CEDAR HILLS, UTAH
A few months ago, two dozen teachers and priests from the Cedar Hills 9th Ward, Cedar Hills Utah West Stake, began asking one another what they could give their bishop for Christmas.
There were several appropriate options. They could pool their money and buy Bishop J. Spencer Fluhman a new book. Maybe they could present him with tickets to an upcoming ballgame. Or perhaps a new tie would be a practical gift.
In the end, the boys opted for another, less traditional gift. They decided they would work together and earn their Duty To God certificates from their respective priesthood offices and then surprise the bishop with their unified accomplishment. So for several months they followed the outlined, three-pronged tenants of Duty To God (Learn, Share and Act) and made a concentrated push to earn their certificates before Christmas.
And, yes, most of their efforts happened on the sly. They wanted their “gift” to be a true surprise to Bishop Fluhman.
In the end, the 24 teachers and priests who earned their Duty To God certificates discovered their efforts also served as a precious gift to themselves.
Shawn Mills, the first counselor in the teacher’s quorum presidency, said completing his teacher’s certificate helped him “feel a lot better about myself.”
Duty to God, he added, has allowed him to step outside his own comfort zone and learn to “act” on the gospel lessons he has learned. That’s a skill that will serve him well as a missionary and throughout his life.
While each of the young men developed their own personal Duty To God plan, they enjoyed support from their fellow teachers and priests. They learned that power could be found inside a priesthood quorum.
“We have grown a lot closer as a quorum,” said Jackson Dayton, a priest. “As a quorum, we had a single goal to work toward together.”
For Bishop Fluhman, the gift was, indeed, an uplifting surprise. During the third hour of the Sunday block meeting before Christmas, the teachers and priests gathered in a large classroom.
“When I walked in and saw all the boys sitting together I asked, ‘What is going on here?’” he said with a laugh.
The boys then stood and pulled out their Duty to God certificates in unison. One of the young men explained that they had each completed their certificates as a unified Christmas gift for Bishop Fluhman.
“When each boy pulled out their own Duty To God certificate I began to weep,” said the bishop, “I could not speak.”
Instead, Bishop Fluhman walked from boy to boy, signing their certificates and thanking each with a handshake and a firm embrace.
Later, the bishop told the Church News his emotions were prompted, in part, by his love and appreciation for each of the young men. He will never forget his unexpected Christmas gift. But he was also moved to know that each of the 24 boys had become better prepared for fast-approaching missionary service and the opportunities of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
Bishop Fluhman is not alone in his appreciation of the Duty To God program.
Teachers quorum advisor Aaron Franke said it is essential for young men to find their own testimonies before embarking on missions and, later, becoming husbands and fathers.
“A lot of boys don’t know where to start to find that testimony,” he said. “Duty To God is a great place to start.”
The boys in the ward took great pleasure presenting their gift to the bishop — but they also came to realize their efforts resulted in blessings in their own lives and families. Duty To God made a lasting impact.
Teachers quorum advisor Bob McFadden relished watching his own son enjoying Duty To God.
“It made me feel like he wants a testimony and he wants to achieve something,” he said. “It makes me feel great that he is growing as a man.”
•M. Winston Egan contributed to this report.
[email protected] @JNSwensen