News of the Church

By Giles H. Florence, Jr.


Mountain Meadows Memorial Helps Bring Healing

There was what President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, described as a “spirit of reconciliation” in the air September 15 at a southern Utah memorial service for the victims of an 1857 tragedy.

President Gordon B. Hinckley so described the event as he spoke to about two thousand people gathered on the campus of Southern Utah State College in Cedar City. He also dedicated a memorial marker for the more than one hundred Arkansas emigrants who died in what is known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Some 120 emigrants, led by John T. Baker and Alexander Fancher, were traveling through the area on their way to California when they were attacked at a site about thirty-five miles southwest of present-day Cedar City. Only eighteen of the emigrants survived.

In 1988, a group of relatives of those Arkansas emigrants began planning for installation of a granite marker on the hill overlooking the site. Learning of their efforts, Dixie Leavitt, a Cedar City businessman and Utah state senator, helped organize a committee to move the project forward more effectively. The committee included representatives of both the Arkansas natives and Utah pioneer families. The group helped raise money for the new marker. It also won the cooperation of the Church in refurbishing an older marker at the site and of the state in preparing the site for the new marker.

During the memorial program on September 15, Roger Logan, a judge from Harrison, Arkansas, and J. K. Fancher, a descendant of Alexander Fancher, spoke representing the emigrant families. Paiute tribal chairwoman Geneal Anderson introduced Clifford Jake, a Paiute spiritual leader who performed a prayer ceremony as part of the memorial service. His prayer addressed the theme of reconciliation.

Brigham Young University President Rex E. Lee spoke representing descendants of LDS pioneer families from the area. As part of his address, he called representatives of the Arkansas families to the podium, clasped hands with them, and invited the people in the audience to stand and clasp hands with their neighbors in a gesture of reconciliation.

President Hinckley complimented the “courageous men and women who opened a dialogue that has led to this historic day.” He pointed out that the faith in Jesus Christ shared by many of those present had helped heal old wounds. “A bridge has been built across a chasm of cankering bitterness,” he said.

[photo] BYU President Rex Lee, at lectern, clasps hands with J. K. Fancher, Judge Roger Logan, and J. E. Dunlap, Arkansas participants on the memorial program. (Photo by Nancy Rhodes, Spectrum.)

New Young Women Guidebook Available

A new Young Women Leadership Guidebook has been released. Prepared to assist adult Young Women leaders in their responsibility to train youth leaders in the duties of their callings, the new guidebook contains information that can increase the effectiveness of youth leaders.

“Our youth today have a need to feel that they are valued and that they can contribute,” pointed out Young Women general president Ardeth G. Kapp. “They need to know that they have not only an opportunity, but a responsibility, to be leaders. The lessons outlined in this guidebook will contribute in a major way to helping meet those needs.”

The guidebook consists of twenty-three one-page lesson outlines. Topics range from spiritual preparation to using an agenda, and from delegating to creating a spirit of unity in the class presidency.

Each lesson outline includes principles, goals, and specific scriptures pertaining to the lesson topic. Outlines also include suggested study steps and follow-up hints.

These lessons can be taught in class presidency meetings or in special leadership training meetings. On occasion, leadership training sessions can be conducted for all young women.

The guidebook is a revised and updated version of a similar manual used in 1977–78. Work on the revisions has been ongoing for the last three years, President Kapp reports.

“These are simple guides to teach principles of leadership skills and application of those skills. The lessons also provide ways in which youth might practice the skills under adult direction,” she says.

The guidebook is now available at Church distribution centers.

That Sunday in Leningrad

“Is this where the Latter-day Saints meet?” asks the young man in Russian. He and a friend have approached Elder Reagan and Elder Dover on the street in downtown Leningrad.

It’s Sunday morning, September 23. Elder Reagan and Elder Dover stand at the entrance to the old three-storied building where the Leningrad Branch has met since April. David Reagan comes from Des Moines, Iowa; his companion, Bert Dover, is from Tucson, Arizona. Both are in the final weeks of their missions, having been originally called to the Finland Helsinki Mission. Last July they were among the first missionaries to be assigned to the Finland Helsinki East Mission.

Elders Reagan and Dover begin talking with the two students, welcoming them to the meetings that will begin in fifteen minutes. They learn that the students had heard of the Church from friends.

A Special Time and Place

Once inside the little theater that serves as a chapel, the members and visitors charge the atmosphere with a vibrant warmth that is characteristic of Latter-day Saint gatherings anywhere. Vigorous handshakes, arms around shoulders, hugs, and verbal expressions of love animate the dusky hall, almost illuminating it.

I ask various members and even visitors why this particular church appeals to them when so many are now open to choose from. Responses are similar to Sergei Buinov’s. “I felt something special here, a warmth and friendliness that I had not felt elsewhere. The Church embodies my greatest hopes and has raised my expectations for myself,” says Sergei, who with his wife, Olga, was baptized in June.

Branch president Yuri Terebenen, one of the first to have been baptized, expresses similar feelings. He and his wife, Ludmila, and their teenage daughter, Natalia, joined the Church a year ago in Hungary while visiting with friends. “We went to Church with them,” says Yuri, “and felt something different in the people’s relationship with God and with each other. It seemed right that we should be free to communicate directly with God for ourselves rather than through a professional clergy. You are taught, and you teach; this brings you closer to God.

“For me, the rituals and language of churches I visited had often come between me and God. Here, I felt intimately connected with Him, which made me also feel closer to people.”

When the Terebenens returned to Leningrad after being baptized, they relied on friends in Helsinki to put them in touch with the Finnish mission president, who at the time was Steven R. Mecham. President Mecham and his counselor Jussi Kemppainen had already been visiting with members in Vyborg and Tallinn. They visited with the Terebenens and other members in Leningrad. By December 1989, small branches of the Church were established in those three cities.

The Leningrad Branch now numbers more than one hundred members, but on this particular Sunday there are also forty or fifty visitors—families, individuals, and groups of friends. Today, President Gary Browning and his family are here from the Finland Helsinki East Mission, and he has a special announcement to make. “Just under a week ago,” he begins, smiling a broad smile, “on September 19, the Soviet Council on Religious Affairs informed Elder Ringger that it has officially registered the Leningrad Branch of the Church.” At these words, the decorum of the sacrament meeting is lost for a moment, when the congregation’s uncontained joy expresses itself in a not entirely muffled cheer.

Since last spring, even before the Finland Helsinki East Mission opened, missionaries were allowed into the USSR on short-term visitors visas. President Browning, a professor of Slavic languages at Brigham Young University, has directed the work of his eighteen Russian-speaking missionaries from his office in Helsinki, three hundred miles to the north, making trips as necessary to the branches in Leningrad, Tallinn, and Vyborg and to the handful of members in Moscow.

To open the sacrament meeting, President Yuri Terebenen stands at the podium and offers a soft-spoken welcome. Above him on the wall hangs a banner inviting citizens to do all they can to accomplish the goal of the Twenty-seventh Congress of the Supreme Soviet—perestroika. Of course, this actual meeting and President Browning’s announcement of the Church’s registration are evidence of, among other things, the progress of perestroika. New freedoms allowing Sabbath worship are bringing people back to the churches.

Behind the Scenes

For centuries, Christianity flourished in Russia. Cathedrals of the Russian Orthodox Church are among the most colorful and striking of the country’s architecture, and faith in God was strong among its people. In those days, Leningrad was still St. Petersburg, or Petrograd. But for the past 60 years, the beautiful churches, with their shiny gold cupolas, icons, and fine art, have been used very little for worship. Many of the structures were converted to museums or skating rinks or were used for storage.

Latter-day Saints have prayed for years that the restored gospel could be taken to all nations of the world. So, though perestroika may seem to be the cause of religious revival, it is more likely evidence that the hand of the Lord is moving quietly behind the scenes of mortal events.

As early as 6 August 1903, Elder Francis M. Lyman of the Quorum of the Twelve knelt in the Summer Gardens in St. Petersburg and dedicated Russia for the preaching the gospel. Again in April 1989, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve knelt beneath the rows of hundred-foot lindens and oaks in that same beautiful garden and prayed for the Lord’s blessings on the Soviet Union. Since that time, Elder Nelson and Elder Hans B. Ringger of the Seventy have continued to meet with officials of the Russian Republic and have worked to bring about the registration.

Following the administration of the sacrament—by three men and a youth—the speakers begin. Two recently baptized young women share moving testimonies, then President Browning speaks. He says that the Church has become a worldwide Church, with leaders from many nations. “Someday we may have one from here, also. The Church in Russia is a child, but this child, although young and learning, is growing rapidly. You have expressed faith; now you must add knowledge to your faith. Faith without knowledge leads to fanaticism, and knowledge without faith is cold. Jesus Christ has shown us by his example that his love comes from faith balanced with knowledge.”

After the meeting, several students share how they heard about the Church from Pavel Agafonov.

Pavel, who studies engineering and psychology, learned of the Church when he was in Atlanta, Georgia, in the United States, last March. Previously, he had visited many other churches, asking hard questions. “None of the churches I visited could answer the questions I had,” explains Pavel. “I wanted a real church, one that knows God today.”

He was baptized in April and then began bringing his friends. Since then, his two roommates, Andrei Chromovskikh, another engineering and psychology major, and Vladimir Shestakov, a semi-professional basketball player and athletics major, have both joined the Church. Another friend of Pavel’s, Valeri Pomazanov, who studies at the Institute of Teachers, has also joined. These young men agree that there is no other place where they have found as much closeness, both emotionally and spiritually, as they have found in the Church.

Twelve-year-old Roman Batin was one of the first to be ordained a deacon in the Leningrad Branch. At school, he tells his friends about his American friends at Church who are “young men of very high character, and I want to grow up to be like them.”

Elena Stolyar, twenty-six, works in a children’s culture center and is pursuing a degree in electrical engineering. What appealed to her about the gospel? “I like that it’s not easy and that much is expected of us. My life is being shaped by the new values, new friends, and new hopes that I’ve gained.”

As soon as Liliya Chuprova attended Relief Society, she “knew at once that this is what I’d been looking for all my life. I have come every Sunday and bring my children.” She and her daughter, Alexandria, who is nine, were baptized in August. Liliya is a single parent, rearing two daughters and helping her own mother.

External Connections

Most of the growth of the Church in the USSR to date has come from members telling their friends about the gospel. Like President Terebinen, who learned of the Church in Hungary, most of the early members had external connections.

One such connection was the Jakko family, Nellie and Aimo, in eastern Finland. Nellie is an international table tennis champion, and through some friends in Russia, she managed to play matches there. Table tennis led to informal talks about religion with two Russian doctors, Andrei Semionov, of Vyborg, and his brother Pavel. Both men and their families have since become strong Church members. Andrei is now the branch president in Vyborg, near the Finnish border, and Pavel is the branch clerk in Leningrad.

Pavel tells how his whole practice of medicine has changed since his discovery of God and the sacred nature of human life. Andrei, likewise, explains that he is grateful for the new strength in his life that comes from the gospel. “I was agnostic,” he says. “I have looked for truth. But when I first heard the Latter-day Saint doctrines, I was afraid. The standards seemed too high, too impossible to live. Since then I’ve learned that there is a source of strength to help me live this way.”

Like all Soviets, Andrei and Pavel and their families, the students, the Terebinens, and the Buinovs had all been taught from their infancy that there is no God. Imagine their joy to discover for themselves the “good news”—the very meaning of the word gospel—that He is not only there, but that, as Andrei says, “He loves us enough to speak to us through a prophet.”

“My life has changed 360 degrees,” Andrei adds. “I’m going the same direction now—but with a complete turn in my thinking and feeling. This knowledge of the gospel and the hope it brings has changed my life and will change life for my countrymen who are ready for it.”

[photo] Elder Reagan and Elder Dover stand in front of #9 Novgarodskaya, two blocks off Nevsky Prospekt, where the Leningrad Branch meets.

[photo] Sister Heidi Moffett of Brigham City, Utah (left), works with a young Primary teacher in the branch.

[photo] Leningrad University students (from left) Pavel Agafonov, Vladimir Shestakov, and Andrei Khromovskikh.

[photo] Branch president Yuri Terebenen (center, with notepad) confers with priesthood leaders prior to meeting.

Oakland Temple Reopens

The Oakland Temple reopened for ordinance work on October 30, after being closed since January 1989 for remodeling and refurbishing. The temple serves more than 220,000 members in northern California and western Nevada.

A Conversation about the Encyclopedia of Mormonism

The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, a project and title approved by the First Presidency and published by Macmillan Publishing Company, is nearing completion. Although actual printing will not begin until next summer, the writing will be done by the end of this year. To learn more about the encyclopedia, the Ensign talked with Daniel H. Ludlow, editor-in-chief.

Q: What exactly is The Encyclopedia of Mormonism?

A: The project, initiated by Macmillan Publishing Company of New York City, will be a five-volume encyclopedia. The first four volumes will contain articles having to do with pertinent Church topics. The fifth volume will basically be the triple combination: the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. However, the footnotes, index, and other helps found in the LDS edition of these scriptures will not be printed in this fifth volume. This will be the first time the Church has ever let an outside publisher print the scriptures; but in preparing the encyclopedia, it became apparent that it was essential to have the scriptures as part of the project.

The idea for the encyclopedia project was presented to and approved by the First Presidency more than two years ago. Because Brigham Young University is a Church-sponsored educational institution, it was given the responsibility for the encyclopedia’s contents.

Q: What kind of information will be included in the encyclopedia?

A: The encyclopedia will consist of more than eleven hundred articles of varying lengths. The articles will be listed alphabetically in the published encyclopedia, but for purposes of organization they have been divided into five major areas: history, institutional Church, scriptures, doctrine, and culture and society.

The list of articles to be included was developed by the board of editors, which includes myself, three senior editors, and ten editors. We had our first meeting in August 1988 and spent an entire year planning and outlining the encyclopedia before the first word was even written.

First, board members checked all the basic reference books of the Church, including several Church histories, the Topical Guide, and several encyclopedias on religion. Next, we consulted individually with more than two hundred faculty members of BYU and LDS seminaries and institutes and with the staff of more than thirty Church departments. Finally, approval for each article was given by the president of BYU and the publisher.

Macmillan allotted one million words for the encyclopedia, to be distributed among the various articles in the first four volumes. This word limitation does not include the encyclopedia’s fifth volume (the triple combination), nor does it include other items basic to an encyclopedia—such as the subject list, name list, glossary, map index, chart index, illustrations, and main index. Because the articles cannot be exhaustive, almost every article will also end with a bibliography for further reading.

There will also be a number of biographies included in the encyclopedia. The biographies for all Presidents of the Church in this dispensation are included. Other biographies were included only if the person made a very significant contribution to the Church. No living person’s biography is included except for the current Church President.

Q: How were authors for each article selected?

A: Potential authors, both LDS and non-LDS, were suggested by the board of editors and were cleared by the president of BYU and Macmillan.

After an author was selected, Macmillan sent him or her a contract with a “scope description,” supplied by us, for the assigned article.

The scope description gives each author the article word limit and outlined what we want covered in the article. So we wouldn’t duplicate information, the scope description also gives authors a list of other articles in the encyclopedia that relate to what they are writing about. Also included is a key bibliography to get the writer started.

After an author completes his or her first draft, he or she sends it to the “supervising editor” for that article—one of the ten editors on the board. The supervising editor and author work together to refine the article before it is submitted to a “refinement stage.” At this point, other editors on the board read the article and make further suggestions. The supervising editor and author then consider those suggestions, incorporating the ones they think are valid. The article is then submitted to me as editor-in-chief.

I am a firm believer that in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established, so every article that is submitted at this point is read by all three senior editors and myself. We make further suggestions and then sit down with the supervising editor and review the article. Finally, the finished article is sent to Macmillan. Thus, every article goes through several stages, and each article has been read by several people.

This encyclopedia will have been produced, from beginning to end, in three years. Macmillan has never published an encyclopedia in that amount of time before. It can take ten years or longer. It usually takes that much time because the list of contributing authors for those projects is relatively short and many authors will write fifty or more articles. But we decided at the beginning to show that we are a lay church. Therefore, we determined that no author would write more than four articles. So, while we searched to find the author best qualified to write on a particular subject, we also had a wide range of authors to from which to choose. We considered professors at the Church schools and universities, teachers in the Church Educational System, professors at many other colleges and universities, and other Latter-day Saint scholars and writers.

That’s why we will be able to produce the encyclopedia in three years without sacrificing quality, whereas it normally takes much longer to complete a project of this scope. We used more than 700 authors to write approximately 1,100 articles.

Q: What is the encyclopedia’s purpose?

A: The encyclopedia has been written at the educational level of a high-school graduate and will have as its primary audience those who are interested in learning more about the Church. We have assumed that the reader will have no familiarity with Church history, organization, scriptures, doctrine, or culture; therefore, needed background will be provided within the entries themselves. Because of Macmillan’s reputation as a publisher, the encyclopedia will most probably be found in college and university libraries, as well as in many high-school and municipal libraries.

The encyclopedia will also be beneficial for members of the Church. We anticipate that the encyclopedia will become one of the major resources available for Church members. It will be of special help to new members in familiarizing themselves with the heritage and perspective of the Church. The extent of this project is so broad that all Church members can learn a great deal. For example, one of our senior editors, who has served as the dean of Religious Instruction at BYU, mentioned how much he has learned by reading these articles.

Q: When is the encyclopedia scheduled to be published?

A: BYU will have all articles content-edited and sent to Macmillan by the end of 1990. The publisher has agreed to have the encyclopedia on the shelves by October 15, 1991. Macmillan has also agreed to make available to members of the Church a four-volume set, minus the fifth volume (the triple combination) since most members of the Church already have the scriptures available.

We’re negotiating about the price and about whether or not the BYU Bookstore can distribute the books. So far, Macmillan has never had anyone except its own sales force sell their encyclopedias. The estimated cost will probably be about $60 per book, or approximately $240 for the four-volume set.

All in all, the project is exciting, and we’re giving it our best effort. I think it may be many years before the Church has an opportunity to produce this type of publication again.

[photo] Daniel H. Ludlow

Missions and Missionaries

As of 30 September 1990, there were 43,679 missionaries serving throughout the world in 256 missions. Over a five-year period, the number of missions has increased by 63 and the number of missionaries has increased by 11,876. This represents a 33-percent increase in the total number of missions and a 37-percent increase in the number of missionaries serving worldwide.

Year

Missions

Missionaries

1986

193

31,803

1987

205

34,750

1988

222

36,132

1989

228

39,739

1990

256

43,679

Policies and Announcements

The following letter, signed by the First Presidency, was sent to Church leaders with instructions for it to be read in sacrament meetings and stake conferences:

“Members of the Church continue to place telephone calls and write letters to Church headquarters about doctrinal issues and personal matters. With the ever-increasing membership, the ability to respond personally to these inquiries presents an almost insurmountable task.

The Lord in His wisdom so organized His Church that there is accessible to every member—man, woman and child—a bishop or branch president and a stake or mission president who serve as spiritual advisers and as temporal counselors. By reason of their ordination, these priesthood leaders are entitled to the spirit of discernment and inspiration to enable them to counsel members within their jurisdiction. Such leaders who have need for further clarification about doctrinal issues may write in behalf of their members to the First Presidency.

“In expressing our love and appreciation for the faith and devotion of members of this Church everywhere, we are confident that both members and local leaders will be blessed as they pray and counsel together to resolve issues of concern to them.”