Conference Report in January Ensign

Thousands of Church leaders streamed into Salt Lake City to attend the October General Conference and to participate in separate Relief Society and Sunday School conferences. Millions of others, both Mormons and non-Mormons alike, participated in the general conference sessions by means of television or radio. Full coverage of the conference, with all the conference talks, will be published in the January 1974 issue of the Ensign.

Statement on Home Storage Issued by Presiding Bishop

“The Church has encouraged the storing of only life’s necessities such as food, clothing, and bedding,” declared Presiding Bishop Victor L. Brown in a statement on home storage.

Bishop Brown said:

“For decades the Church has advocated home storage, generally a year’s supply, as a safeguard against emergencies and shortages which may occur. This counsel was reiterated at the recent [October] General Conference of the Church. With an abundant harvest this year, families may appropriately take advantage of the opportunity to store food. Members are advised not to borrow money to put in large stores of goods.

“Members are counseled to use prudence and seek reliable information on what and how to store, and are cautioned to use care and observe local laws and ordinances in their storage procedures.”

Stockholm Is Site of 1974 Area General Conference

STOCKHOLM, Sweden—The 5,000-seat Convention Hall of this city’s International Fair and Congress Center will be the location of the Area General Conference of the Church, to be held August 16–18, 1974.

Invited to attend the three-day conference are the 15,000 Saints living in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland.

In announcing the conference, which is similar to the ones held in London, Mexico City, and Munich, President Harold B. Lee said that it will be under the direction of the First Presidency, with members of the General Authorities participating. Also included, said President Lee, will be “messages from some of the dedicated leaders of the Church in these countries which, for nearly a century and a half, have contributed some of the most stalwart members of the Church, among them some who have been General Authorities.”

Because of the limited seats available in the Convention Hall, the First Presidency has requested that Saints from other countries do not attend the conference.

The conference will begin Friday evening, August 16, with an activity and social program which local Saints will present. General sessions are scheduled Saturday morning and afternoon, with separate sessions for priesthood holders and for women of the Church Saturday evening. Concluding sessions will be Sunday morning and afternoon.

The conference comes 124 years after missionary work began in Scandinavia in 1850. Sweden became a separate mission in 1905; missions were created for Denmark and Norway in 1920. Finland became a mission for the Church in 1947.

[photo] The 5,000-seat Convention Hall of Stockholm’s International Fair and Congress Center, will house the Church’s fourth Area General Conference scheduled for August 1974 to which the 15,000 Saints of Scandinavia have been invited by the First Presidency.

Missionaries Needed to Keep Health Program Healthy

Over 100 health services missionaries are currently serving in 22 countries around the world. This program of the Church is expanding under the pressure of increasing demands from missions from North America to the Orient. But a shortage of missionary candidates is hampering its progress.

During the next few months nearly 50 health services missionaries will be released after completing full-time missions. At least 100 calls will be made in 1974 to replace those being released or to meet the needs for additional new missionaries.

Once in the field, the health services missionaries work to prevent disease rather than practice medicine or care for patients. They teach proper nutrition and sanitation habits, care of children, and first aid and home nursing, and also help members make wise use of local health sources. Their work has won the praise of local government as well as priesthood and auxiliary leaders.

The work of the health missionaries makes it much easier for the proselyting missionaries to reach nonmember families.

Eileen Draper, a recently returned health services missionary who lived and worked among Indian members in a remote Guatemalan village, made this comment about her 18 months of labor:

“I feel that, through our efforts, ignorance was replaced by knowledge, truth took the place of tradition, understanding overcame fear, and hope now exists where despair once prevailed. Members now understand more about the cause of health problems and are better able to prevent or cope with them. What a thrill it was to see mothers learn to care for their children and wives to find that cooking on a simple stove was better than kneeling in the smoke from a fire built on the floor.”

“The work of the health missionary brings spiritual as well as physical blessings,” she continued.

Through their example and work, health services missionaries are showing the gospel in action. Most health missionaries, in addition to their health work, are also teaching investigators.

The health missionary program places physicians, nurses, nutritionists, dentists, dental hygienists, home economists, health educators, and others in health teaching assignments in missions around the world. Both single persons and older couples are being called on these missions.

Presiding Bishop Victor L. Brown, chairman of the Church Welfare Services Committee, has urged that every potential health services missionary give consideration to a mission, and discuss such a call with his bishop or branch president.

As Others See Us: The Media Looks at the Church

From England, to Canada, and to Europe, by means of newspapers, magazines, radio, and television, more and more people throughout the world are coming to know of the Church and its activities.

Newspaper readers throughout the United States and Canada have been recently reading major articles on the family home evening program, a dance festival, and the growth of the Church.

The Vancouver Sun, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, recently carried a feature article on the Church with emphasis on family home evening and on the Church’s outward reach by means of radio.

Writing of the members of the Church, feature writer Sean Rossiter stated, “They also believe in the down-home, one husband, one wife and lots-of-kids family we all used to know and love.

“That billboard that towered a couple of months ago over downtown Granville Street [the heart of Vancouver’s business district]—‘No other success can compensate for failure in the home’—must have irked the 18-hour-a-day stocks and bonds promoters whose marriages are in the hands of their lawyers.

“Then there was the radio commercial over CKWX and CJOR:

“Remember last week when you said next week you’d spend more time with your children?

‘Well, it’s next week.’” The writer then went on to talk of the Family Home Evening manual that, he said, has been called “probably the most creative manual published by any church.”

Louis Cassels, a senior editor for United Press International, recently told the story of the Church in a series on the religious faiths of America.

Said he, “The success of the Mormon ‘family home evenings’ and a fabulously vigorous and varied youth program (everything from symphony orchestras to basketball teams), have enabled them to do what few other religious bodies have done in our time. They have kept most of their younger generation ‘strong in the faith’ of their fathers.”

The recent Area General Conference in Munich and the European tour of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir also elicited a great deal of favorable publicity for the Church.

David Wigg, writing in The Times of London, England, said of the choir, “… it becomes a national institution almost blasphemous to criticize.”

An unusual view of the choir was given by columnist Herb Caen writing in the San Francisco (California) Chronicle.

“‘MILK, MILK, OR MILK?’: What may well be the biggest non-smoking, nondrinking flight in the history of aviation takes off tomorrow in the form of a World Airways’ chartered 747 carrying 421 Mormons, including the famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir, to a conference in Munich. No coffee or tea, but 75 gallons of milk, will be stowed aboard for the passengers, also a record.”

Also from California came a Los Angeles Times story on the Southern California Dance Festival:

“The statistics are boggling: 6,000 teenagers in costumes that took 40,000 yards of fabric, 300 pounds of glitter, 390,000 spangles, 10,000 feet of zippers, 6,000 mirrors and 90,000 feathers—all 6,000 dancing at once in the Rose Bowl.

“Watching them will be 70,000—or more—members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their guests—the largest gathering of Mormons anywhere in the world.”

In an editorial on Salt Lake City, The Oxbow Herald, Oxbow, Saskatchewan, Canada, recently stated:

“Salt Lake City, 65% Mormon and very definitely influenced by Mormon thought, is a living, thriving example that the United States, 1973, is not all bad, is not totally immoral, and, as some Canadians would like to think, is not entirely populated by crooks.”

“Salt Lake City represents much of what is good in America. New York, Detroit, Houston, and New Orleans receive wide coverage for their murders, their drugs, their violence. But in all fairness to the United States there are other Americans, millions of them, who are good, kind, and law-abiding citizens. Salt Lake City is but a symbol of all that is best in America.”

Singing Sisters Aid Celebrations

[photo] The Huang sisters, students at Brigham Young University from Taiwan, were recently invited to participate in their homeland’s national days celebration. Well-known as television performers in Taiwan before they enrolled at BYU two and one-half years ago, the sisters toured the country and also made special television appearances. Singing with them was Howard Lo, a BYU librarian and coordinator of the Chinese Students Federation that arranged a charter flight of Chinese students from the United States to Taiwan for the festivities. The Huang sisters, seen above, are, from front, clockwise, Michelle, Christine, Peggy, and Lucy. A fifth sister, Lisa, also attends BYU and sings with the group, but did not join the tour.

Christmas on Temple Square

[photo] Thousands of visitors are expected to come to Temple Square, Salt Lake City, for the annual Christmas festivities of music and song. In keeping with the national policy to conserve energy, the myriad of lights will not twinkle from the Temple Square trees, but there will be the illuminated nativity scene and some touches of color to the regular lighting. There will be the Christmas concerts that so many people look forward to each year. Starting December 8 with the Annual Youth Songfest, programs to be presented are the Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus Christmas Concert, December 12; the Salt Lake Oratorio Society’s performance of Handel’s Messiah, December 15 and 16 (December 16 performance at 2:00 P.M.); the Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert, December 20; and the Primary Children’s Christmas program, December 18, 19, and 21. All performances, except the one noted, will be at 8:00 P.M.

Social Services Department Develops Corporate Offshoot

Dr. Victor L. Brown, Jr., has been appointed commissioner of a newly-created Social Services Corporation that will be the legal administrative office for the Social Services Department.

Glen E. Van Wagenen has been appointed associate commissioner; William E. Bush will serve as assistant commissioner.

Elder Robert L. Simpson, Assistant to the Council of the Twelve, will continue as managing director of Social Services Department which oversees the total Church social service program. The new corporation will represent Church social services where licensed personnel are required in such areas as adoption and foster care.

Chairman of the board of LDS Social Services Corporation is Presiding Bishop Victor L. Brown.

[photo] Dr. Victor L. Brown, Jr.

Physical Facilities Representative—New Church Calling

Reporting Responsibilities

Every mission and stake president is aware of his responsibility for the physical facilities under his jurisdiction. Not only is there consideration of building site acquisitions, but also of construction and day-to-day maintenance and operation of existing buildings.

To help fill this responsibility, the Church is now implementing a priesthood-oriented program throughout the United States and Canada whereby a physical facilities representative will be called in each stake and mission.

In the stakes, this representative will be a high councilor or an alternate high councilor. In the missions he is to be a local priesthood bearer, but not a proselyting missionary.

In a letter to stake and mission presidents, the First Presidency pointed out that the role of the physical facilities representative is a prime Church assignment.

Each representative will work not only with local priesthood leaders but also will have contact with the Church’s Department of Physical Facilities which consists of the Real Estate, Building, and Operations and Maintenance Divisions.

A job description prepared by the department states that the priesthood holder chosen as the mission or stake physical facilities representative should be chosen for his knowledge of building construction and maintenance procedures. He must be able to supervise specialists in these fields, including custodians whom he will have to train.

“He will represent the stake president or the mission president as a technical adviser in matters pertaining to real estate, construction, repair, and maintenance in Church-owned buildings and grounds,” explained Carvel Davis, director of the Operations and Maintenance Division. “He also will coordinate these activities with the bishops or branch presidents.

“We don’t suggest that one man try to do everything by himself. In fact, we recommend that assistants be called to work with him wherever necessary. For instance, if I were a stake physical facilities representative, I’d have a team of people knowledgeable in specific areas. I might have assistants who are plumbers, electricians, roofers, and custodial and general maintenance experts. Assistants could be called to provide the necessary expertise when real estate is to be purchased or a building constructed. They could be released as assistants at the completion of the project.

“The whole purpose of this program is to align this area with the priesthood. Up to now there have been people serving in these capacities, but they have not been a part of the priesthood line of authority throughout their stakes or missions.”

Currently, information on the program in the form of a new Handbook for Physical Facilities and a filmstrip giving an overview of the representative’s responsibilities and the role he will play in the stake or mission is being distributed to all mission and stake presidents in the United States and Canada. Distribution throughout other areas of the Church will follow.

Saints Prepare to Build Anew after Chapel Gutted by Fire

“We’re going to roll up our sleeves and get to work, and get a new building,” said Bishop Earl Limb following the fire that gutted the Minersville Ward Meetinghouse, Beaver Stake, Utah.

The fire, believed to have started in the electrical wiring, was first noticed in the early hours of October 12 by a farmer who was bringing in his cows for milking. His warning of flames reaching up from the building’s cultural hall started a community-wide alarm with people driving around sounding their car horns. Minersville is an almost 100 per cent LDS community with a ward membership of 463, and a non-LDS population of approximately 30.

“The fire spread from the cultural hall, through the chapel, and then into the area of the Relief Society room, and the classrooms,” said Bishop Limb. “We tried to save the piano in the cultural hall, but the roof started falling in and it got to be too dangerous, so we got out. We lost everything in the chapel: the organ, piano, songbooks, sacrament trays, benches, carpets, painting, everything. We lost everything in the cultural hall and the kitchen, but we did manage to save the silverware that was stored in the Relief Society room, and the quilts that were on frames. We managed to save the records and the furniture from the bishop’s office, and the classroom furniture.

“We have a fire truck here in Minersville, but we had to call for additional help from nearby communities. The water probably evaporated before it hit the flames, the fire was putting out so much heat.”

Bishop Limb estimates it will take two years to rebuild, and in the meantime, the ward will be meeting in the local elementary school building. “The fire hit us on a Friday, and we met in the school on Sunday. We used white plates for the sacrament bread and the other wards in the stake shared their extra water trays with us as well as their songbooks.”

The meetinghouse, dedicated in 1951, cost a total of $97,000, less than the ward’s present share of a new building. “But everything is moving right along, and everyone is cooperating and willing to help and sacrifice that we might have our own building again. I think working together to build anew will make us a more united ward, and we will be more grateful for what we have.”

LDS Scene

Dr. James M. Drake, a member of the Church born in Logan, Utah, now living and teaching in London, England, recently completed his fifth series of organ recitals in Europe. At the invitation of local church organists he played in such famous places as Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and St. Jakobi Church in Hamburg, Germany. On this concert tour he also was invited to play in the 1,000-year-old cathedral at Erfurt, East Germany.

Although he had been invited to East Germany by cathedral authorities, he was at first refused permission to enter that country because of his American citizenship. However, he was finally permitted to enter; while in Erfurt, he stayed in the home of the cathedral organist.

He also attended a fast and testimony meeting of a nearby branch of the Church at which all 70 members bore their testimonies.

When he gave his Erfurt recital, and as a tribute to the local Saints, he opened with “Come, Come, Ye Saints.” “Rarely have I felt the Spirit of the Lord so strongly,” he reports. “There were tears shed by the Saints as they listened to this stirring hymn. At the conclusion of the recital it was difficult for me to leave the Saints, but I did have the opportunity of discussing Church doctrine with cathedral authorities, one of whom remarked, ‘I have the greatest respect for these Mormons.’”

Elder Theodore M. Burton, Assistant to the Council of the Twelve, presided at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Mormon Pavilion to be constructed in Spokane, Washington, for Expo 74. The pavilion, which will be constructed on piers over the Spokane River, will be fronted by a nine-foot statue of the Angel Moroni. Access to the structure will be by a ramp. With “Ancient America Speaks” as its theme, the pavilion is designed to resemble the gold plates from which the Prophet Joseph translated the Book of Mormon.

Dr. Mary B. Hess, a member of the education department and director of the Ricks Reading Center at Ricks College, Rexburg, Idaho, has been elected secretary of the Western College Reading Association, a national organization of colleges and universities throughout the United States and Canada.

Warrant Officer James Grant Shuman is the recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism “above and beyond the call of duty.” Brother Shuman, son of Brother and Sister Grant Shuman of Ridgeland, South Carolina, was serving in the Indo-China War as the commander of a utility helicopter on an emergency medical evacuation and resupply mission to aid a besieged command post. Although the area was known to be heavy with enemy troops armed with anti-aircraft weapons, Brother Shuman flew a successful mission against intense enemy action. Currently living in Tacoma, Washington, while stationed at Fort Lewis, Brother Shuman and his wife, the former Donna K. Pittman, are active in ward and stake work.

Sandy Yvette Nahnokerchee, a Comanche Sac-Fox Indian from Lawton, Oklahoma, has been elected Miss Indian BYU. A sophomore majoring in youth leadership, Sister Nahnokerchee was chosen during the annual Indian Week festivities at Brigham Young University. Her attendants are Claralynn West, a White Mountain Apache from Forest Dale, Arizona, and Mildred Cody, a Navajo from Flagstaff, Arizona.

Evidence of the growth and strength of the Church in Bolivia is the ordination of the first Aymara-speaking Indian natives as elders. The three new elders are Leon Caro, Justo Cuentas, and Benedicto Vega. The Bolivia Mission now has 20 full-time missionaries teaching the gospel in the Aymara language that until this century did not have a written form. Currently, plans are underway to translate the missionary discussions into Aymara. The Aymara-speaking people of Bolivia, approximately one million of the nation’s five million people, are traditionally family-oriented and are receptive to gospel teachings.

A new “work while you learn” program that gives students the opportunity to gain valuable on-the-job training in fields related to their major interests is being developed at Brigham Young University’s College of Engineering Science and Technology. Under the program, students spend every other semester working full-time for private engineering firms or government agencies. Now students can graduate not only with a good foundation of technical knowledge but also with an understanding of industrial practices and techniques. In addition, they have the opportunity to earn funds for their education, and can move smoothly into a professional situation upon graduation.

Dr. Lael J. Woodbury has been named to succeed Dr. Lorin F. Wheelwright as dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications at BYU. Dr. Wheelwright stepped down from the deanship when he was appointed head of overall planning preparation for the university’s 1975–76 centennial celebration. Dr. Woodbury has been serving as associate dean and is president of the BYU Second Stake. He is married and has four children.

A print by German-born Wulf E. Barsch, now living in Provo, Utah, has been selected for the Alternate Special Edition Purchase Award and a prize of $1,500 in the World Print Competition. Brother Barsch’s entry was selected from among 700 from all over the world and adjudged by an international jury. A specialist in printmaking and painting, Brother Barsch has exhibited his work both in Europe and the United States. A convert to the Church in 1966, he came to the United States then returned to Germany to study. While there he was called on a mission to California. He now lives in Provo, Utah.

“We deplore the efforts of those who attempt to broaden the sale and use of spirituous beverages, particularly among young people,” declared the First Presidency in a statement to members of the Church in the state of Washington. That state’s voters voted in November whether or not to permit 19-year-olds to purchase and consume liquor. In their statement to Church officers in Washington, the First Presidency said, “We are fully aware of the many problems that result in legally making liquor available to young men and women who generally are more prone to form new habits, good and bad, than older adults. To lower the age for liquor consumption will only add to the mounting problems of health, crime, accidents, and broken homes which already beset our society.” More than 72,800 members of the Church reside in the state of Washington in 19 stakes and two missions.

[photo] Dr. James M. Drake

[photo] James G. Shuman

[photo] Miss Indian BYU

[photo] Dr. Lael J. Woodbury

[photo] Wulf E. Barsch

[photo] The First Presidency

New Film in Production

“On the twenty-second day of September, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-seven, having gone as usual at the end of another year to the place where they [the plates] were deposited, the same heavenly messenger delivered them up to me. …”

This dramatic moment in history, when the Angel Moroni gave charge of the Book of Mormon plates to the youth Joseph Smith, is a highlight of a new Church motion picture. Under production at the Brigham Young University Department of Motion Picture Production, the film, “The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon,” deals with the time period when the plates were delivered into the Prophet’s hands, until his colleague Martin Harris lost the first 100 pages of translated manuscript. The film also includes a “flashback” sequence of the Angel Moroni’s first visit to the boy Prophet.

For the purposes of the film, a replica of the Smith house exterior and surrounding farmland was created near the film studios, while interior scenes were filmed inside the studio.

Playing the part of Joseph Smith is David Westberg, a professional actor with many theater and television films to his credit. Other experienced professional actors in the film are Eric Server as Martin Harris and Louise Fitch as Lucy Mack Smith.

Making up the total cast of 20 are local actors chosen for their resemblance to the characters they portray.

Most of the filming is complete except for the shooting of two winter scenes. Other work to be done includes the composition of an original background score, and the final editing. As the film is being produced, still camera shots are being taken for filmstrip use.

The film is directed by Brother Wetzel O. Whitaker.

[photo] 1. Reed Smoot, standing, center directs the photography in this scene between David Westberg as Joseph Smith and Elizabeth Cannon as Emma Smith.

[photo] 2. Charles Parker as Joseph Smith, Sr., receives attention to his stage makeup from Grant Keate.

[photo] 3. “The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon,” as David Westberg portraying Joseph Smith uncovers the plates buried in the hill.

[photo] 4. The technical crew works on a closeup of Judith Olauson as Lucy Harris.

[photo] 5. “Joseph Smith” kneels in prayer.

[photo] 6. David Westberg as Joseph Smith.

The Roar of Tanks: A Special Report from the Jerusalem Branch

“If you listen carefully you can hear big tanks roar past our home on the way to the Jordan front,” exclaimed David B. Galbraith, president of the Jerusalem Branch during a special telephone report to the Ensign.

“We have been getting heavy military traffic passing our peaceful home in Bethany. There has been a fear that a third front might open up. This would mean that Israel would be fighting on three fronts instead of two, and it would put Jerusalem within firing range of the attackers.”

President Galbraith heads a branch of some 20 members that is periodically doubled to 40 by the arrival of students from Brigham Young University in a resident study program. The students were already in Israel when war erupted in the Middle East, and for safety’s sake they were evacuated and are continuing their studies in Salzburg, Austria.

“Now that the students are out and safe, we are concerned with the well-being of our regular members. They are not concentrated in any one area; in fact, we have families all the way from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south.

“We have Dr. and Sister Kenneth Brown from Mapleton, Utah, serving as dentists on a kibbutz in the Galilee area. They see aerial ‘dogfights’ every day and they can hear heavy artillery pounding away day and night. They frequently have to run into the shelters. They are really experiencing the war.

“Then we have Sister Margreta Spencer from Magrath, Alberta, Canada, who is chief physiotherapist in the general hospital at Sasad. She has called to tell us that she is well and that she is not in danger. However, the hospital is receiving the war wounded from the front line, and right now she is very busy caring for them.

“We are really concerned about Obed Narkan. He was born in Israel but was raised in California. When he returned to Israel he became a convert to the Church and is now a priest. We don’t know where he is exactly, but he was serving in the Israeli Defense Forces based near the Gaza Strip. He is sure to be fighting in the Sinai. But until we hear from him there is no way we can contact him.

“Recently, my wife and I went to visit some members in a kibbutz, a communal settlement in the Galilee area. They had 120 young people serving at the front. Three were known dead, and there were many injured.

“People are beginning to realize just how serious this war is. It wasn’t expected to last as long as it has. It is a long war for this part of the world. But the overall effect is just being realized in terms of lives, suffering, and dollars. The newspaper today said that the war is costing Israel approximately $6 million per hour. That’s a staggering amount for a country of this size, especially one that is still developing and where people, even before the war, were struggling for a higher standard of living.

“The war is having its effects on various segments of the society. For instance, for the first few days of the war, we had no milk because all the milk truck drivers had been called to serve in the defense forces. So had the garbage truck drivers, the bus drivers, the taxi drivers, and many other people who keep a society functioning.

“We are on a war footing here in Jerusalem and throughout Israel. We have the regular wartime precautions to observe, such as blackout procedures where all automobile headlights are painted black and all windows are covered at night. And although the newspapers tell us that there are no shortages, there are. There are no imports, and many shelves are starting to look bare. However, none of the shortages are such that substitutions can’t be made. Rice is hard to get and sugar is a little hard to come by, but gasoline is still in plentiful supply, and has not been rationed at all.

“Here in Jerusalem we run a small textile export business, but with the war under way, the government has ordered our factory to turn itself to sewing military uniforms.

“In all, we are safe and secure here, even though we have had an occasional air raid warning, but the all-clear has sounded within an hour or two at the most.

“The kibbutz we visited prepares each night for any possible attacks by sending the children to bed in the shelters. To make the children feel comfortable and as cheerful as possible, the adults have decorated the walls with bright pictures and tried to make things as happy as possible.

“On our return from the kibbutz we passed many captured tanks that the Israelis are bringing back from the front, refitting where necessary, and sending them back to the front to be used again.

“On the whole, things are fine, and we are still holding our regular Church meetings. Our Sabbath is on Saturday, which is the best time for the members to get together.” The branch in Jerusalem was created in September 1972 and is a part of the Switzerland Mission.

[photo] David B. Galbraith, president of the Jerusalem Branch.

[photos] 1. An Israeli soldier stands guard on the Damascus Gate, an entrance into Jerusalem. 2. The Jordan River as it empties into the Sea of Galilee. In the foreground is a fishing boat; in the background are the fortress-like Golan Heights. 3. Israeli soldiers.

Managua: One Year Later

The Year of Hope and Reconstruction

MANAGUA, Nicaragua—The center of this once thriving capital city is a no-man’s land. Block after city block of gutted buildings and leveled sites remain as mute evidence of the massive earthquake that struck just two days before Christmas last year.

Although many of the city’s 450,000 inhabitants have left Nicaragua for neighboring countries since the earthquake, the majority moved into the suburbs and the outlying towns only to return and try to rebuild.

What once were suburban residential areas of Managua are now embryo business sectors. These areas did not receive the full brunt of the earthquake.

Attitudes of Managuans run from extreme pessimism at the destruction of their city to extreme optimism at the economic boom created as some industries are reborn stronger than before.

Everywhere, signs and stickers proclaim “The Year of Hope and Reconstruction” as the majority of Managuans seek to reconstruct their homes and their lives.

What of the 1,700 Latter-day Saints in Managua; how are they faring?

Of the two branches in Nicaragua’s capital city, the chapel for the Managua First Branch was so badly damaged that a new chapel must be constructed. In the meantime, the Saints meet under canvas in a temporary structure. The Managua Second Branch did not have its own building, but the house in which the members were meeting was completely destroyed; members now meet in the home of Branch President Armando Garcia.

President Garcia recalls the night of the earthquake when he, with his brother and their respective families, ran out of their home after the initial earth tremor. “We immediately knelt down and thanked the Lord for our safety and then asked him to bless the members of the branch. As we prayed we felt an assurance that all would be well. Even our children lost the fear that they had.”

President Garcia then went to the house the branch had been using as a chapel and managed to save the branch records and funds. Then he and his brother checked on the safety of the branch members, who were all found to be safe.

All the faith-promoting stories that came out of the earthquake have yet to be recorded, but those that are known have been great testimony builders for the local Saints. For instance, a widow sister who operated a small store in her house told of wall blocks tumbling down onto her children’s beds, but not one child was harmed. She and her family then walked barefoot out of the building over cases of broken glass without receiving a scratch.

Most members of the Church lost their homes and their possessions in the earthquake, and many lost their jobs as businesses and industries also were destroyed. In the discouraging months that followed, help came through the Church welfare program. Administered by Central American Mission President Quinten Hunsaker, the program provided food and supplies for the Managua Saints.

Now, as the Saints have worked to become more self-sufficient, the welfare program has been discontinued. Slowly but surely, members of the two branches are repairing and rebuilding their homes.

As they rebuild their homes so they rebuild their lives and rededicate themselves to serving the Lord. For many, the earthquake served to strengthen their testimonies and helped to unite families and branch members.

Missionary work is going forth with added strength as the members provide more referrals for the full-time missionaries. Many nonmembers are working on the Church construction projects. Several baptisms have already been recorded with several other families now being taught. Those who once rejected the gospel message are now requesting the missionaries.

The overall attitude of the Saints is reflected in their reaction to a sign in downtown Managua that reads, “Managua sleeps but is not dead!” Not so, say the local Saints. The earthquake neither killed them nor put them to sleep; it awakened them to their blessings and responsibilities as members of the Church.

[photos] 1. Although the earthquake created a massive disruption in their lives, the members in Managua still meet together each week. 2. The Managua First Branch chapel, damaged beyond repair by the earthquake, was razed and now is under reconstruction. 3. President Armando Garcia and his family. 4. Nonmember workers on the Managua First Branch chapel are being touched by the gospel. 5. While their chapel is being rebuilt, members of the Managua First Branch conduct their meetings in a temporary building under a canvas roof.