We’ve only got so much time to read, and we might as well read the best things we can. If our family took no magazine other than the Church magazines, we’d be well off.”
That’s President Donald Rex Garrett of the Oakley Idaho Stake speaking, and his views are shared by leaders and members in many stakes whose goal is to place Church magazines in every Latter-day Saint home. And several are nearing the 100 percent mark. They share a straightforward formula for success: expect the best, use the subscription campaign plan, provide a good example, inform the members, and work hard.
“Ours is an expectancy program,” explains Merrill Frost, first counselor in the Provo Utah North Stake. “We expect magazines in the homes the way we expect attendance at sacrament, priesthood, and Relief Society meetings. And our approach is positive; we emphasize the benefits that can be derived from subscribing to the Church magazines.”
“When it comes to the Church magazines, we simply expect every family to be contacted,” says President Heber Blaine Kapp of the Bountiful Utah Central Stake. “Our feeling is that if we’re going to pray for our prophet and our leaders and follow them, then we’d better find out what they have to say to us. The Ensign is the voice of our leaders to Church members.”
Most stake leaders who have directed successful magazine subscription programs are convinced that following established guidelines is one of the most important parts of a magazine campaign. “All our ward magazine representatives report that they have the most success when they follow the outlined program of the Church,” says President Merrill J. Bateman of the Provo Utah Sharon East Stake. “Some wards,” he adds, “make minor modifications to meet special needs, but, generally, the program is adhered to because it is effective.”
President Frost agrees. “Probably the most vital key to success is the person or persons who coordinate the program,” he says. “Some individuals in our wards have had this responsibility for many years, and ward leaders are anxious to have them continue. The longer they serve, the more they believe in the value of the publications and the more efficient they become in organizing and carrying out successful campaigns.
“We use the suggested program, plus,” says President Frost. Bishops visit some members who are reluctant to subscribe. “If the problem is financial, we just give them a subscription, because we know the magazines can help improve their lives.”
He describes a new wrinkle in the concept of giving. “There are some people in the wards who like to give gift subscriptions to other members of the ward or stake. Sometimes we’ll call a member and say, ‘Would you like to give two or three gift subscriptions?’ Many of these subscriptions are given to inactive members, and blessings come to both giver and receiver.”
President Garrett believes deeply in the effectiveness of personal contact. “We don’t want our ward representatives to just telephone the members,” he explains. “We expect them to make personal visits to those who are not subscribing, taking with them copies of the magazines. Most people, when they have someone really show them what’s in the magazines, will respond by subscribing.”
“Another key to a successful program is to help members recognize the value of these publications,” President Bateman observes. “Home teachers are instructed to use the message from the First Presidency as the home teaching lesson each month. Teachers use the Ensign as a supplement to their lessons. And speakers in sacrament meetings sometimes read selections from the Ensign, New Era, and Friend as part of their talks, encouraging members to read the complete article or use it for a family home evening lesson. In these ways, members are frequently reminded of the value of the Church magazines as tools for learning the gospel and becoming better informed.”
Perhaps as much of a “success factor” as anything is the example of stake and ward leaders in subscribing to and using Church magazines. “We couldn’t do without them,” says Lorin J. Mendenhall, first counselor in the presidency of the Magrath Alberta Stake in Canada. “I frequently use articles from the magazines in the talks I give, in working with high council members, and at home with my own family. They give us excellent resource materials and keep us in touch with the heart of the Church and the gospel.”
His feeling is shared by other leaders. “I think the Ensign is a great magazine,” reflects President Frost. “I would subscribe to it just for the messages from the First Presidency, but all of it is very high quality.”
In stakes where subscription percentages are high, the effort to keep magazines in members’ homes seems to be year-round. In the Sharon East Stake, for example, some wards have a magazine representative whose only Church assignment is to personally contact every family in the ward during the year. Other representatives use the plan suggested in the Church magazine handbook and divide their ward into “districts” of six to seven families each, then select a couple to call on families in their own district.
President Bateman observes that “all of the representatives feel that definite dates must be set for the subscription campaign and that these dates must be well publicized in the ward bulletins and in church meetings. The representatives also feel that those contacting families should do so in a warm, pleasant manner, simply giving the members an opportunity to subscribe or renew without making them feel pressured.”
Why are these magazine subscription programs so successful? The picture is clear. It’s one of good people, working to bring gospel messages into the homes of their brothers and sisters. It’s one of faithful, committed Latter-day Saints giving their time, energy, and devotion to bless the lives of others through the Church magazines. And in the end, it’s a well-earned sense of satisfaction at having done the right thing for the right reason.