For context, Maurice L. Draper was a member of the First Presidency when he wrote this.
The ordination statement of the angelic messenger as he conferred the Aaronic priesthood upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery pointed out that the priesthood of Aaron is to minister the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion, for the remission of sins (Church History, Volume 1, Pages 34 and 35). Though more detailed instructions were given later, in this early statement we note that the primary concern of ministry is to quicken men to repentance and to enlist them in the fellowship of the followers of Jesus, which repentance and enlistment brings remission of sins. No description of duties is more important than this basic statement of ministerial purpose.
Priesthood authority in the Restoration movement has never been regarded as a purely legal matter. It is first of all a matter of insight, response to human need, and actual participation in situations which contribute to the satisfaction of that need. “All are called according to the gifts of God unto them” (Doctrine and Covenants 119: 8B). If one is called to minister in terms of his potential capacity in relation to Divine gifts, he is under obligation to refine those gifts, to sharpen his tools of ministry, and to develop skill in the procedures of ministry. In the final analysis, priesthood authority is expressed in effective ministry.
It is apparent that life-centered ministry is related to the conditions prevailing in the lives of those who receive it. In this connection Jesus was no recluse who retired from the realities of life to make solitary penance. Nor was he a reactionary who sought to preserve forever a static order of things for fear that change would be inevitably evil. He addressed himself to the conditions prevailing among the people. He dealt with their actual life situations, pointing them at the same time toward a new order of things which required change for achievement.
The Means, Not the End
Authoritative ministry today calls for no less. Methods and procedures are not themselves the ends of ministry. The ends are in the growth of creative, mutually helpful, intelligent, and wise human personalities, in whom love as the fruit of the Spirit is the controlling motivation in all social relationships. If not ends, however, methods and procedures are highly important as means. They are the patterns of ministry through which the ends are achieved.
If the reason for the restoration of priesthood is to reveal Divine purpose and communicate Divine powers to men in life situations in the latter days, those life situations need to be understood. The changing nature of the family in its social functions, the strains of a high-tension economic system, the implications of expanding horizons of scientific knowledge – all these are of concern to the ministers of the Lord. This is not to say that all priesthood members are to be sociologists, or economists, or research scientists, or engineers. It does mean, however, that all need to be aware of the complexity of life in the latter days, and of man’s great need for an effective interpretation of life purpose in large enough terms to provide room for the expanding intellect, multiplying skills, and enlarging interests of these times.
To give such ministry, the church needs today not professional people, engineers, craftsmen, who are also high priests, elders, priests, teachers, and deacons, but high priests, elders, priests, teachers, and deacons who are also craftsmen, engineers, and professional people. From the standpoint of priestly authority and the kingdom of God, the conditioning factor is the ministerial point of view. The basic calling of a member of the priesthood is to interpret life to the people on God’s terms. This can be done through those whose occupational callings cover the whole range of creative human experience. Thus a member of the priesthood in any office can regard his professional or practical training as part of the resources of his ministry, though which he gains insights into the circumstances and needs of those who share his occupational activities.
Ministry to the Need
The principle of at-one-ment applies at this point. Who better knows the need and the means of ministering to those needs than men of God who are identified with their fellowmen in like circumstances? This is a principle with which other churches are experimenting in these days by the appointment of ministers to industrial jobs and professional assistantships to acquaint them with the life circumstances of their parishioners. In our church this has always been the pattern through the ordination of the standing ministry.
The angelic challenge was to consider first the ends toward which ministry is given. The spiritual authority required to achieve those ends finds expression in good methods and sound procedures. Without mistaking these means for the ends, let the priesthood lead the Saints in repentance and profound commitment, that baptism and church fellowship may truly result in the remission of sins and the growth of a people of power.