The first in a series of articles about priesthood quorums and their purposes. Here members of the Presiding Bishopric share some thoughts about deacons quorums.
Why does the Church organize 12- and 13-year-old young men into deacons quorums?
Bishop H. David Burton, Presiding Bishop (above center): One very important reason is the effective use of priesthood keys. Priesthood keys grant authority to those who preside to give direction and bless lives. The president of a quorum uses those keys to bless the lives of quorum members and those who are recipients of the quorum members’ service.
Bishop Richard C. Edgley, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric (above left): Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said in the June 2003 worldwide leadership training meeting that a quorum is three things. It’s a class, it’s a brotherhood, and it’s a service organization (see “Stake Administration,” 6; see also Stephen L Richards, in Conference Report, Oct. 1938, 118). Quorums bring young men together to fulfill those three purposes. I think much of our leadership emphasis in quorums is on the classroom and not as much on the brotherhood and service aspects. Those other aspects are important.
Bishop Burton: The classroom, while extremely important, is where the “theory” is learned. The “laboratory” where we apply that theory is service to others outside of the classroom. The main emphasis should be on how the young men carry out their duties (see D&C 20:57, 59, 60).
What should be the role of the deacons quorum adviser?
Bishop Keith B. McMullin, Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric (above right): One way we could broaden the brotherhood and service aspects of the quorum is to put the quorum president in his proper role. We tend to empower the adviser in a deacons quorum with more authority than we do the quorum president.
Bishop Burton: The adviser needs to develop the ability to be the “shadow leader” and somehow prompt the young men to perform their duties without the adviser becoming the effectual president of the quorum. Too often the quorum is a direct reflection of the current adviser.
Bishop McMullin: In my judgment, our deacons quorums are often simply doing what is expected of them by their advisers. When advisers understand what it means to lift and bless the young men in their priesthood office, we will see greater power. But as long as we view the deacons as youngsters who need to be entertained through some kind of activity incidental to their priesthood, then that is where our young men will tend to remain.
Bishop Edgley: Think of what would happen in a deacons quorum if there were enough chairs in the classroom for every member of the quorum, not just those who regularly attend, and if on the back of each chair was the name of one quorum member. The empty chairs would be very apparent to the quorum presidency. That’s one example of what could be done to enliven the quorum presidency and the quorum’s sense of the need to reach out to others.
How can adult leaders and advisers help deacons have spiritual experiences when many of a deacon’s duties may seem rather routine?
Bishop Edgley: Young people have to be led to spiritual experiences at that age. The experiences are not just going to happen on their own. I remember my father taking me to witness a priesthood blessing of a less-active member. I couldn’t participate other than being there and feeling the Spirit, but my dad explained the ordinance and led me to that spiritual experience.
Bishop McMullin: There is nothing routine about passing the sacrament—when one is spiritually enlightened. If a deacon is taught in an inspiring way about the emblems of the bread and water and what they mean to him personally and to every person who presses those emblems to his or her lips, then the sacrament becomes a sacred experience every Sabbath day (see 3 Ne. 18:5–6; D&C 20:77, 79). But typically what I see with our Aaronic Priesthood holders is that they are more worried about which rows they are passing the sacrament to or whom they should pass to first on the stand. In this way, it can become routine to the point that it has lost its special character. If advisers will teach the administrative details well ahead of time, the details won’t become distractions.
What are the biggest challenges deacons face today, and what can a quorum do to help?
Bishop Edgley: The biggest challenge for a deacon is feeling that he belongs, finding himself, feeling that he is important. We start losing young men at deacon age. They go where they feel accepted, and when you look at the drug culture, for example, it always accepts them. We’ve got to have them feel accepted in the right environment, with the right friends—and that’s in the quorum. They need to feel that they belong, that they’re safe, that they’re important. That is the brotherhood side of the quorum.
Bishop Burton: We’ve got to keep in mind that the Aaronic Priesthood is a preparatory priesthood in very real terms. Too often it becomes an end in itself. If our advisers and bishops will remember that this is the preparation for life and for the Melchizedek Priesthood, perhaps we could focus on preparing young men for the saving ordinances of the higher priesthood.