News of the Church

By Marie Paongo


Elder Carlos E. Asay of the First Quorum of the Seventy

Elder Carlos E. Asay

Elder Carlos E. Asay

“I was born in Sutherland, but I grew up in Monroe,” explains Elder Carlos Egan Asay, proud of his Utah heritage and newly sustained to the First Quorum of the Seventy.

He remembers that he always “had a love of the Church. I enjoyed sacrament meetings as a boy, particularly the reports of the missionaries and the singing of the choirs.”

This love of the Church motivated him to postpone his athletic career at the University of Utah to become one of the first team of elders sent to open the Palestine and Syria mission where he served from 1947–50. That love continued through his additional Church service: as Regional Representative of the Council of Twelve, president of the Texas North Mission, member of the Sunday School General Board, high councilor in two different stakes, and bishop for five years of the South Cottonwood Sixth Ward. “My callings as bishop and as mission president were the most satisfying, I believe,” he said. “They brought me in contact with the youth and produced associations that I’m sure will endure for eternity.”

He praises his wife, Colleen Webb Asay, as “the sweetest person on earth,” adding, “she’s very talented.” Although she’s still working on her major in business from BYU, her executive ability has been put to use in two stake Relief Society presidencies and as ward Relief Society president three separate times.

Elder Asay’s love for his seven children is obvious. One son, James, has returned from his mission; another, Marcus, is currently serving; and a third, Brent, is preparing to go in a few weeks. He also has two teenage sons, Clair and Tim, whose first reaction to the news of his calling, Elder Asay chuckled, “was to ask if we were going to move again.” (In the last four years the family has moved from Texas to Provo to Hawaii and back to Utah.) Marcianne, his oldest daughter, has married a returned missionary, and is now Mrs. Mark Cannon. Their youngest daughter, Carleen, is eleven. “They couldn’t be more supportive.”

Family” is a concept that extends beyond his own wife and children, largely because of his parents, Brother and Sister A. E. Lyle Asay of Provo. “My mother and father are stalwarts. When we six children married, some of us moved away from Utah; but when my parents retired from school teaching and moved to Provo to be near the temple, it seemed that all of us had business that brought us back, and now we all live in either Provo or Orem.” On Fast Sunday, the family meets for “a precious experience,” a short family home evening. “There are seldom fewer than thirty-five people there—even some great-grandchildren by now.” He willingly shares their formula to make it successful: “It’s short—never over an hour, well-planned with something for the little ones too, with lots of variety and light refreshments. We’re building a beautiful thing.”

Elder Melvin Russell Ballard, Jr., of the First Quorum of the Seventy

Elder M. Russell Ballard, Jr.

Elder M. Russell Ballard, Jr.

“When President Tanner called to invite us to general conference, we never expected to receive a new call,” said Elder M. Russell Ballard, Jr., newly called member of the First Quorum of the Seventy.

Although the call may have come as a surprise to Elder Ballard, it did not find him unprepared. Born in Salt Lake City on October 8, 1928, he is a grandson of the apostle Melvin J. Ballard through his father, and a descendant of the apostle Hyrum Mack Smith, President Joseph F. Smith, and President Hyrum Smith, brother of the Prophet Joseph, through his mother.

“Knowing I was born into a goodly family and realizing the sacrifices my forefathers made for the gospel gave me a greater desire to do what is right and accept callings. The association and direction of my parents and the practical teachings of life gained from my father were also very important to my early development.”

Lineage does not qualify a man to serve, however. Brother Ballard has many years of Church service to his credit. In 1948–50, he filled a mission to England where he served as counselor to two mission presidents. He has served as bishop of Salt Lake City’s Holladay Twelfth and Monument Park Thirteenth wards and considers experience in a bishopric as “one of the greatest schooling grounds of the Church for learning to understand people and to help them with their problems in a loving way.” As a bishop he also learned to rely on the Lord: “Many problems arose that I could not solve without the Lord, and my relationship with him was strengthened because of them.”

Elder Ballard has also served on the high councils of Salt Lake City’s Mt. Olympus and Monument Park stakes, and as a priests quorum adviser for eight years.

Since mid-1974 he has presided over the Canada Toronto Mission. He says the experience has been an invaluable preparation for his new calling and “one of the most refining periods of my life.”

As the owner of several business firms, Elder Ballard also brings to his new assignment a broad business background that has “tempered” him and helped him develop patience. He advises, “Keep your financial affairs in order, but never become so involved in business that you feel unable to accept a Church calling.”

In speaking of the influences that have helped prepare him to accept his new call, Elder Ballard says, “Marrying a good wife is the key to any man’s success.” He is married to the former Barbara Bowen of Salt Lake City. “My seven children—Clark Russell, Stacey, Brynn, Holly, Meleea, Tamara, and Craig—have also taught me a lot!”

The Ballards will be returning to Canada to finish their mission. Elder Ballard remarks, “I will return to the mission a much different person than when I left—sobered, awed, fully aware of my dependence on the Lord, and prayerful that I will fulfill my new calling in a way pleasing to him.”

Elder John H. Groberg of the First Quorum of the Seventy

Elder John H. Groberg

Elder John H. Groberg

Elder John H. Groberg, newly called to the First Quorum of the Seventy, has many of the classic characteristics of a lifelong member of the Church in the Rocky Mountains: his ancestors were early members in Nauvoo and early pioneers; he was raised in the Church; a turning point in his life was a three-year mission to Tonga; he married the girl who waited for him to return; and they now have ten children.

For the planting of his faith, Elder Groberg credits his parents and upbringing. He was born June 17, 1934, in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and his parents, Delbert V. and Jennie Holbrook Groberg, have been president and matron of the Idaho Falls Temple since October.

At age twenty Elder Groberg was called to Tonga as a missionary. He saw many miracles among the faithful Tongan people, including several in which his life was saved. At one time he was stranded on a hurricane-devastated island for nine weeks, during which time some died from starvation and exposure.

When he returned from the mission he married Jean Sabin, whom he describes as a wife of “great faith and tremendous support.” Elder Groberg was made a bishop soon after his mission and served five years in the Idaho Falls Twenty-Sixth Ward. He was then called back to Tonga to serve as mission president.

The Grobergs’ first son was born in Tonga with a kidney defect. The problem was so severe that Sister Groberg took the baby back to Utah for treatment. She returned to Tonga after he had recovered and they didn’t see their son again for over a year. He was cared for by his grandparents.

Elder Groberg was called as a Regional Representative to the South Pacific in 1969 and returned from his first assignment there just a few hours before another of his children was born. He pays tribute to his wife who encouraged him to go on the assignment and assured him that the baby would not be born until he returned.

The children include Nancy Jean, Elizabeth, Marilyn, Jane, Gayle, John Enoch, Susan, Thomas Sabin, Jennie Marie, and Viki Ann. They range from a high school senior to a baby in arms. Elder Groberg said they are generally excited about his calling and not all sure what it will mean.

As a member of the Lamanite Committee, Elder Groberg had been planning to attend conference, but a call from President Kimball brought him to Salt Lake a few days early. He said he promised the Lord at an early age to serve him all his life. His past service is ready preparation for the responsibility he has now received.

Elder Jacob de Jager of the First Quorum of the Seventy

Elder Jacob de Jager

Elder Jacob de Jager

Intently and earnestly, Brother de Jager quotes the thought that he calls “my Liahona”: “I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not neglect it for I shall not pass this way again.” He smiles, a joyous smile, “That is strongly written in me.”

Born in The Hague, he is the first man of his nation called to be a General Authority. He has served with love and kindness as counselor in the elders quorum presidency in Toronto; as Sunday School superintendent in Mexico City; as branch president in Nijmegen, the Netherlands; as a counselor in the presidency of the Netherlands Mission; and as Regional Representative to the Netherlands, Spain, and France. Remarkably international in his background and experience, his fluency in four languages he calls a “gift,” but he developed it with hard study during almost two years of hiding from labor conscription during World War II.

About that last assignment, he quoted Alma 29:8, “The Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have,” then added his personal testimony: “I studied that scripture and prayed about it and I know why I was called to be a Regional Representative.” He tells of meeting with the small priesthood class in Barcelona and telling those new members: “You are now in the school of the prophets and I am their messenger.”

Elder de Jager describes his family as “international”—a modest understatement. In Indonesia, “10,000 miles from home,” he met and married his wife, Bea Lim, who is Dutch-Chinese. Their son Robert Michael was born in Java and was the first missionary called to the new Djakarta Indonesia Mission in June 1975. Their daughter Audrey Inez was born in Toronto.

“My wife,” he says emphatically, “gives me 100 percent support. We haven’t had a vacation as a family in ten years but our compensation was that the children had opportunities to meet such wonderful people in the Church and that we were always united through our prayers.”

In his patriarchal blessing, given in Mesa, Arizona, while they were living in Mexico, “the Lord revealed to me that my wife had been given to me as a companion to be helpful in building the kingdom and that I had known her and loved her in the preexistence.” His eyes crinkled, “And it’s very unusual to have that in writing.”

He had unstinting praise also for his former company, Philips Electronics. (He was sales vice-president of a large incandescent lamp factory.) Because of it, he has traveled all over the world with opportunities on every continent for missionary work. When conference assignments ate up his vacation time, they granted him a few more days here and there—“thirty days of paid vacation in 1975,” he marveled. They telephoned “full understanding, great admiration, and congratulations” when he telegraphed his resignation Saturday afternoon.

He left, his long stride devouring the distance to his next appointment, leaving behind a firm handshake, a warm smile, and a great exit line: “See you in church!”

Work Begins on Brazil Temple

SAO PAULO, Brazil—Work is already underway here on the first Latter-day Saint temple to be constructed in South America.

Announced by President Spencer W. Kimball at the Sao Paulo area conference in 1975, the temple is scheduled for completion in 1978.

Official groundbreaking on the site took place on March 20. More than 2,000 Saints attended the ceremony presided over by Elder James E. Faust, Assistant to the Council of the Twelve and area supervisor for eastern South America.

Many of the Saints arrived long before the ceremony was scheduled and some had traveled hundreds of miles to witness the historic event.

Under a clear blue sky, they heard Elder Faust ask, “With the building of this great temple what is our challenge? The time has arrived for a great new era for the work of God in South America.”

He said, “The great challenge for all of us who are privileged to stand on this sacred spot … is to strengthen our faith and to begin anew with a great desire to be faithful Saints of God in these lands.”

Elder Faust went on to say, “Over the front door of this temple will be written ‘The House of the Lord’ and ‘Holiness to the Lord.’ It will be the first time in this dispensation that these words will have been written in any language on a sacred building in South America.”

Other priesthood leaders participating in the event were Antonio Carlos de Camargo, Regional Representative of the Twelve for Sao Paulo; Asael T. Sorensen, Regional Representative of the Twelve for Uruguay; Osiris Grobel Cabral, Regional Representative of the Twelve for Southern Brazil; and President Louis P. Hefer, president of the Johannesburg South Africa Stake.

Brother Camargo offered the invocation and the benediction was offered by Brother Cabral, a descendant of Pedro Alvares Cabral, who discovered Brazil in 1500.

Following the benediction, Elder Faust turned the first shovelful of earth on the spot where the celestial room of the temple will be. He was followed by Brother Sorensen, Brother Camargo, Brother Cabral, local priesthood leaders, and then the members. Special shovels had been prepared for the event with the inscription, “Groundbreaking, Sao Paulo Temple, March 20, 1976.”

* * *

The First Presidency last year announced the establishment of a Sao Paulo Brazil Temple fund to which persons outside of South America may contribute. The fund is still open and contributions may be sent to the Church’s Financial Department, Room 1521, 50 East North Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150.

President Jose Benjamin Puerta, president of the Sao Paulo Brazil West Stake, wields one of the special shovels used in the groundbreaking ceremony. Behind him are Osiris Grobel Cabral, Elder James E. Faust, and Antonio Carlos de Camargo.

Plans Announced for Temple in Mexico

The next new temple will be built in Mexico City, President Kimball announced at the opening of general conference. He said the decision came following a meeting with priesthood leaders in Mexico in mid-March.

Construction will begin in about a year and require two additional years to complete. Church architect Emil B. Fetzer designed the Mexico temple with a white marble cast stone facing. Brother Fetzer said the style is a modern adaptation of original Mayan architecture. Atop the temple will be a bronze sculpture of Moroni.

South Pacific Area Conference Reports

It was a massive undertaking. The South Pacific area conferences encompassed more than 20,000 miles of traveling; some forty conference sessions and numerous special meetings, involving together more than 40,000 Church members; press interviews; and radio and television coverage, including one session viewed by an estimated three million people. The conferences were a new experience for the members of the Church in Samoa, New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Australia, and Tahiti—an experience they will never forget. Making the occasion so memorable was President Spencer W. Kimball and nine other General Authorities who went forth to meet the members in the South Pacific, to bear testimony, and to urge them to greater efforts in carrying the gospel to their neighbors.

With President Kimball were President N. Eldon Tanner, first counselor in the First Presidency; Elder Bruce R. McConkie and Elder David B. Haight of the Council of the Twelve; Elder Marion D. Hanks, Elder William H. Bennett, Elder Robert L. Simpson, and Elder Robert D. Hales, Assistants to the Council of the Twelve; Elder Loren C. Dunn of the First Council of the Seventy; and Bishop Victor L. Brown, Presiding Bishop of the Church. Elder Simpson also serves as area supervisor for the Pacific area.

The impact of the conferences was felt not only by the Saints, but also by the nonmembers. The media coverage of the Brethren and of the conference sessions and the cultural presentations made in each country was extensive. The television broadcast of the Sunday morning session from Sydney, Australia, brought hundreds of inquiries from nonmembers who wanted to hear more of the Church and its message.

In this issue of the Ensign are the reports from Tonga; Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, Australia; and Tahiti. The April 1976 Ensign carried the reports of the Samoa, New Zealand, and Fiji conferences.

The reports in this issue were prepared with the assistance of J. William Harris, Tonga; Garry P. Mitchell, Sydney; and Malcolm Rea, Melbourne.

Conference in Tonga

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga—Amidst continuous rain and, in places, ankle-deep mud, more than 10,000 Tongan Saints gathered at the Church’s Liahona High School here for the two-day area conference in February.

Although heavy downpours flooded the area the day before the conference was to start, the culmination of seven months’ preparations and rehearsals continued.

Skies cleared as President Spencer W. Kimball and his official party landed at Tongatapu’s airport. On hand to welcome them was the eighty-member Church high school band, 200 lakalaka dancers from the northern island group of Vava‘u, and local Saints ready to give a royal welcome complete with sisis (leis), songs, and dances.

A police escort accompanied President Kimball’s motorcade along the seven-mile route from the airport to Sopu, where a traditional welcoming ceremony followed at the Sopu mission home.

On the same day, President Kimball, accompanied by President N. Eldon Tanner and Elder Robert L. Simpson, visited with His Royal Highness Prince Fatafehi Tu‘ipelehake, premier and prince regent. Tonga’s King Taufa‘ahau Tupou IV and members of his family were out of the country on tours to India and England.

A huge feast, Tongan-style with more than 180 suckling pigs, preceded the cultural presentation. The rain ceased for a few hours to permit more than 1,000 performers to present dances—some in a sitting position—on a very wet and muddy rugby field. Exuberant dancers from four to sixty years old, accompanied by drums, rose to the occasion for two hours in true Polynesian spirit. Attending the presentation with the Church leaders were Princess Siuilikutapu, parliament’s first and only woman representative, the Honorable Tuita, Tonga’s acting prime minister, and other nobles and government ministers.

In the instructional conference sessions, messages of inspiration were delivered by President Kimball, President Tanner, Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Elder Marion D. Hanks, Elder William H. Bennett, Elder Robert L. Simpson, Elder Robert D. Hales, Elder Loren C. Dunn, and Bishop Victor L. Brown.

Also speaking in the three general sessions were four local priesthood leaders, Tevita Kaili, Sione Latu, Vaikalafi Lutui, and Vilipele Folau.

In a stirring message, President Kimball urged the Tongan Saints to stay in Tonga “to make Zion bloom where you are.” He implored Tongans to cooperate in this principle of establishing Zion in Tonga, and to teach truths through the Church schools. (There are two Church high schools and ten middle or junior high Church schools in Tonga, with approximately 2,000 students.) President Kimball said that he hoped the Tongan students attending Brigham Young University-Hawaii Campus would return home at the completion of their schooling and not stay in Hawaii or migrate to the United States mainland.

Music for the general sessions was provided by adult, youth, and Church school choirs.

Many sacrifices were made to attend the conference. Approximately 100 Saints returned from overseas especially for the conference, while others made long boat voyages from the outer islands. One boat arrived from Vava‘u carrying 1,000 men, women, and children who had stood shoulder to shoulder for twenty-four hours. The boat was designed to carry 300.

For Tonga, this was the second visit by a President of the Church. The first was in 1955 when President David O. McKay toured the Pacific. It was President Kimball’s second visit to the islands, though. His first was in 1972, as a member of the Council of the Twelve.

Although the conference days were “rained out,” many considered the rain a blessing, since it tempered what otherwise would have been a very hot and uncomfortable climate.

President Kimball urged the Saints to forget the mud and the rain, but to remember the spirit of the conference and to put into practice the principles and the counsel that they had received.

Some of the 1,000 Saints who came to conference in a boat designed for three hundred disembark for conference. (Photography by Kakolosi Kioa.)

Conference in Sydney

SYDNEY, Australia—“My heart is filled with the love of God and my fellowmen after viewing your inspirational telecast,” wrote one Australian, following the live broadcast of Sunday’s area conference session here February 29.

The session was carried by ten television stations, and it elicited hundreds of letters from Australians who were touched by the spirit of conference. “An unforgettable hour of music and devotion,” wrote one viewer, while another described it as “one of my most glorious experiences.”

The impact of the broadcast was such that a major network rebroadcast the session to Western Australia where the Saints were unable to view the live telecast because of a technicians’ strike.

In preparation for the live broadcast, members and missionaries distributed more than 100,000 invitations to friends and neighbors to watch the historic telecast.

Some 3,500 members of the Church from Sydney and the surrounding mission area, as well as from other parts of the country, packed the city’s beautiful opera house and the town hall to listen to the words of love and counsel from President Spencer W. Kimball and other General Authorities. Those in the town hall were able to watch the proceedings on closed-circuit television.

The session opened with a 350-voice choir under the direction of Donald Newton singing “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” a presentation that set the spiritual tone for the session and brought tears to many eyes. Later, the choir sang a special number composed by Brother Newton, “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.”

As the principal speaker, President Kimball spoke on the need for a prophet and concluded with the charge, “To your tents, O Israel, stand firm and loyal and immovable in support of the prophets of God!”

Ian G. Mackie, president of Sydney Australia Greenwich Stake told the congregation of the first missionaries who preached in Sydney not far from the Opera House on November 2, 1851. He concluded by saying, “I am deeply grateful for a church that teaches high ideals, the virtues of a good day’s work, and the responsibilities that go with freedom of choice.”

Concluding the telecast portion of the session, Sister Elva Mitchell, Relief Society president of the Harbor Ward, emphasized that a woman in today’s world “will be remembered most for the sons and daughters she leaves behind. That will be her greatest legacy.”

Earlier in the conference schedule, the premier (governor) of New South Wales, Sir Eric Willis, and his wife were guests of President and Sister Kimball at the cultural program depicting the development of Australia. The nation’s history was presented through music, song, drama, dance, and narration by some 200 cast members, accompanied by an orchestra. The high standard of performance was reflected in a five-minute standing ovation and in compliments from the premier, who commented that the show was of high quality, one that brought forth a feeling of national pride and excitement.

The auditorium could not hold all those who wanted to see the show, and so a special matinee was held the following day.

As the conference weekend progressed, the speakers continually expressed their love for the Saints. Elder Bruce R. McConkie spoke on the power of testimony and how it operates in people’s lives. Elder Loren C. Dunn reflected on his mission in Australia some twenty years ago. He recalled the visit to Australia by President David O. McKay in 1955 and noted the tremendous growth of the Church in this country. In twenty years, he pointed out, eight stakes and five missions had been organized.

It was announced by President Kimball that Elder Dunn has been called as the new president of the Australia Sydney Mission.

He also announced that Garry P. Mitchell of Sydney had been called as the new Regional Representative of the Council of the Twelve for Australia.

As the conference came to an end, the Saints stood and sang “God Be with You,” as tears streamed down their faces. Even the regular opera house ushers were moist-eyed as the spirit of the occasion touched their hearts.

One elderly lady who viewed the conference on closed-circuit television in the town hall told a missionary, “Young man, I’ve been looking for this for eighty-one years.”

The area conference in Sydney had come to an end, but its impact will long be felt.

President Spencer W. Kimball lovingly reaches out his hand to greet some of the members who came to meet him at Sydney’s airport.

Conference in Brisbane

BRISBANE, Australia—For the Saints here, the area conference was brief. The Brethren arrived on a Sunday afternoon and left midday on Monday.

Brisbane was the site of the last Australian area conference, with the Brethren shuttling in from Sydney and Melbourne before they flew on to Tahiti, the final area conference in their South Pacific schedule.

Heavy rain was falling as President Spencer W. Kimball arrived, but the inclement weather was overcome by the warmth of the welcome as Primary children sang, “I Am a Child of God.” President Kimball, obviously pleased at the reception, softly sang along with the children.

Many of the Saints traveled long distances to be here so that they and their children could see and hear the prophet of the Lord. One family came from Darwin some 2,000 miles away; another came from Indonesia.

The Saints heard the Brethren urge them to greater efforts in accepting the responsibilities that come with the gospel; strengthening the home and sharing the blessings of the gospel with their neighbors.

Early the next day, the General Authorities met with the local priesthood leaders at a special breakfast to which they were welcomed by President William Proctor of the Brisbane Australia Stake. “I can’t think of anything more wonderful,” he said in his greeting, “than to have breakfast with the Prophet.”

In the Monday session, which started at 7:30 A.M., President Kimball commented that he had been assigned to organize the Brisbane Australia Stake in October 1965 as the 306th stake of the Church.

“I am pleased with the growth and the development of leadership here,” he said.

The session ended at 9:30 A.M., and within forty-five minutes the plane carrying President Kimball and his party flew out of Brisbane.

The Brethren’s stay in Brisbane had been short, but the love and the spirit that they brought will nourish the Saints here for a long time to come.

An Australian Boy Scout stands smartly at attention as children gather to greet President and Sister Kimball. (Church News photograph.)

Conference in Tahiti

PAPEETE, Tahiti—The two-day area conference held here the last of the current South Pacific conferences. It was here that President Spencer W. Kimball and the nine other General Authorities on the tour met together after separate schedules in Australia.

It was here that the weather was kind and gracious, as cool ocean breezes wafted across the islands, providing a respite from the tropical heat.

It was here that the message was given to the Tahitian Saints to create a Zion in their midst. “To the Tahitians,” said President Kimball, “these beautiful islands are Zion. The gathering of the Saints is for you and me. We must get very, very busy to let our neighbors know the true values of the gospel. Do not ignore this important challenge.”

If there was a theme to the conference here it was one of love. President Kimball and the other Brethren who spoke repeatedly expressed their love for the Saints. And that that love was reciprocated was evident in the faces of the Saints.

On the second day of their visit here, President Kimball, accompanied by David M. Kennedy, ambassador-at-large for the Church, Tahiti Mission President Raymond R. Baudin, and Papeete Stake President Victor D. Cave, called upon the governor of Tahiti, Charles Schmitt. Governor Schmitt scheduled his time so that he could attend the last session of the conference.

There was an outpouring of music as the conference sessions progressed. Several choruses representing the elders, the Relief Society, and the youth added a special spiritual touch to the meetings.

In all, the conference raised the spirits of the Saints here and made them more determined to let the gospel light shine in their lives. As President Kimball said, “This could be a new day for Tahiti. The things you have heard are important to you. Put them into your lives.”

President Spencer W. Kimball, right, and President N. Eldon Tanner visit with the Papeete Tahiti Stake youth choir.