Never in the history of the Church have leaders paid more attention to — or expected more of — the youth of the Church. Young men and women today are expected to understand gospel doctrine younger, to perform better in Seminary classes, to lead in their classes and quorums and to be prepared sooner than ever before for missionary service.
Aaronic Priesthood holders have more than enough opportunities to serve, but as holders of the “lesser priesthood,” it can be tempting for them to pass responsibility on to older, more experienced church members. But the term “lesser” doesn’t mean the Aaronic Priesthood is insignificant or lacking authority.
Elder Boyd K. Packer taught Aaronic Priesthood holders in 1981 a truth that applies today as well: “The fact that it is called the lesser priesthood does not diminish at all the importance of the Aaronic Priesthood. The Lord said it is necessary to the Melchizedek Priesthood. Any holder of the higher priesthood should feel greatly honored to perform the ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood, for they have great spiritual importance.”
If you hold the Aaronic Priesthood, read on for seven ideas to help you understand, respect and magnify the office you hold.
1. Remain clean and worthy
Before you can exercise your priesthood, you must be clean and worthy. The Lord commanded priesthood bearers to be clean. Personal purity gives young men confidence and allows them to enjoy the presence of the Spirit — both of which are helpful in priesthood service.
“Only those who are brave will be counted among the chosen,” Brother Adrian Ochoa of the Young Men General Presidency said in his 2012 address. “As you exercise the power of your sacred priesthood, your courage and confidence will increase. Young men, you know that you are at your best when you are in the service of God. You know that you are happiest when you are anxiously engaged in a good work. Magnify the power of your priesthood by being clean and being worthy.”
2. Carry out scriptural responsibilities
Few callings in the Church have specific instruction provided in the standard works. Fortunately for priesthood bearers, many of your responsibilities are enumerated in the 20th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. Study this section and pray about what you learn. Talk to your quorum president or youth leaders about how you can best fulfill these important obligations.
“Contemplate how much Aaronic Priesthood holders will grow and the Church will be blessed when the quorums carry out all their scriptural responsibilities—” Bishop Victor L. Brown said in a 1975 address “The Vision of the Aaronic Priesthood, “for example, when the priests, working as home teachers, exhort families in the Church ‘to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties’ and when the teachers and deacons also carry out their revealed duties. How much a part of this great latter-day work our Aaronic Priesthood brethren will become!”
3. Take every opportunity to serve
As you grow older, there will be more opportunities to serve. Some will be highly visible and glamorous; others will not. Establish a habit now of saying yes to every possible opportunity and following through on your assignments. Ultimately, priesthood holders are servants. Maintaining this frame of mind early on will help you in priesthood service throughout your life.
“Service is the very foundation of the priesthood—service to others as exemplified by the Savior,” Brother Larry M. Gibson taught in his April 2011 address “Sacred Keys of the Aaronic Priesthood.” “I testify that it is His priesthood, we are on His errand, and He has shown all priesthood holders the way of faithful priesthood service.”
4. Follow the guidance of the Spirit
While fulfilling assignments is important, the Lord said to his followers, “he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.” Pray for opportunities to serve and follow the guidance of the Spirit.
“Young men of the Aaronic Priesthood, I testify to you that the Lord is bound by solemn covenant to bless your lives according to your faithfulness,” Elder L. Tom Perry taught in his 2010 address “The Priesthood of Aaron.” “If you will heed the voice of warning of the Holy Ghost and will follow His direction, you will be blessed with the ministering of angels. This blessing will add wisdom, knowledge, power, and glory to your life. This is a sure blessing promised to you by the Lord.”
5. Prepare to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood
The Aaronic Priesthood helps prepare young men to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. Pay attention to the examples of righteous men in your life and prepare to follow their example.
“You would do well to watch your fathers and your leaders, to study how the Melchizedek Priesthood works,” Elder Boyd K. Packer taught. “You are preparing to join the elders, seventies, high priests, and patriarchs and to serve as missionaries, quorum leaders, bishoprics, stake leaders, and as fathers of families.”
6. Gain a testimony of the sacrament
One of the responsibilities of the Aaronic Priesthood is to officiate in the ordinance of the sacrament. Consider praying specifically to gain a testimony of this important ordinance. As your understanding of your responsibility grows, your service will help you grow spiritually.
“We are commanded to repent of our sins and to come to the Lord with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and partake of the sacrament in compliance with its covenants,” Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught in 1998. “… We cannot overstate the importance of the Aaronic Priesthood in this. All of these vital steps pertaining to the remission of sins are performed through the saving ordinance of baptism and the renewing ordinance of the sacrament. Both of these ordinances are officiated by holders of the Aaronic Priesthood under the direction of the bishopric, who exercise the keys of the gospel of repentance and of baptism and the remission of sins.”
7. Work to gain a testimony of the gospel
As much as Church leaders rely on the youth of the Church, the fact remains that most Aaronic Priesthood holders are very young and have relatively little Church experience. Building a testimony takes time and effort. As you serve in your office, take the time you need to nurture your own growing testimony with prayer and scripture study.
“So we call upon you wonderful young brethren to diligently strive to be ‘born again,'” Bishop Keith B. McMullin taught in 2011. “Pray for this mighty change in your life. Study the scriptures. Desire more than all else to know God and to become like His holy Son. Enjoy your youth but ‘put away childish things.’ … This will help you rise to the noble stature of your manhood. The qualities of courage, trustworthiness, humility, faith, and goodness will be yours. Friends will admire you, parents will praise you, brethren in the priesthood will depend on you, and the young women will adore you and become even better because of you. God will honor you and endow your priesthood service with power from on high.“