This biographical sketch is adapeted from "Elder
Robert L. Simpson," in the Ensign, July 1972, page 11 on the occasion
of Elder Simpson's call as Managing director of LDS Social Services (now
LDS Family Services).
It would be difficult for anyone who has met or heard
Elder Robert L. Simpson not to recognize that here is a man who has genuine
interest in and concern for others. How appropriate that such personal
makeup should symbolize the character of the
new managing director of the Church’s Social Services!
Prior to his call in 1961 to serve as first counselor
to Bishop Vandenberg, Elder Simpson spent most of his life in Southern
California, where he matured, attended college, and from which area he
was called to serve in the New Zealand Mission.
For the next nearly twenty years he worked for a
major California telephone company, serving as plant engineer, public relations
supervisor, and head of the accounting office.
During those years he served in a ward bishopric,
on a stake high council, as stake mission president, stake YMMIA superintendent,
seminary instructor, LDS Servicemen’s coordinator in North Africa and the
Middle East, and president of the
New Zealand Mission. Just a few months prior to his mission presidency,
the New Zealand Temple and college were dedicated.
Elder Simpson is married to the former Jelaire Kathryn
Chandler, also of Southern California, and they have had four children;
two sons and a daughter are living. He is now 56 years of age. (For further
biographical information see Improvement Era, December 1961 and
In his new assignment, Elder Simpson succeeds Elder
Marvin J. Ashton of the Council of
the Twelve. Elder Ashton will serve as an adviser to the Social Services,
replacing Elder Marion G. Romney of
the Council of the Twelve. The following interview further elaborates the
new calling of Elder Simpson.
Q. How do you feel about the role of the Church’s Social Services?
A. If anyone were to choose what might be considered getting
down to the grass roots of pure religion, this would be of prime consideration.
I’ve often thought that if the Savior were here among us, these are the
types of problems with which he would be
anxious to cope. At least, you derive that outlook from the accounts
given in the New Testament of Christ’s concern for those with problems.
This assignment involves human problems that seem to be beyond the ability
of the individual alone to repair.
It is interesting to me that about eight years ago
I served as a member of the Youth Guidance Committee, which was a forerunner
of this present social services program with its great potential working
through the bishops and stake presidents all over the Church.
Q. Briefly, how are stake social services committees developing throughout
A. There is a wide variation in development, depending upon the needs
and also the number of trained Latter-day Saints living in a given area.
The program contemplates that every stake will assign the needed number
of high councilors to a special social
services committee. These high councilors will then take the lead in
utilizing qualified and worthy Latter-day Saints in the stake who might
be assigned to help our members in such areas as medicine, counseling,
law, psychiatry, business, and so on.
These people are to be drawn upon through recommendation
of the bishop to the stake president. They may work together or individually
with members who may be referred to them. We already have had many thrilling
success stories to show how we are helping our own people to overcome serious
problems or difficulties in their lives.
Q. What are the major areas assigned to Social Services?
A. We’ve been assigned the unwed mother, problems attendant to use
of alcohol and drugs, Latter-day Saint prisoners, runaway youth, extreme
family and marital difficulties. In addition, we are assigned other areas
that are of a social nature:
adoption, care of the blind, and the foster home program for the Indian
Q. Which problem is bigger, drug abuse or alcoholism?
A. Drug abuse is certainly an item on many persons’ minds, but alcoholism
continues to be the number one drug problem. It far exceeds drug abuse
as far as wrecking homes and providing social problems for communities
and deaths on the highway. For
example, a few weeks ago a set of statistics was released from the
U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Admittedly, these are
only statistics from America, but they reflect a problem that is worldwide.
The report stated that the cost of coping with alcoholism is 15 billion
dollars a year in the U.S. Also, alcoholism takes an average of ten to
twelve years off the life of the alcoholic, and 28,000 traffic deaths in
the U.S. per year are attributed to alcoholism.
Of course, in the Church we are concerned from the
social aspect. We don’t regard the alcoholic as a person who is a violent
transgressor of the moral code. It’s all the things that alcoholism leads
to that concern us. We look at the alcoholic as a person who is ill, one
who has a serious malady that needs correction, and now we have some effective
ways of dealing with the problem.
Drugs are primarily a teenage and young adult problem,
and alcoholism is basically an adult problem. Medical science informs us
that some people have a body metabolism that makes them very vulnerable
to alcohol. Now, since no one knows what alcohol is going to do to him,
that first drink is very dangerous because a person just might be introducing
something into his system that may lead to lifelong addiction and misery.
Q. What about the Church’s work with those members who find themselves
A. This has been one of our most gratifying accomplishments, to be
able to establish a way to keep in touch with those few Saints who are
in prison, even excommunicated members of the Church in prison. Through
the priesthood, we use home teachers and family home evenings in our attempt
to rehabilitate our people. We have volunteer families come and befriend
the prisoners. There are some fine stories of rehabilitation.
Q. About how many Indian youth are presently placed with foster families
for the school year?
A. We’re placing approximately 6,000 Indian youth. This is a bright
light on the horizon for our Indian brothers and sisters. And while they
have opposition within their own ranks from some Indians who don’t want
the Indian people weaned away from
certain aspects of their Indian culture and habits, we know that as
long as the Indian lives in present-day society, he must be prepared to
deal with the modern world. Otherwise he is relegated to something less
than he could be, something less than he might enjoy.
The Church has been called by the Lord to concern
itself with the plight of our Indian brothers and sisters, and we are unashamedly
and proudly assisting in the development of this great people.
Q. As you look back, what are the highlights of the past ten years in
the Presiding Bishopric?
A. Without any question, the opportunity of working with youth. I am
particularly happy with the new achievement program for the youth. This
has been a very exciting program to be a part of—making it possible for
youth to set their own goals and helping them to accomplish those goals.
I plead with parents to turn this week to their teenage sons and daughters
and to review with them their progress on this year’s set of goals. If
the parents will only become knowledgeable about the desires of their children
and then help them move toward those goals, what joy and love would develop
within the homes of the Church!
[The following section is from the Ensign November 1989 on the occasion
of being named an emeritus General Authority]
Elder Robert L. Simpson, seventy-four, a General
Authority since 30 September 1961, when he was called as a counselor in
the Presiding Bishopric [was named an Emeritus General Authority October
1, 1989]. He has served as general Sunday School president and Managing
Director of the Temple Department, Pacific Area President, president of
the Los Angeles Temple, and president of the New Zealand and East London
missions. He has been a General Authority for twenty-eight years.
Elder Simpson died April 15, 2003 in Saint George, Utah. His
wife, Jelaire Kathryn Chandler Simpson, 88, who served with him, when he served in
the First Quorum of the Seventy from 1976-89, as he presided over the New Zealand
Mission from 1958-1961, and as the Los Angeles California Temple president from
1980-82, died June 20, 2009, in St. George, Utah.