Changes to Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society Meetings

On Friday 25th August 2017, the Church issued the news that it was to change it’s schedule and resources for Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society meetings. This is the opening statement on lds.org “The Church has announced changes for Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society Sunday meetings in 2018 that affect not only what materials adults will study but also how they use the time they meet together to accomplish the Lord’s work.” This is quite significant news for Latter-day Saints who will find the content of a third of their Sabbath activities changed in 2018. It is also especially significant for people of my generation who have developed through these auxiliaries and quorums with the same format for the whole time they’ve been in it – the ‘Teachings of the Presidents of the Church’ curriculum has been used since 1998!

Below of the monthly schedule:

Week

Topic

Led by

First Sunday

Counseling together about local needs

Presidency or group leadership

Second and Third Sundays

Recent general conference message

Presidency or group leadership or a called teacher

Fourth Sunday

Special topic chosen by general Church leaders (announced in May and November issues of the Liahona and Ensign magazines)

Presidency or group leadership or a called teacher

Fifth Sunday

Topic chosen by the bishopric

Bishopric or someone they assign

There are some significant changes here which I have noticed.

1. Change from ‘Teachings’ to General Conference talks

This is probably one of the more significant changes. Instead of studying the words of presidents of the Church from the past, members will be studying more from the recent General Conference addresses. This has been usually done on the 4th Sunday of the month but has now doubled to the 2nd and 3rd Sundays. There has been a clear reason for this. Elder LeGrand R Curtis who serves as a General Authority Seventy said ““One of the reasons for the new approach is to give increased emphasis to the words of the living prophets. We’re going to not just devote more time to the messages given by the senior leadership of the Church at general conference, but we are also going to provide some teaching tools to help the instruction and discussion of those messages be all the more rich and meaningful for the members of the Church.” This will provide more opportunities for a deeper discussion on more addresses from the recent General Conference and I for one am looking forward to this.

Another aspect of this change is that local Church leaders are to determine the talks that quorums and auxiliaries will focus on and not only this, Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and Relief Society do not have to study the same message. Again, this provides another opportunity to personalise content for the individuals in the wards and stakes that this curriculum is meant to support.

2. Counseling together about local needs

A number of members may see this 1st Sunday content as virtually the same as previously. Before 2018, the 1st Sunday of the month was put aside for Instruction planned for by the quorum and auxiliary presidencies. Whilst it will be a discussion focused on local needs still, it seems to be more towards ministering to others rather than general instruction. Elder LeGrand R Curtis explained ““We want to extend the power that exists in counseling together—not just to the ward councils and presidencies but also into the Relief Societies and quorums of the Church,” We know that quorums and auxiliaries are potentially powerful groups when united and these 1st Sunday discussions can be a vital part of helping this happen.

3. Continuous revelation to guide the Church

Then, to finish all the changes, the 4th Sunday of the month (previously used for a message from the recent General Conference) is now set aside for a topic which is chosen specially from the general leaders of the Church. This I find particularly exciting. Once a month, we will have the opportunity to study and discuss topics which have been considered of vital importance by the Lord’s chosen servants. An example would be recent focuses on family history, Sabbath day observance and studying the Book of Mormon.

I’m very excited about these changes and it indicates a change to focusing on the words of the living prophets and personalised support for local units.

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