Russell M. Nelson teaches that, while church leaders are ordinary human beings, they have been given authority from God; such is delegated from the President of the Church to other leaders.

Apr 1993
Speech / Court Transcript
Russell M. Nelson

Russell M. Nelson, "Honoring the Priesthood," General Conference, April 1993, accessed November 6, 2023

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Russell M. Nelson
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

General Counsel

May I offer counsel of a general nature, first with comments about General Authorities. We recognize them as instruments in the hand of the Lord, yet realize that they are ordinary human beings. They require haircuts, laundry services, and occasional reminders just like anyone else. President Benson once shared with us a story to illustrate. He said:

“Orson F. Whitney … was a great man to concentrate. One day when he was traveling by train, he was so preoccupied that he did not notice the train pass the station where he was to get off. So he had to [be driven] back to where he should have been. Meanwhile the stake president waited and waited. … Finally when he decided that something had more than likely happened to Brother Whitney and he was not going to make it, they commenced the meeting. As Elder Whitney approached, he was greeted by the opening hymn, which was ‘Ye Simple Souls Who Stray.’”

We honor such a man because of his extraordinary calling. His official acts are valid on earth and in heaven. Well do I remember the first time I met one of the General Authorities. It was a feeling beyond description. Though I was but a boy, immediately—almost instinctively—I rose to my feet. Even now I feel that same way when one of the Brethren enters the room. A General Authority is an oracle of God.

Often we speak of keys of priesthood authority. Fifteen living men—the First Presidency and the Twelve—have been ordained as Apostles and have had all keys of priesthood authority conferred upon them. President Gordon B. Hinckley recently explained that “only the President of the Church has the right to exercise [those keys] in their fulness. He may delegate the exercise of various of them to one or more of his Brethren. …

“Such agency has been given by President Benson to his Counselors and to the Twelve according to various responsibilities delegated to them.”

Under assignment from the First Presidency and the Twelve, General Authorities confer the appropriate keys upon presidents of stakes and of missions, who in turn confer the needed keys upon bishops and upon quorum and branch presidents.

Assigned to each one who bears the priesthood is a loving leader, because “mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.” (D&C 132:8.)

That order also defines bounds of revelation. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves.” That same principle precludes receiving revelation for anyone outside one’s defined circle of responsibility.

Honoring the priesthood also means to honor your personal call to serve. A few do’s and don’ts may be helpful:

Do learn to take counsel. Seek direction from file leaders and receive it willingly.

Don’t speak ill of Church leaders.

Don’t covet a calling or position.

Don’t second-guess who should or should not have been called.

Don’t refuse an opportunity to serve.

Don’t resign from a call. Do inform leaders of changing circumstances in your life, knowing that leaders will weigh all factors when prayerfully considering the proper timing of your release.

The one who extends and the one who receives a call are both under obligation of accountability. I quote from Elder James E. Talmage:

“Those through whom the call came to him … are as surely held answerable for their acts as is he for his; and of every one shall be demanded a strict and personal accounting for his stewardship, a report in full of service or of neglect, of use or abuse in the administration of the trust to him committed.”

Some aspects of the priesthood are not related to position or title. Authority to administer a priesthood blessing, for example, is dependent only upon ordination and worthiness. The Lord would not withhold blessings from any of His children for want of one with a particular calling. Every elder in the Church holds the same priesthood as the President of the Church.

Brethren, please remember: The highest degree of glory is available to you only through that order of the priesthood linked to the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. (See D&C 131:1–4.) Therefore, your first priority in honoring the priesthood is to honor your eternal companion.

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