Adapted from an October 1999 general conference address.The Aaronic Priesthood isn’t a gift; it’s an honor. It is a call to serve others.
Some years ago, as our youngest son, Clark, was approaching his 12th birthday, he and I were leaving the Church Administration Building when President Harold B. Lee greeted us. I mentioned to President Lee that Clark would soon be 12, whereupon President Lee asked him, “What happens to you, Clark, when you turn 12?” This was one of those times when a father prays that a son will be inspired to give a proper response. Without hesitation Clark said to President Lee, “I will be ordained a deacon.”
The answer was the one President Lee had sought. He then counseled our son, “Remember, it is a great blessing to hold the priesthood.”
I hope with all my heart and soul that every young man who receives the priesthood will honor that priesthood and be true to the trust which is conveyed when it is conferred.
Should there be those who fail to resolve to do better because of that greatest of fears—the fear of failure—there is no more comforting assurance to be had than these words of the Lord: “My grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).
Replacing doubt with faith
Miracles are everywhere to be found when priesthood callings are magnified. When faith replaces doubt, when selfless service eliminates selfish striving, the power of God brings to pass His purposes.
The priesthood is not really so much a gift as it is a commission to serve, a privilege to lift, and an opportunity to bless the lives of others. We are shepherds watching over Israel. The hungry sheep look up, ready to be fed the bread of life. Are we prepared to feed the flock of God? It is imperative that we recognize the worth of a human soul, that we never give up on one of His precious children.
I recently received a letter from a young man which reflects the spirit of love that helped to make firm a testimony of the gospel:
“Dear President Monson:
“Thank you for speaking to us at the National Scouting Jamboree held at Fort A. P. Hill, Virginia. On the tour that we took we saw a lot of famous places like Niagara Falls, the Statue of Liberty, the Liberty Bell, and many other places. The one I enjoyed the most was the Sacred Grove. Our parents had written us all letters to read by ourselves while in the grove. After I had finished the letter my parents had written to me, I knelt in prayer. I asked if the Church was really true and if Joseph Smith really did see a vision and is a true prophet of God, and also if President Hinckley is a true prophet of God. Right after I was done praying, I felt this feeling of the Spirit that these things were indeed true. I had prayed before about the same things but never received such a powerful answer. There was no way that I could deny that this Church is true or that President Hinckley is a prophet of God.
“I feel so blessed to be a member of this Church. Thanks again for attending the Jamboree.
“Sincerely, “Chad D. Olson
“P.S. We gave our tour guide and our bus driver a copy of the Book of Mormon with our testimonies in it. They are the greatest! I want to be a missionary.”
Like Joseph Smith, this young man had retired to a sacred grove and prayed for answers to questions phrased by his inquiring mind. Once more a prayer was answered and a confirmation of the truth was gained.
The call of duty can come quietly as we who hold the priesthood respond to the assignments we receive. President George Albert Smith declared, “It is your duty first of all to learn what the Lord wants and then by the power and strength of [your] holy Priesthood to magnify your calling in the presence of your fellows in such a way that the people will be glad to follow you” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1942, 14).
What does it mean to magnify a calling? It means to build it up in dignity and importance, to make it honorable and commendable in the eyes of all men, to enlarge and strengthen it, to let the light of heaven shine through it to the view of other men. And how does one magnify a calling? Simply by performing the service that pertains to it. An elder magnifies the ordained calling of an elder by learning what his duties as an elder are and then by doing them. As with an elder, so with a deacon, a teacher, a priest, a bishop, and each who holds office in the priesthood.
Doing instead of dreaming
Brethren, it is in doing—not just dreaming—that lives are blessed, others are guided, and souls are saved. “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves,” added James (James 1:22).
May all of us make a renewed effort to qualify for the Lord’s guidance in our lives. There are many out there who plead and pray for help. There are those who are discouraged, those who are beset by poor health and challenges of life which leave them in despair.
I’ve always believed in the truth of the words, “God’s sweetest blessings always go by hands that serve him here below” (Whitney Montgomery, “Revelation,” in Best-Loved Poems of the LDS People, 283).
Once I had a treasured friend, Hyrum Adams, who seemed to experience more of life’s troubles and frustrations than he could bear. Finally he lay in the hospital, terminally ill. I knew not that he was there.
Sister Monson and I had gone to that same hospital to visit another person who was very ill. As we exited the hospital and proceeded to where our car was parked, I felt the distinct impression to return and ask whether Hyrum Adams might be a patient there. Long years before, I had learned never, never, to postpone a prompting from the Lord. It was late, but a check with the desk clerk confirmed that indeed Hyrum was a patient.
We proceeded to his room, knocked on the door, and opened it. We were not prepared for the sight that awaited us. Balloon bouquets were everywhere. Prominently displayed on the wall was a poster with the words “Happy Birthday” written on it. Hyrum was sitting up in his hospital bed, his family by his side. When he saw us, he said, “Why, Brother Monson, how in the world did you know that this is my birthday?” I smiled but I left the question unanswered.
Those in the room who held the Melchizedek Priesthood surrounded this, their father and my friend, and a priesthood blessing was given.
After tears were shed, smiles of gratitude exchanged, and tender hugs received and given, I leaned over to Hyrum and spoke softly to him: “Hyrum, remember the words of the Lord, for they will sustain you. He promised, ‘I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you’” (John 14:18).
May each of us ever be on the Lord’s errand and thereby be entitled to the Lord’s help.
“You young deacons, teachers, and priests: Are you worthy to officiate in the preparation, passing, and blessing of the sacrament? These are sacred responsibilities. The bread and water are emblems of our Savior’s flesh and blood; they represent His atoning sacrifice.
“Think of that for a moment. The sacrament that you administer each week is in remembrance of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The wondrous gift of the Atonement overcomes physical death unconditionally, and it is infinite because it is for all who have lived or will ever live in mortality. Through the Atonement, we are all redeemed from the Fall of Adam and will be resurrected. …
“Oh, how the Lord blesses worthy bearers of the Aaronic Priesthood who bless and pass the sacrament to faithful members of the Church in His memory! And how He blesses those who partake of the sacrament worthily! If you are worthy to participate in the administration of the sacrament, you will be worthy to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood at the appropriate time and enter the temple to take upon yourselves covenants with the Lord” (Ensign, May 1996, 35–36). —Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve