This is a dispensation of unbounded and unequaled privilege. With that privilege comes responsibility. Our challenge is to personally come to recognize just how blessed we really are, and what is expected of us because of those blessings.
The first Gospel Doctrine Sunday School lesson for this year has as its purpose to ‘help the members find their place in this last dispensation’. This article was born from that directive.
Recognizing our place
How do you convince an only child they are not spoiled? How do you teach a rich kid how to appreciate his parent’s wealth and his personal privilege? These are the same kinds of problems we, as Latter-day Saints, face. We are both spoiled and incredibly rich. How do we teach ourselves to appreciate not only our privilege, but the responsibilities that come because of our blessings?
Look back through your scriptures and look at the people the prophets led. In the beginning we had a line of great patriarchs that lasted down to the time of Moses. When we think of these times we think pretty much only about the prophets and their immediate families. Sure, the prophets had the priesthood. They had revelations and the gift of the Holy Ghost, but what about everyone else in their families and among their friends? We don’t know who had these blessings.
Anyone could pray and exercise faith, but revelations come through the power of the Holy Ghost, and only the prophets had the right to receive revelations for the church. The Holy Ghost is a function of the Melchizedek priesthood. What few people on the earth who were governed by a prophet held no priesthood at all? And there was a time when those that had priesthood authority were holders of the Aaronic priesthood only. This means that for most of human history very few had access at all to any kind of temple ordinances.
Personal revelation was a rarity, because again, revelation is a function of the Holy Ghost. During the time of Moses they had baptism, but I can find no reference to everyone recieving the gift of the Holy Ghost. They only had those gifts available through the Aaronic priesthood. Refer to Doctrine and Covenants 84:18-27 for more details about what priesthood Moses left Israel with when he left. This is an important passage of scripture. In it we learn that we cannot be sanctified without the higher priesthood, which priesthood God took from among the children of Israel because they hardened their hearts against Him.
So what exactly do we have that makes us so special in this last of all dispensations? The list may not be all that long, but what is included means the difference between life and death in magnitude of available blessings and required responsibilities.
- We have baptism with its complement of the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Israelites might have been baptized, but they did not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
It is through the gift of the Holy Ghost that we have the personal guidance of a member of the Godhead to show us the way back home to God. The Holy Ghost augments our conscience to make us more sensitive to right and wrong. He teaches us the mysteries of godliness and helps us understand more fully the doctrines of the gospel of Christ. It is through the gift of the Holy Ghost that we become more Christlike and are sanctified. Exaltation requires the gift of the Holy Ghost.
- All of us have access to the gifts and power of the Aaronic priesthood, which holds the keys to the administering of angels and repentance. It used to be that only grown men of special lineage were given this priesthood. Now every young boy 12 years of age and up can hold this priesthood. This gives our boys more spiritual power than the greatest rulers on earth.
- We all have access to the blessings of the Melchizedek priesthood and all of its attendant powers. There is the gift of the Holy Ghost, the temple ordinances, including the sealing power to bind on earth and in heaven, as well as all the spiritual gifts, like prophecy, speaking in tongues, and healing. There is the blessing of being able to be sanctified and become holy so we can see the face of God and live. And this is not just reserved for the prophets. This power is expected to be held worthily by every man in the Church. We should all be receiving personal revelation and improving our relationship with the Lord.
- We have keys of priesthood power that have been held in reserve since the early dispensations of the world. They were specifically held to be exercised in their full power in the last dispensation. These include things like the gathering of Israel and the sealing power. Again, these marvelous privileges are available to every man, woman, and child in the Church. To couples sealed in the temple all subsequent children to that union are born under the covenant, which grants them blessings of an eternal nature not available in any other time or place, generally speaking, than in this dispensation.
We don’t know just how many of these blessings were available to the original patriarchs, because the records just don’t tell us anything except that the prophets had the priesthood authority. We do know that they had the sealing power, but we don’t know how widespread its use was among the children of men.
The long and the short of it is this, we, as common people, not prophets at all, have all the blessings and privileges, and in many cases far more blessings and privileges, than many of the prophets had throughout time. Most prophets had no temples to go to. They had no priesthood quorums or Relief Society sisters to rely on. They had no home or visiting teachers looking in on them to see how they were doing and to encourage them to continue on in faithful living. They had none of what we take for granted and whine about having to do.
When I was a child, being in the presence of a prophet or an apostle was a greater privilege than meeting a movie star. It was something one talked about for years after the fact. Now we see them broadcast into our homes on a regular basis and over social media. We are comfortable and familiar with their sight. How often do we take them for granted now that they have become so “commonplace?”
The Lord has laid on our shoulders many of the responsibilities once held for the prophets’ shoulders alone. We are each going to be held accountable for the missionary work and temple work needed to be done for the salvation of God’s children. As those living daily under the blessings and guiding authority of the Melchizedek priesthood we are expected to be living close to the Holy Ghost and receiving daily inspiration and guidance from the Spirit.
We are to be Saviors on Mt. Zion, helping the Savior in his great work of redeeming all of mankind on both sides of the veil. In exchange for this work we are promised the Spirit to sanctify us and through the Spirit we will come to understand the mysteries of God.
Yes, we have great blessings in this the last dispensation of time. We also have great responsibilities that go with these privileges. As we study the Doctrine and Covenants and the early history of the Church this year, I hope we will remember how great is our blessing and how deep is our obligation for those privileges. We are the living envy of every prophet and people of all previous dispensations of time. May we live up to these blessings.
Kelly P. Merrill
Kelly Merrill is semi retired and writes for https://gospelstudy.us. He lives with his wife in Idaho. His strength is being able to take difficult to understand subjects and break them down into understandable parts. He delights in writing about the gospel of Christ. Writing about the gospel is his personal missionary work to the members of the Church and to those of other faiths who are wanting to know more about Christ's gospel and His Church.