Verily I say unto you, behold how great is your calling. Cleanse your hearts and your garments, lest the blood of this generation be required at your hands.D&C 112: 33
Why do we need to be washed clean in the temple priesthood endowment even though we are baptized preparatory to receiving that endowment? This is a question that has weighed on me for many years. Recently, the answer came to this question. As I contemplate the answer, it has expanded out to give clarity and light to the doctrine of the priesthood to a degree that I never understood,… even though it has been hiding in plain sight. This essay is a summary understanding of the meaning of being “called” in the priesthood, and the meaning and importance of the covenant we make to come clean from the blood and sins of this generation.
To frame this discussion it is necessary to take a step back and ask, what is the oath and covenant of the priesthood? This is explored at length in this post, but to quickly recap, it is the oath and covenants of the priesthood endowment of the temple. Although D&C 84 references and teaches about the oath and covenant of the priesthood, it is not the oath and covenant itself. What is received in the temple is the endowment of the holy priesthood through the reception of covenants, promises, oaths, and washings.
At the beginning of the endowment of the priesthood we come under a charge to “come clean from the blood and sins of this generation” (for brevity sake, I will refer going forward as”coming clean”). Men who receive the oath and covenant of the priesthood through the temple endowment are told that they are not yet clean, but must become so. It is a ritualistic washing in preparation to being endowed with a fulness of priesthood. Starting with this ritualistic washing we proceed to ascend through the reception of receiving covenants until we are sufficiently prepared to come into the presence of the Lord at the veil. Here we receive our first oath of the priesthood from the Father. We then move forward to have our marriage sealed, and then finally the second anointing. The second anointing is the sealing of the original washing and being declared completely clean from the blood and sins of this generation.
Coming clean is both a charge to become personally clean from your own sins and to come clean from the stewardships given to you in priesthood stewardship. This is the meaning of “calling” in the priesthood.
When we read that many are called, but few are chosen, the scriptures are referencing once single calling. There is only one calling in the priesthood. It is the calling to come clean from the blood and sins of this generation. Although the calling changes in scope of who you are responsible to come clean from, all callings are the same calling. And it is the fulfillment of this calling that brings you into a fullness of the Melchizedek priesthood. Before we come clean completely we are in a state of probation. It looks something like this.
There are three degrees of progression. 1. Called 2. Chosen 3. Sealed
- The Calling – When we are called we are called to become clean. It is a calling. It says nothing about your worthiness. Your worthiness is proven through the process of coming clean. Everytime you receive a new calling, you are newly called to come clean from the blood and sins of those that you are called to minister to. It doesn’t matter if you are a Father, an Elders Quorum President, a Bishop, a Stake President, Mission President, Apostle, or President of the Church – you are being called to come clean from your stewardship. When President Nelson was called to be the president of the Church, he was called to a new probationary state of coming clean from the blood and sins of the church. Similarly to a Father. When he is called to the priesthood and receives posterity, he is responsible to come clean from his children’s blood and sins.
When you are called to a calling in a ward, you are sharing in the calling of the Bishop to come clean from the blood and sins of his ward. For example, if you are a Gospel Doctrine teacher, you must understand from the Lord what to teach and how to teach so that you can come clean from those listening to your lessons, and therefore lessen the burden on the Bishop. We will discuss this in greater clarity later.
2. Chosen – How does one move from being called to being chosen? This is harder to explain briefly unless the reader understands the principle of becoming born again. Briefly, when someone repents of all of their sins and becomes washed clean in the Holy Ghost so that they are sanctified and an agent of the Holy Ghost one can begin to come clean from those that they are given stewardship to serve by virtue of the commands and direction of the Holy Ghost. When a person repents completely and is born again they enter into a probationary state of the Holy Ghost (this is represented by the strait and narrow path in the Book of Mormon). When someone is actively working in the Holy Ghost to serve and come clean from the blood and sins of their stewardship they are in a state of having been “chosen”. You are chosen when the Lord gives you the Gift of the Holy Ghost through the born again experience (1 Nephi 12:7; 3 Nephi 19: 20).
That their souls may escape the wrath of God, the desolation of abomination which awaits the wicked, both in this world and in the world to come. Verily, I say unto you, let those who are not the first elders continue in the vineyard until the mouth of the Lord shall call them, for their time is not yet come; their garments are not clean from the blood of this generation.D&C 88: 85
Becoming clean from the blood and sins of this generation is the primary calling of the priesthood. It is the central priesthood covenantal charge. It is through this process that one becomes fully endowed and receives a fullness of Melchizedek power which is the sealing power and the power to command the elements.
Many are called but few are chosen. When we are ordained it means we are being called. It is not the bestowal of Melchizedek priesthood, it is the calling to come clean so that you can be endowed with power. It is through the process of coming clean first from your own sins – becoming born again – and then becoming clean from your stewardship that you qualify for the blessings of exaltation and a fullness of priesthood.
If someone is called to a priesthood office and fails to come clean they then take upon them guilt and justice of the blood of those they are called to come clean from. With the stewardship of the priesthood comes an accountability structure. If a bishop fails to teach the conditions of repentance, come clean from his own sins sufficient to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and perform all of the sacrifices and works required to come clean from the blood and sins of his ward, to the degree he failed he now carries the consequences and judgments of God on his own garments. He has to suffer for the sins of the people in a condemned state. If a bishop does not understand this principle it is upon the Stake President who called him to that calling to prepare him to come clean. The Stake President also shares in carrying the blood and sins of the ward and stake if he fails in his larger capacity. If the general authority failed to teach this principle to the Stake President than the General Authority carries that blood on their garments. This structure is shared justice clear to the top of the priesthood hierarchy with the President of the Church who is charged with coming clean from the blood and sins of the entire church. (For those that claim the prophet is not just prophet to the church and not just the world should be very cautious about the scope of the blood and sins they want to account for) This is a structure of justice and distribution of suffering for sins in the justice of God for those that take upon them the name of God in vain through his Holy Priesthood but fail to do the works of the Lord by rejecting their central priesthood charge to come clean.
For this reason we covenant to sustain those who are called to positions in the priesthood. Sustaining means that we support, strengthen, and help the person called to do everything we can to help them come clean through their calling. We come clean ourselves through sustaining them. If we fail to sustain and help in every way we are directed to by the Holy Ghost we then share in the collective burden of the broken priesthood covenant.
The church is under condemnation precisely for failing to come clean from the blood and sins of this generation. This principle fully understood in its vast dimensions reveals how we are to come into the presence of the Lord and be endowed with priesthood. For those that claim those supernal blessings we must discern whether or not they have come clean from the blood and sins of their generation and if they bear the fruits of such a path.
The church is still in a probationary state. We are called to come clean. Unfortunately, we have used imprecise language for many generations that confuse the doctrine. My generation was told that we were a “chosen generation”. My mother laughed at that because her previous generation was also told the same thing. My kids generation is also being told that they are “chosen”. This is incorrect. It is better to say they are called. If they want to become chosen they have to become a generation that is full of the Holy Ghost and actively coming clean from the world. Every generation until now has failed in this great calling. How do we know we have failed? A generation who fulfills this calling builds Zion on earth.
3. Sealed – The sealing of the calling and election made sure is when your garments have come completely clean from both your own blood and the blood you have been given stewardship from which to come clean. I hope now when we say the words “calling and election made sure” we now know of what calling to which we are referring. It is the call to come clean.
This is the great and last promise the Father makes to us in the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. It is the promise of all that he has.
And I give unto you, who are the first laborers in this last kingdom, a commandment that you assemble yourselves together, and organize yourselves, and prepare yourselves, and sanctify yourselves; yea, purify your hearts, and cleanse your hands and your feet before me, that I may make you clean;That I may testify unto your Father, and your God, and my God, that you are clean from the blood of this wicked generation; that I may fulfil this promise, this great and last promise, which I have made unto you, when I will.D&C 88: 74-75
When we read in D&C 84 that if we magnify our calling our bodies will be renewed, the calling to which it is referring to is to become clean(D&C 84: 33).
Jacob in the Book of Mormon makes this doctrine clear when he recorded the following:
And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their bloodmight not come upon our garments; otherwise their blood would come upon our garments, and we would not be found spotless at the last day.Jacob 1: 19
Now, my beloved brethren, I, Jacob, according to the responsibility which I am under to God, to magnify mine office with soberness, and that I might rid my garments of your sins, I come up into the temple this day that I might declare unto you the word of God.Jacob 2: 2
As one reads the Book of Mormon with this principle in mind, we will find many of the prophets of the Book of Mormon anxious to fulfill their callings so that they may be found clean before the Lord, and so that they won’t have to answer for the judgments of the people.
Jacob concluded his record with the following declaration:
O, my beloved brethren, remember my words. Behold, I take off my garments, and I shake them before you; I pray the God of my salvation that he view me with his all-searching eye; wherefore, ye shall know at the last day, when all men shall be judged of their works, that the God of Israel did witness that I shook your iniquities from my soul, and that I stand with brightness before him, and am rid of your blood.
O, my beloved brethren, turn away from your sins; shake off the chains of him that would bind you fast; come unto that God who is the rock of your salvation.Nephi 9: 44
Consider the concluding pronouncement of Moroni in the final records of the Book fo Mormon:
And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore, thy garments shall be made clean. And because thou hast seen thy weakness thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.
And now I, Moroni, bid farewell unto the Gentiles, yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood.Ether 12: 37-38
When we understand what is happening in the endowment, the doctrine of the priesthood, and the process by which we fulfill the covenants of the priesthood, we are empowered to know how to come into the presence of the Lord and qualify for exaltation. There is no other path into the presence of the Lord than through this covenant structure.
How exactly does one become clean? This is a topic to be explored in future essays.