We should not try to dominate or control others just because we hold the Priesthood. We can persuade others to do what is right and to repent by being patient, gentle, and meek.
We are also counseled to be kind, full of knowledge, but without guile and hypocrisy (how often knowledge and hypocrisy go together!). We should be full of charity towards all. We should have virtuous thoughts all the time, not just when at church or performing priesthood ordinances.
I love the promise in these verses; if we do all those things – be pure, without guile, and full of charity – we will be able to stand before God with our heads held high. We will be confident and know that we are worthy to be in His presence. His Spirit will give us that assurance – we will be comfortable because we will have years of experience with the Holy Ghost and will be comfortable with His presence.
Pres. James E. Faust explained some of the great responsibilities that bearers of the Aaronic Prieshood have; he also answered the “now what?” question:
“1. All priesthood holders need to magnify their callings, acting in the Lord’s name to the extent their office and calling permit. We magnify our callings by following the direction of our quorum presidency, the bishop, and our quorum adviser. It means preparing, administering, and passing the sacrament as we are asked to do so. It also means performing other responsibilities of the Aaronic Priesthood, such as cleaning our Church meetinghouses, setting up chairs for stake conference and other Church meetings, and performing other duties as assigned.
2. Holders of the Aaronic, or preparatory, Priesthood are obligated to qualify for the higher priesthood and to receive training for greater responsibilities in Church service.
3. Holding the Aaronic Priesthood carries with it the obligation of being a good example, with clean thoughts and proper behavior. We acquire these attributes as we carry out our priesthood duties.
4. You will be associated in your quorum and other activities with young men who have the same standards that you have. You can strengthen each other.
5. You can study the scriptures and learn gospel principles to help you prepare for a mission.
6. You can learn to pray and recognize answers.” (Ensign, May 2006).
Aaronic Priesthood holders may feel that they are too young to become so serious about the gospel; the Lord doesn’t think so. Heavenly Father has such great love and trust in them that He gives them the Priesthood, a portion of His power.
For men in the church, there are a few momentous ordinances in life that are necessary for exaltation. Baptism and confirmation, ordination to the Aaronic Priesthood, which occurs when at age 12, ordination to the Mechizedek Priesthood, which occurs when one is at least 18, and marriage in the temple for time and all eternity. Aaronic Priestood holders may be young, but they are on their way along the path that leads to eternal life with our Father in Heaven.
What kind of people does the Lord expect Aaronic Priesthood holders to be in order to prepare for the blessings and responsibilities of the higher priesthood? Let’s look at the life of Joseph Smith for an example. He was 14 when he saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ – that is the same age as the Teachers in the Church. I remember being a Deacon and thinking that the Teachers seemed old; I remember being a Teacher and marveling at what great things Joseph Smith was called to do when he was my age. Before the First Vision, Joseph spent a couple years thinking about the gospel, about the scriptures, and about which church was right. In one of his accounts of the First Vision he said that he spent time contemplating the heavens and the stars. Joseph spent a lot of time reading the Bible and attending different churches so he could figure out which one was right. He was confused so he decided to ask God in prayer. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him in answer to his humble prayer.
Joseph Smith was very serious about the gospel at a young age. At the age of Deacons and Teachers today he wanted to know what was true so he read the scriptures, thought about them, and talked with his family. He followed the scriptures and prayed to know what was right. For those preparing to receive the Aaronic Priesthood, I hope that you are as serious about the gospel as Joseph Smith was. He was young, he had fun and wrestled and played, but he took the gospel seriously.
When young men are given the Priesthood, they become different than they were before. They are given a great responsibility – a portion of God’s power. These words in the Doctrine and Covenants explain some of the personal characteristics both Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood holders need to have: “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile – Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death. Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever” (D&C; 121:41-46).
The Aaronic Priesthood also holds the keys to repentance and baptism. Priests can baptize. They cannot, however, confer the gift of the Holy Ghost and confirm someone a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Baptism without confirmation is incomplete, just as the Aaronic Priesthood without the Melchizedek Priesthood is incomplete. A bishop, whose office is part of the Aaronic Priesthood, helps people repent if they have more serious sins.
As stated earlier, the Aaronic Priesthood is a prepatory priesthood. It prepares those who bear it for the Melchizedek Priesthood, which is the priesthood of higher ordinances, administration, and governing. Elder Hales spoke of these preparations:
“The Aaronic Priesthood is…given for this preparatory time in your life. How you bear that priesthood now will prepare you to make the most important decisions in the future. These decisions include receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood, going to the temple, serving a mission, getting an education, selecting an occupation, and choosing a companion and being sealed for time and for all eternity in the holy temple. There is a time and season for all of our decisions. Make sure you make decisions in the proper time and season. All of these life-altering decisions will be made in a very busy, relatively short period during your 20s—during what I call the ‘Decade of Decision.'”
“While training to be a jet fighter pilot, I prepared to make such vital decisions in a flight simulator. For example, I practiced deciding when to bail out of an airplane if the fire warning light came on and I began to spin out of control. I remember one dear friend who didn’t make these preparations. He would find a way out of simulator training and then go to play golf or swim. He never learned his emergency procedures! A few months later, fire erupted in his plane, and it spun toward the ground in flames. Noting the fire warning light, his younger companion, having developed a preconditioned response, knew when to bail out of the plane and parachuted to safety. But my friend who had not prepared to make that decision stayed with the plane and died in the crash.
In the decade ahead, your time for preparation will be limited. As you are Aaronic Priesthood bearers, it is important that you prepare now. You must develop your own preconditioned responses for the important decisions you will make in the next decade of your life. You must know what to do and when to do it when each decision presents itself. Remember that making no decision at all could be just as deadly as making the wrong decision. Many of the decisions you make or don’t make will have eternal consequences.” (Hales, Ensign, May 2007).
“Upon you my fellow servants.” When you are given the Aaronic Priesthood, you are given the responsibility to serve others. As Deacons, you will be able to pass the sacrament – the sacrament is the single most important thing that we do at church, and Deacons are a part of it and partially responsible for it. That is a lot of responsibility! The most important thing we do at church is mainly done, under the direction of the Bishop, by the young Aaronic Priesthood holders – ages 12 to 18. There is nothing more important Deacons can do than to faithfully pass the sacrament and live worthily to do so. The sacrament is so important that the Savior blessed and passed it around Himself at the Last Supper; He now delegates this responsibility to the Aaronic Priesthood.
The Aaronic Priesthood also holds the keys to the ministering of angels. Think about that. As a bearer of the Aaronic Priesthood, you are entitled to the ministering of angels – for angels to strengthen and teach you; even if you don’t ever see them, they are there. Elder Holland spoke on this topic at the Oct. 2008 General Conference:
“I testify that angels are still sent to help us, even as they were sent to help Adam and Eve, to help the prophets, and indeed to help the Savior of the world Himself. Matthew records in his gospel that after Satan had tempted Christ in the wilderness ‘angels came and ministered unto him.’ Even the Son of God, a God Himself, had need for heavenly comfort during His sojourn in mortality. And so such ministrations will be to the righteous until the end of time.”
Elder Holland went on to explain to whom angels minister:
“As Mormon said to his son Moroni, who would one day be an angel: Has the day of miracles ceased? Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved? Behold I say unto you, Nay; for…it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men…. For behold, they are subject unto [Christ], to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness.”
Those who hold the Aaronic Priesthood – and everyone else – who have strong faith and a firm mind will be able to see ministering angels. Seeing angels may not necessarily involve vision; seeing angels might simply be discerning their hand – the Lord’s hand – in our lives and in the world around us. However, I believe what the scripture says – those with a firm mind in every form of godliness will have the privilege of seeing angels. I should note, that a pure heart is not always a pre-requisite for beholding heavenly messengers – Nephi’s brothers Laman and Lemuel saw an angel and heard it speak but they were not strong in faith or with firm minds in the faith. Even the viewing of angels is not enough to dispel the darkness of disbelief but it can strengthen the faith and lives of those with strong faith.
Within the Aaronic Priesthood, there are four offices: deacon, teacher, priest, and bishop. Bishops also hold the Melchizedek Priesthood and are ordained High Priests but they are mainly responsible for the Aaronic Priesthood in the ward.
What are some of the things you can and should do when you hold the Aaronic Priesthood? “With the authorization of the presiding priesthood leader (usually the bishop or branch president), deacons pass the sacrament. They help the bishop or branch president watch over Church members by giving service and assisting with temporal matters such as gathering fast offerings. Teachers may perform all the duties of deacons, and they also receive other opportunities to serve. They prepare the sacramental bread and water and serve as home teachers. Priests may perform all the duties of deacons and teachers. With the authorization of the presiding priesthood leader, they may also bless the sacrament, baptize, and ordain others to the offices of priest, teacher, and deacon.” (Source
John the Baptist came and restored the Aaronic Priesthood to the earth. We even know what he said when he gave the Aaronic Priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. We find a record of John’s words in D&C; Section 13 (and Joseph Smith History 1:69). What does it say and what does it tell us about the responsibilities the bearers of the Aaronic Priesthood have?
“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.”
The Priesthood is the power and authority of God given to man. Just think, our Heavenly Father is willing to give part of His power to young men, when they are only 12 years old. By this power, the earth was created. By this power, sick people are healed. By this power, the Church is directed.
I want to focus on the thing that will be most important for those who are preparing to receive the Aaronic Priesthood (as well as for those who have already received it) – what the Priesthood means for them. I’m going to focus both on what the Priesthood is as well as why it matters in one’s life. When a young man is ordained to the office of a Deacon and given the Aaronic Priesthood, he might ask himself, “OK, so now what?” I’m going to answer the “Now what?” part.
First, let me write a couple things about the Aaronic Priesthood. The Aaronic Priesthood is named after Aaron, the brother of Moses. This priesthood is often called a preparatory priesthood. “And the lesser priesthood…which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel; Which gospel is the gospel of repentence and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb” (D&C; 84:26-27). It is the priesthood of outward ordinances. Because of the wickedness of the children of Israel in the wilderness, the Lord took Moses and the Mechizedek Priesthood away from them (see D&C; 84:25) and left them with a lower priesthood. It was, for them, a priesthood that would help prepare them for the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood back into their midst. So, for Aaronic Priesthood holders, their time spent performing the ordinances of that priesthood help prepare them for the Melchezidek Priesthood. How does one prepare to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood? By keeping the commandments, participating in church, and serving others.