An announcement on Friday, December 14, 2018 from the First Presidency changes the timeline of when children and youth complete Primary, move from one class or quorum to the next, and attend the temple for the first time—and for when young men may be ordained to priesthood offices. These changes are effective in January 2019.
According to a letter from the First Presidency, these announcements stem from a “desire to strengthen our beloved children and youth through increased faith in Jesus Christ, deeper understanding of His gospel, and greater unity with His Church and its members.” Beginning in January 2019, children will complete Primary and begin attending Sunday School and the Beehive class or deacons quorum as age-groups, not on their individual 12th birthdays as they have in the past.
In addition, young men will be eligible to be ordained to a priesthood office in January of the year they turn 12, 14, and 16, and youth will be eligible to obtain a limited-use temple recommend beginning in January of the year they turn 12—based on their “individual worthiness, readiness, and personal circumstances.”
According to materials released by the Church, ages for ordaining young men to priesthood offices are not “doctrinally mandated” and have, in fact, varied throughout Church history. (See Frequently Asked Questions.)
“Our youth and children are among the best the Lord has ever sent into this world. They have the capacity to be smarter and wiser and have more impact on the world than any previous generation! We must do our part to help them realize their potential.”
“The Savior is directing His Church,” said Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women General President. “He knew this change was coming, and He inspired it for this group of 11-year-olds, who are ready for new assignments and for increased opportunities to serve. He knows the capabilities of His sons and daughters. We have complete confidence in them. How grateful we are for revelation!”
Currently, when children turn 12 years old, they begin attending Young Women or Young Men and they return to Primary for classes or have the option of attending a youth Sunday School class. In 2019, the Valiant 11 Primary class will be discontinued and, in January, all 11-year-olds will attend Sunday School together.
“This will be a much easier transition for classes to move forward together rather than children leaving Primary one at a time throughout the year,” said Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President.
Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men General President, said a benefit of children and youth progressing as a group is that “there is a unity factor and friendship. They progress together. This change helps in the process of conversion. It creates belonging.” However, the change is not just for friendship, he said, although it will increase feelings of brotherhood in the quorums. “We are about conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said. “Youth are part of a battalion, as President Nelson taught; no one needs to feel alone. We are together.”
The change also means that deacons and Beehives won’t have to wait until their 12th birthdays to attend camps. And while dating should still begin no earlier than age 16, Mia Maids and teachers will no longer have to be 14 to attend dances and youth conferences and accept ministering assignments.
Brother Owen wants young men to know how wonderful this change is going to be. “You have friends,” he said. “You don’t have to wait. You advance together. This change aligns with what happens in school and other areas of your life.”
Sister Cordon said a benefit to progressing by age-groups is that a class presidency can serve without the interruption of losing presidency members to the next class on their birthdays. Instead, presidencies will be “taking time to get to know the young women and planning activities that will bless them and their families.” It will also be a blessing to leaders, she said. “This is joyous. We aren’t losing presidency members continually. We know that we will have young women in each age-group for the same two years. We will have continuity and unity.”
“I am particularly excited that these changes will make it possible for younger children to be involved in temple work,” said Sister Jones. “They are typically counting the days until they turn 12 to receive a limited-use recommend and perform ordinances in the temple.”
The announcement is “another show of confidence in these remarkable youth,” said Sister Cordon. “These youth have a mighty work to do in the temple—a work that can begin as soon as they enter Young Women and Young Men!”
“I hope concerned parents will realize how prepared their children really are,” said Sister Jones. “They are ready! This will allow an entire Primary class of children who have been learning and preparing together to continue their growth and progression in Young Women and Young Men.”
The announcement also allows for some flexibility due to personal circumstances, with parents and bishops counselling together to decide what is in the best interests of each child or youth, and areas of the Church may choose to use the local transition date they currently follow rather than January.