Fireside Marks Ninety Years for President Benson
Church members throughout the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico joined in wishing President Ezra Taft Benson a happy ninetieth birthday during a special satellite-broadcast fireside on July 30.
During the program, President Benson was honored by tributes from his counselors and family members, as well as from United States President George Bush, who, via videotape, recognized President Benson with a special award.
President Benson celebrated his actual birthday Friday, August 4, by attending a family gathering at Midway, Utah, during the morning, and a reception for General Authorities in the Church Administration Building during the afternoon.
The program, broadcast from the Tabernacle on Sunday night, allowed thousands of members to join in celebrating his milestone. “I love you, my brothers and sisters, and pray God’s blessings upon each of you,” President Benson told the audience in his response to the tributes.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, spoke of President Benson’s constancy and spiritual strength.
“I have had occasion to hear him pray,” President Hinckley recalled. “He does not ask the Lord for much, but he thanks Him for every blessing.” Loyalty, gratitude, and faith are the virtues on which President Benson’s life has been established, he said.
“We shall sustain you in your high and holy calling,” President Hinckley affirmed. “I now repeat my pledge of loyalty and love.”
President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, made a similar pledge.
“My overwhelming desire, President Benson, is to stand by your side unflinchingly and to fulfill to the best of my ability each assignment you give to me. Your own personal testimony echoes my own feelings when you declare, ‘With all my heart I love this work, and those who lead it and those who strive to live its teachings. I hope and pray that I shall always be numbered among the faithful Latter-day Saints.’”
President Monson also commented that the Church President exemplifies the ideals embodied in the Scout oath.
In his videotaped birthday greeting, President Bush reviewed a number of President Benson’s accomplishments in family, Church, and government life. The U. S. president then announced that he had awarded President Benson the Presidential Citizens Medal, given to those who have been outstanding in service to the country or to their fellow citizens. “Your service,” President Bush said, “has been the very model of selfless devotion and compassion.”
Margaret Benson Keller, President Benson’s sister, recalled that her brother was “a happy, normal boy, full of laughter and teasing and pranks.” But she said that he learned the value of hard work and to respond to the promptings of the Spirit. “His contact with our Heavenly Father is direct and regular,” she said, and bore testimony of President Benson’s prophetic calling.
Barbara Benson Walker noted that her father “has said that the youth need more models than critics, and he has been a wonderful model.” She recalled his example of faith and steadfastness, love, kindness, courtesy, and respect. “We children have been the grateful recipients of his loving service and counsel,” she said.
President Hinckley and President Monson presented President Benson a leather-bound book containing expressions of love from them and from the Quorum of the Twelve.
The invocation was given by Elder Boyd K. Packer and the benediction by President Howard W. Hunter, both of the Quorum of the Twelve. The Tabernacle Choir sang two of President Benson’s favorite hymns—“I Believe in Christ” and “I Need Thee Every Hour”—in addition to a hymn composed for President Wilford Woodruff’s ninetieth birthday in 1897: “We Ever Pray for Thee.”
Sister Walker also sang an arrangement of “O My Papa,” and Mary Benson Richards, a granddaughter, played “The Lord’s Prayer” on the flute, accompanied by Stephanie Benson Young, another granddaughter.
Remembering the Pioneers—
Plaque, Cabin Memorialize 1847 Pioneers
Church leaders dedicated two historical sites in the Salt Lake Valley on July 21 and 22 that memorialize the pioneers who arrived in 1847.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, dedicated a marker on the grounds of the Utah State Capitol July 21 that notes the significance of Ensign Peak in the state’s history. Ensign Peak is about a mile north of the Capitol, overlooking the valley.
President Ezra Taft Benson and members of his family attended the dedication; he is a great-grandson of Elder Ezra T. Benson of the Quorum of the Twelve, who accompanied President Brigham Young to the top of the peak on 26 July 1847 to study the valley.
As President Young and his party surveyed the valley, someone suggested that this peak would be a good place to erect “an ensign to the nations,” in connection with the prophecy in Isaiah 11:12. Later, explains the metal plaque on the new marker, “a standard was erected on its summit.”
In 1934, a historical monument was built on Ensign Peak, but it was destroyed by vandals. The new marker was erected on the Capitol grounds by the Salt Lake Chapter of the Sons of the Utah Pioneers. Its location provides a view of the peak and makes the marker more accessible to visitors and less vulnerable to vandals.
On July 22, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve dedicated a restored log cabin that belonged to settlers who arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in October of 1847.
The cabin, one of two remaining from the valley’s first settlement, now stands in Old Deseret Village at Pioneer Trail State Park, next to the This Is the Place monument, which overlooks the Salt Lake Valley. The cabin originally belonged to Levi and Rebecca Riter, great-grandparents of Elder Wirthlin’s wife, Elise. Sister Wirthlin and her husband both spoke during the dedicatory services.
In 1988, the number of countries with organized wards and branches of the Church reached the one hundred mark. It had hovered near one hundred for five years. The figure does not include the twenty-five territories, colonies, and possessions that have wards and branches.
Countries with Organized Wards and Branches
Paris, Idaho, Tabernacle Focus of Centennial
The Paris, Idaho, tabernacle, with its tower that can be seen for miles and its unique ceiling crafted by a former ship’s carpenter, is a landmark in southern Idaho. This year, the structure so lovingly built by pioneer craftsmen is one hundred years old, so residents, former residents, and visitors to Paris celebrated its centennial on July 25 to 29 in a series of events that included a historical play written for the occasion, a parade, and a commemorative program.
The program, held on Saturday, July 29, featured talks by three General Authorities—Elder Hugh W. Pinnock of the Presidency of the Seventy and Elder F. Melvin Hammond and Elder Richard P. Lindsay of the Second Quorum of the Seventy.
Elder Pinnock pointed out that the difficulties pioneers faced made Bear Lake Valley, straddling the Utah-Idaho border, “a sort of geographic Zion’s Camp experience” that brought forth a particularly hardy group of Latter-day Saints whose descendants have had a great influence throughout the Church. He called on today’s members to emulate the faith, the intellectual liveliness, the resourcefulness and ingenuity, the courage and love of God that those pioneers showed. Like them, he advised, we should focus our efforts in life on spiritual pursuits—on the activities that matter most in eternity.
Elder Lindsay recalled a prophecy of President Brigham Young, during the hard times of the first years in the Salt Lake Valley, that the rich and influential of the world would come to envy the Saints in their mountain homes.
“When our people were living in little log cabins,” he reflected, “they were dreaming of the spires of the Salt Lake Temple.” The things they foresaw have come to pass, he said, elaborating on the strength of the pioneer spirit. “We need more of that kind of spirit today.”
He called on the descendants of the Idaho pioneers to reach out to others. “Help them to understand that the frontier of the Church is now the world.”
Elder Hammond added his own testimony that the pioneer spirit is still needed today, in a much broader field. He spoke of the need for members with that spirit to take the gospel throughout the world. “You are pioneers, and the world is just opening to the restored gospel.”
Friday, July 28, was Pioneer Family Association Day in Paris. A presentation in the tabernacle dramatized the life of Elder Charles C. Rich, the member of the Quorum of the Twelve who was called by Brigham Young to lead colonization efforts in the Bear Lake Valley in 1863.
In addition to the commemorative program on Saturday afternoon, there was a parade in the morning, a flagpole dedication on the tabernacle lawn, and an evening class reunion program for all those who graduated from Fielding Academy, later Fielding High School, in Paris.
Saturday’s events drew between two thousand and three thousand people to Paris, a town whose population is just over seven hundred.
The week’s events culminated in a Sunday sacrament service in the tabernacle focusing on the pioneers, represented by some of their living descendants. Among the congregation were guests from stakes once part of the Bear Lake (now Paris Idaho) Stake. The stake once included Montpelier, Grace, and Soda Springs in Idaho, and Afton, Thayne, and Kemmerer in Wyoming.
Correspondent: Dorothy C. Law
Church Joining in Effort to Help Armenia Rebuild
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve and Elder Hans B. Ringger of the First Quorum of the Seventy represented the Church at the signing of an agreement in Moscow August 8 that will lead to the construction of housing for Armenians left homeless by a devastating earthquake last December.
Some fifty thousand people died and more than half a million are still homeless as a result of that quake.
The Church is a party to an agreement that also includes an organization called the American-Armenian Bridge of Friendship. That organization was represented at the signing by American industrialist Armand Hammer and Utah businessman Jon Huntsman.
Both Mr. Hammer and Brother Huntsman, president of the Salt Lake Monument Park Stake, have contributed toward aiding victims of the earthquake. Through the American-Armenian Bridge of Friendship, both are helping in organizing the building effort. The Church will provide technical help with the building, Elder Nelson said in his remarks at the signing of the agreement.
“We intend to invite skilled craftsmen and technical experts from the membership of the Church to assist in this most worthy cause,” he said. “We share the hope that this project may be completed as rapidly as possible and that it may symbolize our deep admiration for the people of Armenia and for all of this great nation.”
The prime minister of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, Vladimir Surenovich Markariants, told the Americans, “The Armenian people are indebted to you for this act of thoughtful generosity. We are like the American people in many ways. We both have a great love of life. We want to have you come to Armenia and meet our people and learn of our ways.”
The agreement signed in Moscow called for “a specific plan setting forth the terms and conditions of cooperation” to be entered into by September 15.
Promised Valley Playhouse Vocal School Gaining Prestige
The Church-sponsored Promised Valley Playhouse in Salt Lake City was the place for aspiring opera singers to be for two weeks in July.
This year, as in each of the past two summers, some of the most renowned master opera vocal coaches in the world gathered at the playhouse to teach the finer points of singing opera and songs to vocal students from throughout the United States and other countries.
The annual International Vocal School is sponsored by the Promised Valley Playhouse and the Temple Square Concert Series, under the direction of the Priesthood and Missionary departments.
The school gives LDS vocalists an opportunity to receive training from world-famous master teachers, says Iain B. McKay, organizer of the school. “It also gives our students the opportunity to determine their level of performance and helps them determine if they have the potential to sing professionally,” he says.
This July, students came from fifteen states and three foreign countries to receive training from the visiting masters. More than half of the students were LDS.
The faculty of the school this year came from Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, Hungary, China, and the United Kingdom. The masters perform in the evenings on Temple Square, in addition to conducting master classes during the day. This year, Chinese/Malaysian soprano Loh Siew-Tuan also performed as a soloist on the weekly Tabernacle Choir broadcast.
At the conclusion of the school, the students presented scenes from operas in concerts open to the public.
“Part of the charter of Promised Valley Playhouse is to provide training in the arts for Latter-day Saints and to introduce our values to our non-LDS friends,” says J. Murray Rawson, manager of the playhouse. “With a vocal school of such high caliber, we’re able to do both.”
Martina Bovet, principal soprano with the Basel Switzerland Opera, wrote of her experience at the International Vocal School, “I am very, very much impressed and happy. Thank you for this wonderful gift. In these ten days I have learned so much.”
“When Miklos Szinetar was asked how long he wanted to stay for the vocal school this year, he said he enjoys working with the Mormons so much it would be a minimum of one month, and a maximum of ten years,” Brother McKay says.
Auditions for the school are held each February and may be arranged in Los Angeles, New York, London, Brussels, Budapest, New Zealand, Australia, and Salt Lake City by contacting the Promised Valley Playhouse at (801) 364-5696, 132 S. State Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84111, United States of America.
A similar school for training outstanding pianists is held at the playhouse each June. It is sponsored by the playhouse and the Temple Square Concert Series, in conjunction with the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition.
Name Extraction Milestone: 100 Million since 1977
Sometime on June 6, as nearly as administrators in the Family History Department can calculate, the department received the one hundred-millionth name processed through the stake record extraction program.
It came in a batch submitted by the Bountiful Utah Region, says Warren Johnson, manager, Record Extraction Section.
But the one hundred-million milestone isn’t as significant “as the number of people whose lives have been affected on the other side of the veil, and on this side of the veil,” Brother Johnson comments. Work in the name extraction program has not only made possible ordinance work for individuals who are deceased, it has been responsible for reactivation, baptism, and increased spirituality for many of those who take part in it in mortality.
The record extraction program began in the St. George, Utah, stake in 1977. Over several months of that year, the stake extracted 20,000 names. Since then, the program has grown to involve nearly 800 stakes throughout the Church. Last year, some fifteen million names were processed through stake extraction centers. Approximately 15,000 volunteers are involved in the stake record extraction program throughout the Church.
A few years ago, the stake record extraction program was furnishing about 85 percent of the names submitted to temples for ordinance work. But that percentage has dropped as individual members have increased their own activity in family history; individuals now furnish about one-third of the names.
The stake extraction program is separate from the new, rapidly growing family record extraction program in which individuals extract information from paper copies of records in their own homes.
In Ham Lingo, Radio Group’s Convention Was “Fine Business”
Amateur radio operators from as far away as Australia enjoyed “eyeball QSOs” (face-to-face, instead of on-air, meetings) at the third biannual world convention of the Mercury Amateur Radio Association, held in Utah July 20 to 22.
But the convention was devoted to matters far more important than ham radio “rag-chewing.” MARA was originally organized to be of service to the Church in times of emergency. Members met for presentations and discussions on a wide variety of topics related to emergency communications and service to Church and communities.
The convention drew 371 registrants to discussion sessions and activities in the Bountiful Utah Val Verda Stake headquarters, ten minutes north of Salt Lake City. Topics for the radio operators’ sessions ranged from the function of stake emergency communication specialists to the use of emergency power sources and operation with low-power radio rigs.
At the opening session on Thursday evening, association president Preben H. Nielsen told MARA members that the organization now has 3,600 members, up from just 109 when it began in 1983. There are concentrations of members in California, Utah, and the northwestern United States, with members also located in most of the other states, in Canada, and in more than twenty other countries.
These MARA members collectively put millions of dollars’ worth of radio equipment at Church leaders’ disposal when emergency communications are needed. But that fact doesn’t mean anything if the radio operators aren’t prepared to handle emergency traffic rapidly and effectively, Brother Nielsen said. “You’re not helpful to us if you don’t participate in the program,” he added, urging members to take part in regular on-air training sessions and meetings designed to keep them ready for emergencies.
Other speakers at the convention included Gay Lindsay, a member of the steering committee of the Business and Industry Council for Emergency Planning and Preparedness in Los Angeles, who showed a videotape of emergency operations following the Mexico City earthquake in 1985 and reviewed lessons learned from that disaster. Keith McMullin, managing director of Welfare Services, also spoke and thanked MARA members for their service to the Church following disasters.
MARA members now operate, on regular schedules, nearly fifty shortwave radio nets covering or linking regions and localities in the United States and Canada and on other continents as well.
Amateur radio operators interested in MARA may contact the Church’s Welfare Services Department, 50 E. North Temple Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84150.
Manchester England and Merthyr Tydfil Wales regions, Geoffrey D. Mawlam, an area manager of acquisitions for the Church Family History Department, former stake president and bishop.
Managua Nicaragua and San Pedro Sula Honduras regions, Luis Alberto Alvarez Ovando, a Church Educational System coordinator, former stake president and counselor in a stake presidency.
Culiacan Mexico, Los Mochis Mexico, and Obregon Mexico regions, Leobardo Espinoza Saenz, accountant, former stake president and bishop.
Las Vegas Nevada East and Las Vegas Nevada North regions, Neil “C” Twitchell, businessman and retired school principal, former stake president and counselor in a stake presidency.
Policies and Announcements
When a bishop issues a Patriarchal Blessing Recommend (PFPA0080), he should inform the candidate of the sacred nature of this blessing and impress upon the member the necessity of being spiritually prepared to receive it. The member should be instructed to go to the patriarch in proper Sunday attire and with a prayerful attitude.
The member may fast if he or she desires but should not be required to do so by priesthood leaders. The patriarchal blessing is sacred, confidential, and personal; therefore, it will be given in private. However, family members (parents, husband, or wife) may be present when the blessing is given.
New Year’s Eve Activities, 1989
This year, New Year’s Eve falls on Sunday. In countries where it is customary to hold New Year’s Eve socials, the following suggestions may be helpful to priesthood leaders in planning such activities:
Schedule the activity on Saturday, 30 December 1989, with dancing and similar activities ending at 11:30 P.M. Participants will then be free to go home immediately thereafter and be available for regular Sunday meetings.
In place of holding ward or stake socials or dances this year, encourage families to celebrate New Year’s Eve, 1989, together. This could become a positive extended family activity as they gather after their Sunday meetings. Where an extended family gathering is not possible, several families might gather together in a home and have a joint family activity. Activities should be kept appropriate for the Sabbath day.
Hold special firesides at a reasonable hour on Sunday evening.
Activities That Are Not Approved
Three-wheeled all-terrain vehicles have been involved in an unusually high incidence of recreation-related deaths and serious injuries. For these reasons, the use of three-wheeled all-terrain vehicles is not permitted at Church-sponsored outings and recreational activities. This exclusion should be added to the list of “Activities That Are Not Approved,” Activities Committee Handbook, pages 8–9, and Young Women Handbook, p. 20.
Lessons and Recitals on Meetinghouse Organs and Pianos
Because trained organists and pianists are vital to Church worship services, meetinghouse organs and pianos may be used for recitals and paid private instruction, but only when there is no reasonable alternative, and only when such use will further the Church music program.
Certain restrictions should be followed:
The agent bishop and the stake president must approve the use of the meetinghouse for organ or piano instruction or recitals.
The ward music chairman should coordinate arrangements for approved use.
Either the teacher or the student should be a member of the unit in which the instrument is housed.
Instruction and recitals should not interfere with Church meetings and activities.
There must be no admission charge for recitals or other performances.
Relief Society Publications
A number of publications that deal with protection of women and prevention of child abuse are available at Church distribution centers. These would be helpful to families and to priesthood and Relief Society leaders.
The following are some examples: Child Abuse—Helps for Ecclesiastical Leaders (PGSC0386 N/C), Self-protection for Babysitters (PXRS0293; $.10 each), Safety Precautions for Women and Children (PXRS0497; $.10 each), Your New Baby (brochure, PXRS0329; $.10 each), Your Baby and You (filmstrip, VVOF3095; $2.50 each).
Remodeling Completed in Temple Square Visitors’ Center
The North Visitors’ Center on Temple Square now has four new theaters and a spacious new resource center. These new features take the place of several older dioramas and exhibits.
A new 144-seat theater on the upper level offers continuous presentations of Together Forever. Tour groups see this film immediately following the presentation in front of The Christus, the white marble statue of the Savior.
Outside the three smaller theaters is a spacious new lobby, or resource room, furnished with sofas, chairs, and desks. It is “a comfortable place where visitors can relax, meditate, and enjoy the serenity of Temple Square,” says Ralph O. Bradley, Temple Square director. Here, visitors may request copies of the Book of Mormon and other information about the Church. Five new paintings by Salt Lake City artist James Porter decorate the walls of this room. Also included are teaching rooms where people may receive missionary discussions from Temple Square hosts and hostesses.
Two previously existing theaters and three thirty-seat “international” theaters (for languages other than English) continue to show other Church-produced films. The murals depicting the life of Christ and other biblical scenes also continue to attract the attention of Temple Square visitors.
Even with the three-and-a-half-month remodeling project going on, the number of bus tour groups visiting Temple Square continued to climb. At the end of June, the number of scheduled bus tours had already exceeded the total for all of 1988.
Nearly six hundred thousand people visited Temple Square in June, and the total visitors for the first six months of the year surpassed 1.5 million. In 1988, some 4,162,440 people visited Temple Square—exceeding the number of annual visitors to either the Statue of Liberty or the Washington Monument.
PROVO, UTAH, AND LOGAN, UTAH—Two members of the Quorum of the Twelve recently received honorary doctorate degrees. Elder Marvin J. Ashton received an honorary doctorate of humanities from Brigham Young University as part of its commencement ceremonies on April 28. Elder Russell M. Nelson received an honorary doctorate of medical science from Utah State University at its commencement on June 3.
LAKE OSWEGO, OREGON—Some 314,260 visitors toured the Portland Temple before its dedication. Nearly twenty-two thousand people passed through the building on July 8, the last day of the open house period. Larry Linton, area public communications director and a member of the temple committee, attributed the success of the open house to “a total effort” by everyone involved in planning and daily operations.
BLAINE, WASHINGTON—Three Church members had the honor of participating this year in ceremonies marking the sixty-eighth anniversary of the International Peace Arch on the border between Canada and the United States. Brent Hummer, an Eagle Scout from the Bellingham Third Ward, Bellingham Washington Stake, carried the American flag during the June 11 observance. Warren Pugh of the Ferndale Second Ward, Bellingham stake, sang the U. S. national anthem, and Bishop Mark Lambert of the Bellingham First Ward offered the benediction on the ceremonies. The annual celebration drew eighteen thousand participants and observers. The arch is located near Douglas, British Columbia, and Blaine, Washington. It marks the longest unguarded border in the world. Veterans, bands, Scout groups, and citizens take part in the annual celebration, which includes speakers and presentations from both countries. As participants march through the arch, crossing the border, they intermesh, symbolizing the friendship between the two nations.
SIRACUSA, ITALY—Relief Society leaders in the Catania District of the Italy Catania Mission recently helped organize Italy’s first National Poem Competition. A book, Women in Poems, resulted from the competition. It was introduced at a presentation in the Siracusa Branch meetinghouse. Church members in Siracusa have long been active in local and regional cultural affairs, and government leaders have expressed appreciation several times for their contributions in the community.
BYU Scientists Honored for Work in China
Two Brigham Young University scientists have been honored by a regional Chinese government for their work in helping residents of rural northwestern China avoid a life-threatening parasitic disease.
Ferron L. Anderson, a professor of zoology, and H. Dennis Tolley, a professor of statistics, received certificates of appreciation for their work in helping control and prevent hydatid disease, the number-one infectious parasitic disease in the northwestern province of the Xinjiang/Uygur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China.
The two BYU professors were invited to become members of the Foreign Advisory Panel of the new National Hydatid Disease Center of China. Honored with them for his part in the work was Peter M. Schantz, a consultant from the National Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia. The three men were also invited to be honorary research fellows of the Xinjiang Academy of Animal Sciences.
A Chinese television station broadcast the awards ceremony. The station plans to produce a documentary about BYU’s work in the area.
Hydatid disease, caused by a specific tapeworm, is spread from animals to humans and can be treated only by surgery.
“Surgeons in Xinjiang anticipate that one thousand surgeries will be necessary each year for at least the next several years” to treat victims of the disease, Brother Anderson said. The Xinjiang region, west of Mongolia and next to the border of the Soviet Union, has nearly thirteen million people. More than seven million of them are potential hydatid-disease sufferers. Half of the cases occur in people under age sixteen.
For the past two years, the American scientists have been working with their Chinese colleagues to reduce the number of disease-related surgeries.
Elder Spencer J. Condie, as a BYU professor of sociology, also contributed to the project before his call as a General Authority. So, too, did J. Lloyd Eldredge, a professor of elementary education at BYU.
Supported by the Thrasher Research Fund, the program uses various educational aids, local hydatid disease control officers, and medical treatment for infected dogs in helping to combat the spread of the disease.