Charles W. Dahlquist, II
Aaronic Priesthood/Young Men
April 2005 General Conference Workshop Training
"For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me?" (Genesis 44:34)
Brethren, thank you for joining us tonight for our workshops. We hope that you will take time to look at the exhibits, take notes, and think of how you can use the suggestions made during these workshops to strengthen and vitalize the young men of the Aaronic Priesthood in your wards and stakes. We have—in addition to this general session and the general session at 8:00 p.m. tonight on Duty to God—four individual workshops. I have reviewed each of the presentations. They are excellent and will provide you with information and helpful how-to's on some of the most pressing issues facing you in your calling: vitalizing the Aaronic Priesthood quorum; building wholesome relationships with young women; how Scouting and the Duty to God achievement program support and strengthen the family; and For the Strength of Youth, with particular focus on combating the ills caused by pornography.
Unfortunately, you will be able to attend only two of these excellent workshops tonight, so choose well! I am glad I don't have to choose. I have seen them all, and they are marvelous. You might have to come on another night just to pick up the additional two. We will, however, at the end of the evening, provide you with a handout that will include this talk, as well as a one-page summary of each workshop.
In addition to listening to the messages presented tonight, we hope that you will allow your mind to drift to just how you will apply these messages to bring back those young men within your Aaronic Priesthood quorums who are not currently active. There is a way. So if you have been unsuccessful to this point, remember that there is One who not only presides over the destinies of nations, as Patrick Henry once said, but who cares for and hears the prayers of the youngest child, the newest deacon, the humblest servant. When we have done all that we can, when we kneel at night and know that we have expended every ounce of energy and creativity and love and service to reclaim the Lord's lambs, at that moment He will bridge the gap. He has counseled us, " Nevertheless, . . . unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them" (3 Nephi 18:32).
It has been a wonderful six months since our last open house, held in this beautiful facility. During that time and particularly since January of this year, we have traveled many thousands of miles, visited Saints in many lands, visited with many of you in your home stakes and wards, and attended many Aaronic Priesthood quorum meetings in many languages. We have also witnessed many activities and events celebrating this "great and marvelous work"—from events celebrating the life and times of the period of the Restoration [slides of Cottonwood Nauvoo activity], as these youth are doing, to celebrations of these marvelous events through dance, cultural events, and drama using the dramatic production presented at our open house before last conference [slides of dramatic presentation]. By the way, if you are interested in performing this in your ward or stake, the script is currently available on the Young Men portion of the Church Web site, lds.org. We have particularly enjoyed our youth learning and performing the hymns of Zion to celebrate this marvelous Restoration. In the words of the Savior, "For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads" (D&C 25:12). And so it is fitting that we begin our first open house in this year of celebration with the voice of music. [Chorus sings "Praise to the Man" and "Joseph Smith's First Prayer."]
What a stirring rendition of these two great hymns of the Restoration. We appreciate you young brethren of the Aaronic Priesthood being with us and sharing your talents, your energy, and your spirit. Tonight we honor you and the other youth of the noble birthright just like you all over the world.
Some time ago I had the opportunity to share the following story with some of the General Authorities. It centered on the story of Joseph and his brothers, found in chapter 44 of Genesis. You remember the story: the seven years of plenty, the seven years of famine, the trip of Joseph's brothers to Egypt, their seeing Joseph but not knowing him, and their returning with their sacks full and with the words of Joseph ringing in their ears to not return again unless they brought their brother Benjamin. And so the time came to return, and they finally prevailed upon their father, Jacob, to send Benjamin with them. They came; Joseph met them for lunch and then sent them away, but not before filling their sacks with corn and having his own cup placed in Benjamin's sack. They left, were apprehended, and were accused of stealing Joseph's cup, and in return, they denied the accusation and told Joseph to search their sacks and keep the one in whose sack the cup was found. When it was found in Benjamin's sack, Joseph said, "He stays here!" And then we see that a change had occurred in the lives of the brothers, as Judah stepped forward and nobly said, "For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, . . . [and] how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me?" (Genesis 44:32, 34).
That mandate, as expressed by Judah to Joseph, is the theme of our workshop and open house: For how can we return to the Father, and the lads be not with us? In our teaching and training, we have tried to focus on that which worries the prophet, and each time President Hinckley speaks, it is clear that he is concerned about the retention of all members of the Church, whom you have been called to serve.
As we speak to this subject, we hope you know the lads in your stewardship. We hope you each have the list from the ward membership records and that you have carefully reviewed that list to ensure that you are constantly "almost consumed" with the work of strengthening and reclaiming every young man in your charge.
Recently I was in a ward not very far from here. As it came time for priesthood meeting, I asked to go to the priests quorum. "We don't have a priests quorum," came the reply. "Well then, how about the teachers quorum?" I asked. "We don't have any teachers." "Well, what about the deacons quorum?" "We do have a deacons quorum." So I went to the deacons quorum. There were three of them, and they were as wonderful young men as you would find anywhere. Two were brothers and one was a new convert to the Church. At the conclusion of the meeting, I had the opportunity to speak to them. As I commended them on their strength and participation and their adviser on the wonderful lesson, I turned to that adviser and asked, "How many are in the quorum?" "Only these three," he replied. "Really!" I responded and turned to teach the three. A couple of minutes later, he volunteered, "There are a couple more who live too far away to come on Sunday." I asked, "Any more?" "Nope, that's it." With a questioning look, I turned to resume my message, only to be interrupted again to be informed, "Well, there are a couple more unordained." Now it had taken about five minutes to get that adviser to begin thinking about more than just the ones who happened to show up on Sunday in room 10.
When I returned to Salt Lake City, I checked the records of that ward. Do you know what I found? Eighteen young men between the ages of 12 and 18! "For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad[s] be not with me?"
Just three weeks ago I sat in a small rented chapel in Vladivostok, Russia, on the far coast of that vast land—a land that encompasses 12 time zones and in which one mission in Siberia is as large as the United States. As I sat waiting for the meeting to begin, I noticed a young man come in with his mother. She came up to the front, but he sat in the very last row. All through the meeting, this young man, whom I learned was 15 years old and named Fedya, sat alone. No adviser. No member of the branch presidency. No missionaries. No one!
As I looked at Fedya, I thought, "It is not far from the back row to the street, and if something is not done, it will not be long until Fedya is no longer there—unnoticed and absent." During my presentation, I felt to bear my witness of the divine mission of the Prophet Joseph. I focused on Fedya and asked how old he was. "Fifteen years old" was the response. "Will you come here to the front and help me read something about the Prophet Joseph?" I asked. Shy Fedya replied, "Нет!" So I went to him on the back row of the small chapel, and with my arm around his shoulders, while all watched and listened, this 15-year-old boy read the touching words of the Prophet:
"At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. . . .
"So, in accordance with this, . . . I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.
"After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. . . . Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.
"But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction— . . . just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
"It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling my be name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him! (Joseph Smith—History 1:13–17).
I must tell you, as Fedya read, there was not a sound in the room, only the sweet reassurance of the truthfulness of the story of the Prophet Joseph, read from the lips of a boy just about the same age as the boy prophet. Needless to say, Fedya lingered after the meeting, and I look forward to another meeting with this shy but fine young man at a future time.
I share this story with you for two reasons. First, so that you take time during this special year of celebrating this "great and marvelous work" to share with the young men of the Aaronic Priesthood this marvelous story and share also with them your testimony. Let them get to know the Prophet Joseph and other heroes of the Restoration. You might even want to help them establish their own list of heroes with at least two being from the early period of this dispensation, as well as some modern-day heroes.
Second, I share the story of Fedya with you because in each ward there is a Fedya—one who is close to slipping quietly away unless we wrap our arms around him and give him reason to stay. Sister Menlove, the Primary general president, has suggested that each Primary have an empty chair available each Sunday as a reminder of the child who is missing and that each chair have a name, the name of that child. Not a bad reminder for brethren of the Aaronic Priesthood either.
As I spoke with Elder Perry so many months ago of our vision and commitment that when we return to the Father, the lads will be with us, I felt that I understood why. Now, after the experiences of the last few months, I understand even more poignantly, and the visions of Fedya, those missing 15 brethren, and the empty chair "almost consume" my feelings.
And yet, just last week, I sat at lunch with four wonderful, committed priesthood and young men leaders as one of them expressed his desire, as a new stake Young Men president, to touch the lives of the youth in his stake and pleaded to know "how others are doing it successfully elsewhere in the Church." It is that type of searching—that type of dedication—that will drive those brethren into the handbooks, into the scriptures, into the training, and onto their knees on behalf of the youth they serve.
Tonight I share with you several guidelines for helping to ensure that the lads will be with us when we return to the Father.
First, get to know each boy in your quorum —by name, by talent, by spirit. Learn about his family, about his likes and dislikes. This is important for all those on the records of the Church but particularly for those who are weak and those who are not yet active. Six months ago I shared an example of how my home teaching companion was selected. Those of you who were here will recall the story. With his blessing, I will tell you the rest of the story.
When I was released from my assignment in a young single adult branch, I contacted my bishop and let him know that I would be back in the ward and that, although I would be there only periodically, I would be pleased to accept a call to be a home teacher if he wanted to assign me a couple of families. He responded, "Great!" I then said, "Bishop, after you have assigned the families to me, would you do me a favor? Would you feel comfortable calling the teachers quorum president and saying to him, 'President, we have made a home teaching assignment to President Dahlquist now that he is back in our ward. We have assigned him to home teach the Bentley family and the Ellsworth family. Now, as the teachers quorum president, will you ponder and pray about which member of your quorum you recommend that we consider for President Dahlquist's companion? Would you consider this prayerfully and then get back to me in a couple of days?' "
A week later the bishop called me and said, "I have done as you asked, and the teachers quorum president recommended Nick Taylor, and we concur with his inspiration." I responded, "Great!" And he said, "You should know that Nick is not currently active. But you opened the door, and that is who the Lord wants as your companion."
So the process began. I continued to call Nick and tried to get through to him. One month turned into two and then into three. Each month I had to call on other Aaronic Priesthood holders to assist me in my assignment, but Nick was still my companion. Christmas came, I delivered donuts to Nick, and I still continued to call him. Finally, in January he agreed to go home teaching with me. In the meantime, the bishop had made a call to his family to express love and concern for them. The last Sunday of January (the only one I was in town during the month), I picked Nick up at his home. We said a prayer and then visited our two families. I gave the lesson, and we had a delightful time. After our visit, we sat in the driveway and I asked him what he liked to do. "I play the guitar," Nick responded. "Really," I said, "I play the banjo!" "My dad plays the banjo!" he said. And so our friendship began. As Nick proceeded to get out of the car, I asked him if he would give the lesson next time. I explained that it didn't need to be long, but should come from the First Presidency Message in the Ensign. He said, with a bit of hesitation, "Sure."
The next week was the first week in February and since it was the only week in the month I was going to be in the country, we arranged with our families to visit them then. During the week I dropped off a wonderful banjo DVD for Nick and his dad to enjoy. On Sunday I went to the door to pick Nick up. His dad answered the door and said, "I understand you play the banjo. Do you want to come in and see my new banjo?" I told him that I would love to, but we needed to get to our home teaching assignments, so I would stop in when I brought Nick home. The visits went very well. Nick gave a wonderful, short lesson from the First Presidency Message in the Ensign, and when he learned that I would be away for the rest of the month, he asked, "What should I do for these families while you are gone?" What a great young man! I suggested that I would send them postcards and call them on their birthdays and that if he would just check in on them during the month and remember them in his prayers, that would be fine. When we returned home, I took some time to see his dad's beautiful new banjo. And since it is not good to covet, I just said, "Oh, am I glad that you have that banjo! It is a beauty!"
Now the story about my new friend and home teaching companion, Nick, is not completed, but I am so grateful that the teachers quorum president was sensitive enough to care for all his brethren, not just those who were in attendance on Sunday.
Brethren, number one: identify and get to know every one of the young men in your Aaronic Priesthood quorums.
Second, vitalize your Aaronic Priesthood quorum presidency so they understand their responsibility to their quorum members. It is clear that only when the priesthood is fully organized will the Church grow and thrive. There are only four brethren in each ward who have keys of presidency: the bishop, the elders quorum president, the deacons quorum president, and the teachers quorum president. Those keys have great significance in the work of the kingdom. Until we prepare our young men to rise to the level of their potential, the work of the Lord will not prosper as rapidly as it has the potential to do. Ensure that your presidency members are called appropriately; that they know that their call came through inspiration from the Lord; that they understand their callings; that they understand who their quorum members are and what their role is in the Scouting, Varsity, and Venturing organization; and that they are continually trained in their weekly presidency meetings. During our workshops, President Burgess and Brother Ramos will provide more information on vitalizing the priesthood quorums of the Aaronic Priesthood.
Third, ensure that the brethren in your Aaronic Priesthood quorums have opportunities for spiritual growth . Teach them the gospel of Jesus Christ. Give them opportunities to have spiritual experiences in their lives. I am surprised when I hear how many of our youth have never had a spiritual experience in their life. Our charge as leaders is to provide the right atmosphere and environment to allow our youth in the Aaronic Priesthood to feel the Spirit in their lives. I recall a number of years ago I was in a priesthood class taught by a friend of mine. He was teaching the importance of faithfully fulfilling our callings and referred to a scripture in the 35th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. I recall that we only read the last verse of that section, which reads: "Fear not, little flock, the kingdom is yours until I come. Behold, I come quickly. Even so. Amen" (D&C 35:27).
At that time in my life, I was already married, had been on a mission, and had been active in the Church all my life. Yet in that moment, for the first time in my life, I really felt as though I had heard the Savior speak to me in that short verse. And for the first time, I understood two other scriptures. In verses 20 and 21 of that section: "And the scriptures shall be given, even as they are in mine own bosom, to the salvation of mine own elect; . . . for they will hear my voice, and shall see me." And then in section 18, verses 34–36 (speaking of the scriptures): "These words are not of men nor of man, but of me; wherefore, you shall testify they are of me and not of man; for it is my voice which speaketh them unto you; for they are given by my Spirit unto you, and by my power you can read them one to another. . . . Wherefore, you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words."
For me, that very ordinary priesthood meeting stands out from hundreds of others because, for whatever reason, I felt the witness of the Spirit as we read that scripture. That is the experience that our young men need. And just that small experience may be what they need to carry them for many years.
Just last week I was with a friend in Mesa as we provided some training for local priesthood and Young Men leaders. He had served a mission in Holland and recounted the story of a young girl who had fallen in love—just as her fiancé had received a call to serve in Holland. She supported him during his mission, then married him, and they had a family of wonderful boys. Her husband died very young, leaving this faithful young mother to raise her boys alone. Each of them, in turn, had been called to serve a mission to Holland. As the last was about to finish his mission, arrangements were made for the mother to travel to meet him in Holland. On that weekend there was a stake conference in the city where the son was serving, and he was invited to speak. Many at this stake conference, although they had never met the mother, had been affected by her faithfulness through the lives and service of her sons and knew of her faith and diligence. After the son's remarks, his mother was asked to speak, with her son as translator. She stood to speak, but could not, so her missionary son wrapped his arm around the shoulder of his mother and simply said, "This is my mother." My friend said, "In that moment, I had one of the deepest spiritual experiences of my life, one that would carry me for years and years. I know it was the same with others in that congregation, and there were few dry eyes."
That is the experience our young men must have.
I recently read the First Presidency Message in the Ensign. It was written by President Faust and was simply entitled "A Testimony of Christ." I read from the beginning and the ending of that marvelous article.
"Each of us has to receive our own witness concerning Jesus as the Christ. We cannot get it secondhand from someone else. I believe that a testimony of our Redeemer comes from a divine source, as a spiritual gift. . . . Such a heaven-sent witness gives us a sacred inner peace and strength, even though we live in a world of turmoil and temptation. It gives us the power to become disciples of the Christ."
President Faust then went on to highlight, in scripture, the life and ministry of the Savior. He spoke of the calling and testimony of Peter; the raising of Lazarus; the Last Supper; His sacrifice in the Garden of Gethsemane; His betrayal; and the events of His Resurrection.
President Faust concludes: "In my capacity as a special witness, I set my seal and testimony upon these events and upon the divine calling of Jesus as our Lord, Savior, and Redeemer. I testify that He lives, that He loves us, and that this is His holy work. . . . I testify that through this Church His work and His glory—to bring about the immortality and eternal life of the faithful and the obedient—is being accomplished" (Ensign, Mar. 2005, 3–7).
As I read that, I thought, what if each bishop or branch president in the Church, as the president of the priests quorum in his ward or branch, gathered the members of his priests quorum around him in his home and discussed this article, bearing his own witness of the divinity of the mission of the Savior? I believe there would be many windows of inspiration opened with just that experience alone. I would hope the same would happen regularly in each of the Aaronic Priesthood quorums throughout the Church.
Fourth, ensure that your youth have fun, priesthood-centered activities . Plan them in advance. Better still, teach your young men how to plan, and help them plan a balanced program of weekly activities that will assist them in growing spiritually, physically, socially, and mentally. In a recent meeting in Pocatello, Idaho, one of the speakers said, "A young man will not learn leadership by only standing each Sunday and giving assignments." And that is true. We must help them learn to plan, conduct meetings and activities, evaluate their activities, care for the needs of their quorum members, and the list goes on.
In the United States and Canada, as you evaluate your Young Men activity program, be certain that you implement the Scouting program, including Varsity and Venturing. Scouting is the activity arm of the priesthood in these countries. It is very evident that in those stakes and wards where Scouting is used to strengthen the priesthood, the young men of the Aaronic Priesthood are much stronger and better prepared than they would otherwise have been.
We reiterate the four Ts of youth leadership: testimony, training, tenure, and time. First, ensure that your leaders have testimonies of the gospel and can say to the youth, "Come, follow me—to the temple, on a mission." And if your current leaders are men of testimony who, for one reason or another, have not served missions, make sure that they too, as the young men, are saving and planning for a mission with their wives. We need couple missionaries, as well as young missionaries all over the world.
Second, make sure that your leaders are appropriately trained. If you are serving as a member of the stake Young Men presidency, you can help in this process by visiting the quorums of your stake regularly and ensuring that your counterparts on the ward level understand the Duty to God program and are trained in the respective Scouting programs. If you haven't been to Scouting's Woodbadge training, we encourage you to do so and invite your ward leaders to go with you. We do not ask you to do anything that we haven't already done. Each member of the general Young Men presidency has been to Woodbadge already. If you are in a stake presidency and haven't been to Philmont LDS Leader Training, we invite you to join us with your families.
Third, tenure. Tenure in this work is still spelled t-e-n y-e-a-r; meaning, leave leaders in their positions long enough to be trained and to make a difference in the lives of young men.
And finally, time. It takes time to make a difference. There is no such thing in this program as "just an hour or two a week."
Fifth, make the Duty to God achievement program a priority. We will speak more about this at our final general session.
And finally, remember that in helping to save young men and bring them to Christ, as in all parts of life, the greatest rewards come in the extra mile. I know of no better example of this principle than that given by Elder Arnold of the Seventy in a recent conference address to the priesthood of the Church [view video of Elder Arnold's address]:
"Brother José de Souza Marques was the type of leader who truly understood the principle taught by the Savior: 'And if any man among you be strong in the Spirit, let him take with him him that is weak, that he may be edified in all meekness, that he may become strong also' (D&C 84:106).
"As a member of the branch presidency in Fortaleza, Brazil, Brother Marques with the other priesthood leaders developed a plan to reactivate those who were less active in his branch. One of those who was less active was a young man by the name of Fernando Araujo. Recently I spoke to Fernando, and he told me of his experience:
" 'I became involved in surfing competitions on Sunday mornings and stopped going to my Church meetings. One Sunday morning Brother Marques knocked on my door and asked my nonmember mother if he could talk to me. When she told him I was sleeping, he asked permission to wake me. He said to me, "Fernando, you are late for church!" Not listening to my excuses, he took me to church.
" 'The next Sunday the same thing happened, so on the third Sunday I decided to leave early to avoid him. As I opened the gate I found him sitting on his car, reading the scriptures. When he saw me he said, "Good! You are up early. Today we will go and find another young man!" I appealed to my agency, but he said, "We can talk about that later."
" 'After eight Sundays I could not get rid of him, so I decided to sleep at a friend's house. I was at the beach the next morning when I saw a man dressed in a suit and tie walking towards me. When I saw that it was Brother Marques, I ran into the water. All of a sudden, I felt someone's hand on my shoulder. It was Brother Marques, in water up to his chest! He took me by the hand and said, "You are late! Let's go." When I argued that I didn't have any clothes to wear, he replied, "They are in the car."
" 'That day as we walked out of the ocean, I was touched by Brother Marques's sincere love and worry for me. He truly understood the Savior's words: "I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick" (Ezekiel 34:16). Brother Marques didn't just give me a ride to church—the quorum made sure I remained active. They planned activities that made me feel needed and wanted, I received a calling, and the quorum members became my friends" ' (Ensign, May, 2004, 46─47).
May God bless each of us that we may go the extra mile in touching the lives of the young men in our charge, that when we return to the Father, the lads will be with us.
I testify of the divinity of this work. God lives. This is His work. We are His servants. The young men of the Aaronic Priesthood are the future and the hope of Israel of whom we sing. May we be wise and dedicated servants to bring them to the Father. May we each be "almost consumed" with the great work before us, and as we serve valiantly, may we retain the active young men, reclaim those who are less active, and attract to the quorums of the Aaronic Priesthood those young men of other faiths who are searching for truth is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.