, but these lines that stick out in the middle of each verse remind us that when we sing about him, we sing about the power of God, restored through him. Joseph is no longer with us, gone nearly 170 years now, but the church thrives. We revere him, but we worship the God who made the restoration he accomplished possible. And so when we sing this hymn, we sing about a great man, but also about great men to come (“prudent in this world of woes/they will triumph o’er their foes”) as they are given inspiration, guidance, and authority from on high.

Hymn #20: God of Power, God of Right

After spending some time with this hymn, I think it’s a pity that it isn’t sung more often. It’s of a handful that takes up less than a page in the hymnbook, but it contains a profound lesson about God’s process of turning ordinary people like you and me into celestial beings.

The hymn begins with an image of God’s strength:

God of power, God of right,
Guide us with thy priesthood’s might.
Forge our souls in living fire;
Shape them to thy great desire.

It’s not difficult to picture the Creator of all things sweating and pounding diligently to produce something useful and worthwhile out of raw material. Great effort, constant vigilance, and perfect timing are vital to this process; one misstep and the metal can be ruined. Lucky for us, the One forging our souls is a master blacksmith.

Likening souls to metal naturally brings to mind the ubiquitous metaphor of the refiner’s fire. I especially like this verse in Proverbs: “Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer” (25:4). Once the impurities are removed, the precious metal is not just left as a shiny lump, but it is shaped into a vessel–through “priesthood might”, as the verse says–to be filled as its Maker sees fit.

And with what does He fill us? With knowledge.

God of wisdom, God of truth,
Take us in our eager youth;
Lift us step by step to thee
Thru an endless ministry.

When we are ready and willing, He will teach us what we need to know to be like Him. We learn from the scriptures, the words of living prophets, our patriarchal blessings, instruction in the temple, Sunday School classes, personal revelation…as I’ve mentioned before, this is a gospel of learning. And, as the goal is to progress eternally, it will be an eternal process for us to gain the wisdom our Father has.

With all that earlier talk of power and might, though, it would be easy to see this as a forceful process. Fortunately for us this is not the case. God does not pound us into shape and cram us full of whatever is necessary for us to be saved. He doesn’t work like that, as the third verse reminds us.

God of mercy, God of love,
Let thy Spirit, like the dove,
Touch and humble, teach and bless,
As we serve in holiness.

His mercy and love are the reason He blessed us with the ability to choose for ourselves. If we will accept His mercy and allow the Holy Ghost to “touch and humble, teach and bless” us, we can be “shape[d] to [His] great desire”.

God is omnipotent; He can perfect even the most flawed among us. God is omniscient; He knows exactly what we need to be sanctified. God loves us; He lets us choose whether or not to let Him make us something great. It is our decisions that will ultimately determine our destiny (see this talk by President Monson).

Notice that the hymn is written as a prayer, though. We are acknowledging His attributes and asking Him to use them to guide us and lift us. We’ve already made our choice: to “serve in holiness.”