A historic weekend for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continued Sunday as LDS Church President Russell M. Nelson announced more changes to how the church will operate with regard to ministering to its members and announced the building of seven new temples.
Nelson announced during the Sunday afternoon session that the LDS Church’s home and visiting teaching programs will be replaced by what he termed as a coordinated, more personalized approach called “ministering.”
“For months, we have been seeking a better way to minister to the spiritual and temporal needs of our people in the Savior’s way,” Nelson said. “We have made the decision to retire ‘home teaching’ and ‘visiting teaching’ as we have known them. Instead, we will implement a newer, holier approach to caring and ministering to others. We will refer to these efforts simply as ‘ministering.’ Effective ministering efforts are enabled by the innate gifts of the sisters and by the incomparable power of the priesthood. We all need such protection from the cunning wiles of the adversary.”
The new approach is overseen jointly by the presidencies of a local congregation’s elders quorum and Relief Society, composed of adult men and women, respectively, and, like Saturday evening’s announcement during the priesthood session of General Conference to combine elders quorums and high priests groups, is part of what church leaders are calling a larger effort to simplify and improve the church’s ministry to its members.
The previous programs of home and visiting teaching often included monthly messages in church magazines and in-home, face-to-face visits with members each month.
While occasional in-home visits will still be a part of the new method, church leaders said it will focus on flexibility to the needs and circumstances of individual members throughout the world, coupled with quarterly face-to-face interviews between leadership and everyday members about their personal and family needs.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Relief Society General President Jean B. Bingham both spoke following Nelson's announcement to give more details about the new initiative.
“We have a heaven-sent opportunity to demonstrate pure religion undefiled before God — to minister to the widows and the fatherless, the married and the single, the strong and the distraught, the downtrodden and the robust, the happy and the sad — in short, all of us, every one of us, because we all need to feel the warm hand of friendship and hear a firm declaration of faith,” Holland said. “Our prayer today is that every man and woman — and our older young men and young women — will leave this general conference more deeply committed to heartfelt care for one another, motivated only by the pure love of Christ to do so.”
In her remarks Bingham said that "ministering" will involve young women ages 14 to 18 as companions to Relief Society sisters, the same way young men ages 14 to 18 have been participating with adult males for decades, and addressed the benefits the church expects this to have on them.
“This opportunity to participate in building the kingdom of God will be a tremendous benefit to young women, helping them better prepare to fulfill their roles as leaders in the Church and the community and as contributing partners in their families,” she said. “Young women want to be of service. They need to know they are valued and essential in the work of salvation.”
Additionally, Nelson announced the church will build seven new temples
in Salta, Argentina; Bengaluru, India; Managua, Nicaragua; Cagayan de Oro, Philippines; Layton, Utah; Richmond, Virginia; and a major city yet to be determined in Russia.
The temple in Bengaluru will be the first for India, which according to church statistics has 13,141 members in 43 congregations. By contrast, the temple in Layton will be Utah's 18th, and its announcement elicited chuckles from Nelson and session attendees.
These changes came on the heels of an eventful Saturday for the LDS Church that included the official sustaining vote of Nelson and his counselors in the Quorum of the First Presidency, Elders Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring, and the naming of two new apostles to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elders Gerrit W. Gong and Ulisses Soares, the first Asian-American and Brazilian apostles in church history.
Additionally Saturday, eight new general authority seventies were called into service. General Authority Seventies are the level of leadership below the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and they serve in the Presidency of the Seventy, in area presidencies, and in other headquarters administrative functions. Under the direction of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, they often travel to meet with and teach local church leaders, missionaries and members. They have authority to serve anywhere in the world, while the authority of Area Seventies is generally limited to the area where they serve.
The church also announced a new Young Women general presidency and a new first counselor in the Primary general presidency during the Saturday afternoon session. Bonnie H. Cordon will serve as general president of the Young Women organization, which is for female members ages 12 through 17. Michelle Craig has been called as the first counselor, and Becky Craven will serve as second counselor. Lisa Harkness was called as the new first counselor in the Primary general presidency, serving with President Joy D. Jones and Christina B. Franco as second counselor.