ON

RETAINING YOUNG MEN


A Report Given To The

THE MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD COMMITTEE
OF THE WARRENTON, VA STAKE

.

By
D. Calvin Andrus
24 May 1998


I. INTRODUCTION

Brethren, we have a retention problem--and it is not the one you are thinking about (convert retention). It is a much worse retention problem. Last month our Stake President reported that only 25 percent of the eligible young men in our Stake are serving/have served full-time missions. That is a 75 percent failure rate! As bad as our Stake home teaching percentages might be, this is even worse. We are failing to retain those who grow up in the church. We are fighting a war for the souls of our young men and are losing. Clearly, the Aaronic Priesthood's role as a Preparatory Priesthood is not having its intended impact in our Stake. Those who administer the Aaronic Priesthood need our help--in a major way.

II. THE ASSIGNMENT

Lynn Oliver and I received the assignment to answer the question, "what role, if any, does the Stake Melchizedek Priesthood Committee have to play in relation to the Aaronic Priesthood?" We will suggest three answers and make four recommendations.

III.FIRST ANSWER: HOME TEACHING AS MISSIONARY PREPARATION

The Melchizedek Priesthood Leadership Handbook lists 9 responsibilities of the Melchizedek Priesthood for accomplishing the three missions of the church (see the bolded subheadings on pages 3 - 8). The number two responsibility (denoting its importance relative to the rest) is "Helping Families Prepare Missionaries." In this section it is suggested (among other things) that Bishoprics AND Melchizedek Priesthood leaders prepare young men to become missionaries through home teaching.

We would like to remind you that according to DC 20:46-59 Home Teaching is an Aaronic Priesthood responsibility. "The Priest's duty is to . . . visit the house of each member" and, "The Teacher's duty to watch over the church always." When a Melchizedek Priesthood holder goes home teaching he is carrying out an Aaronic Priesthood function. Unfortunately, many young men are denied the opportunity to fulfill and magnify one of their most important Priesthood responsibilities.

Recommendation #1.
Just as High Councilors help the Stake President to discharge his Melchizedek Priesthood responsibilities by receiving home teaching reports from Ward Melchizedek Priesthood quorum leaders, so too, should the High Councilors help the Stake President to discharge his Aaronic Priesthood responsibilities by receiving home teaching reports from Ward Aaronic Priesthood quorum leaders (Bishop). Page 32 of the Melchizedek Priesthood Leadership Handbook states ". . . the Stake President receives an accounting of the Bishop's responsibilities for the Aaronic Priesthood . . ." Rather than report families visited, the Aaronic Priesthood home teaching account would report:
  1. total boys eligible to home teach,
  2. number of boys actually assigned as home teachers, and
  3. number of boys who actually visited at least one family during the month.

Recommendation #2.
The handbook says that the "Bishopric selects and calls Aaronic Priesthood brethren to serve as home teachers" (page 6). It also says that "Bishoprics and Melchizedek Priesthood leaders" are responsible for helping prepare young men to go on missions through home teaching. We therefore recommend that once a quarter the Priest's first assistant and the Teacher Quorum President be invited to a special Ward PEC devoted to reviewing and assigning Aaronic Priesthood home teachers. This not only provides training for the AP quorum leaders, it also allows them to discharge their duties in a meaningful way--they can then make the home teaching assignment to their quorum members on behalf of the Bishopric. The role of the High Councilor is to be the agent of the Stake President as a member of either the Stake Melchizedek or Stake Aaronic Priesthood Committee. As such, the High Councilor should be in attendence at these special PEC meetings as an observer and advisor.

IV. SECOND ANSWER: MISSIONARY PREPARATION COURSES

As we mentioned earlier, the Melchizedek Priesthood Leadership Handbook lists 9 responsibilities of the Melchizedek Priesthood for accomplishing the three missions of the church and the number two responsibility is "Helping Families Prepare Missionaries." This section of the handbook suggests that in addition to home teaching, Bishoprics AND Melchizedek Priesthood leaders prepare young men to become missionaries through missionary preparation classes (page 3).

The Brigham City Utah Stake has taken this responsibility to heart. For five years they have used a locally developed "Sons of Helaman" program for priest-aged boys. It is organized by the Melchizedek Priesthood under the direction of the Stake President. It draws on mature men for organizational and logistical tasks and on recently returned missionaries for teaching and fellowshipping tasks. The older Priests who have been through the program before serve as youth leaders. The curriculum is a very tightly integrated physical activity and missionary preparation class combination. The physical activities include some of the business world's "retreat team-building exercises" and the missionary prep class is what you would expect. They conduct the "Sons of Helaman" as a four day camp in the summer, with several preparatory camps/sessions in the spring. The 100 page manual is in my possession.

Recommendation #3.
We recommend a variation on the "Sons of Helaman" program. We would rename it the "Sons of Mosiah" program to have a specifically missionary, rather than military, flavor. It would be open to all pre-missionaires, aged 16 - 24. It would be a combination of Ward and Stake activities. For example, it could include a combination of some (6 - 8 per year) monthly activities carried out at the Ward level that are in preparation for a few (1 - 2 per year) "away" activities at the Stake level. The Ward level activities would be carried out by the missionary committees of the High Priests and Elders quorums, and could enlist the help of the Stake and Full-time missionaries. The Stake level activities would be conducted by the High Council with help from the Stake Mission. This program is not intended to be a replacement for the normal Young Men's program. However, in view of the fact that our Stake has a 100 percent failure rate with Explorer Posts, Bishops would be welcome to use the Ward "Sons of Mosiah" activities as one of the mutual night activities for the Explorer-aged boys for a particular week. A member of the Stake Melchizedek Priesthood committee will train Ward Melchizedek Leaders to implement the "Sons of Mosiah" program, and should be in attendance at all Ward "Sons of Mosiah" activities as an observer.

V. THIRD ANSWER: REFLECT AARONIC PRIESTHOOD IN ALL WE DO

The Melchizedek Priesthood Leadership Handbook lists 5 major responsibilities of the Bishop (pages 18 - 29). First, and most important is that of President of the Priests Quorum. This implies that a Bishop should be spending more than 20 percent (probably in the range of 25 - 35 percent) of his time on youth issues. When we interact with Bishops do we spend one-third of our time on youth issues? We should. Do we in our own meetings spend one-third of our time on youth issues? Maybe we should. The amount of time and energy we spend talking and doing particular subjects indicates the importance we attach to an issue. We need to raise the general level of talk and action on Aaronic Priesthood issues in everything we do.

Recommendation #4.
We recommend that the Stake Aaronic Priesthood committee have as many High Council members as the Stake Melchizedek Priesthood committee. Maybe all twelve should be on both. We recommend that in every Stake PEC, time be set aside for Aaronic Priesthood issues. We recommend that when Stake Activities are planned, part of the plan includes a plan for Aaronic Priesthood involvement. Specifically,

In short, as we make a concerted effort to make this Stake, from top to bottom, a more family centered enterprise, we should at the same time give it a youth friendly atmosphere, that is obvious to those young people who desparately need it.

VI. CONCLUSION

Brethren, these four recommendations may seem like overkill. However, desperate times require desperate measures, and we are living in desperate times. All of these suggestions are consistent with the scriptures, with the Priesthood handbooks, and the order of the church. The fact is that current practices are producing a 75 percent failure rate. Incremental changes to current practices will produce incremental improvements. If we want dramatic improvements, we must implement dramatic changes. These changes begin with a change in attitude. Rather than mentally dumping the problems of young men into Bishop's laps and not worry about them again until they surface as prospective elders, we must recognize our own responsibility toward these young men. Remember, if we don't work to keep them active now, we will be working to reactivate them in two years when they pass into the stewardships of the Elders Quorums anyway. Think of this a preventive maintenance on our Elders' Quorums. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

We leave these thoughts with you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.


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