It's the big day you've been waiting for. You and your spouse sit proudly in the church pew. Grandparents and family have traveled miles to attend. A member of the bishopric makes a few announcements and then asks your just-turned 12-year-old son to stand.
He says something like, "Our bishop has met with Mark and has found him worthy to receive the Aaronic Priesthood and be ordained to the office of a deacon." You raise your hand in agreement, beaming with humble pride.
Sometime later that day, you all pile into the bishop's office or a deacons quorum classroom. Worthy priesthood holders ordain him to become a deacon and his adventure begins.
You can't help but ask yourself: "Is he ready?"
Is he ready for such a big responsibility? Does he understand the importance of the priesthood? Does he know what will be expected of him as the newest member of the deacons quorum in your ward?
Working in the Young Men program in my ward, here are five things I've found most deacons will benefit from understanding before they receive the Aaronic Priesthood.
1. The Aaronic Priesthood is a big deal.
Complete with the "ministering of angels," the power of the Aaronic Priesthood is no small thing.
While the magnitude and importance of the Aaronic Priesthood should never scare a young man or keep him from being ordained, it's important that he understands that all priesthood (whether preparatory or not) is the literal power of God.
Said Elder Tad R. Callister: "The priesthood in the boy is just as powerful as the priesthood in the man when exercised in righteousness."
2. The priesthood is not about him.
Remember when you were 12? You stressed every morning if your hair was combed perfectly. You worried about what your friends thought of your clothes, the way you talked, the things you did.
Add to that the (relatively) new world of selfies, social media, and mobile devices and you've got a 12-year-old Narcissus on your hands.
But the priesthood is just opposite of that. The priesthood is meant to serve others. Point out to your prospective deacon that he will not even pass the sacrament to himself. He always partakes from someone else.
The priesthood is designed to selflessly bless the lives of others, and it's important for your deacon to understand he should avoid drawing attention to himself while fulfilling his priesthood responsibilities.
Help him understand how to avoid being a distraction when he is passing the sacrament. He can and should help the congregation focus on only two people in that moment: Jesus Christ and themselves.
3. A deacon has many important duties.
Once your 11-year-old turns 12 and receives the Aaronic Priesthood, his life in the Church is changed forever.
For the rest of his time on earth, he will be asked to use his priesthood to serve. Right out of the gate, deacons are given a lot of duties and responsibilities to attend to.
Major duties include but are not limited to:
• Living worthy to hold and exercise the priesthood
• Passing the sacrament
• Watching over the Church and its members
• Warning, expounding, exhorting, teaching and inviting all to come unto Christ.
• Caring for the poor and needy
• And many more.
That's a tall order for a pre-teen. But with the help of adult leaders and advisors plus fellow deacons, your son is bound to love it!
For full details on these duties and responsibilities, read the deacon section of the Church Handbook and the scriptures referenced therein.
4. 11-year-old Scouting is different from Mutual Activities
If your son has been an active Cub Scout and 11-year-old Scout, he'll notice a few major differences between Cub Scouts and Mutual on weeknights.
First of all, Scouting is a major part of the Aaronic Priesthood program (at least in the U.S.). That doesn't change.
Instead of afternoon activities with just other scouts his age, your son will now join other young men as old as 18 and (gulp) young women of all ages too for opening exercises most weeks. Prepare your son for the social changes that will inevitably come by interacting with additional youth.
5. The priesthood and the Church function under the direction of priesthood keys.
Last, but certainly not least, your son should understand the doctrinal importance and function of priesthood keys.
When 12- and 13-year-old deacons meet together for any sort of church activity, the deacon's quorum president presides, unless a bishopric member or higher authority is present.
That means the 12-year-olds are technically in charge.
The deacons quorum president can receive revelation about what kinds of activities to plan and who in the quorum needs help. They will conduct Scout meetings, ask quorum members to offer spiritual thoughts and prayers, organize fast offering and sacrament routes, and much more.
Helping your pre-deacon understand how priesthood keys work will be vital to his transition into being a priesthood holder.
These are just five of the many things your pre-deacon will need to learn about the priesthood, activity in the Church, working with peers, and serving others.
Just as importantly though, start small. Don't get overwhelmed or overwhelm your son all at once with all the things he needs to learn.
He's about to embark on the adventure of his life. Over the next six years, he'll slowly learn and grow, soon to become a worthy man in the Priesthood.
With the help of good leaders (both adult and youth) your deacon will grow and learn as he goes. Start with the tips we've listed above, throw in a little extra prayer, and lots of help from heaven and he'll be great.