New responsibilities for Primary counselors among latest updates to the General Handbook

A recent update to the General Handbook focuses ward Primary presidencies’ efforts on helping parents prepare their children to enter and progress on the covenant path. 

The Primary president may now assign a counselor to help parents prepare their children to be baptized and confirmed. The other counselor may be assigned to help parents with priesthood and temple preparation.  

Primary General President Camille N. Johnson and her counselors — Sister Susan H. Porter and Sister Amy A. Wright — posted a video on Instagram and Facebook on Thursday, Jan. 20, explaining this update to their social media followers. They also spoke to the Church News about how these responsibilities will help Primary counselors better understand their roles.   

President Johnson wrote in her social media post: “We hope and trust that your presidency will apply these changes as inspired by the Spirit. We are not just preparing our children for events; we are preparing them for a lifetime of covenant keeping.”

Focused responsibilities

This update to responsibilities for Primary presidency members in section 12.3.2, published in December 2021, suggests using resources in the Gospel Library and working with ministering brothers and sisters, teachers and others. 

“With one counselor putting their emphasis on baptism and preparation for confirmation and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the other on priesthood and temple preparation, we’re just going to have our eyes, our minds, our hearts turned in a more focused way to the needs of those children,” President Johnson said. 

Whether a child has parents who are active in the Church or not, they all need support, she said. “We all need help in preparing our children. … The level of need is going to depend upon the family and the child.”

Assigning Primary counselors to help with preparation for baptism and confirmation as well as the priesthood and temple aligns with the delegation of missionary work and temple and family history work in the ward to elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies.

Sister Porter said if she were the counselor focused on baptism and confirmation, she would go into Primary “with a new set of eyes” — a broader view of how these ordinances are not just an event, but the first step to a lifetime of service as covenant members. 

Once baptized and confirmed, children are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One guiding question might be, “How are we as a Primary presidency inviting those children to participate as members of the Church?”

Sister Porter shared the example of one Primary presidency that invited the ward’s 10-year-old boys and girls to be “Primary buddies” to children in the Sunbeams class. The older Primary children are an “untapped resource” that can be given opportunities to serve, she said.  

A mother and her son sit in front of a temple.
A mother and her son sit in front of a temple. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Priesthood and temple preparation is essential for both boys and girls to understand the blessings of the priesthood in their lives, President Johnson emphasized. 

“That priesthood preparation is not just for an ordination to a priesthood office for our 11-year-olds who are going to be ordained deacons, but for both boys and girls to better understand the power of the priesthood, the authority of the priesthood and what priesthood keys are,” she said. 

Ministering

An update to the General Handbook in July 2021 added the word “ministering” to Primary leaders’ roles. For example, section 12.3.5 now says of Primary teachers and nursery leaders:​ “These members are called to teach and minister to specific age-groups of children.”

Referring to the update to the counselors’ responsibilities and the addition of ministering, Sister Wright said: “This is such a beautiful reminder to all of us that a call to serve in Primary is a call to a spiritual ministry. That ministering doesn’t solely take place on the Sabbath.

“It’s throughout the week as they make connections with these precious children — and not just with the children, but also with their families, so that they can discover ways in which we can all better help support the parents in their sacred stewardship. That’s really what it’s about.”

Preparation for baptism, confirmation, priesthood and the temple “is first and foremost the parents’ responsibility,” Sister Wright added, “and we want to help and support in any way we can.”