In a revelation about priesthood which Joseph Smith received in 1832, there is a passage that is commonly known as the oath and covenant of the priesthood. Here is the first part of that passage:
Whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.
They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.Doctrine and Covenants 84:33-34
The two priesthoods referenced in this passage are the Aaronic Priesthood and the Melchizedek Priesthood. The first priesthood prepares us to receive the second, and the second prepares us to return to God’s presence. When we receive the priesthood, we take upon ourselves obligations to serve others, even in ways that may be difficult. But we have the Lord’s promise that we will be strengthened to fulfill those obligations, as we follow in the footsteps of great servants of God in the past: Moses, Aaron, and Abraham.
It’s worth noting that these promises apply to both women and men. As President Russell M. Nelson has clarified, when a woman is given a calling in the Church, she receives priesthood authority to fulfill that calling. (See “Spiritual Treasures,” General Conference, October 2019.)
And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;
For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;
And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;
And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.
And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.Doctrine and Covenants 84:35-39
An important element of this oath and covenant is a recognition of other people whom God has chosen as His servants. When Alma struggled with dissension within the church, he prayed for guidance and received the following assurance from God:
Blessed art thou, Alma, and blessed are they who were baptized in the waters of Mormon. Thou art blessed because of thy exceeding faith in the words alone of my servant Abinadi.
And blessed are they because of their exceeding faith in the words alone which thou hast spoken unto them.Mosiah 26:15-17
The Lord went on to say that those who would hear His voice would be His sheep. “Thou art my servant,” He said to Alma. Therefore, a willingness to listen to Alma was indicative of a willingness to hear the Lord. We show God that we are willing to follow Him by being receptive to the words of the people He has called to lead us.
Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved.
But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come.
And wo unto all those who come not unto this priesthood which ye have received, which I now confirm upon you who are present this day, by mine own voice out of the heavens; and even I have given the heavenly hosts and mine angels charge concerning you.Doctrine and Covenants 84:40-42
It might seem daunting to take on new responsibilities, particularly when you consider the consequences of failure. But the Lord isn’t warning us about failure in these verses. He’s warning us about abandonment: willfully and completely turning away from the opportunities He has given us. And, as President Henry B. Eyring has pointed out, the consequences of refusing to accept these priesthood obligations are the same as the consequences of accepting them and later abandoning them. (See “Faith and the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood,” General Conference, April 2008).
Besides, what feels like failure probably isn’t failure at all, at least in God’s eyes. As Mormon’s civilization collapsed, when no one was willing to hear the word of God any more, he urged his son, Moroni, to keep trying:
My beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God.Moroni 9:6
You can’t control how other people will respond to your service, but you can have faith that your efforts are acceptable to God, however they might have been received.
Today, I will strive to live in accordance with the oath and covenant of the priesthood. I will strive to magnify my calling, to follow the guidance I receive from God’s servants, and to carry on faithfully in spite of discouragement or setbacks.