My beloved brothers and sisters, what sweetness fills the soul at conference time. How grateful I am to share the spirit of this hour with you, to feel your spirit and strength, and to recognize your work and your accomplishments.
In the decade of the seventies, we have seen great strides in the growth of the Church. The Lord continues to bless his Church, and this growth will accelerate in the future. It is primarily in response to this growth that we have expanded priesthood councils to the area and region levels as explained by the Brethren here this morning.
The Lord, through revelation, has made provision in the priesthood structure of the Church to accommodate for change and growth. You have been well instructed, enough so I do not need to review the details of this important step forward. However, I would like to share with you an incident in Church history which has application to today’s proceedings:
“This afternoon the Twelve met in council, and had a time of general confession. … The time when we are about to separate is near; and when we shall meet again, God only knows; we therefore feel to ask of him whom we have acknowledged to be our Prophet and Seer, that he inquire of God for us, and obtain a revelation, (if consistent) that we may look upon it when we are separated, that our hearts may be comforted. … even a great revelation, that will enlarge our hearts, comfort us in adversity, and brighten our hopes amidst the powers of darkness.” (History of the Church, 2:209–10.)
It was in compliance with this request that the Prophet Joseph inquired of the Lord and received what we have as section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants, from which I quote:
“The Twelve are a Traveling Presiding High Council, to officiate in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Presidency of the Church, agreeable to the institution of heaven; to build up the church, and regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations, first unto the Gentiles and secondly unto the Jews.
“The Seventy are to act in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Twelve or the traveling high council, in building up the church and regulating all the affairs of the same in all nations, first unto the Gentiles and then to the Jews.” (D&C 107:33–34.)
We see that the Twelve Apostles officiate in the name of the Lord under the direction of the First Presidency of the Church, and the Seventy act in their office under the direction of the Twelve. Provision is also made, in this revelation, for Regional Representatives and others as the work of the ministry may require:
“Whereas other officers of the church, who belong not unto the Twelve, neither to the Seventy, are not under the responsibility to travel among all nations, but are to travel as their circumstances shall allow, notwithstanding they may hold as high and responsible offices in the church” (D&C 107:98).
In order that the priesthood administration of his church might be complete, the Lord has set forth how “to manage … all things pertaining to the [presiding] bishopric” and the manner in which the temporal work of the kingdom is to be accomplished (D&C 82:12). Again from section 107 I quote the following:
“The office of a bishop is in administering all temporal things; …
“Nevertheless, a high priest, that is, after the order of Melchizedek, may be set apart unto the ministering of temporal things, having a knowledge of them by the Spirit of truth;
“And also to be a judge in Israel, to do the business of the church” (D&C 107:68, 71–72).
We have seen in the last several years a more complete application of these revealed instructions. Today we should even more clearly understand how they are to be applied in building up the Church in all nations. Events in the world may make this approach to managing the affairs of the kingdom not only practical but a necessity in the years ahead.
As the kingdom thus functions, these wonderful men of the Quorum of the Twelve can go about the Church and set things in order as is necessary, but be relieved of their assignments to manage programs and departments as they once did. The work of managing and directing our various departments and programs is now the work of our General Authorities in the First Quorum of the Seventy, and they have the willing and capable support of the Presiding Bishopric and our temporal departments—all to the end that we can move forward in unity and at a pace never before known.
It should be understood, brothers and sisters, that the establishment of these region and area priesthood councils is primarily for the purpose of facilitating the work of the Church in stakes, wards, and especially in our families.
We hope you wonderful stake presidents realize that part of the reason for this step is to lift some of the load from your shoulders. These responsibilities will now largely be shifted to our Regional Representatives so that you can give full attention to the affairs of your own stake. Recognizing this, I would like to speak somewhat on the duties and the privileges of stake presidents as they preside over and conduct the activities of the Church, including the welfare services.
My first impressions of the labor of a stake president came from observing my own father, Andrew Kimball. Father served from 1898 to 1924 as president of the St. Joseph Stake of Zion for twenty-six and a half years. This stake was named in honor of the martyred prophet. Though we as a family lived modestly, Father seemed to find a way not only to teach bishops how to care for the very poor, but on many occasions found it in his heart to help many a downtrodden soul himself. I believe that father so ministered to his people that he fulfilled a blessing given him by President Joseph F. Smith, who promised that the people of the Gila Valley would “seek unto him as children to a parent.” Although I am sure I did not then fully appreciate his example, the standard he set was one worthy of any stake president.
My father practiced what he preached. He didn’t just tell others to be self-reliant; we were taught to exemplify it as a family. We raised almost all of our own food. He always wanted a garden—he wanted a garden to eat from and a garden to smell. I used to pump the water by hand to water the garden, and also I learned to milk the cows, prune the fruit trees, mend the fences, and all the rest. I had two older brothers, who, I was convinced, took all the easy jobs and left me all the hard ones. But I don’t complain; it made me strong.
I, too, had the privilege of serving as a stake president. I served as the first president of the Mt. Graham Stake, formed in 1938 from parts of the St. Joseph Stake. Like all of you presidents, I have experienced the sadness as well as the joy of laboring with those in difficulty.
I well remember the flood of September 1941. It rained continually the weekend of stake conference. The day after stake conference the Gila River overflowed its channel and swept through Duncan, Arizona, and environs. After consulting with my first counselor, Vernon McGrath, regarding the Saints’ immediate needs, I loaded my car with goods from the interstake welfare storehouse in Safford and drove the forty miles to Duncan. Arranging matters as best we could there, I walked the eight miles to Virden because bridges were unsafe for cars. I was filled with grief as I viewed the devastation of the houses and the farmland. Yet, in the ensuing weeks, I shared in perhaps the most fulfilling experience of my tenure as stake president. Through the high council and ward bishoprics, we organized for reconstruction. From welfare supplies and local labor we reestablished the people on the land. The contributions of the Saints throughout the area were wonderful, and, as I recall, we did not have to call on the General Welfare Committee for help. We handled it all locally ourselves.
During this same period, I remember vigorously counseling the people to be self-reliant and to avoid debt. The Great Depression had not fully run its course when I was installed. Although we did not then refer to it as personal and family preparedness, we taught the Saints of our stake to care for their own needs. In one way or another, we gave expression to the basic principles of work, self-reliance, love, service, consecration, and stewardship.
The firsthand experience of those days caused me to contemplate with great pleasure the progress the Church has achieved since welfare services were reemphasized in 1936.
From these experiences, coupled with observations of the needs of our people at this time, I should like to share with you what I would do today in welfare services if I were now serving as a stake president.
First, I would learn the program. I would study the scriptures, handbooks, and materials relating to welfare. I would come to understand that Welfare Services is nothing more nor less than “the gospel in action.”
We think of welfare services as consisting of three parts: first, prevention of problems through provident living. This applies to every member. Second, temporary assistance for those with immediate needs, and third, rehabilitation for those with deep or long-lasting problems.
I well remember coming to conference as a stake president in the early forties and hearing President Clark’s discourse on these aspects. They are just as true today as they were then.
It would be important for me to learn my duties as chairman of the stake welfare services committee and as an active member of my region welfare services council. In this respect it is important to recognize, brethren, that some welfare services activities must occur at the region and multiregion level. Even though it would be convenient to have all the facilities located in my own stake, I would be supportive of decisions made by the region council that might place these in another stake.
Most of us learn best what we apply in our own lives. I hope I would not be found wanting in applying basic gospel principles in my life, in my own home, with my own family. I would live the precepts of personal and family preparedness. That means having a garden, wisely managing family resources, and expanding my educational horizons. It means staying fit, replenishing the family year’s supply, fixing up our property, and all the rest we have been asked of the Lord to do.
I remember another example my father set for the community as the local stake president. He always tried to keep our home and yard clean and neat. It just had to be that way. Once an old cowpuncher who lived in Safford—when I was called to Salt Lake to be an Apostle—came in to see me and said, “Well, Spencer, you know, I always used to pass your place as we went to meetings, and if it was clean, then I knew conference was on. If it wasn’t clean, it was something else.”
I would also, brethren, learn to give of my means to the welfare effort. I would pay a generous fast offering and respond happily as a quorum member to welfare assignments.
Second, having learned everything I could, I would teach my ward and stake officers the principles and practices of Welfare Services. This includes instructing them in gospel principles, duties, and specific assignments. With my counselors, I would teach bishops to “[search] after the poor to administer to their wants by humbling the rich and the proud” as the scriptures teach (D&C 84:112).
We would reason with them from the scriptures and teach them the law of the fast, the use of the storehouse, the basis of determining individuals’ needs, the types of service or work to be rendered for assistance received, and how to counsel those with personal problems. We must always remember that the bishop has the sole mandate to actually minister to the needy.
We would teach the stake Relief Society sisters to train their ward sisters in such things as how to make home visits in support of the bishop. We would instruct quorum leaders regarding meaningful home teaching, fostering personal and family preparedness, and helping brethren with critical problems.
Third, I would implement Welfare Services as best my stake could. It is in the doing that the real blessing comes. Do it! That’s our motto. After what we have heard this morning, maybe we should change that to: Do it with a plan! But after we have the plan—probably one for the whole area—then we must implement it and get the job done.
There are so many opportunities for service, so many needs to be met. Implementing means Deseret Industries drives, growing commodities, and finding employment through the quorums. It means collecting fast offerings. It means finding foster homes for our Lamanite brothers and sisters. It means giving of self. It means helping each other.
After all, this great plan is to bless both giver and receiver, the givers knowing that “inasmuch as ye do it unto the least of these, ye [have done] it unto me” (D&C 42:38), and the receiver knowing that the Lord makes good his promise “to provide for my saints, for all things are mine” (D&C 104:15).
The Church has always been concerned for all the Lord’s children. I recall an intense famine in China in 1907. A resolution was presented to the general conference by President John R. Winder to send twenty tons of flour to the suffering people. Brother B. H. Roberts seconded the resolution with these remarks:
“No calamity can fall upon any of our Father’s children but what our hearts go out in sympathy to them. I trust also that this movement, which I believe will be unanimously endorsed by this conference, may bear witness to the wisdom that exists in our methods of collecting means for charitable and religious purposes. Thank God, there is an institution in the earth whose charities are constantly accumulating, that in the very moment of need there is a means of ministering unto the children of men—a circumstance that speaks loudly for the divine wisdom that has made these provisions in the Church of Christ. With all my heart I second the resolution of President Winder.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1907, p. 59.)
The resolution was adopted by unanimous vote of the congregation.
I thought of the story recently when we authorized the building of more granaries around the United States and Canada. I think of it today as we remind each leader of his duty to implement the welfare program of the Church.
As I said, it is in the doing, in the implementing of the work, that the real blessings come. How pleased I am with the progress we are making. And while we ask much of you and will continue to ask you to build, improve, function, and lengthen your stride in your particular stewardship, I would like to recognize and publicly express appreciation for your excellent services.
We wish to extend our love and appreciation to all those who have provided service and sacrifice in the Indian student placement program. To you wonderful Indian parents, we give our love. We know of your sacrifice in allowing your children the opportunity for a good education away from home and access to the full Church program. We know how your love will bless the lives of your children and strengthen your entire family. To you foster parents who give of your life, your time, and your means, we offer our deepest appreciation. We know your participation requires love and a little extra to provide for these Lamanite youth. We also know that many blessings come to you and your family as you demonstrate this love and unselfishness for others. Both foster families and Indian families benefit from the experience. The placement program was inspired of the Lord. We have watched many of our Lamanite youth become strong leaders in the Church, and many have taken their place as leaders in their communities and in the world.
We encourage bishops to continue their work in this important and official program of the Church. Seek out Lamanite youth who will benefit from the program and help them blossom as the rose. Stake presidents, guide your bishops in this effort, too.
We congratulate those who take pride in operating efficiently, economically, and safely, who have cleaned up and fixed up their welfare farm properties. A welfare farm provides a great opportunity for a stake president to teach stewardship principles. The limiting factor on many farms is priesthood leadership. We thank those stake presidents who have organized their farm committee, who have delegated efficiently, who hold regular accountability interviews.
We wish to recognize those who have caught the vision of quality. Nothing is too good for the Lord. Isn’t it wonderful that we could serve the Lord what we produce from our own welfare farms?
We are glad to receive reports regarding the construction of new storehouses, canneries, and Deseret Industries buildings. We know this is done at considerable sacrifice. But when we have sufficient strength, it is approved by those appointed to this work. It is the desire of the Lord that we have these storehouses—it is through them we are to care for the poor and the needy.
Here is what the Lord counseled the first Presiding Bishop of the Church:
“And again, let the bishop appoint a storehouse unto this church; and let all things both in money and in meat, which are more than is needful for the wants of this people, be kept in the hands of the bishop. …
“And thus I grant unto this people a privilege of organizing themselves according to my laws. …
“Behold, this shall be an example unto my servant Edward Partridge, in other places, in all churches.” (D&C 51:13, 15, 18.)
The Lord still permits us today to follow his divine pattern. Our own Bishop Brown is responsible to follow this “example … in all churches” as circumstances permit. To those of you who are thus engaged, we express our love and appreciation.
May I conclude by once again reminding us that we are not about our work or any work but the Lord’s work. We are building his kingdom. We are privileged to be members thereof. As such we are under obligation to the dictates of the Lord given in the one hundred and fifth section of the Doctrine and Covenants:
“And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself.
“And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it must needs be, by the things which they suffer. …
“… Therefore, let us become subject unto her laws.” (D&C 105:5–6, 32.)
Again we express to all of you here our deep gratitude for all that is being done.
I know that God lives, I know this is his work, and I ask him to continue to bless us with inspiration and judgment. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.