News of the Church


First Presidency Issues Statement Opposing Equal Rights Amendment

“From its beginnings, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has affirmed the exalted role of woman in our society.

“In 1842, when women’s organizations were little known, the Prophet Joseph Smith established the women’s organization of the Church, the Relief Society, as a companion body of the priesthood. The Relief Society continues to function today as a vibrant, worldwide organization aimed at strengthening motherhood and broadening women’s learning and involvement in religious, compassionate, cultural, educational, and community pursuits.

“In Utah, where our Church is headquartered, women received the right to vote in 1870, fifty years before the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution granted the right nationally.

“There have been injustices to women before the law and in society generally. These we deplore.

“There are additional rights to which women are entitled.

“However, we firmly believe that the Equal Rights Amendment is not the answer.

“While the motives of its supporters may be praiseworthy, ERA as a blanket attempt to help women could indeed bring them far more restraints and repressions. We fear it will even stifle many God-given feminine instincts.

“It would strike at the family, humankind’s basic institution. ERA would bring ambiguity and possibly invite extensive litigation.

“Passage of ERA, some legal authorities contend, could nullify many accumulated benefits to women in present statutes.

“We recognize men and women as equally important before the Lord, but with differences biologically, emotionally, and in other ways.

“ERA, we believe, does not recognize these differences. There are better means for giving women, and men, the rights they deserve.”

Elder Boyd K. Packer Conference Address

The recent October conference address of Elder Boyd K. Packer, given in the priesthood session of conference, has been published as a pamphlet to be distributed to bishops for further distribution to parents of young men. Elder Packer’s address was not included in the November Ensign’s conference report by determination of the First Presidency. The address was a sensitive treatment of the important subject of chastity.

Fifty Years of Institute

The institute program of the Church began as a small seed planted on the corner of University Avenue and Deakin Street in Moscow, Idaho, in October 1926. It has grown to a mighty oak, whose branches now reach all of the states in the U.S. and fifty other countries.

Institutes teach religion to and sponsor social activities for college-age youth. In only fifty years, the program has grown so that over 85,000 youth on 500 college campuses are now participating under the guidance of 345 full-time and 70 part-time instructors, with 2,000 others assisting voluntarily as a service to the Church.

Two years after the start of released-time seminary taught to high school students by a professional full-time teacher, another need was seen. Horace M. Cummings, general superintendent of the Latter-day Saint Schools, said in his annual report: “I wish to call your attention to the urgent need of making some provision to care for the Latter-day Saint students attending the state university.”

No action was taken until 1926, when two Latter-day Saint professors at the University of Idaho at Moscow, George L. Luke and Willard J. Wilde, together with Elmo J. Call, a local citizen, appealed to the First Presidency for a Church student center to serve Latter-day Saint students attending the university.

When this request reached President Heber J. Grant, he and his second counselor, Elder Charles W. Nibley, were giving final instructions to J. Wiley Sessions on another assignment. Sessions, who had just returned from presiding over the South African Mission, was being assigned to a position with the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company.

According to Brother Sessions’s own account, “President Nibley suddenly stopped, looked at President Grant, and said, ‘Heber, we are making a mistake.’ President Grant replied, ‘Yes, I am afraid we are; I have not felt just right about assigning Brother Sessions to the sugar business.’

“President Nibley looked at me and said ‘Brother Sessions, you are the man to go to Moscow to take care of our students at the University.’ I replied, ‘No, no; are you calling us on another mission?’ President Grant chuckled and said, ‘Of course not; we are giving you a chance to render a great service to the Church, and a fine professional opportunity for yourself.’ Sensing my disappointment, President Nibley arose and put his arm around me and said, ‘Don’t be disturbed, Brother Sessions, this is what the Lord wants you to do. God bless you.”

Seven days later, Brother and Sister Sessions were in Moscow carrying out their charge from The First Presidency. They were to “take care” of the LDS students attending the university.

It is of interest how this new program acquired a name. As the building to house the program was nearing completion, townspeople and university faculty alike wondered what it was going to be. Dr. Eldridge, chairman of the language department and dean of the faculty, inquired, “What is this institution to be called? I suggest it be named the Latter-day Saint Institute of Religion.”

This suggestion was sent to Dr. Joseph F. Merrill, Church commissioner of education. His reply was a letter addressed “To the Director of the Latter-day Saint Institute of Religion—Moscow, Idaho.” The mailman knew where to deliver the letter, and the designation has continued to this day.

The curriculum presented the greatest challenge to Brother Sessions. What classes should be taught? Counsel was sought from Dr. Merrill. He answered that the “objective, as I see it, is to enable our young people attending the colleges to make the necessary adjustments between the things they have been taught in the Church and the things they are learning in the university, to enable them to become firmly settled in their faith as members of the Church.” From this general statement has evolved a curriculum consisting primarily of a study of the standard works and the teachings of modern-day prophets.

During the next decade, institutes of religion were established in Logan, Salt Lake City, Cedar City, Ephraim, and St. George, Utah; Los Angeles and Pasadena, California; Pocatello, Idaho; and Laramie, Wyoming.

The first institute building completed outside the United States and Canada was at Seoul, Korea. It was dedicated this year.

Expansion into non-English-speaking countries began in earnest in 1970, when experienced personnel were sent from America to initiate the program in several countries in Germany, and Central and South America. “From the very beginning of this expansion,” states Dr. Joe J. Christensen, associate commissioner for Seminaries and Institutes, “the plan was for complete internationalization of the program as soon as possible. It is a modern miracle how the Lord has raised up competent leaders in all international areas to introduce or successfully continue the program in their respective countries.”

With the completion of an individual Doctrine and Covenants study course in 1973, and with others in the process of preparation, it is now possible for college-age Saints anywhere in the world to take part in the institute program.

President Spencer W. Kimball gave the program a strong endorsement in 1975 when speaking to the Regional Representatives of the Twelve:

“The goal of every Latter-day Saint is eternal life or exaltation. This can best be achieved by following the straight and narrow path which leads to this goal; namely, participation in the seminary and institute program, a mission, and an eternal marriage. In seminaries and institutes youth are encouraged to fulfill and are assisted in training for a mission. Almost all of those who do fulfill an honorable mission marry in the temple. Those who keep the vows made in the temple will inherit eternal life.

“Weekday religious training is in a position to do as much as any instructional program in the Church to assist the home in directly helping youth achieve eternal life. I strongly advise all youth to continue on this path by participating in the seminary and institute program.”

[photos] The ornate structure originally built for the institute at Moscow, Idaho, above, has given way in recent years to a more functional building, below. Bottom, institute students in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, join their many thousands of brothers and sisters now involved in the institute program.