We often hear the caution to beware of priestcraft, either practicing it ourselves, or falling prey to those who practice it. Just what is priestcraft, and how can we best follow the counsel to avoid it?
In 2 Nephi 26:29, we read: He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts, for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.
There are three parts to practicing priestcraft.
First, the person sets themselves up for a light unto the world. They preach, most likely saying all the right things, but they aren’t calling attention to the glory of God. They are, instead, calling attention to themselves, wanting others to praise them for their skills of oratory prowess and to tell them how clever they are.
Second, they preach for gain, or in other words, they want people to pay them to preach.
Third, they don’t seek the welfare of Zion, but rather, their own selfish interests.
How can we avoid practicing priestcraft?
When we are asked to give a lesson or to speak, we should always speak in the Lord’s name, giving credit where credit is due. We should seek to act as the Lord’s instrument, saying what the Lord would have us say, rather than saying the things we think will go over the best or make us the most popular. If we are speaking for a church event, we should not charge. If we are asked to speak to a secular group on a secularly-based topic, a speaking fee might be appropriate, but we should never accept money for preaching the Gospel.
How can we avoid falling in with those who practice priestcraft?
I enjoy hearing powerful speakers. But it’s easy to tell the difference between those who speak for God’s glory and those who speak for their own. A certain measure of the Spirit is missing. The words may all be true, but the power behind them is gone. When we listen to speakers, we should examine the feelings of our hearts as we listen. If the Spirit is not present, we should exercise caution as we listen to that speaker.
We should never “fall in” with a certain group or a certain person, taking them on as our spiritual leader. There are a great many persuasive people in the world, but we have been given a modern prophet, and it is to him that we should turn when we want guidance. We should rely on the promptings of the Spirit to tell us who to listen to and what we should believe.