Friday, February 20, 2009

The Power of Godliness

The reading material for Lesson 8 contains one of my favorite passages from the Doctrine & Covenants, D&C 84:19-21. This passage explains that in the ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood, the “power of godliness is manifest.”

This passage is interesting for a number of reasons. At its most basic level, I like the idea that the power of godliness is manifest in priesthood ordinances. For those of us who have been in the Church for a while, it is easy to take the sacrament, see a child baptized or attend a wedding and think it is pretty routine, ordinary stuff. This passage reminds me that it is not. Priesthood ordinances show us God’s power and bind us to him as we covenant to obey, receive remission of sins, and renew promises to always have His spirit to be with us. And what greater manifestation of God’s power can we see than the creation of a family that will continue into beyond death?

I think it is interesting, though that this passage does not refer to the power of God, but the power of godliness. As mentioned above, the power of God is manifest in priesthood ordinances that save us and bless our lives. But I think the power of godliness is also manifest in priesthood ordinances in at least a couple of ways. First, there is an obvious synergy between a priesthood-holder’s righteousness and discipleship, and the priesthood power he is able to exercise. This connection between worthiness or godliness and priesthood power is pretty clear. See, e.g., D&C 121:36-42. Second, I think that each individual achieves greater levels of godliness as they receive priesthood ordinances and enter into covenants with God. Our own personal power of righteousness grows as we progress and come closer to God, assisted by ordinances like baptism, confirmation, the endowment and marriage.

Finally, I think it is pretty intriguing that Joseph received this revelation in 1832, relatively early in the restoration timeline. This was well before the sealing power was restored or temple ordinances were understood. In fact, although I am no historian, I do not believe that the Church at this time was really performing any Melchizedek Priesthood ordinances, unless you count ordinations to offices in that priesthood. I wonder what Joseph thought that phrase meant. Did he understand this as a foreshadowing of additional knowledge and ordinances?

How do you think the power of godliness manifest in the ordinances of the priesthood? Is there a difference between the power of God and the power of godliness? And what (if anything) does Section 84 say about Joseph’s understanding of the restoration process?

PS: Mormon Matters had a recent post on ordinances with some interesting discussion. You can find it here.


  1. Thanks for the post. It got my wheels turning as to the power of Godliness. Actually, I believe lesson 25, is called "the power of Godliness" and it is also about the priesthood, so I think I will explore that topic with my class later.
    In this lesson I'm focusing on two ideas: first, on the ministering angels key, with a discussion about how many of us as parents, friends, home teachers, in young mens callings and in home teaching companionships can influence and train up Aaronic priesthood holders to a better understanding of the power, responsibilities and blessings associated with it.
    Secondly, we are looking up the JST genesis 14: 26-31 and Moses 7:13 in talking of the powers of the Melchizedek priesthood. The things discussed in these verses are magnificent and should spur a further discussion of what we are doing with this power to combat the evils of our day and heal, not just sick people in hospitals, but afflictions we see everyday (adhd, bi-polar, depression, anxiety, addictions, etc.).

    I always do a one page/two sided handout and is often more worksheet oriented than anything (although this week there is a lot of info, not a whole lot of writing space!). The PDF of it is found here:

    Thanks for your amazing blog! I love hearing your thoughts and want to know how the lesson went!

  2. Teacher,

    Thanks for your help!

    I just want to say that D&C 121:36-42 is one of my favorite scriptures. Not only does it apply to priesthood, but to parenting, and general leadership as well. If we could all lead by gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned.

    Caroline, I'm working to create a central resource to help Gospel Doctrine teachers. There is so much information on the bloggernacle that could help others. I'll check out your site, and I'd love to have you check out mine too. It's

    Since you mentioned ministering of angels, you might want to add D&C 13 too. Aaronic preisthood holders are given "the ministering of angels." Also, I don't know if you've checked out Mormon Heretic's post on a near death experience. He talks about ministering angels there as well, and it is interesting.

  3. redsoxfan-
    yes, we did read D&C 13 with references to section 84 and 107 which both have scriptures pertaining to the ministering of angels. I just got done teaching the class, and wanted to share an interesting story. We had a recently returned missionary from another ward who came and spoke in sacrament. In the middle of his talk he said:
    "I feel impressed to share a story with you that I've never shared with anyone". He then told of an experience where he was teaching an investigator that had to wait a month before getting baptized. He was afraid that within that month Satan would have a lot of time to work on her. He was in a leadership position at this time, and could only see her at most once a week. He desperately wanted her to make it through the month, so he decided to pray. He said that as he was praying the spirit distinctly said " You hold the Aaronic Priesthood which has the power over ministering angels. You can ask for ministering angels to attend this lady." So- he asked in the name of Christ and with his priesthood for these ministering angels, and not only did she get baptized, but even after her friends who got her in the church separated and got a temple divorce, she still remains active and is a strong member.

    Now, this missionary had no idea I would be teaching this lesson. He actually was vacationing and came straight from his trip. How many times have you EVER heard of someone using their Aaronic priesthood specifically to call upon ministering angels, then decide to talk about it over the pulpit the very day it is going to be the main topic in class? It seems to me God is trying to tell us say the least I was humbled to be a part of this process. The subsequent class went wonderfully. Just thought I'd share!!!

    Oh, and my sunday school blog is:
    redsoxfan--I will check out the site! Thank you for helping to further the resources available online!

  4. Caroline,

    My mission president talked about the ministering of angels, and told us to request them. I will say that towards the end of my mission, I had some really cool experiences, and I attribute some miracles to some ministering angels.

    It reminds me of Paul's admonition to "Covet to prophesy." I think it is ok to covet spiritual gifts, and we do not use the power of the priesthood as much as we should.

  5. Caroline: Thanks for your thoughts and the handout. That is a great resource. I am glad you like the blog - - sometimes I wonder if anyone is out there reading!

    My class went great, although because of our stake conference a couple of weeks ago, I am actually a week behind were you might be. I have tried to keep the blog current with where most others are, so I am teaching the priesthood lesson this coming Sunday. I am going to check out some of the scripture references you mention.

    RedsOxfan: I agree with you on D&C 121. It is inspired direction for almost any context. I think about it my parenting moments (good and bad!) all the time.

  6. Teacher,

    You may be surprised how many people visit your blog and don't comment. Have you installed Google Analytics? (It's free.) You can email me at mormon heretic at gmail dot com if you have questions.

  7. Mormon Heretic: Thanks, I will check it out. I may email you if I run into trouble.

  8. The book of Hebrews is clear that Jesus in every way was a better high priest. We see in the word that the curtain was ripped into leaving all mankind access to God without the need for human priests.

    The word tells us that all have sinned and fall short of godliness. There is no person alive worthy of filling the shoes of a priest in the same capacity as Christ. It is finished was Christ's proclamation on the cross.

    The word says that if we atempt to enter by any other means other than the way provided by Christ then we are as thiefs.

    We shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking anything other than the truth which is that the heart of man is evil continually who can know it. Christ alone is our hope and the devices, concepts, and institutions of man should be weighted in the balance.

  9. I think that "the power of godliness" refers to the way in which the priesthood ordinances advances one to become a god, oneself. It is the power and method of becoming a god.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.