“The Doctrinal Foundation of the Auxiliaries,” Ensign, Aug. 2005, 62–67
I have been assigned the privilege of discussing with you the doctrine and principles by which auxiliary organizations of the Church function and how they relate to the priesthood line. To provide a solid foundation, this message is based upon statements of several Presidents of the Church, many of which are quoted directly. This counsel is given to help you serve effectively under the guidance of your priesthood leaders in the auxiliary organization where you live. Where needed, they will help you adjust your activities to be consistent with your local conditions and resources.
There are five Church auxiliary organizations: Young Men, Sunday School, Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary. This message is directed to you of the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary.
What is the role of an auxiliary organization? In answering that question, it is essential to remember that “the family is ordained of God” and is “central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”1
The fundamental role and purpose of the auxiliary organizations of the Church is to help “plant and make grow … a testimony of [Jesus] Christ and of the Gospel.” Auxiliaries can also teach of the divine mission of Joseph Smith and of the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ. This effort will aid families and individuals “to order their lives in accordance with the laws and principles of the restored Gospel” under the direction of the holy priesthood.2
The family and the home are the foundation of the righteous life. The priesthood is the power and the priesthood line is the means provided by the Lord to support the family. The scriptures and approved materials are provided to instruct individuals and families in the ways of God. One example of such materials is the study guide for the Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society.
The Church auxiliaries are organized to assist the individual, the family, and the priesthood in realizing divine expectations. However, the activity of each must be correlated carefully with the other auxiliaries so that order may be maintained and revealed doctrine kept pure.3 This coordination is best accomplished under priesthood leadership in stake and ward councils.
President Kimball taught: “The mission of the Church to its members is to make available the principles, programs, and priesthood by which they can prepare themselves for exaltation. Our success, individually and as a Church, will largely be determined by how faithfully we focus on living the gospel in the home. Only as we see clearly the responsibilities of each individual and the role of families and homes can we properly understand that priesthood quorums and auxiliary organizations, even wards and stakes, exist primarily to help members live the gospel in the home. Then we can understand that people are more important than programs, and that Church programs should always support and never detract from gospel-centered family activities. …
“Our commitment to home-centered gospel living should become the clear message of every priesthood and auxiliary program, reducing, where necessary, some of the optional activities that may detract from proper focus on the family and the home.”4
At a crucial earlier time in Church history, Elder Harold B. Lee was assigned the daunting task of correlating what then were many diverse facets of the overall Church organization into its present unified form.
The insights he gained through that sacred assignment are most helpful to us today. In a conference message, President Lee gave this valuable counsel:
“The home is the basis of a righteous life. … Priesthood programs operate in support of the home; the auxiliary programs render valuable assistance. … [There is an] urgency of impressing the importance of better teaching and greater parental responsibility in the home. Much of what we do organizationally, then, is scaffolding, as we seek to build the individual, and we must not mistake the scaffolding for the soul.”5
President Lee also emphasized: “Priesthood leaders … are to strengthen the Church—to see that all Church members do their duty and that the auxiliaries do their utmost to do what that word … implies. An auxiliary is to be an aid to the priesthood in watching over the Church and also an aid to the home, under the direction and … cooperation [of] the priesthood.”6
President Lee further declared that Church programs should strengthen the home: “If there should ever come a time where … [Church] efforts should be so inclusive as to take all the time of the child … it would be a tragic thing. … Ours should be a conscious every day effort … to reinforce and to strengthen the homes which are our Heavenly Father’s first line of defense.”7
President Hinckley has taught:
“We must work at our responsibility as parents as if everything in life counted on it, because in fact everything in life does count on it.
“If we fail in our homes, we fail in our lives. … Pray for guidance, for help, for direction, and then follow the whisperings of the Spirit to guide you in the most serious of all responsibilities, for the consequences of your leadership in your home will be eternal and everlasting.”8
In a general conference message in 1906, President Joseph F. Smith taught: “We expect to see the day … when every council of the Priesthood … will understand its duty, will assume its own responsibility, will magnify its calling … to the uttermost. … When that day shall come, there will not be so much necessity for work that is now being done by the auxiliary organizations, because it will be done by the regular quorums of the Priesthood.”9
Later, President Harold B. Lee made this clarifying explanation: “There has been some misunderstanding about that statement [of President Joseph F. Smith]. This did not mean that we would eliminate the auxiliaries heretofore established, but it meant that we would increase the responsibility of the priesthood quorums in strengthening these existing organizations by becoming more involved in order to give priesthood emphasis to every phase of the Lord’s work.”10
These principles stated by former Presidents of the Church govern the auxiliary organizations of the Church. They have been reiterated by subsequent First Presidencies. They continue to be the foundation of the Church auxiliary work.
How are auxiliary organizations governed? I will describe the general principles of governance. All auxiliary organizations operate under the direct presidency and supervision of stake and ward priesthood authorities, who carry the ultimate responsibility for the work of these organizations. By divine direction, stake presidents and bishops hold the keys of making callings in the respective organizations over which they preside and of giving guidance to those organizations. They hold the keys of receiving confirming revelation as to who should be called, and they are responsible for the calling, sustaining, and setting apart of officers and teachers.
Specifically, stake presidents are responsible for all Melchizedek Priesthood callings. Those callings include high priests and elders quorum officers, clerks, and executive secretary. Stake presidents are also responsible for the calling of stake auxiliary officers. Bishops are responsible for all Aaronic Priesthood callings and for the calling of all ward auxiliary officers.
Each auxiliary president is asked to recommend, after prayerful consideration, individuals to serve as counselors. When a presidency has been approved and called, recommendations for other officers, such as secretaries or teachers in a specific organization, should be made after prayerful evaluation by the full auxiliary presidency.
Because of the keys they hold, stake presidents and bishops can receive confirming revelation to proceed with such callings in accordance with the fifth article of faith.
This inspired pattern maintains order in the kingdom. It allows information not available to auxiliary officers who recommend candidates to be considered in seeking confirmation whether a call should be extended or not. A stake president or bishop has the keys of the Church in Israel and therefore knows of worthiness issues or other sensitive family concerns that are not public knowledge. Thus, an auxiliary president should seek the guidance of the Lord as to who should be recommended to specific positions while recognizing that it is only a recommendation.
While the stake president or bishop often receives a confirmation that the individual recommended should be called, that is not always the case. Each recommendation will be carefully evaluated, recognizing that it has been conscientiously considered and prayerfully identified.
A stake president or bishop will normally consult closely with auxiliary leaders on individuals recommended to ensure that the full picture of an organization’s needs is obtained before he prayerfully seeks confirmation of a calling. Then he will hold a worthiness interview and discussion with the individual prior to extending a call to serve.
Stake presidents and bishops, when you call a new presidency of an auxiliary organization, give them guidance and vision to orient their service. Meet with your counselors, and develop a statement of direction that you hope they will follow to fulfill their assignment and to meet local needs. Share this vision with the new presidency. Ask them to prepare a plan for its implementation. A member of the presidency or bishopric should meet with them periodically to give further guidance and help them resolve any challenges they may have.
How should you serve? Follow the example of the auxiliary organizations at Church headquarters. They serve under the direction of their assigned General Authority priesthood officers. They meet together frequently to avoid duplication of effort, to simplify the guidance given, and to ensure that their materials are consistent with doctrine and Church policies. Excellent examples of how these cooperative efforts reduce the burdens on the membership of the Church are the recently published Faith in God program for boys and girls, prepared by the Primary, and the Duty to God and Young Women Personal Progress programs currently in use throughout the world.
Extraordinary effort was focused on these materials to make sure that they were simple, clear, and applicable around the world. They were worked on cooperatively with other headquarters auxiliaries. The other organizations have developed their materials in a similar way. When finalized, their efforts are reviewed and approved by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve.
Auxiliary officers are presided over by their corresponding priesthood leaders at every level of Church government—at headquarters and at the stake and ward levels. The general officers of the auxiliary organizations at Church headquarters have occasional contact with the stake and ward officers they assist. These headquarters auxiliary officers, however, do not preside over their corresponding field officers.
The general Church auxiliary officers maintain occasional contact with the field and make sure that the materials they develop for worldwide use are relevant, meet the needs of the corresponding auxiliary organization, and focus on strengthening the family in the home.
Follow the example of these headquarters organizations. As stake auxiliary officers, you will want to inform the stake presidency of your basic plans before they are implemented. Likewise at the ward level, you should share with the bishopric your plans before they are carried out. It is vitally important that auxiliary officers participate actively and effectively in the stake or ward council in which they function.
Stake presidencies and bishoprics, you should periodically meet separately with each auxiliary presidency under your guidance to understand and thereby be able to give inspired counsel and direction to their work.
This investment of time will strengthen the valuable support that each auxiliary organization can give to bless the families and individuals in the local stakes and wards.
In the past the First Presidency has warned: “The work of the Church, in all fields, is standing in grave danger of being regimented down to the minutest detail. The result of that will be that not only will all initiative be crushed out but that all opportunity for the working of the spirit will be eliminated. The Church has not been built on that principle. In all their work, the Auxiliaries must not only give opportunity for initiative, but … must encourage it.”11
May I give you a word of caution as you plan your activities. Make sure that the essential needs are met, but do not go overboard in creating so many good things to do that the essential ones are not accomplished. I will share an example. Recently an enthusiastic stake Relief Society presidency decided to take advantage of the worldwide women’s meeting broadcast from Church headquarters. On the day of the conference, they organized a four-hour training session for the ward Relief Society presidencies, then had a formal, sit-down dinner which, of course, those local Relief Society presidents prepared, served, and cleaned up. By the time the Relief Society broadcast was received, those sisters’ minds were full to overflowing. They could not have gained the maximum benefit from that carefully prepared broadcast. Remember, don’t magnify the work to be done—simplify it.
Have you received a recent calling and feel overwhelmed? Remember how easy it sounded when someone described how to play a piano or to swim? Then when you tried to do that, or any other challenging task, how complicated it seemed.
Remember how as you persisted it became more comfortable and much easier to manage? As you diligently serve, the Lord will help you in like manner with your new calling.
There is an irrigation analogy normally used in the Church of “getting the water to the end of the row.” However, at stake and ward levels, it would be far better for you priesthood leaders and auxiliary officers to simply “let it rain” from heaven. Your sacred callings give you the divine right to inspiration. Confidently seek it. Wherever you live in the world, in the smallest branch or the largest ward, a struggling district or a fully organized stake, you have the right to be guided in fulfilling your inspired assignment to best meet the needs of those you serve.
Fellow workers in the kingdom of God on earth, we love you. We pray for you. We pray that you will be inspired and will find success and profound joy in fulfilling your sacred assignments.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.