President Benson Turns 93
President Ezra Taft Benson observed his ninety-third birthday on Tuesday, August 4, by welcoming family members, friends, and Church leaders at his Salt Lake residence.
On the occasion of President Benson’s birthday, Brigham Young University’s Ezra Taft Benson Agriculture and Food Institute unveiled a bust of the prophet. The bust represents President Benson as the 1953–61 U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and has on its base the words: “Missionary, husband and father, Secretary of Agriculture, international benefactor.”
Family members and close associates attended unveiling ceremonies at BYU. The artwork will be on permanent display in the institute.
“The work reminds us of President Benson’s charge to improve the quality of life for people around the world,” said a Benson Institute spokesman.
Sister Benson Dies at 91
Flora Smith Amussen Benson, 91, wife of President Ezra Taft Benson, died August 14 at their home in Salt Lake City of causes incident to age.
She was born 1 July 1901 in Logan, Utah. She attended Utah State Agricultural College in Logan, where she met her future husband.
Following Brother Benson’s service as a missionary to England, Flora served twenty months in the Hawaiian Mission. After she returned, the couple were married in the Salt Lake Temple on 10 September 1926.
The Bensons have two sons and four daughters, thirty-four grandchildren, and fifty-one great-grandchildren.
Sister Benson served in numerous ward and stake callings.
President Benson has said that his wife played, sang, cried, and studied with their children. “When problems arose, she always went to the Lord in prayer. She instilled in all her children a strong testimony of the gospel, and to me she has always been a constant inspiration.”
On August 19, President Benson and his family attended Sister Benson’s funeral services, held at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square.
“This tremendous family is but the lengthening shadow of a great and noble woman,” observed President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, who conducted the services. “[Sister Benson] has lived these many, many years honorably and uprightly, with faith and integrity.”
Worldwide Young Women Plan Activity
On 21 November 1992, young women around the world will participate in a celebration. This worldwide event will give every LDS young woman an opportunity to experience the light of Christ through service, to feel the bond of worldwide sisterhood, and to live the principles taught in the Young Women program.
Young women and their local leaders will plan and participate in a service activity. Following the activity, young women, their parents, Young Women leaders, and priesthood leaders will meet for a program that will focus on the joy of service.
Missionary Satellite Broadcast
A special thirty-minute missionary satellite program entitled “On the Way Home” will be broadcast on Sunday, October 25. All missionaries (full-time and stake) and members are invited to attend this event with friends of other faiths. An open house may be held in connection with this program in each meetinghouse where it is received.
This event will be organized and conducted under the direction of local stake presidencies. Local leaders will announce the specific time the broadcast will be shown in their areas.
Pioneer Day Activities Celebrate the Heritage of Early Saints
Despite their hardships and the persecution they endured, the Mormon pioneers left behind them physical and spiritual legacies that still benefit those who have come after them, said Elder Loren C. Dunn of the Seventy at the annual Days of ’47 Sunrise Service, held on July 24 to honor the Latter-day Saint settlers of the Salt Lake Valley.
Elder Dunn, who is serving as area president of the Utah Central Area, told listeners in the Tabernacle that “through [the pioneers’] faith and prayers, through their planting and building, it was clear they wanted to leave something for those who would come after them.”
The sunrise service was one of many activities that commemorated the arrival of the Mormon pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley in July 1847. Other activities included the Days of ’47 Parade and Youth Parade, a marathon, and a hike to Ensign Peak.
Elder Dunn also recognized other Utah pioneers—those people of other faiths who came to the Salt Lake Valley and shared and upheld values of the community to pass on to succeeding generations.
Although we, like the pioneers, may not immediately see the results of our efforts, Elder Dunn continued, the generations that follow us will.
Later in the morning, the annual Days of ’47 Parade rolled along Main Street in Salt Lake City. The two-hour-long parade, which is the third largest annual parade in the United States, featured 130 entries portraying the theme “The Old World, the New World, the Age of Discovery.” President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Frances, rode with others near the front of the parade.
A week earlier, nearly six thousand children throughout the Salt Lake Valley participated in the Days of ’47 Youth Parade.
Ground Broken for First Meetinghouse in Swaziland
Some two hundred Church members and leaders from five branches throughout Swaziland gathered to witness the ground-breaking ceremony for the first LDS meetinghouse in the small southeastern Africa kingdom.
Elder Earl C. Tingey of the Seventy, second counselor in the Africa Area presidency, presided. Elder Tingey reminded listeners of the importance of honoring and obeying the laws of their country. He urged them to continue paying tithes and offerings and to care for the new building. He said that the meetinghouse will be a place where “men, women, and children will be taught how to live the gospel of Jesus Christ in the home.”
Other speakers at the ceremony included President Peter Mourik of the South Africa Johannesburg Mission and Jerome Shongwe, president of the Swaziland District.
President Mourik said the building will be a great blessing to the community. He also admonished the people to faithfully follow the counsel of the Savior and his servants. “If you listen to the words of Jesus Christ and live by them, you will be a blessed people,” he said.
In his remarks, President Shongwe recounted the history of the Church in Swaziland, reminding listeners that Church work began there in 1985 with seven members from the United States who were working in the country.
Government officials also attended and spoke at the services. Enos Mavuso, principal secretary to the minister of home affairs, attended as an official representative of Prince Soblana.
He expressed the hope that the Church would have continued success. “It is our prayer that the Church grows. I think that in heaven, angels are happy because they know another family has been added. … May God shed his blessings on you,” Mavuso continued, “and may he also bless all who are responsible for this church, not only in Swaziland but all those in other countries who have helped to build it.”
H. Verlan Andersen Dies
A former member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, H. Verlan Andersen, died of cancer on 16 July 1992 at the age of seventy-seven. Brother Andersen was called as a member of the Quorum of the Seventy in April 1986. His call was for a five-year period; he was released in October of last year.
As a General Authority, he served as a counselor in the Mexico/Central America Area presidency, the South America South Area presidency, and Utah Central Area presidency. He also served as second counselor in the general Sunday School presidency.
Another Smashing Tabernacle Choir Tour
While summer’s balmy days floated by for many of us, members of the Church’s most widely known goodwill ambassadors—the Mormon Tabernacle Choir—fulfilled yet another fast-paced missionary assignment.
Billed as a tour to the “Heartland of America,” this time Choir members planed and bussed to eleven smashingly successful concerts—often standing room only—in ten cities in fourteen days through eight U.S. states and Toronto, Canada, between July 19 and August 1, performing before an estimated 65,000 concertgoers.
And in all places, music reviewers and critics were out in style:
“It was a spectacular affair.”—(Toronto Star.)
“Our country has certain institutions that transcend the times: Presidential politics. Apple pie. And the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. … The mere presence of the Choir inspires awe: Even sitting in silence, they dominated the hall, the women in ethereal white flowing gowns and the men in tidy burgundy blazers.”—(Columbus Dispatch, Ohio.)
“Dead on pitch, a gorgeous sound, perfect balance, clear diction, flawless ensemble, confident attack, and on-a-dime response to music director Jerold Ottley’s baton were givens. … Saturday, more than 13,000 showed up and simply went wild for the group and its music.”—(Milwaukee Journal, Wisconsin.)
But it wasn’t only the media who outdid themselves in the cities and surrounding locales of Richmond, Virginia; Toronto; Rochester, Michigan; Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Ames, Iowa; Springfield, Illinois; and Independence, Missouri. It was also concertgoers, many of whom were deeply impressed after attending the evening’s program:
From a midwestern state legislator: “This is one of the most marvelous experiences in my life—to hear the choir.”
From an Iowa college president: “It was worth the three-and-a-half-hour drive to the performance—and the three and a half hours back.”
From a Michigan professor of music: “The evening was magic.”
From the mayor of a midwestern suburban city: “The concert of the century.”
From an Ohio minister: “The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is one of the United States’ greatest treasures.”
This praise—and much more—was frequently heard at invitation-only receptions held before or following the evening’s concert, events to which were invited state and city VIP guests involved in government, community, religion, education, and other fields. Also in attendance as honored guests were state and city LDS leaders: area presidencies, stake presidents, mission presidents, and other Church leaders and their spouses.
Typical of extraordinary efforts by local Church leaders and members for local activities were those of members in Richmond, Virginia, who organized activities attended by dozens of mayors, members of county boards of supervisors, city and county managers, city councilors, governor’s office personnel, superintendents of schools, media guests, music professionals, and civic and religious leaders. Prayers at a preconcert dinner and postconcert reception were given by religious leaders of other faiths from the greater Richmond area.
Remarks at the concert were by Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder, who said, “It is my great pleasure to welcome to Virginia the true voices of America.” Inasmuch as the entire “Heartland of America” choir tour was heralded to commemorate the five hundredth anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s voyage, Governor Wilder said, “Columbus’s landing five hundred years ago helped ignite a new civilization in the New World. … That spark that Columbus lit has altered not only the New Lands, but all lands.”
Official statements and proclamations by state or city governmental leaders were the order of the day (23 July 1992 was declared as “The Salt Lake City Mormon Tabernacle Choir Day” in Columbus, Ohio; 30 July 1992 as “Mormon Tabernacle Choir Day” in Illinois by Governor Jim Edgar and also by the city of Springfield). And in Wisconsin, Governor Tommy G. Thompson recognized 1992 as the “Year of Celebration of the Wisconsin Mormon Sesquicentennial” in honor of over 150 years of contributions by Latter-day Saints to the state where fourteen thousand members now live in forty-five wards and branches.
As gratifying as were these events, there was another dimension that will forever mark the 1992 summer tour. That is the broadly based, enthusiastic welcome given by community leaders and townspeople to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (and thus to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) at the three former headquarters of the early-day restored Church—Kirtland, Ohio; Independence, Missouri; and Nauvoo, Illinois.
“To think that we were once driven out of all these towns—and then to be welcomed back with open arms to the places of our spiritual roots with cheering and hurrahs for more! That’s something!” said a choir member.
Indeed, at Cleveland, of which Kirtland is a suburb, more than three hundred civic and business leaders, including more than fifty mayors, attended planned activities; positive information about the Church appeared many times on fifty-six radio stations, in twenty-seven newspapers, and on nine television stations that serve northeastern Ohio.
Here occurred the spiritual highlight of the tour for most choir members: a visit to Church sites in Kirtland, among them the Kirtland Temple, now owned by the RLDS church. At the 27 March 1836 dedication of the Kirtland Temple, the hymn “The Spirit of God” was sung by a choir whose members were positioned in each of the four corners of the temple’s main floor. In their 1992 visit, Tabernacle Choir members in a sense reenacted that occasion, the choir dividing to the four corners of the room and then singing “The Spirit of God.”
“Never in my life,” said choir member Gary Halversen, “have the words to that hymn impacted me with such meaning and power. We realized that it was right there in that room where the ‘visions and blessings of old’ had returned. As we sang, we looked at the altar where the angels had come ‘to visit the earth.’ I truly wanted to ‘sing and … shout with the armies of heaven!’”
“I have never had anything touch me so deeply as when we sang ‘The Spirit of God’ and ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ in the Kirtland Temple,” said another choir member. “Tears just flooded down my face. I think half of us could hardly sing, we were so filled with the Spirit.”
Said choir member Janice Curtis, “I’m not the only one who knows that there were angels singing with us. I know that our spiritual forebears were very pleased that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was singing in the Kirtland Temple.”
Said a Kirtland resident, “From where we sat, it sounded like angels singing right from heaven.” Another Kirtland resident: “This has to rank as one of the greatest events to ever come to Kirtland.”
Karl Anderson, general chairman of the choir’s visit to Cleveland/Kirtland, poignantly reminded choir members that after the Church’s 1838 departure from Kirtland, the Prophet Joseph Smith said that Kirtland would again “see good and glorious days” (History of the Church, 4:204) and that the Lord revealed, “I, the Lord, will build up Kirtland” (D&C 124:83).
Warm and gracious expressions were voiced also in Nauvoo, Illinois, after the choir’s short twenty-minute, noonday, outdoor concert for 4,500 persons. Those feelings may be represented by the expression of people from Springfield, Illinois (where the Prophet Joseph Smith had spent a number of days defending himself against false charges from enemies). Officers of Springfield’s United States Concert Corporation published literature of the choir’s visit that said: “This will be, in all probability, the outstanding musical event in Springfield’s history, certainly in this 20th century. … The Mormon Tabernacle Choir—A Preview of Heaven.”
At Independence, Missouri, President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, again attended a concert, having also attended the Toronto, Canada, concert and local activities there. Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints President Wallace B. Smith’s most cordial welcome at the opening of the evening’s concert and President Hinckley’s response regarding the “beauty of the Auditorium” were more than symbolic. Said Tabernacle Choir president Wendell Smoot, “Even though we had extraordinarily good crowds, nearly all to capacity on the entire tour, it was in Independence where we saw the most enthusiastic audience—extremely warm, very friendly.”
“What a time it was,” said a choir member. “Those were wonderful days in the old Church headquarters areas—linking arm in arm again, loving each other, feeling a healing with people caring for the Mormons and what we are and what we have become since we last left their communities. What rich days for members of the Church everywhere!”
The Europe Mediterranean Area encompasses lands that were the cradle of early Christianity and of much of the culture of the Western world. To learn how the Church is progressing in those lands, the Ensign talked with the area presidency: Elder , Elder , and Elder of the Seventy.
Ensign: Are there special difficulties in administering an area so diverse?
Elder Condie: We think of them as challenges, and there are many, but dedicated local members and leaders help make them manageable.
We have thirty-five countries in our area, and they provide great contrasts. France has fifty-five million people; we have members in six stakes and six districts there. On the other hand, we have only four branches in Greece, which has more than ten million people, but the Church has been there for a comparatively short time.
The countries in our area range in size from Algeria, which is one-fourth the size of the United States, to Monaco, which is forty-eight times larger than Temple Square in Salt Lake City.
Ensign: How are you able to cover the area effectively?
Elder Condie: As a presidency, we each are assigned as first contact to different countries. We meet together at the area offices on Tuesday, then we tour missions and attend district or stake conferences in our assigned areas throughout the rest of the week.
To help us handle the diversity of the languages and cultures we deal with, we have gathered Church members from fourteen different countries for our office staff. They’re valuable not only for their language skills but also for their dedication.
Ensign: It sounds as though there are many strong members throughout the Europe Mediterranean Area.
Elder Curtis: That’s true. Of course, the Church is more developed in some countries. We have a large group of second-, third-, and fourth-generation Saints in France, for instance. And in every part of our area, we can see the strength of those who have been on missions and then are called to serve and lead after they return. That’s one of the many reasons we are encouraging our young people to serve as missionaries: so they can get the training a mission offers and then help build the Church in their own home areas afterward.
Elder Muren: Missions are vitally important, partly because there’s a spiritual dimension that few people capture without having had the chance to consecrate their lives, to sacrifice. There’s also a spiritual dimension of ministering that has to be learned. New priesthood leaders often haven’t had role models in the Church so they could see the Spirit at work as decisions were made. But members who go on missions come back to their local units with experiences that allow them to say, “The hand of the Lord feels like this.”
Ensign: How can those who have not been on missions learn about this spiritual dimension of ministering?
Elder Curtis: Couple missionaries serve as valuable role models. We need couples in which one or both speak Spanish, Portuguese, French, or Italian. We can promise them an exciting spiritual adventure; they will work among some very strong members. I see this strength in members who joyfully travel two to three hours on public transportation just to get to church.
Elder Muren: Taking the Church to where the people live is our answer to some of the distance problems. We’ve organized a number of smaller branches closer to places where groups of members are located.
Ensign: What helps build the kind of spiritual strength you’re seeing in members?
Elder Muren: Their personal faith is basic to their strength. Some spiritual things each member must learn for himself, so we’ve tried to foster the right climate for spiritual growth. We’ve tried to encourage and uplift individual members and help them see their own responsibility in living the gospel.
Elder Curtis: We keep our youth in mind. Our goal is to provide activities and experiences that will lead them eventually to the temple and missionary service. It takes a great amount of ingenuity, and leaders who are truly dedicated, to meet the needs of our young people; the interests of our youth vary widely, and the time and cost of travel often make it difficult for them to attend activities.
Elder Condie: Our members often help strengthen each other. Forty percent of them are single, and in France, where a large number of them live, there is a thriving, active single adult program. They flock to activities together.
There’s no way we could measure the great boost in strength that our members get from visits by Church leaders. Members came from all over Spain when President Gordon B. Hinckley of the First Presidency and Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve visited there for a regional conference. Forty members even flew in from Las Palmas, in the Canary Islands. There was a great spiritual resurgence among Latter-day Saints.
Ensign: That probably has a great effect on missionary work.
Elder Condie: Of course! And we are constantly urging our people to remember President David O. McKay’s admonition—every member a missionary.
As the Church grows in different places, its presence is strengthened by the fact that some of our local Church leaders are also civic or business leaders.
Elder Curtis: The district president in Rome, for example, is a well-known physician, and so is his wife. The stake president in Lisbon is a federal judge. One of the stake presidents in Paris is an account executive for a major international accounting firm.
Elder Muren: The spirit of the gospel and the love members feel for one another is strong, regardless of their numbers in a country. An isolated member in Morocco needed some medicine that he didn’t think he could get in his country. But we found a member in the city of Casablanca, Morocco, an executive of a drug company that makes the product, who arranged to get it to him. It was a two-family welfare program—members helping members. That is part of the beauty of the gospel—it works, whether we have thousands of members in a country or just a handful.
Firesides for Young Adults
The Church satellite system will begin broadcasting Brigham Young University stakes’ firesides to all college-age Church members in the United States and Canada.
The firesides, which feature General Authorities as speakers, will be broadcast live, with the first fireside airing at 7:00 p. m. Mountain Daylight Time on 6 September 1992. Other broadcasts will follow at 7:00 p. m. Mountain Standard Time on 1 November 1992, 3 January 1993, 7 February 1993, 7 March 1993, and at 7:00 p. m. Mountain Daylight Time on 6 June 1993.
The First Presidency believes the opportunity for college-age young adults to hear from General Authorities will be a great blessing to young Church members.
Stakes in areas where the live broadcast is too early or too late are encouraged to record the meetings so they can be viewed at a more convenient time.
All single and married college-age young adults, as well as all Church Educational System personnel who work with college-age members, are encouraged to attend the fireside broadcasts.
Church Museum Announces Art Competition
The Museum of Church History and Art is inviting Latter-day Saint artists to create original works of art for the Third International Art Competition in 1994.
The theme for the competition will be “Living the Gospel in the World Church.” The art must reflect a theme, value, activity, or image drawn from Latter-day Saint life. The museum hopes to encourage artists to depict themes related to the way Church members express the gospel in their lives as individuals and families and in other relationships as Latter-day Saints.
Entries will be accepted in all artistic media, including paintings, prints, photographs, sculpture, textiles, ceramics, needlework, and other arts and crafts. Original works may not exceed eighty-four inches in their largest dimension.
For the first-round jurying, slides or photographs of the original work will be due at the museum on 30 November 1993 together with an entry form. All artists who participated in the last competition will receive information by mail. Others may request an information sheet and entry form by writing to Museum of Church History and Art, 45 North West Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150, or by calling 801-240-4615.
A final jurying of accepted works will select pieces to be included in an exhibit at the museum. Prizes for meritorious work and purchases for the museum collection will be announced at the exhibit opening in March 1994.
Relief Society Recognized for Service to Senior Sisters
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has recognized the Relief Society for its one hundred fifty years of “continuing, outstanding service” to older women of the Church.
Dr. Joyce T. Berry, the U.S. Commissioner on Aging, presented an inscribed plaque to Relief Society general president Elaine L. Jack during a July 21 presentation ceremony. In her remarks, Dr. Berry encouraged Relief Society members to “join forces and reach out to all seniors who are at risk.
“I’m pleased to hear of the things you’re doing,” continued Dr. Berry, who said she presented the award on behalf of the Bush administration and senior citizens throughout the country.
After receiving the plaque, Sister Jack explained that programs in the Church—especially the visiting teaching program—provide older sisters with an opportunity to serve and to be served.
She also emphasized the importance of the service older women have given to their communities. Sister Jack said that these women are wonderful role models.
Nearly twenty people, including representatives from state agencies and organizations that work with senior citizens, attended the presentation, which was held in the Relief Society Building in Salt Lake City.
BYU Develops Small-Scale Farms in Mexico
Brigham Young University has signed a fifteen-year agreement with the Mexican Ministry of Education to start a program for small-scale agriculture in Mexico.
The program, developed by the Ezra Taft Benson Agriculture and Food Institute, is designed to help individual farm families produce all the food necessary to feed a family of seven by cultivating small plots of land. Carlos I. Perez Torres, director general of the National Agricultural Technical College and High School System in the Mexican Ministry of Education, visited BYU to sign the agreement.
“We’ve had a program with Mexico for a long time, but now Mexico has a renewed interest in our help,” explained James B. Jensen, director of the Benson Institute.
Small-scale programs are already being carried out successfully in several Latin American countries. Brother Jensen said the institute’s efforts in Mexico will expand to greatly improve nutrition for program participants, stabilize families, and triple the cash flow of participating farmers.
The Mexican Ministry of Education wants to integrate the Benson program into more than forty agricultural colleges, Brother Jensen said. The ministry hopes to expand the program gradually to agricultural-technical high schools and to as many Mexican farmers as possible.
One agricultural campus in Mexico is already being established as an international center for small-scale agriculture. Teams from every Mexican state can come to this site to be trained. As the small-scale agricultural program takes root, teams from other countries, as well as those from Mexico, will be trained at the center.
Brother Jensen said the Mexicans are eager to promote small-scale agriculture because although Mexico exports food, it has problems feeding its own people.
The small-scale agriculture program works because it caters to the specific needs of those operating small Latin American farms instead of trying to translate the large-scale farming of the United States into a small-scale plan for Latin America, Brother Jensen said. In comparison with the average 2.5-acre farm in Latin America, U.S. farms range from 300 to 10,000 acres.
Brother Jensen said agriculture on these large U.S. farms is more appropriately called agribusiness, because farmers don’t eat the crops they raise.
“Wheat farmers in Kansas don’t eat their own wheat,” he said. Instead they sell it and use the money they receive to buy everything they need.
By contrast, a Latin American farmer generally will not make enough money on his small farm to pay for all the things he has to buy, Brother Jensen said. Most farmers have to grow all the food their families need before turning to the marketplace.
Using the Benson Institute’s program, a farmer with 2.5 acres of land can grow everything a family needs for a completely balanced diet. Then the excess can be sold. Instead of being based on money and market forces, the selection of farm crops recommended by the program is based on the nutritional needs of the family.
New MTC in Guatemala
A new building to house the Missionary Training Center in Guatemala is evidence of the growth of the Church in Central America, said speakers during the recent ground-breaking ceremony for the structure.
Nearly 135 people, including area, regional, and stake leaders, attended the ground-breaking ceremony for the facility, which is to be built near the Guatemala City Temple.
Elder Ted E. Brewerton of the Seventy, and Central America Area president, said the future will see an increased growth of the Church in that area of the world. “From a humble group of six men in Guatemala forty years ago, we have grown to more than 260,000 members in Central America.
“Although we have seen much, we will see more,” Elder Brewerton continued. “There will be many millions throughout Central America.”
Other speakers included Elders Carlos Amado and Jorge A. Rojas, counselors in the area presidency; Brother Boyd Fenn, director of the Guatemala Missionary Training Center; and Brother Udine Fallabella, a regional representative.
Elder Amado told listeners that the construction of the new training center is an answer to the 1952 dedicatory prayer offered by Elder Spencer W. Kimball, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve:
“‘Bless, we pray thee, the mission work in all the world, but today we ask the special blessing upon the Lamanite cause and ask that the seed of Lehi in these Central American countries and the Gentiles among them be blessed,’” said Elder Amado, recalling the words of the dedicatory prayer. Elder Amado continued, “We hope and plan for the [facility] to be filled and well used by those from Central America and the Caribbean nations who come here.”