Brotherhood. Duty. Spirit. Tradition.
No, it's not a marketing slogan for BYU football.
They are words that describe the purpose of attending general priesthood meeting, a semiannual event for male members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In "The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball," President Kimball says the purpose of general conference is to strengthen the members: "We meet together often in the church in conferences to worship the Lord, to feast upon the words of Christ, and to be built up in faith and testimony."
The priesthood session — broadcast to holders of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood (ages 12 and older) all over the world on Saturday at 6 p.m. (Mountain Daylight Time) — is no different. But there is an added element of bonding and brotherhood that should exist, according to Brad Wilcox, a former seminary teacher, mission president, popular speaker and LDS author.
"Part of the reason we go to priesthood isn't just to listen to the speakers. It is also to connect with the people sitting around us," Wilcox said. "If (priesthood holders) come in late, sit in the back, listen and leave early to beat the traffic, then they are kind of missing the point of the meeting."
Wilcox said most young men are dragged to the priesthood session by family members or local church leaders, sit with their heads down the whole time and can't wait to get out.
"If they could recognize there is more to it than that," Wilcox said.
Wilcox shared two ideas that might help young men prepare for a more engaging experience at general priesthood meeting.
First, he said, priesthood session is a great opportunity to find true heroes.
"Young men can find heroes among the prophets, but they can also find touchable heroes among the leaders attending the priesthood session," Wilcox said. "We don't talk during the meeting, but before and after the meeting, take a few minutes to talk with the people around you, to greet friends and people, and talk about a part you enjoyed or something you heard that was good."
One interesting question raised by Wilcox for young men to ponder is why general authorities travel from all over the world to gather at conference time.
"Why do they go to that expense? Why don't they just use a live video feed or connect by phone or computer? Why spend the money to travel all the way to Salt Lake City and be together?" Wilcox said. "Obviously there is something to be gained as they get together, fellowship and strengthen each other, as well as listen to talks. Maybe that is what is missing in priesthood meeting among young men."
The second idea suggested by Wilcox is to have a priesthood session tradition. Whether it is getting together for dinner, pie, ice cream sundaes or root beer floats, a simple tradition can make going to priesthood more fun.
For example, while the men in Elder Russell M. Nelson's family attend priesthood session, the Nelson women make doughnuts in preparation for their return. Then as everyone chomps, licks fingers and wipes mouths, the men share what they learned at priesthood meeting.
"It's a nice family tradition, symbolic of the fact that everything we learn and do as priesthood bearers should bless our families," Elder Nelson said in his April 1999 talk "Our Sacred Duty to Honor Women."
If you don't have a priesthood tradition, Wilcox encourages starting one.
"If you aren't part of a tradition, instead of feeling left out, start something yourself," he said. "Get together with friends, leaders or quorum members, and decide you are going to start something. Don't hesitate."
Anthony Sweat, another seminary teacher and LDS author, likes to challenge young men to listen to the messages and identify ways to better perform their priesthood duties.
"In priesthood session, a lot of the talks generally have a theme connected to duty," he said. "When I debrief with my seminary students about priesthood session, I usually ask them, 'What insights did you gain about your duty as a priesthood holder?' Or, 'As a result of going to priesthood session, what do you feel like you learned about how to be a better priesthood bearer?'"