Following the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Church, as established by the Savior, continued to be led by His Apostles. Gradually, however, early Church members fell into disbelief, and the priesthood—the authority to lead the Church—was eventually taken from the earth. When the Prophet Joseph Smith received his First Vision and the Restoration began, the priesthood needed to be given again to mankind.
In May 1829, the Aaronic Priesthood was conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by John the Baptist. A short time later, Peter, James, and John, three of Christ’s Apostles from ancient days, appeared and conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery the Melchizedek Priesthood.
The Aaronic Priesthood is often called the preparatory priesthood, meaning that those who hold it are preparing to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. Those who hold Aaronic Priesthood offices have the authority to administer important gospel ordinances such as baptism and preparing, blessing, and passing the sacrament. They also collect fast offerings, do home teaching, and care for the ward’s needs.
The four offices in the Aaronic Priesthood are deacon, teacher, priest, and bishop. Every holder of the Aaronic Priesthood shares the same duty: to invite all to come unto Christ (see D&C 20:59).
At the age of 12, worthy young men may receive the Aaronic Priesthood and be ordained deacons, continuing in that priesthood office until age 14. From their bishops, deacons receive assignments like passing the sacrament to the congregation, serving as messengers, collecting fast offerings, helping the elderly or disabled, and caring for the chapel and grounds. 1
Gerardo Bagnati practices four days a week with his basketball team, hoping to play one day for the Argentina national team. He also spends a lot of time practicing the violin. And then there’s soccer, tae kwon do, and, of course, school. But nothing Gerardo does is as important as his priesthood duties, especially passing the sacrament.
“It’s a privilege to perform an ordinance so sacred that Jesus performed it personally. When it’s my turn, it’s as if the Lord were at my side watching me. I’m happy to be a little more like Him by doing what He did.” Gerardo Emmanuel Bagnati, Floresta Ward, Buenos Aires Argentina Liniers Stake
When asked how he felt about the opportunity to hold the priesthood, Jorge Gutiérrez told of the happiness it brought to his family. He plans to serve a mission like his older brother.
“I’m happy I can hold the priesthood. I can have the blessings of the priesthood for myself and my family, at home and in school. Partaking of the sacrament means we can renew our covenants and repent of our sins. My mother told me she is grateful to have sons who hold the priesthood.” Jorge Benjamin Cervantes Gutiérrez, Libertad Ward, Guadalajara México Reforma Stake
Dressed neatly in ties and white shirts, deacons in Ghana, West Africa, take their duties concerning the sacrament seriously. They understand the symbolism of the bread and water and the significance of remembering the Savior each Sabbath day.
They also are diligent in collecting fast offerings, and they support each other as members of the deacons quorum.
“When I pass the sacrament, I think about Jesus Christ sacrificing Himself for us. He remembers me, and I remember Him.” Cornelius Williams, Abura Ward, Cape Coast Ghana Stake
“I feel happy because I’m doing the Lord’s work. When you do the Lord’s work, you get blessings from our Heavenly Father.” Gorsh Quartey, Adenta Ward, Accra Ghana Christiansborg Stake
At age 14, a worthy young man may be ordained a teacher. Teachers can do all the duties of a deacon. They also prepare the sacrament, are an example of integrity and honesty, go home teaching, usher or speak in Church meetings, care for the poor, and help take care of the meetinghouse and grounds (see D&C 20:53–59).
“Preparing the sacrament every Sunday means a lot to me. It is a privilege to become part of the Lord’s work. I also feel it is the time for me to prepare to receive other responsibilities.
“Home teaching the families assigned to me and my companion is another way of blessing others through the priesthood we hold. Every month, we share with those families the message of the First Presidency. Home teaching provides an opportunity for us to become close to the families we visit and teach.
“Honoring my priesthood helps me to know the Savior better. He is there to stand by me, guide me, and help me fulfill my duty as a teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood.” Joshua Adurru, Bagbag Ward, Quezon City Philippines Stake
Luka Pecnik’s life changed when he and his family were baptized as members of the Church. He remembers the happiness of that day. He takes his priesthood responsibilities seriously and is eager to learn more about these responsibilities.
“I am very happy to help with the sacrament. I try to live a worthy life so that the Lord will be pleased with me and the Holy Ghost will be my companion.” Luka Pecnik, Celje Branch, Ljubljana Slovenia District
Upon reaching the age of 16, worthy young men may be ordained to the office of priest. While they can continue fulfilling the duties of a deacon and teacher, they also have the authority to baptize, to bless the sacrament, and to ordain other priests, teachers, and deacons under the direction of the bishop (see D&C 20:46–52).
Having his family join the Church when he was six, Alexandr Masenkov looked forward to the day he would receive the priesthood. Now, as a priest, he is finding that each office in the Aaronic Priesthood prepared him for the next.
“I was ordained to the office of priest when I turned 16. I realized the weight of my responsibility to bless the sacrament because of how important this ordinance is for every Church member. I prepared for it all week. As I blessed the sacrament the first time, the Spirit touched my heart. Once, my father and I were assigned to take the sacrament to a man who was blind and paralyzed. It was the first time I had blessed the sacrament outside of the meetinghouse. I felt I had a responsibility to be a servant and a witness of Jesus Christ and to do what He would do if He were there.” Alexandr Masenkov, Nevsky Branch, St. Petersburg Russia District
Joel Bader was baptized by his older brother, who was a priest at the time. And when Joel was ordained a priest, the bishop let Joel ask a good friend, who was already a priest, to help in the ordination.
Joel feels that blessing the sacrament is a great service to the members:
“The sacrament gives me a chance every week to think about what I have to do here. Renewing my baptismal covenant helps me to always remember that I should be worthy of the covenant I entered into.
“When you’re together in a quorum, you can learn a lot about getting along with others and how to plan and run meetings. The most important part about the priesthood is serving others—and receiving blessings through the priesthood.” Joel Bader, Pratteln Ward, Bern Switzerland Stake
David Wichtermann was on the receiving end of priesthood service:
“I was sick and in a lot of pain. When my father gave me a blessing, the pain went away immediately. I look forward to the time when I can also use the priesthood to give blessings.” David Wichtermann, Schwamendingen Ward, Zürich Switzerland Stake
The bishop of the ward is the presiding high priest and has the authority to preside over the whole ward. He also presides over the Aaronic Priesthood and serves as president of the priests quorum.
Because the duties in all offices of the Aaronic Priesthood include serving the poor and those in need of physical assistance, the bishop often directs Aaronic Priesthood holders in helping ward members with their physical needs.
The Aaronic Priesthood offers young men the chance to learn how to serve and follow through on their priesthood duties. If worthy, they are then prepared to take the next step and be ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood.