In preparation for the Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults tonight, President Russell M. Nelson released a special video invitation on his Twitter feed. In the video he gave some homework to help listeners prepare.
Sister Nelson and I are looking forward to being with you at the Worldwide Devotional this Sunday. To prepare, I invite you to read Doctrine & Covenants Section 84, verses 43 to 45. I also invite you to consider what you are doing to ‘live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.’ Please ponder this in your hearts, and we’ll discuss it on Sunday. We’ll see you then!
I reported on President Nelson’s controversial Worldwide Devotional address last January, so I was interested to see what’s in store for tonight.
43 And I now give unto you a commandment to beware concerning yourselves, to give diligent heed to the words of eternal life.
44 For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.
45 For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
Part 1: Scriptural Analysis
D&C 84 was declared by Joseph Smith as “a revelation on priesthood” (see section heading). The heart is the well-known Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood, so I thought it interesting that President Nelson asked both men and women to take a look. When I was serving in Young Women’s a decade ago, all the Young Men in the Stake were challenged to memorize the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood in D&C 84, and all the Young Women were challenged to memorize Proverbs 31. It was a blast explaining to the Young Women what it meant for good wives making sure their husbands didn’t feel a need to go looking for spoil. Regardless, ever since then I’ve considered D&C 84 “guy stuff.”
I’ve been all excited about the new Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine curriculum this year and thought I’d take a look at what the teacher’s manual says about it:
[God] revealed the oath and covenant of the priesthood, which is found in D&C 84:33-44. These verses outline (1) the covenants a man makes with the Lord when he receives the Melchizedek Priesthood and (2) the covenants the Lord makes with faithful Melchizedek Priesthood holders.
Okay, not exactly disproving my “guy” classification. Does it say anything about Nelson’s specific verses?
Priesthood holders covenant to…
d. Give diligent heed to the words of eternal life (verses 43-44).
But President Nelson really wants both men and women to ponder that point about living “by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.” Well, I grew up in this church. You think I can’t figure out how something regarding men also applies to women? Ha!
4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
11 And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good, that ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God.
I can safely say that phrase applies to women even though church curriculum declares the verses President Nelson quoted were specifically for male priesthood holders.
Depending on your view, verse 45 may or may not be part of the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. In a Sidney B. Sperry Symposium a few years ago, S. Brent Farley analyzed section 84, and suggested verse 45 is the beginning of a chain of logic extending to verse 48. It argues that the Light of Christ (a conscience) is given to all people, and that Light of Christ ultimately leads people to the gospel. After participating in priesthood ordinances, people will follow the Holy Ghost, which leads men to the oath and covenant of the Priesthood. Finally, verse 48 is “the apex, the grandest key in understanding the oath and covenant of the priesthood: a man who holds and honors the Melchizedek Priesthood will be taught of that holy covenant by God.”
But President Nelson only really covered verse 45, which is the lead in to the Light of Christ (a conscience) in verse 46. The Light of Christ applies to both men and women, but based on the omission of verse 46 I’m not confident the Light of Christ is what President Nelson wants us to take away from that.
Maybe he just wanted to include the phrase, “the word of the Lord is truth.” It is pretty cool.
Part 2: Consider Our Own Actions
The second part of President Nelson’s homework assignment is to “consider what you are doing to ‘live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.’”
Have you noticed this part really depends on what is meant by “every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God”?
What to Expect?
Well, President Nelson picked a scripture applying to priesthood covenants. He has a mixed audience, so I assume he’ll keep it out of context. He wants to focus on “living by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God,” but he didn’t ask people to read verses about personal revelation via the Light of Christ and voice of the Holy Ghost.
So… I’m thinking he’ll do a D&C 1:38 take on it:
38 What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.
My money’s on another talk about adhering to the words of current church leaders as proxy for adhering to the word of God. If so, it’ll be a repeat of many themes from last year’s devotional. Last year he talked about how prophets see things that others cannot, which ties in nicely to “the word of the Lord is truth.”
My only wish? This time he’ll leave the Policy out of it.
 President Nelson’s statement in that January 2016 Worldwide Devotional that the Policy derived from revelation caused a backlash. The remarks also had the dubious honor of being incorporated into and subsequently removed from official seminary curriculum materials.
- Do you have a different prediction based on the assignment?
- Do you expect any controversial statements?
- Is it a good idea for general authorities to provide a reading assignment ahead of time?