Young men and young women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been given more windows of opportunity for all-around growth. To this end, the leadership of the church has effected changes to Aaronic Priesthood quorums and Young Women classes.
The Aaronic priesthood is the lesser of two levels of priesthood in the church and is conferred upon faithful male Latter-day Saints starting the year in which they turn 12.
The church President, Russell M. Nelson, said “the adjustments we now announce are intended to help young men and young women develop their sacred personal potential. We want also to strengthen Aaronic Priesthood quorums and Young Women classes and provide support to bishops and other adult leaders as they serve the rising generation. … (A bishop’s) first and foremost responsibility is to care for the young men and young women of his ward. The bishop and his counselors direct the work of the Aaronic Priesthood quorums and the Young Women classes in the ward.”
While Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles detailed what will change for Aaronic Priesthood quorums, he also announced a change for bishops to regularly counsel with Young Women presidents.
Young Men presidencies (adult males who lead young men) at the ward level are now discontinued so local bishops can more directly lead and mentor youth. Elder Cook said this practice aligns with a scripture on church government given to Joseph Smith in 1835: The bishopric is the presidency of this [Aaronic] priesthood, and holds the keys or authority of the same. This means, Elder Cook said, that a congregation’s young men and young women should be a bishop’s highest priority.
“These adjustments will help bishops and their counselors focus on their core responsibilities to the youth and Primary children”, Elder Cook said, pointing out that the adjustments will also place the power and duties of the Aaronic Priesthood at the centre of every young man’s personal life and goals.
In their responsibilities with youth, bishoprics will be assisted by adult men serving as Aaronic Priesthood quorum advisers and specialists and Young Women leaders.
Elder Cook also announced that Young Women presidents now have a direct line to the bishop: “Young Women presidents will now report to and counsel directly with the bishop of the ward,” he said. “In the past, this assignment could be delegated to a counselor, but going forward, young women will be a direct responsibility of the one who holds presiding keys for the ward.”
The Relief Society president (the leader of all adult women) of a ward will continue to report directly to the bishop.
In addition, Young Women presidents can take a greater role in counseling with young women. “A Young Women leader may best meet the needs of an individual young woman”, Elder Cook explained, adding that Young Men presidencies will continue at the general and stake levels of Church governance. A member of each stake high council will serve as stake Young Men president. Another member of the stake high council will serve as the stake Sunday School president.
The elder also mentioned additional changes, which has been included in a letter to the church leaders worldwide: A congregation’s bishopric youth committee meeting will be replaced by a ward youth council.
The word “Mutual” will be retired and become “Young Women activities,” “Aaronic Priesthood quorum activities,” or “youth activities.” These activities will be held weekly where possible.
The ward budget for youth activities will be divided equitably between the young men and young women according to the number of youth in each organization. A sufficient amount will be provided for Primary activities.
At all levels—ward, stake, and general—the Church will use the term “organization” rather than the term “auxiliary.” Those who lead the General Relief Society, Young Women, Young Men, Primary, and Sunday School organizations will be known as “General Officers.” Those who lead organizations at the ward and stake levels will be known as “ward officers” and “stake officers.”
“These efforts, together with those announced during the last two years, are not isolated changes,” Elder Cook said. “Each of the adjustments is an integral part of an interlocking pattern to bless the Saints and prepare them to meet God.”
Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the concluding speaker of the Saturday afternoon session, gave thanks to the Boy Scouts of America and Latter-day Saints who have volunteered to support it. Beginning January 1, 2020, the Church will implement a new program for young men and young women around the world.
“Our association with the Boy Scouts of America, as it now concludes, will always be an important legacy to me and the Church”, Elder Rasband said. “To the scouting organization, to the scores of men and women who have served diligently as scout leaders, to the moms—real credit goes there; and to the young men who have participated in scouting, we say, ‘Thank you.’”
At the women’s session of general conference Saturday night, Young Women General President Sister Bonnie H. Cordon announced a new Young Women theme and changes to Young Women class organisation and names. She also emphasized the importance of each Young Women class having a presidency to give young women leadership opportunities.
The new Young Women theme is listed below in its entirety:
I am a beloved daughter of heavenly parents, with a divine nature and eternal destiny.
As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I strive to become like Him. I seek and act upon personal revelation and minister to others in His holy name.
I will stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things and in all places.
As I strive to qualify for exaltation, I cherish the gift of repentance and seek to improve each day. With faith, I will strengthen my home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, and receive the ordinances and blessings of the holy temple.
“Notice the shift from ‘we’ to ‘I,’” Sister Cordon said. “These truths apply to you individually. You are a beloved daughter of Heavenly Parents. You are a covenant disciple of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I invite you to study and ponder these words. I know as you do, you will gain a testimony of their truthfulness. Understanding these truths will change the way you face challenges. Knowing your identity and purpose will help you align your will with the Savior’s.”
For more than a century, the Church’s Young Women program has divided girls into three classes. Going forward, Sister Cordon said, Young Women leaders and their bishops are to prayerfully consider the young women in their ward and organize them by age according to the size and needs of their particular group.
For example, a ward with only a few young women could have one Young Women class with everyone meeting together. Or a ward with a large number of 12-year-olds and a small number of older young women could be divided into two classes—one for the 12-year-olds and another for those who are older.
“However your classes are organized, you young women are vital in building unity,” Sister Cordon said. “Be a light to those around you. Be the source of love and care you are hoping to receive from others. With a prayer in your heart, continue to reach out and be a force for good. As you do so, your life will be filled with kindness. You will have better feelings toward others and will begin to see their goodness in return.”
Sister Cordon said all classes will be referred to as “Young Women” and, when needed, differentiated by the ages of those attending the class (“Young Women 12–13,” for example). The names of Beehive, Mia Maid and Laurel are discontinued.
Sister Cordon reminded young women and their leaders of the importance of each class having a presidency to lead the class. “It is by divine design that young women are called to lead in their youth,” she said.
Just as with young men and their leaders, the leaders of young women are to be mentors to young women—but never doing the work for them.
“Whatever level of leadership experience a class presidency has, start where they are and help them develop the skills and confidence that will bless them as leaders”, she said. “Stay close to them, but don’t take over. The Spirit will guide you as you guide them.”
“The First Presidency and the Twelve are united in endorsing these efforts to strengthen our youth,” President Nelson said Saturday afternoon. “Oh, how we love them and pray for them! They are the ‘hope of Israel, Zion’s army, children of the promised day.’ We express our complete confidence in our youth and our gratitude for them.”
Congregations around the world can implement these changes as soon as they are ready, but should have them in place by January 1, 2020.
A letter from the First Presidency to Church leaders worldwide contains more detail on how these changes affect organisational structure at the ward and stake levels.