Leaders Report Church Is Pulling Together to Hasten the Work
Contributed By Sarah Jane Weaver, Church News associate editor
- Members of the Seventy and Presiding Bishopric met to discuss how the Church has worked toward the divinely appointed responsibilities found in the Church’s Handbook 2.
- The Church has seen all its aspects work together in hastening the work.
“In every aspect of the Church we are seeing a sense of oneness and of singleness in purpose.” —Elder Marcus B. Nash of the Seventy
“There are no individual efforts” as many work together to accomplish the Lord’s purposes and help Him hasten His work, said Elder Anthony D. Perkins.
Elder Perkins of the Seventy and Executive Director of the Church’s Communications Services Committee participated in a Church News roundtable discussion on December 18 with other General Authorities, who each spoke about the Church’s divinely appointed responsibilities found in the Church’s Handbook 2.
Engaging in those responsibilities—“helping members live the gospel of Jesus Christ, gathering Israel through missionary work, caring for the poor and needy, and enabling the salvation of the dead by building temples and performing vicarious ordinances” (Handbook 2, 2.2)—is collectively “strengthening the membership of the Church,” said Bishop Gérald Caussé of the Presiding Bishopric.
In addition to Elder Perkins and Bishop Caussé, other General Authorities participating in the roundtable discussion included Elder Robert C. Gay of the Seventy who is working with the Church’s Perpetual Education Fund; Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Seventy and Commissioner of Church Education; Elder Larry R. Lawrence of the Seventy and Assistant Executive Director of Priesthood Department; Elder Marcus B. Nash of the Seventy and Executive Director of Church Correlation; Elder Allan F. Packer of the Seventy and Executive Director of the Family History Department; Elder Kent F. Richards of the Seventy and Executive Director of the Temple Department; Elder Steven E. Snow of the Seventy and Church Historian and Recorder and Executive Director of the Church History Department; and Elder W. Craig Zwick of the Seventy and Assistant Executive Director of the Missionary Department.
“We talk about the four divinely appointed responsibilities, but overarching that is inviting all to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him,” said Elder Perkins. “That is the purpose of the Church. … Whether it is caring for the poor and needy or gathering Israel or helping people live the gospel or pointing them to the temple with their own family—it is all about coming to Christ.”
Elder Packer called the work that is being accomplished across multiple areas of the Church a “fulfillment of prophecy.”
Quoting Ephesians 1:10, Elder Packer said “in the dispensation of the fulness of times [the Lord] might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.”
“I think we are feeling that take place,” he said.
He said members often categorize work in the Church so they can focus on it. Family history work and temple work, for example, are two halves of the same blessing, he said. He also noted that while many people think of the gathering of Israel as it relates to missionary work, it is also important to remember that much of Israel is dead and must be gathered through family history and temple work.
Speaking of family history work, he said part of living the gospel for members is doing their own ordinances and then doing ordinances for their dead.
Elder Packer said in 2014 the Church saw a 25 percent increase in the number of members submitting family names to the Church for temple work. The majority of that increase has come as youth have gotten involved in the work, he explained.
He said leaders hope every member will follow the “find, take, teach” formula by finding their own family names, taking them to the temple, and then teaching others to do the same.
“The whole purpose of family history is for people to take their own family to the temple and provide those ordinances,” said Elder Richards.
He said there is much enthusiasm for temple work in the Church, where there are now 144 dedicated temples, with another 26 announced.
Elder Richards said when a temple is dedicated, excitement for the temple in an area increases.
In addition, the Church has changed the format of temple open houses to focus on specific messages about Jesus Christ, ordinances, and families. “This is having a powerful impact on missionary work,” he said.
The Church has also seen continued growth “in the energy and excitement of young people going to the temple.” In some areas this has made it hard for families to attend the temple together because of the long wait.
“Just this past week, we sent out an operational memorandum to temple presidents inviting them to designate a specific time each week when families would have family priority time to schedule time to go do ordinances at the baptistry,” he said. “That should be available for every temple by early next year.”
Elder Richards said Church leaders have emphasized every member over the age of 12 having a current temple recommend. Leaders are also encouraging “young, newly called missionaries to serve as ordinance workers in the temple prior to going to the MTC.”
Elder Zwick said gathering Israel is being hastened by an expanded, well prepared missionary force of nearly 90,000 full-time missionaries who are finding and teaching in conventional ways and also by effective online proselyting.
He said the Church is opening new missions in July 2015, continuing to test the use of mobile devices for missionary work, and will soon distribute new pre-field training materials that will be helpful for prospective missionaries.
In addition, social media efforts have aided missionary work worldwide. “Because of Him” and now “He Is the Gift” combined with the successful Meet the Mormons release, he said. “He Is the Gift” had more than 53 million Facebook postings and more than 105 million Twitter postings this month. The video views have now exceeded 30 million, with 19 million of those video views in Spanish and Portuguese.
“Our global exposure and recognition continues to grow as the gospel message is ‘discovered, embraced, and shared,’ ” Elder Zwick said.
Caring for the Poor and Needy
Bishop Caussé said when Handbook 2 was printed in 2010, “caring for the poor and needy” was designated one of the four divinely appointed responsibilities of the Church.
That means, he said, one important way “to help members live the gospel of Jesus Christ and progress spiritually is to help them and give them opportunities to care for the poor and needy and to render compassionate service.” Church leaders are putting great emphasis on the importance of living the law of the fast and being generous in their fast offerings.
He said the Church feels the need to not only reach out to Latter-day Saints, but also to members of other faiths. The Church is currently increasing its humanitarian efforts to assist refugee populations in countries affected by war and natural disasters.
There is a strong link between spiritual and temporal self-reliance. “Poverty is not only a lack of temporal resources, but it often implies that people have difficulty in realizing their own spiritual potential,” he explained.
Perpetual Education Fund
Elder Gay said when President Gordon B. Hinckley first announced the Perpetual Education Fund it was to help Latter-day Saints build their lives on the foundation of self-reliance.
This begins with an understanding of doctrine, he said. “We are sons and daughters of Heavenly Father, and His work is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. This means being able to stand on your own temporally and spiritually.”
As part of that important effort, the Church organized 1,100 self-reliance centers worldwide this year and 1,600 stake self-reliance committees. “It isn’t about getting a job, and it isn’t about going to school. That is only part of what is required. It’s truly about becoming self-reliant temporally and spiritually.”
Elder Gay said many involved with PEF are filling out My Family booklets developed by the Family History Department. “The skills overlap,” he said. “The skills you need to research and fill out My Family are the same skills you need to find a job.”
“When we talk about helping members live the gospel, our thoughts automatically go to curriculum and teaching,” said Elder Lawrence.
He said the Church continues to place “a great emphasis on the study of learning and teaching.”
“We continue to learn a lot of lessons from Come, Follow Me—the youth curriculum. We are taking those principles and trying to apply them toward adult curriculum and teacher preparation.”
In addition, he said, “The Priesthood Department has the charge to provide, preserve, and promote the scriptures.”
Also, the Face to Face social media events with David Archuleta and Lindsey Stirling were well received, he said, with more than 100,000 live followers and views for each. “In the first 24 hours the Lindsey Stirling event was viewed by people in 143 different countries,” he said.
Elder Johnson said the emphasis in Church education is to help members live the gospel.
Teaming with PEF, Church Education has been thrilled with the success of the Pathway program—which helps people get involved with post high school education. “Activity in the Church correlates positively with education level,” he said.
Missionaries who went out on the wave 18 months ago are beginning to come back, he said. This is changing the composition of campuses at Church universities.
Now there will be many more returned missionaries in the incoming freshman class than in the past as the wave of missionaries starts to return.
“We have been working for the last while on new religion requirements for graduation,” he said, noting they will be effective fall 2015 and focus on a gospel core. “We want to give the students a great sense of the core of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Restoration.”
Another interesting thing to watch is the viewership of BYUtv, he said, noting that the Church has seen exponential growth of that new entertainment and information offering in recent years. He said the network appeals to “people of like values” who enjoy seeing “good in the world.”
Elder Snow said the Church History Department is working to preserve the global history of the Church “that is unfolding around the world.”
“We find people love the history of the [Mormon pioneers’] western trek, but that they also love the history of their ancestors and the early members of the Church in Ecuador or Mexico or Swaziland—or wherever it is.”
The Church History Department, he said, is working with the Family History Department to preserve journals, photographs, and family trees. “That has been a wonderful partnership,” he said.
Elder Perkins said members of the Communications Services Committee have focused this year on better communicating the prophetic voice.
A major step is the First Presidency and the Twelve using social media channels to communicate their messages. Also, in December the Church sent out a message to the world via email. The message was delivered to nearly 3 million members; an additional 400,000 people signed up for the Church emails after the fact.
The film Meet the Mormons did well at the box office and will be found on digital distribution channels in the spring of 2015. “In addition to nonmember exposure, another benefit of the film is that members who went felt inspired and were able to say, ‘I belong to a really great church,’” he said.
“We are seeing a pulling together of all the parts of the Church,” said Elder Nash.
Quoting President Spencer W. Kimball, Elder Nash said, “I hope to see us dissolve the artificial boundary line we so often place between missionary work and temple and genealogical work, because it is the same great redemptive work!”
This is happening, he said.
“In every aspect of the Church we are seeing a sense of oneness and of singleness in purpose.”
He said as Church members work together and “focus on fundamental Church doctrine and assisting Him in His work to ‘bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man’ (Moses 1:39), we will witness astounding Church growth.”