I am a youth Sunday School Teacher for children ages 13 and 14. I love teaching Sunday School, it is by far my favorite calling in the church. And 13-year-olds are my favorite age to teach, so I’m in “calling heaven” right now.
In a recent class, I asked each member of my class if there was a time when they knew that God was real and He loved them. I started with the girls, because they looked like they were actually paying attention. Some answered that they felt God’s love while reading the scriptures or after praying intently. The girls gave very good answers. When I looked over to the two boys in my class they were tipping their chairs backward and pushing on the accordion-style wall that separated us from the classroom behind us. One was chomping gum loudly and the other was itching to play with his cell phone. (I don’t allow use of any electronic devices in class.) But when I got to these boys, their chairs settled down and I repeated the question. I addressed them by name and asked: “When did you know that God lives and loves you?”
Almost in unison they replied, “The day I was given the Aaronic Priesthood.”
They took my breath away. My eyes misted up. I had not anticipated such an honest and heartfelt answer from the chair-tipping, gum-chomping dynamic duo.
At age 12, young men in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood spoken of in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible. This is a preparatory priesthood, designed to prepare boys to be spiritually mature men. The Aaronic Priesthood gives young men opportunities for temporal and spiritual service. At age 12, they are ordained to the office of Deacon. At 14, to the office of Teacher, and at 16 to the office of Priest. Duties of the Aaronic Priesthood include preparing and passing the sacrament, collecting fast offerings, being a home teacher. Priests also have the authority to baptize.
One diligent young man bore his testimony recently at church. He is twelve and is in middle school. I’ll do my best to capture what he said.
“When I was little, I wondered why I had to wait until I was 12 to receive the Aaronic Priesthood. But now I understand why. When I turned 12 I realized that I was at a crossroads. I went to middle school and found that there were so many more choices. Kids are not as good in middle school as they are in grade school. People at school say words that make me shudder. (Referring to profanity.) I realized that I was in a fork in the road. I needed to make the right choices. I needed to live up to the responsibilities of the Priesthood.”
All the Kleenexes came out then. There was a free flow of tears from the Bishop’s stand to the last pew. This young man spelled out for our ward the importance of the Aaronic Priesthood in that critical time of life for young men.
The experience reminded me of some favorite scriptures in the Book of Mormon. The context is a father teaching his young son to be and do good.
O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth: yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God. Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever. Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day. Alma 37:35 – 37
There is no pomp or ceremony that surrounds ordination to the Aaronic Priesthood for these Young Men. Just a simple ordinance where the hands of those who have authority are placed on a young man’s head and a prayer is spoken that confers the priesthood and sets the young man apart for service unto God and his fellow man.
I believe in the youth of this world, that they can make good choices amongst the sea of filth that surrounds them. Just like my 12-year-old exemplar taught to my congregation in his testimony recently, there is no better time than at the crossroads of childhood, to choose God over the profane.