For many young men, the term "Duty to God" has become part of everyday "LDSspeak" a familiar Church idiom referring to the Aaronic Priesthood program that includes speaking in sacrament meeting, reading scriptures, being a good citizen, serving others and perhaps running a few miles to get in shape.
But the challenge of an ancient American prophet adds another level of sanctity to those three simple words: "I have said these things unto you that I might awaken you to a sense of your duty to God, that ye may walk blameless before him, that ye may walk after the holy order of God" (Alma 7:22).
Priesthood leaders say the Duty to God program is helping young men across the globe to be better. By fulfilling spiritual, physical, educational and social development requirements, they're becoming better deacons, teachers and priests. Better sons, brothers and friends. Better future missionaries. Better future husbands and fathers.
But the Duty to God program, they add, is even more. It's a day-to-day guidebook helping Aaronic Priesthood holders trek that sacred walk.
Learning such a duty is not merely a responsibility it's a privilege, said President Thomas S. Monson.
"I love the motto: 'Do (your) duty; that is best; Leave unto (the) Lord the rest,"' the Church leader said in the October 2005 general conference.
So how can youth leaders, parents and, yes, the young men, best utilize the Duty to God program?
Start first by making the Duty to God program a family affair. Moms and dads can take ownership of their sons' progress by becoming familiar with the requirements and offering steady encouragement.
"The program is intended to be individual, quorum and family oriented," wrote Young Men General President Charles Dahlquist II in a September 2006 Ensign article. "This means that many of the requirements for each of the deacon, teacher and priest awards may be accomplished at home and signed off by a young man's parents.
"Thus, the first place a young man and his parents should become acquainted with the program and the guidebook is in the home."
It's recommended that local quorum and priesthood leaders make a home visit to 11-year-old boys who will soon be ordained as deacons. There, priesthood leaders can explain the Duty to God program to the boy and his parents.
Las Vegas Nevada Highland Hills Stake President Todd Moody said the family of each young man in his stake receives a binder that incorporates the Duty to God and Scouting program. Included are pages that allow the young man and his family to track his progress leading to the Eagle Scout and Duty to God awards.
The binder is then reviewed with the young man each year during his annual bishop's interview.
While parents should play the pivotal role in a young man's Duty to God progress, the ward or branch can do much to assist. Many of the program's requirements are quorum-based, so bishops and other quorum leaders can plan Sunday and weekday Mutual activities that support the program and satisfy requirements. Many wards use the local Young Men secretary or a Scouting/Duty to God advancement specialist to maintain a master advancement report.
Meanwhile, President Moody uses the stake Scout courts of honor to recognize Aaronic Priesthood holders who have earned Duty to God certificates and awards. "It's amazing to see how well (the Scouting and Duty to God) programs are integrated," he said.
Keeping the young men especially those schedule-stretched, high school-aged priests enthused about the Duty to God program is also essential, said Bishop Roger Wilson of the Provo Edgemont 10th Ward, Provo Utah Edgemont North Ward.
On April 16, Bishop Wilson and other ward youth leaders hosted a Duty to God activity. The young men in the ward participated in a variety of Duty to God-themed events ranging from classes taught by the full-time missionaries, to instructional workshops on ironing shirts, family history and choosing careers.
Meanwhile, the parents of the young men attended their own event designed to help them help their sons.
"It was a lot of fun a great learning experience," said Bishop Wilson. "Our challenge is to keep people focused on the program."
Brad Cornilles, a member of the ward Young Men presidency, helped organize the event "to educate and motivate the boys and their parents to what Duty to God really is."
Blessings can be had when young men and the people who care about them embrace the program.
"The Duty to God Award will assist young men to meet the future challenges of life and to achieve the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood," said Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve during the 2001 October general conference.
Then, Elder Hales offered this pledge to the young men of the Church: "If you will fulfill the requirements for these priesthood duties and personal attributes, you will prepare yourselves for the Melchizedek Priesthood responsibilities and future challenges in your life.
"I promise you that your achievement of the Duty to God Award will provide you with a living testimony that will sustain you throughout your life."
Additional Duty to God resources and ideas can be found in the Aaronic Priesthood section at lds.org.
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