Chapter Forty-Three: An Era of Correlation and Consolidation

“Chapter Forty-Three: An Era of Correlation and Consolidation,” Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual (2003), 562–78

“Chapter Forty-Three,” Church History in the Fulness of Times, 562–78

Chapter Forty-Three

An Era of Correlation and Consolidation

Over the years1 the General Authorities have taken steps to ensure that the Church and its programs were perfecting the Saints and preparing a people worthy to establish Zion on earth. Their concerns became more urgent as the Church membership doubled in just a decade and a half and passed the two million mark in 1963. Church leaders became increasingly convinced that the varied organizations had to work harmoniously together under the direction of the priesthood, that families had to be strengthened, and that administration needed to be streamlined in order to more adequately meet the complex needs of the Saints. Hence the Church’s unprecedented growth during the 1950s set the stage for the emphasis on correlation and consolidation that characterized the 1960s and early 1970s. To this end they conducted periodic reviews to be sure that all Church organizations and their activities were properly correlated.

Emphasis on Priesthood Correlation

A thorough correlation effort began in 1960 when the First Presidency directed the General Priesthood Committee under Elder Harold B. Lee of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to conduct “an exhaustive, prayerful study and consideration” of all programs and curriculum in the light of the Church’s ultimate objectives “so that the Church might reap the maximum harvest from the devotion of the faith, intelligence, skill and knowledge of our various Auxiliary Organizations and Priesthood Committees.”2 Elder Lee and his committee recognized that more was needed than simply ensuring that all gospel topics were being treated adequately in the Church’s curriculum. They realized that an organization was needed at the general Church level to correlate the teaching of doctrines in the varied priesthood auxiliary quorums and organizations.

At the fall general conference in 1961, Elder Lee outlined the basic principles that would guide what came to be known as priesthood correlation. He quoted Paul’s comparison of the Church to a perfectly functioning human body (see 1 Corinthians 12:14–28) and then quoted from a modern revelation, which declared: “Let every man stand in his own office, and labor in his own calling; and let not the head say unto the feet it hath no need of the feet; for without the feet how shall the body be able to stand? Also the body hath need of every member” (D&C 84:109–10).

Elder Lee stressed, “Each organization was to have its specific function, and it was not to usurp the field of the other, which would be like the eye saying to the hand, ‘I have no need of thee.’” He also reemphasized the First Presidency’s 1940 declaration, “The home was the basis of a righteous life and that no other instrumentality can take its place nor fulfil its essential functions and that the utmost the auxiliaries can do is to aid the home in its problems, giving special aid and succor where such is necessary.” Church leaders often referred to the family as the central unit in Church organization.

At this time Elder Lee announced the formation of an all-Church coordinating council consisting of certain General Authorities and executives of various Church organizations. This council’s purpose was to formulate policies governing the planning and operation of all Church programs. Under this council’s direction, separate committees for children, youth, and adults were to write courses of study and coordinate activities for their respective age-groups. The various auxiliary organizations would then carry out the programs prepared by these three committees. Under the direction of the Church coordinating council, four general priesthood committees gave direction and emphasis to the home teaching, genealogy and temple, missionary, and welfare programs Churchwide. Elder Lee further explained, “In the adoption of such a program, we may possibly and hopefully look forward to the consolidation and simplification of church curricula, church publications, church buildings, church meetings, and many other important aspects of the Lord’s work.”3

In 1962, Elder Richard L. Evans, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles working with the correlation effort, explained the intent:

“That the gospel be taught as completely as possible at least three times during these three age levels of life: children, youth, and adults.

“Within these major groupings there will be many minor groupings, taking into account school associations, social interests, priesthood ages, missions, marriage, and other factors. …

“The basic program for the various age-groups will be made flexible enough to meet the varying needs and circumstances of individuals and of wards and stakes and branches and missions.”4

Although significant strides had been taken in coordinating the planning of programs at the general level, more needed to be done among the wards and stakes. The first steps were taken in 1964. In weekly meetings of the ward priesthood executive committee, the bishopric and Melchizedek Priesthood leaders gave direction to coordinate all ward activities. Monthly ward council meetings also included auxiliary and other leaders; here they could correlate schedules and activities and, most important, discuss how the ward’s programs could best meet the needs of individual members and families. Similar organizations were implemented at the stake level three years later.

A key step in priesthood correlation at the local level was the inauguration of home teaching in 1964. Home teachers became the major means to bring the varied Church programs to the family. They replaced contacts formerly made separately by ward teachers, representatives of priesthood quorums, or members of auxiliary classes. The home teachers’ regular visits, made at least monthly, provided a channel for two-way communication between the family and the ward priesthood leaders.

A new Melchizedek Priesthood handbook published in 1964 affirmed that the Church had three major objectives:

“1. Perfect the Saints—To keep the members of the Church in the way of their full duty and to help them to walk uprightly before the Lord.

“2. Missionary Work—To teach the Gospel to those who have not yet heard it or accepted it.

“3. Temple Work—To have every member worthy to go to the temple for his own endowments and have his family sealed to him. Also to perform genealogical research and vicarious temple ordinances so that the worthy dead may participate in the blessings of the gospel.”5

Further steps to correlate Church activities continued. An important improvement came in 1967 with the adoption of a uniform Church year. Previously some Church organizations had commenced their lesson work at the beginning of the local school year, while others had operated on a calendar year. Now all priesthood and auxiliary organizations began their courses of instruction at the same time. Furthermore, age groupings were standardized from one organization to another. This enabled teachers in various ward organizations to work more closely to meet the needs of any given group of young people.

During the 1960s young Latter-day Saints in many parts of the world became increasingly active in sharing the gospel with their friends, and youth missionary committees were formed. In 1967 the scope of these committees was expanded to form bishop’s youth councils, which brought youth and adult leaders together monthly in each ward to consider the needs of the youth and to coordinate activities. In addition, collections of teaching aids formerly maintained by each organization were consolidated into a single meetinghouse library. Similarly, separate teacher training programs sponsored by each auxiliary were combined under a single ward teacher development director.

Strengthening the Family

One of the most important thrusts of priesthood correlation was to strengthen Latter-day Saint families. Church leaders gave renewed emphasis to family home evenings. Beginning in 1965 the Church published manuals with weekly lessons to be used by families around the world. While instruction in priesthood and auxiliary classes presented gospel principles, the activities in the home focused on the practical everyday application of those principles. In addition to the Church’s home evening manuals, various organizations issued suggestions for family activities. The Relief Society provided specific helps for mothers, and Melchizedek Priesthood quorums conducted training for fathers.

Elder Harold B. Lee testified that this program was inspired: “My mind has been filled with the realization that in 1964 and the year just preceding, we have been receiving as pertinent and important divine direction as has ever been given to the Church in any similar period in its history through the prophet and leader who now presides as the President of this Church.”6

In the preface to the first family home evening manual, President David O. McKay declared, “The problems of these difficult times cannot better be solved in any other place, by any other agency, by any other means, than by love and righteousness, and precept and example, and devotion to duty in the home.”7

A later manual contained this promise: “Families who prayerfully prepare and constantly hold their weekly Home Evenings, and who work together during the week to apply the lessons in their lives, will be blessed. There will be better feelings between husband and wife, between parents and children, and among children. In such homes the Spirit of the Lord will be made manifest.”8

Encouraged by such promises, Latter-day Saint parents around the world gratefully implemented this new program. Whether the family home evening was held in a New York City apartment, a Navajo hogan, or in a Polynesian thatched home, there were usually certain common elements: family members took turns conducting the program, offering prayers, leading the singing, and presenting the lesson. Families often combined these elements of their home evenings with special recreational activities and almost always served refreshments. In 1970 Church leaders announced that Monday evenings were set aside for these family gatherings and that no other Church activities were to be held on that night.

Even missionary work was affected by the Church’s emphasis on the family. Wholesome family relationships were the theme of a series of brief announcements the Church produced for radio and television. Many of these “Homefront” messages earned awards for excellence from religious and broadcasting groups. Showing families how to conduct home evenings was an effective way for missionaries to introduce nonmembers to the gospel. Following this initial contact, missionaries frequently were invited back to present their regular proselyting discussions.

This is one of the series of the Homefront messages, “I’ll Always Make Time for You,” produced by the Church:

I’ll always make time for you.

Cause there’s nothin’ that I’d rather do.

Than to sit down beside you and hear all about you.

No, there’s nothin’ that I’d rather do.

I promise, I’ll always be there for you.

No, there’s nothin’ that you and I can’t get through.

As long as we sit down together and hear out each other.

Oh, I’ll always make time for you.

Families grow closer

One conversation at a time.

President David O. McKay often endorsed the importance of the family. In an oft-quoted declaration he affirmed, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.9 … The poorest shack of a home in which love prevails over a united family is of greater value to God and future humanity than the richest bank on earth. In such a home God can work miracles and will work miracles. … Pure hearts in a pure home are always in whispering distance of heaven.”10 Following President McKay’s death early in 1970, his successors continued his emphasis on priesthood correlation and the family.

Presidents Joseph Fielding Smith and Harold B. Lee

During the early 1970s the Church was led by two outstanding latter-day prophets. Joseph Fielding Smith served as President of the Church for two and a half years, and Harold B. Lee occupied the office for eighteen months. In each case these brief presidencies were the culmination of long and significant service to the Church.

Joseph Fielding Smith was born in 1876—one year before the death of Brigham Young. Varied experiences and assignments during his long life had prepared him well to make a substantial contribution to the progress of God’s work on earth. In 1910 he was sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and was ordained an Apostle by his father, President Joseph F. Smith. Joseph Fielding Smith served in the Quorum for sixty years, longer than any other member. Elder Smith was also appointed as Church historian and recorder in 1921, a position he held until he was sustained as President of the Church a half century later.

As with several other Church Presidents, Joseph Fielding Smith made some of his greatest contributions to the Church in the years preceding his service as Church President. His entire apostolic ministry was characterized by his notable defense of the teachings and the doctrines of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the message of the Restoration.

Joseph Fielding Smith received his patriarchal blessing from Patriarch Joseph D. Smith in 1913. In his blessing he was promised that he would never be confounded as he defended the divinity of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s mission: “You have been blessed with ability to comprehend, to analyze, and defend the principles of truth above many of your fellows, and the time will come when the accumulative evidence that you have gathered will stand as a wall of defense against those who are seeking and will seek to destroy the evidence of the divinity of the mission of the Prophet Joseph; and in this defense you will never be confounded.”11

Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972). Soon after President Smith was called as President of the Church, Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “Our new president is a doctrinal teacher, a theologian, a scriptorian, a preacher of righteousness in the full and true sense of the word.”12

Consider the impact just one of his more than two dozen books—Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith—has had on doctrinal understanding and clarity in the Church. Joseph Fielding Smith’s journal explained that the book was compiled because many Church teachers had “accepted too readily the views of uninspired educators.”13 Since its first printing, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith has been a basic reference for doctrinal interpretation, Church policy, and Church government.

These books written by Joseph Fielding Smith are representative of twenty-five he wrote.

In vindication of what he had written and said during his five decades as an Apostle, President Joseph Fielding Smith declared in his first message as Church President:

“All my days I have studied the scriptures and have sought the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord in coming to an understanding of their true meaning. The Lord has been good to me, and I rejoice in the knowledge he has given me and in the privilege that has been and is mine to teach his saving principles.

“… What I have taught and written in the past I would teach and write again under the same circumstances.”14

In the two and one-half years of his administration, President Smith continued to proclaim the basic principles of the Restoration as revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith. His administration emphasized and interpreted the timeless teachings and doctrines of the Prophet Joseph Smith to an expanding international Church in the 1970s. A few passages excerpted from his message as Church President illustrate how President Smith emphasized and interpreted the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith to the Church.

“God is our Father. … He is omnipotent and omniscient; he has all power and all wisdom. …

“… I am grateful that we know he is an infinite and eternal being who knows all things and has all power and whose progression consists not in gaining more knowledge or power, not in further perfecting his godly attributes, but in the increase and multiplying of his kingdoms. This also is what the Prophet taught.”15

“The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that man is saved no faster than he gains knowledge of Jesus Christ and the saving truths of the gospel, and that no man can be saved in ignorance of these things.”16

President Smith assumed the reins of leadership at the advanced age of ninety-three. With the help of his two able counselors, Harold B. Lee and N. Eldon Tanner, President Smith directed the implementation of a variety of improvements in Church activities and programs. He traveled widely, conducted conferences, dedicated buildings, and in other ways strengthened the Church and its members. After serving as President of the Church for nearly thirty months, Joseph Fielding Smith died peacefully just two weeks before his ninety-sixth birthday.

Following President Smith’s death, Harold B. Lee was sustained as the eleventh President of the Church. Like his predecessor, President Lee had already made significant contributions that had had a far-reaching impact on the Church and its programs. Perhaps best known were his roles in the innovative projects that influenced the welfare plan he later helped to introduce throughout the Church and his leadership in the development of the priesthood correlation program. During the late 1930s he traveled extensively, instructing stake leaders in the new welfare program.

Harold B. Lee (1899–1973)

Elder Lee was sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in April 1941. After World War II broke out, he was named as the first chairman of the Church Servicemen’s Committee in October 1942. By 1960 he had become chairman of the General Priesthood Committee. It was in that capacity he received the assignment to conduct an exhaustive study of Church curriculum and programs. During the next several years, he reported in general conferences on the progress of priesthood correlation and the introduction of such key activities as home teaching, priesthood executive committees, ward correlation councils, and family home evenings. All these experiences provided Harold B. Lee with a rich background for his service as President of the Church.

At a press conference on the occasion of his assuming the leadership of the Church, President Lee declared, “The safety of the church lies in the members keeping the commandments. There is nothing more important that I could say. As they keep the commandments, blessings will come.”17 President Lee led the Church for only a year and a half before he died unexpectedly on 26 December 1973. Though brief, his administration continued the important trends that had been inaugurated by his predecessors, particularly in terms of consolidating and streamlining Church programs in the midst of continued rapid growth.

Consolidation during the Early 1970s

During the four years that Joseph Fielding Smith and Harold B. Lee led the Church, the membership climbed from 2.8 to 3.3 million. Early in 1970, on the day President David O. McKay died, the five hundredth stake was organized. During that same year sixty-four stakes were formed (the previous record for one year had been twenty-nine). These included stakes in Tokyo, Japan, the first in Asia; Johannesburg, South Africa, the first in Africa; and Lima, Peru, the first on the west coast of South America. Efforts to sustain this growth through sharing the gospel also continued. Over six million people visited the Church’s pavilion at “Expo ‘70” in Osaka, Japan. This made the Church’s programs and teachings more widely known than ever before in Japan and other countries of east Asia. In 1972 the Church opened a visitors’ center in San Diego where the Mormon Battalion had concluded its epic march. The Church also opened a public relations office in New York City. The following year a complex of restored buildings was dedicated in Nauvoo, and Japanese language tours were inaugurated at the Laie Hawaii Temple visitors’ center.

Yet the early 1970s were not only an era of growth and expansion. These years also witnessed a consolidation of administrative responsibilities at Church headquarters, a continuing effort to improve the Church’s varied programs, and an intensified desire to help each individual member cope with the mounting challenges of the modern world.

Some important reorganizations at Church headquarters grouped related agencies and activities into several large departments. One of the departments consolidated responsibilities for writing, editing, and translating magazines, lesson manuals, and other instructional materials. The Public Communications Department coordinated broadcasting, visitors’ centers, and other public relations activities. Real estate, construction, and building maintenance became responsibilities of the Physical Facilities Department. The Historical Department was given the responsibility to gather and preserve records and make them available for research. A tangible consolidation of Church administration came with the construction of a twenty-eight-story office building just north of the Church Administration Building in Salt Lake City. When this facility opened in 1972, offices previously located in rented space in a dozen downtown buildings were housed under one roof.

In the spirit of correlation and consolidation, several formerly separate Church activities were combined. For example, the Aaronic Priesthood youth and programs for the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association were combined; quorum advisers became the ward Young Men’s presidency. A similar streamlining reduced the number of officers and teachers in the Young Women’s MIA. Beginning in 1971 the Church published only three magazines in English: the Ensign for adults, the New Era for youth, and the Friend for children. Auxiliary and other Church organizations had previously issued their own magazines. Now a single staff under the direction of the General Authorities was set up to handle production and circulation.

Changes during this period often involved abandoning the traditional names of Church programs. After ninety-nine years, the title “Deseret Sunday School Union” was replaced by the designation “Sunday School of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Other names that were discontinued during these years included Trail Builders (nine- to eleven-year-old boys in Primary), M Men and Gleaners (young single adults), and even the name Mutual Improvement Association, or MIA, itself. The shift from senior Aaronic to prospective elder, for older male members who had not yet received the Melchizedek Priesthood, represented a new emphasis for this program. The former title seemed to reflect a man’s past failure to advance beyond the lesser priesthood, while the new name reflected hope for future progress. Giving the elders quorum responsibility for reactivating these men placed them in the mainstream of priesthood activity and associations. Recently returned missionaries, usually members of the elders quorums, could employ the same skills in working with their inactive brethren that they had used in teaching nonmembers.18

President Joseph Fielding Smith’s interest in gospel scholarship was reflected in another refinement of Church activity. In 1972, the adult Gospel Doctrine class in Sunday School began a systematic study of the standard works. Up to this time a variety of manuals had been prepared for this class, but beginning in 1972 the scriptures themselves became the sole text. The Old Testament, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants were studied in rotation, two years (later only one) being spent on each. The Pearl of Great Price was studied in conjunction with relevant sections of the other standard works. Church leaders anticipated a spiritual resurgence as a result of the Saints’ added contact with the scriptures.

Under the leadership of Presidents Smith and Lee, the momentum in temple activity continued. In 1972 the Ogden Utah and Provo Utah Temples were dedicated. With their use of technological advances and locations in areas with large populations of Church members, these immediately became the most productive temples in terms of the number of ordinances performed. Construction of the Washington D.C. Temple was commenced in 1971. The extensive remodeling of five existing temples was also announced. Permission was granted to submit names for temple ordinances individually rather than only as family groups, which sparked an upsurge in genealogical and temple activity.

The site for the Washington D.C. Temple was dedicated in 1968 by President Hugh B. Brown of the First Presidency. President Spencer W. Kimball dedicated the completed temple in November 1974.

Guidelines for Church Education

Consistent with the objective of consolidating related activities, the Church streamlined its Church Educational System. In 1970, Neal A. Maxwell, an administrator at the University of Utah, was called as commissioner of education. He and his staff gave thorough consideration to the Church’s efforts in education and issued a report in 1971 that identified three major principles.

(1) “Literacy and basic education are gospel needs. … Education is often not only the key to the individual member’s economic future, but also to his opportunities for self-realization, for full Church service and for contributing to the world around him.” To meet this need, the Church operated seventy-five elementary and secondary schools in Latin America and the South Pacific. Without them, members in these areas would have been left with very little opportunity for education. Later, however, as local governments began providing more public education, some of these Church schools were closed.

(2) “Church programs will not duplicate otherwise available opportunities especially in higher education.” The commissioner pointed out that post-high school education was within reach of a majority of Church members. “Of the more than 200,000 members … enrolled in colleges and universities, only 32,000 of them are in a Church school. However, 50,000 LDS college students on 321 other campuses are enrolled in LDS institutes of religion to receive instruction in religion and enjoy social and cultural opportunities.”

(3) “Ultimately, all high school and college-age Latter-day Saints should have access to weekday religious education, in tandem with secular education. The greatest impact, in terms of numbers of individuals served by Church educational programs, comes from seminary and institute programs which enroll 190,000 students,” the commissioner concluded.19

Formation of the Latter-day Saint Student Association (LDSSA), beginning in 1966 on campuses in Utah and southern California, was a specific example of how correlation applied to the Church’s educational program. Under the direction of priesthood leaders, LDSSA coordinated the efforts of student wards or branches, as well as institutes of religion and Church-related social organizations. Rather than competing, these programs were to function unitedly in promoting the students’ spiritual and intellectual development. LDSSA also sponsored activities of its own and sometimes provided an official link between Church programs and student organizations on campus.

The 1969 international convention of LDSSA, held at the University of Utah institute, was a memorable spiritual experience for the over three hundred students in attendance. Church leaders wanted to strengthen these carefully chosen student leaders from campuses throughout the United States and Canada so that they might be beacon lights in an era of general unrest and confusion among college students. Elder Harold B. Lee was the featured speaker at the convention.

“He related personal experiences of true modern miracles which had occurred to him. …

“Then, considerably more than midway in his sermon of one hour and fifteen minutes, the mood changed. …

“… Elder Lee concluded his sermon with considerable emotion, firmly and fervently witnessing to the truth of his convictions as they had been expressed, and bearing personal, heartfelt testimony that God lives. He told of how he had come to know this truth as one of His special witnesses on the earth. Everyone there knew that he knew!” For some time following the closing prayer, everyone remained seated in silence, nobody wanting to break the spirit of the occasion. Elder Marion D. Hanks, who had conducted the meeting, then went with Elder and Sister Lee to the foyer. “Elder and Sister Lee shook hands with an absolutely mute and generally tearful group of young people as they filed by.”20

Meeting New Challenges

The decades following World War II brought a general disintegration of institutions and traditions that in earlier years had provided social stability and security. Crime rates increased. The growing number of divorces broke up more families. More people were living in urban areas rather than rural environments. City life typically was hectic with an array of attractions pulling family members in many directions. Although the gospel offered defenses against these social problems, Latter-day Saints were not immune. President Harold B. Lee was concerned about these difficulties and stressed the need of blessing each member with the full program of the Church. Some of the greatest challenges for members were in the areas of emotional well-being and physical health. To meet these challenges the Church established social service and health programs.

Over the years the Church established three programs to meet specific social challenges: The Relief Society social welfare department served as an adoption agency and provided foster homes for disadvantaged children. Since the mid-1950s the Indian student placement program helped thousands of children gain a better education. The youth guidance program provided counseling, foster care, and day camps to youth in need. All three of these programs were required by law to employ licensed professional social workers. In 1969 they were unified to form the new Social Services department.

From this beginning, the program expanded to provide a wide variety of services. Special foster homes assisted unwed mothers, and Church leaders encouraged them to marry where appropriate. The Church’s adoption agency helped provide children for childless couples and found Latter-day Saint homes for children needing adoption. Services to Church members in prison and their families included counseling and rehabilitation; special home evenings were arranged for inmates. In working with members who had drug or alcohol problems, Church Social Services coordinated with public agencies and also provided instruction for local Church leaders. In areas where Church membership was more concentrated, particularly in the western United States and Canada, the Church established social service agencies. These employed professionally trained and licensed personnel, and operated in accordance with government regulations.21

Since its earliest years the Church had stressed the importance of physical health, the Word of Wisdom being a well-known example. By the second half of the twentieth century the number of hospitals operated by the Church in Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming reached fifteen. The early 1970s, however, brought a new and broader emphasis in the Church’s health program.

In 1971 the Church called its first health missionaries. In addition to doing regular proselyting, they provided specialized instruction in health principles, nutrition, and sanitation. While other governmental and religious agencies typically sponsored clinics where doctors could treat relatively few, the Church’s health missionaries stressed prevention of illness through education and thus were able to serve thousands. These missionaries worked through the regular Church organizations. Using posters and other teaching aids, they taught Primary children the importance of washing before eating, and instructed Relief Society women in methods of preserving and preparing wholesome foods. In later years they received broadened assignments and were called welfare services missionaries or missionaries with special assignments.

The new emphasis in the Church’s health program was reflected in the 1974 decision to give up ownership of its hospitals. The First Presidency declared, “The growing worldwide responsibility of the church makes it difficult to justify provision of curative services in a single, affluent, geographical locality.” Instead, the Church put its resources into improving the health of members throughout the world by education. An independent corporation, Intermountain Health Care, Inc., was set up to own and operate the hospitals formerly belonging to the Church.22

In 1973 the General Welfare Program, Health Services, and Social Services were brought together to form the new Welfare Services Department under the supervision of the Presiding Bishopric. This was done to “unify activities in meeting the total needs of the whole man.”23

Over the years the Church has published literature in braille or in recorded form for Church members who are blind. A continuing concern for meeting the unique needs of handicapped members has continued and expanded. Special education seminaries are provided for those with learning disabilities. Bishops have received instructions on how to involve handicapped members more fully in Church activities. Sighted companions have been invited to help blind teachers prepare lessons. Home teachers can help members in wheelchairs get to Church. Young people have learned sign language and interpreted Church services for deaf friends. The number of special branches for the deaf has expanded throughout the United States. A conference in 1972 considered how the Church could better meet the needs of deaf Latter-day Saints. A film was produced to show how priesthood ordinances can be performed without the use of speech, and a dictionary was compiled to standardize signs used to interpret unique gospel or Church-related terms to the deaf.24

Mary Jane Pulley (1900–1997) began her work at the training school for handicapped people in American Fork, Utah, in 1957. In 1967 she was called to organize a seminary at the school. It was the first seminary for the handicapped in the Church.

The early 1970s was an era of growing minority consciousness. Ethnic groups became increasingly proud of their unique heritages. The Church took steps to meet the particular needs of these groups. In 1970 the name of the Indian committee was changed to Committee for Lamanites and Other Cultures to reflect a broader scope. This committee did not administer programs of its own but rather coordinated efforts of existing Church organizations in behalf of various minority groups. The committee considered different ways gospel principles could be taught more effectively in terms of the understanding of the various cultural groups. It also sought to “glean from and preserve those contributions of the various cultural groups which might benefit other members of the Church.”25

In 1972, President Harold B. Lee and his counselors instructed local priesthood leaders to assume the responsibility for adequately meeting the needs of minority groups residing within their boundaries. Special attention was given to those not speaking the language of the majority. As a result, translation facilities, classes taught in the minority language, or even separate branches or wards were provided. Although particular needs were to be met, the basic goal was to involve minority members as fully as possible in the mainstream of Church activity.

Another group with unique needs was the growing number of single adults in the Church. Traditional couple-oriented activities did not adequately meet the needs of these individuals. A branch for single adults was started in August 1973 in Salt Lake City. Later wards were organized to meet the needs of single adults. The Church also enhanced its activities for singles through programs sponsored by the Melchizedek Priesthood and the Relief Society.

The formation of social, health, and related programs in the twentieth century illustrates how, under inspired direction, the Church is able to respond to new needs as they arise.

Lines of Communication Worldwide

During these years when existing activities were being refined and correlated and when others were emerging in response to new needs, the General Authorities keenly felt the need to enhance channels of communication in order to strengthen the Saints and their leaders worldwide. This was accomplished in at least three distinctive ways.

In 1936 regions had been formed to coordinate the efforts of several stakes in operating welfare projects. In 1964 the scope of these regions was broadened to include all priesthood-sponsored activities. Three years later the First Presidency announced the appointment of regional representatives, experienced men who would give greater guidance and direction to stake leaders.26 Under the direction of the General Authorities they conducted instruction meetings in their assigned regions to introduce or emphasize the Church’s programs and activities. Originally sixty-nine regional representatives were called. In subsequent years the number and duties of these men were greatly expanded.

Area conferences, begun in 1971, became a second means of enhancing communications with Church members worldwide. The first of these conferences convened in Manchester, England, in August of that year. The news media provided extensive coverage as time for the conference drew near. Lengthy articles in such noted British papers as the Guardian, Times, and Sunday Telegraph traced the Church’s progress in Britain and commented favorably on such principles as the Word of Wisdom and latter-day prophecy. The Mormons were also the subject of a fifty-five minute documentary aired on BBC television. Principal meetings convened in the Belle Vue Exhibition Center in King’s Hall, which took on the appearance of the Salt Lake Tabernacle as the Brethren were seated in high-backed red chairs on the stand. From twelve to fourteen thousand people attended general sessions, a number approximately equal to one-fifth of the Church’s total membership in Britain. Addressing this vast throng, President Joseph Fielding Smith asserted:

“We are members of a world church, a church that has the plan of life and salvation, a church set up by the Lord himself in these last days to carry his message of salvation to all his children in all the earth.

“The day is long since past when informed people think of us as a peculiar group in the tops of the Rocky Mountains in America. …

“But now we are coming of age as a church and as a people.”27

Speaking in the concluding session Sunday afternoon, regional representative Derek A. Cuthbert, who had coordinated local arrangements for the conference, said, “There is no longer a need for British Church members to leave their homeland to partake of the blessings of Church membership.”28

The first area conference of the Church was held in England in August 1971 under the direction of President Joseph Fielding Smith. Fourteen General Authorities attended the conference and participated in the various sessions. Elder Howard W. Hunter is pictured speaking from the podium.

Courtesy of Deseret News

As the conference ended, the entire congregation stood as President Joseph Fielding Smith prepared to leave the stand. Nobody moved, and conversations were in subdued tones. “It was as though they did not want to leave the spirit that had prevailed in the meeting. There was a sacred air about King’s Hall and as a testimony to the spirit the audience burst into spontaneous singing of ‘We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet.’” Then they sang “God Be with You Till We Meet Again.”29

A similar area conference convened in Mexico City the following year, only one month after Harold B. Lee became President of the Church. At great sacrifice, Saints traveled as far as three thousand miles to be present. A group from Tijuana, Mexico, journeyed fifty-three hours by bus; they took turns standing because there were ten more people on board than seats. The “Folklorico” cultural program Friday evening featured talented musicians and dancers from throughout Mexico and Central America. On Saturday evening, President Lee spoke to Aaronic Priesthood, Young Women, Relief Society, and Melchizedek Priesthood groups convened simultaneously at several locations around Mexico City. President Lee rotated to each meeting, where he spoke and inspired those in attendance. The Tabernacle Choir presented its regular Sunday morning broadcast from the national auditorium in Chapultepec Park. The choir brought tears of appreciation to the eyes of many as it presented several of its numbers in Spanish. During the morning session, the new First Presidency, with all three members present, was sustained for the first time in an area general conference.

At this conference, Elder Bruce R. McConkie clearly enunciated the updated understanding of the principle of the gathering: “The place of gathering for the Mexican Saints is in Mexico; the place of gathering for the Guatemalan Saints is in Guatemala; the place of gathering for the Brazilian Saints is in Brazil; and so it goes throughout the length and breadth of the whole earth. Japan is for the Japanese; Korea is for the Koreans; Australia is for the Australians; every nation is the gathering place for its own people.”30

In succeeding years similar area conferences were held in Germany, Sweden, and in other parts of the world. The Saints in these areas were similarly edified and uplifted.

The International Mission, organized in 1972, became a third means of keeping in touch with Church members throughout the world, particularly with those who did not live within the boundaries of an organized stake or mission. Thousands of Latter-day Saints lived in such scattered locations as Tanzania, Zambia, Morocco, Guiana, New Guinea, Hungary, and the Soviet Union. Typically they were diplomatic or foreign service envoys, representatives of major business corporations, or advisers for agricultural or other developmental projects. Sometimes these individuals were accompanied by their families; others were alone. While most came from the United States or Canada, some were from England, France, Germany, Scandinavia, and many other parts of the world.

Wherever they lived, these Saints generally valued Church membership and activity. Elder Bernard P. Brockbank, the International Mission’s first president, explained:

“The organization of this mission was wisdom in that the member need not feel alone. He or she has someone to contact for supplies, to have questions answered, for counseling or just to keep in contact with the Church. …

“… wherever he is, … the Church is as close as the nearest mailbox.”31

Primarily by means of correspondence, the International Mission facilitated the ordering of Church supplies, maintained membership records, received and issued receipts for tithes and other donations, and coordinated interviews for priesthood advancement and temple recommends. Subsequently, the International Mission also played a key role in opening new areas of the world for gospel teaching and Church activity. With these lines of communication in place, and with its programs more perfectly correlated, the Church was ready to lengthen its stride in fulfilling its global mission.