Prepare Every Needful Thing

Howard W. Hunter


Merchants tell us that customers are influenced to make purchases by the way products are displayed or by the way they are packaged. The color of the container, the attractiveness of the wrapping, or the shape of the package has an effect upon the consumer’s decision to buy. The visual image often makes or loses the sale. A dish of ice cream is enjoyed by nearly everyone, but it is often improved by ribbons of chocolate cascading down the sides, a fluff of whipped cream around the base, a light sprinkling of chopped nuts, and a cherry on top. Eyes open wider and lips smack with each addition that is made. The same principle applies to the teaching of lessons. Good visual aids and instructional materials increase the interest and assist in the learning processes.

Meetinghouse libraries have come into being and are being stocked with instructional materials to be used by the teachers in the Church to create more interest in lessons, to display them in the most attractive way to sell the idea, to visualize the point, to teach the gospel. Meetinghouse libraries add the chocolate and the nuts, and they put the cherry on top. The teaching may be excellent, but the materials from the library make it better. Abstract ideas may be difficult to understand, but when principles can be visually demonstrated to students, they comprehend more readily.

A discussion of the travels of Paul through the old part of the world is interesting; yet names such as Cyprus, Galatia, Macedonia, Ephesus, or Thessalonica are often unlocated places in our minds. Picture a teacher with a group of enthusiastic students around a large colored map. As the story is being told, they place pins at the points in Paul’s travels, then stretch different colored yarns from pin to pin to show his different missionary travels and his last journey to Rome. Now the lesson becomes fascinating. A picture is worth a thousand words. Advertisers know this, merchants know this, but no one knows it better than the teacher who is anxious about his or her students.

The Lord has been explicit in our day about the responsibility of the bearers of the priesthood to teach the gospel. The Church was less than one year old when the Lord gave a revelation through the Prophet Joseph Smith at Kirtland in which teaching was mentioned in these words:

“And again, the elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel.

“And they shall observe the covenants and church articles to do them, and these shall be their teachings, as they shall be directed by the Spirit.” (D&C 42:12–13.)

Thumbing through the Doctrine and Covenants to the eighty-eighth section, we find this statement of the Lord:

“And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118.)

After this injunction to teach one another, to seek wisdom out of the best books, and to seek learning, the Lord gave further instructions and suggested in very few words that programs be established to carry out these responsibilities. This is how he said it should be done: “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing. …” (D&C 88:119.)

If we are to teach one another, if we are to seek wisdom and learning by study and by faith, we must organize and prepare every needful thing. These words form the basis upon which the idea of the meetinghouse library is conceived—to “prepare every needful thing” for more effective teaching.

From the scriptures I have just read and the many others that might be cited, several things are made abundantly clear:

  1. 1.

    Every bearer of the priesthood within his sphere of influence and responsibility is to teach the gospel through precept and example. That is, he should be teaching by the example of living the gospel; also through words, learning experiences, and instructional materials.

  2. 2.

    Every bearer of the priesthood is to prepare himself to be an effective teacher by study, prayer, and faith.

  3. 3.

    Every bearer of the priesthood should seek the direction of the Spirit to guide him in his own life and to inspire him in his teaching efforts.

  4. 4.

    Every bearer of the priesthood has a sacred stewardship in the kingdom of God. Our time, our talents, our property, our priesthood callings are part of this stewardship.

Thus, in our teaching responsibilities we are blessed with the opportunity to respond by participating in the divine plan of saving men’s souls. As we serve we grow in our callings and can be fully accountable for our stewardship when called upon to do so. The meetinghouse library program is designed to help us be more effective in our teaching responsibility.

The Church Library Coordinating Committee was organized in 1968 under the direction of the First Presidency and has been given the responsibility of coordinating the methods and procedures to be followed in all of the library functions of the Church. This committee supervises the meetinghouse library program, which has been in operation for only a short time. Details of the program were carried to all areas of the Church during the first half of last year. A number of publications have been issued concerning the establishment and operation of the program. They include the Meetinghouse Library Bulletin, the Meetinghouse Library Handbook, and the Meetinghouse Library Technical Manual.

Let me review briefly the essential instructions, supervision, and features of the program.

  1. 1.

    The First Presidency established the policy that there would be one meetinghouse library in each meetinghouse of the Church. Regardless of the number of wards or branches meeting in the building, one library would serve all of them. Plans and specifications for such a facility may be secured from the Church Building Department. There are five alternate plans that make it possible to have a meetinghouse library in every type of Church building.

  2. 2.

    The program as it relates to the stake is to be supervised by the stake president through a stake director of libraries.

  3. 3.

    The meetinghouse library is to be supervised by a meetinghouse librarian. Associate librarians are called where more than one ward or branch use the building. Library assistants to help individual organizations may be called as members of the library staff.

  4. 4.

    The meetinghouse library is to house all equipment and instructional materials needed for adequate teaching. Equipment should include motion picture, slide, and overhead projectors; audio-tape and record players; a spirit duplicator; a screen; a dry-mount press; and other equipment as needed. Instructional materials to be included are books, magazines, manuals, handbooks, music, printed articles, pictures, charts, maps, slides, filmstrips, overhead transparencies, motion picture films, and other types of teaching materials that would be used by teachers.

The meetinghouse library program is now a permanent program of the Church to assist in better teaching of gospel principles. The quality of teaching will be greatly improved by the implementation of this library of instructional materials, and it will be needed in every meetinghouse. The statistics presented yesterday to the meeting of the Regional Representatives of the Twelve indicate that 72 percent of our meetinghouses now have such libraries. We strongly urge that those who have been slow in moving forward do so as rapidly as possible.

Now we come to the portion of the program which makes the library a vital part of teaching. There has just come from the press this booklet that I hold in my hand. You are not close enough to see its contents, but let me explain them to you. This is known as the Instructional Materials Catalog. In this publication are miniature illustrations of all the pictures related to topics now being taught in all the classes of the priesthood and auxiliary organizations, together with all those that will be taught during the coming year. All picture packets for lessons for the year 1972–73 are to be eliminated, and it will be necessary for materials normally supplied through packets to be ordered, filed, and circulated by and through the meetinghouse library for use in classes.

In this catalog, each of the pictures has been given an identification number. They will be ordered from the General Church Distribution Center by this number, and they will be filed in the library by this number. Lesson manuals will make reference in each lesson to the materials to be used by this standard number. The catalog will be available to the libraries and to all teachers. The writers of lessons will have this standard reference work available while preparing future lessons so they can prescribe materials that will be in the library. These visual aids will be referred to in the lesson manuals by the library number.

The Instructional Materials Catalog is in loose-leaf form so it can be expanded to include additional materials for future lessons. Many other types of materials will be added also, such as overhead transparencies, motion pictures, filmstrips, slides, tapes, and other media.

This is an exciting program, one that will give teachers the much-needed helps to make their teaching effective. The well-organized, adequately stocked, and competently staffed library will become the nerve center of the ward or branch for more excellence in teaching. You can now see why it is important to move forward in every meetinghouse to “prepare every needful thing,” as stated in the revelation from the Lord, for Churchwide uniformity in teaching assistance to all priesthood and auxiliary organizations. We encourage each member of the priesthood to make use of the meetinghouse library. Its purpose is to provide you, as well as the sisters who have teaching functions within the Church, with the materials and equipment to increase the quality of teaching.

I testify to you that the meetinghouse library program is divinely inspired. It is guided by the hand of our Heavenly Father to make teaching in the Church more effective. It has the immediate promise to increase the activity of the entire membership of the Church through making the messages of the gospel more vital in our lives. I pray we may be successful in this effort to “prepare every needful thing,” in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.