“Missionary Expansion Highlights Regional, Mission Representatives’ Seminar,” Ensign, May 1974, 124
Calling for a greatly expanded missionary effort, a better use of mass media techniques to spread the message of the gospel, and the opening of doors now closed to the gospel, President Spencer W. Kimball delivered a historic message to the Regional and Mission Representatives of the Council of the Twelve at a pre-general conference seminar.
“How can we be satisfied with 100,000 converts [a year] out of the four billion people in the world who need the gospel?” he challenged.
President Kimball said that the Church has 17,564 full-time missionaries in the field, but “we can send more, many more.” He explained that in asking for more missionaries, he meant them to be well trained prior to their call. He also meant that young people would be so instructed that they would see that a mission would be a privilege. Missionaries should be physically fit, and mentally and spiritually well, and know that the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.
“I am asking for missionaries who have been well trained through their families and the institutions of the Church,” he said, and added, “We must train prospective missionaries much better, much earlier, and much longer so that each anticipates his mission with joy.”
President Kimball said that the Church needs to enlarge its field of operations and to make a full, prayerful study of the nations of the world that do not have the gospel. In this effort to reach other nations, President Kimball said that the Church may achieve its goals through the use of many strong and able men in government and in the foreign service. “I believe,” he said, “that we have men who could help the apostles open doors now closed to us,” who can make new contacts with emperors and kings, rulers and magistrates.
In this connection, President Kimball earlier had introduced David M. Kennedy, former United States Secretary of the Treasury, ambassador-at-large, and ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Brother Kennedy has been appointed special consultant for diplomatic affairs for the Church and “his great faith, ability, and worldwide experience will assist us to resolve problems that in some areas may hinder the expansion of our missionary efforts,” said President Kimball.
“I feel that when we have done all in our power, the Lord will find a way to open doors. Why should he break down the [iron and bamboo] curtains if we are still unprepared to enter?”
In referring to new techniques in mass media communications, President Kimball said that he was convinced that better use must be made of existing and future inventions. To help fulfill the words of the Lord that the “sound” must go forth to all the world, he said that millions of people could be reached through radio and television. He said that the inexpensive transistor radio could be carried by the people in the marketplaces of South America, on the Steppes of Russia, on the vast mountains and plains of China and the desert sands of Arabia and Egypt, and throughout India. He said that the Church has innumerable opportunities to use the many radio and television stations around the world “if we only prepare the messages in the native languages.”
He suggested that missionaries could be supplied with small, portable cassette tape recorders that would carry special messages in any language for their contacts. “Millions of people are anxious to learn the truth of the gospel if only they could hear it in their own language.”
President Kimball pointed out that the Lord has blessed man with communications satellites that now circle the globe, transmitting their messages to 67 stations in 50 countries. “With the Lord providing these miracles of communication, and with the increased efforts and devotion of our missionaries—and all of us—the sound will go forth.”
In talking of the need for more thorough training of missionaries, President Kimball called for the leaders of the Church to help young men become missionaries in their own countries, such as Mexican missionaries serving in Mexico, Japanese missionaries in Japan, American missionaries in America, and South American missionaries in South America.
President Kimball said he recognized that the program he envisioned would not be an easy matter, that it would not be achieved without effort, or overnight, “but I do have this faith that we can do the work and expand much faster than we have. I think the time has come when … we must change our sights and raise our goals. The gospel must be preached to every creature and we must find the way.”
President Kimball also announced that elders quorums now will be established in every ward and independent branch of the Church, regardless of the number of elders. Where there are more than 96 elders, the quorum should be divided.
This procedure means that elders quorums presidencies will now exist in every ward and branch and direction will not have to be sought from outside the ward or branch boundaries. There will be a greater opportunity for leadership development, and a closer relationship between bishops and branch presidents and elders quorum presidencies.
President Kimball said that there will be greater benefits in a compact quorum with the leaders having the dignity of the title and the power of the keys of the presidency. He added that since elders quorums are stake quorums, the change will provide greater opportunity for stake presidencies and stake Melchizedek Priesthood committees to train more quorum presidencies and increase the effectiveness of their work.
President Kimball also announced that stake presidents will now have the authority to ordain and set apart seventies within their stakes, when they have been approved by the First Council of the Seventy.
With the stake presidents setting apart seventies, “this should cause the seventies to look to the stake presidents for leadership, and cause stake presidents to give more effective direction to the work of the seventies,” said President Kimball.
“We expect to have complete cooperation between the stake and the full-time missionaries, and to involve the members of the Church in opening the gospel door to our Father’s other children,” he said.
He said that the seventies will be asked to carry the major responsibility for stake missionary work, and with the bishops provide the guidance necessary for every member to be a missionary.
The Regional and Mission Representatives also were told that their responsibilities would be rotated from time to time rather like that of a bishop, a stake president, or a mission president. President Kimball said that, as a general policy, Regional Representatives will be transferred to a new area after approximately two and one-half years so that “their new ideas and strong leadership might be shared with different areas.” Then, said President Kimball, approximately five years after their call, they may be released so that the privilege of serving as a Regional Representative may be shared with others.
Two new Regional Representatives were introduced at the seminar. J. Richard Clarke of the Ustick Ward, Meridian Idaho Stake, and Devere Harris of Portage Ward, Malad Idaho Stake. Brother Clarke will be a Regional Representative of the Twelve in the Blackfoot Region with other regions to be assigned in the future, and Brother Harris will be Regional Representative in the Pocatello and Pocatello North Regions.
Those attending the seminar also heard from Elder Thomas S. Monson of the Council of the Twelve, and a member of the Melchizedek Priesthood Committee.
Elder Monson presented a preview of a new filmstrip that will be shown at all stake conference leadership meetings. The presentation concerns the basic principles of the priesthood and outlines the responsibilities of the father as the head of the household who receives support from his elders quorum president and his bishop. They, in turn, receive support and guidance through Melchizedek and Aaronic Priesthood lines of communication to the president of the Church. The total organization exists to sustain the father in his role and to help the family grow and develop in the gospel.