“‘Serving the One’: Glimpses of June Conference,” New Era, Sept. 1974, 31
“Hello, Brother Berger? This is Dallin Wright speaking. I’m Greg’s quorum president, and we missed him at Scout meeting tonight. I’m calling to see if he is ill or something else is wrong so that he wasn’t able to come.”
“His what? Deacons quorum president, huh? Glad you won the election. I expect my son’s got something better to do than tie square knots.”
Dallin didn’t stop there. He went to the elders quorum president.
“President Roanes, this is Dallin Wright. I’m president of the deacons quorum. I …”
(With a slight chuckle) “Oh yeh. What can I do for you?”
“I’m calling on quorum business. I understand that Greg Berger’s father is a member of your quorum. You see, we’re trying to reactivate Greg and feel that it’s his father who’s hindering his spiritual growth. That’s why I called you. I wondered what you were doing to help Brother Berger.”
“Well, uh … I … uh … that is …”
“I see. Well, I was wondering if you could see what you could do with Brother Berger … especially help him give the proper parental support and guidance for Greg’s quorum activities. So is it all right if I call you again a week from tonight and find out what progress you’ve made?”
“I think I’ve just been called to repentance!”
The dialogue reads like a script, and it was—part of this year’s June Conference activities—but more importantly, the circumstances actually existed, and a deacon spurred an elders quorum president to work with an inactive elder, thus helping both father and son.
With the theme of “Serving the One” the past year’s Aaronic Priesthood MIA (now known as Aaronic Priesthood and Young Women) provided dozens of examples of youths helping others.
One member of a stake presidency isn’t going to forget the youth of his ward who, upon hearing that he had suffered a serious heart attack, harvested for him 1,200 boxes of apples—picking, washing, wrapping them in tissue, and packing them for market. The many youths who made three and four trips to do the work won’t forget the experience either.
Youths in another ward conducted special meetings for the mentally and physically handicapped.
Another group loaded two station wagons, two trailers, and a two-ton truck with suits, shirts, dresses, sweaters, bicycles, roller skates, sheets, blankets, and towels to take to needy Saints and orphan children in Mexico.
In another ward the bishop asked a semi-active priest to tutor a deacon having problems in school. After balking at the request, the priest found the young boy began to follow his example of attending Church. They decided to go to MIA together. When the deacon asked if he should go on a mission, the priest said yes, and his new friend replied, “When are you going?”
“Well, what could I say? I couldn’t let him down. So here I am an elder and on my way to serve the Lord for two years in Norway. I know this is what I must do and want to do with my life right now. School can wait.”
Perhaps one of the most moving incidents related at June Conference involved a teacher named Rod, who upon moving to a new city faced problems at home and school. (“I don’t have any friends. I haven’t had a date since we moved here.”)
Rod took off—California, Washington, Montana, Wyoming. He ended up in a detention home. Upon his release he became progressively more cynical. An arrest for shoplifting put Rod back in the detention home; he was now regarded as a juvenile delinquent.
About this time a new teachers quorum adviser was called for Rod’s quorum. The quorum members began to make frequent and regular visits to Rod at the home.
At first his reaction was skeptical (“Your percentages are low, huh?”), but the bishopric joined in and convinced the judge to release Rod under the condition that the quorum look out for him “all the time, at school, after school, at the movies, on the ball court.” The judge placed Rod under the legal custody of his parents, while at the same time putting “principal control and responsibility for his actions in the hands of Rodney Gailbreth’s teachers quorum.”
Although dramatic and entertaining, the situations reenacted by youths and leaders at conference were based on true experiences and pointed out solutions to many problems facing both groups. In addition to the skits were workshops dealing with such areas as youth leadership training, discovering and increasing talents, service projects, activation methods, and planning and conducting youth conferences. Although the workshops were geared toward helping adult leaders work more effectively with youth, there were hundreds of young people participating in the three-day conference. A musical play written by Pat Davis and Dean Murdock, presented by the service and activities committee, illustrated the problems faced by both youths and advisers when it comes to planning activities.
Bill Harrington, a priests group leader, planned to spend Saturday with his girl friend Leslie Ann until he remembered his assignment to plan an activity for Tuesday night. (“There goes today. My Saturday down the tube. Tomorrow’s Sunday and church, and Monday is school and family night, and zap, it’s Tuesday. Today’s the only day left.”)
But a friend offers an easy way out.
“The solution’s a snap. There’s no need to go bananas. Just turn the whole thing over to the service and activities committee people.”
Bill and his friends decide to assign their three advisers fried chicken, potato salad, and 14 gallons of lemon-lime slush. They consider their planning for Tuesday complete.
When alone Bill admits that “lately I just go around in circles.” He sings of living on a merry-go-round, and wishes “before my life’s through, please can’t I be blessed with nothing to do?”
Meanwhile the advisers have gone to the bishop. They don’t recall any prior plans for a “cook out/ sing out next Tuesday night to be held on the lawn of the State Capitol.” The priests adviser remembers another activity involving a “bowling party at 3:00 A.M., and then the Explorer Bake-off contest, with the smallest cookies being three feet in diameter.”
The advisers feel that young people don’t know how to have fun anymore, and they suggest a return to the “good old days” of 1942 and argyle socks, Ellery Queen, jitter-bugging, the Andrew Sisters, and dances that had “dignity.” One recalls his first roadshow: “I was an onion in the garden of love … or was it an artichoke?”
But the bishop points out that there is room for both the experience of the advisers and the enthusiasm and desires of the youths. He tells the adults: “You people are resource people. It’s through you that these young folks can obtain specialists to assist with their projects. lt’s up to you to subtly and gently lead our youth to the realization that service comes before activity. Your job is twofold—to help carry out plans, but also to help make plans. When working with youth, you people can be partners, equals, and friends, rather than worrying about the importance of your role.”
With the advisers put at ease the bishop turns his attention to Bill, who confesses that “this time I really blew it. I just remembered your saying that the service and activities committee people were there to help us, and I guess I didn’t bother to read the exact points of contact you gave me to follow. I forgot I was supposed to go through my adviser.”
The bishop tells Bill of the examples of other youths who have had to face up to situations that seemed overwhelming—David against Goliath, Joseph and his brothers, Joseph Smith and his New York neighbors. “Bill, we’re not asking you to exceed the best of these brethren. We’re asking you to equal the best of yourself. And if you try, I promise that you will see some of those whose abilities and talents you admire running behind you trying to catch up. But remember, there are no shortcuts.”
Bill meets with the members of the service and activities committee and his adviser. Together they work out a feasible plan for Tuesday’s activity. He presents the idea of a box-lunch supper exchange involving the entire ward to his friends, who agree with his suggestion that they provide the entertainment.
After congratulating Bill on the outcome of the evening, the bishop reminds him that “no one ever achieved true greatness without a few setbacks. The really great ones kept on trying and never gave up.”
“That’s true,” adds a member of the service and activities committee, “men like Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Sebastian Webber.”
“Sebastian Webber?” asked one youth. “I never heard of him.”
“Exactly, he gave up.”