Reflection on the Past Two Years: Simplification

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Just over two years ago I was set apart as one of the 20,000+ bishops in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This has been the most challenging and one of the most rewarding callings I’ve had. If I was in charge, I’d choose to serve as a nursery leader or the ward organist. Primary pianist would be great too. I choose to serve where called even if it takes me out of my comfort zone.

These past two years have offered unique challenges. Two weeks after I was set apart, I had to deal with hurricane cleanup efforts. Last year I dealt with more. Thankfully damage was relatively minor within my ward boundaries but a lot of efforts were made coordinating cleanup within and without our boundaries.

There have been so many other experiences — many wonderful, some unpleasant. In order to protect confidences, I will not write about any of these without using broad generalities. There have been funerals, marriages, divorces, baptisms, ending of church membership, and the ministering of angels. The greatest joy comes from meeting with so many wonderful people who love Jesus Christ and who are striving with quiet faith to return to our Heavenly Father.

Shortly after President Monson died and President Nelson was sustained as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was talking with an elderly neighbor. He was impressed with our church having a new president who was more than 90 years old. He asked if there would be any big changes at church. I replied that it was always a possibility but we’d just have to wait and see. I thought there probably wouldn’t been many changes for at least some months. My neighbor’s question about changes stuck with me in light of all the changes we’ve seen in 2018.

It was an interesting experience to be serving as bishop during the time when the church (mostly) put all high priests into consolidated elder’s quorums. This simplified the organizational structure of the church and made the lives of bishops a little easier because it reduced the number vital of callings within the ward. This streamlining of church organization removed the imbalance between the Relief Society and the priesthood quorums. It also countered the general process within the world to add organizational complexity to support the growing numbers and complexities of modern society. At a time when most businesses expand and most governments expand, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints simplified.

In concert with the streamlining of the elder’s quorum were policy changes to allow greater responsibilities for the Relief Society Presidency and Elder’s Quorum Presidency within each unit. Missionary work, temple and family history work, and many of the other adult-centric functions are now largely handled by the Relief Society and Elder’s Quorum. Bishops, of course, still have ultimate responsibility within the ward but these changes help bishops focus even more on the youth. This focus on the youth will be more realized as the church implements its simplified but more coordinated youth program in 2020. Cutting out the involvement with the Boy Scout organization simplifies ward organizations but also allows for greater parity between young women and young men and the U.S./Canada congregations and the rest of the world. There’s much we don’t yet know about those changes so I’ll leave that topic for now.

Yesterday at the Saturday morning session of conference additional changes were announced. Church was changing from a 3 hour block of meetings to a 2 hour block of meetings. This wasn’t a reduction in church services, just a reduction in formal church services. The hope is that families and individuals would use the additional time to study the gospel at home. Some people will not replace the extra hour with anything gospel-related but many will. It will be a great blessing to families and individuals. Church members will be given more opportunities to govern themselves after learning correct principles.

There will be additional streamlining. The hymnbook and primary songbook are being redone to remove some/many of the less frequently sung songs. The church also wants the same hymnbook and primary songbook in all languages. I do not know the timeframe for these changes but it follows the same process of simplifying. All this streamlining is done to increase faith in Jesus Christ and strengthen individuals and families.

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