News of the Church


Priesthood Fireside Focuses on Service

The theme of the May 5 fireside commemorating the restoration of the priesthood was service—more spirituality in service, more diligence in service.

Thousands of priesthood holders heard the call as they gathered in the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City or in stake centers throughout the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. The fireside was broadcast via satellite and rebroadcast later on KBYU-TV.

President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, presided and conducted the meeting in the Tabernacle, with President Ezra Taft Benson watching the broadcast from his apartment near Temple Square.

“Miracles are everywhere to be found when priesthood callings are magnified, when faith replaces doubt, when selfless service eliminates selfish striving. The power of God will bring to pass his purposes,” said President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency.

He spoke of the kind of miracles that happen when priesthood holders give diligent, devoted service. He told the story of Tobias Burkhardt, a boy who, some years ago, took on the task of caring for the grave of Joseph Ott, a missionary from Utah who died in Dresden in the 1890s. Tobias felt that in this way he could give some service to the missionary cause, since in the German Democratic Republic where he lived, he would not be allowed to serve a mission.

But the world has changed since Tobias Burkhardt was a deacon. President Monson called Elder Burkhardt, just finishing a mission in Utah, to the pulpit to bear his testimony during the fireside. The missionary spoke of the ways in which service, along with the teachings of the gospel and the influence of his parents, have shaped his life.

President Monson also recalled that a wise teachers quorum adviser helped him learn service many years ago. The adviser gave him two pigeons, but one of them would return to the former owner’s loft every time it was set free. And every time young Tom, the president of the teachers quorum, went to retrieve it, his adviser would counsel him on how the quorum president could help one of the other boys in the group.

In his address, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve referred to Abraham’s vision of the “noble and great ones” who lived with the Lord before earth life. (See Abr. 3:22–23.)

“Brethren, I believe that the noble and great ones described by Abraham, the ones that God would make his leaders, include those who hold and honor the holy priesthood.”

Priesthood is not, as some may believe, the authority to testify, to pray, to teach in the name of the Lord, Elder Oaks explained; members who do not hold the priesthood have authority to do those things. Those to whom priesthood power is delegated, who use it worthily, “do not just act in the name of the Lord. Priesthood holders act for the Lord,” in things that will be recognized not just in this life but in eternity.

“What a responsibility! When we use priesthood authority, we must strive with all the power we possess to say or do only that which God would have us say or do as his representative, acting for him in that circumstance.”

Elder Marion D. Hanks of the Presidency of the Seventy spoke of virtues that priesthood holders need, particularly integrity. “Real integrity calls us to be, and not to seem,” he said.

He recalled the example of humble Peter, who put his net into the sea again at the Lord’s bidding, even though he had fished all night long and had caught nothing. (See Luke 5:1–11.) “In the Lord’s service, we are invited to put down the nets as he bids us,” Elder Hanks added. It does not matter that we are tired or haven’t been particularly successful before; power to direct the harvest is his.

Elder Jack H. Goaslind of the Seventy, Young Men General President, was the first speaker of the fireside. “The priesthood you hold is indeed a worldwide brotherhood,” knowing no language or cultural barriers, he said. As part of that brotherhood, he introduced three Aaronic Priesthood holders whose talks had been videotaped in their home areas. They were Derek Ryan, a deacon from Ireland; Erickson B. Ballados, a teacher from the Philippines; and Daniel Borba, a priest from Brazil. Each spoke on service through the priesthood, and on preparation for greater service in life.

A section of the Church video production Putting the Melchizedek Priesthood to Work was also shown during the fireside, indicating ways in which priesthood holders can reach out to members who need strengthening.

[photos] President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, spoke at the fireside telecast from the Tabernacle. A priesthood (right) from Orem, Utah, furnished music. (Photos by Phil Shurtleff.)

Tornado Strikes Kansas, Earthquake Shakes Costa Rica

Two Latter-day Saint families lost their homes, but none were injured when a tornado cut a swath across the Wichita, Kansas, area on April 25.

It was reported that the tornado stayed on the ground for seventy miles, with winds that reached as high as 250 miles per hour. At least twenty-two people were killed, and more than fifteen hundred were left homeless.

The two LDS families who lost their homes lived on McConnell Air Force Base, and the United States Air Force is providing housing for them. But local members helped meet their immediate needs for food and some items of clothing.

“Members have been very responsive to the calls for community assistance,” said Rusty Butler, Wichita Kansas Stake public affairs director.

Elsewhere, all members and missionaries were safe after an earthquake struck Costa Rica in Central America on April 23. One member suffered a minor injury during cleanup efforts.

A number of homes belonging to members were damaged. The road between the nation’s capital, San Jose, and Puerto Limon was severed. It was reported that the land was raised by one and one-half meters (nearly five feet) in the quake, leaving the docks in the port far from the water. Piers will have to be extended before the port can function again.

Leader’s Guide to Welfare Released

The release of a new leader’s guide to welfare marks a landmark event for the Church—resource material being released simultaneously in nineteen different languages.

“A miracle of sorts has enabled us for the first time, to my knowledge, to introduce in final printed form, in the many languages which you use, the new publication,” President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, told a group of regional representatives gathered for April general conference. “In these tumultuous times in which we live, we must pursue anew our learning and our teaching of divinely given welfare principles.”

The new guide, Providing in the Lord’s Way: A Leaders’ Guide to Welfare, has been several years in production. The emphasis in the new guide is that members of the Church can live according to welfare principles wherever they live and whether or not they have any physical facilities. The guide focuses on scriptures and doctrine relating to welfare.

According to the guide, “a storehouse is established the moment faithful members give to the bishop of their time, talents, skills, compassion, materials, and financial means in caring for the poor and in building up the kingdom of God on earth.”

Also in the new guide are quotes from Church leaders and pictures illustrating welfare principles.

The new guide is designed for use by Area Presidencies, regional representatives, directors for temporal affairs, area welfare directors, and all members of stake and ward welfare committees. The guide is divided into three main sections. The first section explains the way the Lord has revealed for his Saints to care for themselves and the poor and needy. Part two discusses principles of the gospel that apply to welfare and the welfare responsibilities of each member of the Church. Part three explains responsibilities of Church leaders in providing Church welfare assistance.

In area training meetings and regional welfare committee meetings during 1991, stake presidents throughout the Church will receive instructions on the use and policy implications of the new welfare manual.

In turn, local leaders will be instructed to teach the principles and responsibilities found in the first two sections to the leaders and members under their jurisdiction. Those sections are designed to be used for lessons in family home evenings, priesthood quorum or Relief Society classes, and training in ward, stake, and regional welfare committees.

“Providing in the Lord’s way for ourselves and others is a sign of the true Church and evidence that we are disciples of Christ,” the new guidebook states. “Church leaders should teach and testify of the principles contained in this leader’s guide by precept, by personal example, and by ensuring that the cries of the poor and needy do not go unheeded.”

A supplement to the leader’s guide, Church Welfare Resources, was also introduced and distributed to leaders in the United States and Canada to explain the appropriate use of Church welfare resources in those countries.

Policies and Announcements

In a May 1991 letter sent to all General Authorities and area, regional, and local leaders, the First Presidency issued the following guideline relating to Church service missionaries:

“Church service missionaries serving at home, whether full- or part-time, can be called for six-, twelve-, or eighteen-month assignments. Full-time Church service missionaries serving away from home can be called for twelve or eighteen months. The length of recommended service for those serving at home should be noted by the bishop on the Recommendation for Church Service or on the Missionary Recommendation Form for those serving away from home.”

Mormon Miracle Pageant Celebrates Silver Anniversary

Twenty-five years ago, the Mormon Miracle Pageant had its debut performance at the Sanpete County Fairgrounds in central Utah. Only a few local Church members attended. This year, some 150,000 visitors will attend the eight performances presented on the hill below the Manti Temple.

The pageant had its beginnings in the 1940s in a lecture Grace Johnson, an Ephraim, Utah, native, presented to Kiwanis and rotary clubs throughout the eastern United States. She titled her dramatic presentation “The Mormon Miracle,” focusing on the Restoration and the LDS exodus from Nauvoo to Utah. When the tour was over, she shelved the lecture, thinking that was the last time she would deliver it.

But in 1947 she was asked to present it at the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City to help celebrate the centennial of the arrival in Utah of the Mormon pioneers. Subsequent presentations included trips to several western states.

In 1950, Deseret Book Company published the dramatic presentation in book form, and it was performed by both large and small groups over the next decade and a half. In 1964, Brigham Young University presented it with a speaking cast of narrators accompanied by the university’s symphony orchestra and a 75-voice choir.

Three years later, in 1967, Sister Johnson’s stake presidency asked her to turn “The Mormon Miracle” into a stage production for their July 24 celebration. The Manti pageant was performed that first time at the county fairgrounds. It has been performed every year since then on the Manti Temple grounds.

Many consider the first performance of the Mormon Miracle Pageant a miracle itself. The evening of the performance, clouds rolled across the valley, thunder rumbled, lightning flashed, and rain turned the fairgrounds into a stage of mud. However, when the invocation was offered, the rain stopped until the performance was over.

Today, rain or shine, Manti and its surrounding communities are filled to capacity during the eight days the pageant is presented. Don Tibbs, chairman of the pageant’s anniversary committee, remembers the night when a General Authority was staying in his guest room, an out-of-town family was sleeping on his basement floor, a Boy Scout troop was camped on his front lawn, and thirty visitors from Guatemala were sleeping in tents in his backyard.

“You had to make an appointment to wash your face,” he recalls, smiling.

Pageant attendance has grown steadily through the years. Two thousand people attended the pageant’s first performance in 1967. By 1970, forty thousand people were attending its eight performances.

In 1970, a professional sound track featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus was incorporated to that the steadily increasing audience could hear every word. Macksene Smith Rux, pageant director for many years, modified and expanded the script.

This year will mark the last presentation of the production familiar to the hundreds of thousands who have attended it since 1970. The Manti Utah Stake, sponsor of the pageant, has announced that a new script will be written for future performances.

Performances this year will be held on the evenings of July 11–13 and 16–20, beginning at dusk.

[photo] In a scene from the pageant, a family pushes their handcart westward.

General Authorities from International Areas

The Church continues to develop internationally. As membership has grown, leaders from all over the world have been called into the leading councils of the Church. The accompanying map identifies the current General Authorities born outside the United States.

Elder Alexander B. Morrison—Edmonton, Alberta, Canada Elder Ted E. Brewerton—Raymond, Alberta, Canada Elder Merlin R. Lybbert—Cardston, Alberta, Canada Elder Gerald E. Melchin—Kitchener, Ontario, Canada Elder Jorge A. Rojas—Delicias, Chichuahua, Mexico Elder Horacio A. Tenorio—Mexico, D.F., Mexico Elder Carlos H. Amado—Guatemala City, Guatemala Elder Julio E. Davila—Bucaramanga, Colombia Elder Eduardo Ayala—Coronel, Chile Elder Helvecio Martins—Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Elder Angel Abrea—Buenos Aires, Argentina Elder Jacob de Jager—The Hague, Netherlands Elder F. Enzio Busche—Dortmund, Germany Elder Hans B. Ringger—Zurich, Switzerland Elder Kenneth Johnson—Norwich, England Elder Charles Didier—Ixelles, Belgium Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi—Horoizumi, Japan Elder Robert E. Sackley—Lismore, New South Wales, Australia Elder Douglas J. Martin—Hastings, New Zealand

New Keyboard Available

The Church’s General Music Committee has announced that a portable three-octave keyboard is now available through Church distribution centers.

The keyboard, which sells for $35, has full-size keys that produce either organ or piano sound. It operates on four C-size batteries or with an AC/DC adapter (available separately).

“Virtually all of the hymns in the hymnbook can be played on this keyboard,” reports Michael F. Moody, chairman of the General Music Committee. “We anticipate that this new instrument will be especially appreciated in areas where a piano or organ is not easily accessible.”

There is a worldwide Church policy that the piano and organ are the standard instruments to be used during sacrament meetings, Brother Moody noted. However, in some areas those instruments are not available, and members have been unable to learn the skills necessary to play these instruments.

“We looked for an available instrument that would accommodate this simple need, but we couldn’t find one on the market,” Brother Moody explained. The new keyboard was developed especially for the Church by a Taiwan manufacturer.

Although the keyboard was designed primarily as a practice instrument for members’ homes, it can also be used at Church meetings where no piano or organ is available.

The new keyboard is only one available resource. A basic music training course includes a beginning piano book with sixty standard hymns for the budding pianist to practice. Hymn arrangements in the book can also be used to accompany congregational singing, Brother Moody said. An audiotape is also available, on which the accompaniments for these same sixty hymns are played.

In addition to the new portable three-octave keyboard, a larger keyboard currently available through Church distribution centers for meetinghouse purchase will continue to be available.

LDS Scene

PROVO, UTAH—The Charles Redd Center for Western Studies at Brigham Young University is looking for men and women who supported the World War II effort on the home front. Researchers want to find out about the effect of the war on those who remained on the farm, in the mines, or at home. Anyone with such information may call (801) 378–4048 or write to Jessie L. Embry, Oral History Program Director, Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, 4069 HBLL, BYU, Provo, UT 84602.

PORTSMOUTH, NEW HAMPSHIRE—Laurel Thatcher Ulrich became only the third member of the Church to receive a Pulitzer Prize when her book, A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard based on her diary, 1785–1812, was honored in the history division. The Pulitzer is the highest award given annually for U.S. print journalism and the arts. Twenty-five awards are given each year. Sister Ulrich, an associate professor of history at the University of New Hampshire, is a Gospel Doctrine teacher in the Portsmouth Ward, in the Exeter New Hampshire Stake.

Number of Wards and Branches in the Church

As of 31 December 1990, there were 11,834 wards and 5,844 branches in the Church. Over a five-year period, the number of wards has increased by 1,306 and the number of branches has increased by 987. This represents a 15-percent increase in the total number of wards and branches in the Church. (This number does not include more than 300 assisted branches worldwide.)

Number of Wards and Branches in the Church

Year

Branches

Wards

1986

4,857

10,528

1987

5,117

10,909

1988

5,356

11,180

1989

5,769

11,536

1990

5,844

11,834

Comment

Support for Those in the Military

Thank you for the wonderful article about military families (April 1991). Being a military dependent myself, I identified with Sister Long’s observations and experiences. I have been married to an enlisted sailor with the U.S. Navy for four and one-half years. Dealing with the separations and the responsibilities that this job brings with it makes me so glad for the help the Lord gives us. Without his guidance, our family would have succumbed to the pressures of military life long ago.

Katherine Shearer Ridgecrest, California

Families with Unique Challenges

I enjoyed the article “We Are All Enlisted” in the April 1991 issue. Because my husband is a truck driver and is often away from home during the week, I also face many of the concerns and problems the author talked about.

One concern not addressed in the article is Church meetings held on Sunday evenings. My husband’s employer is LDS, so he makes sure my husband is home every Sunday. This is the day we have family home evening and spend time together. When I have expressed my feelings about being away on Sunday night, I always get two responses. First, people assume that my husband complains about taking care of our children. This is never the case. Second, they say, “It’s only once a month” or “It’s only an hour.” If you add up all the once-a-months and only-one-hours, it’s a lot of time.

I know that ward members mean well, but I think we all need to step back occasionally, put ourselves in others’ shoes, and follow closely the counsel of the Brethren on keeping Sunday evenings free for families.

Colette Jourdain Kanab, Utah

In Defense of TV

I have experienced the concern of many parents over the increase of offensive television broadcasts, but I have learned that parents can control this medium to benefit rather than harm their families. As a young mother with four children under the age of five and living in a remote area, I have found that television allows me to stay connected to the rest of society. We are unable to afford tickets to museums or cultural events or trips to scenic wonders, so television has been our window on the world. We have seen the beauties of our planet and the wonders of science. We have learned much about other cultures and have enjoyed music, drama, and the other arts in ways we never could have otherwise.

Our television has become a helpful friend. A program on child molestation enabled our young child to tell us of such an incident so we could take appropriate action. After watching a TV movie about teenage runaways, one child decided that running away was not an acceptable option. Other programs have raised questions and prompted discussions.

We are not a family whose lives revolve around the TV schedule. We are fully involved in Church and community responsibilities, and we each spend time developing our talents. But we do not feel guilty about watching good TV programs. I consider it one of God’s many blessings to help me in these latter days to instruct, refine, comfort, entertain, and edify myself and my family.

Elizabeth Moore Hemet, California

Childless Couples

It has been difficult for my husband and me to have children, so I have appreciated the Ensign articles in which people have shared experiences similar to ours. I think all of us need to be more sensitive in what we say and how we treat different types of families. It is easy for childless couples and those who have had trouble having children to feel different—or perhaps not as blessed—in an environment in which many couples have large families or are in the process of having children. We know in our minds that nobody is trying to make us feel this way, but it is still sometimes hard to shake careless comments.

Name Withheld upon Request