Fireside Marks 159 Years Since Priesthood Was Restored
A special fireside was held on Sunday, May 15, in the Salt Lake Tabernacle to celebrate the 159th anniversary of the restoration of priesthood authority.
Telecast live via satellite to stake centers throughout the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, the fireside commemorated the day the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received the Aaronic Priesthood from John the Baptist on 15 May 1829 and the Melchizedek Priesthood from Peter, James, and John a short time later. Also commemorated in the meeting was the June 1978 revelation that made the blessings of the priesthood available to all worthy male members of the Church. (See OD—2.)
Speakers at the fireside included President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency; Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve; Elder Rex D. Pinegar of the First Quorum of the Seventy and First Counselor in the Young Men General Presidency; Elder Joseph Anderson, 98-year-old General Authority Emeritus; and Dean R. Cranney, an 18-year-old Aaronic Priesthood holder from Orem, Utah.
Quoting from the Doctrine and Covenants, President Hinckley said that among the reasons the gospel was restored was so “‘that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world.’ [D&C 1:20.] It does not say that every man shall speak in the name of God the Lord,” said President Hinckley. “The meaning is that every man may speak, provided he is worthy and receives the priesthood.”
President Hinckley also related his feelings on learning of the June 1978 revelation that allowed all worthy men to hold the priesthood. He was present when, in the upper room of the Salt Lake Temple, President Spencer W. Kimball led the General Authorities who were assembled in prayer.
“I do not recall the exact words he spoke,” President Hinckley said. “But I do recall my own feelings and the nature of the expressions of my brethren. There was a hallowed and sanctified atmosphere in the room. For me it felt as if a conduit opened between the heavenly throne and the kneeling, pleading prophet of God who was joined by his brethren.
“The Spirit of God was there. And by the power of the Holy Ghost there came to the prophet an assurance that the thing for which he prayed was right, that the time had come, and that now the wondrous blessings of the priesthood should be extended to worthy men everywhere, regardless of lineage.
“Every man in that circle, by the power of the Holy Ghost, knew the same thing,” he continued. “No voice audible to our physical ears was heard. But the voice of the Spirit whispered with certainty into our minds and our very souls.
“No one of us who was present on that occasion was ever quite the same after that,” he said. “Nor has the Church been quite the same.”
The priesthood is “veritably the power of the Almighty given to man to act in His name and in His stead,” President Hinckley said. “Without it, there could be a church in name only, lacking authority to administer in the things of God. With it, nothing is impossible in carrying forward the work of the kingdom of God.”
Elder Wirthlin reviewed the events surrounding the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood in 1829. He noted that “immediately after [Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery] were ordained and baptized, the Holy Ghost fell upon them. They prophesied things that would come to pass, and they were able to understand the scriptures more clearly than ever before.”
The priesthood, Elder Wirthlin said, “holds the authority for the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost and many other powers and rights to bless the children of our Heavenly Father.” He advised the young men of the Church to “avoid the unclean things of the world. To participate in the holy ordinances and assignments of the priesthood, we must do so with clean hands and a pure heart,” he said.
Elder Pinegar talked about the personal strength the priesthood gives to those who bear it. “It brings an assurance of the trust and confidence of the Lord, and an awareness that the bearer is linked in power and purpose with God,” he said. He recalled that both Moses and Ammon learned that “of himself man is nothing, but he [can] call upon God and through the power of God be made strong.”
Elder Anderson spoke about the blessings the priesthood has brought into his life. “What a blessed opportunity it is and has been over the years,” he said, “to attempt to draw near to the Lord, to partake of His Spirit, and to know that He hears and answers our prayers if we live righteously and keep His commandments.”
Brother Cranney, an Aaronic Priesthood holder, spoke about preparing himself to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood.
First Stake in Western Africa Formed
The Aba Nigeria Stake was formed May 15, becoming the Church’s first stake in western Africa.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve presided over the conference held to create the new stake. He was assisted by Elder Robert E. Sackley of the First Quorum of the Seventy, president of the Nigeria Lagos Mission since 1986.
“On this day, for this nation, there now comes more of the gospel’s fulness,” Elder Maxwell said. He spoke of the Lord’s timing and planning, and quoted Alma 29:8: “The Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have.”
The new African stake was created only a few weeks before the tenth anniversary of the 8 June 1978 revelation that made it possible for all worthy LDS males to be ordained to the priesthood. (See OD—2.)
Elder Maxwell recalled being present in the Salt Lake Temple on that historic day “when all the General Authorities gathered to sustain the revelation and decision from President Spencer W. Kimball.
“I wept with joy that day,” he said. “The handkerchief I wiped my tears with I took home and told my wife not to wash. I put it in my book of remembrance, still bearing the marks of my tears of joy.
“On this Sunday, I have a second handkerchief that has wiped more tears of joy,” Elder Maxwell told the congregation. “I will take it home and place it in my book of remembrance next to the other handkerchief.”
Elder Sackley spoke of his great love for the people of Nigeria. He said that the greatest goal of a mission president is to see a stake formed where there had previously been a mission district.
More than 1,000 members attended the Aba conference to sustain David W. Eka as president of the new stake, Ephraim S. Etete as first counselor, and Lazarus Onitchi as second counselor. Reuben Onuoha was sustained as stake patriarch.
The Aba Nigeria Stake has six wards and three branches. The stake’s 2,300 members include approximately 300 Melchizedek Priesthood holders. The first Church members in Aba were baptized in January 1981, and the Aba District was formed on 14 May 1984.
On July 1, the Nigeria Lagos Mission will be divided and the Nigeria Aba Mission, with Arthur William Elrey as president, will be created.
LDS Afro-American Symposium
Commemorating the tenth anniversary of the revelation extending the priesthood to all worthy male members of the Church, hundreds of people gathered at Brigham Young University on 8 June 1988 at the LDS Afro-American Symposium to hear speakers and panelists discuss the revelation’s significance and the changes it has brought about in the Church. The event was sponsored by the university’s Charles Redd Center for Western Studies.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve was the keynote speaker. He said there are some events in life so significant that we retain an indelible memory of where we were when they happened, and the revelation received ten years ago was such an event for him. “I cried for joy,” he said.
After speaking of the revelation itself, Elder Oaks discussed its effect on the Church’s worldwide growth, particularly in countries with large populations of blacks. “The most significant initial enlargement was in Brazil, where we were already established, and in the Caribbean islands.”
He recalled that in 1979, missionary work also began in Nigeria and Ghana. Since then, Church membership in west Africa has grown from 136 to 14,347. Growth has been “deliberately cautious,” Elder Oaks said, “so that we can train local leaders to preside over and direct the activities of the Church in the cities and villages. Last month, in Nigeria, Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve organized the first stake in the Church in western Africa.”
Elder Oaks added that Brazil has the greatest number of members of African ancestry in the Church today. Of the 250,000 Church members in Brazil, more than 40 percent are of mixed race, 6 percent being black.
Alan Cherry, a black member who heads the Afro-American Oral History Study for the Charles Redd Center, gave insightful and often humorous observations from his more than twenty years as a member of the Church and now as director of the oral history project. Brother Cherry and Jessie Embry, oral historian at the Center, have interviewed 225 black members.
One of the many interesting views from the study, according to Brother Cherry, is the report from black members that they generally have richer, more meaningful relationships with whites within the Church than with those outside it. He expressed hope that the symposium might be a means of education, where all who attended—both black and white—might learn to see “through this unique window of Afro-American experience together” and live differently, more interdependently, regardless of skin color. He pleaded for all Church members to set aside cultural differences and to look beyond skin color as they see and serve each other. “If [we] could forget being exotic and become generic, losing ourselves in the gospel,” he said, “the Church would be stronger, and the world will be better for it.”
James Walker, a black nonmember who founded the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, gave a stimulating address on the importance of family history as a means of coming to know who we are and what our families are all about. He urged black members to keep histories and to pursue their genealogy.
Several panelists also discussed such topics as “Experiences of Black Latter-day Saints” and “Outlook for the Future.”
Burgess Owens said he appreciates the years he played professional football with the Oakland Raiders so he could meet Todd Christensen and learn of the Church. He has learned what it means to be a worthy patriarch. “I appreciate the example of worthy priesthood holders who have shown me how to lead my family back to Heavenly Father,” he said.
Robert Stevenson of Georgia agreed, pointing out that although much of American black culture has been matriarchal, “the Church has provided us with the patriarchal model God wants us to live. We must live worthily so our wives can respect us and trust our leadership.”
Nathleen Albright, a mother and homemaker, spoke of her gratitude for a sense of place and belonging among people who strive for the same purpose and share the same values. Johnnie McKoy of North Carolina agreed and commented on the importance of associating with others who share his faith.
Jerri Harwell capsulized a view expressed many times in the symposium: “A child of God is a child of God. I am not a black child of God; I am just a child of God.”
Cleeretta Smiley, from Washington, D.C., stated that improvement has been made in the relations between white and black Church members, but she hopes that black members can become more visible.
Emanuel Reid of Georgia learned as a missionary that the better we get to know each other, the more we see our unity as children of the same God.
Catherine Stokes, from Chicago, agreed. “Love and service bridge all differences,” she said, “whether cultural, emotional, or racial.”
Elder Howard W. Hunter—Now President of the Quorum of the Twelve
Elder Howard W. Hunter was set apart on June 2 as president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Church President Ezra Taft Benson set President Hunter apart during a meeting of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve in the Salt Lake Temple.
President Hunter succeeds President Marion G. Romney, who succumbed on May 20 after a lengthy illness. President Hunter had been the acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve since November 1985.
The new president was sustained as an Apostle on 10 October 1959. He was born on 14 November 1907 in Boise, Idaho. After graduation with high honors from Southwestern University Law School in Los Angeles, he practiced law in southern California until his call to full-time Church service.
He has been president of the Genealogical Society and of the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii, and has served as chairman of both the Southern California and Los Angeles welfare regions.
President Hunter’s wife, the former Clara May Jeffs, died on 9 October 1983.
Temple Sites Acquired in Utah and Colombia
With increasing temple activity throughout the Church, the First Presidency has announced the acquisition of two sites for possible construction of additional temples.
One of the new sites is in Bountiful, Utah; the other is in Bogotá, Colombia.
While there are no definite plans for immediate construction, the choice properties were acquired while available.
The nine-acre Bountiful site is on the high east bench of the city and offers a panoramic view of the valley and the Great Salt Lake to the west. A road now under construction will provide easy access to the site.
In Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia, the new property comprises 3.75 acres. Bogotá was included as a prospective site when new temples were announced in 1984.
New temples are currently under construction in Las Vegas, Nevada; Portland, Oregon; San Diego, California; and Toronto, Ontario.
Facilities at the temple in Boise, Idaho, were recently enlarged, and temple facilities at Dallas, Texas, and Chicago, Illinois, are being similarly expanded.
Extensive renovation work is also in progress, or soon will be, at the Hawaii, Alberta, Swiss, and Oakland temples.
Hill Cumorah Pageant Gets New Look for 1988
“America’s Witness for Christ,” the outdoor pageant that has been staged on the western slope of Hill Cumorah near Palmyra, New York, for more than half a century, will have a new look this summer.
This year’s production will feature a new script, new musical score, new staging, and a new director.
The pageant, which has been viewed by millions of visitors over the years, is scheduled for July 22, 23, and 26–30, with each show beginning at 9:00 P.M. The public is invited, and there is no charge for admission. The show includes a cast of six hundred, who donate their time and talents.
Charles L. Metten, professor of theater, speech, and cinema at Brigham Young University, has been named director of the pageant. He will be assisted by Rodger Sorenson, chairman of the drama department at Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho, and Gerald Argetsinger, Rochester, New York, who is a teacher of theater at the National Institute for the Deaf.
A pageant entitled “Truth from the Earth” was staged at the hill in 1936, and in 1937, “America’s Witness for Christ” made its debut. Its director for more than four decades was Harold I. Hansen. Other directors have included Jack Sederholm and Lund Johnson.
Church to Renovate Carthage Jail Site
The Carthage, Illinois, site where the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were martyred will soon undergo an extensive renovation.
“We wish to properly recognize this very important location in the history of the Church, and to also accommodate a growing number of visitors who come to the site each year,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency.
The renovation will involve the entire city block on which the nineteenth-century Carthage Jail stands. A new wing will be added to the visitors’ center, and new exhibits, landscaping, and off-street parking will also be added, President Hinckley said.
At the same time the Carthage renovation plans were announced in Salt Lake City, a similar announcement was made in Nauvoo, Illinois. Elder Loren C. Dunn of the First Quorum of the Seventy, who is President of the North America Central Area of the Church and president of Nauvoo Restoration, Inc., made the announcement at a gathering of mayors and other dignitaries.
For years, the Church has operated a visitors’ center adjacent to the old jail where Joseph and Hyrum Smith were killed by a mob on 27 June 1844.
Life-size statues of Joseph and Hyrum Smith—replicas of those that have stood on Temple Square in Salt Lake City since 1911—will also be placed on the property, and the area around the jail will be cleared off and given a park-like appearance. The block itself will be enclosed by a wrought-iron fence, and six monuments will be placed along a brick walkway from the parking lot to the visitors’ center.
The project will be financed largely by contributions made by generous donors, Elder Dunn said.
Museum Displays Work of Mormon Artist Minerva Teichert
The art of Idaho and Wyoming ranch wife/artist Minerva Teichert is being displayed at the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City through October 10.
This highly trained and exceptionally talented artist raised five children and helped operate the family ranch while producing more than five hundred paintings on subjects ranging from Jim Bridger and the western Indians to the trek of the Mormon pioneers and stories from the Book of Mormon.
Sister Teichert produced many murals, including a room-size painting in the Manti Temple. Her paintings also hang in many Church, government, hotel, and school buildings in Utah, and have been used as illustrations in Church magazines.
The exhibit, “Rich in Story, Great in Faith: The Art of Minerva Kohlhepp Teichert,” includes 120 paintings, many photographs, and copies of a novel and local history she wrote. Also displayed are clothing items and a fully furnished replica of her living room/art studio.
A film recently produced by Brigham Young University featuring the artist’s life and her accomplishments will be shown periodically during the exhibit. The exhibit coincides with the 100th anniversary of Sister Teichert’s birth. She died in 1976.
Samoan Stamp Honors First LDS Missionaries
On 9 June 1988, the Samoa post office issued a new postage stamp commemorating the arrival of the first Latter-day Saint missionaries in Samoa one hundred years ago.
The three-dollar stamp depicts the Apia Samoa Temple. Souvenir sheets showing the islands of Savai’i, Upolu, and Tutuila, along with a reproduction of the stamp, have also been issued. Arrows show the route of the first missionaries.
WASHINGTON, D.C. —The Church has received a CINE Golden Eagle Award for its motion picture, How Rare a Possession—The Book of Mormon. The announcement was made by the Council on International Nontheatrical Events (CINE), a nonprofit organization that selects outstanding American films for entry in foreign motion picture events.
REXBURG, IDAHO —Charles “Tiny” Grant, director of development for Ricks College, has been named president of the Idaho Board of Education. He currently serves as president of the Rexburg Idaho College Third Stake.