In a letter from the First Presidency on August 25, 2017, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a change in curriculum for Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society (often in the third hour, but in the first hour for those of you unfortunate enough to be on the flipped schedule). The new materials, Come, Follow Me—For Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society Meetings, are modeled on the “Come, Follow Me” curriculum currently enjoyed by LDS Youth, and will be used starting January 2018.

The program involves three main areas of study:

  • Learning from General Conference messages.
  • Studying special topics selected every six months by general leaders of the Church.
  • Counseling together as priesthood quorums and groups and Relief Societies

Fifth Sundays will remain in a bishopric’s control, but the first through fourth Sundays will now be slightly different. Check out the schedule below:

Week

Topic

Led by

First Sunday

Counseling together about local needs

Presidency or group leadership

Second and Third Sundays

Recent General Conference message

Presidency or group leadership or a called teacher

Fourth Sunday

Special topic chosen by general Church leaders (announced in May and November issues of the Liahona and Ensignmagazines)

Presidency or group leadership or a called teacher

Fifth Sunday

Topic chosen by the bishopric

Bishopric or someone they assign

“Counseling together about local needs” is now in lieu of the oft-feared “presidency lesson,” though considering who is to lead it (the presidency), and the broad nature of the topic, it could still be the same general idea where a president or counselor speaks on a particular topic of note.

In recent years, Church leaders have encouraged Latter-day Saints to counsel together more often, both as quorums and as families. There’s even a book on it.

The second and third Sundays, however, will now focus on a General Conference message. In recent years that slot has been given to the fourth Sunday, where “Teaching for Our Time” revolved around General Conference talks from the most recent conference, often selected by a stake presidency. Now you’ll get a double dose of General Conference each month. For General Conference lovers, this is great. For those who already worry that these lessons involve little more than reading through assigned conference talks, less great. For those who worry we lean into General Conference teachings at the expense of scripture scholarship, not great.

Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society General President, spoke of the shift to a General Conference focus:

“Focusing our gospel study on the words of living prophets and apostles will give even greater meaning to our study of the ‘ancient’ scriptures…. In our classes and quorums, we’ll help one another find ways to apply their counsel in our daily lives and then have the opportunity to share how we’ve been blessed from following that counsel. I love how this will help us learn from the Spirit as well as from one another.”

This leaves the new fourth Sunday, which will be that “special topic.” This could be interesting, as instead of assorted teaching from previous Church leaders, followed by a Conference-centric talk, entire lessons could be built on a variety of pressing topics. Granted, it could also go the other way, but we’re choosing to be optimistic that this will let our lessons get into some more directly salient material.

One elders quorum president from American Fork, Utah, who participated in a pilot program of the new curriculum, said the new materials brought greater relevance to quorum meetings and improved unity among the brethren:

“We now sit in a circle, and each week feels like a council. We are getting more engagement and more application to daily lives than I have experienced in elders quorum ever before. … Because we are always responding to needs and to current concerns of the quorum members, the Holy Ghost is present in more abundance.”

Does this mean elders quorum will cease to be the worst hour of the Sunday block? Time will tell, but since we have faith that these changes came both logically and spiritually, we should see some decent results.

But what about Teachings of Presidents of the Church, the manual that has served as the bedrock of verbatim, barely-there priesthood lessons for twenty years? It’s going out to pasture, which only makes sense. Although the series initially bounced around the chronology of prophetic tenures and features three Church presidents for two years at a time (Brigham Young, Joseph F. Smith, and Joseph Smith), 2017 marked the fifteen instance of the series with a manual centered on the teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, the most recently deceased prophet. Many had wondered if the Church would publish a manual for still-living Thomas S. Monson, which won’t be the case. Now that we know the curriculum is changing, however, does that mean President Monson just won’t get a manual? Ever? Or what about (likely) President Bednar? (Don’t shoot us; we’re just playing the odds.)

You can find archives of General Conference here, as well as the broader portal to Come, Follow Me here .