President Faust told an interesting story about a ward that lost most of its Melchizedek priesthood holders (a military ward, perhaps?). The priests were left to run things.
Before, President Faust said, they had acted their age. They were slack and slovenly. Maybe they wrestled with doubts. Maybe they sloughed off churchgoing sometimes. But that all changed when the Melchizedek priesthood left. The priests got their own hometeaching routes. They took them seriously, and in turn they started to take ward problems seriously. Priest quorum turned into a real discussion of ways and means. President Faust says that the priests grew up, in maturity and in spirituality. The ward too. He says the members noted a unity they had not before experienced.
This same transformation in spirituality and maturity is fairly common among missionaries. In our ward the priests are pretty remarkable young men but they do their best to hide it. Only on cross-examination, for instance, can they be forced to confess to working on their Eagle. The new missionary in the ward, on the other hand, is quiet. He observes a lot. The veteran missionary is brash. He strides around introducing himself to people. He gently counsels and instructs if given half a chance.
The change is obvious. The reasons for the changes are obvious too. Part of it is that God makes the weak things strong. Part of it is that the human spirit responds to responsibility, to being the caregiver instead of the object of care. And part of it is that missionaries, and I imagine Faust’s priests too, get deference.
Let me explain that last remark a little. We often remark that missionary work puts an awful lot of responsibility on young male and female shoulders. We less often note that missionary work puts an awful lot of authority and respect on those same shoulders. Yet it does. If you think carefully, you’ll remember the unusual feeling from your own mission of having adults ask your advice and listen carefully to your counsel. You can also remember how it felt to have people feel obligated to help you when you asked, whether it be with rides or food or actually missionary work. Those were transformative feelings. The respect you recieved changed you as much as the responsibility did.
The formula God+respect+responsibility can work before the ages of nineteen and twenty-one, as President Faust instances. I wonder if there’s anyway to apply that formula to the youth? Too often the presidencies of quorums or the partnerships of adults are more training opportunites than they are real positions. If only we could arrange for the Melchizedek priesthood of every ward to disappear for awhile. We need some way to stop ministering to the youth and start letting the youth be ministers. If only it could be done.