News of the Church

By Orson Scott Card


Elder Alma Sonne Dies

Elder Alma Sonne

Elder Alma Sonne of the First Quorum of the Seventy, a man who dedicatedly bore witness to the pricelessness of faith, died 27 November 1977. He was 93.

The oldest of the General Authorities, he was called to serve in 1941 as one of the first five Assistants to the Twelve. The surviving member of that group is President Marion G. Romney, Second Counselor in the First Presidency. Soon after being sustained in the May 1941 general conference, Elder Sonne was called as an adviser to the Church Welfare Plan. He brought to that call his experience gained in Church service and in business.

Born in Logan, Utah, 5 March 1884, Elder Sonne graduated from Brigham Young College, Logan, in banking and finance. He entered business in 1906 as a cashier of the Logan First National Bank and eventually became president of the bank. In 1968, he helped develop and found the Pioneer Bank of Logan. He was also a director of the Bear River Mutual Insurance Company, president of the Utah Bankers Association, chairman of the Utah State University Board of Trustees, president of the Logan Rotary Club, and vice-president of the Logan Chamber of Commerce. Through his financial and community activities he played an important role in the development of agriculture in northern Utah.

As a young man he filled a full-time mission in Great Britain from 1910 to 1912. Some thirty-four years later, he returned to London, England, as a General Authority to serve as president of the European Mission.

Prior to his calling as a General Authority, Elder Sonne served as a counselor in two Logan bishoprics, a high councilor, and a YMMIA superintendent. He also served as a counselor in the Cache Utah stake presidency, and later as president of that stake.

In his first address as a General Authority, Elder Sonne said: “I have spent many hours in the service of our great Church and I want to testify to you … that the compensation for that service has been very great. … I accept this responsibility with fear and trembling, but I have confidence in the promises of God.”

In a conference address the following year he said: “[The] Christian doctrine is the very cornerstone of freedom, and it is the mission of this Church to promote it, and to inspire faith in the hearts of men. In this solemn obligation we must not fail, for faith is the bedrock of human life, without which the soul of man has no anchorage.”

Then in words that summed up his own life he said, “May God give us strength and wisdom to walk in the way of righteousness, that our daily example may be a sermon to our friends, far and near.”

In his many active years as a General Authority, Elder Sonne did “walk in the way of righteousness” as he fulfilled his assignments for over three decades to visit the ever-growing stakes of the Church and provide the Saints with counsel and encouragement.

Elder Sonne is survived by four sons, a daughter, two step-children, twenty-two grandchildren, fourteen great-grandchildren, and a sister. His first wife, Geneva Ballantyne, died in 1941; and his second wife, Leona Ballantyne Woolley, whom he married in 1943, died in 1971.

Wendell Ashton Called to Publishing Post

More than five years ago, Wendell J. Ashton was called by the First Presidency to organize and direct a new Church department that would communicate messages of the Church throughout the world of nonmembers. Now, on 1 January 1978, at age sixty-five, he will change assignments, taking over as publisher of the Deseret News and executive vice-president of the Church-owned Deseret News Publishing Company.

Brother Ashton’s replacement in the Public Communications Department will be Dr. Heber G. Wolsey, currently associate managing director of the department. (See accompanying article.)

What has happened during the five years that Wendell Ashton has handled the Church’s relations with the rest of the world?

“Our work has been to help bring the Church out of obscurity,” Brother Ashton says. “I remember that soon after the Public Communications Department was organized, I accompanied the Tabernacle Choir to Europe, where they would take part in the Area General Conference at Munich. Our plane stopped at Bangor, Maine, on the way, and two new stewardesses, New England girls, got on board.”

Because of the time zone changes, it was a short night—and through that night Brother Ashton and his wife visited with the stewardesses. “One of them said she could not recall ever hearing of Mormons—it might have been the name of a breakfast cereal, for all she knew. And the only thing the other one remembered about Mormons was that there was a choir in Salt Lake City.” Now, after five years of concentrated effort using every available medium, the situation has changed. “Now it would be hard to find anyone who had never heard of the Church—at least in the United States, Canada, and several European countries.”

What has made the difference?

There are approximately 1,200 Latter-day Saints around the world, many of them skilled professionals in news media work, who serve without pay in Church callings to work with local media, not only to help correct false impressions about the Church, but also to publicize the Latter-day Saint way of life as much as possible. Why seek publicity?

“When the missionaries knock on doors, we want people to immediately think, ‘Oh yes, the Mormons. They’re the ones who have family unity. They’re the ones who talk about preparedness. They’re the ones who help the needy among them without leaning on the government.’” If people immediately associate the word Mormon with a good, happy way of life, the missionaries’ work is that much easier.

The result of local public communications directors’ and coordinators’ work has been impressive both in breadth and depth. “In some countries the program has been far more successful than we had dared to expect,” says Brother Ashton. Just in the last few months, the media in Spain, Italy, and Great Britain have given tremendous coverage about the Mormons, most of it favorable. Documentaries on British television; coverage of President Kimball’s visit to Italy; great awareness of the Church in newly deregulated Spanish media—all were sparked by alert public communications representatives.

“And in the United States, fair and positive coverage has increased tremendously. Twenty clipping analysts have found that media mention of the Church has increased by four times in five years.” Brother Ashton smiled as he pointed out that the cost of that much newspaper space would be completely out of reach—if it had to be paid for as advertising. “And of course those articles are more effective than the equivalent amount of advertising could ever be.”

Other successful programs include the many new visitors centers, which have increasingly emphasized what the gospel can do for the individual and his family; the Homefront Campaign, which has been carrying messages of family love and unity on 90 percent of the United States’ television stations and 50 percent of the radio stations; and the television special “The Family and Other Living Things,” which in 1978 will be broadcast in one hundred major markets throughout the United States—compared to the fifty-four markets that saw it during its debut in 1976.

What is coming up in the future? “The Brethren have just approved creation of a whole new project—this time in a medium we haven’t touched before.” And what medium is that? “Magazines,” Brother Ashton said, and then humorously pointed to a reference to the Church in a recent book on religion in America. “So frugal, earnest, clean-living, moral, and upward-bound are most Mormons that theirs has come to be called the typical Reader’s Digest religion,” said the book. (Martin E. Marty, ed., Our Faiths, New York: Pillar Books, 1976, p. 219.)

“It just happens that Reader’s Digest provides the format and reaches the audience most appropriate for the Church’s first venture into national magazine coverage.” And so it is planned that in four issues of the Reader’s Digest in 1978 the Church will have a booklet-type insert in the magazine—paid-for advertising, but with a difference. “Can You Have a Happier Family Life?” the booklet asks, and then proceeds with statistics on the situation of the family today; a family strength self-quiz, with an analysis of what the reader’s answers mean; and an outline of ways that families can strengthen their love and unity.

“Forty million people will read copies of the American edition,” Brother Ashton pointed out, “and the German edition will reach another four million.” Also, the booklet will be available as a reprint: all as “a message from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—the Mormons.”

And further expansion of the Public Communications Department will include new full-time public communications centers in Paris and Frankfurt, to join those already in operation in Salt Lake City, New York, London, and Toronto.

Brother Ashton has a long record of Church and civic service. A member of the Sunday School general board from 1937 to 1958, he has since served in many capacities: president of the Salt Lake East Mill Creek Stake; one of the original Regional Representatives of the Twelve; member of the original Adult Correlation Committee; and a member of the Church Leadership Committee.

At sixty-five, Brother Ashton is at an age that for decades has signaled retirement—a chance to relax. And yet he is moving from one successful assignment to a whole new challenge—managing all the operations of a major newspaper in the city where he got his first job as a cub reporter.

Retirement? Wendell J. Ashton just doesn’t seem to be the retiring kind.

[photo] Wendell J. Ashton. (Photography by Eldon Linschoten.)

New Public Communications Director Called

Heber G. Wolsey will become the new director of the Church’s Public Communications Department on 1 January 1978—but he’s no stranger to the work ahead. Since 1973 he has been working closely with departing managing director Wendell J. Ashton, both as associate managing director and as director of the electronic media division and as a communications analyst.

Most Latter-day Saints have seen the results of Brother Wolsey’s past work in such programs as the Homefront Campaign and the television special “The Family and Other Living Things.” Church members aren’t the only ones who have been pleased with the short spots promoting family unity—the prestigious Gabriel Awards for outstanding religious use of the media this year once again highly honored the Church campaign.

“Remember last week when you said next week you were going to spend more time with your children? It’s next week!” says the man on the screen—and busy parents realize that they may have been letting things slip again.

“I planned just the right moment to tell my kids I love them,” says a father in a sixty-second radio spot. But after he blurts out the words, he says, “Well, I guess I picked the wrong moment because just then Steve had trouble with his throat and Cindy got something in her eye. But you know—even so, things have been different around here lately.”

And the short spot ends with the reminder, “If you don’t say it, how will they know? If you love ’em, tell ’em. A message from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—the Mormons.” Families are helped; people feel more and more favorably about the Church; and recognizing the power behind such simple messages, Cleo and Gabriel and many other awards are given.

Brother Wolsey is quick to point out that the creative and production work are done by many other people—usually Bonneville Productions, particularly producer-directors Stan Ferguson and Jim Gartner. In fact, so outstanding has their work been, Brother Wolsey said, that the telegram notifying them of their latest Gabriel awards said, “Come on, guys, this just isn’t fair. What will you take not to enter the Gabriel awards next year: give the rest of us a break!”

“The purpose of the Homefront Campaign and the television specials has not been to bring people into the Church directly, though some people have joined because of them. Our purpose is more to ‘warm hearts and open doors’—to get people thinking about the Mormons and how the Church might change their lives.” And part of the credit for the programs’ success must go to Brother Wolsey’s insistence on excellence. “We could do the programs more cheaply, perhaps,” he says, “but we’re competing for free public service time with hundreds of other groups. By doing the best work we can, we have a product the networks want to run—and they have even come back and asked, ‘Don’t you have another campaign for us yet?’”

Brother Wolsey, married to the former Fay Parrish, has nine children and an equal number of grandchildren. His many Church callings include his present assignment on the Sunday School general board and such earlier callings as stake high councilor, stake Sunday School president, and counselor in bishoprics.

“But the calling I have most enjoyed is that of bishop,” he says. Why? “Because you work directly with the Saints. It’s a sobering responsibility—but tremendously satisfying.”

Born in Cardston, Alberta, Canada, Brother Wolsey became a citizen of the United States while serving in the Army Air Force during World Ward II. At that time he was already a BYU graduate—he had earned his bachelor’s degree at the age of nineteen.

One of the earliest influences on Brother Wolsey’s life was his grade school principal and eighth grade teacher in Cardston, a young educator named Nathan Eldon Tanner. Brother Wolsey remembers clearly the first day of class. President Tanner—“Mr. Tanner” in those days—came into the classroom and said, “Boys and girls, we’ll be together for seven hours a day for the next year. In that time I only want to teach you one thing.” And then he walked to the board and in two-foot-high letters wrote, “THINK!”

Heber G. Wolsey, as an eighth-grader, learned that one thing very well—and because of it, he is well prepared to lead the Church’s ever-expanding public communications effort to offer the gospel to every one of the Lord’s children.

[photo] Heber G. Wolsey. (Photography by Eldon Linschoten.)

New Temple President Called

The temple at Laie, Hawaii, will have a new president and matron, the First Presidency recently announced. Brother Max W. Moody and Sister Muriel Parker Moody, his wife, longtime residents of Hawaii, have received the calls. President Moody presided over the Honolulu Hawaii Stake for ten years before being called as stake patriarch in 1972.

The Hawaii Temple has been closed for extensive interior remodeling and expansion since 1 June 1976, and is expected to reopen in mid-1978. The Moodys will succeed President and Sister C. Lloyd Walch, who have served since April 1971.

On the Mount of Olives … The Orson Hyde Memorial Gardens

On 24 October 1841, Elder Orson Hyde of the Council of the Twelve dedicated the land of Palestine for the gathering of the Jews, the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the creation of a Jewish state, and the rearing of a temple. Now, 136 years later, plans have been announced to commemorate that historic occasion with the Orson Hyde Memorial Gardens.

Orson Hyde

Orson Hyde, who dedicated Palestine for the gathering of the Jews, will be memorialized in the new Orson Hyde Memorial Gardens, to be built at Jerusalem.

The National Parks Authority of Israel and the city of Jerusalem have made land available to the Orson Hyde Foundation as part of the planned Jerusalem Gardens National Park, which will encompass the historic area around the Old City of Jerusalem. The 5 1/4-acre tract, which the Orson Hyde Foundation will develop with privately donated funds, is the largest single tract of land given to any one group participating in the national park’s development.

The Orson Hyde Memorial Gardens will be established just east of the Old City on the Mount of Olives, above the Valley of Kidron and not far from the road to Jericho. The garden will be designed to harmonize with the overall national park complex, which will be a green belt of more than 600 acres surrounding and protecting the walls of the Old City.

Map of the “Old City” of Jerusalem(click to view larger)

Map of the “Old City” of Jerusalem, showing the site of the Orson Hyde Memorial Gardens, on the slope of the Mount of Olives facing the city.

A plaque with excerpts from Orson Hyde’s prayer will be set up. The excerpts will be in Arabic and Hebrew, as well as the original English. Large monuments will not be allowed in the garden, however: instead, native foliage will be carefully cultivated to keep the garden looking natural, with the beauty unique to Palestine.

Once the Orson Hyde Foundation has developed the garden, a task that is expected to take about three years, the government of Israel and the city of Jerusalem have agreed to provide care for 999 years—which seems long enough for the time being!

Elder Orson Hyde, for thirty years president of the Council of the Twelve, was a man worthy of such a memorial. Besides his historic mission to the Holy Land, Elder Hyde was one of the first missionaries sent to Europe; and when the Church moved to the Rocky Mountains in 1847, Elder Hyde helped not only in the building of the “Great Basin kingdom,” but also led several other missions to various parts of the world. An intellectual giant, his great mind seized on the ideas of the gospel and sought to understand every detail—and he not only memorized great portions of the Bible in English, he memorized them in German and Hebrew, too!

Orson Hyde White, a descendant of Elder Orson Hyde, is the chairman of the board of trustees of the Orson Hyde Foundation, and Elder LeGrand Richards of the Council of the Twelve, long known for his intense interest in the House of Israel, is president and trustee. Other trustees are Sherman C. Young, vice-president, Virginia Woolley Quealy, secretary, Taylor Hyde Merrill, treasurer, and O. Wendell Hyde, Jr., and Marjory Hyde Eldredge, trustees.

“Latter-day Saints should be aware that this program … has the approval and support of the First Presidency,” said Elder LeGrand Richards in an open letter to all interested persons. “We must raise one million dollars to take advantage of this long awaited opportunity.”

Elder LeGrand Richards

Elder LeGrand Richards of the Council of the Twelve is president and trustee of the Orson Hyde Foundation.

In his letter, Elder Richards emphasized his long interest in Jerusalem, and that city’s importance to three great world religious movements: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. “If you feel as I do about our responsibility to Jerusalem and her people, please join us in raising funds for this monument, park and amphitheater.”

For further information about the Orson Hyde Memorial Gardens, write to Orson Hyde Foundation, LeGrand Richards, President, 47 East South Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150. Contributions, which are tax deductible, can also be sent to that address; a return address is necessary so a special commemorative certificate can be sent to all contributors.

[photo] Site of the future Orson Hyde Memorial Gardens. (Photograph by Don Thorpe.)

illustration] The architect’s rendering of the grotto where the plaque containing parts of Elder Hyde’s dedicatory prayer will be installed.

A New President for Ricks

The First Presidency recently announced the appointment of Dr. Bruce Clark Hafen as president of Ricks College at Rexburg, Idaho. On 1 May 1978, the thirty-seven-year-old lawyer, teacher, and administrator will assume his new duties at the Church’s 6,000-student junior college.

Dr. Hafen, who replaces Dr. Henry B. Eyring, now deputy commissioner of education for the Church, is a believer in the value of relatively small junior colleges. He began his college career at Dixie College in St. George, Utah—and remembers that most of the good students in his southern Utah home town did the same. “We felt that at a junior college we’d have more opportunities to take part in campus life—and I still feel that way.”

Brother Hafen points out that it is remarkable that Ricks College has kept that close, intimate, small-college feeling despite the growth of the student body to 6,000. “A small college has five hundred students!” he said, and Ricks College’s student body is large enough to support three student stakes, an outstanding honors program, an excellent missionary preparation program, and all this without losing the feeling that every student is an individual.

Dr. Harry J. Maxwell, dean of academic affairs at Ricks, will continue as acting president until Brother Hafen arrives in May. And Brother Hafen will continue until May his duties as director of planning and research for the Correlation Department of the Church.

He was educated to be a lawyer; and switched to teaching only a short time ago, at BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School, where he is still on leave as an associate professor of law. He originally went to BYU as an assistant to BYU President Dallin Oaks, before joining the law school faculty.

“I hadn’t planned at all for any of this,” Dr. Hafen says; and yet active involvement in both education and Church programs is not unfamiliar to him. His father was a lawyer in southern Utah and served in the state legislature and was an active booster for Dixie College. After Dr. Hafen’s father died in 1964, his mother began to teach French at Dixie.

And both Brother Hafen and his wife, Marie, have pursued education seriously. Not only did he earn a bachelor’s degree and a doctorate in law after their marriage—she also earned her master’s degree. “When the children came, my wife got an assistantship, grading papers at home, so she could take care of the children.” And they traded off helping each other. “I typed her thesis,” he remembers. “Whoever had the most pressure, the other one helped out.”

Today their seven children, ranging in age from twelve years to nine months, are following in their parents’ footsteps, not only learning the normal school subjects, but also studying music and learning to appreciate other arts. “To me, ‘back to basics in education’ includes music,” Dr. Hafen says—and he recalls being in the band and playing major roles in college and high school musicals. “Music is a way to teach discipline and self-motivation.” Other ways to teach include hard physical work and sports, he believes, which means that Brother Hafen is right alongside his children in many different activities.

When asked what parents can do to help prepare their children to take advantage of their opportunities, Brother Hafen answered, “All the research I know about indicates that what parents do, what parents care about, will get their children’s attention more than anything else. Nothing compensates for a lack of parental interest in education—teachers can’t teach when the children aren’t getting support at home. The basic responsibility for education is with the parents.

The home, he points out, is one of the few places where normal, happy, moral living gets encouraged. “It’s a concern to me that the weird and bizarre and exceptional get all the attention in the news, while normal, happy, responsible people are largely ignored. Where’s the public reinforcement for living a good life?” In his own family, though, Brother Hafen made the decision to try to follow gospel ideals very early—and he and his wife have found that that kind of life is its own reinforcement.

“A week before our wedding,” Brother Hafen recalled in a recent devotional address at Ricks College, “we talked quietly and tenderly amid fasting and prayer. We wondered when to start our family. We were both in school. We couldn’t see how we could afford to remain in school if children came too soon. We wanted to go to Europe after graduate school. We wanted to travel around and together feel the breeze of freedom in our faces before accepting the confinement and the responsibility of babies, diapers, and dishes.”

But there was another feeling, too, that they both sensed clearly. “To talk of children is to walk on holy ground.” And there was no delay in the start of their family. The expense of the children demanded financial sacrifice and struggle—but they managed. Children took up a lot of time—but they managed. “We didn’t live like kings and queens,” Brother Hafen said. “We lived even better.”

With Church callings that include service as a counselor in a stake presidency, a stake executive secretary, a high councilor, and counselor in a bishopric, Brother Hafen has long shown his commitment to the Church. But he also has a strong commitment to the gospel’s role in intellectual matters. “BYU and Ricks College show that serious education can be a part of the full, rich, abundant gospel life. Seeming conflicts between intellectual and spiritual things are resolved in the persons of many of our Church leaders and leaders in the Church Educational System. Their commitment to education has only enhanced the seriousness of their commitment to the Church.”

You don’t have to choose between the mind and the spirit, says Brother Hafen—in fact, it’s impossible to separate them. “If you go deep enough in either, they reinforce each other. Of course the gospel has priority—the source is more trustworthy. But the gospel expands the mind—it never narrows it.”

Church Policies and Announcements

The following notices recently appeared in Messages, which is sent to local priesthood leaders as official guidelines from Church headquarters.

Enrollment in Seminary and Institute. Local priesthood leaders are reminded that—

a. In many parts of the world a new school semester will commence during the month of January. The new semester provides an opportunity to encourage the enrollment of seminary and institute students who have not previously been enrolled.

b. Preregistration and planning for the 1978–79 seminary and institute year will commence during the months of February and March.

Priesthood leaders should work regularly with local Church Educational System personnel to encourage enrollment of youth and young adults in seminary and institutes of religion. Such encouragement will be more effective if youth and young adults, parents, home teachers, and other interested Church officers work with priesthood leaders in the effort.

Distinction Between Young Me omen, and Mutual. The following information is to clarify the appropriate term for the youth organizations of the Church. The name of the organization for young men is Young Men. The name of the organization for young women is Young Women. Mutual refers to the activity evening when the Young Men and the Young Women meet. Officers and advisers serving in these organizations should be called, sustained, and set apart to either the Young Men or the Young Women, as appropriate, and not to the Mutual.

Group Travel by Commercial Transportation. When group travel is necessary, such as for temple visits and other excursions, Church members “are counseled to use commercial transportation which is legally licensed and protected by liability insurance” (General Handbook of Instructions, Number 21, p. 104). Even legally licensed transportation companies, however, may be restricted as to their area or type of operation. For example, a bus service licensed to operate between states is not necessarily licensed to operate between points within the state in which it is chartered. Church leaders engaging in commercial transportation should make sure that such companies are properly licensed to perform the service desired.

Overnight Camping. Eleven-year-old Scouts. Approval has been given for one overnight camping experience each year for eleven-year-old Scouts in the Church to meet Scouting requirements. The campout should be organized under the leadership of the bishopric adviser with counsel from the Primary president. Because these Scouts are a patrol of the troop, Scoutmasters should be invited to participate even though the older Scouts might not be involved. Fathers should be encouraged to participate with their sons and with other boys who have no available fathers. Women leaders will not participate in the overnight experience.

Ten-year-old Cub Scouts. Cub Scouting (BSA) has an award called Arrow of Light which requires that a boy who earns the award must participate in a Webelos fathers and sons overnight or day hike. It is recommended that a day hike be planned to help ten-year-old boys complete this requirement. However, with approval of the bishopric and Cubmaster, the Webelos leader may plan a fathers and sons overnight outing to help meet this requirement. If the Webelos leader is a woman (which is possible in LDS dens), any overnight outing should be organized under the leadership of the Cubmaster with counsel from the Webelos leader, but women leaders will not participate in the actual overnight experience.

Other Camping Experiences. No other overnight camping experiences should be planned for Blazer Scouts or Cub Scouts. It is recommended that leaders continue to provide day camp experiences for eleven-year-old Scouts and that all Cub Scouts be encouraged to participate in a council day camp experience.