News of the Church

By Joyce Fink

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    Church to Open Seven New Missions in U.S.

    The Church has announced the establishment of seven new missions. The new missions, in areas from southern Oregon to southern Georgia, will begin operation July 1.

    Map of the United States

    New missions will begin operations in areas throughout the United States.

    Following are the names of the missions, with a brief description of each.

    Arizona Tucson, created from the Arizona Phoenix, Arizona Tempe, and New Mexico Albuquerque missions: 14 stakes, 41,792 members, and a total population of more than 1.8 million in portions of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

    California Riverside, from the California San Bernardino Mission: 9 stakes, 32,877 members, a total population of more than 1 million in a central inland portion of southern California.

    Georgia Macon, from the Georgia Atlanta and South Carolina Columbia missions: 5 stakes, 13,359 members, a total population of 2.9 million in southern Georgia and part of South Carolina.

    Oklahoma Oklahoma City, from the Oklahoma Tulsa Mission: 5 stakes, 12,070 members, nearly 2 million total population in western Oklahoma and a part of Texas.

    Oregon Eugene, from the Oregon Portland Mission: 17 stakes, 39,586 members, a total population of nearly 1.2 million in approximately the southern two-thirds of Oregon and small portions of California and Nevada.

    Texas Houston East, from the Texas Houston Mission: 5 stakes, 13,576 members, 2.6 million total population in Texas and a part of Louisiana.

    Washington Tacoma, from the Washington Seattle Mission: 13 stakes, 38,332 members, a total population of more than 1.5 million in the southwestern half of Washington.

    Missionary Milestone: More than 40,000

    The number of full-time missionaries serving throughout the world has topped 40,000—a milestone that reflects the Church’s continuing growth, says Elder Robert L. Backman of the Presidency of the Seventy, Executive Director of the Missionary Department.

    As Church membership grows, more people are available to serve as full-time missionaries. Throughout the world each year, more of those who are called serve in their own countries.

    Missionaries today are better prepared than ever before and have a spirit that stands out to the world, Elder Backman said. “I don’t think we’ve had a finer cadre of missionaries in the history of the Church.”

    The number of baptisms per missionary each year has increased over the past few years—an indication of improvement in how the Church is reaching and teaching people, Elder Backman said. In 1989, the number of converts per missionary was 9.1—up from 7.8 in 1988. The growth in the number of converts in 1989 was 24 percent.

    In addition to an increase in the number of missionaries serving, Elder Backman said, “We think we see a broader definition of what a missionary does.” The missionary’s role could include greater involvement in community service, in activation, and in convert retention after baptism, he explained, adding, “We think we’re on the threshold of some great things.”

    Elder Oaks Speaks, Visits Officials in China

    Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve visited with government leaders and addressed the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences during a visit to the People’s Republic of China from January 19 to 23.

    He also set apart David Hsiao Hsin Chen, a native of China who is now a professor at Brigham Young University—Hawaii, as the Church’s traveling elder in China. Brother Chen was sustained to that calling at a meeting of the Beijing Branch on June 21.

    Brother Chen will visit China periodically to oversee Church members and train leaders there. While the Church does not proselyte in China, there are several branches in the country. Most Church members are diplomatic personnel or businessmen and their families, or natives of China who joined the Church while living abroad.

    Members of the Asia Area Presidency will also continue to visit periodically. Elder Douglas H. Smith of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, President of the Asia Area, accompanied Elder Oaks on his visit.

    In Beijing, Elder Oaks and other Church leaders met with officials of the Bureau of Religious Affairs of the State Council, members of the Religion Commission of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and other government leaders. They also presented a set of LDS books to the National Library.

    Currently, the Chinese government allows religious activities to proceed, but all churches in China must be self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating. They may not send in missionaries from outside the country, and outsiders may not distribute religious literature or start religious discussions.

    Typhoon Hits Three Islands

    Two Church members were reported injured during a typhoon that struck Western Samoa, American Samoa, and Niue in the Cook Islands early in February.

    President Polisi Fitisemanu of the Samoa Apia Mission reported that all missionaries were safe, despite the 200-mile-per-hour winds that swept the island.

    Three people were killed in the storm. Power was knocked out, and many roads were left impassable.

    With crops destroyed and supplies short, the Area Presidency authorized shipments of commodities from Australia and the United States to help meet needs in the areas affected. One early report estimated that thousands of Church members might need assistance for several weeks.

    There was no initial report of damage to the temple, but the damage to other Church property in Western Samoa alone was estimated at $3 million. There was also heavy damage to members’ private property.

    Floods Bring Tide of Service in Washington

    Record rainfall in western Washington led to flooding January 9 and 10 that took the lives of three people—including the husband of a Church member—and forced 3,500 people out of their homes.

    The resulting $1.2 million in damages prompted United States President George Bush to declare Lewis County, Washington, a major disaster area.

    Orville Decker, husband of Jean Decker of the Centralia Washington Stake’s Winlock Ward, drowned in the flood. The Deckers drove into five to eight feet of water on a section of the I-5 freeway. Sister Decker escaped from the car, but her husband was trapped inside.

    A number of Church members in Centralia and Chehalis were among those evacuated from homes, many of which suffered water damage. The Centralia Washington Stake center escaped damage, though it was isolated by the flooding Chehalis and Skookumchuck rivers.

    About a dozen members’ homes in the Puyallup Washington Stake were also affected by flooding. Most members were able to return to their homes within one day as the waters rapidly receded. Cleanup efforts were completed within a few days; repairs are ongoing.

    For many Church members, the disaster provided an occasion for service. Priesthood quorums and Relief Society sisters, along with home and visiting teachers, went to work immediately, checking on the status of individual Church members and their families. Some members had to drive through floodwaters or take long detours around them; communication was difficult because telephones were out for a time. Many members were taken in temporarily by those who had not been affected by the flood; others donated many hours of service to help clean up flood-damaged homes and property. Such service helped renew contacts with the Church for a number of less-active members.

    [photo] Flooding isolated these buildings in the Chehalis area.

    Saints in Kuriva, Papua New Guinea

    The Kuriva village in Papua New Guinea held a celebration on 27 December 1986, the day twenty-nine villagers were baptized in the Vemauri River. We were present, having been missionaries to the Kurivans for four months. President Robert G. and Sister Carol West of the Australia Brisbane Mission joined us for the event. They were greeted at the village by youth lining the pathways, singing and clapping to welcome the visitors. Several older villagers dressed in tribal costumes for the occasion. The future members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had even constructed a small chapel with a coconut-leaf roof.

    The people of Kuriva had waited eagerly for this day. In 1980, missionaries from the Australia Brisbane Mission began proselyting on a consistent basis in Papua New Guinea, a country consisting of six hundred islands. Most of the population lives on the eastern part of the large island of New Guinea. (The western part of the island is the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya.) Papua New Guinea has been an independent nation from Australia since 1975 and links Southeast Asia, Australia, and the South Pacific.

    Unlike Papua New Guinea’s city residents, who are struggling to catch up to the twentieth century, its villagers have changed little over the years. Instead, they have developed their own culture and exist in hundreds of small ethnic groups, using seven hundred languages.

    The Kuriva Village is no exception. Located about sixty-five kilometers from Papua New Guinea’s capital city of Port Moresby, its main language is Toroipi. The Kurivans are gardeners, raising crops up and down the mountainside to sell in Port Moresby. They fish, each family sharing their take with those who didn’t catch anything during the day. When someone in the village needs a loaf of bread, other Kurivans split their loaf in half and share it.

    Like most Papua New Guineans, the Kurivans are accustomed to having some form of shelter—huts on stilts with thatched roofs—but no appliances or furniture. Few of them own a car. Their possessions consist of a billum or two—woven bags made by the women to hold babies, wood, or garden produce. And they sleep on homemade mats which they set down after sweeping the floors with a handmade coconut-straw broom. Their reverence, generosity, simplicity, and dedication to hard work and living within their means prepared them well for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    While several branches of the Church existed in the Port Moresby area as well as in surrounding villages, no one in Kuriva had heard of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints until September 1986, when unusual circumstances brought them into contact with the Church.

    One of the villagers, John Oii, a member of the Church then living in Port Moresby, returned to Kuriva after the death of his son Simon. He wanted to have Simon buried in the village cemetery and received permission to do so from Oroa Kakare, one of the village leaders.

    The funeral took place in the Port Moresby Gabutu chapel, and Kurivan villagers attended. Seminary students and missionaries participated in the service, and afterward a transport truck took everyone to Kuriva for the burial. John Oii remained in the village, where he told the people about Joseph Smith and the angel Moroni. The villagers wanted to know more. They asked John Oii if the missionary couple who spoke at the funeral could teach them the gospel. We were that couple.

    On 16 September 1986, a group of about sixty people sat waiting for us to begin the missionary discussions. With John Oii translating into the village language, they nodded approval of the principles explained in the first discussion. We left several copies of the Book of Mormon and promised to return the following Tuesday.

    An even larger group awaited our arrival on the second visit. The villagers had met together every night since the last discussion to study the Book of Mormon as a group. They had even composed a song in the village language about Joseph Smith and the angel Moroni. After discussing Jesus Christ and some of the gospel principles, the Kurivans wanted to pay fast offerings and tithing. We left more copies of the Book of Mormon.

    Now the villagers wanted Sunday services to take place in Kuriva. We started holding Sunday School for a group that grew each week. The following month, October 1986, President and Sister West came to Papua New Guinea for a second bimonthly tour and visited Kuriva village. At a meeting held with the villagers, President West was impressed with the spirit and love of the people and, upon his return to Brisbane, gave permission to prepare the people of Kuriva for baptism into the Church. The Kurivans began constructing their own chapel.

    After the festivities of greeting President and Sister West ended on 27 December, the Kurivans convened in their chapel for baptismal services. At the meeting’s conclusion, everyone was transported four kilometers to the river, and the first twenty-nine members of the Church in Kuriva were baptized and confirmed. Fourteen men were then sustained and ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood. The day concluded with a feast, and President and Sister West returned to Port Moresby.

    Another momentous occasion occurred soon afterward. In March 1987, Elder James E. Faust of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Ruth, along with Area President Elder John Sonnenberg and his wife, Joyce, visited Papua New Guinea. They came to Kuriva with several missionaries.

    Again, a gala celebration was held, replete with singing, clapping, dancing, and rejoicing. As the group entered the chapel, Elder Faust was told that the Kurivans would like to have their chapel dedicated. He responded that, although he had dedicated Church buildings all over the world, he had never dedicated one constructed through such high participation from the local members and such little assistance from Church headquarters. At the conclusion of his talk to the Kurivans, Elder Faust said, “I will now dedicate this building to the service of the Lord.”

    The following Sunday, 15 March 1987, the Kuriva Branch was organized, with John Oii as president and Francis Puaka and Oroa Kakare as counselors. From that point on, the small branch of forty members functioned ably, eventually sending three of the original group of twenty-nine members to join a growing number of full-time Papua New Guinean missionaries.

    Today, Kuriva has a growing, enthusiastic branch where members sing hymns accompanied by a keyboard organ, give talks in their native language and in English, and help each other throughout the lessons to read and understand the scriptures.

    The Kuriva Branch now has seventy-five members. They still share among themselves and with the other villagers; in fact, several non-LDS villagers contributed to buy shoes for a young man preparing for a mission. The members form a part of a growing Church membership in Papua New Guinea, now about 2,300 strong, who hope to someday have a stake, a mission, and a temple of their own.

    [photos] Photos by Varsel and Minnie Warwood Jenks

    [photos] Clockwise, from top left: Peter Oroa, a young member of Kuriva. Kuriva investigators built their own chapel before their baptism. Young men from Papua New Guinea, ready to leave on missions (left to right): Steven Morola, Peter Hasu, and Jimmy Kaire, with Elder Olie, a missionary from South Australia. Couple missionaries help construct canoes villagers use for fishing and transport.

    [photo] Sister Minnie Jenks (second from left) enjoys a welcome from sisters in Kuriva upon her return to the village. Papua New Guineans enjoy dressing in traditional costumes for special events and celebrations.

    Varsel and Minnie Warwood Jenks served their first mission in the Australia Brisbane Mission from December 1985 to May 1987, and their second from February 1988 to June 1989. They are members of the Perry First Ward, Willard Utah Stake, where they serve as Cub Scout leaders.

    Church Museum Announces Art Competition

    The Museum of Church History and Art is sponsoring its second international art competition and exhibition to encourage Latter-day Saint artists to depict scriptural themes in quality works of art.

    “We encourage artists worldwide to submit works based on themes from the scriptures,” said Elder John K. Carmack of the First Quorum of the Seventy and Executive Director of the Church’s Historical Department.

    “The scriptures contain inspired teachings, testimonies, and stories of great spiritual value to people everywhere,” Elder Carmack said. “We hope this competition will challenge our finest artists to apply their talents to the creation of memorable works of art.”

    The international competition, which closes 30 November 1990, will be open to Latter-day Saint artists who create paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, textiles, ceramics, pottery, jewelry, quilts, lace, embroidery, or works in any other artistic medium. Each artist may submit one recent work.

    The gift of an anonymous donor will allow the museum to recognize the entries judged as best with prizes and purchase awards. The museum will also purchase some works for its permanent collection to be used in future exhibits and Church publications.

    From a donated fund of $43,000, up to $13,500 in cash prizes will be awarded, including up to five “Award of Distinction” prizes worth $1,500 each, and up to fifteen “Award of Merit” prizes worth $400 each. The balance of the donated money will be used for up to $30,000 in purchase awards.

    To qualify, said museum director Glen M. Leonard, works must “reflect a theme, value, story, or image inspired by something in one of the four standard works of scripture in the LDS Church.” Slides of the works of art must be at the museum by 30 November 1990 for the initial screening, after which the jury will later review a smaller group of actual works.

    Entry forms containing additional information on submission requirements are available through the Museum of Church History and Art, 45 N. West Temple Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84150, (801) 240-2299.

    Prize winners and purchase awards will be announced at an artists’ reception and awards ceremony on 29 March 1991, Brother Leonard said. Works accepted for the exhibition will be on display through 2 September 1991.

    The museum’s international competition and exhibition held three years ago attracted 1,031 entries from LDS artists in twenty-three of the United States and thirteen other countries. The subjects of the works dealt with LDS history, lifestyle, and beliefs. The 180 paintings, prints, drawings, and sculptures introduced museum visitors to the work of many new artists.

    The 1991 competition is narrower in theme, Brother Leonard said, but it will allow artists who work in a wider variety of art forms to participate. “We expect to get acquainted with the work of many more Latter-day Saint artists through this Churchwide competition,” he said.

    [photo] The museum’s first art competition attracted a wide varity of entries, like this cold-cast bronze, Peace, Be Still, by Mark Hopkins. (Photo by Ronald Read.)

    Alberta Temple to Reopen; London, Swiss to be Remodeled

    The Alberta Temple, which has been undergoing remodeling, will reopen this summer, and the London and Swiss Temples will close for remodeling.

    In a letter to priesthood leaders in the Alberta Temple District, the First Presidency said that remodeling of the temple in Cardston, Alberta, will be completed by midsummer and that a public open house and rededication will be planned during the latter part of the summer.

    The London Temple and the Swiss Temple were scheduled to close on April 1 for renovation. It was estimated that they will be closed for one year.

    With these two temples closed, the Europe Area Presidency is attempting to make schedules available for members who want to attend the other three temples on the Continent: in Frankfurt, Federal Republic of Germany; Freiberg, German Democratic Republic; and Stockholm, Sweden.

    The Swiss Temple, located in Zollikofen, a suburb north of Bern, was completed and dedicated in 1955. The London Temple, located twenty-five miles south of London, was completed and dedicated in 1958.

    The Oakland Temple, in California, is currently undergoing renovation.

    A Conversation about Adopting a Child

    One of the services offered by LDS Social Services is adoption. To find out more about one aspect of this service, the Ensign spoke with Harold C. Brown, director of LDS Social Services.

    Q.: First, why does LDS Social Services operate an adoption service?

    A.: To help three separate parties, all equally important and all with very distinct needs—a young woman who is expecting a child out of wedlock; a couple who wants a baby but cannot have one naturally; and a child in need of a stable, eternal home.

    We’re quite concerned when young women think that if they come to LDS Social Services we are going to expect them to release their babies for adoption. The truth is that we will help any young woman explore all of her options. If she wants to keep her baby, we will help her understand the realities of raising a child and assist her and her family in making the adjustment. If she chooses to release the baby, we will place the child for adoption with a temple-worthy couple. If her choice is to marry, we will support and help her in that endeavor.

    The primary reason the LDS Social Services adoption service exists is to find an eternal home for a child. We feel there is a doctrinal foundation for our service. Doctrine and Covenants 83:6 says that “orphans shall be provided for.” This indicates that the Lord expects us to help these children.

    Q.: How do couples apply to become adoptive parents?

    A.: They go to their bishop or branch president, who refers them to LDS Social Services. They can also contact any of the LDS Social Services offices directly to receive information about adoption and how to apply. There are currently agency offices throughout the United States, Canada, England, New Zealand, and Australia.

    Q.: What criteria must couples meet?

    A.: Couples need to be members of the Church in good standing, having been married in the temple and holding current temple recommends. They are eligible if they have no children or only one child and are proven to be infertile. Couples may apply after two years of marriage if their infertility has been medically substantiated, and after three years if no medical reason for infertility is found. They should be in good health, have a reasonable life expectancy, and be able to care for the child financially.

    If a couple wants to adopt a special-needs child—one who is generally more than five years old or who has some kind of handicap, or for other reasons is hard to place—the process is basically the same. The differences are that they don’t have to prove infertility and they can have more than two children.

    The application and preparation process may be frustrating. However, many of the procedures we follow are required by the states in which we work. And once a child becomes the responsibility of LDS Social Services, we have an obligation to provide him or her with the best possible home.

    Q.: What happens once a couple has met the requirements and has been recommended by their bishop?

    A.: The agency begins an adoptive study with the couple so that we have enough background information to match them with a child. In turn, we prepare couples to receive a child. This process involves interviews with the caseworker and verification of infertility and good health.

    Q.: How do you decide which child goes to which couple?

    A.: Agency workers work with birth parents to determine their desires and feelings about potential adoptive couples and the environment in which they would like their child to be reared. Agency workers then carefully match the interests of birth parents and the needs and physical characteristics of the child with the desires and personal characteristics of adoptive parents. We conduct this process in a prayerful manner, seeking the Lord’s guidance in the decision.

    Q.: How long can a couple expect to wait for a child?

    A.: As soon as the adoption study is complete, which takes about six months, the couple becomes eligible for a child. When all other considerations are equal, we give priority to couples who have waited the longest. Usually, babies are placed within a few days of birth with couples who have waited from one to two years.

    Q.: How do you prepare couples to be parents?

    A.: Much of the preparation comes through adoptive study interviews. We talk with couples about such things as their philosophy of parenting, their feelings about adoption, and their capacity to love children. We answer their questions about parenting and the adoption experience. We try to help them think through the whole process and what it means for them.

    We also often arrange for parenting classes; some of these are sponsored by LDS Social Services. Also, in large agencies, there may be support groups in which couples can talk with others about the challenges of adoption.

    Q.: What extra preparation do you give to couples who are adopting special-needs children?

    A.: We prepare them for the specific needs of the child, whether they be physical, mental, or social. We provide background information and sometimes additional training. Support does not stop once the child is placed in the home; we continue to refer parents to classes and other resources to meet their needs. In most states and countries, the law requires a wait of at least six months before any adoption can be finalized, but with special-needs children, the adoption is finalized when the couple and children are ready, usually after a year or longer.

    Q.: When can a couple have their adopted child sealed to them?

    A.: After the adoption is finalized. One adoptive parent, Randy Rader, has found that “as each birth is a miracle, each adoption is also accompanied by signs of the hand of the Lord. Three times our family has gathered in the temple to experience the majestic sealing power of the priesthood, and each time we have felt the divine confirmation that our family is more complete.”

    Adoption is a rewarding experience. There are many children who need help. We hope LDS couples will give them the opportunity for eternal blessings.

    [photo] Harold C. Brown, director of LDS Social Services. (Photo by Philip S. Shurtleff.)

    Policies and Announcements

    The following item appeared in the 1989–4 Bulletin.

    According to the General Handbook of Instructions [1989], p. 5–1, “‘Every member of the church of Christ having children is to bring them unto the elders before the church, who are to lay their hands upon them in the name of Jesus Christ, and bless them in his name.’ (D&C 20:70.) In conformity with this revelation, only those who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood should participate in the ordinance of naming and blessing children.” This instruction supersedes all previous instructions, including those found on page 151 of Melchizedek Priesthood Personal Study Guide 1, Lay Hold Upon the Word of God.

    The following letter, dated 1 December 1989, and signed by the First Presidency, was sent to all priesthood leaders:

    Effective immediately, all full-time Church Service workers whose assignment requires them to leave their homes will be called as full-time missionaries with an additional assignment. The accompanying guidelines will assist priesthood leaders as they recommend individuals to full-time Church service away from home.

    We are pleased with the response of these worthy and faithful workers who in their later years are serving on a voluntary basis in various capacities. As they serve the Lord they grow in love for his work while providing a much-appreciated service.