COUNSELS TO THE DISTRICT PRESIDENTS, TRAVELING ELDERS, AND THE CHURCH IN GENERAL
DEAR BRETHREN,-- Your primary task when you visit the branches is to look into their books to see if things are being recorded properly, i.e., baptisms, confirmations and ordinations to various offices. Also make sure that children of the Saints, if they are under the age of eight, are being blessed by the elders on Sunday in the meetings of the Saints and not at any other time, except in case of special circumstances such as illness, poverty, etc. And make sure that the names and ages of the children blessed and the names of their parents, together with the names of the elders who blessed them, are being recorded in an orderly fashion in the Book of the Church, and also the day of the month the ordinance is administered. Then, look, into everything such as payments for books, etc., not allowing the branches to go into debt. Then you are free to teach and to preach as directed by the Holy Spirit; and insist in seeing that these things are being carried forth as they should be. -- Some consider these to be very small things, but I say in the name of the Lord that they are the biggest things; and it is a great loss to you to neglect your duty in these things. And now a word of counsel to all secretaries who have been appointed--remember to record all numbers correctly, because the angels of heaven are watching you always; remember that you will be promoted in the kingdom of God if you keep all these things in order; do not seek to preach
except as circumstances allow; rather let your concentration be on the books; put down the activities of everyone correctly; for the day will come when the books which are in heaven and in earth will be opened! And O! brethren, obey the counsel of God, and then you will be blessed greatly by him. Let the elders teach the Saints to baptize their children when they reach the age of eight; for God calls them accountable at that age. Some ask, "What purpose does that baptism serve?" And I answer that baptism is for the remission of sins. Have you heard anything about God's having revealed two kinds of baptism? No, never. Well, let all vain talk cease; and if someone fails to understand, let him pray to God to receive enlightenment on the matter. Someone says to a mother that her child is nine years old, but she is afraid that her child will bring shame on the cause if he were baptized because he plays so much and he is so bad; otherwise, he would have been baptized. I say, the sooner he is baptized, the better. No one ever became good except through baptism; and let your children play a little after they are baptized; that is better than for them to be sick in bed; but remember to teach them the purpose of baptism. Pertaining to the ordinance of the Lord's supper, no one is worthy to partake except those who have been baptized. It has been a practice in this country to give the bread and the wine to children or babies, but this is not right.
One purpose of the practice is that forgiveness of sins is given to all who partake of it honestly; but little children have no sins; for that reason, let parents of children strive to refrain from giving it except to those who have been baptized. It has also been a practice in this principality for teachers and priests to preside over meetings when there have been elders present. But from now on the highest priesthood is to preside in all meetings; and let the teachers and deacons always visit the Saints and teach them in their homes. See Doctrine and Covenants, p. 65, section 8.
Instruct the members to read the following books: -- Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Zion's Trumpet, Millenial Star and all the other pamphlets if they can, or at least strive to do so. Refrain from too much laughter in the homes, stories and all vain talk; there is an excess of harmful singing. I visit many branches along the country, and the first thing that happens after a meeting is over is singing. I am prevented from saying a word for an hour when the true need is to give counsel to various persons. I have to listen to the singing, and by then it is time to go to bed. I enjoy hearing singing as well as anyone in the country; but there is a time for everything, and in the meetings there is a time to sing, or in singing practices and on other occasions when circumstances allow. Instruct everyone to go to bed early for his good health and to receive wisdom; this is a commandment of the Lord to everyone. The priests and teachers are frequently prevented from officiating in their callings because of singing when they visit the homes of the members when everyone should be quiet at their entrace; for they come in the name of the Lord to officiate in their callings. May gracious God bless you together with all the Saints is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
[Translated from the Welsh original in Udgorn Seion, 1851, p. 151-3 by Ronald D. Dennis, 1529 W. 1170 North, Provo, Utah]