I once heard a young man make the comment, “What’s so great about holding the Aaronic Priesthood?” At first, his remark upset me; then it caused me to have concern for him. I couldn’t get his question out of my mind. What is so great about holding the Aaronic Priesthood? Then I began to wonder if he had any idea what the Aaronic Priesthood really is. He probably didn’t know much more than that deacons, who hold the Aaronic Priesthood, pass the sacrament. I wondered if he was aware that the Aaronic Priesthood, which is sometimes referred to as the Levitical Priesthood, is an appendage to or part of the Melchizedek Priesthood and that this Melchizedek Priesthood is the power through which every important matter is revealed from heaven.
The words that John the Baptist pronounced upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery as he conferred the Priesthood of Aaron upon them along the bank of the Susquehanna River on May 15, 1829, became more meaningful and important. John the Baptist said this priesthood held the keys of the ministering of angels, which means that those who hold it, and are worthy and faithful, have the keys to actually receive the visitation of angels from heaven. What a marvelous blessing—to be protected, taught, and guided by heavenly messengers, seen or unseen. As I thought about this, a true story came to mind.
A priests quorum decided one winter to gather food for the needy as a service project. This event soon developed into a competitive activity with the Laurels to see who could gather the most food.
Jim, one of the members of the quorum, became very excited about participating in this activity. He planned to use a cart he had built for a parade and was determined that he was going to collect more food than anyone else.
The night came, and the priests and Laurels met at the chapel. They went out at the same time and returned at the specified time later in the evening. Much to everyone’s surprise, Jim’s cart was empty. He was rather sober and didn’t seem to want to talk to anyone. Some of the boys made fun of him and asked, “Where’s your food, Jim? We thought you were going to beat us all.”
Seeing the situation Jim was in and knowing that he had an interest in automobiles, the adviser grabbed him and said, “Come outside, Jim, I want you to look at my car. It’s giving me some trouble.”
When they got outside, the adviser said, “What’s wrong, Jim?” Jim began to cry and said, “I don’t know if I want to talk about it.”
“Are you upset?”
“No, not really. But when I went out to collect the food, I really got a lot. My cart was full. As I was returning to the chapel, I stopped at the home of a nonmember woman who is divorced and lives within our ward boundaries. I knocked on the door and explained what we were doing, and she invited me in. She began to look for something to give me. She opened the refrigerator, and I could see there was hardly anything in it. The cupboards were bare. Finally, she found a small can of peaches.
“I could hardly believe it. There were all these little kids running around that needed to be fed, and she handed me this can of peaches. I took it and put it in my cart and went on up the street. I got about halfway up the block when I just felt warm all over and knew I needed to go back to that house. I gave her all the food.”
The adviser said, “Jim, don’t you ever forget the way you feel tonight, because that’s what it is all about.”
Because of the priesthood Jim held, he had received the ministering of angels and through the Holy Ghost had been guided to do something that was far more important than winning the contest.
John the Baptist also told Joseph and Oliver that the Priesthood of Aaron held the keys of the gospel of repentance and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. What a great blessing to be able to teach by word and example the saving principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ and to baptize those who have accepted the truth.
John the Baptist had a very specific mission on this earth. He had been chosen by Heavenly Father to prepare the way for the Savior and to be the one to actually baptize him. John did this through the authority of the Priesthood of Aaron, which he held. Baptism is a requirement for anyone who desires to come into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What a great privilege it is for a worthy priest to perform this ordinance!
The most sacred experience and opportunity that can come to the members of the Church each week is to partake of the sacrament, to renew our covenants with Heavenly Father that we will take upon us the name of his Son and keep his commandments. Those holding the Aaronic Priesthood have the sacred privilege and honor of preparing, blessing, and passing these holy emblems of Jesus Christ’s body and blood.
What’s so great about holding the Aaronic Priesthood? Through its keys and powers, it helps us to live better lives, to be clean in our thoughts and actions, to show more love and respect to our parents and family members, to keep our bodies free from drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and other harmful substances. This power strengthens a young man and helps him to keep his mind and body clean and to have the courage to say no.
It helps the priests to be more aware of the way they should treat young ladies when they have the opportunity to date them. A young woman should have no fear in dating a young man who bears and honors the Aaronic Priesthood. She should know that he would never take her into an undesirable environment or situation. He would never expose her to pornographic videos or movies. She should be at ease knowing he would protect her honor and virtue at any cost. Why? Because he has had the Aaronic Priesthood conferred upon him; he is a son of God; he has the right to the ministering of angels; and through the power of the Holy Ghost, he will be strengthened, warned, and protected from these evils if he is striving to be worthy.
Let me conclude with an old Indian legend. Many years ago, Indian youths would go away in solitude to prepare for manhood. One such youth hiked into a beautiful valley. There he fasted, and on the third day he decided to test himself against the mountain. He put on his buffalo-hide shirt, threw his blanket over his shoulders, and set off to climb the peak.
When he reached the top, he could see forever, and his heart swelled with joy. Then he heard a rustle at his feet. Looking down, he saw a snake. Before he could move, the snake spoke: “I am about to die. It is too cold for me up here, and I am freezing. There is no food, and I am starving. Put me under your shirt and take me down to the valley.”
“Oh, no,” said the youth. “I know your kind. You are a rattlesnake. If I pick you up, you will bite me, and I will die.”
“Not so,” said the snake. “I will treat you differently. If you do this for me, you will be special. I will not harm you.”
The youth withstood for a while, but this was a very persuasive snake with beautiful markings. At last the youth tucked it under his shirt and carried it down to the valley. There he laid it gently on the grass. Suddenly, the snake coiled, rattled, and struck, biting him on the leg.
“But you promised—” cried the youth.
“You knew what I was when you picked me up,” said the snake as it slithered away. (From Iron Eyes Cody, “But You Promised,” Reader’s Digest, June 1989, p. 131.)
As a worthy bearer of the Aaronic Priesthood, you will always be warned when danger is near. The Lord cannot make your decisions for you, but he will always allow you to be aware of what is right when a decision or action is about to be made. Don’t allow yourself to ever believe that you are “different” in that you can participate in unrighteous activities—even just once—and not be hurt. Remember, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.”
What is so great about the Aaronic Priesthood? Everything!