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Two Sundays of each month, the adult men in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meet as an Elder's Quorum. At each meeting they discuss one of the most recent General Conference talks.

I'm confused about what that meeting is supposed to be though. As a discussion meeting, it seems pointless. I haven't been to tons of different ones, but from the handful I've been to over the years I've learned:

-there's no format to the discussion. Some teach, some instruct, some facilitate, and more. Some lead the discussion, some follow the discussion.

-the point of each meeting seems to be left up to the local leaders. Some don't assign a point, some do. Some don't make a point, some do.

-there isn't necessarily a topic. Some assign a single topic from the assigned talk, some don't

-the room is usually set up like a class (one person up front, everyone facing that person), everyone acts like it's a class, yet we're told it's a discussion

-some of the discussion leaders are obviously more skilled because of experience or education as a some sort of school system teacher, but in general, that's not the case

Basically, the discussion is usually a mess of points that are hard to follow. That's not the issue though. Any religious discussion among a large group of members of any church can become that sort of a mess.

To compare to other churches I've seen. Often men have things like "men's breakfast" (for example), where the men meet for breakfast weekly or monthly or something and to discuss a Bible reading. I haven't been to many meetups like this, but it seems that the discussion probably tends to go the same way. The difference here though is that the purpose of the meeting is inherently clear: to casually spend time together, eat a meal, and discuss Christianity in some way. Whether or not the discussion is good, there's something clear that anyone can get from the meeting (food and fellowship).

Another comparison, I've been to a few 12-step meetings in my life including AA. They're usually full of Christians where I live, so it seems appropriate to mention as a comparison. Despite the shares there being relatively all over the map, there's always a topic to try and cover. The strictly facilitated format of the meetings makes it so that even if the shares are completely unconnected and you can't follow what anyone is talking about, you can walk away knowing that you aren't stupid or unspiritual for not being able to follow what people were discussing - because you know people are trying to authentically trying to share their story or recovery advice.

A last comparison, from the LDS Church, is the monthly testimony meeting. It has format and structure, and there's a definition for what a "testimony" should be. Again, even if the testimonies are weird, you know what you were supposed to hear, so you don't end up feeling out of place or like you're wasting time. Even if you don't connect with what anyone is sharing, you can connect with the fact that they're trying to share a testimony of something related to the Church's teachings.

So, back to an Elder's Quorum meeting, what is it? And if I'm not connecting with the week's discussion, and don't have any comments to give to it, what am I supposed to get from the meeting? It seems to have gotten less clear in the past couple of years.

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Actually, due to the recent changes in how teaching and learning in the church is viewed generally in the church (to paraphrase, learning should happen at home, with church meetings supporting that learning), it has become more clear I think.

The point is this: It is expected that you get informed (by the Elder's quorum presidency) what conference talk is going to be talked about. You study it at home. Then you discuss what you learned/thought/felt at church with others so people can benefit from each other. There is a teacher that leads the discussion and is responsible that sane doctrine is taught.

If that is not what you experience, that is because we are all still learning how "home-centered, church-supported" should look like.

What it should NOT look like, but still often does because teachers aren't experienced or confident, or learners aren't prepared:

  • Trying to cover every point made in the talk. That often leads to unstructured lessons, and not too much discussion.
  • completely unstructured discussions - there is always someone that can and/or will derail a discussion if the teacher is not able to at least exert some control over the discussion. For example, the inevitable discussion about some diet when the subject is Word of Wisdom.

In addition, an Elder's Quorum meeting is an opportunity to talk about things that concern the priesthood holders. Maybe someone needs help with something that the Elder's Quorum can help with. While it doesn't exist anymore, in 2018 (I think?) the first sunday of the month was dedicated to counsel with each other. In our ward, we used this explicitely to find actively find out if any member of the Quorum could need some help with something. I think it was very successfull. But if there is such a need, the Elder's Quorum meeting can now still serve to address it.

From the handbook 2 (2020-01-28):

Elders quorum meetings are held on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. They last 50 minutes. The purposes of these meetings are to conduct business, learn priesthood duties, strengthen individuals and families, study the gospel of Jesus Christ, counsel together, and organize to meet local needs. Leaders prayerfully plan the meetings to accomplish these purposes.

[..]

Quorum meetings begin with a brief welcome, a reminder of the Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families home study materials for that day and the following week, and any quorum business. The remainder of the meeting is used for gospel instruction and discussion.

Lessons in quorum meetings focus on messages from the most recent general conference. Teaching suggestions are found in the May and November issues of the Ensign and Liahona, on ChurchofJesusChrist.org, and in the Gospel Library app.

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  • So, in general, the meetings are a large group study/sharing session? – Alamb Jan 27 at 16:04
  • @Alamb It's, more or less, sunday school but with the target audience being just the men (or for relief society meetings, the women), and the curriculum being different. To put the whole matter into perspective why general conference talks are currently used: Since mid-2000s at least, the teachings of the modern prophets were studied in Quorum meetings, with dedicated manuals for each one. We ran out of dead prophets, so now we are studying the teachings of our current leaders? At least that's how you could see it. Yes, group study/sharing session fits, I think. But with a teacher guiding. – kutschkem Jan 27 at 16:13
  • Hmm... ok. In my mind the concept of group study necessitates a facilitator, so "with a teacher guiding" fits my understanding. I think your answer is taking my mind into territory where I'd need to ask a separate question. The idea that Sunday School and Elder's Quorum meetings are similar really confuses me. – Alamb Jan 27 at 16:29
  • sorry, forgot to tag you @kutschkem. Sources might be helpful, if they exist and you have access to them (I understand that the leadership manuals aren't always accessible to everyone) – Alamb Jan 27 at 16:55
  • @Alamb Manual 2 is accessible to everyone and should contain the relevant information. I'll look it up. – kutschkem Jan 28 at 7:49

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