Duty to God under way: Young men already realizing blessings
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In a few days, Brother Rhead Kelly will introduce himself to his new seminary students from Utah's Murray High School. Counted among the hundreds of teens in his classes will be many young men just a year away from full-time missionary service in all corners of the globe. Those future elders will be anxious to teach the gospel and share their testimonies — but will they know how and what to share?
Brother Kelly, who also serves as the stake Young Men president in the Layton Utah West Stake, believes the revised Duty to God program can help answer that question. The program and its "learn, act and share" pattern, he said, "will enhance a young man's ability to learn doctrine, to act on these things and to be able to testify with power."
The new Duty to God program is in its maiden days. Many wards and branches throughout the United States and Canada just recently passed out the program booklets to Aaronic Priesthood holders and began implementing their programs in their own quorums. Soon the program will be available in non-English speaking units across the world, and youth leaders are equally anxious for young men in places such as Mexico or South Africa to learn, act and report on their duty to the Lord.
David L. Beck, Young Men general president, spent the past week in Brazil and, yes, Duty to God anchors the message he's sharing with thousands of deacons, teachers and priests. In recent weeks he's also stood in front of thousands of LDS Scouts in uniform. Again, he's talked about the opportunities of Duty to God.
The Duty to God implementation process is ongoing — but already some units are realizing the potential and power of the revised program.
"It's not just a program [designed] to earn a reward, it's a way of becoming a priesthood man," said Raymond Cutler, the Young Men president in the Mueller Park 7th Ward, Bountiful Utah Mueller Park Stake. His bishop, Steve Barlow, shared his enthusiasm. "Things are going well."
Bishop Barlow used his ward's recent Duty to God kick-off program to teach the young men and their families that the revised program belongs to the boys. "We want Duty to God to be led and implemented by the young men."
Prior to the meeting, Bishop Barlow assigned a deacon, teacher and priest to study and "learn" one of the program's suggested gospel topics. The young men then participated in one of the "act" activities and "shared" what they had done at the implementation meeting. The teacher, for example, decided to learn about the keys of the priesthood. He followed the steps of the program and was able to stand in front of his peers and fellow members and share his testimony of the importance of priesthood keys.
Now the opening minutes of Aaronic Priesthood quorum meetings in the Mueller Park 7th Ward are dedicated to Duty to God. "It gives the young men an opportunity to share what they have learned about over the previous week through study and action," said Bishop Barlow.
The success of the program, he believes, will be determined by how often the young men can share and testify. Already one young man has shared his experience in organizing a temple excursion. Another shared his testimony of service after volunteering with his quorum at a local detox center.
Meanwhile, the priests in the ward are meeting their physical conditioning goals outlined in the program by training together for a strenuous 50-mile bicycle trek. "It's been a hoot," said 17-year-old Joseph Burns, the priest quorum's first assistant. "We've been going out together as a quorum and having fun."
The sharing moments during quorum meetings may cut into a few minutes of lesson time — and that's fine with Bishop Barlow, Brother Cutler and the other youth leaders.
"The thing I like most about the Duty to God program is being able share what I've done," said Joseph. "When we share something, we remember it more and it becomes more important for us."
Fifteen-year-old Francisco Olivo of West Jordan, Utah, agrees with Joseph, adding "it helps me get ready for my mission."
The revised Duty to God program, said Brother Cutler, "is an exciting program that's really going to strengthen testimonies." He echoed Bishop Barlow's belief that the boys must claim ownership of the program as they discover their personal duty to God through gospel study, action and testimony. It's essential, he added, that quorum leaders such as Joseph set the example for the other boys to follow.
It's been a few years since Brother Cutler belonged to an Aaronic Priesthood quorum — but that's not stopping him from taking part in the revised Duty to God program. "It's fun for us in the Melchizedek Priesthood to do these [learn, act and share] activities," he said.
Yes, a young man will be better prepared for full-time missionary work as he makes Duty to God a part of his life. But youth leaders say that is just one key byproduct of the revised program. It's also important that the program is not limited to quorums. Family home evening or gatherings around the family dinner table are perhaps the best forum for a young man to share what he has learned and acted on. "It's a program that's really going to strengthen families," said Brother Cutler.
Brother Kelly is eager to invite young men in his seminary class to share their Duty to God experiences. He noted that seminary students are already being asked to search, analyze and apply the scriptures, and then explain, share and testify of what they have learned. The revised Duty to God program will only reinforce that pattern of learning then sharing with others.
"Duty to God is exciting because the young men are not focusing on a checklist [of requirements]," he said. "The young men have a chance to develop what's important to them."
In a recent Church News interview, Brother Beck said a well-implemented program will allow a young man to seek inspiration and strength from his Heavenly Father and gain understanding of what He would have him do.
"From age 12, a boy starts developing outlines of key doctrines and then has opportunities to teach these doctrines, be it with his parents, in sacrament meeting, in Mutual opening exercises or in a quorum setting."