This story about the Aaronic Priesthood begins with a young woman, 16-year-old Lauren DellAquila of the Cary Second Ward, Apex North Carolina Stake. Lauren hadn’t come to Church for years. She had never been baptized and confirmed, “but I just knew in my heart that the Church was true.”
She also knew David Christison, 16, and Andrew Hill, 15, who attend the same school, are Latter-day Saints. “I’m in marching band with David and had a couple of classes with Andrew last year,” she says. And she knew they stood by their beliefs. “It meant a lot to see their example, because most teens at our school don’t have values like they do,” Lauren explains.
Then one day after band, some other classmates were making unkind comments about the Church. Lauren told them if they really wanted to know the truth, they shouldn’t repeat rumors; they should find out for themselves. Afterward, David thanked her and asked how she knew so much about the Church. “She said that when she was really young she went to Church, but then her parents divorced and she stopped coming,” David says. “So I invited her to come again.”
“People had tried to get me to come back before, but for one reason or another it had never happened,” Lauren explains. “But when I told David and Andrew that I did want to try again, they were excited. I started coming to meetings, and they introduced me to the bishop, the missionaries, and the young women in the ward. They helped me feel at home.”
Soon Lauren was baptized and confirmed, and today she’s a happy, confident Laurel who recently gave a sacrament meeting talk about the importance of the priesthood. “If the gospel had not been restored,” she says, “I wouldn’t have seen two young men honoring their priesthood. And I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I have had to make covenants and to draw close to the Savior.”
It’s a similar story for Hope Riner, an 8-year-old in the same ward. She benefited from the good example of her 17-year-old half-brother, Andrew Roberts. He joined the Church a little over a year ago and was recently ordained a priest, which meant he could baptize her. “I felt great about it, because we have a strong bond already,” Hope says. “I was glad my brother could use the priesthood to help me.”
“It was an incredible experience,” Andrew says. “I know I need to be an example to my sister, not only as a brother, but also as an example of the kind of young man she should have as friends and the kind of man she will marry one day. By my example, I’m preparing her to understand how the priesthood can bless her life.”
Both Lauren and Hope know that the young men in their ward—as well as in the Cary Third Branch (Spanish speaking), which is dependent on their ward—take the priesthood seriously. “They don’t just talk about it,” Lauren says. “They live it.”
Maxwell Guerra, 13, is another example. He’s a member of the branch but serves as the deacons quorum president of the ward. On any given Sunday, he’s meeting with the presidency and the quorum adviser to keep track of the quorum members, plan activities, and make sure all the deacons needed will be there to pass the sacrament. After church on a recent fast Sunday, he helped another deacon collect fast offerings and then visited Alma Parraga, who is about to turn 12 and will soon be joining the quorum.
Andrew Hill, mentioned earlier, is president of the teachers quorum, and he loves the fellowship he finds there. “It’s more than just getting along with each other,” he stresses. “We strengthen each other and learn from each other.” Any assignment, he has found, is easier with teamwork, and that includes home teaching. “One of the great things we do in the Church is to look after each other,” he says. “It’s a powerful thing when an Aaronic Priesthood holder and a Melchizedek Priesthood holder become a team, with a responsibility to watch over families and individuals.”
The teachers also spend time preparing the sacrament, and Andrew says that has special significance for him. “Priests bless the sacrament,” he says, “and deacons pass the sacrament. But teachers set a tone of reverence by having everything ready before the meetings begin.” Being involved with something so sacred is a great privilege for the Aaronic Priesthood, Andrew says.
Of course, the bishop of the ward is the president of the Aaronic Priesthood. In the Cary Second Ward, Matthew Watkins is the first assistant to Bishop Charles N. Anderson. Matthew says he feels one of the most important things the priests do is to study the gospel together. He is grateful when the bishop helps the priests to understand gospel principles. “The priests help teach each other, too,” he says. “Each Sunday I feel like I understand more and more.” In particular, he remembers a lesson about fasting. “It helped me see how important it is to get close to the Spirit.” He also enjoys providing music for priesthood meeting. “Music is another way of getting close to the Spirit,” he explains.
Another priest, Erick Wells, 18, recently ordained his younger brother, Michael, 12, to the office of deacon. “I wanted Erick to ordain me,” Michael says, “because he’s one of the greatest examples in my life. He never does anything wrong that I’ve noticed, so everything he does, I know I can do too.”
Erick smiles at the tribute. “I really enjoyed being able to use my priesthood to confer it on Michael,” he says. “I feel a great responsibility to be an example not only to my family but to other people as well so that I can share in the gospel with all of them.”
Erick says the goal of all young men in the Church should be “to obtain both the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods, make covenants in the temple, be missionaries, prepare for a lifetime of service, and live faithfully with their families so that they can be together with Heavenly Father again.” Matthew agrees. “The Aaronic Priesthood lifts us to a higher sense of what we need to be doing,” he says.
And that’s what’s happening in the Cary Second Ward. Ask these young men who is using the priesthood to make a difference right now, and they can truthfully answer, “We are!” Ask them who is using the priesthood to prepare for the future, and the answer is the same.