I had a realization during today’s discussion with the young women about the priesthood that suddenly threw into focus all the fuzziness of lessons on the priesthood from when I was a youth.
Growing up, whenever we had lessons about the priesthood, there was always one on how to “honor and uphold the priesthood.” Except that’s never what the lesson was about. And those lessons always felt slightly off for me. And today I realized why. Those lessons WERE slightly off. They weren’t lessons about how to “honor and uphold the priesthood,” they were lessons about how to “honor and uphold the priesthood holders.”
There is a definite difference between the two. The priesthood is not those who use it.
In the case of honoring and upholding priesthood holders you are getting lessons about how it’s up to women to make sure men have pure thoughts and do righteous deeds. Which is off. Men have their agency. Men make their own choices about their own thoughts and actions. The truth is that it is on each of us to be the type of person that makes it easier for those around us, no matter who they are, to live good, honest lives. I can choose who I want to be with, just as easy as any male can. And I choose to be with people who uplift me. Men can make those same choices. These were lessons about social skills, etiquette, and being kind and decent human beings. They taught nothing about priesthood power.
However when we talk about honoring and upholding the priesthood, we are talking about honoring the covenants we make through priesthood power such as baptism and marriage. We are talking about studying and using the scriptures which we have through the righteous exercise of priesthood power. We are talking about keeping the commandments and following the counsel God has given us. We are talking about accepting the atonement in our lives. The priesthood is the power of God that allows for our salvation. Honoring and upholding that power means striving for salvation and exaltation.
The summary for the discussion outline we used today even states:
We honor the priesthood by sustaining our leaders and following their counsel. We seek for and live worthy to receive the blessings of the priesthood. We show respect for the authority God has given to bless His children.
It’s all right there – keeping the commandments, honoring our covenants, respecting the authority of God. There is no gender difference in how men and women honor and uphold the priesthood.
If you are the type of person who is striving for salvation you will be living a good and honest life, uplifting those around you, and encouraging others to do the same. But you will be doing it because you honor the priesthood and understand what the priesthood is. Not because it would be your fault if the people around you made bad choices.
The surface application of the two lessons might be the same. But the difference is in the doctrine and principles behind them. The why. Understanding the true doctrine of the priesthood allows us to truly honor the power of God, to do more than just strive to be a good influence on others, but to strive for salvation.