Unit 32: Day 1, Church Organizations and Programs

    “Unit 32: Day 1, Church Organizations and Programs,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2017)

    “Unit 32: Day 1,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide

    Unit 32: Day 1

    Church Organizations and Programs


    As the Church has continued to expand, the Lord has inspired Church leaders and members to implement organizations and programs within the Church to bless the Saints. When these organizations and programs were first established, they were not as critically needed as at present, but as the Church has grown, they have become crucial in the Church’s work of the salvation of God’s children.

    Church Organizations and Programs Help Us Prepare and Progress toward Eternal Life

    Think about how Church organizations and programs have blessed your life.

    What would you say is the purpose of Church organizations like Young Men and Young Women? How can knowing the purpose of an organization help those who participate in it?

    Read Moses 1:39, looking for what Heavenly Father’s purpose is in all that He does. Remember that immortality refers to living forever in a resurrected state. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all people will be resurrected, regardless of their wickedness or righteousness in this life. Eternal life refers to living forever as families in Heavenly Father’s presence and becoming like Him.

    Considering that Heavenly Father’s purpose is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children, what is the purpose of the Church?

    Because Heavenly Father’s purpose is to bring about the immortality and eternal life of His children, the purpose of His Church is the same. Heavenly Father established The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to help His children obtain eternal life.

    1. journal icon
      In your scripture study journal, list some ways the Church helps Heavenly Father bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children.

    The Church has a number of organizations—called auxiliaries to the priesthood—and other programs that help us progress toward eternal life. Try to name some of them.

    You might have named Young Men, Young Women, Primary, Relief Society, and Sunday School and programs such as Seminaries and Institutes of Religion and family home evening.

    To see how Church organizations and programs help us learn and progress in the gospel so that we can receive eternal life, read the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. This statement is about the seminary and institute programs, but the principle it teaches can also apply to the other Church auxiliaries and programs.

    President Boyd K. Packer

    “In the history of the Church there is no better illustration of the prophetic preparation of this people than the beginnings of the seminary and institute program. These programs were started when they were nice but were not critically needed. They were granted a season to flourish and to grow into a bulwark [defense] for the Church. They now become a godsend for the salvation of modern Israel in a most challenging hour” (“Teach the Scriptures” [address to CES religious educators, Oct. 14, 1977], 3; si.lds.org).

    The Lord has inspired His leaders to establish the many programs and organizations in the Church to prepare us for the tests and challenges we face during this mortal life and to help us progress toward eternal life.

    As you read each of the following historical summaries, look for answers to the following questions:

    • How did the organization or program begin? (Consider marking answers to this question.)

    • How do you think it prepares us to face the tests and challenges of our day?

    • How do you think it helps us progress toward eternal life?

    Sunday School

    Sunday School class

    In 1849 a Church member named Richard Ballantyne felt that children needed a place to learn the gospel on the Sabbath day. Saints in Great Britain were already holding Sunday School classes, and Brother Ballantyne started the first Sunday School class in Utah in his Salt Lake City ward in December 1849. Soon after that, other wards began to adopt the same practice, each using its own curriculum. In 1867, Church leaders formed the Deseret Sunday School Union, which fostered uniformity in curriculum. By 1870, more than 200 Sunday School classes had been formed. Today, wards and branches have multiple Sunday School classes.

    Young Women

    three young women

    President Brigham Young met with his daughters in his home on November 28, 1869, and asked them to be leaders to help their peers gain testimonies of the gospel, be modest in their dress and their actions, and avoid trends and behaviors of the world. In 1870 a formal organization of young women was organized to promote these objectives. This organization eventually was known as the Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Association (YWMIA), which later changed to Young Women. In the early 1970s, leaders introduced the Personal Progress program. In 1985 they introduced the Young Women values and theme.

    Young Men

    two young men

    The Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association (YMMIA) was organized on June 10, 1875, under the direction of President Brigham Young. This organization was intended to help young men develop spiritually and intellectually as well as provide them with recreational activities. In 1913, the Church partnered with Boys Scouts of America in the United States. Internationally, partnerships with other Scouting programs have been formed where advisable. The organization’s name evolved as well, first changing to Aaronic Priesthood–MIA, then Aaronic Priesthood, and then Young Men. In 2001, Church leaders introduced the Duty to God program.


    four chldren singing

    In 1877, Aurelia Spencer Rogers “felt strongly that something should be done about the behavior of the neighborhood boys who ran freely through the town day and night. She felt many of these children were not being taught basic principles and values [to prepare them] in either knowledge or behavior to carry the gospel forward, or even to be good parents or citizens” (“History of Primary,” lds.org/callings/primary/getting-started/history-of-primary). She met with Eliza R. Snow, who at the time was serving as the Relief Society general president, and they obtained permission from President John Taylor to organize a Primary in Farmington, Utah, under the direction of Bishop John Hess. The first Primary meeting, held on August 25, 1878, consisted of 224 boys and girls. In 1880, a general Primary president was called, and Primary classes began to be organized in many wards.

    Seminaries and Institutes of Religion

    youth class

    In 1888 the Church established a general Board of Education and Church academies and created religion classes to provide a spiritual foundation for secular learning for those who did not attend Church academies. In 1912, Joseph F. Merrill, a professor and Church member, proposed a plan to allow students in public schools to attend religion classes as part of their school day. It was called seminary, and the first classes were held near Granite High School in Salt Lake City, Utah, with 70 students enrolled. As the seminary program spread, a similar program was established for college-age youth. It was named the Latter-day Saint Institute of Religion, and institute classes began in 1926 in Moscow, Idaho. In the early 1950s an early-morning seminary program began in California, the home-study seminary program began in the 1960s, and seminaries and institutes of religion have continued to expand throughout the world.

    Family Home Evening

    family with scriptures

    President Joseph F. Smith taught that Church programs should be “supplements to our teachings and training in the home. Not one child in a hundred would go astray, if the home environment, example, and training, were in harmony with the truth in the Gospel of Christ” (“Worship in the Home,” Improvement Era, Dec. 1903, 138). In 1909 the Granite Stake in Salt Lake City, Utah, began a weekly home evening program, which President Smith said was inspired. In 1915 the First Presidency recommended that monthly home evenings be adopted throughout the Church. The First Presidency promised: “If the Saints obey this counsel [to observe home evenings], we promise that great blessings will result. Love at home and obedience to parents will increase. Faith will be developed in the hearts of the youth of Israel, and they will gain power to combat the evil influence and temptations which beset them” (in James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. [1965–75], 4:339). Fifty years later, the Church published manuals for families to use in weekly gospel instruction. In 1970, Church leaders designated Monday evenings for family home evening and announced that no other Church activities were to be held that night.

    Each Church organization and program originally operated independently. As the Church expanded dramatically in the 1950s, Church leaders saw a need to evaluate how Church organizations were meeting the Church’s objectives. They decided to unify and coordinate all Church organizations and programs both in administration and in selecting curriculum. These changes helped the organizations and programs to better meet the complex needs of the growing Church and to strengthen the family. Under this correlation effort, all Church organizations operate under the direction of priesthood leaders, who hold the keys to preside.

    In addition, under the direction of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a Correlation Department was formed to review, evaluate, and correlate all materials published by the Church. This was done to help keep the doctrine pure so that Church teachings are not misunderstood.

    Ponder how having the auxiliaries of the Church unified and correlated under the direction of the Priesthood can help to better accomplish Heavenly Father’s purpose for His children.

    1. journal icon
      Ponder the following principle: As we participate in Church organizations and programs, we receive the blessings available through them. Then answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

      1. How have Church organizations and programs blessed your life?

      2. How has the Duty to God or the Personal Progress program blessed your life?

    2. journal icon
      In your scripture study journal, write one or two goals to improve your participation in the Church auxiliaries and programs. The following questions may help you think about what goals to set: How will you participate more fully in Young Men or Young Women? In Sunday School? In family home evening? In seminary?

    3. journal icon
      Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: How can participating in these auxiliaries and programs help prepare you to receive the Melchizedek priesthood or transition into Relief Society?

    4. journal icon
      Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:

      I have studied the “Church Organizations and Programs” lesson and completed it on (date).

      Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: