Today I have been asked to speak on how the Aaronic priesthood program has helped me prepare for my spiritual and lifetime mission within the Melchizedek Priesthood. I want to share my experience of how the priesthood has helped me grow and develop as well as express my gratitude to each one of you for helping me understand how powerful the priesthood is. Out of everything the Church offers to its youth and its Aaronic priesthood holders, the program that I would say helped me personally grow within the priesthood would be the Duty to God program. It has helped me tremendously in understanding what my priesthood responsibilities are and how to prepare for the Melchizedek priesthood with the simple idea of learn, act, and share. One thing I wish I would have understood as a deacon at 12 years old is that the program is not simply a to do list. It is a wonderful program that prepares you to become the elect of God as promised in D&C 84:33-38, the oath and covenant of the priesthood. Here’s how the duty to god program works, there are several different assignments for the office of deacon, teacher, and priest that include growing spiritual strength, understanding priesthood duties, and understanding For Strength of Youth topics. The first step is learn, you study scriptures or standards then write your impressions on the given topic. Second you make goals on how to improve from the activities and carry out those goals. Third, and the most important is share; this can be with quorum members or family. Sharing is so important because your example can influence others to begin their personal journey with the gospel though duty to god or even personal progress, it’s never too late to start. In a talk given by Elder Cecil L. Samuelson Jr. of the Seventy in 2002, he shares how Jesus as a 12 year old boy competes his duty to god as outlined in Luke chapter 2. He says:
“The Savior, who suffered all things for us, faced challenges similar to some we face in our Aaronic Priesthood years. You remember Jesus’s experience at about the age when most of us become deacons. He had gone with His family and others to the temple. When it came time to return home, He was not with Mary and Joseph. They must have assumed that Jesus was with other trusted friends or extended family members. Only when His absence persisted did they become alarmed. As dutiful parents, Mary and Joseph did what your parents may have done in similar circumstances: they went looking for Him. When they located Jesus in the temple, only parents and grandparents might fully appreciate the mixed sense of relief they felt that He was safe, but they also were perhaps a little surprised by His reaction. We all know the dialogue that ensued: “And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, how is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” 9
Jesus, in other words might have said, “Don’t you know that I am doing my duty to God?”
Just as Joseph and Mary in Luke chapter 2, it would be astonishing to hear your child say “What’s the big deal? I’ve only been completing the ‘share’ portion my Duty to God for the past three days!” after finding your son teaching a religion class at BYU. How great is it to be able to relate this story of young Jesus to the Duty to God Program as it will prepare you to the same work which Jesus Christ desired to do, his father’s work.
For the young women, the personal progress program can prepare you for your personal mission as a daughter of God, by completing and living by the activities and values that can be used to influence others around you as you live to the standards accordingly.
Serving within the Church and doing service within the Boy Scouts of America have placed a huge influence on me deciding to serve a mission with the leadership positions I have held. After realizing my personal responsibility as a priesthood holder to be a representative of our Heavenly Father as a deacon and as a Boy Scout to help other people at all times, I began to look for ways to share my beliefs and serve others outside of my assigned tasks. About two and a half years ago, a rare snow storm coated St. George Utah with several inches of snow which caught the whole city by surprise. My family was lucky to witness the wild storm with a 4-Wheel Drive Suburban and snow tires unlike the rest of the town while visiting my Grandmother. St. George doesn’t see much snow, in fact they don’t see enough snow to own a snow plow! It just so happened that my Grandmother was a proud owner of a lovey yellow snow shovel. It’s possible that it was the only yellow snow shovel within a fifty mile radius. Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the seventy reminds us of what our attitude and conduct should be as priesthood holders and the sacred power that we are trusted with in his talk during a general conference priesthood session “What Manner of Men”. He says “First we need to be priesthood men! We should be spiritually mature because of the covenants we have made. Second, we need to serve! Part of our covenant is to serve by magnifying our calling. Third We need to be worthy! The adversary has a tight grip around social customs that can lead to serious problems of worthiness for not only priesthood holders, these terms apply to everyone when seeking for answers from our heavenly father. With that said, back to the snow storm… knowing that the roads would still be pretty bad the next morning, I told myself I would go and shovel the snow the next morning when I later found out that my grandmother’s neighbors could also use the assistance with snow removal. Just as any other teenage boy on the weekend, rolling out of bed wasn’t the easiest thing, but laying there doing nothing wasn’t getting me closer to the delicious breakfast that was being prepared for us. I was able to finish the shoveling at the first house which seemed to be vacant without being noticed. As I made my way up the street to the other house with the yellow snow shovel, I recall hearing that the couple that lived there was not LDS and had accepted the invitation to go to ward’s Christmas party a few times. There was defiantly someone home because my cover was blown within a minute due to their dog. Not too long after that, a man appeared from his garage and immediately asked if I was a boy scout, I replied “yes”. You could defiantly see the excitement on his face as he replied “oh great! Thank you so much!” As he made his way back in I imagined that he was going to go tell his wife about news that a boy scout was shoveling his drive way… “Hey Honey! There’s a boy scout shoveling our driveway!” Just as I was finishing up, he came out one last time, I explained who I was and he seemed that much more thrilled for the experience. Looking back on that unique opportunity, I know that it wasn’t a coincidence that a rare snowstorm that brought more snow than three years combind just happen to blow though St. George while visiting the weekend. Chances like these happen more than you think, I invite you to diligently seek out these opportunities in school, at church, and at home. As you magnify for callings and duties within the church, you will begin to see blessings unfold in yours and others lives. I testify of that.
(As my sister and Brother Newell have pointed out) This year’s youth theme is D&C 4:2 Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. I have always questioned, what is the service of God as said in this scripture. What are we embarking on? There are many things, we can be embarking on including missionary work, family history, or it can be baptisms for the dead. I see it as following the example of our savior Jesus Christ who desires to share everything that he has been given from his father to his brothers and sisters here on this Earth. D&C 4:4 says “For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul”. In closing I bear my testimony that by investing your time in the salvation of your family, friends, and neighbors as our savior and redeemer did, your lives will be blessed immensely. There is no better time to embark in the service of god than now. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.