Here are a few examples of the priesthood’s worldwide influence—shared through testimonies of those who hold it.
When John the Baptist appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on the bank of the Susquehanna River on 15 May 1829, he conferred upon them the Aaronic Priesthood. A short time later, Peter, James, and John—three of Jesus Christ’s New Testament Apostles—also appeared and conferred upon Joseph and Oliver the Melchizedek Priesthood.
For the next 175 years, the priesthood—the power and authority to act in God’s name—has been conferred in an orderly way upon worthy young and adult men throughout the earth, giving them authority to perform sacred gospel ordinances that bless the lives of men, women, and children everywhere.
The Aaronic Priesthood is named after Aaron, the brother of Moses. This priesthood functions under the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Those who hold it have authority to administer certain gospel ordinances that help people prepare to receive the Holy Ghost and to return to live with Heavenly Father. The principal duty of all Aaronic Priesthood holders is to “invite all to come unto Christ” (D&C 20:59). The Aaronic Priesthood helps those who hold it qualify for the Melchizedek Priesthood. The four offices in the Aaronic Priesthood are deacon, teacher, priest, and bishop.
Deacon. A worthy young man may be ordained a deacon at age 12. He may then fulfill such priesthood duties as passing the sacrament, collecting fast offerings, acting as an usher, serving as a messenger for the bishop or branch president, and helping maintain Church property.
“When I pass the sacrament I think about Jesus Christ sacrificing Himself for us. He remembers me, and I remember Him,” says Cornelius Williams, 13, of the Abura Ward, Cape Coast Ghana Stake.
It is an awe-inspiring responsibility to represent the Savior in giving the sacred emblems of the sacrament to members of the congregation. Such thoughts inspire reverence. “The bread represents the body of Jesus Christ, and the water represents His blood,” says Benjamin Opoku Gyewu, 12, also of the Abura Ward. “When it is my turn to pass the sacrament,” says Jacob Abow Acquah, 12, of the Cape Coast Second Ward, “I think about Jesus giving the sacrament to His Apostles.”
As deacons share these emblems of the Savior’s sacrifice, the ordinance can take on personal meaning. Jorge Benjamín Cervantes Gutiérrez, 13, of the Libertad Ward, Guadalajara Mexico Reforma Stake, says, “Partaking of the sacrament means we can renew our covenants and repent of our sins.” He also sees that holding the priesthood is a blessing to his family. “My mother is grateful to have sons who hold the priesthood because she wants to have the blessings of the priesthood in our home. It is very important to her,” says Jorge.
Many who hold the Aaronic Priesthood realize it is a preparation for a lifetime of service. Gerardo Emmanuel Bagnati, 12, of the Floresta Ward, Buenos Aires Argentina Liniers Stake, says: “I always looked forward to receiving the priesthood. I loved asking my father and grandfather about it and listening to their experiences. When my ordination day finally arrived, I woke up early and thanked the Lord for His confidence in me and promised Him I would never willingly disappoint Him. When my father put his hands on my head and ordained me a deacon, I felt I had ceased to be a child and had become an adult. I’ll never forget it.”
Teacher. At age 14, a worthy young man may be ordained a teacher. While he may continue to fulfill the duties of a deacon, he also fulfills such additional responsibilities as preparing the sacrament, serving as a home teacher, caring for members of the ward or branch, and helping them live the gospel (see D&C 20:53–59).
Luka Pecnik, 15, of the Celje Branch, Ljubljana Slovenia District, is “very happy to help with the sacrament.” Eager to learn more about his priesthood responsibilities, Luka says he does not want to miss any Sunday meetings. And he sees a connection between honoring the priesthood and keeping the commandments. “I try to live a worthy life so the Lord will be pleased with me,” he says.
Joshua Adduru, 15, teachers quorum president in the Bagbag Ward, Quezon City Philippines Stake, arrives at church “earlier than most members in our ward to see that the sacrament is ready before the meeting starts. It feels good to know that the Lord trusts me to assist Him in His work.” To explain why this assignment is so meaningful, Joshua quotes a scripture: “The Lord said that His ‘suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit’ (D&C 19:18). No other person could do what Jesus Christ did for us. When we partake of the sacrament worthily, we become closer to Him.”
The opportunity to go home teaching “is another way of blessing others,” says Joshua. “Every month we share the First Presidency Message with the families assigned to us. The messages help them cope with trials they face every day. Our visits help us become close to them. We ask how they are, what concerns they have, and what problems we can help with or relay to our bishop. We help them feel loved and welcomed. If there are youth in the family, I invite them to come to Mutual and other activities.”
Priest. A worthy young man may be ordained a priest at age 16. While he may continue fulfilling the duties of a deacon and teacher, he also fulfills such additional duties as baptizing; blessing the sacrament; and ordaining other priests, teachers, and deacons (see D&C 20:46–51).
Alexandr Masenkov, 17, of the Nevsky Branch, St. Petersburg Russia District, was nervous the first time he blessed the sacrament. “I prepared for it all week,” he remembers. “As I blessed the sacrament that first time, the Spirit touched my heart. One day my father and I were assigned to take the sacrament to a man who was blind and paralyzed. It was the first time I had blessed the sacrament outside of the meetinghouse. I felt I had a responsibility to be a servant and a witness of Jesus Christ and to do what He would do if He were there.”
Joel Bader, 16, of the Pratteln Ward, Bern Switzerland Stake, says he feels the Spirit “when I’ve prepared myself spiritually. When I really think during the week about who I truly am and what I should do, it’s easier to keep the commandments and to make sure I use clean language and am a good example.” And he appreciates the opportunity to be a member of a priesthood quorum. “When you’re together in a quorum, you can learn a lot about getting along with others and how to plan and run meetings. The most important part about the priesthood is serving others—and receiving blessings through the priesthood.” Joel was baptized by his older brother, who was a priest at the time. And when Joel was ordained a priest, he asked a friend who was already a priest to help ordain him.
David Wichtermann, 17, a member of the Schwamendingen Ward, Zürich Switzerland Stake, knows what it’s like to be on the receiving end of priesthood service. “I was sick and in a lot of pain,” he says. “When my father gave me a blessing, the pain went away immediately. I look forward to the time when I can also use the priesthood to give blessings.” In the meantime David loves serving with the priesthood authority he already has. “I was able to help ordain my younger brother a deacon,” he says. “To participate in giving someone else the priesthood is a nice feeling.”
Bishop. In each ward, a high priest is ordained and set apart as bishop—an office of the Aaronic Priesthood. The bishop presides over the Aaronic Priesthood in his ward and serves as president of the priests quorum. He also gives leadership in caring for the poor and overseeing other temporal matters. As the presiding high priest, he has the authority to preside over the entire ward, serving as a judge in Israel and interviewing members for temple recommends, priesthood ordinations, and other purposes.
Lu Ming-De, 38, is bishop of the Neihu Ward, Taipei Taiwan East Stake. “I need to be a humble servant,” he says, “so I can serve others as the Savior did. The priesthood must be used for blessing others, rather than for ruling unrighteously. It is for glorifying God, not the individual.”
As president of the Aaronic Priesthood in his ward, Bishop Lu has “many expectations for our young men. I want them all to become faithful and diligent priesthood bearers. This process takes time and requires much patience and love. I think there are some essential steps for young men as they grow in the priesthood: attending seminary, serving missions, and getting married in the temple.”
Much of a bishop’s work consists of counseling ward members. “An interview is an opportunity for members to experience God’s love and receive counsel,” says Bishop Lu. “It is an opportunity to remind members about doctrines and teachings that can help resolve problems and heal them spiritually.”
As bishop of the Alberto González Ward, Santiago Chile Conchalí Stake, Luis Alberto Rodríguez Alarcón, 43, strives to increase sacrament meeting attendance and “help each ward member prepare to return to the presence of our Father in Heaven.” One of his main responsibilities is his calling as president of the Aaronic Priesthood. “My goal is to strengthen the young men and help them prepare to serve full-time missions,” he says. On Sundays, he meets with the priests quorum. “I try to make sure that before any young man leaves the priests quorum, he has had a calling. We give all the young men opportunities to serve so they can grow.”
Bishop Rodríguez says success with the young men and young women has come because “I am not only their bishop but also their friend. I meet with them, talk with them, teach them, and love them. Whether it’s in the classroom, in my office, or at an activity, we talk together and I encourage them to express themselves. My great concern is to be with them as much as I can. I had the same kind of leadership from my bishop in Concepción, Chile,” he recalls. “Bishop Pascual Saavedra always gave me support, and I try to do the same for each of my youth.”
The higher priesthood was originally known as “the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God. But out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name,” it is referred to as the Melchizedek Priesthood, after “a great high priest” who lived in the days of Abraham (see D&C 107:2–4). Melchizedek Priesthood holders may fulfill Aaronic Priesthood duties. The offices of the Melchizedek Priesthood are elder, high priest, patriarch, seventy, and Apostle.
Elder. Elders are called to teach, baptize, and watch over the Church. They have authority to bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, conduct meetings, administer to the sick, and give little children a name and a blessing.
When Makoto Ishizaka, 26, of the Senzokuike Ward, Yokohama Japan Stake, turned 18, he received the Melchizedek Priesthood and was ordained an elder by his father. Although Makoto was still a high school student, there was an urgent need for him to serve his family as a Melchizedek Priesthood holder. His 14-year-old brother, Isamu, had a malignant brain tumor.
As Isamu awoke from surgery, his first words were “Can I have a blessing?” For more than a year, Makoto joined his father in giving frequent priesthood blessings to Isamu. “Before giving blessings, I prayed and pondered in the small hospital room,” says Makoto. “When I give blessings, I feel Heavenly Father is using me as an instrument.”
While in the hospital, Isamu studied seminary lessons, did not murmur, and expressed gratitude for his blessings. When his condition suddenly became worse, Makoto prayed in desperation: “Why is this happening?” Then he felt the voice of the Lord. “It pierced my very soul. Through the Spirit, I knew Isamu was needed in heaven. My anger and uneasiness vanished and were changed to peace and hope. Forty-eight hours later, Isamu passed away. He was 16.” Makoto dedicated Isamu’s grave and received temple ordinances in his brother’s behalf. He later served a full-time mission. “The priesthood blesses both those who perform and those who receive ordinances—and it can purify both,” he says.
Simione Sema, 29, an elder in the Suva Third Ward, Suva Fiji Stake, is stake clerk and ward Young Men president. “When I was ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood,” he says, “it was new to me, and at times my wife had to remind me that I could bless the sick and perform other priesthood work.” After Simione, his wife, and son were sealed in the Nuku‘alofa Tonga Temple, their daughter was born, and he gave her a name and a blessing. “It was an astonishing experience,” he says. “I was fulfilling the role of patriarch of my family! It is wonderful to bless my family and others through the priesthood and to know I can access a heavenly power that works through obedience and through the mighty name of Jesus Christ.”
High Priest. High priests have the right and responsibility to preside. Brethren are ordained high priests when they are called to a stake presidency, high council, or bishopric or when otherwise determined by the stake president.
Wolfgang Pilz, 50, a high priest in the Darmstadt Ward, is president of the Mannheim Germany Stake. “My life has been blessed by the power of the priesthood many times,” he says, “such as when my father, grandfather, bishop, stake president, or an Apostle of the Lord has laid his hands upon my head to confer priesthood authority or to set me apart for a Church assignment. They have spoken in the name of the Lord and invoked His blessings on me.” In return, President Pilz has been able to “call down the blessings of heaven on my loved ones. It has become natural for my children to ask me for a blessing when facing challenges.”
Presiding over a stake “often weighs heavy,” he says, “especially when I think of the hundreds of thousands of people in our stake area who have not yet become sufficiently familiar with the gospel. Through the priesthood and a direct connection to the heavens, I find the load bearable, unrest and nervousness melt away, and inner peace and security take over.”
Some of the greatest experiences of President Pilz’s calling have come while helping Church members through the repentance process. “Nothing brings me more peace and satisfaction than experiencing with others the miracle of divine forgiveness,” he says.
Gérald Jean Caussé, 40, of the Versailles Ward, serves as president of the Paris France Stake. He tries to pattern his leadership style after “the example given by Jesus Christ,” he says. “He who presides must be the servant. He must not just give rules or tell people how to define their lives—but rather teach them to become spiritually self-sustaining. I achieve my objective when someone acquires the ability to search and receive through the Holy Ghost the inspiration to do what is right.”
Delegation enables others to help and grow. “I appreciate those around me with whom I share responsibility,” President Caussé says. “My counselors suggest good ideas and represent the Savior in their work. I feel the same about the members of the high council, the bishops, and all of the leaders in the stake. The stake Relief Society president knows the sisters well and sees many things I would not see myself.”
The most strengthening part of his calling is interviewing stake members. “As I try to help someone during an interview, I am often enriched, filled, comforted, and consoled equally—even in the most difficult situations,” he says.
Patriarch. Patriarchs give patriarchal blessings to Church members. These blessings are recorded and transcribed for a lifetime of study; they give the recipient insights into his or her spiritual possibilities and opportunities, indicate the person’s lineage, and give words of counsel and blessing.
Humberto Ardón Hernández, 77, is a member of the Victorias Ward and serves as patriarch in the Guatemala City Guatemala Las Victorias Stake. “It is a unique privilege to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord to bless His children,” he says. “The calling of a patriarch is to bless, not to attend to administrative affairs. A patriarch should give his calling total devotion and make sure he is living worthy to have the influence of the Spirit of the Lord.” To those who have not yet received a patriarchal blessing, Brother Ardón says, “I exhort you to do whatever may be necessary to obtain this marvelous blessing.” And to those who have a patriarchal blessing, he says, “Read it often. You will find messages from a loving Father who desires to bless you.”
Jack R. Carver, 62, is a member of the Yuma Fourth Ward and serves as patriarch of the Yuma Arizona Stake. To be prepared to give blessings, says Brother Carver, “I am a lot more serious about living the gospel the best I can every day. It’s always on my mind.” Brother Carver has also found that having the Spirit during a blessing has “a lot to do with the person who comes to receive it. They have to prepare too and come with a prayerful attitude.”
José Humberto González Garza, 69, a member of the Campestre Ward, serves as patriarch in the Monterrey México Roma Stake and has seen patriarchal blessings change lives. He remembers an older woman who was promised she would be able to serve in the temple. She thought it could not happen because of her age and the distance to a temple. But a temple was later built nearby, and she found joy in serving.
“I feel so satisfied doing my duty,” Brother González says. Because he is partially blind, he uses a cane to help him get around. He also uses a hearing aid. And at times he feels he can’t do as much as he used to. But, he says, “when my children ask me, ‘Are you giving blessings, Dad?’ I tell them, ‘No, I’m receiving blessings.’”
Seventy. Seventies are especial witnesses of Jesus Christ. They assist in building up, regulating, and strengthening the Church wherever they are assigned throughout the world. Members of the First and Second Quorums of the Seventy are sustained as General Authorities. Members of the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Quorums are sustained as Area Authority Seventies.
“When they are ordained, members of the Seventy … receive apostolic authority to bear witness that Jesus is the Christ and to go forth in all the world as the Twelve may send them,” explains Elder Earl C. Tingey of the Presidency of the Seventy.1
Elder Tan Su Kiong, 60, an Area Authority Seventy in the Asia Area, is a Malaysian citizen of Chinese descent, and he resides in Singapore. “My calling allows me to experience the worldwide Church in action,” he says. “My assignments cover Mongolia, Cambodia, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.” This assignment has greatly changed his perspective. “It is like being brought up to a ‘high mountain’ and being asked to ‘look’ (see 1 Ne. 11:1, 8). I am involved in mission visits, conferences, and stake reorganizations. These experiences all require relying on the Spirit as we help build leadership, faith, and understanding.
“As I attend meetings in these countries and hear the hymns of Zion sung, prayers offered, and testimonies borne in many languages,” he says, “and as I see missionaries teaching and testifying, I realize I am witnessing prophecy fulfilled: ‘It shall come to pass in that day, that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language, through those who are ordained unto this power’ (D&C 90:11).”
Elder Tan echoes what many priesthood leaders say about the importance of the support they receive from their families: “I would not have this privilege or blessing if my wife and family were not supportive. I am so grateful for my wife’s faith and testimony and for the wonderful influence she has on our children.”
Elder Lindsay T. Dil, 52, an Area Authority Seventy in the Australia/New Zealand Area, says that “as a Seventy you quickly learn to love people you don’t even know, because the Spirit confirms they are sons and daughters of God. I travel frequently, and everywhere I go I meet faithful Latter-day Saints and wonderful priesthood leaders. It is humbling to feel so inadequate but, with the Spirit, to be able to do what the Lord requires.
“Wherever I go I try to share the message that Jesus is the Christ and witness that ‘there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved’ (Alma 38:9). My testimony of the Savior’s Atonement has been deepened because of this call. I am a witness of the Savior’s divine role.”
Apostle. Apostles are special witnesses of Jesus Christ in all the world. As members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, they administer Church affairs worldwide. Although each Apostle receives all the keys of God’s kingdom on earth, he serves under the direction of the senior Apostle—the President of the Church—who exercises all of the keys.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, 71, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, currently serves as Area President in the Philippines. “The priesthood has blessed my life,” he says, “by putting me under covenant to use its authority and to spend my personal efforts to serve the Lord and His children. These obligations have had a profound disciplining influence on the choices I have made in my life. The priesthood of God has also blessed me with the assurance that those I love most are mine for eternity if we are faithful.
“As we keep the covenants associated with the priesthood, we inevitably bless the lives of others. We do this through our service to others and through our example of service, which benefits many more than those directly served. We serve by leading, by teaching, by officiating in the ordinances of the priesthood, and just by keeping the commandments.
“The most fulfilling parts of my calling are opportunities to see people’s lives enriched as they are blessed by the gospel of Jesus Christ and to associate with the best people in the world—people who are willingly devoting their lives to serving the Lord and cheerfully making the sacrifices that entails.”
Elder Oaks explains the role of Apostles as special witnesses of Jesus Christ: “A special witness of Jesus Christ is a witness to the priesthood or authority of the Lord and a witness to His saving work as Creator, Resurrector, Redeemer, Savior, Judge, and Light and Life of the World. This means witnessing to the truth and power of the plan of salvation with all of its doctrines, ordinances, commandments, covenants, and blessings and witnessing to its glorious purpose, which is for each of the sons and daughters of God to attain his or her divine potential of eternal life.”
President Gordon B. Hinckley has said that those who have received the priesthood “have had bestowed upon [them] something wonderful and magnificent, something of the very essence of godhood. … It is concerned with life and death, with family and Church, with the great and transcendent nature of God Himself and His eternal work.”2
The following assisted the Church magazines staff in preparing this article: Michael and Marged Kirkpatrick, Ghana; Nestor Curbelo, Argentina; Albin Lotric, Slovenia; Mike Ramirez, Philippines; Vladimir Egorov, Olga Dilevskaya, and Sandra VanDyke, Russia; Shirleen Saunders, Switzerland; Emily Chien, Taiwan; Marcela Opazo Sandoval and Claudia Moncada Valdés, Chile; Okada Takuji, Japan; Sera Balenagasau, Fiji; Mark McKenzie, Germany; Jean-Marie Hauser, France; Virna Rodríguez, Guatemala; David and Linda Thornell, Hong Kong/Singapore; and Susan Watkins, Australia/New Zealand.