“Mission of the Church Is Focus at Seminar and Leadership Meeting,” Ensign, May 1987, 96–97
The purpose of the Lord’s church is to “further the progress of every son and daughter of God toward the ultimate blessings of eternal life,” said President Ezra Taft Benson Friday, April 3, in an address at the annual Regional Representatives’ Seminar held in association with general conference.
President Benson said that in 1981, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve announced a mission of the Church consisting of:
Proclaiming the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people;
Perfecting the Saints by preparing them to receive the ordinances of the gospel and through instruction and discipline to gain exaltation;
Redeeming the dead by performing vicarious gospel ordinances for those who have lived on earth.
All elements of this mission statement received emphasis at both the Friday morning Regional Representatives’ Seminar in the Church Office Building auditorium and the Friday evening leadership meeting in the Tabernacle on Temple Square.
In his opening address at the seminar, President Benson said he would speak about “our mission to perfect the Saints, particularly the challenge of activating those who have separated themselves from full activity in the Church.”
“The challenge before us is great,” he said. “It will require us to put the Melchizedek Priesthood to work. We must exercise great faith, energy, and commitment if we are to reach these brothers and sisters. But we must do it. The Lord expects us to do it. And we will!”
President Benson said that less-active members often are members who have become distracted, indifferent, even preoccupied with other concerns. He pleaded that they be found and loved back into activity.
“Every priesthood and auxiliary resource must be used to assist in this great effort,” including, he said, the sisters of the Church who also have “callings of shepherding” through the “loving service they render to one another, to youth, and to children.”
Following President Benson, President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, focused on missionary work, with an emphasis on the need for couple missionaries.
“There is a growing need for couples in the mission field. They perform a great service. That service becomes a wonderfully rewarding season in their lives,” he said.
President Hinckley noted three factors pertaining to couple missionary eligibility: (1) the couple should be financially capable of caring for themselves without having to “sacrifice their life savings and then find themselves when they return without means to get along with some independence in their declining years. In many cases, children are in a position to maintain their parents in the mission field,” he said; (2) couple missionaries should not leave unmarried, dependent children, particularly children at the “courting age” when such children “need mother and father to counsel them”; (3) couple missionaries must be in general good health.
After President Hinckley’s remarks, President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, noted that it was now twenty years since the first regional representatives were called in 1967. At that time, Elder Harold B. Lee, then of the Quorum of the Twelve, had presented an administrative forecast obtained with the help of BYU statistical aides of “what the Church would look like twenty long years ahead” in 1987. In 1967, the Church had 443 stakes. The forecast was that in 20 years “we might have as many as 1,000 stakes!” Today, there are 1,634 stakes, noted President Monson. In 1967, there were 78 missions, with a 1987 forecast of 185 missions. By July 1987, there will be 200 or more, said President Monson. In 1967, there were 13,000 missionaries, with a forecast in 1987 of “possibly 30,000.” Today, there are 33,753 missionaries, said President Monson.
Reviewing the responsibilities of the regional representatives, President Monson said that “a regional representative is to teach, teach, teach. Your assignment is not so much preaching, managing, directing, or counseling as it is teaching, particularly concerning the mission of the Church.”
Throughout the rest of the seminar and in the evening leadership meeting, the mission of the Church received detailed attention. From the presentations made, the following will help members:
Full-Time Missionaries to Help with Activation. The Brethren announced that full-time missionaries are authorized on a “limited” basis to help local leaders activate less-active members “in stakes that have few brethren who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood.” However, authorization for this assistance requires specific Area Presidency approval and approval by the member of the Quorum of the Twelve assigned to that area. Such assistance may continue “until a ward or branch has an adequate number of brethren who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood.”
Home Teachers to Work with New Converts. Also announced was the instruction that home teachers “should cooperate with stake and full-time missionaries in fellowshipping new members” and may be assigned to visit converts while the missionaries are teaching them so the home teachers can begin regular visits. Home teachers may be present when stake missionaries teach the fellowshipping lessons, or they may be invited to assist stake missionaries with the teaching. “The efforts of full-time missionaries, stake missionaries, and home teachers overlap to ensure that converts are fellowshipped into the Church.”
Leaders to Nourish Members. Leaders were asked to teach members the goal of “individual perfection” through obedience to the ordinances and covenants of the gospel, and asked to greatly “shepherd and strengthen the less active, particularly through the home teaching program. To assist leaders and members in these labors, the Brethren announced several administrative changes designed to aid in the above emphases. Ward priesthood executive committee meetings are to take place weekly, and bishops should assign high priests “much” of the responsibility for strengthening prospective elders, their families, and less-active members. Elders quorum presidencies may give emphasis to strengthening elders and their families.
Focus on Genealogical Work. Stake conferences in the second half of 1987 and first half of 1988 will focus on temple and genealogical service. New and simplified resources to aid members are to be presented, and members are encouraged to do the genealogical work and receive ordinances for “at least one ancestor.”
Throughout all the presentations, a general theme prevailed: “The mission of the Church is best carried out in the home. It is supported and directed by united efforts of leaders in the priesthood executive committee and the ward council.”
The presentations were given by selected members of the Quorum of the Twelve and by members of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy.