A Report of the Seminar for Regional Representatives
President Spencer W. Kimball’s address highlighted the seminar for Regional Representatives 30 March 1979. (See p. 105, this issue.) Later in that Friday seminar, which began the general conference weekend, other General Authorities presented organizational refinements, which, as President Kimball said, “have been made to hasten the unfolding of the Lord’s work in the latter days.”
President Ezra Taft Benson and Bishop Victor L. Brown explained the establishment of councils at the area and region levels. (For details, see their addresses given at the welfare session, pp. 86 and 89.)
After their discussions, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley lead a question/answer session involving Elder L. Tom Perry, Elder Thomas S. Monson, Elder David B. Haight, and Bishop J. Richard Clarke. Elder Hinckley then stressed that the changes are simple ones:
The title of the General Authority Area Supervisors and the Presiding Bishop’s area supervisors have been changed so there is a clear distinction between them. They are now known as Executive Administrators and Directors for Temporal Affairs, respectively.
The new councils at the area and region levels coordinate ecclesiastical and temporal lines, as do councils at the general, stake, ward, and family level.
Some multistake responsibilities previously held by stake presidents are now being given to the Regional Representatives.
President N. Eldon Tanner indicated that the structural refinements have the full support of all the General Authorities. “We think this will hasten the work of the Lord and give firm management to the affairs of the Church at all levels.”
Affirming the counsel of other speakers, President Tanner cautioned: “As we emphasize Church government through a system of councils, let us not forget the family council. So much of what we do in the Church is, and should be, aimed at helping individuals and families. Let us not forget the family council and do all we can to protect and nourish that basic unit of the Church.”
Elder Howard W. Hunter, speaking of some of the added responsibilities now given to Regional Representatives, indicated that they are “to assume a major role as the administrator of your regions … [to] ‘sit in council’ with stake presidents, … [and to] preside, prioritize, plan, regulate, and train at the regional council just as the Executive Administrator does at the area council.” He explained that Regional Representatives are to be “staff to the Executive Administrator” and, with a few exceptions, “line to the stake president.”
Elder Hunter also shared some interesting research results: “Of all the keys to the spiritual health and activity of a ward, the percentage of male ward members who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood is the best predictor of success or nonsuccess. Obviously, effective time spent in activating and advancing inactive or prospective elders can lift the whole ward. Just as obviously, if we want to help children and youth, we must first help parents.”
And concerning missionary work: “We have some excellent information which shows that, generally, the number of converts in a geographical area is more related to the number of Church members than to the number of full-time missionaries. Of all the things we can do to lift dramatically the number of convert baptisms, more effective involvement of Church members in missionary work tops the list.”
Elder Mark E. Petersen concluded the morning session of the seminar by describing “the image of a Regional Representative,” which, he said, is no different from the image of every other servant of God, regardless of his calling.
He emphasized the importance of making Jesus Christ our pattern—of being “even as he is”—of witnessing to others that Jesus is the Christ, and of being one as a group, even as he and his Father are one.
Encouraging personal righteousness, he reminded the leaders of their responsibility to be examples of the virtues which qualify one for the work (see D&C 4). “Being Christlike ourselves,” he said, “we will teach [others] to be Christlike. Being devoted ourselves, we will teach them devotion. Being willing to follow the program ourselves, we will teach them to follow instructions.”
Example within the home is equally important: “Do we set a Christlike example for our wives and children that they, too, through us, may believe in him?”
Elder Petersen cautioned against unrighteous ambition “for place, position, or distinction in the Church.” Instead, he said, “how vital it is that we have an attitude of complete compliance with our instructions and fulfill them in detail! … In all cases devotion to duty is the watchword.”
He concluded by reminding them that “the Lord expects us to be producers. He commands us to bring forth much fruit. … We are called and ordained to so labor that our fruit will remain” (see John 15:16). In other words, he said, “we must plan and pray and work toward the end that there will be no dropouts because of our neglect, no one losing their testimonies, no one going into inactivity.”
There is “a golden promise” if we are faithful, Elder Petersen said: “If ye keep my commandments,” the Savior promises, “ye shall abide in my love” (John 15:10).
Twelve new Regional Representatives were introduced at the seminar: Hiroshi Aki of Osaka, Japan; Waldo Pratt Call of Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico; Donald W. Cummings of Para Hills, South Australia; Ariel Alcises Fedrigotti, Sr., of Montevideo, Uruguay; Louis P. Hefer of Johannesburg, South Africa; Blaine L. Hudson of Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Leopoldo Larcher of Travagliato, Italy; Ian Goodwin Mackie of Epping, Australia; Spencer Hamlin Osborn of Salt Lake City, Utah; Arturo Palmieri of Buenos Aires, Argentina; In Sang Han of Seoul, Korea; and Neil Woodrow Zundel of Richmond, Virginia.
President Kimball Shares Missionary Vision with Leaders
Suggesting that we prepare for missionary work in China, President Spencer W. Kimball opened the seminar for Regional Representatives Friday, 30 March 1979.
President Kimball told the Regional Representatives that he has followed “with great interest” the normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and the Peoples Republic of China—and with it the first religious conference of the reorganized Religious Affairs Department of Shanghai 9 January 1979. At that conference, he said, eight hundred Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, Hindis, and representatives of other religions discussed religious activities.
“We asked last conference for all members to pray with increased sincerity for peace in all nations and especially China,” he said, “and that we might make entry with our missionaries. Since then many people have been to China and much interest has been shown. Let us ask our Heavenly Father to grant our petition and permit this great neighbor, China, to join the great family of nations now bowing to the Lord Jesus Christ.”
President Kimball then outlined other means for beginning the work in that great country: “We need much more language training,” he said. “We need more people fluent in Mandarin.”
He also listed several things the Chinese people themselves can do: “Chinese members of the Church, especially, should pray for this development. Every single Chinese young man in the Church should be prepared to fill a mission.” To help them prepare, Mandarin classes are being given in every meetinghouse in Hong Kong.
“Chinese children should be taught to save and put aside funds to be prepared to serve in China,” he continued. “In the United States and Canada, Chinese members of the Church need to be strengthened.”
President Kimball reminded those present that President David O. McKay and Elder Hugh J. Cannon dedicated China for the preaching of the gospel in 1921. “They walked through shrines, pagodas, and temples fast falling into decay. Finally they came to a grove of cypress trees. A reverential feeling came and a presence seemed to be upon them. They were sure that unseen holy beings were directing their footsteps. There at Peking, in the heart of the most populous nation in the world, undisturbed by the multitudes, they offered the dedicatory prayer, President McKay being mouth.”
President Kimball also spoke of the encouraging successes missionary couples are having in Nigeria and Ghana. He quoted a recent letter from Elders Rendell N. Mabey and Edwin Q. Cannon, Jr., who, with their wives, are serving there:
“‘The Lord’s hand is evident in every thing and everywhere. We are having unbelievable success … —we assume just like some of the success and action stories we read of the early missionaries. We have never been anywhere in the world where it is so easy to engage a stranger in gospel discussion—opportunities are at every hand. One need not go from door to door—just have your tracts ready. Even busy people walking on the street will stop and talk. Workmen on construction jobs carry the tracts in hand for long periods of time. If you go by an hour or so later, it isn’t unusual to see them reading.
“‘A fireman in uniform stopped to help us fix a flat tire in the center of the city of Umuahia the other day as we were driving southward to baptize and organize. We gave him the Joseph Smith testimony tract. Within fifteen minutes he came to us and said he had read enough—this is what he was waiting for. He wanted to be baptized. He then said he knew the people of his village would accept the gospel. The village was about thirty miles further south on the road we were traveling, so we stopped there. The first man we met in the village was the school teacher who happened to be a relative of the fireman. We were taken to the cottage of the family and were warmly received by the fireman’s wife and six children and others. A Book of Mormon was presented to the school teacher with the statement that we had traveled halfway around the world to give him this book and the least he could do was read it. He not only agreed to read it but read it to the villagers. …’”
President Kimball said that convert baptisms there total 483 in Nigeria and 430 in Ghana. He also indicated that the Church is extending into other new areas, with the help of Brother David M. Kennedy, special representative of the First Presidency.
“We are finding that there are people everywhere who are seeking truth, who want to improve their lives, who are family-oriented and who recognize the truth of the gospel message when they hear it,” he said.
But since some governments still don’t allow us to preach the gospel in their nations, “we should continue to pray individually and in our homes and in our councils and meetings and petition the Lord to assist us to find a way to reach the hearts and minds of leaders of nations—China, Russia, eastern European countries, middle eastern countries—yes, all countries that are now closed or have restrictions on the teaching of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, so that the work might go forward in all the world as has been commanded. Our Father does and will hear our prayers—of this I am certain. But we must ask in faith, nothing wavering. Then we must be prepared to enter once the gates are opened.”
President Kimball expressed his delight at the progress of the Church among the Lamanites and quoted President John Taylor as saying, “The work of the Lord among the Lamanites must not be postponed, if we desire to retain the approval of God.”
Regarding the number of missionaries in the field, President Kimball declared that “a new generation of Lamanites [is] emerging in the Church”: the number of Lamanites serving missions increased twenty-seven percent last year.
He expressed disappointment, however, that among the general Church membership, the percentage currently serving missions is much lower than it should be.
If 1% of the Church—instead of 0.67%—were serving missions, he said, we would have over 41,000 missionaries instead of the current 27,699. Just one additional missionary couple from each ward and branch would mean 16,500 new missionaries; five additional couples from each stake would mean 10,000 more. “—Just something to think about as you travel back to your homes.”
President Kimball then moved to another missionary concern: “I continue to be impressed that we should do more to reach the large groups of language minorities in our major cities”—the millions living in the United States who speak Spanish, Chinese, Greek, Polish, Italian, Portuguese, and other languages.
Indicating that more Jews live in the United States than in Israel, he said, “In Israel, a missionary would be fined and imprisoned if he converted and baptized a Jew—but not so in America. As you can see, there is still much to do right here at home.”
Turning to developments geared toward aiding the work around the world, President Kimball said that in emerging countries the Church is beginning to construct smaller meetinghouses at a much reduced cost—“prototypes of what we will do to further the work among the Lamanites.”
Another development is the simplified curriculum and report forms designed for families, groups, and small branches in emerging areas, enabling them to enjoy the blessings of the Church even when separated geographically from larger bodies of Church members.
Referring to the announcement of the new system of Church councils, President Kimball said, “It shouldn’t surprise any of us, given all that must yet be done in this part of this dispensation, if there must be some refining in order to do all the things the Lord has indicated we must accomplish.
“Do not be surprised either,” he continued, “if you also hear from time to time of further focusing on the individual and the family. All our basic duties can be carried out as individuals and families, if we are sufficiently determined. This emphasis is not only correct in terms of the scriptural focus on the individual and what modern prophets have told us of the family—but it has its practical dimension, too, especially in the kind of times in which we live. As a people, we will not always be able to do everything on the same scale we have gotten used to doing things, in the past several decades. We cannot always count, for instance, on the ready availability of transportation. The Brethren have a quiet but firm determination that there is much strength which comes with simplicity and with focusing on basic institutions like the family and on basic principles.”
He then reminded leaders that the Church is trying “to free up some time for busy Church leaders and their families,” and requested that local leaders not “rush in to fill [that] time.”
The emphasis for the 1980 world conference on records is personal histories, he said. Many members as well as nonmembers will want to attend to receive help writing and updating their own histories. Further information is forthcoming.
“We call your attention,” President Kimball continued, “to the need for Church members to take advantage of our wonderful Church magazines, for what they offer to the individual and to the family—whether our members live within the shadow of a temple or are in scattered circumstances.” Although technology allows us many conveniences, he said, the printed word is still a vital source of information. “People can often read the scriptures and our magazines even when other blessings of communication and association are denied to them. Goodly parents who read the Church magazines and who are seen by their children so doing are setting a more powerful example than they may know.”
He then encouraged the Regional Representatives to follow the Savior’s example of leadership—to be a servant and a friend of those they lead. “In the kingdom, the greater our responsibilities, the greater is our need to see ourselves as servants.”
The Church is “making wonderful progress,” he told them. “The work of the Lord is going forward as never before. But, as always, there is infinitely more to be done as we contemplate the whole world and its four billion inhabitants as our field of missionary labor. … There is so much yet to do and the adversary is so unrelenting. So we pray and encourage you not to weary in well doing.”
Logan Temple Rededicated
The ninety-five-year-old Logan Temple, remodeled and rededicated, is now back in full use—at seventy-five percent greater capacity than before the remodeling.
The rededication service was conducted nine times March 13 and 14, with President Spencer W. Kimball offering the prayer. Thousands of Church members in the Logan Temple District heard General Authority speakers and President Kimball’s dedicatory prayer.
Originally dedicated in 1884 by President John Taylor, the temple has been modernized inside, and the exterior stonework has been cleaned and repaired. The grounds have been relandscaped, and a larger parking lot has been provided.
The dedication services, conducted from the priesthood room in the upper part of the temple, were televised closed-circuit to other rooms in the temple, to the Logan Tabernacle, and to a Logan meetinghouse.
This is the text of President Kimball’s prayer:
“Our Father who art in heaven, thou who hast created the heavens and the earth and all things therein, thou most glorious one, we thy sons and daughters assemble in this holy house which has been renovated and refurbished.
“Bless us that our sins may be remembered no more and that thou wilt graciously give to us thy rich blessings.
“We thank thee, gracious Lord, that thou didst raise up thy servant, our brother, Joseph Smith, as a prophet, seer, and revelator and restorer, and the Book of Mormon, and many revelations and visions to bless us in our day and to restore to the earth thy great and glorious gospel with all its gifts, blessings, and promises.
“The priesthood, with its numerous blessings, has been returned to the earth by holy angels, and for it we are deeply grateful.
“We are grateful, too, our Father, that thy sons and daughters have gone to the faraway places in this world to take the gospel truths to the world, as directed by thy Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“We are also thankful that thou didst lead Brigham Young to direct the march across the plains to the high mountain valleys of the West and that he was inspired to direct great men and women to settle these valleys of the north.
“We are grateful also, Heavenly Father, for all of the presidents of thy church, with their associates, who have found locations for sacred temples. We are grateful for all those sacred temples that have been built to thy name and for those which have been rebuilt and refurbished for the use of thy people.
“We especially, this day, thank thee for this building which we now dedicate to thee and thy people and thy service, and we are pleased that this glorious building has been in operation for near a hundred years to satisfy the needs of thy people.
“We are grateful that thy early saints did establish these monuments in the valleys of the mountains, as foretold by the prophets, and now other beautiful edifices are being planned and marked for many nations and many peoples therein.
“We are grateful to thee, Holy Father, that we have been able to see this day when expanding numbers may receive their anointings and blessings in holy temples within reasonable distances of their homes.
“Bless, we beseech thee, our Father, the First Presidency of thy church, and give to them thy mind and will in all matters essential for the welfare of thy people. Please give to, them heavenly vision, wisdom, judgment, and spiritual insight. Please remember, in love, the servant whom thou hast called to be prophet, seer, and revelator to all mankind, whose days have been long upon the earth. Extend unto him, we pray, a lengthened life of mortality to continue his leadership.
“Confer also upon thy servants, thy beloved Apostles, a rich endowment of thy spirit and give them vision and judgment and wisdom. Magnify, also, thy numerous blessings, Holy Father, to the Patriarch, all of the Seventies of thy kingdom, the Presiding Bishopric, and all others who have responsibility in thy kingdom.
“Our Father, we thank thee for the many thousands of missionaries who are dedicated to the cause of spreading the gospel to the nations of the earth. Give them wisdom, judgment, and power to take the gospel to all parts of the world in their special missions.
“Our Heavenly Father, we present to thee this beautiful building with all of its effects. Bless the towers, the ceilings, the roofs and floors, partitions, stairways and doors and other openings, the lighting and heating effects, all the furniture and all which makes this a habitable, functional house in which thy precious work can be done. Please bless the records, the carpeting, and all that contributes toward the use of this structure. Bless, also, the walks and paths, and trees and plants.
“Father, now we ask thee to bless the president of this temple and all those associates who will work with him in preparing this place as commodious and habitable, that all the ordinances, baptisms, confirmations, washings, anointings, sealings, endowments, and other ordinances may be properly and blessedly performed.
“Please, our Father, bless all who have contributed toward this building.
“Now, Holy God of our Fathers, bless all pertaining to this building and the work that shall be done here.
“Bless this house and all that pertains to it, that it may make a great contribution to the work for the dead and the living.
“Our Heavenly Father, please bless the youth of the Church that they may fill their missions, that they may bring their companions to the holy temple for their sealing blessings.
“Bless all people, we pray, in all of the organizations of the Church.
“Our kind, eternal Father, bless the poor of thy people, that they may be saved from suffering and that they may ascend to their great blessings.
“Bless, we pray thee, the leadership in the developing countries of the world, and bless the new converts as they come into the Church that they may be powerful and strong.
“And now, our Holy Father, we dedicate to thee and to thy cause and thy service this beautiful building, with all that pertains to it, and we pray thee, accept this house, O Lord, with all that pertains to it, and with our love and affection and blessings. In the holy name of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, amen.”
First Presidency Warns Against “Irreligion”
The First Presidency issued a statement March 9 urging the protection and the honoring of the United States’ constitutionally based religious heritage.
This is the text of the statement:
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recognizes that a vital cornerstone of a free society is the principle of religious liberty. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution forbids any ‘law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’ Ours has been a society which encourages religious liberty and toleration. The result, as pointed out by Mr. Justice Robert H. Jackson of the United States Supreme Court, has been that ‘nearly everything in our culture worth transmitting, everything which gives meaning to life, is saturated with religious influences.’ (McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 335–38 .)
“We, thus, deplore the growing efforts to establish irreligion, such as atheism or secularism, as the official position of the United States of America, thus obscuring and eroding the rich and diverse religious heritage of our nation. We refer here to attacks on time-honored religious symbols in our public life. Such symbols include:
“1. The reference to ‘one nation under God’ in our pledge of allegiance;
“2. The motto ‘In God We Trust’ on our coins and public buildings;
“3. ‘Praise [for] the power that hath made and preserved us a nation’ in our national anthem;
“4. Use of the Bible to administer official oaths;
“5. The words ‘God Save the United States and this Honorable Court,’ spoken at the convening of the United States Supreme Court;
“6. Prayers at the beginning of legislative sessions and other public meetings;
“7. The performance of music with a religious origin or message in public programs;
“8. The singing of Christmas carols and the location of nativity scenes or other seasonal decorations on public property during the Christmas holidays; and
“9. References to God in public proclamations, such as at Thanksgiving.
“From its beginning The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has accepted the constitutional principle that government will neither establish a state religion nor prohibit the free exercise of religion. Our formal statements of belief include these principles:
“‘We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may’ (A of F 1:11).
“‘We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul’ (D&C 134:4).
“‘We believe that rulers, states, and governments have a right, and are bound to enact laws for the protection of all citizens in the free exercise of their religious belief; but we do not believe that they have a right in justice to deprive citizens of this privilege, or proscribe them in their opinions, so long as a regard and reverence are shown to the laws and such religious opinions do not justify sedition nor conspiracy’ (D&C 134:7).
“‘We believe that all religious societies have a right to deal with their members for disorderly conduct according to the rules and regulations of such societies; provided that such dealings be for fellowship and good standing; but we do not believe that any religious society has authority to try men on the right of property or life, to take from them this world’s goods, or to put them in jeopardy of either life or limb, or to inflict any physical punishment upon them. They can only excommunicate them from their society, and withdraw from them their fellowship’ (D&C 134:10).
“During the course of our history members of our Church have been the victims of official persecution motivated by religious intolerance. We are, therefore, committed by experience as well as by precept to the wisdom of a constitutional principle that government and public officials should maintain a position of respectful neutrality in the matter of religion. If any of our members holding public office have failed to observe that position in any of their official responsibilities we counsel them to remember the principles quoted above.
“But the constitutional principle of neutrality toward religion does not call for our nation to ignore its religious heritage, including the religious motivations of its founders and the powerful religious beliefs of generations of its people and its leaders. The basic documents of our land, from the Mayflower Compact through the Declaration of Independence and the writings of the Founding Fathers to the inaugural addresses of presidents early and modern, are replete with reverent expressions of reliance on Almighty God and gratitude for his blessings. The reference to God and Divine Providence in our historic state documents and the other religious symbols summarized above are time-honored and appropriate expressions of the religious heritage of this nation. As the Supreme Court noted in a leading case, ‘There are many manifestations in our public life of belief in God,’ and these ‘ceremonial occasions bear no true resemblance to the kind of unquestioned religious exercise’ that the government is forbidden from sponsoring (Engle v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421, 435 n. 21 ).
“Those who oppose all references to God in our public life have set themselves the task of rooting out historical facts and ceremonial tributes and symbols so ingrained in our national consciousness that their elimination could only be interpreted as an official act of hostility toward religion. Our constitutional law forbids that. As the Supreme Court said in another leading case:
“‘The place of religion in our society is an exalted one, achieved through a long tradition of reliance on the home, the church and the inviolable citadel of the individual heart and mind. We have come to recognize through bitter experience that it is not within the power of government to invade that citadel, whether its purpose or effect be to aid or oppose, to advance or retard. In the relationship between man and religion, the State is firmly committed to a position of neutrality.’ (School District of Abington v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 226 .)
“As the ruling principle of conduct in the lives of many millions of our citizens, religion should have an honorable place in the public life of our nation, and the name of Almighty God should have sacred use in its public expressions. We urge our members and people of good will everywhere to unite to protect and honor the spiritual and religious heritage of our nation and to resist the forces that would transform the public position of the United States from the constitutional position of neutrality to a position of hostility toward religion.”
Church Policies and Announcements
The following items appeared in a recent Messages to stake, mission, and district presidents and to bishops and branch presidents:
Cameras and Photography for Prospective Missionaries. When interviewing a prospective missionary, priesthood leaders should help him understand that if he chooses to take a camera into the mission field, he should use it sparingly so as not to detract from missionary work. He should be encouraged to be frugal in purchasing camera equipment and supplies to take into the mission field. He should also be informed that pictures are not to be taken during Church meetings.
Missionary Farewells for All Full-time Missionaries. Parents and other family members of missionaries, as appropriate, might be invited to sit on the stand at missionary farewells. It is also appropriate to invite parents and other family members to participate in the services by speaking, offering prayers, or presenting special musical numbers. As with every sacrament meeting, participants should be reminded that such meetings are to be planned and conducted by the bishopric and should maintain the high standards of music, sermon, spirituality, and worship requisite on such sacred occasions.
Missionaries Returning to Their Fields of Labor. There is an increasing trend for missionaries to return to their fields of labor after their missions. Their appearance is often quite different from the well-groomed image of a missionary; yet the Saints often treat them as though they were still missionaries, providing food and lodging at considerable inconvenience or sacrifice.
Priesthood leaders should generally counsel returned missionaries against returning to their mission fields. However, if a missionary is considering such a return visit, he should be encouraged to maintain an image consistent with Church standards as explained in the brochure The Returned Missionary (PBMP000A). If he chooses to return to his mission field for any reason, he should be counseled not to impose on the Saints or other acquaintances in the areas where he labored.
Washington Saints Help Refugees Build New Lives
Seeds of caring are bringing forth fruits of conversion for Laotian refugees in two stakes in the Seattle, Washington, area.
The caring comes from Church members sensitive to the needs of the refugees, many of whom come to the United States after spending years in Thailand refugee camps. They own little more than the clothes they wear when they arrive.
Although government and private agencies help the refugees, Church members are finding many ways to give additional help. That aid includes classes in English, employment assistance, and friendship. Some Laotians helped by members of the Church have chosen to study the gospel and be baptized.
Actually, the seeds of this concern were planted years ago in the Midwest, when townspeople came to the aid of a couple whose home had burned. The helpful neighbors were Church members—which interested the nonmember couple, Ralph and Charlotte Yeakley. The Yeakleys were soon baptized. They later extended their caring to three adopted Korean children.
The Yeakleys had moved to Bellevue, Washington, near Seattle, when they became aware of the needs of Laotian refugees who had recently arrived in the United States. They wrote the United States government to find out how they could help. Through a Jewish relief organization, the Yeakleys sponsored a Laotian family. When this family told them of other families who needed help, the Yeakleys enlisted support from ward members.
Members of the Church helped provide clothing and other needed aid for the refugees. A woman who had moved to California donated her home furnishings, which were stored in Seattle.
As the Yeakleys learned of more and more refugee families, Sister Yeakley asked President Alva C. Snow of the Washington Seattle Mission for assistance.
“When Sister Yeakley came to see me, she had just taken some Laotian women shopping so they could buy their food,” says President Snow. “They had been too frightened to leave their houses, and so she took them.” Sister Yeakley was, at the time, pregnant with her seventh child.
President Snow has since helped Church leaders find ways for Church members and full-time missionaries to help the Laotians.
Many Laotians live within the Seattle First Ward Boundaries. Members invited Laotians over for holiday dinners. Ward mission leader Ward Keller has put many miles on his motor home giving Laotians rides to church and other activities. He has also arranged for use of a building in the Laotians’ neighborhood, so that the Laotians can have classes and church services nearby.
To make language less of a barrier in the Laotians’ adjustment to American culture, missionaries are teaching them English. The first missionary enlisted to teach the Laotians was an elder originally sent to Thailand but reassigned to the Washington Seattle Mission. Returned missionaries who knew Thai were located and they agreed to help. In March, two missionaries serving in Thailand were assigned to spend the last several months of their missions in the Washington Seattle Mission teaching the Laotians. The missionaries speak Thai, which is similar to Laotian. Interested Laotians receive gospel lessons, as well, from the missionaries. Church materials printed in Thai are provided. Of the several hundred refugees, at least fifty have been taught about the gospel. Between twenty-five and thirty-five attend the branch church meetings.
The fruits of these efforts? Nine refugees were baptized in a bilingual baptismal service in March. Many of their relatives and friends attended—including Sister Yeakley. She, however, had to leave the service early. Two hours later, her seventh child was born.
More Laotians are being taught by missionaries and helped by members. Even so, the work is only beginning, says President Snow, who has watched the refugees arrive. “I saw family after family unload,” he said, “—Laotian people transplanted from their homes, who had left everything in the world behind. They need desperately the message and the love we have to offer in the Church.”
Biblical Scholar Speaks at BYU
“In different times and places, God has chosen different individuals and transmitted his word to them. There have been and there will be and there are true prophets throughout history,” affirmed David Noel Freedman, nationally known Biblical scholar speaking at the ninth annual Welch lecture series at Brigham Young University in March.
Dr. Freedman, professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Michigan, editor of the prestigious Anchor Bible series and of Biblical Archaeologist, spoke on Abraham, Moses, and his own religious beliefs.
Raised in the Jewish tradition, Dr. Freedman became a Christian, attended the Princeton Theological Seminary, and wrote on Ezekiel at Johns Hopkins University under W. F. Albright, the man who almost single-handedly proved it was “possible to be both a scholar and religious.”
Professor Freedman, who had previously visited BYU as part of a multidenominational symposium (see “A Respectful Meeting of the Minds,” Ensign, June 1978, pp. 70–75), presented three lectures—and with them a model methodology that combined Biblical internal evidence with archaeological external evidence to produce a more complete picture of the world of Abraham and Moses.
Relaxed and informal, he quipped, “It is with great trepidation that I face you. I’ve had far too much time to prepare.” He invited the audience to share an experience “on the frontiers of information,” keeping in mind “a theorem invented for a much more embarrassing occasion: Being wrong is often much more stimulating than being right.”
Any reconstruction of the past, he pointed out, is “at least partly theoretical and therefore almost certainly partly wrong. This shouldn’t be discouraging, but I want to warn you that I won’t be able to tell you ahead of time which is which.”
He focused in his first lecture on the time of the patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The date normally assigned to Abraham is about 1800 B.C., yet because so little is known about the world of the ancient patriarchs, “many believe the patriarchs have lost their historical standing.”
But in 1974 a team of Italian archaeologists reported excavating Ebla, a site in northwestern Syria that included possibly fifteen thousand clay tablets or fragments containing cuneiform writing dating to about the middle of the third millennium—2500 B.C. “The readings are ambiguous; the results are uncertain,” Dr. Freedman cautioned. “Ultimately, after a great deal of work, the questions can be answered, but until then, conclusions must be subject to a great deal of review, revision, and in some cases, retraction.”
The records seem to deal almost exclusively with Ebla’s commercial transactions, and among the names of the cities with which it traded appear the names of Sodom and Gomorrah. “This is the first reference ever, outside of the Bible, to these cities while they still existed,” he stressed. Like most Biblical cities, they were destroyed. Unlike most Biblical cities, they were destroyed “in a spectacular fashion and they were never rebuilt.” That they were “destroyed once and forever had great theological impact” as we can tell from the later prophets’ references.
How does the information that Ebla traded with these cities increase our knowledge of Abraham? No cities are known to have existed in the vicinity of the Dead Sea around 1800 B.C. that could have been Sodom and Gomorrah. However, there are rains of cities that were destroyed but not rebuilt dating back to the time of Ebla. Therefore, the 1800 B.C. date for Abraham may be too late. Should the patriarchal period actually be pushed back several hundred years to 2500–2200 B.C.? “To put it mildly,” said Professor Freedman, “the implications are revolutionary.”
For his second lecture, he turned to internal evidence in the song celebrating the drowning of Pharaoh’s forces which suggests that the exodus may have been dated too early and really took place several hundred years later. The Song of the Sea (see Ex. 15) “belongs to an ancient, well-known genre known as the victory ode.” Other examples appear in the Song of Deborah in Judges 5, in Assyrian literature, and in Egyptian literature of the same period (Ramses II ordered a “victory” ode about 1286 B.C. even though he was actually defeated, “but if you’re the Pharaoh, you can insure that history is subject to editorial revision”). “Between Moses and Deborah,” observed Professor Freedman, “between the exodus from Egypt and the conquest of Canaan, we see the establishment of Israel as a nation.”
The Song of the Sea and Deborah’s song, however, differ from the Egyptian and Assyrian victory odes in attributing victory “not to the king but to the direct intervention of God himself.”
The exodus has been dated in various ways. Figuring back from the establishment of Solomon’s temple would provide a date of about 1440 B.C. Using the only known reference to Israel in Egyptian literature—the record of a punitive raid—would place it about 1230–1220 B.C. but would not allow for forty years wandering in the wilderness. Allowing for that forty years would date it about 1290 B.C.
However, the Song of the Sea itself contains an intriguing clue that these dates are all too early, suggests Dr. Freedman. Moses described four vassal nations of Egypt that were paralyzed by “fear and dread” at the fate of Egypt: Palestine (Philistia), Edom, Moab, and Canaan. “There is only one brief period in all of ancient history—the twelfth century B.C.—when all four of these nations existed at the same time,” he said. He briefly reviewed the archaeological evidence that limited the four-way coexistence and proposed a date for the crossing of the sea in the first quarter of the twelfth century about 1275 B.C.
In passing he noted that the wilderness wanderings took Israel to Mount Sinai, God’s “holy habitation.” The Hebrew word naveh, for “habitation,” implies a rural setting, a pastoral location for a flock, and “may possibly underlie the word Nauvoo which, I understand, is supposed to mean ‘more good.’”
Professor Freedman began the third lecture by commenting drolly, “This has been an inspiring and highly stimulating visit and if it weren’t for the lecturing, I would have enjoyed it thoroughly,” then moved into his serious topic: “Today I am not simply going to deal with matters of scholarly research but matters of belief and commitment.” Acknowledging the “gap between my commitment and my action,” he affirmed, “What I will say is what I truly believe about Biblical religion.”
The great question in Biblical religion is twofold, said Dr. Freedman: “How can people like us talk about God? and how can God reveal himself to people like us?” In the Bible, that revelation takes place, not only with words but with words arranged into stories that are “vehicles of the truth.”
He selected four stories to illustrate “the core of Biblical religion,” which is “a revelation of God to man,” and he recounted the story of Abraham seeking to alter God’s decision to destroy Sodom on the basis of justice and the story of Abraham’s great test when he was commanded to sacrifice Isaac. “The statement in the Lord’s Prayer ‘Lead us not into temptation’ could also be translated as ‘do not put us to the test.’ But this story tells us that the test is an integral part of God’s relationship with man,” he noted.
His second set of stories came from Moses’ experience: when Moses pleaded with God not to destroy Israel, caught in the act of worshipping the golden calf; and when God spoke with Moses “face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” (see Ex. 33:11). “We cannot go beyond this level of revelation,” said Professor Freedman. “The God who revealed himself in a personal and distinct way is the core of Biblical religious truth. I believe in this tradition. Having been born to it, I try to live it and respond to it.”
It is rare for lectures to receive standing ovations, but this one did.
In an interview with the Ensign, Professor Freedman’s enthusiasm for the Old Testament shone unabated.
Ensign : What are the most important questions to ask about the Old Testament?
Dr. Freedman: You must always ask the historical questions—when, where, how, and why. There are the archaeological issues to examine and the relation of the Biblical world to the classical world. They can’t be separated. When the transition to the Iron Age occurred around 1200 B.C., a stable world order was disrupted and out of that head-on collision came our two great bodies of literature: the Bible and Homeric epics. It’s simply one of the unique moments of history.
Of course we can’t neglect the rise of the great prophets who conveyed the word of the Lord for their own day, but always with the echoes and overtones of the word of the past. After the fall of Jerusalem, things were never the same. Even though the Maccabees were victorious and successful, the lesson is that you can’t just repeat history. All is preparation for the coming of the Messiah and for a later new level of living during the Millennium.
Ensign : What are the advantages and the disadvantages of looking at the Bible from a traditional believer’s point of view?
Dr. Freedman: The great advantage, of course, is that the traditionalists take the Bible seriously, are interested in the archaelogy and languages, and really work at it. The disadvantage is that frequently their conclusions are established before their research begins.
Ensign : What advice would you have for people who perceive the Old Testament as inaccessible and difficult?
Dr. Freedman: Read it! And read about it! There’s a reasonable consensus about its message and meaning, and it’s a consensus that cuts across a lot of denominational lines. We’re rather proud in the Anchor series of the fact that if you don’t know whether a given editor is Catholic, Jew, or Protestant, you couldn’t tell by reading his translation.