News of the Church


California Earthquake Damages Chapels, Members’ Homes

Within hours of being jolted awake by a January 17 earthquake measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale, Church members and missionaries in the northern Los Angeles area were out on the streets offering assistance to those in need and helping to identify members whose homes had been damaged or destroyed in the destruction.

Local leaders immediately began accounting for the members within their Church units. Missionaries from the three affected missions (Ventura, Arcadia, and Los Angeles) assisted in those efforts, and within hours, reports began to trickle in.

“Church leaders were immediately assessing the status of buildings and members,” reported Keith Atkinson, public affairs director for California. “The procedures outlined by our leaders work so very well when they’re employed, things really begin to come together.

“The members have been fantastic. People are pulling together marvelously well. I accompanied one group of missionaries, and these young people know no intimidation. There were people camped everywhere—medians, parking lots, street corners. These young missionaries went from group to group asking if anyone needed any help and inquiring if anyone in the group was LDS.”

Generators, food, water, portable toilets, tents, and sleeping bags from the bishops’ storehouses in Colton, California, and Los Angeles were sent to meetinghouses where those left homeless were gathering. Local Church leaders, whose efforts were coordinated by regional representative Tad R. Callister, also reported that members from all over the state were flooding the area with offers of assistance and help. “The morning after the quake, members from the North Hollywood stake cooked breakfast for those who slept at the Van Nuys stake center,” one member noted. “And other members were bringing in diapers, food, supplies, and over-the-counter medication for those in need. And they aren’t just bringing those things to the members; they are taking them to the Red Cross and other emergency agencies.”

In addition, approximately sixty missionaries and members with foreign language experience were providing translation services for the city and emergency organizations.

As a result of the earthquake that struck at 4:31 A.M., one member dependent on life support equipment died when the power failed following the quake, and another member’s husband was killed in an automobile accident in an area where traffic lights were not working. In all, more than fifty-four people lost their lives either during the quake or in quake-related fires or accidents.

In addition to the loss of life, billions of dollars worth of damage to freeways, businesses, and homes was reported. Complete assessment of damage to Church property continues, but fifteen Church meetinghouses were reported damaged, with seven of those buildings not safe for use. Local Church leaders are arranging abbreviated meeting schedules to accommodate the needs of the affected wards and branches.

Some windows in the Los Angeles Temple were broken, but the temple was open on Tuesday, January 18, the day after the quake.

Approximately four hundred people, mostly Church members although others were welcomed, camped in a “tent city” on the grounds of the Los Angeles California Van Nuys Stake meetinghouse. Several other Church meetinghouse grounds also served as temporary housing for displaced persons. Estimates indicate that one to two thousand homes of Church members have been damaged, and at least fifteen of those homes were destroyed. However, that number is expected to rise dramatically as emergency inspectors and insurance adjusters complete their work.

Following the quake, power and water supplies were cut off to thousands of people. Although power was restored to many areas within a day, water systems may take several months to completely repair. Repairs to damaged freeways and roads may take more than a year to complete.

[photos] Above: Elder John H. Groberg of the Seventy, president of the North America West Area, visits with earthquake victims camped near a stake center. (Photo by Mary Kay Stout.) Inset: A missionary translates for one of the earthquake victims. (Photo courtesy of California Public Affairs Office.)

Australian Saints Protected, Give Aid During Fires

Church members offered assistance and shared miraculous stories in the wake of more than one hundred bushfires that raged for over a week in the Sydney, Australia, area and destroyed almost 1.5 million acres, damaged or destroyed approximately three hundred homes, and killed four people, one of them the son of a Church member.

Robert Page, a volunteer fireman and the son of Kath Page, a member of the Sydney Australia Parramatta Stake, was killed instantly when a tree fell on his fire truck.

By mid-January, most of the fires were contained. Reports indicated that no Church property was damaged, although the Sydney Australia Temple and Pacific Area offices were less than five miles from one of the first bushfire sites. One Latter-day Saint family lost a home. Many members were evacuated from their homes, and several lived through frightening, inspiring experiences.

A wall of fire jumped over the home of Michael and Freda Davis and their six children, members of the Sydney Australia Mortdale Stake. The Davises, who live in the bushland in one of Sydney’s south suburbs, watched the fire develop some distance away. “Then, with no warning, the fire reached the gully on the other side of our back fence,” recalled Brother Davis, second counselor in the stake presidency. Within two minutes, the fire was in the family’s back garden.

While Sister Davis and her children ran through the house to the front yard, Brother Davis and another Church member, Geoff Ireland, stayed behind to battle the blaze. “In just a few moments, I saw the flames literally jump over the house and begin to burn the bush in our front yard,” said Sister Davis. The Davises were unhurt, and they are grateful their house is still standing.

Another member who experienced a close call was Daniel Hamilton, president of the Sydney Australia Greenwich Stake. Brother Hamilton’s wife and children had gone to stay with Brent and Elizabeth Young, also members of the Church, while ward members battled the fire from block to block. “We fought the bushfire for hours and hours and days and days,” reported Brother Hamilton. The Hamiltons’ home was saved; but the Youngs’ home, after being evacuated, was attacked by a firestorm. In an experience similar to that of the Davis family, the Youngs’ home was left completely intact.

Members were quick to respond to requests for help. The five stakes in Sydney donated clothing to the St. Vincent De Paul Society, a Catholic service organization. Several wards helped in preparing food for approximately three thousand firemen. The request for assistance came as a direct result of years of fostering relationships with local community organizations, including those involved in the disaster relief. Leaders of the Mortdale stake quickly offered assistance to members of the Como Presbyterian Church, who lost their church building at the height of a bushfire in Sutherland.

“We have been proud of the resilience of our Church members and their willingness to help each other and assist in the general community,” stated Elder Rulon G. Craven of the Seventy, Pacific Area president. “One family, the Cashmans of the Gosford Ward in the Newcastle stake, had been evacuated first from their own home and then from another location as well. Yet they still found the time to go down to the Gosford Youth Club and serve food and refreshments to those in need.”

Elder Craven said that local Church leaders hope to use the bushfire experiences to open up further communication with service and relief agencies so that in future emergencies these agencies will know that Church members are eager to help in any capacity.Alan Wakeley, Pacific Area director of public affairs

[photo] Clothing donated by members from Sydney stakes is gathered at a local service agency.

[photo] Members help prepare meals for those fighting the bushfires.

The Saints in Saskatoon: Building a Center Place of Faith

“Arise, Saskatoon, Queen of the North,” said John Lake in 1882 as he scanned the site along the South Saskatchewan River where he hoped to found a temperance colony. Lake’s dream never materialized, but his words proved prophetic in later years. Saskatoon—named for the delicious berries growing along its riverbanks—arose from a prairie town of thirty-five original settlers to become an incorporated city of five thousand in 1906 and the largest city in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan today. Called the “Hub City,” Saskatoon is the trading center for western Canada’s vast farming region and the supply base for Saskatchewan’s potash mines and for the uranium and timber industries of the north.

The city is on the rise in a different sense as well: Saskatonian Saints belong to a blossoming stake of Zion, one “increas[ing] in beauty, and in holiness” (D&C 82:14) as its members meet their challenges through a firm hope in Christ. Of the city’s 180,000 inhabitants, more than 730 are Latter-day Saints served by two wards and one stake, the Saskatoon Saskatchewan Stake, which covers all of the province (nearly 252,000 square miles) and parts of Alberta and Manitoba.

“We’re no huge presence in the city, but the Church is well known as a force for good,” says John Spencer, an alderman in the nearby village of Clavet. He notes that in recent years, LDS high school students have achieved “a high reputation for excellence” in student government despite their small numbers.

Sunday School meetings were held in Saskatoon beginning in 1943, and one year later the Saskatoon Branch was created, with Sidney B. Smith called as the first branch president. His wife, Elsie, organized eight Primary groups in the area, only one of which was composed of LDS children.

To raise funds for a chapel of their own, branch members sold homemade chocolates and potato-flour doughnuts called spudnuts, a hit at the branch’s food booth at the annual Saskatoon fair and exhibition. The chapel, completed in 1960, served 440 Saints by 1967. The stake was formed in 1978. Today the second-phase meetinghouse includes stake offices, two wards, and a family history center that opened in 1979.

Brian Reddick was a volunteer worker in the family history center for three years before he joined the Church in 1990.

“It was fantastic,” Brian says, referring to the day he and his wife and children were sealed in the temple. That day, he and his wife, Donna, also were able to do temple work for some of their ancestors. “I knew my grandparents were there with us as we were being baptized for them,” he says. The Reddicks cherish their increased family unity and an eternal perspective that assures that the good experiences in life “outnumber the bad.”

Les and Bernice Buell own a grain and cattle farm near Radisson. On Sundays they travel about fifty miles to attend church at the Saskatoon First Ward. There are no other LDS families in their area.

“The Church is what has held our family together,” says Sister Buell, recently released as ward Relief Society president. “It’s a way of life, our direction, what gives us a feeling of peace and a sense of security.” The Buells joined the Church about fifteen years ago. Of their three children, one is serving a mission in Taiwan.

Stake president Kenneth A. Svenson and his counselors all live in the capital city of Regina, 150 miles southeast of Saskatoon. They travel several hundred miles each month while carrying out stake business and trying to keep the scattered stake membership unified. Stake high council meetings alternate between Saskatoon and Regina.

Besides these daunting distances, other challenges beset Church members in Saskatoon—economic downturns and shifting ward populations. The latter has checked Church growth in the area from the start, when most members of Saskatoon’s first branch were in the armed services. Today the ward populations are similarly fluid due to the ebb and flow of families or students connected with the University of Saskatchewan, located in Saskatoon.

But these challenges continue to forge strong members who learn to put the Lord first in their lives and thereby reap great personal blessings. One ward’s current focus is on overcoming setbacks through spiritual preparation, getting back to gospel basics, and learning about and thus knowing the Savior, says Bishop Clinton Dietze of the second ward.

“We’re on a spiritual frontier,” he says, referring to how Church members in Saskatoon are a minority presence with attendant struggles. “But it is marvelous to see Saints who take their struggles and look for peace through the gospel.” Bishop Dietze is a mining engineer who met his wife, Elizabeth, at a singles ward family home evening night in Calgary. They have three young children.

Susan Derry, Spiritual Living teacher in the first ward Relief Society, says, “The gospel is true, and we are stronger because we need to be examples to others not of our faith.” Her baptism seventeen years ago becalmed her restlessness and filled a void in her life so real that today the bishop’s wife and mother of six children “cannot imagine life without God and the ‘mighty change’ that allows us to make better choices and to have better relationships with family members.”

“The Church is both an anchor and a foundation,” says John Spencer, who feels linked to the ward and stake even though only one LDS family lives near him and his family. He is a former bishop now serving as Gospel Doctrine teacher in the second ward. Like many other area Saints, he views the Church as a lifeline for him and his family, “providing incredible support to help us reach our goals and survive tough times with our self-esteem intact.”

“There are no ‘cultural Mormons’ here,” he adds. “We are either in or out; and if we’re in the Church, we’re all the way in—very active.” His twin sons are serving missions in Switzerland and in France. “I am very impressed with the vitality and sacrifices of individual Church members and with the special enthusiasm that converts add to the Church in Saskatoon,” he says.

[photo] Saskatoon’s two wards are led by Bishops Derry (left) and Dietze. (Photography by Larry Racicot.)

[photo] Making Christmas crafts is a favorite activity of the Mason family.

[photo] Youth from two wards attend a combined early-morning seminary class.

[photo] Family history devotees Gill and Elsie Roland.

Elin Johnson serves in the Saskatoon Second Ward as pianist in the Primary and in the Saskatoon Saskatchewan Stake as a family history librarian.

Palmyra’s Grandin Building to Be Restored

Plans to restore the historic Grandin Building in Palmyra, New York, the printing shop where the first edition of the Book of Mormon was printed, have been announced.

The restoration “will offer visitors an experience with the Book of Mormon that will focus on its importance to the Church,” explained Elder Stephen D. Nadauld of the Seventy, executive director of the Church Historical Department. “In this historic building, the story of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon will be brought to life in its authentic setting.”

Currently, the Grandin Building, located on Main Street in the western New York village, is part of the Palmyra Historic District and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was purchased by the Church in 1978.

Restoration plans call for an authentic early-19th-century press room and bindery in the building’s upper floors and a new interpretive exhibit on the translation and publication of the Book of Mormon on the main level. That exhibit will include a mock-up of E. B. Grandin’s bookstore, where the first copies of the Book of Mormon were made available for sale on 26 March 1830. Other exhibits on the floor will include a model of the Palmyra area, artistic depictions of Joseph Smith’s religious experiences in the area, and information on the translation of the Book of Mormon and preparation of the manuscript for printing.

The original press on which the Book of Mormon was printed is now on exhibit at the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City. It will be duplicated for display on the third floor of the building, along with a replication of a second smaller press which Mr. Grandin used for smaller printing jobs. In addition, another exhibit on the third floor will outline the story told in the Book of Mormon.

The project is slated to begin early in 1994, and the Grandin Building is planned to reopen for visitors sometime in 1995.

[photo] Grandin Building

Of Good Report

Creating a Legacy

A Columbus, Ohio, regional youth conference gave new meaning to the phrase “For the Strength of Youth.” It also left a lasting legacy in the hearts of both the youth and the community.

Hundreds of young muscles labored a total of more than two thousand hours to put a fresh face on a 43-year-old 4-H camp in southern Ohio. Approximately four hundred youth from three Columbus, Ohio, stakes hammered, shoveled, and painted their way through the camp in a one-day blitz.

“These young people from the Mormon Church have completed in one day what would normally have taken a year and a half to do,” stated Conn Drake, the camp’s director. “The projects these young workers have completed would typically be done by camp maintenance crews or contract labor.”

Teams of youth from the Columbus Ohio Stake, the Columbus Ohio North Stake, and the Columbus Ohio East Stake hung drywall and painted several buildings. They constructed a 16 x 24-foot picnic shelter, refurbished a nine-hole miniature golf course, and built twenty-five picnic tables, ten park benches, several nesting boxes, some birdhouses, and a handful of wood signs. The youth also created new trails and improved existing ones. And finally, they built a regulation-size baseball diamond complete with backstop.

After the dust had settled at the end of the day, the group had completed more than thirty-one projects. Tired, pleased, and happy, both youth and adult participants knew they had been part of a significant event.

“What we have created here is a lasting legacy,” observed Rachel Luce, one of the youth. “In twenty years I plan on bringing my children to this camp to show them what we did.”Brian Flammer, public affairs director, Columbus Ohio Stake

Community Commitment

Members of the Palos Verdes California Stake, including thirty youth, participated in a community Celebration of Commitment sponsored by the Interfaith Coalition to Heal L.A.

Approximately one thousand people attended the celebration, which sent a message of unity and commitment to the Los Angeles community. The program included speakers and musical and dance numbers from many religious groups, including Jewish, Baptist, Buddhist, and Muslim congregations.

Roger Lovett of the Harbor First Ward represented Latter-day Saints by singing “Love in Any Language.” The audience joined Brother Lovett on the chorus and then gave him a standing ovation when the number was concluded.Sharon Stucki and Pamela Robinson, Palos Verdes, California

Commemorating Gospel Growth

In October 1988, John and Beverly Limburg arrived in Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana) and began doing missionary work. Five months later, the Limburgs held their first sacrament meeting—with 25 people in attendance. Five years later, approximately 210 members and investigators gathered to celebrate the fifth year of missionary work in the country, which consists of a diversified population of Hindustani, Black, Indian, Chinese, and Dutch residents.

Members in the small country, which is in the Trinidad-Tobago Mission, have seen a lot happen in the past five years. Elder Russell M. Ballard dedicated the country for the preaching of the gospel in February 1990. A year later, elders were sent to Suriname, and by November 1991, Church membership had reached 100. Currently, there are approximately 225 members, and there are fourteen full-time missionaries—two couples and ten elders.

During the commemoration meeting, August Marengo, the first male convert, and Eline Troenosemito, the first female convert, spoke and shared their feelings about the growth of the Church. Special musical numbers were provided by missionaries and local members.Ronald J. Lewis, branch president, Paramaribo, Suriname

[photo] Youth in Columbus, Ohio, combine efforts to make a picnic table. (Photo by Brian Flammer.)

[photo] Robert Lovett performs during a community interfaith meeting. (Photo by Grant Campbell.)

Elder Julio E. Dávila

Conversation with the South America North Area Presidency

Church growth has been strong in the South America North Area, as illustrated by the need for temples in Colombia and Ecuador. To learn more about the Church in Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, and Venezuela, the Ensign talked with Elder Jay E. Jensen of the Seventy, area president, and with Elders Julio E. Dávila and Eduardo Ayala of the Seventy, counselors in the area presidency.

Elder Julio E. Dávila Elder Jay E. Jensen Elder Eduardo Ayala

Elders Julio E. Dávila, Jay E. Jensen, and Eduardo Ayala, all of the Seventy

Question: How is missionary work progressing in the South America North Area?

Answer: Currently, we expect about forty-four thousand baptisms per year. There is a high receptivity among the people, partly because of their spiritual heritage as the children of Israel. The blood of Israel among the five countries in our area is rich. The promises to the people are being fulfilled. It’s a remarkable thing. Sometimes those who served missions to South America in the 1960s wonder whether they really did any good. The answer is a resounding yes. We are harvesting a lot of what they did. We’re now moving into an era of second- and even a few third-generation members. Some of the people that earlier missionaries in South America baptized are now patriarchs and temple presidents. And their children are going on missions. One of the great blessings we’re seeing is the large number of Latin American returned missionaries who are rising to the occasion. They are becoming our bishops, our stake presidents, and our mission presidents. In 1993, of seven mission presidents who finished their service in the area, five were replaced by local members. This year we expect more of the same.

Q: How many of the area’s full-time missionaries are from Latin America?

A: Of the 3,244 missionaries in our eighteen missions, more than 1,200 of them are from Latin America. All the missionaries in Peru are Peruvians or are from other Latin American nations. Similarly, there are no North American missionaries in Bolivia. It is amazing how the youth are responding to the challenge to go on missions. They are attending seminaries and institutes, and they are receiving training in the two missionary training centers we have in Bogotá, Colombia, and in Lima, Peru.

Q: What are some of the challenges the Church faces in your area?

A: Even though our greatest challenge is violence and terrorism, with some attacks on buildings in Peru, and similar problems in Bolivia, the Church has not suffered too much. And Church members are helping the people in these nations to change. The principles of prayer and scripture study have helped change the countenance of our people in these countries. For example, we have fifty-two stakes in Peru now, and the change in Colombia has been marvelous. People are anticipating construction of the temples there and in Ecuador, and their feelings about their situation have improved. The local Saints are assuming responsibilities. They are a leavening influence in these nations. There is a new spirit of optimism and a spirit of hope. We’re excited with what we’re seeing. We attribute it to the impact of the gospel and the Church.

Q: What other challenges do you see?

A: The impact political instability has on members’ economical situation—their difficulty in maintaining adequate employment. That’s ever with us. But members are exercising great faith in the Lord through prayer and through scripture study, and the Lord is blessing them. One of the most marvelous things in our area is the attitude of the members. The economic situation may be difficult, but they solve their own problems under the direction of the Lord. The spirit they have is wonderful. They are becoming more and more self-reliant. They are working hard. They are paying their tithes. They are attending sacrament meeting. They are close to each other, and their bishops are close to them. This is a miracle for us. It is the answer to many prayers. We’re confident in the future.

Q: President Ezra Taft Benson has said that the Lord changes people in a way that enables them to change their environment. Are you seeing that among the members?

A: Yes. It’s a pattern. They join the Church, they exercise faith in Christ, and they lift themselves. They want to get an education. They want to improve themselves temporally. They look for better work and they get better work. We see that constantly. We see it in the missionaries especially.

Q: What do you see as the Church’s future in South America?

A: Even more spiritual growth among the members. Our area has almost 600,000 members and 105 stakes now, but we are working for an explosion: more baptisms and more retention. We look for more concentrated efforts in the home, and more homes centered in Christ. For all of us, that is the key. Having a temple in Colombia, a temple in Ecuador, and a temple in Peru will be the wave of the future. As the Saints go to the temple, families are sealed. They then go home and begin to shepherd in their neighborhoods, and the work grows and grows.

Policies and Announcements

The following is from the Church Bulletin, 1993-2:

Caution Concerning Self-Awareness Groups

There is increasing concern regarding Church members’ involvement in groups that purport to increase self-awareness, raise self-esteem, and enhance individual agency. Many of these groups advocate concepts and use methods that can be harmful. Some falsely claim Church endorsement, actively recruit Church members, charge exorbitant fees, and encourage long-term commitments. Some intermingle worldly concepts with gospel principles in ways that can undermine spirituality and faith. Although participants may experience temporary emotional relief or exhilaration, old problems often return, leading to added disappointment and despair.

Church leaders and members should not become involved in self-awareness groups or any other groups that imitate sacred rites or ceremonies. Similarly, members should avoid groups that meet late into the night or encourage open confession or disclosure of personal information normally discussed only in confidential settings.

Church leaders are not to pay for, encourage participation in, or promote such groups or practices. Also, Church facilities are not to be used for these types of activities. Local leaders should counsel those desiring self-improvement to anchor themselves in gospel principles and to adopt wholesome practices that strengthen one’s abilities to cope with challenges. Members are invited to consult with their bishops or stake presidents when seeking appropriate sources of counseling.

Income Taxes

Church members in any nation are obligated by the twelfth article of faith to obey the tax laws of that nation (see also D&C 134:5). If a member disapproves of tax laws, he may attempt to have them changed by legislation or constitutional amendment, or, if he has a well-founded legal objection, he may challenge them in the courts.

A member who refuses to file a tax return, to pay required income taxes, or to comply with a final judgment in a tax case is in direct conflict with the law and with the teachings of the Church. Such a member may be ineligible for a temple recommend and should not be called to a position of principal responsibility in the Church. A member who is convicted of willfully violating tax laws should be the subject of Church discipline to the extent warranted by the circumstances.


Uncle John Touched Lives

Thank you for “Spencer Kimball and Recharging the Battery” (Dec. 1993). President Kimball was such an example and inspiration to the world. I was happy to discover that this story was also about John Whiting. When I was a young girl, Uncle John (as many of us called him) was one of the leaders in the Palm Springs Ward. He touched many of our lives and was responsible for many great events in our ward, especially with the youth. He was generous, loving, hardworking, and the best storyteller ever. But most importantly, he shared his love of the gospel with us and helped strengthen many testimonies. Reading about him was truly a treat and brings back many special memories.

Allison Rohner Frame Vista, California

Ensign on Tape

I wish to express my thanks and appreciation for the Ensign on tape. For years I have marveled at the spiritual and uplifting articles that have come from this treasured magazine.

Since my sight began to fail, I have wondered how I could possibly continue to enjoy this choice magazine. Through the kindness of a neighbor, I am now continuing to enjoy and appreciate all the Ensign has to offer.

Jesse Dalley Ann Arbor, Michigan

Anxious to Serve Others

Thank you for “Helping and Being Helped by the Intellectually Impaired,” a sensitive article about those with intellectual impairments (Oct. 1993). I appreciated not only the personal stories, but the quality of the up-to-date research and information. I look forward to reading more articles of this type.

I have a daughter with Down syndrome who enjoyed reading the article as well. She is anxious to serve others and was very drawn to the examples in your article of service by those with intellectual impairments.

Patricia H. Nielsen Provo, Utah

Emulating Christ Is Most Powerful Lesson

In the December 1993 Ensign, J. Brad Burton responded to a question about helping others with personal problems.

I had several thoughts as I read this piece. Discomfort at another’s personal problem is an opportunity not to be missed; there are things I can do with my discomfort that will bless me as well as maximize the chance of influence for good.

First, I can look at my own weaknesses. I can look at my own feelings and listen to them carefully, as well as carefully examine my motives. Being clear and honest about motives is what matters first.

I can also look at things I can change about me. I can help through my example as I face and seek help for my personal pain and weaknesses. It’s also important to understand the blessings that can come from patiently waiting on God’s time. His miracles have always been more exciting than any noble or heroic service I may do on my own.

Finally, it’s important to look and listen to the messages clothed in another’s behavior. All human behavior is a communication or expression of some message.

Others’ personal problems and our reactions are unique opportunities to learn and grow. Also, our example of listening, looking, and caring is the best single thing we can do for another. Someone emulating Christ is the most powerful lesson and help.

Paul L. Williams San Antonio, Texas