News of the Church

By Conrey Bryson

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    “We Thank Thee, O God, …”

    Being a single parent, I often find myself worrying about the temporal aspect of my life. But it always seems the message from the First Presidency is exactly what my Heavenly Father needs me to remember, or know, to solve my present crisis.

    After reading President Gordon B. Hinckley’s message, “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet” (September), I was reminded of counsel by the Lord through a latter-day prophet that within the Book of Mormon are the principles my children will need to protect them from evil they may encounter. I felt strongly that at their tender age, I needed to make the stories within the Book of Mormon a part of our everyday “special time.”

    The Spirit bore witness to me that the Lord is mindful of my problems. I am very thankful my Heavenly Father has let me and my children come forth in such a time as this when we can be blessed with the gospel in our home and a prophet to lead and guide us back to our Heavenly Father.

    K. Renee Thrift Houston, Texas

    I was pleased to see the inspiring article by President Gordon B. Hinckley titled “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.”

    The composer of the hymn is my great-grandfather, William Fowler. He came across the plains in the mid-1850s from his native England with his wife, Ellen Bradshaw Fowler, and their three children.

    Great-grandfather was a martyr for the gospel, since he died in his mid-thirties from ill health brought about by the rigors of crossing the plains. He was buried in Manti, Utah.

    Our family loves the hymn, considering it “our song,” and we sing it every year at the family reunion.

    Della M. Bolliger Salt Lake City, Utah

    Hong Kong Photos

    It was with great delight that I received the September issue. I had anticipated the publication of the Hong Kong story ever since my husband was interviewed, since he is the bishop of the English-speaking ward.

    I was happy to see that some of my photographs were used on pages 34 and 37.

    Liisa Berg Hong Kong

    Ask your Doctor or Pharmacist

    I read with great interest the article “Rx for Avoiding Drug Interactions” (October). As a home health nurse, I spend every day educating my patients about their medications.

    I would like to add one more precaution. If you are taking a prescribed medication, ask your doctor or pharmacist which over-the-counter medications are not compatible with that medication. For instance, ordinary aspirin may seem harmless, but it can cause complications if it is taken with blood thinners.

    Always keep yourself informed about your medical treatment. Knowledge is a very important aspect of good health.

    Colleen Pinckney Charleston, South Carolina

    The Australian Flag

    The little island of New Zealand is sometimes overshadowed by the big island nearby. Residents might be unhappy with the use of an Australian flag, instead of the proper New Zealand flag, on page 56 of the September issue.

    June Osborne San Diego, California

    Two Mountaineering Rules

    After reading “Trapped on the Mountain” (October), I was grateful these two men had made it home safely. But it would be well to remember two cardinal rules of mountaineering. First, never climb a mountain without proper equipment. Second, never descend a mountain by a route that you do not know.

    Milosh Benesh Pacifica, California

    The Mormon Way

    Although I am a “foreigner” to the Mormon way toward our Lord, I feel very much akin to the spirit breathing through your magazine.

    Since my grandson in Utah presented me with a year’s subscription to the Ensign, I have read its contents with great interest and growing joy. At last, here seems to be a magazine bearing witness to the love of the Lord. Its stories taken from real life testify of this and often touch me deeply. They give me confidence and courage, and they strengthen my trust in God’s love.

    After having experienced a very serious crisis, I searched for help in the Bible. The New Testament particularly moved me to test the directions and promises in the Sermon on the Mount. I took these on one by one, failed often but, just as frequently, have been wonderfully rewarded.

    But soon I had to realize that I had an almost daily battle on my hands. Even today at age eighty-five, I am still at it and am often sorely tested.

    Permit me to express my appreciation and gratitude for the remarkable spiritual way of the Mormons and their magazine, the Ensign.

    Eberhard v. Rechenberg Dresden, Germany

    The Shabbily Dressed Man

    Because of an experience I had recently, I was intrigued by “We Believe in Being Honest” and “Do the Wicked Prosper While the Righteous Suffer?” both of which were printed in the October 1990 Ensign.

    While waiting in line to buy a subway token, I noticed a shabbily dressed man standing beside the token booth. He was holding out a cup to those who passed by and was eagerly asking for money. As the man in front of me in line hurriedly purchased his tokens, grabbed his change, and rushed toward the turnstile, a voice called out that he had forgotten a dime. When the man turned around to collect his money, he came face to face with the homeless man—who had been honest despite his own need.

    Michel Devereaux New York City, New York

    Getting Out of Debt

    Thank you for Jerry Mason’s article in the June 1991 issue, “Debt Addiction: You Can Break the Habit.” My husband and I married and started our family while we were still in college. Because of financial pressures, we found it necessary to take out a few student loans and use our credit card. We recently graduated and now the bills are starting to roll in—along with a sense of depression.

    Brother Mason’s “Debt-Elimination Calendar” was just what we needed. We have now charted our bills and can see how they will decrease. We feel more at ease seeing exactly how long we have to pay these bills and exactly when we will be finished: Not as long as we thought! Thank you for sharing such a simple idea.

    Lisa Price Murray, Utah

    “In Prison, and Ye Came”

    I have finally received my turn at the March issue of the Ensign. I was excited to read “In Prison, and Ye Came unto Me.” It was gratifying to hear the heartfelt testimonies of those on both sides of the wall who are involved in the work of the Lord at the Utah State Prison. We on the inside received a great deal of information about our future in the Church and how the gospel can help us in our return to our home wards.

    As children of God, we have our agency, and that means we can make mistakes. But the sacrifice of our Savior gives us the opportunity to be forgiven of our sins through our repentance. I thank my Heavenly Father daily that I have a family who have forgiven me, a Lord who forgives and admonishes us to “go and sin no more,” and a church that bids me welcome. I feel like a lost and lonely soul no more.

    Name Withheld San Diego, California

    Saints at “the Pass”

    El Paso, “the pass,” where the Rio Grande passes through the mountains, has been a historic landmark for more than four centuries. For a century and a half, it has been the gateway for travel in and out of Mexico and east and west along the southern border of the United States.

    The first Latter-day Saint family to settle at the pass was probably that of Isaac Washington Pierce, who moved there from the LDS colonies in Mexico in 1898 and established a lumber yard in Ciudad Juarez, across the Rio Grande from El Paso. The Pierce home became a stopping place for Latter-day Saints traveling through the gateway.

    In 1912 the El Paso Branch was formed. In that same year, a mass exodus of members from the Mormon colonies reached El Paso, called back to the United States because of the Mexican Revolution. The refugees received a warm welcome from the hospitable people of El Paso—so warm that many of them decided to stay. With this impetus, the congregation continued to grow, and on 11 October 1918, the El Paso Ward was formed—the first ward in Texas. Meetings were held in members’ homes and other locations, and in 1920 land was purchased for a chapel. The new building, an architectural gem, further stimulated growth. In 1950, a second ward was created; two years later, the El Paso stake was organized. That original building still serves as home for the First and Third wards. In 1984, it was designated as a Texas historical landmark. Today, El Paso is home to thirteen wards, one branch, and two stakes.

    For four generations, members of the Balderas family have been towers of strength in El Paso. Back in 1918, two Mormon missionaries walked into Apolinar Balderas’s barber shop for haircuts. Religious conversations followed, and he asked them if there were others of their faith in El Paso. Indeed there were. At the headquarters of the Spanish American mission, the eager Balderas got acquainted with mission president Rey L. Pratt, attended his first sacrament meeting, and asked to be baptized. He brought his entire family into the Church with him.

    Apolinar’s son, Guillermo Balderas, served twenty-three years as a bishop and later as a patriarch. Guillermo and his wife, Porfiria, served four missions, with their special assignment being temple work. Guillermo passed away last May. Another of Apolinar Balderas’s sons, Eduardo, was the Church’s chief Spanish translator until his death in 1989. Guillermo, Jr., who served for years as a bishop, is now serving as a high councilor. Guillermo III is a ward mission leader, while Guillermo IV and others wait on the threshold.

    Mexico, both the nation and the Mormon colonies, leaves its mark on the El Paso community of Latter-day Saints. Two wards and a branch here are Spanish speaking. Both President Emanuel G. Cardon of the El Paso stake and President Gerald M. Pratt of the Mount Franklin stake were born in the colonies.

    Dr. Ellwyn R. Stoddard, executive secretary of the Mount Franklin stake, is a professor of sociology at the University of Texas at El Paso. A distinguished scholar of border affairs, he sees the pass as a place where “the first world and the third world meet, and a fourth world develops. The Church is a place where people of many races and cultures may meet, soul to soul, for their eternal progress.”

    The blend of cultures is exemplified in the Heidenreich family. Of their eight children, six are adopted. One was born in Korea, two in Brazil, and three in the United States (one of whom is one-fourth American Indian). Two of their children are currently serving missions.

    Surveying her family, Connie says, “We are all converts.” It began more than fifteen years ago when her husband, Richard, then in the air force in San Antonio, was influenced by two LDS airmen. One gave him a Book of Mormon and persuaded him to receive the missionaries. After the first discussion, Connie asked, “Can you come back day after tomorrow if we’ll feed you?” After the second missionary discussion, Richard was asked to pray. “It was during that prayer,” he says, “that the Holy Ghost told me I had found the truth.”

    In El Paso, Richard is a supervisor of the Aaronic Priesthood. Connie’s leadership and musical talents are widely utilized.

    Myrna Alger Rasmussen and her husband, Jay, are also active in youth leadership and music in El Paso. Myrna works as administrator of the Jewish synagogue, Temple Mount Sinai. She says, “Our relationship with the Jewish people is marvelous. We understand and appreciate our common feelings and our differences.” The president of the Jewish community adds, “And we understand and appreciate one another.”

    The El Paso spirit of cross-cultural understanding is symbolized at the window of the Jewish synagogue, where a Latter-day Saint administrator looks out upon the statue of Christ on Mount Cristo Rey, a celebrated Catholic shrine. As further evidence of the religious cooperation at the pass, Ron McDaniel of the El Paso stake is chairman of the El Paso chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and Bishop Keven Jensen of the Fifth Ward, Mount Franklin stake, is president of the El Paso Interfaith Council.

    Each school day of the past year, 222 LDS high school students have arisen in the darkness to attend seminary in the two El Paso stakes. Their seminary activity is widely known and admired, and their social lives enhanced. One seminary student remarked, “I have my class friends and my athletic friends, but my seminary friends are my friends everywhere and always.”

    A weakened economy and the entrance of thousands of workers, legally and illegally, across the border has made unemployment a major problem in El Paso. The Church has a well-planned program for dealing with unemployment and, says Sister Emily Flores, employment specialist for the El Paso stake, “It really works if you follow the program.” She makes it clear that she is not an unemployment specialist, but an employment specialist.

    There is much interchange of ideas among the two El Paso stakes and nearby stakes in New Mexico, strengthened by the fact that Emily’s husband, José, is the employment specialist for the El Paso region. Together, they are constantly involved in a training program for ward employment specialists. Through extensive contacts with El Paso industries, large and small, they have become known as a source of reliable employees.

    What are the portents for the future? The two-stake population is nearing six thousand. Forty-three missionaries are in the field. They will return to enrich further the El Paso spirit. A new ward will soon be formed in the El Paso stake. Ground was broken this fall for a new Mount Franklin stake center. The goal is to go onward and upward in a happy land of sunshine, sand, and tortillas.

    [photo] El Paso sprawls out behind Emanuel G. Cardon, president of the El Paso Texas Stake. (Photo by L. Gerald Pond.)

    [photo] Four generations of Church activity: Guillermo Balderas, Sr., who recently passed away; Guillermo Balderas, Jr.; Guillermo III; and Guillermo IV. (Photo by Charles Holt.)

    [photo] The first LDS church building in El Paso, currently home of the El Paso First and Third wards, is a Texas historical landmark. (Photo by Charles Holt.)

    [photo] José and Emily Flores, teaching about the Church’s JobSearch program. (Photo by Charles Holt.)

    Church Donates 100,000 Pounds of Food

    The Church donated 100,000 pounds of food to the Utah Food Bank in Salt Lake City, assuring that the organization will remain open through the end of the year.

    The organization, which had been faced with possible closure, had served 22 percent more needy people and 33 percent more food than it had in the previous year, said Richard Winters, Community Services Council executive director.

    “We have been faced with a serious shortage, and this very generous donation from the Church’s welfare program will go a long way toward meeting our needs for the balance of the year,” he said.

    The donation included beans, beef stew, bread, canned beef chunks, cheeses, flour products, gelatin, milk, pasta products, peanut butter, rice, sugar, and tuna. The food filled two and a half semitrailer trucks.

    LDS Experts Help Poland Evaluate Food Production

    At the request of a Polish government official, an advisory team led by three Church Welfare Department managers has evaluated agriculture and food production in a Polish district and has made recommendations for improvement.

    Dennis Lifferth, director of Production-Distribution in the Welfare Department, was one of three men involved in the project.

    “The request for assistance came in December of 1990,” explained Brother Lifferth. “Due to recent changes in the country’s government, agriculture in Poland is in a transitional stage. When they changed from a planned economy to a free market economy, farmers were unsure of what to do.”

    Previously, the government had directed farmers what to produce and where to take their crops. Under the new system, all that has changed.

    “There was increasing unemployment, crops going to waste, and a lot of uncertainty about the future,” Brother Lifferth said. At that point, Polish Senator Zbigniew Romaszewski turned to TechnoServe, a nonprofit humanitarian organization based in Connecticut, for help.

    Senator Romaszewski is from the Tarnobrzeg District, a district in Poland where agriculture and food production are an economic mainstay. “The senator invited TechnoServe to conduct a preliminary assessment of farm needs and the potential for agribusiness development in the Tarnobrzeg District,” said Brother Lifferth.

    TechnoServe recommended the establishment of the Enterprise Promotion and Support Center, a farm advisory center. The center would be managed and staffed by local agricultural specialists, trained and supported by TechnoServe.

    After the recommendation for the EPSC was approved, an advisory team was organized. “It was at this point that the Church got involved,” Brother Lifferth explained.

    The Church had worked in partnership with TechnoServe on other projects, and TechnoServe officials were aware of the Church’s experience and success with farms, canneries, and other food processing facilities. TechnoServe invited the Church to supply the advisory team leaders.

    In addition to Brother Lifferth, M. Brent Chugg and Gary B. Porter, both of whom are Welfare Department Production-Distribution managers, were assigned to the project. Each man led a team of Tarnobrzeg residents and agricultural specialists.

    “The three of us went over for three weeks in July and studied three different sectors: dairy, fruit and vegetable, and livestock production,” explained Brother Lifferth.

    “We met with farmers, managers of milk and meat plants, and government officials,” he added. “We listened to their suggestions and concerns and discussed ways to improve their local condition. The farmers have no problems producing crops. The major problems seem to exist from the farm gate on.”

    After the three-week study, the men returned and compiled a 230-page report complete with conclusions and recommendations. “Basically, we confirmed the need to establish a local farm advisory center to help farmers market their crops and process the food to increase their income,” Brother Lifferth said.

    Although many of the proposed solutions to the challenges faced by Tarnobrzeg farmers require national policy changes, the advisory team focused directly on what farmers, with the assistance of TechnoServe and the advisory center, could do locally to improve their standard of living.

    “TechnoServe’s approach to solving community problems is similar to Welfare Services’ approach,” Brother Lifferth pointed out. “The people are encouraged to solve their problems locally whenever they are able. We’re there to help them help themselves.”

    In September, Brother Lifferth returned to Poland, presenting conclusions and explaining the recommendations. “I met with TechnoServe officials, government officials, and the team members we’d worked with earlier,” said Brother Lifferth.

    “The farm advisory center is now developing materials and meeting with farmers to help them succeed.”

    [photos] Polish farmers have faced significant production and distribution challenges. (Photo by Brent Chugg.) Top right: A farmer waits for buyers in an open lot in Sandomierz. (Photo by Dennis Lifferth.)

    [photo] Juice plant workers sort cherries. (Photo by Brent Chugg.)

    [photo] Dairy plant administrators, and translator. (Photo by Dennis Lifferth.)

    BYU Student Performers Complete Summer Tours

    Seven student performing ensembles took talent from Brigham Young University to the people of four continents during this summer’s concert tours.

    In the Soviet Union, the Young Ambassadors retraced the steps of the group’s historic first tour to that land in 1978, while the Lamanite Generation performed for native audiences and American military personnel in united Germany. On the other side of the globe, the Wind Symphony presented concerts and workshops in New Zealand and Australia.

    The BYU Singers performed on television and in concert halls in Italy and Israel, while the Ballroom Dance Company presented concerts throughout the eastern United States. The American Folk Dancers participated in folk festivals in France and Portugal, and the Dancers’ Company demonstrated the best in modern movement to audiences in Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia.

    LDS Basketball Stars Teach in Trinidad and Tobago

    Four former Brigham Young University basketball players traveled to Trinidad and Tobago to teach basketball skills to young people for a week at the beginning of September.

    The trip to this two-island nation in the Caribbean Sea was cosponsored by the Church and the government of Trinidad and Tobago.

    National Basketball Association players Danny Ainge, of the Portland Trailblazers, and Greg Kite, starting center for the Orlando Magic, joined former all-Western Athletic Conference players Scott Runia and Jeff Chatman for the clinics, fireside, and exhibition game.

    President J. Richard Toolson of the Trinidad and Tobago Mission said he thought the clinics for young people ages sixteen to twenty-two had “significant value since recognition of the Church had increased dramatically in the area as a result of the event.

    As a result of the basketball players’ tour, President and Sister Toolson have met with the president of Trinidad and Tobago, His Excellency Noor Hassanali. Future meetings have been requested by President Hassanali.

    President Toolson said that not only do people of the islands now know more about the Church, but members feel that they are an important part of a dynamic worldwide organization.

    The Church received attention from the nation’s two major television stations and a number of radio stations. The four players were interviewed on the radio practically every day they were in the country, President Toolson said.

    Joseph Tony, minister of justice and national security, thanked the Church for the initiative and said the “coaching session here with these two stars from the NBA, I’m sure, is going to … get the young people to use their leisure time constructively.”

    “I think that young people need hope. They need avenues to express their talents, to express their feelings, to express their creative energies,” Mr. Tony added.

    Approximately 350 young people participated in the week’s activities, and they appeared to be receptive, Brother Ainge said. He said the players came not only to share their talents with the young people but also “to talk about the Church and our testimonies.”

    Brother Chatman added that they hoped the young people could learn to participate in wholesome activities as an alternative to drugs and drinking.

    [photo] Basketball stars Danny Ainge (holding ball) and Scott Runia instruct young men at basketball camp in Trinidad. (Photo by L. Gerald Pond.)

    First Microfiche Handed Over to Family History Society

    The first sets of British microfiche containing information more than a century old were handed over to the Federation of Family History Societies at its annual conference held at Britain’s University of Sheffield. The information was taken from the 1881 Census of England, Wales, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man.

    “This is a milestone in family history activities in England,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, president of the Europe North Area, who presented the microfiche to federation chairman Richard Ratcliffe. “This indicates the great cooperative spirit that exists with all parties in attempting such a huge project.”

    The project began in 1987 when members of the British Genealogical Record Users Committee resolved to transcribe and index the records of the 1881 census, which contained more than 26 million names. The records are owned by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, which arranged with the Church’s family history organization to direct the project.

    Approximately one hundred full-time missionaries work at the Management and Evaluation Center in London preparing records to be sent to various computer centers in LDS meetinghouses in England, Scotland, Wales, and the Channel Islands.

    It will take approximately five more years, a total of 1.2 million hours of computer time, and eight thousand floppy disks of information to complete the project, experts estimate.

    “It’s a mammoth task that we are undertaking, but a very exciting one,” reports Elder Jack Hoare, who with his wife, Yvonne, heads up the project.

    Names are indexed by surname, birthplace, and census place. When all the counties are complete, a national index will be produced, listing individuals by surname and birthplace.

    Copies of the microfiche will be made available to Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, the Public Records Office, the Federation of Family History Societies, participating county family history societies and groups, county libraries, and the Church’s family history centers (approximately 60) scattered throughout the British Isles.