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Prince’s Research Excerpts: Priesthood & Mormonism – 1949

Below you will find Prince’s research excerpts titled, “Priesthood, 1949.” You can view other years here.

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1949:  Feb.:  Priesthood statistics for 1948.

“As the new year begins, records in the offices of the general priesthood committee show a total of 172 quorums of high priests in the stakes comprised of 27,301 members.  The 17,692 seventies who are members of record in the stakes form 334 quorums.  In addition there are 1,021 quorums of elders with a membership of 72,545, making a grand total of 117,538 members of record in the stakes who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood.”  (“Melchizedek Priesthood,” IE 52(2):103, Feb., 1949)

Feb.:  Regular visits to quorum members.

“Regular visits to quorum members should be frequent and purposeful.  A number of quorums in various stakes have not made enough visits during the entire year to visit each quorum member once as required by the confidential annual report.  Other quorums have visited all quorum members monthly.  Where this has been done the participation in class work and the number active in Church work have been outstanding, indicating the value of such visits regularly and frequently conducted.”  (“Melchizedek Priesthood,” IE 52(2):103, Feb., 1949)

May:  Prospective missionaries and ordinance work.

“Before missionaries are sent into the mission field they undergo an intensive ten-day training program at the mission home in Salt Lake City.  It is surprising to learn how few of the elders called to this responsibility have had proper instruction or experience in administering to the sick, consecrating oil, blessing children, performing baptisms or confirmations, and the other ordinances of the gospel.

Such a condition arises, in part, from the number who are called to missionary service and who have only recently been ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood.  However, frequently those who have been associated in quorums of elders or seventy for an extended period of time have received little or no instruction or experience in these matters.

The Melchizedek Priesthood Handbook, page 86, sets forth clearly the responsibility resting upon each quorum presidency under the direction of the stake presidency to instruct its quorum members in ordinance work and to provide opportunities for such services to be rendered.  It is not adequate that a quorum presidency give instructions in this regard at infrequent intervals.  Discussions should be conducted rather frequently so those who may be new or inexperienced may receive proper training.  Likewise presidencies should work closely with bishoprics in providing opportunities for quorum members to officiate.

Those given the privilege of exercising the divinely-restored priesthood should be proficient in a knowledge and the performance of the responsibilities which are theirs.  A workman to be effective must know his tools.  Quorum presidencies, under the direction of stake presidencies, have an important obligation in this matter.  Theirs is the task of training properly all quorum members in ordinance work at frequent intervals and securing opportunities for rendering such services.  This procedure will result in a well-informed and capable priesthood membership as well as young elders prepared to assume their duties as missionaries or representatives at home.”  (“Melchizedek Priesthood,” IE 52(5):308, May, 1949)

20 Jun.:  “Seventy” stands for “highest intelligence.”

“We have not as yet come to understand the meaning of the word `Seventy’.  It comes from the word `seven’, which is the formula of heaven among the ancient Jews; and, therefore, it stands for highest intelligence.”  (LEY to Pres. Ammon F. Johnson, 20 Jun 1949, Levi Edgar Young Papers, Utah State Historical Society, B12, Box 6)

Jun.:  Stake priesthood approval of ordinations.

“In modern revelation the Lord has provided that all ordinations to the priesthood receive the vote of the Church to which the individuals concerned belong.  It has been the approved practice for many years that all ordinations to and within the Melchizedek Priesthood receive the sustaining vote of the priesthood of the stake at regular monthly Melchizedek Priesthood meetings or quarterly stake conferences.

During the war when travel was materially restricted, it was permissible by way of exception in scattered stakes to present such matters before the monthly stake priesthood leadership meeting for approval.  Unfortunately this practice still persists to some extent with the resultant discontinuance of the regular monthly stake Melchizedek Priesthood meeting.

After some extended consideration of section twenty of the Doctrine and Covenants as well as volume II, pp. 394 and 395 of the Documentary History of the Church, the Council of the Twelve approved the following:

Under present conditions, the vote of the people required, as a condition precedent to ordination to any office in the Melchizedek Priesthood, should be gained in one or the other of the following ways:

1. At a stake priesthood meeting or

2. At a general session of a stake quarterly conference.

In this connection stake presidents should be reminded of the necessity of holding a monthly stake priesthood meeting as well as a priesthoo dleadership meeting, in accordance with instructions in the Melchizedek Priesthood Handbook, beginning with page 37.  Stake presidents should likewise be advised to discontinue the seemingly increasingly prevalent practice of presenting the names of brethren proposed for ordination to offices in the Melchizedek Priesthood at priesthood leadership meeting sessions.

It is further recommended that the candidate should be present when sustained for ordination to offices of the priesthood unless, in the judgment of the stake president, his presence might be waived.

The foregoing instructions are explicit and emphasize the necessity of conducting monthly stake Melchizedek Priesthood meetings (or quarterly in widely scattered stakes) for the purpose of caring for such matters of business as priesthood ordinations.  The practice of obtaining approval at priesthood leadership meetings is to be discontinued.”  (“Melchizedek Priesthood,” IE 52(6):392, Jun., 1949)

17 Jul.:  We need something new in our courses of study.

“Your letter of May 3rd, addressed to the First Council of Seventy (although you use `First Seventies Quorum), has been received and handed to me to answer.  May I call your attention to the fact that there is no First Quorum of Seventy.  The First Council of the Seventy is the third great council in the Church, standing with the Apostles.

You have asked two questions.  You say that the members of the quorum are not greatly interested in the course of study that has been prescribed.  I am not surprised at this.  This condition is more or less true among all our quorums.  You ask us if we can suggest some other study for the quorum.  This I will answer in a moment.

I think President Ivins meant for you as a council to meet oftener than once a month.  You say that you meet in your respective wards each Sunday, but with the quorum monthly.  I can see why the brethren did not wish to come together oftener than once a month.  There may be many reasons for it, but from your letter I feel that you have lost more or less interest in your study.

I have wished for a long time that I might be able to write for the quorums of Seventy a course of study which would be very different from the one you have been using of late.  What you need is something new.  Year in and year out “we study the gospel”, but we lack the power of relating the things we try to learn with the things of life of today.  Great teachers are needed, but they are scarce.  I wish we could have the brethren trained to know how to teach.  However, I am going to send you a few subjects to study and to think about.  I hope that you will come together according to your own choice and discuss these subjects, all of you.  The brethren must remember that they have a right to say anything they think when they study.  At least, when each one is assigned the subject of “the Sanctity of the Human Body”, they will take that paragraph I have written and talk it over among themselves.  It is merely something which indicates what the Word of Wisdom means.  What we need more than anything else is to apply the subjects that we learn or talk about to the life of today, as I said before, [page 2] so I am sending you a few copies of “The Sanctity of the Human Body”.  If you wish more, let me know.

I am sending, also, a short chapter on the “Home Life of Jesus”.  Both of these subjects have taken time to write, but I feel keenly the importance of them.  Another subject I am asking you to take up is new, although you will say it is old.  In the way, however, that I have treated it you will find a new life in it.  I refer to the “Restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood”.  Take these subjects up at future meetings and say to the brethren that they must all say something in response to them.  Write and tell me what you think of them, and if you would like more, you shall have other subjects.” (LEY to Pres. Joseph L. Orr, 17 Jun 1949, Levi Edgar Young Papers, Utah State Historical Society, B12, Box 6)

Jul.:  Performing priesthood ordinations.

“‘What is the proper method and terminology for conferring the priesthood?’  This question is frequently asked, although an authoritative declaration on the subject was issued by the First Presidency several years ago.  It is published herewith for the guidance of all concerned:

To prevent disputes over this subject {conferring the priesthood} . . . we draw attention to the fact that until recently, from the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ordinations to the priesthood were directly to the office therein for which the recipient was chosen and appointed, in form substantially as follows:

As to the Melchizedek Priesthood–‘By authority (or in the authority) of the Holy Priesthood and by the laying on of hands, I (or we) ordain you an Elder (or Seventy, or High Priest, or Patriarch, or Apostle, as the case may be), in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and confer upon you all the rights, powers, keys, and authority pertaining to this office and calling in the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.’

As to the Lesser Priesthood–‘By (or in) the authority of the Holy Priesthood I (or we) lay my (or our) hands upon your head and ordain you a Deacon (or other office in the Lesser Priesthood) in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and confer upon you all the rights, powers and authority pertaining to this office and calling in the Aaronic Priesthood, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.’  (Gospel Doctrine, President Joseph F. Smith, p. 541, 1939 edition.)

This explanation was deemed necessary due to a misunderstanding which had arise due to a misinterpretation of the instructions of President Joseph F. Smith wherein he stated:

. . . the priesthood is a general authority or qualification with certain offices or authorities appended thereto.  Consequently the conferring of the priesthood should precede and accompany ordination to the office, unless it be possessed by previous bestowal and ordination.  Surely a man cannot possess an appendage to the priesthood without possessing the priesthood itself, which he cannot obtain unless it be authoritatively conferred upon him.  (Ibid., pp. 136-137)

Commenting upon the foregoing declaration, the First Presidency issued the following observation by way of instruction:

In reference to the form of procedure mentioned on page 136, and that set forth in this addendum as adopted by the leading authorities of the Church from the beginning, our beloved and departed President, Joseph F. Smith, when questioned concerning them, decided, as of record, ‘It is a distinction without a difference,’ and ‘either will do.’

Persons, therefore, who have been ordained in either way hold the right to officiate in all the duties of their respective offices in the priesthood.

Heber J. Grant

Anthon H. Lund

Charles W. Penrose, 

First Presidency.

(Ibid., p. 541.)

In this connection it is well to remember that no exact form of procedure has been set forth in the revelations.  The method of ordination expressed in the Book of Moroni, chapter 3, mentions only the general principles involved and closes with the admonition that ‘. . . they ordained them by the power of the Holy Ghost, which was in them.’  (Moroni 3:4.)  Current instructions in the Melchizedek Priesthood Handbook are in perfect accord with all of the foregoing.  The following excerpts are taken from page 86 of that handbook:

There are few set forms in the Church.  The Holy Spirit directs the priesthood.  Rather than following set forms, the brethren should live so that they may have the inspiration of the Spirit of God when called upon to officiate in the ordinances.  Then their prayers will be simple, direct, appropriate and effective in the sight of God.

The only forms, either for prayers or ordinances outside the temple, in which the wording is specifically prescribed are those pertaining to baptism and the administration of the sacrament. . . . No set forms have been revealed in our day pertaining to the . . .  conferring the priesthood. . . . The two essential elements are that each ordinance shall be performed by the authority of the priesthood and in the name of Jesus Christ. . . .

Brethren officiating in ordinances should not repeat memorized prayers, except in two cases referred to above, but exercise the privilege of blessing people and performing other ordinances under the inspiration of the Lord.  It follows that faith, humility, and purity of life should rule the lives of all bearing the priesthood that ‘the vessels of the Lord’ might be pure and receptive to the inspiration and the direction of the Almighty.”

(“Melchizedek Priesthood,” IE 52(7):456, Jul., 1949)

9 Aug.:  Seventies are apart in a way from Elders and High Priests.

“Your recent letter, undated, has been received.  You ask a question concerning the ordination of men to the office of Seventy.  The question is:  “Why do one of the Council of Seventy have to ordain one to the office of Seventy?”  Then you continue:  “Why can’t Seventies ordain other Seventies as High Priests and Elders do?”

These two questions are interesting.  I am only too glad to answer them for you.  It is true that a person who ordains Seventies must be of the First Presidency, or the Council of the Twelve, or the First Council of Seventy.  This was a regulation that was put into effect by authority of the First Presidency some years ago.  There are many reasons for it.

In the first place, we are compelled to keep very careful record of all brethren ordained Seventies, and if Seventies of all the quorums should have the privilege of ordaining other Seventies, you can imagine what the condition of records would be in a very short time.

You must always keep in mind that Seventies are apart in a way from Elders and High Priests.  Their duties are so different.  This, too, must be kept in mind, that Seventies, High Priests and Elders are all members of the same priesthood; but the presiding brethren of the Church, since the days of the Prophet Joseph, have taught us what our powers are, and we must abide by them.”  (LEY to Bp. Carlos Larsen, 9 Aug 1949, Levi Edgar Young Papers, Utah State Historical Society, B12, Box 6)

17 Aug.:  I will not always abide by the majority in the future.

“Your kind letter, of August 11th, was interesting to me.  I know full well the many calls made on our organizations and upon individual brethren.  I have never wanted the brethren to feel that they had to respond to our circular letter with a gift.  Whatever it was to be voluntary.

The letter came as a result of a motion passed at our Council meeting in the Temple.  It had some opposition, but we have to abide by the majority, which I am not always going to do in the future.

Do not feel that you have to make any material response, for you are doing so much in keeping missionaries in the field.  I wish to assure you that your explanation makes your feelings clear to me.

God bless you in your noble purposes.  My love to all the brethren.” (LEY to Pres. Floyd Fletcher, 17 Aug 1949, Levi Edgar Young Papers, Utah State Historical Society, B12, Box 6)

Oct.:  Confidential annual report.

“Brethren of priesthood quorum presidencies:

What of your confidential annual report?  Will you have the information collected, tabulated, and the report delivered to the chairman of your stake Melchizedek Priesthood Committee not later than January 1?

And above all, are you now using the information gained by means of these confidential interviews to aid you in bringing righteousness into the hearts of your quorum members?

It is imperative that priesthood presidencies who have not already collected much of the required information, or who are not now using that information for the benefit of the quorum members involved, begin immediately to do so.

This is an important report.  It is one of the most effective tools that quorum presidencies have to aid them in discharging their responsibility of leading their brethren along the path that leads to the celestial world.  Quorum presidents who collect the information and then use it themselves–in the manner in which it should be used–find that it helps them to get the brethren over whom they preside to meet the standards of righteousness which the Church expects of holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Chief purpose of the annual confidential interview of quorum members is to enable quorum presidents to get better acquainted with and learn the spiritual and temporal needs of their members.  The Church is not nearly so much interested in gathering social statistics on, say, the Word of Wisdom, as it is with placing the information as to which quorum members keep that law of health into the hands of the presidents of quorums.  These presiding brethren are then expected to use that information in guiding their members into the paths of proper conduct.

And, brethren, please comply with the instructions on the report itself and on pages 49 to 51 of the Melchizedek Priesthood Handbook, 1948.  To collect and use the required information is not difficult if a few simple principles are followed:

1. Keep uppermost in your mind the fact that the annual survey is your opportunity, as a priesthood officer, to become better acquainted with quorum members, to encourage them, and to make them feel the warmth and strength of priesthood brotherhood.

2. Allow plenty of time for your survey.  A high priests quorum with an extended membership, for instance, cannot be surveyed in a few weeks or months.  In some of them, it is a year-round process.

3. No one is to make the interviews except quorum presidents or counselors.  Quorum or group secretaries and group leaders (unless they happen also to be a member of the quorum presidency) will not be used.

4. The interviews should be finished and the report completed by December 31.

5. When the interview is made, only two persons should be present: the quorum member and one member of the quorum presidency.  It should be conducted in the absence of the member’s family.  Every precaution should be taken to avoid embarrassment to the member.  We want to bind our members to us more closely, and not do any avoidable thing that might drive them away.

6. ‘Quorum officers are to keep the confidences of their fellow members.  They should not overlook the fact that this is a confidential report.  It is a sacred trust which worthy leaders will not violate.’

7. It is proper to discuss the matter of tithepaying with quorum members during the interview.  Since, however, the interview will always take place before the final tithing settlement for the year, the final tithing status of the member will not be determined in the interview.  Quorum presidents will take a list of their members living in each ward to the bishop of that ward, and he will indicate whether each member is a full, part, or non-tithe payer, or whether he is exempt from the provisions of the law.  Amounts paid are of no concern of quorum presidents.  They are confidential between the member and his bishop.

8. It is also proper to discuss matters of chastity, integrity, honesty, and the like with quorum members.  But quorum presidents will not ask their members if they are morally clean.  The answer to that question will be gained from general reputation.  The same is true for the question as to how many members, if any, ‘do not have a reputation for honesty, integrity, and fair dealing.’

9. It is not necessary to ask any question the answer to which is already known.  If the brother is known to use tobacco, do not ask him if he does.  Using proper tact and wisdom, however, quorum presidents should use their utmost energy to get persons addicted with this and otehr like habits to reform their ways of life.

10. The practice of sending questionnaires in any form to gain the information for this annual report is not approved.  Much of the value of the report lies in the fact that quorum presidents are able to counsel with their members on what the standards of the Church are and on the things they should do to meet them.”

(“Melchizedek Priesthood,” IE 52(10):666, Oct., 1949)

1 Oct.:  Elders quorums.

“I would like to send out greetings and a message to the elders of the Church.  I refer to those belonging to the elders quorums, not to all of those who are sometimes designated as elders who belong to other quorums.  I think that it is necessary to send this message out by you, my brethren and sisters, because large numbers of this priesthood are not present at our conference here today, and many may not even be listening in to the proceedings.

The elders constitute our largest body of priesthood.  There are one thousand and thirty-three quorums, with seventy-two thousand nine hundred and four members enrolled, making the average enrollment in each quorum just about seventy.

The quorums are widely distributed throughout the stakes of Zion and in some of the missions of the Church, affording adequate opportunity for all men holding this priesthood to be served by their quorums.

The quorums are under the direct presidencies and supervision of the stake presidency who determine and ordain the membership and select and install their officers.  In fact, the maintenance of these quorums constitutes, perhaps the most direct and exclusive priesthood responsibility which the stake presidencies have.

The membership of the quorums is made up of young men, middle-aged men, and older men.  Many of the young men are on missions or are preparing to fill missions or have recently returned therefrom.  Some of the young men come into the quorums in contemplation of marriage, and some merely by way of advancement from the Aaronic Priesthood.

To all of these young men I extend my congratulations.  Brethren, you have attained a high place and great distinction in the Church of God.  You have been accorded recognition for your faith, your clean living, and your worthy ambition to be servants of our Lord.  The honor which has come to you and the responsibilities and opportunities which arise out of your high calling are immeasurable, as I shall attempt to show.  I pray the Lord to bless you young elders, that your appreciation and enthusiasm for this newly-acquired priesthood shall grow and deepen with the years and your experiences, and that you will never cease to regard it as your most priceless possession.

And now, I address myself to members of the elders quorums who have been members for five, ten, twenty, or more years.  Brethren of this group, did you ever think when, as a young man you were ordained an elder preparatory to going on a mission or being married in the temple, that in five, ten or twenty years you would lose regard for that high honor and the precious gift which has come to you?  Did you ever think then that you would fail to respond to the calls coming to you through your quorum for a kindly service to a fellow member or his family or to others in need?  Did it ever occur to you in those days of your young manhood, with this Holy Priesthood resting upon you, when you took your young sweetheart to the holy temple, where your marriage was sealed and sanctified and your home begun, with a resolution in your young heart to attain through your faithfulness those transcendent blessing pronounced upon you–did it ever occur to you then that in five, ten, or twenty years hence you would have forgotten those solemn resolutions and abandoned your ambition and disappointed and saddened your dear companion?

I am sure you never thought that in those early days of your eldership these things would come.

How have they come to all too many of this great body of priesthood?  I think perhaps I can tell you, or at least I can try.

Some of you began to slip when you let other affairs and other engagements take you away from your quorum meetings.  You left the work of the quorums to those few sturdy wheel horses always willing to carry on.  You subordinated the quorum to other things you considered more important.  You gradually lost the desire for the education and the opportunities it affords.  And then after you had removed yourself from the warm, stimulating influence of your brethren in the quorum, you found yourselves becoming critical, critial of the teachings, lessons, and procedure, and you summed it all up as rather dull business, possibly without realizing that you and others like you might have made it most interesting and profitable.

And then you forgot another thing, which our brother who prayed in the session this morning brought to our attention.  You forgot when you were ordained that a great confidence and trust was reposed in you, and you forgot that you must be true to that trust.  You neglected it.

I remember years ago hearing of a young elders’ quorum presidency setting out to visit all the members of their quorum.  The came to the home of one, a man of maturity who had had considerable business success, and knocked at his door.  He came to the door.  They told him who they were, that his name was on the record of members, and that they had come to visit him.  He said, these were the words he used: ‘Well, gentlemen, you may come in if you wish, but I must tell you in advance that I have long since lost interest in the work you represent.  I have repented of some of the follies of my youth’–he had been on a mission–‘and I now devote myself to more substantial things.

Naturally they were chilled with such a reception, and they were about to depart when they heard the voice of this man’s wife, who had apparently overheard the conversation.  She called to them:  ‘Brethren, please come again.’

Largely in response to her appeal, these young men took courage to go again and again, and after a time, in part through their efforts, in part through the persuasion of his wife, this man repented of the follies he had committed since his youth, and came back to activity in the Church and held a responsible office.

Then, my brethren of the quorums, you did other things that drew you away.  Without the aid and encouragement of your brethren you succumbed to some weaknesses.  If you had smoked before your ordination, you took it up again.  If you had never smoked, you formed the acquaintance of men who did, and you took up the practice to be one with them, as you thought.  Some of you began drinking a little for the same purpose.  You joined the clubs and the societies of these men of the world, sometimes their lodges.  You laughed at cheap jokes about the priesthood.  You joined in their pleasures and pastimes on Sundays.  When you might have been exercising your priesthood, you played golf with them; you went hunting and fishing; and after awhile some of you forgot, forgot that you belonged to a quorum, that you were bound to your brethren by sacred ties, forgot even that you had been set apart and vested with a holy power to make you men ‘different’ from other men in the world.

Now I grant that this may not have been the course of all who have become inactive in the elders’ quorums of the Church.  Exacting occupations, in some cases, disappointments, real or fancied differences with Church Authorities, and pure indolence may have made their contributions, but on sober consideration, my brethren, I believe you will agree that the course which I have outlined is that which many have followed.

Now this is the message that I send out to you elders of the Church who are inactive in its affairs and indifferent to your responsibilities and opportunities.  Study yourselves.  Hark back to the days when you received the priesthood.  Try to live again the joy and pride which it brought to you.  Trace your lines of authority and find out how proximate you are to the restoration of the priesthood in this dispensation.  Never disparage in your own estimation the office of an elder in the Church of Christ.  Remember that this Church was organized by two elders, the first and second elder of the Church, and that it was the first office in the Church.  No higher priesthood than that of elder is required to be a minister of the gospel and to preach to the nations of the earth.  No higher priesthood is required to go into the holy temple and receive the lofty blessings that are therein bestowed.  No higher priesthood is required to enter into the eternal covenant of marriage and become the head of a great household.

I once heard President Joseph F. Smith say, over in the Assembly Hall at one of the special priesthood meetings held in connection with the general conference of the Church, that if all the priesthood of the Church were to be obliterated save one elder only, he would have the inherent right and power under appointment to reorganize the entire Church with all its offices.

Be proud to be an elder.  Enrich your lives by close association with your fellow quorum members.  Make the quorums of the elders the finest clubs and fraternities in this world.

Do you know, my brethren, that the greatest reservoir of power and strength in the whole Church is in these quorums of the elders?  Make that power available to the Church, and it will go forward by leaps and bounds.

The final appeal I make to you, my brethren, is do not disappoint and grieve your wives and families.  Every understanding faithful Latter-day Saint woman knows that the highest blessings which may come to her and her children must come through the priesthood.  She knows that there can be no perpetuation of the family in eternity without a husband and father honoring the Holy Priesthood.  Many a good wife and mother today is filled with apprehension and sorrow in the neglect and behavior of the elder who stands at the head of her household.

For her sake, for the sake of her children and your children, and other men’s children, I plead with you to forsake worldly habits and your indifference and neglect and criticism, and come back to the association of your brethren who love you.

You know when you stop to think that the priesthood you hold is genuine.  Very few of you have strayed so far that you have lost that testimony.  It may be dormant, but it is not dead.  It will be rekindled, with your renewed activity, and it will bless your lives with inexpressible happiness and joy.

I know that that priesthood which we are honored to bear is genuine and divine.  I know that it is more than a name.  I know that in it is an essence of force and of power.  I cannot explain it, but I know that there is a constituency in it which someday we will understand, and that it emanates from God himself.

I have felt that power.  I have seen its effects.  I know that the Prophet Joseph Smith received it from angelic ministers, and I know that it has been transmitted to you and to me to be used in the blessing of God’s children and the establishment of his work.  I will try to honor that priesthood.  Will you, my brethren?”  (Stephen L. Richards, 1 Oct., 1949; CR Oct., 1949, pp. 93-97)