Happy Birthday Sam. You’re turning twelve today. This is an important birthday because you will receive the Aaronic priesthood. The priesthood is the power of God, which is given to man to act in His name. Always remember that your authority comes through your ordination but your power comes through personal obedience and worthiness. The priesthood is a gift from God that blesses all His children. Your Heavenly Father now trusts you enough to give you the responsibility to help others. Up until now your parents, extended family and church leaders have been taking care of you and helping you grow and learn. Now it is your turn. For example, you will be able to pass the sacrament for the first time. Isn’t it wonderful that God allows you to be part of this most sacred event?
What a great blessing it is to hold the priesthood. I hope you take the time to go to a quiet private place and pray to your Heavenly Father and ask him how you can magnify your priesthood. Praying and asking questions has been a great way for God to send messages to us. In fact, did you know that when the Prophet Joseph Smith was translating The Book of Mormon that he found a part that mentioned baptism? On May 15, 1829, he and his scribe Oliver Cowdery went into the woods to ask God about baptism. As they prayed, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light. This messenger was John the Baptist, the prophet who baptized Jesus Christ. John the Baptist, now a resurrected being, laid his hands on Joseph and Oliver and conferred upon each of them the Aaronic Priesthood, which had been taken from the earth during the Apostasy. With this authority, Joseph and Oliver were able to baptize one another. John the Baptist was chosen by Heavenly Father to prepare the way for the Savior and to baptize him. John did this through the authority of the Priesthood of Aaron.
After baptism, a sacred experience and opportunity comes to the members of the Church each week as we partake of the sacrament. This is how we renew our covenants with our Father in Heaven and take upon us the name of his Son and promise to keep his commandments. Those holding the Aaronic Priesthood have the sacred privilege and honor of preparing, blessing, and passing these holy emblems of Jesus Christ’s body and blood. God wants us to repent, come to Him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and partake of the sacrament. When we renew our baptismal covenants in this way, the Lord renews the cleansing effect of our baptism. In this way we are made clean and can have His Spirit to be with us. That is why it is so important to take the sacrament each week.
As you know, the offices of the Aaronic Priesthood are bishop, priest, teacher, and deacon. With the authorization of the presiding priesthood leader, deacons pass the sacrament. They also help the bishop watch over Church members by giving service and assist with temporal matters such as gathering fast offerings for the poor. Teachers perform all the duties of deacons and also receive other opportunities to serve. They prepare the sacramental bread and water and serve as home teachers. Priests may perform all the duties of deacons and teachers. With the authorization of the presiding priesthood leader, they may also bless the sacrament, baptize, and ordain others to the offices of priest, teacher, and deacon.
I have noticed that you have a big heart Sam and that you love deeply. You are a true and loyal friend. Remember that the best friend you will ever have is Jesus Christ. You have amazing talents and abilities and I know that you will use them wisely. As you serve in your priesthood responsibilities I hope you remember that serving your own family is also important. The most important exercise of the priesthood takes place in the family. Your parents and brothers and sister really need you to love them and serve them as only you can.
You stand at the beginning a life-time of service. As you serve in the Aaronic Priesthood, it will prepare you to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, receive the blessings of the temple, serve a full-time mission, be a loving husband and father, and continue in lifelong service to the Lord. I love you so much Sam. I have so enjoyed watching you grow up and become such a wonderful young man. I will love you forever and be your biggest fan.