Newsmaker: Tenor of the Family

Eight years ago, a 26-year-old tenor stepped onto the stage at the Lincoln Center with only thirty minutes’ notice and made his Metropolitan Opera debut. For Stanford Olsen, replacing an ailing colleague was the first step in an international career that would eventually include performances in Paris, London, Rome, Amsterdam, and Salzburg.

However, with all of his worldwide appearances, Brother Olsen knows that his most important performance is at home. He and his wife, Jennifer, made that determination years ago when they first met as students at the University of Utah. The two shared a love for music and a desire to make music a career. However, they also shared a love for the gospel and a knowledge that they would need the gospel truths to guide them through a life in the performing world.

It didn’t take long for the Olsens to experience firsthand the demands of their chosen lifestyle. Upon graduation, they were both accepted at the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. While in Cincinnati, Brother Olsen was invited to join the Metropolitan Opera Company, and it was during his first season in New York that he made his surprise debut. Sister Olsen worked frequently as a free-lance pianist and is still her husband’s favorite accompanist.

Frequently, the Olsen family travels together when Brother Olsen performs. Consequently, they have spent months together in Europe, most recently in Paris. But traveling brings its travails. While in Paris, Sister Olsen was dealing with the discomfort of being pregnant when their two children contracted chicken pox. “Instead of touring the Louvre, we were dotting children with calamine lotion,” Sister Olsen recalls.

Regardless of where Brother Olsen is in the world, however, the gospel remains a part of his life. He served an Austrian mission and is presently the ward mission leader in the Fardale Ward, Caldwell New Jersey Stake. Sister Olsen serves in the Primary presidency.

“Some performers have a tendency to base their whole worth on their performances and on the applause,” notes Brother Olsen. “For us, the gospel’s teachings of family and service provide a balance to the challenges of our lifestyle.”

“When we were first starting out,” Sister Olsen says, “I would pray that if we were doing the wrong thing, we would fail miserably and quickly.”

But apparently they were right on course. And for audiences worldwide who hear Brother Olsen sing, there is no doubt that they have made a wise choice.Stacey Clark, Sandy, Utah

Happy Birthday by Phone

Ned W. Armstrong, seventy-nine, has been helping members of the Hillcrest Fourth Ward, Orem Utah Hillcrest Stake, celebrate birthdays for the last five years. He faithfully calls every ward member, all 455 of them, to wish them happy birthday. Add to that list eight children, thirty grandchildren, ten great grandchildren, a brother, two sisters, and his wife, Amy, for a total of more than five hundred birthday salutations a year.

The practice has endeared Brother Armstrong to all the members of the ward. This year his birthday happened to fall on the day of the annual ward spaghetti dinner. Banners wishing him a happy birthday adorned the walls, and a rousing rendition of the song “Happy Birthday” greeted him as he entered the cultural hall. Everyone was glad to have the opportunity to thank the man who has done so much to strengthen the ward family.—Sheila Hiatt Cox, Orem, Utah

Establishing Zion

Alice Saily, a member of the Grandview Second Ward, Provo Utah Grandview Stake, has spent her life sharing her time, talents, and means with those in need. Left with weakened health after surviving the 1918 influenza epidemic as an infant, she nevertheless served a mission to Oklahoma and Arkansas in 1944. Since then, she has continued to donate food, money, and clothing to local missionaries. With no children of her own, she has helped nephews, nieces, and then grandnephews and grandnieces to go on missions. She has also contributed to many worthy projects, including a baptismal font in Holland, an organ in Japan, and a chapel in California. She adds her blessing of continued fasting and prayer in behalf of those who have special problems. Sister Saily is currently serving as a temple missionary in the Provo Temple.Harriet Platt, Orem, Utah

Advocate for Abstinence

Bonnie Park didn’t mean to become a media celebrity or a national spokesperson. She just wanted to teach a life skills course in the local junior high school that focused on abstinence from premarital sexual activity. But ever since she started, reporters have been clamoring at her classroom door.

Sister Park, a returned missionary, mother of four, host to a number of foster children, and grandmother of thirteen, lives with her husband, Darrell, in the Hemet First Ward, Hemet California Stake. It’s not a large community by southern California standards, but it’s been featured on network news, national talk shows, and in the Wall Street Journal because of the curriculum Bonnie instigated there. It’s a program that teaches that waiting for involvement with a monogamous person in a loving, committed marriage is the best prevention against AIDS.

Although a few murmurings have been heard from some national organizations, Bonnie has received an amazing amount of support from all over the United States and Canada. Twenty-one years of teaching and Church and community service have enabled her to answer questions from the media calmly, eloquently, succinctly, and accurately.

Bonnie serves on the local school board, is a Gospel Doctrine teacher in her ward, and is the stake Young Women camp director. Many of the youth in her ward have been through her program at school.Lisa Johnson, Salt Lake City, Utah

In the Spotlight

  • Byron T. Geslison received the Order of the Falcon, the highest honor bestowed by the government of Iceland. Brother Geslison, a member of the Spanish Fork Thirteenth Ward, Spanish Fork Utah Stake, helped open missionary work in Iceland in 1975 and has served three missions to that country. At a ceremony in Spanish Fork, Iceland’s ambassador, the Honorable Tomas Tomasson, presented the award to Brother Geslison, calling him “one of the outstanding western Icelanders.” Brother Geslison’s parents were both born in Iceland and immigrated to Spanish Fork as children.

  • Andrew Dittmer, a priest in the Vienna Ward, Oakton Virginia Stake, captured a gold medal at the International Mathematical Olympiad held in Istanbul, Turkey. Andrew, who was one of four hundred thousand students competing in the three-stage event, solved six problems in nine hours. He received thirty-three points for his essay-type answers. Thirty points were required to qualify for the gold medal.

  • Richard B. Passey, a member of the Edmonds First Ward, Oklahoma City Oklahoma Stake, won the 1993 American Association for Clinical Chemistry award for outstanding contributions in education. Brother Passey is a professor at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City. He is the center’s director of clinical chemistry and core laboratories, as well as director of resident training in clinical chemistry.

  • Faun Bandeka, an elementary school teacher and member of the Valley Ridge Ward, Kearns Utah West Stake, has received national recognition for her promotion of the Pledge of Allegiance Centennial. Sister Bandeka was awarded the New Constellation Award, the highest honor given by the National Flag Foundation. She also received the Valley Forge Teachers Medal, awarded by the Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge.

  • Sharyn Dietrich, a member of the Jeffersonville Ward, New Albany Indiana Stake, was awarded the 1993 Indiana Youth Investment Award. Sister Dietrich helped develop a week-long camp for troubled teenage girls. The camp teaches values like faith, divine nature, knowledge, choice and accountability, good works, individual worth, and integrity—all Young Women values. “That camp is just the Young Women program,” noted Sister Dietrich, who obtained approval from Church leaders to use the values in the camp program.