Elevating the Elders Quorum President

Another positive effect of combining priesthood groups in a ward into one quorum: the position of elders quorum president, as the single head of all the men in the ward, will be recognized as a calling of greater importance than it has been seen as in the past.

If this calling is being magnified properly, the EQP is really sort of a junior bishop. That’s not meant to eat into the bishop’s authority, of course, but there are so many things a bishop does that should be shared by others in the ward–and not just by the ward council leaders, but by all of us helping each other–and the EQP is the only other man in a ward who holds priesthood keys, so a large share of the responsibility for ministering overall falls on his shoulders.

People often joke the the EQP is the president of a moving company, but nobody would ever say that the bishop is just “the tithing settlement guy” or “the dude who signs temple recommends,” because his many other, more vital functions are so visible. I wonder if, around the church, the elders quorum presidents have been living beneath their privileges, as it were, if people don’t see how much power to serve and bless that this calling really has.

Consider this summary from the church handbook:

The elders quorum presidency…preside over, sit in council with, and teach quorum and group members… They direct the efforts of quorum and group members to advance the work of salvation in the ward…. They serve as members of the ward priesthood executive committee and ward council. As members of this committee and council, they participate in efforts to build faith and strengthen individuals and families…

There’s a whole world of possibilities in those general outlines!

I’ve been very lucky to live in a ward where every man who holds this calling rises up to make the most of it and make a real positive difference for others (full disclosure: I had the privilege of serving as EQP myself over a decade ago, and I loved it). A man who catches the vision of this opportunity can be a major force for good in a community. He can truly challenge, lead, and help draw everyone in a ward closer to the Lord.

When ward members think of men with inspired directions, noble examples, pure and fervent testimonies, constant priesthood service, and selfless sacrifice for the whole ward, they should think of the elders quorum president and the bishopric together. I think that’s a worthy vision for this calling in its new, expanded, elevated form.

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On Combining Priesthood Quorums

Maybe the most important thing said about the big reorganization change at today’s General Conference wasn’t in President Nelson’s ultimate priesthood session talk, but in the brief introduction he gave before making the initial announcement:

I’m very grateful for each man who bears the holy priesthood. You are the hope of our Redeemer, who desires that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world. He wants all of His ordained sons to represent Him, to speak for Him, and bless the lives of God’s children throughout the world. (italicized words emphasized in the original)

I think that’s the key. Besides the other reasons given tonight for this change–unity, harmony, communication, flexibility, diversity, etc.–consider this in light of other changes in recent years: starting the Preach My Gospel method of missionary work, lowering the missionary age, creating “Come Follow Me” curriculum for various ward groups, instituting monthly councils for various groups, eliminating First Presidency messages in the Ensign, and now this…what do they all have in common?

The recurring theme is putting more responsibility on individuals. Or maybe, to put it better, helping individuals see their existing potential. The point of all these changes is to empower people to live up to their abilities to serve the Lord.

So many critics want to paint our church as some repressive conspiracy run by a cabal of octogenarian oligarchs, but all of these changes show just the opposite. These are choices made by men who want to help put everybody behind the wheel of their own life. As Elder Neil L. Andersen said in the morning session, “A prophet does not stand between you and the Savior. He stands beside you and points the way to the Savior.”

Or, as it says in Number 11:29: “Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!”

Church leadership seems to be trying very hard to make that beautiful dream come true.

My Favorite Priesthood Miracle

It didn’t involve visions or angels or moving mountains.

Some years ago, I was serving as an elders quorum president. One Sunday around 10 PM, the bishop called me. He quickly said that a woman in the ward was in need of some emergency help, and that he wanted me to get a dozen men over to her house right away, to do a couple hours’ worth of labor.

I was hesitant. I was supposed to call a bunch of guys late at night on a Sunday, most of whom were in bed or getting ready for it, and most of whom needed to get up for work in the morning, and ask them to jump up and come out to work until midnight?

I started making calls.

Everybody answered the phone. Everybody said they’d be right there. Actually, one guy had the flu and, though he said he’d come over, I told him to stay in bed.

After making enough calls, I went over to help. Everybody I’d called was there, cheerfully working. We actually got the needed labor done early, and were all home before midnight.

Just imagine all the faith that went into getting out of a dozen comfort zones to make that happen for someone in need. I love getting to be a part of such miracles. Maybe Zion isn’t as far away as we think.

Linguistic Links Unlock Alma 13

Alma 13:1-20 may be the most linguistically and theologically dense section of the entire Book of Mormon.  The first half–about ordination to the high priesthood–has been considered in pieces such as this, and the second half–about Melchizedek–has been analyzed in works such as this.

I see these as part of a whole–a single sermon where Alma not only elucidates several tough ideas in a masterful lecture, but does so in a way that was appropriate for the context and powerfully motivates us to act on the implications of his teachings.  This is actually part of a longer work I’m drafting about Alma’s standard teaching template, where his unique pedagogical paradigm in the Book of Mormon–establishing authority, delivering content, and inspiring with a challenge–is briefly repeated towards the end of each of his sermons.

The colors, italics, underlining, etc. in the chart given here are meant to connect the many words and phrases that are identical, or at least synonymous.  Just glancing at this arrangement shows how dense the concepts are, especially in the first half of the pattern.  We see priesthood, discipleship, and Atonement themes discussed here, and this colorful arrangement shows how they are entwined in Alma’s sermon.

As the punctuation was not part of the original translation, I’ve taken some liberties with it here, modifying it as needed to clarify the meaning of the passage.

I hope this helps demystify a difficult passage for Book of Mormon students.

 

Alma 13

 

 

Alma 13

On Being Released From the Bishopric

Today at church our bishopric was released.  After 2 ½ years of being a counselor, I find myself with a huge drop in responsibility, a drastic rise in free time, and a bittersweet ache in my heart.  It’s sentimental and it’s melancholy.  Call it sentimentacholy. 

I didn’t see this coming.  My first reaction when I found out about this last night was profound sadness.  As I explained in church this morning, I deeply loved serving with everybody in my church and I’ll miss it terribly.  And of course, I feel that I left too much undone. 

Here’s what I’ll miss: doing temple recommend interviews, hanging around joint activities at Mutual, being the first person to bring a welcome spiritual message to the home of someone who hasn’t been to church for years, giving priesthood blessings to people with no other access to the priesthood, powerful monthly meetings with the stake presidency, taking the youth to the temple for baptisms, giving the bishopric message in Primary, giving treats to the youth for catching me without my scriptures and having their copies of For the Strength of Youth, trying to set a visible example of obedience to our leaders, sitting in on disciplinary councils (a surprisingly spiritual experience–always positive for everyone involved), being able to give useful information to auxiliary leaders about their work, and just getting to know the real lives of dozens of the best families anybody could ever meet–especially the overwhelming acts of service and sacrifice for each other that I never would have known about were I not in this position.

Here’s what I won’t miss: Continue reading

Abraham 1:2

One of my favorite scriptures is Abraham 1:2, which I think lays out a great plan for a life well lived, a life of active holiness.  Here’s the text:

And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.

 

There is an awful lot in there.  Consider the nature of the things Abraham set as his goals: he wanted emotional blessings (happiness and peace and rest), physical blessings (numerous posterity), mental blessings (great knowledge), and spiritual blessings (to be a follower of righteousness and a prince of peace). 

He tells us in this verse that he specifcally worked on these goals with certain activities that were designed to help him accomplish what he wanted, and that those exercises all boiled down to two things: keeping the commandments, and growing in the priesthood by utilizing it to perform ordinances for others (to “administer the blessings of the fathers”).  Continue reading