I am honored to have been asked to speak at this priesthood restoration service. I am sixteen years old and live in Tucson, Arizona, with my parents, my brother Stephen, my grandfather Juan, and my great-grandmother Maria. I am a junior at Tucson High School, and I attend the Sonora Ward in the Tucson Arizona Stake. I have been asked to tell you how I am honoring my priesthood and preparing myself to one day worthily enter the temple and to serve a mission.
I have enjoyed many opportunities of service as a priesthood holder in the Aaronic Priesthood. We have cleaned yards of brothers and sisters in the ward who are elderly or unable to take care of their homes. We have cleaned the church cemetery and the church ballpark, but I think one thing that has helped me the most in being of service was an experience in helping my own family.
One summer I was asked to baby-sit my four little cousins for my aunt and uncle. I had the interesting experience of learning as a young man how to change diapers and fix lunches as well as figure out ways to keep my little cousins from getting into trouble. One problem I had was that my little cousin Angel would not eat regular food. He wanted to eat nothing but junk food. At our house we don’t normally have things like that, so Angel had a hard time learning to eat what we had in our home. The first few days were hard on all of us, but by the end of the summer, we were all enjoying ourselves and doing well. I learned to appreciate what parents have to teach their children, and by the end of the summer, I felt a greater love for my cousins than I’d ever felt before.
I think one of the most important ways I can honor my priesthood is to obey the Lord’s commandments and to be obedient to my parents. I once heard a speaker say, “If we love, we obey, for the Lord said, ‘If you love me, keep my commandments.’” (John 14:15.) When I obey, I know that I am a worthy priesthood holder. The guidance that comes from my Heavenly Father is for my own good. I know that my Heavenly Father knows who I am and that He does have a plan for me and for my salvation. I don’t always understand why I have to do certain things, but I know that there are eternal reasons for doing them.
There also have been times when I didn’t understand why my parents wouldn’t allow me to go places or do some things I wanted to do. I have not always been happy about their decision. But there have been many times when I have come to realize that my parents were right. For example, when I was a freshman, some of my closest friends were going to a “teen night” at a nightclub, and my parents wouldn’t let me go. I was upset for a while and felt that my parents didn’t trust me. But after the bad feelings were gone, we talked about the fact that at the age of fourteen I didn’t belong at a nightclub for any reason. My parents talked to me about the temptations that are all around us and how my being at the nightclub would be opening the door to greater temptations. I also remember us talking about my being worthy of passing the sacrament and honoring my priesthood. I love my Heavenly Father and my parents, and I know that love and obedience go hand in hand.
I have also been attempting to prepare myself to worthily receive the ordinances of the temple and to make sacred covenants with God. One of the ways I have been doing this is by keeping myself morally clean. I think a major challenge in these times is being morally clean and respectful to ourselves and to others. Some people think that being sexually active outside of marriage is acceptable, but the Lord, our Church leaders, and our parents have taught us that maintaining high moral standards will keep us worthy. Being immoral is totally unacceptable to the Lord and His church. In the Church pamphlet For the Strength of Youth, there are simple guidelines that will help teach us how to be worthy to one day enter the temple. My bishop gave the youth of our ward the challenge of always keeping this pamphlet with us. If he asked us to show it to him and we couldn’t, we’d owe him a candy bar. I feel the pamphlet has helped a lot of youth stay on the “strait and narrow path.” (2 Ne. 31:18.) I know it certainly has helped me.
Preparation for full-time missionary service began with me when I was five years old. I remember going to church with my grandparents because my mom was not active and my dad wasn’t a member. I can remember coming home one Sunday and telling my mom, “Next Sunday you have to go with me to church. My friend Juanito takes his mom and dad, and I don’t, so my friends are going to start thinking I don’t have a mom and dad.” Well, when Sunday came around, I had forgotten all about it, and Mom wasn’t about to remind me. When she dropped me off at my grandparents’ so that they could take me to church, I reminded her that she said I could take her with me. She made up some excuse and said that she couldn’t go with me that Sunday but maybe next Sunday. I know she said that so I wouldn’t bother her, and she probably figured I’d forget about it. But when Saturday came around, I reminded her that she had to go to church with me on Sunday. I helped her pick out a nice dress to wear. Mom showed me a dress, and I said, “That one’s okay, but you look prettier in this one.” So I finally took her to church that Sunday, and she’s been going with me ever since.
We’ve come a long way since then, and shortly after my mom’s conversion to the Church, we started preparing ourselves to convert my father. I know that missionaries in the field work in pairs, but in our home we formed a threesome: Mom, my brother Stephen, and myself. Dad didn’t have a chance! I remember we used to talk about the children’s hymn we were going to sing in the car, and we kept reminding each other to bless our food and hold family prayer and set a good example because we knew that Dad was watching and learning in the process. Mom, Stephen, my grandparents, and I, as well as many members of the old Eighteenth Ward, worked in converting my dad. He did join the Church and is very active in the Church at the present time. In March of 1987, my family was sealed together in the Arizona Temple in one of the greatest events of our lives. We are working hard on becoming an eternal family.
Besides working with my family, I know that I should keep the Word of Wisdom, because a full-time missionary needs to be physically fit as well as morally clean. I know I need to study the scriptures and attend seminary because it takes some ability to memorize discussions and scriptures and be prepared to teach the gospel. My parents have also taught me the importance of speaking more than one language because “every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own … language.” (D&C 90:11.)
I think my greatest asset when I serve a mission will be my ability to make and keep friends. When you befriend someone, it is much easier to teach that person the gospel. I know that I need to prepare myself spiritually and physically by being obedient to my Heavenly Father and my parents so that I can have the Spirit as my constant companion and guide.
I bear my testimony that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that we have the Church and kingdom of God upon the earth, and that we as young people can overcome the temptations of the world and be prepared to honor our priesthood and to serve missions and to enter the holy temple. I bear you my testimony that these things are true, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.