Black Robes of a False Priesthood

Mentors: two of the finest thyroidologists in the world.
 I’m honored to have both President and Past-President of ACE as friends. 


This month I got to participate in the Convocation of the American College of Endocrinology (ACE) for the first time since I was inducted as a Fellow many years ago. It was a great privilege to recognize 90 inductees that had spent more than a decade working for this honor. This time I got to put on some pretty sweet robes and march behind the other members of the Board of Directors  and the President of the College. He led us forth carrying an ornate ceremonial mace into the ballroom. While we marched a string quartet played classical music. It was all very official, and very stirring.

The august occasion reminded me a famous commencement speech delivered by Hugh Nibley at the 1983 graduation ceremony at BYU (I wasn’t there, but read it here). In it, Nibley quoted himself from a prayer he gave at commencement 23 years earlier:

“We have met here today clothed in the black robes of a false priesthood.”

False priesthoods come adorned in a wide array of robes and accoutrements. The robes of scholarship (we were commemorating those of the ACE) are one of the most disarming of these false priesthoods. Motivated by high ideals and a fervent search for truth, scholarship seems beyond reproach: like motherhood and apple pieScholarship–especially when dressed in it’s fancy robes–strives to make our world safer, healthier, happier and more convenient. Nevertheless, the robes of scholarship represent a false priesthood that promises to change the world, but cannot save it. Nibley calls it “borrowed finery coming down to us through a long line of unauthorized imitators.”   

Part of what makes a false priesthood such a convincing shill is how closely it resembles legitimate priesthood. Legitimate priesthood is conferred on those that are deemed worthy, by those in authority. The ACE grants Fellowship to its ranks in the same way. In both cases, the honor comes with rights and responsibilities. The critical difference is that the authority of legitimate priesthood comes from God. As the ACE attends to the matters of treating disease and promoting health to lengthen mortality, legitimate priesthood will continue to work “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” It’s good to be part of both efforts, but important to remember which matters most. 


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