News of the Church


Priesthood Fireside on Righteousness, Service

The rights, blessings, and power of the priesthood are dependent upon personal righteousness and worthiness, President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, reminded priesthood holders during a May 3 satellite-relayed fireside commemorating the 163d anniversary of the restoration of the priesthood.

President Hinckley was the concluding speaker at the meeting, which originated from the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. Other speakers included Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Stephen D. Nadauld of the Seventy. President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, conducted the meeting, and music was provided by a priesthood chorus from the Bountiful, Woods Cross, and Val Verda, Utah, regions.

President Hinckley said, “Every one of us who holds this divine power must recognize this transcendent truth—that those powers of heaven which are associated with the priesthood ‘cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.’” (D&C 121:36.)

Any degree of unrighteousness will result in the loss of priesthood authority. Sins mock the priesthood and defame the name of Christ. “They desecrate the sacred gift which came through ordination,” said President Hinckley.

President Hinckley warned all priesthood holders to shun pornography, sexual sin, dishonesty, and deceit, and to rid themselves of pride and vain ambition.

He said they should also guard against attitudes of compulsion or dominion over their wives and children. Quoting Doctrine and Covenants 121:41, President Hinckley reminded listeners that “‘no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by … priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.’” [D&C 121:41]

Those kind and loving men who honor their priesthood, who turn their backs to temptation, and who fulfill their responsibilities in righteousness live without regret, President Hinckley said, for God knows their hearts are pure.

Elder Ballard told Melchizedek Priesthood bearers that they have a sacred obligation to serve. “All priesthood holders assist our Heavenly Father in accomplishing His divine purpose: ‘to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.’” (Moses 1:39.)

“From the time one is first ordained to any office in the priesthood, he should be committed to a lifetime of service in the kingdom of God,” he said.

Different offices in the priesthood provide opportunities for service and should not be thought of as status symbols. “You and I are fellow servants in the Church of Jesus Christ,” Elder Ballard continued.

He observed that while the priesthood itself cannot be magnified or diminished, worthy men who use their priesthood in the service of others can magnify their callings in the priesthood. This is an eternal obligation.

Opportunities to serve may be as a full-time missionary or in any ward or stake calling. Priesthood holders should frequently ask how they can serve ward members and neighbors and listen to suggestions from the leaders of the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary auxiliaries.

Elder Ballard quoted the words of President Marion G. Romney, who once said: “Service is not something we endure on this earth so we can earn the right to live in the celestial kingdom. Service is the very fiber of which an exalted life in the celestial kingdom is made.” (Ensign, Nov. 1982, p. 93.) There is no retirement from service in the Church, Elder Ballard said.

Elder Nadauld stressed the importance of the Aaronic Priesthood in helping young men prepare for future service in the Church.

“The Aaronic Priesthood has been restored—the priesthood of God, whose purpose is to begin the carving and molding to prepare a boy to become a special kind of man. When we look at you young men of the Aaronic Priesthood, we see missionaries, we see husbands, we see fathers, we see Melchizedek Priesthood holders doing Melchizedek Priesthood work to build our Heavenly Father’s kingdom,” Elder Nadauld noted.

The mission of the Aaronic Priesthood is important in understanding how the Aaronic Priesthood helps young men prepare for these future callings, he said.

Elder Nadauld said a young man must understand the gospel and apply its principles in his life in order to have the power of the Aaronic Priesthood. Aaronic Priesthood holders are also responsible for inviting people to come unto Christ by teaching faith, repentance, and the remission of sins through baptism.

“The most important thing you can do in this life is hold the priesthood honorably and use it wisely. As the days go by and you live by its precepts, the handiwork of the Lord will make of you mighty men of God,” Elder Nadauld said.

[photo] Priesthood bearers gather at the Tabernacle to commemorate the restoration of the priesthood. (Photography by John Luke.)

Ground Broken for Bountiful Temple

There is a handful of youngsters who will not forget the Bountiful Temple ground breaking.

After President Ezra Taft Benson, assisted by President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, and President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, officially turned the first shovelful of dirt at the May 2 ceremony, President Hinckley and President Monson invited several children to come try their hand. The boys and girls enthusiastically participated by shoveling a little dirt.

But the ground breaking was historic for all persons in attendance, noted President Hinckley, who conducted the meeting and offered the dedicatory prayer.

“This is a day of history in the Church when we undertake the construction of another temple of the Lord. I remind you that this is the greatest era in the history of the world in the construction of temples.”

President Hinckley noted the significant and sacred part President Benson had played in the selection of the site of the Bountiful Temple. “I wish with all my heart that he could stand and speak to us. I express to you, in his behalf, his love for you, his blessing upon you, his gratitude for your prayers in his behalf, and your many thoughtful and kind remembrances of him, as well as your sustaining hands and heart as he fulfills his responsibility as President, prophet, seer, and revelator.

“Temples were built anciently,” President Hinckley noted, “but I’m satisfied that they were never built in such numbers as we have been building them in the last few years.

“We now have temples on every continent of the world,” President Hinckley continued. “This has all come about in the last dozen years.

“We’ve dedicated as many temples in the last dozen years as have been dedicated in all the previous history of the Church.”

President Hinckley also noted that ground will be broken in June for a temple in Orlando, Florida, and that work is moving forward on temples in Colombia, Ecuador, and St. Louis, Missouri.

“And there will be others,” said President Hinckley. “This, I repeat, is the greatest era in the history of the world in the construction of these houses which are dedicated for specific and special purposes which are not carried on anywhere else in the world—houses in which the fulness of the priesthood will be exercised.

“Every temple which this church builds stands as a monument to the conviction of this people that life is eternal, that the human soul is immortal, that when we pass through the veil of death we continue activity. … For that reason, [temples] are absolutely essential—more than important—but essential to the complete work of the Church as it has been revealed in this the dispensation of the fulness of times.”

In his remarks, President Thomas S. Monson urged those in attendance to “make a pledge this day to do a little temple building ourselves.

“It was the Apostle Paul who said to the Corinthians, ‘Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?’ (1 Cor. 3:16.)

“When we realize that truth, we can build a personal temple unto God as this temple is built unto our Heavenly Father,” President Monson explained.

“In our own personal temple building, as in the building of this holy house, the words of John Ruskin typify my personal feelings: ‘When we build let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight, nor for present use alone; let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for, and let us think as we lay stone on stone that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred, because our hands have touched them; and men will say, as they look upon the labour and wrought substances of them: See, this our fathers did for us.’

“As we contemplate our sacred endowments, as we contemplate the sealing ceremonies and ordinances, we will gain an appreciation for our families, not only our families here in mortality but our family members who have gone beyond. And we will have a desire to maintain that family solidarity and to ensure that the work that can only be done in the temples of God is accomplished.

“I testify to all here today,” concluded President Monson, “this will be a temple of truth, it will be a sanctuary of service, it will be a place of peace. Oh, may all in this temple district frequently gaze eastward to the mountain of the Lord’s house and remember his comforting assurance: ‘I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.’” (John 8:12.)

In his address, President Howard W. Hunter, President of the Quorum of the Twelve, noted that “nearly all Christian religions have houses of worship, but only one builds temples. The [temples] that exist today are those constructed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as commanded by the Lord since the restoration of the gospel in this dispensation.”

From the beginning of history, structures have been built for special religious purposes, President Hunter noted.

However, “during the long period of apostasy after the time of the destruction of Herod’s Temple, we have no record that temples were built in the world until the gospel was restored in these latter days. The priesthood, which is essential to temple ordinances, did not exist upon the earth.

“After the restoration of the gospel through a prophet of the Lord, raised up for that very purpose, and the establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, temples were again erected according to divine commandment.

“What a glorious thing it is to realize that soon on this site will be such a temple,” President Hunter concluded. “It will be beautiful in every detail, inside and out, and built in accordance with revelation from the Lord.”

More than seven thousand people attended the Saturday morning ground-breaking ceremonies. An additional two thousand watched the proceedings at the Bountiful region center. Music for the event was provided by a combined choir from the Bountiful region.

[photo] The First Presidency and others watch as youth participate in the Bountiful Temple ground breaking. (Photo by Melanie Shumway.)

President Hinckley Dedicates Cove Fort

Restoration work on Cove Fort, a nineteenth-century Mormon pioneer wilderness outpost located in south central Utah, is nearing completion, and the fort was dedicated by President Gordon B. Hinckley as a historic site on 9 May 1992.

“What has been done is a great and significant thing from the point of view of the Church, the state, and the nation,” said President Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency. “Once forts were found in abundance across this great land. Now there are very few left. Cove Fort is the only one of the pioneer Church forts which still stands in its entirety.”

During his address, President Hinckley spoke of the faith and sacrifice of the pioneers who built the fort, including his grandfather, Ira N. Hinckley.

During the dedicatory prayer, President Hinckley expressed gratitude for the “faith of our forebears, for the prophet Joseph Smith, for those who held their faith and testimony in higher regard than they held their very lives. … We’re grateful for the faith of those who came to Cove Creek in response to a call from a prophet of the Lord, who came without hesitation to do that which needed to be done, when it needed to be done.”

Elder Loren C. Dunn of the Seventy, executive director of the Church Historical Department, conducted the ceremonies. Restoration work on the fort was done under the supervision of the Church Historical Department.

Cove Fort was built by the Church in 1867 when Utah was a U.S. territory, but the property has changed hands over the years. In recent years, however, it was acquired by the Historic Cove Fort Acquisition and Restoration Foundation, an organization directed by the descendants of Mormon pioneer Ira N. Hinckley, under whose direction the fort was built in 1867. The organization donated the property to the Church in 1988.

The 100-by-100-foot walled-in structure includes a central courtyard and small rooms on the north and south furnished with 1867–77 period furniture.

Ira Hinckley was assigned by then Church President Brigham Young to take charge of what he called “the Church ranch at Cove Creek.” The fort served as protection for the telegraph and mail stations at Cove Creek and offered food and protection from bad weather to travelers through the area.

Those who benefitted by the presence of the fort included miners, prospectors, and emigrants moving from Salt Lake to southern colonies. Others included territorial officers and leaders of the Church who stopped overnight during travels to and from church conferences.

Ira Hinckley and those called to accompany him required nearly eight days to travel from Salt Lake City to Cove Creek, a trip covered today by automobile in three hours.

Visitors’ hours at the fort are 10:00 A.M. to dusk daily.

[photo] Cove Fort has been restored and is now open to visitors. (Photo by Mike Cannon.)

Elder Oaks Testifies before U.S. Congressional Subcommittee

At the request of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve testified in support of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights on 13 May 1992. Only two other times has an LDS Church representative brought an official Church stance to Congress.

If passed, the bill, which has the sponsorship of 188 members of Congress and the support of a broad spectrum of religious and civil libertarian groups, would restore the standard that requires government officials to show a “compelling governmental interest” before interfering with religious practices.

The introduction of the bill came in the wake of the 1990 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Employment Division v. Smith. The Court did away with the compelling governmental interest clause, ruling that a state need only show that its action advances a legitimate government policy.

The following is the text of Elder Oaks’s testimony before the subcommittee:

Mr. Chairman, I am privileged to appear before you to testify on behalf of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in support of Congressional enactment of H.R. 2797, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. I am here to present the official position of our eight-million-member church at the request of its highest governing bodies, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, of which I am a member. As a general rule, our church does not take positions on specific legislative initiatives pending in Congress or state legislatures. Our action in this matter is an exception to this rule. It underscores the importance we attach to this congressional initiative to restore to the free exercise of religion what a divided Supreme Court took away in Employment Division v. Smith (1990).

I have had considerable personal experience with the Constitution and laws governing the free exercise of religion. Upon graduation from the University of Chicago Law School in 1957, I served as a law clerk to Chief Justice Earl Warren. For a decade I was a professor of law at the University of Chicago. During the last year of that service, I was also the executive director of the American Bar Foundation. For nine years I was president of Brigham Young University, the nation’s largest church-related university. I then served for three and one-half years as a justice on the Utah Supreme Court. I concluded that service in 1984 when I was called to full-time service as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. My professional publications have included three books and numerous articles on the legal relationships between church and state.

History

The history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes called Mormon or LDS) in America illustrates the importance of requiring a “compelling governmental interest” before laws can be allowed to interfere with the free exercise of religion.

I know of no other major religious group in America that has endured anything comparable to the officially sanctioned persecution that was imposed upon members of my church by federal, state, and local government officials. In the nineteenth century our members were literally driven from state to state, sometimes by direct government action, and finally expelled from the existing borders of the United States.

On 27 October 1838, Missouri Governor Lilburn W. Boggs issued an order to the state militia that the Mormons “must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the state, if necessary for the public good.” Three days later, segments of the Missouri militia attacked a small Mormon settlement at Jacob Haun’s mill. Seventeen men, women, and children were killed and thirteen more were wounded. After a reign of terror that included the burning of homes, the seizing of private property, the beating of men, and the raping of women, over ten thousand Mormons were driven from that state.

In the 1840s, after founder and Church President Joseph Smith was murdered by a mob while in state custody, Illinois state authorities supported or condoned the lawless element who evicted the Mormons from their cities and drove them across the Mississippi River to the West. This expulsion compelled the Mormons’ epic migration to the Great Basin, which was then beyond the borders of the United States.

The experience of the Mormon pioneers is analogous to the compelled migration of many of this country’s founding settlers—the Pilgrims, Separatists, Quakers, Catholics, and Puritans who fled England and Holland to escape religious persecution and to seek a sanctuary where they could practice their religion free from persecution.

I have a personal feeling for these persecutions, since some of my forebears came to America as refugees from religious persecution in their native lands, and most of my ancestors suffered with the Mormons in their earliest persecutions. For example, my third great-grandmother, Connecticut-born Catherine Prichard Oaks, was among the Mormons expelled from Missouri and later driven out of Illinois. Fleeing religious persecution, she died on the plains of Iowa, a martyr to her faith.

Following the pattern set by William Penn, whose 1682 constitution for the Quaker Colony of Pennsylvania had a model provision for safeguarding the religious liberties of its citizens, leaders of my church drafted a constitution for the proposed State of Deseret that contained a strongly worded guarantee of religious freedom. This proposed state applied for admission to the Union in 1849, but in the Compromise of 1850, Congress organized the Mormon areas into the Territory of Utah.

The persecutions continued. In the 1850s, the government of the United States, too willing to believe lies about conditions in Utah, sent an army of several thousand federal troops to subdue the supposedly rebellious Mormons.

From the 1860s through the 1880s, Congress and some state legislatures passed laws penalizing the religious practices and even the religious beliefs of the Latter-day Saints. Under this legislation, the corporate entity of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was dissolved and its properties were seized. 1 Many Church leaders and members were imprisoned. People signifying a belief in the doctrine of my church were deprived of the right to hold public office or sit on juries, 2 and they were even denied the right to vote in elections. 3

Most of these denials of religious freedom received the express approval of the United States Supreme Court. It was a dark chapter in the history of religious freedom in this nation. I have a personal feeling for this chapter as well. My grandfather’s oldest sister, my great-aunt Belle Harris, was the first woman to be imprisoned during the polygamy prosecutions. In 1883, when she was twenty-two years of age, she refused to testify before a grand jury investigating polygamy charges against her husband. Sentenced for contempt, she served three and one-half months in the Utah territorial penitentiary. 4

The Compelling Governmental Interest Test Must Be Restored

The conflict between individual rights to freely worship God and government attempts to regulate or interfere with religious practices remains today. For decades the United States Supreme Court adhered to the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise by requiring the state to demonstrate a “compelling governmental interest” before interference with religious freedom would be tolerated. This test struck an appropriate balance between the needs of government to establish rules for the orderly governance of our society and the rights of citizens not to be unduly restricted in their religious practices. In those instances where elected officials approved laws which interfered with a specific religious practice, they had to sustain the burden of justifying their action by identifying a compelling government reason or interest for doing so. They also had to demonstrate that they had interfered with the religious practice by the least restrictive means possible. The compelling governmental interest test provided an essential protection for the free exercise of religion. Such a protection is vital. There is nothing more private or personal than the relationship of an individual to his or her God. There is nothing more sacred to a religious person than the service or worship of God.

With the abandonment of the “compelling governmental interest” test in the case of Employment v. Smith, the Supreme Court has permitted any level of government to interfere with an individual’s religious practice or worship so long as it does so by a law of general applicability that is not seen as overtly targeting a specific religion.

This allows government a greatly increased latitude to restrict the free exercise of religion.

If past is prologue, the forces of local, state, and federal governmental power, now freed from the compelling governmental interest test, will increasingly interfere with the free exercise of religion. We fear that the end result will be a serious diminution of the religious freedom guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

You will hear from others today whose religious practices have already fallen victim to government interference under the Supreme Court’s new standard. They will demonstrate the detrimental effects of the Smith decision in a manner more powerful than I could. I wish to point out, however, that most of the court cases involving government interference with religious liberty involve religious practices that appear out of the ordinary to many. By their nature, elected officials are unlikely to pass ordinances, statutes, or laws that interfere with large mainstream religions whose adherents possess significant political power at the ballot box. But political power or impact must not be the measure of which religious practices can be forbidden by law.

The Bill of Rights protects principles, not constituencies. The worshippers who need its protections are the oppressed minorities, not the influential constituent elements of the majority. As a Latter-day Saint, I have a feeling for that principle. Although my church is now among the five largest churches in America, we were once an obscure and unpopular group whose members repeatedly fell victim to officially sanctioned persecution because of their religious beliefs and practices. We have special reason to call for Congress and the courts to reaffirm the principle that religious freedom must not be infringed unless this is clearly required by a “compelling governmental interest.”

When the Supreme Court determines that a right is guaranteed by the Constitution, it has routinely imposed the compelling governmental interest test to prevent undue official infringement of that right. It is nothing short of outrageous that the Supreme Court continues to apply this protection to words that cannot be found within the Constitution, such as the “right to privacy,” and yet has removed this protective standard from application to the express provision in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights that guarantees the free exercise of religion. The Constitution’s two express provisions on religion suggest that protection of religious freedom was to have a preferred position, but the Smith case has now consigned it to an inferior one. That mistake must be remedied, and H.R. 2797 is appropriate for that purpose.

Conclusion

Mr. Chairman, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints commends the sponsors of H.R. 2797, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, for their recognition of the importance of the free exercise of religion to the freedom and well-being of our pluralistic society. Although we would prefer that the Supreme Court reverse the Smith case and restore the full constitutional dimensions of the First Amendment protection of freedom of religion, we believe that this statutory restoration of the “compelling governmental interest” standard is both a legitimate and a necessary response by the legislative branch to the degradation of religious freedom resulting from the Smith case. For Mormons, this legislation implements in federal law a vital principle of general application embodied in our church’s eleventh article of faith, written in 1842:

“We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Notes

  1.   1.

    See The Late Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints v. United States, 136 U.S. 1 (1890).

  2.   2.

    Edmunds Act, ch. 47, sec. 5, 22 Stat. 30 (1882); Tucker Amendments, ch. 397, sec. 24, 24 Stat. 635 (1887).

  3.   3.

    Davis v. Beason, 133 U.S. 333 (1890).

  4.   4.

    In re Harris, 4 Utah 5, 5 P. 129 (1884).

Los Angeles Members Begin Recovery from Riot

At least three Latter-day Saints were injured and thirteen businesses owned by members were burned or looted during the late April and early May riots that ravaged the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

Rioting erupted April 29. The subsequent days and nights of violence left at least fifty-five people dead, more than two thousand injured, and at least thirteen thousand jailed. Estimated property damages totaled more than 700 million dollars.

No Church buildings or facilities were damaged, but at least one member’s home was completely destroyed. According to Keith Atkinson, director of Church public affairs in California, all area missionaries were safe.

Before the violence subsided, local members began gathering and distributing food and supplies.

Members of the Palos Verdes California Stake, led by stake president Randall Turner, joined in cleanup and relief efforts after Cheryl and Roger Hendrix, members of the Palos Verdes East Ward, called to let President Turner know they were planning to “do something” to help.

“Within three hours there were approximately two hundred people at the stake center with food, ready to help,” Brother Hendrix said. A local Seventh-day Adventist church donated money to buy food. And by 1:00 p. m., a caravan of one hundred people traveled into ravaged parts of the city to distribute food and clothes.

Stake members turned out in even greater forces the next day, when more than five hundred stake members arrived with more food and clothing. One group of members packaged 250,000 bags of groceries at a local grocery warehouse. The others delivered food and supplies.

“The biggest victors of all were our children,” said Brother Hendrix. “They learned that Christian goodness is most greatly manifested in serving someone.”

The Santa Monica and Arcadia stakes also began working with other local churches to collect and distribute food and supplies. Other area stakes combined relief efforts with the Red Cross and Boy Scout troops.

Members of the Long Beach and Long Beach North stakes prepared meals for four hundred police and National Guard troops.

Long Beach stake president Robert Ward said he received a call at noon Saturday asking for help. “By 4:00 p. m. all the food was ready, and the security forces were eating,” he said.

A group of eight Tongan and Hispanic members kept a mob from looting and destroying President Ward’s furniture and appliance business. “The mob taunted and jeered us all night,” President Ward explained. “But in the morning the shop was still standing, no one was hurt, and there was not one broken window.”

The devastation of Korea Town, one of the areas ravaged by the violence, isolated many in the Korean community. Brother Atkinson said there are efforts to build bridges between ethnic groups. Even Church members in Korea held a fast in behalf of their brothers and sisters in Los Angeles. “They want them to know they love them and are concerned about them,” Brother Atkinson said.

The Church is also participating in long-term relief and prevention programs with the Los Angeles area Interfaith Council.

The council, which includes representatives from the Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh communities, wants to initiate a youth education plan, encourage businesses to rebuild in the affected areas, and form a committee to advise city officials and coordinate efforts with the city.