AARONIC PRIESTHOOD QUORUMS
STAKE PRIESTHOOD LEADERSHIP MEETING
WARRENTON, VA STAKE
Good evening. My name is Calvin Andrus. I am from the Sterling Park Ward. President Phipps has assigned me to speak to you today in my the capacity as a member of the High Council and member of the Stake Aaronic Priesthood Committee.
I want to express my admiration of you all who have come tonight. You are on the front lines--working directly with the young men in our Stake. You have difficult and weighty callings. That you have come tonight is an indicator of your devotion to the welfare of the young men within your stewardship. I pray that the Holy Ghost will be here with us tonight, that we may teach and be taught by the Spirit.
I would like to begin by having each of you fill out a short questionnaire. I will not ask you to share your answers with anyone. It is just a tool to help assess our responsibilities. The questionnaire asks you to guess at some percentages in our Stake, and give some opinions. After you have finished the questionnaire, I will report to you the actual percentages, as given to me by the Stake Clerk. I will also suggest some answers to the other questions.
|1.||At the end March 1999, what percentage of young men members of our Stake, aged 12 and 13, were ordained Deacons?|
|2.||At the end March 1999, what percentage of young men members of our Stake, aged 14 and 15, were ordained Teachers?|
|3.||At the end March 1999, what percentage of young men members of our Stake, aged 16 and 17, were ordained Priests?|
|4.||At the end March 1999, what percentage of young men members in our Stake, aged 18 and 19, were ordained Elders?|
|5.||At the end March 1999, what percentage of young men members in our Stake, aged 20 through 25, were ordained Elders?|
|6.||Who on this earth, in your opinion, does the Lord hold most accountable for a young man's progression in the Aaronic Priesthood?|
|7.||Who on this earth, in your opinion, does the Lord hold 2nd most accountable for a young man's progression in the Aaronic Priesthood?|
|8.||Who on this earth, in your opinion, does the Lord hold 3rd most accountable for a young man's progression in the Aaronic Priesthood?|
Here are the answers to the questions about Aaronic Priesthood attrition.
|1.||Ages 12 and 13||75||47||63%||37%|
|2.||Ages 14 and 15||69||40||58%||42%|
|3.||Ages 16 and 17||73||46||63%||37%|
|4.||Ages 18 and 19||69||18||26%||74%|
|5.||Ages 20 through 25||130||55||42%||58%|
The numbers for the 20-25 year-old group are not quite comparable, but give a context. They cover a 6 (not 2) year age group and include men on missions, but exclude men away at school. It also includes men who are married--who either grew up here, or moved in recently.
Let me put these ordination numbers into context. The percentage of new adult male converts in our Stake who were ordained Elders within 3 years of their baptism is 28% (13 Elders of 47 adult males baptized in the last three years--as of Mary 1999). This means that our success rate retaining new converts is about the same as our success rate of retaining young men who are raised in the church. And you know what President Hinckley think about the job we are doing with our converts.
I don't know what these numbers do to you, but they take my breath away. The loss is staggering. President Brown thinks these numbers are staggering. Tonight, the Bishops are meeting with President Phipps to discuss the Aaronic Priesthood Young Men aged 18 to 25. These are the young men who failed to "graduate" and we have sent them to the Elders' quorum presidents for remedial care. Tonight, I want to spend our time talking about the young men aged 12-19 who do not hold the Aaronic Priesthood office they should.
There are 66 young men in our Stake who do not hold the Aaronic Priesthood office they should. That means on the average, there are 6 to 8 young men in each of your wards who fall into that category. I suspect that if we went around the room, you would be able to name the names of the young men under your stewardship who fall into this category. Let's not do that. Please just let the names of those young men simmer in your mind as we explore this topic tonight. You may even want to write their names down on the back of the questionnaire. If you are new to your calling and are not sure who in your ward falls into this category, I suggest you take this as an opportunity to have the ward clerk identify these "lost sheep" for you.
Ok, the second half of the questionnaire asked for your opinion about who Lord holds most responsible for these young men. Let me give you my opinion.
What you put down is probably similar in concept, but different in the details. It is not important for my lesson tonight to debate this order, either at the conceptual level or the detail level. If you disagree with me, that is fine. My purpose is not to convince you of my ordering, nor do you need to try and convince me of your ordering. What I would like you to do, is humor me for the next half hour. If we can just assume this ordering for a few minutes, I hope to draw out some ideas that some of us may find useful. If I fail to do so, I apologize.
V. AP QUORUM PRESIDENCIES
I have been a bishop's counselor. I have been a ward YM's president. I have been a Quorum Advisor, I have been a Scoutmaster. I took those callings very seriously. I tried to do the best I could at those callings. The week in and week out stress of those callings is shrouded with a sort of "fog of war." That is, there are so many things happening on so many fronts, it is easy to get bogged down in just trying to keep up with the most minimal expectations. Let me give you a an example of what I mean. Here is a rundown of a week I lived many times over as a scoutmaster.
Tuesday night was troop meeting. Wednesday night was roundtable. Thursday night I took the boys shopping for food, because their parents couldn't. Friday I would take a half a day of vacation and go camping with the boys. It would rain. I would get home Saturday afternoon. My wife insisted that if I took a clean van, I would half to return it clean. So after unloading the van, I would wash and vacuum it. I'd have to clean and dry off the equipment, and set my tent up and hang up my sleeping bag in the garage so they dry out and not mildew. Saturday night I would prepare the Deacon's Quorum lesson. Sunday I would give the lesson. Sunday afternoon do some home teaching and prepare for the Tuesday night Troop meeting. Monday night, after family home evening I would take down the tents and sleeping bags, and roll them up and put them away. Then rat race would start again on Tuesday.
I saw many of you smile. You, too, have lived such weeks. With such a pace, do you think there is room for things to drop in the cracks? You bet there is. I want to confess to you that I now believe I was somewhat mis-guided in those callings. I let some of the most important things drop through the cracks. Now that I have one of the easiest callings in the church--the High Council--I have time to reflect on which I should have done.
My biggest short coming in these callings is that while I believed the Quorum President presided over his quorum, I didn't act like it. I often acted like I presided over the quorum. As a first counselor to a bishop, I inserted myself between the Teacher's Quorum president and the members of the quorum. As young men's president, I inserted myself between the Bishop and the Priests. As Deacon's advisor, I inserted myself between the Deacon's President and the members of his quorum.
This is not the order of the church. Let us read in D&C section 107,
D&C 107:85-89 - And again, verily I say unto you, the duty of a president over the office of a deacon is to preside over twelve deacons, to sit in council with them, and to teach them their duty, edifying one another, as it is given according to the covenants. And also the duty of the president over the office of the teachers is to preside over twenty-four of the teachers, and to sit in council with them, teaching them the duties of their office, as given in the covenants. Also the duty of the president over the Priesthood of Aaron is to preside over forty-eight priests, and sit in council with them, to teach them the duties of their office, as is given in the covenants-- This president is to be a bishop; for this is one of the duties of this priesthood. Again, the duty of the president over the office of elders is to preside over ninety-six elders, and to sit in council with them, and to teach them according to the covenants.
In my current calling on the High Council, I am an advisor to an Elder's Quorum. I am very careful, not to insert my self between the Quorum President and the members of the quorum. I am also careful not to insert myself between the Quorum President and the person to whom he reports--the Stake President. My work is behind the scenes.
As advisors to Aaronic Priesthood Quorums, we must be careful not to insert ourselves between the Quorum President and the members of his Quorum, nor between the President and the person to whom he reports--the Bishop. Rather we should facilitate the Quorum President ability to magnify his calling to preside over his quorum. I have come to believe that that is more important that teaching Sunday lessons or having interesting mutual activities.
VI. EXAMPLES AND PROPOSITIONS
Let me propose a couple of ideas and give some explanations.
|Aaronic Priesthood Presidents have the calling, the keys, the responsibility, and the accountability to see that each member of their quorums advances to the next office in the Priesthood.|
Do we remember what three things President Hinckley said newly converted men needed in order to advance to the Melchizedek Priesthood?
Let me suggest it is these same three thing that young men need in order to advance to the Melchizedek Priesthood:
Let me further suggest that it is the Aaronic Priesthood Quorum presidents that are responsible to make these three things happen. It is our responsibility as quorum advisors to help the quorum presidencies do this, not for us to do it for them. I believe the order is not accidental. The quorum president is responsible for seeing that the less active (and active) have friends in the quorum, starting with the president himself. All quorum members need priesthood assignments, including the less active. The president should make these assignments. Finally, the president ensures that his quorum members are nourished with the good word of God.
One of the most important things we as advisors can do to help these presidents is enabling weekly quorum presidency meetings to talk about those young men who are not full participants in the quorum. One nice thing about weekly quorum meetings is that prayers are said to plead for Heavenly Father's help for the less active quorum members and also for the quorum presidencies. Who knows, these presidencies just may experience the power of prayer.
I suggest the most important thing to talk about in a presidency meeting is how does the quorum presidency become friends with the less active quorum member. There should be at least weekly contact between one member of the quorum presidency and the less active quorum member. You can also imagine with me,
|Scouting is a tool the Church gives to the Deacon's Quorum President to help him see that each member of his quorum advances to the Office of Teacher.|
Similarly high adventures, youth conferences, basketball programs, stake dances, and road shows are tools the Church gives to Teacher's and Priest's Quorum Presidents to help them help their quorum members receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. We just might run our programs differently if we believed and practiced this proposition.
I have a sneaking feeling, however, we may have the cart before the horse. In practice, quorums support the activities rather than the activities supporting the quorums. I am afraid that in this stake we have substituted these activities for good solid quorum brotherhood. Why do I believe this? We spend enormous amounts of time (and modest amounts of money) on these activities, yet many quorums do not have weekly presidency meetings. I only know two wards (there may be more) that have the monthly Ward Aaronic Priesthood Committee meetings, where AP quorum presidents report their stewardships to the Presiding Priest in the ward. It is a rare AP Quorum presidency that visits the homes of the members of their quorums. It is an equally rare AP Quorum president that devotes some of his personal prayer time seeking guidance from his Heavenly Father about his responsibility for the members of his quorum.
I wish our young men would spend even 1/10 of the time they do playing basketball at their week-night activity, in quorum presidency meetings and seeking after the less actives. Brethren, it is our responsibility to help them do just that.
Brethren, I have worried about giving this message tonight. We are all volunteers. We are sacrificing time with our families to be here tonight. We are here because we love working with the Young Men. It is my job to uplift you, not depress you; encourage you, not discourage you. I am not sure I have done that. This is a great work. The Lord will bless you and your families because of your diligence. You brethren who are on the front-lines have a difficult task. I don't mean to diminish the good work you do in any way.
Like many of you, I have thought long and hard about the hemorrhage of our young men from the heart of the church into the streets of the world. I have prayed to understand what we, as leaders of young men should do. I have received an answer to my prayer, which I was instructed to give to you tonight. The answer was not bigger and better youth conferences. This hurts because I am the Youth Conference director. The answer was not more adventurous high adventures. The answer was not pressing young men to get their Eagles. The answer was not better basketball programs, nor was it fancier stake dances and road shows.
The answer was pure and simple. Help the Aaronic Priesthood Quorums do what they were designed to do. The lives of our young men are less changed by "flash in the pan" stake activities, than they are by day-in and day-out, week-in and week-out, month-in and month-out priesthood quorum leaders taking care of their flock and seeking after the one: quorum friendships, quorum brotherhood, quorum responsibility, quorum spiritual experiences.
Finally, let me bear you my testimony. Our Heavenly Father is real. He feels the pain as keenly as earthly parents when His and their sons stray from the path. He gave us a plan 170 years ago this month when John the Baptist visited Joseph and Oliver. I know if we teach our young men how to preside over quorums and support them in doing so, they will be the instruments of bringing salvation to young men who desperately need it.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.