News of the Church

By Jay M. Todd

Relief Society Building to Become Major Resource Center

Visitors to the 146th Annual General Conference in April may not notice any difference in the Relief Society Building on the outside, but when they go inside, they will be caught up in an exciting and stimulating call to excellence.

The building, while continuing to function as the Relief Society Headquarters Building, will serve a second function as a permanent resource center for homemakers, Relief Society teachers, Relief Society presidents, and any other persons interested in improving their talents and skills in their homes or Church callings.

The three main floors of the building will feature displays, demonstrations, lectures, films, special events, and a resource library to provide practical, down-to-earth ideas for better living, as well as information about the history, purpose, and program of Relief Society.

Born out of the displays that used to be held during Relief Society Conference, the Relief Society Resource Center will be a year-round project open from 8:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Monday through Friday with ever-changing and updated information.

Stake homemaking counselors and leaders will be invited to demonstrations and displays on food preparation and storage, clothing, budgeting, child care, and general health.

There even will be demonstrations on how to plan ward dinners and socials, small or large, from the initial planning stages through the entire event.

In line with President Spencer W. Kimball’s counsel to the Saints to plant their own vegetable gardens, there will be special classes and lectures on the planning and the care of gardens.

For Relief Society presidents and other leaders there will be a resource library full of the latest literature providing practical and inspired guidance, files of talks, “blueprints” of how Relief Society meets the challenges of increasing attendance and fellow shipping potential members, regional conference plans that can be adapted to specific local needs, outlines of special programs that have been presented successfully elsewhere in the Church, and taped lectures and music. Much of this material may be studied in the library or copies may be purchased at cost.

The main floor of the building will feature a model of the Relief Society Nauvoo Monument to women commemorating the establishment of the Relief Society. (See separate story, this issue.)

The main floor will also house demonstration facilities for Relief Society nurseries, complete with materials required, films, and, occasionally, live demonstrations.

There will be a room devoted entirely to films that have been produced especially for the Relief Society through the years and to applicable non-Church films. Not only will the films be shown, but their practical use will also be explained.

For Relief Society teachers there will be workshops and demonstrations on creative and spiritually uplifting teaching methods. Effective scripture study will be highlighted through displays and exhibits.

This treasurehouse of information will be officially opened with a special two-week program during the week prior to, and the week of, April conference. In recognition of the Bicentennial year, these two weeks will be called “The Spirit of 76 North Main”—76 North Main Street being the address of the Relief Society Building.

During this conference time, Relief Society general board members will be available to meet with visiting sisters and to discuss their particular needs.

Board members will also be in the building to explain the displays and exhibits and to conduct the lectures and demonstrations. They will be aided in this work by Relief Society sisters from local stakes.

Guides will be on hand to take visitors through the resource center, or guests may be aided by a taped “guide” on a cassette.

Although the resource center is scheduled to be opened during the regular office hours of the Relief Society Building, evening and perhaps Saturday hours will be established to accommodate those sisters unable to attend during the day.

As the need suggests, special lectures and demonstrations will be featured at the resource center, and all the displays and exhibits will be constantly updated to provide new information.

Sister Barbara B. Smith, general president of the Relief Society, says, “We hope this Relief Society Building, to which the sisters of the Church have contributed so generously, can fill in full measure the purposes for which it was built. We hope the learning resources available here will be a practical help and inspiration to the sisters of the Church everywhere, that these resources will be used by stake Relief Society leaders, by interested priesthood leaders, by visitors and nonmembers, and that all who come here will grasp the vision of the true importance of women in the gospel plan.”

[photo] Relief Society Building

The Role of Womanhood to Be Depicted in Relief Society Monument

A monument symbolic of women of the past, present, and future is being created by the Relief Society at Nauvoo, Illinois, where the organization was established by the Prophet Joseph in 1842.

Announced by Sister Barbara B. Smith in Relief Society Conference last October, the monument now is in design form and approval has been received from the First Presidency for its construction.

Rather than one large work, the monument will be comprised of a number of pieces depicting the roles and stewardships of women from childhood to motherhood to continuing service in the later years.

The monument will be displayed in a park and garden area, 365 feet long and 240 feet wide, immediately in front of the Nauvoo Visitors Center. Conceived by artist Dennis Smith, who will execute most of the works, it also will contain special sculptured pieces by Sister Florence Hansen.

The central feature of the monument will be the figure of a young woman, heroic in scale, envisioned by Brother Smith as “a young woman stepping forward into a subtle breeze, her long hair and the folds of her dress gently brushed back, creating a feeling of gentle confidence. I have tried to use clothing that is not dated by a particular period, developing a drapery that is delicate and free as well as monumental.”

This particular piece will be mounted in the center of a large, circular bed of flowers, around which will be placed four other life-sized sculptured figures. These will depict a woman sculpturing, conveying the idea of using one’s creative talents; a woman reading, conveying intellectual awareness; a woman in prayer; and a woman reaching out, offering to serve and help others.

Farther along the park walk way, which will be lined with trees, will be the figure of a young family unit, father, mother, and child, conveying the message that men and women are jointly charged with the responsibilities of parenthood and of raising their families in righteousness.

In another cluster of figures a young woman is playing with three children. Brother Smith explains that this scene demonstrates that a woman’s “capacity for rapport” is not restricted to motherhood. “The single woman can give and gain fulfillment.”

Other figures depict a mother preparing a teenage son for his responsibilities in life and a mother with a small baby on her shoulder. Following in her footsteps is an older daughter, looking up to her mother and foreseeing her future responsibilities and callings as a mother and a homemaker.

Also represented are a husband and wife planning for the eternities together and the figure of an elderly woman binding a quilt, finding fulfillment in serving and giving in her declining years. The pattern on the quilt is a double wedding ring design, a repetition of circles symbolizing the eternal theme of the whole monument.

Sister Hansen will create two special pieces for the monument. One will symbolize a mother sharing her talents with her daughter; the other, which will be located just outside the visitors center, will be of Joseph Smith and his wife Emma, the first president of the Relief Society. The piece will depict that moment in the Relief Society’s history when, at the organizational meeting, President Smith presented Emma with a five dollar gold piece to start the funds for the new organization.

That organization has now grown into a worldwide sisterhood of approximately one million members. Each sister has been requested to donate a modest sum to the construction of the monument; the names of all contributors will be recorded for placement in the garden.

“The purpose of this monument is twofold,” says Sister Smith, “first, to honor the founding of Relief Society by the Prophet Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, where he turned the key in behalf of women that knowledge and intelligence might flow down to them; and second, to make it possible to portray to the world the role of women in the gospel plan, as understood by the Latter-day Saints.”

The monument is scheduled for dedication in March 1978, 136 years after the founding of Relief Society.

[photo] The Relief Society Nauvoo Monument to womanhood will be a number of sculptured figures depicting the various roles of women and located in a garden park. A model of the park and three of the proposed figures is seen here with Sister Barbara B. Smith, general president of the Relief Society (center); Dennis Smith (no relation), who designed the project and who will sculpt the majority of the works; and Sister Florence Hansen, who will sculpt two of the group pieces.

[photo] Sister Barbara B. Smith, general president of the Relief Society, admires a model for the proposed Relief Society Nauvoo Monument to womanhood.

Church Magazines Editor Appointed

The First Presidency has appointed Dean L. Larsen as Director/Editor of Church Magazines, filling the vacancy created by the recent death of Doyle L. Green.

Brother Larsen now succeeds a long line of Church magazine editors—which included Elder B. H. Roberts, Edward H. Anderson, Hugh J. Cannon, Elder John A. Widtsoe, Elder Richard L. Evans, and Doyle L. Green.

In making the appointment, the First Presidency placed under one director/editor, Brother Larsen, the full Church program of magazines, instructional development, and curriculum. Brother Larsen has been director of curriculum and instructional materials since 1972.

Brother Larsen comes to the position with an impressive twenty-six-year record of rich experience that has given him an uncommon breadth and depth of understanding, but through which runs one common thread—that of constant interest in teaching people and helping them to help themselves.

Thus, with conviction, he says, “Our Church magazines are the finest avenues for self-study, other than the scriptures, that we have in the Church. I wish everyone were aware of the impact the magazines have on all of our lives.”

Born in Hyrum, Utah, May 27, 1927, Brother Larsen was active in sports and debate as a teen prior to serving in the U.S. Navy for two years. During the next four years he attended Utah State University, graduating in English and Spanish in 1950. Midway through his college training he married Geneal Johnson of Ashton, Idaho, and today they are the parents of five children—four daughters and one son.

After several years in sales work and other endeavors, Brother Larsen became a schoolteacher (“I decided I would go where my heart wanted to be”) and lived the next eight years in the Big Horn Basin of north-central Wyoming, where he (1) taught English and Spanish; (2) coached basketball and track, winning the state basketball championship in 1953 and being named “Coach of the Year”; (3) served as a high school principal; (4) became a high school and college athletic referee; and (5) taught early-morning seminary.

“All my life I have been interested in Indians—as a boy I used to read everything I could get my hands on about them.” So, in 1960 he accepted the request to teach seminary at Utah’s Brigham City Intermountain Indian School and one year later was at Brigham Young University as assistant coordinator of Indian Seminaries. Then in 1962 he was appointed secretary of the Church Indian Committee, where he traveled widely and worked with many Indian tribal leaders in the United States and Canada.

In 1966 he taught at the University of Utah Institute of Religion, then served three years as mission president in Texas, then taught two years at the Ogden Institute of Religion before accepting the appointment as coordinator of curriculum planning for the Church in 1972. That position has led to his overseeing all Church courses of study and all audio-visual and instructional materials.

During these years, Brother Larsen has also served in the Church as stake missionary, bishop, high councilor, all-Church Priesthood Missionary Committee member, secretary of the adult correlation committee, and Sunday School General Board member. He is presently a Regional Representative of the Council of the Twelve.

[photo] Dean L. Larsen