News of the Church

By Kerry Van Dyke


Simplified Approach to Teacher Training

Local Church leaders have been instructed by the Church to take a simplified approach to teacher training in their individual units. A letter from Church headquarters to priesthood leaders authorizes bishoprics and branch presidencies to call a ward teacher development coordinator and begin quarterly teacher training meetings.

“This teacher in-service training meeting replaces all other priesthood and auxiliary teacher in-service meetings. … Teacher in-service training is no longer a part of priesthood and auxiliary leadership training meetings,” the letter states.

“To be a teacher is a great and sacred responsibility. To be an effective teacher, a member must live worthy of the influence and direction of the Spirit and must make prayerful preparation,” the letter continues. “The Lord has counseled, ‘If ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach.’ (D&C 42:14.) It is this Spirit that teaches us ‘all things.’ (Moro. 10:5.) When both the learner and teacher are filled with the Spirit, ‘both are edified and rejoice together.’ (D&C 50:22.) No learner or teacher should attempt to receive or convey an understanding of the gospel without the Spirit.”

The instructions state that the purpose of teacher development is to help members teach the gospel effectively and to continually train and support priesthood and auxiliary teachers.

The ward teacher development coordinator is responsible for conducting the Teacher Development Basic Course during Sunday School as needed; organizing and conducting teacher training meetings quarterly for teachers of all organizations; and encouraging the bishop or branch president to make teacher development a regular agenda item at ward council meetings.

The manual for both the Teacher Development Basic Course and the quarterly teacher training meetings is Teaching—No Greater Call. “If possible, all teachers and leaders should have a personal copy of this manual,” the letter instructs.

Also outlined are the following responsibilities:

“The stake presidency is responsible for effective teaching in the stake. A counselor in the stake presidency works with a high councilor to oversee teacher development in the stake.

“The stake should not hold special teacher training meetings. Rather, stake leaders should promote improved teaching with ward and branch leaders and members. … Stake leaders should emphasize that the program needs to be flexible to accommodate differing needs in the wards and branches.

“The bishopric or branch presidency is responsible for effective teaching in the local unit. …

“Priesthood and auxiliary leaders are responsible for teaching in their own organization. They should support teachers with sensitivity and great love.”

Suggestions given to priesthood and auxiliary leaders include visiting classrooms regularly, as scheduled with the teacher; interviewing teachers periodically to learn the needs of teachers and class members; consulting with teachers and class members in order to encourage and assist them; and being a resource to teachers. The teacher development coordinator can assist with these duties.

In addition to availing themselves of teacher training resources, teachers and leaders have the responsibility to train themselves by following the examples of past and present Church leaders; by studying the scriptures; and most of all, by emulating the Savior, the Master Teacher.

[photo] All teachers and leaders are urged to have a copy of Teaching—No Greater Call.

Number of Stakes, Districts

As of 31 December 1992, there were 1,919 stakes and 601 districts in the Church. Over a five-year period, the number of stakes has increased by 222 and the number of districts has increased by 198.

Year

Stakes

Districts

1988

1,697

403

1989

1,739

432

1990

1,784

479

1991

1,837

527

1992

1,919

601

Groundbreaking for BYU’s Ezra Taft Benson Science Building

The purpose of a new chemistry building to be built on the Brigham Young University campus and named after President Ezra Taft Benson is to provide the finest education possible in science and to keep up with modern discovery, explained President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, at the facility’s ground breaking.

“You can’t stand still in the world in which we live; you have to keep up or even stay a little ahead,” said President Hinckley. “That is the purpose of this building.

“In my lifetime, there have been more scientific discoveries than in all the generations of men before. Chemistry has become of the very essence of our lives, and the greatest of all chemists was the Creator.

“I hope the students who learn here will feel a deep sense of gratitude to those who made it possible. I hope the faculty will appreciate it, because there will be no finer structure for the teaching of chemistry. I’m grateful that it will bear the name of President Benson. … Worthily it bears his name, and it will become a memorial to a great life, well lived and dedicated to the improvement of people and the circumstances in which they live.”

In addition to President Hinckley, President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, also spoke at the April 9 ground breaking.

“I know the large footprints President Ezra Taft Benson leaves behind wherever he serves,” noted President Monson during his remarks. “I know of few leaders in the Church who have earned the international reputation of President Benson. … [He] has always been concerned with the development of a better life for the people whose lives are dependent on agriculture. … He’s a man of strong convictions, and we certainly need that in the sciences today.

“Many years ago, [while a student here,] President Benson was designated as most preferred man on campus,” President Monson concluded. “And today he still is.”

President Rex E. Lee conducted the ceremony. Four of President Benson’s children, as well as several grandchildren and great-grandchildren, also attended the event.

The design for the Ezra Taft Benson Science Building features three connected wings, according to Gene Libutti of BYU Physical Facilities. The east wing will house biochemistry facilities, while the central and west wings will have faculty and student offices, laboratories, and classrooms for the other areas of chemistry: physical, analytical, inorganic, and organic.

The east wing will be two stories tall, with both stories above ground, while the central building will consist of four above-ground levels and a basement.

The west wing’s ample ground-level space will be devoted to classrooms and three auditoriums, two of which seat 250 and another which will seat 162.

A dramatic, glass-walled study area will offer a panoramic view of the campus and mountains to the north. Smaller classrooms with capacities of twenty-five to sixty students will be located in the basement.

The three-part structure will add approximately 180,000 square feet to BYU’s academic physical facilities and will become one of the largest buildings on campus.

[illustration] Architectural rendering of Ezra Taft Benson Science Building on BYU campus

Easter Island Saints: Their Faith Is No Mystery

Twenty-three hundred miles west of Chile lies Easter Island, famed for the mysterious stone statues stationed along its coast. Rising as high as forty feet, the solemn sentinels have puzzled visitors since the island’s discovery by Dutch seamen on Easter Sunday, 1722.

It appears that the mute monoliths, which mark burial sites, were connected with ancestor worship. The work on the statues had ceased by the time of the great battle of 1680 between two groups of islanders. The statues were toppled by the victors and their descendants during the next 150 years. Later conquests by pirates, whalers, seal hunters, and slave traders, as well as a smallpox epidemic spread by Easter Islanders freed from slavery in Peru, greatly reduced the island population. In 1877 only 111 people lived on the island. Among the deceased were those who knew the ancient lore and traditions that have passed into obscurity.

Today the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is taking root among Easter Islanders, who since 1888 have enjoyed Chilean citizenship. Many Chileans have come to the island to work and have married native islanders. Much of the convert growth has taken place among the Spanish-speaking Chilean population.

Tourism has become the main industry on the island. In 1967 a runway was completed, and a jetliner now makes regular flights from Santiago, Chile, and from Papeete, Tahiti, 2,600 miles to the west. Hanga Roa is the only town on the triangular island; the island covers sixty-four square miles and has a population of nearly three thousand.

Easter Island was not specifically designated as part of the Chile Vina del Mar Mission, created in 1979, but mission president Gerald J. Day assumed it was, for the island pertained to Chile’s Fifth Region, which was in fact part of the mission.

In 1980 Dante Sanguinetti, a Church member who was moving his family to Easter Island for a few years, contacted President Day, who authorized Brother Sanguinetti to assist in organizing a branch on the island and to serve as branch president.

In 1985 Luis Gonzalez of Chile and his wife, Mara, a native islander, began taking the missionary discussions. Employed at the island’s department of public works, Luis oversaw the construction of a museum and a recreation center and became a respected member of the community. The Sanguinettis’ friendship and example had directed him to the missionaries.

In early 1986, Brother Sanguinetti returned to Easter Island and baptized his friend Luis. Mara was baptized later that year, and in 1988 the couple and their two children were sealed in the Santiago Chile Temple.

At the end of 1987, Brother Gonzalez was set apart as president of the Easter Island branch. Through him, the Church has gained a sure foothold on the island. He labors diligently to nurture the branch. The Spirit is his guide to a great degree because the island’s remoteness limits his contact with Church leaders in Chile. “I have been very blessed of my Heavenly Father,” he says, “and I hope to return to him a little of what he has given me.”

Among the members presently are native islanders Mario Tepano and Benjamin Rapu. Magaly Franco of Chile was the only Latter-day Saint in her family until a move to the island led to the conversion of other family members. Member Jorge Villanueva learned of the restored gospel from his boss, President Gonzalez. These five families of fishermen, artisans, construction workers, and public employees are the mainstay of the 25-member Isla de Pascua (Easter Island) Branch.

In July 1988, the island became part of the Chile Santiago North Mission, and missionaries have served on the island intermittently since then. Branch members always welcome the missionaries but have learned to be independent and to draw strength from one another.

Branch members work together on projects like refurbishing the house that serves as their chapel and giving Church magazines to nonmembers, whom they also invite to frequent outings and picnics.

“We do all we can to set a good example, because the gospel can change people,” says President Gonzalez.

The Easter Island Saints may be few in number, but their examples are as hard to ignore as the giant statues that command a different kind of awe and attention. Though much of the culture and history of the native islanders have been lost, those who are members, like their transplanted Chilean counterparts, delight in the words of the Lord in 2 Nephi 29:7: “I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea.” [2 Ne. 29:7]

Kerry Van Dyke, a member of the Logan (Utah) University Tenth Ward, served on Easter Island during his mission to the Chile Vina del Mar Mission from 1987 to 1989.

[photos] Photography courtesy of Kerry Van Dyke.

[photo] More than six hundred statues, called moai, are scattered on the island.

[photo] Hanga Roa, at left, is the only town on the once-forested volcanic isle.

[photo] Easter Island Saints and mission president Holbrook Dupont (far right).

A Conversation on the Church in the Caribbean

The Church presence in the Caribbean has now grown to eight missions, eleven stakes, and twelve districts. To find out more about members there, the Ensign talked with Elder Alexander B. Morrison of the Seventy, president of the North America Southeast Area, which includes the Caribbean.

Elder Alexander B. Morrison

Elder Alexander B. Morrison

Question: How many Latter-day Saints are there now in the Caribbean?

Answer: About 60,000. The majority of them are in the Dominican Republic, where we have seven stakes. We find a very receptive people there. The Dominicans are very open and warm toward the gospel.

Q.: And the Church is also well established in Puerto Rico, isn’t it?

A.: Yes. It has been there longer. We have four stakes there, and we are experiencing steady growth in both numbers and depth. By depth, I mean in maturity of our leadership—both sisters and brethren—and in understanding among members of what it means to be a covenant people.

Map of the Caribbean area

It is difficult to compare growth between countries, but the proportion of Latter-day Saints in the populations of both Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic is about the same—just under one in 200.

Q.: What do you think is the reason for the rapid growth in the Dominican Republic?

A.: There is undoubtedly a divine timetable in the spreading of the gospel. In the Lord’s timetable, I think this is their time to come forward. They are a very prepared people, a believing people, a very loving, caring, warm people.

President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, Elder James E. Faust of the Quorum of the Twelve, and Elder Stephen D. Nadauld of the Seventy, first counselor in the area presidency, visited the Dominican Republic in January for a regional conference. It was estimated that there were between 15,000 and 16,000 members in attendance; that is nearly half the members in the country. Many of them traveled for hours, by any means they could find, just to be there to hear President Monson.

Q.: What is the progress of the Church in other areas of the Caribbean?

A.: We have missions in Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad-Tobago, and the West Indies. In total, there are thousands of members in these areas—more than 4,700 in Haiti, for example, and more than 2,300 in Jamaica.

Yet our biggest challenge in the Caribbean is to bring the Church out of obscurity. In some areas where we are not well known, we have faced old prejudices, stereotypes, and wrong ideas about who we are. Those prejudices fall away in direct proportion to the number of members we have—whose lives are the best examples of what we believe—and the exposure people have to the Church.

For the Church as an organization, there are also challenges in dealing with the number of languages and the many different governments in the island nations of the Caribbean. Each government may have different laws or regulations governing religions and proselyting.

Q.: What are some of the challenges members face?

A.: The largest one is unemployment or underemployment. The economy of the Caribbean is precariously balanced on tourism, agricultural products, and small-scale industry, and the poverty in some areas of the Caribbean is as bad as anywhere in the world. For many people, living standards are low and life is tough. Sometimes it can look like a hopeless proposition.

But the people of the Caribbean retain their hope. In general, they have a sweet, gentle humility that helps them recognize their daily dependence on God for life itself. They depend on him not only to help them survive in spite of their living conditions but to protect them against the power of nature—the hurricanes that sometimes sweep across the islands.

Our members are not immune to problems with poverty and disaster. But in addition to that humility and dependence on the Lord that is typical of the people of the Caribbean, they have the gospel and the link to eternity that it provides. It gives members a perspective on God’s love and on who they are. It helps to sustain them.

Q.: What future do you see for the Church in the Caribbean?

A.: It is always difficult to predict the future. But I believe the growth will continue and become even stronger. When we think of the Caribbean, we should think of a humble, spiritual people coming to Christ in increasing numbers.

Salt Lake Temple One of World’s Wonders

The Salt Lake Temple is one of the one hundred wonders of the world, according to the editors of Rand McNally’s Wonders of the World: A Guide to the Masterworks of Civilization.

The guide, published in 1991, defines a wonder as “something that arouses astonishment and awe.” The two-page entry describing the Salt Lake Temple includes a discussion on the temple’s construction as well as the history and plan of Salt Lake City and other points of interest on Temple Square.

“The fact that work started on the heavy task of building the Temple within six years of the first Mormons reaching the empty site of the future Salt Lake City says much for the settlers’ industry and resourcefulness and for Brigham Young’s genius for leadership,” the book states.

Other entries in the guide include Stonehenge, the Parthenon, the Kremlin, Versailles, the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, the Great Pyramids, and Machu Picchu. Wonders from more current time periods include Virginia’s Monticello, the U.S. Statue of Liberty, Mt. Rushmore, the Empire State Building, and Toronto’s CN Tower.

[photo] Salt Lake Temple is listed among one hundred wonders of the world.

Of Good Report

Getting the “Big Picture” of the Book of Mormon

Our idea for a family-and-friends Book of Mormon marathon, in which participants would read the book from cover to cover in one sitting, began with our daughter Rebecca while she was preparing to serve a mission.

In the fall of 1990, Rebecca read Parley P. Pratt’s conversion story. Brother Pratt related that when he first picked up the Book of Mormon, he could not put it down until he had finished it. So when Rebecca (who has since served in the Texas Fort Worth Mission) decided to read the Book of Mormon in the same manner, she invited family members and friends to share in the activity.

The day after Thanksgiving, the marathon started at 7:00 A.M. Using cassette tapes of the Book of Mormon played at faster-than-normal speed, the participants paced their reading and finished at 11:00 P.M.

While recognizing that a reading marathon cannot replace pondering and studying the scriptures, those who participated enjoyed the Spirit the activity brought into their lives. They told others about the Book of Mormon marathon. Before the end of the year, two other families in the stake held scripture-reading marathons.

Claudia Frappier and her son Mike, who were not members of the Church, took part in one of those marathons at the home of Eileen Lawler of the Agoura Second Ward, Newbury Park California Stake. Afterward, Claudia and Mike took the missionary discussions and joined the Church.

Sister Lawler later received a mission call to the Tennessee Nashville Mission and shared her experience with members there; they planned their own Book of Mormon marathon.

Many who took part in the first Book of Mormon marathon also participated a second time. Nine-year-old Thomas Liddell from the Agoura Second Ward said he had fun in the activity and “learned what the Book of Mormon is about. I learned something about the prophets. My favorite is Nephi because he was so spiritual. He tried very hard to teach his family the things he had learned from the visions that Heavenly Father gave him.”

Marvin Merrill of the Newbury Park Second Ward said he was able to see the “big picture of the Book of Mormon,” and he also received a clear impression of the emphasis Book of Mormon authors placed on its predominant theme—a testimony of the Savior.

Kim Barrus and his wife, Beth, also of the Agoura Second Ward, read in both marathons. Besides loving the spirit of the occasion, they used the opportunity to mark scriptures they later wanted to study in more depth.

High school freshmen Adam Ellsworth and Tammy Barrus cleaned out their seminary teacher’s candy jar when they each reported their second time through the Book of Mormon. Sister Peggy Helfman had been rewarding members of the class with a piece of candy for each chapter they read in the Book of Mormon.

Missionary Emphasis

Members of the Richmond Virginia Chesterfield Stake recently enjoyed spending a few hours participating in an activity with a missionary theme. The stake held a “Called to Serve” family home evening in which stake members learned more about ways to get involved in missionary work.

Prior to the activity, each member of the stake received a personal letter signed by the stake leaders, calling them to be lifelong member missionaries and inviting them to the family home evening to learn more about how to succeed in their work. The letters were delivered to stake members by home teachers and visiting teachers.

At the opening session of the family home evening, Virginia Richmond Mission president Robert Arthur Brown talked about the importance of missionary work. Participants then separated to attend various workshops.

President Brown, with the assistance of his wife and fifteen full-time missionaries, helped stake leaders conduct the various sessions. Children and youth were encouraged to save money for future missions, learn more about their beliefs, strengthen their testimonies, and invite friends to attend Church-related activities. Adults were urged to support the full-time missionaries, to prepare for future missions, and to serve at home as member missionaries.