My dear brothers and sisters, I hope you have been able to grasp at least a small part of the significance associated with President Benson’s presentation. It is a most significant step forward in Church government—one which will aid the priesthood to prepare for even greater Church growth than ever before. It will introduce a more effective level of planning and decision making than ever before. I stand in awe as I witness the hand of the Lord direct his servants in this, his kingdom. The introduction of councils at the region, multiregion, and area levels is a most important move. The Presiding Bishopric expresses its enthusiastic, whole-hearted support of all that has been said.
As you are aware, the Presiding Bishopric, under the direction of the First Presidency, has the responsibility for administering many of the temporal affairs of the Church. These include physical facilities, finance, welfare services, materials management, and information systems.
We administer this network of temporal functions to support and service priesthood needs and Church activities throughout the world. They are managed in the United States and Canada through our headquarters department managing directors and their management teams. A limited number of these departments are decentralized, such as Operations and Maintenance. Outside the United States and Canada these functions are all decentralized and are managed in each area of the world by directors for temporal affairs. Each area office is responsible for all the activities listed above.
I would like to add further dimension to the four major accountabilities our personnel have in performing their service functions. Since some of these responsibilities, particularly in Welfare Services, have been carried out to this point by stake presidents, local committees and others, I hope you will take special note of them.
First, we are to manage operations to service ecclesiastical needs. This means that temporal personnel will manage the acquisition of land, construction of buildings, the operation of Deseret Industries, storehouses, employment centers, social services agencies, the distribution of Church materials, and so forth. This does not include welfare production projects.
The management team in each of the five headquarters departments and the directors for temporal affairs are each responsible to prepare budgets, control activities, monitor performance, conform to legal and tax constraints, and most importantly, get the job done. We recognize this to be a significant responsibility.
Second, we are to assist in planning through the area council. The strategic planning, while developed mutually by the ecclesiastical and temporal leaders, is directed by the executive administrator. The detailed work, sometimes referred to as tactical planning, is done chiefly by temporal personnel. This includes, but is not limited to, the securing of information appropriate to each department or function, calculating temporal assistance needs, forecasting printed material needs, preparing cost projections, preparing temporal sections of Welfare Services master plans, and so forth.
Third, we are to provide a broad range of technical services. Examples of such services include the design of meetinghouses, conducting operational audits on welfare farms, installing membership systems, and so forth.
Fourth, we are to assist in training; where, when, and to what extent is determined in the area council. The training assistance available includes both the preparation of materials and the instruction in technical aspects of our services.
These responsibilities are to be performed at the lowest possible cost and in the most efficient manner possible. This is true regardless of the part of the world in which we are involved.
In several selected areas of the Church, our staff has been performing these functions. I have been grateful to observe that as temporal personnel properly perform their responsibilities, a heavy burden requiring much time and effort has been removed from the ecclesiastical leaders.
An example of what has taken place is found in the Boise, Idaho, multiregion where the essential cooperative and coordinating process which forms the basis for the council concept has been operating for the past year. We have witnessed a dramatic increase in local welfare self-sufficiency. They have increased the number of locally grown products from seven to twenty-six, a threefold increase; they have increased the number of locally canned products from three to eleven; and have almost eliminated the cash assessment. It has been reduced from $76,000 to less than $3,000. Furthermore, the 1980 plans call for producing eighteen additional items. This means they will be producing the forty-four basic food products contained on the bishop’s order.
In addition, they anticipate significant increases in the integration of the flow of products between farms. For example, a dairy operation in the welfare program will buy its hay from another welfare farm which produced the hay. Over time, this means they will be selling fewer items on the open market and using more of what they produce within the storehouse resource system. All of this has happened because priesthood leaders in the Boise area caught the vision of what could be done and then developed a plan with the assistance of temporal officers. Plans were then carried out, resulting in substantial progress toward desired self-sufficiency.
President Benson has instructed us in the overall concept of these councils, which I need not repeat. However, an important difference between the organization of area councils in the United States and Canada with those organized in international areas should be emphasized. The Presiding Bishopric has not appointed directors for temporal affairs within the United States and Canada because circumstances do not require them. Therefore, headquarters functional departments which are decentralized, such as Welfare Services, or those who have heavy field activity, such as the Physical Facilities Department, will assign an area director or other individuals designated by the Presiding Bishopric and their managing directors to interface with the executive administrators. These individuals in the United States and Canada will have the same duties and responsibilities pertaining to their functions as the director for temporal affairs has collectively in international areas.
In the United States and Canada, where we have extensive Welfare Services operations, it will require several weeks before all Welfare Services area directors are appointed. We ask, therefore, that all field staffs maintain their present reporting relationships and continue their present activities until each new organization is installed in conjunction with an area council meeting. Also at this meeting you will be informed as to how this change will affect your area and function.
Multiregion and region councils are organized to administer and correlate activities which involve more than one region or stake as well as to communicate and implement area council decisions. The organizational structure of multiregion and region councils is identical for the United States and Canada and all international areas.
An important difference between the area council and the multiregion/region councils is that membership at the multiregion and region levels is expanded to include the present Welfare Services councils or committees. This simply means that the chairman of the stake bishops’ council and the designated stake Relief Society president will also attend council meetings as voting members whenever Welfare Services matters are discussed. Outside the United States and Canada, the director for temporal affairs will see that appropriate temporal representatives attend multiregion and region council meetings when agenda items relating to their particular functions are discussed.
To me, one of the most significant aspects of this council approach is the opportunity for the establishment of priorities and plans for each area. As directed by the ecclesiastical line, each executive administrator will develop the priorities that meet the needs of his area. Much of what we as temporal officers do will be in response to these priorities. This is particularly true regarding the Welfare Services effort of the Church.
Over the years I have heard local leaders ask many times, “What should we be doing in our ward, our stake, our region? What aspects of welfare services should we be pursuing?” I am sure that every priesthood leader here has at one time or another asked himself these questions. This is particularly true of leaders whose stakes are not in the western United States where welfare work has been underway for over forty years.
Because of the magnitude of Welfare Services, particularly the operations of the storehouse resource system, it requires considerable study in order to be prepared to ask the Lord if our proposed plan is right and have him confirm its acceptability.
The First Presidency has counseled priesthood leaders to carefully and prayerfully develop a plan that will foster the local self-sufficiency of the Church. This is important in light of changing needs, rapid Church growth, the uncertainty of modern times, the obligation of the Church to care for its members in need, and the Lord’s commandment to be independent. However, this must be done in an orderly way and on a timely basis.
As members of the General Welfare Services Committee visit with you at conference time and during visits to your areas through the world, we find an increasing desire on the part of local leaders to become involved in the broader aspects of Welfare Services. Indeed, we sense that many leaders come to general conference and see Welfare Services operations here in the Mountain West in a very advanced stage and return home strongly motivated to duplicate what they have observed here. Without proper planning, this can lead to premature implementation, frustration, and even failure for both leaders and members.
Because we recognize that there are varying circumstances, such as diversity of needs, timeliness, and availability of resources, we have developed planning tools and a planning process to aid you in your efforts.
We believe there are two types of planning. They can best be described as first, basic planning and second, master planning.
Basic planning is rather informal and occurs primarily on the ward level. Each bishop does it as an integral and natural part of holding ward welfare services committee meetings. As its name suggests, it covers only the basics and includes organizing welfare services committees and councils, teaching gospel principles relating to welfare services, fostering personal and family preparedness, and assisting members from fast offering donations.
When an area or region is sufficiently mature and is prepared to set up a storehouse resource system, then more extensive and in-depth planning is required. This kind of planning is referred to as welfare services master planning.
Welfare services master planning is the process of—
Developing a plan for teaching welfare services principles.
Identifying needs of the poor, needy, and distressed.
Programming Church resources to meet those needs.
When the master plan is fully implemented, there will exist within an area those elements of the storehouse resource system required to assist bishops in caring for the Lord’s poor and distressed. (See D&C 52:40.)
The purposes of master planning can be achieved best through a phased approach. Phase one relates to strategic or “big picture” matters. The product of phase one planning is a description of Church welfare services in an area as it currently exists and what it eventually should and will become. Phase two relates to tactical or operational matters. The product of phase two will be a blueprint for the timely implementation of the storehouse resource system so that the area or zone may become self-sufficient.
There are seven steps in the master planning process. Through the area council, ecclesiastical and temporal officers are to—
Prepare and implement a formal area plan for teaching principles and programs.
Complete a needs and resources survey.
Review and adjust the bishop’s stocklist.
Study local conditions and constraints—legal, tax, agricultural, etc.
Prepare a map showing ecclesiastical boundaries and proposed placement of facilities and projects.
Recommend needed projects, facilities, and services.
Submit the plan to the General Welfare Services Committee for approval.
While the process of master planning is not complicated, it does require some time and effort. We hope that under the guidance of your respective executive administrators, each Regional Representative and stake president will respond to the need for welfare services master planning. Please recognize that the more completely you plan, the better we are jointly able to control the appropriate implementation of welfare services in your area. Our Welfare Services personnel stand ready to do their part. They have the forms, the experience, and the perspective which, coupled with your inspiration and insight into local needs, can produce a blueprint to guide welfare services implementation for years to come.
Now, may I give one example of both basic and master planning.
Some of you may recall a brief report I gave last October on the Church branch in Bermejillo, Mexico. With the help of welfare services missionaries, the branch president and his welfare services committee undertook some basic planning to apply the very basic welfare services program of the Church in their branch. Their work resulted in significant changes in the lives of Church members. They painted their homes, penned their livestock, and taught the essentials of personal and family preparedness, emphasizing good health practices.
The results today are that a chapel is under construction with most of the work being done by the members, including making their own bricks. President Rodolfo William Mortensen, the mission president, indicates that the branch is now a ward. Nearly every family has a garden; some even produce honey from bees. Most families have started a year’s supply of food. Convert baptisms have increased sharply in the past year. All this has happened because Bishop Castaneda, a convert of eight years, had the vision of how to lead his people in living the gospel in Bermejillo. Basic planning, starting with the welfare of his members and reaching out to touch every facet of their lives, has lifted this ward to heights previously not thought possible.
Now may I turn to an example here in the United States where conditions are considerably different. The Georgia-Alabama multiregion undertook the seven-step process of master planning. After the plan was approved at headquarters, it was implemented through the Welfare Services director, his agents, and in concert with stake welfare services committees and the two region councils that comprise this multiregion. In the fifteen succeeding months, they have acquired twenty-three production projects. Previously they had none. They have raised funds for a storehouse which is presently under construction and should be open by late summer. An LDS Social Services office has also been opened. Bishops have been better trained in caring for the needy, and the Saints have felt a great upsurge of security by being a part of this effort. They all have less need to fear than they had fifteen months ago, for the Lord said, “If ye are prepared ye shall not fear” (D&C 38:30).
As we witness what takes place when priesthood and temporal leaders first catch the vision of what the Lord expects, then, working in the proper councils, plan well, and then execute the plan, we see the fulfillment of the teachings of modern prophets as well as those of ancient times. May we go forth from this conference with a desire to “learn [our] duty, and … act in the office in which [we are] appointed, in all diligence” (D&C 107:99). I pray. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.