Monday, January 3, 2011

Setting the Tone

I love this photo from the Glendora First Ward because it depticts a group of High Priests in the act of serving.
Yesterday was my first opportunity to teach a lesson in my High Priests Quorum.  It was intimidating.  There are two former Bishops in there as well as one former Stake President, among others.

I wanted to set the tone for the time I shall be serving them as their Group Leader.  I have very little experience in a Melchizedek Priesthood Quorum, having spent most of my adult life serving with the youth in Aaronic Priesthood.  I prayed at great length concerning what I should teach on that initial occasion.  I decided to discuss Section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants beginning with verse 33:
33How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints.
I tried to help them understand that God would pour down knowledge upon their heads regarding their Stewardships.  They kept leading the conversation elsewhere.  I wonder if they are uncomfortable with the notion of personal revelation.  I wanted them to understand that God would willingly direct them in their Home Teaching and other service opportunities.  I hope the notion eventually sank in because I don't want to spend my time as High Priests Group Leader telling them what to do. These are fine men fully capable of getting their own direction from Heaven.  Verse 33 is dear to me because God has poured down knowledge in abundance upon my head.  Were it not so, I could not be sober today.  I want to create a culture in my Quorum in which we stand shoulder to shoulder in the service of the Lord.  One in which they are not always looking to their leaders for direction.

34Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
35Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
36That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
Key to our success as a Quorum is the way in which we go about performing our labors.  I think the reason most people reject having Home Teachers in their homes is a distinct resistance to manipulation.  We have set out to satisfy goals, fulfill assignments and carry out the work of the Lord and we have commonly looked upon our charges as obstacles rather than opportunities.  We have marched into their homes and called them to repentance and left them with the impression that we think them of lower stature than ourselves.  To the extent that we have done this we have not handled the Priesthood on principles of righteousness, but have more closely followed the manipulative path of Satan.
37That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
Now it was time for me to make a confession to my brethren.  They are already aware that I am a recovering addict.  I explained that the last time I had a Melchizedek Priesthood assignment (I was Stake Mission President) I came away with a bitter taste in my mouth.  I had set out to be the best Stake Mission President in the Church.  My numbers were exceptional and I received a good deal of praise for my accomplishments.  I also alienated many of the Stake Missionaries as well as the Stake President in the process.  I perceived them all to be obstacles in the accomplishment of my objectives.  From the much more humble perspective of an addict who realizes his utter dependence upon God for everything; I see that I was completely wrong.  During those years in the Stake Mission I had:  undertaken to cover my sins, I had sought to gratify my pride and vain ambitions, I had sought to exercise control and dominion by compulsion upon the souls of the missionaries in my charge as well as the people we taught and also the Stake President I was supposed to be serving.  I told my brethren that I didn't ever want to go to that dark place again and that I hoped they would correct me, if I were to revert to my former and wicked ways.

I then personally read these verses:

38Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God. 
39We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
40Hence many are called, but few are chosen 

I had been left to kick against the pricks and to persecute the saints.  I told anyone who would listen about the offences people had committed to hinder my progress.  I had fought against God and been left to my own sinful devices.  I felt the Spirit in the room as by Quorum mates considered what I was trying to tell them.

It was such a blessing to go from there to explain what I hoped for us in our future as we serve side by side.

41No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
42By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
43Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
44That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.

I promised the High Priests that I would lead in such a manner and plead with them to fulfill their callings with those principles and characteristics foremost in their hearts and minds.  We need to enter the homes of those we serve with no other object than to bless, lift, serve and inspire.  These are the characteristics Ammon Mosiahsson exhibited when he went to serve King Lamoni with the distinct exception of "without guile."  So, he wasn't perfect, neither are we.  But we can better approach such a standard if we will emulate such great prophets in our effort to do our duty.

We High Priests can do this.  We can serve in love, rather than compulsion and we can accomplish the will of the Lord if we invite Him to join us in our service.  He will give us strength for the task.  He will speak peace to our souls.  He will give us the words we must speak.  And if we:

45Let (our) bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish (our) thoughts unceasingly; then shall (our) confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon (our) soul(s) as the dews from heaven.
46The Holy Ghost shall be (our) constant  companion, and (our) scepter an unchanging scepter of  righteousness and truth; and (our) dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto(us) forever and ever.
The key to all of this can be found in the word LET.  Read it again in verse 35.  Brother Wilcox once related a story of finding himself looking in the opposing mirrors in a sealing room in the temple.  He was standing.  He found him self bobbing back and forth in order to get a better view, when he sudden realized that he could see Eternity a lot better if he could just get out of his own way.  That is how we let these things happen for us; by getting out our own way.  By refraining from thinking of ourselves and our own convenience and glory and by spending our efforts thinking about the needs and fears, and hopes, and dreams, and desires of those we are called to serve.

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