Energy Crisis: First Presidency Encourages Conservation of Fuel; Reports From the Saints Around the World

“Energy Crisis: First Presidency Encourages Conservation of Fuel; Reports From the Saints Around the World,” Ensign, Feb. 1974, 67

Energy Crisis: First Presidency Encourages Conservation of Fuel; Reports From the Saints Around the World

A call to action to conserve energy resources has been issued by the First Presidency as many Latter-day Saints face severe fuel and power shortages around the world.

In a letter to all stakes, wards, branches, and missions, the First Presidency encouraged members, among other measures, to walk to church meetings where feasible, hold back-to-back meetings, and hold all auxiliary activities on one day of the week.

In encouraging members to walk where appropriate to their meetings, the First Presidency cautioned, “In making this suggestion we recommend that Church members use wisdom and avoid undue hazard to personal safety in traveling to and from church services.”

The First Presidency also authorized other measures to cope with the energy crisis, including:

—Eliminating all outside lighting at Church buildings, except that necessary to provide adequate security or prevent injury.

—Encouraging Church members to join car pools and urging them to observe prescribed speed limits.

—Lowering thermostats in homes where feasible and eliminating unnecessary consumption of electricity or fuel.

The letter also suggested that “the topic of fuel conservation be seriously discussed by all members of the family in a family home evening.”

Where long distances are involved in traveling to Church meetings, wards and branches have been given the authority to conduct consecutive meetings so that priesthood, Sunday School, and sacrament meetings would be held one after another instead of being spread throughout the day.

As a local option, all auxiliary meetings may be scheduled on one day of the week, so that Primary, Relief Society, and the Aaronic Priesthood and Melchizedek Priesthood MIAs would no longer be held on different days.

Many wards and branches are already holding back-to-back meetings to overcome the problems of long-distance travel, or even to conserve fuel by heating the meetinghouse for a part of the day instead of all day with long periods of time between meetings.

For many of the Saints, a shortage of gasoline for personal cars is not a problem as they usually travel by public transportation, by bicycle, or on foot.

In the Netherlands, for instance, personal driving on Sunday has been banned. Elder Jacob de Jager, regional representative of the Council of the Twelve for the Holland Region, told the Ensign that he has to obtain a special permit to use his car on Sundays for Church work.

“Gasoline has been rationed and people have to use coupons to buy it now. They are allowed 15 litres [approximately five gallons] per week. I drive a diesel-fueled car, but I can receive permission to use it on Sunday. I am told the route I must travel to the town I want to visit, and then I am allowed one hour before the service and one hour after the service for that travel. Should I be stopped by the authorities and it is found that I have exceeded the time allotted me, then I could be fined 500 Dutch guilders [$200]. That is a standard fine. I have to make application for each Sunday that I want to travel on Church business, and it isn’t easy to get a permit.”

With all the problems arising from a shortage of gasoline, President Max L. Pinegar, president of the Netherlands Mission, reports that, during the past several weeks, “we have had a number of branches reporting an increase in attendance both at Sunday School and sacrament meeting. President Cornelis de Bruijn of the Holland Stake tells me that sacrament meeting attendance has not dropped even though the members are not permitted to drive on Sunday.”

Of the overall attitude of the Saints in the Netherlands, Elder de Jager said: “In general, I would say that they are in good spirits. They group together and help each other. A lot of members have some sort of year’s supply. We see the wisdom of the Brethren who have always taught us to store supplies for times such as this. This is a good example of how a year’s supply can help.”

Elder de Jager said that, of the European countries that he has visited recently, the Netherlands appeared to be affected the worst by the shortage of fuel. “There have been some shortages, too, of a few commodities, but this mainly has been brought about by panic buying on the part of some people.”

Elder de Jager’s statement on the wisdom of the year’s supply came just after some admonitions by President Harold B. Lee at a special devotional for Church employees in Salt Lake City. President Lee asked how many of them, working close to the Brethren, had made food storage a part of their lives. He said that the Church is not talking about storing all the food one would normally eat, but the essentials that would sustain one in times of need.

The same day that President Lee addressed Church employees, Prime Minister Edward Heath announced a three-day work week for Britain. Brought on by strikes among electrical power workers, coal miners, and railroad workers, the three-day work week aimed at conserving fuel.

In a report to the Ensign, London Stake President John Cox said, “We have been asked to conserve electrical power. Householders have been requested to heat only one room in their houses by electricity, and while we can still get home heating fuel, we have been asked to lower our thermostats.

“Gasoline for cars is still available, although you have to line up at service stations to get it. It has gone up in price and is now a little over one dollar per gallon.

“On the whole, the Saints are doing well as far as Church activity goes. This may change for the worse if the industrial strikes and slowdowns continue. Then the slowdown will go beyond fuel and hit at other commodities.”

Energy shortages not only have had an impact on families, but also have forced changes on institutions.

Lighting was cut back in several areas in the 26-story General Church Office Building in Salt Lake City, and employees were asked to turn off unnecessary lights and conserve energy at work and in their homes.

At Brigham Young University, a special task force is seeking to eliminate any waste of energy and to propose conservation methods on campus. However BYU has been practicing energy conservation for many years and surveys indicate that it may be the most efficiently-used campus in the world. The campus is also used year-round, a request made of other American universities by President Richard M. Nixon.

The BYU task force recommendations resulted in room temperatures being lowered during the winter months, while this summer, air-conditioning will operate at 80 degrees instead of 72. Where natural light is sufficient for working conditions, electric lights will not be used. A special feature of the BYU campus has been the snow-melting system operating under the footpaths. Now, this system will not operate except where necessary.

Looking ahead, the task force recommended that new buildings under construction, or under consideration, should be designed for conservation of energy.

Students returning home for the Christmas vacation were requested by President Dallin H. Oaks to leave their cars behind when they returned. Like Church employees in Salt Lake City, BYU staff, faculty, and students were urged to use car pools if they had long distances to travel to campus each day, or to walk or use bicycles.

Voicing the oft-repeated concept of teaching people correct principles and permitting them to govern themselves, President Oaks said, “We have avoided setting out specific courses of action in the [conservation] policy because we wanted to set basic principles that would guide us in multiple situations over a considerable period of time.”