Speaking to the priesthood session congregation, President Thomas S. Monson shared teachings "from some of the most noble of God's leaders who have spoken in the general priesthood meetings of the Church."
"Many have passed to their eternal reward, and yet from the brilliance of their minds, from the depths of their souls and from the warmth of their hearts, they have given us inspired direction," he said.
From the Prophet Joseph Smith, he quoted this statement: "Priesthood is an everlasting principle and existed with God from eternity and will to eternity, without beginning of days or end of years."
From President Wilford Woodruff: "The Holy Priesthood is the channel through which God communicates and deals with man upon the earth; and the heavenly messengers that have visited the earth to communicate with man are men who held and honored the priesthood while in the flesh; and everything that God has caused to be done for the salvation of man, from the coming of man upon the earth to the redemption of the world, has been and will be by virtue of the everlasting priesthood."
From President Joseph F. Smith: "The priesthood is ... the power of God delegated to man by which man can act in the earth for the salvation of the human family, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, and act legitimately; not assuming that authority, not borrowing it from generations that are dead and gone, but authority that has been given in this day in which we live by ministering angels and spirits from above, direct from the presence of Almighty God."
From President John Taylor: "What is the priesthood? It is the government of God, whether on earth or in the heavens, for it is by that power, agency or principle that all things are governed on earth or in the heavens, and by that power all things are upheld and sustained. It directs all things, it sustains all things and has to do with all things that God and truth are associated with."
President Monson exclaimed: "How blessed we are to be here in these last days, when the priesthood of God is upon the earth. How privileged we are to bear the priesthood. The priesthood is not so much a gift as it is a commission to serve, a privilege to lift and an opportunity to bless the lives of others."
He noted that he has been attending priesthood meetings, in one capacity or another, for the past 72 years, since he was ordained a deacon.
"Time certainly marches on," he said. "Duty keeps cadence with that march. Duty does not dim nor diminish. Catastrophic conflicts come and go, but the war waged for the souls of men continues without abatement."
He said the clarion call of duty comes to priesthood holders everywhere, as it came to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, the Prophet Joseph Smith and each of his successors.
"When that call comes to you and to me, what will be our response?" he asked.
"At times the wisdom of God appears as being foolish or just too difficult, but one of the greatest and most valuable lessons we can learn in mortality is that when God speaks and a man obeys, that man will always be right."
President Monson noted that Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood holders have been taught their specific duties. "I urge you to contemplate those duties and then do all within your power to fulfill them," he said. "In order to do so, each must be worthy. Let us have ready hands, clean hands and willing hands, that we may participate in providing what our heavenly Father would have others receive from Him. If we are not worthy, it is possible to lose the power of the priesthood, and if we lose it, we have lost the essence of exaltation. Let us be worthy to serve."
President Monson related a World War II incident that was reported by a war correspondent. It took place as U.S. Marines were taking Kwajalein Atoll, part of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean.
The reporter and other correspondents noticed a Marine lying face down in the water, badly wounded. Another Marine, also wounded, with his left arm hanging helplessly by his side, moved toward his wounded comrade and lifted his head to keep him from drowning. The rescuer called for help, but the correspondents called back that there was nothing he could do for the young man.
The correspondent reported that the rescuer, badly wounded himself, made his way to the shore with the seemingly lifeless body of his fellow Marine. The correspondent wrote: "And the one boy bowed his head over the other and said, 'I command you, in the name of Jesus Christ and by the power of the priesthood, to remain alive until I can get medical help.'"
"The correspondent concluded his article, 'The three of us [the two Marines and I] are here in the hospital. The doctors don't know ... [how they made it alive], but I know.'"
President Monson declared, "Miracles are everywhere to be found when the priesthood is understood, its power is honored and used properly and faith is exerted."
He told of the duty he assumed as a young bishop in 1950 to provide each serviceman in his ward a subscription to the Church News and the Improvement Era, the Church's magazine at that time. In addition, as a bishop he was to write a letter to each of the servicemen. He responded to the assignment by writing 23 personal letters each month.
"After all these years, I still have copies of many of my letters and the responses received," he said. "Tears come easily when these letters are re-read.
One man received 17 letters from Bishop Monson before responding. But when he did, he thanked the bishop for the personal letters and said he had turned over a new leaf and had been ordained a priest in the Aaronic Priesthood. "My heart is full. I am a happy man," he wrote.
Years later, President Monson spoke of that correspondence at the South Cottonwood Stake in Salt Lake City when President James E. Faust was presiding. After the meeting a man who had been in the congregation came forward and identified himself as the man in the story. He said he was serving in the elders quorum presidency.
"Let us learn and contemplate our duty," President Monson concluded.