8. Aaronic Priesthood
8.1 Definition and Purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood
The priesthood is the power and authority of God. It is conferred upon worthy male members of the Church. Those who hold priesthood keys direct the administration of the ordinances of the gospel, the preaching of the gospel, and the government of the kingdom of God on the earth.
The Aaronic Priesthood holds “the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel; which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins” (D&C 84:26–27; see also D&C 13:1; 107:20). The Aaronic Priesthood also “has power in administering outward ordinances” (D&C 107:14).
For more information about the purposes of the priesthood and priesthood keys, see chapter 2.
Aaronic Priesthood Offices and Duties
The offices in the Aaronic Priesthood are deacon, teacher, priest, and bishop. Each priesthood office has rights and responsibilities of service, including authority to administer priesthood ordinances. For information about ordination to the offices of deacon, teacher, and priest, see 20.7.
Worthy brethren may receive the Aaronic Priesthood and be ordained deacons when they are at least 12 years old. A deacon has the following responsibilities:
He lives a righteous life and remains worthy to exercise the priesthood. He sets a good example for fellow quorum members and other Church members.
He passes the sacrament (see 20.4.3).
He serves as a standing minister, “appointed to watch over the church” (D&C 84:111). He is also to “warn, expound, exhort, and teach, and invite all to come unto Christ” (D&C 20:59). This responsibility includes fellowshipping quorum members and other young men, notifying members of Church meetings, speaking in meetings, sharing the gospel, and bearing testimony.
He assists the bishop in “administering … temporal things” (D&C 107:68). This responsibility may include gathering fast offerings, caring for the poor and needy, caring for the meetinghouse and grounds, and serving as a messenger for the bishop in Church meetings.
He participates in quorum instruction by being an active student of the gospel.
He assists the bishopric in other ways consistent with the office of a deacon. He also assists teachers “in all [their] duties in the church … if occasion requires” (D&C 20:57).
Worthy brethren may be ordained teachers when they are at least 14 years old. A teacher has all the responsibilities of a deacon. He also has the following responsibilities:
He prepares the sacrament (see 20.4.2).
He is to “watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them” (D&C 20:53). One way he does this is by serving as a home teacher.
He is to “see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking” (D&C 20:54). This responsibility includes being a peacemaker and being an example of moral integrity and uprightness.
He is to “see that the church meet together often, and also see that all the members do their duty” (D&C 20:55).
He assists the bishopric in other ways consistent with the office of a teacher.
Worthy brethren may be ordained priests when they are at least 16 years old. A priest has all the responsibilities of a deacon and teacher. He also has the following responsibilities:
He is to “preach, teach, expound, exhort, … and visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties” (D&C 20:46–47).
When authorized by the bishop, he performs baptisms, confers the Aaronic Priesthood, and ordains deacons, teachers, and priests (see D&C 20:46, 48).
He assists the bishopric in other ways consistent with the office of a priest.
The bishop’s responsibilities regarding the Aaronic Priesthood are outlined in 8.3.1.
Aaronic Priesthood Quorums
A priesthood quorum is an organized group of brethren who hold the same priesthood office. The primary purposes of quorums are to serve others, build unity and brotherhood, and instruct members in doctrines, principles, and duties.
The bishop organizes the deacons into a quorum of up to 12 members, the teachers into a quorum of up to 24 members, and the priests into a quorum of up to 48 members (see D&C 107:85–87). If quorum membership increases beyond these numbers, the bishop may divide the quorum. Before doing so, he considers the eventual size of the quorum, available leadership, and the effect on quorum members.
In a ward or branch with few young men, Aaronic Priesthood quorums may meet together for instruction and activities.
Purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood
Young men are in a time of preparation and personal spiritual growth. Accordingly, parents and the bishopric and other Aaronic Priesthood leaders help each young man to:
Parents and leaders help young men accomplish these objectives in family home evenings, family scripture study, meetings, activities, and interviews and by encouraging them to participate in the Duty to God program (see 8.12).
Young men should not recite these objectives in their meetings or activities.
Standards provide sure direction to strengthen and guide members of the Church. As young men keep gospel standards, they will be of great service in the Church and the world. They will also be worthy to receive the ordinances of the temple.
In the booklet For the Strength of Youth, the First Presidency outlines gospel standards and teaches youth how to apply them. Every young man should have a copy of For the Strength of Youth. He should review the standards often and consider how well he is living them.
Quorum advisers and assistant advisers should study the standards in the booklet and exemplify them. They should find ways to teach and reinforce these standards often in lessons and at Mutual activities, camps, youth conference, and other activities.
Bishopric members and quorum advisers can encourage parents to study gospel standards, exemplify them, and discuss them with their sons. They can also encourage young men to use For the Strength of Youth as a resource for family home evening lessons and talks.
8.11 Sunday Quorum Meetings
Sunday priesthood meetings begin with opening exercises for Melchizedek and Aaronic Priesthood holders, conducted by a member of the bishopric (see 18.2.4).
After opening exercises, priesthood holders attend their quorum meetings. Aaronic Priesthood quorums normally meet separately. However, in a ward or branch with few young men, quorums may meet together for instruction. Even when quorums meet together, separate quorums should be organized, with leaders called and sustained for each quorum. When possible, each quorum should begin to meet separately and should have a full presidency and a secretary.
The purposes of quorum meetings are to conduct quorum business, learn priesthood duties, and study the gospel of Jesus Christ. Quorum leaders and advisers prayerfully plan the meetings to accomplish these purposes. They encourage quorum members to bring their personal copies of the scriptures where possible. As needed for individual lessons, leaders may also ask young men to bring other Church-approved resources.
Quorum presidents preside at quorum meetings unless a higher presiding authority is present. A member of the quorum presidency or a priests quorum assistant conducts. If quorums meet together, the priests quorum assistants, teachers quorum president, and deacons quorum president take turns conducting.
Lessons in quorum meetings are usually taught by quorum advisers or assistant advisers. These brethren may divide this responsibility as needed. Bishopric members, quorum leaders, and other quorum members may assist in teaching from time to time. When quorum leaders or members give instruction, the adviser helps them prepare. Those who teach should follow the principles in 5.5.4.
Adults who hold an Aaronic Priesthood office are members of that quorum. However, they meet with the elders or high priests for Sunday instruction. The bishop may also invite 18-year-old Aaronic Priesthood holders to meet with the elders quorum.
During the time for quorum meetings, young women and young men may occasionally meet together, as directed by the bishopric.
8.12 Duty to God Program
All Aaronic Priesthood holders are encouraged to participate in the Duty to God program. This program gives Aaronic Priesthood holders opportunities to develop spiritual strength, learn and fulfill their priesthood duties, prepare to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and serve full-time missions, maintain physical health, and improve their relationships with others.
Parents and leaders encourage young men to participate in the program soon after they are ordained to their first priesthood office. Young men continue to set goals throughout their years in the Aaronic Priesthood.
Quorum leaders and quorum advisers plan activities based on the needs and interests of quorum members. They make a special effort to reach out to all young men, including those who have recently joined the Church and those who are less active. Activities may help young men accomplish their goals in the Duty to God program. Quorum leaders should participate as much as possible in planning and carrying out activities.
Plans for quorum activities should be approved by a member of the bishopric and should follow the guidelines in chapter 13.
Most quorum activities occur during a time called Mutual. The term Mutual suggests shared experiences in which there is mutual respect and support for one another and opportunities to learn together. Mutual activities should provide youth with a variety of opportunities to serve others and to develop spiritually, socially, physically, and intellectually.
Mutual is generally held weekly. If travel or other restrictions make this impractical, Mutual may be held less frequently, but it should be held at least monthly. Mutual should be 1 to 1½ hours long and should take place on a day or evening other than Sunday or Monday.
The Young Men presidency, under the direction of the bishopric, oversees Mutual for young men.
Young Men and Young Women presidencies may use Mutual activities to prepare for stake or multistake activities (see 13.3).
Annual Theme for Mutual
Each year, the First Presidency announces a theme for Mutual. Leaders emphasize this theme in Mutual opening exercises and in other youth activities.
Mutual usually begins with brief opening exercises presided over by a member of the bishopric. The bishop’s priests quorum assistants and members of the Laurel class presidency take turns conducting. Adult leaders prepare youth leaders for this responsibility.
Opening exercises include a hymn and prayer and may also include musical selections and opportunities for the youth to share their talents and testimonies.
Quorum and Class Activities or Combined Activities
Following opening exercises, Aaronic Priesthood quorums and Young Women classes generally hold separate activities. In a ward or branch with few young men, all the young men may meet together for activities. Activities may also be planned for any combination of quorums and classes.
Combined activities for all young men and young women are normally held once a month. Members of the bishopric youth committee schedule, plan, and review these activities in their meetings. The activities are carried out under the direction of the bishopric.
Some examples of appropriate activities are service projects, music, dance, drama, cultural events, sports or athletic events, career exploration, and outdoor activities.
Bishopric Youth Discussions
Bishopric youth discussions are planned and carried out by the bishopric. These discussions, which are held occasionally, give the bishopric opportunities to address subjects that are interesting to the youth and that strengthen the youth spiritually. Topics in For the Strength of Youth and True to the Faith are especially appropriate. Occasionally the bishopric may invite guests to participate. Guests are usually members of the ward or stake.
Bishopric youth discussions may be held with all of the youth together or with the youth of a certain age-group. They may be held during Mutual, on Sunday during the time for quorum meetings and Young Women classes, or at another time that does not put undue burden on families. The bishopric determines their frequency. They are scheduled in bishopric youth committee meetings.
Standards events are special programs that emphasize moral values and eternal goals. They encourage young men to live the standards in For the Strength of Youth, which will bring them closer to the Savior.
These events are held annually, or more often as needed, usually during Mutual. They may be held on a quorum, ward, multiward, or stake level. Depending on how a subject is presented, these events may include any combination of Aaronic Priesthood quorums. They may also include mothers, fathers, mothers and fathers together, and young women.
Where Scouting is authorized by the Church, quorums may participate in Scouting activities during Mutual. Scouting should help young men put into practice the gospel principles they learn on Sunday.
Each member of the bishopric oversees the Scouting program for the Aaronic Priesthood quorum he oversees. Members of the ward Young Men presidency generally serve as Scout leaders. Or the bishopric may call assistant quorum advisers as Scout leaders, with members of the Young Men presidency called to serve as assistant Scout leaders.
In each quorum, the bishop usually appoints the quorum president or one of his assistants in the priests quorum to serve as the youth leader of the Scouting program. However, he may appoint other young men as youth Scout leaders.
Where Scouting is authorized by the Church, young men ages 12 to 15 should be registered. Young men ages 16 and 17 should be registered if they are pursuing rank advancements or if the stake president or bishop chooses to sponsor Scouting programs for young men of this age.
All adult Scout leaders should register before they begin their service and should receive proper training in their responsibilities. In the United States, registered adult leaders receive liability protection from the Boy Scouts of America.
The Church pays all or part of the fees for registering young men and adult leaders in Scouting. The Church also pays for unit chartering. Registration and chartering expenses are paid from the stake general checking account. The Church provides these funds in addition to the budget allowance.
The bishopric organizes a ward Scout committee to ensure that Scouting functions properly as a supporting activity for Aaronic Priesthood quorums.
Where there are few young men, a Scout troop may be organized to serve multiple wards and branches or, in some instances, an entire stake or district.
For information about financing Scouting, see 8.13.7. For additional information about Scouting, see the Church’s Scouting Handbook.
Stake and Multistake Activities
Funding for Activities
Funding for Aaronic Priesthood activities, including Scouting activities where they are authorized by the Church, should come from the ward budget (see 13.2.8).
Funding for an Annual Camp or Similar Activity
If the ward budget does not have sufficient funds to pay for an annual extended Scout camp or similar activity for young men, leaders may ask participants to pay for part or all of it. If funds from participants are not sufficient, the bishop may authorize one group fund-raising activity annually that complies with the guidelines in 13.6.8.
In no case should the expenses or travel for an annual camp or similar activity be excessive. Nor should the lack of personal funds prohibit a member from participating.
Funding for Equipment and Supplies
If possible, equipment and supplies that the ward needs for annual youth camps are purchased with ward budget funds. If these funds are not sufficient, the bishop may authorize one group fund-raising activity annually that complies with the guidelines in 13.6.8.
Equipment and supplies purchased with Church funds, whether from the ward budget or a fund-raising activity, are for Church use only. They are not for the personal use of individuals or families.
Church funds may not be used to purchase uniforms for individuals.
8.14 Teaching Leadership Skills and Qualities
Quorum advisers and assistant advisers teach leadership skills and qualities as they work with quorum presidencies and the bishopric youth committee, as they help young men plan and carry out activities, and as they help young men give service together. In this effort, advisers and assistant advisers may refer to chapter 3 in this handbook.
8.15 Stake Aaronic Priesthood Leadership
Members of the stake presidency oversee the Aaronic Priesthood in the stake. As part of this responsibility, they instruct bishops in their duty to preside over the Aaronic Priesthood in their wards.
The stake president assigns one of his counselors to oversee the stake Young Men organization and Scouting in the stake (or other stake activities for young men in areas where Scouting is not authorized by the Church). Where Scouting is authorized by the Church, this counselor should receive proper training in his Scouting responsibilities.
For more information about the responsibilities of the stake presidency, see 15.1. For more information about Scouting, see the Church’s Scouting Handbook.
High Councilor Assigned to the Stake Young Men
The stake president assigns a member of the high council to work with the stake Young Men presidency. This high councilor’s responsibilities are outlined in 15.3.
Stake Young Men Presidency
The responsibilities of the stake Young Men presidency are outlined in 15.4.1.
Stake Young Men Secretary
The responsibilities of the stake Young Men secretary are outlined in 15.4.2.
Stake Aaronic Priesthood–Young Women Committee
The stake president assigns a counselor to preside over the stake Aaronic Priesthood–Young Women committee. Other committee members are the high councilors assigned to the stake Young Men and Young Women organizations, the stake Young Men presidency and secretary, and the stake Young Women presidency and secretary.
The stake presidency may invite youth to attend the committee’s meetings as needed. Youth should be included as much as possible in planning and carrying out activities such as youth conferences, dances, devotionals, and multistake events. Youth may also participate in discussions about challenges that the youth in the stake are facing.
8.16 Adapting the Young Men Organization to Local Needs
In a ward or branch with few young men, Aaronic Priesthood quorums may meet together for instruction (see 8.11). They also may meet together for activities.
If adult leadership is limited in a ward or branch, the Young Men presidency may teach the Sunday lessons and administer the activity program without assistant advisers. In a very small unit, the Young Men president may be the only adult leader in the Young Men organization. In this case, he teaches the Sunday lessons and oversees activities for all young men. When possible, counselors and a secretary should be called.
Because youth often benefit from socializing in larger groups, the young men and young women in two or more small wards or branches may meet occasionally for combined activities. If neighboring wards and branches have few young men, the bishops and branch presidents may authorize the young men to meet together for weekly activities. When considering these options, bishops and branch presidents take into account factors such as distance and travel cost.
In a small stake or a district, the Young Men president may be the only stake or district Young Men leader. When possible, counselors and a secretary should be called.
For general information about adapting to local needs, see chapter 17.
8.17 Additional Guidelines and Policies
Youth under Age 14 in Youth Conferences and Dances
Youth under age 14 do not usually participate in youth conferences or in dances that are held at times other than the regularly scheduled Mutual night (see 13.6.14). Overnight camps and extended Scout camps are exceptions to this guideline.
True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference
The Church has published True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference as a companion to the study of the scriptures and the teachings of latter-day prophets. Members of the bishopric or quorum advisers ensure that each young man has a copy of the book. Young men can use the book as a resource as they study and apply gospel principles, prepare talks, teach classes, and answer questions about the Church.
Young Men of Other Faiths
Young men of other faiths who agree to abide by Church standards should be welcomed warmly and encouraged to participate in youth activities. Expenses for their participation should be handled the same as for young men who are members of the Church. When these young men participate in Scouting, their parents may give donations to help fund activities.
Young Men Who Have Disabilities
Young men who have disabilities are normally included in their regular quorums. Exceptions may be made with the approval of the parents and the bishopric.