Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Salt Lake Missionary Home, 1974: Priesthood Correlation in Missionary Work

Salt Lake Missionary Home, 1974: Priesthood Correlation in Missionary Work

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 14, 2013

Continuing our series from the packet of materials provided to missionaries entering the Salt Lake Missionary Home in 1974 – part one here. This particular document has no heading beyond “Introduction,” but it seems to fit the presentation made by Hartman Rector on Wednesday morning, “Priesthood Correlation in Missionary Work.”  Its interest for me lies in how it illustrates the primary purpose of correlation — not the supposed “censoring” function that seems to be assumed by many as its chief purpose, but the systematizing of Church organization and practice under prominently drawn priesthood lines.


In past years the Church has done a tremendous job in finding people and in preparing them to be taught and baptized. There have been many ways to find people such as street meetings, open houses in chapels, open houses in members’ homes, tracting, member missionary programs, “I Care” programs; and the golden questions, etc. All of these methods have been instrumental in bringing numerous converts into the Church. The lack of organization and the great variety of methods of finding people, however, have caused some problems with uniformity and correlation in the missions and the stakes. The finding program has not been tied to priesthood correlation.

In 1961 the Brethren first announced that there would be a unified program for teaching investigators, and for the first time in the history of the Church there was a unified teaching plan for teaching the gospel.

In June of 1972 the Brethren announced a completely unified proselyting program to be used throughout the world – a means for finding, teaching, and fellowshipping new converts under correlation.

Through the 1940s and 1950s convert baptisms ranged from 5,000 to 33,000 per year. In the year 1960, President McKay stated that every member should be a missionary. As a result of missionaries using the membership of the Church as finders, baptisms soared and since the 1960s convert baptisms have increased many times that amount.

Until recently people were baptized into the Church almost entirely as a result of missionaries doing all the work. They found the people, they taught them, and in many places they fellowshipped them as well. In the 1960s, for the first time, the general membership of the Church caught part of the vision of missionary work and began to realize that they had a responsibility themselves. Many began to realize that Missionary work was not solely the responsibility of seventies and full-time missionaries. Consequently, as members realized and accepted their responsibility to do missionary work, baptisms increased because missionaries began to teach more and find less.

Imagine what would happen if even part of the member families were doing what they should be doing in the missionary program. There are now over three million members of the Church, and approximately 750,000 families with an average of four members per family. Of these 750,000 families there are 25,000 where the father is actively engaged in the work of the Church. Assuming that half of these families are not desirous of doing missionary work because of age, sickness, etc., that would leave 125,000 families who are desirous of assisting in missionary work. What would happen if each of these families did what they were asked to do, and that is to bring into the Church one other family per year? If that occurred there would be 125,000 family convert baptisms per year. With four members per family that would mean 500,000 baptisms per year. This would be the result if even part of the members were doing what they should in finding people for the missionaries to teach.

In addition to the results obtained from the number of conversions, the fellowshipping process would be greatly assisted. In essence, when member families are finding other families, these persons are already fellowshipped and the transition coming from the world into the Church would be a much easier one for most non-member families. Consequently, this would greatly assist the new member in truly being converted.

Governing Principles of Correlation

The three basic correlation principles which guide the Church and its priesthood programs (including missionary work) are:

1.The most important unit in time and all eternity is the family. Families do the work and are responsible for the work done in priesthood programs.

2. The Church and all of its agencies exist to serve the family.

3. Home teaching is the vehicle that carries the programs of the Church to the family.

If any work is done in the Church it should be done with these three principles in mind.

On one occasion President Harold B. Lee indicated that there have been two great missionaries to the Lamanites in modern times: one, Jacob Hamblin, and the second, Spencer W. Kimball. Both men were great and were spiritually oriented in their own stewardships. However, there was one great difference. When Jacob Hamblin died his program to the Lamanites died; but when Spencer W. Kimball dies the program will go on. Why? Because it is under priesthood correlation. In time any program which is not under priesthood correlation will fade away because priesthood correlation is what will assist in the exaltation of the family for time and eternity.

Importance of the Priesthood Power Line

In order to fully understand priesthood correlation there must be an understanding of the priesthood power line which exists in the Church. That line is from the Lord to the President of the Church, to the First Presidency, to The Quorum of the Twelve, to the stake president, to the bishop, to the priesthood leader, to the home teacher, to the father, and then to the family or individual. Too many times in the Church the priesthood power line is bypassed, thus causing difficulties and weakening the power that exists in that line.

For example, a bishop might be in a priesthood executive meeting where there is a discussion about the difficulties with “Mary Jones” and how they might be solved. The Relief Society might volunteer to send its visiting teachers, or the Primary to send one of its teachers, or the Sunday School, etc. What happens is that an auxiliary line is created from the bishop to the family, bypassing three links of the Priesthood chain. Missionaries have sometimes been guilty of the same and have felt free to visit any family they wished or any member of any family, perhaps without going through the father or seeking his permission. As long as this exists in the Church, the central priesthood line is weakened and there is built up a “fringe committee” on the side to do the work. This weakens the priesthood leader and does not follow the three basic principles of correlation enumerated above.

Seventies as Specialists

How do seventies as specialists in missionary wok tie together these principles in the organizational structure on a ward basis? The Priesthood Executive Meeting which is the basic unit of correlation in the Church provides the answer.

For example, in a typical priesthood executive meeting one finds among a few others, a bishop, high priest, seventy, elder, and Aaronic Priesthood youth leader. What has happened many times in the past isthat the seventy (ward mission leader) has said to the elders quorum president, “President, we have a problem. We need contacts. We have this responsibility for missionary work and we need your help.” Where does the responsibility for the work lie? It appears from this example that it lies with the seventy, although that is not correct. It is interesting to note that many members of the Church feel that the responsibility for missionary work all centers around the seventies and the full-time missionaries. In reality, as has been said before, the responsibility really lies with the members themselves.

Here, perhaps, is what should happen. Under the direction of the bishop the seventy should say to the elders’ quorum president, “President, as you know, the fathers of this ward who are elders and who, with their families, are under your jurisdiction, have responsibility for the missionary work in this ward, just as they have responsibility in the other priesthood programs. Our role in assisting is that of a specialist for missionary work. Our purpose is to assist you and your home teachers to train families in how to fulfill their missionary responsibilities, and we will be happy to do so.” Many times an elders’ quorum president might be prompted to say, “You are welcome to go and visit our families any time you like. You train them and do whatever the Brethren say should be done in missionary work.” The response of the seventies president should be: “No, President, it is your responsibility to be assured that the fathers in those families do the work. We will help train your home teachers but it will always be under your direction.”

It is interesting to note in this example that the responsibility lies correctly with the family who must do the work under the direction of the appropriate priesthood leader. The seventies’ responsibility is to be a specialist and train others in how to find people. When he himself is finding he is doing so in his role as a father and not necessarily in his role as a seventy.

Finding Families through Home Teachers

As mentioned above, the seventy instructs the quorum leaders in their missionary responsibilities and then, with the approval of the bishop and the elders’ president or the high priests’ group leader, he assists these priesthood leaders in instructing their home teachers how to find families. The seventy will serve as a resource to the priesthood leaders in instructing them in the use of the member-missionary kits, films, flip charts, etc. that help these priesthood leaders and home teachers to train families how to find nonmember families. The home teacher after receiving instruction from his priesthood leader challenges each of the families he is teaching to prayerfully select one or more nonmember families to friendship into the Church.

After the member family has selected the nonmember that they are going to friendship they should determine, perhaps with the assistance of their home teachers, which experience or experiences they feel appropriate to have with that family this month. The family determines these experiences depending on the receptivity of the nonmember family. Some families are ready to attend Church, with others the only means of friendshipping might be completely on a non-Church basis.

On a monthly basis the member family should report back to the home teacher the results of their attempts to friendship the nonmember family so that the home teachers can report to their respective priesthood leaders.

Interestingly enough, when the elders quorum president or high priests’ group leader hold their personal priesthood interviews they become informed about the nonmember families as well as the member families. In the priesthood executive meeting the priesthood leader is able to report to the bishop and the ward mission leader the status of all families under his jurisdiction, member and nonmember alike.

Under this procedure it is rather easy to observe two things: (1) There are not a handful of seventies, full-time or stake missionaries, doing all the work. All the members of the Church are becoming involved, and not on a sporadic basis, but through priesthood correlation on a regular interval with built-in accountability for each of these families. (2) All in attendance at the priesthood executive meeting begin to become informed about the missionary program of the Church and more importantly the nonmember population of the ward.

In the priesthood executive and ward correlation council meetings, the entire program of the Church can be focused to bear on any one family. The seventy is able to coordinate the various functions in the ward with the priesthood leaders so that the proper nonmember families can have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of Church membership.

Because of the great number of people that can be potentially friendshipped by the members, full-time and stake missionaries can then begin to perform their proper role of teaching families and spend much less effort in the time consuming function of finding.

The key man in any ward for scheduling teaching opportunities for full-time and stake missionaries is the ward mission leader* (seventy). This man has been charged with the responsibility to coordinate all missionary work on a ward level. His prime means for coordination is a weekly correlation meeting between full-time and stake missionaries. In this meeting he distributes referrals, coordinates teaching opportunities, etc. coming from the priesthood leaders and auxiliaries through priesthood executive committee meeting and ward correlation council.

* In the case of branches or districts where there are no stakes involved, an elder would be called to serve as the branch mission leader. He would perform the same function as a seventy would if a seventy were present. As the coordinator of all missionary work in the branch, all full-time and district missionaries would work through him as they find and teach people in that branch.


Of course this same means of operation should work for other priesthood programs by their using the priesthood vehicle of home teaching. All priesthood leaders begin to become accountable for all priesthood programs within their own quorums or groups, and thus become enthused in effectuating the total priesthood program.

This is the manner in which people should be found in the Church – utilizing priesthood correlation. Other finding methods must be continued for the present because it will take some time for these principles to be fully understood and incorporated, but this is the method by which finding will be done in the future. The beginning foundation has been laid and it is now time to start implementing it in the stakes of Zion. The families do the work and the priesthood leadership gives direction for the work and helps to hold the families accountable for the work utilizing priesthood correlation.



  1. Like many who commented in response to your first post, though I went to the mission home in 1974, it is generally a blur. So thanks for posting this material.

    This text is particularly interesting because it sounds so much like Elder Anderson’s talk at April conference, a part of Elder Nelson’s talk at April conference, and what I fully expect to hear at the satellit broadcast training session on June 23.

    Comment by JrL — June 14, 2013 @ 8:04 am

  2. As ward mission leader, I’m extremely curious about the content of the June 23rd broadcast, too.

    It’s interesting to see how the pendulum swings. The elders currently serving in the ward feel they have no obligation to find–that’s strictly a member’s job.

    The priesthood power line (as explained here negating the real good the RS and Primary can accomplish) and expectations of the lamanite missionary program are the sort of cultural relics that only this blog would publish.

    Comment by The Other Clark — June 14, 2013 @ 12:51 pm

  3. Thanks for providing this snapshot in time. Lots to chew on with your comment about correlation’s initial stated purpose (“Its interest for me lies in how it illustrates the primary purpose of correlation — not the supposed “censoring” function that seems to be assumed by many as its chief purpose, but the systematizing of Church organization and practice under prominently drawn priesthood lines.”).

    Comment by David Y. — June 14, 2013 @ 2:47 pm

  4. Ardis,

    Can you post some images of the cover pages? That’d be great.

    Comment by Tod Robbins — June 14, 2013 @ 3:11 pm

  5. No cover. Just loose pages punched for a notebook.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 14, 2013 @ 3:40 pm

  6. Sorry — a threadjack here, but off the top of anyone’s head, does anyone know when this concept that Elder Rector repeats here about how “the Church and all of its agencies exist to serve the family,” first started being sounded? To me, it’s connected to the idea of correlation, but maybe it’s an independent concept that leaders were espousing prior to the 1960’s and 1970’s. (?)

    Comment by David Y. — June 14, 2013 @ 3:45 pm

  7. I’m kind of watching for that in the 20th century research I’m deep into these days, David. I’ve seen somewhat similar statements as far back as the 1930s, but I think there is a different assumption about that concept these days. In the past it seemed to be understood as the Church being a partner with the family, helping parents teach their children to live the gospel. Today, I very often sense that people mean that the Church is subordinate to the family, and that the family’s wishes should dictate the Church’s plans and actions.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 14, 2013 @ 3:56 pm

  8. (Great point. That’s how I’ve taken that comment, too, over the past twenty years or so. Thanks, Ardis.)

    Comment by David Y. — June 14, 2013 @ 11:14 pm

  9. I’m curious what the RS and Primary were considerd useful for? I guess I can see why they thought it was a good idea. Was there a ward council at that time too?

    Even after serving in Ward Council callings, I really don’t understand the reason to separate the two, so I am no asking Keepanation for their thoughts.

    Comment by Juliathepoet — June 15, 2013 @ 1:15 am

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