late svithe: The Two Lenses of Priesthood and Charity


At Church yesterday Sunday School was on Priesthood and and Rs/Ph was on Charity. Juxtaposing these two made me realize that here we have two all-important doctrines. Nothing matters without the proper priesthood and without charity, you are nothing.

In many ways, these two facts seem contradictory.

OperationAs my favorite sociologist said in elders quorum in response to Peter ("And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins."), the emphasis on charity shows that life is not a game of Operation with strict rules and if you touch the sides then BZZZZZT! you're out. That's not the way God rolls.

I agree with this. It's charity that matters. Charity burns away sins in the sense that when we have charity we are less likely to commit them, but in our continued imperfection, as Peter said, charity can also cover them up.

(Charity, it's worth mentioning, is the pure love of Christ). I suspect that as we develop it ourselves, we are able to tap more directly into the Atonement. But this is just a speculative aside.)

So back to priesthood, which seems more exclusive as we Mormon generally speak of it. But is that perspective correct? Yes. And no.

God loves all his children and wants them to have it all. And priesthood is God's power. And wouldn't he use his power to these ends?

And so while the god of Mormon belief is a bit strict on his ordinances, it's not BZZZT! you're out. This is why we're so big on proxy ordinances. It's about love and expansion of that love and giving the gifts of God to all. (Or, more accurately, offering the gifts of God to all. We're not big on making anyone do anything.)


Okay, I need to get on with my day. Please clarify my thoughts for me in the comments.


last week's more sensible svithe


  1. .

    Sorry this is such a mess. Should have written it up yesterday when it made sense. (And, incidentally, had nothing to do with proxy ordinances. And the lens metaphor was going to go somewhere.)

  2. .

    You call that clarification?

  3. Take home message: Charity covereth a multitude of sins.

    Shorthand: Hester Prynne

  4. Sometimes I wonder whether having charity is a prerequisite for being able to make full use of priesthood power.

  5. .

    I think there's something to that. Consider the Christ Equation: Charity + Priesthood =

  6. I think we are a worrying people, and that God gives us a lot more wiggle (read: learning) room than we think He does.

  7. Our High Council speaker last month said something interesting. He posited that "if you can worry, you can ponder" and went on to theorize that worrying and pondering were two sides of the same coin.

  8. .

    Oh, that's very nice.

  9. Sometimes I wonder whether having charity is a prerequisite for being able to make full use of priesthood power.

    Doctrine and Covenants 121 is explicit about charity being necessary for someone (male or female) to exercise the fullest extent of power in the priesthood:

    "No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only [...] by love unfeigned.

    "Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith."

    If we do these things, the Lord promises a greater measure of confidence in His presence, a deeper understanding of the doctrines of the priesthood (the eternal realities of Godhood), the Holy Ghost's constant companionship, and eternally expansive power, influence, and dominion. In short, He ultimately offers Godhood---eternal progress, power, and lives---to those who direct their actions, attitudes, and personal influence through the channels of charity. After all, that's what God is: love---all of His attributes and power are kept in check and made beneficial to the universe through His pure (and purifying) love.

  10. This is a wonderful discussion! The entire point of the priesthood is service and charity. The entire point of God's existence is service to others.

  11. .

    The circle of spiritual life.

  12. lol. as i was reading scriptures this morning i came across the same scripture that Tyler mentioned and it totally made me think of this post. he beat me to it, though.

  13. I'd like to clarify your statement that we have two all-important doctrines, because I happen to think that we only have one:

    Christ's Atonement.

    But you're also 100% right in saying that charity and priesthood are all-important, because they are how the Atonement was made.

    Since the use of God's power by us fallen humans is also made possible by and through the Atonement, we have priesthood because of the Atonement.

    And I think all y'all are really on to something with the relationship between priesthood and charity. God is love, God's power is love, and priesthood authority is ultimately just a way of organizing people to let that love shine through more fully.

    Thanks a bunch for posting this. It has continued to make my day (as to why I'm commenting on this 7 months after it's posting, I followed the link from this week's svithe, and got to the svithes from Th's comment on Jame's Goldberg's family history blog

  14. .

    It's an appropriate clarification and I thank you for it.

    And come by anytime.