News of the Church

By David Mitchell


Elder ElRay L. Christiansen Dies

“Long ago I promised the Lord that I stood ready to give or to do anything and all things which he would ask of me through his servants. I have tried to do that.”

That statement, made in October 1951 when he was sustained as an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve, personified the life and service of Elder ElRay L. Christiansen, who died December 2, 1975, following a heart attack. He was 78.

Elder ElRay L. Christiansen

Elder ElRay L. Christiansen

Elder Christiansen is survived by his wife, the former Lewella Rees, three children, fifteen grandchildren, two great-grand children, and a sister.

His family was a source of strength to him as he fulfilled the responsibilities of his callings in the Church. Speaking in the October 1951 conference, Elder Christiansen said:

“I have never yet been up against a task that was difficult for me but what I have found the immediate and sustaining support of my wonderful wife, and along with that, the encouragement of my children. That support has been one of the most helpful, strengthening influences that has come to me in my life. With their help, and with the help of the Lord, we have gone along and done our best.” (Improvement Era, December 1951, p. 897.)

Born at Mayfield, Utah, Elder Christiansen was a descendant of early Church and Utah colonizers. His father was a farmer and a forest ranger, areas of interest that were to influence the life of the young man who studied at Utah State Agricultural College. Graduate work was to follow at Brigham Young University and the University of Utah. Specializing in education, Elder Christiansen was both a teacher and a school administrator, and was to serve as principal of the school then sponsored by the Church at Kelsey, Texas.

Prior to holding that position, Elder Christiansen, with his new bride, was called to serve a full-time mission in the Central States Mission. Later, in 1937, he was called to serve as president of the Texas-Louisiana Mission, a position he held for more than four years.

In other Church callings, Elder Christiansen served as a bishop, stake president, counselor in a stake presidency, stake high councilor, seminary teacher, and in a YMMIA presidency. From 1943 until his calling as an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve, he served as president of the Logan Temple, and from 1954 through 1961 he was president of the Salt Lake Temple. In 1964 he was appointed coordinator of temples throughout the world.

In community endeavors he was the Logan, Utah, president of Rotary International, actively interested in the Boy Scouts of America, and, as a talented cellist, he performed in string ensembles and, for a while, played with the Utah Symphony Orchestra.

Elder Christiansen leaves a great legacy of service and the memory of a man devoted to temple work, a man who constantly and lovingly encouraged the Saints to reap the benefits that come with attending the House of the Lord.

Elated Saints Greet New Temple Plans

SEATTLE, Washington—The announcement by President Spencer W. Kimball that a temple is to be constructed to serve the Pacific Northwest and Alaska brought a great wave of gratitude and elation from the local Saints.

The temple, to be located in the Seattle area, will serve some 170,000 members of the Church in Washington, Oregon, northern Idaho, Alaska, and British Columbia. Construction of the multimillion dollar edifice is expected to begin in late 1976, with completion sometime in 1978.

It was the third new temple announced in 1975, making a total of nineteen that will be in use throughout the world. Earlier in the year, President Kimball announced temples for Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Tokyo, Japan.

For many Saints, the announcement of the new temple came as an answer to their prayers. President Heber J. Badger of the Seattle Washington North Stake said, “We have been looking forward to this for a long time. I can only describe the feeling of our members as one of elation. Some stakes in this area have had temple funds operative for some time, while other stakes, whose funds have been directed toward building the much-needed facilities for growing membership, will have to start from scratch. After the announcement by President Kimball, there was a great rush of donations by the Saints here.”

Across the border in British Columbia, President Frank E. Berrett of the Vancouver British Columbia Stake said that the announcement of the temple “brought a fantastic reaction from the members. You can’t imagine the thrill. There has been a great desire here for a temple.

“For us, the announcement seemed to be the culmination of a program that we inaugurated at the beginning of 1975. We called it our ‘Golden Year of Great Expectations,’ during which we concentrated each month on specific areas in which we might improve ourselves. At year’s end, we look back on twelve ‘golden’ links in a chain of personal development and spiritual growth.

“In July, our ‘sacred covenants’ month, we asked our people to focus their thoughts on the covenants that we make as members of the Church. Our intent was to turn the hearts of the people toward temple work and the covenants that we make in the temple. As part of the month’s activities we established a temple cornerstone fund for anyone who desired to make a contribution. This wasn’t an organized fundraising drive at all. It was just announced by the bishops.

“Well, the Spirit must have been working with us. In sixty days, 800 people had donated $12,000 toward the fund. That was far in excess of my expectations because we are in a heavy building program with expanded facilities needed throughout the stake. To have this response from our members, and then to be told that we are to have a temple in this area, was a great thrill.”

The building programs that President Berrett and President Badger talk of are indicative of the rapidly expanding Church membership in the area to be served by the new temple.

In the state of Washington, membership has grown from 11,550 in 1950 to 79,000 now. Similar dramatic growth can be seen in Oregon where membership has increased from 17,885 to 60,000, more than 300 percent during the past twenty-five years. There are 10,000 Saints living in northern Idaho and 8,000 in Alaska. British Columbia has seen steady Church growth in the past ten years with a current membership of 13,000 and one of the newest stakes in the Church, the Vernon British Columbia Stake.

In all, there are forty-one stakes in the new temple area, plus four missions—Washington Seattle, Oregon Portland, Canada Vancouver, and Alaska Anchorage.

New Idaho Falls Temple Presidency Called

A new president of the Idaho Falls Temple, Delbert V. Groberg, was set apart by President Spencer W. Kimball and his second counselor, President Marion G. Romney, in late October. President Groberg has been a businessman and patriarch of the Idaho Falls Idaho South Stake.

Called as counselors were President Calvin D. McOmber, Jr., a retired teacher at the institute of religion at Idaho State University, and President Willis G. Nelson, who had been a member of the Idaho Falls Idaho Ammon Stake presidency.

President Groberg married Jennie Holbrook of Provo, Utah. They are the parents of eleven children and grandparents to forty grandchildren.

St. George Temple Rededicated

In November, the St. George Temple was rededicated to the Lord by President Spencer W. Kimball. The temple was closed during 1974 and part of 1975 for extensive remodeling. Although the exterior of the ninety-eight-year-old structure was basically unchanged, a one-level addition was constructed on the north side to house a chapel, locker facilities, offices, a laundry, and a cafeteria. Better access to the different levels in the temple has been gained with a new stairway and a new elevator on the west side.

The St. George Temple was the second temple to be rededicated in 1975. In April, President Kimball rededicated the Arizona Temple in Mesa, Arizona, following major renovations.

Among the many thousands who attended the St. George Temple rededication was Ensign Assistant Editor Lane Johnson, who wrote this impression of the event:

Perfect weather—warm sunshine and clean, crisp air—provided a perfect setting for the St. George Temple rededication services held Tuesday and Wednesday, November 11 and 12, 1975.

A total of more than 25,000 Church members, young and old, gathered in six separate dedicatory sessions presided over by President Spencer W. Kimball. Previously, more than 83,000 people had toured the newly remodeled and enlarged structure in ten days of the public open house.

Many of those who attended the ceremonies entered the temple through the large east doors and ascended the steep spiral staircases to the upper-floor assembly room of the edifice—the first Latter-day Saint temple built in the West after the Church’s exodus from Illinois. Others viewed the proceedings from other rooms in the temple via closed-circuit television.

Nearly all members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, and several other General Authorities of the Church, spoke during the two days of sessions. Music was provided by a number of splendid choirs from stakes in the temple district. President Kimball delivered the formal dedicatory prayer.

Following the dedicatory prayer and the traditional Hosanna Shout in the final session, the congregation and choir joined together in singing “The Spirit of God like a Fire Is Burning.” President Kimball then reminded those present that the temple was once again hallowed and sanctified, a structure set apart for the sacred ordinances of salvation.

Afterward, some lingered for a few moments for a last look at the temple’s interior. The results of remodeling were scarcely noticeable; the rich textures of the original floor boards, hand railings, and woodwork remained intact. Perhaps most striking was the pervading whiteness of the interior, much like the clean, sunlit whiteness of the exterior—a dignified and unpretentious whiteness entirely appropriate to a house of the Lord. On the walls were portraits of the prophets of this dispensation.

Leaning against the cool plaster wall, one could see through the original glass of the large windows the massive, red sandstone bluffs to the west, and, to the east, a wide expanse of rolling flatland bordered on the hazy horizon by colossal cliffs of Navajo sandstone.

Reluctantly, the visitors left the temple. Later the temple doors were closed. Outside, the quiet green of the carefully manicured temple grounds; inside, the temple workers, clad in pure white and feeling very much at home once again, and immediate preparations for resuming the sacred ordinance work.

[photo] This was a typical scene as the Saints entered the St. George Temple for the dedicatory services.

Fifteen New Stakes Created in Mexico City

It required the setting apart of 45 members of stake presidencies, 288 members of bishoprics for 96 wards, 36 members of 12 branch presidencies, and about 150 high councilors—and when the weekend was over, 5 stakes in Mexico City plus branches of the Mexico Mexico City Mission had been organized into 15 new stakes. In addition, a 16th stake was organized out of the Mexico Veracruz Mission.

Elder Howard W. Hunter of the Council of the Twelve presided over the historic event, assisted by Elder J. Thomas Fyans, Assistant to the Council of the Twelve and area supervisor in Mexico and Central America. Along with four Regional Representatives, these brethren spent eighteen hours November 8 and 9 presiding over six stake conferences, and nine hours traveling from one stake center to another. On Friday, November 7, they had interviewed more than 200 priesthood bearers as possible new leaders.

According to Elder Hunter, the massive reorganization was unprecedented. He said it was necessary in order to reduce the size of the stakes, better align them, reduce travel for members, and provide for the rapid growth of the Church taking place in Mexico.

More than a thousand converts are being baptized each month in Mexico. In the first nine months of 1975 there were 3,766 baptisms in the Mexico Mexico City Mission alone. This is all in sharp contrast with early history of the Church in Mexico. The first stake in Mexico was organized in 1895 in Juarez among a group of American pioneers. It took sixty-six years until the first stake among Lamanites was organized in Mexico City in 1961. Since then twenty-four stakes have been created in fourteen years, making a total of twenty-six stakes (and seven missions) in the country now.

The new stake leadership also reflects the youth and vitality of the Church in Mexico. Of the sixteen stake presidents, eleven are converts, four are in their twenties. Five are in their thirties.

Director of Church Magazines Dies

After serving nearly thirty years as a major figure in Church journalism, Doyle L. Green, director and editor of Church magazines, passed away November 23. During the past year he had been in declining health, suffering from cancer. He was sixty.

For twenty-three years, the name of Doyle L. Green was well known throughout the Church as managing editor of the Improvement Era. He joined the staff as assistant managing editor in 1947 after an invitation to do so from Elder John A. Widtsoe of the Council of the Twelve and President George Albert Smith. In 1950 he replaced Elder Richard L. Evans as managing editor; he served in that position until 1970. He helped guide the growth of the Improvement Era from a circulation of 80,000 in 1950 to 280,000 in 1970, when the new Church magazines were organized.

As a prelude to the new magazines program, he served on a committee with then Elder Spencer W. Kimball and Elder Howard W. Hunter. This committee recommended the creation of three Church publications—the Friend for children, the New Era for youth aged twelve–eighteen, and the Ensign for adults. When the new publications were created, he was named director and editor of the three magazines.

During a period of several years, prior to the formation of the Internal Communications Department in 1972, Brother Green served as director of all Church publications. He established the central Church editing and graphics departments and directed the work of editing, designing, and publishing all Church handbooks and manuals, as well as magazines.

In his last assignment, that of director and editor of Church magazines, he well fulfilled the charge to ensure that the new magazines succeeded in their early years. Circulation of the three publications is now 158,000 for the Friend, 150,000 for the New Era, and 393,000 for the Ensign. There are subscribers in 131 nations.

He held a special fondness for the Saints in the Pacific, gained from his mission to Tahiti in 1936–39, and for the Holy Land. He was well known for his In the Footsteps of Jesus, a photographic publication on the Holy Land, and his Journeys and Ministry of Jesus the Christ. He authored five books, of which Meet the Mormons is presently his best-known work. It is used by thousands of missionaries and by members throughout the world as they introduce the Church to their friends.

To have produced a work that could be used by the Church in this manner greatly humbled him and is a fitting memorial to a gentleman whose great love was the gospel, its truths, and its leaders. He devotedly, unstintingly, and with impressive personal dedication served the leaders of the Church. For twenty-two years he was a member of the general board of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association, and since 1972, had served as a stake patriarch. In a statement prepared for the press at his death, those who worked with him said: “We trusted his judgments. We respected his craftsmanship. We admired his courage. We loved his good spirit and subtle humor. We were warmed by his kindness and sense of fairness. We look forward to a warm reunion.”

The February Ensign will include a historical look at Church periodicals, with special emphasis on the Doyle L. Green era.

[photo] Doyle L. Green

Area Conference Schedule Slated

Approximately 50,000 members of the Church in Australia and the Pacific are expected to attend the area general conference scheduled for that part of the globe this February and March.

The conference, consisting of forty-six sessions and cultural events, will be under the direction of President Spencer W. Kimball, who will be accompanied by President N. Eldon Tanner and eight other General Authorities.

Crossing back and forth eighteen times between time zones in the 24,000 mile trip, President Kimball and the Brethren will meet with the Saints at Church College of Western Samoa, Apia, Western Samoa, February 16–18; Church College of New Zealand, Temple View, near Hamilton, February 20–22; Civic Cultural Hall, Suva, Fiji, February 23; the Church’s Liahona High School, Nuku’ alofa, Tonga, February 24–25; Festival Hall, Melbourne, and Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia, in simultaneous conferences February 27–29; Festival Hall, Brisbane, Australia, February 29–March 1; and in a local sports activity center, Papeete, Tahiti, March 1–2.

Initially, a conference session was scheduled for February 27 in Perth, Australia, but in a letter to the Saints in Perth, the First Presidency said that, owing to a change in airline schedules, it would be impossible for the Brethren to hold a session in Perth and still meet their other commitments. Realizing that the Saints in Perth would be disappointed at not being able to attend a conference session in their own area, the First Presidency welcomed them to attend any of the other sessions in Australia. Meanwhile, studies were under way at press time to determine the feasibility of transmitting other Australian conference sessions to the Saints in Perth.

In another change in plans, the conference session in Sydney, Australia, originally scheduled for that city’s Town Hall, will now be held in the ultra-modern opera house.

Priesthood Genealogy Seminar Set

The eleventh Annual Priesthood Genealogy Seminar will be held August 2–6 at Brigham Young University.

Sponsored by the Church’s Priesthood Genealogy Committee, the seminar is expected to attract even more registrants than the 2,700 that attended last year’s event. Those attending past seminars have come from all over the United States and Canada as well as from Australia, Britain, and Tahiti.

The five-day event provides practical training and instruction in such areas as family organization and records, branch genealogical libraries, and research.

Details on registration and other information are being mailed this month to all Church units in the United States and Canada. For the Saints in other parts of the world, information on the seminar can be obtained by writing to Special Courses and Conferences, 124-B HRCB, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah 84602.