A sermon at church today focused on better understanding the power of godliness. While listening, I found myself asking questions, including: Where does power come from? How is it focused, used for good? When is it dangerous and how is it safeguarded? How is it developed or stored? What power does God want for us?
Physical power always comes from sort form of engine, taking many shapes and using a wide range of fuel sources, including heat engines (fuel and fire); electrical engines (current or battery); pneumatic engines (compressed air); clockwork engines (elastic energy); and even molecular engines (chemical energy). All of these require some kind of stored and condensed energy source, and each of them requires a mechanism to translate the engine's energy into motion, often through some form of gearbox or equivalent.
Outside of these kinds tangible powers, there are additional powers that are less physical and more personal – specifically, the power over one's self and power over others. The scriptures also talk about another kind of power – the power of godliness – that is even more than these.
"And the Lord confirmed a priesthood also upon Aaron and his seed, throughout all their generations, which priesthood also continueth and abideth forever with the priesthood which is after the holiest order of God. And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest." (Doctrine & Covenants 84:18-20)
And elsewhere in Doctrine & Covenants, it first observes:
"We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion." (Doctrine & Covenants 121:39)
and then asserts:
"No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile – Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death." (Doctrine & Covenants 121:41-44)
before it continues with additional instructions containing a promise:
Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever. (Doctrine & Covenants 121:45-46)
Common forms of power require a fuel source – one that is often the result of a form of physical death (like fossil fuels), nuclear destruction, or chemical reactions. The kind of power that God is interested in us developing, however, involves us overcoming the natural tendencies within ourselves. Only then can we develop the character to deny ourselves all ungodliness (Luke 9:23; Moroni 10:32) and become more like the divine.
One lesson we have to learn, and often through our own negative experiences, is that the power of godliness is not built on compulsion. Anyone who thinks they have power because they can tell someone else to do a thing is reveling in a temporary delusion, confusing compulsion with power, and needs to turn back repenting and humbling themselves. And while there will never be a lack of those enjoying the short-term illusions of compulsion, I am far more interested in the long-term benefits of following the Lord's path in which good things flow of their own volition, without compulsory means. I hope you will and I both will find ways this week to walk more humbly and with greater faith – the world needs fewer people forcing temporary compliance.