All of us are in debt. God has given us our lives, all that we have on earth, and the hope of returning to live with Him. In return, our duty to God is to keep His commandments and live lives worthy to return to Him.
For young men, your duty includes living worthy of the priesthood—the power to act in God’s name. As you perform the ordinances of the priesthood, and use it to serve others, you fulfill your duty to God.
For years the Duty to God Award has been an important achievement for young men. Beginning in January 2002, this award takes on even more significance as the requirements are expanded to help young men develop as they advance through the offices of the Aaronic Priesthood.
Many young men have already had the opportunity to participate in a similar program, known outside of the United States and Canada as Aaronic Priesthood Achievement.
“[The program] started some years ago internationally to help young men through the Aaronic Priesthood years, to fill in where Scouting was not available, and to help develop their testimonies and understanding of the gospel and to help young men come to Christ,” says Elder F. Melvin Hammond, Young Men general president.
As young men advance through the Aaronic Priesthood they will be asked to meet set requirements and choose additional goals of their own. Each young man will receive a guidebook that outlines requirements and provides space to record his goals and chart his progress.
Since there are different duties for each Aaronic Priesthood office, there are different guidebooks for deacons, teachers, and priests. Young men who meet all the requirements in each Aaronic Priesthood office are presented the Duty to God Award.
To earn the Duty to God Award young men will need to complete the duties and goals outlined in the guidebooks, as well as choosing goals of their own. These include:
Priesthood duties and standards
Keeping a journal
Learning your duty
The duties required of young men include keeping the commandments, living the standards in For the Strength of Youth, having daily personal prayer, reading the scriptures, attending Church meetings, paying a full tithe, and fulfilling priesthood responsibilities.
There are additional duties for each priesthood office. As a deacon, the basic duties also include passing the sacrament and gathering fast offerings. Teachers should attend seminary where available, help prepare the sacrament, and serve as home teachers if assigned by their priesthood leaders. Priests should continue to attend seminary, serve as home teachers, and bless the sacrament.
Growing in the priesthood
The goals for deacons include things such as organizing family home evenings, preparing meals, keeping a written record of family history, and performing a service project.
Teachers are required to memorize and learn to lead hymns, keep a budget, study For the Strength of Youth, and read and discuss scriptures with family.
Among other requirements, priests read the fourth section of the Doctrine and Covenants and learn what it means to prepare spiritually, financially, emotionally, and physically to go on a mission.
“We’ve tried to develop the requirements based on the maturity of the young men,” says Elder Hammond. “Completion of the goals is more difficult as they become teachers and priests.”
Quorum activities help young men understand the responsibilities of their office and prepare them for the Melchizedek Priesthood. Young men are required to read about and understand certain gospel principles and discuss them with their priesthood leaders. Service projects, fellowshipping, baptisms for the dead, speaking in church, learning to lead music, and memorizing the sacrament prayers are examples of quorum activities that will fulfill the Duty to God requirements.
Reaching new heights
Although each guidebook lists dozens of ideas, it is up to the young men to choose what goals they want to accomplish for their personal development. Each young man will choose eight or more personal goals for each of the four categories. The four categories are:
Educational, personal, and career development
Citizenship and social development
Some of the ideas listed in the guidebook are bearing testimony, reading scriptures, doing family history, keeping a journal, running, camping, exploring career goals, learning dance etiquette, or playing in a musical group.
What about Scouting?
One question that many young men may have when they find out about the new Duty to God Award for young men is, What about Scouting? Elder Hammond says the Duty to God Award should not interfere with Scouting, but that the two programs will complement each other. “Our effort was to find something that would be compatible with priesthood principles and also with Scouting,” says Elder Hammond. “Duty to God embraces Scouting, which is wonderful for our young men. … Duty to God focuses more on the spiritual—bringing young men to Christ. Scouting is primarily an activity program with some spirituality as well. They are complementary to one another.”
The future is bright
“When we set goals personally and then try to achieve them, we grow and develop,” says Elder Hammond. “The value of this program is what it does to a young man’s character and spirituality. The main emphasis is to develop the spiritual life of a young man.”
In a letter to Church units in the U.S. and Canada, dated September 28, 2001, the First Presidency said: “We desire all young men to strive to earn the Eagle Scout and Duty to God Awards. … As youth work on these goals, they will develop skills and attributes that will lead them to the temple and prepare them for a lifetime of service to their families and the Lord.”
“The purpose of the [Duty to God] program is to help young men prepare for the Melchizedek Priesthood, the temple endowment, a full-time mission, and fatherhood.” —The First Presidency
“During the preparatory period of your lives it is so important that you cultivate spiritual growth, physical growth, education, personal development, career preparation, citizenship, and social skills. These qualities are all part of your priesthood duties and will help in the decisions that lie ahead for the next decades of your life.” —Elder Robert D. Hales Ensign, Nov. 2001, 40