“Report of the Seminar for Regional Representatives,” Ensign, Nov. 1978, 100–101
Issuing a prophetic call for the sound of the gospel to be heard around the globe, President Spencer W. Kimball opened the seminar for Regional Representatives on Friday, September 29.
Twenty-two new Regional Representatives—bringing the total to 184—were introduced to the large crowd consisting of the First Presidency, the Council of the Twelve, other General Authorities, the Regional Representatives, and other Church leaders.
Before beginning his address, President Kimball made two announcements:
“The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve have determined that there is no scriptural prohibition against sisters offering prayers in sacrament meetings. It was therefore decided that it is permissible for sisters to offer prayers in any meetings they attend, including sacrament meetings, Sunday School meetings, and stake conferences. Relief Society visiting teachers may offer prayers in homes that they enter in fulfilling visiting teaching assignments.”
President Kimball also announced that wives of Church leaders should wear dresses, not pantsuits, while accompanying their husbands on Church assignments.
Giving specific instructions on genealogy and the care of the needy and the elderly, President Kimball encouraged leaders to “tend the flock,” and challenged them to be more aware of people’s needs and to render help in the Lord’s way. “I do not worry about members of the Church being unresponsive when they learn of the needy as much as I worry about our being unaware of such needs. … Please, priesthood leaders, do not get so busy trying to manage Church programs that you forget about basic duties in what the Apostle James described as ‘pure religion, undefiled’ (James 1:27).”
He admonished leaders to be constant—constant in well doing, constant in affirming the truthfulness of the gospel, constant in affirming “the reality of the presence of living prophets who are among us in this dispensation even when others doubt and even when others mock.”
Contrasting the percentage of young men ordained to offices in the Aaronic Priesthood with the number eligible, President Kimball expressed concern that so many young boys aren’t baptized and, consequently, aren’t ordained when they become of age. He asked that the Church increase the total number of missionaries Churchwide to at least fifty percent of the eligible young men nineteen to twenty-six years of age, thus doubling the missionary force and more than doubling the number of baptisms.
President Kimball indicated that the Spirit of the Lord is preparing people in Africa, China, India, Saudi Arabia, the Soviet Union, and other Asian and European nations for the gospel, and that although “we must move carefully and cautiously” as we take the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth, “we must move!”
Reminding leaders that nothing is too hard for the Lord, President Kimball nevertheless urged Church members to do their part. How many of us can preach the gospel in Mandarin Chinese, in Hindi, in Arabic, for example? he asked. “When we are ready,” he declared, “the Lord will use us for his purposes.”
After President Kimball’s sermon, several other General Authorities and Church leaders addressed the Regional Representatives.
Elder Gordon B. Hinckley of the Council of the Twelve instructed leaders that while Church members should work as citizens to improve their communities and the country, the Church as an institution is not to be used as a political vehicle—except on certain moral issues specifically designated as such by the First Presidency.
He cautioned leaders not to allow Church facilities, local or general directories, or Church stationery to be used for campaign purposes, and said that political candidates should be asked to refrain from capitalizing on the Church membership of voters. “When you act in your role as citizens, which you are strongly encouraged to do,” he said, “please do so as citizens and not as Church officials.”
Turning to the 1980 sesquicentennial celebration of the Church, Elder Hinckley indicated that under the direction of President Kimball, plans are going forward for appropriate commemorative activities. The General Church Activity Committee is preparing helpful suggestions for local units, but great flexibility will encourage local activity and creativity. “This can be an occasion for rejoicing,” he said, “for uplifting productions involving music, drama, and all of the affiliated arts, … a time of thanksgiving to the Lord, a time for the building of faith.”
President Marion G. Romney of the First Presidency reviewed with the Regional Representatives some basic principles of Church Welfare: We should all live by our own labors; families should sustain each other; and the Church will help care for members who have insufficient individual and family resources. “The accepted practice of expecting the government to supply us with the necessities of life, … if fully adopted, will change any country from a land of freedom to a land of slavery,” he said.
The Church cares for the needy by means of fast offerings and welfare projects. Reading from Isaiah 58:3–12, [Isa. 58:3–12] President Romney reviewed the spiritual and temporal blessings which come by obeying the law of the fast. Turning to the Book of Mormon, he illustrated the fact that “the very efficacy of one’s prayers turns upon his liberality in caring for the poor.” (See Alma 34:28–29.) Finally, from the Doctrine and Covenants he taught that while the Lord has made us stewards over the earth, he has also given us agency; if we accept his blessings, we should contribute our share for the poor. (See D&C 104:13–18.)
President Kimball then arose and endorsed President Romney’s remarks, challenging the leaders to understand the basic welfare principles, to apply them in their own lives and in their regions, and to seek a spiritual confirmation.
President Ezra Taft Benson spoke, expressing the concern of the First Presidency and the Twelve about excessive time and financial demands placed upon Church members.
“We must be more sensitive about pulling parents out of the home and away from their children to attend meetings,” he said. “Early youth is the optimum time to teach children—when Satan has no influence on them [see D&C 29:45–48], but when a parent’s influence should be especially great. As leaders, we have a responsibility to protect the time of parents so they are not too frequently called out of the home at this crucial period in the lives of their precious children. …
“We are also concerned about the cost of some of the unduly expanded and extravagant activities sponsored by some stake and local units,” he continued, explaining that in making that statement, he was “not referring to missionary work or needed buildings.”
He then asked the leaders to examine their programs to see how they could reduce time and financial burdens. “By careful, inspired planning, we believe this can be done without sacrificing the great work we all love. … The Church’s aim is to strengthen—not weaken—the home,” he said. “Would you please give this important matter priority attention.”
The following new Regional Representatives were introduced at the seminar:
Karl Ricks Anderson of Lyndhurst, Ohio; Alva D. Blackburn of Reedley, California; Helio da Rocha Camargo of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Sherman M. Crump of Salt Lake City; Julio Enrique Davila of Bogota, Colombia; Arthur W. Elrey, Jr., of Tucson, Arizona; Robert B. Harbertson of Bountiful, Utah; Conrad Valoi Hatch of Cedar City, Utah; James Paul Jensen of Ramstein Air Base, Germany; Hitoshi Kashikura of Fujisawa, Japan; Jose Lombardi of Sao Paulo, Brazil; Abraham Lozano from Mexico; Andrew O. McArthur of St. George, Utah; Veigh J. Nielson of Bartlesville, Oklahoma; Saul Messias Oliveira of Sao Paulo, Brazil; Kenneth M. Palmer of Auckland, New Zealand; Guillermo Mario Perotti of Lima, Peru; Ralph Pulman of Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales; Ralph G. Rodgers, Jr., of Salt Lake City; Hugo Nestor Salvioli of Buenos Aires, Argentina; Del Alvin Talley, Sr., of La Plata, New Mexico; and Horacio Antonio Tenorio of Bosques de Echegaray, Mexico.