I hold in my hand a copy of a Sunday School manual titled Leaders of the Scriptures, which was printed in 1947. The authors were Marion G. Merkley and Gordon B. Hinckley. Fifty-six years ago! This manual has been in my home for many years and is part of the motivation for this talk.
One of the most significant events of the Restoration is that of the Aaronic Priesthood in May 1829. John the Baptist appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.
Joseph recounts: “While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us, saying:
“Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins.”1
We have in this priesthood session of general conference tens of thousands of young men who hold the Aaronic Priesthood and who belong to deacons, teachers, and priests quorums all over the world. Each quorum is headed by a quorum presidency, including a president who holds keys to lead the individual priesthood quorum.
Many of us might consider these youthful leaders to be too young to hold those important, responsible positions. Let us consider a few examples of what youth really can do.
First, the prophet Jeremiah:
“Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
“Then said I, Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.
“But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. …
“Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.”2
If the Lord desired, couldn’t He also put words in the mouth of a 13-year-old deacons quorum president who “holds the keys of the ministering of angels”?
Another young man, Timothy, was a missionary companion to the Apostle Paul. The epistles from Paul to Timothy are tributes to the faith and testimony of this very young man. Let me read a few extracts from those epistles:
“Wherefore … stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. …
“[Christ] hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling.”3
“And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise.”4
As with Timothy, wouldn’t a 14-year-old teachers quorum president also be entitled to a “gift of God” when he is set apart by the bishop? Isn’t the calling of teachers quorum president also “an holy calling”? Can a 16-year-old priest be “wise”? The scriptures give us a resounding yes!
One of the greatest examples of a very young man making a contribution of monumental significance is that of Mormon. Let’s read just part of his account:
“And now I, Mormon, make a record of the things which I have both seen and heard, and call it the Book of Mormon.
“And about the time that Ammaron hid up the records unto the Lord, he came unto me, (I being about ten years of age, and I began to be learned somewhat after the manner of the learning of my people) and Ammaron said unto me: I perceive that thou art a sober child, and art quick to observe. …
“And behold, [one day] ye shall take the plates of Nephi unto yourself, and the remainder shall ye leave in the place where they are; and ye shall engrave on the plates of Nephi all the things that ye have observed concerning this people.”5
“… And notwithstanding I being young, was large in stature; therefore the people of Nephi appointed me that I should be their leader, or the leader of their armies.
“[And so] it came to pass that in my sixteenth year I did go forth at the head of an army of the Nephites.”6
What a chronology of events in a young life! He began preparing for his prophetic calling at age 10, receiving knowledge of the ancient sacred records. By appointment of the people of Nephi, he became the head of the Nephite armies at age 16.
In June of the year I was 12 years old, I was injured in a horse accident while delivering newspapers in my old hometown of Randolph, Utah. I was placed in a wheelchair for six months, until I first walked on Christmas Day. I remember the members of my deacons quorum presidency coming to my home to visit me—Dale Rex, Doug McKinnon, and others who were 13-year-old leaders in the deacons quorum presidency. They seemed to understand their responsibility to me as a member of their quorum.
I recently was standing at the luggage retrieval at the Salt Lake City International Airport when a woman came to me and asked my name. I recognized her as a former South Rich High School classmate from years ago. She had changed since I had last seen her. You all know how you feel at the old dreaded high school reunion. She had added some gray hair and a few wrinkles. (Of course, I hadn’t changed.) It was obvious that she was meeting her missionary child, who was returning from a mission. It surprised me. While she was yet in school, her family, who were not members of the Church, had moved into our small community. Her name was Alice Gomez. She was about the same age as me and my friends. I remembered that she was friendly and always polite but that she never did attend any of our Church meetings.
I said to her, “Alice, tell me your story. You are obviously now an active member of the Church, but you never joined while we were going to school.”
Her answer was condemning: “No one ever asked me!” Wow! Our quorum really dropped the ball on that one.
Recently reported to me was the story of a young priests quorum in Jamaica who decided they would help the missionaries with their work. So this quorum of young men went knocking on doors, trying to find appointments for the missionaries. They soon found more referrals than the missionaries could handle.
A priests quorum in Kaysville, Utah, decided they would not lose one member of their quorum. The whole quorum would go to a less-active member’s home and have their Sunday lesson sitting around the less-active boy’s bed. Soon that young man joined his quorum in taking the Sunday lesson to another home.
As of the year 2003, there are more than 26,000 wards and branches in the Church, with approximately 78,000 deacons, teachers, and priests quorums. Talk about an army!
The contribution the quorums of the Aaronic Priesthood could make to the work of converting, retaining, and activating other members of their quorums is enormous.
If 16-year-old Mormon could be the commanding officer of a large military army, and if Jeremiah as a child could have words put in his mouth by the Almighty God, and if Timothy could be wise as he was, then each young man within the sound of my voice can rise to the challenge of his quorum responsibilities.
The responsibilities of the Aaronic Priesthood quorums are no less important than the responsibilities of elders quorums or high priests groups. Remember, they hold “the keys of the ministering of angels.” We need young men to stand up in their calling, knowing of their ordained right to act in the office to which they are appointed.
I testify that these Aaronic Priesthood quorums hold the holy priesthood of God. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.