President Packer Addresses Diplomats
Family values and the standards of the world were topics addressed by President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, when he spoke at a 1995 Brigham Young University Management Society dinner held in Washington, D.C.
“Like a ship without a compass, society drifts from the family values which anchored us in the past,” President Packer told the crowd of thirteen hundred, which included ambassadors and members of the diplomatic community from twenty-six nations.
“We are caught in a current of moral pollution so strong that unless we correct our course, civilization, as we know it, will surely be wrecked to pieces. The standards of the world are constantly adjusted to what is. The standards of the Church are fixed on what ought to be.”
During the evening’s activities, President Packer and Beverly Campbell, director of International Affairs for the Church in Washington, D.C., received the BYU Management Society’s Distinguished Public Service Award. Lew Cramer, president of the chapter, noted that “both have been exemplars in their own spheres of influence as they have served extensively in the public sector and in the Church.”
Processing of Names for Temple to Be Done Locally
Members in the United States and Canada are reminded that after 1 June 1995, all processing of names for temple ordinance work will occur in local stakes and wards. In its 8 November 1993 announcement of the new TempleReady™ computer program, the First Presidency advised that after 1 June 1995, the Church would no longer process names for temple work at Church headquarters. After this date, Church members in the United States and Canada will need to use TempleReady in their stake or district to prepare their ancestors’ names to be sent to the temple.
Many members are familiar with TempleReady, which is part of the FamilySearch® computer system. Using TempleReady, members can prepare ancestors’ names for temple ordinances in a few minutes rather than send names to Church headquarters and wait several months for them to be processed. As names are prepared in TempleReady, they are saved on a computer diskette. The diskette is then sent to the temple. After the temple receives the diskette, they need one day to process the information, and then members may perform sacred ordinances (in their proper sequence) in behalf of their ancestors.
TempleReady is available in family history centers and on computers in many clerks’ offices in meetinghouses. Every stake in the United States and Canada should have at least one computer equipped with TempleReady or be located near a family history center with TempleReady.
Stake and ward family history consultants are available to help members learn where and how to use TempleReady. Some members may have difficulty getting to a TempleReady site or using the computer once they are there. Under the direction of priesthood leaders, stake and ward family history consultants can provide special assistance to these members. In addition, every family should have a copy of A Member’s Guide to Temple and Family History Work (no. 34697), which explains the basic steps to providing temple ordinances for our ancestors.
President Hunter said:”In recent years we have begun using information technology to hasten the sacred work of providing ordinances for the deceased. The role of technology in this work has been accelerated by the Lord himself, who has had a guiding hand in its development and will continue to do so” (Ensign, Mar. 1995, p. 65). Enabling members to prepare names locally to send to the temple is a significant step forward in hastening the sacred work of redeeming the dead.
Cambodian Saints in Southern California
It is a clear, sunny Sunday morning in the southern California suburb of Santa Ana. Along apartment-lined Minnie Street, Cambodian children gather expectantly. The girls wear colorful sarongs, wraparound skirts patterned with painted fish or flowers and knotted at the hip. The boys play in the parking lot as leaders of the Irvine Eighth (Cambodian) Branch drive up, and missionaries briskly organize carpools to carry these Cambodian members to church.
“We are engaged in a great work,” says recently released branch president Ralph Ellsworth Jr. He and other local leaders have felt blessed to help prepare a people who one day may help take the gospel to their ancestral homeland. The branch members share that sense of mission.
“I know that Heavenly Father brought the Cambodians here for a purpose,” says Sarith Niev, a Cambodian refugee from Florida who served a full-time mission among the three thousand Cambodians living in the Minnie Street vicinity. “Getting the gospel was one of the greatest things that happened to us.”
The branch was created in 1983 after Sister Sokcheat Lee (now Lee-Stewart), a Cambodian refugee living in Salt Lake City, moved with her family to California and began bringing her Cambodian friends to the Irvine Second Ward. Before long, three dozen Cambodian members were holding Sunday meetings at a warehouse on Minnie Street. Since 1985, the growing body of Cambodian Saints has met at the stake center.
By 9:30 A.M. the chapel has filled with about 150 Cambodian Saints, the vast majority of them under age eighteen. Most of their parents embrace the Buddhist culture, though they permit their children to join the Church because of its wholesome influence in an area of gang and drug activity.
“The Church teaches them the principles they need in order to get out of the ghetto,” says Irvine stake president Edward W. Griffith. “As they learn the gospel, they progress tremendously.”
Branch youth who as toddlers fled war-torn Cambodia in their parents’ arms or were born in communist labor camps or Thai refugee camps are now enjoying Scout or girls’ camps, serving two-week minimissions, and helping the homeless. Two young people from the branch attend Brigham Young University, and three are currently serving full-time missions.
The youth do not lack for older adult role models. James Tran and Sister Lee-Stewart, who have successfully adjusted to new lives in a new land, inspire young Cambodian Saints to put the gospel first in their lives.
“If we are strong in the Spirit and have faith in the Lord, we can overcome all,” says Brother Tran, who was baptized in 1975 while on military duty in Bangkok, Thailand.
“I feel I was saved for a purpose of doing something good for the Church,” says Brother Tran, who labored “with all my heart to translate the Book of Mormon” into Khmer, the language of Cambodia. Sealed to his wife and five children and called to serve on the stake high council, he is an appeals-hearing specialist representing Los Angeles County in welfare matters.
After coming to the United States, Sister Lee-Stewart became a certified respiratory therapist in California. “Without the gospel, I would not have come this far,” she says. “Now I’m able to help other people. I learn something new every day that helps me raise my children.” Since her recent temple marriage in the San Diego Temple, her outlook has brightened even more: “Now I have no worries and feel happy and at peace.”
The stake provides the branch with leaders who soon become attached to those they serve. Primary teacher Owen Kimball no longer misses his own ward. “I love these little children,” he explains.
“You feel the Spirit here because the members give back to you everything you give to them, tenfold,” says former Primary president Teresa Alleman.
Signs of increasing levels of trust and love in the branch abound. On Minnie Street a missionary pauses to swing a giggling boy through the air, while his companion plays Chinese jump rope with a group of young girls. Elsewhere a member of the branch presidency joins young men in a game of toth sai (similar to the American game Hacky Sack). Church meetings over, the children timidly hug their teachers while their mothers, members or not, put oranges or egg rolls into leaders’ pockets.
Asked why they go to church, Merrie Miss girls on Minnie Street grin and shyly turn away. Asked again, Sohkin Kong, a beautiful girl with natural curls and deep-brown eyes, looks up and states frankly, “I love church because it’s a house of God. I feel good when I go there.”
Conversation with the Asia Area Presidency
The Church is gradually expanding in Asia. To learn more about the Church in Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Mongolia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, the Ensign talked with Elder of the Seventy, Asia Area president, and Elders and of the Seventy, counselors in the area presidency.
Question: What can you tell us about the Church’s progress in Asia?
Answer: The work is going well in a number of nations while progress is modest in others. In some areas we are still path finding and building a foundation as we extend the frontiers of the Church.
We have hope of marvelous things ahead. There is much diversity among the nations of Asia—cultural, religious, economical, and political. The Church is dealing with the challenges of each nation in a specific and unique way.
Q: What are some of the nations where the Church is “path finding”?
A: Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos are good examples. In March 1994 the Church received official recognition in Cambodia, where we are providing a combination of proselyting and humanitarian service. A branch has been organized in Phnom Penh with about sixty Cambodian and Vietnamese members.
We have sent equipment, medical supplies, and lots of textbooks to North Vietnam, where our service is purely humanitarian. We are also providing humanitarian aid to Laos. We are preparing to send a shipment of used clothing, and last August we donated and helped distribute three truckloads of rice. The good things the Church is doing have been published in local newspapers and aired on television and radio stations (see “Church Donates Rice to Laos,” Church News, 27 Aug. 1994).
Q: Can you tell us about the Church in Hong Kong and Taiwan?
A: The Church has been in Taiwan and Hong Kong about forty years and is seeing steady membership growth. The size and strength of the Church in Hong Kong and in Taiwan are quite similar. We have about twenty thousand members in each area. Taiwan has four stakes, three districts, two missions, and a temple. Hong Kong has five stakes and one mission and will soon have a temple as well. Membership growth is steady, and the missions are prospering. The Church is solid, with many second-generation members who are growing in gospel knowledge and leadership ability.
For example, Taipei Taiwan Temple president Wei Wang is doing a superb job of overseeing work at the temple. Kent Liang, the regional representative for Taiwan, and his family are additional examples of solid second-generation Latter-day Saints. Brother Liang is a good example for his fellow Latter-day Saints and for his colleagues at a local university, where he serves as a department chairman. His brother, Carl Liang, is the country director of temporal affairs. Their father serves as a temple worker. We have equally dedicated members in Hong Kong, including people like Brother and Sister Ng Kat Hing, two of our first members there. Brother and Sister Ng have served the Church in many capacities since joining the Church in the 1950s, including as temple missionaries in the Taipei Taiwan Temple. All seven of their children have married in the temple.
Q: Latter-day Saints in Hong Kong must be pleased that they will soon have their own temple.
A: We have many endowed members who have been to temples in Taiwan, Hawaii, Manila, and the United States. Others, however, have been unable to travel outside the country to do temple work. They all are excited and looking forward to having a temple in Hong Kong. The local temple committee, composed almost entirely of local leaders, is busy preparing for the wonderful events associated with the temple’s dedication, set for spring 1996.
The temple complex, located on the site of the original mission home in Hong Kong, is going to be a multipurpose building, housing a chapel, a missionary office, and quarters for the mission president and the temple president. The temple will be on the three top floors and will also include part of the first underground floor, where the baptistry will be.
Q: Tell us about the Church’s presence in China.
A: The Church is not officially recognized in China, but we have a presence through foreign-born members living there and through a Brigham Young University program of sharing teachers with various institutions throughout the country. We have a branch of about eighty foreign-born resident members in Beijing. Some Chinese members, including a few from Taiwan, also meet together in Beijing. We have a branch of about thirty members in Shanghai and a branch of several families and single students in Guangzhou.
We have a cultural exchange program through BYU that has been going on for ten years. Groups like the Young Ambassadors, the Lamanite Generation, the International Folk Dancers, and the jazz band Synthesis have performed in China. They have made BYU one of the best-known universities from the United States.
We also have volunteer Latter-day Saint doctors going into China regularly to teach medical techniques, and the Church has sent medical equipment, earthquake and flood relief, and new textbooks. Of their own initiative, Church members in Hong Kong held a fund-raiser for flood victims in southern China following last year’s terrible floods.
Q: How is the Church progressing in Thailand?
A: Work is going very well. Thailand has been a successful mission. It continues to be fruitful, and we are working to develop more leadership. We have been in Thailand for nearly three decades. We have five thousand members, four districts, one mission.
Q: Can you tell us about the work in Mongolia?
A: The first year after missionary couples arrived was spent networking and building a foundation. Now we have about two hundred members in Mongolia, most of whom were baptized within the past two years. We have four couples and six companionships of elders serving in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, and we recently opened a second city, Erdenet. Our efforts so far have been a mixture of humanitarian work and proselyting. About 250 people attend sacrament meeting in Ulaanbaatar.
The Mongolian people are very hungry for gospel knowledge, and missionaries spend most of their time answering referrals and teaching discussions. The Lord is blessing our efforts.
Q: What are some of the challenges Asian members face?
A: Sometimes there is religious protectionism in the East. But there are people interested in the gospel, and they keep us busy teaching the basic principles of the gospel and how to make the gospel fully operational in their lives.
A concern of Church leaders in Hong Kong and Taiwan is the number of single members. Getting young Latter-day Saints together can be difficult, but we have several single-adult wards and branches that provide opportunities for people to work together in the gospel. The number of temple marriages is increasing, and we are gradually building a community of Saints that will provide stability, leadership, and long-term Church growth.
Q: How does the gospel and the faith of members anchor them against their challenges?
A: The gospel provides a wonderful perspective on life and a fresh approach about how to live. When Latter-day Saints, whether in the East or West, live the gospel they tend to become more like each other. The family assumes a much more important place in their lives. Families are intact in Asia, but the children become even more precious once their parents know that they come from God. Many fathers in Asia work very long hours and are not able to spend much time at home. As they are converted to gospel truths, they develop a tendency to put a higher priority on time at home with their families.
A great bridging of the gulf between East and West takes place when the gospel comes into people’s lives. People learn that men and women are equal because they are all children of God who need to repent, be baptized, and become part of the community of Saints. We are pleased to witness the change in the lives of the members who are faithfully living gospel principles. They are happy and are growing in the gospel.
Primary Achievement Days Successful around the World
Six months ago local Church leaders were instructed that eight- and nine-year-old Primary children would also be involved in the already-organized achievement days program for ten- and eleven-year-old youngsters. In addition, achievement days booklets were made available so that children could record their activities and completed goals.
“The purpose of achievement days is to provide a happy and secure setting where children ages eight through eleven can be involved with friends and families as they practice certain gospel principles,” explained Patricia P. Pinegar, Primary general president. “We believe their testimonies will be strengthened as parents and leaders help them understand that Heavenly Father loves them, cares about everything they do, and wants them to learn many things.”
Reports from around the Church indicate achievement days activities are successful. “I have seen the girls in my stake become more self-confident,” reported Antje Evans, stake Primary president in the Mannheim Germany Stake. “They are proud that they’re setting goals and reaching them. They are having fun together and strengthening their friendships.”
Those strong ties are important, observes Sister Evans, “because often the girls live far apart from each other. Achievement days activities provide an opportunity for them to get together and share their values and goals.”
Achievement days activities have varied in the Mannheim stake. The children in the Mannheim Ward planned an activity for the elderly members in their ward. Under Primary leadership, the Scouts decorated the building and the girls prepared food. The activity was so successful that service projects have continued to be one of the first choices when the children suggest achievement days possibilities.
One sister was so impressed with the ideas in the achievement days booklet, reported Sister Evans, that she organized the program in her home with her daughter. Mother and daughter set goals with one another and then report back, sometimes working together on the things they want to accomplish.
In the Sydney Australia Greenwich Stake, stake Primary president Lorraine Ormsby also reports wonderful results. “We have one ward, the Baulkham Hills Ward, that spent three months working on an activity,” she said. “The girls filled out a family group sheet, they interviewed their mothers and wrote short life histories for their mothers, they took photographs and took some etiquette lessons. Then they planned an evening meal and invited their parents to the activity, where they presented an album, complete with pictures and histories, to their mothers. It was a marvelous success.”
Other wards have planned sunrise testimony meetings, visited hospitals, learned basic safety and emergency planning, and cooked breakfast for the missionaries, Sister Ormsby said.
Kristy McDonough, achievement days leader in the Westdale First Ward, Los Angeles California Santa Monica Stake, said that one of the best activities her girls had participated in was a surprise anniversary party for her.
“I knew something was up,” she said, “but the girls wouldn’t tell me what. They planned the whole evening, including making a cake and banner and cards. We spent the evening looking at my wedding pictures and talking about the importance of temple marriage and staying close to the Lord so that he could direct them as they entered the dating and courtship years.”
The achievement days activities are geared to help young people “grow close to their families, learn new skills, make friends, and learn how to set and complete goals,” explained Susan L. Warner, second counselor in the Primary general presidency. “Children are encouraged to meet with their Primary class members and leaders for achievement days activities. However, if local circumstances do not permit, activities can be held at home with family members.”
Achievement days activities should be simple and flexible. Children are also encouraged to invite their nonmember friends to the activities as well, providing a natural opportunity for children to share the gospel.
Achievement days booklets list twelve different categories in which children might set goals. Included in each category are possible suggestions as well as a place to list the goal and the progress made.
“We believe that as achievement days are implemented worldwide, children will be strengthened in their ability and in their desire to live righteously,” Sister Pinegar said. “As leaders and parents carefully assess the needs of children and provide opportunities for them to have wonderful learning experiences during achievement days and at home, children will be better prepared to make righteous choices in their lives.”
Ricks College Groups Perform in Tabernacle
As part of a seven-concert tour through Idaho and Utah, a choir of 250 Ricks College students performed pieces by a Latter-day Saint composer in the Tabernacle on Temple Square.
The program, which features a musical rendition of 2 Nephi 4 by Robert Cundick, is part of an ongoing effort by the Church-sponsored junior college to perform sacred works by Latter-day Saint composers.
The March 17 concert was attended by President Gordon B. Hinckley and other General Authorities. Brother Cundick, a former Tabernacle organist, called the performance remarkable. “The scores that I write are difficult. I could not have hoped for a better performance from these wonderful young people.”
The program included “The Song of Nephi” and other works written by Brother Cundick, including a cantata.
Of Good Report
Community Efforts Recognized in Peru
Members in Peru are committed to getting involved in the community. Recently, approximately one hundred young adults joined with municipal workers to clean the streets and avenues of a selected area. After the cleanup, trees and grass were planted to help beautify the area.
The Church’s public affairs office in Peru also organized a talent show at Chaclacayo Central Park held in conjunction with the community’s “Day of the Family” celebration. Several numbers were performed, and the city’s mayor personally thanked Church leaders for their service to the community.
In Chosica, Peru, local members invited a group of 120 senior citizens to their meetinghouse, where they entertained them with a program and presented each guest with a shawl.
Also in Chosica, a group of thirty-five members and nonmembers from the Moyapamba Ward area painted and refinished the local school building. Community officials recognized Church members’ efforts and complimented them for their work.
Love of Family Is Common Bond
To commemorate National Family Week, the La Verne California Stake presented La Verne Mayor Jon Blickenstaff a bound copy of his family history. The history, which was researched by Betty Jo Gillespie of the La Verne Second Ward, was presented to the mayor during a city council meeting.
In the meeting Robert Reeves, La Verne stake president, expressed the members’ appreciation for the strong pro-family stance of the city council.
“It is a privilege to live in a community where families are valued and actively supported,” he said.
“Love of family is a common bond among all people,” he continued, as he explained the family history project. “We want the community to know that these great resources and some wonderful expertise are available free of charge to everyone.”
The stake president also used the opportunity to invite council members and others in attendance to workshops sponsored by the stake where they could learn about computer research, using and managing genealogy files, preserving old photographs, and other aspects of family history.—, La Verne, California
The Hearts of the Children
The Spirit of Elijah is strong in the Grand Junction, Colorado, area. For the past four years, members of the Church in the area have sponsored a family history fair, inviting individuals, organizations, and community businesses to learn more about family history.
Last year’s fair celebrated the International Year of the Family and included a special exhibit displaying ideas and suggestions for strengthening families. This year the fair offerings continued the theme.
Approximately five hundred visitors strolled through booths and saw a demonstration of family home evening, attended seminars on German genealogical research, and learned about capturing family photographs and histories on videotape. They also visited with members dressed in authentic costumes from different time periods who shared information and historical facts. The characters included Queen Elizabeth and her daughter, two soldiers from the Civil War, a Scotsman who played the bagpipes, and a Native American chief.
But the fair was only one of the family history highlights in the community. The local college teaches a continuing education class on the use of Personal Ancestral File®, the Church-produced genealogical software program for use on home computers. A local PAF-users group has been formed, and several local middle and elementary schools have site licenses and use the program with students and after-hours adult classes.
In addition, twice a year the Museum of Western Colorado, the Mesa County Genealogical Society, and the Grand Junction Family History Center sponsor a trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Preparatory classes are held for these trips at the museum and family history center, where participants learn the basics of family history work.—, Grand Junction, Colorado
Number of Stakes and Districts in the Church
As of 31 December 1994 there were 2,008 stakes and 709 districts in the Church. Over a five-year period the number of stakes has increased by 224 and the number of districts has increased by 230.
1,784 (stakes) 479 (districts)
1,837 (stakes) 527 (districts)
1,919 (stakes) 601 (districts)
1,968 (stakes) 647 (districts)
2,008 (stakes) 709 (districts)
Are Persons with Visual Impairments in Your Ward Being Helped?
Blindness came to me at the age of twenty-one while serving a mission. I returned home from my mission and proceeded to graduate from Brigham Young University, marry, and eventually start my own business. My wife and I have five children, and despite my blindness I have been the main financial support for our family.
In my thirty-eight years of blindness, I have had only one Church member offer to read to me. No Church member has ever offered to drive me somewhere for an appointment or to run errands. As a blind person, these are among my greatest needs, and I would enjoy so much receiving this help from my fellow Church members.
It has been difficult for my family to always provide the help I’ve needed, and there have been instances where I’ve needed to ask for a ride or reading assistance from my quorum members or home teachers. Even after requesting, the results have been disappointing.
In talking with other blind members, I’ve discovered my experience is not unique. Reading to the blind and offering to drive us somewhere are wonderful ways of reaching out in love and service.