In the Church we're taught that priesthood "authority" is separate from priesthood "power."
For example, Boyd K. Packer taught:
"We have done very well at distributing the authority of the priesthood. We have priesthood authority planted nearly everywhere. But distributing the authority of the priesthood has raced, I think, ahead of distributing the power of the priesthood."
(Boyd K. Packer, "The Power of the Priesthood," General Conference, April 2010.)
This has always been somewhat of a puzzle to me. How are authority and power different? Can you have one without the other?
And when did we start splitting the baby, dividing God's authority from his power, and vice versa?
Let's consider the classic example of a young 16 year old teenager blessing the sacrament:
I remember being a priest and hearing that if I blessed the sacrament on Sunday morning, but had sinned the previous night (rendering me unworthy) and went ahead and blessed the sacrament anyway (which we were told not to do), then in this worst-case scenario God would still honor the ordinance for all of the people in the ward partaking of the emblems (who probably suspected all along what a lousy sinner I was) because we had the "authority."
In other words, my unworthiness would not be transferred to the bread and water based on invoking God's "authority."
But . . . but, but. Let's say I needed to give someone a blessing to heal the sick, or perform some sort of miracle, then I was in real trouble.
Because as a sinner, I would have no power. I would be an unplugged lightbulb unable to draw on a power source to give light; unable to draw on the powers of heaven because I had cut the connection with my knifelike sin.
And so we've created this odd dichotomy between authority and power.
(As an adult, I've been told not to give priesthood blessings to people "by the power of the Melchizedek priesthood," but to always say "by the authority of the Melchizedek priesthood.")
And so, from the twisted reasoning of young men's minds everywhere, we conclude that:
1. Priesthood authority is institutional and inseverable. Thus no matter how awful we are, if we are properly ordained then God has to respect the actions we take in his name under our allotted authority; but
2.Power in the priesthood is personal and severable, dependent on our individual worthiness.
Well, how convenient! But is this what the scriptures teach?
No Purse, No Scrip . . . No Service
When Jesus called 12 Apostles, He gave them both power and authority.
Are they a packaged deal?
Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power AND authority [2-for-1] over devils, and to cure diseases.
And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.
And he said, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, nor money; neither have two coats.
This whole notion of authority surviving on life support when we lack power is quite strange, considering we are told:
And it came to pass that whosoever was baptized by the power AND authority of God was added to his church.
According to this scripture, it looks like authority alone ain't gonna do it.
Let's look at two of the greatest prophets of all time, Nephi and Lehi (not those ones, I'm talking about the ones in the Book of Helaman), of whom it was said:
Nephi and Lehi did preach unto the Lamanites with such great power AND authority, for they had power AND authority GIVENunto them that they might speak.
Here again we see that power and authority are gifts given to us by God, not something we get from ecclesiastical office.
The point I am trying to make is authority is a spiritual gift, not an institutional endowment.
For example, Jesus taught with "authority," shocking his listeners because he held no ecclesiastical office.
When authority comes from God (as opposed to from an institution) it is always accompanied by power.
Let's not forget Nephi, son of Nephi, son of Helaman, son of Helaman, son of Alma, son of Alma, who raised his brother Timothy from the dead.
Did bringing Timothy back to life require authority and/or power?
And Nephi did minister with power AND with great authority.
(3 Nephi 7:17)
Well, looks like he needed both.
The question we should be asking ourselves is:
- Why did we create this sophisticated explanation about authority being separate from power?
Is it because we needed an explanation for having a "form of godliness (i.e. authority) but denying the power thereof" (2 Tim. 3:5)?
The Callings of God
If power and authority do not arise from ecclesiastical office, but are actually gifts from God, then this explains a lot.
It might explain, for example, the scripture in D&C 20:60 (the "Articles and Covenants of the Church" when it was revealed), that says:
Every elder, priest, teacher, or deacon
What percentage is "every?"
is to be ordained
Okay, ordination is important. After all, we have an Article of Faith that talks about the "laying on of hands." So let's see how ordination works:
according to the gifts and callings of God unto him;
Well, this is where things start to go off the rails.
It looks like we're supposed to be ordained in relation to our gifts and callings that have been bestowed upon us by God, so that the body of Christ on earth is constituted as God wills it in heaven.
But we've sort of put the cart before the horse, haven't we? Nowadays we don't ordain people based on their gifts and callings of God, but based on their age.
and he is to be ordained by the power of the Holy Ghost,
That's unexpected. Who ordains us? Not a man or men. But a member of the Godhead: the Holy Ghost.
which is in the one who ordains him.
Question: If this verse is teaching that the person who ordains another by the power of the Holy Ghost must first have the power of the Holy Ghost "in" him, what happens if he does not actually have the power of the Holy Ghost in him when he performs the ordination?
Sons of Mosiah Slayin' It
Clark Burt, the author of Given by the Finger of God, commented on the last entry in this Series, and his comment was the inspiration behind this post.
I love the way Clark teaches because he doesn't sugarcoat things. (What is the opposite of flattery?)
If I am like Honey Nut Cheerios, Clark is a bowl of Kellogg's All-Bran; and the older I get, the more my spirit craves the fiber found in his pure testimony of Christ.
"The spirit of revelation (knowing what has been revealed is true) and the spirit of prophecy (the testimony of Jesus), while different, always go hand in hand, and a prophet must have both."
As I searched the scriptures for Revelation and Prophecy, I discovered something Mormon wrote about the Sons of Mosiah, who:
had the spirit of prophecy, [so they were Prophets] and the spirit of revelation, [so they were Revelators] and when they taught, they taught with power ANDauthority of God.
What made their teaching "powerful" and "authoritative?"
Well, it tells us right there in the verse ― they had the spirit of prophecy and revelation.
My point is this: prophets are not "powerful" at all ― their "power" all stems from the Word they preach (and not from themselves), like Samson's strength bound to his long hair.
Likewise, their authority comes from the Word they preach, not their titles or office.
In fact, most often we find prophets to be quite odd human beings, don't we? Wild men and locust-eating weirdos.
So don't focus on their haircuts or clothing or smells or accents.