Saturday, August 2, 2014

How Well Prepared For The Millennium Are You And Your Family?

In 1971, then Commissioner of Church Education, Neal A. Maxwell, asked Henry B. Eyring, then newly appointed President of Ricks College in eastern Idaho, to chair a Select Committee to consider the future of higher education in the Church.(1) The committee was composed of twenty people heavily involved in Church Education from BYU, Ricks, Church College of Hawaii, LDS Business College, the Sunday School and Welfare programs. The group were an unusual blend.

The first meeting of this committee was in Salt Lake City in October 1971. It was marked by fresh and divergent thinking that led to some disagreement, but under Elder Eyring’s direction these twenty strong men were led by the Spirit. They were together three hours before lunch. At the end of that period they agreed to investigate a very interesting question:
"If we looked at a 10-year planning horizon and assumed the Lord would come then, what behaviors, attitudes, and skills would the members of the Church and those around them need to have for the Lord to be able to come?"(2) 
Does this question surprise you, coming as it did in 1971? It is a wonderful combination of focusing on a ten-year goal which heightens the immediacy of the question and also it’s practical nature–regarding skills, behaviors, and attitudes people will need in preparation for the Second Coming. The inquiry has the effect of cutting out the unessential and irrelevant. What should Church Education do in preparing people for the Second Coming? That is quite a different matter than asking what role does Church education play in preparing people for jobs and careers or even to build a happy productive life. It is a stark, direct, powerful question.

But even more interesting than the question are some of the answers the committee came up with. It is interesting what such a unique and creative interrogatory may produce by way of answers. It is a powerful question because it also focused the thinking of the committee on what is truly essential to know and to be able to do to stand when Christ comes. Some of the answers dealt with various things the prophets had said which had implications for higher education, which led to additional questions about such things as leadership in the Church. I think you will find their responses as imaginative, even as creative, as the original question. How would you have answered it? Here are five very thought provoking results listed in Elder Eyring’s journal on 21 October 1971
  1. The patriarchal order working well enough in most homes that the present auxiliary functions could be performed in the home.
  2. Most families, worldwide, economically self-supporting with a surplus to support education and church service.
  3. The solutions and people to implement them in place to produce social order and the health and nutrition environment for a peaceful, happy life.  (Must be implemented soon after the Savior’s coming.)
  4. The members bilingual, with English as a first or second language.
  5. Effective managers for the church in every country, many of them men now illiterate.(3)
These answers fascinate for a number of reasons. First, it is obvious that the list generally concerns “higher education” in the Church, but all of them begin at a very practical elementary level. There would probably be a different list of answers if the question involved Sunday School, the Seminary program, or even the Welfare program. Contemplation of potential differences in responses given in the context of these other levels of education produces useful insights and understanding about both sides of the comparison.  Second, it is interesting to consider the Church doctrines relative to the Second Coming which informed or lay behind each response. Third, when you analyze these answers they quickly fall into several categories. The first is family–a family strong enough to be independent of the Church for its spiritual guidance and leadership; families economically self-supporting and even producing a surplus. The second concerns the “social order”: suggesting that a certain kind of social order needs to be in place at the Second Coming and a significant factor in that order has to do with health and nutrition. The third and perhaps most puzzling for me, is the suggestion that members would need to know more than one language, but English should be universal. I would like to know their thinking about why this would be an important skill to possess at the inauguration of the Millennium. Finally, the issue of leadership in the Church worldwide–which implies especially the local level–in stakes, districts, wards, branches, priesthood groups and auxiliaries.  

Two final thoughts. If you agree that these are significant answers to a significant question, how do you assess you own preparation based on this list? How about your family? Finally, I found this so interesting and thought provoking that I am interested in your reactions and thoughts upon this heretofore unknown aspect of modern church history? I would appreciate it if you choose to engage in this conversation, that you would do so by commenting here rather than on my FaceBook page.

Let’s think together again, soon.


1. The story is rehearsed in, Robert I. Eaton and Henry J. Eyring, I Will Lead You Along: The Life of Henry B. Eyring, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2013), pp. 199-207.

2. Ibid, p. 200. 

3. Ibid.


  1. The first point, about the patriarchal order in the family working well enough to fill in for the auxiliary church functions - you think that includes ordinances too or just meetings and such? Seems to me that we would still have the need for the Priesthood hierarchy, to delegate the keys at least.

    1. No, I think it refers only to auxiliary functions, not priesthood work. Since this body was considering education in the Church, it was likely aimed primarily at the educational functions of the auxiliaries.