King Benjamin once said, “I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them” (Mosiah 4:29). Despite that here is a list of the top ten ways to lose power in the priesthood that I have personally seen in myself and in others, all of which are found in the scriptures. Though it should go without saying, this list applies and will be particular to members of the church who have been given the priesthood (you can’t exactly lose power for something you don’t have):
10. Building your own kingdom instead of God’s.
Everything with which you have been blessed, and everything with which you may yet be blessed, should be used for the building up of God’s kingdom on the earth. When visited with temporal prosperity, you ought to recognize that God has simply chosen you as the object through whom the building up of His kingdom has come. Indeed, when we pray, “thy kingdom come,” and then blessings of prosperity come, is the connection made that God is seeing where your heart is? It was once wisely said, “When you pray, ‘Thy kingdom come,’ you must first pray, ‘my kingdom go.'” Where your treasure is, there shall your heart be also; shall we therefore be as the rich young man who lost all power in the priesthood, or as the apostles who forsook all to follow Christ? Can any other state of heart bring power in the priesthood?
“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? Why is it that ye murmur among yourselves, saying, We cannot obey thy word, because ye have not all these things, and seek to excuse yourselves, saying that after all these things do the Gentiles seek. Behold, I say unto you that your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. Wherefore, seek not the things of this world; but seek ye first to build up the kingdom of God and to establish his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (JST Matthew 6:35-38).
9. Participating in loud laughter.
This concept is sometimes difficult to comprehend since the Bible mentions that “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (Proverbs 17:22). The important distinction to consider is the adjectival designation of “loud” in terms of laughter. This is not laughing that comes from good humor or a merry heart. This type of laughter comes from levity and light-minded attitudes and situations. God will send his power into a person who can laugh when something is humorous; someone who laughs at inappropriate subjects, inappropriate times, or can’t control their laughter has not a mind tempered enough to contain the power God would send.
“Cast away your idle thoughts and your excess of laughter far from you…. Therefore, cease from all your light speeches, from all laughter, from all your lustful desires, from all your pride and light-mindedness, and from all your wicked doings” (D&C 88:69,121; see also D&C 59:15).
8. Watching a PG-13 movie.
We all know that the prophet Gordon B. Hinckley said that Mormons should not watch rated-R movies, and most Mormons do pretty good at avoiding movies of that rating. But we all know of PG-13 movies that contain material just as jarring, blasphemous, violent, or at times even as sexual as many rated-R films, if not more so in some cases. So do we obey the letter of the law (in this case, “R”) and accept anything that has the PG-13 rating on it and pin our spiritual health on the shoulders of a random board of movie raters, or do we take our spiritual health into our own hands and live the spirit of the law, which spirit says, “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord”? Participating, viewing, or listening to immoral content in any shape or form (or rating) will drain your power in the priesthood.
“Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; He shall dwell on high” (Isaiah 33:14-16).
7. Putting church culture above the gospel.
Mormons have the particular struggle of separating church tradition or culture from what is actually the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Mormons in Utah have the added difficulty of a third layer outside of those two, namely the area culture. There is no power in the priesthood for someone who insists that an element of local culture, say the holy virtue of business acumen, is a part of the church culture, which makes it a part of the Gospel, and therefore a principle to live by in order to be one of the few chosen of the Lord. (True it is that there are ‘few chosen’ highly successful businessmen in Utah and in the church, but most of these presently live in Hell—not Heaven—and will have a hard time making it out.) Or there is no power in the priesthood for someone who insists that wearing a white shirt, which is part of church culture, is therefore a part of the Gospel and therefore a principle to live by in order to maintain power in the priesthood. Get it straight: the Lord spent his mortal life specifically violating the “traditions of men” in his day that had polluted and obfuscated the truth of the spirit of His Gospel. He would do the same today; hopefully you have not withheld your hand of fellowship from a bearded man in a blue-collared shirt at church—you would never guess how the Lord would choose to appear if he came to your congregation.
“Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” (Matthew 15:1-3).
6. Eating poorly.
All temple-attending Latter-day Saints claim to be faithful adherents to the Word of Wisdom. That is, they keep the “don’ts” of the Word of Wisdom; but how many keep the “do’s” of it? Walk into many Latter-day Saint homes and you will not find tobacco products lying around, or coffee beans roasting in the morning, or even tea-leaf teas brewing on the stove; but if you open the fridge or freezer you will probably find meat for every meal and not so many identifiable wheats, fruits, and grains as their nutritional function is assured to be present in mass produced foods where massive amounts of refined sugars and other manufactured substances are mingled. The epidemic of diet-induced chronic illnesses is not the result of committing the “don’ts” of the Word of Wisdom; it’s from being lured by the “evil designs” of “conspiring men in the last days” to deaden us all temporally, and thus deaden us spiritually (D&C 89:4). One of the first changes in my life that brought a great surge of spiritual power into my life was that of truly keeping the Word of Wisdom.
“And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; and shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; and shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint” (D&C 89:18-20).
5. Living by General Authority legalism.
Legalism in the church is the problem of placing greater importance on the letter of the law rather than the spirit of it. The Mormons have the peculiar ability to not only do this with scripture, but also with the words of their leaders whom they covenant to sustain. This is tragically true of the priesthood organization wherein some leaders imply that their word ought to be obeyed by virtue of their position as a priesthood leader, and not because the Holy Ghost has witnessed that what the priesthood leader said was true. A great many examples of this fallacy come out of church history, including the time future apostle and church president Joseph F. Smith refused to obey the command of a visiting set of Apostles to join them in disembarking from a ship to a dock via a small boat. Young Smith knew the channel’s choppy waters were dangerous and he felt the spirit tell him not to, for which stance he was severely chided as the other brethren ventured out. Within moments their little vessel capsized and one of the apostles had to be revived on the shore (this story is cited in many places, including Wikipedia). Joseph F. Smith understood, as we must understand, that the spirit of the law is to follow the Spirit of God.
“Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: all, therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, they will make you observe and do; for they are ministers of the law, and they make themselves your judges. But do not ye after their works; for they say, and do not” (JST Matthew 23:1-2).
4. Living according to the false maxim that says “obedience is the first law of Heaven.”
The question of obedience is not in obeying itself, for that is needful, but rather in whom one obeys. In the case of Adam, his offering was acceptable to the Lord not because Adam understood why he needed to offer sacrifice but because he obeyed the Lord (see Moses 5:6-7); in the case of Cain, Adam’s son, his offering was not acceptable to the Lord not because Cain did not understand why he needed to offer sacrifice but because he did not obey the Lord in doing so (see Moses 5:18). Imagine another hypothetical situation: let’s imagine that as a “son of the morning,” Lucifer in the preexistence was a leader among the spirits and had stewardship by virtue of his calling in that position over others of his brothers and sisters. When the war in Heaven broke out, what blessing came to those who chose to obey Lucifer simply because he was their leader in an organization? Did their obedience to him grant them blessings because, “Well, at least they were being obedient.” No. We each have the responsibility to choose each day whom we will serve: God or the devil. It matters less through whose mouth each might choose to speak and more which words we list to obey. A church leader may say many good things, but when his utterances are devoid of the spirit of God, there is no salvation in following them.
“Therefore, let every man stand or fall by himself and not for another, or not trusting another…. And if thine eye which seeth for thee, him that is appointed to watch over thee to shew thee light, become a transgressor and offend thee, pluck him out. It is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: for it is better that thyself should be saved, than to be cast into hell with thy brother, where their worm dieth not and where the fire is not quenched” (JST Mark 9:44,46-48).
3. Confusing compassion and condoning.
This seems to be the issue of the hour among Mormons and religious Americans in general. How does one go about accepting someone whose lifestyle choices are expressly a grievous sin according to one’s understanding? The Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, ate with and spent time among those whom the religionists of His day considered vile sinners, and in like manner the LDS church has made attempts to show that it is good to associate with and spend time with those who reject their morals, and that no discrimination ought to be used against such in temporal affairs. But when it comes to spiritual affairs—especially those pertaining to holy ordinances—the rejection of certain morals becomes a definite barrier. Far too many Mormons have forgotten that, in the eyes of God, marriage is an exclusively spiritual matter, hence not something to be extended to just anybody. These Mormons view the church’s encouragement to have compassion as Jesus did on the streets of Jerusalem as a foreshadowing of an imaginary condoning Jesus showed in the holy temple. I use the word ‘imaginary’ because Jesus did not throw open the doors of the temples to all. Sharing a meal with the money changers did not preclude him from overturning their tables in the house of His Father. Compassion and condoning are not to be confused.
“Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).
2. Thinking priesthood office is something to be sought after.
The holy priesthood of God is a crowning blessing in the life of a man and his wife. When that priesthood is bestowed, it is received in whole, not in part. There is no office within that priesthood that unlocks greater power; however, there are keys and rights that are associated with some offices. That said, seeking to become a General Authority or to be called as the next Elders Quorum President, or Stake President, etc, is a grave error of perception and pride. It is not too different from the mindset that seeks great wealth with the intent of then being truly able to serve God, as if to say that those without wealth cannot serve God as well or to as great a degree. It is as if to say that the distinction of wealth matters in the eyes of God, that it sets one up above another in some actual way. Likewise office in the priesthood is summed up as an “onerous duty” (Times and Seasons, Vol. 1 No. 1, Commerce: Illinois, Nov 1839). The great irony is that, according to the scriptures, the moment you begin to think that your priesthood makes you something, it is no longer anything (see D&C 121:37).
“The powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness…. No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood” (D&C 121:36,41).
(A more plain rendering: “No power comes of just having the priesthood; the powers of heaven, or power in the priesthood, is only arrived at in living the principles of righteousness.”)
1. Having your heart set on this world.
The number one issue by which potential high priests lose power in the priesthood is in having their minds, hearts, ambitions, motivations, actions, intents, desires, or thoughts set upon anything having to do with this world. What qualifies as anything? Vehicles, homes, or cell phones? Yes. Well then how about abstractions, such as income, savings, or a career? Yes. Well surely not humanity-related anythings, such as a university, a dance group, or political party? Yes, these too. The question of what qualifies as things of this world is really one of what doesn’t qualify for things of the next? In other words, when considering what to set your heart upon, you need only ask, “Is it eternal?” The things of the Gospel, for instance, are eternal and thus worthy of the value of our thoughts. As the prophet Joseph Smith said, “The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must…commune with God” (Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith [STPJS], 137). The reason we sell ourselves short of salvation when our thoughts remain on temporal affairs is because to set our hearts on anything else after having received the promises of the priesthood is in very deed to be called and not be chosen.
“Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world” (D&C 121:34-35).
“And verily I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better” (D&C 25:10).