Younger than all of his close friends, he was the "last one" to move from Primary. Twelve years old, he was worthy, ready and excited to be ordained a deacon.
Now, years later and endowed in the holy temple, and anxiously awaiting entrance to the Missionary Training Center, he reflects on those Aaronic Priesthood years with 20/20 hindsight – and is grateful to friends, leaders, teachers and parents for helping him along that essential, and all-too-often difficult, path.As a newly ordained deacon, he looked forward to, but was admittedly a little nervous about, passing the sacrament. "The older deacons helped me out," he recalled. "My leaders and parents helped, too. I'm really grateful for their example because you don't always listen to what they have to say."
He said: "I remember one Sunday a couple years later while passing the sacrament, I accidently spilled a little water on the bishop. Later that day, he called me into his office. Boy, was I scared. I thought he was going to chew me out because I'd spilled water on him. I was sure relieved when he called me to be a home teacher."
Silly now, with that hindsight, to think the bishop would be angry about a little water spill. How appropriate, however, to recall that the bishop took his precious time to extend an equally precious call to a young Aaronic Priesthood holder.
And those home teaching opportunities – in this case with his own father – were some of the first major steps in preparation for a full-time mission. He visited homes. He made righteous requests of members and non-members alike. He put the Lord's errand above his personal interests.
"Growing up helped me to become more interested in the gospel. As a priest I paid closer attention to the words of the sacrament prayer. I felt even more how concerned my parents and advisers were about my spiritual well-being."
Blessed with a brother just 17 months younger than he, this young man had an opportunity to exercise his priesthood in a way that few priests have. He ordained his brother a priest.
"The priest's duty is to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize, and administer the sacrament, . . . And he may also ordain other priests, teachers, and deacons." (D&C 20: 46, 48.)
A watchful bishop soon interviewed him to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, and shortly after the ordination, the elders quorum president asked him and another newly ordained young man to be home teaching companions.
The timing was perfect. He no longer needed Dad's good-natured nagging to go home teaching each month. Now it was up to these two 18-year-old elders.
In less than a year, they would be two 19-year-olds – perhaps in a new and different foreign land – sharing the same joyous message.
"When missionary companions comply with this directive to be spiritual, two persons dedicated, living in faith, and being prayerful can be an awesome force in the work of the Lord." (President Howard W. Hunter, satellite address Sept. 13, 1994, to full-time missionaries.)
Receiving his mission call was even more exciting than he imagined.
"I can honestly say that my Aaronic Priesthood experience has been an excellent foundation for my mission.
"As a 12 year old, I knew being ordained a deacon was the right thing to do. But I know even more right now that a mission is the right thing to do."
The crowning achievement of those Aaronic Priesthood years was to worthily enter the temple – and leave endowed with power from on high. "The temple was really more than I expected." His understanding increased with each visit. Visits accompanied by family. Early morning visits with a former seminary teacher. Visits with friends also soon to leave for the mission field. The spirit – that ultimate teacher – was the same and the endowment became richer and more meaningful.
"Let us prepare every missionary to go to the temple worthily and to make that experience an even greater highlight than receiving the mission call." (President Hunter, General Conference, Oct. 2, 1994.)
The Aaronic Priesthood, though sometimes called the "lesser" priesthood, is mighty within its assigned duties – and a marvelous preparer for young men called to accomplish the Lord's work in our day.