Beloved brethren, I have thrilled and thrilled as I have heard the names of the new Regional Representatives called out, and as I realize that we have a great many more quality brethren in all places in the world. It makes us very happy indeed that the brethren are so responsive when offered an opportunity to serve the Lord in this capacity.
Brethren and sisters, we do not want “simplification” to become a slogan or an encouragement to laziness. What we desire is to have Church programs serve Church members, not the reverse. We also want priesthood leaders to take into account, prayerfully and carefully, the needs of their members and to focus on meeting those basic needs. The programs of the Church can be great resources to that end, especially if priesthood leaders will also review local circumstances which may suggest ways in which the flexibility that is being provided can best be applied. You cannot look to the general boards and general committees as the primary source of information in explaining what the Church expects of its members. We have now passed the day when these boards and committees are able to take the program directly to the local level.
The Church does not have several organizational lines running from headquarters leaders to their local counterparts. There is only one fundamental organizational channel, and that is the priesthood channel, which runs from the First Presidency and the Twelve through the Zone Advisers, Area Supervisors, Regional Representatives, stake presidents, and bishops. The headquarters organizations will support and help those in the priesthood line as much as possible, but we must look to you brethren who are that priesthood line to assume more responsibility than you ever have before. Our task is to be simple enough to serve our people at the level of their need. That is the simplicity toward which we strive, even if that result demands work by some of us that does not seem so simple.
Just as the bishop takes care that no more funds are expended from the ward budget than have been budgeted for each organization, so he should be the chief budget officer in monitoring local expenditures of the time of Church members. In both cases, he must always keep the budget in balance.
The measured flexibility we are giving you is to help you to use your time more effectively in serving the Saints. There is a difference between being “anxiously engaged” and busy work, between moving forward with fundamentals and in pressing “meat” upon members when “milk” is what is needed first.
The mission of the Church to its members is to make available the principles, programs, and priesthood by which they can prepare themselves for exaltation. Our success, individually and as a Church, will largely be determined by how faithfully we focus on living the gospel in the home. Only as we see clearly the responsibilities of each individual and the role of families and homes can we properly understand that priesthood quorums and auxiliary organizations, even wards and stakes, exist primarily to help members live the gospel in the home. Then we can understand that people are more important than programs, and that Church programs should always support and never detract from gospel-centered family activities.
Members should achieve personal and family preparedness, assisting and strengthening their own family members and others temporally and spiritually in the Lord’s way. They should prepare for and obtain temple blessings for themselves and their kindred dead. They should share the gospel by example, by being a friend, bearing a testimony, serving missions, preparing sons for missions, and by supporting Church missionary efforts. Each member should develop talents, read good literature, be engaged in quality cultural pursuits, and become informed and participate appropriately in local and national civic affairs.
You will observe that all of these functions can best be accomplished through a strong home environment. Quorum leaders should ask themselves, how can we help our quorum members magnify their most important priesthood calling, that of husband and father in their own family? How can we help each priesthood bearer lead out in an environment of love and understanding, honoring his wife and consulting with her in her companion leadership role? Together with bishops and stake presidents they should ask, how can we help parents study the scriptures with their children and reap full blessings from regular and purposeful family home evenings together?
Relief Society leaders and teachers should ask, how can we help the wife and mother understand the dignity and worth of her role in the divine process of motherhood? How can we help her make her home a place of love and learning, a place of refuge and refinement? How can we strengthen her to assume an added family leadership role when her husband is away from the home, or in those homes without a father?
Auxiliary leaders and teachers of youth should ask, how can I help these young people to love and obey their parents, honor them, and be supportive of their family responsibilities? How can we schedule meetings, practices, and activities to avoid disrupting home relationships and responsibilities, and to allow time for family activities?
Our commitment to home-centered gospel living should become the clear message of every priesthood and auxiliary program, reducing, where necessary, some of the optional activities that may detract from proper focus on the family and the home.
We are mindful that many of our members live alone or with family members who do not share fully their commitment to gospel principles. We encourage them to join together in special home evening groups and to participate in local single adult activities to accomplish these same objectives, always striving to strengthen their family ties with parents, brothers and sisters, and other relatives.
As local Church leaders cautiously conserve the time that families can spend together, we say to both parents and children, “Come back home.” Parents should spend less time in clubs, bowling alleys, banquets, and social gatherings, and more time with their children. Young men and women must balance their involvement in school and other social activities with supportive participation in family activities and appropriate time in the home.
All should work together to make home a place where we love to be, a place of listening and learning, a place where each member can find mutual love, support, appreciation, and encouragement.
I repeat that our success, individually and as a Church, will largely be determined by how faithfully we focus on living the gospel in the home.