Priesthood Curricula

By: J. Stapley - August 02, 2005

In recent years, both the Priesthood and Relief Society have used lesson manuals and outlines prepared by Church committee. Centralized study programs were first introduced to the Church in 1908; before this time, individual quorums organized study regimens for themselves. This post will outline some of the transition history and delineate the books used for study from 1908 to 1950.

The First Presidency organized a committee on April 8, 1908 to prepare standardized course materials. The committee included several apostles (including Elder McKay), Seventies, the Presiding Bishopric, and other notable Priesthood holders. The first materials outlined the duties of individual offices within the priesthood.

The committee was abandoned in 1923 and curricula responsibility was assigned to the Quorum of the Twelve, in the case of the Melchizedek Priesthood and to the Presiding Bishopric, in the case of the Aaronic.

The following is the list of materials used for lessons (Priesthood and Church Government pg. 369-371) and is quoted directly with only changes in formatting. Notable titles include Jesus the Christ, A Rational Theology, and Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. I can only imagine getting one of those titles today.

1908 – Seventies History of the Seventy and a survey of the books on Holy Scripture.

1909 – High Priests: Church Organization and History.
1909 – Seventies: Outline of History of the Dispensations of the Gospel.
1909 – Elders: The Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon, and a Consideration of Elders Practical Duty.

1910 – High Priests: History of the Gospel.
1910 – Seventies: The Doctrine of Deity.
1910 – Elders: Duties and Principles from the Doctrine and Covenants and Modern Revelation.

1911 – High Priests: Vol. 2 – Church History.
1911 – Seventies: The Atonement.
1911 – Elders: Vol. 2 – Church History.

1912 – High Priests: Principles of the Gospel.
1912 – Seventies: The Atonement.
1912 – Elders: The Articles of Faith Applied.

From 1912 to 1928, inclusive, High Priests, Seventies and Elders have followed the same course of study.

1913 – Vol. 2 – Church History.
1914 – Gospel Themes.
1915 – Rational Theology.
1916 – Jesus the Christ.
1917 – Jesus the Christ.
1918 – Problems of the Age.
1919 – Gospel Doctrine.
1920 – Gospel Doctrine.
1921 – Gospel Doctrine.
1922 – Essentials in Church History.
1923 – Essentials in Church History.
1924 – The New Testament.
1925 – Doctrines of the Church.
1926 – Discourses of Brigham Young.
1927 – Discourses of Brigham Young.

From 1928 to 1937, inclusive, the quorums studied jointly the courses of study provided for the Gospel Doctrine class of the Sunday Schools. In the monthly and short quorum meetings special Priesthood subjects were studied. The first subject listed below is the Gospel Doctrine subject, the second, the subject for the other meetings.

1928 – Divine Authority – Guide for Quorums of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
1929 – Divine Authority – In the Realm of Quorum Activity.
1930 – The Gospel Applied to Daily Life – Principles of Personal Conduct.
1931 – Breadth of Mormonism – In the Realm of Quorum Activity.
1932 – Breadth of Mormonism – Supplement to “In the Realm of Quorum Activity.”

1933 – High Priests: Doctrine and Covenants – Handbook for Quorums of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
1933 – Seventies: Doctrine and Covenants – Study of the Old Testament.
1933 – Elders: Doctrine and Covenants – Handbook for Quorums of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

1934 – High Priests: Doctrine and Covenants – The Divine Mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
1934 – Seventies: Doctrine and Covenants – Basic Principles of Spiritual Progress.
1934 – Elders: Doctrine and Covenants – The Divine Mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

1935 – The Life of Christ – The Holy Priesthood and The Church and the Present Day.
1936 – Teachings and Testimonies of New Testament Writers – The Holy Priesthood.
1937 – Restoration of the Gospel – A Handbook for Quorums of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

From 1938 special study courses have been provided for the quorums of the Priesthood, to be used in the weekly quorum or quorum group meetings.

1938 – The Word of Wisdom.
1939 – The Priesthood and Church Welfare.
1940 – “Priesthood and Church Government.”
1941 – “Priesthood and Church Government.”
1942 – “Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.”
1943 – “Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.”
1944 – “The Gospel Kingdom.”
1945 – “The Gospel Kingdom.”
1946 – “The Gospel Through the Ages.”
1947 – “Church History and Modern Revelation.”
1948 – “Church History and Modern Revelation.”
1949 – “Church History and Modern Revelation.”
1950 – “Church History and Modern Revelation.”


  1. I’m a convert, so I joined the Church when the Brigham Young Manual was already underway, but it was my understanding that Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith had been the used manual just before…?

    Comment by matt witten — 8/2/2005 @ 10:05 pm

  2. I had just turned eighteen and been called to teach lessons in Melchizedek preisthood in 1994, and we didn’t use TOPJS. From what I understand, it hasn’t been a part of the curiculum since the 1940’s.

    Comment by J. Stapley — 8/2/2005 @ 10:16 pm

  3. J, I am appalled — they actually once used entire books for priesthood study? Not cut-and-pasted, selectively edited, topically arranged quotes assembled into six-page lessons furnished with uninspiring discussion questions? It’s amazing our priesthood forbears didn’t just apostatize by lesson five each year. Just think of all the uncorrelated ideas they were exposed to by reading entire books!

    Comment by Dave — 8/2/2005 @ 10:41 pm

  4. Interesting history, J. I like B.H. Roberts’ Seventy’s Course books.

    I also like some of the manuals from the 1950s, including Nibley’s An Approach to the Book of Mormon and James L. Barker’s Apostasy from the Divine Church.

    Comment by Justin — 8/3/2005 @ 10:52 am

  5. nice Dave>:) I think you make a good point, though. One of the many MANY reasons I enjoy SS over Elder’s Quorum and think they should switch hours.

    Comment by Bret — 8/3/2005 @ 3:10 pm

  6. Interestingly I vastly prefer the topic drive format of Priesthood to Sunday School. (Where I honestly think that for most teachers anyone who did the reading will get little out of the lesson)

    I also honestly think that using B. H. Robert’s texts or a Nibley text would lead to *horrible* lessons. I think that those intellectually minded need to realize that not everyone thinks the way we do.

    Comment by Clark Goble — 8/4/2005 @ 5:40 pm

  7. Matt- The BY volume was the first book used in such a way. I think if they ever do Joseph Smith, they’ll release another book in the same format as currently used in SS instead of the Deseret Book version of TPJS.

    Comment by Ben S. — 8/4/2005 @ 6:13 pm

  8. I don’t think that they can do a P/RS lesson manual for Joseph Smith. The aspects that Dave mentions would be too obvious since so many are familiar with the source material.

    Comment by a random John — 8/9/2005 @ 8:55 am

  9. Oh man,did they really study “The Word of Wisdom” for the whole year in 1938? That would be a real trial of my faith.

    Comment by ed — 9/8/2005 @ 10:37 pm

  10. Hi I need the additional list of all manuals todate because I am collecting them as I find them, Pioneer Book, etc. Do you have a listing
    ty in advance
    Ed Rouse Payson Utah

    Comment by Ed Rouse — 9/9/2007 @ 11:00 pm

  11. Ed, I’m not familiar with any comprehensive list, though you might check with the folks at the History Dept. of the Church.

    Comment by J. Stapley — 9/10/2007 @ 11:49 am

  12. You’ve probably already heard, Ben, but JS is the manual for 2008 and 2009. Maybe they read your comment. 🙂

    Comment by Kim Siever — 9/12/2007 @ 12:32 pm

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