News of the Church

By Marvin K. Gardner


Elder Ronald E. Poelman

Of the First Quorum of the Seventy

“My husband is a great Gospel Doctrine teacher. I think there are going to be some disappointed people in our ward when he’s not there every Sunday morning to teach their class.” And Sister Claire Poelman was only half joking.

Claire S. and Ronald E. Poelman

Claire S. and Ronald E. Poelman.

Although Elder Ronald E. Poelman, newly sustained as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, has had administrative experience in the Church—including seven years as counselor in a stake presidency, two years as bishop, one year as high councilor, and one year as bishop’s counselor—his principal calling for the past eight years has been as a Sunday School teacher.

“I love to teach, and I particularly love to teach from the scriptures. The Gospel Doctrine class has been ideal for my Church service,” he affirmed enthusiastically.

When he received a telephone call at his office in California where he worked as vice-president and secretary of Consolidated Freightways, Inc., this contented Sunday School teacher was “taken aback.”

“President N. Eldon Tanner, with whom I have been associated in business, informed me that President Kimball wished to speak with me personally. When he asked what my schedule was for the next couple of days, I said, ‘For President Kimball, my schedule is very flexible.’”

After an interview—which seemed more like a visit—with President Kimball, and after President Tanner had also entered the President’s office, Elder Poelman asked if he could telephone his wife in California for her response to his calling. President Kimball said he thought that would be most appropriate. Then he said, “Please use my telephone. President Tanner and I will step outside.”

“I called home and we talked for several minutes. I was still on the telephone when the door opened very quietly and President Kimball put his head in. ‘Ron,’ he said, ‘you take all the time you want. Don’t be embarrassed. We’ll just be waiting out here.’ Then he very quietly closed the door again. That was very touching to me. He was so gentle, so gracious, and so sensitive.”

How did Sister Poelman feel? “Overwhelmed!” But after struggling for ten years with cancer, Sister Poelman knows what it means to trust in the Lord. Today they have four children and three grandchildren.

Elder Poelman received his law degree from the University of Utah in 1955 and later, in 1965, graduated from Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration.

Both he and his wife are also active in community affairs. Elder Poelman is a member of the San Francisco Symphony Foundation, Commonwealth Club of California, and World Trade Club, and is on the Board of Arbitration of the National Association of Securities Dealers.

Sister Poelman, a graduate of BYU, has served as a consultant to Stanford Research Institute and, for five years, as chairperson of the “Reach to Recovery” Program in Santa Clara County. During the past ten years, she has counselled cancer patients daily.

Born 10 May 1929, of active members of the Church, Elder Poelman always assumed that he would serve a mission and gladly accepted a call to the Netherlands Mission. But his testimony at that time was more a testimony of the Church than of the gospel—that is, until one Sunday when illness kept him in while his companion was at a conference.

“Fairly early in the day, the awareness began to come over me that the key to all that I was involved in was whether Jesus Christ was the Son of God. As I read in the New Testament, I periodically slid out of bed onto my knees and asked my Heavenly Father to confirm to me whether or not the things I was reading were really true. By the time I had finished reading the four Gospels and praying the entire day, I knew without a doubt—and I have never doubted for a moment since—that Jesus is the Christ. The rock foundation that Jesus is my Savior is the basis for everything else.”

Elder Derek A. Cuthbert

Of the First Quorum of the Seventy

In March, President Derek A. Cuthbert and his wife, Muriel, saw that their work in the Scotland Edinburgh Mission was rapidly drawing to a close. In July he would be released, after three years as the mission president.

Muriel M. and Derek A. Cuthbert

Muriel M. and Derek A. Cuthbert.

They prayed that when they returned home, they would be able to use and magnify what they had learned during their mission, to help the Saints in Great Britain.

That prayer was answered in an unexpected way. President Cuthbert, a native of Nottingham, England, was sustained as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy at the annual general conference of the Church. Now, as a General Authority—the first called from the British Isles—he is serving a lifetime mission.

Full-time service will not be new to the Cuthberts, though. Elder Cuthbert has had demanding callings in the Church since he was baptized twenty-seven years ago.

His travels started two years later, although the Cuthberts were without a car. Elder Cuthbert would take a train to work Saturday mornings, carrying with him Church visual aids and materials. Saturday after work he would take a train to other parts of England, where he would fulfill his Church assignments as a mission board member and, later, as a counselor in the mission presidency. Sunday nights he would return home.

Sister Cuthbert and the Cuthbert children took buses to church, which was held in an old house converted into a chapel. They had to run a quarter mile to change buses, and sometimes they nearly missed the connection.

Elder Cuthbert served in missionary and teaching capacities as well as being a counselor in the district and mission presidencies. Ten years after his conversion, he was called as president of the Leicester Stake. Later he became director and general manager of the Deseret Enterprises Ltd. store in Mitcham, England, the Church’s first commercial enterprise in Europe and they moved to London for two years. When the store was established and running smoothly, he returned to his former employment with a large chemical firm. After a promotion, the family moved again, this time to Sutton Coldfield.

Later he was set apart by President Spencer W. Kimball as president of the Birmingham Stake, where he served until a letter came calling him to be a Regional Representative of the Twelve in 1970.

When Elder Cuthbert became Commerical Manager for British Celanese Ltd., the family returned to Nottingham, where they lived until he was called as mission president in 1975.

The Cuthberts were together when President Kimball telephoned them in Scotland in mid-March and extended the call to the First Quorum of the Seventy.

Throughout all their Church service, they have put their family first. When they joined the Church, they resolved that their children would grow up in the Church and would never be left alone. If one parent had a meeting, the other stayed home with the children. In earlier days, Elder Cuthbert bathed the children and put them to bed while Sister Cuthbert went to Relief Society.

Now the older children at home can care for the younger ones while the Cuthberts are away on assignments. The Cuthberts have nine grandchildren.

The Cuthberts, childhood sweethearts, were married in 1945, shortly before Brother Cuthbert left for two years service with the Royal Air Force in the Far East. In the two years of separation, Sister Cuthbert wrote him at least one letter a day. Once when he was transferred from Rangoon to Hong Kong, sixty-three of her letters caught up with him.

They were strong members of the Church of England before the missionaries found them in 1950.

The three elders—one a district leader working with them that day—had had little success in the area. Discouraged, one said, “Oh well, let’s just leave it,” but another replied, “No, we’ll go to one more door, and then we’ll close this area.”

The “one more door” was the Cuthberts’.

Elder Robert LeGrand Backman

Of the First Quorum of the Seventy
Virginia P. and Robert L. Backman

Virginia P. and Robert L. Backman.

He radiates warmth. He listens attentively. He speaks sincerely. Nobody listening to Elder Robert L. Backman sharing his testimony or talking about his family would ever guess that social situations were once agonizingly uncomfortable for him.

He spent most of his teen years in South Africa where his father, LeGrand P. Backman, was serving as mission president, and came back to Salt Lake for his senior year of high school. He’d attended only boys’ schools and “couldn’t look a girl in the face without blushing, couldn’t dance, couldn’t play American sports, and couldn’t drive a car. It was the most miserable year in my life.”

His call to the Northern States Mission “transformed my life. It made me realize that I was a child of God and had great potential.”

Another important experience was his service in the army during World War II. When he arrived for basic training, he was grouped with five returned missionaries, one of them his own beloved companion with whom he had served for eighteen months.

One highlight from his army years was organizing an Easter service as “a group leader without a group” in a combat zone east of Manila. “We didn’t know if anyone would be there, but the trucks started pulling in and about fifty men arrived. They were still wearing battle fatigues. They stacked their rifles as they came in. The building we were in had been bombed, and the command post was attacked while we were there, but we didn’t pay any attention. We sat on our helmets and served the sacrament in our mess gear from a table made of ammunition boxes, and the Spirit was there.

As a law student with two young children after the war, he planned to concentrate on studies first; but the first day he rode the bus to class, he shared a seat with the bishop and was the deacon’s quorum adviser by the time he got off. He has also served as president of the Northwestern States Mission, as the only general president of the Aaronic Priesthood MIA, and as sealer in the temple, a calling he still holds. “I’ve performed marriages for many of my missionaries and three of my own daughters, and I guess that’s just about the most glorious experience a man can have in this life—to bind forever.”

His most recent assignments have been as a Regional Representative, first for the Sacramento and Sacramento North regions, then for the Cottonwood and Murray regions, and then—on the Friday before conference—he was assigned to the newly created Holladay Region. He held that calling less than twenty-four hours—possibly the shortest term of service on record.

When the call came from President Kimball’s office “three sleepless weeks ago,” he told his wife, “I’ve received another one of those scary phone calls” and they went in, “hoping” for another mission call since they’d so enjoyed their first assignment. “It was a very sweet experience,” he says soberly. “At the end of that interview with President Kimball, I was ready to go anywhere.”

An equally sweet experience came when he and his wife Virginia shared the calling with their seven daughters and their husbands afterwards. “All of them, in tears, expressed their love and support,” he said tenderly. Then he grinned, “And some of them said they’d been expecting it. They’re great kids!”

Family closeness is a family tradition for the Backmans. He and his father belong to the same law firm, “and it’s the thrill of my life to see him come in the door each morning. I just love to be associated with him.”

Four of their daughters live in Salt Lake: Judith Marsh, Bonnie Price, Patricia Cox, and Barbara, still at home. The others are Louise Checketts, Bear River City; Rebecca Champneys, Sandy; and Virginia Backman, Bethesda, Maryland.

Born 22 March 1922 in Salt Lake City, Brother Backman has served two terms in the Utah House of Representatives.

Elder Rex C. Reeve

Of the First Quorum of the Seventy

Years ago, when Sister Jessie Evans Smith wanted ice cream, she would call Rex Reeve, a dairy company executive. He would bring Sister Smith and her husband, President Joseph Fielding Smith, a couple of half-gallons of ice cream and then sit and talk with them for a few minutes. He felt privileged—“I felt like I was on holy ground.”

Now, as a new General Authority, Elder Rex Cropper Reeve treasures the moments spent with Church leaders. At the Saturday morning session of annual general conference in April, Elder Reeve was sustained a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy.

Phyllis N. and Rex C. Reeve

Phyllis N. and Rex C. Reeve.

He was serving as president of the California Anaheim Mission when a telephone call came from President Spencer W. Kimball a few days before conference. President Kimball spoke to both Elder Reeve and his wife, Phyllis Mae Nielsen Reeve, as he extended the call.

“This wasn’t the first time President Kimball had blessed our lives. He set me apart as a counselor in a stake presidency thirty years ago,” Elder Reeve says. Since then, Elder Reeve has served as a stake president, stake patriarch, Regional Representative of the Twelve, and mission president. In his church work, he has known six of the presidents of the Church. To call their influence on him “profound” is an understatement, he says.

The Reeves became acquainted with President David O. McKay before they were married, when they took an evening class from him on courtship and marriage. He agreed to officiate at their marriage ceremony.

“He taught how to be happy—the secrets of living a happy life,” says Elder Reeve. “One thing he taught was to never let the sun set on a misunderstanding. I can say we’ve done that. And we’ve prayed together—with few exceptions—every morning and night.”

The Reeves first met at a Mutual dance in Salt Lake City. “I knew the first night that she was the one,” he says. They dated a year before they were married. “We had a marvelous courtship. We studied the Book of Mormon together, went for walks together, and took the class from President McKay.”

They decided before marriage to have as large a family as they could and to always put the Lord and his work first.

That foundation has served them well through several hardships. They nearly lost their oldest son, Rex C. Reeve, Jr., who is now director of the institute at Orem Technical College.

Their oldest daughter, Rebecca Ann, was paralyzed sixteen years ago, in an automobile accident while she was serving a mission in New Mexico. “She is an inspiration,” Elder Reeve says. “She’s not bitter at all she has an electric wheel chair, and she gives a lot of talks to encourage people.”

“But we’ve been blessed,” Elder Reeve says. He speaks happily of the accomplishments of all his children—including his sons Roger Warne Reeve of Phoenix, Arizona, and David A. Reeve, a law student at Brigham Young University; and of his daughter, JoAnne Reeve, who teaches at Ricks College; and of his two other daughters, Mrs. Garth (Venice) Finlinson of Oak City, Utah, and Mrs. Lane (Barbara) Nielson of Monett, Missouri; and of the twenty-three grandchildren in the family.

And he speaks proudly of his pioneer ancestors, some of whom are buried along the Mormon trail.

“For a long time I felt I had been riding on a ticket purchased by someone else,” he says in tribute to his progenitors. “The work ahead will be difficult, but I am grateful for this opportunity to serve. With the help of the Lord, you can do anything. Without the help of the Lord, you can’t.”

Highlights of the Regional Representatives Seminar

“Our success, individually and as a Church, will largely be determined by how faithfully we focus on living the gospel in the home,” said President Spencer W. Kimball as he opened the seminar for Regional Representatives on Friday, March 31.

“Our commitment to home-centered gospel living should become the clear message of every priesthood and auxiliary program, reducing, where necessary, some of the optional activities that may detract from proper focus on the family and the home.”

One hundred and eighty-three Regional Representatives, thirty-four of them newly called, heard President Kimball express his concern that “Church programs serve Church members, not the reverse.” His remarks highlighted the seminar which for eleven years has ushered in the conference weekend.

During his remarks, President Kimball announced the implementation of the “name extraction” program through which members will be able to “render second-mile service in genealogy, … accelerate the full use of our temples, and … hasten the work for the dead.” He outlined plans for area conferences in the United States and for two, rather than four, stake conferences per year. He also encouraged members to participate as private citizens in political and government affairs and to continue to pray that missionary work might be furthered in all the world. (See page 100 for selected portions of his talk.)

Following the theme “Strengthening the Individual and the Family through Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums,” several General Authorities instructed the Regional Representatives on the role of the quorums in activation efforts.

“A young man spoke at a recent Saturday evening stake conference meeting I was attending,” said Elder Gordon B. Hinckley. The young man, having been recently reactivated, said, “When you drift away, you’re not rejecting the Church; you simply stop attending. And then you discover that it’s an awesome thing to try to come back alone.”

Elder Hinckley emphasized that it is difficult to “come back alone.”

“The quorum is the Lord’s organization to provide effective brotherhood so that men in the Church can find sociality and an atmosphere in which to build and strengthen one another,” Elder Hinckley said. “The quorum is the most effective facility we have to increase the faith and activity of those who are now active and to bring back into activity that distressingly large number of brethren who no longer fellowship with us.

“And who can fellowship better than brethren who are also peers in age and interest?” Elder Hinckley asked. “I am satisfied that many of those who have drifted into inactivity long, in their hearts, to come back but do not know how to take the first step.”

Also discussing this theme was Elder Robert D. Hales of the First Quorum of the Seventy, who said that the quorums exist to help members truly live the gospel in their homes. Home teaching is a method of helping fathers teach gospel principles and of fostering gospel living in families, he said.

However, said Elder Hales, only about half of the members of the Church belong to “regular” families consisting of Mormon parents and Mormon children; about one out of four individuals in the Church is alone, and about one out of four belongs to a part-member family. Therefore, “the quorum is responsible for the reactivation, teaching, and spiritual development of individuals, as well as of families.”

Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Council of the Twelve also reminded the Regional Representatives of the importance of remembering the individual. “All that we do, all of our instructions, all of our programs are for the individual members of the Church. They are the ones we are trying to save. They are the ones that must be touched and converted. … Look at each person virtually as a God in embryo. Then think of our responsibility to him—to help save him, to help perfect him, to help him to become like God.”

Regional Representatives were encouraged to see that the Scouting program is functioning in their regions. President Ezra Taft Benson said: “This is not an optional program. … Scouting is no longer on trial. It is an economically, socially, and spiritually sound program. It builds men of character and spirituality and trains them for citizen and leadership responsibility. Scouting teaches a boy to take care of himself and stand on his own two feet. It is an inspired program for a demanding time. This is that time! I would to God that every boy of Scouting age could have the benefits and blessings of this great program.”

Concluding the seminar, President Benson said: “I think the greatest honor that can come to any man is to hold membership in the true Church of Christ, to have a testimony that God lives and a testimony of this great work, to bear the holy priesthood of God, and to be blessed with an eternal family.”

During the proceedings of the seminar, President Benson announced the names of thirty-four new Regional Representatives: Herbert Springer Anderson of Olympia, Washington; John Nelson Baird of Honolulu, Hawaii; Thurn James Baker of Moses Lake, Washington; Martell A. Belnap of LaMarque, Texas; William Theodore Brannen of Columbia, South Carolina; Richard Ambrose Call of Provo, Utah; Robert Forbes Clyde of Joseph, Oregon; David Orin Dance of Seattle, Washington; Keith M. Elison of Blackfoot, Idaho; Kenneth David Foulger of San Jose, California; Himan Aldridge Gillespie of Norman, Oklahoma; Henry Harvey Griffith of Louisville, Kentucky; Boyd Frank Henderson of Pocatello, Idaho; Ivan Leslie Hobson, Jr., of Dallas, Texas; Louis Brent Hoggan of Logan, Utah; Richard C. Howe of Salt Lake City, Utah; Malcolm Seth Jeppsen of Salt Lake City, Utah; John Darold Johnson of Evanston, Illinois; Allan Franklin Larsen of Blackfoot, Idaho; Garth Loraine Lee of Hyrum, Utah; Lewis Ray Livingston of Craig, Colorado; Merlyn Wayne Vincent Lofgren of Missoula, Montana; Faaesea P. Mailo of American Samoa; William James Mortimer of Salt Lake City, Utah; Lyle Kay Porter of Albuquerque, New Mexico; Melvin Brent Richards of Bakersfield, California; Hans Ringger of Birsfelden, Switzerland; Allen Claire Rozsa of Santa Ana, California; J. Lorenzo Smith of Chatham, New Jersey; Glade Milton Sowards of Vernal, Utah; Thomas Valdez of Coahuila, Mexico; Louis Blaine Vorwaller of Jacksonville, Florida; Robert Mitchell Winston of Lighthouse Point, Florida; and Tyler Anderson Woolley of Ft. Collins, Colorado.

Ten Regional Representatives were released: Antonio C. Camargo, Marvin R. Curtis, Clark M. Wood, Ralph B. Lake, Joseph A. Kjar, Antone K. Romney, Mark B. Weed, LeGrand R. Curtis, George R. Hill, and George I. Cannon.

The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve sing a hymn at Regional Representatives Seminar.

President Tanner Turns Eighty

When President N. Eldon Tanner celebrates his eightieth birthday on May 9, he’ll be doing what he looks forward to most each day—coming to work.

“I like to work,” he says. “I have always felt an urgency for completing any tasks that are mine to accomplish.” And he works at all his assignments in the Spirit of a teaching given to him many years ago by a Primary teacher: “Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well.” As first counselor in the First Presidency, he has a lot of work to do.

Of course, work isn’t the only facet of President Tanner’s life. He devotes a great deal of time to his wife and family, for whom he expresses great appreciation and love. “I try to express to my wife every day how dearly I love her,” he says, “and she reciprocates always.” “This is a most stabilizing factor in our marriage. So many husbands and wives never tell each other that they love them,” he says.

President Tanner also includes moderate exercise daily—which, with his eating habits, keeps him looking fit. He doesn’t diet, but simply eats in moderation. He is careful about eating desserts, and almost never eats between meals.

He also enjoys outdoor activities, especially golf. He and his wife have recently acquired a summer home near Ogden, Utah, that is adjacent to a golf course. President Tanner says he and his wife enjoy spending time there by themselves and with their family.

Family is important to the Tanners. This birthday celebration will include time with their daughters and some of their twenty-six grandchildren and twenty-one great-grandchildren. The family also gathers in large numbers at general conference time. Luncheons and dinners are planned for all who come from their homes in Canada or from parts of the United States. They enjoy being together and make it a particularly happy time for the little children.

President Tanner was born 9 May 1898 at Salt Lake City, but grew up in Canada, where he met Sara Isabelle Merrill; they were married fifty-eight years ago. They lived in Canada, where he became an industrial and political leader. Recently President Tanner was given the 1978 “Giant of Our City” award by the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. This award recognized his influence as a representative of the Church in bringing new business and buildings into the heart of Salt Lake City during the last fifteen years.

The Tanners came to Utah when he was sustained as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve in 1960. He was ordained an apostle in 1962, and has served since 1963 as a counselor in the First Presidency. He was second counselor to Presidents David O. McKay and Joseph Fielding Smith, and first counselor to Presidents Harold B. Lee and Spencer W. Kimball.

In those seventeen years as a General Authority, he has seen much change with the Church. He has seen Church leaders work to meet what he feels is the greatest challenge facing the Church today: growth. As Church membership climbs toward four million, the structure of Church leadership needs to keep pace, he says. And the Saints still need to strive individually toward righteousness.

President Tanner says his most significant lesson in righteous behavior came when he was a boy. He and his younger brother had been left to do work on the Tanner farm while President Tanner’s father, a bishop, was away preparing for a funeral in the ward.

When the father returned, his sons were wasting time riding calves instead of doing their work. They had thought their father would be away longer than he was.

“I thought I could depend on you,” the father said. President Tanner says that while he knew his father loved him, that remark “cut me to the quick.” He determined to never again let his father down. “I decided then that neither he nor anyone else—especially the Lord—would ever again have reason to say to me, ‘I thought I could depend on you.’” That same determination and integrity still shape the life of President N. Eldon Tanner.

First Presidency Announces Changes in Sunday School General Presidency, Temple Presidencies, and Missions

Sunday School General Presidency

New counselors in the general presidency of the Sunday School are among callings announced recently by the First Presidency.

Salt Lake City, Utah, attorney William D. Oswald has been called as second counselor in the general presidency of the Sunday School. Joe J. Christensen, former second counselor, has been called as first counselor.

The former first counselor, B. Lloyd Poelman, has been called as a mission president. Dr. Russell M. Nelson will continue as general president.

Brother Oswald, 42, was bishop of the Monument Park Second Ward in the Salt Lake Bonneville Stake. He has served on the Sunday School General Board and has been bishop and bishop’s counselor in three University of Utah wards.

Temple Presidencies

Other callings announced include a new president and matron of the Logan Temple and new counselors and recorder for the Sao Paulo Temple.

Reed Bullen, a Utah state legislator and broadcasting executive, has been called to serve as president of the Logan Temple. Kathryn Bowen Bullen, his wife, will serve as temple matron. President and Sister Bullen succeed President and Sister Lloyd R. Hunsaker, who have served since 1973.

Called as counselors to President Bullen were Oral L. Ballam and Arlin R. Pugmire, both of Logan. The Logan Temple is presently closed while undergoing major interior renovation. It is expected to be reopened in early 1979.

The two new counselors in the Sao Paulo Temple presidency are Jose Benjamin Puerta, first counselor, and Angel Miguel Fernandez, second counselor to President Finn B. Paulsen.

President Puerta has been president of the Sao Paulo Brazil West Stake since its creation in 1973. President Fernandez is now serving as president of the Argentina Rosario Mission. President and Mrs. Fernandez will complete their mission assignment in July.

The Sao Paulo Temple will be dedicated October 30 by President Spencer W. Kimball.

Three New Missions Formed

Three new missions—in Ecuador, Japan, and California—have been announced by the First Presidency.

The July I organization of the new missions will increase the worldwide total to 159.

Headquarters for the new missions will be Guayaquil, Ecuador; Tokyo, Japan; and Ventura, California.

The Ecuador Guayaquil Mission is being formed through a division of the existing Ecuador Quito Mission. Guayaquil and Quevedo are the major cities in the mission, which includes the western portion of the country.

The existing Japan Tokyo Mission will be divided into the Japan Tokyo North and Japan Tokyo South missions, both based in Tokyo. Membership in Japan exceeds 30,000.

A division of the existing California Los Angeles Mission will form a new mission to include San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties, and the northern part of Los Angeles County. Santa Monica will remain in the Los Angeles mission. Downey, Cerritos, Huntington Park, and Whittier will be added to the Los Angeles Mission.

Jordan River Temple District

map of the Jordan River Temple District(click to view larger)

Boundaries for the new Jordan River Temple District and the Salt Lake Temple District have been announced. Forty-nine stakes in the northern half of Salt Lake County and southern Davis County in Utah are assigned to the Salt Lake Temple District. Fifty stakes in southern Salt Lake County are in the Jordan River Temple District. Those living in the two districts have been invited to contribute to the Jordan River Temple fund. The site for the temple, at 10211 South 1300 West, Midvale, was a gift to the Church from Mr. and Mrs. Alma Holt of South Jordan, in behalf of themselves and Brother Holt’s sisters.

LDS Scene

Former Brigham Young University President Ernest L. Wilkinson, 78, died April 5 at his Salt Lake City home following a heart attack.

He was president of BYU for twenty years a time of unprecedented growth for the university. “The remarkable and relentless leadership of Ernest L. Wilkinson more than any other single cause is the key to the present stature of [BYU],” said his successor, Dallin H. Oaks, in a prepared statement following President Wilkinson’s death.

The First Presidency issued this statement: “Dr. Ernest L. Wilkinson was a man of courage, faith, foresight, and energy. His contributions to education, to the law, to the understanding of our nation’s system of government will bless and inspire countless generations in this and other lands.”

President Wilkinson was born in Ogden, Utah, on May 4, 1899. He married Alice Ludlow on August 15, 1923, and they had three sons and two daughters. He established a career and national reputation as an attorney before being named BYU president in 1951. During his administration, wards and stakes of the Church were organized on the campus, and more than eighty permanent buildings were constructed.

The Justice Department says it’s a matter of legality and BYU says it’s a matter of morality. What’s in question is a threatened U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit claiming that BYU’s housing regulations violate the Fair Housing Act.

As a result of an April 5 meeting of University and Justice Department officials, both parties are optimistic that further discussions will result in a mutually satisfactory resolution. The Department of Justice has indicated its intention not to take any legal action pending the outcome of further talks.

This year some 20,000 New Zealanders attended the first major pageant presented by the Church outside of the continental United States.

Hear Him, a production by Charles L. Metten and Robert Manookin, both of Brigham Young University, was performed for three nights in January on the slopes of the New Zealand Temple grounds. About seven hundred members of the island nation’s eight stakes and three missions staged the production. Hazel Stroud was the pageant director.

Even nature cooperated in the pageant’s success. The weather was clear, and the small, sharp lawn burrs that had prevented Maori performers from going barefoot disappeared four days before the pageant.

Three prophecies of former Maori Tohungas, native leaders who were regarded as priests and respected for their wisdom, were incorporated into the pageant.

Nonmembers in Ames, Iowa, are becoming interested in Relief Society by leaps and bounds. Literally.

The nonmembers outnumber the members participating in a Relief Society exercise program in the Ames Ward. Some twenty-nine nonmember women join with twenty members and forty-four children in attending the four exercise classes. They do aerobics, with the adults exercising in a circle around the children.

Rae Okiishi, the ward’s Relief Society recreation leader, frequently is asked to explain the program to women’s clubs and interest groups in the Ames area. “We can come and have fun, but we work hard and feel physically fit,” she says. Some women have lost a whole dress size in seven weeks of the class.

A recording of Leroy J. Robertson’s Oratorio from the Book of Mormon will be made this spring. The Salt Lake Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Utah Symphony Orchestra will perform and record concerts of the oratorio.