“Regional Meetings—Individualized and Helpful,” Ensign, Aug. 1979, 74
“It was without question the best leadership meeting I’ve ever attended,” says Brent Jorgensen, first counselor in a Salt Lake City elders quorum presidency.
Why? Because he got more than just a lot of information—he got specific ideas on how to deal with specific problems his own quorum was having.
The meeting he refers to is the 1979 regional meeting held in his region. A similar meeting was held in regions throughout the Church during June, except for selected regions which will hold them later in the year.
But unlike previous years, the meetings this year did not follow identical agendas. Each region followed its own outline according to local needs, all working under the broad theme of “improving leadership and teaching in the Church.”
For example, in the New York-New Jersey Region, leaders discussed unique communication problems associated with their multilinguistic stakes, wards, and branches. Five of the wards and branches in the region are predominantly Spanish-speaking; one small branch is Korean; and another is Chinese. The leaders met in a building equipped with translation facilities.
Under the direction of Earl C. Tingey, Regional Representative, they also discussed reactivation, advancement of prospective elders, and the improvement of teaching. Since the region is preparing to set up the full welfare program (including bishops storehouses and production projects), some of the time was spent training priesthood and Relief Society leaders in principles of Church Welfare Services.
This kind of specific training, essential to the New York-New Jersey Region, was not given in other regional meetings, where it wasn’t necessary. Instead, other topics, based on local circumstances, were discussed.
For example, since the stakes in the Manitoba and Saskatoon Regions in Canada were just recently formed from missions, much of the regional meeting time was devoted to discussing differences between missions and stakes—and training leaders in their new assignments. “We focused on member and leader needs which have arisen as we’ve made the transition,” says Regional Representative Phillip G. Redd. “This was the first regional meeting we’d had with these stakes, and the excitement of the leaders as they planned it was tremendous.”
A specific problem discussed in the Fargo North Dakota and Rapid City South Dakota Regions was how to get the job done with the great distances members and leaders have to travel. Some leaders had to travel 400 miles one way to attend these meetings. Under the direction of Stewart A. Durrant, Regional Representative, leaders discussed alternatives of communicating with each other by phone and mail instead of always having to travel great distances to leadership meetings.
Another topic discussed was how to adapt the full Church program to meet local needs in small branches and isolated groups. “We needed to help leaders of these units see that the Church programs were to be adapted to their circumstances,” says Brother Durrant, “and that with their limited numbers and leadership, they didn’t need to feel guilty for not implementing every aspect of every Church program.”
In the Murray Utah Region, all the Melchizedek Priesthood leaders, under the direction of Morris A. Kjar, Regional Representative, met together instead of in separate sessions. The three main topics of that region’s priesthood workshops were identifying needs, organizing to meet needs, and following through. Each person received a booklet of materials giving specific information and suggestions in each of these areas. Then the leaders worked through a case study involving the reactivation of a family.
What kind of planning was involved? In the past, each region received a great deal of printed material from Church headquarters. Each discussion leader had an outline to follow. Every regional meeting was essentially the same.
But this year, each Regional Representative and stake president received only a forty-page booklet containing checklists instead of discussion guides. The checklists were reproduced and given to other stake, ward, branch, and mission leaders, who, in turn, checked topics needing discussion. Then the outlines for each region’s meetings were based on the checklists.
Presentations in many regional meetings were accompanied by testimonies given by the Regional Representatives and stake presidents, choirs, audio/visual materials, handouts, question/answer periods, and role plays. In some areas, cultural events were also a part of the meetings—music, drama, art, dance. Some regions in Salt Lake City considered the groundbreaking for the Jordan River Temple on June 9 as their cultural event.
Stake follow-up meetings were held afterwards to give stake leaders a chance to share with ward leaders the information they had received.