No, this is not an April Fool’s Day joke, at least not that we know of! Today, Russell M. Nelson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the end of the Church’s long-running Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching programs, to be replaced with a new “Ministering” program.

And now it makes even more sense why the Church announced that the First Presidency message would be removed from future issues of the Ensign and Liahona.

These are examples that “the Lord is hastening His work in His time,” stated Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The details of the program will be distributed via email following General Conference, and further details are available at ministering.lds.org.

We will no longer use Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching language, partly because our teaching will not necessarily be in the home, and our work will not be defined by teaching a lesson.

Said Holland, “This expansive new view does not include the sorry statement I saw on an automobile bumper sticker: ‘If I honk, you’ve been home taught.'”

Regarding reporting, Elder Holland stated, “Relax, there is no report…. The only report that will be made, will be on the number of interviews the leaders have with the ministers in their ward.”

Holland cautioned that a new name for the program, different structure, and less reporting will be for naught if we don’t step up our game in a big way and care for our fellow brothers and sisters. Yes, there will still be organization.

Yes, there will still be assignments. In some ways this is a rebrand of Home and Visiting Teaching, as a good teacher will have long since adopted the approach espoused in Ministering. But clearly the Church at large was relying too much on staid visits and rote messages, so it’s time to codify the ministering component of our visits and move away from the concept of “teaching.”

A similar change happened with the so-called “Raise the Bar” initiative for missionaries in 2003 that sunsetted the old Discussions and introduced Preach My Gospel. Common sense would tell you that missionaries were ill served to spend their efforts merely reciting from the discussions with little regard for context, but apparently such activity was prevalent enough among the Lord’s emissaries that a formalized change was necessary.

Relief Society General President Jean B. Bingham explained what Ministering looks like, summing it up as, “becoming part of someone’s life and caring about him or her.” In essence, Ministering is about chatting online, sending texts, swinging over some cookies. You know, it basically means being a friend and actually knowing people, including assessing spiritual needs.

During the Priesthood Session of the same conference the evening before, President Nelson announced the merger of elders quorum and high priests groups, nesting all Melchizedek Priesthood holders under a new elders quorum organization. That move makes even more sense in light of the shift to the Ministering effort, enabling the elders quorum and Relief Society to work better in tandem.

We’ll keep updating as things develop.