Temple in Dallas Means Blessings for Southwestern Saints

In the spring of 1973, President Ervin W. Atkerson, who had served as the first president of the Dallas (now Dallas Texas) Stake, reflected on the three decades of Church growth he had seen in the area. He recalled the historic day when attendance at the Dallas Branch Sunday School had reached one hundred; all those present had posed for a photograph after the meeting to commemorate the occasion.

President Atkerson lived to see two stakes in Dallas. It has been more than a decade now since he passed away, but he undoubtedly shares the joy of the Saints who will soon see a temple there.

After it is dedicated October 19–24, the Dallas Texas Temple will serve some 120,000 Church members in a district that covers all of Texas, except the El Paso area; all of Oklahoma; and parts of Louisiana, Missouri, and Arkansas.

A generation ago, members in some of those areas might never have dreamed they would see a temple within a day’s drive, for the rapid growth of the Church there during recent years came only after long periods of labor by a few faithful Saints.

Missionaries sent from Utah during the 1850s had some early success in Texas. As Church leaders urged, the missionaries prepared the Texas Saints to gather to Zion, and the new converts journeyed West in different companies over a period of several years.

They experienced all the hardships suffered by the Saints who had trekked from Illinois to the valley of the Great Salt Lake. Cholera struck one group, for example, just twenty-five miles into its journey. Brother Wallace East wrote in his journal on 19 June 1855: “Our little Mary who was a promising and lovely child, died about sundown. She sank away calmly and peacefully as though she were going into a sweet sleep. She was buried at the South side of the road before daylight.” Nearly a third of the company of one hundred Saints died of cholera; the Easts lost five of their six small children during the trek.

The United States Civil War, which began in 1860, put an end to missionary work in the South for some time, but when missionaries were called to return to Texas in 1875, Elder Wallace East was among them.

For the next several decades, missionary work in Texas was very difficult. Several small colonies of Latter-day Saints played key roles in the growth of the Church there. One of the best known was in Kelsey; in 1906, it had a population of about four hundred, with its own school and meetinghouse. There were then four places in Texas where LDS meetings were regularly held: Kelsey, Spurger, the Williamson settlement near Evadale, and Poyner.

During the post-Civil War period, missionaries were at work throughout the South and Southwest. Early missionary work in Oklahoma was done while it was part of the Indian Territory Mission; at first, missionaries worked among Lamanites, then later among white settlers.

Membership figures for Oklahoma and Texas at the end of 1930 illustrate just how far Church growth has come in the past half century. Oklahoma had 1,015 members, with a branch in Oklahoma City and Sunday Schools at Okmulgee and Tulsa. Texas had 3,837 members in fourteen branches from the Lower Rio Grande Valley to Amarillo.

When Ervin Atkerson arrived in 1942, as an employee of a national life insurance company based in Dallas, he estimated that there were some 450 members in the branch there. He and his family were part of a new wave of growth that would come to the Church in the South and Southwest as business and industrial expansion and military assignments brought in members from other areas.

Long-time residents of areas in the temple district say it was possible to see the hand of the Lord at work as the lives of people were touched in the 1950s and 1960s through conversion and reactivation. An increase in the number of missionaries assigned to the area, dynamic new mission presidents, and the heightened visibility of Latter-day Saints all affected growth, they say.

The Dallas Stake was organized 18 October 1953. (The first stake in Texas had been organized at El Paso the preceding year.) The new stake included wards in Dallas, Fort Worth, Kelsey, Longview, and Waco, Texas, and in Shreveport, Louisiana, plus ten independent branches and one dependent branch. Now, Dallas and Fort Worth are regions of the Church, and there are stakes in Shreveport, Longview, and Gilmer. Numerous wards and branches have sprung from units of the original Dallas stake.

Growth patterns in Oklahoma have been similar. The first stake in the state, at Tulsa, was organized 1 May 1960, with Robert N. Sears as president. The second, at Oklahoma City, was organized 23 October 1960, with James A. Cullimore, now a member emeritus of the First Quorum of the Seventy, as its president. Many additional stakes, wards, and branches are now within the boundaries of these original stakes.

Growth of the Church provided not only the blessings of the gospel, but also leadership opportunities for converts and for members who had grown up in the area—members like Jim Vernetti, executive secretary in the Tulsa Oklahoma Stake.

On a spring day in Dallas this year, Brother Vernetti and his wife Fran, a convert, along with their two daughters, parked their car near the partially completed temple and watched as workmen scurried about. The Vernettis talked of their plans to be sealed there this fall, shortly after the temple is dedicated. As they have had occasion to be in Dallas during the intervening months, they have stopped by the site on Willow Lane to check on the progress of the sacred edifice.

“It’s going to enable us to go to the temple on a fairly regular basis,” Brother Vernetti says, even though Dallas is a five-hour drive from Tulsa.

Excitement is high in his stake, he comments. The number of appointments for temple recommend interviews with the stake presidency is running three to four times higher than usual, and the Laurels in his ward—the Tulsa First—are planning a temple trip to do baptisms for the dead. The temple also appears to be giving a boost to name extraction efforts in the stake, Brother Vernetti notes.

Reports from other areas in the temple district are similar.

Bishop Ronnie F. Boyd of the Corpus Christi Third Ward, on the Texas Gulf Coast about eight hours from Dallas by highway, says, “We have quite a few members now who are making commitments to go” to the temple. “Our youth are very excited about it. I’m strongly considering taking a group of them up to go through the open house.”

Shreveport Louisiana Stake President J. B. Johns reports that members gave two-thirds more than they had been asked to contribute toward construction of the Dallas Temple. “Our people are really anxious to have a temple.”

Ivan L. Hobson has had ample opportunity to observe progress of the Church in the temple district. He was president of the second stake organized in Dallas, has served as a regional representative in South and Central Texas, and was recently called as president of the new temple.

He says members in the temple district have been very supportive.

When the contractor building the temple asked for volunteers to help with cleanup efforts, several hundred Saints showed up on short notice. One young high priest later reported how touched he was as he cleaned the baptistry area and felt the impression that large numbers of spirits were waiting for the sacred work that would be done there.

Some who live far from the temple have contributed in the only ways they could. Sisters in Harlingen, about five hundred miles away in the lower Rio Grande Valley, knitted items for the temple, offering them because, President Hobson reported, they feel it is “the first time they’ve had a chance to give the Lord something back.”

One bishop asked a widow to contribute twenty dollars toward the building of the temple, thinking that the sum might be all she could handle on her limited income. She brought him one hundred dollars she had been saving, and when he noted that it was far more than he had asked, her reply typified the feelings of many Saints in the temple district: “This is money I’ve been saving to go to the temple in Salt Lake City, but I’ll contribute it to the building fund and go to the temple here.”

Ten Temple Presidents Called

Ten new temple presidents have been announced by the First Presidency.

Presiding over the Seattle Temple will be Elder Royden G. Derrick, who has served in the presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy since 1980 and as a member of that quorum since 1976. Before his call as a General Authority, Brother Derrick was twice a mission president. His wife, Allie Jean Olsen Derrick, will serve as temple matron.

Ivan L. Hobson, chairman of the Dallas Texas Temple committee, has been called as president of the Dallas Texas Temple. A retired economist, President Hobson has served as both a stake and district president; he has recently served as a regional representative in Texas. Ruth Rawlings Hobson, his wife, will be matron.

John F. O’Donnal, currently a counselor in the presidency of the Mexico City Temple, will be the first president of the Guatemala City Temple. President O’Donnal worked for the United States Department of Agriculture for many years. He has served as a mission president, stake patriarch, regional representative, and district president. Sister Maria Del Carmen Galvez O’Donnal will serve as matron.

Carl W. Ringger, a native of Switzerland, will preside over the Swiss Temple. Brother Ringger, a retired U.S. Steel employee, has been serving as second counselor in the Swiss Temple presidency. His wife, Elsie K. Graeser Ringger, will be the new temple matron.

Hal R. Johnson, called as president of the Sao Paulo Temple, has been serving as a counselor in the presidency of the Idaho Falls Temple. He has been president of the Rio de Janeiro Mission, as well as regional representative to two regions in Brazil. Sister Virginia Pond Johnson, his wife, will be the matron of the Sao Paulo Temple.

The president of the Manila Philippines Temple will be W. Garth Andrus of Walnut Creek, California. For the past year, President Andros has been administrative assistant to President Marion D. Hanks of the Salt Lake Temple. He has served as a bishop and mission president. His wife, Eloise Adamson Andrus, will serve as temple matron.

Milton J. Hess, a former Navy chaplain and retired attorney from Farmington, Utah, will preside over the Sydney Australia Temple. Currently serving as a counselor in the presidency of the Ogden Temple, President Hess has also been a bishop, stake president, and mission president. Sister Fern Gregory Hess, his wife, will be temple matron.

The new president of the Idaho Falls Temple will be Rheim M. Jones, an ophthalmologist and eye surgeon from Idaho Falls. President Jones has served as a regional representative. His wife, Alice Brinton Jones, a registered nurse, will be matron of the temple.

Presiding over the New Zealand Temple will be Glen L. Rudd, manager of Welfare Square in Salt Lake City for twenty-five years. President Rudd has twice served as a mission president. He has also been a regional representative and a member of the Church Welfare Committee and Church Missionary Committee. Sister Marva Sperry Rudd, his wife, will serve as matron.

Ralph M. Johnson has been called to serve as president of the Logan Temple. Former dean of Science at Utah State University, President Johnson was also dean of the College of Biological Science at Ohio State University. He has served as a bishop, stake executive secretary, stake president, and high councilor. His wife, Genevieve Porter Johnson, will be matron.

Athletes Pursue Excellence at Olympics

Two Latter-day Saints were among medal winners in the 1984 Olympics, but a total of sixteen LDS athletes participated in the games and reaped their own kind of gold from the experience.

Peter Vidmar, captain of the United States men’s gymnastics team, won gold medals in the pommel horse and team competition, and a silver medal in the all-around competition. Bo Gustafsson, a convert to the Church from Goreborg, Sweden, won a silver medal in Olympic walking.

In addition, former Brigham Young University baseball star Cory Snyder played on the U.S. demonstration baseball team that placed second (after Japan) in the Olympics. Canadian basketball star Karl Tilleman played on his fourth-place national team, and U.S. steeplechase athlete Henry Marsh placed fourth in his event.

Other LDS athletes who performed in the Olympics:

  • —Doug Padilla, United States, finished seventh in the 5,000-meter run;

  • —Stefan Fernholm, Sweden, eighth in discus;

  • —Lorna Griffin, United States, ninth in shot put and twelfth in discus;

  • —Walt Zobell, United States, twenty-second in trapshooting;

  • —Pedro Casares, Argentina, eliminated in the first heat in steeplechase;

  • —Mark Fuller, United States, eliminated in the first round of Greco-Roman wrestling;

  • —Silo Havili, Vilami Pulu, and Fime Sani, Tonga, eliminated in the first round of boxing;

  • —Paul Cummings, United States, eliminated before reaching the finals in the 10,000-meter run;

  • —Scott Maxwell, Canada, eliminated before reaching the finals in the baseball exhibition.

Some of the LDS Olympians said they took home a kind of gold that they could not hang on ribbons around their necks, in the form of knowledge about the help they could expect from God in their righteous endeavors, and about the real spiritual meaning of their achievements.

Brother Vidmar commented, “I could never have done it without Heavenly Father. I know that he had an important and active role in my success.”

The gymnast remarked that there is a great selflessness in the team effort. The athletes are working for one another, he said. “To win the team medal was the most exhilarating ‘up’ I have ever experienced.”

Henry Marsh, a Salt Lake City lawyer, went into the Olympics as holder of the world record in steeplechase. He was the United States’ best hope for the gold in the event, but, fighting the effects of a virus that had plagued him for a month, he came in fourth. Despite that finish, he said he was not disappointed because he had done his best and had received the Lord’s help in doing it. There were many prayers said by him and for him, Brother Marsh recalled, and “those prayers were answered. When I started into the race, I felt the strength come. Win or lose, everyone at the Olympics is a champion,” he said. “Doing your best in life or in athletics is pursuing excellence, and we have to learn to be satisfied with that.”

Brother Tilleman, from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, played guard for his country’s basketball team. The Canadians lost to the United States team, which later won the gold medal.

“Sure, we hoped we’d go home to Canada with the gold, but we’re the fourth best in the world, and that is something. The high moment was when we beat Italy. No one expected us to win.” Brother Tilleman added that the athletes have a tremendous respect for one another. “You know what they have gone through to get there because you’ve done it. You know about the sacrifice and denial. After a game is over, you find yourself cheering for the team you just lost to.”

The young Canadian said he felt the prayers of Church members in his behalf helped him. Because of the intensity of the competition, he noted, there was a need to be close to his Heavenly Father. “You need that strength. I took time to read my scriptures and pray on a daily basis. I felt my testimony deepen as the games progressed.”

Mark Fuller, a Greco-Roman wrestler from Walnut Creek, California, lost to Chinese and Turkish competitors, but he said he gained great insight into the value of the discipline and commitment that is required to become an Olympic athlete. “You understand what sacrifice is about, and what it is to push your body to the limit. You realize that one’s spirit, too, can be pushed beyond its limits.”

[photo] Gymnast Peter Vidmar, one of sixteen LDS athletes known to have participated in the Olympics, won two gold medals and one silver. (Associated Press Photo.)

Kit Poole is Orange County California Multiregion Public Communications Director.

Young Women, Primary Offices Will Be Moved

Offices of the Primary and Young Women organizations will be moved to the Relief Society Building at 76 North Main Street in Salt Lake City, the First Presidency has announced.

The move will be completed before the end of 1984.

Primary President Dwan J. Young, Young Women President Ardeth G. Kapp, and Relief Society President Barbara W. Winder will all have offices on the second floor of the building, where the Relief Society offices are now located.

All three auxiliary leaders expressed support for the move, noting that it would offer valuable opportunities for coordinating their programs. “We’re delighted with the move,” President Winder said. “We feel it will be a real advantage for us to be together and work on our common concerns.”

President Young agreed, noting, “Visitors will be able to see how one program builds on the others, working to strengthen all three.”

President Kapp said the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary will be “pooling resources and sharing personnel where we can serve organizational needs that are common to all.”

The Relief Society Building

The Relief Society Building will also house the Primary and Young Women general offices. (Photography by Eldon Linschoten.)

Student Performing Groups Are Worldwide Ambassadors

From Thailand and Hong Kong to Belgium and the Netherlands, young Latter-day Saint entertainers from Brigham Young University and Ricks College spent the summer spreading a message of love and goodwill to queens and commoners.

Seven groups from BYU traveled extensively throughout the United States and the world.

The Chamber Orchestra met enthusiastic audiences in Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan. The Ballroom Dance Company also toured the Far East. Two groups of Young Ambassadors covered many parts of the United States and performed at the New Orleans World’s Fair.

BYU’s Lamanite Generation took their variety show, featuring music and dance of American Indian, Polynesian, and Latin American cultures, on a six-week tour of Europe. And the American Folk Dancers participated in the Schoten Folk Festival in Belgium and the Brunssum and Holten folk festivals in the Netherlands.

Representing Ricks College, the Showtime Company performed throughout the midwestern and southern United States. Members of the Valhalla Folk dancers took part in dance festivals in France and Switzerland, also performing in Holland, Germany, and Austria.

A number of performing groups from LDS institutes of religion were also on tour.

Typically, the message of love and brotherhood offered by the LDS touring groups is rooted in gospel principles. The message and the obvious wholesomeness of the performers have given many boosts to missionary work. Via live and broadcast or videotaped performances, potential audiences number in the millions each year.

[photo] Performers from Russia were among the new friends Ricks College students made at a folk festival in France.

LDS Scene

President Ezra Taft Benson of the Council of the Twelve turned eighty-five on August 4, celebrating with his wife, Flora, and members of their family. Activities included a family reunion attended by many of his seventy-one descendants, who heard President Benson’s counsel to his posterity. He is the fourth oldest of the General Authorities, after Elder Joseph Anderson, an emeritus member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, 94; President Spencer W. Kimball, 89; and President Marion G. Romney, First Counselor in the First Presidency, 87.

Wendell M. Smoot, Jr., has been appointed president of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He succeeds Oakley S. Evans, who served in the position for nine years. Brother Smoot had been serving as the choir’s vice-president.

Several Church publications won awards for typographical excellence in a competition sponsored by the National Composition Association, a division of the Printing Industries of America. The awards were presented at the association’s annual convention in Chicago this spring. An activities planning calendar prepared for the Activities Committee won a first-place award, and the September 1983 issue of the New Era won a second place. Issues of the Ensign, New Era, and Friend won honorable mentions along with the Family Home Evening Resource Manual, an Old Testament study guide for seminary students, and the annual report of the Church-administered Thrasher Research Fund, a fund established by a private donor to promote the health of children in developing countries.

KRIC, Idaho’s only public educational radio station, went on the air May 7 with broadcasts originating from the Ricks College campus in Rexburg, Idaho. The station broadcasts with a power of 75,000 watts on an FM frequency of 100.5 megahertz. It offers what Kenneth R. Howell, the school’s director of Public Relations, calls a “broad-based” classical music format, along with “programming via satellite transmission from both National Public Radio and American Public Radio.”

Paul A. Yost, Jr., a member of the Manhattan Third Ward, New York City Stake, has been promoted to the three-star rank of vice-admiral and appointed commander of the Atlantic area of the U.S. Coast Guard. Brother Yost had been serving as chief of staff of the Coast Guard since 1981. With the new appointment, he assumed command of U.S. Coast Guard forces in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and Europe.

An LDS sociologist has been honored for his work in helping to establish educational sociology in the post-secondary educational system of the Canadian province of Alberta, and in founding the Western Association of Sociology and Anthropology. Dr. Brigham Young Card, a grandson of the founder of Cardston, Alberta, was awarded the Sir Frederick Haultain Prize for his efforts.