Lesson 5: Duties of the Deacon

Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part A, (2000), 31–39


The purpose of this lesson is to help us understand the duties of deacons.

Introduction

A Presiding Bishop of the Church gave the following counsel to the deacons of the Church:

“All men are children of God, but you have something more. You have the authority to act in his name. This sets you apart from the rest of the world. It does not automatically make you better than others, but it gives you the responsibility to live a better life than others.

“Because you know you are a child of God and hold his priesthood, more is expected of you than of those who do not have this great blessing” (Victor L. Brown, in Conference Report, Apr. 1972, 101; or Ensign, July 1972, 90).

The Duties of a Deacon

As deacons we are on the Lord’s errand (see D&C 64:29). The Lord’s work is our work. When we perform our priesthood duties, we honor the Savior. One of the best ways we can show our love for the Savior is by performing our duties as deacons. Some of these duties include the following.

  • Display a poster of the following list, or write the information on the chalkboard:

    Duties of a Deacon

    1. 1.

      Pass the sacrament.

    2. 2.

      Watch over the Church.

    3. 3.

      Warn, expound, exhort, and teach, and invite all to come unto Christ.

    4. 4.

      Assist the bishop with temporal things.

    5. 5.

      Fellowship quorum members and other young men.

Pass the Sacrament

One of the most sacred duties we have as deacons is to pass the sacrament. When we do this, we should feel the Spirit of the Lord and the importance of the ordinance. We should be worthy to give the sacrament to the Saints as representatives of the Lord. We should act and dress as He would want us to.

One General Authority recalled his service as a deacon in these words: “I remember how I considered it an honor to participate in such a sacred service [the sacrament]. I remember so well how my parents taught me that my hands and heart should be clean and pure so that I would be worthy to participate in this ordinance” (Victor L. Brown, in Conference Report, Apr. 1972, 101; or Ensign, July 1972, 89–90).

When we pass the sacrament in the proper manner, we fulfill another duty of a deacon. That duty is to edify or to build up one another (see D&C 107:85). By seeing our devotion to this duty, the members will be edified and will have a greater desire to perform their duties.

  • Show visual 5-a, “Passing the sacrament is a sacred responsibility.”

Watch Over the Church and Warn, Expound, Exhort, and Teach

One of the ways we can watch over the Church is to help the members keep the commandments.

  • How can we help members keep the commandments? (We can teach them the gospel by our words and actions.)

  • Have class members read Doctrine and Covenants 20:58–59. What are some ways we can warn, teach, and invite all to come to Christ?

As we warn, invite, and teach others, we can help meet the spiritual needs of the members of the Church. One way we do this is by speaking in Church meetings. When we prayerfully prepare our talks, the Holy Ghost will witness the truth of our words to the members. Other ways we can fulfill these duties are notifying members of meetings, sharing the gospel, and bearing testimony.

Assist the Bishop with Temporal Things

Deacons help the bishop look after the temporal needs of the Church. This could include gathering fast offerings, helping to care for those in need, and helping to care for the meetinghouse and grounds.

The following story about gathering fast offerings shows how one young deacon learned the importance of this responsibility. This experience took place many years ago when members contributed food, clothing, and fuel as fast offerings to be distributed to those in need.

“As a deacon, I was assigned to gather the ‘fast’ on our block. A bewhiskered, beyond-middle-aged gentleman, Brother Peter Reid, was the supervisor, and it was his responsibility to see that the fast offerings were gathered and distributed to the needy. …

“I was to visit every home on the block … and give them the opportunity to give something for the benefit of the poor. One home would give a large lump of coal, another some wood, another a scoop of flour, a bottle of fruit, a cup of sugar, a slab of bacon, and so forth. …

“On a particular Saturday our football team had scheduled a game and I was eager to play. I knew it was my duty to gather the ‘fast’ and it would be wrong if I failed, but I wanted more than anything else to play that game. I chose pleasure over duty, and played football. …

“Early the next morning Brother Reid knocked on our back door and asked for me. I was conscience stricken—I wanted to run and hide—but I faced him, head down. All he said was: ‘Willard, do you have time to take a little walk with me?’

“It was a cold fall day.

“I went with him, first to a little frame court near the corner of First North and Third West streets. He gently rapped on one of the doors and a poor little thin lady answered the door.

“She said: ‘Brother Reid, we didn’t get our food yesterday and we haven’t a thing in the house to eat.’

“Brother Reid said: ‘I’m sorry, sister, but I’m sure we’ll have something for you before the close of the day.’

“We went to another door near the upper end of the court. In response to our knock a voice called for us to come in.

“We entered to find an aged man and his wife in bed. He said: ‘Brother Reid, we are without coal, and we have to stay in bed to keep warm.’

“In another part of the court we were greeted by a little mother with her small children huddled together. The baby was crying and the other children had tear-stained faces.

“That was enough! …

“I was about to cry—overwhelmed by my appalling neglect of duty. … Those people had their food and coal early that afternoon—and I learned a most valuable lesson” (Willard R. Smith, quoted in “Program Outline for Teaching Observance of the Law of the Fast” [1965], 19–20).

Gathering fast offerings is only one way to help with the temporal needs of the Church and its members. Another way might be to help a widow plant her garden, water it, and weed it. During harvest time we could help her gather and store the food. By doing these things we are helping her meet her temporal needs.

  • Show visuals 5-b, “One of the duties of deacons is to collect fast offerings,” and 5-c, “Working as a quorum on a welfare project is one way deacons watch over the Church.”

Fellowship Quorum Members and Other Young Men

We can fulfill this duty by encouraging each other to participate in quorum meetings and activities. We should also be concerned for the spiritual and temporal welfare of quorum members and do all we can to support them.

  • Invite class members to think about the following question without answering aloud: Who are some of the young men I could help to fellowship and strengthen?

How Deacons Learn Their Duties

As deacons we can learn our duties in many ways and places. One way we can learn them is through personal scripture study and prayer. To do this, we may have to find a time and a place where we can be alone to study our duties as explained in the scriptures and pray for help in understanding them.

We also learn our duties at home from our parents or older brothers. These duties can be taught during family home evening. This instruction is also taught on Sundays in priesthood meetings by the deacons quorum president. The Lord has commanded the deacons quorum president to preside over the deacons in his quorum and to teach them their duties (see D&C 107:85). The deacons quorum president can help us understand our duties and how to act in the office of a deacon. He is taught these duties by a priesthood adviser or a member of the bishopric or branch presidency.

One of the best ways to learn our duties is to perform them. When we perform our duties, we understand them better and please the Lord. And when the Lord is pleased with us, He will reveal many things to us through the Holy Ghost. As deacons we should always live worthy to have the Holy Ghost with us.

How the Deacons Quorum Helps Deacons

Quorum members can help each other in many ways. As we meet together during quorum meeting, we can fellowship each other. We can also help each other learn our duties and plan activities that will help us perform them. Our duties include helping members meet their temporal needs, preparing for and giving missionary service, doing family history work and being baptized for the dead, activating young men of quorum age, and learning the gospel. The quorum gives us the opportunity to work together in fulfilling these duties. And by doing our duty, we help build the kingdom of God.

Through our quorum service we can also experience personal growth in the gospel. We grow in knowledge as we study the gospel and fulfill our responsibilities, and we increase our leadership abilities by serving as officers in the quorum.

Those in authority over us select the president of the quorum and call him to serve. The president then selects two counselors, who must be approved and called by those in authority. The quorum adviser trains the officers in their duties. He also teaches the gospel lesson in the quorum meeting. The quorum officers instruct the members of the quorum in their priesthood duties. In these and similar ways, quorum members learn how to watch over the Church.

The deacons quorum also provides a place where we can receive friendship and help. If we are discouraged or unsure of the truth, we can receive encouragement and find answers to our problems from the quorum. The following story illustrates how we can build each other up by showing our concern for each other. In this case, the concern was shown for a less-active member of the quorum.

One deacon was less active in the Church. On Sundays he would usually work around the house. On many of these occasions, he wondered about priesthood meeting and felt a need for fellowship. But because no one ever extended an invitation to him to attend priesthood, he never felt wanted. One Sunday while he was painting a room in his home, the presidency of the deacons quorum visited him. They asked him if he would like to attend priesthood the next Sunday. He said no. His answer could have discouraged them, but they refused to give up. The three of them continued to visit him every Sunday with the same offer.

Although this less-active boy never did attend church as a deacon, the love and concern of the quorum presidency built him up and made a deep impression on him. This concern motivated him when he was older to seek out the Church. Today he is active in the Church and performing his priesthood duties.

Conclusion

When we learn our duties and magnify the priesthood as deacons, we are strengthened and we help others live the gospel. This is what it means “to watch over the church, to be standing ministers unto the church” (D&C 84:111).

Challenges

Live the gospel and be a good example of a priesthood holder.

Be reverent during the sacrament service; and when passing the sacrament, act and dress as a representative of the Savior should act and dress.

Collect fast offerings when asked to do so.

Study and pray about the scriptures that teach us the duties of the deacon.

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Read Doctrine and Covenants 20:38–60; 107:1–100.

  2. 2.

    Prepare the poster suggested in the lesson, or write the information on the chalkboard.

  3. 3.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.