H. David Burton

Photograph by Don Busath

The Aaronic Priesthood was restored 175 years ago. To help commemorate the occasion, the Church magazines asked the Presiding Bishopric to share some thoughts about the Aaronic Priesthood and how it blesses the lives of youth and all Church members.

What are some of your thoughts and feelings about the spread of the Aaronic Priesthood across the world since it was restored on 15 May 1829?

Bishop H. David Burton, Presiding Bishop: I would have enjoyed being present when the priesthood was restored. It would have been exciting to be across the Susquehanna River, sitting by a bush, watching John the Baptist ordain the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. (See D&C 13.)

As exciting as that would have been, I have come to understand that what has happened since then has been a miracle itself. First, adult brethren received the priesthood to organize the Church. Then over time, the priesthood was extended to youth. Now every worthy young man has the opportunity to hold the Aaronic Priesthood.

The real blessing of the priesthood, particularly the Aaronic Priesthood, is the preparation so many young men have received to serve missions, to go to the temple, and to provide for families. It’s exciting to see what 175 years have produced.

What are some of the most significant accomplishments of the Aaronic Priesthood in this dispensation?

Bishop Keith B. McMullin, Second Counselor: The normal work of the Aaronic Priesthood is most significant, because it is inspiring and meaningful in the lives of Church members. The Aaronic Priesthood holds “the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel; Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism” (D&C 84:26–27).

The Aaronic Priesthood administers temporal affairs. That includes baptism, the sacrament, and caring for people who are in distress. Young priesthood holders do baptisms for the dead so those people can enjoy the blessings of the gospel. They pass the sacrament to offer every member an opportunity to commune with the Holy Spirit in the sacred covenants of the gospel. They greet members when they come to church, and they go home teaching with their Melchizedek Priesthood companions.

Do Aaronic Priesthood functions differ in different areas of the world?

Bishop Burton: It doesn’t matter if you’re a deacon, teacher, or priest in the Salt Lake Valley or in the Philippines. You have the same authority and the same basic responsibilities.

Bishop McMullin: The power is the same wherever it is. Even if there is only one youth Aaronic Priesthood bearer in an entire ward or branch, that Aaronic Priesthood bearer can do his duty.

Why are priesthood holders asked to collect fast offerings, pass the sacrament, and perform other duties?

Bishop Richard C. Edgley, First Counselor: The Lord has asked young men to do these duties. The priesthood represents an enormous trust from Him.

Bishop McMullin: When an Aaronic Priesthood bearer’s hand is extended with a sacrament tray, he isn’t just passing the sacrament. He is introducing into the lives of members the emblems of the holy Atonement and lifting the members heavenward. When he has his hand out with a fast-offering envelope in it, he is collecting the fast offering with an invitation extended by the Savior Himself to come unto Him and help others by giving.

The priesthood is everlasting; it will forever bless Heavenly Father’s children and lift them in ways only the priesthood can.

Why is the Aaronic Priesthood called “the lesser priesthood”? What does it mean that it is part of the preparatory gospel? (See D&C 84:26; D&C 107:14, 20.)

Bishop Burton: What if the Aaronic Priesthood didn’t exist, and we progressed through our youthful years and at age 19 all of a sudden we received the Melchizedek Priesthood and were called on a mission? How would missionaries feel? What preparation would they have?

The preparatory gospel takes on a different meaning when you think what it would be like if youth didn’t have the privilege of participating in the Aaronic Priesthood. I believe our missionaries are more qualified because of their experience in the Aaronic Priesthood.

Bishop Edgley: It is a tremendous thing to think about the thousands of full-time missionaries who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood and were prepared with the preparatory priesthood. The Aaronic Priesthood is the beginning of the most holy calling in the priesthood—the Melchizedek Priesthood.

When I was baptized into the Church, I wasn’t baptized by my father; I was baptized by a priest. When I was a priest, I had the blessing to baptize my sister. And one of the great experiences I had as a father was when my son, who was a priest, ordained his brother to be a teacher.

I believe it is important for our young Aaronic Priesthood bearers to understand the spiritual powers that accompany this priesthood. I also feel that when it is appropriate it is desirable to have priests of the Aaronic Priesthood participate in ordinances when they are authorized to do so.

Bishop McMullin: The Aaronic Priesthood functions under the direction of the Melchizedek Priesthood. It prepares not only the bearer but also the people of the Church for the exalting blessings that come through the higher priesthood. Among the requirements for salvation are faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, and baptism. Everyone has to receive the sacrament. Everyone needs those ordinances, which prepare us for other opportunities.

Why are Aaronic Priesthood holders organized in quorums?

Bishop Burton: When one becomes a deacon, he not only receives the priesthood but also becomes a member of a quorum. What power there is in a quorum!

I have many pleasant memories of my Aaronic Priesthood years. That was a glorious time. When I was a priest, my bishop always insisted that all members of the priests quorum participate in ordinations of new priests in the ward. That was probably the first time I really realized what a quorum was all about. I really felt the Spirit when I realized we were participating in a sacred ordinance.

Bishop Edgley: An experience I had with my Aaronic Priesthood quorum was on a Scout outing. We were sitting around a fire with my wonderful Scoutmaster, who was also the assistant deacons quorum adviser. A couple of guys who were not active in the Church were looking at some pornographic material.

The Scoutmaster stopped as he was talking to the Scouts and asked if he could have the magazine. He closed it and then told us how hurt he was, how troubled he was. Then he testified of the power of the priesthood when we honor it. He handed the magazine back, and that young man threw it in the fire.

That Scoutmaster taught us by the power of the Spirit about the priesthood. Of all the lessons I’ve had in quorums and chapels, I am still impressed by that experience.

What advice do you have for Aaronic Priesthood holders?

Bishop McMullin: Read section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants about the duties of deacons, teachers, and priests. And then ask yourself, “How does this apply to me?”

Bishop Edgley: The Lord gives a remarkable promise to those who hold the priesthood. It is called the oath and covenant of the priesthood and is explained in section 84 of the Doctrine and Covenants:

“For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit. …

“They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.

“And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;

“For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;

“And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;

“And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.

“And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.

“Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved” (D&C 84:33–40).

The priesthood means more than being a deacon, teacher, or priest. It is God’s power delegated to man. Through faithfulness, one can obtain the fulness of that power.

[photos] Photography by Eldon Linschoten