When I was a little boy, I had a hard time in school. Not because I wasn’t smart, but because I was bored. I would finish my work before most everyone else and then start cutting up in class. I was good at getting the other kids in trouble but eventually I got caught.
After a while the teacher would get tired of telling me to behave so she would send me to see the Principal. This went on every year until I got older. I remember the Vice Principal gave swats. Of course, you can’t do that any more in our politically correct world.
My mother was a teacher. When she got called in for yet another parent-teacher conference about my behavior, there was a lot of peer pressure placed on her. I didn’t recognize it at the time but I do remember after every one of these little disciplinary episodes I spent the next week in my mother’s classroom.
This worked fine until I got above the fourth grade. That’s the class that my mother taught. She then decided to send me to the local Christian school, thinking that I needed something religious in my education. It shocked me. Although we were recent converts, we were Mormons and I felt betrayed. I could not believe she would send me to a school that had daily chapel sessions.
Bible stories in school
I think the reason I cut up in school was because I loved my mother and wanted to be with her. I was the youngest of six children and did not get the attention I wanted. I probably got more than the rest of the kids but I didn’t think so at the time. I remember mother was very busy after school grading papers. I knew how time-consuming that could be but didn’t appreciate it.
So when I got kicked out of my school once again and spent the week with my mother, I was just as happy and as well behaved as you please. I learned more about the history of California in those wonderful weeks with mother than I ever learned in my regular school. But the best part of being in my mother’s class was the Bible stories. Bible stories in public school? Indeed.
About two o’clock in the afternoon, mother would say, “Gather around children, it’s story time.” Everyone loved to hear my mother tell Bible stories, especially me. She could tell the best David and Goliath, Daniel in the lion’s Den and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stories I ever heard. I never tired of Joshua fighting the battle of Jericho or hearing about the flood one more time.
You can’t tell Bible stories in school any more. The only place you might find the Bible in the school system today is perhaps in a Bible as history class. Even that is going by the wayside. That’s why it is so important that we have our gospel study in the home. Where else can our families receive the kind of help and strength that comes from hearing the word of the Lord?
When I was sent to that private Christian school in the fifth grade, I experienced something I had never felt before. You see, I attended Primary and Sunday School each week in our ward so I knew what the truth was. I recognized it. I was baptized and I had the gift of the Holy Ghost. I also knew what the priesthood was and knew that it was needed to pronounce doctrine.
No, you don’t need the priesthood to teach doctrine but even I recognized at that young age the need for some sort of authority from God in order to preside or officiate in a worship service. I just felt that there was something wrong when we went to our daily chapel service and the pastor got up to preach to the children. There was something missing and I felt it distinctly.
Preparation for the priesthood
I think that experience in the West Covina Christian School in the Fall of 1967 was the beginning of my testimony of the need for priesthood authority. Can Heavenly Father speak to a ten year old boy like me (I was a year ahead in school) and tell me how important it is to have authority to speak in the name of the Lord? Yes. Absolutely yes. My primary teacher also told me so.
Do you see the picture of my Primary bandelo I have included with this post? They don’t use the bandelo anymore in Primary. How about the numbers around the hatchet, the wagon wheel and the arrow; do you know what those represent? Yes, that’s right – the Articles of Faith. We got one each time we memorized another article of faith. Ah, those were happy and fun days.
When I graduated from Primary, I felt prepared to receive the Aaronic priesthood. I looked forward to being ordained a deacon and passing the sacrament like my older brother. My father ordained me. I have a picture of dad with his arm around me taken later that day. He sure looked pleased. I didn’t appreciate it then but I knew there was something to this priesthood.
Foundations of responsibility
My dad ordained me each time I advanced in the priesthood over the years until he ordained me an Elder just before I left on my mission to Central America in 1976. By that time I had come to realize there was a lot more to the priesthood than just passing the sacrament, collecting fast offerings or helping my dad do home teaching by preparing a lesson. I began to feel different.
The interview with the Stake President was a little bit scary. Although I had never talked to him before, I felt prepared. My Bishop had given me a form that had all kinds of scriptures on the back that I was expected to read. I took it seriously and studied them all very carefully. I thought for sure the Stake President would grill me on the oath and covenant in section 84.
He didn’t, but the act of studying those many scripture references made a deep and lasting impression on me. To this day, sections 20, 84 and 121 are associated with wonderful memories of those days spent preparing for my mission. I learned to honor the priesthood because my primary teachers taught me about it and my father showed me that priesthood means service.
Using the priesthood today
Today I am a High Priest and have been for many years. I was ordained the first time I was called into a bishopric. All the time I was serving in various bishoprics and on the High Council I always said, “When I’m released from leadership positions, I hope they call me to the Primary.” Guess what? They did! I was so ecstatic. It has absolutely been my most favorite calling.
I was sad when I was released as a Primary teacher so I could serve as a ward clerk to the local singles ward. As much as I love the young people in our stake, I miss teaching the gospel each Sunday. I would rather teach than sit in leadership meetings any time. You don’t need the priesthood to teach Primary but that influence in reaching the 11-year old boys can be powerful.
I exercise the priesthood every day in my home as I kneel in prayer with my wife each morning and night. She often calls on me for priesthood blessings which are always a sanctifying and sacred occasion in our lives. Each time we go to the temple and participate in the ordinances there, I feel so grateful to bear the priesthood and exercise it on behalf of someone else.
Summary and conclusion
If you are not a member of the LDS faith, I have probably used many words and phrases that may be confusing. I invite you to click on some of the links I have included in the essay that will take you to web pages that have more information. If you are a recent convert, please don’t feel that you have missed out on anything because you did not have the priesthood growing up.
If you are a woman who feels left out of having the priesthood, please don’t. My mother and my primary teachers, who were all women, did more for me as a young boy because they loved me and taught me about the priesthood. Well, mother didn’t teach me much about it because she didn’t understand it much herself, being a recent convert. But she taught me to love the temple.
I know the priesthood is a real power. I have felt it most strongly when giving priesthood blessings and when ordaining or setting members apart for callings. Some of the sweetest blessings were setting apart young women as class leaders when I served in Bishoprics. It is on those occasions that I can feel how much the Lord loves his daughters and wants to bless them.