Hey guys, so in past episodes, we’ve talked a lot about the priesthood. Today, we’re going to talk about what we call the oath and covenant of the priesthood— what it is, why it’s important, and who it applies to. Stay tuned.
Alright, so as per the Church’s handbook, the priesthood is the power and authority of God that He grants “to His sons and daughters on earth” to help to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” While only men are ordained to a specific priesthood office, both men and women receive priesthood power and authority. We use this power in our homes, in our callings, and in the temple. As former-Relief Society President Jean B. Bingham and President Russell M. Nelson taught in 2020, the promises of the oath and covenant of the priesthood apply just as much to women as they do to men.
BYU professor Barbara Gardner added that “the oath and covenant of the priesthood is … relevant to all who have received their [temple] endowments ….” She taught that “the oath and covenant primarily applies to those who have made and kept their temple covenants, including those made in the initiatory and sealing ordinances.”
So, with that as a foundation — what actually is the oath and covenant? Well, we get this terminology from Doctrine and Covenants section 84, from verses 33 to about 42, which I highly encourage you to pause and read. And to help you never forget this reference, here’s Jedi Master Yoda with a helpful mnemonic device: “If the oath and covenant, you desire to explore — go, you must, to section 84.”
As you know, a covenant is a two-way promise. But the fact is, as always, God promises to give us much more than we can possibly give Him. Let’s take a look at some of the terms of the oath and covenant, starting in verse 33:
The first requirement listed is to faithfully obtain the two levels or orders of the priesthood, which are the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods. Are we talking here about men being ordained to the priesthood, or are we talking about men and women receiving the ordinances of the priesthood? Personally, I agree with Elder Paul B. Pieper, who taught in 2016, “It is interesting that in the oath and covenant of the priesthood, the Lord uses the verbs obtain and receive. He does not use the verb ordain. It is in the temple that men and women—together—obtain and receive the blessings and power of both the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods.”
Our next obligation in D&C 84 is to “magnify our calling.” Thomas S. Monson expounded on this concept in 1986: “And how does one magnify a calling? Simply by performing the service that pertains to it.”
In return, “The Lord promises that if we keep our part of the covenant, we will be ‘sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of [our] bodies’ (D&C 84:33). We can expect to be strengthened in body and spirit as we fulfill our callings.
“We may also ‘become the sons of Moses and of Aaron’ (D&C 84:34). The sons of Moses and Aaron administered the ordinances of salvation to the children of Israel. We have the same privilege of administering these sacred ordinances through the priesthood today.” Again, this clearly applies to both men and women in the temple.
“The Lord [also] promises that we will become ‘the seed of Abraham’ (D&C 84:34). In other words, we may receive the blessings promised to Abraham and his seed.” And for more info on what those blessings promised in the Abrahamic Covenant are, go check out this episode.
We’re promised to become “the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.” In other words, receiving priesthood power is one way we become God’s covenant people. Ultimately, we are promised all that the Father hath. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but we’re talking about exaltation here. Men are not promised exaltation just through priesthood ordination. Exaltation can only be received by a man and a woman who are sealed together in the temple. Elder Pieper taught that “The full blessings of the priesthood are received together as husband and wife or not at all.”
We’re told in verse 40 that the Lord cannot break this promise to us. But it is conditional, and we’re given a warning in verse 41 about the consequences we may face if we do not live up to our end of the deal: “…whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come.”
Now, to be clear, we are not expected to be perfect. That’s just not going to happen in this life. But we are expected to repent when we mess up. As Anthony Sweat taught, “God doesn’t want perfection; He wants dedication. He wants loyal[ty]. I can’t do perfect, but I can do loyal.” And as Taylor Halverson added, we have the opportunity to declare that loyalty each week when we partake of the sacrament.
Notice that in order to qualify for the penalty, you’ve got to do two things: Break the covenant and altogether turn therefrom. We’re not told exactly what it means to “altogether turn therefrom,” but my guess is that it implies some serious intentional rebellion that we are unwilling to repent of. Thankfully, it’s God’s job to make that judgment.
Anyway, we’ve barely scratched the surface of this topic. There’s so much more we could talk about. We could do an entire episode just on the difference between an oath and a covenant, but hopefully, this video has given you a starting point for your study. If you want to keep going, start with D&C 84, check out the links in the YouTube description, and have a great day!
— Doctrine and Covenants section 84: https://bit.ly/420X895
— “Using Section 84 to Emphasize the Priesthood Power of Women,” by Barbara Morgan Gardner (BYU RSC): https://bit.ly/3pUppRw
— “The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood is Relevant to Women,” Jean B. Bingham interview with President Russell M. Nelson: https://bit.ly/3pN4FuI
— “Revealed Realities of Mortality,” by Elder Paul B. Pieper (Jan. 2016 Liahona): https://bit.ly/3q9Jnri
— “Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood,” via the Encyclopedia of Mormonism: https://bit.ly/3oc2cK6
— “Faith and the Oath and Covenants of the Priesthood,” by Henry B. Eyring (April 2008): https://bit.ly/3pRzsqn
— “Come Follow Me – Doctrine and Covenants 84: ‘The Power of Godliness,” by Unshaken (Jared Halverson): https://bit.ly/3q5rgmy
— “Come Follow Me Insights (Doctrine and Covenants 84, Jul 26-Aug 1),” by Scripture Central: https://bit.ly/3OAvm0c
— “Hard Questions in Church History with Lynne Hilton Wilson: Week 31-32 (D&C 84, Jul 26-Aug 1),” by Doctrine and Covenants Central: https://bit.ly/43qosyN
— Lesson #1 in “Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B,” via the Church’s website: https://bit.ly/43fHlo3
— “The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood,” in the Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: https://bit.ly/3Ou0G0q
— “The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood,” by S. Brent Farley (BYU Studies): https://bit.ly/3ok5Oty
— “Oath and covenant of the priesthood” via Church News (2004): https://bit.ly/3BHzdAT
— “D&C 84 and the Priesthood Power of Women,” by Barbara Morgan Gardner (BYU RSC): https://bit.ly/3BI2A6c
— Suggested reading:
— For starters: D&C 121, Alma 13, Hebrews 7-8
— “Making Sense of the Doctrine and Covenants,” by Steven Harper (see chapter on D&C 84).