SALT LAKE CITY (KLIX) – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says it will dissolve the high priests quorum and combine high priests and elders into one elders quorum in each congregation, and that it will do away with its home and visiting teaching programs.

The church, which made the announcement about changes to its Melchizedek Priesthood quorums during the Saturday evening general priesthood meeting, said stake presidencies will release both high priest group leaderships and elders quorum presidencies and call new elders presidencies.

A quorum in this respect is a group of priesthood men ages 18 and older who regularly meet at local congregations for instruction and ministry. Formerly there were quorums for the two adult priesthood ranks, high priests and elders. Priesthood rank remains the same, but the two quorums in each congregation will now be consolidated into one.

President Russel M. Nelson, who became the 17th president of the LDS Church on Jan. 14, said the merging of the two priesthood groups into one quorum has been worked on, reviewed, and refined for many months. The key reason for the change, he said, is the need for a more effective ministry.

“We have felt a pressing need to improve the way we care for our members. To do that better, we need to strengthen our priesthood quorums to give greater direction to the ministering of love and support ... As we implement them, we will be even more effective than we have been previously.”

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Broadening Its Ministry

On Sunday afternoon, Nelson announced to a general church audience that the church also is doing away with its decades-long home teaching and visiting teaching programs, and instead revising the home visits to a broader ministerial approach.

For months, we have been seeking a better way to minister to the spiritual and temporal needs of our people in the Savior’s way. We have made the decision to retire ‘home teaching’ and ‘visiting teaching’ as we have known them. Instead, we will implement a newer, holier approach to caring and ministering to others. We will refer to these efforts simply as ‘ministering.’ Effective ministering efforts are enabled by the innate gifts of the sisters, and by the incomparable power of the priesthood. We all need such protection from the cunning wiles of the adversary.

Unlike the previous programs of home and visiting teaching, ministering does not include a set monthly message in the church magazines nor a prescribed way to keep in contact, Nelson said, such as in-home, face-to-face visits each month — even though visits are important when they are possible.

The new method focuses on flexibility to the needs and circumstances of individuals throughout the world, coupled with quarterly face-to-face interviews between leadership and everyday members about personal and family needs.

New Apostles Introduced, Temples Announced

In other news important to LDS faithful, Nelson introduced two new apostles on Saturday morning: Elder Gerrit W. Gong, a Chinese-American, and Elder Ulisses Soares, of Brazil. Both men were serving as members of the Presidency of the Seventy when they were called.

The men – Gong, the first-ever apostle of Asian ancestry; and Soares, the first-ever Latin American apostle – fill vacancies left by the deaths of Elder David B. Haight, who died last October, and President Thomas S. Monson, who passed away in January. There are 15 apostles in the church, with three serving in the First Presidency and the remainder members filling out the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

On Sunday, President Nelson announced that seven new temples will be built in various parts of the world: Salta, Argentina; Bengaluru, India; Managua Nicaragua; Cagayan de Oro, Philippines; Layton, Utah; Richmond, Virginia; and a major city yet to be determined in Russia.

The enthused reaction of members attending the conference session was audibly noticed, and brought chuckles from Nelson as he announced the temple locations. The announcement of Russia's temple seemed to have sparked the most reaction.

The church had its first presence in Russia in the late 19th century and was officially recognized in May 1991, according to information from the church. The first stake in Russia was organized in Moscow in June 2011 by then-Elder Russell M. Nelson. Russia is home to more than 23,000 Latter-day Saints.