Harmony Was on the Program
As ward public affairs director, I wondered what I could do that would encourage understanding and improve communication for the Church in our area of Ohio. “What do all churches have in common?” I wondered.
Softly my answer came—music. We could organize a classical and religious music program that involved the whole area, and open our building to the public for the performance.
I contacted leaders in all the churches within ten miles of our ward. Ten churches agreed to participate. We worked together to find musicians willing to perform free of charge. Gradually the community music program we had started began to grow and include people from all over the county.
We advertised the Community Musical Arts Festival heavily. Copies of a large poster were displayed in the various churches and on our local town bulletin board at the square. The newspaper printed a story about our program a month before the performance and a second story and photograph two days in advance. A ward member made a large sign, which we put up in front of our meetinghouse a week before the program.
Everything went well the night of the festival. Two men from our ward, dressed in tuxedos, greeted the two hundred guests and passed out programs. Our experienced master of ceremonies helped the program move forward smoothly. The entire show was videotaped for future reference.
The first performer, who played his hand-crafted dulcimer, was followed by pianists, soloists, duets, and a quartet. Other performers included a person who played a bagpipe solo in full Scottish dress; a German couple who sang folk songs in their native language; and a blind eighty-year-old who played hymns on his saxophone. Songs by a choir from the Catholic church concluded the festival.
Afterward, Jim Wohlwend, the director of the Catholic church’s local choir, commented, “You know, even three years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to gather the community together for a program like this.” He was right. The sweet, warm feeling that continued when it was over confirmed not only that the festival had been a success but that we had made significant progress toward the initial goal of encouraging understanding and communication for the Church in our community.—, Rootstown, Ohio
Channeling TV Viewers to the Book of Mormon
Viewers who opened their “SuperTV” television guide in the German Democratic Republic in June and July of 1990 discovered that they could choose much more than variety shows or news.
They could choose to receive a free copy of the Book of Mormon from the German Democratic Republic Dresden (now Germany Dresden) Mission and ask for contact with LDS missionaries.
Readers responded in numbers that surprised those who had planned the missionary campaign. More than eighty baptisms have resulted, and long after the offer had stopped running in the magazine, missionaries continued to teach people who had seen the ad.
The campaign was similar to a media effort in the Federal Republic of Germany. The concept was to run an ad once a week for five weeks in one of the most frequently read magazines in the country. In the German Democratic Republic, that was the television guide.
The first ad ran on 2 June 1990. There was a good response in the first few days, but instead of decreasing afterward, as expected, it continued to increase, until the mission was receiving as many as one thousand requests per day for the Book of Mormon. Some four thousand responses had been expected in the beginning, but before the campaign was over, thirteen thousand books were mailed to people who had answered the ad. Requests came from cities and villages all over the country.
A missionary in the mission office was in charge of the mailing. So many requests came in that more books had to be ordered from Frankfurt, and a local member was asked to help with the project.
Requests were answered with a package containing a Book of Mormon; a letter from mission president Wolfgang Paul explaining the book’s importance; a list of the addresses and telephone numbers of local wards and branches in the country; and a list of twenty-three questions on matters of faith that are answered by the Book of Mormon.
President Paul said that nearly one-fifth of those who responded to the ad asked that missionaries deliver the book in person. Many of those listened to the missionary discussions.
Local members were excited by the success of the program. “Words cannot describe how we feel because our own people really want to know something about the Church. Maybe they will read and feel something more about the gospel,” said Doris Georgia Menzel, who worked in the mission office, helping with the mailing.—, Provo, Utah
“Welcome”—in Any Language
A group of Church members in Logan, Utah, far from centers of international diplomacy or trade, have been making friends with people from many countries through a program sponsored by Utah State University.
The program offers volunteers in the community—members of civic organizations and several different churches—the opportunity to host some of the approximately one thousand foreign students on the university campus. The university’s foreign students, representing some ninety countries, are invited to participate at the beginning of each quarter. There are usually several hundred of them involved.
The program is designed to give students the opportunity to learn more about the culture of their host country and to find new friends while they are far from home. At the same time, they share some of their native culture with their American hosts. In preparation for the experience, the university provides host families with information about their student’s home country.
“My feeling is that our community needs this as much as the students,” says Afton Tew, who oversees the university’s International Students Organization. She says members of several local churches participate in proportion to their numbers, but because of the preponderance of Latter-day Saints in the community, Church members’ participation helps keep the program functioning well.
The program “gives us a real opportunity to show our love and concern for these guests in our community,” says one LDS participant.
Education is one of the objectives as students go into the homes of their hosts, or as host families help students master shopping and other tasks that may intimidate them in a new culture. For the host families, the emphasis is on service. No proselyting is permitted.
Foreign students frequently share elements of their culture with host groups. “We do many, many programs for Relief Society, Young Men and Young Women, and Scout troops,” says Sister Tew, a member of the North Logan Tenth Ward.
Host groups have found that the foreign students seem to enjoy it when Americans share elements of their culture as well. In 1989, for example, the Logan Utah Central Stake had the opportunity to plan a Christmas party for the students. The party focused on American Christmas traditions. It also included square dancing, with alternative activities for those whose cultures do not permit dancing. Told to expect 90 people to attend, those who planned the event nevertheless hoped for 150. More than 250 actually attended.
Local Church leaders are encouraging Latter-day Saint participation in the USU program. On a visit to Logan, President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, heard of member involvement with the foreign students and commended those who were making friends with potential future leaders of other countries. Since then, each stake in the area has provided representatives to coordinate participation in the program.—, Logan, Utah