18 And it came to pass that he spake unto Nephi (for Nephi was among the multitude) and he commanded him that he should come forth.
19 And Nephi arose and went forth, and bowed himself before the Lord and did kiss his feet.
20 And the Lord commanded him that he should arise. And he arose and stood before him.
21 And the Lord said unto him: I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven.
22 And again the Lord called others, and said unto them likewise; and he gave unto them power to baptize….
(3 Nephi 11:18-22)
What does it mean to receive power from God?
When the Savior appeared to a group of people on the American continent following His death and resurrection, the first thing He did was to introduce Himself. He placed Himself in a context which the people would be familiar with: “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world” (3 Nephi 11:10). Then, He invited them all to come forward and touch the wounds in His resurrected body. They did not have to take other people’s word for it. Every one who was present “did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come” (3 Nephi 11:15).
Immediately afterward, once everyone in that multitude had been individually empowered to testify that they had seen and touched the resurrected Savior, He invited Nephi to come forward. Who was this Nephi? He was a descendant of Alma, who had established the church at the waters of Mormon (Mosiah 18:16-18). He was the great-grandson of Helaman, who had led an army of young men, every one of whom miraculously survived multiple fierce battles (Alma 56:55-56, Alma 57:24-26). He was himself a powerful spiritual leader, who had prayed on behalf of his fellow believers all day long and had been promised a significant miracle which occurred that very night (3 Nephi 1:10-15). He had ministered to the people “with great power and with great authority.” He had been taught by angels. And he had performed many miracles, including raising his brother from the dead (3 Nephi 7:17-19). Shortly before the destruction which coincided with the death of the Savior, Nephi was busy preaching the gospel, baptizing many people, and giving other people the authority to baptize (3 Nephi 7:23-26).
Now, the Savior calls him forward and gives him power to baptize. Why? Didn’t he already have that power?
Here’s my thought: Authority is binary; you either have authority to do something or you don’t. But power is different. You can have more or less power. Nephi had already received great power from God. Perhaps on this occasion, he received more. More power to baptize the people in a meaningful way, so that they could more fully receive the Holy Ghost, be purified by the Savior, and be unified with one another for generations to come (3 Nephi 19:29).
As President Russell M. Nelson has taught, both men and women receive power from God to bless His children. Summarizing two talks he had given previously, one to the women of the Church and one to the men, he said:
We see faithful women who understand the power inherent in their callings and in their endowment and other temple ordinances. These women know how to call upon the powers of heaven to protect and strengthen their husbands, their children, and others they love. These are spiritually strong women who lead, teach, and minister fearlessly in their callings with the power and authority of God! How thankful I am for them!
Likewise, we see faithful men who live up to their privileges as bearers of the priesthood. They lead and serve by sacrifice in the Lord’s way with love, kindness, and patience. They bless, guide, protect, and strengthen others by the power of the priesthood they hold. They bring miracles to those they serve while they keep their own marriages and families safe. They shun evil and are mighty elders in Israel. I am most thankful for them!
(“Ministering with the Power and Authority of God,” General Conference, April 2018.
Today, I will be grateful that God is willing to share His power with his children. I will remember that priesthood power is intended to bless people and bring them closer to Him. I will be grateful for the power I and other members of the church have received, and I will strive, as President Nelson has urged, to “live up to [my] privileges as [a bearer] of the priesthood.”