'Royal priesthood' 1.7 million strong

At a fireside commemorating the 161st anniversary of the restoration of the priesthood, men and boys were urged to take "pride and satisfaction" in belonging to priesthood quorums.

On an unusually warm spring evening, the Tabernacle on Temple Square was filled to capacity for the May 6 meeting. It also was carried live via satellite to more than 2,600 meetinghouses in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and was re-broadcast on KBYU-TV.President Ezra Taft Benson presided. His first counselor, President Gordon B. Hinckley, addressed the meeting; and his second counselor, President Thomas S. Monson, conducted the proceedings.

The fireside began with a video presentation, "The Voice of the Prophets," which included recorded testimonies of Wilford Woodruff and all of the subsequent Church presidents, including President Benson. Speakers in addition to President Hinckley included Elder James E. Faust of the Council of the Twelve, and Elder Monte J. Brough of the Seventy and second counselor in the Young Men general presidency. Music was provided by a 350-voice priesthood chorus from the seven-stake Layton Utah Region.

"When I was a 12-year-old boy I said, I belong to a priesthood quorum,' " noted President Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency. "Now, 68 years later, I can say again, with gratitude and a similar sense of appreciation,I belong to a priesthood quorum.' "

President Hinckley outlined his membership in priesthood quorums from his youth, as a young deacon, to his current membership in the quorum of the First Presidency.

"Brethren, as a boy in that deacons quorum I learned principles of Church government, principles of leadership, principles of brotherhood and service, principles of faithfulness before the Lord. As I look upon my work today, I sense those same principles in operation. The scale is different, but the essentials are similar. There must be cleanliness before the Lord. There must be faith and faithfulness. There must be love for God and His Only Begotten Son. There must be love and respect one for another. There must be humility before the Lord and prayer in faith, asking for wisdom and direction. There must be that wonderful unity and fellowship which always should be characteristic of a priesthood quorum."

President Hinckley said he hoped each quorum in the Church would "provide the strength of brotherhood which is needed by every man. May it provide opportunities for growth in knowledge and understanding of the eternal truths of the gospel. May it become a strength in time of sickness or stress or impoverishment. May it become a bulwark against sin and unrighteous behavior of any kind. May it be that which the Lord intended it should be, a body of men who support and sustain one another, who know their duty and do it, who love the Lord and walk in His ways. . . ."

According to President Hinckley, the "ranks of the Aaronic Priesthood now include more than 900,000." And there are more than 800,000 men who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood, for a total of 1.7 million priesthood holders on earth.

He said that group constitutes "a royal priesthood" engaged in the work of the Lord, with "wondrous powers and prerogatives."

"There is no other power or authority comparable to it," he added. "We are prone to take it for granted. It deserves more than this. It deserves the very best within us."

Prior to President Hinckley's remarks, the choir performed "I Am a Mormon Boy," with President Benson mouthing the words in unison. By song's end, both President Hinckley and President Monson were also singing quietly along.

President Monson announced the three soloists for the just-completed number, all from the Layton Utah South Stake: Benjamin and Samuel Stewart, deacons in the Layton 31st Ward; and David Dibble, a deacon in the Layton 2nd Ward.

"And they were aided in spirit by another soloist, President Ezra Taft Benson, who seemed to whisper each word of the hymn," exclaimed President Monson. "Thank you, President Benson."

In his remarks, Elder Faust called the priesthood the "greatest power on earth."

"We know that the priesthood is the power by which worlds were formed," he said. " . . . Imagine how many spiritual blueprints and shop drawings were required for the creation. Think about the sophisticated spiritual design necessary for the myriad of shapes and forms of the plants and the herbs and the animals. . . .

"Isn't it remarkable that we do not have to understand all of the intricate laws of physics, chemistry and medicine to experience the power of the priesthood? To control the great physical laws by the power of the priesthood, we need to understand and invoke the greater spiritual laws of faith, righteousness and obedience. Often the humblest and meekest among us have great spiritual gifts and powers."

He explained that natural limitations to the use of the priesthood result from "lack of spirituality, limited knowledge and our diminished capacity to do things. If we attempt to use it in any degree of unrighteousness,' theheavens withdraw themselves,' and we no longer have the capacity to exercise our priesthood. (D&C 121:37.) That is as God intended, because it would be unfortunate if the absolute power of the priesthood were bestowed upon us before we were ready for it."

Elder Faust referred to the priesthood as a shield. "It is a shield against the evils of the world. That shield needs to be kept clean; otherwise, our vision of our purpose and the dangers around us will be limited. The cleansing agent is personal righteousness, but not all will pay the price to keep their shields clean.

"The Lord said, `For many are called, but few are chosen.' (Matt. 22:14.) We are called when hands are laid upon our heads and we are given the priesthood, but we are not chosen until we demonstrate to God our righteousness, our faithfulness and our commitment."

Elder Brough's comments focused on the Aaronic Priesthood. He told of taking an entire summer when he was a boy to construct "the finest tree house that could ever exist" with his brother. "The vision of the final project was a tremendous motivation to us. We worked all summer and, finally, in the fall just before school would begin for the new year, our project was complete. I shall never forget the feelings of satisfaction and joy which were ours when we finally were able to enjoy the fruit of our work."

He said the two brothers climbed into the tree house, spent a few hours there, but never returned.

"Ours was a lesson which has required frequent repetition in other areas of our lives," he said. "The processes of planning, gathering, building and working kept our attention for the entire summer. The completed project, as wonderful as it was, could not hold our interest for even one day. In other words, the process of building, not the completed project, provided enduring satisfaction and pleasure."

Elder Brough, calling the Aaronic Priesthood a "preparatory priesthood," said faithfully fulfilling Aaronic Priesthood responsibilities helps build the lives of young men.

He referenced the Scout oath and Scout law as important statements of commitment, and suggested that young men would do well to become as familiar with the duties of the Aaronic Priesthood as described in the 20th section of the Doctrine and Covenants.

Elder Brough also spoke of home teaching.

"The meaningful involvement of an Aaronic Priesthood young man in home teaching has the power to provide the processes which will prepare him for the Melchizedek Priesthood. We must allow a young man to learn his duties, and to act in the office to which he has been called.

"Many of our leaders are searching for `service projects' for our young men and, yet, do not insure their meaningful participation in home teaching. . . . I believe that home teaching is the Lord's missionary preparation program."

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