Fusion

Meeting with my ward high priests group has been one of my favorite parts of the week for several years. It wasn’t always this way—when I was first ordained, out of the blue and not in association with any particular calling, I was bitter about what I saw as a life sentence to the senior citizen’s wing of priesthood meeting. But I’ve since come to appreciate the discussions with people whose life experience is broad and rich. I like my third hour of church almost as much as I enjoy ward socials (and I react to suggestions to reduce the block to two hours about as well as I would to a rule prohibiting linger longers; no one’s preventing you from skipping out if you want, but please leave my three-hour block alone).

But as much as I’ll miss discussions among the familiar circle of the ward high priests group, it’s clear that combining high priests and elders into a single elders quorum is the right step. The language used last week in general conference to describe the change comes in at a solid 7.0 on the Richter scale of prophetic announcements (“The First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the Presidency of the Seventy have considered these adjustments over an extended period of time. With much prayer, careful study of the scriptural foundations of priesthood quorums, and confirmation that this is the Lord’s will, we are moving forward with unanimity…”). And beyond that, the potential benefits are numerous.

  • Two or three fewer ward positions requiring experienced Melchizedek Priesthood holders means more people are available to teach Primary or serve in other positions.
  • Fluctuating numbers between the high priests and elders quorum are now stabilized in one joint quorum, and wards with two small quorums now have one quorum of serviceable size. It’s hard to have a functional first-Sunday quorum council discussion of the ward’s needs when it’s just the elders quorum president, a visitor, and four missionaries.
  • There are fewer bureaucratic hurdles to assigning member visits based on geographic proximity. An elder attending to the needs of a high priest’s family? No problem.
  • Elders are interesting people too, with diverse experience and perspectives. More exchange of experience is good, and being ordained a high priest at 40 or younger is no longer a life sentence.
  • If it’s a priesthood responsibility, it’s a priesthood responsibility. No more buck-passing between quorums.
  • No one seems to be mourning PEC. (Quotes from today’s discussion: “A visiting general authority told us to stop holding PEC six months ago.” “In our ward, we haven’t held PEC in a year.” “When I was bishop 30 years ago, we always invited the Relief Society president to PEC.”)

As with any change, there are challenges and risks that will require some flexibility and goodwill, and probably taking a few pages from the Relief Society.

  • In some student-heavy wards, the average age in the elders quorum might be 28, while the average high priest is 68. Some of the things that of course everybody knows and agrees with in each group may not go over well in mixed company.
  • Elders quorums typically have more experience with welcoming visitors and making the discussion comprehensible for them. Some days, discussion among high priests can get, well, let’s call it very high priestly. The kids these days are in fact in the process of screwing up the world, and we wouldn’t mind a chance to tell them so. Wouldn’t mind it a bit, actually. Is that a problem?
  • The calling of elders quorum president just got 200% more terrifying. Now you have to deal both with people moving in and out, and with people dying. At the same time that home teaching as you knew it is in flux and familiar structures for attending to ward members’ needs are undergoing substantial revision, the Sunday curriculum is also new and experimental. The missionaries and the ward family history director both want to talk to you as soon as possible, too.
  • In many buildings that house multiple wards, there is no space equivalent to the Relief Society room in which to put a large elders quorum. On the 9:00 AM – 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM rotation, if your cultural hall is needed as overflow space for another ward’s sacrament meeting, there aren’t many other options. Organizational change is fast; architecture is slow.
  • It’s easier to open up and talk in a group of 3-8. It’s easier to hide silently in a corner in a group of 15-40+. Teachers and quorum presidencies will have to find ways to amplify the quiet ones and slow down the talkative ones.

What else?

29 comments for “Fusion

  1. PLM
    April 9, 2018 at 7:09 am

    “Some of the things that of course everybody knows and agrees with in each group may not go over well in mixed company.”

    I am a 32 year old Elder and anticipate this being the biggest growing pain in combining the quorums.

    I’m also curious how the move to a “discussion” based curriculum will jive with a quorum that is now twice as large.

  2. GPW
    April 9, 2018 at 1:23 pm

    I second PLM’s comments. I am a 40 year old EQ president that has spent most of my tenure trying to make my quorum a safe place to discuss difficult topics, ranging from gospel topics essays to Joseph Smith’s presidential campaign platform. I worry how similar discussions will be met with the very “experienced” HP is my ward.

  3. Andy
    April 9, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    OMG, GPW is so right! I was teaching a lesson in Elder’s quorum and showed the logical fallacy of an old saying of the church leaders in an effort to provider a more important point about the importance of strengthening your testimony.

    We had a high priest for some reason sitting in with us and he promptly corrected me with a Thomas S Monson quote and ended up putting me on the defensive for the rest of my lesson instead of allowing me to make my larger point.

    It shoehorned me a to giving a vanilla lesson that everyone already knew and could have given.

  4. April 9, 2018 at 4:27 pm

    Well, you know, Andy, if you built a lesson around showing the logical fallacy of something church leaders said, I might correct you, too. Just as a matter of effective teaching, “I am right but Wilford Woodruff (or whoever) was wrong” is not an approach that works well in many settings, and the number just dropped. If you want to make a larger point, avoid things that will throw the lesson off track. Also, I frown on use of ‘OMG.’

  5. Andy
    April 9, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    Hi Jonathan, it was the old saying that if the BOM is true, then the JS was a prophet, and our church is true.

    For BoM=> JS was a prophet, I pointed out that David Whitmer believed in the BOM to his death bead and that the original Book of Commandments stated that Joseph was only to translate the BoM because the Lord would give him no other gifts. On top of the fact that almost all the witnesses to the BoM left Joseph but never denied their testimonies.

    For BoM=> LDS church is true, there are tons of other churches, most notably the COC and RLDS who believe in the BoM but don’t believe in the LDS. Snuffer’s group believe so much in the BoM that they changed the baptism prayer back to the BoM wording.

    The larger point I was trying to make was that you need to have a testimony of All three individually and not count on the BoM to mean that the other two were true.

    Having gone through a faith crisis myself, I’m just going on the evidence I found. I’ve always 100% believed the BoM to be true based on the testimony I’ve received through the years. I have, on the other hand, questioned Joseph and the church but based on other evidences that I’ve received independent of the BoM.

    But, according to the High Priest, President Monson said that the saying is true, and so that settles it.

  6. Andy
    April 9, 2018 at 5:38 pm

    I forgot to add, the lesson I was assigned to teach was centered around having a faith crisis and making sure your roots were strong.

  7. Chet
    April 9, 2018 at 8:13 pm

    There was some recent tension in my SL County ward between the EQP and HP group leader due to some of Jonathan’s list above. It will be interesting to see who the new quorum president is.

  8. April 10, 2018 at 10:30 am

    Andy, let’s keep looking at this, because I think this is a decent example of the kind of adjustments teachers are going to have to make. Any time a teacher suggests that a church leader was wrong, it’s going to make a segment of the class defensive and unwilling to keep following the discussion. The logic may seem compelling, but a teacher taking that route is going to torpedo his own lesson.

    There’s a better way to make your point so that no one ends up defensive and your class stays with you. You can say, “Thomas S. Monson has said that because the Book of Mormon is true, the Joseph Smith is a prophet and the Church is true. And of course that’s correct! But relying on logical deductions can produce faith that is fragile, and we can see examples where Satan has attacked the logical reasoning of people who believe in the Book of Mormon, as we see from the examples of David Whitmer and others. So it’s important to develop a robust faith with a testimony of the Book of Mormon, AND a testimony of the Church, AND a testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith.”

    Adapt as necessary for the needs of the class members, of course. But something like this will get you where you want to go without asking class members to choose between their quorum instructor and Thomas S. Monson.

  9. Andy
    April 10, 2018 at 12:51 pm

    Hi Jonathan,

    In hindsight you’re absolutely correct in not presenting things in a way that turns off a portion of the class.

    I feel like teachers have an extremely difficult balance to strike these days:

    1) what the church wants you to present

    2) hearing the common complaint that the class being tired of lessons that are just the same things being rehashed, and

    3) also trying to present a narrative so that you don’t have people like Jeremy Reynolds saying things like, “why didn’t anyone ever tell me about this stuff?” I try to follow and internalize the sayings of people who have left the church. I ask, what can I tell people ahead of time so that if they learn X, Y, or Z online, they won’t get turned off and leave the church?

    So my balance becomes:

    If I stick with #1, I’m feel like I’m going through the motions and not magnifying my calling nor doing a good job making sure the class is a place people want to be and aren’t dreading.

    If I mix #1 and #2 then I have a good lesson but I feel like I’m losing an opportunity to warn people about pitfalls that others have gotten caught in.

    If I mix in #3 then I’m usually going to end up going against a dominant narrative which turns people off.

    If I say, just use the spirit to find the right balance, I’d argue, that’s what I thought I was doing in the previous class which is what caused the ruckus in the first place.

    Please don’t mistake the above as complaining. Teaching a lesson that went as sideways as it did, took a big toll on me and I’ve been rehashing it in my mind trying to figure out a better strategy.

  10. KLC
    April 10, 2018 at 1:09 pm

    Like Chet I’ve seen some tension between EQ and HP over the years, but I think this change is going to reduce that tension. Almost always it came from things that fell between the cracks of the two groups. I knew HP who were irritated that temple sealing assignments (something you may never have experienced if you live outside of the LA temple district) were ignored by Elders who saw it as only the HP responsibility. I knew of Elders who were irritated that moving assignments were ignored by HP who saw it as only an EQ responsibility. I knew of Elders and HP who were irritated by the lack of logic that seemed to govern what group people being home taught were assigned to.

    Now that we are combined all assignments go to all of us. No more cracks for people and assignments to fall into.

  11. ji
    April 10, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    How about no more assignments? Men in a quorum are not employees in a production organization. Do you need help with your move? Ask for help. Don’t give an assignment to a group of people in hopes that some will show up. And don’t give an assignment to one person — tell the story and ask him if he will help. And whether he says yes or says no, continue to love him and respect him.

  12. queuno
    April 10, 2018 at 6:26 pm

    I already hate attending EQ and don’t see adding the HPs as a positive move. I am definitely asking for a Primary calling. No offense to Andy or those who teach (I have been an EQ instructor on multiple occasions), but I don’t want history or logical arguments in EQ. I want something spiritually uplifting.

  13. Tom O.
    April 10, 2018 at 7:27 pm

    On the 9:00 AM – 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM rotation, if your cultural hall is needed as overflow space for another ward’s sacrament meeting, there aren’t many other options. Organizational change is fast; architecture is slow.

    Schedule changes can be fast. Our ward moved to an 8:00 a.m. start time beginning next Sunday so the Elders’ Quorum can use the chapel third hour.

  14. April 10, 2018 at 9:35 pm

    Tom O., that’s a painful schedule change. Ouch.

    JI, assignments are how we capitalize on the church’s fine-grained organizational structure. It would be a waste of potential not to make any assignments.

    Andy, thanks for going through those points. I absolutely agree – teaching is difficult. I’ve had lots of practice, and I still had an upset quorum member walk out of a lesson not long ago. Sometimes despite our best preparations, lessons stink.

    Queuno, good luck angling for a Primary calling. I’ve only taught Primary once, but it’s got to me one of the best callings of any kind. Until that happens, you might find that your new EQP makes a difference in how much you enjoy the meeting. And I think there’s a place for history and logic along with spiritual uplift. The trick is finding just the right place to insert them.

  15. ji
    April 10, 2018 at 10:30 pm

    Jonathan, so, do you see men in a quorum as employees in a production organization? Managers command (assign) and employees obey?

    Our scripture tells us we do nothing in the priesthood except by persuasion, long-suffering, and so forth. So rather than commanding (assigning) someone to handle a task, why not ask him instead?

  16. at
    April 11, 2018 at 9:28 am

    ji, maybe you could volunteer to your quorum leader to take off his hands the task of making assignments and offer your services to solicit volunteers instead for those activities for which you believe he is improperly making assignments. Or, if you don’t seek a long term commitment, you could offer to solicit a volunteer to solicit the volunteers. I doubt that the quorum leader finds any particular pleasure in making assignments to help with moves or clean the church, etc. and will probably accede with pleasure to handing off responsibility to you or another.

  17. Martin James
    April 11, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    it will be interesting to see how various stakes handle the EQP callings and how those in those callings handle the diversity of belief within their quorums. I believe the council approach was recognition that more real discussion of different views needed to be incorporated in Sunday services. However, I can also see how one quorum and the council approach could be used to make differing voices excluded or marginalized. The future will tell. I was very struck by President Nelson’s talk about personal revelation. I count that as evidence that our prophet wants each of us finding the answers to our own questions in our own spiritual ways.

  18. ji
    April 11, 2018 at 5:06 pm

    at, In my quorum, we don’t treat men like employees in a production organization; rather, we ask a man if he will _____. It’s the Lord’s way, and I recommend it to others.

  19. Clark Goble
    April 11, 2018 at 7:11 pm

    Weird. Our quorum (haven’t been since conference due to illness) was always pretty pragmatic and laid back.

    Regarding moving, often people are shy and not as socially integrated into the ward. Plus typically people moving are focused on moving – sometimes hard if you’re working. Asking the EQ isn’t that big a deal IMO. It also helps build unity for those who go.

    I can’t imagine 8 AM church. That’d be hard with kids.

  20. at
    April 11, 2018 at 10:08 pm

    ji, your response suggests that my meaning did not transmit. I think the meaning was clear but I can see how it could have been mid-read. In any event, I read your original comments to indicate that you were less than satisfied with the accepted practice in your quorum. I am glad to see that the opposite appears to be true.

  21. queuno
    April 12, 2018 at 12:16 pm

    Jonathan Green –

    I currently serve as the ward executive secretary. I’ve heard talk about releasing me, just so that they can give someone else a chance to serve. If that happens, I’m begging for primary. or young men.. That ought to give me a little clout in pursuing primary, esp. with the revised abuse prevention guidelines that came out last year (2-deep teaching in ALL youth classes, including Sunday School and primary – not just men anymore). My bishopric gives me enough to do that even when I go to EQ, I frequently get called out so that I can go track down someone for an interview. Due to other callings, I haven’t been to Gospel Doctrine in 11 years, except when I travel out of town.

    I don’t dislike EQ per se – I’ve served as an instructor on multiple occasions and have been in an EQP. I just don’t do well in big circles of people. I’m happier in a smaller, “traditional” classroom setting, where I can sit in the back row and observe. Social anxiety stuff…

    As for where to meet – we have a carpeted chapel that can be cordoned into 3 overflow sections – the first two go with the chapel for sacrament meeting and the third is used for gospel doctrine and HP – now EQ. The chairs get turned 90 degrees.

  22. queuno
    April 12, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    I am truly excited, though, about the candidate our bishopric submitted for EQP. Very humble, but experienced, man. I’ve liked the last 2 EQPs we’ve had – I home taught them both (and they were such good people that I enjoyed visiting their families, which actually made me want to home teach agin).

  23. John Mansfield
    April 12, 2018 at 2:40 pm

    Some years back visiting a rural Nevada town, I attended priesthood meeting. It was assembled in what they called the “scout shack,” a simple, windowless, 20’x40′ structure sited a few dozen yards behind the ward meetinghouse. Priesthood meeting never felt so at home in a place that suited it as it did that day. Alas, the meetinghouse has since burnt down, and the shack was cleared away by the new construction.

  24. Chet
    April 14, 2018 at 10:09 am

    I’m assuming that in most cases, a bishopric will be submitting a candidate’s name for the new EQP.

  25. ji
    April 14, 2018 at 11:44 am

    Chet,

    That might be true, but it would be unfortunate. The handbooks do not contemplate a bishop’s nomination of an elder quorum president. A stake president might choose to consult with a bishop, but that is different from a nomination by the bishop. A stake president who truly understands his stewardship will not ask for a nomination, and a bishop who trult understands his stewardship will not offer a nomination.

  26. Chet
    April 14, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    ji – agreed – I have been ruminating all week about different facets of service in the Church, especially the perennial “same ten people” problem, regarding callings, volunteers, etc. It is curious to me that some folks don’t list their cell phone number or email address on lds.org but it is not my job to speculate why this is the case. Note: the wards I have lived in since 2005 have all been quite large in terms of membership numbers.

  27. queuno
    April 15, 2018 at 7:03 am

    In a training meeting for bishoprics this week, which followed emailed instructions after General Conference, our SP specifically requested input from bishops (I use the word “nomination”, but that’s a question of semantics, mostly). I know our SP usually seeks input from the high council on callings like that, as well. He also stated that his advice to newly called EQ presidents would be that there needed to be a mix of both High Priests and Elders in each presidency.

  28. Anon for this one (obvious reason)
    April 16, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    Extended time.

    I saw copies of this discussion in Quroum of 12 minutes (provided by a family member in possession) from the 1970s. The two apostles discussing the opposite sides (pro-combining and favoring separate quorums) were respectful but detailed and included arguments from prior discussions in the 12 dating from John Taylor’s Presidency.

    That is an extended time until they became unanimous.

  29. Chet
    April 16, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    The official announcement says that “the quorum adjustments should be implemented promptly.” No new presidency yet in my ward and we are still meeting separately. Worse, I’m invited next Sunday to a meeting that may not pertain to me going forward since I’m one who was released by the prophet on 03/31/2018.

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