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Prince’s Research Excerpts: Priesthood & Mormonism – 1939

Below you will find Prince’s research excerpts titled, “Priesthood, 1939.” You can view other years here.

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1939:  Jan.:  Advances in Adult Aaronic Priesthood program.

“Probably the greatest advance yet indicated in the Adult Aaronic Priesthood program is reflected in the report for the first nine months of 1938.  A brief summary of the report indicates the following:

Total rating 26, a gain from 19 in 1937 [?].

Wards with classes gained from 130 to 182.

Average attendance advanced from 3% to 13%.

Assignments filled increased 8% to 9%.

Members acting as Ward Teachers increased from 1,313 to 1,348.

Wards with adult supervisors gained from 176 to 259.

Number of stake supervisors increased from 146 to 176.

Number of visits to wards gained from 1,022 to 1,520.

Number of adult class meetings increased from 2,263 to 3,451.

The number of adults reported increased from 35,837 to 37,550.

Salt Lake Stake, pioneer in Adult Aaronic Priesthood work, leads in total rating (71); in total class meetings (310); in wards with classes (11); in asignments filled (858); in wards with supervisors (11); in number of stake supervisors (13); in number of visits to wards (250); and in average attendance of supervisors (89%).”  (“Aaronic Priesthood,” IE 42(1):39, Jan., 1939)

Jan.:  Progress report: Aaronic Priesthood Extension Plan.

“Reports from stakes and wards throughout the Church indicate that the Aaronic Priesthood Extension Plan, which replaces the former Correlation Plan, is being adopted generally with excellent results.

Stake and Ward Cavalcade For Youth meetings are reported to be unusually successful and to have accomplished beneficial results.

It is urged that in stakes and wards where the Extension Plan has not yet been adopted that it be set up immediately and that every possible effort be made during the present year to win and hold in Church activity every possible young man and boy between the ages of 12 and 20, whether they have been ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood or not.”  (“Aaronic Priesthood,” IE 42(1):39, Jan., 1939)

Jan.:  New supervisors’ guide for adults.

“A new guide for supervisors of Adult Aaronic Priesthood groups will be ready for delivery by January 1st.  The new book contains suggestions for organizing, conducting, and supervising the adult program and in addition a lesson guide for adult classes.

The lesson portion of the guide was prepared originally by Elder George W. Skidmore of Logan, Utah, who used it with outstanding success.  The guide has been amplified and will doubtless be of material assistance to supervisors.”  (“Aaronic Priesthood,” IE 42(1):40, Jan., 1939)

Jan.:  Trying to place burden of temple work on HPs.

“Now, of course, the Lord says that our greatest individual responsibility is to seek after our dead; but as men holding the Priesthood our responsibility is–so far as temple work is concerned–to teach, to instruct, to persuade, to prevail upon men and women who are not inclined to take advantage of their opportunities and receive these blessings for themselves, to go into the temple where they can do this work.  That is our responsibility as men holding the Priesthood.  It does not make any difference whether we are High Priests, Seventies, or Elders.  We are trying to place this burden especially upon the High Priests of the Church.  The Seventies preach the Gospel–that is where they belong–the Elders are ministers at home, the High Priests are ministers at home, and we are also trying to train them to take upon themselves this responsibility of teaching their fellow men in all that pertains to exaltation and to help prepare them to go to the temple to do these labors in behalf of their dead.  That is our responsibility, and it is a great responsibility.”  (Joseph Fielding Smith, “The Duties of the Priesthood in Temple Work,” UGHM 30:3-4, Jan., 1939)

19 Jan.:  Committee of Correlation & Coordination formed.

“19 January 1939

Elders Joseph Fielding Smith

       Stephen L. Richards

       Albert E. Bowen

Members of the Council of the Twelve


One of the earliest and one of the most enlightening revelations given to the Elders of the Church enjoined upon them ‘to teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.  Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand.’  This admonition is as pertinent now as when it was given.  To-day as perhaps never before our young people need the stabilizing influence of correct teaching ‘in doctrine, and in the law of the gospel.’  Our youth not only need such guidance, but yearn to know the fundamental truths of the Gospel.

It is the duty of the Quorums of Priesthood and of the Auxiliary Organizations to furnish this need and to instruct all members in sound doctrine.

To this end, it is advisable that the fields of activities, particularly of the auxiliary organizations, be more definitely prescribed.  The continuing expansion and the increasing overlapping of these fields, the incomplete understanding and appreciation of the actual needs and facilities of the people outside this immediate area and in the mission fields, the mounting burdens and demands upon the people, both as to their time and energy, as well as to their financial requirements, the failure always to hew to the line in matters of doctrine and Church discipline, with the final result that the youth of the Church are left with too fragmentary information, sometimes almost chaotic notions regarding the principles of the Gospel, and the organization and history of the Church, the necessity to provide a course of study and of activities that will bring the young people of missionary age to a substantial and rounded knowledge of the principles of the Gospel–all require that the work of the auxiliary organizations and of our educational institutions should be coordinated, unified, and standardized to avoid duplication and overlapping, and to provide the training which is required by the young people.

In view of these conditions, the First Presidency has determined to appoint a Committee of Correlation and Coordination, to be composed of representatives from the following groups:

1. The Council of the Twelve

2. The First Council of the Seventy

3. The Presiding Bishopric

4. The Department of Education

5. The Relief Society

6. The Sunday School

7. The Y.M.M.I.A.

8. The Y.W.M.I.A.

9. The Primary

10. The Genealogical Society

You brethren are hereby appointed to represent the Council of the Twelve, and to take presidency and direction of this Committee in its work.

Broadly speaking, the reason for all these auxiliary organizations, including the educational, genealogical, and musical, is to instruct the people in the Gospel, to lead them to a testimony of the Truth, to care for those in need, to carry on the work entrusted to us by the Lord, to promote culture, and to encourage, foster, and make secure among the people the living of righteous lives.

Each of the organizations will consider as its primary reason for existence the purpose for which it was originally created.  The special work of the Committee, therefore, is to define, to simplify, to intensify, and to correlate the work of each auxiliary and educational group in the Church, and to lay down within broad general lines the work of each group in its own field.  The limits of any of these will not be extended except with the approval of the First Presidency.

Duplications of work should be planned only where elementary and advanced courses are involved, or where fundamental matters are to be repeatedly emphasized.

In considering subject matters of instruction, the Committee will have in mind the availability for use not only the Standard Works of the Church, but all matters of Church history, Church biography, personal experiences, general literature of a strictly wholesome character in music, art, and drama.  Indeed, the source is all sufficient if you follow the declaration of the Articles of Faith: ‘If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or priaseworthy, we seek after these things.’

However, anything tending to weaken the faith of our youth in the Gospel and in the Mission of the Prophet Joseph, or tending to raise in their minds unnecessary doubts, or to break down our standards of life and living, should be scrupulously avoided.

It is also desired that you give careful consideration to the question of membership dues, and similar assessments made by the various auxiliary organizations, all of which in their financial accumulations are becoming seriously burdensome to the people, a burden which is intensified by the multiple publications of various sorts issued by the different organizations.  The coordination and correlation of the work of the different organizations will facilitate a solution of this problem.

In order to accomplish the purposes herein stated, the First Presidency desire that this Committee shall outline courses of study and activities for each of the organizations named above, and report, with recommendations, to us.

We are informing the other organizations of the position of you brethren in the matter, and are requesting them to proceed under your direction.  We should appreciate your initiating and carrying throuth this work at such early time as will suit your convenience consistent with a thorough, painstaking study of the whole problem, and a mature deliberation thereon, that shall embody the maximum of wisdom which the entire group can bring to bear.

With an earnest prayer that your efforts will result in everlasting good to the tens of thousands of young people enrolled in these organizations, we remain

Sincerely your brethren,

Heber J. Grant

J. Reuben Clark, Jr.

David O. McKay”

(Antone K. Romney, “History of the Correlation of L.D.S. Church Auxiliaries,” prepared for the Research Committee of the Melchizedek Priesthood Education Committee, Aug., 1961, part F; xerox)

25 Jan.:  Proposed letter to Auxiliary heads.

“January 25, 1939

President Heber J. Grant and Counselors

Dear Brethren:

The brethren of the Council of the Twelve appointed by the First Presidency to meet with the members of the First Council of Seventy, the Presiding Bishopric and the heads of the Auxiliary Organizations, as a committee of Correlation and Coordination, have met and discussed the duties of this appointment.

In our judgment the first step to take is for a suggestive letter to be sent to the parties concerned, the Priesthood and Auxiliary Executives, seeking for information in relation to the general objectives, plans, procedure and lesson courses of these various organizations.

A suggestive letter of this kind has been prepared and is herewith submitted to the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve for their consideration and to see if this plan meets with their approval.

The members of this committee also welcome further suggestions from the Presidency as to the scope and nature of the work assigned to the committee.

Yours respectfully,

Joseph Fielding Smith

Stephen L. Richards

A. E. Bowen

Suggestive letter to Priesthood and Auxiliary Executives:

Dear Brother (or Sister) _____:

To facilitate the work of the committee of correlation and coordination appointed by the First Presidency under date of Jan. 19, 1939, we are taking the initial step of asking each of the organizations involved to submit to us a written statement of its general objectives, plans, procedure, and lesson courses.  Such statements, we believe, will serve as a basis for a comprehensive study of the problems involved.

To give some uniformity to the statements, we propose that they be made under the following captions:

1st Aims and fields of assigned activities.

2nd Ages or other special classification of groups served.

3rd Program of meetings and activities with special reference to times of day, week, month, and year, including stake, regional, and general conferences or conventions.

4th Courses of study, including full description of texts, manuals, books, bulletins, magazines, and other facilities utilized; duration of courses; methods of instruction, and such other information as may be necessary to give a full understanding.

5th Collections and expenses, setting forth in detail, manner of collecting revenue, the average annual revenue collected for the past five years ending December 31, 1938, and setting forth also the average annual expense for the same five years, breaking down the expense account to show the major items of outgo such as salaries, office expense, traveling expense, publication expense, plan and cost of insurance, etc.  (Financial information will be considered confidential by the undersigned.)

6th Other items.  Under this heading may be set out any comments or suggestions not included within the foregoing captions.

The procedure proposed in this letter has been approved by the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve.

Thanking you for your full cooperation and trusting we may have your early reply, we are

Sincerly your brethren,

Joseph Fielding Smith

Stephen L. Richards

A. E. Bowen.”

(Antone K. Romney, “History of the Correlation of L.D.S. Church Auxiliaries,” prepared for the Research Committee of the Melchizedek Priesthood Education Committee, Aug., 1961, part F; xerox)

28 Jan.:  Clawson:  Concerning “New Priesthood Plan.”


January 28, 1939.

Dear Brethren:

We heartily congratulate you on the work you did during 1938 and the degree of success that attended your efforts.  During this period the so-called New Priesthood Plan was being put into operation.  As a result the year 1938 witnessed more activity by the members and quorums of Priesthood than had been shown for a long time.  This gives us all cause to rejoice.

But let us not ‘rest on our oars’ and be satisfied with our present state of activity.  We all know there is room for improvement even by the most active quorums.  And those committees and quorums that were slow in getting started with their activities might well make special efforts to catch up with the leaders.  ‘What man has done man may do.’  Active, energetic leadership can accomplish wonders.  The Lord will bless those who worthily try to magnify their callings.

We call your attention especially to the following suggestions:

1. Emphasize the importance of a monthly union meeting of the stake Melchizedek Priesthood committee with the officers and leaders of the quorums.  These meetings are a key to the success of the ‘new plan.’

2. In these meetings study carefully the meaning of each of the 20 numbered questions on the Quarterly Report forms.  Determine how and where the data can be secured to answer these questions, whether from bishops, ward clerks, quorum officers, or committees, etc.  Try to get all the officers to have the same understanding of these questions so that there will be uniformity in answering them.

3. The data needed for answering the questions should be kept in writing by the secretary of each group or quorum so that the end of the quarter the report forms can be readily and fully filled in.  An inexpensive book may serve to keep the required data.

4. Let the stake committee and the officers of each quorum study how the quorum and the groups composing it (if there are groups) can best be brought into full activity.  For example, find what activities and projects are suited to each quorum.  (See list, page 770, Improvement Era, December, 1937, and the information given in the Second 1939 Quarterly.)  The monthly issues of the Era, Melchizedek Priesthood Department, beginning December, 1937, name projects and give suggestions.

5. Encourage the officers and members of all Priesthood quorums to cooperate fully with the Church Welfare committees of the stake and wards.

6. Encourage these bodies to cooperate likewise with the committees in charge of the campaign for the non-use of liquor and tobacco by all Church members.

7. Aim to have a meeting of every quorum and of the groups of every quorum visited by one or more members of the stake committee at least once every quarter.  Backward quorums should be visited more frequently.

8. During 1939 this office will send Quarterly Report forms to be used by groups in making reports to their respective quorums.  All quorums that cover two or more wards are made up of groups that meet weekly in their respective wards.  The Quarterly Reports sent to the stake are quorum reports, for the making of which group reports are needed.

9. Let every quorum, especially the officers, be kept informed of the contents of the Melchizedek Priesthood Department of every issue of the Improvement Era.  One way to do this would be to listen to a suitable report once a month on the contents of this department.

The foregoing are a few of the suggestions that arise from reading the Quarterly Reports made by the quorums.  To burden you is farthest from our desires; but for the good of all we urge increased activity by all the quorums of the Holy Priesthood, knowing that this will bring an increase in divine blessings.  The Lord never fails to reward us as abundantly as our merits justify.

We pray that He will preserve you all from the power of Satan, and give you the rich inspiration of the Holy Ghost that you may be happy and successful in all your work.

Sincerely your brethren,

The Council of the Twelve,

By Rudger Clawson, President.”

(“Melchizedek Priesthood,” IE 42(3):164, Mar., 1939)

Feb.:  Priesthood quarterly reports.

“THe Lord gave us the ability to forget.  It is fortunate He did so, otherwise our difficulties might drive us mad.  But He also made us capable of remembering, thus enabling us to profit by our mistakes and failures.

In writing this we have in mind the Priesthood Quarterly Reports.  These are no longer a new thing.  they have been in the field for more than a year.  But for various reasons, not necessary to name or discuss, report making by some quorums has not yet reached a satisfactory state.  It is to these quorums that we address these lines, as aids to remembrance.”  (“Melchizedek Priesthood,” IE 42(2):102, Feb., 1939)

4 Mar.:  Sacrament Meeting and SS not to be merged.

“Sacrament meetings should not be held in connection with the Sunday School, nor immediately following the Sunday School session.  Several years ago two or three stakes adopted this practice, but they were advised by the General Authorities to discontinue it.  The matter of convenience and even the increased attendance do not compensate for other losses incurred by the trailing of this important meeting after the Sunday School.

The regular Sacrament meeting of the Church should be held either Sunday afternoon or Sunday evening, the definite hour to be chosen by Stake and Ward Authorities who understand local conditions.”  (First Presidency letter, 4 Mar., 1939; in Instructor 74(5):193, 1 May, 1939)

Apr.:  Developing Adult AP classes.

“A plan which has been found to be most successful is outlined herewith.  It should be adopted as a permanent plan with supervisors and missionaries appointed in the same manner as other ward officers are appointed.

1. Appoint an Adult Aaronic Priesthood Supervisor, a man with organizing and leadership ability if one is available.  If he is a good teacher, that is desirable, but not necessary.

2. Divide the ward into two, three, or four approximately equal districts, according to the size of the ward.

3. Appoint two special missionaries to each district and supply them with the names of all adults in the district holding the Aaronic Priesthood.  If missionaries are not available at once for all districts, have the work begin in one or two districts and follow with the others as new men are available or as the first districts are completed.

4. Have the missionaries of each district go together into the homes of adults as missionaries, with the sole purpose of arousing interest in religious affairs and the work of the Church, leaving any mention of a class for later consideration.

5. Suggest to the missionaries that they begin on a neighborhood basis where there are three or four members living near each other.

6. When two or three members indicate even a slight interest in the Gospel and desire to learn more, ask permission of one of them to hold a cottage class in his home, inviting in only the two or three neighbors who likewise have indicated interest.  These classes should be held weekly, using the lessons in the manual or others of suitable nature if desired.  The Priests’ manuals for 1937 or 1938 are suitable.

7. The missionaries should continue their work among other prospective members of cottage classes, inviting them to the one already formed or starting another in a different neighborhood.  (One ward has 3 classes each week.)

8. When there are enough members in all the districts, 6 or 8 are sufficient, not more than 10 or 12 are desirable to begin with, showing sufficient interest, invite all those who have shown advancement to join a ward class under the direction of the ward supervisor.  He may either become the instructor himself or secure someone else.  The time for this class should be determined by the members.  Best results have been secured when the class is not held in connection with or at the time any other meeting in the ward is being held.

9. Adopt this plan as a permanent one and continue it indefinitely.

10. As the missionaries continue their work the new members go into cottage classes at first, then secure training in the ward class until they are ready for advancement to the Melchizedek Priesthood.

11. For members who desire to study by themselves the Priests’ manual is suggested.


There should be no hurry to organize a class–not even a cottage class.  The direct, individual missionary work is all-important at first.  Let the class grow out of the missionary work which it will do in proper time.

Give no publicity while the work is new–not even accounts in ward meetings.  Men are extremely sensitive over religious matters and especially in our Church, if they have been inactive.

When men are invited to attend classes–and this is important–make it clear that they will not be embarrassed, that they will not be asked to pray, speak, or even answer questions until they indicate a desire or willingness to do so.

The Word of Wisdom and tithing are subjects which should be left until definite interest is indicated.  They are extremely delicate topics to those who are not in tune.  They might well be left for discussion when the interest has been well developed.

Do not try to have these men meet when the rest of the Priesthood meet.  This has been tried but is not successful.  There are many reasons why they prefer not to do so.

Except in rare instances where special conditions exist, confine the cottage and ward classes to adults who are studying the Gospel and striving to become worthy of advancement.  In some cases wives have been invited to participate, but this has not appeared to be successful.”  (“Aaronic Priesthood,” IE 42(4):234-235, Apr., 1939)

7 Apr.:  Priesthood quorum:  three-fold definition.

“A quorum is three things:  first, a class; second, a fraternity; and third, a service unit.  ‘Study my words which have gone forth among the children of men,’ and ‘seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.’  ‘That they may be perfected in the understanding of their ministry in spirit, in principle, and in doctrine–in all things pertaining to the Kingdom of God on earth.’

These are some of the injunctions given by revelation at a time when the quorums of the Priesthood were the principal and almost the sole organizations through which the teaching process could be carried forward.

In the beginning of the church, there were no auxiliary organizations.  Much as we prize and admire today the great institutions of the Sunday School, the Mutuals, the Primary and the Relief Society, does it not seem significant that in all the revelations there is no mention of these organizations?  It does to me, for while I conceive the auxiliaries to have been legitimately brought forth as aids and helps to the Priesthood, yet I am certain that the primary and fundamental responsibility for the spiritual education of the Church has been, and always will be, with the quorums of the Holy Priesthood, all of which are not only mentioned in the revelations, but each of which is defined with notable exactness.

So the quorum is a class and has a very definite obligation to see that all its members come to an understanding of the doctrines of the Church. . . . Priesthood classes are much more than mere academic diversions.  Quorum training in Gospel and faith is essential to the fulfilment of the mission of this Church.  We must not fail to supply it.


The quorum is a fraternity.  I wish I knew how to fill that statement with its full meaning. . . . Perhaps, again, I can best bring appreciation for this fraternity by going back to the early days of the Church.  The ‘set-up’ was far simpler than it is today.  There were no auxiliaries and very few social organizations.  Service clubs, college fraternities, chambers of commerce, and other business and professional groupings were, for the most part, unheard of.  We read in history of the activities of some labor guilds and lodges, contemporaneous with the days of Kirtland, Missouri, and Nauvoo, but, except for lodge work, they did not find their way among our people.  So, quite naturally, when quorums were set up among the brethren, they were in position to claim their undivided, loyal allegiance, and in so doing they succeeded.  Quorum unity and quorum pride were established. . . .

I think we shall never know the fulll strength and beauty of the friendships created in those Priesthood fraternities.  Men cared for each other’s families when missions were undertaken.  Privations and sorrows were shared, and loyalties were created through those sacred associations that defy description.

I recall on one occasion hearing the late President Joseph F. Smith tell of an incident which he had remembered from his boyhood.  He said that when he was very young he was in attendance at a party given in the Mansion House by his uncle, the Prophet.  A large company were present, engaged in the festivities of the occasion, when suddenly the door opened and a man entered.  He was dressed in ragged, shabby clothes; he was dirty, his hair and bear long and unkempt, and he looked like a tramp.  The Prophet at the time was on the side of the room opposite to the door through which the man had come.  President Smith said that Joseph, athletic man that he was, fairly sprang across the room, grabbed the shabby man in his arms, and hugged and caressed him as if he had been a near and dear relative. . . . This man . . . was a brother in the Priesthood and he had undergone a harrowing experience and made a tremendous sacrifice for his brother, the Prophet of God.  [Interesting use of the Porter Rockwell story!]

Why can’t we come back to that brotherhood of older days when men offered their very lives for each other?  My own grandfather offered his life for the Prophet in Carthage Jail.  I am sure he meant what he said and that he would have willingly given himself for his friend.


It is true, we are not exposed to the same physical dangers which once existed, but we are beset by innumerable other hazards which I fear are sometimes worse in their ultimate consequences than those that confronted our forebears.  Do we need friends to meet these situations?  We do!  And we need understanding, loyal friends who are interested more in us than in our business.  And with due deference to the high objectives of the many and varied clubs to which our brethren belong, I want to say to them that there is no club and no fraternity and no society that is to be mentioned in the same breath with their Priesthood quorums.

It is a great pity and a terrible mistake that some of our men should transfer their allegiance and their affection from the quorums to these worldly organizations.  If they will but think, they will know that there are no friendships to be established anywhere that are comparable to those that arise out of the Priesthood, where ‘faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.’

How I long to see the day when every man belonging to an Elders’ quorum can say, and say truthfully, ‘I have 95 true friends who, I know, will stand by me through thick and thin; who love me enough to tell me the truth, and protect me from error; who are loyal enough to speak well of me behind my back.’

Heaven only knows how much we need such friendships these days.


The quorum is a service unit.  It is designed to render aid in the maintenance of the Church.  The duties of the quorums are specifically set forth in the revelations.  I shall not repeat them.  You know what they are.  I have this suggestion, however: I wish that the duties and functions could be more definitely and specifically defined in terms of actual work and service in the wards and stakes; and I wish, too, that more defnite assignments for service could come directly to the quorums as units thriough their presiding officers.  If we are to preserve the strength of quorum identity and unity, we must have the groups function as groups so that the individual members of the quorum may receive their assignments from the quorum presidency.  What a boon to the bishops of wards and presidents of stakes it would be if, when a certain project or task is to be undertaken, the assignment coulc come to the presidency of a quorum with confidence that it would be fulfilled!  I earnestly recommend that this method be employed, both for the development of quorums and for the alleviation of heaven burdens now resting on our administrative officers.

I wish to ask this question:  What is the chief function of a quorum presidency?  Is it merely to conduct a meeting and carry on a program of exercises?  I think it is not, and I belive many quorum presidencies make a great mistake by so regarding it.  The function of a quorum is to conserve the individual welfare of its members and of the welfare of the Church.  Many quorum members do not come to meeting.  It is the duty of the presidency to go to them.  I look upon the presidency as special missionaries to the thoughtless, negligent members of the quorums.


It does not take great brains and a high degree of mental acumen to call a meeting to order, announce the song, designate someone to pray, and conduct the program, although it is important to cultivate the art of presiding.  But it does take real perspicuity, infinite tact and diplomacy, patience and love, to bring those who have strayed, back into the warmth and spirit of the quorum.  It is a real challenge to our best minds and ablest men to go out and find those who have been ordained to the higher Priesthood, perhaps at the time of marriage or when going on missions, and have subsequently departed from the standards of the Church, forgotten their vows and obligations, and bring them back to an appreciation of the priceless endowment which has come to them and back to the blessed way of life which the Gospel teaches.  This is missionary work of the highest type. . . .

To accomplish this high purpose it is indispensable that quorum presidencies hold frequent council meetings.  Their work will not succeed without planning, and they cannot adequately plan except in consultation.

In addition to council meetings, it is strongly recommended that stake union meetings for the training of Priesthood quorum officers be regularly held.  No more important duty rests upon the Stake Melchizedek Priesthood Committee than to see that the officers of quorums are trained to know and to do their duties.  The solution of our problem lies in competent and aggressive leadership.  I cannot too strongly recommend that our presidents of stakes give immediate and constant attention to this matter.


I cannot forbear recalling to the attention of my brethren something of the sacred nature and inestimable worth of this great endowment of the Priesthood.  I frequently call Section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants the ‘Constitution’ of the Priesthood.  I do so because nowhere else, to my knowledge, is the nature and essence of the doctrine made so clear.  I am not going to repeat those beautiful passages which you know so well.  I shall refer to but one sentence:  ‘Behold, there are many called but few are chosen.’  What is the difference between ‘calling’ and ‘choosing’?  When is a man ‘called’ and when is he ‘chosen’?  Who does the calling and who does the choosing?

I have pondered these questions a long time and I hope that my interpretations are correct.  I believe that a man is ‘called’ to the Priesthood when hands are laid upon his head in ordination.  I believe that this call is in the nature of the bestowal of an opportunity, a privilege, and a personal right to acquire a great and priceless gift or endowment.  The authorized servants of our Father are entitled by ordination to grant the privilege and right to secure the gift.  But the gift itself is something different from the right to receive it.  The gift is ‘inseparably connected with the powers of Heaven,’ and comes directly from God, the Father.  It is an investiture of divine spiritual power.  An ordained man may, through neglect, never receive it.  So an ordained man, although he is ‘called,’ may never be ‘chosen,’ for he is not ‘chosen’ until God chooses him, through his obedience, his humility and devotion, to be a real recipient of divine power.

So, not every ordained man possesses the power and essence of the Priesthood.  Of that we are made certain by our scripture, if we are correct in interpreting ‘calling’ to mean ordination.


Now I would not have you think that I contrue the interpretation which I have mentioned to go so far as to indicate that one who is ordained has not the legal right, when properly directed by authority, to ordain others and to perform with validity the ceremonies and ordinances of the Church under authoritative direction.  Even though he may not have qualified to be ‘chosen’ of God in the sense in which we have interpreted ‘choosing,’ any man, properly commissioned by call and authority, can perform the duties incident to his call without impairment to the legal status of the ordinance and the beneficiary thereof.

What, then, is the practical significance of this extraordinary distinction set forth in the revelation between ‘calling’ and ‘choosing’?  I believe it to be vital, and it is this: That no man can be smug and complacent merely in the fact of his ordination.  It may be a matter of justifiable pride, but in itself it is not sufficient.  I have seen men who seem to feel that all that would be necessary would be for them to say to the Father: ‘When I was on earth, I was a High Priest.  I come now to claim the reward of a High Priest.’  I can well imagine their disappointment when confronted with such questions as these: ‘What did you do as a High Priest?  Whom did you bless with the power bestowed upon you?’  And, what is even more tragic, suppose the Master shall say, ‘I never chose you.  Your life was such that I could not.’

We cannot contemplate any such calamity coming to our brethren without deep sorrow.  I know that the Priesthood is the most precious thing we have.  I know, too, that it is more than a mere name, that it has essence and vitality.  I have felt it.  Something which is real, which I cannot define, has passed through me and from me as I have administered the ordinances of the Gospel.  I know that there is virtue in the Priesthood and I know that it is divine.”  (Stephen L. Richards, address at General Priesthood Conference, 7 Apr., 1939 [ellipses in original]; IE 42(5):294-295, May, 1939)

Jun.:  The New Priesthood Plan.

“Our memories are short and unreliable.  To keep things clearly in mind, human experience finds it necessary to review them more or less frequently.  There are perhaps but few Priesthood and quorum officers who will clearly remember what The Improvement Era published in December, 1937, page 768, under the heading ‘The New Priesthood Plan.’  But there is no officer who would not find it very helpful to have in mind the things discussed in that article.  Hence it is strongly advised that all stake committees and quorum officers make a careful review of what was printed under the above heading.

In paragraphs 5 and 9 of that article stake committees may find an outline of how they are to organize and function.  Quorum officers will find paragraphs 6, 7, 8, 11 of special interest to them.  Paragraph 11 outlines a program for successful monthly quorum meetings.  This will apply particularly to all quorums that cover two or more wards.

Issues of The Improvement Era for January, February, March, April, May, etc., 1938, carry Melchizedek Priesthood Department material that likewise is very helpful to all officers.  We think it better to ask these officers to re-read this material than to print it again.  Certainly all new quorum officers iwill be glad to have these suggestions.  They want to be informed on their duties and acceptable procedures.  In a sense these articles will serve as a handbook of necessary information for the successful management of Priesthood quorums.

We point out that the Era articles in the Priesthood Department furnish important material that should be considered in the monthly meetings of the Stake Melchizedek Priesthood Committee with the quorum officers.  The Priesthood Department of each issue of the Era should be carefully examined each month to find if there are suggestions and material suitable for consideration at meetings of stake Priesthood Committees and quorum officers.  Messages of the General Authorities relative to Priesthood work are sent to the field in nearly every issue of The Improvement Era.  All stake committees and quorum officers will find needed help in these articles.”  (“Melchizedek Priesthood,” IE 42(6):358, Jun., 1939)

Jun.:  Aaronic Priesthood Handbook ready.

“The Aaronic Priesthood Handbook, a guide for all concerned with the leadership and supervision of Aaronic Priesthood work throughout the Church, has been issued by the Presiding Bishopric.  The publication is the first complete compilation of the history, development, and functions of the Aaronic Priesthood and its operation in the Church today.  Its preparation has been under way for a number of months.”  (“Aaronic Priesthood,” IE 42(6):361, Jun., 1939)

20 Jun.:  Quorum care of the needy.  

“In addition to and supplementing the foregoing task of the bishop, each higher Priesthood quorum is asked to take responsibility for the care of its needy members, particularly to the point of putting their members on a permanently self-sustaining basis.

This assistance may take the form of helping the needy brother in his actual need and problem, to build a home, or to start in a small business, or, if he be an artisan, to get him a kit of tools, or, if he is a farmer, to get him seeds, or to help him plant or harvest a crop, or to meet some urgent credit need he has, or to supply him with clothing, or shelter, or food, or medical assistance, or schooling for the children, or to give aid in any number of other ways.”  (J. Reuben Clark, Jr., “Church Welfare Plan,” 20 Jun., 1939.  In Clark, Messages of the First Presidency 6:76)

6 Jul.:  Clawson:  Priesthood responsibilities.


A recent letter released by the Council of the Twelve, and addressed as the above heading indicates, invites anew the attention of the great body of the Priesthood of this Church to their privileges, and responsibilities.  May we urge its reading in every quorum in every ward, stake, and branch, and may we urge action in accordance with its message.

July 6, 1939.

Dear Brethren:

At recent meetings of the Council of Twelve conclusions were reached on the following matters:

1. That the position of presidency of a quorum imposes the duty of active leadership upon those who hold these positions.  ‘As with the priest so with the people.’  The records show the need of greatly increased activity of many quorums.  Indeed there is room for improvement in nearly all quorums.

2. As an aid in these matters the Melchizedek Priesthood committee of the stake is requested to hold meetings monthly with the officers and leaders of the quorums and their groups.  We believe these meetings to be essential to increased quorum activity.  The primary purpose of these meetings is to train Priesthood leadership.  As a suggested program for these monthly meetings see Improvement Era, June, 1939, page 358.

3. All Priesthood quorums, Melchizedek and Aaronic, are requested to continue vigorously among their members the campaign for the non-use of liquor and tobacco.  Booklets have been sent out telling why these narcotics are not good for man.  We hope they have been read by all the members of every quorum.  But conduct is not always in harmony with knowledge.  To know and to do are different things.

4. The Council of the Twelve feels that quorum presidencies should be held responsible for carrying a persistent ‘campaign of persuasion’ to all quorum members who use one or both of these narcotics.  Of course, great tact is needed by those who carry on this work.  To offend is to invite failure.  Our user brethren have faith.  If rightfully approached many of them can be induced to develop the will and strength to give up their habits.  Let no quorum presidency shirt its duty in these matters.  Data relative to them will be asked for in quarterly reports, beginning with those of the second quarter of this year.

5. Will stake presidencies please see that this ‘campaign of persuasion’ is carried on in every Priesthood quorum, Melchizedek and Aaronic, and that it reaches everyone who holds any Priesthood, youth or adult, also that it reaches every Mormon home and includes all in the home, male and female.

This is a big order, but, brethren, the prize is worth all it costs.  Let Zion become free of the use of narcotic faith-killers, liquor and tobacco.  This ‘campaign of persuasion’ may be called the second phase of the campaign.  The first was the distribution and reading of booklets.  If this has not been completed, we hope that you will see that it is soon finished.

6. All quorum members should be visited frequently by the quorum presidency, and also by the Personal Welfare committee, so that the conditions of every quorum member–physical, mental, spiritual, economic and social–may be known to the quorum presidency and the Welfare committee.  Only then can effective help be given the members of the quorum, a group of brethren.

7. Let all Priesthood authorities and campaign workers read from month to month the Priesthood Departments of The Improvement Era for instructions and suggestions helpful in their work.

Brethren, we confidently solicit your cooperation and energetic support in these matters.  We invoke the blessings of our Heavenly Father upon you all.

Sincerely your brethren,

The Council of Twelve

By Rudger Clawson, President.”

(“Melchizedek Priesthood,” IE 42(8):487, Aug., 1939)

2 Aug.:  Change in authorization of civil marriages.

The authority for performing L.D.S. civil marriages is restricted to Stake Presidents and Bishops, or their counselors, if so designated by the Stake President or Bishop.  Authorization for marriages to be performed by “other Elders in the Church” is discontinued.  (First Presidency Circular Letter, 2 Aug., 1939.  In Clark, Messages of the First Presidency 6:88.  Clark’s resume of letter.)

Nov.:  Suggestions on AP Extension Plan.

“Some suggestions are offered here for carrying on successfully the Aaronic Priesthood Extension Plan.

1. The work of the stake committee is of utmost importance.  Where the stake committee is not functioning the plan is not succeeding.

2. Visits of members of the stake committee to ward Extension Plan meetings are vital to the success of the plan.

3. In ward meetings, division into three groups–Priests, Teachers, and Deacons–is necessary for best results.  Leaders of these groups should be present with the roll books of their departments which are to be checked with the individual record cards.  

4. Use of the individual record cards is imperative if we are to avoid loss of boys.  This card follows each member through the seven years of his membership in the Aaronic Priesthood.  It is important.

5. Meetings should not be limited to discussion of names of inactive members.  It should include a discussion of reasons for inactivity and methods of removing the causes.  Occasionally, a well-informed speaker on boy psychology should be invited to discuss this subject and offer suggestions.

6. Regularity of monthly meetings is essential to success.  Although the meetings may seem dull, following the same routine, it should be recognized that persistency is the price of success.  The bishopric should see to it that meetings are not permitted to become dull.  If the real objections of the plan are developed, there will be no dull meetings.

7. Close cooperation should exist with the officers of the organizations concerned in the plan.  It should be remembered that the Extension Plan deals with the failures of regularly established organizations.  If the Priesthood quorums, the Sunday School, and the M.I.A. could attract and hold all the young men, there would be no need for any other plan.  We must help strengthen the other organizations as a means of accomplishing our work.

8. Regular follow-up is essential.  Accurate records should show exactly what is being done with each member.”

(“Aaronic Priesthood,” IE 42(11):679, Nov., 1939)

20 Nov.:  Stake Conference changes.

“November 20, 1939

To Presidents of Stakes

Dear Brethren:

Beginning with the year 1940 the auxiliary conventions will not be held in connection with quarterly conferences.  All of the quarterly conferences will major the Priesthood work–two being devoted largely to Melchizedek Priesthood, one to missionary work, and one to the Aaronic Priesthood.  Schedules and programs will hereafter be sent to you.

It has been decided to hold the annual stake conventions of the auxiliary associations as nearly as may be on union meeting dates in the respective stakes.  This action is taken to reduce as much as possible the meetings and travel of the people in the stakes.  It will be understood athat the auxiliary association holding its annual convention in the stake on union meeting day shall be accorded preference over other organizations on that day so that it may enjoy full attendance of its workers and the attention of stake and ward authorities.

Very sincerely yours,

The Council of Twelve

By Rudger Clawson, President.”  

(“Melchizedek Priesthood,” IE 43(1):38, Jan., 1940)

n.d.:  Promoting the Adult Aaronic Priesthood program.

[Program for Stake Quarterly Conferences]

“First Session–Officers Meeting . . .

Promoting the Adult Aaronic Priesthood Program.  By a Bishop or Aaronic Priesthood Supervisor.

a.  Progress of organization in Stake and Wards.

b.  Outline of plan being followed in most successful wards.

c.  Stimulation of leadership to meet this responsibility.”

(“Program for Stake Quarterly Conferences featuring Priesthood Work, 1939,” xerox)

Schedule of Council of Twelve.

“For purposes of effectively dealing with the business which comes before it, the Council of the Twelve is organized into a number of standing committees, including committees on Priesthood, Mission Presidents, Radio and Missionary Literature, Stake Conferences, and related activities.  As special needs arise and as directed by revelation, special committees are formed in order to expedite business before the Council.

The Twelve meet every Thursday, first in a quorum meeting, then in connection with the First Presidency.  The Twelve also meet as a quorum in special testimony meeting every three months.”  (Widtsoe, Priesthood and Church Government (1939 edition), pp. 271-272)

Function of First Council of Seventy.

“The revelations on Church government make it clear that the responsibility of administering the keys of the Priesthood would devolve on the First Quorum of the Seventy were the First Presidency and Council of Twelve disorganized.  In this responsibility their important function as a flexible administrative aid to the Council of the Twelve is made clear.

In view, therefore, of the rapid growth of the Church and the increasing number of Stakes of Zion, the calling of the First Council becomes most significant.  They are commissioned representatives, as it were, of the Twelve and First Presidency.  No better indication of the utility of such a flexible quorum, functioning under the direction of the ‘Traveling Presiding High Council,’ may be seen than the recent development of stake missions.  This work, assigned to the First Council, which is itself a traveling presiding high council, has an important function in filling the gaps, as it were, within the expanding network of stake organizations, and co-ordinating their activities under the direction of the higher, governing councils.  Such developments are only indicative of the work to which any or all members holding the Priesthood may be called.  In the case of the First Council of the Seventy it is also important to note that their usefulness as a flexible administrative device is not restricted by their obligation to plan and promote the welfare of the Seventies of the Church.  For in their capacity and association as ‘Minute Men’ among the General Authorities, their relationship to other Seventies become one of mutual stimulus, inasmuch as the quorums through the Church are not only provided with their own presidencies of seven, but are also grouped within the lesser territorial divisions of the Church with which the First Council are called upon to deal as General Authorities.  Thus, in each stake of Zion the Seventies are under the immediate guidance and presidency of three Presiding High Priests and Twelve High Councilors of the Melchizedek Priesthood.”  (Widtsoe, Priesthood and Church Government (1939 edition), pp. 281-282)

How Wards are formed.

“When, in the opinion of the Stake Presidency, a ward has grown so large that the membership would be benefited by a division, the matter should be taken up by the Stake Presidency.  After a thorough investigation, should there be a consensus of opinion that it would be advantageous to all concerned to divide a ward into two wards, a recommendation to that effect, approved by the Stake High Council, should be sent to the First Presidency.

Should the Presidency approve the recommendation, the proposition would then be taken up with the people of the ward.  Should the people give assent to the proposition, the Stake Presidency should proceed to select, under the usual conditions, a Bishop, and at a meeting especially called for the occasion, a new ward would be organized and the Bishopric presented for the sustaining vote of the people of the ward.

If an independent branch becomes so large that in the opinion of the Stake Presidency it would function more effectively as a ward, the proposition should be brought before the High Council.  If the Stake Presidency and the High Council decide that it would be desirable to convert the branch into a ward, a recommendation to that effect should be sent to the First Presidency.  The latter steps would then be similar to those taken in the division of a ward.”  (Widtsoe, Priesthood and Church Government (1939 edition), pp. 319-320)

Dedicating homes.

“It is always customary in the Church to dedicate meetinghouses (after they have been fully paid for) to the Lord for sacred purposes.

It is customary also to dedicate the homes in which the Saints live, after they have been paid for, as a witness of the willingness of the family to obey the law of the Lord, and to secure divine protection from destructive forces, whether by natural elements or by evil-minded men.

Prayers of dedication should be simple appeals to the Lord, fitted to the intended use of the building, and as actual dedication of the building to the Lord.

No set forms are provided by the Church.  Dependence is placed upon the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord on all such occasions.”  (Widtsoe, Priesthood and Church Government (1939 edition), pp. 378-379)