Several years ago, the members of a teachers quorum decided to work together to do secret acts of kindness within their ward. It started when one or two of them fixed a broken bicycle for another quorum member without telling him they had been the ones to do it. When he eventually found out about their help, the quorum members decided to find others in their ward whom they could help anonymously. Because others soon became aware of the acts of kindness that were secretly being performed, they became known as the “ward phantoms.” Eventually, they had cards printed which they left as evidence that the “phantoms” had struck again, doing good and trying not to “get caught” at it. It was a long time before the ward finally figured out who had been at the root of these many good deeds of service.
It’s probably not possible for every teachers quorum to do such a thing, and perhaps it’s not even anything that a leader should suggest. The members of every quorum should, however, find a way to unify themselves, become a group of friends who are “all for one and one for all,” and unite in individual and collective acts of doing good for others.
Elder Robert L. Backman, when he was general president of the Young Men of the Church, liked to tell the story of a deacons quorum presidency who took it upon themselves to visit every member of their quorum. They made appointments, got together at an appointed time, and went to the homes of their young brethren. One such visit was particularly memorable, when they visited a young man who was just about to become a deacon.
The presidency arrived at their prospective quorum member’s home at the appointed hour and knocked on the door. They were invited into the living room, and the prospective deacon joined them. He was a little nervous and didn’t know exactly what to expect. His parents left them alone to visit. The presidency took the time to explain to him what his duties would be, where and when they met as a quorum, how he would participate in meetings and activities, and then welcomed him into the group.
When the presidency left, the young man’s father asked how the visit had gone, to which he responded, “They were awesome, Dad.”
The priesthood quorum, and especially Aaronic Priesthood quorums, should be the place where we learn together, feel comfortable in one another’s company, rely on one another for help when it is needed, and feel a bond of unity and brotherhood with others who have the same goals, attitudes, ideals, and values that we do.
Elder Boyd K. Packer, of the Quorum of the Twelve, said, “When you reached the age of twelve, you had conferred upon you the Aaronic Priesthood and were ordained to the office of deacon. Automatically, immediately, you became a member of a deacons quorum. From then on through life it is contemplated that you will hold membership in a quorum of the priesthood” (Regional Representatives’ seminar, Oct. 4, 1973).
The Aaronic Priesthood Leadership Handbook defines the Aaronic Priesthood quorum as “an organized group of young men within a ward who hold the same Aaronic Priesthood office.” But much more than that, it should be a group of friends, a brotherhood of trusted and loyal deacons, teachers, or priests who desire to help one another and would do whatever they could to bless the lives of other members.
Fifteen years ago, there was a quorum of priests in the Salt Lake Valley which consisted of eight members who all attended the same high school. In spite of a certain sense of unity among them, each was different—from very different family circumstances, with his own set of problems, worries, challenges, and dreams. And while they were friends and seemed to enjoy the society of their quorum, there was something lacking that would unify and bond them together.
Living within the ward boundaries at the time was a young man who was not a member of the Church. He was their age, attended their school, and was a star athlete. He was popular and well respected and enjoyed the praise and admiration that came with that kind of popularity. And although he knew and was on friendly terms with each of the priests in the quorum, he had a different set of friends, traveled in another social circle, and hung out with a different crowd.
For some weeks, this young man had been discussed in the quorum meetings in terms of his success in sports and his relative popularity at school. He was a topic of discussion at some point in almost every quorum meeting. On one such Sunday, the bishop, meeting with the quorum in his role as quorum president, suggested that they consider teaching and baptizing this popular young friend of theirs. The quorum members at first laughed at the suggestion, expressing their beliefs that this young man would never join the Church. The bishop’s encouragement was persistent over several weeks, and, finally, the group agreed that they would invite this young man to one or two of their activities. To their surprise, he agreed.
Gradually, one by one, each member of the quorum had an influence on him. He began to attend activities regularly and even came to Sunday meetings. Finally, the quorum leaders approached him about meeting with the missionaries and hearing the discussions. He agreed and received permission from his family.
At first, they took turns visiting him with the missionaries. One or two of them would accompany the elders to his home, the meetinghouse, or some other teaching location. They began to sit together at the games where their friend played, and a spirit of purpose, unity, and strength began to grow among them. They began to change in ways that everyone in the ward noticed. Their parents commented. The bishopric saw it. Other ward members mentioned it, and they themselves felt the changes that were taking place in their lives.
Finally the day of baptism came. They were all there—sitting on the front row and watching intently as one of the full-time missionaries escorted their friend into the baptismal waters. Somehow, it wouldn’t have been fair for any one of them to perform the baptism. They had all become so close and so much a team, that they agreed the elders should perform the ordinance.
Time has passed. Years have flown by. Those young men have served missions, married in the temple, become husbands and fathers, and moved away from the old ward. But every one of them remembers those days of unity, of brotherhood, of friendship, and of the joy of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with their friend. No matter what happens to that little group, their lives were changed forever that year. They tasted of true quorum unity and strength.
These young men learned for themselves that bearing and exercising the Aaronic Priesthood can be a great honor and can bring great blessings to young lives. We ought to honor it as one young man in Okinawa did. Elder Backman recalls visiting a sacrament meeting there and being impressed with the manner in which the Aaronic Priesthood young men prepared and passed the sacrament. When he came to the pulpit to speak, he invited two of the deacons to join him there. To one he asked, “What are your goals in life?” His prompt reply: “To become like my Savior!” To the other deacon, he said, “What does it mean to you to know that you hold the Aaronic Priesthood?” He drew himself to his full height and proudly said, “It is the great honor in my life.” How many young men see their priesthood office in this way? How many really are aware of the great honor of bearing the priesthood and being a member of a quorum?
An Aaronic Priesthood quorum can be a place for learning and growth that complements and supplements all that we learn in our homes, in our school experiences, and in our activities. It is a place to learn how to reach out to others, to help them overcome their problems, and to provide a safe place for refuge from the storm of worldly pursuits. Heavenly Father has wisely organized these small groups of young men to provide the kinds of experiences that every one of us needs and seeks after in life.
President Spencer W. Kimball once said, “No young man who has really witnessed for himself that the gospel works in the lives of the people will walk away from his duties in the kingdom and leave them undone. … As our young men learn quorum management, they are not only blessing the Aaronic Priesthood youth in those quorums, but they are preparing themselves as future fathers and future leaders for the Melchizedek Priesthood quorums. They need some experience in leadership, some experience in service projects, some experience in speaking, some experience in conducting meetings, and some experience in how to build proper relationships with young women” (Ensign, May 1976, p. 45).
We hope that you young men will view your quorum as much more than a Sunday class. It is a team of young men committed to gospel principles, unified in the knowledge that Jesus is the Christ, worthy and willing to exercise their priesthood power, and dedicated to serving one another and others. You will be a member of a priesthood quorum all the rest of your life. Learn to value it as a cherished group of friends and colleagues where you are a member in good standing with the love, respect, admiration, and cooperation of every other member. Make your quorum the kind of experience that will last long into your lifetime and, wherever you serve in the Church, you will remember the experiences, examples, opportunities, and blessings you had as a young man in a deacons, teachers, or priests quorum.