For more than twenty-five years, I have often served as a clerk in the Church. During that time, I have learned that although we may not all serve as bishops, stake presidents, or Relief Society presidents, we still have a share in the responsibility to care for our brothers and sisters.
The true reason for keeping reports lies not in numbers; surely the Lord must have little interest in statistics alone. But his work and his glory center in what those numbers represent—people, his children. Numbers can tell us, his servants on earth, about the faithfulness or falling away of our brothers and sisters and about their need for assistance and loving guidance back to safety.
If we count only numbers, we have only statistics. Once we learn to count names, we start to save souls. This is the work the Lord intends us to perform.
We need, then, to think in terms of names, not numbers. And our reports must be as accurate as we can possibly make them. If the count is not accurate, we do not know if some are missing from the safety of the fold. How can we leave the ninety-and-nine and search for the missing lamb if the under-shepherd at the gate has failed to count accurately?
Every three months, each bishop (or branch president) is responsible for submitting to the stake (or district) president an activity report. In addition, he is to submit a supplemental report listing not only numbers but also his thoughts and feelings regarding the ward’s progress in carrying out the mission of the Church. The stake president submits similar reports to the Area Presidency, who, in turn, report to Church headquarters.
These reports are prepared by clerks and secretaries, whose duty it is to see that the reports are accurate. The presiding officer also assures himself of their accuracy and validity.
Reports are of great worth to General Authorities in monitoring the growth of the Church worldwide and in highlighting areas of need at different levels. But the most important use of a report is at the local level.
When every secretary and clerk accurately record attendance, at the end of every meeting the names of all those who did not attend are known. And when the names are known, a caring secretary, a concerned leader or teacher, a loving friend, a home teacher or visiting teacher can take action. Nobody should be absent from a meeting without somebody recording it and caring enough to ask why. Is it sickness—of body or mind or spirit? Is the person on holiday, or has he or she moved?
As members of the Church, we can all show genuine concern for everyone around us and act to save souls. Then truly we become caring under-shepherds—followers of the Master Shepherd, who cared enough for us to give his life for us.