News of the Church

By JoAnn Jolley


First Presidency Statement on Basing of MX Missile

The First Presidency issued on Tuesday, 5 May 1981, the following statement on the proposal to base the MX missile in Utah and Nevada.

We have received many inquiries concerning our feelings on the proposed basing of the MX missile system in Utah and Nevada. After assessing in great detail information recently available, and after the most careful and prayerful consideration, we make the following statement, aware of the response our words are likely to evoke from both proponents and opponents of the system.

First, by way of general observation we repeat our warnings against the terrifying arms race in which the nations of the earth are presently engaged. We deplore in particular the building of vast arsenals of nuclear weaponry. We are advised that there is already enough such weaponry to destroy in large measure our civilization, with consequent suffering and misery of incalculable extent.

Secondly, with reference to the presently proposed MX basing in Utah and Nevada, we are told that if this goes forward as planned, it will involve the construction of thousands of miles of heavy-duty roads, with the building of some 4600 shelters in which will be hidden some 200 missiles, each armed with ten warheads. Each one of these ten nuclear warheads will have far greater destructive potential than did the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

We understand that this concept is based on the provisions of a treaty which has never been ratified, and that absent such a treaty, the proposed installation could be expanded indefinitely. Its planners state that the system is strictly defensive in concept and that the chances are extremely remote that it will ever be actually employed. However, history indicates that men have seldom created armaments that eventually were not put to use.

We are most gravely concerned over the proposed concentration in a relatively restricted area of the West. Our feelings would be the same about concentration in any part of the nation, just as we assume those in any other area so selected would have similar feelings. With such concentration, one segment of the population would bear a highly disproportionate share of the burden, in lives lost and property destroyed, in case of an attack, particularly if such were to be a saturation attack.

Such concentration, we are informed, may even invite attack under a first-strike strategy on the part of an aggressor. If such occurred the result would be near annihilation of most of what we have striven to build since our pioneer forebears first came to these western valleys.

Furthermore, we are told that in the event of a first-strike attack, deadly fallout would be carried by prevailing winds across much of the nation, maiming and destroying wherever its pervasive cloud touched.

Inevitably so large a construction project would have an adverse impact on water resources, as well as sociological and ecological factors in the area. Water has always been woefully short in this part of the West. We might expect that in meeting this additional demand for water there could be serious long term consequences.

We are not adverse to consistent and stable population growth, but the influx of tens of thousands of temporary workers and their families, together with those involved in support services, would create grave sociological problems, particularly when coupled with an influx incident to the anticipated emphasis on energy development.

Published studies indicate that the fragile ecology of the area would likewise be adversely affected.

We may predict that with so many billions of dollars at stake we will hear much talk designed to minimize the problems that might be expected and to maximize the economic benefits that might accrue. The reasons for such portrayals will be obvious.

Our fathers came to this western area to establish a base from which to carry the gospel of peace to the peoples of the earth. It is ironic, and a denial of the very essence of that gospel, that in this same general area there should be constructed a mammoth weapons system potentially capable of destroying much of civilization.

With the most serious concern over the pressing moral question of possible nuclear conflict, we plead with our national leaders to marshal the genius of the nation to find viable alternatives which will secure at an earlier date and with fewer hazards the protection from possible enemy aggression, which is our common concern.

Symposium Discusses Relief Society, Women’s History

A moderately-sized but enthusiastic audience gathered on April 1 at Brigham Young University to participate in a Women’s History Symposium. Titled “Mormon Women: Spirit and Promise,” the event was jointly sponsored by the BYU Women’s Research Institute, the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History, and the Utah Women’s History Association. Symposium papers reflected the vital sense of history and purpose inherent in the Relief Society organization.

Sister Shirley W. Thomas, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, began the symposium by enumerating current challenges to which the organization must respond—needs of the underprivileged and sisters in developing countries; growth and development for highly-educated women “who are well-equipped to make outstanding contributions in their homes and, when appropriate, out of them”; guardianship of home and motherhood (“It is the responsibility of women—not just mothers—to save the home and keep love alive”); and the bringing together of single and married women “in love and understanding.”

Jesse L. Embry of BYU’s Charles Redd Center for Western Studies indicated that change within the Church has always been accompanied by a certain amount of adjustment on the part of members. As an example, Sister Embry examined the Relief Society grain storage program instituted by President Brigham Young in 1876 and administered by Emmeline B. Wells. The Relief Society retained charge of the project until President Joseph F. Smith’s movement, between 1906 and 1922, “to centralize Church organization through priesthood channels.” Although the grain storage program was eventually realigned, “the sisters accepted the decision because they saw it as a call from God through the priesthood.”

“The Relief Society as a Relief Society” was discussed by Loretta L. Hefner, supervisor of the Record Center of the Utah State Archives in Salt Lake City. “One particular decade [1919–1929] in the history of the Relief Society stands out as one spirited by an unusual degree of understanding of and activism against poverty and human want within the Mormon community. For the Relief Society, it was what can now be considered one of its golden decades.”

Amy Brown Lyman, under the auspices of government and Church leaders, was the guiding force behind the establishment of a social services department within the Relief Society. The Social Services Department “not only reflected fundamental social work principles, but was loyal to the faith while maintaining the contemporary standards of the social work profession. The overriding objective of the work was to restore the individual or family to normal self-sufficient living. The Relief Society Social Services Department became the center for cooperative work in serving LDS families in distress.”

Dr. Carol Clark Coombs, a member of the Relief Society General Board, chronicled the Relief Society’s approach to curriculum during the Progressive Era (roughly the years between 1890 and World War II). “Nationally,” she reported, “there was an emphasis upon separation of church and state and an increased amount of partisan politics.” But “Mormon women were looking less and less at a transformed society and more and more to their homes and families,” switching their focus “from political and societal concerns to strictly church and family ones. More than anything else, education became the emphasis of all Relief Society work. It was at the forefront, beginning with the Mother’s Class in 1902, and continued in that role throughout the entire Progressive Era.”

Responding to the morning’s presentations was Dr. Kate I. Kirkham of BYU, who drew several relevant conclusions from the meshing of current and historical information. “One point seems to me to be particularly poignant,” said Sister Kirkham. “It has always been easier for members of organizations to be against something than for something. So in some ways it’s easier for us in the Relief Society to say we don’t want to see some things happen than it is to say, ‘We want to see these things happen.’ In other words, we could look at how to build strength and direct the spiritual growth of individual women, no matter what their circumstance is. That’s a harder task, I think, than some physical project like changing curriculum or organizing a grain program. But I think in that internal alignment will come our greater source of strength and direction.”

A highlight was a visit with Sister Belle S. Spafford, now eighty-five, who for more than a quarter of a century served as general president of the Relief Society. Of individuals who have most influenced her life, Sister Spafford reflected that “I believe my first role model would be my mother. She was strong in character, a very wise mother, one who let us make our own decisions and then counseled us whether or not they were good decisions. I don’t remember her ever severely reprimanding us, but she always made sure her disapproval was felt if we weren’t in good order.”

Other significant role models have been Church leaders. “I have had the great and the rare privilege of serving under six of the twelve presidents of the Church. And while they were different as men—different in their physical appearance, in their personal attitudes, in their endowments that they brought with them from the premortal world, in their approach to building the kingdom—they were every one exactly alike as prophets, seers, revelators, great teachers, and as the voice of the Lord in guiding the earthly kingdom. Now, that I testify, because I’ve known them and I’ve worked with them.

“Obey the voice of God’s prophets,” she said. “We’ve got to remember that. We do have prophets, and we must obey their voice.”

Back at the lecture hall, symposium participants found themselves drawn back in time to the nineteenth century. The story of Jane Hyde Molen was recounted by Carol Cornwall Madsen of the Joseph F. Smith Institute for Church History at BYU. “In a society in which woman gains greatest legitimacy as a wife and mother,” she asked, “how does a childless woman cope?” Jane Hyde Molen “offers a case study.” Married at sixteen, Jane taught school in Cache Valley while her husband “became involved in Church and civic affairs, working on railroad lines, building canals, surveying the area and serving two additional missions for the Church.” No children were born to Jane and Simpson Molen, but they provided a foster home for a young teenage girl and later adopted an infant daughter. Accompanying Simpson on a mission to the Sandwich Islands in 1876 Jane “taught a small school of native children, took care of the plantation home, visited native members,” and served as a midwife. They brought back with them a native boy who lived with them for a number of years.

“The dominating theme of Jane’s diaries,” noted Sister Madsen, “is her relationship with other people.”

The symposium’s final paper was given by Jill Mulvay Derr, currently co-authoring a history of the Relief Society. Her presentation detailed the tender relationship between George A. Smith and his first wife Bathsheba (who would later serve as the Relief Society’s general president from 1901 to 1910). According to Bathsheba, it was their shared commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ that kept the family together. “‘I love my husband dearly,’ she wrote. ‘Our religion and our future hopes and expectations are the same.’

“Following the 1 September 1875 death of George A. Smith, Bathsheba received expressions of sympathy from members throughout the Church. One undoubtedly gave her cause for reflection: ‘I have thought much of the kind love that existed between you and your husband,’ wrote a sensitive sister, ‘that it was of no common order, or rather it was seated in hearts baptised by the Holy Ghost, and walled in so high by the powerful principles of the gospel that Satan could never so much as look over, much less to breathe his contaminating influence upon it.”

The Women’s History Symposium is conducted annually in April. Individuals interested in submitting papers for next year’s symposium may do so to either the Women’s Research Institute or the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History, both officed at BYU.

[photo] Nurse Aids, 1922, trained by the Relief Society.

Policies and Announcements

The following items were published in the Bulletin, April 1981:

Single Adult Activities. Local priesthood leaders should be careful to ensure proper conduct at single adult activities, especially dances. Dances and other activities should be under the direction of priesthood officers. They should be properly chaperoned to see that participants are members in good standing and that they adhere to Church standards. Screening at the door may be necessary in areas that experience difficulties. Every single adult activity should be uplifting and wholesome, and those who attend should be able to do so with confidence that other participants will support Church standards.

Organizational structure and other suggestions regarding single adult activities are found in Guidelines for Single Adult Activities (PMBP0145), available at Church distribution centers.

Primary Classes Beginning January 1982. Children will advance to the next classes in January 1982. They will be enrolled according to their ages as of 1 January 1982. For example, if a child is three years of age by 1 January 1982, he will be enrolled in the Sunbeam class. If a child turns three after 1 January 1982, he will wait until the next January to be enrolled in the Sunbeam class. Primary enrollment will no longer follow school cut-off dates.

The Primary Presidency, in consultation with ward priesthood leaders and the parents, should decide on any exceptions to this rule. Before making any exceptions, they should carefully consider the long-range implications of having a child remain in a younger class or advance to an older one. (If a child is allowed to enter a class younger than his age, he will turn twelve before completing the Primary curriculum. If a child is advanced into a class before he has reached the age for that class, he will need to repeat part of the Primary curriculum before he turns twelve.)

Relief Society Song Contest Winners

Winners in the 1981 Relief Society song contest have been announced. First place winner for “My Place of Prayer” is Janice Kapp Perry, composer, and Val Camenish Wilcox, lyricist, both of Provo, Utah. Second place winner for “With Better, Purer Eyes” is Elaine Scherperal of Narragansett, Rhode Island. Third place went to Ann Kapp Andersen of Dillingham, Alaska, for “Eternal Joys” Gloria Riddle, composer, and Juliet Martin, lyricist, received honorable mention for “One Last Look.” They are both from Canyon Country, California.

These compositions will be printed and available, together with the winners of the 1980 song contest, at the Salt Lake City Distribution Center, 1999 W. 1700 S., Salt Lake City, UT 84104.

Temple Presidents Announced

The First Presidency has announced new presidents for four temples—and three of the temples are not yet dedicated.

Elder Angel Abrea, 47, sustained April 4 as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, will be president of the Buenos Aires Temple in Argentina. His wife, Maria Victoria Chiapparino Abrea, will be the temple matron, as will the other new presidents’ wives. The couple have three children.

Harold Brown, 63, of Mexico City, will be president of the Mexico City Temple, now well along toward completion. He has served as Regional Representative for the Tijuana and Mexicali, Mexico, regions, and was the first president of the Mexico City Stake. He and his wife, Leanore Jesperson Brown, have two children.

Called as president of the Tonga Temple is Tonga Toutai Paletu’a, 57, the first Tongan called as a mission president. He presided over the Tonga Nuku’alofa Mission and has been a Regional Representative. He and his wife, Lui’isa Heha Paletu’a, have two children.

The Saint George Temple, the oldest Latter-day Saint Temple in continuous use, will also receive a new president. He is John M. Russon, 69, of Leeds, Utah, and patriarch of the Washington Utah Stake. President of the Swiss-Austrian Mission from 1962 to 1965, he has also been a Regional Representative. He and his wife, Margaret Ethelyn Cardon Russon, are the parents of ten children.

LDS Scene

Relief Society General Meeting. Reserve 26 September 1981 for the Relief Society general meeting. Arrangements for broadcasting to English-speaking areas of the Church will be similar to those for the 1980 meeting.

Brad Powell of Kahala Ward, Honolulu Hawaii Stake, received a Silver Award in the 23rd International Film and TV Festival in New York for his twenty-one-minute educational television film, a ballet entitled “Cycle of Existence.” Brother Powell wrote, choreographed, and produced the ballet.

American Indian Services at BYU recently sorted and paid shipping costs for 3,000 fruit trees being sent to four Indian tribes in Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. Growers in Wenatchee, Washington, and Hughson, California, provided the seven-foot tall, bare-root pear, peach, red and golden delicious apple, plum, apricot, and nectarine trees at cost to the Utes, Navajos, Hopis, and Kaibab Paiutes. William Kelly AIS assistant director and coordinator for the project, said the fruit tree project started in 1974 with 200 trees. Since then, more than 28,000 trees have been distributed to thirty-five Indian reservations.

Several Latter-day Saints attended a meeting of the National Genealogical Society in Atlanta, Georgia, in May. Latter-day Saints who participated were Arlene Eakle, president of the Utah-based Association of Professional Genealogists, which scheduled its annual meeting for the day before the conference, and Jimmy Parker and Kip Sperry of the Church’s Utah Genealogical Society.

The Hill Cumorah Pageant is scheduled for July 24 to 25 and July 28 to August 1. This year the pageant adds two hundred new costumes to the two hundred costumes new last year. The cast of six hundred volunteers pay their own way to Palmyra, New York, where the annual pageant is staged with a technical crew of fifty on twenty-five small stages spread over the western slope of the hill. Approximately 100,000 visitors are expected to view this production.

BYU’s College Bowl team placed second in national competition in April, coming in behind host Marshall University. According to Coach Todd Britsch, BYU’s percentage of correct answers (.897) was the highest of any team.