Church History

“Correlation,” Church History Topics (2022)

“Correlation,” Church History Topics


Within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Correlation Department is responsible for ensuring that all work aligns with the doctrine of Jesus Christ and inspired policies of the Church. This department grew out of a 20th-century reform movement in the Church, led by President Joseph F. Smith, that focused on simplifying and centralizing work across Church organizations.

Many Church organizations in the 19th century, including Sunday Schools, youth groups, and the children’s organization, began locally. Perceiving needs in their communities, many Church members developed associations and services that overlapped with quorums, wards, and stakes but that were somewhat independent of them. By the end of the century, many Church organizations, quorums, and missions were producing their own instructional material, resulting in a wide array of literature.1 Church President Joseph F. Smith recognized the need to “correlate” the diverse auxiliary programs into unified curricula, separating speculations from official teachings and building consistency in messaging across the Church.

This correlation began as a series of ad hoc committees. In 1908, President Smith appointed then-Elder David O. McKay of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as chair of the new General Priesthood Committee on Outlines with the task of writing a curriculum for priesthood quorums.2 Over the next four years, this committee published instructional books for each of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood quorums. Along with concerted training efforts, these books helped to streamline ordination procedures and quorum attendance. In 1912, another Correlation Committee was formed to bring the auxiliary leaders together and coordinate their work. Almost immediately, attendance increased and local quorum leaders enjoyed greater clarity and support in their callings. In 1918, President Smith organized a new standing Correlation Committee, with Elder McKay again as chair.

By the 1940s, Church growth in Utah and across the world further pressed leaders to unify materials and activities, and the First Presidency created several organizations to meet these needs. In 1940, the First Presidency created the Union Board of the Auxiliaries, comprising the general leaders of each Church organization, and directed them to produce standard curriculum materials. In 1944, the First Presidency assembled the committees to oversee and evaluate Church-produced literature.

In 1947, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve commissioned an apostolic review of all Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and auxiliary organizations, led by Elder Harold B. Lee. They were charged with reducing redundancy and ensuring that all Church organizations were led by priesthood direction.3 This committee generated several proposals that were reviewed by the First Presidency but which were not implemented at the time.4 For years Elder Lee continued to advocate for greater correlation and strengthening the family through the priesthood, and in 1961 the First Presidency introduced the Priesthood Correlation Program.5

Under this program, priesthood responsibility fell into four categories: missionary work, genealogy, welfare, and home teaching. General committees were organized for each category, and local priesthood committees were established in wards. The Priesthood Bulletin, a periodical for all priesthood leaders, launched in 1965, with instruction developed by the various correlation committees, Quorum of the Twelve, and First Presidency. Still, maintaining efficiency within the growing Church organizations presented challenges for program administrators.6

Senior Church leaders, by this time, shouldered a heavy load of administrative tasks that they started to delegate and distribute through correlation channels. Third-party consultants in 1971 provided operations reviews that concluded that many administrative processes had overburdened General Authorities and advised where functions could be turned over to full-time professional managers. The creation of new Church departments brought efficiency but also the continued need for a central clearinghouse for internal communications. By the early 1970s, the original concept of correlating organizations’ publications became largely the work of the Internal Communications Department, which was soon merged with other staff groups into the Correlation Department. By the 1980s, this department reviewed all Church communications.7

Beginning in the 1970s and 1980s, the Correlation Department was led by an executive committee of General Authorities and General Officers and assisted by some professional staff. The Correlation Committee of the Church, consisting of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, oversaw and approved this department’s efforts. During this period, the Church experienced massive membership growth, resulting in a dramatic expansion of stakes throughout the world. Among other things, the executive committee worked to minimize variation across the expanding Church. Church programs and activities stressed the centrality of home and family and were increasingly directed by priesthood leaders.8

As the Church further grew in the 21st century and as technology brought new opportunities for missionary work, family history, education, and communication, the Correlation Department expanded to include various divisions. These divisions accomplish the work of evaluating all Church materials and intellectual property, optimizing planning and processes, and conducting internal research. The work of correlation also stretched beyond Church headquarters to include Area Presidencies around the world. Such expansions were designed to help the global Church strive for unity amid increasing linguistic and cultural diversity.

Related Topics: Church Headquarters

  1. Michael A. Goodman, “Correlation: The Early Years,” in David J. Whittaker and Arnold K. Garr, eds., A Firm Foundation: Church Organization and Administration (Provo: Religious Studies Center, 2011), 322–23; see Topics: Relief Society, Young Women Organizations, Young Men Organizations, Primary, Sunday School, Quorums of the Seventy.

  2. Goodman, “The Early Years,” 324–25.

  3. Goodman, “The Early Years,” 331–34.

  4. Goodman, “The Early Years,” 334.

  5. Michael A. Goodman, “Correlation: The Turning Point (1960s),” in Scott C. Esplin and Kenneth L. Alford, eds., Salt Lake City: The Place Which God Prepared (Provo: Religious Studies Center, 2011), 259, 263.

  6. James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, “Correlating the International Church, 1960–1973,” in The Story of the Latter-day Saints, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 596–99.

  7. Allen and Leonard, “Correlating the International Church,” 603–4.

  8. Allen and Leonard, “Correlating the International Church,” 606–9.