“New Public Communications Director Called,” Ensign, Jan. 1978, 74–75
Heber G. Wolsey will become the new director of the Church’s Public Communications Department on 1 January 1978—but he’s no stranger to the work ahead. Since 1973 he has been working closely with departing managing director Wendell J. Ashton, both as associate managing director and as director of the electronic media division and as a communications analyst.
Most Latter-day Saints have seen the results of Brother Wolsey’s past work in such programs as the Homefront Campaign and the television special “The Family and Other Living Things.” Church members aren’t the only ones who have been pleased with the short spots promoting family unity—the prestigious Gabriel Awards for outstanding religious use of the media this year once again highly honored the Church campaign.
“Remember last week when you said next week you were going to spend more time with your children? It’s next week!” says the man on the screen—and busy parents realize that they may have been letting things slip again.
“I planned just the right moment to tell my kids I love them,” says a father in a sixty-second radio spot. But after he blurts out the words, he says, “Well, I guess I picked the wrong moment because just then Steve had trouble with his throat and Cindy got something in her eye. But you know—even so, things have been different around here lately.”
And the short spot ends with the reminder, “If you don’t say it, how will they know? If you love ’em, tell ’em. A message from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—the Mormons.” Families are helped; people feel more and more favorably about the Church; and recognizing the power behind such simple messages, Cleo and Gabriel and many other awards are given.
Brother Wolsey is quick to point out that the creative and production work are done by many other people—usually Bonneville Productions, particularly producer-directors Stan Ferguson and Jim Gartner. In fact, so outstanding has their work been, Brother Wolsey said, that the telegram notifying them of their latest Gabriel awards said, “Come on, guys, this just isn’t fair. What will you take not to enter the Gabriel awards next year: give the rest of us a break!”
“The purpose of the Homefront Campaign and the television specials has not been to bring people into the Church directly, though some people have joined because of them. Our purpose is more to ‘warm hearts and open doors’—to get people thinking about the Mormons and how the Church might change their lives.” And part of the credit for the programs’ success must go to Brother Wolsey’s insistence on excellence. “We could do the programs more cheaply, perhaps,” he says, “but we’re competing for free public service time with hundreds of other groups. By doing the best work we can, we have a product the networks want to run—and they have even come back and asked, ‘Don’t you have another campaign for us yet?’”
Brother Wolsey, married to the former Fay Parrish, has nine children and an equal number of grandchildren. His many Church callings include his present assignment on the Sunday School general board and such earlier callings as stake high councilor, stake Sunday School president, and counselor in bishoprics.
“But the calling I have most enjoyed is that of bishop,” he says. Why? “Because you work directly with the Saints. It’s a sobering responsibility—but tremendously satisfying.”
Born in Cardston, Alberta, Canada, Brother Wolsey became a citizen of the United States while serving in the Army Air Force during World Ward II. At that time he was already a BYU graduate—he had earned his bachelor’s degree at the age of nineteen.
One of the earliest influences on Brother Wolsey’s life was his grade school principal and eighth grade teacher in Cardston, a young educator named Nathan Eldon Tanner. Brother Wolsey remembers clearly the first day of class. President Tanner—“Mr. Tanner” in those days—came into the classroom and said, “Boys and girls, we’ll be together for seven hours a day for the next year. In that time I only want to teach you one thing.” And then he walked to the board and in two-foot-high letters wrote, “THINK!”
Heber G. Wolsey, as an eighth-grader, learned that one thing very well—and because of it, he is well prepared to lead the Church’s ever-expanding public communications effort to offer the gospel to every one of the Lord’s children.