News of the Church


General Conferences to Be Two-day Conferences

The First Presidency has announced a change in format for the annual and semiannual general conferences of the Church. General sessions, instead of being held for three days, will now be held for only two.

In a letter to priesthood leaders, the First Presidency said:

“The General Conference in April 1977 will be held on Saturday and Sunday, April 2 and 3. Two general sessions will be held on each of these days with the General Welfare Services meeting being held Saturday at 7:00 A.M., and the General Priesthood meeting being held Saturday at 7:00 P.M. Instead of general sessions being held on Friday, April 1, as in the past, Friday will be devoted to a seminar for Regional Representatives of the Twelve.

“The format of the April 1977 General Conference will be followed in subsequent general conferences, with the general sessions being held on the first Sunday of each April and October and the preceding Saturdays, and with the seminar for Regional Representatives of the Twelve being held on the preceding Friday.”

This also means that the annual general conference in the spring will no longer be specifically scheduled to include April 6, a traditional general conference day commemorating the organization of the Church on April 6, 1830.

In previous years, including 1976, the spring sessions of general conference have usually been scheduled so that April 6 could be included, even if it was in midweek.

The first conference of the Church was held in Fayette, New York, June 9, 1830 (Essentials in Church History, p. 82), with all twenty-seven members in attendance. In September of the same year, a second conference was held, also in Fayette. In 1831 there were seven conferences from January 2 through October 25–26, from Fayette to Kirtland, Hiram, and Orange County, Ohio. Thereafter, conferences reflected the historical developments within the Church, with the gathering places ranging from Amherst, Ohio, through Far West, Nauvoo, Winter Quarters, and Council Bluffs.

Apart from some exceptions, the April/October pattern for general conference was established when the Saints arrived in Salt Lake City and held their first conference October 6–8, 1848. Among the exceptions were the 89th general conference that was postponed until June because of a flu epidemic, and the October 1957 semiannual conference that was cancelled because of the Asian flu.

But even though the Saints were settled in the Great Salt Lake Valley, the 1885 April and October conferences were held in Logan, Utah. The next year they were held in Provo and then in Coalville. The April conference in 1887 was held in Provo, and it wasn’t until the October semiannual conference that the Saints once again gathered in Salt Lake City.

From that 1830 gathering attended by twenty-seven Saints, general conference has grown to an event attended by many thousands of Saints and guests in the Tabernacle, in the overflow areas in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square, and in the nearby Salt Palace. In addition, an uncounted audience “attends” conference through television and radio broadcasts and direct telephone line connections in the United States, Canada, It’s a Young Church in … Mexico, Central and South America, Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Korea, and Japan.

Elder Robert E. Wells Assigned to Chile as Area Supervisor

SANTIAGO, Chile—Elder Robert E. Wells of the First Quorum of the Seventy has taken up residence here as the newly appointed Area Supervisor for Chile-Argentina.

Elder Wells, whose assignment was announced by the First Presidency prior to Christmas, becomes the third resident General Authority in South America. The other two Brethren are Elder James E. Faust, supervisor for the Brazil-Uruguay Area, and Elder A. Theodore Tuttle, supervisor for the Andes Area, which comprises Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.

Originally, Elder Faust included Argentina in his area, and Elder Tuttle had Chile under his supervision. Both of these Brethren were appointed resident area supervisors in the summer of 1975.

There are now eleven General Authorities residing in other areas of the world than Utah. Other than Elders Faust, Tuttle, and Wells, there are (in alphabetical order): Elder Bernard P. Brockbank, British Isles; Elder Jacob de Jager, Southeast Asia-Philippines; Elder Charles A. Didier, Europe West (Belgium, France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, and the French-speaking area of Switzerland); Elder J. Thomas Fyans, Mexico-Central America; Elder John H. Groberg, Hawaii-Pacific Islands; Elder Adney Y. Komatsu, Japan-Far East; Elder Robert L. Simpson, Pacific-Polynesian Islands; and Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, Europe (Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and the German-speaking area of Switzerland).

Elder Wells, who was sustained as a new member of the First Quorum of the Seventy at the 1976 October general conference, is no stranger to Latin America. He served as a missionary in Argentina and then returned as a bank official to live and work in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Ecuador, and Brazil.

“I’ve enjoyed the opportunity that I have had to live among and to work with the people of South America,” he says. “I have seen the Church expand rapidly and become a power for good in those countries as the people were touched by the Spirit and accepted the gospel.”

Among those that Elder Wells has taught were Chilean workers in a logging camp just across the border from Argentina. “At the time, my companion and I, working in southern Argentina, crossed through the Andes by horseback and taught at a logging camp. We were the first missionaries in Chile in the twentieth century.

“We found that the men far outnumbered the women who came to hear us. In South America that is unusual. Usually, it is the women who attend religious functions, while the men tend to hold back. Later, when President Spencer W. Kimball, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, dedicated Chile and opened the way for full-time missionary work, he prophesied that men would come forward in great numbers. With my missionary companion, I had witnessed the beginnings of what President Kimball said would happen. It has happened, and the Church is gaining in strength because of it.”

Elder Robert E. Wells

Elder Robert E. Wells

Genealogy Brings Duke of Argyll to Church Headquarters

An eighteenth-century castle in Argyll, Scotland, and modern microfilm equipment in Salt Lake City were two seemingly disparate elements that recently came into harmony when Iain Campbell, Chief of the Clan Campbell and the 12th Duke of Argyll, visited the Genealogical Department.

The duke is currently undertaking an ambitious program to restore the upper story of the ancestral Campbell home, Inverary Castle, destroyed by fire in 1975. Restoration plans include the establishment of a genealogical library and archives, along with study and research areas. The records that will become more accessible reach back into the ninth century and provide information on Campbells and the various septs or branches of the Campbell family and other families whose records were obtained by the Campbells over the past centuries.

A small percentage of these records were microfilmed by the Genealogical Department during the lifetime of the present duke’s father. Currently, the archives at Inverary Castle are closed until the half-million documents are placed in the new library facilities and classified. Genealogical records may then be microfilmed.

As steward of these family and estate records, the duke is concerned for their preservation. He visited Salt Lake City at the invitation of Church member Frank S. Campbell of Arizona, “to see what I could learn about genealogy from the Church.”

As well as seeing the genealogical library, the duke and duchess also toured the Church’s genealogical vaults near Salt Lake City. Both facilities, he said, “are outstanding. There’s nothing in the world to compare with them.”

At a special luncheon attended by President and Sister Spencer W. Kimball, together with other Church, state, and city officials, the duke issued an appeal to “my clansmen, to people with Scottish ties, and to all civilized people to aid in the restoration project.”

A new roof has been constructed on the castle, but much remains to be done to create the new research libraries and to restore some of the fine artwork that was damaged in the fire. Some 2,000 paintings were destroyed, along with many fine furnishings.

Those in the United States and Canada who are interested in assisting the creation of the libraries at Inverary may do so by sending their tax-deductible contributions to: Inverary Castle Restoration, Jacob More Society, c/o Zion’s First National Bank, 1 South Main St., Salt Lake City, Utah 84101.

Contributors in Britain and Commonwealth countries other than Canada should send their donations to: The Honorary Treasurer, Inverary Castle Restoration Appeal, Bank of Scotland, 64 George Street, Edinburgh, Scotland EH2 2YS.

[photo] President and Sister Spencer W. Kimball receive a history of Argyll and Inverary from the Duke and Duchess of Argyll.

Church Television Special Brings 90,000 Responses

“Thank you so very much for that beautiful television presentation. I certainly did enjoy it. It really gave me food for thought. Perhaps I will be successful in putting the thoughts into practice as I raise my two sons, with whom I have difficulty in communicating. Thank you for helping me see where I can improve our family life.”

This letter was typical of the 90,000 viewer responses received on “The Family … And Other Living Things,” a special one-hour television program produced by the Church and viewed in more than fifty major television markets throughout the United States.

The program, the first of its kind offered by the Church, was syndicated through local television stations, many of whom cancelled their regular, prime-time network broadcasting.

With a serious underlying message that love, effort, and communication are the basis of better family relations, the program took a tongue-in-cheek approach to everyday family situations. It had its poignant moments, too, and it included three “commercial” messages that illustrated how improvements could be made in the parent-child relationship.

Each message invited the viewers to call a special telephone number or to write in to Church headquarters for an eight-page booklet entitled It’s Next Week, which contains an extension of the program’s message.

Fifty telephones were installed on the twenty-eighth floor of the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City, where volunteer hostesses accepted requests for the booklet not only during the viewing times of the show, but also for many days after each broadcast.

The program was first carried by a television station in Raleigh, North Carolina, on November 20. Three weeks later it received a final viewing on December 13 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Many viewers who responded to the program requested a second showing, while others were so impressed with the message that they asked for a regular series on improving family relations.

The impact of the program is reflected in a letter a viewer in Fort Worth, Texas, wrote to his local television station:

“During seventeen years of watching television I have never seen a program so relevant and needed by today’s people. I enjoyed the manner in which the program was presented; the actors and actresses were excellent in their parts, and the theme of the program should be mandatory or at least highly encouraged for prospective parents.

“Even the commercials by the ‘Mormon’ Church were informative and interesting, and they were enjoyed by my entire family. They were refreshing and educational, which is rare for commercials on today’s television programs. I was impressed because they weren’t biased, forceful, or self-righteous in their presentation.”

One lady from Milford, New Hampshire, wrote:

“When I think of the wholesomeness of your program as compared to ordinary, everyday family television, I yearn for more. Enclosed is a check for $25.00. It must have cost a lot to produce the show. I wish I could send you a check for the full amount and say, ‘Here, do another one.’ Thank you for caring enough about others to have given of yourselves so that we could learn.”

Although this particular viewer enclosed a check with her request for the booklet, there was no charge, and the program did not solicit funds.

Often, viewers requested not one booklet but many. Some wanted to share them with all their family members, friends, and neighbors. Other requests for hundreds of copies came from ministers of other faiths who wanted to distribute the booklets to their congregations.

Some of the more touching requests came from small children, one of whom wrote, “Please send me one free book because this family is falling apart. Thanks for bringing the book out. Thanks.”

Although some of the viewer response was from members of the Church, the overwhelming majority was from nonmembers. Many of these declared their own church affiliations, and then went on to express statements such as, “I do very much admire the Mormon Church for the power of its Christian presence in America.”

Telephone calls and letters—approximately 1,300 letters were received daily—were just two of the avenues for viewer response. Prior to broadcasting in the various areas around the country, local members of the Church were encouraged to invite nonmembers into their homes to view the program. Nonmember guests were presented with a copy of the It’s Next Week booklet, which contained a viewer response card seeking opinions on the program, and also asking if they were interested in knowing more about the Church’s “approach to the family and other important aspects of life.” These cards also were included with the booklets requested by viewers.

In addition, in states outside of Utah and other heavily Latter-day Saint populated areas, members of the Church received additional referral cards that they could distribute among their friends and their daily contacts to advertise the program.

For some, just watching the program was enough. They telephoned for the missionaries. For others, there was a special response. One young mother-to-be wrote: “I am 5 1/2 months pregnant with our first child. As my husband watched the show I saw him, for the first time, laugh, cry, and want this child, and it made me warm all over.”

[photo] Some 600 volunteers answered telephone calls and addressed and mailed the requested copies of It’s Next Week to viewers across the country.

Pageants on Church Themes Set for 1977

A total of nine dramatic pageants based on the gospel, the restoration, and Church history have been planned for this year. In addition, the traditional Promised Valley dramatic musical will be presented in the Promised Valley Playhouse, Salt Lake City, through July and August.

With the exception of the Nativity Pageant in Calgary, Alberta, all pageants are scheduled so that they will not conflict with Sundays or family home evenings. All are free of charge.

April 8–9, Mesa, Arizona Temple grounds—Easter pageant depicting the life, death, and resurrection of the Savior.

June 16–18, Independence, Missouri (near visitors center)—“Missouri, Mormons, Miracles,” dealing with the Book of Mormon and Church history.

July 12–16 and 19–23, Oakland, California (near the temple in tri-stake center)—narrates history of Joseph Smith and pioneer trek.

July 14–16 and 19–23, Manti, Utah (on temple grounds)—“Mormon Miracle” tells story of the organization of the Church with flashbacks to Book of Mormon days.

July 22–23 and 26–30, Palmyra, New York—Fortieth anniversary production of “America’s Witness for Christ,” on hillside at Cumorah.

July 22–23, Cody, Wyoming (high school auditorium)—“Lest We Forget” presents story of settlement of the area by the Saints.

August 9–13, Nauvoo, Illinois (near visitors center)—“City of Joseph” tells of the rise and fall of this Mormon settlement.

September 1–3 and 6–10, San Diego, California (in Old Town Park)—depicts the story of the march of the Mormon Battalion.

December 19–27, Calgary, Alberta, Canada (Heritage Park)—Christmas Nativity Pageant.

[photo] Scene from Hill Cumorah Pageant, Palmyra, New York.

LDS Scene

Church members who have been collecting recognition and honors recently are: Eldon Linschoten, chief photographer for the Church and manager of Photo Services, received a bronze award for his entry in the Nikon Photo International Contest. He is one of only thirty-three photographers in the United States and 142 worldwide to be honored out of many thousands who entered the contest. His winning entry was of a group of young fans at a high school football game. Brother Linschoten, whose photography regularly appears in the Ensign, the New Era, and the Friend, has been a photographer for thirty-five years.

Harmon Killebrew, once named as the most valuable player in the American Baseball League, was the featured speaker at the luncheon inaugurating the thirty-sixth annual National Bible Week. The luncheon, held in New York, was attended by church leaders of many faiths, along with representatives of government and business. Following the luncheon, F. Charles Graves, director of the New York office for the Church’s Public Communications Department, was elected secretary of the Laymen’s National Bible Committee, which sponsors National Bible Week and conducts a year-round program to motivate Bible reading and study. Brother Graves has previously served on the advisory committee for National Bible Week.

For “outstanding achievement in public service announcements,” the Church’s Bonneville Productions garnered a second Gabriel award presented by UNDA-USA, the professional Catholic Association for broadcasters and allied communicators: The current award and the previous award were both received for the Church-sponsored “Homefront” public service announcements on radio and television, which are aimed at improving family relations.

[photo] Eldon K. Linschoten