If Elder F. Melvin Hammond had the time he'd likely give a personal pep talk to every boy in the Church about the new Aaronic Priesthood Duty to God program.
"I've never been so excited about anything that I've done with the young men as I am about this program," said Elder Hammond of the Seventy and general president of the Young Men. "It's just fantastic."
Elder Hammond and other Church leaders hope Aaronic Priesthood holders across the globe will catch their vision and enthusiasm for the new program, "Aaronic Priesthood: Fulfilling Our Duty to God." The ambitious program is designed to help young men prepare for the Melchizedek Priesthood, the temple endowment, a full-time mission, marriage and fatherhood.
The Aaronic Priesthood Duty to God program is expected to be implemented in wards and branches in January of 2002.
Elder Hammond said the Aaronic Priesthood Duty to God program was developed "over quite a long period of time" and introduced in its basic form in areas outside the United States and Canada where Scouting was not available. Now the new program will be available worldwide.
The young men program will not affect Scouting, "but contribute in many ways to the progress of a boy through Scouting and then on through all of his Aaronic Priesthood quorum activities and duties," Elder Hammond said.
Indeed, the new program will allow young men to achieve the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood and help them mature into balanced, educated adults. Young men will earn the Duty to God Award after completing goals in areas such as being faithful in priesthood duties and standards, being involved in family activities, participating in quorum activities, completing a Duty to God service project and accomplishing personal goals in four categories: spiritual development; physical development; educational, personal and career development; and citizenship and social development.
While the new Aaronic Priesthood program will be rewarding, it won't be easy. "It's a challenging program," Elder Hammond said. "It will cause young men to be stretched. It will interest them and it will improve their lives."
In each of the three guidebooks for deacons, teachers and priests are a series of requirements that range from reading scriptures and paying tithing to fulfilling a variety of elective requirements such as adhering to a year-long physical fitness regimen or participating in a school musical. After satisfying the requirements of each guidebook, young men will receive a certificate. Young men who earn certificates from each of the three respective priesthood office guidebooks will earn the Duty to God Award.
While the Duty to God Award is an individual award, young men will need to work closely with their parents and priesthood leaders, Elder Hammond said.
"We hope that as a boy begins this program he will meet with the bishop and have his parents at his side," he added.
If young men invest their time and energy into the Aaronic Priesthood program they will walk focused and balanced into the challenges of adulthood. Recipients of the Duty to God Award will also glean the preparatory tools they need to be strong full-time missionaries.
"In years to come, as young men advance in the Aaronic Priesthood and are ordained elders, I see them coming to their elders quorum president with their certificates in hand saying, 'I'm ready to serve the Lord,' " Elder Ballard said. "Young men who have achieved this new Duty to God Award will be better prepared than ever to go to the temple, serve missions, marry in the temple and become good husbands and fathers. They will be better prepared to serve their families, their Church and their community."