News of the Church

By Paul L. Anderson

Print Share

    Gift of Art Collection Results in Arizona LDS Museum

    Springerville, a town located in a scenic cattle ranching area of eastern Arizona, would seem an unlikely place to find an outstanding collection of European art. But so it is. Visitors will probably be surprised to discover that a special wing of the new meetinghouse for the Springerville and Eager Third wards contains an engraving attributed to Rembrandt, three pen and ink drawings by Tiepolo, and dozens of other pieces of art and furniture dating from the Renaissance to the early twentieth century. This remarkable collection was a gift to the members of the Church in Springerville from a woman who was not a member of the Church, Mrs. Renee Scharf Cushman.

    No one was more surprised about the gift than the people of Springerville as Mrs. Cushman had lived in their area for only a few years during and after World War II. Only upon her death in 1969, when she willed this valuable collection to the local Latter-day Saint congregation, did anyone begin to realize how much she had loved the land and respected the people.

    Renee S. Cushman, the only child of prominent European artist Victor Scharf II, was born in Paris, France, and travelled and lived in many places around the world, growing up in an environment of artistic appreciation and high expectations. She was still a youngster when her parents settled in Argentina; there she developed a love of ranching and riding that remained with her for life.

    Renee eventually married and moved with her husband to Philadelphia. Divorced ten years later, she married Victor Donnet, a noted Swiss brain surgeon working in New York. Worried about the impact of World War II, they moved to Arizona and purchased the White Mountain Hereford Ranch at Springerville. There Renee was able to realize her lifelong dream of cattle ranching, gradually shouldering most of the work herself as the hired cowboys went off to war. Within a few years, her skill in business matters and excellent judgment of animals made the ranch known throughout North America.

    Renee’s first contact with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came through Bishop C. Bryant Whiting, a general contractor who remodeled their home and some barns on the ranch. Although not a Latter-day Saint herself, Renee always called Mr. Whiting “Bee-shup,” a term of endearment as well as recognition of his local ecclesiastical position. Bishop Whiting later adopted an abandoned child that Renee had brought with her from France.

    There were other contacts between Renee and the Latter-day Saints. Once, the local ward membership mobilized to rescue a portion of the White Mountain herd which had become stranded in a severe snowstorm. Renee returned the favor by giving the ward a large sow, which soon produced a litter of twelve piglets—a welcome contribution to the local welfare project.

    Renee’s widowed mother visited America several times before her death, after which the family’s collection of art and antique furniture passed to Renee.

    After her marriage to Dr. Donnet ended in divorce, Renee in 1950 married Allerton Cushman, a New York investment banker who had recently moved to Texas. The Cushmans lived in Houston for five years, with Renee frequently returning to Arizona to oversee the ranching operations.

    In 1968 she was stricken with cancer and died in Switzerland on 29 August 1969, good-humored and keen-witted to the end.

    Although she had not lived in Springerville for twenty years, Mrs. Cushman evidently remembered the Latter-day Saints there with affection and respect, willing to them the art collection her family had assembled over most of a century, on the condition that it would be properly displayed in memory of her parents, Victor and Marie Louise Chauvin Scharf.

    Local Church leaders in Arizona received permission from the First Presidency to accept this generous gift. Sister Florence Jacobsen and her staff in the Arts and Sites Division of the Church Historical Department were assigned to help make plans for an appropriate facility, and the decision to build a new meetinghouse in Springerville provided the opportunity to proceed.

    The museum wing of the Springerville meetinghouse can be opened separately from the rest of the building. It has its own outside entrance and equipment for temperature and humidity control, proper lighting, and security. The largest room was designed especially to accommodate a large Persian rug and two tapestries that were part of the bequest.

    A crystal chandelier and a few pieces of furniture were provided from the Church collection in Salt Lake City to complete the setting for the art collection, which features several works of Victor Scharf, including portraits of himself and his wife.

    Some of the antique furniture is the work of master craftsmen, with elaborate inlays of wood, metal, and tortoise shell. A few famous artists are represented, including Sir Godfrey Kneller, England’s most prominent painter of the early eighteenth century. A French porcelain and German glassware collection includes two bottles of Baccarat crystal, which were reportedly given by Napoleon to one of his generals. In addition, there is Renee Cushman’s complete set of Austrian china monogrammed in gold and a fine collection of French pin boxes with miniature paintings on the lids.

    Although they are taking precautions for the safety of the objects, local members are looking forward to an active program of firesides, musical presentations, and other cultural events that will be open to the entire community. Local leaders anticipate that the museum will attract nonmembers to the building and provide opportunities for making friends and fellowshipping.

    Allerton Cushman, Renee’s former husband, who provided help during the planning of the museum and generously donated additional items for display, visited the museum as it was being completed in December. He expressed his satisfaction, noting that it exceeded his expectations. During his visit, he observed that some windows in the museum provided a view of cattle grazing in a nearby pasture. He smiled and commented, “Renee would have loved that.”

    [photo] The largest of the three display rooms shows a Persian carpet underfoot. Paintings by Kneller and Victor Scharf hang on the walls with a Verdure tapestry. The chandelier at one time hung in the New York City mission home. (Photography by Paul L. Anderson.)

    [photo] Portrait of Renee Cushman, also on exhibit in the museum.

    Genealogy’s New Ancestral File

    The following questions and answers were presented at a seminar for Genealogical Department employees 19 November 1980. Answers were given by Elder Royden G. Derrick, of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy and Executive Director of the Genealogical Department, and George H. Fudge, Managing Director of Operations.

    1. What is the ancestral file?

    Answer: It is a genealogical file which will be accessible to members of the Church and which is designed to help Church members avoid duplication of research effort. It will include submissions beginning 1 July 1979 of the four-generation records (which now include pedigree charts as well as family group records) and any pedigree charts and group sheets resulting from research done beyond the four generations.

    Since each family is responsible for their own genealogical research, there has been much duplication of research effort. As the Church grows throughout the world, duplication could increase even more. By using the ancestral file, an individual may find a starting point in his research. The file would give him information on his ancestral lines. He would then extend his pedigree instead of duplicating work that has already been done. We’ll probably never eliminate duplication, but we can reduce it.

    2. If people submitted their four-generation records before, why should they submit them again?

    Answer: We need to improve the accuracy of the records that were previously submitted, minimize duplication of submissions to the file, and obtain pedigree charts, which were not previously required.

    3. Will the ancestral file ever be closed to receiving new material?

    Answer: No. We set a target date of 1 July 1981 for members to submit their four-generation records. That was not intended as a cutoff date after which no one else would be able to submit data. Obviously, as people come into the Church they will want to participate in the program. After 1 July 1981 we will be calling for family group records and pedigree charts beyond four generations.

    4. How is the four-generation program related to the ancestral file?

    Answer: The four-generation program is the first phase of the ancestral file. It is easier for people to work first on their four most recent generations. As those sheets are corrected and reviewed by the family for accuracy, they should be submitted, together with a pedigree chart, to the ancestral file. As indicated, the target date for this phase is 1 July 1981.

    The second phase is to go beyond the four generations. The four-generation records span the period of approximately one hundred years that is covered by the laws of privacy. Thus we get a continual record from the present back four generations, and then beyond that with extended research.

    5. If I can take my lines back only three generations, should I hold my records until I can complete four generations, or should I send in what I have by 1 July 1981?

    Answer: If you are not able to extend a line by July 1981, submit what you have. If at some future date you are successful in extending the line, you could then submit the additional information.

    6. Will this material that I send in later be put with the material I previously sent in?

    Answer: Yes. You will be able to submit any additional research that you do, whether it is on your four generations or beyond.

    7. What are the standards for accuracy in the ancestral file? Do we have to get certificates for every date? How much should we document our records?

    Answer: If the ancestral file is to be a useful tool, we would like it to be as accurate as feasible. However, we have to be careful that we’re not imposing a burden on the members of the Church. We’re not asking them to redo all of the research that has previously been done by others.

    But sometimes as families meet together to determine whether or not their genealogy is accurate, they will not agree on some points of genealogical data. When that occurs, then obviously it is necessary to try to prove which is correct. Many times this might mean going back to the original source or obtaining a certificate or some other record to determine what is correct.

    It is expensive to document every item on a pedigree chart or family group sheet. For example, in England today it would cost $19.00 just to get one birth certificate. Obviously families have to use good judgment as they look over their pedigrees and try to make them accurate. Document the information, but do it within reason. Just feel good about what you submit. That’s all we ask.

    8. We’ve found that some of the dates the family agrees upon are incorrect. In fact, almost every sheet that is submitted has some incorrect information on it. So a certain amount of verification is necessary even if all of the records agree with each other. Right?

    Answer: Yes, if the record is readily available. But if the original documents from which that information was obtained are somewhere in Sweden or Germany and the family lives in the United States, it isn’t necessary to hire someone to verify each item. Keep in mind that the ancestral file is designed to be an aid for people doing their research in the future. If the ancestral file can show what has been done, and if it’s as accurate as the individual or family who submitted could make it, the file will be very useful. If I were tying into a pedigree myself, I would still want to verify details with which I didn’t agree.

    9. What provision will be made at Church headquarters to make sure that the records are accurate?

    Answer: The Genealogical Department will not do any checking. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the data. That is the members’ and the families’ responsibility. If a family feels good about the accuracy of their records and there is no controversy among themselves as to data, they should submit it. When families send in their records, we assume that they have come to the conclusion that they are reasonably accurate.

    10. Will provisions be made to make corrections after we’ve submitted the records?

    Answer: Yes.

    11. Will temple ordinances be performed from the records submitted to the ancestral file?

    Answer: No. To have temple ordinances performed, you submit names on the proper entry forms.

    12. How many group record forms are included in the four-generation project?

    Answer: The four-generation records consist of seven family group sheets plus the pedigree chart—a total of eight sheets.

    13. There is some confusion in my family about who should submit the four-generation records. Should I do it because I’m young, married, and have young children? Or should my parents because most of their children are grown and married and have young families?

    Answer: Your family can determine which group of adult family members should do the submitting. If your parents were to submit the records, their brothers and sisters—your aunts and uncles—would not need to do so. If you submit them, your brothers and sisters would not need to do so. You do the selecting.

    Since only one set of your records is needed for the ancestral file, select one family member to submit a copy of the eight four-generation sheets on behalf of your family. Each family member can then inform his priesthood leader that his records have been submitted.

    It’s not intended that children and grandchildren of the adults who submit the records submit their four generations. They should have a copy in their own books of remembrance. We would certainly advocate that. But if I were to submit my four-generation sheets with myself as number one on the pedigree chart, I would not encourage my children or my grandchildren to do this too. That would be needless repetition. Their data is on their own individual membership record, which is also a genealogical record.

    14. Are we supposed to submit the four-generation records through ward and stake priesthood leaders?

    Answer: No. Submit them directly to the Genealogical Department, Ancestral File, 50 East North Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150.

    15. Can nonmembers submit records to the ancestral file?

    Answer: Yes. We’d be delighted to have them. However, we encourage them to use the same forms that we use.

    Group sheets pedigree chart(click to view larger)

    Seven family group sheets and one pedigree chart: phase I of the ancestral file.

    Two Elders Called from Ghana

    The first two full-time missionaries called from West Africa entered the Missionary Training Center in Provo February 19. Elder Benjamin Crosby Sampson-Davis, 23, and Elder Samuel E. Bainson, 24, both of Ghana, have received mission calls to serve in the England Manchester Mission.

    On February 18, the two new elders greeted Church leaders and missionary couples who had served in Ghana and Nigeria. Their smiles radiated enthusiasm; their gracious manners spoke well of the education they had received in Ghana; and their clearly articulated responses to questions made it obvious that they were ready to serve. Both have already learned the missionary discussions.

    “I feel that I have been called by the Lord,” said Elder Sampson-Davis, who passed up a four-year scholarship to an Anglican seminary theological school in Nigeria. The Anglican ministry had been a lifelong dream before his baptism in 1979; but when his call came, he was sure that filling a mission was what the Lord wanted him to do.

    He’s expecting to work hard as a missionary. “I want to make sure that those in the homes I approach will hear what the Lord has for them to hear,” he said.

    And he’s confident that he will be blessed in his efforts. “I know the work is not going to be easy. But since the Lord has called me, I believe he will help me do it.”

    Elder Bainson was sharing the gospel even before he was baptized in 1978. Since then he has taught an investigator class and has been responsible for the baptisms of several friends. On 1 January 1980 he set a goal, praying that the Lord would find him worthy and call him on a mission; then he began preparing himself through praying and through studying the scriptures. In May, Bryan A. Espenshied, president of the Africa West Mission, spoke to him about serving, and Elder Bainson said he wanted the opportunity. “I was so happy and excited when the call came, because my prayer was answered—that if I was found worthy I would be called on a mission.”

    His enthusiasm is contagious. “Because I’ve accepted the gospel,” he said, “so many blessings have come to me. Sharing the gospel with somebody that doesn’t have it is a special thing. If I can help someone else accept it, it would be a great blessing.”

    Both missionaries spoke movingly of their testimonies. And they see a great future for the Church in Ghana. “It will grow,” said Elder Sampson-Davis. “The people in Ghana are deeply religious.”

    Of their own role in spreading the gospel in their homeland after their missions, he said, “I see that we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. By God’s grace, we’ll be able to accomplish what he has for us to do.”

    Meeting with the two new missionaries, Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve spoke of the significance of the revelation given 1 June 1978 which made it possible for every faithful, worthy male in the Church to receive and exercise the priesthood. The mission calls of Elder Sampson-Davis and Elder Bainson open another chapter in the unfolding of the Lord’s work, he said. “This will be only the beginning. These outstanding young men are the first among many who will go out and help fulfill the charge we have to carry the message and the hope of salvation to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. Just imagine what will flow from here.”

    [photo] Elder Benjamin Crosby Sampson-Davis (left) and Elder Samuel E. Bainson (right) discuss their mission call with Elder William R. Bradford. (Photography by Eldon K. Linschoten.)