As someone ordained into the priesthood I have pondered much about the meaning of priesthood and my own propensity towards priestcraft. The temptation to exercise priestcraft is strong, particularly when it becomes clear how priestcraft can mimic and counterfeit priesthood.
Alma chapter 1 introduces the concept of priestcraft as it was introduced to the covenant body of the church. It also draws clarity into the intention of priestcraft when Alma identifies the following:
“…there were many who loved the vain things of the world, and they went forth preaching; and this they did for the sake of and honor.”
Preaching the gospel by holding yourself up as a light for anything other than the glory of Christ is a form of priestcraft. Someone practicing priestcraft may not receive their payment in money, but they may seek a different type of currency.
The scripture is careful to point out that priestcraft may be practiced for the sake of honor. Seeking the honors of men is a type of currency, just like money. It includes praise, adulation, celebration, and recognition.
What currency do I seek when teaching the Gospel?
All who hold the priesthood should be careful to ask the question, do I seek to be celebrated? Honored? Praised? Recognized for my contributions to the Lord’s work? As a priesthood holder, am I tempted to draw attention to myself or to seek celebration in my honor? We learn from Joseph Smith that it is the disposition of almost all men, that when they get a little authority (as they suppose) that they will exercise unrighteous dominion by calling attention to themselves and seeking the honors of men, gratifying their pride and their vain ambition – and if they do so in any degree the heavens withdraw themselves, and amen to their power and authority (D&C 121).
This is why many are called but few are chosen. One of those that were chosen was John, the disciple whom Christ loved. I believe he was chosen because he exemplified the spirit of condescension as a servant of God. He said of the Savior:
“He must increase, and I must decrease” (John 3:30)
This is the type that we should hearken to in the priesthood – those who seek to decrease so that the Lord may increase. This is the type of priesthood we should seek to become. I have to always ask myself, do I seek to decrease so that the Lord can increase? The answer is often personally convicting.
True priesthood is to be of the order of those that seek not their own glory or recognition, but lower themselves on the path of sacrifice for others. They seek transparency between their fellow men and God. They seek not to commemorate their works, but to seek the welfare of Zion.
Priesthood will seek the honor of God and great risk of their popularity and acceptance before man (Alma 5: 58).
Priestcraft will seek the honor of men. (D&C 121: 35)
Priesthood will celebrate the works of God. (Moses 1)
Priestcraft will celebrate the works of their own hands. (2 Nephi 12: 8)
Priesthood “not for power, but to pull it down. Not for honor of the world, but for the glory of God” (Alma 60: 36).
Priestcraft will seek pride and will celebrate its own vain ambition. (D&C 121: 37)
Priesthood will teach the consequences of sin and risk being beloved by the people. (2 Nephi 9:48)
Priestcraft will tell the people they should rejoice and not fear and tremble. (Alma 1: 4)
Priesthood will preach Christ and repentance. (Mosiah 18: 20)
“Priestcrafts are that men preach and setup for a light unto the world, that they may get and of the world” (2 Nephi 26:29).
Being guilty of priestcraft is an ever present risk. It is the disposition of almost all who are called to the priesthood to practice priestcraft. This is mostly true with myself. I know the temptation within myself is ever present. We must be careful to discern when these things rise up in our own hearts and amidst the covenant people.
Vigilance. Discernment. Repentance. This the order of the day.