News of the Church

By Marvin K. Gardner


Church Christmas TV Special Ready

“Mr. Kreuger’s Christmas,” a television special starring Jimmy Stewart, has been prepared by the Church’s Public Communications Department and filmed by Bonneville Productions for Christmas release.

Aimed at 150 markets in the United States and 10 in Canada, it will be shown between December 5–24. Once the special has been scheduled in a given area, local public communication directors will inform bishops and stake presidents so that they can announce it.

Jimmy Stewart plays Willie Kreuger, a lonely old widower and the custodian of an apartment building, who has no one to share his Christmas spirit with but his cat George and his fantasies of a richer life. One of those dreams comes to life when he puts on the Tabernacle Choir’s “White Christmas” album and finds himself, still dressed in his janitor’s clothes, conducting the choir in the Tabernacle.

Carolers stop by, and a little girl, Clarissa, leaves her mittens. Dreaming of helping her decorate his tiny Christmas tree, he finds himself decorating a tree on Temple Square, surrounded by all of the lights and glamor of that place at Christmas time. And bending over his small nativity set, he suddenly finds himself in a stable where shepherds breathlessly adore a newborn Child. In the most moving scene of the special, Stewart thanks the baby for helping him when his wife died, for teaching him to understand a lonely person in his building, for being with him. On his knees, he says, brokenly, almost astonished, “I love you.”

Clarissa and her mother, returning for her mittens, invite him to come caroling with them. The special ends with a message from the Church concerning the Savior. The events of the Savior’s life are woven through the life of a boy named Jeffrey Jensen. A scene of Mary holding the infant Jesus fades into a scene of Jeffrey’s parents holding him as a baby. The baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist fades into a scene of Jeffrey as an eight-year-old, being baptized by his father. It ends with Jeffrey in the airport, scared but triumphant, leaving on his mission. By calling a toll-free number given at the end of this message, viewers can receive a booklet with scenes from the Savior’s life in it and a record.

The special was produced by Michael H. McLean of Bonneville who, with Alan Henderson and J. Scott Iverson, wrote the script. Keith Merrill was the director.

“Our challenge,” says Brother Allen, “was to find some way to capitalize on the success of ‘The Family … and Other Living Things,’ the Church’s first commercial television special. It was number one in Los Angeles in its time slot—extremely successful in terms of ratings—but some people felt that it did not have a sufficiently direct message. We also needed some way to use the Tabernacle Choir effectively.”

After four years of trying to find the right combination, “Mr. Kreuger’s Christmas” clicked. Jimmy Stewart accepted an invitation to star in it and began growing out enough whiskers for stubble immediately. It was filmed in Salt Lake City in March 1980 in one hectic week, “a miracle right there,” marvels Brother Allen. “Most of the scenes of the Savior’s life were shot in New Mexico. The baptism took place in the Rio Grande—and it was cold! They were wearing wet suits under their robes and their teeth were chattering by the time we were finished—but they did it until it was just right.

“And there was a wonderful spirit on the set. The script girl is a professional who used to work for Alfred Hitchcock. She was in tears at the kind of cooperation and community feeling there. Everyone was in tears during the Nativity scene. I’ve seldom had such an extraordinary feeling myself.”

At a dinner held with Bonneville personnel and General Authorities, Jimmy Stewart received a “treasure box” containing his genealogy. In response, he not only expressed his appreciation for the gift but his appreciation for the experience: “This story is not only enticing, but it is something that is very important. The Christmas story is told as well as I have ever seen it—told better than ever before. Such a story could do a lot of good in today’s world.”

He paused, then half-jokingly said, “What really made it impossible for me not to consider not doing this was that I would have the privilege of directing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I’ve been a devoted fan of the Tabernacle Choir for many, many years.” Then, with no trace of joking: “I’m absolutely serious when I say this is one of the greatest honors I’ve ever had.”

[photo] Willie Krueger (Jimmy Stewart) has a lifelong dream come true as he conducts the Tabernacle Choir in “Mr. Krueger’s Christmas.” (Photography by Jed A. Clark.)

That “Tabernacle Feeling”—

In Ann Arbor, Michigan

When 14,436 people left Ann Arbor’s Crisler Arena after the September 20–21 area conference, they carried with them a clear vision of their missionary responsibilities.

“Every man, woman, and child should return home from this conference with the determination that they will take the gospel to their relatives, to their friends,” President Spencer W. Kimball had told them. “If they do not, they must consider they are not in total favor with their Heavenly Father.”

President Kimball said that the Lord’s injunction to warn our neighbors is a commandment—“it is not left to our own discretion or to our own pleasure or to our convenience.” And he repeated earlier requests that “every family, every family, every night and every morning as the family has its family prayer and secret prayers, pray to the Lord to open the doors of the other nations, so that their people, too, may have the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have also urged that every young man in the Church plan on a mission—not half of them, not a third of them, but every one of them—and many more of the young women, too.”

Eyeing nearby Michigan Stadium (capacity 101,701) as he left, one conference-goer remarked: “If we all become the kind of missionaries President Kimball wants, we’ll be holding our next conference over there—with standing room only!”

Meeting with the prophet, with seven other General Authorities and leaders from Church headquarters, and with so many other Church members was a rare experience for most. “It’s like bringing the West to Michigan,” one said. Another, who has seen the Church in the area grow from a solitary branch in Detroit, said: “This is the feeling you get in the Tabernacle. I never knew we’d get it here.”

That “Tabernacle feeling” was indeed very strong in Ann Arbor those two days—that tingling feeling of testimony and recommitment and enthusiasm.

Besides taking home the prophet’s missionary charge, the people also carried another clear message: now is the time for the Saints to put their houses in order, to strengthen their families.

“Draw your families close around you,” President Kimball told them. “If there be misunderstandings, clear them up. Forgive and forget. Don’t let old grievances canker your souls and destroy love and life. Put your houses in order. Love one another.” He told the brethren in the priesthood session to be “loving, kind, and affectionate fathers and husbands,” and to see to it that “your wives are not left burdened, that your children learn to work, and I mean really work. Responsibility will develop great characters in them.”

In the women’s session, President Marion G. Romney, second counselor in the First Presidency, counseled the sisters to follow the example of Eve: to be mothers, to teach their children the gospel, and to pray, worship, and labor with their husbands. To labor with your husband, he explained, “means more than physical labor. It connotes purpose, understanding, cooperation, and love. … In Latter-day Saint families, the husband and the wife must be one. They must labor toward the same objectives.”

Other speakers also addressed important family concerns. Elder Thomas S. Monson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles encouraged families to build their eternal homes according to the perfect blueprint given by the Master Architect: to establish a house of prayer, of fasting, of faith, of learning, of glory, of order, and of God (see D&C 88:119). “If we’re to have a house of order,” he said, “let there be time for our families; let there be time for our daily employment and our daily tasks; and let there be time for God.” If we do, he promised, we will be successful.

Speaking on the eternal nature of the family and the importance of celestial marriage, Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave two measuring rods for families: first, “every important decision in life should be made on the basis of the effect it will have on the family unit.” Second, “everything in the world that strengthens the family, that leads to purity and chastity and integrity and love in the family unit, … is of God. Everything in the world, whether it is political or religious or whatever name it bears, that is designed to weaken the family unit and lessen the ties that should exist between husband and wife and parents and children, … is of the evil one.”

Paying tribute to his own “full-time” mother, Bishop J. Richard Clarke of the Presiding Bishopric acknowledged that some women must work because they have no other choice. “If you haven’t any choice,” he said, “then don’t have a guilty conscience about it. If you do have a choice, then by choice reconsider your decision and the heavy responsibility that you have, so that you do not give away your great stewardship opportunity.”

Sister Barbara B. Smith, general Relief Society president, expressed her concern that too many LDS women feel pressured, burdened, and depressed. She challenged the sisters to remember that happiness is a principle of our faith, and listed seven ways Relief Society teaches women to live happily: it encourages them to sow good works, speak kindly to one another, seek recreation, look for the good, ask in faith, share with love, and live righteously.

Duties, responsibilities, and blessings of the priesthood were a major theme during the priesthood session. President Kimball urged the brethren to make the priesthood a sacred, beautiful, important part of their lives. He told them that instead of merely holding the priesthood, they should magnify it, making it “so big and so great and so wonderful that your whole life will be advanced by it.”

Willingness to serve and personal preparation are requirements for becoming a royal priesthood, Elder Monson said. He encouraged the men and boys to prepare by controlling their thoughts and by studying the scriptures. He urged them to be actively involved in the “great rescue mission” of saving everyone within their influence. “Look at your brethren and see them not as they are, but as they surely might become. … Recognize that there is that spark of divinity in every person, active or inactive,” he said.

Addressing his remarks specifically to the young men, Elder Robert L. Backman of the First Quorum Of the Seventy and general president of the Young Men said that Aaronic Priesthood holders don’t have to wait until they receive the Melchizedek Priesthood to start enjoying priesthood blessings in their lives. He explained that there is nothing more spiritual than their callings to preside at the sacrament table and perform the ordinance of baptism. “What a power you’ve been blessed with!” he said. “You’re entitled to be sustained by the Lord and to have his sacred power manifest through you.”

Other gospel and doctrinal themes also surfaced frequently during the conference. President Romney answered the question “Do Mormons believe in Christ?” by reviewing Latter-day Saint scriptures that testify of the Savior. “In the light of these divine teachings,” he asked, “can there be any doubt that we believe in Jesus Christ? We not only believe in him, we know him. He is the rock of our salvation. He is the head of this Church. … This knowledge is within the reach of every person.”

Continuing the theme of testimony, Elder McConkie explained that a true testimony comes by revelation, and that it “opens the door to a rebirth of the spirit.” When we are spiritually reborn, he said, “we leave the carnality and the evil and the corruption and the wickedness and all that is in the world, and we forsake the world, and we come into the kingdom of God on earth. And we pledge and determine with all the power and capacity that our whole souls possess that from this moment forth, we will walk in paths of truth and virtue and rectitude and do the things that the Lord wants us to do.”

Bishop Clarke cautioned the Saints against being selective when it comes to following the living prophet. We must “have the faith to follow that prophet even when we may not fully understand.” And Sister Elaine A. Cannon, general Young Women president, encouraged the Saints to study their patriarchal blessings and discover “what Heavenly Father has to say to you specifically.”

Also addressing the conference were Sister Camilia E. Kimball; D. Arthur Haycock, personal secretary to President Kimball; and three Regional Representatives: George W. Romney, Philip F. Low, and Karl R. Anderson.

During the emotional impromptu singing of “God be with You,” which has become a tradition at area conferences after the closing session, time seemed to stand still. President Kimball waved his white handkerchief in farewell. His own tears told those who could see them that he was as unwilling to leave as the Saints were to see him go. Thousands of white handkerchiefs reverently waved back.

As they left the beautiful setting in Ann Arbor, 1965’s “All-American City,” thousands of Saints carried with them the assurance from a prophet of God that “the work is pleasing to our Heavenly Father as we are doing it. We hope to continue to please him in this way.”

[photo] President Spencer W. Kimball’s words hold listeners’ attention. (Photography by David Mark Acree.)

Policies and Announcements

Three-phase Visiting Teaching Plan

In a letter dated 5 September 1980 and signed by Presidents Spencer W. Kimball, N. Eldon Tanner, and Marion G. Romney, the following new guidelines for implementing “Relief Society visiting teaching in the Church” were given, including instruction for “areas where membership is small and leadership is limited.”

“Visiting teaching should be done at a time and in a way that best suits a sister’s needs and her home situation. Sunday is usually not an appropriate day for these visits; however, single sisters serving as visiting teachers might choose this day for visits to other single sisters who may not be available during the week. Because of possible dangers, women should not go out after dark to do visiting teaching.

“Phase I: When there are very few women, the Relief Society president will assign and direct compassionate service. Phase II should be adopted as soon as practical.

Phase II: (a) When membership is sufficiently large, visiting teaching will be initiated. Each Relief Society executive officer will be assigned a companion and one or more sisters to visit. Along with taking a message, they will assess and report needs. They will also render compassionate service. (b) Additional sisters will be called to serve as continuing growth in membership occurs. (c) Where geographical distances or personal situations make it either impractical or impossible to make a personal visit, the Relief Society president will authorize an “Approved Communication Contact.” (d) Adopt Phase III as soon as practical.

“Phase III: The full visiting teaching program as currently outlined in the Relief Society Handbook will be implemented to provide a continuing watchcare and a bond of sisterhood for every Relief Society woman. (a) Every sister will be visited or contacted by two assigned visiting teachers. (b) A brief monthly preparation meeting will be held in which the Relief Society president instructs the visiting teachers and communications skills will be taught. (c) A report of visits will be made. Any compassionate service or welfare needs observed during the call to the home will be reported confidentially to the president. (d) Periodically the president meets personally with each visiting teacher.”

Graduation of Twelve-year-olds from Primary

In a letter dated 22 September 1980 and signed by Presidents Spencer W. Kimball, N. Eldon Tanner, and Marion G. Romney, the following instructions were given:

“The First Presidency and the Twelve have approved the policy that boys and girls will graduate from Primary at the time of their twelfth birthdays. The girls will enter the Young Women program upon graduation, and the boys will enter the Aaronic Priesthood. Both boys and girls will enter Sunday School Course 12 at the time of their graduation.

“Girls should be recognized individually in a ward sacrament meeting at the time of their graduation in a manner similar to that in which the boys are presently recognized as they move into the Aaronic Priesthood.

“Young Women leaders will need to give special attention to welcoming the girls into the Young Women program. The Personal Progress program as outlined in the Young Women Handbook should be explained to each girl and her parents at the time of her transition to the Young Women program.

“This policy should be explained to all parents and the leaders of boys and girls who will be affected by this change. More details will be included in a forthcoming issue of the Bulletin.

The following items appeared in the September Bulletin, sent to leaders of the Church:

A letter from the First Presidency of 8 October 1980 gives new instructions on missionary couples and lady missionaries:

Age and Term of Service for Missionary Couples and Lady Missionaries

“The following are changes in the policies concerning the age and term of service for missionary couples and single lady missionaries (see General Handbook of Instructions, no. 21, p. 69). The policies regarding single elders are not affected by these changes.”

Lady Missionaries

“Women who do not have dependent children at home and who are in good health may be recommended to serve a mission according to the following policies:

“1. Women between the ages of twenty-one and forty may serve full-time missions for a period of eighteen months.

“2. Women between the ages of forty and seventy (those for whom recommendations are received by the Missionary Department before their seventieth birthday) may serve full-time missions for a period of one year.

“3. Women who are over the age of seventy should not be recommended to serve full-time missions.”

Missionary Couples

“Couples who do not have dependent children at home and who are in good health may be recommended to serve full-time missions for a period of six, twelve, or eighteen months. Their preference should be noted on the recommendation form. For all three options, the Church will handle transportation expenses according to the normal policy for missionaries.

“Couples should not be recommended to serve full-time missions if either the husband or wife has reached his or her seventieth birthday.”

Alternatives to Full-time Missionary Service

“If couples and older single ladies have a desire to serve missions but are not eligible for full-time missionary service, according to these policies, they should be encouraged to serve stake missions, working in cooperation with full-time missionaries. By so doing, they can remain in their own homes, have access to their own physicians and family members, and still enjoy the experiences and blessings of missionary service.”

Missionaries Who Are Currently Serving

“Lady missionaries who are currently serving and who are over age seventy may choose to terminate their missions when they have served one year or more, or they may complete eighteen months of service.

“Couples who are currently serving may choose to terminate their missions at the end of six, twelve, or eighteen months of service.

“The mission president should take the following steps to implement these policies.

“1. Review the mission roster to determine if any missionary couples or lady missionaries will be eligible for a release according to the above policies.

“2. Inform these couples and lady missionaries of the policy and offer them the option of terminating their missions at the appropriate time.

“3. Confer with the home priesthood leaders concerning the decisions of these missionaries.

“4. Note on the missionary roster any changes in release dates and submit it to the Missionary Department.

“We appreciate your cooperation in this matter and pray for your success as you build the Lord’s kingdom.”

Henry B. Eyring Named Church Commissioner of Education

Dr. Henry B. Eyring has been named Church Commissioner of Education to succeed Dr. Jeffrey R. Holland, who assumed duties as president of Brigham Young University on August 1.

For the past three years, Dr. Eyring has served as Deputy Commissioner of Education. Before that he had been president of Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho, for six years, coming to that position from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

The Church Educational System is one of the world’s largest private educational organizations, involving 682,000 children, youth, and adults in sixty-one countries or their dependencies and offering instruction in seventeen languages.

LDS Scene

Bryan A. Espenschied, a retired transportation executive from Centerville, Utah, has been called to preside over the Africa West Mission, which includes Nigeria and Ghana.

More than 2,600 Latter-day Saint Boy Scouts and their leaders from fifty-one southeastern U.S. stakes gathered at the Church’s Deseret Ranches in Florida for a spectacular camp. They were divided into twelve camping areas, each named for one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Activities included swimming, marksmanship, pioneering skills, frisbee, golf, and other activities. General Authorities visiting the camp and addressing the boys included President Ezra Taft Benson of the Quorum of the Twelve and Elders Robert L. Backman, Vaughn J. Featherstone, Rex D. Pinegar, and Joseph B. Wirthlin, of the First Quorum of the Seventy.

A memorial to Martin Harris, the only one of the Three Witnesses to move west, is being built in Clarkston, Utah, within sight of his grave. The project, an amphitheater, will be built south of the cemetery with more than $60,000 in donated funds. President Ezra Taft Benson of the Quorum of the Twelve presided at the August groundbreaking.

Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Quorum of the Twelve dedicated a wooded four-acre plot of land on the University of Iowa campus. The plot marks the place from which the Mormon pioneers began their historic 1,400-mile handcart walk to Utah in 1856–57. Prairie grasses and wildflowers have been planted on a portion of the site, and hiking trails have been laid out through the woods.

The Church provided funds for the project after the Iowa Board of Regents approved the plan in 1978. The Cedar Rapids Iowa Stake will bear the yearly cost of upkeep.

Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone of the First Quorum of the Seventy recently dedicated a modern central bishop’s storehouse, the fourth of its kind in the Church, in Colton, California. The 50,000-square-foot building will be a reserve for the seventy-six stakes in Los Angeles; San Fernando; San Diego; Fountain Valley; Colton; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Honolulu, Hawaii.

From You to Your Ancestors, the basic genealogical manual for the Church, has been revised. It is available from the Salt Lake City Distribution Center (stock no. PBGS0683, $1.00 each), 1999 W. 1700 S., Salt Lake City, Utah 84104. The manual is both a self-study guide and a text for the twelve-week basic genealogy course taught in Sunday School. The revision corrects some minor errors and provides more up-to-date instructions for submitting names for temple ordinances, thus replacing the fourth edition of the Records Submission Manual (1973).

The first week in October, listeners tuning in to the popular “You and Your World” heard a message from Elaine Cannon, general president of the Young Women, rather than from Elder Paul H. Dunn of the First Quorum of the Seventy. Elder Dunn has concluded making the weekly broadcasts. Sister Cannon, who had hosted her own television shows and radio shows during the 1950s and been involved in publishing during the 1960s, is the first woman to appear on these broadcasts. The broadcasts are provided as a public service through Bonneville Productions with accompanying music by the Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus and with other special numbers.

This calling comes to Sister Cannon in addition to her duties as Young Women’s president. She plans to speak “on a variety of subjects for general audience, but all of it lighthearted and ‘easy-listening’ with a touch of humor.”

[illustration] The Mormon Battalion, George M. Ottinger.