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Those who watch the LDS Church closely know that for some time a change has been in the works for the third hour of the block when typically the Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and Relief Society meet.
Now the announcement has been that Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society will have different content and schedule than they have before. Beginning in January 2018 , a program called Come Follow Me—For Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society meetings will be implemented somewhat similar to the Come Follow Me Youth curriculum implemented in 2013.
The announcement was made Friday, Aug. 25, with a new website—Comefollowme.lds.org, a letter from the First Presidency to general and local leadership, and an “Instructions for Curriculum 2018”, which is available both online and in the gospel app.
No longer will we be studying from the “Teachings of the Prophets” manuals, used from 1988 to 2017, nor having any manuals at all, but the schedule instead will focus on talks from the most recent General Conference on the second and third weeks, and for the fourth week priority topics that will be generated from the top leadership of the Church every six months.
With these fourth week meetings, priority topics will reflect current revelation and needs of the members, as the general leaders see it, thus making the curriculum ever more current and living. Suggestions might be, for example, focusing our Sabbath on the Savior or learning how to understand the sacrament more deeply.
The biggest change, however, is that the first week of the month there will be no class at all. Instead, both in the Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and in Relief Society, the time will be devoted to a council meeting, similar to the ward council.
The purpose of this council meeting, led by the presidency or group leadership, is to counsel together to find solutions to the challenges we face as individuals and as a group—and then come to a call to action that we might be more effective members of the kingdom.
Together, we will help identify needs and then “bind [ourselves] together to act in all holiness” (D&C 6:32). This may mean helping specific members, or it might also mean discussing together important issues that concern us all such as: How can we mentor and strengthen the youth in our ward? How do we become better missionaries? How can we increase our unity? How do we combat pornography? How do we transcend doubt or help family members with doubt?
The idea is that we have more than just a lively discussion, but that we create ways to be productive and helpful in the kingdom and to each other. The sisters and brethren will spend time reviewing, planning and organizing the work of the Relief Society or quorum.
Undoubtedly, this council meeting will require the acquisition of new leadership skills and ideas, but the promise is that it will also be a new kind of empowerment for every participant.
Teaching will follow the Teaching in the Savior’s Way program that has already been implemented.
Here is the way that schedule will ultimately look for the month:
First Sunday: Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society leaders will lead a discussion in their meetings to identify local needs and counsel together about how to meet those needs. This will be a monthly counsel that may include discussions about how to better accomplish our responsibilities in areas such as member missionary work, convert retention, temple and family history work or teaching the gospel. The goal will not just be discussion but action and assignments given. In following meetings there will be follow-up. These meetings are led by the presidency or group leadership.
Second and Third Sundays: Previously, conference talks were studied once a month on the fourth Sunday, but now instead, they will occupy the second and third Sundays of the month. A new emphasis will be counseling together to find ways to apply the messages in our lives.
Fourth Sunday: This week will feature a priority or special topic given through the general Church leadership.
Fifth Sunday: The topic for this Sunday will be chosen by the bishopric and led by them or someone they assign.
Each conference issue (Nov. and May) the Ensign or Liahona will contain an eight-page supplement that will provide ideas for running the quorum and Relief Society counsels, helps for teaching the most recent General Conference talks emphasizing application, and the six priority topics with support material for the next six months.
The first of these supplements will be in the November 2017 issue so that wards and branches can begin the new schedule in January 2018.
An additional benefit to the new curriculum is that it simplifies the process. requiring no manuals. Instead deliverability of new materials to the branches, wards and stakes comes through an existing organ—the Church magazines.
The change has been piloted in several stakes including three in Utah, the Springville West Stake, the Orem Heatheridge Stake, and the American Fork Central Stake.
President Bryant K. Kettle of the American Fork Central Stake, said that the program has worked really well and has been well-received, but it requires breaking some old molds about the way things are done.
“The biggest challenge is the first Sunday counsels because someone isn’t getting up to teach a lesson, but instead to facilitate a discussion about challenges and needs. It is also true that there have to be very clear rules set so that there is no discussion about things that are sensitive or confidential.
“What is great, however, is that this new schedule doesn’t allow you to have a lesson and then forget it during the week. The emphasis is on what you are going to take from that lesson and then going home and implement it in a positive way.”
President Kettle told the story of a High Priest group that learned in their counsel that one of their brothers was going to have his leg amputated. All the brethren left the lesson right then to go visit him, and he was so pleased to have them come.
President Kettle said that as the Church rolls this out, it will come with training to make sure these meetings are held in a way that is positive and inspiring.
Larry Richman, of LDS Media Talk, compiled this list of resources to help with the new program:
Here is how you can access the general conference messages:
- Online at lds.org.
- Online at lds.org or ensign.lds.org (November and May issues).
- In the Gospel Library mobile app.
- By subscribing to the printed editions of the Liahona or Ensign (see lds.org).
- See lds.org, which includes answers to frequently asked questions.
- Church News article “Church Announces “Come, Follow Me” for Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society“
- In November, see the Liahonaor Ensign magazine, which will include the talks from the October general conference, plus an 8-page insert with information about how to use them.