Sunday, February 23, 2014

Priesthood Keys & Ordinations

Today I had the privilege of participating in two Priesthood functions. I am serving in a married student stake here in Logan Utah and the current Stake Presidency was released and a new Stake Presidency called. Later today I had the privilege of ordaining my son a High Priest.  Both of these opportunities have strengthened my testimony that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored on the earth today.

For our stake conference this weekend we had two visiting general authorities here to sustain a new Stake Presidency. The process of transferring priesthood keys is one of the miracles of the restored gospel. As the stake clerk I was able to witness the process. Yesterday Elder Michael John U. Teh, a member of the 1st Quorum of 70 and Elder Steven O. Lain, a member of the 5th Quorum of 70 spent the morning interviewing all of the bishops in the stake as well as the members of the high council and a few others. After the interviews they prayed to know whom the Lord would have lead the stake for the next few years and the Lord answered their prayers with the name of the person. He was called and then he was instructed to pray to know who should serve as his counselors and a short time later those names were given to the general authorities and they were also called. Today the current Stake Presidency was released and the new ones sustained. After the meeting Elder Teh, the presiding general authority set apart the new Stake President and gave him the keys of the priesthood that he needs to preside over the married student stake that we serve in.

Those keys of the priesthood are the same keys that the Lord Jesus Christ promised to give the Apostle Peter:

 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19)

Very few individuals hold priesthood keys. They come from Jesus Christ to the presiding Apostle on the earth, the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are also given to the 12 Apostles and they in turn give other general authorities assignments to go into the world and give the keys to preside over stakes and wards to the Stake Presidents and Bishops and Elder’s Quorum Presidents. When a new Stake President, Bishop or Elder’s Quorum President is called the person who held those priesthood keys for that calling no longer has them once released and the newly sustained person is given the keys to administer the gospel within the boundaries of their stake, ward or quorum. These individuals are called for a period of time to preside over a group of members and when they have served the time that the Lord directs they are then released and another is called. There is no campaigning for the position, no politics are involved they serve because they are called by the Lord. They serve because they are following the example of the Lord Jesus Christ and are the Shepherds that watch over the Savior’s flock.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not have paid ministers that are over the local wards, stakes, missions or other units we willingly give of our time to do the Lord’s work. We serve wherever we are called for as long as we are called. We consider it a blessing to serve each other and all members are blessed through selfless serve to Heavenly Father’s children.

Elder Steven O. Laing, one of the visiting General Authorities at our stake conference this weekend, taught us an important lesson on priesthood keys. He said that while only a few individuals hold priesthood keys all others officiate in their callings under the direction of those priesthood keys. It does not matter if it is a man serving in a priesthood calling, as a teacher or some other calling or a women serving in a Relief Society Presidency, a Young Women’s Presidency or Primary Presidency they all have the power to teach and minister to those who they are called to serve. They do so under the authority of the priesthood keys. Heavenly Father does not distinguish between a man or a women that is faithfully serving in their calling, revelation can come to both if they desire and seek it properly.

Witnessing the changing of our Stake Presidency has strengthened my testimony that the Lord Jesus Christ is truly the head of this church and he is directing it through his Prophets and Apostles and others that hold Priesthood Keys.

The second event that I participated in today was setting apart my oldest son as a High Priest. This was another great experience that I will never forget and it was a privilege to be with my family as I laid my hand on his head and ordained him to this office in the Melchizedek Priesthood. Even this event ties back into the previous discussion of priesthood keys. I did not have the authority on my own to ordain my own son. I did so by permission of the Stake President of my son’s stake, the person who holds the keys of the priesthood for that stake. I had to present to him my temple recommend and he made sure that it was current. If I did not have my temple recommend, then I would have to provide a signed form from my Bishop to perform a priesthood ordinance, which I would then give to the Stake President as proof of my worthiness to perform the ordinance.

The Church of Jesus Christ is a church of order and I had to have some way of proving that I had the authority and was worthy to perform the ordination. This proof had to come from the person holding those priesthood keys that I referred to above that presides over my local unit and I had to present that proof to the presiding authority over my son’s unit before I could ordain him a High Priest. If anyone could ordain anyone to any office of the priesthood, then chaos would ensue and the members would not know whom to follow and the Lord’s flock would be scattered. The Lord told the saints through the Prophet Joseph Smith the importance of authority and order in the church:

“7 And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.

“8 Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.

“9 Will I accept of an offering, saith the Lord, that is not made in my name?

 Or will I receive at your hands that which I have not appointed?” (Doctrine & Covenants 132:7-19)

After my son’s Stake President gave his approval, I was able to ordain my son to the office of High Priest, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and then gave him a father’s blessing. It was a privilege and blessing for me to participate in this event with our family. One of my other son and his family was there as was my daughter and her family. The family of my son’s wife was also present and his father-in-law stood with us as I ordained my son. Words cannot express the spirit that we felt and the joy that filled our hearts as we participated in this priesthood experience.

The office of High Priest is the same priesthood that Adam gave to his son Seth, to his other descendants down through the ages to Enoch and Methuselah. It is the same priesthood that Methuselah gave to Noah. Then from Noah to Melchizedek the great High Priest who ordained Abraham to this same priesthood. It is the same priesthood that Christ gave to Peter, James and John on the Mount when he promised to give to Peter the keys of the sealing powers. Joseph Smith was ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood by Peter, James and John and it has been passed down from them to others and finally to me and now from me to my son.

I did not give my son priesthood keys, but the priesthood that he has is the same priesthood and one day he may be called to a calling that requires priesthood keys and one holding those keys will give him the keys he will need to preside. Until then he serves under someone that has keys and he will minister under his authority and be responsible for magnifying that priesthood that he now holds. He will also one day answer to the Lord for the manner in which he used that priesthood to bless the lives of those he serves.
What a wonderful thing to know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is here on the earth and that Heavenly Father has given us his priesthood and the keys to administer the saving ordinances of his Gospel.

I know that Thomas S. Monson holds all of the Keys of the Priesthood and the sealing powers that were given to Peter, James and John anciently. I know that Peter, James and John passed those priesthood keys to the Prophet Joseph Smith and from him to every prophet since that time so that in this day and time there is one man on the earth that holds them at a time and that person is Thomas S. Monson, the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He then shares those keys with others such as our Bishops, Stake Presidents and Elders Quorum Presidents. The rest of us who have been ordained to the various priesthood offices serve under those who hold these keys.

Your questions and comments are welcome.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Lessons from the Olympics

Cituius, Altius, Fortius – these three words are the motto of the modern Olympic games. Does anyone know what those three words mean? Swifter, higher, stronger! It is what every Olympian strives for. For many of them, it has been their life long dream. Hasn’t everyone sometime in his or her lives dreamed of being an Olympic gold medal winner? I know I did.

I am an Olympic junkie I love the Olympics, though I admit the summer Olympics are my favorite since I am a distance runner and love track and field events the most. I love the lessons that you can learn as the athletes compete, some achieving their gold medal dream but most do not they are there for the experience. ABC’s World Wide Sports coined the phrase: “the thrill of victory…they agony of defeat” and that has really been true in this year’s Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

One such athlete is Noelle Pikus-Pace, a member of US Skeleton Team. Noelle lives in Eagle Mountain, Utah and is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She was the favorite for gold in the 1996 Torino, Italy Olympics, but was hit by a bobsled that jumped the track and broke her leg just before the games began. She came back and competed in the Vancouver, Canada Olympics in 2010, but ended up missing the Bronze Medal by a .10th of a second. She decided to retire from the sport so she could spend more time with her husband and two children. When she was pregnant with their third child she had a miscarriage and lost the child. Her husband tried to convince her to return to competition but she did not want to leave her family. A compromise was struck and they decided she would return and they would join her on her trips to compete wherever she went and they have done that. She has won several world championships, but an Olympic medal was still missing. Earlier this week in a training run she suffered a concussion, but did not tell anyone. The day of her first run she fell asleep between runs and one of the volunteers had to wake her to tell her it was her turn. She said she could not remember what was happening. She competed this past Thursday and Friday in the Skeleton event and ended up winning the sliver medal. Afterwards she said:

"Every race I write down three goals for myself and my No. 1 goal was: 'This is it. Don't get scared now,'" she said, laughing. "I just wanted to go out there and enjoy it and I did. Between runs I gave my coach Tuffy Latour a big hug and said, 'This is it, this is what we've come all this way to do, to be here in this Olympic moment.' And we did it and when I came down and I crossed that finish line, we truly did do it."
Within moments of completing her final trip down a track, she jumped over the wall, hopped into the bleachers and embraced her family. Lacee, upon learning that her mom won a medal, asked if she was getting a new necklace. Her family started figuring out how the media blitz of the next couple days would work.
"Honestly, getting hit by the bobsled, people look back and say, 'Oh, man, that's horrible,'" Pikus-Pace said. "Taking fourth in the Olympics, people say, 'Ah, too bad, that stinks.' And then I had a miscarriage at 18 weeks and many tears were shed, but if I hadn't gone through every one of those things I would not be here today, and this is right where I want to be and to have my family is beyond words. I am beyond words." (
When asked what the experience would have been like without her family she said:

I absolutely, first and foremost, love being a mom,” she said beaming, “100 percent — I love being a mom, and that will always be my priority. I want to make sure my kids can do anything, that they can be anything, and that they can have dreams that I will be right there, by their sides cheering them along the way. I want to join PTA; I want to bake cookies; I want to plant a big garden. I want to be at home doing the things I love doing. It was worth every minute of it.” (

Jeremy Abbott, the figure skater from Colorado stumbled in the short program on the first day of the team competition, but with the help of other members the US Team ended up with the Bronze Medal. In the individual competition last Thursday Jeremy fell hard at the beginning of his individual program and it looked as if he was not going to finish his routine. The crowd began to cheer and he got up and finished with a nearly flawless routine from that point on. At the conclusion the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Jeremy has won several national championships, but the media was really negative about his performance and in response he said:

"Nobody has to stand center ice in front of a million people and put an entire career on the line for eight minutes of their life when they've been doing it for 20-some years," Abbott continued. "And if you think that that's not hard, then you're a damn idiot." …"So some people can handle it better than others, but everyone has that mental struggle and everyone goes through the same doubts and the same things," Abbott said. "Some people have their moment at the Olympics and some people have theirs at the national championships." (

Yevgeny Plushenko, a three time world champion and three time gold medalists, and figure skater from Russia helped his team win gold in the first ever team competition in figure skating had to drop out of the individual competition after the pain in his back was so intense he could not perform his routine. He is being criticized for dropping out. Fame is so fleeting; you can be a hero one minute then you are demonized another for the decisions you make.

After Bode Miller failed to get any medal in his second event he was trash talking himself and could not find anything positive and his wife said that she was proud of him and that he did his best and should not be so hard on himself. They must have had microphones on them because the camera was on them and you could hear their conversation. She was so supportive of him in front of millions of people on national TV. 

I think there are several things we can apply to our lives from these four examples of public figures.

  1. We all have our struggles in life and how we deal with them shows our true character. All of these Olympians had expectations of what they wanted to achieve in their events. None of them did what they wanted, but they all were satisfied that they did their best. Noelle Pikus-Pace was thrilled with the silver medal. Jeremy Abbott wanted to be remembered for the one that got back up and finished in spite of his fall. Yevgeny Plushenko, wanted to be remembered for all the achievements he had made and not for the one that he could not do. Even Bode Miller should be remembered for being the most decorated alpine skier in U.S. Olympics and not for this one. We will all fail, probably many times. Fortunately most of us won’t do it in front of millions of people on TV. Will we get back up and try again and again, until we success or will we give up after the first fall?
  2. How will we react when someone we know falls or fails at something? Will we be like those who criticize and mock or will we be there like the families of the Olympians that stood and cheered and loved them in spite of their failures? Will we tell them to stay down or will we cheer for them to get up and try again (or better yet will we be there to pick them up and push them back out there to compete again)?
  3. Will we have the courage to try something that is difficult or new even knowing we might fail or will we allow fear to prevent us from the growth that comes from stretching ourselves to the point where failure is probable? Every one of the Olympic Athletes have experienced failure, in fact failure in sports is more often the result for those who achieve Olympic medals but they continue to get up, to run one more race until they finally get their spot on the medal stand. Even then there are only three at the top while there are many others that will never see the medal podium, but they are thrilled to be a part of the process.
  4. How do we react when others achieve greatness, or a promotion, or a spot on the medal podium and we don’t? Do we blame others for not getting there, or the weather, or some other external factor? Will we celebrate those that made it? Only in celebrating the successes of others will we eventually enjoy that success ourselves.
So may we all adopt the Olympic Motto of cituius, altius, fortius and be swift to help those who have fallen or failed in the world’s eyes. May we lift up others to a higher level of living as we give service to them and may we be stronger in defending anyone who is in need of a kind word, a loving hand or simply a smile? May we follow the Master Teacher, Jesus Christ, when he said that we should lose ourselves in the service of others, by visiting the sick or those in prison, clothing the naked, and feeding the hungry? If we do these things we will hear that greeting from the Savior when we meet him: “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” (Matthew 25:23)

Your comments and questions are welcome.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Zion Begins With Me

Last week I talked about the city that Enoch built called Zion. Enoch’s Zion lasted 365 years on the earth before the Lord took them up to dwell with him until the second coming of Jesus Christ. During those 365 years, the people of Zion were so righteous that no one could harm them. The scriptures in Genesis and the Pearl of Great Price tell us that the faith of Enoch was so strong that rivers were turned out of their course and mountains where moved in defense of the city and everyone feared to go up against them. While wickedness surrounded the city, the people of Zion were at peace Moses 7:13).  In verse 18 of the same chapter the Lord tells us why the city was called Zion:

And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them. “(Moses 7:18)

Last week I also talked about the New Jerusalem that will be built prior to the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The 10th Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says:

“We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.”

The reference tells us that the New Jerusalem will be built here on the American continent and it will also be called Zion. So the conditions in this latter-day Zion will be similar to Enoch’s Zion; the people will dwell in righteousness because they are of one heart and one mind. So when this city is built will there be a vacancy sign at the city limits that will say: “Only the righteous shall apply”? Or will we have to live lives worthy of Zion and then we become the city of Zion? I believe that it is the latter. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said this about building Zion:

“Each one of us can build up Zion in our own lives by being pure in heart. And the promise is, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” (Matt. 5:8.) Each one of us can extend the borders of Zion by gathering our friends and neighbors into the fold of Israel..” (“Come: Let Israel Build Zion”, Bruce R. McConkie, Ensign, April 1977)

We each have a part of the responsibility of building Zion first in ourselves and then our family and finally in our communities. Brother Troy Dougherty gave a devotional address at BYU-Idaho where he gave some suggestions about building Zion in our apartments and homes. He said:

Think about the apartment where you live. Think about your roommates. Think about your room-roommate. For those who are married, in case you didn’t know, your room-roommate is your spouse and your roommates are any children you may have. Think about the culture of your apartment or home. How do you live? Consider the following questions:

o   What can I do now to build Zion in my apartment?
o   What can I do consistently throughout the semester to build and maintain Zion in my apartment?
o   What can my roommates and I do, collectively, to build Zion in our apartment?
o   How can my roommates and I live in a way that leads us to and places us in Zion?

(The Practical Work of Building Zion in Your Apartments and Homes”, Troy Dougherty, BYU-I Devotional Address, January 21, 2014)

Brother Dougherty then gives three things that we can do to help build Zion wherever we are. Those three things are:

Principle #1: Love
Principle #2 Shared Responsibility
Principle #3: Mutual Respect   

Concerning the first principle Brother Dougherty said:

“In the first and only chapter in the book of Fourth Nephi we read: “And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people” (emphasis added).4 As he synthesized the records, Mormon thoughtfully, purposely, and specifically attributed the societal peace the people were enjoying at that time to their love of God.

“In the next verse, Mormon continues: “And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings . . . nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.”5 This people’s love, centered in God and undoubtedly His Son, clearly had a remarkable direct effect on their interpersonal relationships.

“In today’s language, there was no resentment, jealousy, bitterness, vindictiveness, discord, dissension, friction, disorder, or turmoil—all synonyms of envyings, strifes, and tumults. There was simply love one toward another and, as a result, peace and happiness. Loving roommates, then, will be a natural extension of your love for Heavenly Father.” (The Practical Work of Building Zion in Your Apartments and Homes”, Troy Dougherty, BYU-I Devotional Address, January 21, 2014)

On the second principle of shared responsibility he said:

“Shared responsibility addresses the ever-stirring question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”9 Some feel uncomfortable by this question and even believe it carries a negative connotation. Both ancient and modern prophets, however, have collectively and consistently testified of our covenant responsibility to care for, protect, and rescue our brothers and sisters.10 Perhaps a slight modification to the question may be helpful and more intuitive: “Am I my brother’s brother?” or “Am I my sister’s sister?” The answer to these inquiries is irrefutably and emphatically “Yes!”   

“…Consider this covenant responsibility a privilege, not a burden. I know it’s not always easy. It may even be uncomfortable, awkward, or risky at times. But, through your love for God and faith in the Savior, Jesus Christ, you can truly partner with your roommates to create an apartment culture in which you look out for one another, take care of one another, lift one another, and encourage one another to stay close to the Lord and honor sacred covenants. This is the practical work of shared responsibility that, with the practical work of love, will lead you to and place you in Zion.” (The Practical Work of Building Zion in Your Apartments and Homes”, Troy Dougherty, BYU-I Devotional Address, January 21, 2014)

Regarding the third principle of mutual respect he gave this council:

“[Mutual] respect is an expression of our sense of universal brotherhood or sisterhood—a testimony of our membership in the human family. Acting disrespectfully suggests we do not esteem others as ourselves.”13 Everyday forms of disrespect include gossip, backbiting, mocking, ridiculing, fault-finding, selfishness, indifference, and the dreaded silent treatment.

“Mutual respect is naturally and inextricably linked to the principles of love and shared responsibility. It is ultimately personified as roommates treat each other the way they want to be treated and value one another as sons and daughters of God. In a day-to-day, hour-by-hour practical sense, mutual respect is manifested in the apartment in a variety of small, yet significant ways.” (The Practical Work of Building Zion in Your Apartments and Homes”, Troy Dougherty, BYU-I Devotional Address, January 21, 2014)

He concludes with this advice:

“Brothers and sisters, building Zion is a practical work characterized and established by the way we live wherever we live. Your love for God and your genuine efforts to love and respect roommates, assume responsibility for the culture in your apartment, and honor the commitments and covenants you have made while helping others do the same will lead you to and place you in Zion.” (The Practical Work of Building Zion in Your Apartments and Homes”, Troy Dougherty, BYU-I Devotional Address, January 21, 2014)

With this in mind, we all have a part to do in building Zion. First we must be converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and desire to keep the commandments of God. We must separate ourselves from the evils of the world and the doctrines of men regarding the things that the world teaches as truth. God’s truths are eternal and do not change because the world does not believe that God exists. The plan that he has for us is to come here to gain physical bodies, to prove that we will be willing to keep all his commandments and then lose ourselves in building up the lambs and feeding his sheep.

The world wants us to think that it does not matter how we live our lives or what we do to advance our own desires it is ok. The world also teaches that marriage and families are not important, that it does not matter what we call a family. Families based on gospel principles of marriage between a man and a women who welcome children into their homes and teach them to obey God’s commands is the only way to build a solid foundation that will weather the storms that will rage all around us. Any other type of marriage is not acceptable to the Lord.

There are many families that start with this foundation and then through death or divorce things change. In these situations these families must rely on the covenants that they have made with the Lord and other family members to help strengthen their family ties and rely on their priesthood leaders to help ensure the gospel standards continue. There are also individuals that are not married that choose to bring children into the world when they are not married. The children born in this situation have done no wrong and can receive all the blessings Heavenly Father has for them. Those who choose to bring children into the world outside of marriage are also entitled to all gospel blessings including the sealing ordinances of the temple through proper repentance and forgiveness.

President Brigham Young had this to say about our part in building Zion:

“Do we realize that if we enjoy a Zion in time or in eternity we must make it for ourselves? That all, who have a Zion in the eternities of the Gods, organized, framed, consolidated, and perfected it themselves, and consequently are entitled to enjoy it? (DBY, 118).

“When we conclude to make a Zion we will make it, and this work commences in the heart of each person. When the father of a family wishes to make a Zion in his own house, he must take the lead in this good work, which it is impossible for him to do unless he himself possesses the spirit of Zion. Before he can produce the work of sanctification in his family, he must sanctify himself, and by this means God can help him to sanctify his family” (DBY, 118). (Teachings: Brigham Young, Chapter 16, “Building Zion”)

So the process of building Zion begins with me; I must be willing to keep all of God’s commandments and live a Christ like life and then teach my family to do the same. I must be willing to leave Babylon and give up any of the worldly philosophies and practices and be pure of heart and of one mind with others who desire to dwell in Zion. Then we will be a people that are prepared for when the Savior comes again on the earth and we welcome the City of Enoch back to dwell in righteousness for a thousand years. We will also have the protection for ourselves and our families that the City of Enoch had where their enemies dared not come against them because the Lord dwelt with Zion.

Your comments and questions are welcome.