A President of Seventy
SpencerWKimball
Spencer W Kimball

Through all this, Valerie enjoyed serving as a teacher and Presidency member in the Primary Association. She has always loved working with the little kids, and she tolerated my occasional Sunday absences with grace and aplomb.

In 1973, Spencer W Kimball became President of the Church. Among his earliest acts was to send a remarkable letter to the stake presidents in five metropolitan areas of the United States, bringing to their attention, as I recall, that the majority of the Jews in the world resided then within their areas and citing from the Book of Mormon:
2 Nephi 29:5 O ye Gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people.
Kingdom. Diverse, yes, but one former Church President declared, very specifically, that the Lord expects “every member [to be] a missionary,” whatever his other assignments.

When a neighbor has met the missionaries and is considering joining the Church, the mission organization is in charge of a conversion effort which, if successful, culminates in baptism and an instantaneous transition to membership in the local ward or branch congregation. From that point, the responsibility for support, fellowship, and ultimately retention switches to the ecclesiastical authorities that run that congregation.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see that full-time missionaries, who measure their success primarily by the number of people they can bring into the fold, might not always see procedural details and organizational criteria in exactly the same way as those who must pick up the ball after baptism. We’re all engaged in the same endeavor, but it can look a bit different from diverse points of view.

In that context, my first assignment to smooth out the missionary-member interface seems to have come in 1962, when I was called as second counselor to President Marcel Renaud of the Rennes Branch of the Le Mans District of the Church’s French Mission. I received that rôle and labored in it with much joy, which grew as did my love for that congregation and the people in it. When (after a record fourteen months and thirteen days) I finally left Rennes to work in the President’s staff in Paris, I wept to hear President Renaud tell the congregation that from his point of view, I’d been “dévoué comme nul autre.” I hoped fervently that, as my Uncle Thomas Shepard wrote, “…my work herein was not despised of the Lord,” ‘cause I really did love those people.
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