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In the LDS Church, some offices in the Priesthood have minimum age requirements:

  • A deacon must be at least 12 years old
  • A teacher must be at least 14 years old
  • A priest must be at least 16 years old
  • An elder must be at least 18 years old

I am wondering, what is the history of these age requirements?

  • 3
    The ages have been adjusted slightly – as of January 2019, a young man can advance to the next Aaronic Priesthood office in January of the year he turns 12, 14, or 16. mormonnewsroom.org/article/… – Samuel Bradshaw Dec 14 '18 at 16:30
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Originally there was no age requirements mentioned when Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received the Aaronic Priesthood on May 15, 1829.1 Doctrine and Covenants also do not mention a specific age.2 It was a custom early on in the church to generally only ordain adult males, only allowing a small number of youths, but there was no specific doctrine or regulation.4

The first age requirements came about in 1909. At the request of President Joseph F. Smith a General Priesthood Committee was organized in 1906 (which lasted until 1922) to prepare lesson outlines for the various quorums.

The committee initially included Rudger Clawson and David O. Mckay of the Council of the twelve, plus Charles W. Nibley, Orrin P. Miller, and David A. Smith of the Presiding Bishopric. It was soon enlarged to nearly twenty members, half of whom brought with them valuable experience as general board member of the Sunday school, the YMMIA(Young Men's Mutual Improvement Association...eliminated 1974), and religion classes.

...

But before appropriate lessons could be written for each quorum, the Committee found it necessary to establish age groupings for the lesser priesthood. After 1877 it had been customary in the Church for boys at age twelve to be ordained deacons. But standard age practices for ordaining teachers or priests, or for advancing young men through the priesthood were lacking. The Committee therefore suggested specific ages at which specific Aaronic Priesthood ordinations should occur. Bishops were then instructed by the Presiding Bishopric to advance boys when worthy,

and unless there are special reasons to the contrary they should be advanced in the priesthood from deacon to teacher and from teacher to priest. There can be no set age when persons should be ordained to the various offices in the Aaronic Priesthood, but we suggest that as near as circumstances will permit boys be ordained as follows: Deacons at twelve, Teachers at fifteen and Priests at eighteen years of age.3

Further age changes can be seen through 1970 where they have remained unchanged to present.4

            Table 1
Changes in Age of Ordination, 1908-70

Year Deacon Teacher Priest Elder
1908   12     15      18    21
1925   12     15      17    20
1934   12     15      17    19
1953   12     15      17    20
1954   12     14      16    20
1960   12     14      16    19
1970   12     14      16    18

--EDIT--

A slight change in age requirements starting in January 2019. This will allow someone to be ordained potentially up to eleven months earlier than they would have normally been ordained.

In addition, young men will be eligible for ordination to the appropriate priesthood office in January of the year they turn 12, 14, and 16.5

1 https://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/js-h/1.68-73?lang=eng#p67 and https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/13?lang=eng

2 https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/84 and https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/107

3 The Priesthood Reform Movement, 1908–1922 https://byustudies.byu.edu/file/1889/download?token=iei-ow_X (pdf download)

4 From Men to Boys: LDS Aaronic Priesthood Offices, 1829-1996 https://www.jstor.org/stable/23287418 or https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1026&context=mormonhistory

5 https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/multimedia/file/age-group-announcement-january-2019.pdf

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