What challenges does a priest face, and how can his quorum help him meet those challenges?
Bishop H. David Burton (center), Presiding Bishop: By the time a young man is 16, a lot of outside influences are introduced into his life. It’s the beginning of the dating process. In many places he’s able to drive a car. He may have thoughts of part-time employment. One of the biggest challenges is to somehow keep the notion in his mind that the spiritual aspects of his life are still the most important. It is easy for him to fall off the spiritual wagon when so many things are competing for his attention. So we must make sure that spiritual preparation is the most exciting part of his life.
As President Gordon B. Hinckley continues to ask, “Are we having fun in the Church?” Now fun isn’t necessarily entertainment and games, though those may be part of it. Joy can emanate from doing right, from participating in baptisms and ordinations. Are these young men having the right kind of fun? Are they finding joy in their service?
Bishop Richard C. Edgley (left), First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric: This is a period of time in which young men feel the tremendous pressure of a lot of major decisions. Compounding that is the pressure of a worsening moral environment. It used to be that some priests were saved by young women who kept their standards. That is not always the case today. It requires priesthood leaders to be close to the priests, to guide them, to help them create an environment where they can thrive spiritually as well as socially.
Do you have any specific suggestions for creating this spirituality?
Bishop Keith B. McMullin (right), Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric: We underestimate and therefore underutilize priests. For example, priests are empowered to confer the Aaronic Priesthood and ordain deacons, teachers, and priests, but they seldom are given a chance to do so. The same thing is true of performing baptisms. Priests also have the duty to “preach, teach, expound, exhort” (D&C 20:46). But how much of our thinking goes to helping priests preach or teach or expound? These young men seldom have the opportunity to stand in the stature of their priesthood in full measure. But if you give a group of priests a chance to stand up and really start to do some significant things, they immediately respond. They are hungry for an invitation to do much more. Translating the revealed duties of a priest (see D&C 20:46–52) into the arena of a 16-year-old is a challenge and a great opportunity.
How can a quorum help prepare priests for the future?
Bishop Edgley: I believe that priesthood leaders should be focusing priests on missions—letting them know what is required and helping them get prepared. They should be focusing them on temple preparations—preparing priests for the covenants they are going to make as they go on their missions—and also on receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood. The Aaronic Priesthood is a preparatory priesthood leading up to this.
If a young man is really focused on these goals, he will be more likely to resist temptation. Many young men keep certain commandments because they want to be missionaries. If I were a quorum leader, I would try to get my priests to interact with returned missionaries and missionaries serving in my area.
What is the role of a bishop in a priests quorum?
Bishop Burton: He is the president of the quorum. Priesthood keys, divinely restored, have been conferred on the bishop; he can use those keys to bless the lives of young men. And that is why it’s important that the bishop be in the quorum. Too often he’s not there, not because he doesn’t want to be but because of the pressures of his assignment to lead the ward. Too often he’s an absentee president. Therefore these precious keys don’t get turned in the lives of these young men.
Bishop McMullin: Without the bishop present, a priests quorum meeting is just a class for young men of a certain age. Through the keys that he bears and the impressions of the Holy Spirit, the bishop will have a sense of the work that needs to be done. When you see a bishop who is really engaged in the quorum, you see a different quorum. You see a different group of priests.
Do you have any final words for the parents and leaders of priests?
Bishop Burton: We need to understand that this is a royal generation. These are exceptional spirits. There is absolutely no question that they’ve been reserved for an important assignment in the latter days. They are better than ever before. They are stronger because those who resist temptation become stronger. They are marvelous young people. Are there challenges? Sure. Are there opportunities? Many. Are these young men strong? Are they gifted? Absolutely!