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With the appearance 167 years ago this month of John the Baptist to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, a light pierced the darkness that had prevailed for centuries. The resurrected John conferred upon them the priesthood of Aaron, a seminal event that culminated in salvation and blessings to millions of God's children.

John the Baptist's appearance on May 15, 1829, was followed a short time later by the appearance of Peter, James and John, who conferred the Melchizedek Priesthood upon Joseph and Oliver.Quorums throughout the Church are remembering the restoration of the priesthood this month with activities and commemorative meetings. But the event is observed in no better way than the exercise of priesthood authority for the purpose for which it was intended - to bless others.

The following incident illustrates that.

For years two men had been professional colleagues. Through their long-time association, a friendship had developed. Now, they were to share an experience that would deepen their relationship into a brotherhood.

One of the men, a stake president's counselor, had been asked to come to the hospital to give a priesthood blessing to a neighbor. The man, whose Church activity had waned for several years, had suffered a recent heart attack and now required surgery. He and his wife longed for the comfort and hope they knew the priesthood could bring.

Unable on short notice to find a ward or stake member available to accompany him to the hospital and participate in giving the blessing, the stake president's counselor invited his co-worker. Though not acquainted with the neighbor, the colleague felt honored and grateful for the privilege to exercise his priesthood power in the way it was meant to be used - to serve others. And toward his friend, he felt the kind of bond that only comes to those who labor together in the Master's service.

The incident, though not unusual to priesthood holders, illustrates the beauty that attends priesthood service. Through priesthood ordination, Christ invites worthy men to join Him in succoring the weak, lifting up the hands which hang down, and strengthening the feeble knees. (See Heb. 12:12 and D&C 81:5.)

When men respond properly to the invitation, love is fostered between them and those whom they serve as well as those with whom they serve.

To those who join Him in His ministry, the Master applies the term friends in its most sublime sense. (Please see "Viewpoint," page 16.) From John 15:13-15, it is clear that to the Master the word friend has an even more blessed connotation than servant, because it implies a bond of mutual love.

Such friendship and brotherhood is formalized in the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood quorum, where priesthood holders draw strength from one another in a synergistic effort to bless lives. On a smaller scale, home teaching partners strengthen each other in the two-by-two arrangement the Lord established for missionary work. (Please see related article on page 14.)

An example of strengthening priesthood brotherhood, in connection with commemoration of the restoration of the priesthood, was a May 10-11 outing in the Las Cruces New Mexico Stake.

About 90 Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood holders gathered in the mountains northeast of Las Cruces to enjoy fellowship, participate in devotionals and training concerning their duties, and to clean up the four-stake recreational property where they met.

Several non-member young men also participated in the event with the missionaries by whom they were being taught.

"We were thrilled to see so many young men there with their fathers," said stake Pres. Boyden E. Lee. "We thought this would be an excellent opportunity to strengthen the bonds between fathers and sons. It also provided a great way for the youth to draw close to their bishops, branch presidents and other leaders. Our leaders do what they can to support parents in teaching and encouraging their young people, and these types of activities help in that regard.

"It was nice to include some time for service in the weekend. We try to include a service component in the activities we do. Assisting others is really the essence of what the priesthood is all about."