Have you ever wondered about the counsel given by priesthood leaders? Our stake president spoke at a recent ward conference and shared how his wife works on a lesson for month, does a great job in presenting the material, and then beats herself up all the way home because she should have done something different; he, on the other hand, basically wings the lesson and forgets about it. He suggested that the best way is about half way between how his wife does it and how he does it. Then he said, “Sisters, do your job and stop beating yourselves up. Brothers, we need to step up and do a better job.” I think that we can all see from this example why the brethren were given different counsel than that given to the sisters.
Another example of a priesthood leader giving counsel is found in the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Jacob. The people were beginning to “grow hard in their hearts” (Jacob 1:15); they started to search after gold and silver and to be “lifted up somewhat in pride” (v. 16). The prophet Jacob was concerned about his people and counseled with the Lord about the problem. “Having first obtained [his] errand from the Lord,” Jacob began to teach the people gathered in the temple (v. 17). The actual teaching is found in Jacob 2: “Now, my beloved brethren, I … come up into the temple this day that I might declare unto you the word of God.
“And ye yourselves know that I have hitherto been diligent in the office of my calling; but I this day am weighed down with much more desire and anxiety for the welfare of your souls than I have hitherto been.” He then proceeds to tell the brethren that they are “beginning to labor in sin, which sin appeareth very abominable unto me, yea, and abominable unto God” (Jacob 2:5). He told them that his soul was grieved concerning the wickedness of their hearts and even more grieved because he had to call the brethren to repentance in front of their wives and children “many of whose feelings are exceedingly tender and chase and delicate before God, which thing is pleasing unto God;
“And it supposeth me that they have come up hither to hear the pleasing word of God, yea, the word which healeth the wounded soul.
“Wherefore, it burdeneth my soul that I should be constrained, because of the strict commandment which I have received from God, to admonish you according to your crimes, to enlarge the wounds of those who are already wounded, instead of consoling and healing their wounds; and those who have not been wounded, instead of feasting upon the pleasing word of God have daggers placed to pierce their souls and wound their delicate minds” (Jacob 2:6-9). Jacob then proceeds to call the brethren to repentance for some very serious sins – pride and immorality.
Many years later another prophet by the name of Alma was nearing the end of his earthly ministry and called his three sons to gather together “that he might give unto them every one his charge, separately, concerning the things pertaining unto righteousness” (Alma 35:16). Alma’s counsel to his son Helaman takes two chapters (Alma 36-37). Alma gives Helaman charge of all the records and other sacred items; he basically congratulates his son for his faithfulness and calls him to lead the people in his (Alma’s) absence. A short Alma 38 contains Alma’s counsel to his second son, Shiblon. Alma again congratulates his son, for his “steadiness,” “faithfulness,” “diligence,” “patience,” and “long-suffering;” he tells him to continue to teach and to be “diligent and temperate in all things,” to “bridle all [his] passions,” to “be filled with love,” and to “be sober.”
Alma’s counsel to his third and youngest son Corianton takes four chapters (Alma 39-42). Corianton was lovingly and plainly called to repentance for immorality and then taught about restoration and resurrection in a way he could understand. He was taught about the laws of justice and mercy and told that “God would cease to be God” if He did not exercise both justice and mercy fairly. Corianton was told to counsel with his older brothers and to follow their examples. Then he was called again “to preach the word unto this people. And now, my son, go thy way, declare the word with truth and soberness, that thou mayest bring souls unto repentance, that the great plan of mercy may have claim upon them” (Alma 42:31). Corianton did repent of his sins and joined his older brothers in declaring the word of God to the people.
From these three examples we can plainly see that priesthood leaders, under the direction of the Holy Ghost, give us the counsel we need to hear. The kind of counsel we receive is apparently determined by our faithfulness to previous counsel. If we are uncomfortable about being called to repentance – particularly over and over again, maybe we ought to examine our own lives to see why. I personally enjoy receiving the “pleasing word of God” much more than I enjoy being called to repentance.
At an earlier time in his life Alma taught an Anti-Christ name Zeezrom about the counsel and information available to mankind. “And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
“And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
“And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell” (Alma 12:9-11).
We learn from these verses that God and his priesthood leaders have much more of the “pleasing word of God” and his “mysteries” to teach us. Whether or not we receive it is determined by us. We determine by our obedience what counsel we receive. We can either go forward until we know all the mysteries of God “in full” or we can go backward until we “know nothing concerning his mysteries.” It is up to us and what we truly want. I personally plan to learn all I can about the mysteries of God by being prepared to hear the pleasing word of God.