“Complete the following activities while you are 11 years old. They will help you prepare to receive the Aaronic Priesthood and become a righteous young man” (Faith in God for Boys, (2003), 12–13, emphasis added).
The Faith in God program strengthens the lives of Primary children and is—in the end—one of THE foremost purposes of the eleven-year-old (EYO) program. Most of my blogs have focused on the programmatic elements of Scouting, fun ways to implement the 11-year-old Scout program, and in teaching moral and ethical decision making. In this blog I want to point out a few finer points of preparing these wonderful boys for the Aaronic Priesthood. Preparing boys to receive the priesthood and become young men is a major responsibility of the 11-year-old leader and one to be taken seriously. It has been my experience that some of these requirements are neither well understood nor well executed because of the coordination, training, and interface between the Young Men’s program and the Primary necessary to effectively implement the Faith in God requirements as well as understand the requirements themselves.
The third requirement for 11-year-olds in the Faith in God for Boys is to:
- Talk with the deacons quorum presidency about the role of the deacons quorum. Write in your journal how you can serve the Lord as a member of a deacons quorum.
For several years I read this requirement incorrectly. The purpose of this requirement is for the EYO boy to talk to the YOUNG MEN who form the presidency of the deacons quorum, rather than the adult men who are the advisers. When it finally dawned on me, the implication of the 11-year-old boy sitting down with the three young men who form the presidency of the deacons quorum and talking about becoming a deacon, my eyes were opened to a whole range of possibilities, complications, and necessary changes.
I realized that our ward needed to make some changes to correctly implement this requirement for the 11-year-olds. So I arranged a meeting between the Primary presidency and the adult leaders of the Young Men program spelling out the implications of the requirement, and that we needed to train the deacons quorum and assist them in developing an agenda. Since this Faith in God requirement was a part of the Primary program and for 11-year-olds, I took the lead to implement the changes we needed.
Working with the current deacons quorum presidency, we decided to divide the presentation into three parts: 1) an introduction and greeting and getting to know each other; 2) an explanation of priesthood duties and assignments; and 3) the activity program of the deacons quorum.
Working together, we determined that the opening would involve the presidency first introducing themselves: who they were, and what they like to do; followed by the 11-year-old boy telling about himself and answering questions from the quorum leadership about school, family, interests, and what he likes to do for fun. We assisted the young men in deciding how to present priesthood assignments, opportunities for leadership positions, and spiritual growth. We also decided that having the deacons present their Scouting annual plan and where they were going for Scout camp would be a short, concise, yet exciting way to show the fun the EYO Scout would have being part of the troop, in comparison to what he did in the EYO patrol. We arranged a time to practice their presentation, and then began scheduling the 11-year-olds.
The results were amazing! When my 11-year-olds turned 12, they felt more at home joining the quorum because they had previously spent time with the deacons quorum presidency. They had met with young men their age and had been taught by young men instead of being taught by adults. This made a big difference. They learned to look to the deacons quorum for guidance versus looking to the adults. Further, it served to strengthen the patrol method for the troop because it was seen that the young men were in charge. Further, this made a big difference in the deacons who planned, coordinated, and conducted the meeting, helping them grow in stature and self-confidence.
To complete our program to prepare young men for the priesthood, we determined to take a fresh look at the Priesthood Preview program and find ways to strengthen the program. Following Church guidance, we agreed that we always wanted the deacons quorum presidency to attend and to have a speaking role. We also saw the value of the suggestion to hold Priesthood Preview as part of a special deacons quorum meeting held on Sunday evenings.
By strengthening the coordination between the Primary and the Young Men organization through a complete implementation of the Faith in God requirements for 11-year-olds, we were able to develop the leadership and abilities of the young men in the deacons quorum while giving our 11-year-olds a vision of what leadership looks like. It took effort on our part to develop and train the deacons, but the end results meant that the 11-year-olds were well prepared and excited about becoming deacons and the friendship and fellowship that would ensue. And the deacons better learned how to use their priesthood to better the lives of others.
Stan Stolpe has served in multiple Scouting positions at the unit, district, council, regional, and national levels in the U.S. and overseas. He resides in Alexandria, Virginia, serving in the Mount Vernon Virginia Stake. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.