Worthiness Brings Power in the Priesthood
Dear brothers and sisters, I’m grateful for this opportunity to be with you today. I acknowledge and express my love and gratitude to two of your wonderful bishops who are seated here on the stand—Bishop Moritsen and Bishop Jensen, who I was blessed to serve with. I know that they love you, and I hope that you are enjoying your opportunity to get acquainted with them.
I express my appreciation to President Richards. As I look around this congregation today, I realize that I have probably known President Richards and his family longer than anyone here—maybe with the exception of Brother Dunford. He goes back a year longer than I do, perhaps. We have known and loved this wonderful family for these many years. It was my privilege to be closely associated with his father when he served as a member of the Utah State Legislature. Years later I would serve with his brother-in-law and sister as we served together in the Monument Park Stake presidency. And his daughter and my daughter are close friends, so we know a lot about the Richardses. And I would simply say to you, how blessed you are, how fortunate you are to be able to attend this marvelous college during the time of his inspired leadership. We love this great Richards family, and hope you’re taking the opportunity of getting closely acquainted with them.
The prophet Nephi had a revelation that foretold of this time that we’re living in. I’d like to begin by reading just a couple of parts from that revelation as I have looked out upon this wonderful gathering today. I’m reading from the 14th chapter of 1st Nephi, starting with verse 12. He said this: “And it came to pass that I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few…. nevertheless, I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth; and their dominions upon the face of the earth were small….
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld the power of the Lamb of God, that it descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.” (verse 14)
I just would suggest to you today, brothers and sisters, that as you gather here in a very real way you represent some of what Nephi saw and foretold would happen in the last days. Here in this congregation there are nearly 60 different nations of the earth represented by covenant people of the Lord who possess the power of God. What a blessing it is for me to have this opportunity to be in your midst.
These next few weeks are very important to us as members of the Church. This coming Sunday we will celebrate Easter, which arguably is the most important day in the history of this world. We celebrate this great event with the rest of the Christian world. As members of the restored Church, we also remember that Easter Sunday—remember on Easter Sunday many years ago, the Savior Jesus Christ and Moses and Elias and Elijah appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple. That was in 1836, one hundred and seventy-seven years ago.
The following week, on April 6th, we will meet in general conference, on the 183rd anniversary of the organization of the Church in these last days, where we will hear from living prophets, seers, and revelators. A few weeks following this, on May 15th, we commemorate the restoration of the Aaronic priesthood, when John the Baptist appeared to Joseph [Smith] and Oliver Cowdery and conferred upon them the Aaronic priesthood. In June, we will remember the restoration of the Melchizedek priesthood by Peter, James, and John.
As President Richards introduced me, I trust you noted that I have served in many Church leadership positions. Some may think that I have served in more than I deserve. I’m a witness of the restoration of the gospel, including the priesthood. I know of the power and authority and blessings—even miracles—that result from its use by those who are worthy to use it.
Today I’m going to share two experiences that have happened in our family recently. I haven’t spoken about either one of them publicly, and they are still very tender to me. So I hope and pray that I can relate them to you without too much emotion. You’ll forgive me if that overtakes me a little bit.
A year ago I was serving as the president of the Pioneer Young Single Adult Stake. Many of you are members of this great stake now, and we acknowledge that two of your bishops are here seated with you. Some of you were even in the stake a year ago, and I’m grateful for all that you did to bless and sustain us in that capacity. On April 15th of last year I was released as stake president. At the time of my release, I came down with a very bad cold. This was the first time that I had really been sick during my five years of service in the stake presidency.
Within a few days of my release I had lost my voice and was unable to speak above a whisper. This lasted for many days and I finally went to see my doctor. He felt that it was likely a complication of my recent cold and told me to gargle regularly, steam frequently, and rest my voice as much as possible. Pam was very grateful for that counsel and advice. Another couple of weeks went by and I’m still unable to speak above a whisper. Finally I went to see a specialist. He quickly diagnosed my problem as a paralyzed vocal chord, then ordered a series of tests to rule out the possibility of throat cancer or other complications.
Fortunately, these tests were negative and the doctor determined that the cause of my paralysis was simply unknown—idiopathic, the medical profession calls it. But possibly it was caused by a virus. Several more weeks passed by with no improvement. Plans were made for me to have the first of several possible surgical procedures, performed in an attempt to try to restore some of my voice. I was scheduled to have this surgery on Tuesday, August 21st. On Sunday, August 19th I asked my sons and sons-in-law to administer to me. Having spent most of my professional career working with the hospitals, and having a father-in-law who was an anesthesiologist, I knew a little bit about the dangers of general anesthesia, and I knew that it’s best to avoid it if at all possible, and I was very nervous about this occasion.
On Monday morning I got up and I found, for the first time in 127 days, that I was able to speak a little bit—not with a completely normal voice, but a significant improvement. I called my doctor and I told him that I felt it best to postpone the surgery. What I concluded was that the Lord simply did not want me to have surgery at that time. Over the next few weeks my voice grew stronger, and today I’m able to speak without difficulty. Truly this was an answer to much fasting and prayer, and the power of the priesthood which was restored to the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith.
I should add, I guess, that even though my voice was better, I still wasn’t extended an invitation to sing with the ward choir in this coming Easter Sunday program. But perhaps that’s a different problem that needs to be addressed.
The second experience I would like to share involves our daughter Kelly. We have four daughters; Kelly is the second oldest of our four daughters. Last June our daughter Kelly was asked to help with the girls’ camp in her stake. She is a busy mother of four; her husband at the time was serving in the bishopric, and she wasn’t even a Young Women's leader. So she wasn’t too anxious to go, but she decided to accept the call because it was the first camp for her oldest daughter.
A couple of weeks prior to the camp, the stake Young Women's president and the camp director had gone to check out the camp site. They wanted to be sure that they had everything that they needed. They happened to run into a park ranger who told them, among other things, that their cell phones would not work in this area and that they would need a satellite phone if they wished to communicate with anyone. He also gave them a special number to call if they needed help that would contact somebody nearby, rather than calling to Salt Lake.
Before the camp, they acquired a satellite phone. The day of the camp arrived—June 26. A brother, who I will call Brother Dan, was recruited in a neighboring ward to help his wife bring all of the equipment from their ward. You brethren know the drill; we’ve been there. I’m going to quote a lot from Dan’s own words as I share Kelly’s experience.
All the participants, including a few men who had been asked to help set up the camp, met up with their wards early that day and left for the camp site. Camp was about an hour and a half drive away. After Dan and his wife arrived with all of their ward’s equipment, they had finished their lunch and he was asked by one of the stake Young Women’s leaders to come and give a young sister a blessing. He was told at that time that he was the only man and priesthood holder in the entire camp. The other men who had been there earlier had already left. He said he was somewhat nervous about giving this priesthood blessing alone, with so little time to adequately prepare for it. He only had a few minutes to walk from his campsite to where this young sister was located.
After he had given the blessing, he returned to their camp area. The stake Young Women's president came by to thank him, and he said, “Perhaps she was inspired at that time to tell me, ‘You can’t leave camp. You’re the only priesthood holder we have in this whole camp.’ ” He hadn’t planned to stay, but he had brought extra equipment and decided that he could certainly stay until other men arrived.
After our daughter arrived, she was helping to put up a large tarp or a plastic cover to provide shade over a common eating area. She had been climbing trees to attach the cover. On the fourth corner, she was about ten feet up into a tree when the dried branches of the tree gave way and she suddenly fell, hit a table with her back, and was thrown headfirst onto the asphalt-paved eating area.
I’m now going to share in Dan’s words what happened next. A few hours had passed since Dan had given the blessing to the young sister. He said, “In our camp we had just started a fire we would use to cook our dinners. Sister Harris, one of the stake leaders, came to edge of the camp and quietly got my attention. She told me that someone had fallen out of a tree and also needed a blessing. Again my heart began to race a little. As we walked she gave me scattered bits of what had apparently happened. It was clear that she was agitated. Her pace quickened. A moment later she sped up even faster. We were now running up the trail past the stake camp and around the bend. There, lying on the asphalt, was one of the Young Women leaders. Other leaders were kneeling and standing at her side. Again, I was not prepared for what I had been summoned to do. Not like earlier, this was different. I was expecting that someone might need a cast for a broken arm, or maybe even a leg. No, that clearly was not the case. The condition of this young mother and the gravity of the situation hit me, and I was afraid. I knelt on the ground above her head, trying to process what I was seeing and all that was being explained by others as to what had happened.
“It was immediately evident that she was in very serious condition. Her arms and shoulders were shaking violently. She was kicking her legs in the bushes to the side of the trail. We tried to isolate her head and movement so she didn’t do herself further damage. The stake Young Women's president was in the background on the satellite phone, talking to the 911 operator. She relayed questions and answers and gave us instruction of what we needed to do as we waited for help [to] arrive. They told us the paramedics were on their way, but it would be more than half an hour before they would arrive.
“The back of her head was a mass of bloody hair. Someone brought a bag of ice. We also put a cold compress on her forehead. Those at her side kept talking to her, each holding a separate hand. We had been instructed to keep this up and not let her lose consciousness. A nurse who was also there kept checking her pupils, which were fixed and dilated. She was not able to speak, even with the constant dialogue aimed at her. She just continued to kick and shake violently. All this time I sat there, trying to summon inspiration and direction as to what I could possibly say in a blessing. Judging from her condition, it appeared to me that someone’s life was in my hands. Thinking to myself, ‘This is surely a job for someone else. There should be someone far better to carry this heavy burden.’
“ ‘Isn’t there another brother who could assist me?’ I asked. The question was met with empty, blank-faced stares.
One of the sisters asked me, ‘Do you not want to give her a blessing?’ That wasn’t it. I explained that I could do it alone, but it would be nice to have someone by my side. I was still not ready to proceed. My mind was racing. In my heart of hearts, I was still at a loss as to what I could say and what I could promise. Was I up to this? There was no one else.
“It took a few more minutes before I realized what I should have known all along. I did have someone by my side. He’s always by my side.
“I now resolutely said, ‘Let’s give her a blessing.’ I was still holding the cold compress on her forehead. I addressed her by name and then paused as the Spirit came into my heart. I know that with the next six seemingly simple words that came out of my mouth, I was stepping over a threshold into another realm. I would then be speaking the mind and will of the Lord. I proceeded, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ.’
“I then declared the priesthood authority by which I spoke in His name. Continuing as the impressions came into my heart and mind, I blessed her with a peace and comfort to come over her, also that the Lord was mindful of her and grateful for her service. I promised her that help was on the way. Almost unknowingly, I then commanded the elements of heaven and earth. The next impression came into my mind and a split second later came out of my mouth. ‘I bless you that you will recover from this accident.’
“Nothing that I had been seeing from this past twenty minutes or so suggested that this was the logical conclusion that I could make. The combination of those two phrases I had just pronounced were so profound and out of character for me that I was struggling a bit with what I had just said. No simple man of his own power can make those commands. There was no denying the strong promptings as the Lord directed me. The blessing closed with a sealing of those blessings on her head, ‘in the name of Jesus Christ.’”
Dan continued: “A collective amen was pronounced by all those who were at Kelly’s side. Sister Witt, who was holding her right hand, immediately said, ‘Kelly, it’s a miracle.’ She was looking at her face and was able to see that her pupils were no longer dilated or rolled back, unresponsive. Sister Witt, as she had been doing for nearly 30 minutes now, carrying on a one-way conversation with her friend, said, ‘Kelly, do you feel it? Do you feel the miracle that happened as soon as he sealed those blessings on your head?’
“Remarkably to all of us, this time there was an answer. Kelly spoke. She answered, ‘Yes.’ This was the first sound she had made since I arrived. She was no longer shaking violently or kicking her legs. The first portion of the blessing had come to pass just as soon as I closed.”
Brother Dan concludes: “It is my most humble testimony that yes, a handful of people in a distant corner of God’s creations were privileged that day to witness and be a part of a miracle.”
Our daughter was taken by ambulance to the Park City Hospital and then transferred to the Trauma Intensive Care Unit at the Intermountain Medical Center here in Salt Lake. She had a large skull fracture and two brain bleeds. Other tender mercies were granted to her as she was treated in the trauma unit and was released after a week in the hospital to go home and recover. Her brain bleeds and the hematoma did not require surgery. Over time she has recovered and, as promised, only a few small issues remain. Today she is a busy, active mother caring for her family and regularly running in all kinds and shapes and lengths of races.
I share these experiences, brothers and sisters, in hopes that you will learn something from them and apply it in your own life, and I’m going to suggest just a couple of things that I have learned from these experiences.
We are so grateful for the power and blessings and authority that were exercised by a worthy stake Young Women leader who, through her preparations, was guided and directed by the Lord in such a way that her leaders and the Young Women she presided over were really blessed. She followed the counsel of a Park Service employee to get a satellite phone because he knew that regular cell phones would not work in this area.
Interesting to note that, even with the satellite phone, she was only able to complete two calls that day—the first to the 911 operator, the second to her stake president—and then the phone lost service. I have no doubt that the faith and prayers of many wonderful Young Women leaders were recognized in a blessing from the Lord, because they had accepted a call from their priesthood leaders to serve. I’m thankful for Brother Dan, who magnifies his priesthood. As Kelly’s husband said to him, “We are so grateful to you for being ready, willing, and worthy to administer to her in her time of need.” He received his own blessings from the experience, as you heard.
I’m thankful for worthy sons who, through their faith and priesthood authority, were able to invoke a blessing upon me at a time of need. I want you to know that I am a witness of many such blessings and miracles that have resulted by righteous men using their priesthood, and righteous women to call down the blessings of heaven. I have been a participant in many of them.
Brethren, I want you to know that this priesthood you are honored to bear is real. You are numbered among those who Nephi saw who are now armed with righteousness and the power of God. You are able to use this power at any time, at any place, to bless the lives of those who are in need of blessings. The Lord has placed great trust in you to live so that you’ll be ready and able to use it whenever you are called upon to use it, just like Brother Dan.
The Lord added this instruction about its use: “The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected to the powers of heaven, and… the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.” (D&C, 121:36)
Brethren, to you I would simply ask the question, “How are you doing today? Are you ready, willing, and able to respond to an urgent, even a life-saving request for you to use your priesthood to bless someone in time of need?” If for any reason you answer no, then I encourage you to get an appointment to see your bishop. These two brethren are always available. He will help you to resolve any problem you may be having. If needed, he will help you to repent so that you will be able to respond when the Lord needs you to help Him.
Sisters, you are entitled to the blessings of our Father in Heaven as you are called and as you serve them. This was demonstrated in so many ways with this experience. I plead with you to live so that you will always be able to respond to every call that is extended to you. I urge you to live so that you will be a powerful force to encourage these brethren to always honor their priesthood.
Live so that you will be worthy of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. He will watch over you and teach you all that you must know. As members of the Lord’s Church, it is your blessing to never be alone. Live worthy of it. The day will come when you will share in all the blessings of the priesthood as you are sealed to your husband for time and all eternity.
As Elder John A. Widstoe long ago expressed it, “Men have no greater claim than women upon the blessings that issue from the Priesthood and accompany its possession.” Did you hear that, sisters? “Men have no greater claim than women upon the blessings that issue from the Priesthood and accompany its possession…. The man holds the Priesthood, performs the priestly duties of the Church, but his wife enjoys with him every other privilege derived from the possession of the Priesthood.” (Priesthood and Church Government , 83)
Brothers and sisters, knowing as I do of the power of priesthood blessings, I encourage you to seek priesthood blessings whenever you are in need of an infusion of spiritual power. Call upon your fathers, your home teachers, your priesthood leaders and your bishops, to bless you in times of need.
I add my personal witness and testimony that the power of God, the holy priesthood, has been restored to the earth in our day by the Prophet Joseph Smith. I testify that John the Baptist appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and restored the Aaronic Priesthood. I also testify that Peter, James, and John appeared to them and restored the Melchizedek Priesthood. This was followed by a visit from the prophet Elijah, who restored to the earth the keys of the priesthood to administer the ordinances of the temple and the sealing power and authority.
All of these keys and all of these blessings are held today by the president of this Church, the only true and living church upon the face of the earth, even Thomas Monson. God bless you in your studies and the preparations you are making now to be ready to lead, guide, and direct His Church and kingdom here on earth, as we prepare ourselves for the time when His Beloved Son, even the Lord Jesus Christ, will return and reign here upon this earth. In His sacred name, even Jesus Christ, amen.