I think we lost valuable records sources when the Church decided, in the early 1970s – some say as part of Correlation; others say because Church archivists were opposed to storing so much paper – to curtail the number and depth of reports created by ward organizations. Perhaps the value of knowing the percentage of Primary teachers attending prayer meetings is minimal; perhaps we really don’t need a record of the sacrament meeting closing hymns sung in Petaluma, California in September, 1976 … although given the passage of enough time and the creativity of historians, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of valuable studies that now can never be made.
But all those potentially valuable records that weirdos like me like to sift through were created and catalogued and stored at a price. Just because I think it would surprise you to know the level of detail in which we used to preserve our history, take a look at this sample Sunday School report created in one ward in May, 1961. Note that it is Form 3 (an unnumbered record was the roll book kept in each class; Form 1 recorded each teacher’s attendance at various meetings and summarized the attendance in each teacher’s class; I have no idea what Form 2 counted; and there was an optional Form 4 compiled at the discretion of the stake Sunday School secretary drawing from all the Form 3’s submitted throughout the stake. Really.)
Form 3 and its purpose is described :
This form is prepared by the ward secretary and used by the ward and stake superintendencies, ward bishops and General Sunday school Board.
This is the operating report and balance statement for each ward or branch of the Church. At least four copies are made of this form and a copy sent to the bishop, the stake superintendent and the General Board of the Sunday School. One coy is kept in the ward or branch Sunday School file.
A bishop noting columns 10 and 12 can determine how many members at the various course age levels are absent each Sunday and how effectively the Sunday School of his ward is reaching the members. Columns 15 through 17 show what is being done to improve the activity of the ward Sunday School membership. Study of Columns 1 through 9 will indicate the dedication of each officer to his calling.
The stake and ward superintendents are alerted monthly by this form to the areas which need attention in the Sunday School.
Those of us who have come of age in recent decades, or at least have assumed ward leadership responsibilities since the 1970s, probably have little conception of the vast amounts of paperwork that used to be a part of Church duties!