Clerks, Leaders, and Members: Working Together

“When I was serving as a stake clerk, I presented some statistical information for the stake presidency to consider, and I recommended a course of action,” recalls Wayne H. Ethington of the Oquirrh First Ward, Riverton Utah Stake. “The stake president was amazed. He later told me he thought the clerk was supposed to sit in the corner, wear a green visor, say nothing, and take notes. His whole idea of the clerk’s role changed, and he discovered a huge resource for help in his calling.”

Brother Ethington’s experience reflects the important role of clerks in the Church today. “Clerks today are so much more than record keepers,” says Robert R. Hill, manager of member services at Church headquarters. “They are key team members to help bishoprics and presidencies, they provide helpful information for auxiliaries, and they assist the Church as a whole in anticipating members’ future needs.”

Why Clerks Are Important

Ancient and modern prophets have told us that keeping Church records is vital. One of the first revelations the Lord gave the Prophet Joseph Smith after the Church was organized was, “Behold, there shall be a record kept among you” (D&C 21:1). Anciently, Moroni recorded that when people were baptized and confirmed, “their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way” (Moro. 6:4), a process that President Gordon B. Hinckley has reemphasized in our day.

The Lord said, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:16). All good shepherds in the Church, priesthood leaders and auxiliary leaders, can use accurate and complete records and reports that provide essential information to help nourish the flock.

“There is much about membership record keeping that brings to my mind the Lord’s commandment to leave the ninety and nine and go after the one,” says Bill Polhemus, membership clerk in the Westlake Ward, Katy Texas Stake. “We live in an area that has experienced a great deal of growth both from new converts and members moving into the area. It is nearly impossible for ward leaders to provide services without accurate membership records. And that is only achievable by diligence on the part of clerks.”

There are many examples of how information can be used through the influence of the Spirit to activate someone. President James Madsen of the Riverton Utah Stake relates the following: “When I served as a bishop, I reviewed a list of young men not attending any meeting and felt inspired to leave the building and go immediately to the home of one young man, whom we’ll call Richard. He was working on his car and was stunned to see me. After talking with him and sharing my love and concern for him, I could sense a change in his attitude toward me and the Church. As Richard began to realize that there were those who really cared about him, he made a commitment to make some changes in his life and return to the fellowship of his ward family.”

Membership information also helps leaders at a general Church level make important decisions that affect the entire Church. Darrell Donalson, who works in Church Member and Statistical Records, says: “The statistics we gather from membership records, member progress reports, and other materials submitted by clerks help General Authorities gauge the spiritual health of the Church.”

Members and Clerks Work Together

Members should review their own membership and financial records and make sure they are accurate and complete. They need to work with the clerk to do this. President Joseph F. Smith said in the October 1899 general conference: “Some people may not care very much whether their names are recorded or not but this comes from ignorance of the consequences. If their names are not recorded they will not only be cut off from the assistance which they would be entitled to from the Church, if they needed it, but they will be cut off from the ordinances of the house of God” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 109).

There are many ways members can support a clerk in his calling. Steven Pogue, a member of the Sierra Vista Ward, San Jose California East Stake, who has served as a ward clerk, says, “The clerk may hear the sustaining in sacrament meeting of, for example, a young man to be ordained a deacon, but he will not necessarily witness the ordination.” While it is the duty of local leaders and clerks to record this information, family members may take the initiative to help verify that these events have been recorded properly.

Brother Polhemus says, “When events such as marriages, divorces, births, deaths, blessings, confirmations, ordinations, or children leaving home occur, members should promptly let the clerks know about it and provide details such as dates and current addresses as clearly and accurately as possible.”

Members should request a copy of their Individual Ordinance Summary and carefully review it. They should report any errors or concerns to their bishop or clerk. Larry Jackson, a former clerk in the Waco First Ward, Killeen Texas Stake, highlights how important it is for members to update this summary of their personal and ordinance information. “If a member sees something wrong on that summary, it is also wrong on their membership record,” he says. “The clerk can correct the error only if you bring it to his attention.”

“When members move,” Brother Jackson continues, “they should make sure the clerk of their old ward or branch receives their new address. When they arrive in a new ward or branch, they should let the clerk know so he can request their membership records.”

Jeff Thompson, a financial clerk in the El Cajon Third Ward, El Cajon California Stake, says, “Members can help by filling out their tithing slips completely and accurately. They can double-check their addition and make sure the slip matches the amount of money in the envelope.”

Members can periodically ask the clerk for a printout of their year-to-date donations. By reviewing the printout and reporting to the clerk, members can help keep the record of their own donations accurate.

The Spiritual Dimension

Prophets and apostles of this dispensation have spoken of the importance of records and reports. Many other leaders have testified of the spiritual nature of the clerk calling. For example, Elder Theodore M. Burton (1907–89), an Assistant to the Twelve, said, “I urge all clerks and recorders to realize how very important your work is in the plan of salvation. The proper recording of information is most important, for it will form an important portion of the basis on which we as a people are to be judged. A clerk’s calling is as much a spiritual calling as any we have in the Church, and must never be regarded merely as a technicality” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1968, 78).

“Working as a clerk in the Church can and should be deeply spiritual,” says Brother Pogue. “I have taught seminary and Gospel Doctrine and served in a bishopric, and no calling has been more spiritually fulfilling than serving as a membership clerk.”

Brother Ethington says that while he served as a clerk, several times he felt prompted to call a certain person or visit someone for some vital piece of information. He adds, “As a result of my experiences, my faith was strengthened, and I knew the Lord cared about Church records and wanted them done properly because each record represented a precious soul.”

Chai Chin Lim served for four years as clerk of the Ballarat Ward, Melbourne Australia West Stake. Now, as a counselor in the bishopric, he oversees the ward’s financial and membership records. “I learned my clerk job by reading the handbook and being guided by the Spirit,” he says. “I was blessed to receive inspiration on how to implement the budget and help the bishop cut costs in the ward budget.”

Worthy Melchizedek Priesthood Holders

Recently Church leaders have reemphasized the role of clerks. “It is essential that those who serve as clerks are worthy Melchizedek Priesthood holders, full-tithe payers, and are otherwise worthy to hold a temple recommend,” wrote President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in a letter to priesthood leaders dated 22 September 1999. “This will help ensure that those called to work with finances and other Church records have the Spirit of the Lord as they perform their duties.”

Further underscoring the importance of clerks, Church policy now requires that before a new unit can be formed, enough local priesthood leaders must be available to allow for a clerk. Another change is that rather than leaving the calling of stake clerks for local leaders to arrange after the creation or reorganization of a stake, the visiting General Authority is now to extend a call to the stake clerk.

For clerks who work diligently as partners with leaders and members to build the Lord’s kingdom, the spiritual blessings are clear. As Moroni recorded, “Their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way” (Moro. 6:4).

What Clerks Do

  • Record minutes of ward leadership meetings for leader follow-up.

  • Remind bishopric of items for consideration or follow-up.

  • Prepare ward records and reports.

  • Help leaders identify needs of members and organizations.

  • Help leaders identify availability of resources.

  • Help leaders identify trends, strengths, and weaknesses.

  • Record and report tithing and other contributions.

  • Track and disburse local budget funds.

  • Send and request membership records in a timely manner.

  • Make sure information submitted by ward organizations is complete and accurate.

  • Provide membership directories, lists, and rolls.

  • Prepare certificates of blessing, baptism, confirmation, and priesthood ordinations.

  • Coordinate record-keeping training for assistant ward clerks and quorum, group, and auxiliary secretaries.

  • Order Church materials and help members order as needed.

(For more information, see Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 1: Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics [1998], 125, 134, and your local instructional material for Church record-keeping systems.)

How Members Can Help Clerks

  • If you move, promptly give your new address to clerks in both the old and new units.

  • Ask at least annually to review your membership and financial records and correct any errors.

  • Report any errors in your Individual Ordinance Summary. Ask for a new summary when changes are made.

  • If needed, remind the clerk to give you blessing or ordination certificates.

  • Ask for specific reports that will help you fulfill your calling.

  • Report errors on any ward records or reports.

  • Report forwarding addresses of ward members who move that you are aware of.

  • For ordinances performed for your family members, if you do not receive an official certificate or Individual Ordinance Summary showing the ordinance within a reasonable amount of time, contact your clerk.

[photos] Photography by Lana Leishman, except as noted

[photos] Pencil photos © Photospin

Christopher K. Bigelow is a member of the Freedom First Ward, Provo Utah South Stake.