The Ministry of the Aaronic Priesthood Holder

H. Burke Peterson


My brethren of the priesthood, tonight is a special time for me. As some of you may know, my wife and I have five daughters. They are beautiful, talented, and faithful. They are the apple of my eye. But we have no sons. As a boy, I always went to priesthood meeting on Sundays with my father and brothers. As a father, I have always gone alone. As a priesthood leader, I have interviewed and taught hundreds of boys concerning the Aaronic Priesthood. This has been a great experience, but I have never taught one of my own sons. I’ve gone on countless fathers and sons’ outings, but never with one of my own.

Tonight, in one of the stake centers in Arizona, my oldest grandson, who is twelve, is attending his first general priesthood meeting of the Church as a deacon in the Aaronic Priesthood. When he was born, I’d been waiting for over twenty years to buy a pair of cowboy boots for a boy. On his first Christmas, I gave him a pair.

Tonight I would like to talk to him and tell him some things he may not know about the priesthood he holds. I’d also like to visit with his friends—the members of his deacons quorum—and, in fact, with all of the young men—the deacons, teachers, and priests—throughout the Church. I’d like to visit with you about this very special Aaronic Priesthood authority you now have.

I recognize that to some of you this special authority may not mean so much right now. Others of you may really be excited about it, but you may not know why you feel as you do. And some few of you may not yet have qualified yourselves to receive it.

Now, to my grandson for a moment: Darren, I remember a few weeks ago when we visited your ward sacrament meeting in Arizona. I was seated on the stand and you were assigned to pass the sacrament to those seated there. You passed the bread and the water to me in remembrance of the Savior. In your office as an Aaronic Priesthood bearer, you actually helped me rededicate my life to keeping the commandments of God. Even though I am your grandfather and a Melchizedek Priesthood holder, you used your authority to help me renew my covenants. I was thrilled with that experience we shared together. As I saw the reserved smile on your face I sort of thought you had figured it to be pretty neat too. Did you know that I’ve passed the sacrament during sacred times to the Presidency of the Church, as well as to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the other General Authorities? Isn’t it terrific that you and I use this same priesthood authority to help each other make these covenants with the Lord?

Sacrament time is a very special time, and you are now an important part of it. You are different now than you used to be. The Lord has said he is going to share with you some of his power and authority to help others through life. He is going to let you do some sacred things now that you couldn’t do before. Let me tell you some more of them.

If you live worthy of it, as a teacher you will be able to go into the homes of some of the members of your ward with the responsibility to help them understand some of the gospel teachings. You don’t need to be afraid; you’ll be surprised and thrilled when you feel the inspiration to say certain things to your families. One of our home teachers is an Aaronic Priesthood bearer. He comes every month. Three weeks ago he prayed with us and left a blessing on our home. We all felt good.

You’ll get a chance, because you are a priesthood holder, to help take care of the poor and the needy as you assist your bishop in receiving fast offerings from members of your ward. There is no more satisfying assignment than helping those in need. Gathering fast offerings is a blessing to you when you look at it as helping the bishop and the poor. Someday you may get to see the smile on a widow’s face and the tears in her eyes when the bishop takes her some groceries or pays her rent with the fast offerings you have gathered for him.

Now, many more priesthood responsibilities will be given to you as you grow older. When you are a priest, as many in this meeting are, you will be able to administer the sacrament. You will be able to baptize others. Think of it! You, like these older boys here tonight, will have the same authority to baptize that John the Baptist had when he baptized the Savior. Did you know it was his Aaronic Priesthood that authorized him to perform that baptism?

Remember, brethren, all this—and much more—will come to you if you live worthily. Keeping yourselves worthy of the priesthood is going to be hard to do sometimes. I’m mindful that it is not easy to be a teenager in today’s world. There comes a time in every boy’s life when he would like to be—and needs to be—accepted by his peers, by the kids he pals around with. Sometimes this seems to be almost as important as being liked by mom and dad. When you’re under this sort of pressure at school, it isn’t easy to say no when no is the right thing to say—or to say yes when yes is the right thing to say. It takes real courage to be a faithful Aaronic Priesthood holder.

I’ve found out that power in the priesthood comes to those who keep a few simple rules. Power doesn’t automatically come from the priesthood unless we live for it. Unfortunately, we have some boys who have become sort of careless in their habits. Some have made mistakes in their lives and have not repented of them. For the time being, even if they still hold the priesthood, they may have lost some of its power. Do you know what I mean?

Like the right to be inspired after you’ve studied for a talk at church or a test at school.

Or like the courage to say no when you are asked to do something that isn’t right.

Or like the power you need when you are praying for a sick mother or dad or a sister or brother.

If I wanted to develop power in the priesthood—if I wanted to be inspired in the things I did every day—here are some of the things I would do:

  1. 1.

    I believe I would try to read the scriptures every day for ten or fifteen minutes. I would probably start with the Book of Mormon. I wouldn’t worry if I didn’t understand everything I read the first time—or the second time—or the third. But I’d read often.

  2. 2.

    I would kneel and say my prayers every night and morning. When I was a boy, I couldn’t always remember to say my prayers at night. I wanted to, but sometimes I would forget because I’d be too sleepy. When I got older, I had a great idea.

    If I were you, I would go out in the field and find a rock about the size of your fist. I’d wash it clean and put it under my pillow. Then, when I would get in bed at night and drop my head on my pillow—crack! I would remember to get out of bed and kneel down by it. I would then put the rock on the floor by my bed and go to sleep. Then, in the morning, I would jump out of bed, and as my foot would come down on the rock—“Ouch!” And I would remember to kneel down and say my morning prayers. Sometimes we need reminders to form good habits.

  3. 3.

    I would decide tonight that I am going to pray for a desire to go on a mission. I would pray every day until it happened! And I would start now with a missionary savings fund. I would go home tonight and get a can or a jar with a lid on it, clean it out, and put it in my room. Then, after I had paid my tithing I would start putting something aside for a mission.

Now, maybe we ought to say one more thing to our friends who have made some very serious mistakes and because of this have either lost or have not yet received this special power we’ve been talking about. The Lord has made a great promise to all of us, for he said: “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.” (D&C 58:42.)

Think of it! He’ll forget what we did wrong, if we do the following: “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.” (D&C 58:43; italics added.)

The first step in getting your life right when these very serious mistakes have been made is to visit with one of your parents. If not your parent, then go see your bishop—tomorrow! You will be surprised how easy it is to pray after you have talked with your bishop or your parent. I promise you that you will feel good after seeing him.

Now, every boy listening really can be an instrument in the hands of the Lord to perform all sorts of sacred priesthood responsibilities—even miracles, if necessary. I have a great love for all of you. I hope you will try harder to live as we’ve taught you tonight. Let me close my visit by sharing an experience:

Some years ago, when I was serving as a bishop in a ward in Arizona, we had an unusual group of teenagers. Most of them had the courage to do what was right. They stayed close to each other and helped each other when things got tough. Most of them went to a high school close by. In numbers, they were really only a handful of the total student body. They met a girl at the school who was not a member of the Church. Her circumstances were unusual, for she was deaf. She also had a defective heart. The only way she could know what you were saying was to watch your lips and read them. She sat in the front of each class so she could see the teachers speak. She was a good student, but when you can’t hear and can’t be active, it’s hard for you to be a part of what is going on. You’re sort of a spectator rather than a participant. She was a spectator watching from the sidelines.

The young people from the ward were friendly to her and invited her into their circle. She responded to their kindness. One step led to another, and with her parents’ permission she was finally invited to receive the missionary lessons in one of the homes. She was taught by two nineteen-year-old elders not much older than she. She liked what she heard; she believed what she heard; she felt good inside. The day was set for her baptism. We were all invited to go. Dressed in white, she and one of the missionaries entered the water, and she was baptized as he said, calling her by name, “Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (D&C 20:73.)

The next step was for her to be confirmed. Some of us stood in the circle as priesthood hands were placed on her head. I was aware that she couldn’t see the lips of the one confirming her. And she wouldn’t be able to hear the blessing he might give. I listened carefully because I wanted to invite her into my office later, where she could see me talk, and tell her what had been said.

A nineteen-year-old elder was the voice as she was confirmed a member of the Church. He then continued with a blessing. As he spoke, he began to make her promises that I thought were unusual. In fact, I became a little uneasy at his words. He continued the blessing, and I began to feel a calm spirit of peace as he spoke. Later, I sat in front of her and said, “I want to tell you of the blessing the elder gave you. It was tremendous.”

She paused, and with moistened eyes said, “Bishop, I heard the blessing.”

She had been healed. She could now hear, and her heart was beating normally. She could now participate more fully in the gospel and in the blessings of life.

There are many lessons to learn from this story. The one I would like you Aaronic Priesthood bearers to remember is this: Here was a nineteen-year-old missionary, an elder holding the holy Melchizedek Priesthood. He had prepared himself for a mission. He had made himself worthy to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord to perform a miracle. So, as he stood with his hands on her head, he felt an impression—a heavenly message, if you please—telling him there was a special blessing for this young woman and he had been chosen to deliver it.

He listened. He obeyed. And through the authority and power of the priesthood, a young life was made whole.

May the Lord bless all of you young men as you develop your personal relationship with the Savior. I testify that he lives! I testify that he knows your name! He knows you intimately! He loves you! May his power and blessing be with you in your Aaronic Priesthood ministry. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.