We’ve given quite a bit of attention recently to women and the Church – let’s turn back again to the men of the Church, with a two-part series reproducing an Aaronic Priesthood handbook for 1928.
Part 1: General Assembly and Ward Teaching
Part 2: Quorum and Class Work
1928 was a time of change – much of this manual will seem familiar, but part of it, including the fact that ward (home) teaching was then a chief responsibility of the Aaronic rather than Melchizedek Priesthood, reminds us that the way things are today is not the way things have always been, that we have often experimented with outward forms and procedures in order to achieve the scriptural mandates given to the Church.
What’s the same? What’s different? What do you like? What are you glad to see left in the past?
Instructions Relative to
WEEKLY WARD MEETINGS
Acting Ward Teachers
And All Members of
THE AARONIC PRIESTHOOD
Prepared by the
January 1, 1928
Some material changes are contemplated in the Gospel teaching for the year 1928. In lieu of the courses of study heretofore provided for the various quorums, it is proposed to have all Gospel subjects taught in the Sunday School. This is in accordance with the announcement made by President Heber J. Grant at the General Priesthood Meeting in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, October 8, 1927.
Heretofore the weekly ward priesthood meeting has consisted chiefly of the general assembly of all members of the priesthood in each ward for preliminary exercises and general instructions, followed by separation of all quorums or classes for department work, including the consideration of quorum business and activities and lesson work on Gospel subjects. It is now proposed that, with the exception of the lesson work, the weekly meeting of the acting ward teachers and all members of the Aaronic Priesthood, at least, shall be of the same character as heretofore.
The important work of ward teaching and the promotion of the activities of the Aaronic Priesthood members require a check-up weekly in order that they may function most effectively. With the change proposed the meetings can be shortened and the time applied chiefly to the consideration of the specific duties of the members of the various quorums, making assignments of duty, and reporting thereon, and other pertinent matters.
It is felt that the business of the ward priesthood meeting and the quorum or departmental work associated therewith need not require more than one-half hour. This will necessitate some preparation on the part of the bishopric and of the quorum presidencies and Aaronic Priesthood supervisors, in order to dispatch the business promptly and fully.
The priesthood is the very foundation of the church, as also the framework upon which it is built. it is the authority delegated by the Lord to men for the preaching of the Gospel and the building up of the church in faith and righteousness. It is the most potent means of real service.
In order that men may partake of the spirit of this divine authority and become qualified to properly exercise it, it is highly necessary that they be taught the purpose and duties thereof, and given frequent opportunity to function in the same. To secure success in Aaronic Priesthood work, weekly meetings for teaching and training are important. The particular matters with which the Aaronic Priesthood is concerned that need frequent and systematic attention are:
(a) The important work of ward teaching which affects many members of the priesthood in every ward.
(b) The making of assignments for the members of the various quorums for the performance of specific weekly duties and the reporting regularly on such assignments.
(c) Increasing the interest and activity of negligent members.
(d) The training of all members in the understanding of the functions of the priesthood and in personal behavior, habits, etc.
(d) Promoting the social and fraternal interest of the quorum members.
Time of Meeting
In view of the fact that the meetings henceforth will not require more than about one-half hour, it is suggested that a very suitable time might be on Sunday morning immediately before Sunday school. However, should some other time be considered more desirable by the stake presidency and the bishoprics of any stake, only in the interest of securing larger attendance and better results, there is no objection.
Suggested Order of Business
In order to clarify the procedure of these weekly meetings and to indicate the scope of the same, a suggested order of business is presented herewith to be carried out under the direction of the bishopric. It is felt that if such a plan is carried out with despatch and in the spirit of the meeting, that all necessary matters can be given prompt and effective consideration without waste of time.
Order of Business of Weekly Meeting of all Acting Ward Teachers and Members of Aaronic Priesthood:
(a) Song – One or two verses only.
(c) Brief Minutes.
(d) General Instructions by Bishopric.
(e) Weekly Progress Report on ward Teaching.
(f) Suggestions for better Ward Teaching.
Quorum or Class Meetings:
(1) Roll Call.
(2) Means for Securing attendance of Negligent Members.
(3) Report on Assignments Filled.
(4) New Assignments for Ensuing Week.
(5) Consider Social and Fraternal activities.
(6) Brief Discussion of Topic on Priesthood Authority, Responsibility, Duties, Personal Behavior, Habits, etc. (5 min.)
If this meeting is held directly before Sunday School, the adjournment should be from each quorum to the Sunday School. If at some other time, it would be preferable to return to the general assembly before the benediction. A short song could then be rendered and the closing prayer offered.
It is to be understood, of course, that the order suggested and the division of time indicated are subject to modification by the various stakes and wards as may be found desirable.
Meeting should be called to order promptly at the time specified. Selection should be made by the bishopric before the beginning of the meeting of the song to be sung and the person to offer prayer. Every effort should be made to get all those who should attend to be punctual, so that there may be no interference or disturbance as a result of latecomers. Not more than one or two verses of a suitable song should be sung.
The regular minute book that is now being used in connection with the weekly ward priesthood meeting roll may be used. It is desirable, however, to present to the meeting a very brief synopsis of the minutes of the previous meeting. Among the items to be presented are the number of acting ward teachers in attendance who are not members of the Aaronic Priesthood, as well as the number of priests, teachers and deacons separately. The minutes as a whole should not be read.
Any special matters that should be brought by the bishopric before the members of the priesthood can properly be presented at this stage of the procedure.
Ward Teaching – Weekly Progress Report
To secure the most effective results in ward teaching the bishopric should be in touch with the progress made during each week of the month, and be able to stimulate the teachers, where necessary, to more active effort.
Some method should be worked out whereby in not to exceed five minutes a fairly accurate idea can be obtained by the bishopric of the extent of teaching thus far done. This may be obtained by having the clerk call the roll of all ward teachers and having them respond by stating the number of families visited thus far during the month. Account must, of course, be taken of the fact that each one of a pair of teachers may report the same number. Another method that may be adopted for the larger wards is to have presiding teachers or division presidents, who should have received their reports previously from their district teachers, report the total number of families in the division and the number visited during the month. Whatever the arrangement, the important thing is to secure each week fairly accurate information in the least time.
Monthly Reports from Ward Teachers
At the last meeting of each month each pair of teachers should hand in the report sheet torn out from the report book. This should in the larger wards, preferably be presented through the presiding teachers. With this sheet should be furnished, also, any other information obtained. For instance, there should be listed the names and addresses of any families that have moved into the ward and from what ward, the names of persons removed and to what ward, births, deaths, and marriages, cases of sickness, distress and trouble. If any of the teachers have any questions or suggestions they should be encouraged to present them.
Suggestions for Better Ward Teaching
The work of ward teaching is one of the most important duties in the church. No other labor requires greater tact, wisdom, charity, enthusiasm and inspiration to secure real success. It is important that all who hold the office of a teacher or any higher office in the priesthood should have the training and the labor of an acting teacher.
In connection with the weekly progress report, it is important that the effectiveness of ward teaching as well as the extent of visits made shall be stressed. This, therefore, requires careful thought and attention on the part of the bishopric. At each meeting some detail should be discussed that will e helpful to the teachers in securing the best results. Such detail should be correlated in such a way that every phase of ward teaching shall be considered in its order. Not only members of the bishopric but also various ward teachers and Aaronic Priesthood supervisors should be appointed for different meetings to discuss some particular phase of the work.
Among other things to be considered under this heading are the qualifications which a ward teacher should develop, such as: Love of fellowmen; love of the gospel; knowledge of the gospel; obedience to principles; persistence; tact; kindliness; the importance of being clean – physically and morally; seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit; pray together as companions before visiting; be prepared on special messages of stake presidency and bishopric; learn the instructions of the authorities; confine the discussion to the topics under consideration; don’t speculate; don’t give a dissertation on some pet subject; don’t discuss other people.
Ideals and principles are the main things to present. Make visits short and worthwhile. Make the visit convenient to each family; study each family and each individual; develop friendship for everyone visited; endeavor to meet each member of the family; invite brief discussion on the matters presented; leave a blessing in very home; obtain information of any change in the family; if any dissatisfaction exists, try to remedy the same; if any trouble or distress prevails, express proper sympathy, and report to bishopric in order that they may provide means of relief. If family is not at home, leave card advising of visit and inviting them to meetings. Seek welfare of every family at all times. Make visits so brief and interesting that the families will appreciate a return visit. Keep careful record of visits made and report information to bishopric.
The teachers should be organized in the most efficient manner. The plan most generally found satisfactory in the larger wards is that of having presiding teachers or division presidents in charge of several pairs of teachers. Such men should be possessed of initiative, resourcefulness and integrity. They should seek to win the confidence of all associated with them. They should be in contact with their teachers each week and be advised of their progress.
Each district assigned to a pair of teachers should include not to exceed eight families. Teachers should visit every home unless they know that non-members reside in any home. Of course, where church members are in the minority, it cannot be expected that every home shall be visited. However, it is very desirable to adopt suitable means to find every member residing in each district. If any non-members are willing to listen to the gospel message, their names and addresses should be reported, to the bishop and by them turned over to the stake or ward missionaries. Where the teachers find in their visits that families have moved in or out of the ward, they should report the names and other information to the bishopric promptly.
When men are to be called to act as teachers, it is desirable that the bishopric have a personal talk with them before presenting their names, in order to be assured of their willingness to labor diligently in this calling. If any teacher shows signs of indifference, it is important that the bishopric personally confer with him and encourage him in kindliness. If any teacher should still fail in his duty, or be prevented through occupation or other causes, he should be replaced by another. (See also Doc. & Cov. Sec. 84:106-111).
Results to Be Expected from Ward Teaching
There should be evidence of improvement by the acting teachers in their qualifications and systematic activity.
There should be monthly contact with all families and a noticeable stimulus resulting therefrom.
Increased attendance at sacramental and other meetings.
Greater harmony and unity among members.
Decrease of indifference, trouble, or transgression.
Increase of faith, love and kindliness.
If these results do not follow, the causes should be carefully investigated and remedied.