In 2019 there was an inspired announcement that “Young Men presidencies at the ward level will be discontinued” to better align with the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 107:15 that reads, “The bishopric is the presidency of this [Aaronic] priesthood, and holds the keys or authority of the same.”
President Russell M. Nelson made it clear that “the bishop and his counselors direct the work of the Aaronic Priesthood quorums and the Young Women classes in the ward.” Since then, some bishops have struggled to juggle their responsibilities.
The Young Men general presidency members offer answers to questions they frequently hear.
1. What do you say to bishops who are feeling overwhelmed as they take on the work formerly done by ward Young Men presidencies?
President Steven J. Lund, Young Men general president: If you feel overwhelmed, you are in good company.
Edward Partridge, the first bishop in this dispensation, wrote the following to his daughter: “I fear my station is above what I can perform to the acceptance of my heavenly Father.”
The Lord helped him and He will also help you. It is important to understand that the work of former Young Men presidencies revolved around Scouting. Scouting has a national organization that functions apart from the Church and required leaders inside the Church to run it. Since we are no longer working with Scouting, the leadership of the young men can rest where the scriptures have always put it: on the shoulders of the bishoprics.
Working with the youth is not a new responsibility given to the bishops, it is a responsibility they have always had. In order to do it well, bishops need to delegate other responsibilities to members of elders quorums and Relief Societies. This includes counseling adults who do not require a common judge or are not involved with abuse of any kind.
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve explained, “A Relief Society president and an elders quorum president, as assigned, can take a great role in counseling with adults — as can a Young Women president in counseling with young women.”
Brother Ahmad S. Corbitt, first counselor in the Young Men general presidency: Many bishops spend much of their time counseling, including with some of the same people who were being counseled by previous bishops.
In our day, the Lord has clarified and magnified the bishops’ vision of the Lord’s storehouse. We typically think of the Lord’s storehouse as food and supplies. However, it also includes the consecrated time and talents of all members of the bishop’s ward. He is not outside his jurisdiction to turn to wise and experienced ward members who can keep confidences and ask them to help other members in need.
Bishops once delegated responsibility for the young men to Young Men presidencies so he could more effectively meet the needs of adults. Now, our leaders would have them learn to turn that around and delegate much of the responsibility for counseling adults to ward members or professionals so he can better meet the needs of the youth and strengthen the rising generation.
Brother Bradley R. Wilcox, second counselor in the Young Men general presidency: Remember the story of the community that kept an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff instead of building a guardrail at the top? That applies here. We need bishoprics to build that guardrail and members of the ward to allow them to do it.
President Lund: Today’s bishops cannot be the bishops their dads were. Bishops at other times dealt with other problems. As Satan attacks the youth at younger ages, we need bishoprics on the front lines of defense.
Today’s elders quorum presidents need to look a little bit more like our former bishops, and today’s bishops need to look a little bit more like former Young Men presidents.
2. What are the roles of advisers and specialists? Are those just new titles for the former Young Men presidencies?
President Lund: Bishoprics are not expected to work with the youth alone. They work with ward Young Women presidencies and can call advisers and specialists.
Elder Cook explained, “Capable Young Men advisers will be called to assist the Aaronic Priesthood quorum presidencies and the bishopric in their duties.”
In an accompanying footnote, he wrote, “We do not anticipate a decrease in the number of adult men serving and supporting Aaronic Priesthood quorums.”
The difference is that these adults once saw themselves as being over the Aaronic Priesthood quorum presidencies and now they must see themselves as supporting the youth presidencies who are called and set apart to lead their quorum members.
Brother Corbitt: As Elder Cook said, this adjustment is not to downplay the importance of adult leaders, but rather to “emphasize the responsibilities of Aaronic Priesthood quorum presidencies and their direct reporting line to the bishopric. [It will] motivate adult leaders to assist and mentor Aaronic Priesthood quorum presidencies in magnifying the power and authority of their office.”
Advisers must realize that their role is not to lead the youth as much as it is to help them lead each other.
Brother Wilcox: One bishop asked, “But with no Young Men president, who speaks up for the young men in ward council meeting?”
The answer is the bishop himself and other members of the bishopric. In the ward youth council, the Aaronic Priesthood quorum presidents and first assistant to the bishop speak up for themselves.
Read more: 6 reasons why President Lund and other Church leaders have faith in the Children and Youth program
3. How can members help?
President Lund: The Children and Youth program will require a cultural shift for youth and adult leaders, but it will also require a shift for every member. We all have a part to play.
Brother Corbitt: You might remember when President Lund spoke in general conference in October of 2020 and said, “All hands on deck!”
His urgent call went out to moms, dads and adult youth leaders. He addressed quorum and class presidencies and said, “Step up and take your rightful place in the Lord’s work.”
To bishops, he said, “Link your keys with those of quorum presidents, and your quorums — and your wards — will forever change.”
Brother Wilcox: Adults, please understand that if a bishop refers you to someone else, it is not because he does not love you.
He is following the direction of our prophet leaders. It is so he can have time to care for his family and the rising generation.
Often, when people request time with general authorities or send letters outlining problems and asking for blessings, they are kindly directed to local leaders. It does not mean general authorities do not care. They simply must prioritize.
Members have come to understand this. In the same way, members are coming to understand that their bishops must also prioritize.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had a quote from Anne Morrow Lindbergh on his office wall, which read, “My life cannot implement in action the demands of all the people to whom my heart responds.” Those words applied to Elder Maxwell and we must let them apply to our bishops as well.