News of the Church


Update on the Benson Institute

Now in its sixth year of service at Brigham Young University, the Ezra Taft Benson Agriculture and Food Institute has reached across academic and international boundaries to bring agricultural research to the people who need it, according to D. Delos Ellsworth, director of the institute.

For example, the institute has spent much of its time on small-scale agriculture because in many countries, farming just a small plot can make the difference between surviving and starving for a family. One recent project that finished a successful first year shows how a family of six could survive on a one-and-one-half-acre farm, producing enough food to feed themselves and provide a small cash income.

This small-scale agricultural research has been carried out in several countries, including Egypt, where BYU faculty members through the Benson Institute were invited to participate in projects in various villages.

The institute has also promoted extensive research on small-scale gardening to demonstrate how families can help provide some of their own food from small plots. Many thousands of copies of the institute’s pamphlet “Getting Along with Your Garden” have been sold in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Other activities include running some of the quality-control tests on products from the Church’s welfare system food-production operations, responding to requests for information about storing food, providing limited scholarships for students from various countries throughout the world, and serving as a resource to LDS members worldwide.

The director noted, “We now have more projects and more demands on us than we have money to carry out.” The institute must raise between $1 million and $1.5 million each year to carry out its work.

Policies and Announcements

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued this statement after learning of the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II, 13 May 1981:

“We deplore the assassination attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II and offer our prayers for his full and speedy recovery. Such an occurrence is lamentable and tragic.”

The following items appeared in the May 1981 Bulletin.

Farewells and Open Houses. As stated in the General Handbook of Instructions no. 21, p. 69, “parents and other family members of missionaries, as appropriate, might be invited to sit on the stand” at missionary farewells. Bishoprics also may invite parents and other family members to participate in the services by speaking, offering prayers, or presenting 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” (p. 69).

In addition, bishoprics should make sure that the families of full-time missionaries understand that “open houses, except for family members, should not be held on the Sabbath day” (p. 69) or on Monday evenings.

Commercial Products in Relief Society. “Relief Society members should not be subjected, through the Society, to solicitation by commercial institutions or to cash solicitations in regular Relief Society meetings” (Relief Society Handbook, PERS0055, p. 3.) Relief Society has endorsed no commercial products for sale in Relief Society—not stitchery materials or kits, storage products, toys, musical products, or books.

Physical Fitness Awards Program. The physical fitness awards program, administered by the physical activities specialist, is a continuing program in which individuals or families can participate at any time. The brochure (PBAC0271) explaining the program and the Gold (PFAC0036), Silver (PFAC0047), and Bronze (PFAC0058) Certificates of Award are available at the Church distribution centers. There are some Sesquicentennial year certificates available for those who achieved the requirements during 1980. Certificates earned after 1980 will be distinguished by a different paper stock each year.

Anti-Abortion Filmstrip. The Church has issued an anti-abortion filmstrip, Very Much Alive (VVOF1420), for use with both adult and youth groups. It is likely that many of the young people now in the Aaronic Priesthood and the Young Women have not seen this important and powerful filmstrip. The same is probably true of many members converted or reactivated since 1976.

Bishops may wish to have their young men and women (in the company of their parents, if possible) see and hear this presentation as part of a Sunday lesson, a fireside, a Young Women’s standards event, or some other appropriate activity.

The filmstrip could also be shown to Young Adults, Relief Society sisters, and students in seminaries and institutes.

Very Much Alive is available in seventeen languages. If this filmstrip is not available in your meetinghouse library, it is available at the Church distribution centers for $2.50 a copy. A worldwide edition (VVOF2558), suitable for use in public schools, is available for the same price.

Prenatal Care and Delivery in U.S. and Canada. Expectant mothers need to get the best prenatal and delivery care available from medically and legally qualified practitioners.

The following cautions should be observed:

1. Any person practicing medical care should have the legal sanction of the authorized government agency.

2. Births and deaths of newborns must be registered with the authorized government agency.

3. Methods and locations of prenatal care and delivery are a matter of personal choice, not a matter of Church doctrine.

4. Priesthood blessings should be given only by worthy Melchizedek priesthood holders.

5. Pregnant women should include in their diet nutritious foods such as milk, fruit, vegetables, grains, and moderate amounts of meat.

Porcelain Figure Available for Young Women. A five-inch porcelain figurine (PSYW1048) similar to the young woman depicted on the cover of My Personal Progress and on the Young Womanhood Medallion is available at the Salt Lake City Distribution Center for $12.00. This is an optional Young Women item.

Use of the Meetinghouse Library. The meetinghouse library serves not only the priesthood and auxiliary organizations, but also individuals and families (see “The Meetinghouse Library: Also a Family Resource,” Ensign, Aug. 1976., p. 29). Librarians should encourage the use of the library and make every effort to provide good service. This should hold true when members ask to use equipment outside the meetinghouse. The meetinghouse librarian, in consultation with the library board (the bishops using the building), should arrange a satisfactory checkout program for equipment and materials. Arranging for members to use equipment and materials outside the meetinghouse is even more important now with the change to the Sunday meeting schedule. One purpose of this schedule is to provide more opportunities for teaching the gospel in the home. Furthermore, meetings such as inservice and board meetings and firesides are often held in a home. The librarian should make all items of equipment and materials available on request, as scheduling permits. (However, everyone using the equipment and materials should be trained to use them safely.)

Music Helps for Families. Families may wish to use some of the additional time provided for them on Sundays by the Sunday meeting schedule to learn and sing the hymns of Zion together. Hymns and Children’s Songs (VVOT0529, $8.50), a set of six cassettes with organ accompaniment for thirty-five hymns and ten children’s songs, may be helpful to homes that do not have a piano or other accompaniment instrument or where families have little or no musical training. The set is available at the Church distribution centers. Corresponding small hymnbooks (PMBU0406, $.35) with the same thirty-five hymns and ten children’s songs, are also available.

LDS Scene

President Kimball received a heart pacemaker on Saturday, May 16, fitting the minor operation into his schedule between performing the wedding ceremony of a granddaughter and eating a “hearty lunch.”

Surgery lasted thirty minutes. A local anesthetic was used, and President Kimball was alert and talking to the surgeons throughout the operation. The pacemaker was implanted by Dr. Russell M. Nelson, who had performed open-heart surgery on President Kimball nine years ago.

The pacemaker was inserted into a pocket of tissue in President Kimball’s chest. It emits an electrical signal that helps regulate the heart rate.

Within twenty-four hours after the operation, President Kimball was up walking around and experiencing no pain. Dr. Ernest L. Wilkinson, President Kimball’s personal physician, noted, “President Kimball has a history of heart disease, and the implantation of the pacemaker is simply a precautionary measure to improve the function of the heart.”

In May, BYU awarded degrees to 2,622 students from forty-nine states and thirty-one countries. Diplomas also went to 1,140 students who had completed graduation requirements in December 1980. Ricks College conferred degrees upon 1,531 graduating sophomores.

Mexico’s first lady, Carmen Romano de Lopez Portillo, visited BYU campus for a quick tour before appearing in a concert with the Mexican Philharmonic Orchestra in Salt Lake City in May. A concert pianist, she visited BYU because “this is a university that has a special interest in the arts.”

Two BYU debate teams recently beat two Wheaton College teams in the national cross-examination championship. The wins left the two BYU teams facing each other for the final round, which consequently was cancelled. “This is the first time a single school has ever closed out both positions in the semifinals of this national tournament,” said Don Black, debate team coordinator. BYU amassed the largest point total ever after entering the tournament rated third.

U.S. President Ronald Reagan has chosen Rex E. Lee, dean of BYU’s law school, as solicitor-general of the United States to replace Wade H. McCree, Jr. As solicitor-general, his duties include arguing the government’s position before the Supreme Court. He was appointed first dean of BYU’s J. Reuben Clark College of Law in 1971 and took a leave of absence in 1975 to serve in the Ford administration as assistant U.S. attorney general in charge of the civil division.