News of the Church

By


New General Authority Assignments Announced

The First Presidency has announced changes of assignments for a number of General Authorities. These assignments will be effective August 15.

Elders Joe J. Christensen, Monte J. Brough, and W. Eugene Hansen of the Seventy will become members of the Presidency of the Seventy, replacing Elders Dean L. Larsen, James M. Paramore, and J. Richard Clarke, who have been called to serve in area presidencies. The new members of the Presidency of the Seventy also serve as executive directors in various Church departments.

Elder Joe J. Christensen

Elder Joe J. Christensen

Elder Christensen was called as a General Authority on 1 April 1989 while serving as president of Ricks College. He has been serving as president of the North American Northwest Area. Elder Brough was sustained as a General Authority on 1 October 1988 and is a former mission president. He has been serving as president of the Asia Area. Elder Hansen, a former stake president, was sustained to the First Quorum of the Seventy on 1 April 1989. He has been serving as president of the Asia North Area.

Elder W. Eugene Hansen

Elder W. Eugene Hansen

Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone of the Seventy will become second counselor in the Young Men general presidency, replacing Elder L. Lionel Kendrick, also of the Seventy. Elder Kendrick will serve as president of the Dallas Texas Temple.

Elder Monte J. Brough

Elder Monte J. Brough

Area presidency assignments have also been announced. All members of the presidencies are members of the Seventy. (Presidents are listed first, with counselors following.)

North America Central—James M. Paramore, Hartman Rector, Jr., and William R. Bradford

North America Northeast—Cree-L Kofford, Yoshihiko Kikuchi, and Vaughn J. Featherstone

North America Northwest—Merlin R. Lybbert, Ted E. Brewerton, and Spencer J. Condie

North America Southeast—Alexander B. Morrison, Stephen D. Nadauld, and Richard P. Lindsay

North America Southwest—W. Mack Lawrence, Gene R. Cook, and D. Todd Christofferson

North America West—John H. Groberg, F. Burton Howard, and Jeffrey R. Holland

Utah Central—John E. Fowler, J Ballard Washburn, and Durrel A. Woolsey

Utah North—F. Enzio Busche, Lloyd P. George, and Neil L. Andersen

Utah South—Malcolm S. Jeppsen, Albert Choules, Jr., and Jack H Goaslind

Africa—J. Richard Clarke, Earl C. Tingey, and F. David Stanley

Asia—John K. Carmack, Kwok Yuen Tai, and David E. Sorensen

Asia North—Merrill J. Bateman, In Sang Han, and Sam K. Shimabukuro

Brazil—Harold G. Hillam, Helvécio Martins, and Dallas N. Archibald

Central America—Carlos H. Amado, Robert E. Wells, and Joseph C. Muren

Europe—Dennis B. Neuenschwander, Robert K. Dellenbach, and C. Max Caldwell

Europe/Mediterranean—Dean L. Larsen, LeGrand R. Curtis, and Hans B. Ringger

Europe North—Kenneth Johnson, Hugh W. Pinnock, and Graham W. Doxey

Mexico North—Angel Abrea, Jorge A. Rojas, and John M. Madsen

Mexico South—F. Melvin Hammond, Lino Alvarez, and Gary J. Coleman

Pacific—Rulon G. Craven, Lowell D. Wood, and V. Dallas Merrell

Philippines/Micronesia—Ben B. Banks, Augusto A. Lim, and Loren C. Dunn

South America North—Jay E. Jensen, Julio E. Dávila, and Eduardo Ayala

South America South—Lynn A. Mickelsen, Horacio A. Tenorio, and John B. Dickson

Update: Number of Wards and Branches in the Church

As of 31 December 1992, there were 12,740 wards and 7,341 branches in the Church. Over a five-year period, the number of wards has increased by 1,560; the number of branches has increased by 1,985.

Years

Wards

Branches

1992

12,740

7,341

1991

12,184

6,644

1990

11,843

6,238

1989

11,522

5,767

1988

11,180

5,356

Joseph Smith Memorial Building Is New Name of Former Hotel Utah

The First Presidency announced May 14 that the former Hotel Utah in downtown Salt Lake City is officially renamed the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City. (Photo by Jed Clark.)

After renovation, the building opened this summer as a Church office building. The building also includes such public areas as restaurants; several meeting, banquet, and reception rooms; a theater for showing a movie about the Mormon pioneers’ westward trek; and an area known as the FamilySearch® Center with computer stations for researching genealogies. There will also be a chapel serving downtown LDS congregations. Two tenth-floor public dining facilities will be known as the Garden Restaurant and the Roof Restaurant.

One consideration in the selection of a name, Church officials said, was the fact that there are no buildings in the downtown Church headquarters complex memorializing the name of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

The Utah Building had originally been planned as the new name of the former hotel, the First Presidency said, but with the recent downtown addition of another office building, One Utah Center, two blocks to the south, it was felt that a different name would avoid any possibility of confusion.

Appointments

A new presidency was recently called to lead the 360 full-time and 450 part-time missionaries serving in the Family History Department. James J. Pinegar and his counselors, Victor B. Jex and Charles W. Martin, are serving in the presidency. The members of the new presidency are supported by their wives, who also work in the Family History Department: Colleen Pinegar, Marva Jex, and Louise Martin, respectively.

Church Notes 1992 Growth

Worldwide membership of the Church totaled 8.4 million as of 1 January 1993. That figure represents an increase of 317,000 or 3.9 percent during 1992. Officials now estimate current membership at more than 8.5 million and climbing.

Worldwide, someone joins the Church every minute and 55 seconds, said W. Larry Elkington, manager of the Church’s Management Information Center.

Organized in 1830, the Church created the 500th stake in 1970, the 1,000th stake in 1979, and the 1,500th stake in 1984. The 2,000th stake could be organized before the end of this year. Of the 1919 stakes at the first of the year, eighty-two were formed in 1992.

“Thirty years ago, 90 percent of Church members lived in the United States and Canada,” Brother Elkington said. “That percentage continues to shrink annually. The percentage was down to 73 percent in 1980, 67 percent in 1985, and 57 percent in 1990. Today it is at 54 percent.”

There are now more than 1.5 million members of the Church in South America. Since 1980, membership in Brazil has risen from 99,000 to more than 400,000. Church membership in the Philippines has gone from 43,000 to more than 280,000, added Brother Elkington.

In addition to the United States, which has more than 4.4 million members, nine other countries have more than 100,000 members. Thirty-eight countries have at least 10,000 members.

The ratio of Church members in the national populations varies widely, from a low of less than .1 per thousand in several countries to more than 330 per thousand in Tonga. In eight countries, at least 1 percent of the population are members of the LDS Church.

If growth rates for the past decade remain constant, membership will increase to 12 million by the year 2000, to 35 million by 2020, and to 157 million by the mid-twenty-first century.

There are approximately 48,000 full-time missionaries teaching in 69 languages, serving in 110 nations throughout the world. The Church had 295 missions in May 1993.

States with the highest number of Latter-day Saints are Utah, 1,363,000; California, 721,000; Idaho, 303,000; Arizona, 244,000; Washington, 194,000; Texas, 158,000; Oregon, 115,000; and Nevada, 112,000.

In the state of Utah, the percentage of residents who are members of the Church is the greatest in the following counties: Rich, 98.6 percent; Sanpete, 91.6; Morgan, 90.9; Utah, 89.9; Millard, 89.2; Sevier, 87.3; Wayne, 86.1; Juab, 85.7; Cache, 85.5; and Garfield, 85.5. The percentage in Salt Lake County is 64.3, with the overall state average at 71.8 percent.

Philadelphia, the Seedbed of a Nation

Pennsylvania’s role in U.S. political and cultural history is widely recognized, but its importance in the history of the Restoration is often overlooked.

In 1681, William Penn founded the Pennsylvania colony, saying God “will bless and make it the seed of a nation.” His words were fulfilled just under a century later when the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States were both written in Philadelphia, and the city became the new nation’s capital from 1790 until 1800. A modern symbol of freedom, the Liberty Bell, with its immortal words “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof,” was conceived in Philadelphia in 1751.

Beyond being the seedbed of a nation, Pennsylvania has a fertile religious history as well. It was in Harmony, Pennsylvania, that most of the translation of the Book of Mormon occurred; the Aaronic Priesthood was restored in Pennsylvania on the banks of the Susquehanna River, 15 May 1829; also in Pennsylvania, the Melchizedek Priesthood was restored and fifteen of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were received.

A branch of the Church was organized in Philadelphia in December 1839, when Parley P. Pratt called Samuel Bennett as its first president. One month later, the Prophet Joseph Smith spoke to a gathering of some three thousand people. (See Ensign, May 1993, p. 101.)

Seeds of future Church leadership also took root in Pennsylvania. Converts included Edwin Dilworth Woolley, grandfather of both President Spencer Woolley Kimball and President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., who was a counselor in the First Presidency.

Many converts traveled west to the Salt Lake Valley. Yet one stalwart Philadelphia family, that of Albert Obendorfer, remained to help and serve. His sons and daughters subsequently influenced many as they served in branch presidencies, Relief Society presidencies, and stake presidencies.

The first Philadelphia stake was created 16 October 1960 by Elder Harold B. Lee, of the Quorum of the Twelve. Bryan F. West became the first stake president there. From that time until now, the growth has been steady. Today there are five stakes in the area. “The Philadelphia stake is one of great diversity,” says President Anthony R. Temple, who has lived in Philadelphia for nearly twenty years. “Many cultures and tongues are unified in faith, and the gospel is giving meaning to all kinds of lives.”

Metropolitan Philadelphia, with 5.78 million people, is the fifth largest city in the United States. The city has a large mix of blacks, hispanics, and Asians, often living in strongly ethnic neighborhoods.

In order to better serve in these circumstances, the Pennsylvania Philadelphia Mission has missionaries trained in seven languages besides English: Spanish, Laotian, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Korean, Portuguese, and American Sign Language. In June 1991, Elder F. Enzio Busche organized the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Metro District, operating under the direction of the mission president. To make the Church more accessible to urban members, seven urban branches were formed and joined together in the Metro district. There are now ten branches for some five hundred members, who attend meetings in small storefront-type facilities the Church leases, and attendance is greatly improving. Also these smaller branches are involved in community efforts to improve living conditions, to keep youth off the streets, and to achieve other worthwhile goals. Both enthusiasm and activity are increasing in the branches.

The South Philadelphia Branch began with nine people and now averages an attendance of forty-five each week. Ex-marine Ed Smith and his wife, Carol, were among the first converts, and he is now a counselor in the elders quorum presidency. A Laotian sister, Viengxay Mounelasy, was called as Primary president within six months of her baptism. She says, “I love the Church and know it is true. Serving has helped me grow more quickly than I would have otherwise.”

The Philadelphia stake, like the four surrounding stakes, is largely suburban, though it has an urban singles ward that serves those working at or attending the 150 colleges and universities in the city and also an urban branch in the northeast part of the city. Seven other wards in the stake enjoy the full program of the Church, even though distances among members and distances to meeting facilities may be great. Early-morning seminary is very strong, and the youth appreciate the association, since most of them are the only Church members in their high school or, at best, one of a few. The Marshallton and Valley Forge wards have the largest numbers of young families, and the youth programs in these wards are vibrant. Across town, the Broomall First and Second wards combine for Mutual, with between thirty-five and forty youth attending.

President Richard Morley of the Pennsylvania Philadelphia Mission adds, “An unusually rich variety of people are coming into the Church here—humble immigrants, hourly wage earners of every color, and highly placed executives with international influence. This great city is blessed with all kinds of people.”

[photo] Independence Hall, a well-known Philadelphia landmark. (Photography courtesy of Ronald M. Mann.)

[photo] Malay Saysana, Relief Society president, West Philadelphia Branch.

[photo] The Liberty Bell

[photo] Luis Sopena and family of the Philadelphia Stake.

[photo] Some branches meet in “storefront” locations such as this one.

[photo] Members of the South Philadelphia First Branch.

Ronald M. Mann is the teachers quorum adviser in the Payette First Ward, Weiser Idaho Stake.

Freedom of Religion Bill Passes in U.S. House

As urged by members of numerous faiths, including the LDS Church, the U.S. House of Representatives passed on May 11 a bill to make it tougher for the government to interfere with freedom of religion.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which passed on a voice vote, is designed to overturn a 1990 Supreme Court ruling that allowed laws to interfere with religion if they had what was regarded as being rational reasons for doing so and if they did not specifically target any group. Under previous rules, such interference was allowed only if government could prove it had a dire “compelling” interest, and then used in the least restrictive manner possible.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve, a former Utah Supreme Court justice, went to Washington last year to officially seek action by endorsing the bill. He testified in hearings that the early persecution of the Church shows the need for strong laws to prevent interference with small groups that may not be popular.

“If past is prologue, the forces of local, state, and federal governmental power, now freed from the compelling-interest test, will increasingly interfere with the free exercise of religion,” Elder Oaks said in favor of this new bill.

The Church in Mexico

Mexico is a land that many outsiders view through lenses of the past. To learn about the present and future of the Church in Mexico, the Ensign talked with Elder F. Burton Howard of the Seventy, president of the Mexico South Area, and Elder Angel Abrea of the Seventy, president of the Mexico North Area.

Elder F. Burton Howard Elder Angel Abrea

Elder F. Burton Howard Elder Angel Abrea

ENSIGN: Will you discuss some of the challenges faced by Church members in Mexico?

Elder Howard: The challenges are the same as those faced by members in any other industrialized country—and that is a point worth emphasizing. We would like to see people discard the old stereotypes they sometimes think of when they think of Mexico. It is a rapidly developing, progressive nation. This national development is the source of both opportunity and difficulty for its people. The modern, competitive life-style they have been forced to adopt is testing the fabric of Mexican family life, which has traditionally been very strong. Traditional values are being challenged.

Elder Abrea: At the same time, there are increasing opportunities for missionary work. It may be that some of the changes taking place in Mexico are part of the Lord’s way of preparing the people to hear his word. The challenges they are facing should make them more receptive to the gospel. There is a widespread need for its message in Mexico—particularly in families.

ENSIGN: How many members of the Church are there in Mexico?

Elder Howard: Approximately 800,000 in a country of more than 88 million people. We have 126 stakes in Mexico, 18 missions, and 49 districts.

Elder Abrea: Our greatest missionary success has been in urban areas, and Mexico has many of those. Mexico City is by far the largest, with 22 million people, but there are a number of other important urban centers. Monterrey, for example, where the Mexico North Area is headquartered, has 2 million people. The Church is experiencing its greatest growth in areas like these. We could describe the growth of the past few years as “explosive”—much like that in many other Latin American countries.

ENSIGN: Does this pose challenges for local leadership?

Elder Abrea: Yes. Looking at the future of the Church in Mexico, we believe that the greatest challenge will be how well we prepare for the growth. We are confident that new members will continue to come into the Church, and often when we organize a stake to accommodate the growing membership, our first priority is to teach basic principles of leadership to new leaders who have little experience in such roles.

Elder Howard: Mexico is unique among Latin American countries in that the Church has a comparatively long history there. Many members have been well prepared for leadership.

Recently when we reorganized a stake, the new president’s 89-year-old mother, who was born into the Church, told us, “When he was born, I dedicated him to the Lord, and today the Lord has blessed me with a stake president for a son.”

The Church has also had the benefit of leaders developed through its Benemerito School in Mexico City, established in the 1960s. The school’s influence has been enormous.

And yet new growth has outstripped the leadership base we have among our longtime members. We have people among our Church leaders in Mexico who are as capable as those in any area of the Church. They include doctors, lawyers, engineers, and many others who are influential in their communities. Yet we still have much need to train new leaders. But we are seeing good results from the training we are currently giving.

ENSIGN: Our members, then, adapt well to opportunities for growth in the gospel?

Elder Abrea: Yes, because of their spiritual strengths. I would say that the strengths of the members in Mexico are their faith in Jesus Christ, their humility, and their teachability. They have great faith in the prophet and in the leaders of the Church. They want very much to be good members of the Church.

LDS Scene

SALT LAKE CITY—Five legislators and government officials from Mexico visited Church headquarters, accompanied by Elder Lino Alvarez of the Seventy and Agricol Lozano, the Church’s legal counsel in Mexico. President Thomas S. Monson of the First Presidency and Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve hosted the visitors.

REXBURG, IDAHO—An impressive Indian artifact collection has been donated to Ricks College. The late Earl Sorensen and his wife, Dorothy, of Santa Fe, New Mexico, donated the collection to the school to be used for educational purposes. Brother Sorensen collected the pieces over a sixty-year time period. The collection includes pre-Columbian pottery bowls and jars, more than 100 ancient projectile points, and some 2,000 arrowheads.

Of Good Report

Scout Quilting Bee

“Scott, are you sure this is what you want to do for your Eagle project?” asked William Pickett, district advancement chairman of the Rosebowl District, San Gabriel Valley Council.

Scott Coberly, a member of the East Pasadena Ward in the Pasadena California Stake and a class president at Pasadena High School, nodded his head confidently.

“But, Scott, have you ever used a sewing machine?”

“Yes, many times.”

“Have you ever tied a quilt?”

“Yeah, sure I have,” Scott again replied in the affirmative.

Brother Pickett wasn’t the only one to express surprise at Scott’s choice of an Eagle project. But a look at Scott’s background explains why tying quilts to donate to a local home for troubled teenagers was a logical choice. Scott’s mother, Marcia, has spent hours quilting, and he has also seen his father, Clark, tying quilts. In the extended Coberly family, handmade gifts and quilts are traditionally often given to family members. When Scott’s older brother went off to college, one of his prized possessions was the quilt Scott had made for him.

The project was approved, and on March 24, the twenty-two Scouts in Troop 338 gathered in full uniform for their first quilting bee. Scouts from Troop 485 also came to help. Two quilt frames were set up, and the young men sat down with some trepidation; most had never even threaded a needle before.

The Coberlys have a nontraditional way of quilting. So that all four sides of the quilt don’t have to be sewed after it’s been tied, Scott instructed the Scouts to sew three sides of the quilt together first. Next, a Scout crawled inside the large empty quilt and evenly spread out cotton batting. Finally, the quilt was tied, either on frames or, when frames weren’t available, on the ground.

The Scouts completed twenty-one quilts. “The quilts made by Troop 338 will have a tremendous impact on the youth at the home,” said Penny Nelson of Ettie Lee Homes. “It is possible that the youth who receive these quilts will have never had anyone care enough to actually make something just for them. The fact that the quilts are made by the teens’ own peer group can give added meaning to the quilts.”

The Ettie Lee Homes for Youth is a southern California child care agency started in 1950 by LDS high school teacher Ettie Lee. She pioneered the group home concept, helping to provide homes for the troubled boys she met as a teacher.—Kit Poole, assistant public affairs director for southern California

Sweaty Faces, Loving Hearts

Anona Squires of the Dayton Branch, Carson City Nevada Stake, recently benefited from a branch service project. Of the experience, she writes:

“I slid down in my seat as Dean Haymore, president of the Dayton Branch, announced the details of my home renovation and invited everyone to come. ‘Children will be well supervised,’ he said. ‘The materials have been delivered, so all you have to do is show up in your work clothes.’

“I was embarrassed, yet touched, at the concern that had been shown me.

“I live in Virginia City, Nevada. The 1860 census recorded the population of this small town as 2,345, including 139 females. Mark Twain did his first writing here as editor of the local paper. But over time, the town population has been reduced to just over 600. Homes spread up the hill to the foot of Mount Davis, and in the summer months, thousands of curious tourists tramp the old boardwalks for a glimpse of the town that produced more gold and silver than any other place in the United States.

“My home is well worn. My husband died twenty years ago, and I raised my three children alone, working at two jobs most of the time. I had prided myself on being independent, but after I underwent surgery, both the home and yard fell into disrepair. Tissue paper plugged up the cracks around the windows and doors. Ashes from the stove piled up because carrying them outside was such an effort. I had felt much support and love from branch members, but I was almost overwhelmed as they gathered to work on my house.

“Most of the work was completed that first day. A drafty old door and windows were replaced, the house was rewired and replumbed, a new kitchen subfloor was laid and the room was carpeted, a new sink and cupboards were installed, walls were reinforced, a half-bathroom was built, fire alarms were installed, and the roof was replaced.

“Sisters painted the outside of the house, a detached boathouse, and my picket fence. The lawn was raked and trees pruned. Workers made three trips to the dump.

“I thought I knew these people. I had met them each Sunday with hugs and handshakes, but I saw them in a new light that day. As I looked at their sweaty, paint-splattered faces, I knew I could never thank them enough for their loving unselfishness.”

[photo] Scouts make quilts for troubled teenagers. (Photo by Rocky Kemp.)

Church, Utah Featured on Czech TV

More than five million television viewers in the Czech Republic and Slovakia will get better acquainted with the Church and Salt Lake City through the eyes of three Czechoslovakian visitors.

The visitors were Premysl Cech, a news reporter for Czechoslovak Television; Radim Smetana, a producer of cultural programming for the broadcasting company; and technician Lubos Stoklasa. They were invited to Salt Lake City after the Church Public Affairs Department received a letter requesting an invitation to tape footage of and conduct interviews about Utah and the Church for several thirty-minute segments to be used on the show “OBJEKTIV.”

The program focuses on different aspects of countries all over the world and is one of the most popular Sunday morning shows in the two countries, noted Mr. Cech. Because people in the Czech Republic and Slovakia know little about the Church, Mr. Cech thought these segments would be useful to his audience.

Mr. Smetana’s first contact with the Church was when the Tabernacle Choir toured eastern Europe in 1990. This association ultimately led to the request to do the segments on the Church and Utah.

In his letter requesting the visit, Mr. Cech wrote: “It is our job and moral duty to educate and inform our citizens truthfully about events and life in Western countries and offer them examples of achievements and life-styles, so our society can survive not only financially, but morally. … Most citizens are not fully informed about the life-styles and activities of [the Church]. Yet, as we understand, members of this church are happy and successful people.”

Tom Daniels, manager of media relations for the Church, noted that “they knew nothing about who or what we Latter-day Saints are. They were interested in what people here do, in technological advances, in the culture and music, and in our values. They wanted to communicate positive values to their people.”

Mr. Cech explained that as the transition from a socialistic society to a free-market society is made in these two countries, it will be necessary for people to learn to live under and deal with new conditions. He noted that LDS values and manner of thinking are important for people to know about because money and property are not the most important things for most Church members.

Brother Daniels traveled with the three men during their two-week visit. The Czech visitors interviewed Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve, Utah Governor Mike Leavitt, Czechoslovakian Latter-day Saint families in Salt Lake City, and families with missionaries serving in the two countries. The group also toured Temple Square, the Family History Library, Arches National Park, Snowbird, and other places.

The Church Public Affairs Department provided the Czechs with equipment and a photographer, Peter Semelka, a Salt Lake video and television producer and a native Czechoslovakian.