“A Report of the Seminar for Regional Representatives,” Ensign, May 1979, 104–5
President Spencer W. Kimball’s address highlighted the seminar for Regional Representatives 30 March 1979. (See p. 105, this issue.) Later in that Friday seminar, which began the general conference weekend, other General Authorities presented organizational refinements, which, as President Kimball said, “have been made to hasten the unfolding of the Lord’s work in the latter days.”
President Ezra Taft Benson and Bishop Victor L. Brown explained the establishment of councils at the area and region levels. (For details, see their addresses given at the welfare session, pp. 86 and 89.)
After their discussions, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley lead a question/answer session involving Elder L. Tom Perry, Elder Thomas S. Monson, Elder David B. Haight, and Bishop J. Richard Clarke. Elder Hinckley then stressed that the changes are simple ones:
1. The title of the General Authority Area Supervisors and the Presiding Bishop’s area supervisors have been changed so there is a clear distinction between them. They are now known as Executive Administrators and Directors for Temporal Affairs, respectively.
2. The new councils at the area and region levels coordinate ecclesiastical and temporal lines, as do councils at the general, stake, ward, and family level.
3. Some multistake responsibilities previously held by stake presidents are now being given to the Regional Representatives.
President N. Eldon Tanner indicated that the structural refinements have the full support of all the General Authorities. “We think this will hasten the work of the Lord and give firm management to the affairs of the Church at all levels.”
Affirming the counsel of other speakers, President Tanner cautioned: “As we emphasize Church government through a system of councils, let us not forget the family council. So much of what we do in the Church is, and should be, aimed at helping individuals and families. Let us not forget the family council and do all we can to protect and nourish that basic unit of the Church.”
Elder Howard W. Hunter, speaking of some of the added responsibilities now given to Regional Representatives, indicated that they are “to assume a major role as the administrator of your regions … [to] ‘sit in council’ with stake presidents, … [and to] preside, prioritize, plan, regulate, and train at the regional council just as the Executive Administrator does at the area council.” He explained that Regional Representatives are to be “staff to the Executive Administrator” and, with a few exceptions, “line to the stake president.”
Elder Hunter also shared some interesting research results: “Of all the keys to the spiritual health and activity of a ward, the percentage of male ward members who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood is the best predictor of success or nonsuccess. Obviously, effective time spent in activating and advancing inactive or prospective elders can lift the whole ward. Just as obviously, if we want to help children and youth, we must first help parents.”
And concerning missionary work: “We have some excellent information which shows that, generally, the number of converts in a geographical area is more related to the number of Church members than to the number of full-time missionaries. Of all the things we can do to lift dramatically the number of convert baptisms, more effective involvement of Church members in missionary work tops the list.”
Elder Mark E. Petersen concluded the morning session of the seminar by describing “the image of a Regional Representative,” which, he said, is no different from the image of every other servant of God, regardless of his calling.
He emphasized the importance of making Jesus Christ our pattern—of being “even as he is”—of witnessing to others that Jesus is the Christ, and of being one as a group, even as he and his Father are one.
Encouraging personal righteousness, he reminded the leaders of their responsibility to be examples of the virtues which qualify one for the work (see D&C 4). “Being Christlike ourselves,” he said, “we will teach [others] to be Christlike. Being devoted ourselves, we will teach them devotion. Being willing to follow the program ourselves, we will teach them to follow instructions.”
Example within the home is equally important: “Do we set a Christlike example for our wives and children that they, too, through us, may believe in him?”
Elder Petersen cautioned against unrighteous ambition “for place, position, or distinction in the Church.” Instead, he said, “how vital it is that we have an attitude of complete compliance with our instructions and fulfill them in detail! … In all cases devotion to duty is the watchword.”
He concluded by reminding them that “the Lord expects us to be producers. He commands us to bring forth much fruit. … We are called and ordained to so labor that our fruit will remain” (see John 15:16). In other words, he said, “we must plan and pray and work toward the end that there will be no dropouts because of our neglect, no one losing their testimonies, no one going into inactivity.”
There is “a golden promise” if we are faithful, Elder Petersen said: “If ye keep my commandments,” the Savior promises, “ye shall abide in my love” (John 15:10).
Twelve new Regional Representatives were introduced at the seminar: Hiroshi Aki of Osaka, Japan; Waldo Pratt Call of Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico; Donald W. Cummings of Para Hills, South Australia; Ariel Alcises Fedrigotti, Sr., of Montevideo, Uruguay; Louis P. Hefer of Johannesburg, South Africa; Blaine L. Hudson of Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Leopoldo Larcher of Travagliato, Italy; Ian Goodwin Mackie of Epping, Australia; Spencer Hamlin Osborn of Salt Lake City, Utah; Arturo Palmieri of Buenos Aires, Argentina; In Sang Han of Seoul, Korea; and Neil Woodrow Zundel of Richmond, Virginia.