News of the Church


He Came, But Not As Expected, President Hinckley Testifies

Through the years, Jesus Christ has become the mightiest figure of all mankind, said President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, during the annual First Presidency Christmas Devotional.

The December 1 devotional, held at the Tabernacle on Temple Square and broadcast to stake centers throughout the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, was conducted by President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, who also spoke briefly.

Citing the words of Isaiah, President Hinckley said, “‘Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.’ (Isa. 7:14.)

“The word in Hebrew means, ‘God with us,’” pointed out President Hinckley. And the Lord came to us, President Hinckley observed, “but not as expected. He, the Son of the Eternal God, condescended to come to earth as a babe born in a manger in Bethlehem of Judea.

“He was not accepted as Immanuel,” President Hinckley continued. “He was not accepted as the Savior, the Redeemer, the promised Messiah. …

“Somehow, this man Jesus who was born in the humblest of circumstances, who lived without ambition for the things of the world, whose message was the message of the second mile, of submissiveness, of returning good for evil, and who bowed His back to the lash of His persecutors, has become the greatest and mightiest figure of all mankind.”

Noting that at Christmas we remember Christ with a special sense of gratitude, President Hinckley added: “Our efforts are stumbling and awkward and so often result in failure because of our selfishness, our greed, our pride, our arrogance. But we try. And the world is better for our effort. Ten thousand little things of goodness are done by those who follow Him. Yea, tens of thousands because of His influence in our lives.”

President Hinckley urged those listening to “make resolution to help others. There are so many in distress, so many in pain, so many who walk in loneliness whose lives we can bless. This is the hour to make resolution to do so.”

In his remarks, President Monson told the story of a large family growing up in Star Valley, Wyoming, years ago. While the father was away earning money, food got scarce. One December evening, a pitcher of milk was all that was left.

But the mother uttered a humble prayer, overheard by a son. “Please, Father, touch the heart of somebody so that my children will not be hungry in the morning.”

The next morning, the young son was awakened by the sounds of pots and pans and the aroma of cooking food. A kind neighbor, sitting by a warm fireplace, had heard a voice telling him this family had no food. With the support of his wife, he had harnessed up a team and headed out into the winter night with flour, beef, bottled fruit, and bread. God had heard a mother’s prayer.

“Heavenly Father is ever mindful of those who need, who seek, who trust, who pray, and who listen when He speaks,” President Monson concluded.

[photo] President Gordon B. Hinckley urged members to resolve to help others in their time of need. (Photo by Jed Clark.)

Ogden Welfare Facility Dedicated

A new welfare center in Ogden, Utah, was dedicated by President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, on 21 November 1991.

The basic principles for the Church welfare system came from the Lord, said President Monson in his remarks. “The Lord provided the way when He declared, ‘And the storehouse shall be kept by the consecrations of the church; and the widows and orphans shall be provided for, as also the poor.’ (D&C 83:6.) Then the reminder, ‘But it must needs be done in mine own way.’ (D&C 104:16.)”

President Monson said, “I would hope that every one of us would make sure that there is time in his or her life for the Savior of the world, and would make place in his or her home and heart for Jesus of Nazareth. Then we shall have the spirit of the welfare effort.

“Appearing as a golden thread woven through the tapestry of the welfare program is the truth taught by the Apostle Paul: ‘The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.’ (2 Cor. 3:6.)”

President Monson related how he was taught the importance of welfare while serving as a bishop. He learned that “when there’s need and when there’s faith, God still speaks, and when men listen, blessings will be provided.”

Included in the center are a bishops’ storehouse with adjacent office and warehouse space, an LDS employment center, and the Ogden LDS Social Services agency. The facility, which will serve the needs of the people in the greater Ogden area, replaces a building used as a storehouse since 1949.

Several hundred people attended the dedication proceedings. In addition to President Monson, general Church leaders in attendance were Elders James E. Faust and Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve; Elder Rex D. Pinegar of the Presidency of the Seventy; Bishop Robert D. Hales and Bishop Glenn L. Pace of the Presiding Bishopric; Elders Marlin K. Jensen, Malcolm S. Jeppsen, and Charles Didier of the Seventy, who are serving as members of the Utah North Area presidency; and President Elaine L. Jack, Relief Society general president.

Speaking for the many Relief Society sisters involved in welfare, President Jack said, “From the very beginning of the Relief Society, this was our purpose, this was our nature: Women gathered together in order to give help jointly for those who were working on the temple and to relieve the wants of the poor.”

Bishop Pace said people should take as their example the life of the Savior. The Savior would stop and help somebody who was hurting, said Bishop Pace.

Elder Faust expressed appreciation for the Christlike service demonstrated in the construction of the storehouse. But, he said, the Lord’s storehouse is more than a building.

“In a sense, and ultimately, the Lord’s storehouse must be in our own hearts,” Elder Faust said. “Our hearts must be full of compassion for our fellow men and women. There must be a feeling of caring and a desire to help. In that spirit, all who minister and serve in this great edifice want to do so in a spirit of kindness and in the pure love of Christ. I would hope that we would not serve in a welfare program with any sense of begrudging of those who find themselves in need of help.”

[photo] President Thomas S. Monson (right), with Orson B. Porter of Welfare Services, inspects goods in the Ogden, Utah, storehouse. (Photo by Mike Cannon.)

Floods in Philippines Cause Great Damage

Church members in the Philippines are recovering from a typhoon that killed twenty-two members and destroyed 90 percent of Ormoc, a city located 350 miles southeast of Manila in the central Leyte province.

Elder Durrel A. Woolsey of the Seventy, second counselor in the Philippines/Micronesia Area presidency, visited members after the November 5 storm that sent eight- and ten-foot walls of water through the area.

“Many members were stunned after losing loved ones,” he commented. “This is so tragic, yet the Filipino people are resilient and strong. They demonstrate great courage and are now digging out and cleaning up.”

A memorial service for flood victims was held at the Ormoc district meetinghouse on November 30. Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone of the Seventy, first counselor in the Philippines/Micronesia Area presidency, spoke, offering comfort to those in mourning.

With peak winds of less than fifty miles per hour, tropical storm Thelma was not a strong storm, but the heavy rain combined with high tides to create one of the worst natural disasters to hit the Philippines in recent history. Some 6,000 people were killed, and approximately 7,100 families lost their homes.

Elder Woolsey toured the area, accompanied by Lowell D. Wood, director for temporal affairs in the Philippines/Micronesia Area, and Elder Cloyd Hofheins, a physician serving as a full-time missionary in the Philippines. Food and medical supplies were distributed to Saints who gathered at the district meetinghouse, which remained undamaged because it was located on high ground.

Following the storms, “the meetinghouse became a haven for many of the Saints who lost their homes,” reported Elder Woolsey.

Ormoc District president Gerardo N. Milallos, with his wife, baby, and other family members, were trapped in mud and debris. After pulling his wife and baby out of the water, President Milallos looked for someplace safe to pray. “At least we were able to ask help from Heavenly Father,” recalls Elizelda Milallos, wife of President Milallos.

The Milalloses headed for the meetinghouse to check on other members. As the Saints gathered, the stories shared were tragic. Seven members of the Celso Wenceslao family were drowned, leaving three daughters, ages thirteen, fourteen, and sixteen, behind.

Another member was cooking lunch for the missionaries when the waters came. She was unharmed, but her children and her mother were drowned.

Full-time missionaries in the area, including one missionary couple, were all safe and accounted for. The missionaries assisted in relief efforts at the district meetinghouse. Those efforts included distributing food packets containing candles, matches, sardines, and rice. Missionaries have now been transferred from the area because of the threat of disease, Elder Woolsey reported. There is concern about the spread of cholera and typhoid.

Elder Hofheins and Marilyn Pascual, a member in the stricken area who is a physician, worked together to administer medications to prevent the spread of disease.

Members are now working together to rebuild their homes and their lives. The Ormoc Philippines District has 888 members, 539 of whom live in Ormoc. Members who died were from the Ormoc First, Second, and Third branches and the Albuera Branch of the Philippines Tacloban Stake.

[photo] Tropical storm Thelma turned many Philippine homes into rubble. (Photo by Brian Kelly.)

Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe Dedicated

In late October 1991, Elder James E. Faust of the Quorum of the Twelve dedicated Uganda, Kenya, and Zimbabwe for the preaching of the gospel and the establishment of the Church.

On October 23, Elder Faust, accompanied by Elder Richard P. Lindsay of the Seventy, who serves as president of the Africa Area, dedicated Uganda from the capital city, Kampala. Earlier this year, Uganda granted the Church official status.

In the dedicatory prayer, Elder Faust petitioned the Lord that in Uganda there would be “a peaceful, pluralistic society so that all of thy children in this land may worship according to their own conscience. May the governments be benign and foster religious freedom. … May it be possible for the faithful Saints of this land to receive all of the saving ordinances and covenants.”

The next day, October 24, Elder Faust, Elder Lindsay, and President Larry Brown of the Kenya Nairobi Mission traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, where more than one hundred Church members gathered for the outdoor service.

In the dedicatory prayer, Elder Faust said, “We acknowledge this as a blessed land.” The prayer contained references to Kenya’s beauty, grandeur, and abundant plant and animal life. Elder Faust asked that “the beasts of the earth, which have historically been native to this land, may continue to find a home.”

He also prayed that the Saints might have access to a temple.

On October 25, Elder Faust and Elder Lindsay met Zimbabwe Harare Mission President Vern Marble for the dedication of Zimbabwe.

“Before the meeting, the Saints of Zimbabwe had been fasting and praying for rain,” Elder Lindsay said. “As the dedicatory prayer by Elder Faust concluded, a gentle rain began to fall, and rainfall increased for days afterward.”

In the prayer, Elder Faust asked for a blessing upon the earth of Zimbabwe and prayed that the land would “continue to provide the abundance which it has in the past. … May the rain fall and the streams flow, and the sun kiss the land to provide for thy people.”

South Africa Durban Mission Formed

The First Presidency has announced the formation of the South Africa Durban Mission as of 1 January 1992.

The mission was renamed after adding the Natal province of South Africa to the Mascarene Islands Mission.

President Pierre Henri Euvrard of the former Mascarene Islands Mission will continue his duties as president of the new mission. The headquarters will move to Durban, South Africa.

Within the mission are one stake and three districts serving 3,040 members.

Tongan Queen Visits Utah

During a six-day visit to Utah, Tongan Queen Halaevalu Mata‘aho met with members of the First Presidency, toured many sites of interest, and spoke at several gatherings.

During her visit with President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson, counselors in the First Presidency, Queen Mata‘aho accepted a statue depicting a young child walking from one parent to another.

Family and religion are important to the Tongan people, the queen observed at a news conference held December 3. “If you believe in the Lord, no matter what your color or denomination, when you believe in one true God, people should be one big family.”

Arriving on December 2, Queen Mata‘aho was met at the airport by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve and Elder John H. Groberg of the Seventy. While visiting in Tonga during the Church’s 1991 centennial celebrations, Elder Nelson had invited the queen to visit Utah.

In addition to meeting with the First Presidency and holding a press conference, Queen Mata‘aho toured Brigham Young University campus, delivered an address on the role of women in Tonga at the BYU Kennedy Center for International Studies, visited the Missionary Training Center and the Primary Children’s Medical Center, and spoke at a Tongan community fireside.

A Conversation about the Church in Central America

The Church is growing steadily in Central America, despite the effects in some countries of civil unrest, economic difficulties, and natural disasters. For a firsthand report on that growth, the Ensign talked with Elder Ted E. Brewerton, president of the Central America Area.

Elder Ted E. Brewerton

Elder Ted E. Brewerton, president of the Central America Area. (Photo by Phil Shurtleff.)

Ensign: How strong is the Church in Central America?

Elder Brewerton: There are approximately a quarter of a million members spread over seven countries—Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. We have forty-seven stakes, ten missions, and a temple. On average, we have about two hundred baptisms monthly in each mission.

Ensign: Does this create a great challenge to local leadership?

Elder Brewerton: Yes, it does. But I believe that stake, regional, and mission leadership are in better hands than ever before. Helping us are seven regional representatives who are natives of our area. Seven of the ten missions have Latin American mission presidents. And the background and knowledge of my two counselors add to our strength; my first counselor, Elder Carlos H. Amado, is Guatemalan, and my second counselor, Elder Jorge A. Rojas, is Mexican. Because of this strength, there is more ecclesiastical leadership training going on than ever before.

Ensign: It sounds as though people in Central America are receptive to the gospel.

Elder Brewerton: In many areas they are. And the hand of the Lord is obviously in the work.

In about March 1991 in La Ceiba, on the north central coast of Honduras, missionaries were teaching the Medina family, but the family lost interest after two lessons. Then in July, two lady missionaries found a record of the family and went back to visit. The woman was weeping, and they asked her what the problem was. She told them about a dream in which she saw her twenty-year-old son, who had heard the first two lessons with the family but had died a month before the sisters’ visit. In the dream, her son had told her, “You and Dad must get baptized so I can get baptized.” And she asked them, “How can a dead person be baptized?” There was joy in that household when the family heard the rest of the missionary lessons. Four of them were baptized in August 1991.

Ensign: Then the spiritual strength of the Church is keeping pace with the numerical growth?

Elder Brewerton: Oh, yes. Knowledge of gospel principles and doctrine is strong even among new members. This is partly because of missionaries and local leaders. We have seen a distinct increase in spirituality. Spiritual strength has grown, too, because of ways members have responded to difficulties or turmoil around them.

Ensign: Have civil unrest and natural disasters in some Central American locales frustrated the progress of the Church?

Elder Brewerton: The fighting in some countries has caused difficulty for the Church. Some members’ homes have been damaged or lost in earthquakes and civil unrest. However, when a volcanic eruption spewed ash over southern Guatemala last year, wind blew it away from the location of our six Church units, and in the most recent earthquake, no homes of Latter-day Saints were lost.

It may seem paradoxical, but unrest in some countries has strengthened Latter-day Saints’ self-reliance. They have had to call more missionaries from among their own countries and have had to shoulder heavy leadership burdens themselves. Two of the ten missions in Central America, for example, have no Anglo-American missionaries; all missionaries serving in these missions are from Latin America. This increased self-reliance has been a blessing to members.

Ensign: Have some members been scarred by the effects of the conflicts in their countries?

Elder Brewerton: Yes, some have. We have some missionaries who have carried around very painful pasts related to their war activities. Most of these of whom I speak are converts, and some of them had been involved in fighting. But when they change their lives, they become strong leaders! I think in a sense they become happier than most people can imagine because they realize that repentance is real and that the Atonement is for them, too. They recognize that they can really be forgiven of things they didn’t want to do or had to do in the past.

Ensign: Is Church growth coming at all levels of society?

Elder Brewerton: Yes, but I would say Church membership is growing the most in the middle to lower-middle economic levels. We are, however, baptizing professionals.

The self-reliance I spoke of earlier has developed a great corps of leaders. You would be impressed to see the dozens of very strong, devoted men and women who can do anything in the Church. We have many outstanding women in the Church. In Managua, Nicaragua, for example, my wife and the mission president’s wife met recently with five hundred women. Because of poverty and conditions in that country, these Latter-day Saint women had not met in that kind of group for years. They rejoiced greatly in the spirit they felt together.

Ensign: Members must be encouraged by their efforts to strengthen the Church.

Elder Brewerton: They don’t look at themselves as being successful. They are humble. Their lives seem to revolve around the Church. They don’t want to leave the meetinghouse on Sundays; they just want to be there with their friends.

They have an affinity and a sensitivity to the Spirit that’s remarkable. There is no tinge of hesitancy in talking to their friends and neighbors about religion. They talk openly about praying and the effect it has on their lives.

Ensign: Is the Church generally well accepted in Central America?

Elder Brewerton: Yes. Many of the biases about religion that used to exist are gone now. We have done some things to help gain acceptance for the Church. For example, we put flagpoles on our meetinghouses, and on 15 September 1991, which is independence day in all of the Central American countries, we held flag-raising ceremonies at 154 of our buildings. During the programs, we offered prayers for peace and for rain in the countries involved. The programs were well attended by civic leaders, and very well received by people in general. They helped government leaders and others understand the Church’s commitment to bettering the areas where we have members.

But the members themselves have probably done more to gain acceptance for the Church than anything we could have planned. We have Church members like Rafael Castillo, who was a congressman in Guatemala, then his country’s ambassador to the United Nations, then the head of Guatemala congress. Other Church members have held high rank in the military—Colonel Augusto Conde, for example. Because of his integrity, he retired from military service in Guatemala with the finest reputation any man could have; then he served in the Guatemala temple presidency. The secretary to the vice president of El Salvador is the wife of a counselor in a stake presidency. She’s outstanding.

Members like these talk openly of their religion and what it stands for. And people in their countries are taking notice. One of the highest ranking ministers in the government of El Salvador invited Israel Perez, president of the El Salvador San Salvador West Mission, to his office and personally resolved some problems with visas for missionaries. Then he told President Perez, “I want you to know that because of what you are doing, our country is better. You are family-focused, you are oriented to upgrading people morally. I welcome you here.”

The Guatemala City Temple

The Guatemala City Temple blesses members in Central America.

Saints Support Conference on Child Abuse

Members of the Church in Denver, Colorado, demonstrated their commitment to moral causes by helping with the Ninth National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect.

“Volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints saved us many dollars and helped make this conference a warm, welcoming experience for all attendees,” said Nancy Coburn, codirector of the September 1991 conference. “The volunteers have been marvelous!”

The conference brought together about three thousand professionals for four days of seminars on counseling, law, child welfare, parenting, prevention, detection, legislative responses, and other facets of fighting emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.

The conference, one of the most significant on child abuse in the United States, was sponsored by the American Humane Association, the C. Henry Kempe National Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect, and the American Association for Protecting Children.

Church Public Affairs directors Ilene Dibble and Lee Ann Southam, as part of the conference’s volunteer management team, helped recruit and supervise Latter-day Saint volunteers from twelve Denver-area stakes.

More than two hundred youth and their leaders helped collate and transport printed conference registration materials. About 250 adult volunteers assisted conference attendees at the convention center, the airport, and the participating hotels. In all, Church members comprised more than two-thirds of the volunteers at the conference.

LDS Social Services personnel and public affairs directors staffed a Church booth at the convention center and answered questions. They also offered the Church-produced video Child Abuse: A Global Crisis.

“Education concerning child abuse is essential to helping curb the problem,” said Sister Dibble, of the Denver biregional public affairs council. “The Church can play an important role by offering support and eventual healing for victims, as well as perpetrators.”

Church Distributes Public Service Announcements

The Church has recently distributed radio public service announcements designed to raise awareness among teenagers that beer is a drug.

“We felt it appropriate to get involved in the fight against exploitation of teenagers who are consuming alcohol at alarming rates,” explained Bruce L. Olsen, managing director of Church Public Affairs. “Junior high and high school students consume over a billion cans of beer a year. The health and well-being of today’s young people concerns us a great deal. We are committed to teaching values that help the lives of young people.”

The thirty- and sixty-second radio spots feature real teenagers from across the nation who have actually been alcoholics. Brother Olsen continued, “The radio public service announcements will give broadcasters a real opportunity to help teen-agers make wise decisions.”

In addition to the announcements, broadcasters and print media representatives can order free teaching materials focusing on the teen alcohol problem: a list of community involvement ideas, a teacher’s guide, a student’s guide, and a campaign poster.

Improved Ancestral File™ Lists 9.6 Million Names

A second edition of the Church’s Ancestral File, a computer database of family history information, has been released with 9.6 million names on a series of compact discs.

According to David Mayfield, director of the Family History Library, the new edition represents a 43 percent expansion over the previous 1990 version. The new file also features two additional aids—one for compiling and printing descendancy charts and another for making corrections to the database.

For family history workers at the Family History Library or at any family history center that has Ancestral File, a simple function key can access the descendancy chart information. Up to five generations of descendants can be viewed for any one name.

The corrections feature in the improved Ancestral File allows patrons to correct information that is inaccurate or incomplete. Corrections can be made for names, gender, dates, or places. Multiple listings or entries for the same person can be merged into one. Family members can be added, a new family record created for a person already listed in the file; a person can be linked to a family; and a submitter’s name and address can be changed.

The corrected information is saved on a computer disk and submitted to the Family History Department, which will include those changes on future editions of Ancestral File.

Only the most recent changes for a particular record will appear on the Ancestral File screen; therefore, persons making corrections are encouraged to coordinate their efforts with other family members, Brother Mayfield noted.

When corrections are made, the reasons or sources for the corrections are listed in the file’s “History of Changes” section, Brother Mayfield explained. Corrections can only be made using Ancestral File at a FamilySearch computer in the Family History Library or at a family history center. Personal Ancestral File, the Church’s software for home computers, can be used to submit new information to Ancestral File.

In addition, the corrections file also allows someone to register an interest in a particular individual, which enables researchers to contact each other to coordinate research efforts.

Records in Ancestral File have been compiled since 1979. The records have been computerized and linked according to lineage, thus forming Ancestral File.

Ancestral File is a component of FamilySearch™, a set of computer tools available at the library and at family history centers. Besides Ancestral File, FamilySearch includes the Library Catalog, the International Genealogical Index, the Social Security Death Index, and the Military Death Index.

Excerpts from Women’s Conference Available

The Relief Society has announced the release of a video containing brief portions of the 1991 BYU Women’s Conference.

The eighty-minute video includes excerpts from the keynote address given by Elder Marion D. Hanks of the Presidency of the Seventy, as well as excerpts from presentations given by the general presidents of the Church’s auxiliaries: Elaine L. Jack, Relief Society general president; Ardeth G. Kapp, Young Women general president; and Michaelene P. Grassli, Primary general president.

Additional excerpts come from talks given by Olga Kovarova, a convert to the Church from Czechoslovakia, and Edith Krause, a member of the Church from Germany.

In 1991, the women’s conference was cosponsored by the Relief Society for the first time. The video is an attempt to make portions of the conference available to women who were unable to attend. The video, available from Church distribution centers, can be used at home or for Relief Society activities.