“Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” was Jesus’ response to His worried parents when they found Him sitting in the temple “hearing and asking questions.” Jesus was 12 years old. Our kind, loving Heavenly Father has given us all the opportunity to join in His work of salvation. We help as we serve in our families, congregations and in the temple.
The First Presidency recently announced changes to temple policies that give young men and young women of the Church more opportunities for temple service. They also announced a new Temple and Priesthood Preparation Meeting that will include 11-year-old girls and boys with their parents. This meeting will replace the yearly Priesthood Preview.
Speaking to young people, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “Much of the heavy lifting in hastening the work of salvation for the living and the dead will be done by you young people” (“Roots and Branches,” April 2014 general conference).
The rising generation is coming “to this earth with important responsibilities and great spiritual capacities,” Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught. “We cannot be casual in how we prepare them” (“Tell Me the Stories of Jesus,” April 2009 general conference).
Where do we begin in planning for the new Temple and Priesthood Preparation Meeting? President Russell M. Nelson recently taught us that we “begin with the end in mind.” The purpose of this meeting is to help “children understand the blessings of temple service, priesthood service, and making and keeping sacred covenants.”
There are helpful resources listed on lds.org that include general guidelines, scriptures, talks, and ideas for possible topics of instruction. They will provide a solid background as we prayerfully seek the guidance of the Spirit to know how to prepare the children in our wards and branches.
The work of salvation is a priesthood directed work. One of the possible topics for Temple and Priesthood Preparation is teaching about “priesthood purposes, responsibilities, ordinances, and blessings.” Girls and boys receive this instruction together. When speaking about the keys and authority of the priesthood, President Dallin H. Oaks said, “These subjects are of equal concern to men and women. Priesthood power blesses all of us. Priesthood keys direct women as well as men, and priesthood ordinances and priesthood authority pertain to women as well as men” (“The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood,” April 2014 general conference).
Young boys and young girls alike “have been the beneficiaries of priesthood power already in their lives. When they were baptized, that’s a priesthood ordinance. Now they can draw on the power that comes through that ordinance” Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president, taught (“How to Help Young Women see their Value in the Church,” lds.org/blog, Oct. 25 2017).
When boys and girls turn 12, they may have the opportunity of serving in a class or quorum presidency. They will both need to understand what President Dallin H. Oaks taught: “Whoever functions in an office or calling from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing his or her assigned duties” (April 2014 general conference).
With this understanding they will be prepared to serve and care for the members of their classes or quorums. Parents and leaders may want to review “Priesthood Principles” found in section 2 of Handbook 2. This section has foundational doctrine pertaining to priesthood authority, keys, ordinances, covenants and the use of priesthood authority.
Understanding priesthood principles will help children understand the purpose and nature of temple covenants, blessings and service. When they turn 12 they will have the opportunity of receiving a “limited-use temple recommend and worthily participate in proxy baptisms as their circumstances allow” (lds.org/Primary).
Children can be taught early that “because the temple is the house of the Lord, standards for admission are set by Him. One enters as His guest” (President Russell M. Nelson, April 2001 general conference). We can prepare children for temple service by helping them see that keeping their baptismal covenant is a protection and will help them be worthy to enter the house of the Lord.
There are real blessings awaiting children as they prepare for temple service. They can know without question that they are sons and daughters of God. They can be reminded of why they are here. They can feel Heavenly Father’s love for them, and they can have a desire to obey His will. They will be able to resist sin as they keep their eyes and hearts focused on the Savior and His house. And they can be nourished every step of the way by their covenants as they progress on the covenant path.
The Temple and Priesthood Preparation Meeting can set the stage for further learning in family home evening, sharing time, class lessons and activities. President Russell M. Nelson has taught, “The basis for every temple ordinance and covenant — the heart of the plan of salvation — is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Every activity, every lesson, all we do in the Church, point to the Lord and His holy house” (“Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings,” April 2001 general conference).
Not much is known about Jesus’ childhood when he was preparing to “be about [his] father’s business.” However, in Luke we read that he “waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom” (Luke 2:40). Our children can have similar blessings as they prepare for temple and priesthood responsibilities. May we be earnest and diligent in our efforts to help them.