In the 107th section of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord reveals the order and duties of the priesthood. He explains that "the duty of a president over the office of a deacon is… to teach them (the members of his quorum) their duty" And this is the same responsibility that the president of each of the quorums have, including the Teachers, Priests, Elders, High Priests, and Seventies (verses 85 -89).
In priesthood meetings, after the opening exercise of singing a hymn and the giving of announcements, each quorum then retires to their own room where they conduct their own quorum business which involves discussing activities that pertain to that particular quorum. After that there is a lesson in accordance with the direction given in the 107th section of the D&C. The purpose of these lessons is to teach the members of the quorum their duties.
But there is nothing special about this. During the Sacrament meeting besides prayers and the singing of hymns, there are announcements made, ward business is conducted, the emblems of Christ's atonement is taken, and talks are given. In other Christian churches, the pastor, priest, Rabbi, or other spiritual leader gives a sermon but in the LDS Church members give "talks" which are similar in nature to "sermons." In both priesthood and Sacrament meetings, the purpose of these is the same -- to teach the members gospel principles.
After Sacrament meeting comes Sunday school where people again sit through another lesson on the gospel. When that segment of meetings is over, the members go to yet a third meeting where they are further instructed in the gospel.
In Sacrament meeting every member of the ward, including small children and babies, attends and sits together in a room referred to as the chapel. In the second meeting, everyone attends Sunday School except this time people break up into smaller groups according to their age. Young children under the age of twelve go to Primary, the youth, from age twelve to eighteen, go to individual classes where people of the same age meet together, all adults attend a Gospel Doctrine class, while those who are new to the church and are seeking to gain a better understanding of the fundamentals of the gospel meet together in Gospel Principles class.
When Sunday School is over every member of the ward attends yet another meeting. The adult women go to the Relief Society meeting, the young women, from age twelve to eighteen, meet together, while all the men, age twelve and up attend Priesthood meeting. As mentioned before, after an opening exercise, these men break into smaller groups consisting of Deacons, Teachers, Priests, Elders, and High Priests In each of these various groups the member are once more taught the gospel.
What we see, then, is that the time we spend worshipping God on Sunday at church is mostly occupied with being taught about Jesus Christ and His gospel. In Sacrament meeting the time allotted for teaching from the pulpit is approximately thirty to forty minutes, and the same is true for both of the remaining two meetings. That means that out of three hours spent at church each Sunday, members of the LDS Church spend a minimum of an hour and a half being taught. There is no other activity in the Church that comes close to devoting that much time to one particular activity.
But that is not all. Twice a year we have a General Conference where, for two full days, the leading authorities of the Church do nothing but teach the members in general and there is also a General Relief Society meeting that precedes General Conference where the teaching is directed towards the needs of women. In addition to this there are Stake Conferences held twice a year in every stake, and there are general stake priesthood meeting as well as stake priesthood leadership meetings. When viewed in this light it can easily be seen the importance that the LDS Church puts on teaching the gospel.
When Jesus started His mortal ministry he went about healing the sick of all manner of disease, raising the dead, casting out devils, and feeding the multitudes who came to hear him. As part of His mission He organized a church, calling apostles and seventies who would eventually lead it when He was gone. Yet, of all the things He did, His primary purpose for coming to earth was to offer Himself up as a sacrifice for our sins which included the shedding of His blood and dying for our sins.
But, while all of these things were important, what Jesus spent most of His time doing was teaching the gospel. As essential as His atoning sacrifice was, it was accomplished in three days, from the time He was arrested in Gethsemane to the time He rose from the grave. Yet, He spent nearly three years going about, not only teaching in the countryside, in the city, and in the temple but He also spent considerable time in private teaching and training His closest disciples to prepare them to someday take over His ministry. Just before He ascended into heaven He commanded His disciples to go "and teach all nations… teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19,20). Even while His body lay in the grave, "he went and preached unto the spirits in prison" (1 Peter 3:19).
When Jesus appeared to the Nephites after His resurrection He spent two full days not only teaching the multitudes but also instructing the twelve disciples whom He had chosen to lead the Nephite church of Christ. Furthermore, He told the Nephites that when He was through speaking to them He had "to show (Himself) unto the lost tribes of Israel" ((3 Nephi 17:4) where he would teach them the gospel.
If teaching the gospel is so important to Jesus that he spent the greatest amount of His time performing that duty, then teaching and learning the gospel should occupy a significant portion of our time if we are to call ourselves followers of Christ. If the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spends so much of its worship time in teaching the gospel, then it must be something significantly essential for our salvation.
But, with all the teaching that goes on in the LDS Church, most people can't remember what was taught in Sacrament meeting, or Sunday School, or priesthood or Relief Society in the previous Sunday. If that is the case, then they can't be getting much benefit from all of the teaching that is being provided for them. And of those who do remember something of what was taught during the prior Sunday, only a small percentage actually consciously strives to incorporate the information they learned into their life so they can become a better Christian.
However, if teaching the gospel is performed in every meeting of the Church, then what is the purpose of the priesthood being organized into quorums? Obviously, as important as teaching the gospel is, that cannot be the sole reason for having a quorum. Therefore, the purpose of a quorum meeting cannot be the same as the purpose of having a quorum. In other words, holding a quorum meeting is only one aspect of what a quorum is designed to do. Whereas it is vitally important for priesthood holders to understand what their responsibilities are, being part of a priesthood quorum involves more than just being taught their duty.
Yet, for many priesthood holders, especially among adult members, belonging to a quorum means attending priesthood meeting once a week where they are instructed in the gospel for thirty minutes and then they go home. But if that is true then there is no reason for priesthood holders to be organized into quorums.
This becomes even more obvious when we realize that the lesson manual for the Elders Quorum, High Priests Group, and Relief Society is the same for all of them. And if that is the case, then why should they be separated into different groups?
The obvious answer is that each of these groups of people have a different function to perform and, even though each week they are all learning the same gospel lesson, that lesson is being applied differently to each group. If that is true then that leads to the question: What is the purpose of a priesthood quorum?
To answer that question we need to understand the purpose of the priesthood.
There are several definitions of the priesthood, each highlighting a different aspect of it. One definition is that the priesthood is the power by which the ordinances of salvation are administered. In simpler terms, this means that the priesthood is what God uses to help save mankind or, put another way, the priesthood is serving others in behalf of God.
When Jesus walked the earth He used His priesthood to heal the sick, raise the dead, and feed the multitudes. Although these acts didn't bring about anyone's eternal spiritual salvation it did provide those afflicted with physical ailments with some much needed salvation from their temporal problems.
After eating His last meal in mortality, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples and then taught them saying, "I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily I say unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord" (John 13:15,16). His message was that no matter what position we hold in the Church, it is a position of service. At another time Jesus taught, "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more" (Luke 12:48).
Considering how many men there are in the world today and how few of them hold the true priesthood of God, it becomes obvious that all priesthood holders are special men. And it is because of this that they have had much committed unto them. Yet, as special as it is to hold the priesthood, there is much required of them and God will ask more of them than He will of others. If the purpose of the priesthood is to serve others in behalf of God, then all priesthood holders are not just expected to serve but are required to serve more than those who don't hold the priesthood.
If the purpose of the priesthood is to serve then the purpose of a priesthood quorum is to organize men into groups where their combined numbers allows them to work together in ways where they can perform more service than they could do as individuals.
It is good for people to perform acts of kindness and show compassion to our neighbor who is in need, whether they are members of our faith or not. It is also good to do acts of charity for those who are less fortunate than ourselves, but a person doesn't need the priesthood to do that. There are many organizations that care for the poor and help the needy who may not even be Christian, especially in foreign countries.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was established to accomplish four things - preach the gospel, redeem the dead, perfect the saints, and care for the poor and needy. The purpose of giving men the priesthood is to help the Lord accomplish these four purposes, each of which effect's a person's eternal salvation in some way.
When we talk about preaching the gospel, we generally think of young men and women going from door to door asking people if they can tell them about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ but the responsibility to do missionary work is not just reserved exclusively to them but all members, both men and women, also share in that same responsibility.
As such, priesthood quorums especially have the duty to organize themselves in a way that will give aid in this work. Many quorums do this by assigning their priesthood members to go out with the fulltime missionaries, providing rides for them and assisting them in teaching the discussions, often times bearing their own testimony about the Church.
Redeeming the dead involves doing temple work for those who have died without having the chance to accept the gospel. Closely associated with this is doing family history work commonly referred to as genealogy. Although both men and women participate in both of these activities, priesthood quorums have a greater responsibility to take the lead in encouraging and performing this vital work in behalf of deceased family members.
Perfecting the saints is done on several different levels but one way is by teaching the gospel. The most common calling in the Church is that of a teacher but every priesthood holder, from a Deacon to a High Priest, is a teacher or, at least, should be. The priesthood grants the holder the authority to act in the name of Christ and the one thing Christ did more than any other was teach the gospel.
But there are other ways people become perfected than just being preached to. The Lord spoke specifically to priesthood holders when he said that part of their duty was to "visit the house of each member and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and to attend to all family duties" (D&C 20:47). We refer to this as Home Teaching where priesthood holders are assigned a certain number of families to visit at least once each month and watch over them and help them to stay strong in the gospel. These assignments are made according to quorums.
At times certain families may have needs that the home teacher cannot meet. When that happens, the quorum leadership steps in to help provide the needed assistance. Some of those needs may include caring for the poor and needy families who are under the supervision of a priesthood quorum. In fact, one of the purposes of home teachers is to determine if the families they are assigned to visit are struggling financially, physically, emotionally, or spiritually and, if so, to care for them.
But caring for the poor and needy is not just confined to members of the LDS Church. Quorum members can assist those in their communities as well, sometimes working with other civic groups or churches. In this way the quorum can care for more people as they work together to serve others.
During times of damage caused by hurricanes, floods, power outages, and other disasters, both natural and man-made, priesthood quorum members go into action to help others. Word is passed to the priesthood leaders who are kept appraised of where help is needed which enables them to coordinate the quorum's resources, making sure needed supplies and manpower are quickly delivered to the appropriate locations.
While it is important for priesthood holders to be taught what their duty is, it is much more important for them to do their duty. While the purpose of a quorum meeting is to instruct priesthood holders, the purpose of a quorum is to provide the mechanism that will allow them to fulfill their priesthood duty. It isn't enough for individual members of the Church to do personal acts of kindness, compassion, and charity. By organizing the priesthood into quorums, the Lord has provided the means by which those who hold His priesthood can better assist Him in carrying out the work of salvation.