News of the Church

Elder Benson Receives Patriotic Honor

Elder Ezra Taft Benson of the Council of the Twelve was recently honored by a group of prominent American citizens who promote and encourage patriotism. The group, New England Rally for God, Family, and Country, gathered in Boston for their tenth annual forum and saluted Elder Benson at a dinner in his honor as an “inspired and inspiring religious leader; wise and purposeful cabinet member; dedicated and courageous American.” Elder Benson was formerly a member of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s cabinet, serving as Secretary of Agriculture (1953–1961).

In his remarks at the occasion, Elder Benson noted that “this past year … my grandson, who is attending this rally with several others of our posterity, was introduced to the historical character Israel Putnam. Israel Putnam was one of the revolutionary war farmers who left his plow in the field and who gave up his comfort in order to protect his family, defend his inalienable God-given rights, and help establish this great, free country. It is heartening to know that today there are still those who answer to the rallying cry of God, family, and country.

“Today, it was my privilege to walk across a part of that sacred soil where some of the best blood of Israel Putnam’s generation was shed for freedom and for the redemption of this land. Those noble souls did not initiate freedom, for freedom is a God-given eternal principle. But they defended and preserved it, and one of the privileges of mortal life is the opportunity to rise in freedom’s defense during the time when Lucifer is permitted to tempt and test men with his satanic schemes of slavery. This is part of our mission today. The same sun that shone on Israel Putnam during his mortal probation shines on us. And the same issues of light and darkness, force and freedom, right and wrong, that provided men a chance to prove themselves in his day continue to sift the souls of men today.”

Elder Benson also encouraged the founding of strong families. “Multiply your influence by raising up God-fearing patriots at your own fireside,” he said. “We need more than one generation of patriots in a family line. We need more men like John Adams, who took time amid all the demands of the revolution and the building of this republic to teach and train a future president, his own son, John Quincy Adams.

“Not only should you have a strong spiritual home, but you should have a strong temporal home. Avoid financial bondage by getting out of debt as soon as you can. Pay as you go, and live within your income.”

Oakland Temple President Appointed

Wallace Lowell Castleton is the new president of the Oakland Temple. He succeeds Thomas Osmond Call.

Sister Castleton will serve as temple matron.

President Castleton was born in Salt Lake City, where he founded a chain of specialty stores. He served in the New Zealand Mission, was a member of the Sunday School general board, and has been a counselor in the Grant Stake presidency.

Prior to his current call he and Sister Castleton served in the Kansas-Missouri Mission.

Promised Valley Playhouse Dedicated

Declared a State Historic Site by the Utah Historical Society, the Promised Valley Playhouse opened its doors in Salt Lake City this summer with the annual presentation of Promised Valley, the musical version of the Mormon pioneer movement.

The Playhouse, originally constructed at the turn of the century, has been acquired by the Church and restored to its early-day splendor.

Dedicated by President Marion G. Romney, the theater will house the pioneer drama as well as many other entertainment events. Promised Valley has been a summer outdoor attraction for many years, but its new home provides a setting for many technical effects impossible with the open-air stage.

Sunday School Organizational Changes

The following changes in the Sunday School organizational program have recently been announced:

Stake and ward Sunday Schools have formed executive committees consisting of the Sunday School presidency, Junior Sunday School coordinator, and secretary. The executive committee meets regularly to plan meetings and implement instructions from the Sunday School general board and from ward and stake priesthood leaders. These executive committee meetings replace the superintendency planning meetings held in the past.

In addition, to strengthen the work, the following responsibilities are assigned to stake and ward Sunday School officers: president—administers entire program and supervises his counselors, Junior Sunday School coordinator, and secretary; youth and young adult area counselor—supervises the teachers of courses 8–17 and the senior Sunday School music; adult area counselor—supervises the teachers of courses 8–17 and inservice leaders; Junior Sunday School coordinator—supervises assistant secretary, Junior Sunday School music, and teachers of courses 3–7.

The functions of other stake and ward faculty members remain unchanged, and they are not members of the executive committee. (Sunday School Bulletin.)

Summer Pageants Tell Story of the Church

More than a quarter million people witnessed summer salutes to the Latter-day Saint pioneers and the history of the Church as pageants were held at the Hill Cumorah, near Palmyra, New York; in Oakland, California; and in Manti, Utah; and the annual Days of ’47 parade was held in Salt Lake City.

The giant parade celebrated the 125-year history of Salt Lake City, and the many floats, bands, and other entries from church and civic organizations were led by members of the First Presidency in an open-topped car.

More than 110,000 people witnessed the thirty-sixth annual presentation of the Hill Cumorah Pageant. The 625-member cast had the usual week of rehearsals before presenting what has been termed the largest religious pageant in the United States.

From its small beginnings in 1967 as a stake presentation, the Mormon Miracle Pageant on the grounds of the Manti Temple has grown to a seven-night presentation with a cast of 300. This year’s event attracted some 100,000 people.

Approximately 1400 young people participated in the biennial Oakland Temple Pageant, which this year drew an audience of 20,000. Originally written in 1954, the pageant achieved renown when it was made a part of the Oakland Temple dedication in 1964.

[photo] Scene from the Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti, Utah