You say you want a revolution (ecclesiology edition)

Both the quorum structures that we have had for many decades and “Priesthood Home Teaching” as we have experienced them were implemented as part of the Priesthood Correlation movement during the 1960s and 1970s. This was the progressive reform movement championed by Harold B. Lee and both the quorum/group structure of the Melchizedek Priesthood and Home Teaching were central pillars to this new church structure. But all living things change.

You can read about the 1968 changes in priesthood “quorums” that got us where we were in this short JI post. Similarly Matt B. gives us a quick primer on centrality of Home Teaching to Correlation (also at the JI).

From Matt’s post we find President Romney’s wildly descriptive statement: “Home teaching has been described as the pivot around which all other church activities are to be correlated.” When Romney announced the program in 1962 he declared: “Through a program of priesthood correlation, we bearers of the priesthood must increase our efforts to encourage, teach, and inspire the Saints to become ‘partakers of the divine nature[.]'” [n1] And Priesthood Home Teaching was the means to do it.

There are two pieces that I think are important as we consider the recent changes. Both are potential declensions of the Priesthood Correlation reforms. First these reforms inculcated a strictly male ecclesiastical bureaucracy. Second, this movement was the apex of progressivism (not of the Bernie incarnation) in the church.

Every MP Handbook from 1948 to 1970. After this the General Handbook became the ecclesiastical organizational document of choice.

RS had the same handbook (left) from 1946 to 1967. It included provision for women to anoint and bless outside of the temple. Correlation published a new handbook in 1968 (right). I bet you can can whether the bits about women giving blessings was retained.

Correlation has been extremely effective in carrying out the missions of the church, but it also created significant barriers to the full participation of women in church governance and ministry. Over the past several years, and particularly with President Oaks’ 2014 General Conference sermon on the topic, the Church has begun to view the work of women–the Relief Society, and the Young Women’s Program of the Church–as not only ministering with priesthood authority, but also outlets for priesthood power. The changes this weekend represent a further expansion of this collaboration between the male and female organizations of the church. The Priesthood quorums are now organized more like the Relief Society, and now both the women’s organizations and male organizations will work together to minister to all of the Saints and accomplish the missions of the church. The extension of these duties to Young Women is an important shift in how members interact within the church.

Progressivism works extremely well for certain things. Defy Genichi Taguchi and the statistical methods of management at your peril! They are also generally indifferent to the souls of individuals. Nevertheless the Church has been a repository of progressive impulses for over a century. Preach My Gospel, quotes President Monson’s progressive anthem: “When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates.” [n2] We all accept with varying degrees of fondness the scientific management of evangelism, but that first decade or so of Priesthood Home Teaching saw a similar control. We also generally don’t like car salesmen.

The level of detailed instruction on how to Home Teach is mind blowing.

You made a paper report for every visit, which was compiled into a three-year running report for each family being taught. Click the image to read a higher res version.

From the recent First Presidency letter on the changes: “Because leaders no longer report the number of contacts with individuals and families, the ability to enter or view contacts or visits has been removed from Leader and Clerk Resources (LCR) and from the LDS Tools app.” [n3] Instead EQ and RS leaders will report how many ministers they have “interviewed” per quarter. The measurement is no longer a statistical frequency of HT/VT, it is a statistical frequency of leadership interaction. Imagine if missionaries no longer reported evangelizing statistics, but instead ZLs/STLs reported how many missionaries they interacted with? It is a radical shift.

All this to say that though Priesthood Correlation is not dead, it is changing, and there is perhaps hope for more.

___________________

n1. Marion G. Romney, Conference Report (October 1962), 77.

n2. Thomas S. Monson, June 2004 Worldwide Leadership Training Broadcast, as quoted in Preach My Gospel, 150. This appears to be a variation of pithy quotes attributed to Progressive Karl Pearson, or Lord Kelvin.

n3. Priesthood and Family Dept, Office of the Presiding Bishopric, Letter to Ecclesiastical Leaders, April 3, 2018.

Comments

  1. HIstory at its best—seeing where we are in light of where we’ve been. Thanks.

  2. One [on the more light-hearted side] aspect of this change from Home/Visiting Teaching will be the nomenclature. We are all quite familiar with (insert VT also)…
    -HT visit
    -doing my HTing
    -HTing companion
    -HTeaching districts
    -Did you do your HTching yet?
    -Have you been HTaught this month?
    -etc.

    But the word/concept of “ministering” has been quite rarely used in the church. It will be awkward for a while. Insert “Ministering” and its variations as a noun and verb. Then add labels to identify RS vs. EQ Ministers/Ministering…
    –Have your ministering sisters/brothers/angels ministered to you lately?
    –Ministering contact/visit/text/call/note
    –and so on

    IMO, it would have been better to use some variation on the theme of “friendship,” “support,” or “good neighbor” (then we could talk about Allstate visits ;-). But definitely not “succorance.”

  3. Fantastics, J.

  4. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    It’s not that nothing will be measured, but that different things will be measured (and tracked). And that measurement will exert pressure. Initially, that pressure will be exerted on EQ and RS Presidents (Presidencies? ). We can expect that pressure to trickle down, having unexpected consequences for general members. It will be interesting to see how this manifests itself.

  5. I love seeing how things have changed over time. It’s fascinating, and gives me hope that more positive changes are to come. Thanks for writing this.

  6. On the plus side: 1) We’re calling it the same thing–“ministering”–for both men and women; 2) supposedly there’s going to be coordination between RS and EQ in the administration of it; and 3) we’re involving YW in the same way that YM were involved with HT for years and years.

    On the down side (or at least the status quo side)–if I’ve heard correctly: The RS’s accountability (at least officially) is still “sisters,” while the EQ’s accountability is still “households.” (I.e., we couldn’t possibly have women who are accountable for men, though of course men can be accountable for women.)

    My family found a green spot for an Easter egg roll for the grandkiddies, so I missed the afternoon session, coming home to all kinds of wide-eyed hoopla on social media. “HOME-TEACHING AND VISITING-TEACHING RETIRED!!!” After getting caught up on the session in bits and pieces over the following few days, especially hearing Elder Holland list all the previously “retired” incarnations, along with his and Pres. Bingham’s insistence that the new thing was going to maximize the best of the old thing, and leave behind the worst of the old thing, it all fell into place for me. It’s just the old thing with some improvements. I welcome that. It’s a good thing, generally speaking. Is it a glorious revelation from heaven? Weeeellll . . . It’s a good thing. Good things are inspired.

    I hope it’s just a first tentative baby step, the first creaking open of the flood gates.

  7. This reminded me of an old diary entry from 1948 by J. Reuben Clark. who seemed a little dubious of the progressive trends in correlation: “Can spiritual development and achievement be measured statisticallly or will the use of statistical measures of success and failure in Church activities actually undermine spirituality by glorifying external piety?…could efficiency become the end rather than spirituality?”

  8. J. Stapley says:

    Whoa, kevinf. That is remarkable.

  9. That’s a great quote, Kevin. Do you have a source for that?

  10. JKC, “America’s Saints: Rise of Mormon Power,” Robert Gottlieb and Peter Wiley, First Harvest/HBJ, 1986, New York City. Unfortunately, I did not record the page number at the time, and I don’t have a copy of the book. However, I have seen it around, and I am pretty sure the CHL has a copy.

  11. I also realize I didn’t provide a primary source document, but thirty years ago, I was not so concerned about such things. I am surprised I even had the Gottlieb and Wiley book reference.

  12. J. Stapley says:

    It looks like that was Quinn’s summary of Clark’s office diary. See Elder Statesman, 122-123.

  13. “At least quarterly, ministering brothers and sisters meet with a leader of the elders quorum or Relief Society in a ministering interview, preferably in person and with their companion. A married couple ministering together can meet with either elders quorum or Relief Society leaders or both. Between interviews, ministering brothers and sisters communicate other information as needed—in person or through phone calls, texts, emails, or otherwise. They share confidential information only with the elders quorum or Relief Society president—or directly with the bishop.”

    My reading of this Frequently Asked Question on the new Ministering site suggests that RS or EQ ministers may report to either a RS or EQ leader. Perhaps a member of the presidency or maybe another person will be called to do such interviews. It sounds like more of a team effort with RS and EQ sharing the responsibility of Ministering assignments and interviews.

  14. Thanks, Kevin!

  15. I can see why church leadership want detailed reports: it helps them see what the members are actually doing. The problem they face is that we’re not being paid to fill out TPS reports. The other aspect is that there are lots of families whose activity status isn’t going to be affected by home visits at all.
    I know that my EQ President talks about doing interviews with the home teachers, but it’s always been just talk. Maybe now it won’t be.

  16. jader3rd, I have wondered about those detailed reports ever since I spent a week working with a missionary district leader who, at the end of the week, reported 70 proselyting hours while I reported 53 — even more since hearing from a former frustrated bishop (too many transient ward members for the active priesthood holders to even track down/stake president insistent upon wanting 100% home teaching reports) who gave up and turned in 100% reports that had nothing to do with reality, efficiency, spirituality, or ministering. I hope those were outliers.

  17. As someone said “numbers [statistics?] will testify to anything if you torture them long enough.”

  18. kevinf, the quote can also be found here: D. Michael Quinn, _J. Reuben Clark: The Church Years_ (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1983), 106.

  19. Ronald H. Coase (1910 – 2013) professor of economics, University of Chicago Law School. Nobel in Economics, 1991.

    Coase states that he said, “If you torture the data enough, nature will always confess” (…which has since been improved to “”If you torture the data long enough, it will confess”) …in a talk at the University of Virginia in the early 1960s and that this “in a somewhat altered form, has taken its place in the statistical literature.”
    ____
    From Gordon Tullock, “A Comment on Daniel Klein’s ‘A Plea to Economists Who Favor Liberty”, Eastern Economic Journal, Spring 2001.