Focus on Christ, Counsels the First Presidency in Yule Program

In a Christmas message to Latter-day Saints, President Ezra Taft Benson added his testimony to those of earlier prophets, reaffirming that Jesus Christ is the living Savior and Redeemer.

His message was delivered during the annual First Presidency Christmas Devotional, broadcast from Temple Square in Salt Lake City on December 4.

In an address that he asked President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, to read, President Benson noted that Book of Mormon prophets knew of the Savior’s coming birth long before it happened. Nephi, King Benjamin, and Alma each foretold that Christ would be born of the Virgin Mary.

“As these inspired prophets rejoiced in the birth and mission of the Savior, so should we. At this sacred season, I wish to add my witness to that of other prophets: The Son of God, even Jesus Christ, lives. He was born and lived in humble circumstances. He ministered among the children of men. He died in holy innocence. He arose from the grave in majesty with His resurrected body. And He will return again to the earth in great triumph and glory. He is indeed our Savior and our Redeemer, the Only Begotten of the Father. And because He lives, so shall we live eternally.”

President Benson’s message concluded with the hope: “May the Babe of Bethlehem be the object of our worship and the focus of our lives during this blessed Christmas season—and always.”

President Hinckley also conducted the devotional. “We extend our love at this glad Christmas season to each of you wherever you may be,” he said. “We hope that your hearts will be filled with gratitude as we, with others of the entire Christian world, commemorate the birth of our Savior during this sacred and special season of the year. May the peace of Christ be in your homes. May the love of Christ be in your hearts.”

President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, was the first speaker. He told two stories depicting the Christmas spirit. First, he related the story of a four-year-old boy who gave a copy of the Book of Mormon to a department store Santa Claus, which led to the man’s conversion to the Church. Based on a true incident, the story appeared in the December 1988 issue of the Friend (“From Lucas to Santa,” by April Gohier).

President Monson’s second story was about a little girl who had not been able to see Santa in the Christmas parade until a man noticed her crying and lifted her onto his shoulders. The spirit of Christmas prompts people to take notice of others in ways they don’t at other times, he said. President Monson explained why such powerful feelings mark this season of the year:

“With the birth of the Babe of Bethlehem, there emerged a great endowment, a power stronger than weapons, a wealth more lasting than the coins of Caesar. This child was to be the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Promised Messiah, even Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

“Born in a stable, cradled in a manger, he came forth from heaven to live on earth as mortal man and to establish the kingdom of God. During his earthly ministry, he taught men the higher law. His glorious gospel reshaped the thinking of the world.”

The Lord’s example of serving, giving, and helping, President Monson added, must be carried on by us today. There is time, he concluded, “to extend the helping hand, the loving heart and the willing spirit for the benefit of our Heavenly Father’s children. As we serve him in this way, we shall surely find him. In fact, he may come to us as one unknown, without a name, as of old he came by the lakeside to those men who knew him not. He speaks the same words, ‘Follow thou me,’ and sets us to the tasks which he has for us to fulfill in our time. He commands, and to those who obey him, whether they be wise or simple, he will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings by which they shall learn in their own experience who he is.”

Jerold D. Ottley conducted the Tabernacle Choir during the program, and the choir was accompanied by organists Robert Cundick and John Longhurst. The devotional was carried live over the Church satellite network to hundreds of meetinghouses in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

[photo] Church members gathered in hundreds of meetinghouses to hear the Christmas devotional broadcast from the Tabernacle on Temple Square. At the devotional, President Ezra Taft Benson and President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, encouraged members to follow the Savior’s example by serving others. (Photography by Philip S. Shurtleff.)

Be Missionaries, President Benson Tells Californians

President Ezra Taft Benson urged California Latter-day Saints to be active in missionary work as he spoke at a multi-region conference in the Los Angeles Sports Arena December 11.

Some 12,197 members filled the arena for the conference. They came from fourteen stakes in the Los Angeles California, San Fernando California, and Simi Valley California regions, plus two stakes from the Cerritos California Region.

Referring to the missions served by all his mother’s and father’s children, he admonished the congregation to become involved in missionary work.

Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve conducted the conference. He noted that the audience in the arena was more than twice as large as the audience that is able to find seats in the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City during general conference sessions.

Elder Packer chose obedience as the theme of his remarks, urging the congregation to be obedient in all things. In this vein, he quoted a line from his own patriarchal blessing, suggesting that it would be wise for all to follow this counsel: “Never say no to the opportunity to serve under the priesthood.”

Elder Ted E. Brewerton of the First Quorum of the Seventy, a member of the presidency of the North America West Area, spoke of the Book of Mormon, recalling experiences in presenting it to civic leaders in Guatemala and Mexico. “We will use every honorable means to see to it that all the world can own and read the Book of Mormon,” he said.

Translations of the proceedings were offered in Spanish, Samoan, Chinese, Korean, and sign language.

A 530-voice choir comprised of members from the stakes involved provided preliminary music and closed with “Hallelujah” from Handel’s Messiah.

Correspondent: Beth Paullin, multi-region public communications director for the Los Angeles California, Cerritos California, and Long Beach California regions.

[photo] Members from sixteen stakes in the Los Angeles, California, area enjoyed the opportunity to hear President Ezra Taft Benson and other General Authorities at a multi-region conference. (Photo by Rocky Kemp.)

A Conversation about Microfilming

The Church recently marked fifty years of microfilming records for family history research. To learn about microfilming today, the Ensign talked with Richard W. Ebert, Jr., director of acquisitions for the Family History Department.

Q. How many countries currently permit the Church to microfilm their family history records?

A. We have two hundred camera projects going in more than forty countries. We are acquiring or have acquired microfilmed records for most countries in North and South America, the British Isles, Scandinavia, many countries throughout Europe, much of the Pacific Basin, Africa, and some countries in Asia and the Orient.

We have tried to prioritize the countries of the world where members of the Church are most likely to need to do genealogical research, and to identify and copy the records which are most likely to provide the information members will need. Keeping these goals in mind helps us use our available resources as wisely as possible.

Q. How has it been possible to film records in so many places?

A. The most important factor is that the Lord is blessing us. For one thing, he has given us some excellent microfilmers who are real examples of faith and dedication. And they have better equipment than ever before. Our negotiators are being blessed in getting permission to film in many places that were previously closed to us.

Then, too, so many nonprofessional people are now involved in family history research that professional archivists are finding greater need to preserve records and make them available. Because the Church has become well known in the field of records preservation, many archivists turn to us or willingly listen to proposals from us to film their records. In fact, we have many more opportunities to film than we have cameras with which to film.

Q. How many microfilmed records does the Church have on file?

A. At present, we have about one and one-half million original rolls of microfilm in our collection. These rolls contain more than one and one-half billion exposures.

The rate at which we are filming throughout the world is increasing. In 1985, our workers filmed about thirty-seven million individual records. In 1988, they filmed nearly ninety million. We duplicate about seven thousand miles of microfilm each year for use in the Church’s family history libraries.

More important, though, is the fact that not only are we acquiring more records, but members of the Church are using the records we acquire more than ever before.

Q. Aren’t there many nonmembers who use these Church libraries?

A. About 67 percent of the users of LDS family history libraries are non-Latter-day Saints. We hope many of these people will contribute their research to the Church for inclusion in the Personal Ancestral File. That way their research can be preserved. Sometimes an uninterested spouse or relative will throw away the results of years of research after an avid family historian has died.

Most family history research is built upon the work of others. There’s a lot of sharing in the research community. Right now, for example, the Church is working with non-LDS genealogical organizations in the British Isles to compile information from the 1881 census.

Q. Is it difficult to win the cooperation of such groups?

A. Not as much now. Because of what Latter-day Saints have done in advancing microfilming and the preservation of documents, many international experts seek us out. The Church has made a tremendous contribution to records preservation in the world. This contribution is something in which the individual member of the Church can take pride.

[photo] Richard W. Ebert, Jr., director of acquisitions for the Church Family History Department. (Photo by Philip S. Shurtleff.)

Policies and Announcements

The following letter, signed by President Howard W. Hunter of the Quorum of the Twelve, has been sent to stake, mission, district, ward, and branch leaders throughout the Church.

For over seven decades, Church members have been urged to hold regular family home evenings. Great blessings are promised to those who follow the Lord’s counsel to do so. In 1915, the First Presidency said, “If the Saints obey this counsel [to hold family home evening], we promise that great blessings will result. Love at home and obedience to parents will increase. Faith will be developed in the hearts of the youth of Israel, and they will gain power to combat the evil influence and temptations which beset them.”

Monday night continues to be reserved for family home evening each week. Local leaders should see that Church buildings and facilities are closed on Monday nights. Stake and ward activities should not be planned for, or held on, Monday nights. Family home evenings may include family recreational activities in addition to gospel instruction.

Regarding families and the Sabbath, the following counsel was given when the consolidated meeting schedule was introduced: “Because the new schedule will give families time together on Sundays, parents should plan activities for the Sabbath that will spiritually strengthen the family.” Suggestions included were gospel discussion and instruction, writing personal and family journals, holding family councils, family organization efforts, personal interviews between parents and children, writing to relatives and missionaries, family history work, visiting relatives and those who may be ill or lonely, missionary work, reading stories to children, and singing Church hymns together. Leaders should avoid scheduling too many extra meetings on Sunday which will keep families from having time together on the Sabbath.

We remind all: the Lord has admonished parents to teach their children the gospel. (See D&C 68:25–28.) While the most important resources for teaching are the scriptures, parents are encouraged to also use the Family Home Evening Resource Book, general conference addresses, Church magazines, Church videos, and other appropriate family oriented materials. Every new convert family and every newly married couple should be provided a copy of the Family Home Evening Resource Book by the bishopric.

Under the direction of parents, the family should hold a family home evening each week. Family home evenings should focus on building unity and joyful togetherness through activities and through studying the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Branches Offer Winter Haven for Seasonal Visitors

A growing number of Latter-day Saints who travel to sunbelt areas of the southwestern United States during the cold winter months are finding an unexpected source of spiritual warmth. They bask in the love and friendship that abound in winter-only branches organized to meet their needs.

Seasonal visitors from the northern United States and from Canada swell the winter population of many areas in the southern U.S. In the Southwest, hundreds of those visitors are LDS. For them, winter branches offer a Church home away from home and at the same time give them an opportunity to serve and strengthen the stakes of Zion there.

One of the largest is the Yuma Sixth Branch of the Yuma Arizona Stake. But there is also a large winter branch in the Blythe California Stake, at Quartzsite, Arizona, and a small branch of the El Centro California Stake in Bombay Beach, California. In the southwestern corner of Utah, both the St. George Utah East Stake and the Washington Utah West Stake have winter-only branches.

Leslie H. Farley, president of the Yuma Branch, says his service there “is one of the most joyful things I’ve ever done in the Church.”

There are many members in the branch, he says, “who have found the Church again.” They have opportunities for service in leadership and teaching positions that are not available in well-staffed home wards. For some, it is the first time in years they have had the opportunity to bless or pass the sacrament, to offer a prayer or usher, or to serve on a committee planning an activity. Sometimes members who were less active in their home wards come back into full activity in the warm, congenial atmosphere of the branch.

President Farley says the branch has made special efforts to locate all Latter-day Saints in the area to provide home and visiting teachers, particularly those who might not come out unless a concerted effort is made to reach them. “We’re just trying to love them back into the Church,” he says.

Many of the visitors make valuable contributions in their winter areas. Those who are former ward and stake leaders often take on fellowshipping, teaching, and missionary roles. President William Vaughn Neve, second counselor in the presidency of the Washington Utah West Stake, says winter visitors give a tremendous boost to the stake’s work in the St. George Temple. In Yuma, where visitors work on the local welfare project, service there has helped reactivate some members.

In some places, winter visitors find unusual meeting places and conditions. The Bombay Beach Branch meets in a local health club and spa. Glenn McMillan, who was until recently the El Centro stake’s high council adviser to the branch, says average attendance usually reaches no more than sixty-five during the winter. But he says members are good about fellowshipping non-LDS winter visitors and local residents.

Fellowshipping could bring a welcome problem to the Blythe stake’s Quartzsite Branch, says branch president Bud Layne. The branch was expected to reach a peak of nearly six hundred members this year, with regular attendance straining the community building in which the branch meets. In addition, members had to move out of the building for two weeks to make way for Quartzsite’s annual rock show.

The winter visitors are welcomed wherever they go. Many choose not to attend winter-only branches; they contribute their Church experience and leadership skills in year-round local units as they are invited to do so. But where a winter unit is provided for them, it is probably done in the spirit expressed by Earl Neeley, president of the Yuma stake: “We wanted our winter visitors to feel at home and let them know that the Church needs them and offers them something when they get here.”

Correspondent: George Morrison, public communications director for the Yuma Arizona Stake.

[photo] Winter visitors sort grapefruit as part of a Yuma Arizona Stake welfare activity. Work on the grapefruit project has helped bring some members back into full activity. (Photo by George Morrison.)

Circulation of Church Publications



New Era




International Magazines


At the end of 1988, the combined circulation of Church periodicals was 1,176,000. Frequently, more than one reader sees each copy of a publication, so actual readership of Church magazines may run well into the millions. The Ensign’s regular circulation is moving toward 600,000; however, in anticipation of additional demand for the January issue, which focused on the Church’s correlated curriculum for 1989, some 605,000 copies were printed.

Scouting for Food

Nearly twenty million Americans, including four million children, go hungry at some point every month, reports national U.S. Scouting literature.

To help alleviate the problem, the Boy Scouts of America launched the Scouting for Food Good Turn project nationwide. On November 19, councils in every state held drives to collect food for the needy.

The results provided enough food to supply service organizations for months. Even the smaller councils had impressive turnouts. In the Two Rivers Council in Illinois, for example, 3,600 Scouts collected 71,250 nonperishable food items.

In large metropolitan areas, contributions approached staggering proportions. The Los Angeles Area Council had about 30,000 Scouts participate, with thirteen independent trucking lines donating transportation. They collected about two hundred tons of food. The Scouts of the Greater Los Angeles Basin gathered nearly nine hundred tons.

The National Capital Area Council drive was one of the most successful. The approximately 25,000 Scouts were assisted by the National Guard, which provided transportation, and Giant Foods, Inc., which provided bags, literature, additional transportation, and their facilities as collection points. The effort covered Washington, D.C., and seventeen counties in Maryland and Virginia.

One unit, Troop 242, sponsored by the Potomac South Ward, Washington DC Stake, is an example of the kind of effort the Scouts gave. The 35 Scouts in the ward passed out fliers explaining the program, telephoned to follow up, and collected food for three weeks. Scoutmaster Richard Hunter said that, though no exact count could be taken, the boys “filled four station wagons to the limit.” With efforts like this, more than 811,000 pounds of food were collected throughout the council.

The Great Salt Lake Council also had a successful drive. By the end of the day, the 7,631 Scouts and 2,599 leaders in 861 troops had collected 406,504 items of food—more than four hundred tons—for the needy in the community. In one district alone, 392 boys collected 35,621 items. The food was desperately needed because many of the food banks in the area had depleted their reserves.

Several organizations in the community also pitched in. Utah Power & Light donated bags and boxes for the project, and the National Guard provided the trucks. Volunteers from the Lowell Bennion Community Service Center helped load and unload the food. The Church shared warehouse space in Salt Lake City for storage and pledged several thousand pounds of dried milk. Member contributions had made the donation of milk possible.

One Scout, Orvill S. Paller, senior patrol leader of Troop 83, Ensign Peak District, and a member of the Center Ward, Salt Lake Rose Park Stake, sums up the feelings that day. He had earlier asked his Scout leaders to let his troop participate. “We felt we should be thankful this time of year and help our neighbors who may not have what we have. We ended up collecting a lot, but even if we hadn’t, it was important just to participate. I felt good collecting the food because I knew that some people who didn’t have anything to eat would now have something.”


Regional Representatives

Albuquerque New Mexico and El Paso Texas regions, Dale R. Shumway, attorney, former bishop and mission president.

Cardston Alberta, Edmonton Alberta, and Lethbridge Alberta regions, Lynn Albert Rosenvall, university professor, former stake president.

Madrid Spain Region, Paul Rene Hatch, retired businessman, former bishop and mission president.

San Jose Costa Rica, Merida Mexico regions, Manuel Najera, Jr., importer/exporter, former stake and mission president.

Rock Springs Wyoming and Woods Cross Utah regions, Ronald Clyde Walker, rancher, former bishop and stake president.

Seoul Korea Region, Ko Won Yong, data processing representative, former stake president.

Vernal Utah and Roosevelt Utah regions, Errol Smith Phippen, insurance training director, former stake and mission president.

Thatcher Arizona and Tucson Arizona regions, John Richard Peterson, dentist, former bishop and stake president.

Cordoba Argentina, Tucuman Argentina, and Mendoza Argentina regions, Robert Nestor Olaiz, educator, former district president and counselor in stake presidency.

Monterrey Mexico, Libertad Mexico, Saltillo Mexico regions, Roberto T. Guzman Rodriguez, physician, former district and stake president.

Mission President

Garth Geddes Eames, of Rupert, Idaho, a retired farmer, has been called to preside over the Washington Spokane Mission. He and his wife, Edna Lou Stratford Hyde Eames, have ten children, the youngest two of whom will accompany them in this assignment.

LDS Scene

WASHINGTON, D.C. —The Soviet ambassador to the United States was “deeply touched” by a $100,000 gift from Church members to aid Armenian earthquake victims. Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Council of the Twelve reported after delivering the gift. Elder Nelson delivered the gift at the Soviet embassy December 14, along with a letter of condolence from the First Presidency. He promised the ambassador that more aid would be forthcoming. Some of the donated funds came from money contributed earlier by Church members for disaster relief. But following the earthquake in Armenia December 7, contributions to aid its victims began to come in almost immediately from Church members, and these continue. “It’s been a very interesting thing how members of the Church worldwide have had a compassionate feeling for the people affected by this tragedy in Armenia,” Elder Nelson said. Members wishing to contribute to the Armenian Relief Fund may do so through their bishops or may send the contributions to the Presiding Bishop.

MEXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA, AND THE PHILIPPINES —A number of Church members have been affected by recent hurricane and flood damage at sites around the world, but to date no members are known to have been killed by the disasters. Hurricane and flood damage in Mexico and other areas of Central America has been extensive. Fortunately, members of the Church and missionaries in these areas are unhurt. Some forty families have reported property damage in Costa Rica, Panama, and El Salvador. Local leaders and other members are assisting with their recovery. In the Philippines, some members continue to raft to church due to extensive flooding; two chapels in the Pasig Philippines Stake, near Laguna de Bay, have been isolated by floods. At least sixteen families have been forced from their homes into temporary quarters until the floods subside. No significant damage to Church property has been reported.

HELENA, MONTANA —Church members in Montana have joined with people of other faiths in the fight to stop pornography. President Jed Stanfill of the Helena Montana Stake was among the representatives of religious groups at the signing of the governor’s proclamation of “Pornography Awareness Week” beginning October 3. The president of Montana Citizens for Decency through Law, Dallas D. Erickson, of the Libby Ward, also arranged for a state interdenominational meeting December 1. The religious representatives then drafted a position paper against obscene materials. The paper was to circulate throughout Montana.

NEW HAMPSHIRE AND KANSAS —Latter-day Saint leaders sparked awareness of National Family Week, November 20–26, in both New England and the Midwest. In New England, because of efforts of the New Hampshire Manchester Mission, the governors of New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont all signed proclamations recognizing the week. And the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, responded to requests from Church members in proclaiming National Family Week in his city. The mayors of Liberty and Potts, Missouri, issued similar proclamations.

CINCINNATI, OHIO —For the fourth year in a row, the Cincinnati Ohio North Stake Relief Society held a Christmas festival to help members of their community usher in the holidays. The festival was preceded by one held for the second year by the Cincinnati Ohio Stake Relief Society. Both gatherings offered seminars on the life and mission of Jesus Christ. In keeping with seasonal interests, craft and demonstration workshops, tree decorations, display tables, a fashion show, a Kiddie Korner, and lunch were also offered. At the Cincinnati North stake’s festival, a table labeled “Our Gift of Love,” offering free copies of the Book of Mormon, soon ran out. About 1,000 people, more than 50 percent nonmembers, attended the two festivals.

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO —Local members left on missions in increasing numbers during the last half of 1988, despite being asked to provide more of their own financial support. The first half of the year saw a drop in the number of new local missionaries, but the size of outgoing groups at the missionary training center rebounded in the second half of the year to equal or exceed the size of groups in earlier years.

AREQUIPA, PERU —Missions in Arequipa and Lima, Peru, will be able to purchase some new baptismal clothes, thanks to a group of Utah children . The children of the Farmington Seventh Ward, Farmington Utah North Stake, raised and sent the money for the clothing. Last year, they also donated funds to one of Peru’s missions for the same purpose.

HAARLEM, NETHERLANDS —Dutch Church members are taking part in an interdenominational project that provides food, goods, and financial aid for citizens in Poland. In addition to aiding Polish citizens, the project is helping to open doors for missionary work in the Netherlands. After each shipment to Poland, participants in the project hold a worship service in a historic chapel in Haarlem, and every church involved takes part.

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA —The U.S. Postal Service has recommended that would-be genealogists become familiar with the LDS Church’s family history libraries. The recommendation was part of the postal service’s promotion in November 1988 of genealogical research under a program called “Plant a Family Tree.” A brochure printed by the postal service advises readers to get information through LDS family history libraries. It says: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the largest collection of genealogical information in the world. For information, visit a church near you.” It then offers the address of the Church’s Family History Library in Salt Lake City. The postal service also offers a pamphlet entitled “Suggestions for Beginners in Genealogy” and is selling an introductory home study course with a book, Instructions for Beginners in Genealogy.

SALT LAKE CITY —The Tabernacle Choir has received the National Recognition Medal from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, one of four awarded in 1988. Presented by foundation president Robert Miller at the Salt Lake Tabernacle November 20, the medal honors organizations and individuals who have promoted patriotism and pride in the American heritage. The choir has recorded several albums of patriotic music and sung at a number of presidential inaugurations. Last year, the choir sang during Australia’s bicentennial celebrations as an official cultural representative of the United States.