President Benson Progresses after Surgery
President Ezra Taft Benson underwent surgery twice during September for the removal of fluid and blood clots from his head. He was also treated for gastrointestinal bleeding. At Ensign press time, he was at home recuperating.
The 91-year-old Church leader first had surgery on September 19 for the removal of two subdural hematomas. He had originally been admitted to LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City after suffering severe headaches and having difficulty swallowing.
A second surgery was performed on September 23 after hospital staff members monitoring President Benson’s condition saw signs that clotting was recurring in one of the two areas. A hospital spokesman said President Benson “tolerated the [second] surgery extremely well.”
A CAT scan two days later did not indicate clotting problems.
President Benson was moved from the hospital’s intensive care unit on September 26, after his condition was upgraded to fair. On September 30, he was returned to intensive care in serious condition for treatment of gastrointestinal bleeding.
On Monday, October 8, he was moved from intensive care again. He was released from the hospital on October 17.
Two Seventies Released, Four Called to Auxiliary Presidencies
Two members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy were released October 6, after five and one-half years of service, and four members of the Seventy were sustained as members of the general presidencies of the Young Men and Sunday School.
The changes came during the Saturday afternoon session of the Church’s 160th semiannual general conference.
Elder Waldo P. Call and Elder Helio R. Camargo of the Second Quorum of the Seventy were released. Both continue to serve in their assignments, announced this summer, as temple presidents. Elder Call is currently the president of the Mexico City Temple, and Elder Camargo is the president of the Sao Paulo Temple.
The changes in the auxiliary presidencies came as a result of new assignments for several members of the Seventy.
Elder Jack H. Goaslind was called as President of the Young Men, with Elder LeGrand R. Curtis as First Counselor and Elder Robert K. Dellenbach as Second Counselor.
Elder H. Verlan Andersen was called as Second Counselor in the Sunday School general presidency.
Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, and Elder Monte J. Brough were released as the Young Men presidency, and Elder Ted E. Brewerton was released from the Sunday School presidency. Each now has an Area Presidency assignment requiring him to live outside the United States. (See following story on new Area Presidency assignments.)
Elder Call was sustained to the Seventy on 6 April 1985. A native of Colonia Juarez, Mexico, he had previously served as a mission president in South America, a regional representative, and a stake president. While he served in the Seventy, his assignments included a calling as a Counselor in, then President of, the South America South Area Presidency.
Elder Camargo, the first Brazilian called as a General Authority, was sustained to the Seventy on 6 April 1985. He had previously served as a regional representative and stake president. While he served in the Seventy, his assignments included a calling as First Counselor in the Brazil Area Presidency.
Presidencies Assigned to World Areas
Sixty members of the Quorums of the Seventy have been assigned to serve in presidencies over the Church’s twenty areas around the world. The assignments were effective October 1.
Two of the twenty areas are new. The Mexico/Central America Area has been divided, resulting in the Mexico Area and the Central America Area; and the United Kingdom/Ireland/Africa Area has been divided to make Africa a separate area.
The President of each Area Presidency is listed first, followed by his First and Second Counselors:
Africa–Elder Richard P. Lindsay, Elder Robert E. Sackley, Elder J Ballard Washburn.
Asia–Elder Merlin R. Lybbert, Elder W. Eugene Hansen, Elder Monte J. Brough.
Brazil–Elder Joe J. Christensen, Elder Harold G. Hillam, Elder Helvécio Martins.
Central America–Elder Ted E. Brewerton, Elder Gardner H. Russell, Elder Carlos H. Amado.
Europe–Elder Hans B. Ringger, Elder Spencer J. Condie, Elder Albert Choules, Jr.
Mexico–Elder F. Burton Howard, Elder Horacio A. Tenorio, Elder F. Melvin Hammond.
North America Central–Elder H. Burke Peterson, Elder Gene R. Cook, Elder Ronald E. Poelman.
North America Northeast–Elder F. Enzio Busche, Elder Lynn A. Sorensen, Elder Robert K. Dellenbach.
North America Northwest–Elder Hugh W. Pinnock, Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi, Elder Robert E. Wells.
North America Southeast—Elder John R. Lasater, Elder Alexander B. Morrison, Elder LeGrand R. Curtis.
North America Southwest–Elder George I. Cannon, Elder Francis M. Gibbons, Elder Glen L. Rudd.
North America West–Elder John H. Groberg, Elder Jack H. Goaslind, Elder Douglas H. Smith.
Pacific–Elder Douglas J. Martin, Elder Ben B. Banks, Elder Lloyd P. George.
Philippines/Micronesia–Elder L. Lionel Kendrick, Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone, Elder Durrel A. Woolsey.
South America North–Elder Charles Didier, Elder Hartman Rector, Jr., Elder William R. Bradford.
South America South–Elder Jacob de Jager, Elder Lynn A. Mickelsen, Elder Eduardo Ayala.
United Kingdom/Ireland–Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Elder Gerald E. Melchin, Elder Kenneth Johnson.
Utah Central–Elder John K. Carmack, Elder Loren C. Dunn, Elder H. Verlan Andersen.
Utah North–Elder Marlin K. Jensen, Elder Adney Y. Komatsu, Elder Malcolm S. Jeppsen.
Utah South–Elder L. Aldin Porter, Elder Angel Abrea, Elder George R. Hill III.
Toronto Temple Dedicated
Church members from two countries and a number of different cultures came by the thousands to the dedication of the first LDS temple in eastern Canada August 25–27.
The Toronto Ontario Temple—the Church’s forty-fourth operating temple—was dedicated in eleven sessions held over three days. The sessions drew more than seventeen thousand people from the temple district.
The temple serves some sixty-five thousand members in the Canadian provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. It also serves members in parts of New York, Vermont, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan in the United States.
President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, and President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, presided over the dedicatory sessions. The dedicatory prayer for the temple, read in each session, included a plea for blessings on President Ezra Taft Benson, who did not attend: “In his advanced age we pray that thou wilt give him gladness in his heart, comfort in his body, and the assurance of our love.”
The prayer also expressed gratitude for “this great nation of Canada, whose people enjoy the blessings of liberty and peace, with full freedom to worship thee according to thy revealed pattern.”
It was noted in the prayer that “this nation has become a gathering place for people from scores of other lands. In their veins flows the blood of Israel.” Because of the diverse cultural backgrounds of those attending the dedicatory sessions, proceedings were translated not only into French—one of the official languages of Canada—but also into Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Korean.
The prayer expressed gratitude for the “redemption wrought by the Lamb of God, who offered himself a sacrifice for all men.” It also petitioned God to “arouse thy people to an understanding of the covenants which they make with thee in thy holy temples.” The prayer committed members to “pledge to thee our love, our strength, our means, our faith, and bear witness to the world that thou art our living God.”
President Hinckley told those attending the second dedicatory session that “the real test of our love for this house lies in the use of it. It isn’t built as a monument, but it is dedicated to be used.”
President Monson commented, “We’re close to heaven on this glorious occasion.” He called the dedication “a capstone event” and noted that “this is a day of thanksgiving as well as a day of dedication.”
More than twenty-six hundred volunteers from throughout the temple district served in activities from hosting to cleaning during the open house; collectively, they donated more than sixty-four thousand hours of service.
Members showed by their service that they regarded the building as a treasure. After the end of the last dedicatory session late on Monday afternoon, for example, local members took just two and one-half hours to complete cleaning and furniture moving that had been scheduled to take all night. They did the work so their General Authority visitors from Salt Lake City could see the temple prepared for operation before leaving the next morning.
Laurie and Kathy Davidson of St. John’s, Newfoundland, made the four-day trip by car and ferry to bring their children to the dedication. They felt well rewarded for the effort because of the opportunity for their family to “experience the Spirit. It was everything we hoped it would be for them,” Brother Davidson said.
President David H. Olsen of the Bloomfield Hills Michigan Stake echoed those feelings. More than nine hundred members of his stake attended the dedication. “There was a tremendous outpouring of the Spirit there that will certainly encourage our people to attend often,” he said.
Many visitors who came during the thirteen-day open house before the dedication of the temple were also touched by what they felt. A Welsh visitor, a member of another faith, wrote in the guest book: “The most impressive place of worship I’ve ever seen.” Another visitor wrote: “An excellent presentation of the Christian faith.” Still another commented: “As a follower of Christ in another denomination, I felt much peace and serenity during my visit to your temple. Thank you for the privilege of sharing.” The open house drew more than sixty-one thousand people to the thirteen-acre temple site in Brampton, northwest of Toronto.
In addition to President Hinckley and President Monson, speakers at the dedicatory sessions included eleven members of the Quorum of the Twelve: President Howard W. Hunter, Elder Boyd K. Packer, Elder Marvin J. Ashton, Elder L. Tom Perry, Elder James E. Faust, Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Elder Russell M. Nelson, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Elder M. Russell Ballard, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, and Elder Richard G. Scott.
Two members of the Presidency of the Seventy spoke: Elder Dean L. Larsen and Elder James M. Paramore. Seven other members of the Seventy also were among the speakers: Elder Ted E. Brewerton, Elder F. Enzio Busche, Elder Jacob de Jager, Elder W. Eugene Hansen, Elder Robert K. Dellenbach, Elder Gerald E. Melchin, and Elder Alexander B. Morrison.
Bishop Glenn L. Pace, Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, spoke. So, too, did President Elaine L. Jack, Relief Society general president, and President Ardeth G. Kapp, Young Women general president.
Toronto Temple President Arnold N. P. Roberts and Audrey D. Roberts, temple matron, spoke during dedicatory sessions, as aid Gordon F. Finnigan and Hans Peets, counselors in the temple presidency.
Several of the visiting speakers have ties to Canada. President Monson was serving as mission president in Toronto when the first stake was created there in 1960. (Five stakes now cover the same area.) Elder Ballard also served as mission president in Toronto. Elder Packer was president of the New England Mission, which included the Maritime Provinces of Canada. Elder Maxwell served in Canada as a young missionary. Five of the speakers were born in Canada: Elder Brewerton, Elder Morrison, Elder Melchin, Sister Kapp, and Sister Jack.
Russian Republic Recognizes the Church
As far as religion is concerned, perestroika seems to be progressing well for Latter-day Saints living in the USSR. Official registration of the Leningrad Branch was approved in September after the Church received permission to register with the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic, one of fifteen constituent republics that make up the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
On September 19, Elder Hans B. Ringger of the Seventy, President of the Europe Area of the Church, met in Moscow with Evgenii V. Chernetsov of the Council on Religious Affairs of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union. Mr. Chernetsov told Elder Ringger that the Council had approved registration of the Leningrad Branch, effective September 13. Mr. Chernetsov heads the Council section for non-Russian Orthodox religions.
Under current Soviet law, churches are registered with each republic on a congregation-by-congregation basis; at least twenty adult members are required in a given political district. Now that the first branch of the Church is registered, future registrations are expected to be routine. The Church also has small branches in Vyborg and Tallinn, as well as members in Moscow and some of the southern parts of the USSR.
In the September 19 meeting were representatives of the Soviet press; President Gary L. Browning, president of the Finland Helsinki East Mission; David P. Farnsworth, area legal counsel to the Church in Europe; and two young Russian members of the Church, Olga Smolyanova and Alexi Kostin.
Elder Ringger answered questions from press representatives about the Church’s position on a number of issues. In response to the question of whether the Russian people would accept the gospel, he answered enthusiastically that they would, saying, “We are all the same. All are children of our Father in Heaven and have the same needs and desires.” He added that the two young Russians who accompanied him to the meeting were shining examples of the truth of his statement. The two then added their testimonies of the truthfulness of the gospel.
During the meeting, Elder Ringger and Brother Farnsworth also discussed with Mr. Chernetsov the Church’s attitude toward a proposed new Soviet law affecting religious freedom and church organizations. The proposed law provides significantly increased religious freedom for Soviet citizens and greatly improved status for religious organizations.
The announcement that the Leningrad Branch was officially registered with the Russian Republic came after years of preliminary work. In June 1987, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve first visited Moscow with Elder Ringger, establishing contact with the Council on Religious Affairs. The two Church leaders returned to Moscow in August 1989. Then, on April 26 of this year, they met with the Leningrad Council for Religious Affairs and later held a fireside with members and other visitors.
That same day, while in Leningrad, Elder Nelson offered a prayer of gratitude and blessing at a summer garden beside the Neva River.
Accompanying Elder Nelson on that visit were Elder Ringger and President Steven R. Mecham, then president of the Finland Helsinki Mission, who was instrumental in establishing the Church in the Baltic district and in serving the needs of members of the Church in Leningrad and adjacent areas. Support for members in other parts of the USSR has come from President Dennis B. Neuenschwander of the Austria Vienna East Mission. There is at present no mission based in the Soviet Union.
Families of Slain Peruvian Elders Share Testimonies, Encourage Work
The families of two missionaries who were shot to death in Peru are determined to continue the work of preaching the gospel and are encouraging others to do the same.
Members of both families attended missionary meetings held August 27–31 in Peru. They also met with visiting Church leaders.
The two elders, both natives of Peru, were killed 22 August 1990 in the outskirts of Huancayo, Peru. President Juan Angel Alvaradejo of the Peru Lima East Mission reported the shootings and identified the young men as Elder Manual Antonio Hidalgo, twenty-two, of Arequipa, Peru, and Elder Christian Andreani Ugarte, twenty-one, of Trujillo, Peru.
Elder Hidalgo, who had been serving since April, and Elder Ugarte, who was scheduled to complete his mission in September, were reportedly going to the home of members for lunch when gunmen alighted from a car and shot them. Police are investigating the incident.
“We are shocked and saddened by this tragedy,” said the First Presidency in a statement issued August 23. “We express our deepest sympathy to the parents and families of the two martyrs.
“Elder Hidalgo and Elder Ugarte were ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, and they were sharing his message of love and brotherhood with their fellow citizens of Peru. They and their fellow missionaries are sent into the world solely to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and have no political agenda or association of any kind.
“We pray for an end to the hatred and misunderstanding which led to this tragedy.”
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve traveled to Peru following the shootings. In meetings in Lima, Trujillo, and Arequipa, he met with most of Peru’s missionaries and stake presidents.
Accompanying Elder Ballard on the August 27–31 trip were Elder Angel Abrea of the Missionary Department and Elder Charles Didier and Elder Hartman Rector, Jr., of the South America North Area Presidency. The three men are also members of the Seventy.
“We extended the love of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, and all of the other General Authorities,” explained Elder Ballard. “It was very positive and reassuring, not only to the missionaries, but also to the members of the Church.”
During the trip, mission and local Church leaders carefully reviewed every missionary area for safety, Elder Ballard noted. Missionary security procedures and guidelines were also reviewed.
“We are doing and will continue to do all within our power to reduce any risks that could harm the missionaries,” he continued. “However, in today’s world of violence, the Church cannot eliminate all risk nor guarantee absolutely that a missionary never will be ill or injured or harmed.
“We’re trying the best we know how to ensure the safety of all the missionaries, wherever they are laboring.”
The missionaries in Peru are eager to continue the work of spreading the gospel despite the incident. “They really want to go on working,” observed Elder Abrea. “They really have a testimony that the Lord will be with them.”
At one meeting, Elder Ugarte’s father, Justo Tito Ugarte, said that the Lord has brought peace to his family.
“He said he knew his son is doing the work of the Lord on the other side,” reported Elder Ballard. “He encouraged other missionaries not to fear and not to give up because of this unfortunate incident in the quest to take the gospel to the honest in heart in Peru.” Two other Ugarte children plan to serve missions in the near future.
The parents of Elder Hidalgo, Manuel Francisco Hidalgo and Virginia Pella de Hidalgo, were baptized just a few months ago. In a letter to President Benson, Brother Hidalgo expressed his testimony:
“With profound sadness we received word of the death of our son. … We know that this separation is temporary and that soon we will be reunited with him for all eternity. … Our Father in Heaven wanted to have [him] at his side to continue as a missionary preaching his gospel in the spirit world, and we understand that and feel joy and gladness that he is continuing his work.
“Moreover, nothing or no one can stop my wife and me—when the time comes—from being ready for a call from the Lord to follow our son’s example in going forward to preach the gospel.”
Prime Minister of Samoa Visits Church Leaders
Church leaders and members in Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah, honored Samoan prime minister Tofilau E. Alesana during his visit to Utah October 3–5.
The prime minister’s visit fulfilled a desire he had expressed two years ago after hosting President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, and Elder James E. Faust, of the Quorum of the Twelve, during a celebration of the Church’s centennial in Samoa. The prime minister said at the time that he would like the opportunity to meet other Latter-day Saints in Utah.
Responding to an invitation from President Monson, Prime Minister Alesana came to Utah from New York City, where he had spoken at the United Nations.
While in Utah, he visited the campus of Brigham Young University, where he spoke at the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies and was honored at a luncheon with BYU President Rex E. Lee. He toured Temple Square, the Church Office Building, the Family History Library, and other Salt Lake City sites. On Thursday evening, October 4, the Samoan Ward, in the Salt Lake Sugar House Stake, presented a traditional island program in his honor. Samoans of other faiths living in the Salt Lake Valley were also invited to participate.
On Friday, President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, and President Monson hosted a luncheon honoring the prime minister.
The prime minister returned home via Hawaii, where he visited the Church’s Polynesian Cultural Center, adjacent to the BYU—Hawaii campus in Laie.
New Booklet on Youth Standards
For the Strength of Youth, a pamphlet that summarizes standards of righteousness discussed in the scriptures and in the writings and teachings of Church leaders, has been released.
Announced by President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, during the 29 September 1990 General Women’s Meeting and during the 6 October 1990 priesthood session of general conference (see pages 45 and 95), the pamphlet is free of charge and is available at Church distribution centers. Each pamphlet is accompanied by a wallet-sized standards summary card.
The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have endorsed the pamphlet, which was printed at their request for the information, guidance, and blessing of youth.
The small, 23-page booklet begins with a message from the First Presidency and then proceeds to clearly outline standards for the Church’s youth.
“We want you to know that we love you,” said President Monson, quoting from the First Presidency message in the booklet. “We have great confidence in you. Because of that, we talk to you frankly and honestly.
“We desire everything in this world for you that is right and good. You are not just ordinary young men and women. You are choice spirits who have been held in reserve to come forth in this day when the temptations, responsibilities, and opportunities are the very greatest. You are at a critical time in your lives. This is a time for you not only to live righteously but also to set an example for your peers. As you seek to live the standards of the Church, you will be able to reach out and lift and build your brothers and sisters. …
“We bear witness of the truth of these principles and promise you the blessings of the Lord as you keep the standards outlined in the scriptures and emphasized in this pamphlet. Among those blessings will be the constant and calming companionship of the Holy Ghost and the feelings of peace and happiness that you will experience.
“We pray that you—the young and rising generation—will keep your bodies and minds clean, free from the contaminations of the world, that you will be fit and pure vessels to bear triumphantly the responsibilities of the kingdom of God in preparation for the second coming of our Savior.”
Calling the pamphlet’s guidelines “safety standards,” President Monson quoted briefly from its twelve sections, which include dating, dress and appearance, friendshipping, honesty, language, media, mental and physical health, music and dancing, sexual purity, Sunday behavior, spiritual help, and repentance.
A letter signed by President Howard W. Hunter, President of the Quorum of the Twelve, has been sent to Church leaders in the United States and Canada announcing the new pamphlet. President Hunter encourages local leaders to “prayerfully consider effective ways to introduce the brochure and the standards summary card to youth and parents. …
“The brochure and summary card should be used during interviews with young people, in talks by youth leaders in sacrament meetings, in classes, at youth activities, and for other appropriate occasions.”
New Mission in Philippines, Missionaries in Botswana
Continued Church growth in the Philippines has brought the creation of a new mission—the third in that country this year—and the potential for growth has brought missionaries to Botswana, Africa.
The Philippines Ilagan Mission was created on September 1, through a division of the Philippines Quezon City Mission. Just two months earlier, the new Philippines Tacloban and Philippines San Pablo missions had begun operations.
The Philippines Ilagan Mission will cover the less-populated northeastern section of the island of Luzon. There are more than nine thousand Latter-day Saints, in one stake and five districts, living in the new mission. The total population within its boundaries is nearly three million.
Reynaldo Ibanez Vergara, of the Bacalor Branch, Angeles Philippines Stake, has been called to preside over the new mission. He is a former mission president. His wife, Obdulia Yalung Navarro, has been a district Relief Society president and a teacher in the Relief Society and Sunday School.
The Philippines Quezon City Mission was created on 1 July 1989. It covers heavily populated areas near Manila; approximately 5.6 million people live within its boundaries. More than twelve thousand of them are Latter-day Saints, in four stakes and one district.
Meanwhile, in Botswana, missionary work began with the assignment of a missionary couple, Bruce and Patricia Midgley, from the South Africa Johannesburg Mission. Elder and Sister Midgley are currently working in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana.
“We have been praying for seven years for the Church to come to us,” said Maurice Mzwinila at the first Church meeting held in Botswana.
Brother Mzwinila and his wife, Nosho, joined the Church eight years ago while he was studying electrical engineering in North Carolina. Sister Mzwinila’s sister, Beatrice Mphoeng, was living with them and joined, too. After Brother Mzwinila graduated, they returned to Botswana. The Mzwinilas are the parents of four children, and Brother Mzwinila holds the Melchizedek Priesthood.
Another Melchizedek Priesthood holder in the area is Anthony Mogare. Brother Mogare had joined the Church while studying at Utah State University in Logan.
President R. J. Snow of the Johannesburg mission said Brother Mzwinila and Brother Mogare will provide priesthood leadership with their families, and “will form the nucleus of an expanding group of Saints in Botswana.”
Botswana is in the center of the southern part of Africa. Approximately half of its more than one million people are Christians.
Elder Midgley is currently presiding over the Church unit in Gaborone.
A Conversation with Elder J. Richard Clarke about FamilySearch
New technology now makes it possible for stake and multiregional family history centers to have information in a computer format that has previously been available only on microfilm. The First Presidency recently announced one such advancement—a new computer software called FamilySearch™ that runs on personal computers equipped with compact disc players. FamilySearch is a major step in simplifying family history research and making work that has formerly been done by hand much easier to do. (See address by Elder Richard G. Scott, p. 5.)
To understand more about FamilySearch, the Ensign spoke with Elder , Executive Director of the Family History Department.
Q: Would you begin by giving an explanation of what FamilySearch is and how it works?
A: FamilySearch is a computer system that includes both (1) a set of powerful search and retrieval programs designed to work on personal computers and (2) large computer files of family history information. FamilySearch is part of an information revolution using compact-disc technology. Today’s youth think compact discs—CDs—were invented for music, but we think the Lord had something more important in mind. Vast amounts of information can now be stored on CDs. To give you some idea of their capacity, each CD can hold approximately 320,000 pages of information. The FamilySearch software, coupled with the processing power of the computer, allows you to scan the disc in seconds to find a fact that could otherwise take hours to locate.
Q: How will FamilySearch affect individual Church members?
A: FamilySearch is like going from a wagon to an airplane. Both are means of transportation, but the latter dramatically changes the transportation possibilities. Never before have results been so easy to obtain. Work that was once tedious is now exciting and dramatic. These tools help us keep the solemn covenants we have made to use every means available to bring the blessings of the gospel to all of our Heavenly Father’s children—both here and in the spirit world—and the Lord has prepared the way.
To explain what I mean, let me start by pointing out that the increased number of temples being built throughout the world is no coincidence. The work of the Lord is accelerating: more missionaries are in the field today than at any time in history, more people are joining the Church, more names are being submitted for temple work, and more temples have been built. As members of the Church, we need to see the big picture, to see what family history really is. Each of us must recognize our need to take part in that great effort to exalt the human family, and FamilySearch makes the process exciting and “doable” for each member of the Church.
FamilySearch affects members of the Church in many vitally important ways. Let me mention just three. First, no experience is needed for members to use FamilySearch. It has been designed to serve people with little or no computer experience. One finger is all that is needed to guide the user to files that are as vast as libraries but as simple to use as a touch-tone telephone.
Second, for those who are already doing family history work and are involved with research and doing temple work for their kindred dead, this decreases the time demand immensely. No trips to Salt Lake City—the personal computer in the local family history center is both convenient and comprehensive, eliminating many of the obstacles of the past. For those who have not yet tasted the sweet experience of discovering a family name in a record or taking it to the temple, FamilySearch can help make that possibility a reality.
Third, this new tool places more responsibility on members to verify the information they are using to do temple ordinances for their ancestors. The person doing the research will now be doing what the Church used to do—verifying whether or not a person’s work has been done. In fact, what we are doing with FamilySearch is closely linked with another computer system announced by the First Presidency in April 1990, one that automates names clearance—a same-day processing of names.
Today, with FamilySearch, you can identify an ancestor. But sometime late next year, we will have ready a computer program that will enable you also to use a computer in your meetinghouse to do everything needed to ready that ancestor’s name for temple work—a task that currently takes months to do here at Church headquarters. Using this new computer program, you will be able to put the information needed by the temple on a floppy disk, which you can then take to the temple for temple ordinance work at your convenience—the same day, if you wish.
These are historic changes. We’re in the midst of a revolution, an information explosion that is benefiting family history the world over. The changes are affecting not only how family history is being done, but also who is participating.
Q: Is the new technology attracting greater interest in family history among people who have not traditionally participated in it?
A: Has it ever! The new technology has increased interest in family history as never before. But there are several other factors.
Since the 1970s, when Alex Haley’s Roots popularized the notion of family history, there has been an upswing in response to the Spirit of Elijah—even though people may not know that’s what they’re responding to. We all want to know about our roots. The family is the center of the gospel, and therefore our link with our family is a deep spiritual need within everyone who has ever lived.
I know a woman, a counselor, who took foster children into her home. These two children had experienced powerful feelings of rejection from their parents. But the woman was wise enough to know of children’s need for roots. She made a pedigree chart to link those children with a knowledge of their grandparents. Though they had been abandoned by their parents, they were able to discover that just one generation back were fine people who loved them and cared about them. This good sister told me that the children gained a real pride in being part of that family tree. Their sense of self-worth grew greatly from the experience. I think that’s a fine instance of how lineage can be valuable to us and how people who are not usually genealogists are benefiting from family histories.
The desire to learn about one’s roots is growing. I understand that genealogy, or family history, is one of the fastest growing hobbies. Certainly, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City has seen a tremendous increase in patronage—especially after this period. Early versions of FamilySearch were put to use two years ago. From the beginning, every computer has been busy all day, requiring the library to add computers and schedule their use. More than fifty computers are used in the library today, and more are planned. FamilySearch has helped spur this increase in library use because it has made things simpler. We are finding the same phenomenon as FamilySearch becomes available at family history centers.
These new developments have helped to bring new life to the search for names. Even young people are taking an interest in pursuing histories. In fact, this generation growing up now will be our first computer-literate generation, and the contribution they will make to this work and the use of technology will astound us.
But what’s truly exciting to me is that even those of us who grew up without computers are finding this system surprisingly fun and easy.
Q: Is it possible to purchase a copy of FamilySearch for use on my personal computer?
A: Not yet. We have a number of reasons for this. Our first priority has been to put FamilySearch in our family history centers—we have almost 1,100 in the U.S. and Canada—where it can reach the greatest number of members, regardless of whether they have a computer of their own. In family history centers, members can become acquainted with FamilySearch in a setting where they have the right kind of service and support available to them. In addition, we are working through some legal and security issues that must be resolved before FamilySearch can be available for sale. In time, as FamilySearch becomes more widely available in family history centers and as we develop the level of support and service needed, we can safely move toward making the program available for purchase.
Q: Can those with personal computers tie into FamilySearch by telephone?
A: No. For now, cost and security factors have made this method of access impractical.
Q: How soon can people expect to see FamilySearch in their local family history centers, and what is the first step a person should take to be able to benefit from it?
A: By the middle of September 1990, there were nearly five hundred systems installed in family history centers in the United States and Canada. Local leaders need to request FamilySearch for their family history centers. As they do, systems are sent as soon as possible. During the coming year, the shipments are likely to increase as demand goes up. At present, we are evaluating use of the system outside the U.S. and Canada. There are a host of questions, such as computer availability and legal issues, that need to be resolved before the system can be distributed internationally.
Our main concern now will be meeting the demand. Constant improvements are being made to the software, and that will be ongoing, but we hope to have FamilySearch in all family history centers in the U.S. and Canada by 1993. At the same time, we will be exploring ways to make this great resource available to priesthood leaders outside the U.S. and Canada.
To get started, members should get a copy of Come unto Christ through Temple Ordinances and Covenants, which explains the simple, easy steps to getting started in family history work. It doesn’t take much to start: members simply write their names on a pedigree chart, together with their birth dates and other key dates and places. Then they write the same information for their parents, grandparents—as much as they know. Most wards also have ward family history consultants who can help members do everything needed to provide temple ordinances for ancestors in the first few generations. The process has been greatly simplified in recent years.
FamilySearch can also help members start compiling their family histories. Members can either gather information as I just described and go to FamilySearch to cross-check what information is there already, or they can start with FamilySearch and see what information is already recorded there and begin following their line.
Q: How does Ancestral File™ relate to FamilySearch?
A: Ancestral File is one of the files that is part of FamilySearch. In many ways it is the most important of the files. In Ancestral File, you can find family-linked information. You type the name of an ancestor on the computer keyboard, and if the system finds it, you can see information not only for that ancestor, but also for his parents, grandparents, and on back as well. And you can make a computer printout of that information right there at the computer, or you can copy it onto a computer disk and take it home with you.
Ancestral File is based on family history information members of the Church have contributed since 1979. It doesn’t include information that was submitted to the Church before that time. The version shipped to family history centers last fall included information for about 7.6 million people. That’s a far cry from the 147 million names in the International Genealogical Index, but this information, as I said before, is linked. And it will grow.
Q: How will Ancestral File grow?
A: We all have an important part to play in the growth of Ancestral File. This file is a user file. We will not be making large contributions of information to it from Church headquarters. The file’s growth depends on contributions of family history information from you, from me, from family organizations, from members of other faiths, and from genealogical societies. As more and more of us contribute, imagine how the file will grow!
Ancestral File is really a community effort—one that takes in the whole community of mankind, spanning countries, languages, cultures, and time. People the world over are responding today to the Spirit of Elijah, identifying their ancestors and gathering their names together—many without really knowing why. This quest for names draws each of us closer not only to our ancestors, but also to others involved in the same quest. Ancestral File provides a way for us to share our discoveries, a way to help others ford the same streams we have crossed and find the family ties that bind us together in the family of man.
To find out how to contribute to Ancestral File, members can go to the Family History Library or their local family history centers.
It’s possible that more lives than ever before are being influenced—both members of the Church and our neighbors throughout the world—by this revolutionary development in information technology. For too long, genealogy and family history have been associated with antiquity, dusty old museums, large volumes, and tedious research techniques. To the extent that these have characterized family history’s past, its future is electronic, compact, and on the cutting-edge of man’s ingenuity.
Like Daniel’s prophecy of the Lord’s church being a stone cut out of the mountain without hands and rolling forth till it fills the earth, so has this small, slow-moving stone of family history gained such momentum that it, too, will fill the earth, bringing the blessings of the Atonement to our Father’s children in preparation for the Lord’s return.