I still recall an event and a conversation that occurred shortly after my 12th birthday. It shaped the direction of my life. After Sacrament Meeting on the Sunday following my birthday, my family gathered in the Bishop’s office. The Bishop said a few words concerning the importance of the Aaronic Priesthood, and then invited me to sit on a chair while several men in the ward surrounded me and placed their hands on my head. My father, acting under the direction of the Bishop, conferred upon me the Aaronic Priesthood and ordained me to the office of Deacon.
I felt that something important had happened to me. I stood and shook hands with each of the men who assisted, but when I looked at my father, he embraced me and whispered in my ear that he was proud of me. My mother was waiting for a hug. She expressed her happiness that she had another priesthood holder in the home.
Later, my father said something to me I did not understand at the time, but over the years I have come to appreciate the truth of what he said. As best I recall, he said: “Son, you now hold the priesthood of God. You have more authority to act in God’s name than the kings and presidents of the world. Be worthy.”
Since that time, I have come to know that God’s work and his glory is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39) and that God performs his work through the authority of the priesthood he has given to man on earth. When the Lord gave to Abraham the Abrahamic Covenant, he promised Abraham that “in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) … shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal.” (Abraham 2:11).
The Fifth Article of Faith states: “We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.”
“And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron” (Hebrews 5:4).
Thus, whether it is a young Deacon administering the sacrament to the members of his ward, a young father baptizing, confirming and giving the Gift of the Holy Ghost to his son or daughter, or an aged man of wisdom and righteousness officiating in the ordinances of the Temple, all are performing the work of salvation by the authority of the priesthood. Each of these priesthood holders’ exercises authority that the governments of the world do not possess and cannot confer.
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Lord invites every young man from the age of 12 years, and every adult man to worthily receive the priesthood appropriate for his age. At age 12, a young man receives the Aaronic Priesthood and is ordained a Deacon; at age 14 he should be ordained a Teacher; at age 16 a Priest; and worthy brothers “may receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and be ordained elders when they are 18 years old or older.” (Handbook 1, 16.7.1)
This priesthood authority has not always been on earth. It was taken from the earth at the beginning of the great apostasy following the death of those apostles who held the keys of the Priesthood on the earth.
Once the Aaronic Priesthood and Melchizedek Priesthood had been restored to earth and the keys of the priesthood had been given to Joseph Smith by authorized messengers from Heaven, Joseph had the authority to confer the priesthood on other men and regulate how the ordinances of the priesthood should be administered.
In a recent general conference talk, Elder David A. Bednar illustrated the importance of the priesthood having been restored to earth. He said:
“I invite each of you to consider how you would respond to the following question posed to the members of the Church many years ago, by President David O. McKay: ‘If at this moment each one of you were asked to state in one sentence or phrase the most distinguishing feature of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what would be your answer?’ (“The Mission of the Church and Its Members,” Improvement Era, Nov. 1956, 781).
The response President McKay gave to his own question was the “divine authority” of the priesthood. (“The Power of Heaven,” David A. Bednar, April 2012).
You men of the priesthood, how great is your call. You were foreordained to hold the priesthood and how great is the importance that you prepare to receive it and to exercise it for the blessing of others. Joseph Smith once said: “Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 365).
My dear brethren, we must arise and be men who receive, understand and exercise the priesthood worthily.
“As men of the priesthood, we have an essential role to play in society, at home, and in the Church. But we must be men that women can trust, that children can trust, and that God can trust. In the Church and kingdom of God in these latter days, we cannot afford to have boys and men who are drifting. We cannot afford young men who lack self-discipline and live only to be entertained. We cannot afford young adult men who are going nowhere in life, who are not serious about forming families and making a real contribution in this world. We cannot afford husbands and fathers who fail to provide spiritual leadership in the home.” (“Brethren, We Have Work to Do”, D. Todd Christofferson, October 2012).
It is essential to the Great Plan of Happiness that the brethren of the Church, young and old, prepare to receive and magnify the priesthood of God, to become the sons of Moses and of Aaron, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.” (D&C 84:33-34).
We need worthy men, worthy priesthood holders to bless the men, women and children of the Church.
I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.