“Build Missionaries and Teach the Gospel”
“Do whatever needs to be done to help missionaries, to strengthen them, to fortify them, to touch their lives,” President Gordon B. Hinckley urged new mission leaders. His remarks came during the seminar for new mission presidents held June 21–24 at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.
On Tuesday, June 21, sixty-one new mission presidents and their wives received an orientation to the MTC, witnessing firsthand the training that missionaries receive there. That evening they attended a devotional, along with some fifteen hundred newly called missionaries.
President Ezra Taft Benson of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke at the devotional. He said that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has “the greatest message in all the world.” This is the work of the Savior, he said, and moving it forward requires “complete dependence upon him.”
The following days were filled with additional training and orientation. For eight hours each day, they attended workshops and received instruction and inspiration from a number of General Authorities. Among the church leaders in attendance were all members of the Quorum of the Twelve, except Elder Mark E. Petersen who was absent due to illness. Also absent were President Spencer W. Kimball and President Marion G. Romney of the First Presidency.
On Friday morning a general session was held, conducted by President Hinckley. In speaking to the new mission presidents, President Hinckley recalled his own experience as a young missionary fifty years earlier. After writing a letter filled with discouragement, he received a brief, yet memorable, reply from his father: “Dear Gordon, I just read your letter. I suggest you forget yourself and go to work. Sincerely, Your Father.”
“The day that letter came was a great day,” said President Hinckley. “I made a pledge to the Lord that I would try to lose myself in his work. And the sun began to shine through the English fog, and it was a new and wonderful world. As I look back upon my life, all that’s happened since that’s been worthwhile I can trace back to that day of decision.”
President Hinckley listed ten gifts he hoped every missionary would bring home from the mission field. The foremost is “a knowledge of and love for God our eternal Father and His Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no greater gift that can come to anyone in this world. … Unless we do all we can to foster that in the lives of every man and woman who comes under our direction, we will have failed in our ministry.”
A second gift is “a knowledge of and love for the scriptures, the word of the Lord. As a missionary, I read each evening before going to bed a few chapters in the Book of Mormon, and there came into my heart a conviction which has never left that this is the word of God. … I would hope that every man and woman who comes under your influence would leave his field of labor with a conviction in his or her heart that these things are verily true.”
Increased love for parents, love for the people among whom they labor, appreciation for hard work, and an understanding of the importance of teamwork are other important gifts.
The availability of inspiration is a seventh gift mission presidents should help their missionaries gain—“the assurance that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is available to each of us when we live for it.” Other gifts are the value of personal virtue, the faith to act, and humility to pray. Every missionary should recognize, President Hinckley said, “that there is a power greater than ours … and that there is a source of power to which he can go—with the assurance that he will be listened to and that there will be a response.”
Elder Howard W. Hunter also addressed the new mission presidents, telling them that the Lord has placed the responsibility of missionary work “squarely upon the Church as an institution and upon each member of the Church.” Preaching the gospel is one of the basic missions of the Church, he said, “because it is the essence of the work of our Father and of the Lord, Jesus Christ.”
However, it is only one aspect of our three-fold mission to preach the gospel, perfect the Saints, and redeem the dead. “Your calling for the next three years is specifically to proclaim the gospel to nonmembers,” he said, “but we should avoid any artificial distinctions between these three great responsibilities.” They are different in some respects, but are all part of the work of salvation, he said. “It is instructive to note that the keys relating to these three missions were restored on the same day—April 3, 1836. …
Since the restoration of these keys, we have watched the Spirit of the Lord brooding over the nations.”
Elder Hunter related several stories illustrating “the remarkable demonstrations of power that attend this latter-day work.” He said that “the Lord wants all of his children to accept the gospel, to be cleansed through the atonement of Christ, and to continue in faithfulness. … The Lord expects us to baptize and to gather the lost sheep of Israel into the fold so that we can begin the process of perfection and work for the salvation of others in an ever-widening circle.”
Elder Neal A. Maxwell encouraged the new mission presidents to develop good public relations programs to “bring the Church out of obscurity” and to spread the good news of the Restoration. However, he said, “the perception of us as a Church and a people will improve in direct proportion to the degree to which we mirror the Master in our lives. No media effort can do as much good over the sweep of time as can believing, behaving, and serving members of the Church.”
Addressing the “minor but irritating challenges of misrepresentation,” Elder Maxwell counseled the leaders to develop a sense of history in order to put modern challenges into perspective. “We must not, as the Lord has instructed us, revile against those that revile. Let us instead be about our Father’s business in dignity and devotion.”
Critics of the Church are not a major concern, he said: “These tactical irritations are mere mosquitoes in the swamp. The real challenge is the spreading swamp itself, the growing secularization of the Western world. From the former we receive some stings of criticism. From the latter, … we receive deepening indifference, if not hostility, towards all things spiritual.”
Elder Maxwell explained that since much of the Christian world now exists in that “secular swamp,” true Christianity seldom gets a hearing: “So many in the world regard Christianity not as untrue or even unthinkable, but simply as irrelevant. … Upon this sober scene has burst forth the full light of the everlasting gospel. … We bring fresh evidence and reassurance of Jesus’ reality, identity, and personality to a doubting and despairing world.”
General Women’s Meeting Scheduled
A General Women’s Meeting, for LDS women 10 years of age and older, has been scheduled Saturday, September 24.
The meeting will begin at 6 P.M. Mountain Daylight Time in the Tabernacle on Temple Square and will last 1 1/2 hours. It will be broadcast, in English and Spanish, via satellite to stake centers in the United States and Canada with receiving units, and it will also be broadcast live by KSL-TV in Salt Lake City.
The meeting will include a message from a member of the First Presidency and talks by the general presidents of the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary.
Women living within the range of KSL-TV are urged to watch the General Women’s Meeting as groups or classes in meeting-houses or homes. Those in other areas are encouraged to attend the broadcast at their stake centers. Stakes where satellite reception is not available may request a videotape from their Regional Representative prior to September 9; the tapes will be mailed by October 8.
If they wish, stakes may also videotape the program for later use.
A Look at Primary on Its 105th Birthday: A Conversation with Dwan J. Young, General Primary President
Ensign: Primary has recently celebrated its 105th anniversary. What kinds of things did children around the world do to commemorate it?
Sister Young: We wanted to help the children appreciate Primary’s history and understand the purposes of Primary. When the Church was new here in the Salt Lake Valley and the Saints were struggling to set up their communities, one of the first things they did was organize to teach their children. The first Primary was held 25 August 1878 under the direction of Aurelia S. Rogers.
To get a feeling for some of the things children were doing back then, some wards had heritage arts festivals this summer, which included demonstrations of arts and crafts from the past, such as candle-making and bread-making. Some played pioneer games or had a pioneer parade. Some displayed Primary memorabilia from the past—or highlighted former Primary leaders in their areas. These and similar projects have turned the hearts of children today to children of yesterday.
Some Primaries planted trees or shrubs at their meetinghouses or in their communities. In other wards, the children wrote down their testimonies and their projections of what they anticipated doing in the Church in the next few years. Then they buried the papers in containers—to be unearthed and reread in later years.
Ensign: Have the purposes of the Primary changed at all over the years?
Sister Young: No. Primary has always taught the principles of the gospel and, through activities during the week, given children an opportunity to implement those gospel principles.
From the beginning, the leaders realized that the main responsibility for teaching lies with the parents. That has never changed, either. Primary, today as in the past, is only reinforcing and supplementing what is taught in the home.
Ensign: What can parents do to help Primary become the great resource it has the potential of being?
Sister Young: They can ask the children what they’re doing in Primary. They can initiate discussions. They can communicate with the teacher and the music director to find out what the children are learning—and then fortify those things in family home evenings and in other family settings. Every December there is an article in the Ensign listing what the boys and girls are learning in their Primary classes. I think all parents should refer to that. (See Tom Rose, “What Our Children Are Learning in Church,” in the December issue.)
Of course, the best things parents can do is live the gospel and set the example for their children.
Ensign: Many children don’t belong to “traditional” families with a father and a mother. Others come from homes where parents are not members of the Church or aren’t active. What is Primary doing to meet their needs?
Sister Young: Every child has an adult guardian—a mother or father, a grandmother or grandfather, or someone else. Our curriculum is geared very carefully to encourage the child to go back home and talk about what he or she has learned. So no matter who that child is living with, hopefully there will be discussions, reinforcement, and an exchange of feelings about what is happening to him or her.
We also have many things in Primary that bring families together—whether they’re active members of the Church or not—such as daddy/daughter and mother/son activities. We hope quarterly activity days occasionally include service projects and other activities for the whole family. Cub Scouting is intended to be a family experience. We’re trying through various ways to bring families close together—whatever their makeup may be—so that a relationship is there. Then teaching in the home is more likely to take place.
Ensign: How can Primary help prepare children for problems they might face in the world?
Sister Young: Here again, I think parents have to assume the main responsibility. They must be in tune with what is happening in the world today and how it is affecting their children. We need to be aware of what our children are watching on TV, read what they’re reading, and go to school to check up on what they’re being taught there. We all need to be very knowledgeable about what’s happening in the lives of our children—and committed enough to do something about it.
As Primary leaders and teachers, we need to become involved in the lives of those children as we fulfill our callings. As we live the principles of the gospel and testify of the truthfulness of what we’re teaching, lives can be changed. And that is happening in Primary. We have many great leaders and teachers.
Ensign: What is Primary doing to encourage Church activity among children?
Sister Young: Our quarterly activity days have encouraged children to come. But I think the main thing we’re doing is identifying which children aren’t coming regularly and making contact to help parents see what we offer at Primary. Some parents just don’t realize what the new meeting times are, or that Primary is on Sunday instead of a weekday now. Many say, “If you could just provide transportation for my children, of course they can come.”
A new filmstrip called Come with Me to Primary (originally called Primary Is for Children) will be released toward the end of 1983. It’s a training tool that shows what a model Primary looks like. In addition to being used to train Primary leaders, it can be used as a missionary and activation resource to familiarize parents with what is offered in Primary and to encourage them to let their children attend.
We have had incredible reactivation experiences just by identifying the families and making contact with them. In many cases, whole families have come because of it.
Ensign: How about handicapped children?
Sister Young: There is great interest in teaching those children. And we have many options available. Where there is a large number of handicapped children in a region or a stake, or where there is a school for the handicapped, we suggest that local Primaries work through priesthood leaders to organize a Special Primary. The Church has also prepared materials to help with different situations on a ward level. For example, if there are several handicapped children within a ward, a teacher or teachers may be called for those children. Sometimes we’ll have one teacher per child. Or, depending on the handicap, we may give special helps so that the child can stay in his or her regular class. And we have helps on how to adapt lessons and how to help the rest of the children in the class.
Ensign: What are wards doing to help Primary teachers feel a part of their priesthood quorums or Relief Societies?
Sister Young: They are involving Primary teachers in such things as welfare and compassionate service assignments, visiting teaching and home teaching, stake priesthood meetings and ward homemaking meetings. Most Relief Society and priesthood leaders are sensitive to the fact that some of their members have other assignments, and they’re communicating with them through newsletters or some other means. I think it’s improving.
The best thing that’s happening is that the teachers themselves are finding great joy and satisfaction in teaching! So they’re happy to be in Primary! They find that as they teach basic gospel principles, they are enjoying great spiritual growth. It’s true that you learn by doing.
And I must add that we’ve seen much good come from the wide use of men in Primary. Many are serving now as teachers, nursery leaders, music leaders, in-service leaders. And speaking of positive influence from priesthood leaders, what a great opportunity it is for the children to receive a message from a member of the bishopric as he comes in to the Primary.
Ensign: Sister Young, what do you learn about Primary as you visit various wards, stakes, and missions?
Sister Young: The teaching of children through the world is improving. In countries where people didn’t realize children could learn at an early age, they have a new understanding of children. As our materials are being translated in these areas, children all over the world are really beginning to be taught the gospel.
I had a wonderful experience meeting with a new convert who has been called to be a Primary teacher in a brand new branch in Fiji. She had only three children to teach but she was filled with excitement and with the Spirit. As the Church grows, as missionaries go out and areas are opened up, more and more children around the world are taught. And the strength of the Church is growing. The gospel is reaching individual children in far corners of the earth where it has never been before. And that is thrilling to me.
Lamanite Generation Tours Latin America
Lamanite to Lamanite—that was the medium for the message of peace and brotherhood that Brigham Young University’s Lamanite Generation carried to South America during a six-week tour in May and June.
From Lima, Peru, to Mexico City, from Ecuador to Bolivia to Brazil, local Latter-day Saint organizations recorded a dramatic boost in interest and attendance levels whenever and wherever the group performed.
The Lamanite Generation consists of talented young Native Americans, Latin Americans, and Polynesians who perform traditional and modern arrangements of music and dance native to their cultures.
Although the ensemble has performed extensively throughout North America and around the world since its founding in 1971, artistic director Janie Thompson was particularly excited about this tour.
“Our students felt they were coming home to the lands of their forefathers,” she explained. “In every case, they felt they were welcomed back, and they expressed those feelings many, many times during the tour.”
In return, the students gave of themselves freely, despite difficulties. For example, the group presented a full, vigorous performance in Cuzco’s Plaza de Armas for a crowd of nearly 20,000 Peruvians. Their vigorous workout in the oxygen-thin air at the city’s high altitude caused several cast members to collapse. They quickly recovered, however, and the show continued. “We were later told that some 200 to 250 inactive members came to church the next day as a result of that show,” said tour director Halvor Clegg, an associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese at BYU.
A fireside in Cuzco was equally successful. “There were some 350 people there, and rather than the show they expected, they received a spiritual feast that was even more powerful.” The next month, the two missionary zones in Cuzco performed a record total of seventy-one baptisms. Many of the new converts were attracted to the Church by the Lamanite Generation’s performances there.
The young student-performers frequently arrived at sacrament meetings throughout the tour to discover they were the meeting. “There were no national boundaries, there were no different peoples, there were no different languages. We were one people, speaking through the Spirit,” recalls Brother Clegg.
Opportunities to meet with local and national government officials were frequent, and the young Latter-day Saints took advantage of every occasion to share the gospel.
In Lima, the ensemble was formally introduced to Peruvian President Fernando Belaunde Terry, to whom they presented a number of gifts, including a Spanish translation of the book Spencer W. Kimball. “The President’s first words were, ‘Oh, thank you. How is he?’ “said Brother Clegg. “It needn’t be said that we were touched by this caring, sensitive man.” President Kimball and the Peruvian president have been acquainted for several years.
Following a performance at the coliseum in La Paz, cast member Mario Paz Soldan spent some time with Bolivian First Lady Teresa Ormachea de Siles Zuazo explaining the meaning of the term Lamanite and telling her about the Book of Mormon.
In Quito, Ecuador, First Lady Margarita Perea de Hurtado and her guests witnessed a benefit performance by the Lamanite Generation for a national children’s relief fund. Later, the first lady hosted the performers at a reception in the presidential palace.
The good impressions made by the ensemble outlasted the tour itself. Ecuador’s minister of health, Dr. Luis Sarrazin, who personally hosted the group, sent an imposing wood sculpture entitled The Family to BYU President Jeffrey R. Holland as a “thank-you” and a tribute to the Lamanite Generation’s good works in his country. The large sculpture, by noted Ecuadoran artist Alcides Montesdeoca, was delivered to BYU by Dr. Fidel Endara, vice-minister of health, with a message from Dr. Sarrazin commenting on the “unforgettable experience” of the group’s visit. Dr. Endara came to the United States for meetings of the World Health Organization; while in Utah, he and his wife visited their two daughters, who are attending BYU.
Latter-day Saints Named “Great American Families”
Two Latter-day Saint families were among nine families honored by the American Family Society in ceremonies held 22 June 1983 at the White House in Washington, D.C. Nancy Reagan, wife of U.S. President Ronald Reagan, presented the awards and personally thanked each family for helping to build a better country through their example to others.
The families were selected by a nationwide panel of judges and represent a diversity of family situations, including single-parent, two-parent, foster, and adoptive families. The David Keala family of Pukalani, Maui, Hawaii, and the Raymond Oeth family, who recently transferred to Colorado from West Germany, were the two LDS families honored.
The Kealas represent the extended family. Four generations of Kealas live in one family home—parents, sons and daughters-in-law, four grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. A retired sugar company employee, David Keala is currently a teacher for the Kupuna Hawaiian language program. Both he and his wife, Rebecca, are active in the Maui Extension Homemakers Council, where David won the “Homemaker of the Year” award, its first male recipient.
A particular interest of Brother Keala is oral history. He shares his knowledge of Hawaiian history and folklore with the children in public schools. Also through his efforts, traditional trees and vines have been planted on school grounds as living, decorative reminders of Hawaiian culture.
First Sergeant Raymond Oeth and his wife, Nadine, have served the military community in many parts of the world. The Oeths have reached out in numerous ways to help other military families. They have encouraged Scouting activities, have furnished an information and referral service for distressed families, and have provided a lending closet and welcome packets for new families. They have devoted many hours to army chapel activities and have organized recreational activities in stations around the world. For over ten years, the Oeths have helped military children in need by providing them with a foster home. Captain Dennis Menard, chief of Army Community Services in Germany, stated, “It is almost impossible to count the number of lives the Oeths have touched.”
Policies and Announcements
The following statement, entitled “Rebuilding and Giving Service Following Disasters,” was issued by the First Presidency on 10 June 1983.
Our hearts go out to all who are victims of disasters throughout the world. We love and appreciate you who have been quick to help and are now working to prevent more widespread and serious damage. Members and nonmembers alike have worked side by side in a cheerful answer to the call for service. Public servants in many places have shown creativity, foresight, and service beyond the call of duty.
Many inquiries have been received regarding the Church’s position on government and other assistance. We wish to restate the policy on this matter.
“The responsibility for each member’s spiritual, social, emotional, physical or economic well-being rests first with the member, second, upon the family, and third, upon the Church. Members of the Church are commanded by the Lord to be self-reliant to the extent of their ability.
“Every Latter-day Saint would wish to be self-supporting, while physically and emotionally able, rather than voluntarily shift the burden of one’s own or one’s family’s well-being to someone else. So long as they can, under the direction of the Lord and with individual labors, members should work to the extent of their abilities to supply themselves and their families with the spiritual and temporal necessities of life.
“As guided by the Spirit of the Lord and through applying these principles, each member of the Church should make individual decisions as to what assistance is accepted. In this way, independence, self-respect, dignity, and self-reliance will be fostered and free agency maintained.”
The Lord will assist those who understand and practice the principle of self-reliance and who do all that is possible to rebuild from individual resources. As individuals and families proceed to do all they can, they may accumulate through insurance, loans, or help from extended family, enough resources to acquire many of the necessary materials. But few will have the combination of money, time, and energy to rebuild what has taken many years to establish.
In these cases, the bishop may feel it is appropriate to provide food from the storehouse or to supply materials through the use of fast offering funds. With this assistance, the brotherhood of the priesthood quorums can work to rebuild homes and neighborhoods.
In addition to the giving of time and talents, it would be most appropriate for those who desire to give financial support to increase their fast offering donations. Our additional fast offerings at this time provide another means for us to give Christian service. All our efforts should be motivated by compassion and true Christian charity.
We encourage all to increase their ability to be self-reliant. Plant gardens, store food and other emergency supplies, and be prepared to care for your own as well as share with those who may be affected by adversity.
We request that bishops read this message in a sacrament meeting and follow these guidelines as they counsel with their members. We trust and pray that our members will maintain integrity, respect, and hope, in spite of the losses of their material possessions.