News of the Church


Assistants to the Twelve, Presiding Bishopric Announced

Two new Assistants to the Council of the Twelve were sustained and the Presiding Bishopric was reorganized during the opening session of the 142nd Annual General Conference of the Church on April 6.

Elder John H. Vandenberg, former Presiding Bishop, and Elder Robert L. Simpson, former first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, are the new Assistants to the Twelve.

Elder John H. Vandenberg New Assistant to the Twelve

Elder John H. Vandenberg

Bishop Victor L. Brown, former second counselor to Bishop Vandenberg, is the new Presiding Bishop of the Church. His counselors are H. Burke Peterson of Phoenix, Arizona, and Vaughn J. Featherstone of Boise, Idaho.

Bishop Victor L. Brown, New Presiding Bishop

Bishop Victor L. Brown

In his new assignment, Elder Vandenberg will become managing director of the new Church Department of Physical Facilities, which will coordinate the Church’s building, building operations and maintenance, and real estate departments. He has also been named president of the Cooperative Security Corporation, the welfare program’s legal entity.

Elder Simpson will become the new managing director of the Church Social Services, succeeding Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Council of the Twelve. Elder Ashton will be an adviser to this department, replacing Elder Marion J. Romney of the Council of the Twelve.

Elder Robert L. Simpson, New Managing Director of the Church Social Servies

Elder Robert L. Simpson

Elder Vandenberg served as Presiding Bishop for more than eleven years, having been called to that position in September 1961. Previously he was vice-president of the Church Building Committee, in charge of finances, and had served in the presidencies of the Denver and Ensign stakes.

Before his call to the Presiding Bishopric, Elder Simpson was an accounting executive in California. He served as president of the New Zealand Mission from 1958 to 1961.

Bishop Brown becomes the tenth Presiding Bishop of the Church since its organization in 1830. A former airline executive, he has also served as a ward bishop and as a member of the Denver Stake presidency.

Bishop Peterson, the new first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, has been serving as a Regional Representative of the Twelve since 1970. Prior to that assignment, he was president of the Phoenix North Stake. A civil engineer, he is a partner in an engineering corporation.

Bishop H. Burke Peterson, New First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric

Bishop H. Burke Peterson

Bishop Featherstone, training manager for a supermarket chain, was called to serve as president of Boise (Idaho) North Stake in 1970. His previous Church experience also includes service on the Church Priesthood Missionary Committee and the YMMIA general board.

Bishop Vaughn J. Featherstone, New Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric

Bishop Vaughn J. Featherstone

The July issue of the Ensign will feature articles and color photographs of each of these new General Authorities as well as all addresses delivered at the April conference.

Second Area General Conference in Mexico City

Mexico City has been selected as the site for the second area general conference of the Church, August 25–27. (The first area general conference was held last August in Manchester, England.) Invited are members of the stakes and missions in Mexico and Central America.

The three-day conference will be held in the National Auditorium at Chapultepec Park and will draw its attendance from over 70,000 members in Mexico and more than 30,000 Saints in Central America.

Simultaneous English-Spanish translations will be provided. The conference will be under direction of members of the First Presidency, who will be in attendance with other General Authorities.

The first session will begin at 7:00 P.M. Friday, August 25, when a talent program, or folklorico, will be presented. General sessions will be held Saturday at 10:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M. At 7:00 P.M. on Saturday three meetings will be held simultaneously: a priesthood meeting for members of the Melchizedek Priesthood and for prospective elders, a meeting for members of the Aaronic Priesthood, and a meeting for girls and women twelve years of age and over. Two final conference sessions will be held Sunday at 10:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M.

Emphasis in Historical Research

Two new assistant Church historians have been named to serve in the Historical Department, the new name of the former Church Historian’s Office.

The new appointees are Dr. James B. Allen, professor of history at Brigham Young University, and Dr. Davis Bitton, professor of history at the University of Utah. They will serve under the Church Historian, Dr. Leonard J. Arrington. Elder Alvin R. Dyer, Assistant to the Council of the Twelve, is managing director of the Historical Department.

The two brethren newly named will teach part time at their respective universities and will spend about half of their time researching and writing Church history at the Historical Department.

Dr. Allen, who specializes in Western American history, says that he is “pleased and excited about recording twentieth century history. However, there is a great need to bring to light, from diaries, journals, and old newspaper accounts, the feelings and perspectives of the average member of the Church. How did he feel about his time and his work? What were his hopes and disappointments? There are many fascinating and valuable stories to be recounted for the public to read,” he said.

Dr. Allen is a member of the BYU Fifth Stake high council. He and his wife, Renee, have five children.

Dr. Bitton, a specialist in Renaissance history, says that he is “pleased with the progressive spirit of the Church in establishing a systematic records management program and with the emphasis on professionalism. One intriguing project is a sesquicentennial history of the Church from 1830 to 1980. Oral history [interviews transcribed from tapes], research grants, and a series of history books that might be published by the Church from much new source material are other exciting projects that we are exploring.”

Of particular interest to Dr. Bitton in the recording of history is the “human aspect.” “The inspiration we can derive from great and good leaders from any period of time is an incalculable legacy,” he said. Dr. Bitton and his wife, Peggy, have five children.

[photo] Dr. James B. Allen

[photo] Dr. Davis Bitton

New Church Librarian

The First Presidency has announced the appointment of a Church Librarian, Donald T. Schmidt. He will serve under Elder Alvin R. Dyer of the Historical Department in a move aimed at strengthening the library and research facilities of the Church.

With this appointment, the Historical Department now has three divisions: Church Historian (Dr. Leonard J. Arrington), Church Archivist (Earl E. Olsen), and Church Librarian (Elder Schmidt).

The newly named librarian, who has been serving as assistant director of BYU libraries, will also be chairman of the Church’s Library Coordinating Committee.

“It is absolutely vital to the continuing education of the Saints that teachers and leaders learn of the great variety of audio and visual aids available for enhancing gospel lessons—and that they use them whenever possible. A knowledge of what meetinghouse libraries contain and a wise usage of those materials, together with the teacher development program, will provide a kind of gospel instruction superior to that found anywhere in the world. Progress in this area has been good, but there is still much more that we can do,” Brother Schmidt said.

Commenting about the Church library facilities at the soon-to-be completed General Church Office Building, Brother Schmidt noted that they will feature an open stack design to encourage and help scholars and researchers find the materials they need. Primary source materials, with some restrictions, will be available to the public.

Brother Schmidt is high priests group leader in the Oak Hills Fifth Ward, Sharon East Stake.

[photo] Donald T. Schmidt

Welfare Program Assignments

The Cooperative Security Corporation, legal entity of the Church Welfare Department, has been reorganized in a move to strengthen the corporation and to unify title holding and accounting procedures for the welfare program.

The First Presidency has announced that the Presiding Bishop of the Church and his two counselors will serve as president and vice-presidents, respectively, of the corporation. Elder Junior Wright Child has been named trustee and managing director, with Elder Henry E. Peterson as assistant managing director.

Advisers will be Elder Marion G. Romney of the Council of the Twelve and Elder William H. Bennett, Assistant to the Council of the Twelve.

Cooperative Security Corporation, the holding corporation and financial arm of the welfare program, will obtain title to all welfare properties and production projects of the Church and will set up uniform accounting procedures for each. The corporation is also empowered to handle welfare project loans and financing.

Elder Child, the new managing director, is a certified public accountant with extensive experience in business management and financing. A member of the YMMIA general board, he formerly served as president of the British South Mission and as president of Murray (Utah) South Stake.

Elder Peterson, who has been serving as agricultural production director of the welfare program, was formerly employed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A Regional Representative of the Twelve, he has also served as president of Bountiful (Utah) North Stake.

[photo] Junior Wright Child