Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Power to bless our families and homes

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Priesthood Session from the April 1976 Conference.
Every time I write about one of the Priesthood Sessions, I feel like I go on and on about how women as well as men can use the power of the priesthood, through their endowment received in the temple. And I don't mean to OVERemphasize that. I think I just can't help reading the talks through the lens of "But what does this mean for ME?"—but I realize there may be talks that have better or more direct application to the kind of priesthood power men hold, and the authority they exercise, and I'm fine with that! I like the fact that our leaders tailor their messages to their audiences, and I know the primary audience for these talks were men! And I do find value in thinking of how these messages might apply to my sons, and how I can reinforce the concepts for their benefit.

Still, I just naturally keep coming back to the applications I can find here for my own circumstances, and those keep circling around how to learn to exercise my own God-given priesthood power. It's fascinating to think about this potent—but maybe latent—gift of God's power within me, just waiting for me to learn how to activate it! And maybe I already am using it more than I realize. But I'd like to learn to use it more deliberately or effectively!

So I was immediately interested when I read Elder H. Burke Peterson's statement that
All of us who hold the priesthood have the authority to act for the Lord, but the effectiveness of our authority—or if you please, the power that comes through that authority—depends on the pattern of our lives; it depends on our righteousness.
That makes sense (it echoes Doctrine and Covenants 121) but I loved it when he got even more specific:
May I suggest that many of us have lost sight of one of the most important reasons for our holding the priesthood. To be an effective teachers quorum president, elders quorum president, bishop, or counselor is important—we spend many hours in training these officers. To perform the vital priesthood ordinances is essential. But even more important than all these is the need to learn how to use the priesthood to bless our families and homes. 
If we live for it, ours can be a power given us from our Heavenly Father that will bring peace to a troubled household. Ours can be a power that will bless and comfort little children, that will bring sleep to tear-stained eyes in the wee hours of the morning. Ours can be the power that will bring happiness to a family home evening, the power to calm the unsettled nerves of a tired wife. Ours can be the power that will give direction to a confused and vulnerable teenager. Ours, the power to bless a daughter before she goes on her first date or before her temple marriage, or to bless a son before his departure for a mission or college. Ours, my young brethren, can be the power to stop evil thoughts of a group of boys gathered together in vulgar conversation. Ours can be the power to heal the sick and comfort the lonely. These are some of the important purposes of the priesthood. 
I love these detailed examples! Bringing sleep and comfort to wakeful children! Calming down a contentious Family Home Evening! Those are tangible, practical abilities any mother would LOVE to harness (and of course, it would be great if fathers could harness them too…and I love that Elder Peterson thought of them specifically in the context of fathers). I wanted to stop him in the middle of his talk and say, "Wait! Elaborate on this! HOW, exactly, do we access these powers?"

And the best answer I could find was from that first paragraph I quoted—that we access the power through righteousness. Elder Peterson did give a little more guidance:
He who has developed the power and uses it to do the things we have mentioned will honestly consider the righteous desires of his family, even though they may not be exactly the same as his. He will listen to those in his home with the same attention he would give a priesthood leader. He will listen—even to the smallest child. 
He will put his family’s welfare ahead of his own comfort. 
He will learn to control himself. He will not use a quick temper as an excuse—he will rise above it. It needn’t always be with him. 
He will understand that a soft answer turneth away wrath. His voice will never be heard in anger in his home; he will never punish in anger.
Those are all pretty solidly in the realm of "NEEDS WORK" for me, but it is a good motivation to think of all the benefits if I do improve in those areas! I need to remember that the effects of becoming more personally righteous are tangible—that they lead to real, actual power through which I can accomplish real, actual miracles in my family.

I also loved this next section of Elder Peterson's talk, where he mentions how important knowledge the priesthood is for EVERY member of the church, not just for the men. He doesn't state it straight out the way I have begun to understand it myself (i.e., that women who have received their temple endowments have priesthood power through those temple ordinances, although that power can take different forms and be accompanied by different authority and responsibility than the priesthood power men are given. But it is all the same power). But he seems to aiming in the same direction: toward the greater involvement of women with the priesthood, and the greater understanding—in both men and women's lives—of why and how God's power is important to us. He says:
The fact that mothers are one of the keys and secrets to the strength of the Aaronic Priesthood would lead me to believe that more time must be spent by priesthood leaders in training girls in proper priesthood principles, that future Aaronic Priesthood generations might be as blessed as were Helaman’s 2000 sons. 
It is evident that the brethren of the priesthood are spending a great deal of their time and effort in planning ways to affect the character and spirituality of the priesthood boys. This must continue. However, only a small fraction of this effort is put into the priesthood education and spiritual development of the girls. How can we expect in them as fine a product if we do not give them an increase in attention? Unless girls have had a model and know what priesthood qualities to look for in an eternal companion, the consequences may be that many families in generations to come will suffer because of wrong marriage choices. This need not be if priesthood brethren will be the appropriate models and give more earnest understanding and energy to the training of the girls.
If I get called to teach the Young Women again, I think I will try to give this a much greater emphasis than I have before. And I will definitely try to teach it to my daughters! I haven't ever felt resentful of men holding the priesthood, but I have had times where I kind of tuned out talks or lessons on the priesthood because I thought it wasn't applicable to me. Now I realize I can use this knowledge just as much as the men can—and in just as practical of ways!

I can't think of many things that would be MORE beneficial to my current circumstances than the power to bless my family and my home beyond what my own capabilities would permit. Since I often feel how inadequate I am to the tasks that need to be done there, it is infinitely hopeful to think that my own limitations need not permanently limit me OR my family! Power in the priesthood: what an amazing gift!


Other posts in this series:

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