News of the Church

By Holger G. Nickel


Area Conferences in Europe

European area conferences in August drew nearly 25,000 Saints to five different locations to hear instructions from eight General Authorities, including two members of the First Presidency, and local and regional leaders.

Attending the conferences were President Spencer W. Kimball, President N. Eldon Tanner of the First Presidency, Elder Thomas S. Monson and Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Council of the Twelve; Elder Robert D. Hales and Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, Assistants to the Twelve; Elder Rex D. Pinegar of the First Council of the Seventy; and Elder Charles A. Didier of the First Quorum of the Seventy. Elder Monson is area adviser to the European area, and Elder Wirthlin and Elder Didier are area supervisors.

About 4,200 members from France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and French-speaking Switzerland and Belgium attended a two-day conference in Paris on July 31 and August 1.

Nearly 3,000 members were waiting in Helsinki, Finland, for the conference on August 2–3, with an overlapping conference in Copenhagen beginning August 3 and continuing August 4 for 3,500 members from Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.

The General Authorities then separated for two simultaneous conferences. President Kimball, Elder Monson, and Elder Wirthlin traveled to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where Elder Didier joined them for a three-day conference, August 6–8, that drew more than 2,200 Saints and investigators from the Netherlands and Flemish-speaking Belgium. Meanwhile, President Tanner, Elder Packer, Elder Hales, and Elder Pinegar traveled to Dortmund, West Germany, where they spoke to the largest Sunday congregation of the series—10,500 members from Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, plus Americans from servicemen’s branches.

After the Saturday sessions, President Kimball and President Tanner each led their groups to the other location, so that both conferences heard all the General Authorities.

[photos] Photos by Ian Voss and Kaj Jensø (Denmark)

[photo] President Kimball greets Scandinavian members.

[photo] A flurry of flags introduces this part of the cultural program.

[photo] Sister Juliana de Vries (former mission Relief Society secretary) and Sister Alida Marshall (Primary president, Amersfoort Branch, for nine years).

[photo] Elder Thomas S. Monson’s address is translated into Finnish at the Helsinki conference.

[photo] Interpreters Poul Stolp, George Kraanen, and Dick Taselaar join in the singing.

[photo] Finnish congregation sings in first session of conference. (Photo by Dean R. Brunson.)

Conference in Paris

“We love you very much,” said President Kimball. “We have come a long way to tell you this, and to tell you how we appreciate all that you are doing.” That is how President Kimball opened the area conference in Paris, the first of five area conferences in July and August.

About 4,200 members from France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and French-speaking Switzerland and Belgium thrilled to the messages of the General Authorities and poured out their feelings in their music, their cultural presentations, and their attentive listening to the messages.

President Kimball set goals for them: a thousand missionaries from Europe, choirs in every ward or branch, a firm commitment to build up Zion where they are, to follow the example of self-sufficiency and mutual aid given by members of the Church after the Teton Dam flood in Idaho, and to become concerned, dedicated parents. “We are convinced that nobody can take care of children like their own parents. We hope the fathers will take a more definite interest in the rearing of their children. It isn’t enough just for a father to provide the means.”

Sister Camilla Kimball, speaking at the mother-daughter session, underscored President Kimball’s warning that a mother’s first responsibility was to her children. Then she encouraged women to qualify themselves to fulfill two vocations: that of homemaker and that of breadwinner. She explained the reasons: “An unmarried woman is always happier if she has a vocation in which she can be socially serviceable and financially independent. In no case should she be urged to accept an unworthy companion as a means of support. Any married woman may become a widow without warning. Another valid reason for a woman to prepare herself to fulfill a vocation is that not all of her lifetime could possibly be completely filled with demands of a family, home, and children. When a mother’s children are reared, … her real life’s work may seem done, when in reality it has only changed. Shall she become a burden or shall she embark upon a new adventure?”

President N. Eldon Tanner related several stories from his own life of opportunities to bear witness of the gospel in high places, and he encouraged members never to be ashamed of the gospel. “What is there in the Church to be ashamed of?” he asked. “The only thing I can think of is the way some of us live. Are you ashamed that you’re a spirit child of God? that you voted to support Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world? that you know God lives? that there will be a resurrection for all of us?”

Elder Thomas S. Monson encouraged the members to make three pledges that would enrich their participation in the conference and increase their ability later:

First, “I will listen to the words of the Prophet. I will let them penetrate deeply into my heart. I will let them be the guiding influence in my life.”

Second, “I will learn.” Elder Monson testified that he had learned determination from President Kimball, loyalty and integrity from President Tanner, tenacity and obedience from President Romney.

Third, “I will labor.” He stressed particularly missionary labors as new directions in missionary work unfold in Europe during the next months.

The conference took place in the Centre International de Paris, a recently completed and thoroughly modern structure. Side-by-side translation of the General Authorities’ talks turned English into French while simultaneous translations through earphones provided for the Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese members.

Conference in Dortmund

Three months of preparation whizzed by for President Klaus E. Hasse of the Dusseldorf Germany Stake and his hardworking helpers, but when August 6 came, bringing Germany’s second area conference, they were ready. So were the 5,700 members and friends who attended the Friday evening cultural event, the 6,400 who were there Saturday, and the 10,500 who arrived for the Sunday meetings.

Many of these had come only by great persistence. One sister from Hamburg, 300 miles to the north, had to work all day Friday and then persuaded a nonmember acquaintance to drive her to Dortmund.

President N. Eldon Tanner presided over the Saturday sessions, which included a mother-daughter session attended by 2,800 sisters and a father-son session attended by 2,900 brethren. Dusseldorf Germany Stake young people topped off the evening with a potpourri of folk songs, folk dances, and folklore outside the great Westfalenhalle, part of which was serving as a dormitory for 800 members.

A conference highlight was the arrival of President Spencer W. Kimball on Sunday morning. His mere presence helped the people feel even more the Spirit of God in the large hall. Even nonmembers commented on the unusual feeling.

Conference officials were delighted with the tone of the press coverage. “The questions at the press conference were by no means hostile—which is a great success for our area,” commented one.

Comments from local members after the conference were very positive:

“This will make missionary work much easier. The performances by the young people developed great rapport with the local nonmembers.”

“Not only do the General Authorities tell us what we need to do right now, but they also give us so much of their own inspiration that we can make our decisions in union with the Spirit.”

“What a blessing area conferences are! I’m already looking forward to the next one.”

Church to Produce Television Special

Saints in the United States and Canada will have a great opportunity for missionary work as the Church produces an hour-long television special in November.

To be aired in evening “prime time” during National Family Week, which begins November 21, the program is designed to remind everyone of the importance of the family.

It is suggested that members invite their nonmember friends into their homes to view the show, which will feature leading Latter-day Saint actors and entertainers as well as some nonmember artists.

The program will be professionally produced in Los Angeles and will include Church “commercials” that invite viewers to write in for information on the Church and its belief in the family unit. Nonmembers desiring Latter-day Saints to call at their home to present material on the Church may so indicate when they request a special booklet that is being prepared. The booklet is based on material published in the family home evening manual.

Members will be informed about television channels and program times through wards and stakes, along with information on how members can be a part of this important step in Church and television history.

Monument Funding a Worldwide Effort

Sisters around the world are uniting their imaginations and energies as the dream of a Relief Society monument in Nauvoo moves toward reality. The Zurich Switzerland Stake planned a special program, with proceeds to be donated to the fund. Stake Relief Society President Heidy Kaspar and Stake President Hans Ringger got double duty out of the event by stressing its missionary potential as well.

Wilford Ward, Saint Anthony Idaho Stake, sent in a contribution of almost $100, collected only days before the collapse of the Teton Dam completely destroyed the homes of thirty-four of the fifty-three contributors. Relief Society President Rayola Birch commented, “The sisters need Relief Society now more than they ever did in their lives, and they want it, too. We are so thankful we didn’t procrastinate any longer in completing this project.”

The sale of a Bicentennial quilt (Washington, D.C.) and the proceeds from a Bicentennial musical, “Patriots in Pinafores” (Las Vegas), also went to swell the coffers.

Possibly the most touching contribution, sent from Northern Ireland, was accompanied by a handwritten note: “Although we are not members of your Church, we would deem it an honour if you would accept the small contribution to the cost of the Nauvoo Monument which we have enclosed.”

[photo] Florence Hansen adds a final touch to her sharing-our-talents grouping. The full-size statue will be one of thirteen pieces in Nauvoo. (Photography by Eldon Linschoten.)

Idaho Flood: The Lessons of Disaster

If you had to evacuate your home in a hurry, what would you take with you? What would you save if you thought there was a chance that your home and all your possessions would be destroyed?

These were decisions that faced the Saints in northeastern Idaho June 5 when the Teton Dam burst, sending tons of water through nearby communities.

With very little time to make decisions, many Saints left their homes with only the clothes they wore, while others took a smorgasbord of books, photographs, genealogy sheets, insurance policies, the family cat, potted plants, and even typewriters. Most of the Saints’ memories of that day are tinged with regret at what they did not save from the water.

Genealogy records by the pound were lost in the flood, leading many to consider keeping their records in a single briefcase or some other container that could be easily carried. In fact, several eastern Idaho Saints are now keeping all their vital records—genealogy, birth certificates, passports, tax receipts, financial records, licenses, insurance policies, and so on—in a single place, where in an emergency it would be a matter of seconds to get them all.

Some survivors suggested that each family should plan for possible disaster, whether it be flood, earthquake, or fire. One sister recommended that such planning could be a family home evening project. Each family member would have to decide what he or she would take in case of an emergency, and the whereabouts of valuables or documents should be known to all. Such a contingency plan would have to be updated on a regular basis.

What other lessons were taught by the flood?

Idaho Falls South Stake President Harold Hillam had the opportunity of being involved both in his welfare responsibilities as liaison between the flood-ravaged area and the volunteer cleanup effort and as an observer who has been to Rexburg and the surrounding communities a number of times.

“I think we learned that we need to work within the basic gospel principles of priesthood leadership,” he said in an interview. “We learned that we must follow the welfare program and not deviate from it. We learned from the response to the call for help that because of the great faith of the Saints, the Church can do anything it wills to do when it comes to cleaning up after such a disaster and then going on to rebuild.” The cleanup work was all administered through adjacent wards and stakes, and government officials were amazed at the speed and efficiency of the system.

President Hillam also led his stake in the successful emergency measures undertaken at Idaho Falls to prevent the city from being flooded. Sunday meetings were dismissed on the day following the dam break as the flood-waters threatened to overflow the banks of the Snake River. Members and nonmembers alike turned out to erect earth and sandbag barriers.

“There was a good feeling among the members and the nonmembers because they all pitched in. Everyone knew that that was the place to be—alongside each other protecting their community.

“In those few hours that we worked together we learned a great lesson in service and sacrifice, a lesson that would take weeks to grasp in weekly priesthood meetings.”

A dependable means of communication also was a vital factor in the overall effort, said President Hillam. “A good communications network is a prime consideration in such circumstances.” Good communication helps avoid duplication of effort, and in many emergencies lives could be saved. Some have suggested that every bishop should know who in his ward has a CB radio.”

Idaho Falls served as a channel for volunteer labor and equipment and as a stopping-off place for tons of donated clothing. “We recognized and deeply appreciated the love and concern that prompted the Saints to conduct clothing drives and food drives. It was yet another indication that we were not alone in a time of trouble, that our brothers and sisters wanted to reach out to us.

“But we found that the clothing drives sometimes created problems. It literally took hundreds and hundreds of manhours just to sort the clothing that arrived by the truckload. Clean clothes—sometimes brand new—were mixed in with dirty clothes and some very obvious castoffs. The logistics of sorting the piles upon piles of clothes were incredible. And at first the Saints who were hit by the flood did not need the suits and dresses. What they wanted were work clothes, although those immediate needs changed as time passed.”

President Hillam suggested how clothing could be handled in any future emergency: “Now if people wanted to donate clothing, it would seem to me that it would be appropriate for them to donate to their local Deseret Industries. There the clothes would be cleaned, sanitized, sorted according to age groups, and readied to meet the disaster area’s needs. For instance, if we had wanted more work clothes, or more men’s shirts, our Deseret Industries here could have contacted other Deseret Industries outlets, and the need would have been met.”

Regular channels could also be used for food donations: “The Saints who want to give should give through their fast offering. That way their donations can be channeled to best effect.”

In the Teton Dam disaster the regular Church organization was put to the test—and it passed. “One of the great testimonies that I have gained from this experience,” says President Hillam, “is that the Church has been prepared for years for times of disaster. The organization exists to serve. We have welfare services, we have bishops storehouses, we have Deseret Industries, we have the means by which any type of aid can be rendered. We need to remember to use the priesthood-directed organization.”

The Church organization is not put in cold storage between emergencies. Says President Hillam, “We also need to recognize that in many ways we have the opportunity at least once a month to check out the organization, to have a dry run, as it were, in case of emergency. That opportunity comes through home teaching. We meet with the families assigned to us, we report back to our priesthood leaders, we are aware, or should be aware, of the welfare and well-being of each of our families. When disaster strikes, we just follow the same process—we meet with our families and report back to our priesthood leaders so that the welfare of the members in any given ward and stake is known.

“One of the things that I have learned as I have been involved in this experience is that the home teachers and their priesthood leaders must come to realize and fulfill their priesthood responsibilities. We simply can’t expect the stake president and the bishop to carry the whole load. I saw many stake presidents and bishops work around the clock to the point of mental and physical exhaustion.

“The home teachers need to build such a rapport with their families that the families will go to them in time of crisis. It’s too much for a bishop to try to carry the total load. The Saints, too, need to remember to utilize the priesthood channels and call upon the home teachers as a source of information and help. If the priesthood channels are working properly, information and help can pass back and forth along the line.”

President Hillam found his work with those who suffered from this disaster to be an enriching experience: “For me, this has been one of the most special assignments I have ever had, to actually see the love and concern, the desire to help, and the great power of faith in the Church. It’s just unlimited.”

[photos] Photography by Eldon Linschoten

[photo] This ancient and heroic Beaver (World War II vintage), making several trips, rescued thirty people from rising waters during the flood. Lewis W. Hart is the pilot. (Photography by Eldon Linschoten.)

[photo] An Army helicopter on loan has already plucked more than a dozen cars from the riverbed.

[photo] A suddenly aged combine stands forlornly in a ravaged field.

Personal Impressions of the Photographer: Here’s How I See It

On the fifth of June, 80 billion gallons of water poured through a gap in the Teton Dam—in twelve minutes. Farmers and townspeople in Wilford, Sugar City, and Rexburg rushed from their homes to high ground. They turned and watched as a wall of water swept away their homes, their farms, the food supply, their barns, their livestock, their shops, their cars—and left behind mud, sand, animal carcasses, and a grim future.

But when trees get pruned, they don’t wither up and die. These people had deep roots in Idaho, with plenty of strength to grow again. I talked to a sixty-year-old woman up to her knees in mud where her house had been. “Is this bad enough?” I asked her. She turned and answered, “Oh, it’s terrible. But we’re a tough people. We’re gonna rebuild the town. Rebuild it with buildings, sure, but we’re gonna rebuild it with new people, too.” She didn’t mean outsiders. “I mean us. With new spirit, and new love, and new strength.” I asked her what she was searching for in the mud. She was raking and raking—to find her genealogy papers.

When I went to Idaho four days after the flood, it looked hopeless. We were driven in on back-country vehicles from Idaho Fish and Game. The stench was horrible. There wasn’t a house that wasn’t saturated with water, filled with mud—that is, if it wasn’t torn from the foundation and deposited a mile away. I said to myself, “It’ll take these people 2 1/2 years. If they’re lucky.”

I went back five weeks later. I was amazed. They were already showing great signs of cleaning up. The day I came up there were 500 people each from two stakes. They had paid for the bus they were riding in. They had brought their own food and water. And they had brought food enough to feed the families they would help that day. Where else do you find people like that?

And they found a lot of them. A thousand a day for weeks on end, coming from stakes in northern Utah, western Wyoming, Montana, other parts of Idaho. By the end of August, almost a million man-hours had been donated. With that much work you could build a pyramid or two!

On my July visit there were bulldozers leveling buildings too damaged to repair. The dead animals were gone, and the stink was fading. But to me it still looked like a year’s worth of work ahead.

Then I went back ten weeks after the flood. I couldn’t believe it. If a stranger walked in and I told him that ten weeks ago a ten-foot wall of water had smashed into Rexburg, he’d call me crazy. It doesn’t look like there was a disaster in Rexburg, not any more. Now it looks like a boom town—foundations and footings already poured for new buildings, new signs on the stores, freshly planted grass in the yards, and people cheerful—except that they’re all working fit to bust! What I thought would take years had been done in weeks.

The reason is that the people had grit enough to look at two feet of sand covering their farm and think of it as nothing more than something to clear off before they plowed to plant winter wheat. They had determination enough to look at the ruins of the home they had spent all their lives working for and think only of what the new home was going to look like. They were too busy making the future to worry about what they had lost in the past.

There was help from outside, of course. Besides the volunteers, the Church and the government had come in to help. The Ricks College cafeteria served 30,000 meals a day. Caravans of trucks were loaded up in Salt Lake City with blankets, toothpaste, disposable diapers, flashlight batteries—everything the people might need—and they opened a store in the flood zone. Anybody, Mormon or nonmember, who needed anything could walk in and ask for it and walk out knowing that people had missed a couple of meals once a month to give them the help they needed.

But if the people of eastern Idaho hadn’t had the nerve to stay and build on the ruins of their homes and farms, no amount of outside aid would have helped.

There’s a trailer park in Sugar City where a pasture used to be. The people there mean to stay, even though their fine brick homes are somewhere downstream. They’ve strapped down their trailers so the eastern Idaho wind doesn’t knock them down. They’ve got gas and water piped in. Some of them have even planted flowers. They aren’t going anywhere. Sugar City is home.

I came up to a man and woman—they must have been near seventy. They were picking through the wreckage of their house when the couple suddenly remembered that today was their golden wedding anniversary. Fifty years together. So the woman picked some hollyhocks and made a bouquet of sorts, and the man leaned down and kissed her. They took a break from their work for a minute or two, got some old chairs from the ruins, and sat down. I got a picture, but the picture can’t tell you what I felt when he said, “We’re going to start all over. Brand new.” Like newlyweds, in a way, building from the ground up. But with fifty years of love behind them. They could lose everything they owned and still have everything that mattered to them.

Or the farm family that used to have a little rodeo ground. A nice house, a barn, a good farm that produced well—and the rodeo, complete with floodlights, bleachers, a place to train young would-be rodeo stars. Well, of course, the flood took all that. Not a trace of the bleachers left, the barn gone, only the house left standing, and entirely gutted at that.

So they got together and had a family council. Did they decide to move? No, of course not; Idaho was home. So now we’ve got the eight-year-old, the thirteen-year-old, the sixteen-year-old outside building a beautiful ranch fence around the property. The father has the whole farm cleared of silt now, and he’s planting it soon with winter wheat. The house is cleaned up, but the biggest miracle of all is in the barn. It looked solid enough to withstand a small tornado. “Your cows are going to like this,” I said. But he answered, “Oh, it’s not just for the cows.”

It was for their food storage, too. They’re planning to store enough in that barn that if the need ever came, they could feed themselves—and others. They had found out in the Teton Dam flood that when you all share the same disaster, those who have something share it with anyone who needs it. “The water was no deeper on my farm than it was on others,” he said. “And when everybody’s lost almost everything, those who are lucky enough to have something left just don’t feel right about keeping it to themselves.”

I guess one thing that impressed me most was their sense of priority. Rexburg wasn’t a big city before, and their entertainment facilities were limited. One of the best places in town for people to go was the park. Well, the flood took care of that. Mud, trees toppled, it looked hopeless. One thing I was sure of, that first day: they’d have to bulldoze that flat and plant the park all over.

But they had different ideas. They pulled the trees upright and held them there with guy wires. They built new park benches. They cleared off the dead cows and cleared the grass. It looks like the perfect little central park from everybody’s dream of small-town living. And they did it first, so that the kids would have someplace to go on the Fourth of July while the grown-ups worked.

It could happen anywhere, you know. It does all the time. And disasters demand courage from you. I’m real proud of the way our people handled it. It made me kind of wonder if I’d be up to it myself. I think maybe I would. It’s in the heritage. Brigham Young put his walking stick down in the desert and said, “We’ll build here.” Just the same way I saw a man with his farm buried in sand, wondering how he could farm on what looked like a beach. But he stopped wondering pretty soon. He just dug.

Now he has a little garden cleared, and he’s planted vegetables mostly, a few flowers. He may not even get a crop before the frost. Why did he do it?

“The prophet said to have a garden,” he told me. “I plan to do what the prophet said.”

[photo] Edwin O. and Elda Hamilton Smith of Sugar City take a break from heavy-duty clean-up to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary with a hug and a spray of hollyhocks.

[photo] Behind the Sugar City sign is the new town—all mobile homes.

[photo] Downtown Rexburg looks trim and tidy only weeks after the devastating flood.

[photo] Four Griffeths team up to build miles of fence: Melainie (left), Greg, a cousin, Julie Ann, and Rama Jean with the pole. Nord Hill is at the head post.

Things I Learned …

Things I learned from the 5 June 1976 flood, plus some random thoughts (that’s about the only kind of thoughts I have anymore):

I can live without a paring knife, a blende, sewing machines, yarn, patterns, chairs with all four legs, crochet hooks, freezers, televisions, vacuum cleaners, electric frying pans, ovens that heat, digital clocks, and make-up.

A strong clothesline strung across a corner fence gets clothes as dry as a machine does, and hand-washed clothes come in smelling clean and fresh.

Privacy is precious and having your own bathroom after two weeks of sharing is a luxury.

Dinette chairs come unglued just like you do when hit by a flood.

Much belongs outside.

Some people’s sense of humor floats away.

I miss my books.

Everybody’s treasures look the same when covered with mud.

Families are important.

The goodness of people.

The goodness of Church welfare.

The goodness of the Red Cross.

How long it takes to get a letter when you’ve lost your post office.

Taxes go on being collected.

Light bills and telephone bills come due even when you don’t have lights or telephones.

People get married and babies are born in spite of disasters.

Rusty typewriters don’t work too well.

Storage wheat won’t keep after it has sprouted.

Even full freezers can float away.

How fortunate we were to have Ricks College and its empty dorms.

The thrill of finding a $10 bill in the pocket of a jacket that was short enough not to get wet.

A low-heeled white oxford left shoe and a high-heeled blue right shoe do not make a pair.

Black and white pictures survive floods better than colored ones.

How much I miss my yard, garden, and patio, our good neighbors, my toenail clippers, our clean chapel, the fun of watching things grow, a needle and thread, something constructive to wake up to each morning, the security of our home, our fireplace, a washer and dryer, and our good, cold water.

How much easier we have it than our pioneer sisters—we can choose between standing in line at the one operating laundromat or washing things out by hand. And we have soap from the bishop’s storehouse and warm water.

Things aren’t as important as people and are more easily destroyed.

Things can be bad for a month—and then they’ll get worse.

You can live without a telephone and get by with only one car.

Cattle can die from mud in their lungs days after the flood.

That Heavenly Father sends help—in many ways and in many forms.