“Report of Sunday School Conference,” Ensign, May 1975, 122–24
The excitement of Sunday School general conference peaked Thursday evening, April 3, as two new counselors to General President Russell M. Nelson were sustained. President N. Eldon Tanner of the First Presidency announced at that session that B. Lloyd Poelman and Joe J. Christensen had been called to succeed Joseph B. Wirthlin and Richard L. Warner. Elder Wirthlin was sustained the following day as an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve and Brother Warner had been called as a Regional Representative of the Council of the Twelve. Brother Poelman, a Salt Lake City attorney, has served on the Sunday School general board since 1971, and Brother Christensen continues in his position as associate commissioner of education for seminaries and institutes.
The conference, with overflow crowds in all sessions, began early Thursday morning in the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City and included a full day of workshops, displays, and discussions for various phases of Sunday School work. They covered subjects from how to do lettering, make flannelboards, and use visual aid equipment, to Sunday Schools for the handicapped, correlated reports, curriculum, and public relations. Eight 16-millimeter films and four filmstrips were also shown.
One especially emphasized discussion was on activation. President Nelson attended and reminded the Sunday School leaders that “we are also the activators and fellowshipers in President Kimball’s missionary program.” The leaders were asked to share problems they have had in activation and then others in the audience related how they had solved similar situations. This and several other workshop sessions were repeated throughout the day to accommodate the large numbers of Sunday School leaders who attended.
At a Thursday afternoon session, new materials were presented. The Sunday School Executive Handbook has replaced the Guidebook for Superintendents and will phase out the old handbook. The new handbook will be used by all stake and ward Sunday School leaders, priesthood leaders with Sunday School stewardships, and all others interested. It is soon to be translated into a number of languages and constitutes Church policy on Sunday School matters. All new materials were available at the conference and can also be obtained now through Church Distribution.
Three self-training courses for ward and stake Sunday School leaders were also presented. Rapid leadership turnover, with Sunday School presidents serving an average of less than two years, has generated the need for these courses. They each include a workbook, cassette tape, and other publications which orient Sunday School leaders in their positions. Sunday School leaders emphasized that all stake and ward Sunday School leaders can benefit from them, not just new ones.
Also introduced were a new Course 12 teacher’s supplement and a new Course 16 teacher’s manual, which utilizes Ensign magazine conference reports; a Family Relations course, and special helps for exceptional students.
That evening, in the meeting at which the change in the general Sunday School presidency was announced, each of the incoming and outgoing counselors spoke briefly, as well as general board member Dr. Anne Osborn and President Nelson. Concluding speaker was Elder L. Tom Perry of the Council of the Twelve, who used the story of Daniel to illustrate the necessity of pursuing “a more excellent way. Have you ever contemplated what it means to be a little lower than the angels?” he asked.
The conference closed Friday morning with the traditional Sunday School breakfast, this one being the “largest ever.” At the breakfast, President Nelson advised Sunday School leaders to follow three guides that he has received from the Brethren: use the approved programs of the Church, increase efforts at activation, and encourage members to bring scriptures to Sunday School.
Elder O. Leslie Stone, Assistant to the Council of the Twelve, concluded the breakfast by making additional specific suggestions for the proper operation of Sunday Schools. These included special attention to non-attenders, starting and stopping on time, a prepared program, good greeters and ushers, avoiding announcements (they should be printed on the program), and encouraging priesthood leaders and holders to attend.