Priesthood Holders Must Use Authority Righteously

Doctrine and Covenants 121:39–40

39 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.
40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.

President Harold B. Lee said:

“Leaders must use authority righteously. There are hazards of leadership. One of the hazards of leadership is to have authority and to exercise it unrighteously. I was given an experience in welfare work. I was sort of the whipping boy. If anything went wrong, I was the one who was to blame. This was the thing that tried my faith ofttimes. But on this occasion I was assigned to work with some of the incoming General Authorities and some of the Relief Society on a certain project. I waited for an invitation to come and discuss it, but instead of getting the invitation, here came the decision from the group with whom I was supposed to have counseled. Of course, I felt somewhat chagrined, and my committee members felt it was a slap at the welfare program. So they marched over to President [J. Reuben] Clark, but he was too good a diplomat to get between two groups of people. Six weeks later I was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. I was riding with President Clark one day, and I made an unfortunate remark. I said, ’Well, now I suppose those brethren would be willing to sit down and counsel with me.’ And he saw in that remark something that was ominous. With some severity he said to me, ‘Yes, my boy, you have the authority. You have the whip in hand, but you must never use it.’

“The greater your authority, the greater care you must have lest you use that authority unrighteously. . . . It’s the ‘disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, . . . [to] exercise unrighteous dominion. Hence many are called, but few are chosen’ (D&C 121:39–40). Force is an ultimate resource that maintains itself by being seldom employed.”

(The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams [1996], 510.)

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