Handbook 2:
Administering the Church


17.2 Circumstances That May Permit Local Adaptation

    Stake presidents, bishops, and branch presidents have discretion to make simple adaptations to certain Church programs. Where needed, such adaptations may be made as follows:
  1. 1.

    In the staffing and programs of the auxiliaries

  2. 2.

    In the format and frequency of leadership meetings

  3. 3.

    In the format and frequency of activities

When considering what adaptations may be appropriate, the stake presidency, bishopric, or branch presidency counsel among themselves and also with the stake, ward, or branch council. They also counsel with their immediate presiding authority if circumstances may justify a major or unusual adaptation. Leaders should always seek the guidance of the Spirit in making adaptations.

Leaders may consider the following factors when determining what adaptations may be appropriate.


Family Circumstances

When extending callings, scheduling leadership meetings, and planning activities, leaders consider the family circumstances of members. Church service and participation always entail a measure of sacrifice. However, strong families are vital to the Church, and members should not be asked to make excessive family sacrifices to serve or to support programs or activities.

One family circumstance to consider is the Church calling(s) held by a member’s husband or wife. Individual families should not be overburdened with Church responsibilities. Another circumstance to consider is the overall time demands that members face in supporting their families and taking care of other personal matters. In some areas of the world, members of necessity work two or three jobs. These are legitimate considerations for leaders to weigh in extending callings, scheduling leadership meetings, and planning activities.


Transportation and Communication

Some stakes or wards encompass large geographical areas, requiring members to travel long distances to meetings and activities. When evaluating the need for meetings and activities, leaders take into account the time and expense required for members to travel.

In many areas of the world, automobiles are not common, and transportation takes place by foot, bicycle, bus, and streetcar. When distances are great, these conditions may mean that leaders should adjust Church programs and leadership meetings to make it easier for members to participate.

Even where automobiles are widely available, leaders should be sensitive to the cost of driving long distances. In some instances, such as conducting high council business, leaders may use conference calls, e-mail, and the Internet to reduce costly transportation. When using these resources, leaders should take special care to ensure confidentiality.

Members in different stages of life often vary widely in their access to transportation. For example, young single adults are often more mobile than families with children, and sometimes they have the resources to travel greater distances. Where young single adults are able to gather at reasonable time and expense, they should have multistake activities of moderate frequency (see 13.3.1).

In some parts of the world, telephones are expensive, and many members do not own one. Likewise, e-mail and Internet access are rare in some areas. If these resources are expensive or not generally available, leaders should make necessary adaptations.

Where travel is difficult or costly and communication resources are inadequate, serving as a ministering brother or sister is more challenging. In such cases, leaders organize ministering to best meet local needs (see 7.4.3 and 9.5.3).


Small Quorum or Class Size

Young Men and Young Women

In a ward or branch with few young men, Aaronic Priesthood quorums may meet together for instruction and activities (see 8.11 and 8.13.1). However, individual quorums should still be organized, with leaders called and sustained for each quorum.

In a ward or branch with few young women, they may meet together for instruction and activities (see 10.6.2 and 10.8.1). A class presidency may be called for each age-group, or one presidency may be called for the combined age-groups until they are able to be organized into their respective classes.

If adult leadership is limited, the Young Men presidency may teach the Sunday lessons and administer the activity program without assistant advisers. The Young Women presidency may do the same for young women. In a very small unit, the Young Men and Young Women presidents may be the only adult leaders in their organizations. If this is the case, they teach the Sunday lessons and oversee activities for all young men or young women. When possible, counselors and a secretary should be called for each organization.

Because youth often benefit from socializing in larger groups, the young men and young women in two or more small wards or branches may meet occasionally for combined activities. If neighboring wards and branches have few young men or young women, the bishops and branch presidents may authorize the youth to meet together for weekly activities. When considering these options, leaders take into account factors such as distance and travel cost.

Periodic stake or multistake activities are especially important where wards or branches have small numbers of youth (see 13.3 and 13.4).

In a small stake or a district, the Young Men president may be the only stake or district Young Men leader. The same may be true for the stake or district Young Women president. When possible, counselors and a secretary should be called for each organization.


In a ward or branch with few children, the Primary presidency may want to organize fewer classes, combining age-groups.

In a small ward or branch, the Primary presidency may be the only Primary leaders and teachers. In a very small unit, the Primary president may be the only Primary leader. In this case, she conducts sharing time and teaches a class for all the children. When possible, more leaders and teachers should be called as outlined in 11.7.

In a small stake or district, the Primary president may be the only stake or district Primary leader. When possible, other leaders should be called as outlined in 11.7.


Leadership Resources

When there are not enough qualified members to fill all leadership positions, the presiding officers may fill only those that are most essential. In addition to calling active, experienced members to leadership positions, presiding officers should seek inspiration to find other potential leaders among new members, inexperienced members, and less-active members who could return to activity. Church members do not need to be experienced or highly qualified to receive a calling. Having a calling is an important way for them to serve and to grow spiritually.

If there are not enough members to serve in leadership positions, presiding officers may organize their stake, ward, or branch on a smaller scale. Examples might include staffing some organizations with only a president and one counselor, having a counselor serve also as a secretary, and simplifying some programs.

In a very small branch that does not have a Young Women or Primary president, the Relief Society president may help parents organize instruction for the young women and children until Young Women and Primary presidents are called.

Leaders of very small branches follow the guidelines in the Basic Unit Program Guidebook.



In some areas of the world, crime rates are very high or political unrest prevails. If leaders in these areas believe that it is unwise for members to travel at night, they may cancel evening activities. This may mean reducing the number of Church activities, as well as scheduling some activities on weekends.

When security risks or travel costs are serious issues, leaders can schedule some youth activities on Sunday. Such activities should be separate from the Sunday meeting schedule and in keeping with the spirit of the Sabbath.