An alternative view of the Oath & Covenant of the Priesthood –
There have been a gazillion talks in the church on the oath and covenant of the priesthood. Virtually all of them state the same thing. I have a different take. Here is my understanding of this scripture:
The sons of Moses are the Melchizedek priesthood holders who are sanctified. The sons of Aaron are the holders of the priesthood of Aaron who are sanctified. The Lord explains that “whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods…and…are sanctified by the Spirit…become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and…the elect of God.” (See D&C 84: 33, 34.) Also, the elect (chosen) of God is defined as the sanctified.
There has been a day of calling, but the time has come for a day of choosing; and let those be chosen that are worthy. And it shall be manifest unto my servant, by the voice of the Spirit, those that are chosen; and they shall be sanctified; and inasmuch as they follow the counsel which they receive, they shall have power after many days to accomplish all things pertaining to Zion. (D&C 105: 35-37)
So, if we have obtained the two priesthoods but have not been sanctified by the Spirit, we are not the sons of Moses and of Aaron, nor are we the elect.
The Lord said, “For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.” (D&C 84: 33)
Most GAs and other speakers interpret the above scripture to mean that if we magnify our calling, we will become sanctified by the Spirit. Then they talk of ways we can magnify our calling so that we can become sanctified. I, however, do not share this view.
The Lord is explaining in this verse how to discern between a faithful priesthood holder who is magnifying his calling, and a faithless priesthood holder who is not magnifying his calling. The key to that discernment is in the last phrase: the faithful ones are sanctified by the Spirit.
Sanctification by the Spirit is always attendant with the powers and gifts of the Spirit. This is why the Lord said that “the sons of Moses and of Aaron shall be filled with the glory of the Lord” in D&C 84: 32. This is why the Lord said the chosen “shall have power” in D&C 105: 37. Sanctification by the Spirit with attendant powers and gifts is the key to determine the faith of the saints or the faith of the priesthood holders. This is why there are signs that follow those that believe on the Lord, so that we may determine who has faith and who does not.
Mormon said, “For behold, thus said Jesus Christ, the Son of God, unto his disciples who should tarry, yea, and also to all his disciples, in the hearing of the multitude: Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature; and he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned; and these signs shall follow them that believe—in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover; and whosoever shall believe in my name, doubting nothing, unto him will I confirm all my words, even unto the ends of the earth. (Mormon 9: 22-25)
This is why the very definition of good works, the scriptural definition, is to work by the power and gifts of God, in other words, good works are the work of the sanctified, who are attended with the powers, gifts and fruits of the Spirit and the signs of true believers in Christ. Only the sanctified do good, as they exercise faith as a principle of power, as “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” (Hebrews 11: 6.) All others are in a state of unbelief, with no attendant powers of heaven to magnify their calling.
Moroni said, “And now I speak unto all the ends of the earth—that if the day cometh that the power and gifts of God shall be done away among you, it shall be because of unbelief. And wo be unto the children of men if this be the case; for there shall be none that doeth good among you, no not one. For if there be one among you that doeth good, he shall work by the power and gifts of God” (Moroni 10: 24, 25)
So, the magnifying of our calling comes from working by the powers and gifts of God, which comes from being sanctified by the Spirit and not the other way around. We first become “sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost” (3 Nephi 27: 20) and are then enabled to magnify our calling by working by the powers and gifts of the Spirit.
Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5: 16)
Magnifying a calling means making it easier to see. The light we are shining are the good works, which is defined as the powers and gifts of God. So, when we magnify our calling, men can witness the powers and gifts of the Spirit and then turn and glorify God. This is the meaning of the scripture, but before any of this happens, we must be sanctified by the Spirit.
“All they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord” in D&C 84: 35. The expression “receive this priesthood” is defined in verse 33 as those who obtain the priesthoods and who are sanctified, which santification magnifies their calling. The unsanctified do not “receive the priesthood,” they only have the priesthood conferred upon them. Two vital elements must be present for one to “receive the priesthood”: the priesthood must be conferred and sanctification by the Spirit must have happened.
Only the sanctified priesthood holders receive the oath and covenant of the Father. Only the sanctified priesthood holders receive the promised blessings: receiving Jesus, receiving the Father and finally, receiving the Father’s kingdom, which means receiving all the Father hath. And only the sanctified priesthood holders receive the penalty for breaking the covenant and altogether turning therefrom, the penalty being the second death, meaning that they “shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come.”
So, what, then, is the covenant of the priesthood? The Lord said, “All those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father.” The covenant is to “receive the priesthood” as defined in verse 33, meaning to obtain the two priesthoods and to become sanctified by the reception of the Spirit unto the renewing of one’s body. If those two parts aren’t completed, you don’t receive the priesthood, nor do you receive (or enter into) the covenant of the priesthood. The covenant is part of the priesthood, it is connected to it, or, as the Lord says, the “covenant…belongeth to the priesthood.” The covenant of the priesthood is received or entered into when you “receive the priesthood.” As a covenant is an agreement between two persons, in this case, between a mortal son of God and God himself, if you keep your end of the agreement, which is to keep receiving the priesthood, or, in plainer words, to continue to possess and use the priesthood in a sanctified state, the Father promises with an oath that you will receive what he says you will receive (all that he hath.)
The final verses that are often quoted (43 and 44 of section 84) are not the covenant of the priesthood, as many will proclaim. The covenant is found in verse 33. The oath is found in verse 38. Verses 43 and 44 are a warning and a commandment, as the Lord has just finished explaining that the sanctified priesthood holders can receive the second death if they break and altogether abandon the covenant and also that those who do not “receive the priesthood” are also in big trouble, as they have no oath or promise of the Father. So, the Lord is giving very helpful instructions to those who haven’t received it, yet, and to those who have received it already, namely, “to give diligent heed to the words of eternal life…[and]…to live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.”
The Lord said, “Therefore, as I said concerning the sons of Moses—for the sons of Moses and also the sons of Aaron shall offer an acceptable offering and sacrifice in the house of the Lord, which house shall be built unto the Lord in this generation, upon the consecrated spot as I have appointed—and the sons of Moses and of Aaron shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, upon Mount Zion in the Lord’s house, whose sons are ye; and also many whom I have called and sent forth to build up my church. For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God. And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord; for he that receiveth my servants receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth my Father; and he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him. And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood. Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved. But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come. And wo unto all those who come not unto this priesthood which ye have received, which I now confirm upon you who are present this day, by mine own voice out of the heavens; and even I have given the heavenly hosts and mine angels charge concerning you. And I now give unto you a commandment to beware concerning yourselves, to give diligent heed to the words of eternal life. For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.” (D&C 84: 31-44)