News of the Church

By Marvin K. Gardner

Print Share

    Live and Teach by the Spirit, New Mission Leaders Told

    Being guided by the Spirit and teaching with the Spirit were recurring themes during the final session of the seminar for new mission presidents, Friday, June 25.

    Sessions on the three previous days, June 22–24, had been held at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. During that time, fifty-two new mission presidents and their wives had been instructed by ten members of the Quorum of the Twelve. They had also received counsel from all seven members of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy and from other General Authorities. They had become acquainted with the facilities and training at the Missionary Training Center and had met with MTC missionaries assigned to their missions and with families of missionaries currently serving.

    Assembled on the stand for the Friday meeting in the Church Office Building auditorium in Salt Lake City were members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. Other General Authorities were also present.

    President Spencer W. Kimball visited briefly with the new mission leaders saying, “I love you and those whose lives you represent by your missionary and individual work.” He encouraged them to “lay wide open the gospel plan for the people of the world to accept.”

    President Gordon B. Hinckley, who conducted the Friday session, told the mission leaders that converts must understand the gospel clearly in order to live it, and that conversion comes only through the Spirit. “There must be more than the logic of the lessons,” he said. “There must be the convincing power of the Holy Spirit giving expression in the words of the teacher and bringing certitude to the heart of him or her who is taught.” He stressed the importance of baptizing only those who are truly converted: “Train and motivate your missionaries to the point of view that it is converts that they are out to win, rather than numbers of baptisms for the sake of a good statistic.”

    He noted the excellent work the Public Communications Department is doing to improve the image of the Church. “But,” he said, “there is nothing that so enhances the image of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the lives and examples of faithful members who live the gospel and walk in the testimony of Jesus.”

    President Hinckley also encouraged the mission presidents to follow the program of the Church and avoid tangents. However, he added, “There is left much latitude under which the promptings of the Holy Spirit may be received and acted upon. … The work of the Lord must never become stereotyped or reach a point where missionaries are merely engaged in role-playing. Testimony is an individual and personal thing. It comes as a gift from God. It finds expression in various ways.”

    President Ezra Taft Benson said that “the greatest cause in all the world [is] saving the souls of our Father’s children.” He discussed four proven keys for missionary success: strive to obtain the Spirit, acquire humility, love the people, and work diligently.

    Obtaining the Spirit, he said, involves the process of putting our own lives in order, praying mightily, searching the scriptures daily, and doing good works. Being humble, he continued, is recognizing “our dependence upon a higher power, a constant need for the Lord’s support in His work.” Loving the people is essential: “Your hearts must go out to them in the pure love of the gospel, in a desire to lift them, to build them up, to point them to a higher, finer life and eventually, to exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God.” And, finally, work is “one of the greatest secrets. … If a missionary works he will get the Spirit; if he gets the Spirit, he will teach by the Spirit; and if he teaches by the Spirit, he will touch the hearts of the people; and he will be happy.”

    As missionaries follow this formula, he promised, “you are going to be successful—there is no doubt about it. The Lord has sent you out into the field at the time of harvest.”

    Elder Boyd K. Packer also spoke during the Friday session. He explained that spiritual knowledge is gained in a unique way, through “delicate, refined spiritual communications … not seen with our eyes, nor heard with our ears. And even though it is described as a voice, it is a voice that one feels, more than one hears.” For this reason, we find it difficult or impossible to explain to others in words alone our spiritual knowledge. “We can, however, with words, show another how to prepare for the reception of the Spirit. The Spirit itself will help. … Then when they have a spiritual communication, they say within themselves, ‘This is it! This is what is meant by those words. …’ Thereafter, if they are carefully chosen, words are adequate for teaching about spiritual things.”

    Elder Packer cautioned against talking lightly of spiritual experiences or trying to force spiritual things. “Do not be impatient to gain great spiritual knowledge,” he said. “Let it grow, help it grow, but do not force it or you will open the way to be misled.”

    Learning about the Spirit is one of the greatest rewards of a mission, he said. “The choicest pearl, the one of great price, is to learn at an early age how one is guided by the Spirit of the Lord, a supernal gift. Indeed, it is a guide and a protection.”

    Following the seminar, the new mission presidents traveled to their assignments. The general date for transfer of presidency from outgoing presidents to new presidents was July 1.

    Group Makes Friends in China

    Earlier this year, BYU students in the performing group the Lamanite Generation made friends for Brigham Young University and for the Church in locations from Hawaii to the People’s Republic of China.

    Starting their tour April 28, the group first performed in Hawaii, next traveled to Taiwan, and then visited the People’s Republic of China. They then performed in the Philippines and Hong Kong, concluding their tour June 6.

    Members of the Lamanite Generation include Indians from areas of North America, natives or descendants of natives of the Pacific isles, and representatives from Mexican and South American cultures. Its fast-paced musical variety show includes numbers representing all of their cultures.

    The fourth BYU performing group to visit the People’s Republic of China in four years, the thirty-member group and five technical crew members spent almost three weeks there, where they were joined by Elder Neal A. Maxwell and his wife, Colleen. They began their visit with performances at Beijin’s noted Red Tower Theatre. They also performed in northeastern China, the first American entertainment troupe allowed to do so in recent years, as far as members of the group could learn.

    In the BYU students, the Chinese found not only artistic ability and friendliness, but also high moral standards that impressed them greatly, Elder Maxwell reported. According to Elder Maxwell, the shared experiences left both the members of the Lamanite Generation and their Chinese hosts with “feelings of love that transcend culture and country.”

    Audiences were enthusiastic throughout the People’s Republic. Appearances by BYU touring groups who visited that nation in 1979, 1980, and 1981 have made BYU one of the best-known of American universities among the Chinese.

    Throughout their tour the group reached thousands of people in live theater performances, impromptu concerts, and the Honolulu May Day parade. Through taped television appearances in Taipei, Hong Kong, Beijin, Harbin, and Canton, they will reach additional audiences numbering in the millions.

    [photo] Cindy Young (right), of Hawaii enjoys a moment with a Chinese friend during the Lamanite Generation’s visit to the People’s Republic of China this past spring. (Photography by Mark Philbrick.)

    Mormon Tabernacle Choir Tours Northern Europe

    “Music and the Spoken Word,” broadcast live via satellite from London’s Royal Albert Hall on June 20, was both a high water mark for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and a fitting climax to a triumphant tour of northern Europe June 6–20.

    Thanks to the wizardry of modern electronics, the choir’s 2,757th consecutive broadcast was beamed across 6,000 miles and seven time belts. Thus, the CBS Network joined a live audience of 5,500 to share a little of the spontaneous communication and artistry that marked this, the choir’s twelfth international tour. The choir visited Norway, Sweden, and Finland for the first time, and Denmark, the Netherlands, and London on return visits.

    In the ten concerts of the tour, the choir’s live audience totaled more than 25,000. Some concerts were broadcast live, and in every country tapes were made for later distribution via television or radio, or both.

    Critical and popular acclaim flowed to the choir, one of the most widely recognized symbols of the Church, and one of its most powerful missionary tools. While citing a few technicalities, critics were uniformly favorable in their comments.

    Arbeiderblad of Bergen perceived “an elite choir, in a class by itself … , fantastic effect, incomparable forte … ; only discipline and hard work could give so precise an effect.” “Astounding precision and discipline,” said Bergen’s Tidende. “Sure intonation, perfect sound,” commented the Stockholm Dagbladet.

    Everywhere tickets were swept up in short order. In Oslo, where a concert was shoe-horned into the existing schedule at the eleventh hour, seats sold out in fifty-five minutes; in Stockholm, tickets were gone in two hours. “We could have sold four concerts,” lamented the local impresario. In Royal Albert, only some expensive box seats remained unsold.

    Of course, many of the seats went to Scandinavia’s 18,000 Saints, who gathered in from the frost-bitten reaches of Norway, from the outposts of Lapland, and from the remote islands of Denmark. But many more seats went to music lovers in the tour’s capital cities, where the choir is well-known and loved.

    Indeed, John and Ruth Webber, official choir hosts who traveled the tour route in advance arranging its schedule, said they had not talked to anyone, from chance acquaintances on the street to the busiest government official, who did not know something about the choir and its work.

    The choir’s tour repertory leaned heavily on standard classical fare—Handel and Mozart, Brahms (the German Requiem) and Mendelssohn (Elijah and a setting of Psalm 42), [Ps. 42] and works of Edvard Grieg. Pleasantly contemporary anthems, favorite operatic and oratorio choruses, and beloved show tunes and hymns of the choir’s recordings found a ready audience.

    How can one analyze the spirit with which the choir sings, the effect it has on its listeners? Without doubt its good musicians are remarkable people as well—doctors and lawyers, businessmen and women, dozens of teachers (many of whom teach voice or direct choirs of their own), professional entertainers, and homemakers.

    Yet the choir’s spirit adds up to more than the sum of its parts; and its collective breath, its outpouring of propulsive music, irresistibly moving forward, purposeful and persuasive, thrilled its listeners everywhere.

    In the concert halls, audiences reacted in a predictable pattern, progressing from polite acceptance to absorbed interest, then to rhythmic clapping and standing ovations—demonstrations that seldom occur in the reserved Nordic lands. Listeners demanded one encore after another until they finally earned “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” (the choir’s signature piece), followed by “God Be With You,” which set a seal on the evening.

    In these gracious northern lands, girls in folk costume drop a curtsy and offer flowers to both men and women soloists. In Aalborg, conductor Jerold Ottley received a large laurel wreath; and in Helsinki, choir president Oakley S. Evans accepted a handsome hand-woven wall hanging. In Copenhagen, the choir received an engraved plaque.

    To many choir members who have ancestral ties to northern Europe, the tour offered a bonus attraction—a chance to contact relatives, some unknown beforehand. Swedish and Danish audiences loved folk songs with verses sung by choir members born in those lands, and audiences everywhere appreciated the songs, often national anthems, performed in their native tongues.

    On tour, the choir’s 325 members are never its total entourage. In this instance, husbands, wives and other family members, choir staff, media representatives, and tour sponsors swelled the ranks to 551 travelers on the go—all that could be accommodated on the Greek cruise liner Oceanos, which served as a floating hotel for ten days.

    The choir first appeared in Scandinavia at Bergen, Norway, where on, June 7 and 8, they proved to be the climactic attraction at the Bergen International Music Festival. They sang first for 3,700 in the large conference-oriented Bergenhallen, then in the exquisite Grieghallen, home of the festival and namesake hall of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.

    Traveling by train over the top of beautiful, wooded Norway, the choir dropped down into Oslo on June 9 to sing in that city’s gleaming new Concerthus. There security guards cleared the halls, making way for Norway’s hardy King Olav V, who reportedly enjoyed the concert, especially “Discovery” by Grieg.

    A post-concert plane ride carried the choir to the Oceanos, at dock in Stockholm harbor. Two days of sightseeing and rest in the Swedish capital culminated in a concert on June 11 in the Concert Hall, a classic old building of Grecian design, and home of the Nobel awards.

    After a cruise through Baltic waters, the choir entered Helsinki harbor singing “Finlandia” and were greeted at dockside by U.S. Ambassador and Mrs. Keith F. Nyborg. The city’s spacious Finlandia Hall was the scene of a concert on Helsinki Day, June 12.

    A two days’ sail across the Baltic Sea, this time from east to west, took the choir to Copenhagen, where they performed two lively concerts in the Tivoli Garden Concert Hall on June 14 and 15. They next embarked for Aalborg in northern Denmark, seat of the Danish Society in Support of the Salt Lake Mormon Tabernacle Choir. There, on June 16, they entertained an enthusiastic audience of 2,300.

    Rotterdam’s de Doelen Concertgebouw, as mellow and rich as the inside of a cello, was the scene of an acoustical triumph on June 18. The next day, the singers left for London. On the hospitality side, choir members especially relished a lavish Scandinavian buffet, hosted by Litality side, choir members especially relished a lavish Scandinavian buffet, hosted by Lord Mayor Egon Weidekamp at Copenhagen City Hall. Luncheons and receptions brought contact with Eilert Eilertsen, Mayor of Bergen, and Halfdan Wiberg, chairman of the Bergen Festival, also with U.S. Ambassador and Mrs. Mark Evans Austad in Oslo, and Ambassador and Mrs. Nyborg in Helsinki, all active Latter-day Saints. In Stockholm, Salt Lake-born Ambassador Franklin S. Forsberg and Mrs. Forsberg entertained. Choir officials were received at the Hague by U.S. Ambassador and Mrs. William Deis; and in London, U.S. Ambassador and Mrs. John J. Louis attended the concert.

    The choir’s pops quartet, the Dimension, provided many enjoyable moments at these affairs, climaxing their European adventure with a command performance at an exclusive dinner and dance hosted by Queen Margrethe of Denmark.

    Returning home with full hearts and happy memories, choir members recalled the beauty of the lands they visited and the kindness of the people. But most of all they treasured the moments when the singers’ spirits and those of the audience touched, as heart met heart through the universal language of inspired music.

    [photos] Photography by Eldon Linschoten

    [photo] The choir in its final concert in London’s Royal Albert Hall, June 20.

    [photo] Tabernacle Choir director Jerold Ottley with a large laurel wreath the choir received in Aalborg, Denmark.

    [photo] Stockholm, capital of Sweden, where the choir performed June 11 in the Concert Hall.

    Dorothy Stowe, music critic for the Deseret News, is a member of the Ensign Third Ward, Salt Lake City, where she teaches Cultural Refinement lessons in Relief Society and is chairman of the music committee for her ward.