News of the Church

By Jay M. Todd

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    The First Quorum of the Seventy

    For 140 years a significant arm of priesthood organization at the general Church level has remained dormant, awaiting the day when the Lord would indicate that its time had come. Thus, for the brethren of the priesthood, it was a moment of great interest when President Spencer W. Kimball announced in the Friday morning session that “the First Quorum of the Seventy will be gradually organized, eventually with seventy members. … Three brethren this day will be added to the First Quorum of the Seventy.”

    Information about the ordained office of seventy in the Melchizedek Priesthood was first given to Saints in this last dispensation on February 28, 1835, when the Prophet Joseph Smith organized some brethren into a First Quorum of the Seventy.

    One month later, on March 28, the Prophet recorded the revelation known as the 107th section of the Doctrine and Covenants in which the apostles were identified as the “traveling high council” of the Church (D&C 107:23), and the First Quorum of the Seventy was identified as the “traveling ministers” of the Church (D&C 107:97). The apostles were to be “special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world,” and the seventies were called to “preach the gospel, and to be especial witnesses unto the Gentiles and in all the world.”

    A tithe of the quorum’s number, seven presidents, was to preside over the seventy, and would be known as the First Council of the Seventy. After the death of Joseph Smith, the only members called to the First Quorum of the Seventy were seven presidents called to serve as the First Council of the Seventy. In further reference to the First Council the Lord indicated that their senior member was to preside over the other six presidents within that Council, and that the council of seven presidents would, of course, preside over the remaining 63 members. (D&C 107:93–97.)

    Since the early days of the Church, the First Quorum of the Seventy has had no members in its quorum other than the seven presidents filling the First Council. President Kimball’s announcement indicates that in the timetable of the Lord, it is now desirous for additional “traveling ministers” to be added to the General Authorities of the Church to share the great burdens that carrying the gospel to the world involves.

    As in all other priesthood quorums except the Quorum of the Twelve, membership in the First Quorum of the Seventy will not be marked by seniority. Membership in the First Council of the Seventy is, however, listed by seniority. Careful reading of the 107th section also shows that general quorums of seventy “traveling ministers” may also be called to serve the entire Church under the direction of the First Council of the Seventy “if the labor in the vineyard of necessity requires it.” (D&C 107:96.)

    Additional information about the First Quorum of the Seventy will probably be given in the days ahead and through the normal teaching processes of the Church.

    Jay M. Todd

    Elder Gene Raymond Cook of the First Council of the Seventy

    Elder Gene R. Cook

    Elder Gene R. Cook

    “I’ve always felt like a missionary,” says Elder Gene R. Cook, the newest member of the First Council of the Seventy.

    Missionary work began for him when he was 12 years old. One night his older brother came home from MIA and told him how his teacher had talked about the importance of testimony and having one of your own. “My brother told me that he wanted to get one, and he began to fast and pray,” says Elder Cook.

    “After witnessing the spiritual experiences in our family and my brother’s life during the following week, I knew I wanted to get a testimony too. I began to read the Book of Mormon, and early in First Nephi I began to get those profound spiritual feelings. I read that book many times before being called as a full-time missionary. When you know it’s true, you have to share it. I started by working on my young friends in Mesa, Arizona, to help them read the Book of Mormon and gain testimonies.”

    At the age of 17, Elder Cook was so anxious to be a missionary that he was called on a stake mission as junior companion to an older missionary. The next year he was assigned to be the senior companion to a 17-year-old friend whom he tried to teach how to be a missionary.

    After that he served a full-time mission in Uruguay-Paraguay under Elder J. Thomas Fyans, now an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve. “Elder Fyans gave me training in leadership, and it was a time of much growth and learning,” says Elder Cook. Since then Elder Cook has held many other positions in the Church, including Regional and Mission Representative of the Twelve, counselor in a stake mission presidency, and one of the seven presidents of the quorum of seventy in his stake.

    Elder Cook was graduated from Arizona State University with a Master of Business Administration degree. He worked as an insurance salesman, manager, and field trainer and was a member of the Million Dollar Roundtable his first year in the insurance business. But, despite his success, he began to feel restless and to ask himself what he was really doing with his life. “It just wasn’t enough,” he says. After much private contemplation he felt directed to move his family to Utah. Subsequently, he began to work for the Church Personnel Department. “The Lord put what I had learned in the insurance business to good use.”

    Most recently Elder Cook has worked as executive secretary to the Missionary Executive Committee and the First Council of the Seventy.

    When President Kimball interviewed him about the new calling, he asked, among other questions, if Elder Cook was willing to sacrifice all he has for the rest of his life, even to sacrifice his life, for the gospel. “I was thrilled to be able to answer his questions affirmatively. President Kimball also asked about my wife, Janelle, and if she could answer the same questions. I didn’t even need to ask her. She understands the order of the priesthood. She is truly characteristic of great LDS women—totally willing to follow direction and totally trusting of me as her priesthood leader in the decisions we must make. I can’t do this alone. You know, even though it’s right, it isn’t easy for a young wife when you have committed especially your weekends for the rest of your life to your Church assignment.” Elder and Sister Cook are the parents of four children: Tray, Travis, Terrel, and Jenny. Elder Cook’s widowed mother lives in Mesa, Arizona.

    “What led me to this point in my life more than any other thing is that I gained a witness so early,” he says. “When you know it’s true, you desire to live it with all your heart and you’ve just got to share it.”

    Elder Charles A. Didier of the First Quorum of the Seventy

    Elder Charles A. Didier

    Elder Charles A. Didier

    “I was just invited to attend the seminar for Regional Representatives and a seminar for my job,” smiled Elder Charles A. Didier, new member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. “But when I found myself being escorted to President Kimball’s home Tuesday evening, I knew something else was coming.

    “I accepted the calling at once,” he said, adding with his quick smile, “then President Kimball opened his Doctrine and Covenants and explained my calling to me.”

    Elder Didier, former president of the France-Switzerland Mission and current Regional Representative for the France Paris and Belgian Brussels missions, is Belgian, the first resident European General Authority called in this dispensation.

    The principle of eternal marriage was a major force in his conversion. “You see,” he explains, “my parents divorced after 25 years of marriage. I was the oldest child, very close to my mother, and the experience still leaves a painful taste. I promised myself as a boy that it would never happen to my marriage.”

    His mother, two brothers, and sister are also members, and one of his sister’s missionary companions was Lucie Lodomez, formerly one of his fellow students at the University of Liege. They met again at a youth conference after her mission, were married a year later, and now have two sons, Marc, age 12, and Patrick, 13.

    Sister Didier had the opportunity to fly to Salt Lake to see her husband set apart. She says, “I think the Lord educated us carefully for this calling. I am an only child and very attached to my parents and country, but when I went on my own mission I became much more independent; and when my husband was called as mission president, I had the feeling in my heart that I should not really plan to go home again.”

    In fact, they went straight from the mission field to Frankfurt where the quadrilingual Elder Didier is European manager of Translation and Distribution Services for the Church. “My husband taught me early that we must always be ready—that a call could come at any moment and we must say yes then.”

    “I have a testimony that the Church can change human nature,” says Elder Didier. “I was shy. Not just shy—but terribly shy. I refused to give a prayer the first time I was asked. I didn’t dare.

    “Knowing that we have a living prophet gives me security in a very tragic world, and knowing that he has so much confidence in me makes me feel very humble—and very eager to learn. I think the question you always ask at times like this is ‘Why? Why me?’ I’ll probably find out someday, but in the meantime, it’s very good to know that President Kimball and the other General Authorities think I can do it.”

    Elder William R. Bradford of the First Quorum of the Seventy

    Elder William R. Bradford

    Elder William R. Bradford

    “All my life I have been able to hear the whispering voice of the Spirit saying, ‘Come, follow me,’ and that has led me in my decisions in life,” says Elder William Rawsel Bradford, president of the Chile Santiago Mission since July 1975, and newly called to be a General Authority in the Church as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy.

    “I would like to challenge the youth to keep their lives clean so that the Spirit can dwell in them. If they do that while young, they will be worthy for mission calls. Then, when they are called, the channel will be open through which missionary work is done. I have a great love for missionary work and believe this is the time of harvest.”

    Born in Springville, Utah, to Rawsel W. and Mary Waddoups Bradford on October 25, 1933, Elder Bradford fondly remembers as a child accompanying his parents to the Temple Bureau Mission in Hawaii in 1944, where his father presided and where the 12-year-old boy was ordained a deacon. Later he graduated from Springville, Utah, high school and attended Brigham Young University. He left school to fill a mission in Japan from 1953 to 1955; and on his return married Mary Ann Bird of Mapleton, Utah, in the Salt Lake Temple. Inducted into the U.S. Army in 1955, he served three years, and was servicemen’s group leader in Fort Devens, Massachusetts.

    Later the Bradfords moved to Texas to grow citrus and truck garden crops, and Brother Bradford formed and became president and general manager of the International Fruit Growers and Shippers, Inc., in McAllen, Texas. The company is now managed by his brother, Richard Bradford, and a brother-in-law, William H. Bingham.

    Elder Bradford served for eight years as a counselor in the Texas Mission district presidency, and then as district mission president. He also served on the mission auxiliary board, as elders quorum president, and at the time of his call to the mission, as president of McAllen Branch.

    The Bradfords have six children, a married daughter in Texas, and five younger, from 8 to 18 years, all of whom are attending the international school in Chile.

    “I really thought that a call to be mission president was the ultimate shock that a person could receive, until this call came,” Elder Bradford commented. “I have a great love for the prophet and the sure knowledge that Jesus Christ directs the work through him.” Elder and Sister Bradford will continue to preside over the Chile Santiago Mission.

    Elder George Patrick Lee of the First Quorum of the Seventy

    Elder George P. Lee

    Elder George P. Lee

    President George Patrick Lee was having dinner in the Arizona Holbrook Mission home the Tuesday before October conference began, when the phone rang. It was Brother Arthur Haycock, secretary to President Kimball. “Stay by the phone,” said Brother Haycock. “President Kimball will be phoning you in 15 minutes.”

    “I knew then that something was up,” says Elder Lee. “The prophet doesn’t phone just to say hello. I was very curious and anxious and just couldn’t sit still. Then when he phoned and told me about my calling—well, what can you say?”

    President Kimball asked Elder Lee to be in his office the following afternoon for an interview. He was sustained that Friday in the afternoon session of General Conference to be a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. On Saturday he said, “I’m still numb from it and still in the air.”

    Elder Lee is a full-blood Navajo Indian from Towaoc, Colorado, and Shiprock, New Mexico. He was born March 23, 1943, to Pete and Mae K. Redwoman Lee. In the 1950s he was one of the first participants in the Church Indian Placement Program and later went on to receive a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University, a master’s from Utah State University, and a doctorate from BYU. He married Katherine Hettick, a Comanche Indian, and they have two sons and a daughter.

    Honors received by Elder Lee have included BYU’s Indian Education Award, the Spencer W. Kimball Indian Leadership Award, Outstanding Young Man of America Award, U.S. Office of Education Fellowship, Ford Foundation Fellowship for Ph.D. Program, Phi Delta Kappa membership, and several others. President Lee declined appointment as a White House Fellow to accept a position at the College of Ganado. Later for about two years, he was president of that college, which is a two-year community college on the Navajo Reservation. He was the first Indian to hold that position.

    Previous to being called as mission president, Elder Lee served as a counselor to the Arizona Holbrook Mission president. He has also served in that mission as a district president, branch president, elders quorum president, Sunday School superintendent, Young Men’s president, and Scoutmaster. He served as a missionary in that area from 1963 to 1965, when it was known as the Southwest Indian Mission.

    President Kimball has informed President Lee that he will continue to serve as president of the Arizona Holbrook Mission, to which he was called just this year. The mission includes the Navajo Reservation. He is the first Lamanite and first American Indian to become a General Authority.

    “As I was called, my mind reeled back through the promises of God by prophets in the Book of Mormon to my people if they will repent and receive the gospel. It’s a great feeling and experience to be found worthy and qualified to be a true servant of the Lord.”

    Elder Gene R. Cook of the First Council of the Seventy, left, and Elders Charles A. Didier, William R. Bradford, and George P. Lee of the First Quorum of the Seventy.

    Report of the Regional Representatives Seminar

    A fervent plea for the membership of the Church to continually pray that new “doors be opened for the preaching of the gospel among the nations of the earth” was a major theme stressed by President Spencer W. Kimball as he spoke to General Authorities and Regional Representatives of the Twelve in the semiannual seminar held prior to general conference.

    President Kimball said, “We have suggested that we all pray to our Heavenly Father to open the doors to the nations. We’re asking that our people will include in their prayers a plea that the Lord will soften the hearts and change the attitudes of leaders and make possible our selfless efforts. We ask the people to continue to implore the Lord to make proselyting possible, and then we are determined to do our part.”

    President Kimball urged for “great faith” in this effort, and continually reminded those assembled, “Do you think this can be done? It can be! The Lord can touch the hearts of leaders. He can change their attitudes. He can impress people to move into these communities where they can help the Lord’s work.”

    The President also stressed the continued need for more missionaries: “We’re still urging that every young man have the privilege of a mission to give him a rounded life and also to preach the gospel to a dying world. We are anxious for still more missionaries, better and stronger missionaries, more capable and better-trained missionaries. We’ve made excellent advances, but we’re still far from the mark. We still have too few missionaries.” He noted that presently the Church has over 21,000 missionaries, of which 1,500 are local missionaries.

    On the subject of stake missionary work he asked for renewed efforts: “Are you satisfied with the work? Is it going ahead as it should be? Are the members of the Church helping their neighbors receive the gospel?” The President underscored his conviction that “we should have at least one million members” who should be serving as missionaries in the spirit of “every member a missionary” as they introduce the gospel to their friends and neighbors: “The time is now for this work to be done. I’m very serious about this missionary work. The Lord wants us to do this work.”

    The President also called for the membership of the Church to do a “better job” in “holding all our converts” through “better teaching, better fellowshipping.”

    “Now we need to look after all phases of the program of the Church,” he said, and he reviewed many of the important efforts of the Church, including family home evening, reactivation of inactive brethren, Relief Society, genealogy, and other programs.

    He commented on the state of the world: “We’re greatly concerned with our world and the direction that it is taking. We deplore the permissiveness of seemingly a growing percentage of people who indulge in their weaknesses or wink at them. It seems as if the very jaws of hell are open. Public opinion pushes us to the wide open jaws. We seem to be in the front ranks to hold back the flood of evil. We must hold our people and find ways to train them to hold the line where the Lord has drawn it. We must not yield or give.”

    In reviewing how leaders can help Saints to live better, the President discussed repentance: “One of the greatest errors in the lives of people is that most of them seem to feel that the resolves to repent constitute repentance. But that is not true. To be repentant, one must change his life. There must be a new birth. There must be a transformation. It can’t be just a hope or a wish.”

    Following President Kimball, President N. Eldon Tanner of the First Presidency discussed the area supervision program of the Church, and announced that Elder A. Theodore Tuttle of the First Council of the Seventy has been assigned to South America. His assignments are Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. Elder James E. Faust, Assistant to the Council of the Twelve, previously assigned to South America, oversees the work in Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina. Elder Bruce R. McConkie will serve as the Council of the Twelve adviser for all the work in South America.

    Elder Gordon B. Hinckley then discussed the new regional meeting planned yearly for the month of June. These hundreds of June regional meetings, held only once in each region, will replace the two regional meetings that have been held throughout the year in the various regions and will replace the need for general auxiliary conferences.

    Elder Hinckley stressed that the major purpose of the new regional meeting is to introduce leaders to the annual guidelines to the programs of the Church. These guidelines will begin to be implemented in September, several months following the June regional meeting. He said that the meeting is of “sufficient length to introduce and train leaders in their responsibilities and the program encouraged for that year.”

    Specifically, he reviewed the following general plans for next year’s first June regional meeting to be held under the direction of the Regional Representatives of the Twelve.

    —All stake priesthood and all stake auxiliary presidencies will attend together for the first time. Invited to the meeting from each stake are: stake presidency, high councilors, stake executive secretary, and stake clerk; quorum presidency, group leaders, and assistants; bishopric, ward executive secretary, and ward clerk; stake young adult and special interest council representatives (male and female); stake Relief Society presidency and secretary; stake Primary presidency and secretary; stake Sunday School presidency, Junior Sunday School coordinator, and secretary; stake young women director, advisers, and secretary. Priesthood leaders were asked to encourage stake and ward leaders who are invited to plan their vacation and work around this “once-a-year important meeting.”

    —The meeting will be a full day of learning, ranging from seven to nine hours in length.

    —All priesthood leaders will meet to discuss priesthood curriculum and gospel study, priesthood executive committee meeting, and baptizing and fellowshipping.

    —There will be an emphasis on cultural activities at a noon cultural presentation, to include such things as art displays, heritage arts, homemaking skills and demonstrations, crafts, collections, posters of successful stake events, roving or spot performances by small musical or dramatic groups. An optional evening cultural presentation for the regional membership is also possible. It might feature a compilation of past events that have been outstanding, a music festival, a dance festival, a drama festival, musical comedy or roadshows, variety and talent show, speech festival, etc.

    Elder Mark E. Petersen and Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Council of the Twelve then bore powerful personal testimonies of the Lord’s great concern and anxiety over our limited efforts in redeeming our dead. They discussed the Church’s intent to greatly mobilize the efforts of the priesthood and Church membership to more energetically labor in the great missionary efforts of our time—work for both the living and the sometimes forgotten redemption of the dead. Priesthood leaders assembled clearly understood that President Kimball’s great call for missionary work to be immensely strengthened also applies to performing the necessary missionary work for all those who were not able to hear the gospel during their short mortal stay. Elders Theodore M. Burton and W. Grant Bangerter, Assistants to the Council of the Twelve, also spoke of the redemption of the dead.

    Then, under the direction of Presiding Bishop Victor L. Brown, a presentation reviewed the major assignment of the bishops to look after and train their Aaronic Priesthood age youth. He showed how the Church was redistributing much of the labors at the ward level to their proper place—on the shoulders of the elders, seventies, and high priests, so that the bishoprics of the Church can give much greater attention to building, molding, and training young men to be better missionaries and better priesthood holders. Bishop Brown introduced two new handbooks that review in detail the Church’s program: Aaronic Priesthood Handbook (PBAP0196) and the Young Women Handbook (PBYW0102).

    The missionary department then presented a new translite display unit (VDIS0013), designed for stake and district open houses, fairs, exhibits, and other proselyting efforts. Purchase price is about $60 per unit. The translite uses Church posters 22″ x 28″.

    President N. Eldon Tanner addresses the Regional Representatives Seminar.

    Report of Relief Society General Conference

    “I hope that all of your lives will be brightened and blessed by your having come to this conference,” said President Spencer W. Kimball, leaving his blessing with Relief Society sisters in the concluding session of the last general Relief Society conference. “May God bless you, bless you in your homes and in your families, and especially with your husbands, that they may recognize in you a great power so that they might better fulfill their responsibilities in life. This is the work of the Lord. God Almighty is responsible for it.”

    Both President Kimball and Sister Barbara B. Smith, general president of the Relief Society, focused on contemporary issues in instructing the sisters. Themed “Every Woman in Relief Society,” the conference used a variety of talks, demonstrations, and presentations to, as Sister Smith said, help women “focus eternal values while living in the midst of a materialistic, unspiritual environment,” which challenges “their right to be women, to carry out their divinely appointed and defined roles.”

    President Kimball reminded the sisters: “You are intelligent women. You have learned from your infancy what is right.” He warned them that “much that comes to your consciousness is designed to lead you astray,” and listed four lies women will encounter: that they need not marry, need not bear children in wedlock, need not have children at all, and that they may have worldly pleasures without obligations and responsibilities.

    In contrast, he said, stands the eternal role of women “fixed when she was created,” as eternal companion to Adam. He explained that God’s statement “Let us make man” was not referring to “a separate man, but a complete man, which is husband and wife,” and that “the story of the rib, of course, is figurative.” He stressed that the creation was not an experiment. “There were no guesses, no trial and error.”

    In the scriptural instructions that the Lord gave to this couple, President Kimball suggested that a more accurate meaning might be given by reading, “In distress thou shalt bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall preside over thee.” (See Gen. 3:16.)

    Sister Smith identified the chief causes of concern among Mormon women as self-fulfillment, home and family, and community and society improvement. “In each of these areas, the Latter-day Saint woman has already received wise counsel either in the scriptures or through the words of prophets of the Lord,” she reminded.

    The first responsibility of a woman seeking self-fulfillment, she said, is “to love the Lord with all her might, mind, and strength. … She should … reject any counsel that suggests the doctrine of selfish personal gratification at the expense of one’s personal exaltation, or one’s children, husband, or other close associates. She should realize that she is a daughter of God and is here in mortality to obtain a physical body, and to give the opportunity of life to others, to nurture others, and to learn to live according to eternal principles.”

    On issues of home and family, the Latter-day Saint woman “should do all in her power to maintain that God-given pattern of family life. She should, with her husband, train their children effectively,” and revere human life, understanding that abortion is justified only when the mother’s life is endangered or in the case of rape, that “there should be chastity before marriage and fidelity after, and there must be wisdom used in decisions concerning multiplying and replenishing the earth.” In sum, she should understand that “men and women have separate but equally valid roles in society and that they are companion and supportive roles.”

    Internal harmony comes from counseling and making joint decisions as a couple and also as parents with the children. “She should recognize that each home is entitled to and should receive the blessings of priesthood leadership. … She should realize that both men and women are counseled to put the family in top priority as decisions are made.”

    On issues of community and social improvement, the Latter-day Saint woman should “be aware and concerned about problems that exist and be actively involved” in solving them, either through volunteer service or through legislative actions. “She should support those programs that will ensure men and women protection under the law for themselves and according to their special needs.”

    Sister Smith stressed: “We cannot shift the responsibility for our actions to anyone else—to our friends because they are more capable, to our children because they make us tired or because they have greater opportunity than we had, to our husbands because they hold the priesthood, to our bishops because they preside over our wards, to our prophet because he is the mouthpiece of the Lord, or to the problems of our existence because they are difficult or weighty or seem overwhelming. Ultimately we are responsible for our own happiness.”

    Elder Mark E. Petersen, speaking to the theme of “Every Woman in Relief Society,” stated, “For all practical purposes, the program of the Church is the plan of salvation. The Relief Society was made part of the restored church by the great restorer, Joseph Smith,” and invited women to participate fully in the plan of salvation by participating in their own organization, the Relief Society. “You have more opportunities for self-expression and for service than any women in the world,” he declared. “As the hand cannot say to the foot, ‘I have no need of thee,’ neither can the priesthood say to the Relief Society, ‘I have no need of thee.’ What Mormon woman can say to the Relief Society, ‘I have no need of thee’?”

    “Husbands,” he continued, “should desire their wives to participate in Relief Society if only for selfish reasons and should actually sponsor their attendance because of the benefits to marriage and family.

    “Be Relief Society missionaries,” he exhorted the stake leaders, “and you will be saviors on Mount Zion to thousands.”

    Throughout the conference, the sense of challenge in the face of change was well-understood. Presentations and skits focused on the potential differences new programs would make toward the goal of “Every Woman in Relief Society.”

    Departmental sessions gave sisters ideas about how lessons could be taught, the kinds of visual aids that could be used, and various ways in which the sisters could be involved in discussion. Nursery leaders were treated to an array of suggestions for creative teaching and play. The homemaking demonstration featured quilting and patchwork among other displays on Christmas decorations, basketry, canning, and organic gardening. Bicentennial projects, including a gallery of Revolutionary War women, “Melt Down My Pewter!” and beautification skits added dramatic spice. A morning program accenting youth described the Young Adult-Young Special Interest sessions of Relief Societies.

    Sister Smith counseled young women to sacrifice in giving compassionate service. “No one can serve just when it is convenient for them.” Could they help support a needy missionary? a struggling student?

    She also counseled, “Continue to improve your earning capacity. … It will make you both a more interesting person and a person better able to help others.” She encouraged them to increase in testimony and spirituality, and summarized, “The world you have come into is a world with unfinished battles, many wrongs to right, temptations to overcome. Have the courage to stand against sin and error.”

    Elder David B. Haight, Assistant to the Council of the Twelve, discussed the relationship of the Relief Society and the Melchizedek Priesthood who share the responsibility for single adults who live away from their families. “They have more needs than those who live in families,” he said, and stressed the need for flexible planning to meet those needs. Included among the optimum conditions for success are “a high councilor who’s comfortable working with his assignment and an empathetic Relief Society representative.”

    Bishop H. Burke Peterson emphasized the special place women have in the workings of the Church by commenting: “I have observed too often a big difference between the authority and the power of the priesthood as some of the brethren use it. Many have the authority to act but lack the power to do so because they are not prepared spiritually to call down blessings from heaven. I believe you women, more than any other, are the catalysts, the motivators, the reason for the brethren living righteous lives that will prepare, them for power in the priesthood.

    “There is cause for concern when the uniqueness of women is ignored,” he continued, “but just because some men, and even some priesthood leaders, may be insensitive, does not nullify the Lord’s eternal plan which declares that women have this most special place in the kingdom.”

    He concluded with a plea to the sisters “to purify your lives that the Spirit of the Lord can work through you, unrestricted and unrestrained as you go about your life-saving labors. Hands that help and the compassionate service they render become more effective as they become more pure.”

    Sister Janath Cannon, education counselor in the general presidency, urged the sisters to set priorities in their pursuit of excellence. Using the examples of Michal, David’s wife who unseasonably rebuked him for dancing before the Lord, and Saul, who disobeyed the prophet’s voice in deciding to save some Amalekite animals for sacrifice, she stressed, “The word of the Lord through his living prophets has priority over any of our own ideas, however excellent they may seem to us. So also the work of the Lord should have precedence over other pursuits in our search for excellence.”

    Sister Marian R. Boyer, homemaking counselor, pointed out some of the forces that erode the home and reaffirmed the sisters’ great responsibility for family preparedness—“not only the physical aspects of home living but the spiritual as well.” Essential are such homemaking skills as cooking, time management, cleanliness and order, knowing how to sew, and how to manage a budget so that “yearnings never exceed earnings.”

    Janath Cannon, left, President Barbara Smith, and Marian R. Boyer warmly receive stake visitors.

    New Instructions and Programs

    Several policy changes announced at the Relief Society Conference will affect the workings of the stake and local Relief Societies. They are:

    1. 1.

      The Relief Society Handbook of Instructions has been replaced by a revised, updated, and larger-sized Relief Society Handbook, which gives details on the policy changes and instructions that were discussed at the conference.

    2. 2.

      2. All officers and teachers should attend each prayer meeting.

    3. 3.

      At stake leadership meetings, the presidencies should plan to meet together only for the first part of their departmental session. Then the counselors and president should separate into their own groups for their own discussions.

    4. 4.

      Visiting teaching is now defined to include, as part of its purpose, “to assist in the fellowshipping and in the missionary program of the Church.”

      The visiting teachers “report” meeting has been changed to the “visiting teachers preparation meeting.” Reports will still be made, but the main purpose of this meeting is preparation.

      The Relief Society president can now authorize visits somewhere other than the sister’s home where local conditions make home visits inadvisable. These meetings must be prearranged and include significant private conversation before they can be considered a visit.

      “Not at home” visits no longer count as visits.

      A visiting teaching district should ideally include no more than five sisters to be visited.

      The Relief Society president will hold personal oral reports quarterly with her visiting teaching teams.

    5. 5.

      Special sessions of Relief Society may be established where there are sufficient numbers of Young Adults, Young Special Interests, women in nursing homes, women unable to attend the regular daytime meeting, or other groups with special needs.

      Each special session is presided over by the ward Relief Society president but is conducted by two leaders, an education leader and a homemaking recreation leader, who are chosen by the bishop in consultation with the Relief Society president. They report to the Relief Society president through the education and homemaking counselor, respectively.

      In Young Adult/Young Special Interest sessions of Relief Societies, the homemaking/recreation leader is also the Melchizedek Priesthood MIA female ward representative.

    6. 6.

      A Relief Society recreation leader may be appointed permanently or for a single activity, by the stake president on that level, and by the bishop for a ward. She correlates with either the ward or stake athletic/recreation director, depending on her appointment, and may be invited to attend stake Relief Society board meetings and conduct a department as the president wishes. She is not a member of the stake board.

      Competitive sports are not encouraged for married women nor should nursery services be provided for mothers. Such activities as music appreciation, creative writing, home physical fitness programs, outings, etc., could be planned by the recreation leader. The recreation leader reports to the homemaking counselor.

    7. 7.

      Attendance should be recorded at Relief Society socials and special programs. Visitors should not be counted on the rolls but included in the minutes.

    8. 8.

      Compassionate service is recorded when it is assigned by the Relief Society president.

    9. 9.

      The ward nursery leader is called by the bishop and serves, until she is released, as a member of the ward officer and teacher board. She may be assisted by sisters on special assignment if the number of children warrants it.

    10. 10.

      Ward Relief Society inservice meetings will no longer be held. The inservice concept will be taught and demonstrated in every department by all stake board members at the stake leadership meeting. Only the education counselor’s department will receive the inservice lessons.

    11. 11.

      A brochure, “Welcome to Relief Society,” is available through the Distribution Center. Every member of the Relief Society should receive one, and each new member should be personally presented with a copy as she becomes a member. They will also be suitable for use at visitors centers, open houses, and Church displays.

    12. 12.

      Sisters who don’t want to choose between mother education and social relations lessons will want to learn to adjust. “Undoubtedly,” said Sister Barbara B. Smith, “there will be more class options in the future.”

    13. 13.

      The homecraft program of Welfare Services is operated in conjunction with Deseret Industries in areas where they exist. The homecraft program can also be used in teaching the homebound and the handicapped.

    14. 14.

      United States Relief Society sisters are encouraged to participate appropriately in bicentennial celebrations.

    15. 15.

      The Relief Society will participate in the First Presidency’s request for a reverence program. Suggestions are: to teach reverence by example and precept, stop visiting when entering the chapel or Relief Society room, listen attentively to the entire meeting, respond to prayers and talks with audible “amens,” participate in congregational singing, sit near an exit if you have small children, and teach respect for sacred things.

    Cramming a whole manual of visual aid suggestions into one session, these sisters demonstrate lesson supplements for cultural refinement and homemaking education.

    Heroic Monument

    Relief Society sisters voted to sustain the general presidency in their project of erecting “a fitting monument … symbolic of women of the past, women today, and future women” in Nauvoo, where the Relief Society was established. Fund raising begins immediately and lasts only through 1976. Each sister is requested to donate a modest sum, with the names of all contributors to be placed in the cornerstone or in another place in the monument. Ten thousand dollars of the Wheat Trust Fund interest money will be contributed to the monument as a special memorial to the early gleaners.

    The Last Conference

    The 86-year-old institution of Relief Society conferences ended this year. Accompanying the pleasant nostalgia of “the last time” was a strong undercurrent of excitement and anticipation as the stake and mission Relief Society leaders felt themselves growing into the responsibilities they will now have, buoyed up by the eloquently expressed confidence and trust of the general board members and the Relief Society general presidency.

    Sister Belle S. Spafford, former general president, expressed the feelings of many in announcing, “The Society is no stranger to change.” She reviewed the changes in conference structure. The first general Relief Society conference was held April 6, 1889, in the Assembly Hall, for representatives from stake Relief Society boards. Before that time, the general officers had gone out from Salt Lake with their instructions, “becoming experts in repairing wagon wheels and replacing buggy tongues” on the way.

    Two conferences then became the rule, a fall conference for education and a spring conference for compassionate service, music, membership drive, etc.

    In 1945, the same year Sister Spafford became president, they went back to one conference, trying to squeeze all of their business in less time.

    Other changes occurred as growth continued: the standing roll call of stakes and missions was abolished, attendance had to be limited, and now, finally instruction will be transferred to the yearly regional conferences. “Change,” declared Sister Spafford, “has ever been the handmaid of progress.”

    There is, as Sister Smith said, “inevitable nostalgia” at this ending of an era, but also a “glorious sense of anticipation” as the sisters flex barely tested muscles.

    “It’ll be a big responsibility but you’d be surprised what you can do if you have to. You see it in the wards,” said one president from Nevada. Her counselor exclaimed, “I’ve seen it in me!”

    Another sister commented, “I’ve been watching all the presentations differently this year, and I’ve caught myself thinking, ‘I can do that. In fact, I can do it better!’ At least, I’d like to try.”

    Another stake counselor added, “I hope that we’ll receive enlightenment and inspiration—and I’m really sure that we can do a lot more than we’ve been doing on the local level.”

    President Barbara B. Smith earnestly addresses Relief Society sisters in closing session of last conference.