On Dec. 14, 2017, the First Presidency sent a letter to priesthood leaders. In it they announced that “under the direction of the temple presidency, ordained priests may be asked to officiate in baptisms for the dead, including performing baptisms and serving as witnesses.”
Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé declared: “The Aaronic Priesthood is more than just an age group, a teaching or activity program, or even a term to designate the young men of the Church. It is power and authority to participate in the great work of saving souls — both the souls of those young men who hold it and the souls of those they serve. Let us put the Aaronic Priesthood in its rightful place, a choice place — a place of service, preparation, and accomplishment for all the young men of the Church” (“Prepare the Way,” April 2017 general conference).
Saving the souls of Aaronic Priesthood holders
Greater opportunities to serve in the temple by performing baptisms and being witnesses will gently encourage more young men to be worthy of a current temple recommend and to attend the temple more often. These acts of faith will open the windows of heaven and give young men greater opportunities to feel the Holy Ghost and have spiritual experiences.
Elder Donald L. Hallstrom, General Authority Seventy, recently taught: “We have come to understand that the greatest predictor of spiritual success — measured by ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood, receiving the endowment, serving a mission, marriage in the temple and raising a righteous family — is for a young man or a young woman to have personal spiritual experiences in their youth — for them to feel the influence of the Holy Spirit” (“The Conversion of the Children of God” Church Educational System training broadcast, June 13, 2017). Inviting worthy young men to step out of the world more often and enter the house of the Lord, focused on serving and blessing others, is a powerful way to allow these spiritual experiences to occur.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles declared: “I invite the young people of the Church to learn about and experience the spirit of Elijah. I encourage you to study, to search out your ancestors, and to prepare yourselves to perform proxy baptisms in the house of the Lord for your kindred dead.” He then promised the following blessings as the youth act in faith on this invitation: “Your testimony of and conversion to the Savior will become deep and abiding. And I promise you will be protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary. As you participate in and love this holy work, you will be safeguarded in your youth and throughout your lives” (“The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn,” October 2011 general conference). What a powerful promise from a prophet, seer and revelator!
Recently a young priest who officiated in the temple baptistry testified in sacrament meeting of the powerful spirit he felt through that service and of the additional excitement he now felt to prepare for and serve a full-time mission. As more young men experience the blessing and power of performing vicarious baptisms in the house of the Lord, they too will experience such spiritual promptings to prepare diligently for and serve faithful full-time missions. In turn, this spiritual chain reaction of a deeper conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ will enlarge their capacities to become more righteous husbands and fathers. And as the Lord promised, they will bring salvation to their own soul (see Doctrine and Covenants 4:4).
Saving the souls of those they serve
In many places, the youth have responded in greater numbers to the invitation to engage in family history and temple work with increased faith and have gone to the temple with their own family names. The delightful dilemma seen in some temples since Jan. 1 is typified by lines of young men and women waiting to enter the temple to baptize and be baptized in behalf of ancestors awaiting that deliverance from spirit prison. Moreover, as more worthy young men and women from less-active or nonmember homes serve in the house of the Lord, they will bring a powerful spirit home with them, thereby blessing their families by extension. In these ways, multigenerational families of faith are expanded on either side of the veil. We envision their powerful influence on friends to come back or be baptized as the youth share their testimonies with others. We anticipate that more young men will enter the mission field better prepared and spiritually stronger, having fulfilled their Aaronic Priesthood duty by baptizing and being baptized in the temple. We see many more people invited with increased authority and greater power to come unto Christ by these missionaries because of their pre-mission temple and family history experiences.
The Savior is hastening His work on both sides of the veil as each Aaronic Priesthood holder is given even greater responsibility and opportunity in the temple to “learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence” (Doctrine and Covenants 107:99).