Although the New Testament informs us what officers were in the Church, it says but little as to their duties or callings. Paul does say, in the 4th chapter of the Ephesians, that, from the Apostles down, they were "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry," etc., "till we all come in the unity of the faith;" but what the special duty of each was is left for modern revelation to determine, so far as we are concerned. The ancient disciples were, of course, posted in all these matters, but they never committed them to writing, or, if so, their manuscripts were either lost or destroyed through persecution of the church.
The book of Doctrine and Covenants, commencing on page 115, new edition, says, "An apostle is an elder, and it is his calling to baptize and to ordain other elders, priests, teachers, and deacons, and to administer bread and wine – the emblems of the flesh and blood of Christ – and to confirm those who are baptized into the church, by the laying on of hands for the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, according to the scriptures; and to teach, expound, exhort, baptize, and watch over the church; and to confirm the church by the laying on of hands, and the giving of the Holy Ghost, and to take the lead of all meetings. The elders are to conduct the meetings as they are led by the Holy Ghost, according to the commandments and revelations of God.
"The priest's duty is to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize, and administer the sacrament, and visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret, and attend to all family duties; and he may also ordain other priests, teachers, and deacons. And he is to take the lead of meetings when there is no elder present; but when there is an elder present, he is only to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize, and visit the house of each member, exhorting them to pray vocally and in secret, and attend to all family duties. In all these duties the priest is to assist the elder if occasion requires."
Next in order is the duty of the teachers, who are standing ministers in the Church. The office of a teacher, although in the grade of priesthood reckoned as one of the lesser, is, nevertheless, one of the most important callings in the Church; and, above all men, those who hold this office should be exemplary. On the other hand, if there is any preference to be shown, I think the teachers should have it as they visit among the Saints. Their duties are so important to the general welfare. I trust our aged and venerable Presiding Bishop, Brother Edward Hunter, will pardon me for quoting a few words which I once heard fall from his lips in a Bishops' meeting, in Salt Lake City, on this subject. After telling the Bishops to instruct the Saints to set their houses in order when the teachers came to visit them, he said, "The teachers are the only men who can preside in my house when I am at home. I call my house to order and give the presidency to them during their visit."
Those words fell upon my heart like "apples of gold in pictures of silver," and, although thirty years have passed, they are as fresh in my mind as when first spoken. I can recommend them to all Latter-day Saints, not only as falling from the lips of a great and good man, but for their intrinsic value.
Of course the offices are all of vital importance to the Saints. The will of God cannot "be done on earth as it is in heaven" unless they are all in the Church and all magnified. And without them all it would not be the "kingdom of God."
Jesus said of John the Baptist, "Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he." Hence we see that John, although a great prophet, holding only the lesser priesthood, could not establish the kingdom. But after the Savior had ordained twelve to the higher priesthood, he said to them, "the kingdom of heaven is within you." That is as much as to say that they held all the authority necessary to build up the kingdom of God on the earth.
We will now come to the duties of teachers, and and you will see I have not attached too much importance to the calling. We will quote from page 116 in the book of Doctrine and Covenants:
"The teacher's duty is to watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them, and see that there is no iniquity in the church – neither hardness with each other – neither lying, back-biting, nor evil speaking; and see that the church meet together often, and also see that all the members do their duty, and he is to take the lead of meetings in the absence of the elder or priest – and is to be assisted always, in all his duties in the church, by the deacons, if occasion requires; but neither teachers nor deacons have authority to baptize, administer the sacrament, or lay on hands: they are, however, to warn, expound, exhort, and teach and invite all to come unto Christ. Every elder, priest, teacher, or deacon, is to be ordained according to the gifts and callings of God unto him; and he is to be ordained by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is in the one who ordains him."
Monday, November 14, 2011
Daniel Tyler on Priesthood - Part II
The following appeared as Daniel Tyler, "The Gospel Principles: The Priesthood", The Juvenile Instructor 13/07 (1 April 1878): 77.