“Roots,” Mormon-style, Attracts 95 Percent Nonmembers
It started with a genealogy class. Six missionary couples in the New York Rochester Mission sponsored genealogy classes at public libraries in cities where they were serving.
Between forty-five and fifty people attended each class, and ninety-five percent of those attending were not members of the Church. Elder Eugene and Sister Madge Tuckett of American Fork, Utah, taught classes at Palmyra, New York, spending several hours a week counseling members of the class about genealogy. At the last session, class members presented the Tucketts with a cake inscribed “To Our Friends.” Such reaction was not unusual.
Responding to the interest in genealogy, the mission sponsored a Genealogy Week. Shortly thereafter, New York Governor Hugh Carey declared the week of April 24–29 state Genealogy Week. More than twenty-five cities throughout the state also proclaimed the week. Under the direction of president Milton A. Barlow, president of the New York Rochester Mission, missionaries visited with city officials and presented them with a citation letter, a pamphlet, and a recent Church-sponsored insert in Reader’s Digest. The missionaries in Hornell, New York, presented Mayor Richard Dunning with a large copy of his pedigree chart.
Throughout New York and neighboring Vermont, mayors urged “all people to seek out their own ancestral roots.” Newspapers supported the undertaking with articles and photographs of missionaries and townspeople.
The week was held in conjunction with the National Freedom Shrine Month declared by the United States Congress. The Bennington Banner at Bennington, Vermont, wrote on April 15:
“Genealogy Week may well mark the beginning of an added emphasis in seeking out our American heritage.”
The interest didn’t die when the week ended; months later, the classes are still being held.
Crucial Health Need Gives Missionaries Opportunity
In Hong Kong cancer is the number one cause of death. Also, in Hong Kong young persons are interested in learning about the Church—as indicated by the high baptism rate.
So the project devised by a group of Welfare Services missionaries in Hong Kong was natural—to teach young people about cancer. The obstacle they faced was formidable: “How can we get school administrators to invite us, a church, to bring our message into their schools, especially when so many of them are private schools supported by religious groups?” Theresa Baccus of Los Angeles, California, the missionary supervising the project, voiced the question. The missionaries found answers.
They wrote to the Hong Kong Government Education Department to offer the proposed program. They then worked up a script and selected pictures for a slide presentation. They had received no answer from the government, and inquiry showed that their letter had been lost in the mail. A second letter was sent. The director then discussed their proposal and responded favorably. He even offered to produce a circular and mail it to the 400 colleges in Hong Kong. The circular gave details of the program and endorsed it strongly. All that the schools needed to do was call the mission home to schedule an appointment.
And call they did. “We showed our program in large, beautiful auditoriums with hundreds of students, and in small biology lab rooms with twenty or thirty students,” says Sister Baccus. “All the students eagerly watched and asked searching questions.”
After seeing the slide presentation, the Hong Kong Anti-Cancer Society which had already provided much current cancer research information offered to pay all production and travel costs accrued through taking the program to the colleges.
After three months, some 15,000 students had learned the dangers of cigarette smoking and alcohol and hot drink consumption, and the relationship between certain other foods and cancer. They had also been introduced to the name of the Church.
The missionaries say they have planted seeds—“the seed of curiosity to know more about a church that is not only concerned about a man’s spiritual soul, but also his temporal well-being.”
Marriage Enrichment Seminar a Success in California
If young people can have conferences, why can’t married people? The Baldwin Park Second Ward, Covina California Stake, didn’t see why not. And so with approval and help from the stake, the ward planned a marrieds conference—a time for couples to share spiritual experiences.
Couples were encouraged to fast the morning of the conference. Workshops were taught by three Church members. Paul Starr, a stake high councilor, taught a session entitled “Who Really Rules the Roost?” which emphasized the spiritual relationship between husband and wife, the needs of marriage partners, and improved communication. Frank Cammans, vice president of United California Bank, taught goal setting in money matters in a workshop called “Green Is Beautiful.” Harold Heywood, a school administrator, taught “Sparkle Polish,” a workshop on keeping marriages alive.
A midday devotional was conducted by Bishop William L. Hunter. Two former ward members soon to begin mission assignments in Iowa, Paul R. and Dorothy L. Hatch, spoke about family relationships. A testimony meeting followed.
Stake seventies and their wives served and cleaned up after dinner, leaving ward couples free to enjoy dinner together and to dance to tape-recorded music.
Ninety-five ward members, ranging in age from seventeen to eighty-eight, participated in the conference. Babysitting was provided by twenty ward youths, with one or two young people assigned to each home by a coordinator. Other help from the ward came from members of the Relief Society, the ward Correlation committee, the Young Women’s president, the Primary presidency, and the elders’ quorum.
The results? Long range effects are difficult to evaluate, since they involve individual couples applying the principles they learned. But short-range results were evident: many couples held hands and bore heartfelt testimony of the need for this experience in their lives. Husbands led the way in the testimony meeting, inviting their wives to follow. Before the night was over, many couples were looking forward to the next marrieds conference. And the next morning at priesthood meeting, attendance was markedly up.