No 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; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—43 Reproving 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;

thus D&C 121

There’s a puzzle. The conventional interpretation is pretty straightforward and never to be despised. But it doesn’t seem to fit the actual church very well. In fact, priesthood is everywhere a form of power or influence.

I do things solely because the Bishop has asked, not because he happens to be the most persuasive and loving person in my ward. People went on missions when Joseph Smith told them to because he was the mouthpiece of the Lord, not because of his extraordinary gentleness. Priesthood authority is fundamental to the Church. Sometimes with teeth. Excommunication, for example. Withholding a temple recommend. Joseph Smith cursed people. God does also.

I don’t think our priesthood leaders are all doing it wrong. We could try to save the appearances by making a distinction between how authority is acquired and how it is maintained. Worth thinking about.

But maybe what we are describing here is an ideal and to the extent that we aren’t at that ideal, we are all responsible. There is as much a duty in these verses to follow where led by persuasion, long suffering, gentleness, meekness, etc., as there is to lead by it. But authority is basic to the mortal experience, I don’t think it can be removed. The ideal here may be an ultimate, eternal ideal. The last verse in this section, one of the most beautiful verses in all scripture, suggests so:

The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.

We want that, we move toward it, but we should not expect that kind of purely loving divine family relationship in its pure form until we have reached the sum of all our infinities.

Let’s look at D&C 121 from a different angle. The priesthood isn’t supposed to be itself the source of authority. Where does the authority come from? There is such a thing as natural authority, and in the human species men are the ones who have it. Maybe the priesthood is male precisely because we want to keep down the extent to which the priesthood is the prop of authority. There are different kinds of natural authority. If we would please God, we should cultivate those kinds of authority that can be done with love and kindness.

Continue reading at the original source →