Changes announced Friday by the First Presidency will unify when children in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints move from the Primary program into youth programs and attend the temple for the first time and could result in earlier ordination for some boys to the priesthood.
Beginning in January, children will complete Primary and begin attending Sunday School and Young Men and Young Women as age groups, not as individuals following their 12th birthdays.
In addition, young men will be eligible to be ordained to a priesthood office in January of the year they turn 12, 14 and 16, and youth will be eligible to obtain a limited-use temple recommend beginning in January of the year they turn 12 — based on their “individual worthiness, readiness, and personal circumstances,” wrote the First Presidency in a Dec. 14 letter to local priesthood leaders.
Ages for ordaining young men to priesthood offices are not “doctrinally mandated” and have varied throughout Church history, according to materials released by the Church.
“We desire to strengthen our beloved children and youth through increased faith in Jesus Christ, deeper understanding of His gospel, and greater unity with His Church and its members,” according to the letter, signed by President Russell M. Nelson, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring.
In a Facebook post Friday, President Nelson said, “Though these adjustments lead to some significant logistical changes, I encourage you to focus first on the spiritual benefits.
“Our youth and children are among the best the Lord has ever sent into this world. They have the capacity to be smarter and wiser and have more impact on the world than any previous generation! We must do our part to help them realize their potential.”
These are some frequently asked questions on what to expect in 2019 about Primary progression, priesthood ordination and temple recommends.
Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Woman general president, said the Savior “is directing His Church. He knew this change was coming, and He inspired it for this group of 11-year-olds, who are ready for new assignments and for increased opportunities to serve. He knows the capabilities of His sons and daughters. We have complete confidence in them. How grateful we are for revelation.”
Currently, when children turn 12 years old, they begin attending Young Women or Young Men, and they return to Primary for Sunday classes or have the option of attending a youth Sunday School class. In 2019, the Valiant 11 Primary class will be discontinued and, in January, all 11-year-olds will attend Sunday School together throughout the year as they all turn 12.
“This will be a much easier transition for classes to move forward together rather than children leaving Primary one at a time throughout the year,” said Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary general president.
A benefit of children and youth progressing as a group is that “there is a unity factor and friendship,” said Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men general president. “They progress together. This change helps in the process of conversion. It creates belonging.”
However, the change is not just for friendship, he said, although it will increase feelings of brotherhood in the quorums. “We are about conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Youth are part of a battalion, as President Nelson taught; no one needs to feel alone. We are together.”
The change also means that deacons and Beehives won’t have to wait until their 12th birthdays to attend camps. And while dating is recommended after age 16, youth in the Mia Maid class and teachers quorums will no longer have to be 14 to attend dances and youth conferences and accept ministering assignments.
“You have friends. You don’t have to wait. You progress together. This change aligns with what happens in school and other areas of your life,” Brother Owen said.
Sister Cordon said a benefit to progressing by age groups is that a class presidency can serve without the interruption of losing presidency members to the next class on their birthdays. Instead, presidencies will be “taking time to get to know the young women and planning activities that will bless them and their families.”
It will also be a blessing to leaders, she said. “This is joyous. We aren’t losing presidency members continually. We know that we will have young women in each age-group for the same two years. We will have continuity and unity.”
Youth will no longer be recognized in sacrament meeting when they move between organizations, classes and quorums. Young men who are being ordained to a priesthood office are presented in sacrament meeting for a sustaining vote but do not go to the podium.
And until a new initiative for children and youth launches in 2020, progression in Cub Scouting and 11-year-old Scouts remains much the same, according to the Church materials detailing the changes. Boys continue to join Cub Scouts and 11-year-old Scouts and to progress between age-specific dens and patrols on their birthdays.
Sister Jones said she is “particularly excited that these changes will make it possible for younger children to be involved in temple work. They are typically counting the days until they turn 12 to receive a limited-use recommend and perform ordinances in the temple.”
The announcement is “another show of confidence in these remarkable youth,” said Sister Cordon. “These youth have a mighty work to do in the temple — a work that can begin as soon as they enter Young Women and Young Men.”
Sister Jones added, “I hope concerned parents will realize how prepared their children really are. They are ready. This will allow an entire Primary class of children who have been learning and preparing together to continue their growth and progression in Young Women and Young Men.”
The announcement also allows for some flexibility due to personal circumstances, with parents and bishops counseling together to decide what is in the best interests of each child or youth.