“Fireside Commemorates Aaronic Priesthood Restoration,” Ensign, July 1985, 74–75
The importance of the Aaronic Priesthood in preparing for a life of progression and service was the theme of a fireside program attended and viewed by thousands of Aaronic Priesthood holders and their fathers May 19.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, Second Counselor in the First Presidency; Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Council of the Twelve; and Bishop Robert D. Hales, Presiding Bishop, talked about the impact the priesthood should have on young men’s lives. Three young Aaronic Priesthood holders also spoke of how their priesthood is helping them prepare for greater blessings.
The program was broadcast via satellite from the Tabernacle on Temple Square to Church buildings throughout the United States and Canada. It commemorated the 156th anniversary of the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood, 15 May 1829, when John the Baptist appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on the banks of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania and conferred that priesthood upon them.
President Hinckley spoke of his own visit to the banks of the Susquehanna, then recalled the accounts of the Aaronic Priesthood restoration written by Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith. “The words used by John in conferring this priesthood were few,” President Hinckley recalled. But in those sixty-six words, “John said all that was essential, while he also established a pattern for what is essential.”
First, John laid his hands on the heads of Joseph and Oliver. “There is a physical process in the bestowal of divine authority. It is as if the authority, when the proper language is used, flows from him who has it to him who receives it,” President Hinckley said. “It is important that our hands be clean and our hearts be pure when we officiate in any of these ordinances. You would not expect a proper transmission of divine power from one who may be dishonest, immoral, unclean in thought or word or deed, or otherwise unworthy.”
Second, he recalled, John the Baptist referred to Joseph and Oliver as “fellow servants.” It mattered not that they were not men of high position or great education—it mattered only “that they were found worthy to hold and exercise the priesthood of God.”
John also performed that historic confirmation “in the name of Messiah,” President Hinckley noted. “We must never forget that in all our priesthood work, we do it in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of the world.”
John the Baptist conferred on Joseph and Oliver the Priesthood of Aaron, which “holds the keys of the ministering of angels.” President Hinckley recalled as a boy hearing people speak of “guardian angels,” an expression that is used little now. “I believe that John was not using idle words when he spoke of ministering angels. I believe he was conferring a resource of priceless worth to be made available to those holding the priesthood provided they sought it and lived for it.”
John the Baptist also spoke to Joseph and Oliver of the gospel of repentance and baptism, key concepts young men of today will preach when they serve missions, President Hinckley pointed out.
He urged the boys who heard him to “thank the Lord for His marvelous gift to you, the privilege of holding that same priesthood which was held by Aaron of old when he stood beside the mighty Moses as his spokesman, the same priesthood used by John when he baptized Jesus and the voice of God the Eternal Father was heard.”
Elder Nelson spoke of the important role of the Aaronic Priesthood in preparing young men for later service in the Melchizedek Priesthood. In Aaronic Priesthood quorums, they are taught principles of spiritual, mental, and physical preparation.
“Diligent activity in the Aaronic Priesthood prepares us to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood with its power to bless lives—yes, even to bless the sick,” he said, and related a personal experience when he was called on to administer to President Spencer W. Kimball in the hospital. President Kimball had suddenly become seriously ill, for reasons which were not readily apparent. As a physician, Elder Nelson was startled by the blessing he was prompted to give—that President Kimball would recover completely and be able to leave the hospital even before medical tests could disclose the reason for his illness.
Yet that is exactly what happened. “That was over seven and one-half years ago. In that time many important decisions have been made and revelations received by this man whom we honor and love so much.”
Bishop Hales recalled his days as a United States Air Force pilot and the motto painted on the side of his jet fighter plane, “Return with Honor.” That was the goal as pilots flew their missions.
“Each day is a mission” for each of us, Elder Hales said, and “we need to remember who we are and our eternal goal to ‘Return with Honor,’ with our families, into the presence of our Heavenly Father.”
Pilots are carefully trained to fly and to respond in seconds to emergencies, such as fires, that could claim their lives. Youth also face “fire warning lights” from time to time that mean potential danger in their lives, and they need to learn “conditioned responses,” like pilots, to help them respond immediately.
He said they have parents, Church leaders, prophets, and scriptures to provide needed training for life. He recalled his own personal experiences with parents and priesthood leaders who helped him choose correct paths. He urged sons to seek out the counsel of wise parents and leaders, and fathers to teach their sons and daughters how to handle the “fire warning lights” of life—with prayer and scripture study as daily guides—so that both parents and children may “return with honor” to their Heavenly Father.
Shawn Wakefield, a deacon from the St. Johns Third Ward, St. Johns Arizona Stake, spoke on how the Aaronic Priesthood can help young men prepare to serve when needed. Chris Gould, president of the teacher’s quorum in the Orem Seventy-seventh Ward, Orem Utah South Stake, said that trying to pattern his life after Book of Mormon heroes is helping him to be a better leader. Wayne Porter, a priest from the Union Fourteenth Ward, Sandy Utah Cottonwood Creek Stake, spoke of how he is preparing spiritually, mentally, and physically for a mission.
Music for the program was provided by an Aaronic Priesthood chorus from the Bountiful Utah and Centerville Utah Regions, and Aaronic Priesthood holders also offered the invocation and benediction.