“New Sunday School Superintendency,” New Era, Sept. 1971, 44–47
Beyond question, one of the most interesting facts about the three members of the new Sunday School general superintendency recently called by the First Presidency is that between them they have twenty-six children. Among other things, this suggests that these three men probably understand youth about as well as anyone possibly could.
The new superintendent, Dr. Russell M. Nelson, recently released as president of the Bonneville Stake in Salt Lake City, is the father of nine daughters. First Assistant Superintendent Joseph B. Wirthlin is the father of one son and seven daughters. He was first counselor in the Bonneville Stake presidency. Second Assistant Superintendent Richard L. Warner, who has been president of the University of Utah First Stake, has four sons and five daughters.
Excited about the challenges of their new callings, Superintendent Nelson summed up the superintendency’s thoughts when he said, “It is our feeling that one of the best places for young people to spend their time and energy with their family is in the Sunday School. We can’t have a people who sing ‘We thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet’ and then not study his counsel. We must not have a people who are grateful for the revealed word of the Lord and then don’t know what the revealed word of the Lord is. The Sunday School’s role is simple—to teach the gospel and to provide an opportunity for the family to worship together. Too many young people don’t understand the underlying truths of the gospel and don’t see its implications in their own lives. There is really a knowledge gap in the Church between what the Lord has revealed and what the Church members know about those revelations. If you don’t believe it, start asking questions of your friends. You’ll be amazed. Our mission in the Sunday School is to close that gap. The youth of the Church must not be scripturally illiterate.”
Brother Nelson’s daughters report that their father goes out of his way to look for opportunities to be with them, and they do the same to be with him. Seventeen-year-old Brenda says of her father, a nationally prominent heart surgeon, “Every time he goes to a medical meeting, he takes one of us with him.”
“At home we all sing and play instruments together,” says Sylvia, sixteen. “Dad has perfect pitch and plays the organ by ear. He really fits in. We have some fun family jam sessions.”
Twenty-two-year-old Madeline Wirthlin describes her businessman father as “a hard worker who has taught each of us to work. I’ve really appreciated the fact that Dad saw to it that I had a job and learned to manage my own money.”
Sixteen-year-old Kathy notes, “Dad usually gets up at five in the morning and reads the scriptures. He has taught us not to be just busy but to do something useful. As a family we play a lot of tennis and ride horses and go to sports events together.”
Brother Warner, an automobile dealership owner and former state and intermountain tennis champion, restricts his tennis now to entering tournaments with his children. This year, he and his son Bart, eighteen, won the All-Church Parent-Child title.
“It’s a special kind of fun to see Dad with his brothers and sister when we open the family cabin or water-ski,” said Marjorie, sixteen, who also won a Public Parks Title with her father.
The comment that Richard Warner, nineteen, made about his father in a recent talk given prior to his departure for the mission field sums up the way all of the new superintendency’s children feel about their fathers: “When I think of the example that my father has set in the Church, in business, and on the athletic field—in fact, when I think of what Father really is—I can’t help but picture Helaman in my mind. This is the kind of example my father has always been to me.”
These, in short, are the kind of men called by the First Presidency to lead the Sunday School in helping you discover the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They will ably continue the great work of the released superintendency, Superintendent David Lawrence McKay and assistants Lynn S. Richards and Royden G. Derrick.