Purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood

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It seems we have certain trends that work their way through LDS culture. In the past it was things like ‘Singing Practise Time’ between Sacrament meeting and Sunday School.

Today, we have the recitation of the “Purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood”. I first noticed this about 5?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú6 years ago. After priesthood opening exercises, we would all stand and some poor deacon would go up to the front and recite the purposes one at a time while the rest of the priesthood congregation would follow.

I will strive to fulfil the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood by:

  • Becoming converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and live its teachings,
  • Serve faithfully in priesthood callings and fulfill the responsibilities of priesthood offices,
  • Give meaningful service,
  • Prepare and live worthy to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and temple ordinances,
  • Prepare to serve an honourable full time mission,
  • Obtain as much education as possible,
  • Prepare to become a worthy husband and father,
  • Give proper respect to women, girls, and children

I’ve seen this in every ward I’ve attended since. I can recite these by memory now. I’m sure this is some feeble attempt to help raise the bar. Who knows, perhaps it is having some positive effect.

But after the recitation, some young priesthood holder will get up and report on the last young mens activity.

I guess what I can’t figure out is how a LAN party or playing paint-ball fits into any of those purposes.

29 thoughts on “Purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood

  1. Hi JM – what experience have you had as an Aaronic Priesthood Leader?

    LAN parties and Paintball Expeditions are extremely popular to boost activity attendance not for the young men, but allows them to bring their friends. Thus we build quorum brotherhood, friendships, teamwork, leadership skills (by encouraging the kids to plan their own events) and some serious missionary work.

    Making announcement and quoting verses in a public meeting help these young men build important public speaking skills and burn the principles of the gospel into their hearts. That is just another piece of the equation to building a better missionary.

  2. burn the principles of the gospel into their hearts

    Doesn’t the Holy Ghost do that all on its’ own?

    Is repetition really the answer?

  3. LAN parties and Paintball Expeditions are extremely popular to boost activity attendance not for the young men, but allows them to bring their friends

    So, are you in the business of entertaining church youth or fulfilling the purposes of the organization?

    None of the items on your list address any of the purposes of the Aaronic priesthood.

    Making announcement and quoting verses in a public meeting help these young men build important public speaking skills and burn the principles of the gospel into their hearts.

    What proof do you have?

  4. The proof shows itself in the percentage of young men who earn eagle scout rank, duty to god certificates, serve full time missions, enter college and marry in the temple.

    This last weekend we had an eagle court of honor for two young men, a homecoming for one elder and a farewell for another.

    It is not just one item that makes it happen, but a whole range of activities and programs that combine the efforts of parents and church leaders to seek out the holy spirit for guidance while in their youth.

  5. It is not just one item that makes it happen, but a whole range of activities and programs that combine the efforts of parents and church leaders to seek out the holy spirit for guidance while in their youth.

    …or to fill all of the child’s waking hours with church-sanctioned activities so they can’t stray off of the straight and narrow path.

    Be sure to whisk them straight off to BYU after the mission, get them married and in a calling immediately so there’s no chance for the outside world to corrupt them.

  6. That’s not necessarily proof, Roland. While it may be true that young men who attend LAN parties also go on missions, get Eagle Scout/Chief Scout awards, and so forth, it doesn’t mean, however, that those young men go on missions because they participated in LAN parties.

    Just because both of them existed does not mean one was the cause of the other.

    For example, I served a mission. I also played basketball every Tuesday night for four years. One might assume using the same logic that playing basketball every Tuesday night for four years caused me to go on my mission. The reality is I went because I was dating a recent convert who’s commitment and enthusiasm for the gospel rubbed off on me. Admittedly, however, I met her at a youth conference, where, of course, we didn’t play paintball.

  7. I’m curious if you, JM, have anything against LAN parties and paintball in particular, or if you just think the Church shouldn’t associate itself with such activities by condoning them as acceptable Aaronic Priesthood activities?

  8. On a somewhat related note, we had a fellow move into our ward this week who said in his last unit, a general authority told him they shouldn’t be doing recitations.


  9. I think occasional paint-ball and LAN parties are perfectly acceptable Scouting activities, but maybe they shouldn’t be reported on though. Often, it seemed that weeknight activities were brought up as a preliminary announcement for the coming week. Opening exercises is a good time to do this, so the boys know, their fathers know, etc.

    As far as recitation. I can see the argument that recitation can lead to meaningless chants. However, am I correct in thinking that unless your own local GAs or leaders tell you not do something or we all hear about it as a church-wide announcement, we ignore what an GA somewhere says at some stake conference?

  10. we ignore what an GA somewhere says at some stake conference?

    Are you referring to the old style stake conference where a GA would sometimes speak or the new telecast stake conference?

  11. I guess I’m out on the loop. I’m referring to hearing it first hand, live or live telecast, rather than hearing that some GA said “such and such” somewhere else in the LDS Kingdom.

  12. doesn’t mean, however, that those young men go on missions because they participated in LAN parties.

    Kim is correct. Roland, any success you are seeing is coincidental correlation at best. The scouting program is nothing but a surrogate for what should really be going on. Any successes found in the scouting program in the church is not because of the program itself, but because of increased involvement from meaningful adults in the boy’s life. Not only do priesthood leaders get involved, but so do the parents and a whole other network of influentual people in the boy’s life.

    What strikes me as sad is that it takes a 3rd party program to accomplish it. Priesthood leaders seem to be incapable of being a positive influence within the gospel framework. This usually translates into the scouting tail wagging the priesthood dog. Scouting (and all other distractions like paint-ball and lan parties) should be subordinate to the purposes of the aaronic priesthood. From my perspective, they rarely are.

    To answer Jeff, I don’t think paint-ball or LAN parties should have anything to do with a church sanctioned activity. Let them happen on their own. This false notion that we need to entertain the youth will continue to produce sub-standard priesthood holders / eagle scouts / and full time missionaries.

    There was a study done by the church evaluation division a while back. This study analyzed the behavior of youth in the church. It looked at things like attendance, participation in priesthood assignments, etc. The study concluded that the single most influential factor in a young man holding the Melchizedek priesthood later on in life was his private religious observance. Factors determined uninfluential were things like participation in church sports, attending dances, participation in ‘entertainment’ activities, and so on. What mattered most was his understanding of doctrine and principles.

    Paint-ball, LAN parties, and every church scouting activity I was ever involved with had nothing to do with any sort of doctrine or principles.

  13. As far as recitation. I can see the argument that recitation can lead to meaningless chants.

    Only meaningless when the Aaronic priesthood leaders fail to incorporate the principles into everything they do.

    I was recently substitute teaching for the 16 year old sunday school class. The class had mostly boys in attendance with a couple of girls as well. I was surprised at how rude and condescending the boys were to the girls. It was to the point where we just couldn’t progress with the lesson. I understand that part of this was just probably them acting up in front of the substitute like most boys do, but it went beyond that.

    I got their attention and asked the boys to finish this sentence for me:

    “Give proper respect to…”

    The blank stare I received was priceless.

    I have witnessed these same boys recite and lead the recitation of the purposes for almost two years now. In my observation, it has had zero effect.

    Time to get this ship back on course.

  14. In my observation, it has had zero effect.

    Perhaps the reason it has zero effect lies in reciting might be used more as a time filler until the gym is available for B-ball.

    Another reason might be that quite frankly it is a stupid thing to have boys memorize and except for nerds who would want to memorize it. This is another example of following a program regardless.

    The ideals are good but putting it into practice maybe needs a little help.

  15. I’ve never once heard these things, but perhaps that’s because I’ve spent the last several years in a singles ward. :)

  16. I am not aware of a singles ward having a young men’s program.

    Several years in a singles ward?

  17. JM, do you think you know how to handle the youth of our church? Everyone is so critical of paintball and other activities that are fun to youth, and motivate them to come to scouts/mutual. “Fun” activities always get more attendance. Is there really anywhere else they should be? How are they going to
    Well I am 17, and I can imagine how dull JM’s lesson must’ve been. There is a reason they put fun people in a postition to teach younger kids. They want the kids to show up, hopefully not (only) because attendance is recorded. You have criticized our church in most of your posts, but where are your good ideas? Please don’t point out the flaws of the church (if you don’t have a solution), we get plenty of non-members who do that already.
    You do a lot of talking, but I’m guessing you couldn’t “get this ship back on course” if it was your job.

  18. Ryan,

    Regarding that lesson I was asked to teach… it never really happened. The young men in that class were so rude and full of disrespect that they didn’t listen to any attempt I made to talk to them.

    I started my lesson by having everyone introduce themselves. It never got past that. As a substitute instructor, I was instructed that I wasn’t to “kick anyone out of the class”. I guess someone foresaw that there might be problems. So, basically I was called in to be a babysitter to some of your peers. After many attempts to try to get a basic conversation going, I just ended up reading my scriptures. Not my calling, not my kids, not my problem. If the people who had known these kids all their life couldn’t teach them anything, and if their regular teacher couldn’t manage to do anything in the previous year of trying, there was no way I was going to have any success in 30 minutes.

    Then after the class period, one of those boys gets up and recites the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood… hmmmm…

    So, it looks like all of the fun activities aren’t doing anything to teach these boys respect. The leaders in this ward fail in teaching them anything about what it means to be a priesthood holder. And the parents don’t seem to care either… but hey, lets get them playing paintball and having FUN, because we all know that’s what the gospel is really about, right?

    You ask for some of my ideas.

    The church needs to stop blurring the line. The easy path is to ignore what the church is there to do… provide supportive gospel teaching to families and provide access to authorized ordinances.

    Our youth programs should never sacrifice gospel learning at the expense of fun. If fun is so important, then they should provide it within the framework of gospel learning. That’s not impossible to do, but lazy leaders just don’t take the time and instead skip right to the fun.

    Every activity should be planned with a gospel-centred objective. If it can’t be done, then move on to something else.

    We need to give young men meaningful priesthood work to do. They need to have the opportunity to serve and feel the spirit. (young women need this too.)

    We need to focus our teaching in the Ward / Stake on the Plan of Redemption so members can at least weekly feel the spirit. In my experience, the youth of the church really do thirst after gospel learning. Not just the milk either. They want meat! We should stop treating them like gospel idiots. We should help them discover the gospel and allow them to study on their own path. We think all they want is fun, so that’s all we give them. As adults, we are fools for believing this!

    There’s plenty of fun to be had in the world. And kids with a good gospel foundation will be able to have fun in ways that don’t compromise gospel standards. If we are unwilling to teach those standards, no amount of paintball or LAN parties will ever make up for that.

    Honestly, I do think I could get the ship back on course. But it wouldn’t be a quick fix. We’re talking years here. And it’s more than just focusing on a single class or even an organization like the young men’s program. It’s definitely something that needs to happen at the ward level, probably something that even should be tackled at the stake level.

    If you want to read a good book on the subject, you should try to find a copy of “Principles of Priesthood Leadership” by Stephen Nadauld (Bookcraft, 1999, ISBN 1-57008-622-2). He even has a full chapter devoted to Aaronic Priesthood Leadership.

    If you do end up reading it, I hope you do so being able to say “Hey, my leaders do that!!” instead of “Wow, we’re really off course here!!”.

  19. Ryan,

    “Is there really anywhere else they should be?”

    If you think there is only one correct answer to this question, then I think you need to get out more.

  20. Concerning the idea of reciting the AP purposes, here is a comment from Pres. Dahlquist:

    “I have noticed as I have visited many Aaronic Priesthood quorums that it has become a pattern to recite the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood, much the same as the young women recite their theme. While the reason for doing so is noble, these purposes were never meant to be recited but were compiled solely to help us, as leaders of youth, plan lessons and activities that would help to accomplish those purposes.”

    The entire article is well worth reading:

    “Let No Man Despise Thy Youth”

    Young Men Open House, Spring 2006, Charles W. Dahlquist, II


  21. I think that it is also important to point out the following:

    1) Paint-balling is not an approved activity as per Church guidelines.

    2) LAN parties involve the use of copyrighted software (specifically Video Games) and the playing of video games is not an appropriate activity, since the copyright of the game does not allow you to gather in a group and have everyone playing, unless each person in the room owns his/her own copy of the game. This is also true of showing movies, which when shown in an official group setting is a violation of the copyright agreement of commercially produced movies.

    The Church council is to simply stay away from situations where you might be violating copyright. Even if you are not likely to be caught, you are still breaking the law.

  22. From the Guide to Safe Scouting list of Prohibited activities:

    • Pointing any type of firearm (including paintball, dye or lasers) at any individual; however, law enforcement officials may use in training agenda with proper safety equipment in Law Enforcement Venturing program
  23. I’m certainly against paintball it’s very violent. I’m a firm believer in jesus, and I think LAN parties help these people come together, and put more love into their souls.

    How is a LAN party bad? well, it condones violence and thats just not good, BUT, the bond that people can share getting together for an activity is great for missionary work, keep up the good work and god bless.

  24. Great topic. Thanks for the ideas. This issue has come up in our own stake, and we are pushing to have the recitation shelved to allow more time for quorum instruction (less time in opening exercises). We also are trying to instruct the leaders that there are better things for youth to memorize than these purposes.

  25. this is probably a dead link since nobody has posted in over a month, but I feel the need to add my two cents. None of the comments I read on the topic started out with the simple words or idea “when I was a kid in the young men’s program we did…” So let me start. When I was growing up in the church and active in scouts, young men and any other activity I could find, somehow I always managed to gravitate to the young men’s program and the scouting part of it. There was no theme to state at the start of priesthood meeting, but looking back we seemed to center what we did around those ideas. We occasionally did activities that included rifle shooting (got the merit badge to prove it), hiking and a rough game of midnight commando, and a lot of other things to entertain us kids. And guess what, we reported on our activities all the time for one reason only…to try to get those who didn’t show up regularly to show up and to encourage those who showed up at church on sunday but not for scouts to come along. every activity we had, regardless of location or function, started and ended with a prayer, related to some aspect of the gospel in some way (fellowship, preparedness, faith, teamwork (ever try running an elders quorum without knowing how to use the quorum as a team with a specific goal). We didn’t always feel we had to be doing something fun to make it worth while, but occasionally it was a nice change of pace. My YM leader always taught us on the youth committee to plan with a purpose…and the purposes had to be gospel oriented. I would say it worked pretty well in our ward. In the end, we were not forced to follow the gospel, we were loved into the gospel by family with leaders who obviously loved us too. Of the 15 kids who were in my age group traveling through the YM program, 12 are Eagle scouts, all but me served a mission (joined the navy instead), all are sealed in the temple and still married with growing families and many now have kids who are Eagle scouts and/or have kids on missions ourselves. Probably more importantly for this discussion, when ever I manage to make it back home, the first person on my list of people I want to visit, after I get reaquainted with my own family, is my old YM president. In my mind, that’s the kind of YM president I would want to be. And sometimes, you can’t always have that kind of influence sitting in a classroom reading the gospel doctrine manual. Teach a kid a real life skill that will help him grow physically, mentally, and spiritually, and you will have accomplished a great thing.

  26. Kirk

    No thread is dead as long as a comment comes up.

    Sounds like you had great YM leaders, and what a blessing that was in your life and the other young men. I hope my sons have the same experiences too.

  27. Maybe there was no “theme” to state at the beginning of our meetings, but our Scout troop nearly always began by reciting the Scout Oath, the Scout Law, or both.

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