News of the Church

By Jay A. Parry


Florida Saints Enjoy Area Conference

If you followed the bumper stickers on the cars you’d reach your destination. “Happiness Is Family Home Evening,” they said, and “Have You Hugged Your Child Today?” The cars were traveling in long lines past citrus groves and tourist attractions to the Lakeland Florida Area Conference, June 28 and 29, 1980. Eight leaders were coming from the headquarters of the Church, including President Spencer W. Kimball and three others who are sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators, and the Saints in Florida didn’t want to miss them.

In all, 12,500 people came to the conference, crowding into the main arena of the Lakeland Civic Center and its two large overflow areas.

In a Sunday address Elder LeGrand Richards of the Quorum of the Twelve commented on the impressive attendance. “My heart is full of gratitude to the Lord for what has happened here this day.” He then recalled that when he was called in 1934 to preside over the Southern States Mission, he was responsible for five states “and we didn’t have a sign of a district. And now to come back here and see this great multitude and see the Church growing like it is … [makes] my heart thrill for the program!”

Traveling to the conference with President Kimball and Elder Richards were President Marion G. Romney, second counselor in the First Presidency; President Ezra Taft Benson of the Quorum of the Twelve; Elder Paul H. Dunn and Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the First Quorum of the Seventy; Sister Shirley W. Thomas, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency; and Sister Norma B. Smith, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency.

The conference was held in four sessions: a priesthood session and a women’s session that were held on Saturday evening, and two general sessions on Sunday.

In his priesthood address, President Kimball spoke of the priesthood. “We have the power of the priesthood. It doesn’t matter what position we hold. But it does matter what kind of men and boys we are and how well we honor the priesthood. No man will ever reach godhood who does not hold the higher priesthood—an elder, seventy, a high priest. And today is the day to get it and to magnify it.”

Then President Kimball explained what it means to magnify the priesthood: “Too many of us just hold the priesthood. That’s all we do. But we must magnify it. To magnify means to build up, to make strong and powerful. … Make it so big and great and so wonderful that your whole life will be advanced by it.”

The brethren listened attentively while the prophet spoke. Some of them tended babies so their wives could better enjoy the women’s session, which was being held at the same time. Near the front were seated rows of missionaries.

In this same session President Benson spoke of basic priesthood responsibilities. “Our standard of emulation should be Him whose servants we claim to be,” he said. He then discussed four responsibilities that will help us live a more righteous life: “One, be true to your priesthood covenants. Two, delegate righteously in your priesthood responsibilities. Three, do your duty as citizens. Four, follow the counsel of the priesthood leadership over you.”

Following Elder Benson, Elder Wirthlin spoke on the power of priesthood quorums, saying, “If a man’s priesthood quorum functions properly, a man sustained by the brethren of his quorum should not fail in any phase of his life’s responsibilities.”

The session closed with a men’s chorus, their combined bass resonating throughout the hall. In this, as in every session, the choirs and their music greatly contributed to the worship of the occasion.

Following the priesthood and women’s sessions, the missionaries set up tables to share information and pamphlets with the members and their nonmember friends. Although the hour was late, many of the Saints lingered to spend time with family and friends.

In an address the next day, President Benson reminded the congregation that “salvation is a family affair.” He then explained what a person can do to strengthen his family: “Parents, spend more time in the home.” Have “daily family devotion in the home.” Parents, be diligent in giving “instruction in life’s problems.” And take care to have “family recreation and cultural activities together.”

Elder Richards bore testimony of the joy of family exaltation, and President Kimball continued his theme. “Draw your families close around you,” he counseled. “If there be misunderstandings, clear them up. Forgive and forget. Don’t let old grievances canker your souls and infect them; don’t let past hurts destroy your love and your lives.”

In a Sunday morning address, Sister Smith spoke of being prepared for the coming of the Lord. “When the day comes for you, … what will your face report? Rejoicing, because you’re prepared for the day of the Lord’s coming, or disappointment, because you needed more time?”

Sister Thomas also spoke on preparedness. Said she, “The sort of strength that we can give to our families as we prepare them in faith is expressed very well in … the dedicatory prayer in the Kirtland Temple: ‘We ask thee, Holy Father, that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them, and thy glory round about them, and thine angels have charge over them.’”

President Romney centered his Sunday afternoon remarks around the “great principle of repentance.” He gave examples from the Book of Mormon of how repentance can work, citing the experiences of Enos, the Nephite followers of King Benjamin, and Alma the Younger. “True repentance, followed by baptism and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, brings forgiveness,” he said. “Such repentance is impossible without faith in the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Elder Dunn showed how the principle of repentance had been effective in the life of an inactive man as he returned with his family to full fellowship. The key in his reactivation was the concern a fellow Saint had shown for him. Also valuable was the power of prayer. Elder Dunn related a lesson his father taught him years ago: “‘Paul, remember this as you go out into the world: if you’re going to do battle on the world’s ground, you’ll always lose. If you’ll do battle on the Lord’s ground, you’ll always win.’” He explained that prayer can put us on the Lord’s grounds, and then asked: “Whose ground are you on?”

As the area conference came to a close, President Kimball said with tenderness, “We ask our Father to give you all the blessings that you deserve. … Let me express … my deep affection and love for each of you and thank you for coming to this great conference.”

Following the prayer, the choir began to sing “God Be with You,” and the Saints spontaneously joined in. President Kimball turned and looked obviously touched. He pulled a white handkerchief from his pocket, waved at the crowd. Some of the small children waved back.

“It’s been a glorious, memorable occasion,” President Kimball said. “And it’s one that I think not one of us will soon forget.”

[photo] More than 12,500 Saints from all over Florida attended the Lakeland Florida Area Conference.

[photo] President Kimball speaks at one of the Sunday sessions of the Lakeland Florida Area Conference.

General Refugee Fund Established

We call them refugees. They are the countryless, the homeless, the uncared-for and, all too often, the unwanted. The last decade has seen their numbers steadily increase.

Recognizing the situation as a worsening, worldwide problem—a major problem to be faced in the decade ahead—the First Presidency has announced the establishment of a general refugee fund to be under the direction of the General Welfare Services Committee in connection with area councils in the affected regions.

Involved in administering the funds will be welfare services missionaries and proselyting missionaries, as the need arises. Providing aid to nonmembers as well as members, it will supplement, though not replace, the heartfelt compassionate gestures services of individual Latter-day Saints. (See accompanying story.)

In April, the Church took steps to register with the American Council of Volunteer Agencies and authorized the use of missionaries to aid with refugee efforts, the establishment of a Church-sponsored refugee fund, and the appointment of a coordinator for refugee efforts in relevant areas.

In a letter signed by the First Presidency and dated 14 July 1980, the new fund is explained:

“Since 1975 we have been deeply concerned about and involved in helping and sponsoring Church members and their extended families who are refugees from the conflicts in Southeast Asia.

“While the needs of our members are being met, the plight of thousands of refugees from all over the world is worsening. Vietnamese boat people, Cambodian and Laotian refugees, Afghan, Haitian, Somalik, and now Cuban refugees are among the displaced. Leaders of nations and charitable organizations have pledged their efforts to assist these refugees.

“In order to give further aid in meeting the needs of both member and nonmember refugees, we encourage members to give as they are able to the charity of their choice. Members, as well as nonmembers, may contribute to a recently established Church-sponsored refugee relief fund by sending their contributions to:

LDS Refugee Relief Fund 7th Floor

50 East North Temple

Salt Lake City, Utah 84150

“This fund is administered under the direction of the General Welfare Services Committee in concert with the area councils. All contributions to this will be used directly, with a minimum of administrative expense, to support relief activities including but not limited to health, education, and other services in refugee camps or where need is demonstrated. If local Church leaders receive such contributions, the money should not be commingled with ward and stake funds. Such funds should be sent directly to the LDS Refugee Relief Fund at the above address.”

Help for Refugees

In action elsewhere, Latter-day Saints have responded to other refugee needs. Here is a sampling of their activities. Representatives of Brigham Young University’s Associated Students presented a check for $19,300 to Bishop J. Richard Clarke, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, for Cambodian relief earlier this year.

The Student Community Services office had raised part of the money as a special project and the senior class gift provided $10,000 after a campus poll showed overwhelming student support for the project.

According to the students, this is the first time in school history that senior class gift money has been spent off-campus. During the campaign, students were encouraged to miss lunch for one day and donate the money to the project.

Phoenix First Ward sponsored a Vietnamese refugee family of eight members. The elders quorum president, Mike Johnson, and his wife Betty, the Primary president, originated the idea. It was approved by the ward correlation council as an unofficial ward project.

When word came through the Catholic Social Services that the family would arrive, members spent a busy five days. They found a three-bedroom home; refurbished, repaired, and painted it; stocked it with furniture, linen, toys, and food; cleaned the yard; and found work for the father and his twenty-five-year-old brother.

Sister Mary Boddeker of Chandler Third Ward in Arizona became an expert on unraveling red tape to help settle some of the almost 3,000 orphaned refugee children. In addition to sponsoring a family of their own and temporarily helping two other refugee families, she and her husband have adopted a Vietnamese girl.

Hugh Boddeker had developed a great love for the Vietnamese people as a helicopter pilot in the war and came back determined to help them. The Boddekers learned a lot of organizational shortcuts from stakes in the state of Washington that have organized a relief effort to sponsor more than 500 refugees.

Elder William H. Bennett Dies

Elder William H. Bennett

“I feel especially humble this afternoon as I stand before you for the first time as a General Authority and contemplate the sacredness and the importance of this great call,” said Elder William H. Bennett in October conference 1970, after he had been sustained an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve the previous April. “I ask for an interest in your faith and prayers, not just here today but on a continuous basis, that I might be able to serve in the way the Lord would like me to serve.”

That term of service closed 23 July 1980 with Elder Bennett’s death at his home in Bountiful, Utah, at 69 years of age. He was an emeritus member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, to which he had been appointed in 1976.

Elder Bennett was born 5 November 1910 in Taber, Alberta, to William Alvin and Mary Walker Bennett. He attended Taber schools, the Raymond School of Agriculture, Utah State University from which he graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and the University of Wisconsin from which he received his PhD.

By the time of his call in 1970, he was serving Utah State University as its director of extension services. He had previously been that division’s assistant director and had also been dean of the College of Agriculture and associate professor of agronomy. Among his professional honors are the President’s Citation from the Soil Conservation Society of America.

His devotion to the Church was as constant as his devotion to education. At the time of his calling in 1970, he was Regional Representative for the Cache and Logan Regions, a calling he had held since 1967. Other assignments included membership on the Priesthood Welfare and Priesthood Missionary committees, counselor in the East Cache Stake (Logan, Utah) presidency, counselor in a stake Sunday School superintendency, member of a stake Sunday School board, and genealogical chairman for the East Cache and Carbon Stakes.

Another of Elder Bennett’s unfailing interests was sports. He participated in the Canadian Olympic Trials in 1936 in the shot put and discus events. In 1946, as an infantry captain, he participated in the Pacific Army Olympics. He often used sports events to illustrate ideas in his addresses, and his last conference talk, April 1976, used the summer Olympics in Montreal to illustrate his theme of attaining perfection.

Elder Bennett is survived by his wife, Patricia June Christensen, his five daughters, one son, seven grandchildren, four brothers, and two sisters.

In that first address in 1970, Elder Bennett told of participating in the high jump in a tri-stake MIA track meet. A nervous fifteen-year-old, he received the confidence he needed to make his best jump from his stake president, Hugh B. Brown. “In the days of my youth,” he reflected, “the Lord saw fit to bless me with an inferiority complex. I say ‘blessed’ because in wrestling with this problem I learned the meaning of humility. I learned what it meant to get close to my Father in Heaven through prayer on an almost continuous basis. I learned that in problems we find our challenges. In those challenges lie opportunities. If we can just identify those opportunities and capitalize on them, growth, progress, and success will result. I learned that strength comes from facing up to problems squarely and realistically, not from disregarding them or avoiding them.”

LDS Scene

The site for Atlanta’s temple, slated to begin construction at the first of the year, has been selected. It is a thirteen-acre parcel of wooded land on Barfield Road in Sandy Springs, twelve miles from downtown Atlanta.

BYU—Hawaii has purchased a twenty-one-acre prawn farm to be used for its tropical agriculture program. The prawns will also provide part-time employment for many students. T. Aaron Lim, program director, anticipates that the operation will be self-sustaining. The prawns will be sold to restaurants, fish markets, and Laie residents.

The ponds produce about 45,000 pounds of prawns a year. The company that originally developed the property seven years ago made it the first aquaculture operation of its kind on Oahu.

The presidencies of the temples in Ogden and Salt Lake City have recently been reorganized. In Ogden, the president is Keith W. Wilcox, with Paul W. Bott and Milton J. Hess, Jr., as counselors. They succeed Leslie T. Norton, president, and John J. Zundel and George T. Frost.

In Salt Lake City, A. Ray Curtis remains as temple president with two new counselors, Clarence E. Wonnacott and Marvin L. Pugh, to succeed Edward H. Sorensen and Selvoy J. Boyer.

Oliver Cowdery, co-recipient with Joseph Smith of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods and the first person baptized by the Prophet, has been honored by markers at his birthplace in Wells, Vermont. The Wells Historical Society contacted the Church with an invitation to participate in creating the markers. Elder G. Homer Durham of the First Quorum of the Seventy and managing director of the Church Historical Department spoke at the dedication on 12 July.

Oliver Cowdery lived in Wells and nearby Poultney until about 1825 when he joined his older married brothers in western New York, where he became acquainted with the Joseph Smith family.

The Church participated whole heartedly in Canada’s National Family Unity Month. One conference, open to both members and nonmembers, attracted a crowd of more than 600 to hear Margaret Birch, secretary for social development in the province. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy and former mission president in the Toronto area was keynote speaker. Others on the program included George Tucker Walsh, a family court judge, and Mayor Gus Harris of Scarborough, Ontario.

Mrs. Birch asserted that mothers made a “valuable contribution” to society and should be honored for it. They should feel free “to stay at home.” Elder Ballard encouraged parents to raise children “to be great in the sight of God.” Mayor Harris called for economic conditions that would allow families to live on one income. Judge Walsh said that many circumstances enter into divorce, but that all divorces occur when husband and wife “stop trying.”

Relief Society Annual Meeting

The general Relief Society annual meeting is scheduled for 6 P.M. (mountain daylight time) 27 September in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. It will be broadcast over closed-circuit television or audio to all buildings where the priesthood session of general conference can be viewed.

Themed “Learn—Then Teach,” the meeting will feature a new song written for the occasion by Margaret Smoot and Beverly Pond (see p. 73 in this issue). The meeting will include remarks from President Kimball, an address from one of the General Authorities, and talks by the Relief Society general presidency. All adult women of the Church are invited to attend.

“Zion Spreads Her Wings”

“The water of the Hirose River was cold and clear that day,” says a Japanese brother recalling his baptism. “We could even see fish swimming in its depths. My life was a flower, opening once again.

“Time is an arrow. My sons … men, now. My little daughters … women. Grown. My sons served missions, two in our homeland, and one in Brazil. Zion spreads her wings.”

This reverent vignette comes from the Church’s climactic sesquicentennial production, Zion.

This hour and twenty-minute production will run in the Tabernacle September 24, 25, 26, 30, and October 1, with two performances nightly at 6:30 and 9:00 P.M. The October 1 performances are reserved primarily for out-of-town conference visitors. Tickets, free but required for admission, are available through stakes (limited), at the Activities Committee office (50 East North Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150), the Visitors’ Centers on Temple Square, or from Promised Valley Playhouse, 132 South State Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84101.

The production committee is particularly encouraging production specialists from the stakes to observe the performance and, if possible, attend workshops held October 2 from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. at Promised Valley Playhouse.

Even though the Zion performances held in the Tabernacle will include numerous choirs, orchestras, dancers, multi-media presentations, a cast of seven hundred, and a production committee of almost thirty, the script is “infinitely adaptable.” A production book, choral book, a tape, and a filmstrip make it easy to produce locally.

Elder Gordon B. Hinckley assured Regional Representatives at their 5 October 1979 meeting: “I make you a promise that every one who sees [Zion] will come out with tears of gratitude and a heart bursting with appreciation for the great heritage of 150 years of faithful service.”

[photo] In this scene from Zion, pioneer father Robert Parker returns bearing his lost son Arthur.