"For unto Such Shall Ye Continue to Minister"
Aaronic Priesthood Leadership Workshop, Spring 2008
Charles W. Dahlquist, II
Young Men General President
Just last week I had a brief conversation with Elder L. Tom Perry of the Council of the Twelve, Chairman of the General Church Missionary Committee. We spoke about a number of things, and as we were ready to part he said, “President, I hold you responsible for the preparation of all the missionaries in the Church!” And then we hung up.
It was a simple statement, an accurate description of our work—one we have known since our call—yet I haven’t been able to get Elder Perry’s words out of my mind since then. For that reason, I share them with you, for that is our united charge: to ensure that all the deacons in the Church are worthy and prepared to be ordained elders and go on a mission. Our involvement with the young men of the Church includes a number of activities and events. Amidst all of these, I hope we are always asking: “Are we doing all we can to help prepare them to serve missions and to help them be prepared to serve—particularly our priests?” As you think about that question, I hope you will not stop at stake missionary preparation classes. For the most part, they are wonderful. But generally, they are too little, too late.
We know that the earlier a young man commits to serve a mission, the more likely he is to go. If he commits as a deacon—or before—he will generally go. But if the decision is left in limbo until he is a priest, often girls, cars, jobs, and education get in the way. Please don’t get me wrong. Each of these is positive. As a father, you know I have five girls; I also have a car, a job, and an education. But I am eternally grateful for Bishop Jake Davies who, when I was a deacon, challenged me to commit then and there to serve a mission.
I recall well the Sunday as we gathered on the stage for Aaronic Priesthood meeting. Bishop Davies, at the beginning of the meeting, asked each of us to raise our hands if we were planning on a mission. He took down our names and then left, returning at the end of the hour with a silver dollar for each who was committed to serve. He gave me mine and asked, “What is on your silver dollar, Charles?” I answered that it was my name. He said, “And what is on the other side?” I looked and replied, “My birthday.” “Which birthday?” he asked. After some thought, I replied, “My 19th birthday!” “That’s right,” Bishop Davies said, “and that is the age you will be eligible to serve a mission. Until that time, you are keeping that silver dollar in trust for me. Only when you receive and accept your mission call does that silver dollar become yours.” We each put the dollar in our pockets and went home.
On the way home, my dad asked what we had discussed in Aaronic Priesthood meeting. I told him about the silver dollar and my commitment to go on a mission. When we arrived home he said, “Let’s do something special with that silver dollar.” He then took down a pickled pigs feet jar, taped my silver dollar on the inside of the jar and then, putting the lid on, he sealed the lid with tape and put a hole in the lid the size of a silver dollar. He then said, “Now, I suggest that you begin saving silver dollars for your missionary account,” which I did.
Each week when I collected for my newspaper route, I would spread the money out on the kitchen table, pay the newspaper company, calculate my profit, pay my tithing, and then take all the silver dollars and put them into that jar. Each week, like clockwork, I would take that jar down from its hiding place in the rafters and put in my silver dollars. After a while, silver dollars became scarce, so I began to collect half dollars. Soon they became scarce, and I began collecting quarters.
When in the summer of 1966 [SLIDE] my call came to serve in the Swiss Mission, we opened up the jar. While there was not enough money in the bottle to finance my entire mission, I credit that simple weekly act of plunking missionary dollars into my bottle as a great contributor to my going on a mission. Not only did I commit to serve while a deacon, but each week that simple act served as a recommitment to serve. How grateful I am for Bishop Davies and for a wise father.
I mention this because as we speak of inspiration and of callings and of counsels, it is all for the purpose of helping our young men to come unto Christ, to develop testimonies of the restored gospel, and to be prepared and worthy to serve missions—in other words, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
Our charge is to minister to and bless the lives of all those with whom we serve, including ourselves, our families, those who preside over us, those who serve in the ward Aaronic Priesthood and Young Men organizations, and the youth in our stake.
Ourselves and Our Families
Our first charge is to come unto Christ ourselves, to be noble and true disciples of Jesus, and to bless our families by our service, our example, our love, and our time. If we expect our youth to rise up as righteous men who are mighty in understanding, we too must have a daily study program as we “feast upon the words of Christ” (2 Nephi 32:3).
If we expect them to focus on the temple, we too must make temple attendance and temple worship a part of our lives.
If we expect our youth and our ward leaders to live the principles in For the Strength of Youth, our lives must also be in order, and that must also be our standard.
If we expect our ward leaders and our young men to be focused on Duty to God, we must know it well, possibly working with the youth to achieve the requirements, in spite of the fact that we can never earn the Duty to God medallion as adults.
If we expect our ward leaders to look to their bishop for guidance and direction, we must be examples of those who support the brethren, including our local stake and ward leaders.
If we expect our young men to grow to become righteous husbands and fathers, we too must put our homes in order and hold weekly family home evening, daily prayer, and daily scripture study. Our homes must be a haven from the storm and the onslaught of the world.
If we expect Scouting to be effectively applied as the activity program of the Aaronic Priesthood in our wards, we must set the example by being appropriately trained by attending basic training, leader-specific training, Wood Badge, and monthly roundtables.
“Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence” (D&C 107:99).
Those Who Preside over Us
In the scriptures we read, “Be one, and if ye are not one, ye are not mine” (D&C 38:27). Our charge is to carry out the vision and direction of those who preside over us. That direction may come at the time of our calling; it may come at the time of our setting apart; it may come in small pieces—here a little, there a little—from meetings, talks, or even informal conversations with our priesthood leaders. In a way, it really doesn’t matter when it comes; it matters only that we are sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit so that we will recognize that direction and have the wisdom to apply it in our lives and in our callings. May I be so bold as to share some of those “nuggets” that we have received from time to time from our priesthood leaders. I will tell you that each of these came after our initial call and not as part of any formal orientation to our call.
Those were given at various times to us for our callings. But as I have thought about each of these, I think they apply just as much to you and your ward Young Men leaders.
The Ward Priesthood, Young Men, and Scouting Leaders
Now, as stake leaders, some of you have had wonderful orientations to your calls; some less so. But each of you is part of a wonderful organization with a divine mission. In speaking to the regional representatives of the Twelve in 1973, President Spencer W. Kimball spoke of that mission when he said:
“No one ever needed to tell me what a stake was. I grew up from infancy with stake for breakfast, stake for dinner, and stake for supper. From the time I was three years old my father was a stake president. I soon seemed to know intimately that a stake was an area, a combination, a people, a movement, an association, a spirit. Its purpose was to bless people, to train in righteousness, to give to people cover and protection against the hazards of life, to give leadership and succor to the needy, to inspire all its members toward godhood” (“The Image of a Stake” [address delivered at a regional representatives’ seminar, Oct. 4, 1973], 1).
President Kimball teaches in this great talk that one of the most important roles of a stake leader is that of a teacher—to help, to model, to train, and to exemplify that which a ward leader needs to learn. As President Monson has said, “From the bishop down, it’s all work; and from the bishop up, it’s all talk.” (You see where that puts you and me?) And yet, there is another word for talk—it is “teach.” We are to be the continual teachers, to take lessons from the Master Teacher Himself and teach as He taught—by precept and by example; we are to help ward leaders be successful in their callings and to help them become “almost consumed” with saving the young men of their quorums.
While stake Young Men leaders do indeed get involved with planning stake activities for the Young Men and coordinating with the stake Young Women presidency to plan joint youth activities on a stake basis, their primary responsibility is to teach. Elder J. Willard Marriott often refers to his father’s management style as “management by wandering around.” I have liked that description for Young Men leaders. If we are to serve those leaders on a ward level, we must be with them; we visit their quorums and classes, the activities, and their events. Elder F. Melvin Hammond, former Young Men general president and now president of the Washington D.C. Temple, used to say when speaking of our responsibility to the teach the youth correct principles, “How will they know unless we tell them so?” And so it is with their leaders.
We have often spoken of the “4 Ts” of youth leadership. How will these enthusiastic and willing leaders of youth in our wards know how to help them unless we teach them and model for them servant leadership? How will they know the importance of testimony, training, tenure, and time unless we take time to teach? How will they know the value of training (in all its phases) unless we say, as did the Master Teacher, “Come, follow me” to stake priesthood leadership meeting, to BSA basic training, to monthly roundtable training, to Wood Badge. It is our blessing and our duty to set the example and extend the invitation to those who have been called to serve.
The Young Men of the Aaronic Priesthood in Your Stake
While you don’t normally work directly or on a daily or weekly basis with the youth in your stake, it is your end work to help “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life” (Moses 1:39) of each young man in your stake, to help prepare each of them for full-time missionary service, for the ordinances of the temple, and for righteous fatherhood.
May I offer several suggestions:
- Love them. Love them not just for what they are, but for what they are becoming. In all your teaching and visiting, be genuinely interested in them, in their activities, in their accomplishments, and in their challenges. Take a particular interest in those who are struggling, those who have difficulty blending in, and those with special needs. As you model this genuine interest, ward leaders will emulate your concern and love.
- See and recognize the young men of the Aaronic Priesthood. Speak to them. Call them by name. Learn their names. Catch them doing good. Recognize them for doing good. Drop them a note.
- Speak to them of missions, of Duty to God, of the temple, of being an Eagle Scout, of success. Be positive. Be sincere. Help to fan the flames of faith and self-worth in these great young men of the Aaronic Priesthood. I recently received a note from a young man. While I don’t specifically recall the instance, I do recall the young man. He said, “Thanks, President, for talking to me about a mission. When you said that you were convinced that I would be a good missionary, I felt something good inside of me. And for the first time, some of my fears about going on a mission were not as large. I have just accepted a call to serve as a full-time missionary. Thanks for believing in me.”
- Show confidence in them. Young men today need to know that they are indeed sons of God and that they have the power to succeed. They need to know that they can be successful in school, at work, in relationships, as full-time missionaries, and as husbands and fathers. Many of them have great fears because of dysfunctional family situations, because of pressure and belittling by peers, because of normal feelings of self-doubt (exacerbated by peer pressure), and because of no experience in dealing with success and relationships. We must give them a rounded experience in each of these areas.
- Finally, bear witness of what you know. There are many things you may not have the answer for, but there are some things—things of eternity—that you can reinforce in the life and mind of your boys: the reality that God lives and hears our prayers; that He has a plan, the plan of happiness, and that we are an important part of that plan; that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and because of His atoning sacrifice, it is possible that all of us, through repentance, can return to him; that families can be happy and can be forever; that the Holy Ghost really whispers to each of us and helps us make wise choices; and that happiness really does come as we keep God’s commandments and live the standards in For the Strength of Youth.
I have been repeatedly amazed at how President Monson, as a member of the First Presidency and now as our beloved prophet, continues his personal ministry, a quiet work of touching the lives of those around him in quiet, yet miraculous ways. I don’t know anyone who, on a regular basis, visits more hospital patients, gives more blessings, and attends more viewings and funerals than President Monson. For years President Monson has held a place in my personal hall of heroes, not because of his leadership style or his marvelous speaking ability, but because of his personal ministry to the one. Even as stake leaders, we can and must emulate his example.
May the Lord bless you in your efforts to teach, touch, and strengthen the leaders of the young men of the Aaronic Priesthood. God lives. This is His priesthood. We are His servants. And the young men we serve are His sons with divine potential.
We are grateful for your diligent service. We are grateful for your inspired teaching of those whom you serve. We are grateful for your tireless efforts in becoming “almost consumed” in this great work of strengthening and preparing our young men for the ordinances of the temple and for missionary service. Please know of our prayers for you. We love you and are grateful for the blessing of serving with you in this vital word of salvation. Remember, we are not alone. This is His work. And because it is His work, He will bless and validate our humble and diligent service and, in His own time, will give the harvest.