15 June 1998
To Elder David C. Vail,
You asked me in your last letter if I was a "Seventy".
"Yes I am an ordained Seventy".
They used to do that you know back in the OLD, OLD, OLD days. What a great privilege it is now to have that ordination when they do not ordain members anymore....
Maybe the best way to really answer your question would be to explain to you some feelings that I have had over the years related to holding different offices in the priesthood.
When I was ordained a Deacon in 1955, it was just a little new feeling that came. I notice it. But I had nothing to compare it with. I remember how much I loved being a Deacon and how much I loved that little feeling that came, BUT........ I had nothing to contrast it to. But when I was ordained a Teacher I immediately noticed a different feeling. I felt a TEACHER FEELING that was bigger, more powerful than that little DEACON FEELING. The Deacon feeling was wonderful but the Teacher feeling was more. I could feel the difference. It was like going from grade school to High School. A very different feeling.... Much bigger. Much more powerful.... When I was ordained a Priest WOW!!!!!! The feeling was like 10 times as big as the Teacher. It was like some great power had been put upon me. I guess it was like going from High School to Graduate School at the University skipping college all together... To bless the sacrament was so powerful. To baptize and ordain other Aaronic Priesthood holders was a true hyper jump spiritually. It was a HUGE leap....... I loved being a Priest. I could have loved being a Priest the rest of my life.
Well when grandpa Vail ordained me an ELDER... YIKES!!!! It was like nothing I had ever even dreamed possible. The feeling was 100 times as powerful as that of a Priest. It was like being a Priest was being the "king of the hill" if you ever played that game, but then to be an Elder... well it was like going from being on top of the hill and being the best to flying a Jet Airplane. There was almost no comparison in the increase of the feelings of power and magnitude of responsibility. It was like going from Graduate School in College to the Temple. A whole different realm.
The feelings of the Aaronic Priesthood were very much tied to the feelings of service in the church. Does that make sense to say, "The Aaronic Priesthood feeling was very tied to the church feelings...?" The Priest feeling was like a feeling in the Church. The Elder feeling .... WELL... that was a whole new feeling. It was a feeling like I had passed through a window in Eternity. It was a feeling to do with the next life not the church. The power to bless and heal was not a church service feeling. The new Elder feeling a feeling that was like God had lent me some of his power to see how I liked the thought of some day being a God and ABLE TO HAVE ALL HIS POWER..... Being an Elder as you know from your own experience, is Awesome. It was like Heavenly Father was saying to me... "See, this gospel really is true. You really can become equal to me. And now I will let you have a little taste of what it will be like in the next life, IF YOU LIVE WORTHY OF IT NOW."
Worthy. What a big word that is! I learned very quickly that there was a difference between just giving a blessing and "BLESSING THE SICK". It did not take me long to learn that "TRULY BLESSING" was so obviously tied to my worthiness.
As I continued to study the scriptures, some of the scriptures I had read many times before all of the sudden took on a whole new meaning. Just a few examples would be scriptures like:
I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands?
I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?
3 Nephi 20:41
And then shall a cry go forth: Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch not that which is unclean; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.
AND ESPECIALLY THIS ONE
And now I say unto you, all you that are desirous to follow the voice of the good shepherd, come ye out from the wicked, and be ye separate, and touch not their unclean things; and behold, their names shall be blotted out, that the names of the wicked shall not be numbered among the names of the righteous, that the word of God may be fulfilled, which saith: The names of the wicked shall not be mingled with the names of my people;
Watching bad things on TV became more than just a "not good thing to do". It became a thief. When I watched immorality on the TV it robbed me of that power. I learned very quickly that pornography OF ANY KIND drove the spirit and the power away immediately. Elder Oaks, interestingly enough, made that very statement again in our recent Regional Conference.
I found that if I even swore I lost the power for a few days. I found if I looked at a woman and allowed even the slights suggestions to come into my mind I lost the power. Truly I learned quickly that there is a difference between giving a blessing and "HEALING THE SICK".
I had to change my whole life to be a receptacle of the powers of the priesthood on a daily basis. I found that I had an open door of revelation.... a direct line to heaven just like the red phone from Washington DC to Moscow. All I had to do was live worthy. WORTHY... That became a very big word in my life after I was ordained an Elder. It took on a whole new meaning. It became my watch word to living. It was a guard to all I did every where I went.
I will never forget that day I was going into the Army and I was listening to one of my aunts and my dad talking in the front room (she did not know I could hear her) and she bet my dad that I could not go in the Army and not come home without smoking and drinking. There had been members of her family that had had and she knew that I would too. I will never forget my dads words. "I know Cordell. I know that he will not do that". And she said, "You will see".
And I will, I suppose never forget that look on my dads face when he came out there to Georgia to visit us while I was in the army, and saw the missionary work we were doing in the Army. He came there after I was ordained a Seventy. He was just amazed when he learned that our Stake had baptized more people that all our Mission in Finland had while I was there as a missionary. I know that my dad never said anything to my aunt about it when I came back home from the army, but I know that he did not forget that conversation, and I was proud to be a priesthood holder and to have the great privilege to "RETURN WITH HONOR". I was thrilled to come back home ordained a Seventy and having been able to show my father that I was worthy of his trust and not only did not start drinking, smoking and being immoral like some do, but rather had turned it into a mission where we baptized scores of people.
Another memory I have that is so clear and distinct from the Army is that day when I was standing at attention in the barracks and the Lieutenant was inspecting every locker. I was in the first bay right inside the door so he did me first then went one down the line from bunk to bunk looking in the foot locker, the wall locker under the bed... down the row he went and when he got to the end of the barracks (1/2 done) ready to come back up the other side I heard him shout out in a loud voice (and these were his exact words), "What the "#*%@" is this Book of Mormon in every locker". Everyone sort of chuckled but no one said anything. But I really had not realized until then that I had given a Book of Mormon to every man in my platoon and had talked to them about the church. Being there with them was a wonderful experience. And when they saw my garments as I undressed each day there in the open bay, they asked me what they were. That gave me the opportunity to tell them that I was an ordained minister. They all respected that and no one ever said any mocking things about my garments or my religious beliefs. There in that barracks there were many nights when men would come up in the dark and wake me up and ask me to pray with them because they were all so scared about going to Vietnam (which we all did). And because I was an ordained minister, they wanted me to pray with them AND FOR THEM.... I COULD FEEL THE FEELING OF THE PRIESTHOOD INSIDE ME and I was able to use it to protect myself spiritually in the Army. I was able to use it to help instill faith in those around me. I even used it to protect my life and the lives of all my men in Vietnam. But that is another whole different subject for which there is no room here. But I can tell you Elder Vail, that the power of the priesthood is real. And I could feel it and I was able to use to not only to protect myself from the evils of the world but to USE IT TO CHANGE THE LIVES OF THOSE AROUND ME AS WELL.... It was a very real power that I felt after I was ordained an Elder, and as I learned to use it. It was like flying a Jet Plane.... It was THRILLING!!!!!
Well after serving three years in the Army I was reassigned back to Ft. Benning, Georgia and promoted to the rank of Captain. At that time I had the privilege to become the Stake Mission President in the Macon, Georgia Stake while I was still an Elder. Then after a few months Elder S. Dillworth Young who was a member of the Presidency of the 1st Quorum of Seventy came there to our Stake for Conference. While he was there, he ordained all of the Stake Mission Presidency Seventies. I will never for get that experience. I was first to be ordained, of course because I was the Stake Mission President. When he ordained me a seventy, it was an immediate change in the feeling of being and Elder. I received a witness of the Savior like FIRE. It so filled me I could hardly walk back to my chair.
The thing that was interesting in that ordination was that Elder Young did not give me any blessing. He just ordained me a seventy and said amen. Then he did the same to my 1st and 2nd counselor. So when the secretary came up, (he was a very outgoing person), he said, "Elder Young I want you to give me a blessing when you ordain me". Elder Young just looked at him standing there in front of the chair, pointed to the chair and said "SQUAT". (He was a very outspoken person himself). We all laughed. My secretary sat down and Elder Young did the very same as with him that he had done with all the others. He just ordained him and said amen. When the secretary stood up he was quite upset. You could see he had turned red in the face. He literally STOMPED back to his chair. Elder Young was just quiet and let him get back to his chair, then.... then he said something that I will never forget. It changed my life. After the secretary got back to his chair and sat down, Elder Young just smiled at him and then said, "Brethren you have understood what I just did. I just ordained you Seventies. With that ordination comes a sure witness. Now if you want a blessing go out and earn it". Then he turned and walked out of the room.
We were all quite surprised and I think that day none of us really understood what he had done to us, and for us spiritually and especially, we did not understand what he meant about going out and earning the blessings and what a great promise that was to each of us. Truly what he said was prophetic. I received a witness that has never left me. It is something that came with the ordination as a Seventy. And by doing the work of a seventy, I have been blessed beyond measure just as he promised.
When I was ordained a High Priest there was again a new feeling that came. It was bigger than the feeling of the Elder. A High Priest has the authority to preside. When I was ordained a High Priest I could feel that feeling. I also then recognized that it was the very same feeling that I had felt as a Priest, except the feeling I had as a Priest was a much smaller feeling. The feeling of being a priest was very similar to a High Priest. It was a feeling of being able to preside... How else can I explain it unless you have felt it yourself.....
BUT THE SEVENTY FEELING... Well that was totally different. It was not an new "BIGGER" feeling like I had experienced with each of the other ordinations, one building on the one before. It truly was a "BIGGER" feeling but it was a witness that came to me of the Savior. It was totally different than the other feelings that came as I was ordained from one office to the other. IT IS LIKE FIRE. It is a feeling that comes that is a witness. And I can still feel that feeling this very day. I have had it in my soul every day since I was ordained. Just because they ordained me a Teacher, that did not make the DEACON FEELING go away. I can still feel the Deacon feeling inside me right now. It is just a little feeling, but I can still feel it. I AM STILL A DEACON. The Priest and Elder feeling did not cancel each other out either. I can still very clearly remember and still FEEL both of them.... And so when I was ordained a High Priest, IT DID NOT MAKE THE WITNESS THAT CAME WHEN I WAS ORDAINED A SEVENTY GO AWAY.
I am still an ordained Seventy even though I do not belong to a Seventies Quorum like I did before. And I will be an Ordained Seventy all the days of my life. And I am grateful for that special witness. I especially feel it a privileged to have it now in a time when lay members of the church are no longer allowed to be ordained Seventies. Every day of my life I can feel that special witness. It is like a fire inside me. That is why I love to do missionary work so much. Every time I bear my testimony to someone, that FIRE increases inside me.
When we were doing all the missionary work in North Carolina it was like I would come home to this wonderful FIRE FEELING in our home. Every time we taught the new member discussions that witness feeling grew stronger and stronger and stronger. I love being a Seventy. I am so grateful that the Lord blessed me to have that great privilege. I consider it a great obligation as well to fulfill my calling as a Seventy and be a special witness to the world even thought I am not officially in a Seventy's quorum any more.... I AM STILL A SEVENTY... AND I CAN STILL FEEL THE WITNESS THE LORD GAVE US THROUGH ELDER YOUNG THAT DAY. I FEEL IT EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE.
It may also interest you to know that while I was a set apart full time missionary, the feeling I had then was exactly the same as the feeling that came when I was ordained a Seventy. But when I was released from my mission, the feeling of being a missionary was taken away. But the feeling of being a seventy has never gone away since I was ordained. I guess the reason is that I was never UNORDAINED.....
So there you have it. Your answer to my being a SEVENTY....
I love you