The word "officers," which occurs throughout this presentation, includes the president and general vice-presidents of the General Conference, the secretary and associate secretaries, the treasurer and undertreasurer; and at General Conference sessions, Autumn Councils, and similar meetings, it includes the vice-presidents for the overseas divisions. The "Executive Committee" at headquarters comprises, in addition to the officers of the General Conference, the general field secretaries, the departmental secretaries and their associates, and certain elective members. The precise personnel of both groups may be found listed in Articles 4 and 6 of the Constitution and By-Laws recorded in the back of the Year Book.—Editor.
Foreword.—On several occasions Elder McElhany has had candid, heart-to-heart talks with the General Conference Committee concerning problems, principles, and policies that are likewise of definite interest and concern to every worker in this movement. It is with satisfaction that we share with Ministry readers portions of one such talk, stenographically reported, as given in the General Conference Committee meeting of October 8, 1936, though not given primarily for publication. Here is the viewpoint of our appointed leader, which it is well for us to know and to use upon occasion, as the questions discussed are important ones. Other sections of this discussion will follow in a subsequent number.
These are stressful days. Crisis after crisis arises quickly. I do not believe any one man can or should trust his own judgment in trying to guide this work. Consequently, as president, I feel, as have my predecessors, the need of surrounding myself with the counsel of my fellow officers. I feel that that is the only right and proper thing to do. I know that in the past we have had good brethren, conscientious men, who have declared their conviction that the officers should not have officers' meetings, that they should not get together and talk over their problems, but I do not hold to that view at all. As you all know, when the entire staff of officers are present, they constitute quite a large group, and their councils might appear to partake of the functions of an Executive Committee session. However, it is our deliberate purpose that these officers' councils shall not partake of the nature of, or take the place of, the executive meetings of the General Conference Committee. I believe the functions of the two are entirely separate and distinct, and that the one should never be permitted to take the place of the other. I believe in the sovereign power of this Executive Committee. We invite the fullest discussion of all in the problems that arise here for the attention of this committee. We want every member of this committee to have an understanding of the reasons for every action proposed. We would like to have the fullest light thrown upon all these problems.
Moreover, I do not regard it as necessary that the officers should always agree, even in the presence of this committee. Always to agree to be in absolute agreement might give rise to the suspicion that there is a master mind dominating somewhere, and I do not think that condition should ever obtain. So I say, I do not think it necessary that the officers shall always agree as we approach a problem. But I do believe that as a body of serious-minded men—the Lord's men, counseling over the Lord's work—when we come to discuss problems, we ought to find our way to an agreement, and then all stand strongly and firmly and frankly on the positions we agree upon. I think that is right. [Voices: Amen!]
I believe in a free, untrammeled discussion of all our problems. I believe that such discussion contributes to unity. I often have my own mind changed by what I hear in committee discussion. I am more anxious that a real spirit of counsel and good fellowship prevail and that the committee have full access to all the facts on questions that come before us, than I am to predetermine what the decision of the committee shall be. I hope this committee will take no action until the majority are clear that the action is right.
Precedents and Policies
Now may I say a word about precedents? You know, with some people it is a rigid rule in life that if a thing has never been done, it cannot be done now. I cannot subscribe to that idea or that theory. It only serves to tie the hands of progress. With me it is not a question of whether a thing has ever been done before, but whether it is right, whether it is fair, whether it is just, whether the circumstances require that it be done now. I believe in policies, well defined and clear. I believe in rules, and I also believe in exceptions to rules.
It is possible to bind ourselves so as to become slaves to regulations of our own making. I think we should be men of courage, with courage enough to set aside our own regulations when we discover that these regulations are being made instruments of injustice or of inaction in our hands. In my opinion it is vastly more important for us sacredly to keep faith with our fellow workers than it is to hide behind some policy. Rather than betray the confidence of our fellow workers, it is better for us at times to vote them assistance when they believe it is a question of honor. I am sure we are all men of honor, and that we desire to be considered such.
Now having said all this, I wish to add something to it, and that is an expression of my great concern over the tendency of some to disregard and set aside well-tried policies. I feel a sense of alarm over that tendency, at times. When the whole field in a representative meeting agrees on certain plans and policies, I believe that we, as leaders, should earnestly endeavor to carry them out. If one here and there refuses, it will be only a short time until our agreements fall to pieces and chaos results.
To illustrate: We have our policies regarding the provision for our Sustentation Fund, and for mission support in the division of tithe. I have always believed that the tithe belongs out in the mission fields just as much as it does here in the homeland. Recognizing this truth, we have worked out a policy, a plan, to provide for that. I believe that every man ought to adhere faithfully to such a policy, and to carry it out.
Borrowing and Spending Money
I want also in this connection to voice an earnest appeal to all to avoid debt in the operation of every unit of the work, both conference and institutional. We have policies covering this matter, and I think they ought to be carried out.
Now perhaps I ought not to speak of this, but yet it is something upon which I feel we need caution. I do not believe that we should place in leadership any man who makes a practice of borrowing money without the intention of paying it back, hoping that the debt will be wiped out by inflation, or that the Lord will come and thus cancel it. I think that is a species of dishonesty, and I do not believe that the Lord can bless that kind of operating policy. Yet today there are some who advocate inflation as a remedy for our indebtedness. "Let us borrow everything we can get hold of," they say, "and then when inflation comes it will be wiped out."
Since I am now speaking here particularly upon the matter of finance, just a few words to ourselves personally—that is, with reference to economy in all our personal expense, expense that we report here to the office. I believe that every worker who is called to travel at the expense of the cause, should feel himself under a most solemn obligation to practice economy in every way possible. I think we ought to understand that it is a serious thing to fail in this regard. We are using sacred funds, dear brethren, to carry on this work, and every one of us should be an earnest guardian of those funds. We should not leave that to the treasury department alone.
(To be continued)