All who hold the priesthood are joined together in a common bond of service, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve declared at the Priesthood Commemoration Fireside Sunday, May 3.
Elder Ballard said he had been invited to speak on the Melchizedek Priesthood, but added: "We must not misunderstand the importance of the Aaronic Priesthood. The service given by a faithful bearer of the Aaronic Priesthood is just as important in the eyes of the Lord as the service given by one holding the Melchizedek Priesthood."Quoting the oath and covenant of the priesthood in D&C 84:32-36, he said, "To honor our priesthood and magnify our callings in both the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods is to receive the power of God in our lives."
Priesthood offices are not status symbols but opportunities for service, Elder Ballard remarked, adding that all priesthood bearers assist Heavenly Father in accomplishing His divine purpose: "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39.)
"The priesthood itself cannot be magnified nor diminished," he said. "However, one who worthily uses his priesthood in service to others can magnify his calling in the priesthood."
Elder Ballard pointed out that the resurrected John the Baptist addressed the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery as "my fellow servants." (D&C 13:1.) "Each man or boy who holds the priesthood regardless of his priesthood or his ordained office is a fellow servant in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
"Although I hold the ordained office of apostle in the Melchizedek Priesthood, I and my associates in that office are fellow servants in the work of the Lord with the most recently ordained deacon or elder in the Church," Elder Ballard noted.
In addition to being ordained, most priesthood bearers are called to specific positions in their wards or stakes, he said. "Your callings may change, but the need for your constant and committed service in some Church capacity will continue. Each of us, as holders of the priesthood, is under covenant to serve faithfully in any assignment to which we may be called."
From the time of ordination, he said, a priesthood bearer should be committed to a lifetime of service in the kingdom of God.
"Young men should be taught by loving and sensitive fathers, bishops and priesthood advisers that priesthood means service. One of the most meaningful opportunities you young men will have will be to serve as a full-time missionary."
Elder Ballard told of a 90-year-old stake patriarch who said, "I pray every night that God will see me safely dead with my testimony burning brightly." Elder Ballard, then a recently returned missionary, told the patriarch that no one was better prepared than he. The patriarch replied, "My boy, no one is safe until he has endured to the very end of his life."
One can always do more, regardless of his priesthood office or years of membership and Church service, the apostle remarked. He said service needs and opportunities should be a major discussion item on the agenda of all Melchizedek and Aaronic Priesthood presidency meetings and in quorum business meetings.
"Individual quorum members do not need to wait for an assignment to serve," he added. "You priesthood brethren should be actively aware and should be looking for opportunities to reach out and help others."
Priesthood leaders should serve all members and should do so in concert with the sisters who direct the Relief Society, Young Women and Primary auxiliaries, he admonished.
He cited the words of the late President Marion G. Romney, a former counselor in the First Presidency: "Service is not something we endure on this earth so we can earn the right to live in the celestial kingdom. Service is the very fiber of which an exalted life in the celestial kingdom is made."