“In June Regional Meetings … Member Activation Emphasized,” Ensign, July 1978, 70
Speaking to hundreds in one region’s June meetings, a young man concluded a moving testimony: “I am grateful for a bishop, a quorum instructor, and some friends in my ward who did not look back to what I had been, but who looked forward to what I might become.”
In a similar setting four states away, an older man was also struggling to express himself. “I finally took my wife and my three daughters to the temple,” he said, his voice breaking. “I’ll never forget that moment as long as I live.”
Similar testimonies of other recently activated members were shared during sessions of this year’s June regional meetings held Churchwide. Approximately 250,000 stake and ward priesthood leaders, stake auxiliary leaders, and corresponding officers in the missions discussed causes of inactivity and methods of reactivation in the morning general sessions and in many of the departmental sessions during the day.
In preparation for the meetings, each stake president visited several inactive members of his stake to become familiar with their feelings and needs. During these visits, they discussed five areas of concern: causes of inactivity, feelings about the Church, feelings about Heavenly Father and the Savior, willingness to share talents and skills as specialists or on service projects, and attitudes about being invited out to meetings and activities and receiving home teachers. Then the stake presidents reported in the regional meetings what they had learned while talking with the inactive members and shared insights which could be helpful in activation efforts.
“I was amazed to discover that I had stereotyped inactive members,” said one stake president. “I met a lot of fine people during my visits—people who really have a lot to offer—and I want to get to know them better.”
The filmstrip “Member Activation,” narrated by President Spencer W. Kimball, was shown. After observing that “a great number of our men, women, youth, and children are not enjoying the blessings of full Church activity,” President Kimball said: “The cycles of inactivity and indifference are recurring cycles from fathers and mothers to sons and daughters.
We must break those cycles at two points, simultaneously.
“We must reach out and hold many more of our young men and women to keep them faithful, to help them to be worthy to go on missions and to be married in the holy temples. At the same time we must reach and hold many more of the fathers and mothers.”
President Kimball outlined the steps members can follow to help bring others into full activity:
“We must first prepare ourselves. Remember the Lord said to Peter, ‘When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.’ (Luke 22:32; italics added.) Each of us must not only be converted to the truth of the gospel, but we must also be converted to the importance of reaching out to our fellow Church members. We must be willing to share a genuine love with them. This is spiritual preparation for spiritual work. We must approach it prayerfully and sincerely.
“The second step is to identify those who need our special help and organize to bring them into activity. Prayerfully select those on whom earliest and greatest efforts should be focused. All activation efforts should be carried out through existing organizations and existing programs. Home teachers and visiting teachers can be a vital means of drawing the strength of priesthood quorums and auxiliary organizations to those prepared to accept it.
“The third step is to fellowship. This is the process of forming friendships through visits, family activities, service projects, and socials. Home teachers and visiting teachers should go with prayer in their hearts to the homes of these inactive men and women and let them feel the love and concern the Lord and His Church have for them.
“Fourth, when the heart is ready, we can teach them the simple but beautiful principles of the gospel. Each person, to become active and remain active, needs a spiritual conviction that the gospel is true. These members should be taught the gospel in sacrament meetings, priesthood meetings, and in meetings of Church auxiliary organizations. They should be taught by home teachers or stake missionaries, and in seminars designed to prepare them to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and temple blessings.”
Leaders at the regional meetings were encouraged to order the discussion materials and suggestions for temple preparation seminars (PBMP0101) which have recently been developed to help in activation efforts. A new twelve-week seminar, conducted by quorums, wards, or multiward groups at least twice each year, helps inactive members learn more about basic principles of the gospel, accept challenges for improvement, and make friends with other members of the Church. The goal of the experience is to prepare inactive members to receive priesthood ordinations and temple blessings.
After receiving a personal invitation from the bishop and making a commitment to complete the seminar, inactive members attend the weekly meetings with their home teachers, usually at someone’s home. Topics include the purpose of life, the importance of the family, the Atonement, the Restoration, the value of the scriptures, how to gain a testimony, the nature of the priesthood, the benefits of Church service, paying tithing, obeying the Word of Wisdom, keeping the Sabbath holy, and requirements of personal worthiness necessary for temple attendance.
One weekly assignment with each discussion encourages participants to experience an element of gospel living: to pray individually, as husbands and wives, and as a family; to study the scriptures; to attend meetings; to accept a Church calling; and to prepare for the temple.
At the seminar’s end, participants meet with the bishop and discuss progress made toward receiving priesthood ordinances or temple blessings.
Members of one stake in Salt Lake City were so successful with this program that their efforts were reported on the filmstrip viewed by all who attended the meetings. Thomas J. VanDenBerghe of the Salt Lake Millcreek Stake presidency said that after only moderate success with prospective elders, they “organized a seminar program to prepare … men to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and to go to the temple with their wives. … By careful planning and diligent effort, we were able to present forty-seven brethren at Stake conference to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. Shortly thereafter, they and their wives received their temple endowments and sealings.”
Another aid to activation discussed at the regional meetings is a new system for keeping track of members when they move. Sometimes members become inactive because they are not fellowshipped in their new setting. Home teachers are now asked to obtain the forwarding address from members who move so that the address can be sent to priesthood leaders in the new location. Then Church leaders, aware that members have moved into their boundaries, can provide needed fellowshipping.
If home teachers do not obtain a forwarding address before the family moves, they are to get an Address Locator form (PMCL1252) from priesthood leaders, follow the steps listed on the form (contact neighbors, relatives, and friends, call directory assistance, etc.), and find the person’s new address.
A third new activation tool (also beneficial in all Church leadership functions) is a goal-planning form. Prescribed as an aid in setting specific, well-defined goals, it has both a “what to do” column and a “how to do it” column. (See illustration for a sample goal and ten possible steps to accomplish it.)
The following instructions on goals were presented:
1. Goals should be prayerfully set with guidance from the Spirit.
2. Goals should be specific rather than general.
3. Goals should be written down.
4. Goals should be stated in terms of a specific time period.
5. Goals should be set by those responsible for their attainment.
6. Goals should be realistic and attainable but should also challenge us to lengthen our stride.
7. Goals should be reviewed frequently, and the results reported periodically.
8. Goals should be directed toward helping and serving other people as well as toward self-improvement.
In Melchizedek Priesthood departmental sessions, copies of the 1978–79 annual guidelines were distributed and discussed. These guidelines introduce Melchizedek Priesthood leaders to eight components of priesthood work (see illustration).
The following specific instructions on missionary work, welfare services, and genealogy were given:
Missionary Referrals. Priesthood leaders were instructed to encourage every family to set a specific date in the coming year to have a nonmember family ready to be taught by the missionaries. Four steps to reach that goal are to prayerfully select a nonmember friend or family (or a part-member family) who you feel is ready to accept the gospel, plan friendshipping activities to interest the family in the gospel, ask the members of the family if they are interested in learning more about the Church, and continue fellowshipping families after they become members of the Church.
Welfare Emphases. Welfare principles remain constant, but each year a special emphasis is placed on designated areas where members should concentrate their efforts. In the area of Personal and Family Preparedness, the emphasis for this year is on financial and resource management and physical health. Other Welfare Services emphases include helping the handicapped help themselves and caring for the elderly and for dependent children. Members are especially encouraged to help and honor their elderly parents. Priesthood leaders discussed ways to encourage progress in these areas.
Quorum leaders were instructed that the quorum employment system has three main purposes:
1. To place individuals in gainful employment by collecting job information received from members and from the local community and by referring applicants for immediate job placement.
2. To help individuals who are seeking employment learn about interviewing, preparing resumes, and locating job opportunities.
3. To teach individuals how to plan for their own careers. To teach fathers how to counsel family members in this regard.
The importance of fast offerings was also stressed in the regional meetings. Leaders were told that all Latter-day Saints, regardless of financial standing, can afford to pay the equivalent of the meals they fast each month. President Kimball has encouraged the more affluent to “give, instead of the amount we saved by our two meals of fasting, perhaps much, much more—ten times more where we are in a position to do it.” (Quoted in Welfare Annual Guidelines, 1978–79.)
Member Genealogy Responsibilities. All members have four basic responsibilities in priesthood genealogy and temple work: 1. check for accuracy all information on the four-generation group sheets and pedigree chart, 2. compile a meaningful book of remembrance, 3. establish family organizations, and 4. complete temple ordinances for the family.
“This year the emphasis is on accuracy, with a special assignment to complete the four-generation program. Those who have already completed it should strive to help others complete it. The completion of these assignments is extremely important for our success in future genealogical programs.” (1978 Priesthood Genealogy Handout, p. 1.) In order to help members compile their four-generation family group sheets and pedigree chart accurately, a new basic genealogy course study guide, From You to Your Ancestors (PBGS0683), has been prepared. This new Sunday School course will begin in September 1978.
Other stake and ward leaders also received annual guidelines and supplementary instructions. Following are some highlights from these departmental sessions:
1. Bishops discussed ways to improve the spirit of worship in sacrament meetings, ways to make meaningful service opportunities available for all ward members, and methods of increasing activity in the Young Men, Young Women, and Aaronic Priesthood programs. In a session with Relief Society leaders, they discussed ways to implement welfare services principles.
2. Sunday School leaders discussed new methods for improving the quality of teaching through workshops, faculty meetings, and in-service lessons. An important addition to Sunday School prayer meetings is now a weekly five-minute message on effective teaching, given by any member of the Sunday School faculty. Two new items are available to help teachers improve their skills: Teacher Orientation Materials (PESS0246), which has a self-training format, and a recent Church publication, Teaching: No Greater Call (PXIC064A).
3. Using the theme “A Time for Dedication,” Relief Society leaders discussed five areas: creativity in implementing approved Relief Society programs and materials, cooperation with the priesthood in member activation, leadership training and welfare services, commitment to more effective leadership teaching, concern for upgrading visiting teaching by improving communication skills, and callings in Relief Society vitalized with testimony, ideas, and talents. The sisters were also encouraged to become more aware of the dependent elderly by serving them (visiting them, helping them with transportation and shopping, and caring about them) and by encouraging dependent elderly to serve (assigning them to write letters, make telephone calls, and work as visiting teacher supervisors in their own homes).
4. Young Men and Young Women leaders emphasized activation as a means to bring individuals closer to the Savior. Objectives for the year are to activate youth who are not now active, to teach and motivate youth to live the standards of the Church, to involve youth in service experiences, to prepare youth for eternal marriage, and to increase youth participation in cultural arts and physical activities.
5. The Primary introduced a new reverence resource manual, Father, I Will Reverent Be (PXPR0154), from which reverence lessons are to be taken. Also new is a supplement to Sing with Me, entitled More Songs for Children (PBMU0392), and a new Guide for Children’s Music (PBMU0381). Primary leaders’ specific challenge for 1978–79 is to continue to teach correct principles. In-service lessons will be based on the new How Book for Teaching Children (PBIC0223).
6. The activities committees discussed functions of the committee, evaluated their recent experiences, and discussed possible activities for the coming year.
7. The Music Department announced a change making stake auxiliary music leaders responsible for ensuring that skills training is provided for their ward auxiliary music personnel. Music leaders were encouraged to recommend young people as assistant music directors, organists, or pianists, and to use family choirs consisting of one or more families in sacrament meetings and on other occasions.
8. Executive secretaries and clerks reviewed ways of aiding activation efforts through their callings.
Each stake was encouraged to organize follow-up training seminars to give leaders an opportunity to relay the information on to local leaders. These meetings may be held in conjunction with an upcoming stake conference and they may be accompanied, as were the regional meetings, by luncheons, cultural events, and displays.
Did the regional meetings accomplish their purpose of motivating leaders?
Apparently so. Excited by the things he had heard, one bishop said, “I’m impressed with the emphasis of people over programs. I’m going to evaluate our programs and make sure they’re people-oriented.”