Lesson 4: The Priesthood Quorum

Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part A, (2000), 24–30


The purpose of this lesson is to help us understand the ways that priesthood quorums can help individuals, families, and the Church.

Introduction

Begin the lesson with “Let Us All Press On” (Hymns, no. 243; or Gospel Principles, 318).

As priesthood holders, we have the freedom and responsibility to do many things on our own without being told to do them by Church leaders (see D&C 58:26–29). We can do our work; we can care for family members; we can be obedient and do many good things for ourselves, our families, and others. However, we should all recognize that at times we will need help from someone else. We might be stuck in the mud, sick with no strength to go for help, brokenhearted at the disobedience of a child, or discouraged because no one seems to care. The following story illustrates the importance of asking others for help when we need it:

One day a farmer was preparing to gather his hay into his barn when he saw a heavy rainstorm approaching. If he could not gather it before the rain, the hay would be ruined. He needed immediate help. He asked his neighbors for assistance, and they helped him gather the hay before the rain could harm it. Because of their help, he was able to save his crop.

When we have individual or family problems that we cannot solve alone, we should not be afraid to ask others for help.

  • Who could we ask for help in times of need?

The Definition and Purpose of Priesthood Quorums

A priesthood quorum is an organized group of brethren who hold the same office in the priesthood. In some units of the Church where few men hold the priesthood, all the priesthood holders may meet together for priesthood instruction.

In units of the Church where many men hold the priesthood, quorums of high priests, elders, priests, teachers, and deacons are organized. Each quorum, except the priests quorum, is presided over by a president and two counselors. The priests quorum is presided over by the bishop with two priests as his assistants. The stake president and his counselors are the presidency of the high priests quorum for all of the high priests in the stake.

Heavenly Father established priesthood quorums to help priesthood bearers come together to learn how to magnify the priesthood and to receive other gospel instruction. Each Sunday, to help quorum members meet their obligation to help each other and teach each other their responsibilities, quorum meetings are held. The purposes of these meetings are to teach the gospel, teach priesthood responsibilities, conduct quorum business, discuss the needs of the quorum or ward, share testimonies, and build unity.

The scriptures tell us how to fulfill our priesthood responsibilities and duties.

The quorum presidencies or group leaders are responsible for teaching us our priesthood duties and for giving us opportunities to learn as we perform these duties. After we learn our duties, our responsibility is to act diligently in our appointed office in the priesthood. As we magnify our priesthood callings by serving others and accepting assignments from our quorum presidencies, we increase our understanding and our ability to serve.

  • Have the members discuss some priesthood duties they have learned and then performed.

How Priesthood Quorums Function

Priesthood quorums function according to principles that help quorum members more fully live the gospel and enjoy the blessings of membership in a quorum. Some of these principles are righteousness, unity, assistance, and friendship.

Righteousness

The Lord has said that “the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness” (D&C 121:36). The strength of our priesthood quorum depends on the strength of its members. The more righteous we become, the more power and guidance we will receive from the Lord.

Unity

In order to accomplish their purposes, priesthood quorums must be unified. “The quorum should be so united that we can help one another, not only spiritually but also financially and in every other way. If we can get the spirit of unity in our quorums, then we are beginning to understand the full meaning of our priesthood organization in the Church” (David O. McKay, “The Fundamental Basis for Home Teaching,” Improvement Era, July 1963, 615).

Assistance

One of the most important purposes of priesthood quorums is to encourage quorum members to serve one another. “All priesthood quorums are … ‘commanded’ [by the Lord] to marshal their forces and, under the spirit and power of the Priesthood, to see to it that every person who is in distress is assisted by his quorum to become self-sustaining” (Harold B. Lee, “The Place of the Priesthood Quorum in the Church Security Program,” Improvement Era, Oct. 1937, 634).

President J. Reuben Clark Jr. listed several examples of how we can assist each other. He said: “[Quorum] assistance may take the form of helping the needy brother in his actual need and problem, to build a home, or to start in a small business, or, if he be an artisan, to get him a kit of tools, or, if he be a farmer, to get him seeds, or to help him plant or harvest a crop, or to meet some urgent credit need he has, or to supply him with clothing, or shelter, or food, or medical assistance, or schooling for the children, or to give aid in any number of other ways” (“Church Welfare Plan” [A discussion before the First Citizens’ Conference on Government Management at Estes Park, Colorado, 20 June 1939], 20).

Friendship

In the early days of the Church, men gave to their quorums “their undivided, loyal allegiance. … We shall never know the full strength and beauty of the friendships created in those priesthood [quorums]. Men cared for each other’s families when missions were undertaken. Privations and sorrows were shared, and loyalties were created. … Men offered their very lives for each other. …

“It is true, we are not exposed to the same physical dangers which once existed, but we are beset by innumerable other hazards which I fear are sometimes worse in their ultimate consequences than those that confronted our forebears. Do we need friends to meet these situations? We do!” (Stephen L. Richards, “The Priesthood Quorum: A Three-Fold Definition,” Improvement Era, May 1939, 294).

It should be a source of comfort to us to know that if we ever need strengthening in the gospel, all the faithful brethren in our quorum would unite to warn us, to strengthen us spiritually, and to help us find our way back into activity. Elder Boyd K. Packer said: “A man who becomes inactive does not lose his membership in the quorum. He may lose interest in the quorum, but the quorum must never lose interest in him. The quorum is responsible always and continually for each of its members. To ignore an inactive member, to withdraw interest in and contact with him is [to do away with] his rights as a holder of the priesthood” (A Royal Priesthood [Melchizedek Priesthood personal study guide, 1975], 134).

The Church needs “every member, that all may be edified together, that the system may be kept perfect” (D&C 84:110). Priesthood quorums are a vital part of the Church organization. As the priesthood quorum carries out its responsibilities, every member of the quorum must be considered. Elder Packer said: “If his priesthood quorum functions properly, a man [or boy] sustained by the brethren of his quorum, almost could not fail in any phase of life’s responsibility” (A Royal Priesthood [1975], 134).

The quorum operates properly when each quorum member does his part. By serving as home teachers, for example, priesthood holders serve as links between the quorum president and each family in the quorum. As problems are identified and needs are reported by the home teachers, the quorum can move into action. With this information, the quorum, under the direction of the priesthood quorum presidency, can help quorum members in need. After the family, the quorum is the first source of help for those in need.

  • What are some specific ways priesthood quorum members can serve each other?

  • Have the members read and mark Doctrine and Covenants 108:7. What does this scripture tell us we can do to strengthen each other? (List the answers on the chalkboard.)

Doing Our Part as Members of a Priesthood Quorum

One purpose of the priesthood quorum is to help each priesthood bearer learn how to use the priesthood and help his fellow quorum members in time of need. This purpose is best carried out if each member is willing to help and if the specific needs of quorum members are identified. For this reason, we must keep our quorum leaders informed about the needs we see and be willing to ask for help ourselves when we are in need. Quorum members cannot help others until they know of their needs. Each priesthood holder should try to solve his own problems, but times come when we need the help of the quorum. We should not feel ashamed to ask for help, because this will provide an opportunity for others to be of service.

The following story demonstrates how a quorum helped one of its members:

“In the autumn of 1918, that terribly climactic year of World War I during which more than 14 million people died of that awful scourge ‘the black plague,’ or Spanish influenza, … winter came early … and froze much of the sugar beet crop in the ground. My dad and brother Francis were desperately trying to get out of the frosty ground one load of beets each day which they would plow out of the ground, cut off the tops, and toss the beets, one at a time, into the huge red beet wagon and then haul the load off to the sugar factory. It was slow and tedious work due to the frost and the lack of farm help, since my brother Floyd and I were in the army. …

“While they were thusly engaged in harvesting the family’s only cash crop and were having their evening meal one day, a phone call came through from our eldest brother, George Albert, … bearing the tragic news that Kenneth, nine-year-old son of our brother Charles, … had been stricken with the dread ‘flu,’ and after only a few hours of violent sickness, had died on his father’s lap; and would dad please come to Ogden and bring the boy home and lay him away in the family plot in the Lehi Cemetery.

“My father … headed for Five Points in Ogden to bring his little grandson home for burial. When he arrived at the home he found ‘Charl’ sprawled across the cold form of his dear one, … virtually burning up with fever.

“‘Take my boy home,’ muttered the stricken young father, ‘and lay him away in the family lot and come back for me tomorrow.’

“Father brought Kenneth home, made a coffin in his carpenter shop, and mother and our sisters … placed a cushion and a lining in it, and then dad went with Franz and two kind neighbors to dig the grave. So many were dying the families had to do the grave digging. A brief graveside service was all that was permitted.

“The folks had scarcely returned from the cemetery when the telephone rang again and George Albert (Bert) was on the line with another terrifying message: Charl had died and two of his beautiful little girls—Vesta, 7, and Elaine, 5—were critically ill, and two babies—Raeldon, 4, and Pauline, 3—had been stricken.

“Our good cousins … were able to get a casket for Charl and they sent him home in a railroad baggage car. Father and young Franz brought the body from the railroad station. …

“Next day my sturdy, unconquerable old dad was called on still another of his grim missions—this time to bring home Vesta, the smiling one with the raven hair and big blue eyes.

“When he arrived at the home he found Juliett, the grief-crazed mother, kneeling at the crib of darling little Elaine, the blue-eyed baby angel with the golden curls. Juliett was sobbing wearily and praying. …

“Before father arrived home with Vesta the dread word had come again. Elaine had gone to join her daddy, brother Kenneth, and sister Vesta. And so it was that father made another heartbreaking journey to bring home and lay away a fourth member of his family, all within the week.

“The telephone did not ring the evening of the day they laid away Elaine nor were there any more sad tidings of death the next morning. …

“After breakfast dad said to Franz, ‘Well, son, we had better get down to the field and see if we can get another load of beets out of the ground before they get frozen in any tighter. Hitch up and let’s be on our way.’

“Francis drove the four-horse outfit down the driveway and dad climbed aboard. As they drove along the Saratoga Road, they passed wagon after wagon-load of beets being hauled to the factory and driven by neighborhood farmers. As they passed by, each driver would wave a greeting: ‘Hi ya, Uncle George,’ ‘Sure sorry, George,’ ‘Tough break, George,’ ‘You’ve got a lot of friends, George.’

“On the last wagon was … Jasper Rolfe. He waved a cheery greeting and called out: ‘That’s all of ‘em, Uncle George.’

“My dad turned to Francis and said: ‘I wish it was all of ours.’

“When they arrived at the farm gate, Francis jumped down off the big red beet wagon and opened the gate as we drove onto the field. He pulled up, stopped the team, paused a moment and scanned the field, from left to right and back and forth—and lo and behold, there wasn’t a sugar beet on the whole field. Then it dawned upon him what Jasper Rolfe meant when he called out: ‘That’s all of ‘em, Uncle George!’

“Then dad got down off the wagon, picked up a handful of the rich, brown soil he loved so much, and then in his thumbless left hand a beet top, and he looked for a moment at these symbols of his labor, as if he couldn’t believe his eyes.

“Then father sat down on a pile of beet tops—this man who brought four of his loved ones home for burial in the course of only six days; made caskets, dug graves, and even helped with the burial clothing—this amazing man who never faltered, nor flinched, nor wavered throughout this agonizing ordeal—sat down on a pile of beet tops and sobbed like a little child.

“Then he arose, wiped his eyes with his big, red bandanna handkerchief, looked up at the sky, and said: ‘Thanks, Father, for the elders of our ward’” (Les Goates, quoted by Vaughn J. Featherstone, in Conference Report, Apr. 1973, 46–48; or Ensign, July 1973, 36–37).

Conclusion

All of the quorums of the Church are organized to accomplish the purposes of the Lord. As bearers of the priesthood, we must fulfill the responsibilities we are given.

President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “Never before in the history of the Church has the responsibility which has been given to the priesthood been more necessary of fulfilment than today. Never before have we been under greater obligation to serve the Lord, and keep his commandments, and magnify the callings which have been assigned to us” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:117).

Challenges

Fulfill the priesthood assignments given to you.

Be aware of the needs of other quorum members.

Seek help from your priesthood quorum when you need help.

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Read Doctrine and Covenants 107:21–26, 58–66, 85–100.

  2. 2.

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