On a trip to Japan it was my privilege to attend a sacrament meeting of the Naha Branch on the island of Okinawa. I was so impressed with the quality of the sacrament service and the reverence and dignity exhibited by the Aaronic Priesthood that when I was called to speak I asked one of the young men to join me at the pulpit. I asked him, “How do you feel knowing that you hold the priesthood of God?” Not tall enough to see over the pulpit, he raised on his toes so he could see the congregation, then with deep emotion responded: “It’s the greatest honor of my life!”
Some of us, because we receive the Aaronic Priesthood when we are very young, do not appreciate what an honor it is for us to be singled out from all of God’s sons to represent him with this sacred power and authority.
Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to be with Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on the banks of the Susquehanna River on that spring day, May 15, 1829? Can you picture the miracle and majesty of that moment when John the Baptist, a resurrected being, appeared to those two young men, laid his hands on their heads, and granted them the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood?
Explaining that he acted under the direction of Peter, James, and John, the ancient Apostles who held the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood, John pronounced these words to Joseph and Oliver, who had called upon God for guidance and direction:
“Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness” (D&C 13).
Although we did not share that glorious event, when we are ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood we receive the same authority and powers that John the Baptist conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.
This priesthood holds the keys to significant blessings that are essential to the accomplishment of the Lord’s work.
The priesthood keys
Consider the keys conferred with the priesthood of Aaron.
The first key committed by John was the key of the ministering of angels.
What does it mean to you to be in a position to have angels minister unto you? It means that you are entitled to have inspiration and guidance in all phases of your life if you are honoring your priesthood. It provides protection to you from evil and danger.
Read about Elisha and his young servant, who saw their city surrounded by the mighty army of Syria. Fearful, the servant appealed to his master: “Alas, my master! how shall we do?”
The response of Elisha suggests what protection is given with the key of the ministering of angels:
“And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
“And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kgs. 6:15–17).
It seems to me that the ministering of angels is a pretty powerful blessing to enjoy as a young man. I pray you will recognize that it is.
The second key was that of the gospel of repentance.
Only Jesus Christ has made it through this life without committing sin. Without the principle of repentance, all would be lost. Think of the trust God has placed in granting to his deacons, teachers, and priests the responsibility and authority to preach repentance.
The third key was that of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins.
When ordained to the office of priest, you are granted the authority to baptize.
A glorious sight
Of all the experiences I enjoyed as a mission president, one of the most exciting was the glorious sight of seeing the missionaries baptize converts to the Church. The elders felt the same way about that privilege. One of my fine missionaries had been very adventurous. He loved to rappel cliffs, hang glide, and parachute jump. When I asked him how he felt when he stood in the baptismal font with a convert, he replied, “It’s as exciting as jumping out of an airplane.”
Although your duties are defined as temporal, there is nothing more spiritual than your calling. The two ordinances most directly related to the Atonement of Jesus Christ are Aaronic Priesthood ordinances—the sacrament and baptism.
You are entitled to be sustained by the Lord and to have His sacred power manifest through you.
I have been reading of the tremendous missionary experiences of Wilford Woodruff, some occurring while he was still a priest in the Aaronic Priesthood. His testimony should be pondered by every Aaronic Priesthood holder. It will help you understand the magnificent power God has given you.
“I traveled thousands of miles and preached the Gospel as a Priest, and … the Lord sustained me and made manifest His power in the defense of my life as much while I held that office as He had done while I have held the office of an Apostle. The Lord sustains any man that holds a portion of the Priesthood, whether he is a Priest, an Elder, a Seventy, or an Apostle, if he magnifies his calling and does his duty” (“Obtain the Spirit of God,” Millennial Star, 28 Sept. 1905, 610).
Above all, the Aaronic Priesthood teaches you what real happiness is: not acquiring possessions, wealth, position; not giving in to the gang, appetites or passions, or to any other of Satan’s temptations, but rendering service to your fellowmen, learning to love as our Savior taught us to love.
With the Aaronic Priesthood as a schoolmaster to assist you in coming to know your Savior, to love him and his gospel, and to prepare you to receive the sacred oath and covenant of the Melchizedek Priesthood, you fit the description of your royal generation of which we sing in that mighty hymn “Hope of Israel”:
(Hymns, no. 259)