“Ministering to the Needs of Members,” Ensign, Nov. 1980, 45
My dear brethren, it is always a great joy for me to have the privilege of meeting with you in general priesthood meeting. We are gathered here in the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City and in more than 2,000 other places around the world. Just think of the mighty and sacred power that is represented by this assemblage of men and boys. I rejoice with you, my brethren, in the manifold blessings which are ours in holding the priesthood of God!
Brethren, there is one matter I should like to mention at the very beginning of my remarks. To those of you who are citizens of the United States: I wish to urge you and your family members of voting age to go to the polls in large numbers next month on Tuesday, November 4, and vote for the strongest, finest people who are certain to do the most to safeguard the rights and freedoms of this nation. We do not endorse any candidates, but we hope you will vote for good men and women of character, integrity, and ability. You are to be the judge. Further, we hope our Church buildings and our Church organizations will not be used to advance the candidacy or policies of any of the candidates.
As we read and study the scriptures we are made conscious of the fact that the Savior has always been concerned about the welfare of the members of his flock, both individually and collectively. It is about that principle of caring for and ministering to the needs of the Church membership in these troubled days that I desire to speak to you brethren tonight.
Bishops and branch presidents, please be ever alert to the needs of the precious individuals and families who make up the membership of your wards and branches. You are the nurturing shepherds of our people. To the greatest extent possible, let your counselors and others who serve and work under your direction be the managers of programs. If you will pursue this emphasis, you will often be able to detect very early some of those members who have serious difficulties, while their challenges and problems are still small and manageable. Be conscious of the little tensions and problems you may see in families so that you can give the required attention, counsel, and love when it is most needed. An hour with a troubled boy or girl now may save him or her, and is infinitely better than the hundreds of hours spent in their later lives in the reclamation of a boy or girl if they become inactive.
As we have said so many times, delegate those tasks which others can do so that you are free to do those things which you, and you alone, can do. Home teachers are to help watch over the flock. Even though they don’t counsel as bishops and branch presidents do, home teachers can render much appropriate and preventive help under the direction of the quorum leaders and bishoprics.
Stake presidents, bishops, and branch presidents, please take a particular interest in improving the quality of teaching in the Church. The Savior has told us to feed his sheep (see John 21:15–17). I fear that all too often many of our members come to church, sit through a class or meeting, and they then return home having been largely uninformed. It is especially unfortunate when this happens at a time when they may be entering a period of stress, temptation, or crisis. We all need to be touched and nurtured by the Spirit, and effective teaching is one of the most important ways this can happen. We often do vigorous enlistment work to get members to come to church but then do not adequately watch over what they receive when they do come.
Yesterday while speaking to the Regional Representatives, I called attention to the challenge facing all of us as we fellowship and teach the gospel to cultural and minority groups living among us. When special attention of some kind is not provided for these good people, we lose them. In April of 1977, as I was speaking about the Lamanites, I said that we could “no longer merely teach and preach to them, but we must establish the Church among them” (Regional Representatives’ seminar, 1 April 1977). This statement applies to all cultures.
During the past few years, the basic unit program has been developed to assist where there are special language or cultural needs. Its guidebooks, manuals, and reports are much less complicated than those for the full Church program. They are wonderful and are now available in most languages. We have designed smaller, less expensive buildings to meet this need also. Couples can be trained in the basic unit program and can then assist in establishing the Church among all people in all lands. Where the program is being used as outlined, we are meeting with great success.
We encourage you priesthood leaders to become familiar with this program and use it to bless people. The Lord said, “For they cannot bear meat now, but milk they must receive” (D&C 19:22).
One more very important thing, my brethren—especially you stake presidents, bishops, and branch presidents. Be mindful always of the members of your flock who are sad, lonely, bereaved, or bereft. There are always some among us who need our special care and attention. We must never forget or overlook them. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27).
We are rightly known as a chapel-building people. I hope we will become even better known as a family-building people. Do not neglect your own families, brethren. The new consolidated schedule permits you, if you plan well, to hold all the meetings in the consolidated schedule along with the necessary administrative meetings and still have several hours with your family every Sunday. Please see to it that this is done, so that you priesthood brethren do not neglect your own families and so that our wonderful stake presidents, bishops, branch and quorum presidents, and others can do likewise.
I love you, my brethren, my beloved brethren, and I am grateful for your faith, your devotion, and your love for the cause of truth, the cause of the Master. Brethren, I express my affection for you and all your people in the scattered portions of the world. May the Lord bless you, brethren, and know that you are much loved here at Church headquarters. God bless you; peace be with you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.