Preparing young men

You know you shouldn't, but sometimes you just can't help yourself — when you see those 12- and 13-year-old young men getting ready to pass the sacrament.

If you're not careful, you just might find yourself — if only for a fleeting moment — wondering if the authority of God to administer the Lord's Supper should really be placed in the hands of those, well, boys.

While their imperfectly tied neckties may say "no," your faith tells you "yes."

Despite the fact that many deacons' sport coats — probably hand-me-downs from older brothers or neighbors — are either too large or too small, you realize that these young men are doing their level best. And, with continued teaching from parents, teachers and priesthood leaders, they will — line upon line, precept upon precept — ultimately come to fully understand their priesthood duties.

This is God's will: How marvelous it is that we are allowed to partake of it.

From a purely practical standpoint, giving young men bona fide opportunities to serve is the best training they could receive — and hastens their preparation for Melchizedek Priesthood service as an adult. From a doctrinal standpoint, it is what the Lord has directed.

An experience in air travel serves as a good analogy.

While awaiting takeoff in the pre-dawn darkness on the runway of the San Francisco International Airport, airline passengers could see that the sun would soon peek over the eastern hills, sending its rays gleaming across the calm bay water.

But for those passengers, the sunrise came just a few minutes earlier. As the plane lifted from the runway, the horizon grew brighter. Within seconds, as the plane continued its ascent, the sun became a blinding ball of fire. Now in full view, it cast bright rays on the city below and enveloped the sky in a reddish-orange glow.

For those on the ground, the sunrise would ultimately come; but for those rising to meet it, it came just that much sooner.

So it is with service to God and our fellowman. As we rise to first learn, then fulfill the opportunities that lie before us, we advance in the Lord's work.

Learning the things of God, like most learning, is best done when we are young. At those early ages, we can develop faith and understanding — both of which are essential — simultaneously.

And learning the things of God, again like most learning, also requires doing.

Priesthood service is the ultimate in doing. By allowing 12-year-old young men to hold His preparatory priesthood, the Lord is training His servants to, quite literally, do His will.

The responsibility for teaching and training, as suggested above, lies with parents, teachers and priesthood leaders. While they will certainly teach appropriate behavior, wise teachers will focus more directly on doctrine, thereby helping these young men understand the "why" behind the "wherefore."

That's precisely what Alma did with his own sons.

"Therefore, he caused that his sons should be gathered together, that he might give unto them every one his charge, separately, concerning the things pertaining unto righteousness." (Alma 35:16.)

In the chapters that follow are recorded what Alma taught his sons — words that not only became scripture but now provide the world with some of the best doctrinal discourses on record.

In our era, President Boyd K. Packer, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve, has said:

"True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior." (October 1986 general conference.)

The Aaronic Priesthood youth who has been properly taught arrives at his Melchizedek Priesthood ordination prepared — through an understanding of the doctrine and by having already performed the Lord's work — for a lifetime of service. His formal Melchizedek Priesthood service likely begins with a full-time mission and, quite literally, never ends.

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