The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced changes Saturday that will give local lay bishops more direct responsibility over youth programs and better balance the activity budgets between the girls and boys.
The moves include disbanding Young Men presidencies of adult males who had led teenage boys in local congregations. Bishops and their counselors will assume much of that role.
Young Women presidents will now report directly to bishops instead of bishop’s counselors, and congregation budgets for youth activities must be divided “equitably” between the number of boys and girls. Because of Boy Scouts — from which the church officially will sever ties at year’s end — more money often went to Young Men in the past.
For a bishop, “His first and foremost responsibility is to care for the young men and young women of his ward,” or local congregation, church President Russell M. Nelson said during the faith’s twice-yearly General Conference.
“The bishop and his counselors," Nelson said, “direct the work of the Aaronic Priesthood quorums [for young males] and the Young Women classes of his ward.”
Apostle Quentin L. Cook said that disbanding adult Young Men presidencies aligns with a scripture on church government given to the church’s founder, Joseph Smith, saying the bishopric is the presidency of the Aaronic Priesthood, the lesser of two levels of priesthood granted to faithful Latter-day Saint boys starting the year they turn 12.
The Young Men presidencies usually helped the boys plan camps, weekly activities and class lessons. The bishopric will now take the lead but may call adult advisers and specialists as needed to help with each youth quorum.
With more interaction with bishoprics, Cook said changes also “place the power and duties of the Aaronic Priesthood at the center of every young man’s personal life and goals.”
Adult Young Women presidencies will remain but now will have a direct line to the bishop.
“Young Women presidents will now report to and counsel directly with the bishop of the ward,” Cook 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, Cook said, Young Women presidents can take a greater role in counseling with girls. “A Young Women leader may best meet the needs of an individual young woman.”
Cook said that bishops, who are already hardworking, may need to delegate some of their other time-consuming responsibilities over members to adult Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and Relief Society presidents — including ministering to members and overseeing missionary, temple and family history work.
The apostle said stakes — a regional collection of congregations — will continue to have adult Young Men presidencies. A member of the 12-member stake High Council will serve as the president. A member of the high council will also serve as stake Sunday school president.
Cook also mentioned additional changes, which will be included in a forthcoming letter to 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 boys and girls according to the number of youths in each organization. A sufficient amount will be provided for Primary activities for younger children.
• 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.”
Congregations around the world may implement these changes as soon as they are ready but should have them in place by Jan. 1, 2020, Cook said.
“These efforts, together with those announced during the last two years, are not isolated changes,” Cook said. “Each of the adjustments is an integral part of an interlocking pattern to bless the saints and prepare them to meet God.”