“Report of the Seminar for Regional Representatives,” Ensign, May 1977, 104–6
“We need to consider more the establishing of the Church among the Lamanites,” said President Spencer W. Kimball in his keynote sermon to the 127 Regional Representatives, the General Authorities, and other Church leaders gathered for the twenty-second Seminar for Regional Representatives of the Twelve, held April 1, the day prior to general conference.
President Kimball focused his remarks almost completely on “establishing the Lord’s Church among the Lamanites.” “This is not new to you,” he said, “but it is very vital, and it is time that we began to emphasize this part of the work.”
He reminded all present of the purposes of the Book of Mormon and read from the title page: “Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel … to show unto … the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD.”
The President reported on the recent area conferences in Latin America and particularly noted that some Aymara Indians of Ecuador sang in their native language “I Am a Child of God.” “They believed it. They felt it. They were not estranged. They felt that they were part of this great program.” He reported that “even though for decades I have been touring SoUth America and have been acquainted with the people there, this latest visit has been a revelation to me as I have witnessed the remarkable progress.”
“In this past year, the membership of the Church in western South America has more than doubled, and a very strong and important Lamanite population has emerged. There is a groundswell of interest and activity, and we are proud and pleased.” He said that there had been an increase of “more than 400 percent of the Lamanite missionaries” from these areas. The President also noted that this same pattern is evident in Mexico and Central America “where there are tens of thousands of pure-blood Indians, or Lamanites. The Mexican people are responding rapidly, not only in numbers, but in power, and in leadership and in strength.”
The President said that “the coming five years will be unbelievable if we will do our part.” He then reported that today “we have some half million Lamanite members in the Church, in the South Seas, in North and South America,” but that this represents only a small portion of the 60 million possible Lamanites in the world.
“A great many of you Regional Representatives are working in the areas of the children of Lehi,” said President Kimball. He reported that of the 840 stakes in the Church at present, “89 stakes are entirely Lamanite, 100 stakes have sizable numbers of Lamanites in them, and then we have approximately 380 stakes with some mixture of Lamanites in them.”
“The Lord certainly had in mind that there should be Lamanite branches, Lamanite stakes, Lamanite missions, Lamanite leaders, and the Church has begun to establish this kind of a program that has been touched upon but not fully completed.”
“This is a new day,” he said. “There is a new groundswell. The Lamanites have received a promise that Jacob shall flourish in the wilderness and the Lamanites shall blossom as the rose. Jacob is waiting for us to help. We have made much progress. We are grateful for it, but we haven’t begun to do enough. It seems to me that a new effort, a new direction should be taken to see that the Lamanites are not only baptized but that they are organized and trained. This work will flourish and grow, and we will see the Lamanites come forward into their own.”
Following President Kimball’s address, two major presentations were made—one dealing with our part in redeeming our dead and the other with changes in the Church youth programs.
“Just a year ago, two important additions were made to the standard works,” said Elder Howard W. Hunter, chairman of the Temple and Genealogy Executive Committee of the Quorum of the Twelve. “I’m sure we’ve all sensed the great significance in this historic action. These two revelations bear a common theme—the pressing urgency of the redemption of our dead.”
“This work is close to the Lord’s heart and should be close to our hearts. We must carry it out.” Elder Hunter then observed that an excellent “foundation has been laid that makes a new day possible,” a day that will see us “move forward by leaps and bounds.”
It was to the important concerns of preparing ourselves for the work to come that Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve then spoke. He noted the staggering complexity of this divinely given assignment—“one demographic study estimates that since the beginning 69 billion people have lived on the earth”—but he stressed that with “exciting new technological advances” (progress associated with the computer), a way has been provided for us to “move ahead.”
Elder Packer noted that the forthcoming changes—“some will take several years to complete”—will open the door for much greater activity in redeeming our dead.
The first change is in the “shifting” of the emphasis that the Genealogical Department exists to do the work for the Church to a new emphasis of assisting “members of the Church across the world to do their own research and temple work.”
A second shift—“perhaps the most significant of all”—“will place the decisions of ordinance work for the dead into the hands of local Church leaders, the way it is for the living.”
To facilitate the accomplishment of these responsibilities, local leaders will need to know “if the ordinance work has already been done.” Future plans include computer terminals in temples to open the door to locally obtaining this information quickly.
Another “important development contemplated” is for genealogical and temple work “to be recorded in family files,” and for “a family organization registry” so that the Saints may “know whether other branches of the family” are doing work, and “thus eliminate wasteful duplication.”
In order to accomplish the great work of giving our dead “a choice as to whether they will or will not accept baptism,” Elder Packer said “there will need to be many temples,” so “why not select sites by the hundreds and commence to build those temples now?”
“I answer by asking some questions,” he said. “Should we commence to build those temples, what good would it do? How would we keep them open? What names would we use? Whose work would we do? Presently we rely on hundreds of full-time employees to keep our temples open.”
Elder Packer said that “behind the scenes, work is going forward on smaller temples, more economical ones that can be placed near the people,” but the low number of names submitted by the membership of the Church at Present would make it impossible for such temples to remain effectively open.
What is it that we should do? “We ask,” said Elder Packer, “that you follow up on those things you have already been instructed to do:
—“Establish a family Organization and plan meetings and reunions to keep the family ties secure”;
—Individually “gather together personal records, certificates, diplomas, photographs—everything to prepare a life history”;
—“Once we have done this, we have the substance pulled together for the four-generation program,” and we should then complete the four-generation report for each family member.
Stressing the importance of the latter assignment, Elder Packer said that if the Saints completed the four-generation program, the Church would “have the beginnings to catalog our records by families, our pedigree referral system, our family organization file, and all of the other things contemplated.”
Following this presentation, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley of the Quorum of the Twelve and chairman of the Priesthood Executive Committee introduced programming, procedures, and administrative changes affecting the Young Men and Young Women programs of the Church. The changes (some details are still being worked out) are to be introduced in the June Regional Meetings to be held throughout the Church in a few weeks and relate to the mention of a general Young Men’s presidency which occurred during the Saturday morning general conference session. (See page 11.)
Elder Hinckley underscored the importance of the information to be given at the regional meetings by testifying that “if we save the youth, we build the future and we build the Church.”
During the proceedings of the seminar, President Ezra Taft Benson of the Quorum of the Twelve announced the calling of 16 additional Regional Representatives of the Twelve, bringing the total to 127 now serving. The new Regional Representatives are: Glenn Y. M. Lung of Honolulu, Hawaii; L. Aldin Porter of Boise, Idaho; Walter Spat of São Paulo, Brazil; Guillermo Garmendia of Tampico, Mexico; Albert LeRoy Middleton of Quito, Ecuador; Samuel Boren of Mesa, Arizona; N. Earl Deschamps of Santiago, Chile; Heber J. Badger of Seattle, Washington; Robert W. Barker of Kensington, Maryland; Arthur K. Nishimoto of Tokyo, Japan; Bill B. Cowser of Altona, Australia; J. Malan Heslop of Salt Lake City; Allen E. Litster of Quito, Ecuador; Wayne A. Mineer of Provo, Utah; Milton E. Smith of Orem, Utah; Earl C. Tingey of Easton, Connecticut. Five of the brethren have served previously as Regional Representatives and are being recalled.