Bearing the Vessels of the Lord
In our recent stake conference, Elder Dallin H. Oaks concluded his remarks in our Sunday morning session by encouraging the youth of our stake to learn and live by Doctrine and Covenants 38:42:
And go ye out from among the wicked. Save yourselves. Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord. Even so. Amen.
His brief discussion of this verse was particularly instructive to me. I’m sharing here my impressions of Elder Oaks’ remarks. I acknowledge that I am not the official recorder of his remarks, but I hope that what I learned from him will be useful.
The counsel to go out from the wicked, he taught, is to separate ourselves from the evil influences of the world. We had, in the same session, heard Elder Nolan D. Archibald of the Seventy talk about the power of one person to be an example of righteousness and bless the lives of others. He spoke about a couple of examples of young people who were examples among their peers, leading at least to greater respect and in one case to the conversion of a friend. Elder Oaks reaffirmed that theme, and continued the idea by suggesting that in making the choice to separate ourselves from evil we would also bless ourselves and others.
The second sentence, “Save yourselves,” he taught, is not about salvation. Only Jesus Christ could accomplish that for us. But by our choices we can save ourselves from the dangers of sins. And the youth in particular, he said, must learn to make these choices themselves and not wait for parents or teachers to tell them what to do.
In the next sentence came some interesting thoughts that prompted this essay. He first compared the vessels of the Lord to the emblems of the sacrament. He reminded the young men in the Aaronic Priesthood that they have a special responsibility to stay clean, physically and morally, in order to handle those sacred vessels.
What I heard next surprised me just a bit. He said first that we do not know why the priesthood is not extended to women in our day. And second, the young women in the room are not exempt from the divine counsel in this sentence. He observed that while young men hold the priesthood and by virtue of that calling also handle the emblems of the sacrament, that young women – in the Lord’s time and according to His timetable – may also bear the vessels of the spirit children of our Father in Heaven. For that reason, they must also keep themselves clean and worthy for that great work.
What is interesting to me is this: from my perspective this is not a version of the priesthood for men / motherhood for women argument that we sometimes hear in the church. (I do not accept that argument; fatherhood, not priesthood, is the analog to motherhood.) I did not hear him decree (or even imply) that the only reason women are on the earth is to have children. Nor did he promise or even insinuate that all women would bear children in this life. (The night before, we heard him spend considerable time addressing unique issues that single members of the church face, including the fact that many women never marry and do not have the opportunity to have children.)
What he said was that just as young men have the potential to bear the emblems of the sacrament (and later officiate in other priesthood ordinances), and therefore the vessels of the Lord, so young women have the potential to bear children – vessels which will bear the spirit children of God. And for that reason, young men and young women are both bound by the counsel in Section 38, namely to be clean in order to bear the vessels of the Lord.
I was impressed by Elder Oaks’ use of this particular verse in counseling the youth of our stake. The verse is part of a revelation given to Joseph at a conference in 1831 in which the church was warned of the adversary’s desire to destroy it. Prophets have regularly (and recently) taught that the adversary seeks to derail our youth from their path home.
Elder Oaks’ counsel to youth to separate themselves from evil, to take personal responsibility for their choices and to lead clean lives in order to encourage the influence of the Holy Ghost in their lives is neither surprising, nor groundbreaking. But citing Doctrine and Covenants 38:42 provides a compact setting for that counsel; his teachings about which vessels of the Lord our youth may bear helped to make the message universal.
- What new insights have you gained while listening to the Lord’s servants?
- How do these new insights affect the way you think about the gospel?