News of the Church

By Eric Brodin


First Presidency Announces … New Temple in Samoa

Ground will be broken late in 1978 for the second temple in the South Pacific, to be built in American Samoa. Fifty thousand Saints in Samoa, Tonga, French Polynesia (Tahiti), and Fiji will be served by the new temple, which will be completed in 1980.

With the First Presidency’s announcement of the Samoa Temple, the world total of planned and finished temples reached twenty-one. Formerly, Saints in the islands now to be served by the new temple had to travel to the temple at Hamilton, New Zealand. Tahitian Saints will now have a thousand fewer miles to travel to the temple—and Samoan Saints will have a temple next door—or at least on the next island!

Samoa itself is divided into the independent nation of Samoa, with a population of 180,000, and American Samoa, a territory of the United States, with a population of 30,000. (At least 20,000 more American Samoans are living in Hawaii and California.) The Church is remarkably strong among the people of the South Pacific. Samoa has seven stakes; Tonga, a nearby independent nation, has five stakes and two mission districts; French Polynesia (Tahiti), more than a thousand miles to the east, has one stake and four districts; and Fiji, located to the west of Samoa, has four districts. Each island group has a mission of the Church, and the Saints make up 10 percent of the population of these islands.

The location will be announced later for the $1.5 million temple, which will be a one-story building designed so that a future addition could, if needed, double the temple’s capacity. The temple will probably be built of such local materials as lava stone and “some of the many fine hardwoods available in the area,” said Church Architect Emil B. Fetzer, who is in the process of designing the building. Also, the temple will be situated on high ground to protect it against flooding—and because of the heavy rainfall, the temple roof will have to function “as a giant umbrella for drainage efficiency,” though “the roof will be made as soundproof as possible, another consideration prompted by the heavy rains,” Brother Fetzer said.

Missionaries were sent to the South Pacific as early as 1842, when the Prophet Joseph Smith dispatched elders from Nauvoo, Illinois, to preach to the people there. Today thousands of Saints can testify to how well that missionary work went—and is still going.

Tufuga S. Atoa, Regional Representative for the Samoa Region, has been named chairman of the temple committee, composed of local Church leaders who will work with representatives of the Church Physical Facilities Department in the planning and construction of the temple, under the direction of the First Presidency.

As the Sao Paulo Temple in Brazil nears completion, the Samoa Temple joins the Japan, It’s a Young Church in … Mexico, and Seattle temples, which are also in the planning or building stages.

Map of the South Pacific(click to view larger)

The new Samoa Temple will serve American Samoa, Western Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, and French Polynesia (Tahiti), all of which were previously served by the more distant New Zealand Temple in Hamilton, New Zealand.

Church Basketball Team: New Zealand National Champions

The Church College of New Zealand has captured the National Secondary Schools Indoor Basketball Championships for the third time in eight years. This time, however, the Church high school swept to victory completely undefeated!

In an exciting final game against an Auckland secondary school, the team—coached by Ngatai Smith—won 66 to 41. Other games were won by equally lopsided scores, though in the semifinals a sharp team from Burnside High kept the score to a close 53 to 50.

Three players on the Church College team, Peina Smith, Tolu Finau, and Quincey Ahmu, were honored by being named to the Tournament Team, and those three, along with Lester Soloai, were named to the New Zealand National Secondary Schools Team.

Not only that—four of the team members are planning on serving missions in the near future, turning excellent rebounding and a good fast break into more spiritual challenges of spreading the gospel.

Nauvoo Woman’s Monument Donations Still Needed

“The Relief Society is most pleased with the members’ response to the request for donations to fund the Nauvoo Monument,” said Sister Janath R. Cannon, first counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, “but additional money is still needed.

“Enough donations have come in to pay for the statues, but financial resources are needed for landscaping, a pageant, and expenses associated with the dedication,” said Sister Cannon.

The Nauvoo Monument features a series of thirteen statues in a garden setting depicting the various stewardships and responsibilities of women. Their placement at Nauvoo honors the organization of the Relief Society by the Prophet Joseph Smith on 17 March 1842.

Donations by members and families are made to their ward Relief Society secretary-treasurer, who keeps a list of donors. Lists of donors to the monument who contribute prior to 1 January 1978 will be bound in volumes and placed in the visitors center in Nauvoo. Lists of donors making contributions after 1 January 1978 will be placed in a separate volume.

Saints in Portugal

Worldwide publicity followed the governmental change that brought Portugal’s first free elections in fifty years. That was April 1974, and within seven months another, much less publicized event took place—but one with much potential for the Portuguese people. The Portuguese government permitted the legal entry of a mission president and missionaries from “A Igreja de Jesus Cristo dos Santos dos Últimos Dias”—the Mormons.

In April 1975, Elder Thomas S. Monson of the Council of the Twelve dedicated the nation for missionary work. Since that time, from three members of record in the entire nation the Church has grown to more than 750 members, with an average of forty-three new Saints joining the Church each month.

Just as exciting is the fact that already a few of the hundred missionaries in Portugal are native Portuguese—and half the missionaries are Brazilian citizens. Brazil was founded as a colony of Portugal more than four centuries ago, much as the United States was founded as a colony of Britain. Today Brazil has eleven stakes and a temple soon to be dedicated. And just as American missionaries first brought the gospel to the “mother country” of England in the 1830s and 1840s, so today Brazilian missionaries are carrying that same gospel message to their “mother country,” Portugal.

Portugal’s first mission president, Elder W. Grant Bangerter, is today a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. When he arrived in Portugal, excitement among the missionaries was high. But the work was hard. When there is no smoothly running Church organization to bring investigators to, it is harder to show them the gospel in action.

In their home in Santo Amaro, a suburb of Lisboa (the capital of Portugal), Brother and Sister Leme explain how they came to be among the first converts in Portugal. Sister Leme recounts: “I was attending a Boy Scout troop meeting at our son’s English-language school. Present was a dynamic, outgoing American lady, Geraldine Bangerter, who strikingly said, ‘We are Mormons and we are here to open up the missionary work in Portugal.’”

Sister Leme’s interest was immediate, and she says, “After only three lessons, I knew it was true.” Her husband, a pilot for a Portuguese airline, was often away, but after receiving the missionary lessons he, too, was convinced.

Even before she was a baptized member, Sister Leme was active in the budding Church organization. “I was a Relief Society counselor before I was a member,” she recalls, and the Leme family speak with joy about their visit to the London Temple where on 6 October 1976, exactly a year after their baptism, they were sealed together as a family for time and eternity.

Since the Lemes joined the Church, the Church has grown to two branches in Lisboa, Portugal’s largest city. Today those branches have more than 200 members each—spread among a population of 775,000, not counting the suburbs. Another branch is in the second largest city, Porto, which is a little larger than Salt Lake City; and a fourth branch was recently opened in Coimbra, a provincial capital with a population smaller than Provo, Utah—yet the fourth largest city in Portugal.

Portugal’s 8,900,000 people live in the southwestern corner of Europe, and in many ways that location has shaped the nation’s history. After driving out the Moors in 1249, the Portuguese kings looked south and west—to the sea. Portuguese navigators discovered many Atlantic islands, including Madeira and the Azores, and they were the first modern Europeans to reach India and China, by sailing south around Africa. Though they were later outstripped by more powerful and populous European states—first Spain and then France, the Netherlands, and Britain—large remnants of the empire still remained until the new government granted independence to Angola and Mozambique in Africa only a few years ago.

Yet despite Portugal’s long history, the Saints are young—both in age and in time in the Church. The average convert is 32 years old, and anyone who has been a member for 2 1/2 years is an old-timer!

When the Church first came to Portugal, many hundreds of refugees were pouring into the country from the former African colonies, especially Angola, which was in the throes of civil war. One such refugee family was that of Jose Cunho Ossorio, who is now the mission Aaronic Priesthood leader. He had been an executive in a business in Angola, and when the civil war came he had to leave behind his home and most of his belongings. But, as he expressed it, “while we lost all of our worldly goods, I gained everything when I was able to accept the gospel here in Portugal.”

Since Portugal is 98.4 percent Roman Catholic, most of the Saints had a background in that religion—but few so intensely as President and Sister Fernando Amaral. “We had been catechism teachers and many of our friends turned against us when we first started to attend the Mormon Church meetings in the little Roma hotel. But in the Church we soon gained many friends and today the work in the Church fills our lives with great meaning.” With President Amaral presiding over one of the Lisboa branches, and Sister Amaral serving as mission Relief Society leader, they have plenty of opportunity to find that meaning!

President Amaral was one of the first two Saints in Portugal to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. The other was Julio Branco, now the mission Melchizedek Priesthood leader. The Church has changed his whole outlook on life, he says. “I was part of the prosperous middle class in Portugal, to whom business was everything and the family came in second. I lived the ‘good life,’ and with my partner had established four gift and souvenir shops. I smoked three packs of cigarettes a day and consumed a fair share of liquor, together with equally prosperous colleagues and friends.”

But changes came from outside: “With the change of government my secure world began to fall into pieces. By March 1975 we had lost two of the stores, and with the revolution no tourists came. My friends of wealthier days had either left the country or didn’t want to know me any longer. I was deeply in debt for merchandise I couldn’t sell. I didn’t know what to do, where to turn.”

Then in July 1975, two missionaries came to the door and challenged him and his family to accept their message. Four months later they were baptized. “My life, and that of my family, has not been the same since. The gospel has made our family more united. Now we make our decisions together, and our goals are higher than before. We have plans for a mission for Jorge, my fourteen-year-old son, and a temple marriage for both my children. In the old days I worked hard because hard work brought money. Today I work hard, but I do it in order to benefit my family—we work together in the store. The gospel and the Church have brought wonderful changes in my life and in the lives of all members of our family.”

The fervor of the new converts translates into impressive figures—60 percent activity among Melchizedek Priesthood holders in the Porto Branch, for instance, and 70 percent activity among the priests. That strength in the Aaronic Priesthood becomes even more important, considering the fact that almost two-thirds of the membership of the Porto Branch is between fourteen and twenty years old, though the newest converts are coming from the twenty to twenty-five-year-old group. And yet these young members quickly assume the responsibility for the Church in their homeland, and less than two years after the first missionaries entered Porto, the branch presidency was composed entirely of Portuguese Saints.

The national media have noticed the growth of the Church in Portugal, and favorable articles are helping draw attention to the Church. In a nation where Latter-day Saints were completely unheard of only three years ago, the Church is already beginning to have an impact. But the greatest impact is, as always, in the lives of the members. Misson President W. Lynn Pinegar says, “I am particularly impressed with the way the local brethren are taking over responsibilities, and how they grow in confidence and gain the stature they require to fulfill the needs of their callings. It is a joy to see the Portuguese members respond.”

Map of Portugal(click to view larger)

In three years of existence, the Portugal Lisbon Mission has already grown to include four branches, all with native Portuguese branch presidents. There are more than 750 members now in a nation where an average of 43 new members are baptized monthly.

Palmyra: A Look at 40 Years of Pageant

Dr. Jack Paul Sederholm has been called by the First Presidency to direct the Hill Cumorah Pageant, “America’s Witness for Christ.” Brother Sederholm has assisted Dr. Harold I. Hansen for the last twelve of Hansen’s forty years as pageant director.

The new director will continue to serve as chairman of the Communication Arts Department at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Speech and Dramatic Arts from BYU, and in 1976 directed the “This Land of Liberty” pageant for the Potomac and Capitol regions of the Church in Washington, D.C.

With one stage, a hundred actors, and two readers, the Hill Cumorah Pageant in 1937, then only one year old, seemed like a large enough undertaking. Harold I. Hansen was a missionary at the time, “drafted” into directing the production because no one else had his experience in theatre. Now, forty years later, as he retires from his position as pageant director, the show is almost unrecognizable: an incredible twenty-five stages with six hundred actors; a five-track stereo sound system with original music by Crawford Gates; and perhaps the world’s finest outdoor lighting system.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors have seen the pageant during Hansen’s forty years as director. In a recent interview he reminisced about the early years. When he entered the mission field in July 1937 he was told that all the missionaries in his mission were going to take part in a pageant at the Hill Cumorah. They would invite people to come during the proselyting day, and spend their nights in rehearsal.

“When I arrived,” explained Brother Hansen, “they had a script, but no one had addressed themselves to the problems of production.” How would they light the stage? Where would the actors be? How would the audiences hear what was being said?

“The mission president tried to get me interested in the script,” Hansen continued, “because of my background in theatre. But I didn’t know anything about pageantry. Besides, I came on my mission to tract and to do the other things that missionaries do!”

But he was persuaded to direct one short scene. It took him only fifteen minutes to stage it and when the elders in charge of the pageant saw it, they handed him the script and told him that he was directing the pageant. And he has continued for forty years, as a Church calling, until his recent release.

Brother Hansen notes that the biggest change in the production over the years has been in the attitude of the nonmembers in the area. In 1937 there was some open prejudice against the missionaries and the pageant. Now the attitude toward the Church and the pageant is very positive. Just before the 1977 opening the local Rotary Club gave Brother Hansen an award for outstanding service to the region. President Ezra Taft Benson of the Council of the Twelve accepted the club’s invitation to address them and present the award to Brother Hansen.

Local residents have been kind to the pageant participants, too. Once in the early years of production there was an overabundance of rain—but people still flocked to see the show. The parking lots became mires, and Hansen recalls, “I could actually see the cars sinking into the mud. All I could think about was the terrible mess we would have when it came time for the audience to go home.”

But ten minutes before the end of the pageant, Brother Hansen began to hear the sputter of engines—local farmers were chugging into the parking lots with tractors. They pulled every car out and put them on the highway without accepting a cent in payment. “Kindnesses like that can never be forgotten or repaid,” says Brother Hansen.

Another year, a drought had dried up all the wells and springs that the pageant used to supply water for the water curtain effects. Farmers in the area were even hauling water for their cattle. Yet just before the pageant opened, without any advance notice, the farmers appeared with wagonloads of water and filled the pageant holding tanks. The who went on—with the water curtains.

Harold I. Hansen, a faculty member and former drama department chairman at BYU, looks forward to returning to the pageant as an audience member in coming years to enjoy its growth. For he does believe that the pageant must continue to change. “I can’t imagine anything worse,” he says emphatically, “than if I came back and it looked the same as when I left.”

Though Hansen has accomplished many other things in his long professional life, the Hill Cumorah Pageant has been a major influence on his life and the life of his family. “It has dominated our whole home for all these years. If I hadn’t believed in it, I would never have done it. But I did believe in it, and I kept at it until the Brethren said, ‘You are released.’”

Now there are several pageants in many different places in the Church—but all owe a great debt to Harold Hansen’s exemplary production at the Hill Cumorah.

[photos] Above: Dr. Harold I. Hansen, center, in his last summer of directing the Hill Cumorah Pageant, pauses to chat with men arranging the seating. Below: The house of Israel and its records come alive in the Hill Cumorah Pageant.

[photo] Jay Cheesman of Provo, Utah, towers over 6 feet 5 inches in the robes and elaborate headdress of King Lamoni.

LDS Scene

Twelve-year-old Wendy Green could have died when she walked into a plate glass window in Van Nuys, California—but Benny Sua, a seventeen-year-old Latter-day Saint, acted quickly, directing first aid that saved the young girl’s life. Benny is the grandson of a great Samoan Chief—who was also the first Samoan to sing in the Tabernacle Choir.

The BYU Study Abroad program in Austria is moving from Salzburg to Vienna, in order to bring the students closer to the fifty-five museums, collections, and galleries in that city, which was for centuries the heart of German culture.

The Church recently honored Walt Disney Productions for the film company’s outstanding contribution to wholesome family entertainment. President N. Eldon Tanner, first counselor in the First Presidency, gave a plaque to E. Cardon (Card) Walker, president and chief operating officer of the studio, in ceremonies in Salt Lake City on August 27.

The new chairman of the board of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs is Dr. James E. Brown, a member of the Tremonton Utah Stake high council.

Baton twirling and horseshoe pitching brought honors to two Latter-day Saint youths recently. Eight-year-old Mark Nash of Citrus Heights, California, has been named California state champion baton twirler in his age category for the third year in a row; and seventeen-year-old Kelly Jean O’Brien of Spokane, Washington, walked away with the class B women’s world horseshoe pitching championship at Greenville, Ohio.