For too long a time the ward bishopric has presided as a solitary trio from the stand during priesthood meeting, with only the organist and the chorister for company. The rest of the priesthood holders have occupied the back—the very back—benches. But today in many parts of the Church that practice is changing. The bishopric has been joined on the stand by the presidencies of the elders quorums and the group leaders of the seventies and high priests.
Taking priesthood leaders out of the audience and seating them on the stand is indicative of a new attitude about Melchizedek Priesthood quorums.
“The great power that always existed in the quorums is finally being tapped,” observes Brother John M. R. Covey, coordinator for the Melchizedek Priesthood quorum curriculum. He adds that “now the genealogy, missionary, home teaching, and personal welfare of the quorum members is more than ever a quorum responsibility, leaving bishops more time for work with the youth and for counseling ward members.”
The new emphasis on priesthood involvement has had its influence on training programs for quorum leaders and on a revitalized interest in the prospective elders programs of the Church.
Typical of this new attitude is the training program for leaders in the Bloomfield Hills Michigan Stake: “We decided that we must give the same significance to the calling of an elders quorum presidency that we do to callings in the bishopric,” says President John R. Pfeifer.
Any man who is called to a quorum presidency is interviewed with his wife by the entire stake presidency, who make special effort to explain the assignments and stewardships.
“No man is called who is not also worthy to enter the temple,” says President Pfeifer, “because we need our very best elders for these assignments; and then the stake needs to give them the proper guidance and assistance.”
In order to provide this assistance, President Pfeifer arranged assignments for his high councilors in such a way that each councilor was given responsibility for either a ward or an elders quorum, but never both.
According to President Pfeifer, this gives the high councilor a maximum amount of time to spend with the presidency of the quorum to which he is assigned.
In addition to assigning his elders quorum presidencies a high councilor full time as an adviser, the stake president himself meets each month with each president, just as he does with each bishop. It is in these interviews with the stake president that the quorum presidents make their monthly home teaching evaluation.
“Our program has had several purposes,” continues President Pfeifer. “First we wanted both quorum leaders and members to know that the work they were assigned was critically important. The priesthood quorums are basic units of church organization, and by giving them proper recognition, we have increased a sense of awareness of the purpose and magnitude of the priesthood.”
The impact of this intensive concentration on elders quorums and their responsibilities has been impressive. In 15 months the Detroit Stake ordained 66 new elders and reactivated 44 prospective elders, necessitating the formation of two additional elders quorums.
One of the most significant successes was that 26 elders who had become inactive were brought back into activity.
“We have helped the brethren to see the importance of their priesthood responsibilities and helped the leaders to understand their great stewardship for the men in their quorums,” President Pfeifer says.
In a school for prospective elders conducted by the Anchorage Alaska Stake, 33 new elders were brought into Melchizedek Priesthood activity.
In Samoa 22 percent of the prospective elders in the mission were advanced to the Melchizedek Priesthood in one year.
The Bountiful Utah Heights Stake, with 163 prospective elders, conducted a special training program and had 40 brethren advanced in the priesthood in 1972.
The same kinds of percentages are found in Southampton England Stake, where 28 percent advanced in one year, and in Silver Spring Maryland Stake, where 19 percent were advanced in 1972.
As stakes throughout the Church have worked toward the same goal—more active Melchizedek Priesthood quorums—they have achieved renewed priesthood commitment and increased vitality through the inspiration of their leaders.
The Lansing Michigan Stake, under the direction of President Sylvan Wittwer, accepted a challenge in late 1971 from President Loren C. Dunn of the First Council of the Seventy to activate 50 families headed by priesthood holders.
President Wittwer asked each of his 11 bishops or branch presidents to submit to him the names of the families they hoped to activate through quorum activity. Progress was to be reported in priesthood evaluations made to the stake president each month.
This goal selection and follow-through produced results. In one ward a high priests group leader, a Sunday School president, and a ward executive secretary were called from those activated as part of the program. Other men reactivated are now serving as counselors in branch presidencies and as branch executive secretaries.
Four families have gone to the temple for the first time. One new elder has gone on a mission. More than 20 elders, seventies, and high priests were brought back into activity. More than 25 new members of the Melchizedek Priesthood have been ordained as a direct result of the program, according to President Wittwer.
As the ward and priesthood leaders reported to President Wittwer, they met more than half their goal by midyear. The goal of 50 families was reached one year after it was set.
“In order for us to reach our goal,” said President Wittwer, “it required new commitments of time to follow through on the goals of each of the wards and quorums to bring others into fuller church activity.”
One of the best-known Melchizedek Priesthood programs in the Church is Project Temple, and one of the most successful examples of a Project Temple occurred in Grantsville, Utah.
“The success of our Project Temple was really the result of two factors—fasting and prayer in preparation for the seminars and then the competent, constant work of dedicated priesthood home teachers,” says Grantsville Utah Stake President Kenneth C. Johnson.
Setting a goal of 150 families to go to the temple, President Johnson began with a detailed planning meeting. The stake presidency provided a minute-by-minute agenda of each Project Temple seminar. Each session was designed to be both spiritually informative and motivating.
To make certain that the “project” families received help with problems at times other than the seminars, the president asked his priesthood leaders to assign outstanding home teachers to the families.
The senior home teacher and his wife had a special assignment. They were asked to assume a fellowshipping role—to see their family often on a social basis and to plan to attend the temple with them.
“This is one of the key factors in the success of any Project Temple,” President Johnson said. “Families who successfully complete the project tell us how important it was that a family strong in the Church really cared.”
“These families have become not just ‘assigned’ friends, but real and eternal friends and brothers and sisters,” he said.
The success of the Grantsville Utah Stake Project Temple is best demonstrated by the fact that 30 families in that stake went to the Salt Lake Temple for the first time and that 73 children were sealed to their parents. Another 20 have now been ordained elders and expect to go to the temple soon.
“In all of these experiences, our brethren learn one of the truly important principles of priesthood—that of brotherhood,” Brother Covey said.
“For too long in the Church too many men have come to think of the priesthood quorum as just another class they go to on Sunday morning. That is not what the Lord intended a priesthood quorum to be.”
The Melchizedek Priesthood quorums have real responsibility, comparable to that of a bishop, for the spiritual well-being of their own members. This is a tremendous assignment when you consider that the elders and prospective elders and their families make up 83 percent of the Church.
“It seems to me that the Lord has been preparing the priesthood leadership step by step for even greater responsibilities,” Brother Covey concluded.