Lesson 7: Duties of the Priest

Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part A, (2000), 48–56


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

Introduction

The Lord commanded every priesthood holder to “stand in his own office, and labor in his own calling” (D&C 84:109). To do this, we must first learn and then fulfill our different responsibilities in the priesthood. As priests, we have all the responsibilities and duties of a deacon and teacher. In addition, our duties include teaching, baptizing, administering the sacrament, visiting the members, ordaining others to the Aaronic Priesthood, and assisting in missionary work. As we perform these duties, we are not only helping to build the kingdom of God but also preparing ourselves to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. When we receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and are ordained to the office of elder, we can be called to serve full-time missions. Our effectiveness as full-time missionaries depends on how well prepared we are to serve. We can prepare to be good missionaries by magnifying our callings as priests.

The Duties of the Priest

Worthy brethren may be ordained priests when they are at least 16 years old. The specific duties of a priest are found in the Doctrine and Covenants.

  • Ask the class members to read and mark Doctrine and Covenants 20:46–48. What are the duties of a priest?

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

    Duties of a Priest

    1. 1.

      Teach the gospel.

    2. 2.

      Baptize.

    3. 3.

      Administer the sacrament.

    4. 4.

      Visit the members.

    5. 5.

      5. Ordain others to the Aaronic Priesthood.

    6. 6.

      Assist in missionary work.

Teach the Gospel

One of our duties as priests is to “preach, teach, expound, exhort” (D&C 20:46). This means that we are to teach others the principles of the gospel. In order to teach the principles of the gospel, we must first learn what they are. The Lord said, “Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men” (D&C 11:21).

We obtain the word of God in several ways. We obtain it in our homes from our parents, in our priesthood quorums from those who instruct us, in Sunday School, in sacrament meeting, and in seminary and institute classes.

One of the best ways to learn the word of God is through daily, personal study of the scriptures. Every priesthood holder should set aside time to regularly study the scriptures. As we search and ponder the scriptures, the Lord will help us understand them. As we build our knowledge of the gospel, we can teach it to others.

We may also fulfill our duty to teach others the gospel through our righteous example. Many times our good example encourages others to live the gospel.

  • What specific things can we do to teach the gospel?

Baptize

  • Show visual 7-a, “A priest may baptize when authorized by the bishop or branch president.”

Another duty priests have is to baptize (see D&C 20:46). Baptism by the proper authority is one of the most important and sacred ordinances in the Church, for it is the ordinance by which we become members of the Church, are forgiven of our sins, and enter the path to the celestial kingdom. It is a priest’s sacred responsibility to administer this saving ordinance when authorized to do so by the bishop or branch president.

Administer the Sacrament

  • Show visual 7-b, “Priests have the sacred responsibility of administering the sacrament to the members of the Church.”

The honor of administering the sacrament is given mainly to the priests, who offer the sacramental prayers. As priests, we should be familiar with the sacramental prayers, dress appropriately, and wash our hands before performing this ordinance. Above all, we should be worthy to perform this sacred ordinance as the Savior’s representatives.

Visit the Members

The Lord has commanded priests to “visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties” (D&C 20:47). We can accomplish this as we home teach our assigned families. During these visits, we can find out the needs of the family members. We can pray with them. We can teach them the principles of the gospel and encourage them to attend to their family duties. We can be friendly to the family members at our Church meetings and in the neighborhood. And we can participate with them in Church, school, and community activities.

Ordain Others to the Aaronic Priesthood

Priests also have the authority to ordain other priests, teachers, and deacons (see D&C 20:48), but only when authorized by the bishop or branch president. This power to confer the Aaronic Priesthood is sacred. It was restored to the earth by John the Baptist when he ordained Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to the Aaronic Priesthood (see D&C 13). John the Baptist himself was given authority by an angel acting in the name of God (see D&C 84:28). The power to ordain others comes to us, therefore, from God. To perform this important ordinance, we should be worthy and have the Holy Ghost with us. (For further information see lesson 3, “The Restoration of the Priesthood,” in this manual.)

Assist in Missionary Work

  • Show visual 7-c, “Assisting the full-time missionaries is both an obligation and an honor.”

    missionaries(click to view larger)

    7-c, Assisting the full-time missionaries is both an obligation and an honor.

The calling of a priest also includes assisting in missionary work. This calling was part of the ancient Church. Members of the Aaronic Priesthood today are also to help the elders with their missions. Their specific duty is to make appointments and prepare the way for the elders. (See D&C 84:107–8.) We can assist in missionary work by helping the full-time missionaries in our areas find families to teach and by making appointments for them with these families. We can also assist in missionary work by preparing ourselves to be full-time missionaries.

Magnifying Priesthood Callings

As priests we should study our duties to teach, baptize, administer the sacrament, visit the members, ordain others, and assist in missionary work. As we learn and perform these duties, we are entitled to the protection and guidance of the Lord. President Wilford Woodruff, who served on a mission as a priest with an elder as his companion, said this about his mission:

“I went out as a Priest, and my companion as an Elder, and we traveled thousands of miles, and had many things manifested to us. I desire to impress upon you the fact that it does not make any difference whether a man is a Priest or an Apostle, if he magnifies his calling. A Priest holds the keys of the ministering of angels. Never in my life, as an Apostle, as a Seventy, or as an Elder, have I ever had more of the protection of the Lord than while holding the office of a Priest. The Lord revealed to me by visions, by revelations, and by the Holy Spirit, many things that lay before me” (Millennial Star, 5 Oct. 1891, 629).

Bishop Victor L. Brown related the following experience about how priests should magnify their callings:

“A young man … wrote the following: ‘At one time I attended a ward which had almost no Melchizedek Priesthood holders in it. But it was not in any way dulled in spirituality. On the contrary, many of its members witnessed the greatest display of priesthood power they had ever known.

“‘The power was centered in the priests. For the first time in their lives they were called upon to perform all the duties of the priests and administer to the needs of their fellow ward members. They were seriously called to home teach—not just to be a yawning appendage to an elder making a social call but to bless their brothers and sisters.

“‘Previous to this time I had been with four of these priests in a different situation. There I regarded them to be common hoodlums. They drove away every seminary teacher after two or three months. They spread havoc over the countryside on Scouting trips. But when they were needed—when they were trusted with a vital mission—they were among those who shone the most brilliantly in priesthood service.

“‘The secret was that the bishop called upon his Aaronic Priesthood to rise to the stature of men to whom angels might well appear; and they rose to that stature, administering relief to those who might be in want and strengthening those who needed strengthening. Not only were the other ward members built up but so were the members of the quorum themselves. A great unity spread throughout the ward and every member began to have a taste of what it is for a people to be of one mind and one heart. There was nothing inexplicable in all of this; it was just the proper exercise of the Aaronic Priesthood’” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1975, 101–2; or Ensign, Nov. 1975, 68).

  • Ask class members to share rewarding experiences they have had in magnifying their priesthood duties.

Preparing to Be Effective Missionaries

One of the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood is to prepare those who hold it to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. Those priests who are worthy and who magnify the Aaronic Priesthood can receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and be ordained to the office of elder.

Much of full-time missionary work is accomplished today by elders. Most of us who now hold the Aaronic Priesthood worthily will be ordained elders at the age of 18. This gives us one year to learn and practice the duties of an elder and to prepare to serve a full-time mission.

If we perform all our duties as priests, we will gain experience in the very things we will be doing as missionaries. We will teach the gospel as missionaries, baptize converts, administer the sacrament on occasion, visit members, and ordain others to the priesthood. As we perform these duties as priests, we will be strengthened spiritually and will be better prepared to serve as full-time missionaries when we are called.

  • Why is it important for priests to prepare and plan for a mission?

Conclusion

Speaking to members of the Aaronic Priesthood, Elder David B. Haight said: “The Aaronic Priesthood years are critical years of preparation. The Lord knew young men would need these valuable teen years to prepare for life—precious years with meaningful, never-to-be-forgotten spiritual experiences. You will face some crucial decisions, but hopefully you will take advantage of the seasoned experience and counsel of your loving parents and concerned priesthood leaders” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 50; or Ensign, Nov. 1991, 36).

As priests we should use our years of preparation wisely. We should follow the counsel of our parents and priesthood leaders and diligently perform our priesthood duties. Our duties include teaching the gospel, baptizing, administering the sacrament, visiting the members, ordaining others to the Aaronic Priesthood, and doing missionary work. By fulfilling these priesthood duties, we can bless and serve others now and be better prepared to serve as Melchizedek Priesthood bearers and full-time missionaries.

Challenges

Faithfully perform your Aaronic Priesthood duties in order to:

  • Strengthen the members of your quorum and ward or branch.

  • Prepare yourself to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and serve as a full-time missionary.

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Read Doctrine and Covenants 20:46–49.

  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.