President Gordon B. Hinckley offered guidance and encouragement to thousands of Latter-day Saints during a busy January in which he delivered three youth fireside addresses, met with Saints in Mexico and Utah, and dedicated a park built to honor southern Utah settlers.
From southern Utah to southern Mexico, President Hinckley emphasized the importance of strengthening the family, reading the Book of Mormon, and choosing the right.
“If there is less trouble in the homes, there will be less trouble in the nations,” President Hinckley told nearly 9,000 Church members gathered Sunday, 28 January, for a regional conference in Veracruz, Mexico. He encouraged parents to bind their families together “with love and kindness, with appreciation and respect, and with teaching the ways of the Lord so that your children will grow in righteousness and avoid the tragedies which are overcoming so many families across the world.”
President Hinckley was accompanied by Sister Hinckley, Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Elder Gary J. Coleman of the Seventy, first counselor in the Mexico South Area Presidency. Elders Eyring and Coleman were accompanied by their wives.
President Hinckley, speaking through an interpreter, said that peace comes from living the gospel of Jesus Christ and that parents can bring peace to their children by teaching them the ways of righteousness and truth. “I hope, my brothers and sisters, that you are having your family home evenings with your children. You cannot afford to postpone this. The days, the months, and the years pass so quickly, and before long it will be too late.”
Elder Eyring echoed those remarks. “We call upon parents to be responsible for teaching fundamental truths to their children,” he said. “The family is society’s fundamental unit; it is eternity’s fundamental unit.”
President Hinckley asked parents to read the Book of Mormon this year to themselves and to their children. “They will not understand all the words, but they will get the spirit of this work,” he said.
He said a conviction of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon comes from reading it and praying about it. “I want to give you my witness that every time you read it you will find things that you have never noticed before that will touch your life for good. Marvelous is the effect of the Book of Mormon.”
Just as the test of the Book of Mormon’s truthfulness is found in reading it, so the test of the truthfulness of gospel principles is found in living those principles, President Hinckley said.
“The more often you go [to the temple], the more certainly you will know of the truth of this great work in the house of the Lord. If you worry in your minds about the law of tithing—pay your tithing. And with the payment of your tithing will come a conviction of the truth of that law as the Lord’s law of finance,” he said. “And so it is with every principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ: the Word of Wisdom, the welfare program, the family home evening program. Every principle which God has revealed carries its own conviction of truth.”
President Hinckley expressed his love for Mexican Latter-day Saints, many of whom were moved to tears by his remarks. He complimented them for their efforts to raise righteous children, their willingness to share the gospel, and their faithfulness despite their trials.
“I know many of you are having a struggle to get along economically,” he said. “These are difficult times in which to live. But this is a great nation of great and good people, and you are as the leaven among them. Pray for your nation and the Lord will hear and answer your prayers, and we will add our prayers to your prayers. This is one of the great areas of the Church, this great nation where we have about 750,000 members of the Church and which has favored us with official recognition because they have seen the goodness of your lives. Do not ever betray the trust which has been put in you.”
Commenting on Church growth in Mexico, President Hinckley said the Church had only one stake in the Veracruz area when he visited in 1978. Membership growth has been dramatic since then, as attested by attendance at the regional conference by Church members from Mexico’s Veracruz, Veracruz Reforma, Veracruz Mocambo, Veracruz Villarica, Jalapa, Orizaba, and Tuxtepec stakes and from the Los Tuxtla Mexico District.
Speaking Saturday, 27 January, to more than 1,000 local priesthood leaders and later to full-time missionaries from the Mexico Veracruz Mission, President Hinckley referred to the growth and impact of the Church in Mexico as the “miracle of Mormonism in Mexico.” He reminded missionaries of the importance of their work, and he charged priesthood leaders with the responsibility of helping their brothers and sisters grow spiritually.
“You have responsibility for the work of the Lord in this great area,” President Hinckley told leaders. “It will stand or move forward according to what you do. There are so many out there who need help, so many who are members who have drifted away. We are all in this together, to build the kingdom of God in the earth; and if we work together, nothing can stop us.”
President Hinckley invited young adults attending a Salt Lake Valley-wide institute of religion fireside 21 January “to walk the path of faith with me” and to stand for what is right, true, and good.
“The Church needs every one of you,” President Hinckley told young adults filling the Tabernacle and overflow areas on Temple Square. “It needs your strength. It needs your energy. It needs your enthusiasm. It needs your loyalty and devotion and faith.”
President Hinckley called the Church a great reservoir of eternal truth from which all people are invited to drink. “It is the preserver of standards, the teacher of values. Latch onto those values. Bind them to your hearts. Let them become the lodestar of your lives to guide you as you move forward in the world of which you will become an important part.”
Regardless of mistakes, he told those assembled, young people can square their lives with gospel teachings and find happiness in living gospel principles.
President Hinckley warned of the pitfalls of sexual immorality, pornography, filthy language, and criticism of the Church and its leaders.
“Never kid yourselves that happiness can come of darkness or evil or sin,” he said. “Know that happiness comes of following the way the Lord has marked for us.”
On 13 January President Hinckley traveled to Parowan, Utah, where he dedicated the city’s Heritage Park during the town’s 145th birthday celebration and addressed Parowan Utah Stake youth at a Saturday afternoon fireside.
“I stand in reverent respect for those who laid the foundation of this community and of hundreds of other similar communities in the West,” President Hinckley told a crowd of nearly 3,000 people gathered for a town meeting at the local high school. “There is a growing interest in what happened in the past, and it is good for all of us to stop and look back at our roots and contemplate the source of our real strength.”
President Hinckley paid tribute to those who established the area as a staging site for the subsequent settlement of many other communities.
Following the town meeting, President and Sister Hinckley, as well as Elder Earl C. Tingey of the Seventy, president of the Utah South Area, and Sister Tingey climbed aboard a white horse-drawn carriage and traveled parade fashion through downtown Parowan to Heritage Park. There, amid a throng of flag-waving children, a bronze pioneer tribute monument was unveiled and President Hinckley offered a dedicatory prayer.
An hour later, President Hinckley met with about 200 Parowan youth in the Parowan First and Second Ward chapel, encouraging them to heed their divine nature and avoid behavior and language beneath their dignity as children of God.
“I want you to know you are important,” he said. “Our Heavenly Father is counting on you to do something significant with your lives. Don’t sit around watching television. Do something significant.”
President Hinckley encouraged the young men and women to enjoy themselves, “but remember there is a line in the sand which you may never cross. You live in a world gone crazy with evil, but you don’t have to live like that.”
The next morning, 14 January, President Hinckley surprised members of the St. George Utah Pine View Stake when he arrived for their stake conference. Speaking without prepared remarks, President Hinckley urged those attending the conference to keep the Sabbath day holy and to live as Latter-day Saints should live.
“We are a people who have taken upon us sacred covenants. Let us strive harder to keep them. I believe you love the gospel. You are good people. You express gratitude. You try to do what’s right. You are trying to rear your children in truth and righteousness, raising a generation of the best the Church has ever seen.”
President Hinckley, wrapping up his visit to southern Utah with a fireside address that evening, encouraged nearly 10,000 youth gathered at the Dixie Center Burns Arena and in nearby stake and institute buildings to have sufficient faith to choose the right.
“Making choices is the substance of our lives,” he said. “We fought a war in heaven over choices. And the great battle goes on in the world today—what the adversary would have us do, what the Lord would have us do.”
President Hinckley illustrated the consequences of bad choices by relating the story of how a baggage car became separated from a train carrying 300 passengers. President Hinckley, who at the time was working in Denver for a railroad company, said the baggage car had been mistakenly routed 1,400 miles from its destination.
“A thoughtless switchman in St. Louis moved a piece of steel just several inches, and instead of sending the baggage car to New Jersey, it ended up in Louisiana,” he said. “Our lives are like that. Watch what you choose.”
President Hinckley told the youth that they are living in the greatest age of mankind’s history. “Your opportunities are tremendous,” he said. “No one has quite the advantages you have.”
President Hinckley reminded the young men that holding the priesthood “is something precious and wonderful and something worth living for.” To the young women, he said: “You girls have a special place in the love of your Heavenly Father. Don’t ever forget that. He expects great things of you, and if those things are to happen, you must live for them and work for them. And I don’t hesitate to promise you, if you so live your lives, you will know much of happiness, peace, accomplishment, and joy in your lives.”
Shaun Stahle, second counselor in the bishopric of the Riverbend Ward, St. George Utah Pine View Stake, reported on President Hinckley’s visit to southern Utah.
Conversation: Caribbean Centers of Strength
Despite challenges of poverty, hurricanes, and political upheavals, the Church continues to establish strong centers of faith in the islands of the Caribbean Sea, where membership is now approaching 75,000. For an update on how the Church is doing in the general Caribbean area, the Ensign spoke with Elder of the Seventy, president of the North America Southeast Area, which includes the Caribbean.
Question: To start, how is the Church doing in Haiti?
Answer: Most members are probably aware that not long ago a political situation in Haiti resulted in that country’s being isolated from much of the world for a while. At that time all of the Church’s non-native missionaries departed from the country, and contact with Church headquarters became very limited. Yet we were gratified to find the Church in marvelous condition when we visited Haiti in December 1994 for the first time in three and a half years. As we toured the mission’s two districts and numerous branches, we found that despite economic and other challenges, the Church was well organized, meetings were faithfully held, buildings were maintained, and members had continued paying tithes and fast offerings. Their understanding and practice of gospel doctrines and programs remained sound, and their leaders are more dedicated than ever.
Haiti’s time of isolation was overall a strengthening experience as far as the Church is concerned. Haitian members sustain the prophet and General Authorities, and they appreciate and rely on help and guidance from Church leaders in Salt Lake City. But during their few years of isolation, Haitian members learned that in many ways they are the Church in their land, and the Church there is theirs. The gospel flourishes in Haiti because of their efforts to carry out Heavenly Father’s will. Thus, the Church is doing well in Haiti. A challenge remains, however, to replenish the nation’s missionary force.
Q: Where is growth the strongest in the Caribbean?
A: More than fifteen years after proselyting began in the Dominican Republic, that country remains the Church’s most successful field of labor in the Caribbean. The country has reached the point now that 40 percent of the missionaries serving in its three missions are Dominican natives. The Church has eight stakes and nine large districts there, and total membership has passed the 50,000 mark. As in developing countries elsewhere in the world, the Church could increase its membership in the Dominican Republic at an almost limitless pace—but our challenge is to manage the Church’s growth wisely, not only teaching and baptizing new converts but retaining them and training them to become strong gospel leaders.
The people of the Dominican Republic are typically very energetic and desirous to improve their lives, and many recognize the gospel as the most powerful way to gain happiness and a greater sense of purpose and belonging. Members across the Caribbean are anxiously awaiting the building of the temple that has been announced for the Dominican Republic. The temple there will be a beacon of strength for members throughout the Caribbean.
Q: What other areas of the Caribbean are experiencing growth and development?
A: Another part of the area we’re excited about is the three adjacent countries of Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana on the northeast coast of South America. This trio of countries used to be part of the Church’s South America North Area, but geographical barriers such as jungle and the Amazon River cause travel, commerce, and communication of these countries to flow more toward the Caribbean. So it makes sense for the Church to include the three countries with the Caribbean administratively. Guyana used to be a colony of Britain and Suriname of Holland, while French Guiana is still administrated by France. Consequently, the cultural diversity and ethnic influence among the three countries is great, with large African and East Indian populations and little Lamanite heritage as compared with other South American countries. A dozen or so missionaries in each country preach the gospel in the local language, and in each country the Church has flourishing branches that are part of the West Indies Mission. We are beginning to build meetinghouses in these three countries, and we expect strong growth to continue there.
Growth continues in Jamaica and Puerto Rico, which both have missions. The Church is doing particularly well in Barbados and in Trinidad, where the West Indies Mission is based. Growth seems slower in many of the tourist islands that dot the Caribbean, partly because those islands tend to be less populated and are quite homogenous in culture and religion. Our experience has been that people in very diverse places like the Dominican Republic are generally more open to the gospel than people in more insular places. However, on nearly all the resort islands the Church does have at least one branch. Some of these branches meet in Church-owned meetinghouses and others meet in rented facilities. If members who visit these islands during pleasure-boat cruises were to go beyond the tourist shops and beaches and seek out the local Latter-day Saint congregation, they would find warm, loving, dedicated Saints who are striving as hard to live the gospel as Saints anywhere else.
Q: What elements of the gospel do the people of the Caribbean seem to respond to most warmly?
A: We find that, with their opportunities often limited elsewhere, people in the Caribbean are very grateful and eager to become involved with the Church and help the great work of the Lord go forth. Those who want to improve their situation and circumstances in life are naturally drawn to the gospel. Not only do they seek the spiritual and temporal blessings of gospel living for themselves, but they want to teach their children correct principles so that the next generation will be stronger and happier. In reality, the Caribbean is a huge melting pot of different races, languages, and cultures, yet the gospel unifies and blesses Church members throughout all these many lands. We are full of optimism for the continued growth and development of the Church there.
Winds of Gospel Change Reach Cape Verde
Though almost 400 miles of the Atlantic Ocean separate Cape Verde’s 10 main islands from Africa’s west coast, dry winds from the Sahara Desert still manage to starve the islands of moisture. But a stronger, life-bringing wind is also reaching Cape Verde, that of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
Uninhabited until the fifteenth century, the desolate, volcanic Cape Verde Islands were first settled by Portuguese colonists as a way station for African slaves. Today’s 400,000 Cape Verdeans, however, have a distinct identity that is neither African nor European. The islands gained their independence from Portugal in 1975. Though Portuguese is taught in schools, Cape Verdeans consider the Criuolo dialect to be their mother tongue. Most of Cape Verde’s land is too dry to farm, but jumbo jets that now routinely refuel on the flat island of Sal also deliver food supplies that help stave off famine.
More than 2,600 Cape Verdeans have joined the Church since November 1988, when Marion K. Hamblin, who at the time was president of the Spain Canary Islands Mission, visited Cape Verde and soon after sent a pair of missionaries to proselyte. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visited government leaders and dedicated the islands in 1994, praying among other things that the land might better provide for the people. Not only has the Church blossomed, but the missionary effort has come full circle: some 50 young Cape Verdeans have gone abroad as missionaries to help the Church grow elsewhere.
“The gospel brings unity to the family,” says retired military officer Antero Andrade, who was baptized in 1993 on one of São Vicente’s windswept beaches. Brother Andrade knows whereof he speaks: not only did his wife, Orisa, and their two sons join the Church, but so did his parents and all his brothers, sisters, nephews, and nieces. Only his daughter remains unbaptized—and that is because she is too young.
Brother Andrade is president of the Mindelo district, which is named after Cape Verde’s second-largest city. The nation’s two other districts, based in Praia and Fogo, and 12 of its 16 branches are all led by native Cape Verdeans, most of whom are recent converts. The islands are part of the Portugal Lisbon South Mission.
Michelle Semedo joined the Church—and may well have been the first Cape Verdean to do so—in 1987 while staying in Lisbon, Portugal, during a difficult second pregnancy. She brought a copy of the Book of Mormon back home to Cape Verde’s capital city of Praia on São Tiago, the largest island. “I love the Book of Mormon,” says her husband, Pedro, who was baptized in 1993. The couple and their four children particularly enjoy the story of the three Nephites. “We are touched by their unselfish choice to stay with the people and help them,” says Michelle, who is now Primary president in the Praia district.
“I always bring the Book of Mormon with me on business trips,” says Pedro, who presides over the Praia Second Branch. Both well educated, he and his wife work at a state-run food-supply and construction company. Once, while on a business trip to the northern island of Santo Antão, Pedro went two and a half hours out of his way to introduce the Book of Mormon to someone who had accidentally dialed the Semedos’ phone number a week earlier.
In a country where the vast majority of the population is under 25 years old, youth and young adults make up a large proportion of Church membership. Evening classes in seminary and institute in each of the major cities help build momentum for the gospel and encourage many youth to prepare for missions. Under the leadership of energetic teachers like Milena Sa Nogueira, more than 400 students have participated in the gospel-study programs since those programs began in January 1993.
“I used to teach my children the gospel,” says Milena, a widow and mother of five who was baptized in May 1992. “Now, my children teach me.” Milena has held family home evening every week since her baptism, and today she serves as Young Women president in Praia. Early in 1995 she helped organize shipments of food and clothing when a volcano exploded on the island of Fogo and displaced more than 1,000 people.
Because marriage has never been a strong religious or social tradition in Cape Verde, many mothers and fathers who want to join the Church must first get married. For example, Claudimire and Margarida Cardosa, merchants at Praia’s open-air market, lived together for 26 years before their oldest of eight children, 19-year-old KaiuKa, joined the Church. Three other siblings accepted the gospel before Claudimire and Margarida decided to join the Church in June 1993. Before they were baptized, they were joined as a couple in a marriage ceremony at Praia’s civil registry.
In July 1994 President Aníbal Moreira, who is a bank administrator and president of the Praia district, and his wife, Maria do Rosario (Zézá), traveled to the Washington Temple in Washington, D.C., and became the first Cape Verdean couple to be sealed in a temple. Other marriages, too, reflect a strong commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Citing more than 80 marriages and baptisms similar to the Cardosas’, Cape Verde’s leader, President Antonio Mascarenhas, recently honored the Church for helping strengthen family life. Other government leaders have publicly admired Church members’ emphasis on self-reliance and caring for neighbors. As President Moreira puts it, “In the pages of the history of Cape Verde, historians will speak highly about the Latter-day Saints.”
General Authorities to Leave Business Boards
The First Presidency announced on 18 January that because of increasing Church growth, General Authorities are being asked to withdraw from positions they may hold on boards of directors of business corporations.
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is now established in more than 150 nations and political entities,” the First Presidency said in a written statement. “Its membership presently exceeds 9,300,000. Within a short time, membership outside the United States will exceed that in the United States. With this growth comes an ever-increasing responsibility for the worldwide supervision of the work and the training of local leadership. This is placing greater demands upon the General Authorities of the Church.
“The primary call of a General Authority is his ecclesiastical responsibility. Except for family responsibilities, all others are secondary to this.
“In view of this situation, the First Presidency has suggested that General Authorities withdraw from membership on boards of directors of business corporations. This will include membership on boards of Church-owned corporations, as well as those of a public and private nature.
“So that there will not be any sudden disruption occasioned by the release of a number at one time, it is proposed that those involved will continue until the next regular annual meetings of the corporations with which they are associated, at which time they will resign or will not stand for re-election.
“We recognize that officers and boards of various corporations highly value the talents and wisdom of General Authorities presently serving. We are hopeful, however, that they will accept the need for our brethren to give their full time and energies to the work of the ministry.
“It is anticipated that there will be one exception. With reference to Church-owned corporations, most of these are now subsidiaries of Deseret Management Corporation, which is owned by the Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Deseret Management Corporation will continue as a holding company with its board composed of representatives from the ranks of the General Authorities, the First Presidency said.
New Welfare Services Director Named
The First Presidency has named Harold C. Brown of Salt Lake City as new managing director of the Church’s Welfare Services Department.
Brother Brown, 51, had been serving as commissioner of LDS Social Services. He succeeds Keith B. McMullin, who was called in December to serve as second counselor in the Church’s Presiding Bishopric.
As welfare services director, Brother Brown will oversee counseling services, humanitarian aid programs, Deseret Industries thrift stores, and the production and distribution of food and other products to the needy.
Brother Brown is a graduate of Brigham Young University and earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Utah. Before being named commissioner of LDS Social Services, he was director of welfare services operations and earlier served as executive assistant to the commissioner of LDS Social Services. In addition, he has also worked in the Indian Student Placement Program and as a seminary instructor.
Brother Brown has served as a regional representative, stake president, and bishop. He currently serves as an Area Authority in the Utah North Area.
By Their Works: A Temple-Going People
Church members in the Toa Baja Puerto Rico District recently coordinated a trip to the Orlando Florida Temple. Plans began more than two years ago when area youth, encouraged by several Church activities focusing on setting goals and doing family history, talked to their local leaders about planning a temple trip. Tentative dates were set, and members became even more enthusiastic when the Orlando temple was dedicated. The Puerto Rican members planned to travel to that temple a year after its dedication.
Eventually, some 220 people, including four couples who planned to be married and 50 youth, made the trip. Those involved met in three special meetings in preparation for the temple trip. “Now is the time to put all our affairs in order,” counseled Ernesto Rivera, district president, during one of the gatherings. “We must forgive those who have offended us, ask others for forgiveness, and, if needed and where possible, make restitution. … Let’s be sincere with ourselves, open our hearts, and remember that no impure thing should enter the temple,” he concluded.
Members were reminded to submit their family group sheets where possible so they could do family names during the time spent at the temple. Family history seminars were held to assist the members in completing this. As a result more than 3,000 names were identified and cleared for ordinance work.
On 31 July 1995, the plane arrived in Orlando. The flight had been the last flight out of San Juan before the airport was closed due to a hurricane. Church members in Orlando greeted their Puerto Rican brothers and sisters and held family home evenings for the group.
The next day, four buses arrived at the Orlando temple. While waiting for the temple doors to open, the group sang hymns. During the next four days, 3,181 baptisms, confirmations, and endowments were performed. Seventeen hundred marriages for the dead were performed, and 1,599 children were sealed to their parents. Ordinances for the living included 38 endowments, 34 sealings to spouses, and 8 families sealed together.
On Wednesday, August 2, Hurricane Eryn hit Orlando, and many temple workers were unable to fulfill their temple assignments. The group from Puerto Rico volunteered their help, and many members worked in the kitchen, dressing rooms, and laundry.
“During this trip I met many brothers and sisters from many different branches and towns in Puerto Rico,” said Angel Rodriguez, president of the Humacao Branch, on the last day of the temple trip. “Today I can say that I no longer feel that I am just a member of this or that branch of the Church. I know that we are all truly brothers and sisters.”—, Caguas, Puerto Rico