Movin’ on up

Traipsing up the corporate priesthood ladder from Deacon to Elder is pretty regimented: 12, 14, 16, then 18 or 19 or so. But the jump to High Priests is different. You have to be called to a calling that requires becoming a High Priest to actually become one.

This can be a little bit awkward when you continue to age but you never receive a HP-level calling, and are unlikely ever to be called to such a position.

I remember my own father went through this. He claimed that one should be happy to be an elder for as long as possible, as becoming a HP was pretty much a precursor to the end of your life. But maybe that was just sour grapes for never being formally made a HP himself.

I like meeting with the elders; I’m young at heart and am happy to hang with the younger guys. But I’m 51 years old and old enough to be the father of most of them. And I am the only guy in there with such a significant age discrepancy.

A few years ago the bishop told me I was welcome to meet with the HPs if I wanted. I appreciated the gesture, but I was fine where I was.

Well, they finally took it upon themselves to go ahead and draft me into the group. This time they didn’t ask, they just pulled the trigger. I’m now in the HP hometeaching system. And they did a smart thing to seal the deal; they asked me to teach a lesson. I’m a sucker for lesson-teaching.

They wanted me to do a lesson on Elder Holland’s talk from Spring Conference this year on the Atonement. I chuckled, since I had blogged on that talk here. So I printed out the talk and my blog, and then I had them read extracts from the talk, which I followed with my contemporaneous commentary from the blog, followed by discussion. And there was a lot of good discussion. I thought it ended up being a good lesson.

So I guess the deed is done. Technically I’m still, in the words of BRM, “only an elder,” but in practice I’m now part of the HP group. And I’m fine with that. And after the football season’s over, maybe I’ll actually start to attend on a regular basis.


  1. Congrats.

    One would think that being a high priest is of some importance, or we wouldn’t call it “high” priest. You’re not supposed to be just a priest, after all. I like that the high priest designation doesn’t just come to someone but for them having an important calling. It implies that those individuals have taken upon themselves greater responsibilities within the church. It’s funny though, because I think all three members of our bishopric are younger than me, and it is odd to think of them as high priests.

  2. My impression is that becoming a high priest isn’t calling dependent. Sometimes it just happens. Is that wrong?

  3. Kevin,
    For the Bears, the season is already over, isn’t it?


  4. Yes, John C–my father was made an HP without any particular calling association.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    Too true, Scott, too true. The Bears have been a huge disappointment.

    Someone told me the calling-dependent thing, but I have no independent knowledge about it. I don’t doubt that there are counterexamples, but in any event it’s not the same kind of regimented thing as becoming an elder is.

  6. My dad was in his late 60s before he was finally “drafted” — he seemed to grow into himself when that happened, like he was finally accepted (whether by God, or by his peers, I do not know).

    A man who is willing to accept those obligations but is never called to them, and who continues to faithfully meet with much younger men and participate in their activities and programs, is an impressive model of humility, I think. I’m a lot more impressed by an old man among the elders than a young man among the high priests. (Not that you’re old, Kevin — you’re a bare one year older than me, and I’m, um, not old.)

  7. Back in the day, they used to automatically ordain men of a certain age. As I understand it, at some point (I think probably 10 or 15 years ago) the Powers That Be decided that while Elders of a certain age could or should meet with the High Priests, they are not to be ordained unless there is a calling that requires it.

  8. It would be an honor to have Kevin in my quorum.

  9. Stapley’s right, they used to draft the old timers in, but now its requires a calling to be ordained. I made it to HP at the age of 32 by nepotism. My Father-in-Law was HPGL and thought I would make a good assistant. I don’t know if I was a good HPGL assistant or not, but luckily the Bishop called me as a ward clerk shortly after that so I had an excuse to sit out the strange discussions about grandkids that didn’t apply to me (sadly not every group gets a Kevin Barney as instructor), by getting some real work done in the Clerk’s Office. May that perfect calling never end, knock on MLS.

  10. In our ward, all the men over a certain age (40, I think) attend the HP.

  11. Last Lemming says:

    Move into a ward with a small leadership pool. They’ll make you a High Priest in no time flat.

  12. Mike Parker says:

    Being ordained a high priest at a (comparatively) young age ain’t no picnic, either. I was surprised when my stake president called me in and extended the office to me. I was 38 years old. I was not called to a position that required the ordination, and have not in the intervening three years.

    I’ve since moved to a new stake, and meet with men who are all at least 20 years my senior. It’s been very difficult to make personal friends in my ward — high priests are my Sunday social group, but I have little in common with them personally.

    I don’t regret being ordained (my father was able to do it, and my mother was present for it before dying of cancer two years later), but it’s had its challenges.

  13. Just a thought on “Movin’ on Up”. I used to think I wanted DH to “move up” in the church – I guess because I thought it would signify our commitment to service in the gospel or something. After 2 years of him just being in the Bishopric, I think I’m done. No more hopes of “moving up” for me. I just want us to be called to team teach together on Sundays or something. I guess I didn’t quite get that many callings mean husband gone ALL the time while wife is left alone to raise kids. So not my idea of a happy family.

  14. Mike’s right–it can be a little awkward being the youngest in the group by several decades. While there is one brother in my group who is merely 10 years my senior, he’s always been either away on High Council business (before) or with the young men (his current calling).

    Even more exciting was attending High Priest Quorum Meeting. Every time I thought I’d found a man with a decade of my age, I’d notice subtle indicators of age that suggested I was far off. Any attempt on my part to blend in was additionally futile since I had come straight from my orchestra concert wearing a tuxedo.

    Teaching high priest group lessons is a riot, though, especially when I mention something relating to young children and then tack on “or grandchildren.” I must say, however, that I’m extremely fortunate, for while I haven’t actually hung out outside of church with group members, I have become good friends with some very wise and experienced men.

  15. *within

  16. My High Priest Group actually has a lot of thirty-something High Priests due to a thirty-something Bishop who called a lot of young counselors during his time. The current Group Leader is now only a year older than me and there is one High Priest younger than me and I’m 34.

    I’m not actually sure what the difference is other than a few separate responsibilities with regard to the Perspective Elders and widows in the ward. High Priests tend to be more involved in Temple work, but that is mainly just the geezers cramming for finals. High Priests in my ward tend to get 6-8 families to Hometeach while the Elders average about 3. It would be much worse if we didn’t have so many young HP’s so that is a blessing.

  17. Jim Donaldson says:

    I’m one of those who, because of an acute leadership deficit in the inner city ward we moved into right after I married, was a high priest at 27; weirdly, my father, at age 60, at the same time, was the elder’s quorum president in the suburban ward I in which I grew up. He couldn’t ordain me.

  18. That seems like that would be a hard age or calling division. As a 40 year old sister, I’d hate if we had such a age rift in RS, ie if I only met w/sisters in RS in their 20s.

    My dad isn’t a member of the Church though he often attends, I’m grateful to both their last ward and current ward for welcoming him to attend their HP class..

  19. Alan LeBaron says:

    Fwiw: Church Handbook of Instructions 2006, pp 40:
    ” Brethern are ordained high priests when they are called to a stake presidency, high council, or bishopric or when otherwise determined by the stake president.” As mentioned above, you can be ordained a high priest without a calling.

  20. My father was made a high priest maybe five years ago–and not because of his calling. He lives in a robust Utah ward, and has spent most of his life in Scouting and Young Men, and I guess the stake leadership felt it was silly to leave him an Elder at the age of 50-something, but they wanted him to continue working with the youth.
    So, at least as of five years ago, you can be ordained a high priest without a high-priest-specific calling.
    Other members of that ward asked to move on when they reached a certain age. I believe they were actually made high priests. So if it seems like you’re stuck with the younger Elders, it can’t hurt to ask to move on.
    We have the opposite problem in my current ward. A guy who was EQ President just two or three years ago was made Stake Executive Secretary, and thus made HP, even though he’s in his early 30s and still a student. Our tiny EQ misses him.

  21. Kim Siever says:

    The funny thing about my ward is that everyone my age is a high priest already. In fact, two of the bishopric are younger than I am (I am in my late 30s). There are only four elders who are older than I am and who regularly come out; one of them was recently called as HPG secretary.

    I’m not as old as Kevin, but circumstances would make it real easy to want to be a high priest. I am fine where I am though. I would be happy as an elder for the rest of my life. I think I have something to offer this quorum of such young elders, particularly serving 7 years in the presidency (6 as president).

  22. It is gratifying to read the sentiments expressed, since I am in the same situation- mid forties and in the EQP again for a second time. Its hard not to think of yourself as damaged goods- the only Elders older than me are divorced, have had multiple marriages or have some other social ills. Its difficult to carry on when the Stake President’s wife remarks how wonderful it is that there are so many “young high preists” in our ward, implying how worthy they must be.

  23. Our Utah ward recently set apart two men to HP without new callings; they both seem to be about 50, although I don’t know if they just hit a milestone birthday or not.
    I’ve wondered the same thing about my own husband, one of the older elders in our ward at 40.

  24. From the combined priesthood meetings I’ve attended the only difference between HP and EQ is the number of people sleeping during the lesson.

  25. Blaue Blume says:

    I was ordained a High Priest at the age of 23 in 1965 when I was called as a counselor in a university ward bishopric. Later, as a young married couple, my wife and I attended a down town Salt Lake City Ward where the High Priest Group instructor was 83, the group leader was in his late seventies and there was not another High Priest younger than fifty. We had our first child in that ward, which was apparently an unusual occurrance. All the elderly wives and widows gathered around my wife on the first Sunday we brought Stephanie to church. Eudora Widtsoe Durham, known for her brashness, commented to my wife, “Well, looking at this baby we know who you’ve been messing around with!” My wife tuned every shade of red. Being a High Priest at such a young age allowed us little association with our natural age group, something we have discussed with some regret.

  26. mormoninvestigator says:

    #13 do callings typically have the husband/father spending a great deal away from home? That wouldn’t seem to be beneficial for the whole family oriented theme of the LDS church. Currently I do very little outside the home other than work, I spend most of my time with wife and family and wouldn’t change that for the world…callings would change that I suppose but to what extent? Anyone?

  27. Kevin Barney says:

    No. 26, most callings aren’t that big of a deal. I’m the stake community relations person, which basically means I attend a meeting once a month and do follow up on various community outreach initiatives.

    But there are a handful of leadership-type callings that do require a substantial time commitment, the most obvious examples being bishop and Relief Society President.

    Even in those cases, the amount of time you put into it is to some extent up to you. Such callings could easily absorb all of your discretionary time if one were to let them.

  28. By the Rules says:

    I am under the impression that in a properly run Ward, there is an annual audit of the Mebership Clerk resonsibilities by the Stake. A line item of that audit is to have the Bishop review the members of the EQ and recommend any Elders that should be considered for HP.

  29. Re 26 & 27 – Yes, only a relatively few percentage of callings demand substantial amounts of time.

    Even in those cases, the amount of time you put into it is to some extent up to you. Such callings could easily absorb all of your discretionary time if one were to let them.

    True, but there’s still a minimum amount of time required that is a LOT for a family with young children.

    mormoninvestigator, I wouldn’t consider this a reason not to join the church. There really aren’t that many callings that are so consuming.

  30. My brother was called into a HC (and thus made an HP) when he was a doctoral student at 26. I know he hated it.

    I look at my ward, with dozens and dozens of elders older than me (I’m on the cusp of middle-age?) and I am reminded that most of the time, becoming an HP is all about ward demographics…

  31. I am still an elder at 46. Currently serve as ward clerk, married in temple 3 kids, never miss a meeting and pay full tithing, there for every move, etc. I have watched over the years as younger men advance to HP. Currently the oldest elder in my quorum and honestly it just frosts me. I know it shouldn’t but it seems becoming a HP in my ward has more to do with your last name and who you know. I am honestly considering inactivity because sitting in a quorum with men young enough to be my own children is becoming increasingly awkward.

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