Thank you, dear President Nelson, for that joyful revelatory guidance with respect to witnesses at baptisms and the direction you have asked us to share to help strengthen youth and develop their sacred potential.
Before I share those adjustments, we express our sincere appreciation for the exceptional way members have responded to developments in the ongoing Restoration of the gospel. As President Nelson suggested last year, you have taken your vitamins!1
Our gratitude is overflowing.4 We are particularly grateful that our youth continue to remain strong and faithful.
Our youth live in an exciting but also challenging time. The choices available have never been more dramatic. One example: the modern smartphone provides access to incredibly important and uplifting information, including family history and the holy scriptures. On the other hand, it contains foolishness, immorality, and evil not readily available in the past.
To help our youth navigate this maze of choices, the Church has prepared three profound and comprehensive initiatives. First, curriculum has been strengthened and expanded to the home. Second, a children and youth program that includes exciting activities and personal development was presented just last Sunday by President Russell M. Nelson, President M. Russell Ballard, and the General Officers. A third initiative is organizational changes to make youth a more significant focus of our bishops and other leaders. This focus must be spiritually powerful and help our youth become the youth battalion President Nelson has asked them to become.
These efforts, together with those announced during the last few years, are not isolated changes. Each of the adjustments is an integral part of an interlocking pattern to bless the Saints and prepare them to meet God.
One part of the pattern relates to the rising generation. Our youth are being asked to take more individual responsibility at younger ages—without parents and leaders taking over what youth can do for themselves.5
Today we announce organizational changes for youth at ward and stake levels. As President Nelson explained, Sister Bonnie H. Cordon will discuss changes for young women this evening. One purpose for the changes I will now discuss is to strengthen Aaronic Priesthood holders, quorums, and quorum presidencies. These changes align our practice with Doctrine and Covenants 107:15, which reads, “The bishopric is the presidency of this [Aaronic] priesthood, and holds the keys or authority of the same.”
One of the scriptural duties of the bishop is to preside over the priests and to sit in council with them, teaching them the duties of their office.6 In addition, the first counselor in the bishopric will have specific responsibility for teachers and the second counselor for deacons.
Accordingly, to align with this revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants, Young Men presidencies at the ward level will be discontinued. These faithful brethren have done much good, and we express appreciation to them.
It is our hope that bishoprics will give great emphasis and focus to the priesthood responsibilities of young men and help them in their quorum duties. Capable adult Young Men advisers will be called to assist the Aaronic Priesthood quorum presidencies and the bishopric in their duties.7 We are confident that more young men and young women will rise to the challenge and stay on the covenant path because of this laser-like focus on our youth.
In the Lord’s inspired pattern, the bishop has responsibility for everyone in the ward. He blesses the parents of youth as well as the youth. One bishop found that as he counseled with a young man struggling with pornography, he could help the young man in his repentance only as he helped the parents react with love and understanding. The young man’s healing was a healing for his family and was possible through the bishop working in behalf of the entire family. The young man has now become a worthy Melchizedek Priesthood holder and full-time missionary.
As this account suggests, these adjustments will:
Help bishops and their counselors focus on their core responsibilities to the youth and Primary children.
Place the power and duties of the Aaronic Priesthood at the center of every young man’s personal life and goals.
These adjustments also:
Emphasize the responsibilities of Aaronic Priesthood quorum presidencies and their direct reporting line to the bishopric.
Motivate adult leaders to assist and mentor Aaronic Priesthood quorum presidencies in magnifying the power and authority of their office.
As noted, these adjustments do not lessen the bishopric’s responsibility for young women. As President Nelson just taught, “[The bishop’s] first and foremost responsibility is to care for the young men and young women of his ward.”8
How will our beloved and hard-working bishops fulfill this responsibility? As you remember, in 2018 Melchizedek Priesthood quorums were adjusted to work even more closely with Relief Societies so that elders quorums and Relief Societies can, under the direction of the bishop, help shoulder important responsibilities that previously consumed much of his time. These responsibilities include missionary work and temple and family history work in the ward9—as well as much of the ministering to ward members.
The bishop cannot delegate some responsibilities, such as strengthening the youth, being a common judge, caring for those in need, and overseeing finances and temporal affairs. These are, however, fewer than we may have understood in the past. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland explained last year when the adjustments to the Melchizedek Priesthood quorums were announced: “The bishop remains, of course, the presiding high priest of the ward. This new alignment [of elders quorums and Relief Societies] should let him preside over the work of the Melchizedek Priesthood and the Relief Society without requiring him to do the work of either of those bodies.”10
For instance, a Relief Society president and an elders quorum president, as assigned, can take a greater role in counseling with adults—as can a Young Women president in counseling with young women. While only the bishop can serve as a common judge, these other leaders are also entitled to revelation from heaven to help with challenges that do not require a common judge or involve abuse of any kind.11
That doesn’t mean a young woman cannot or should not talk to the bishop or to her parents. Their focus is the youth! But it does mean that a Young Women leader may best meet the needs of an individual young woman. The bishopric is as concerned for young women as for young men, but we recognize the strength that comes from having strong, engaged, and focused Young Women leaders who love and mentor, not taking over the roles of class presidencies but helping youth succeed in those roles.
Sister Cordon will share additional exciting changes for young women tonight. I, however, announce that ward Young Women presidents will now report to and counsel directly with the bishop of the ward. 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 will continue to report directly to the bishop.12
At the general and stake levels, we will continue to have Young Men presidencies. At the stake level, a high councilor will be the Young Men president13 and will, with the high councilors assigned to Young Women and Primary, be part of the stake Aaronic Priesthood–Young Women committee. These brethren will work with the stake Young Women presidency on this committee. With a counselor to the stake president as chair, this committee will have increased importance because many of the programs and activities in the new Children and Youth initiative will be at the stake level.
These high councilors, under the direction of the stake presidency, can serve as a resource to the bishop and Aaronic Priesthood quorums in a manner similar to the service provided by high councilors to ward elders quorums.
As a related matter, another high councilor will serve as the stake Sunday School president and, as needed, could serve on the stake Aaronic Priesthood–Young Women committee.14
Additional organizational changes will be further explained in information sent to leaders. These changes include:
The 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,” which 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—we 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.”15
The adjustments announced today may begin as soon as branches, wards, districts, and stakes are ready but should be in place by January 1, 2020. These adjustments, when combined and integrated with previous adjustments, represent a spiritual and organizational effort consistent with doctrine to bless and strengthen every man, woman, youth, and child, helping each to follow the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ, as we progress on the covenant path.
Dear brothers and sisters, I promise and testify that these comprehensive adjustments, under the direction of an inspired president and prophet, Russell M. Nelson, will empower and strengthen every member of the Church. Our youth will develop greater faith in the Savior, be protected from the temptations of the adversary, and stand prepared to meet life’s challenges. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.