Hope in Christ Marks First Presidency Yule Program
“President Benson loves Christmas,” said President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, who conducted the annual First Presidency Christmas devotional, “and he would have me extend to all his love and best wishes at this Christmas season.”
Christmas music filled the annual First Presidency Christmas devotional, broadcast from Temple Square in Salt Lake City on December 3. The Tabernacle Choir, at times joined by the congregation, sang several Christmas songs, and President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, shared a Christmas message.
“The story of the birth of Jesus is a wondrous story,” said President Hinckley. “It is matchless in its simplicity and beauty—it is the wellspring of Christian faith. More acts of kindness have been done in his name and more words of forgiveness spoken with his love than any other in the entire history of mankind. He is the author of our salvation. He is the source of the good news of the gospel. He is our hope in our season of desperation, our guide in the wilderness of life through which we walk, our source of comfort and consolation in seasons of distress, and our assurance of the eternity of the soul of man.”
Referring to recent events in Eastern Europe, President Hinckley said, “The Spirit of Christ is brooding over the whole earth. We have witnessed miracles undreamed of only a short time ago. Like a glorious sunburst through dark clouds, there is emerging freedom of worship, freedom of assembly, and freedom of expression.
“This is a season of rejoicing,” he continued, “a season of peace, a season of love that is felt anew around much of this weary world. It is a season when we like to hear of kind deeds and are motivated to perform them.”
President Hinckley then told the story of author Taylor Caldwell who, as a young single mother with a six-year-old daughter, returned a valuable umbrella that she had found on a bus. She refused an offered reward, but a few weeks later, the owner of the umbrella sent gifts, turning an otherwise desperate Christmas into one of joy.
“In this spirit of Christmas,” said President Hinckley, “let us resolve to do a little more, to open our purses along with our hearts to help those in need, to reach out to the lonely and distressed, and to comfort those who walk in sorrow.”
President Hinckley then bore his testimony of Christ: “He came that we might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly. This is the testimony last of all which we give of him, that he lives. Yes, he lives. The everlasting Son of the living God lives in the hearts of men and women who open their souls with generosity and love. He is our Redeemer and our Savior.”
Jerold D. Ottley and Donald Ripplinger 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.
Worldwide Celebration Notes Young Women Anniversary
“We call upon you to unite in strength and power as you commit to stand for truth and righteousness,” President Ezra Taft Benson said to the young women of the Church on November 18.
He spoke as young women throughout the world marked the 120th anniversary of the Young Women organization. In Tonga; in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; in Sydney, Australia; in Pocatello, Idaho; and in other places where LDS young women met that day, they responded to the call for commitment.
President Benson spoke during a program that included messages from him, from President Ardeth G. Kapp of the Young Women organization, and from local leaders. Materials for the program, including recorded messages by President Benson and President Kapp, had been translated into sixteen languages and sent to Church units in sixty-two different countries.
“Building on the foundation of the past and with a vision of the future, I issue a call to you dear young sisters: Prepare yourselves that you may be fit and pure vessels to bear triumphantly the responsibilities of the kingdom of God,” President Benson said. “Make a commitment to read the Book of Mormon. Apply its teachings so you will be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, and you will be a mighty tool in the hands of the Lord.”
He invited priesthood leaders to help young women keep their commitments and added: “I feel impressed to leave my blessing upon each one of you dear sisters. May you always remember that it is possible to live in the world without partaking of the sins of the world.”
President Kapp told the young women that “this is no ordinary time, and you are no ordinary youth. Today we unite across continents and oceans, across cultural differences and language barriers. We stand together as daughters of God, bound by our common commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The theme of the November 18 meetings was “Stand for Truth and Righteousness,” the Young Women motto. The program called for a priesthood leader in each local meeting to ring a bell, reminiscent of the family prayer bell rung by Brigham Young on the day in 1869 when Brigham Young called his daughters to the organizational meeting for the Young Ladies’ Department of the Cooperative Retrenchment Association. In most areas, young women were given a bell, or brought one, to ring during their part of the program. The bells, and those they may hear from now on, were to remind them of their commitments.
Each local meeting had its unique flavor. Following are samplings from a few.
Sydney, Australia. President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, and Elder James E. Faust, of the Quorum of the Twelve, were in Sydney for a regional conference. They attended the Parramatta stake’s Young Women celebration, along with the Pacific Area Presidency: Elder Glen L. Rudd, Elder Douglas J. Martin, and Elder Benjamin B. Banks, all of the Second Quorum of the Seventy.
President Hinckley said that there are young women in the Church by the hundreds of thousands who know the importance of being true to God and to themselves, and of living gospel principles. Church leaders, he said, are proud of the “beautiful young women all across the world who will grow into mature womanhood to be an honor to the Church and to the Lord.”
Elder Faust said that the bell-ringing was a signal to the world from the Latter-day Saints that they are a people who love the Lord and who seek to honor His commandments and to be free from the bondage of evil. He cautioned all to avoid choices that would limit their growth and potential.
Tonga. Young women of this island kingdom were the first in the world to greet Saturday, November 18, and celebrate the Young Women anniversary. Almost twenty-four hours later, young women in American and Western Samoa—comparatively only a few miles away but across the international dateline—were the last to do so.
Provo, Utah. Young women of the Edgemont North stake were pleased to have President Benson attend their program with his wife, Flora. President Benson personally rang the bell to call them to commitment.
Washington, D.C. Young women gathered at the Netherlands Carillon as the carillonneur played “Come Hold Your Torches High.” President Kapp delivered her message in person to young women, leaders, and parents from fourteen area stakes.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Young women of the Philadelphia stake gathered near the Liberty Bell, a symbol of freedom, for their program. In her response to remarks from leaders, Jennifer Geigle, a Laurel from the Jarrettown Second Ward, spoke of the importance of living standards set by a loving Father: “Heavenly Father knew that sometimes this world would be difficult, so he gave us lots of tools to help us. Our values are chosen especially for the purpose of helping us to stand for truth and righteousness.”
Pocatello, Idaho. The program here featured vignettes, including one of Moroni with his title of liberty. After the program, young women and their parents were invited to sign the Highland stake’s banner of truth and righteousness, which will be displayed at stake and ward Young Women events for the next year.
Bountiful, Utah. Bountiful Heights stake president Joe Johnson told of his experiences as a youth herding sheep, when an animal wearing a bell was always the leader of the flock. “Your view will never change if you do not step out in front,” he counseled. “Take a bell and move to the front, and your life will have direction.”
Elder Joseph Anderson Celebrates 100th Birthday
“I feel that I’m one of the most fortunate men in the world,” said Elder Joseph Anderson, an emeritus member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, who was honored at a celebration for his one-hundredth birthday given by the First Presidency in the Church Administration Building on November 17. “I have had the pleasure of knowing and associating with prophets of a living God, and all you Brethren. I’ve loved every one of you, and I still do.”
As the oldest living General Authority in the history of the Church, Elder Anderson has served with seven Presidents of the Church. To commemorate this unusual opportunity, Elder Anderson received a special gift—a picture with his photograph centered amid the photographs of each of the seven Presidents of the Church with whom he has served. Under this photo grouping were the words: “Joseph Anderson, One with the Prophets.”
Upon receiving this gift, Elder Anderson, whose healthy glow belies his one hundred years, responded: “I’m not worthy of this honor, but I do give my best thanks to you for it. What a glorious occasion it is for me!” Then he continued with a smile, “I’ll try to remember it the rest of my life.”
Elder Anderson, born 20 November 1889, served as personal secretary to President Heber J. Grant from 1922 to 1943. This service coincided with his job as secretary to the First Presidency from 1923 to 1972. He was called as an assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve in April 1970 and to the first Quorum of the Seventy in October 1976. Elder Anderson was given emeritus status in October 1978.
Ricks College Inaugurates 13th President
Steven D. Bennion was inaugurated as the thirteenth president of Ricks College November 10 during ceremonies conducted by President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency.
President Hinckley issued the presidential charge, urging the new president to cultivate love and integrity in the students. “The students on this campus will love you as you will love them. … Your scholarship qualifications are more than adequate, likewise your administrative experience, to preside over this school.”
He further charged President Bennion “to stand as a man, a leader, on the summit of one hundred years of effort and growth to make of Ricks College one of the great institutions of its kind in all the nation.
“The faculty look to you as their leader. We charge you to inspire this faculty, to keep them ever up against the frontiers of knowledge in the disciplines which are their specialties.”
“It will be your responsibility, and that of your associates, to cultivate within these young men and women a sense of personal worth, with an attitude of respect one for another … each the partaker of a divine birthright, neither one the inferior or superior of the other,” said President Hinckley.
In brief remarks, Bishop Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric and a former Ricks College president, said he is still asked by members throughout the world, “Who should come to Ricks College?” His response: “People who live as though faith and true scholarship are one.”
During his inaugural message, President Bennion cited six reasons he believes that students who choose the Church’s two-year Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho, can benefit through their own efforts.
First, more than 7,700 students, from all fifty states and forty foreign countries, “come to Ricks to prepare for careers, for further education, for marriage and family, for citizenship, for spiritual direction. They come to prepare for life.”
Second, “the spiritual mission of Ricks is carefully interwoven with its academic mission.”
Third, “the richness of quality academic and vocational offerings at Ricks is impressive with 146 majors—43 of which are in career or vocational programs.”
Fourth, “the foundation for student opportunities, spiritual development, and excellent academic programs is a caring, competent, and committed faculty.”
Fifth, “a focus on experimental learning and the opportunity to participate is likewise a hallmark at Ricks. Participation is vital for student growth.”
Sixth, “the spirit of Ricks includes an uncommon commitment to service. The keen interest in serving students is a top priority, and may it ever be.”
Thousands of guests attended inaugural weekend activities, which included a concert featuring the Black Watch, a military band and precision marching group from Scotland; a luncheon; official ceremonies; a reception; a ball; and a football game.
Mexico’s President Visits LDS Colony
“I am very happy to have fellow patriots like you,” the president of Mexico told Latter-day Saints in Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, as he visited with them in November.
Church members who met with President Carlos Salinas de Gortari were as impressed with his graciousness and warmth as he was with them. His November 11 visit had no official purpose other than to provide a chance for the president to meet “los Mormones.” He came at the invitation of Fernando Baeza, governor of the state of Chihuahua and a friend of the LDS community in Mexico.
President Salinas enjoyed a relaxed dinner with citizens of Colonia Juarez, along with civic leaders from nearby Casas Grandes, in the gymnasium of the Church-owned Juarez Academy. The president took note that everything for the dinner was locally produced and prepared, and asked for some of the homemade candy and rolls to take home with him.
Following the dinner, he lingered in the gym to look over Relief Society displays and exhibits of local products. Stake Relief Society president Celia Ortiz Loera presented the president with a handmade quilt, explaining that it was typical of Mormon handicrafts. Before President Salinas departed by helicopter, David Memmott, president of the Juarez Academy student body, presented him with an LDS triple combination bearing his name, and other student leaders gave him copies of A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, The History of the Mormon Colonies in Mexico, and the videotape Our Heavenly Father’s Plan.
“We appreciate your dedication, honesty, sobriety, and respect for the law,” President Salinas told Colonia Juarez residents in brief remarks. “You have contributed to the elevation of the welfare of the regions where you live together, work, and labor intensely, and with this you also elevate the level of our nation.”
Through agricultural innovation and industry, Latter-day Saints have been influential in making the area well known for its farm products.
Many of the Latter-day Saints in Colonia Juarez are fourth- and fifth-generation descendants of Church members who immigrated to Mexico more than one hundred years ago and built several colonies in the area.
Huntsville Saints Survive Tornado’s Destruction
Although a few lost all their worldly possessions and others suffered through some very harrowing experiences, all the members of the Huntsville Alabama Stake survived the killer tornado that took the lives of eighteen of their neighbors on November 15.
The tornado injured 468 people in Huntsville and destroyed 340 homes, 2 schools, and 3 churches.
Some members caught at the scene of the devastation were among those who volunteered to help rescue victims buried under the rubble.
The tornado struck with very little warning late on a Wednesday afternoon, cutting a ten-mile path of destruction through this southeastern community of some two hundred thousand people. That path ran through the heart of the Byrd Springs Ward, catching members and their neighbors in homes and businesses or on one of the city’s busiest streets as they picked their children up from school or left work for home.
Many members from adjoining wards who worked in the storm-torn section escaped possible death or injury because they had left the area on their way home from work only minutes before the tornado’s arrival.
Mary Wright, who had recently moved into the Westbury Apartment complex with her husband, Curtis, was visiting with friends in a different part of the complex when the storm hit. She and several others in the apartment escaped injury or death because they managed to crawl to another room with no windows while the tornado proceeded to literally blow the outer walls and roof away.
The Wrights’ apartment, like much of the rest of the building, was stripped down to the concrete slab. They lost everything they owned.
Members of the Wendell Nielson family felt especially blessed in the aftermath of the storm. Audrey Nielson was driving along Airport Road with her daughter Theresa when their truck was flipped by the tornado and totally demolished, but they escaped relatively unharmed. Sister Nielson suffered a minor head injury.
Meanwhile, the Nielsons’ daughter Debbie was working nearby in the Golbro Department Store, which took a nearly direct hit from the tornado. Fortunately, she and a number of other employees and customers were alerted moments before it struck and were able to dash inside a jewelry safe, where they remained trapped for several hours.
Four missionaries working in the Byrd Springs Ward were enlisted as part of the rescue team—Elders Jason Randall, Jim Marshall, Darin Peterson, and Alan Bird. The missionaries were about 150 yards from Airport Road when the tornado swept through. During the four hours they worked in the rain and the cold, the young men found and pulled two elderly women from the remains.
Six members of the Byrd Springs Ward who lived nearby ran to the site and helped find and care for the injured until rescue crews arrived. Through phone calls and personal visits, the ward’s priesthood members and Relief Society sisters were able to learn the condition of most ward members within just a few hours.
Church members pitched in to help the victims in the community during the days that followed, contributing food, clothing, shelter, and cash to help them rebuild.
Update: Book of Mormon Translations
For 20 years, the Book of Mormon was printed only in English. During the next 127 years, thirty translations were made. That number has more than doubled in the last ten years, with either all or part of the Book of Mormon being translated into sixty-three new languages.
13 Members Die in El Salvador Conflicts
A total of thirteen Latter-day Saints had been killed in the recent fighting in El Salvador at the time the Ensign news went into production, according to reports received at Church headquarters.
That number understates the effect of the death toll in the country, however, since nonmember relatives have also been killed.
An estimated five thousand members have had their lives disrupted because of the fighting. In addition, seven LDS chapels were reported damaged.
All missionaries are safe. There were no North American missionaries in El Salvador before the most recent urban battles began, and the missionaries from Guatemala and Honduras were also withdrawn, leaving only native missionaries in El Salvador.
Despite this latest flare-up, missionary work has continued during a war that has dragged on for eleven years.
BYU Awards Excellence in Religious Films
A new Brigham Young University award, the Whitaker Award for Religious Values in Film, was presented on November 29 to Beth Polson, executive producer and co-writer of the CBS television movie “Go toward the Light.”
The film tells the true story of a Latter-day Saint family and their young son who was infected with AIDS from a blood transfusion. Their faith and courage are depicted as they struggle together through the illness to his eventual death.
“This is not a movie about AIDS,” said Beth Polson, “but a movie about helping a child understand the transition between life and death.” The focus is on how faith in God and strong moral character allowed the family to help their son endure his suffering and eventually make that transition from life to death.
The Whitaker Award, presented by BYU’s College of Fine Arts and Communications in conjunction with BYU’s Motion Picture Studio, is given in honor of Wetzel O. “Judge” Whitaker, who headed BYU’s motion picture studio for nearly twenty-two years.
The Whitaker Award will be presented when a motion picture conveys, with exceptional skill, the existence of a loving God and demonstrates the dignity and moral courage of one or more of his children.
Study Shows Healthy Habits Cut LDS Heart, Cancer Deaths
A study of ten thousand Latter-day Saints in California shows active Church members have some of the lowest death rates for cancer and heart disease ever reported.
The research, conducted by the University of California-Los Angeles School of Public Health, followed the group of active high priests and their wives over an eight-year period.
The number of deaths among men and women in the study was far less than the number of cancer deaths found in the U.S. population as a whole. Results of the study are reported in the December 6 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
The UCLA study was designed to involve people who practice three general health habits: never smoking cigarettes, maintaining regular physical activity, and getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Many other studies have shown that these habits are related to low mortality rates.
The study found that middle-aged high priests adhering to all three of these health habits had only 34 percent the rate of cancer mortality, 14 percent the rate of cardiovascular disease mortality, and 22 percent the rate of overall mortality, compared with that of middle-aged U.S. white males.
The LDS wives who participated in the study and who lived by all three of these health practices had only 55 percent the rate of cancer mortality, 34 percent the rate of cardiovascular disease mortality, and 47 percent the rate of overall mortality, as compared with that of middle-aged white U.S. females.
For the LDS high priests in this study, the rates for cardiovascular disease mortality and overall mortality are the lowest ever reported. On the average, young high priests who adhere to the three life-style habits live eleven years longer than the average U.S. male; young wives adhering to these practices average six years longer than the average U.S. female.
“This demonstrates that a major reduction in cancer is possible through healthy life-style practices,” said Dr. James Enstrom of the School of Public Health, principal investigator for the study. “Mormon high priests are currently achieving the 50 percent reduction in cancer that has been set as a goal by the National Cancer Institute for the year 2000.
Dr. Enstrom said previous studies show that Latter-day Saints’ low cancer death rate is only partially explained by their abstinence from smoking.