First Presidency Message

The Church Takes a Special Interest

The Church Takes a Special Interest

On behalf of the First Presidency, and in consideration of a special feature in this issue of the Ensign, “Special Interests and Young Special Interests,” I should like to address some comments and observations particularly to this segment of our Church membership.

The First Presidency and other General Authorities have long been aware of and concerned for the welfare of all so-called “special interest” groups, who oftentimes have felt “left out” because it seemed so many of the Church programs were geared to those persons living in typical circumstances and in typical family situations. We must admit that the majority of our members are so situated, and therefore our programs in the past have been designed with the thought that they were flexible enough to be adaptable to all.

With the growth of the Church, naturally there have been increases in the numbers of those who require special attention and special programs to fill their needs. So after much careful thought and planning by the General Authorities, new programs have been innovated, and where they are properly administered they are highly successful.

It is interesting to note that approximately 12 percent of the Church membership twenty-six years of age and older fall into the categories of the never-married, the divorced, and the widowed. So, whatever your status, you can be assured that you are not alone. Each of you can be instrumental in helping to form the nucleus of a group where you can share the social, recreational, and emotional experiences common to all.

While the Church now has a program and the organizational set-up for carrying out the program, it cannot be successful without the cooperation of all. Interestingly enough, some of the very people who have been clamoring for the Church to give them special consideration are not participating or accepting responsibility to carry out what has been designed for them. Their excuses are many and varied, but mostly not really legitimate.

I cannot overemphasize how concerned President Spencer W. Kimball is, as are the other General Authorities, for the welfare and happiness of every single member of the Church. He feels as responsible as did the Savior when he spoke in a parable of the shepherd who went out to search for the one lost sheep, leaving the ninety and nine in the fold. It is for this reason that we would urge all of you to participate as actively as you can and to make the necessary adjustments to be comfortable and happy in whatever organization best suits your needs. Do not let inactivity keep you from reaching your eternal goals.

If you find that you have a feeling of not belonging, or that there is no particular group functioning in your area for you and others in like circumstances, express your feelings to your priesthood leadership. Our bishops and branch presidents, stake and mission presidents have an interest in your welfare and will be pleased to counsel with you. Go to them with suggestions and offers of help rather than in the spirit of criticism. It could be that you may be responsible for promoting something that will bring happiness and satisfaction to others who need the same kind of help as you do.

The Lord has said we should love our neighbors as ourselves. We should each be so busily engaged in expressing our love through service to our neighbors that we find our time fully occupied. J. Spencer Kinard, in a recent broadcast of “The Spoken Word,” said this:

“The relationship we have with others is important, because our lives are not fulfilled if we do not give of ourselves. There are many who extend themselves only for personal gain, or only if someone is watching, or if they know someone will hear about their ‘act of love.’

“But the love we offer our neighbors must be given freely without the desire for recognition. … It has been observed that those who have not developed this capacity to love their neighbors have the greatest difficulties in life and living.

“Emily Dickinson once wrote:

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
or cool one pain,
or help one fainting robin
unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

[As quoted in Lillian Eichler Watson, Lights from Many Lamps, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1951, p. 193.]

“It is this kind of love that brings us an inner peace … that helps us develop our human capacities. And knowing that we are helping others is a reward in itself … it is salve for the soul.” (Sunday, June 12, 1977.)

What better way to show true love for one’s fellowmen than through sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ! Just think of the tremendous potential there is for doing missionary work—individually or collectively—through the Special Interest and Young Special Interest groups!

I was very interested in reading about a program by the Young Adults of the Idaho Falls Idaho North Stake whereby fifteen Young Adults had come into the Church directly through the efforts and fellowshipping of the stake group. Through their activities, and working closely with the full-time missionaries, invitations to their various functions brought excellent response, and even served as a vehicle for helping people find companions and eventual marriage.

You are undoubtedly engaged in some program whereby you contribute to the betterment of society—in your daily work, in your Church service, in your community life. All of this should be rewarding, but if you still find yourselves facing a loneliness which seems to overwhelm you, reflect on these words of Beatrice M. Sparks in her book, Key to Happiness:

“You have your own wonderful, bright, happy, and private little world within yourself. Or you have your own dark and dismal prison. If it is dark and full of spider webs and morbid thoughts, it is about time you did some remodeling and redecorating. No one else can do it for you! No one else can even see what it is like in there! Take a close, candid, careful look at the little inner house you live in. If it is not to your liking, refurnish it, using someone else’s patterns. …

“Your responsibility is to see that it is a private little heaven, for it can just as easily be a private little hell, where you retreat from beauty and wonder into self hatred and disgust. And again, no one is allowed to enter it but you, so any housecleaning that needs to be done, any clutter, disillusionment, or discord, any black thoughts or hatreds, any self incrimination or self-pity has to be discarded by you alone! And please do it!” (Deseret Book Co., 1967, pp. 194–95.)

In trying to find that inner peace and contentment for which all of us are seeking, it is most important for each of us to remember who we are. President David O. McKay said so often, “Remember who you are and act accordingly.” What did he mean by that statement? He meant that we are children of God, and members of his church. As such, certain things are expected of us, and God expects us to live as his children should.

That is a wonderful concept that each of us should cherish. No matter what else may befall us, no matter what our station in life may be, each of us is a child of God. How comforting it is to know that we can call on him in prayer and that he is ready to hear us and will grant us those things that are for our best good. He wants our happiness and success, and most of all he wants us to return to dwell with him forever.

In return for all this, he asks only for our obedience to his commandments, which are designed for our happiness. Returning to our previous reference to his great commandment, let us always remember what he said:

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

“This is the first and great commandment.

“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matt. 22:37–39.)

We express our love and appreciation to you. We are mindful of the untold hours of dedicated and devoted service this special group has given in Church service. We pray that our Heavenly Father’s choicest blessings will attend you as you seek and find your rightful places in his kingdom.

[photo] Photo by Eldon Linschoten