Changes in General Authority Assignments Made
Ten members of the Seventy were released and a reorganization of the Young Men general presidency was sustained during the Saturday afternoon session of the 166th Semiannual General Conference.
Elder Earl C. Tingey was sustained as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, replacing Elder Carlos E. Asay, who was given General Authority emeritus status at the conference. That change was announced earlier (see Ensign, Aug. 1996, 71).
Elder Asay, who is currently serving as president of the Salt Lake Temple, has served 20 years in the First Quorum of the Seventy since being sustained a member of the Seventy on 3 April 1976. He has served in the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy twice, from 1980 to 1986 and from 1989 to 1996, for a total of 13 years.
Released from the Second Quorum of the Seventy after completion of five or more years of service were Elders Rulon G. Craven, Julio E. Dávila, Graham W. Doxey, In Sang Han, W. Mack Lawrence, Joseph C. Muren, Stephen D. Nadauld, Jorge A. Rojas, and Sam K. Shimabukuro.
A native of Utah, Elder Craven most recently served as second counselor in the Asia Area Presidency. Most recently, Elder Dávila, a native of Colombia, served as first counselor in the South America North Area. Elder Doxey, a native of Utah, served most recently as president of the Europe North Area. A native of Korea, Elder Han most recently served as assistant executive director of the Correlation Department. Elder Han has been called to serve as president of the Seoul Korea Temple. Elder Lawrence, a Utah native, most recently served as first counselor in the Sunday School general presidency. Born and reared in California, Elder Muren most recently served as president of the Central America Area. Elder Nadauld, born and reared in Idaho, served most recently as president of the North America Southeast Area. A native of Mexico, Elder Rojas most recently served as second counselor in the Central America Area. And Elder Shimabukuro, born in Hawaii, most recently served as first counselor in the Asia North Area.
Elder Nadauld was also released as first counselor to Elder Jack H Goaslind in the Young Men general presidency. Elder Vaughn J Featherstone, who had been serving as second counselor in the Young Men general presidency, was sustained as first counselor, and Elder F. David Stanley, a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, was sustained as second counselor.
President Hinckley Continues to Buoy Up Others
In a schedule that recently included an address to the American Legion, a trip to Eugene, Oregon, and an appearance at a Boy Scout Jamboral, President Gordon B. Hinckley has continued to bear his testimony and share his love for the members and the gospel with as many people as possible.
Address to the American Legion
In a moving, patriotic address, President Hinckley delivered the keynote speech at the American Legion Patriotic Religious Service held on 1 September, during the organization’s national convention in Salt Lake City.
In his remarks, President Hinckley talked of the national motto, “In God We Trust,” which appears on U.S. coins and currency. “I submit that this is the foundation upon which this nation was established,” he told the 6,000 assembled in the Tabernacle on Temple Square, “an unequivocal trust in the power of the Almighty to guide and defend us.”
President Hinckley also spoke of the power of prayer, of the U.S. Constitution, and of the Pledge of Allegiance. He noted that oaths of office and oaths in other legal procedures have often concluded with the phrase “so help me God.” Referring to a newspaper article that reported that New Jersey had passed a law banning the mention of God from state courtroom oaths, President Hinckley said: “Without acknowledgement of Deity, without recognition of the Almighty as the ruling power of this universe, the all-important element of personal and national accountability shrinks and dies. I am satisfied that this is one of the reasons for the great host of social problems with which we deal these days.”
In recognition of those in attendance, President Hinckley thanked the military veterans for what they had done, particularly in times of war, and commended them for the good they continue to do. He noted the American Legion’s support of Boy Scouts in particular.
On 2 September, the day following the religious service, President Hinckley was honored by the American Legion with its “Good Guy” Award for his lifetime contributions. The winner of the award is decided by a national nominating committee; in the past the award has been presented to U.S. presidents, entertainers, and other prominent figures.
“President Hinckley’s many addresses have stirred and inspired youth and adults,” said James McKee, public relations spokesman for the American Legion. “The majesty of his message has stayed in our minds and in our memories as a towering experience of strength and spirituality.”
In accepting the award, President Hinckley again paid tribute to veterans. “May I, as a citizen of the nation and the world which today enjoys relative peace, add my salute and my solemn thanks to all who have served in defense of liberty and peace, and most importantly, to the very many who gave their very lives defending our beloved land,” he said.
Regional Conference at Eugene, Oregon
On 14–15 September, President Hinckley traveled to Eugene, Oregon, where he spoke to approximately 4,600 people at a regional conference, gave instructions during a priesthood training session, and met with 192 full-time missionaries serving in the area.
President Hinckley directed many of his remarks during the conference to the youth. “We have had a commandment laid upon us to train our hands and minds,” he said. “Thank you for your strength. Thank you for your goodness. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for your efforts in hanging together, as it were, of going to institute, going to seminary, partaking of the blessings that are to be had there, not only in the teaching of the gospel but in the society in which you can mingle. I want to say to you, look for your friends among members of the Church; band together and strengthen one another. And when the time of temptation comes, you will have someone to lean on to bless you and give you strength when you need it. That is what this Church is for—so that we can help one another in our times of weakness to stand on our feet tall and straight and true and good.”
In his remarks at the four-hour priesthood training session, President Hinckley counseled the 615 leaders in attendance to focus on building the spirituality of the members in the area. He also encouraged them to read about the Prophet Joseph Smith along with reading the Bible and Book of Mormon.
“I urge you to pray, serve others, and reach out and touch other members of your wards,” he said, “particularly the youth. Take time to talk one-on-one with them.”
Brigham Young University Devotional
Speaking to students and faculty filling Brigham Young University’s Marriott Center, President Hinckley urged students to rise above mediocrity. “You are good,” he told the more than 22,000 people attending the 17 September devotional. “But it is not enough just to be good. You must be good for something. You must contribute good to the world. The world must be a better place for your presence, and the good that is in you must be spread to others. …
“In this world so filled with problems, so constantly threatened by dark and evil challenges, you can and must rise above mediocrity,” he continued. “You can become involved and speak with a strong voice for that which is right.
“You cannot simply sit in your laboratory or your library and let the world drift along in its aimless way. It needs your strength, your courage, your voice in speaking up for those values which can save it.”
President Hinckley called on each individual to “become a leader in speaking up in behalf of those causes which make our civilization shine and which give comfort and peace to our lives. You can be a leader. You must be a leader, as a member of this Church, in those causes for which the Church stands. … The adversary of all truth would put into your heart a reluctance to make an effort. Cast that fear aside and be valiant in the cause of truth and righteousness and faith. If you now decide that this will become the pattern of your life, you will not have to make that decision again.”
If BYU is to meet its purpose, President Hinckley noted, “you must leave here not alone with secular knowledge, but even more importantly, with a spiritual and moral foundation that will find expression to improve the family, the community, the nation, even the world of which you will be a part.”
Ground Breaking for Harold B. Lee Library
On 20 September, President Hinckley donned a hard hat and, along with President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, and President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, participated in the ground breaking for the Harold B. Lee Library expansion on the BYU campus.
President Hinckley remarked on the size of the planned 234,000-square-foot expansion, which will house the university’s rare and fragile documents; an expanded family history library; materials for the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences; a 200-seat auditorium; two computer labs with 400 terminals; and four electronically advanced classrooms. Noting that the building would be larger than 10 large stake centers and that it would also cost more than 10 large stake centers, President Hinckley added that construction costs were covered by private donations. “I can’t say enough to those who have opened their hearts and opened their purses to make this possible,” he said.
President Hinckley called the library the “heart of the university” and noted that “a great library is sacred. It represents preservation of the wisdom, learning, and ponderings of all the men and women of all ages.”
President Monson spoke of the building’s namesake during his remarks, calling the facility “a fitting tribute to Harold B. Lee.”
“We could do no less for a man who gave so much,” he continued. “Harold B. Lee was a living book of divine truth, always teaching, always explaining, always living that which he taught. He was a man well acquainted with the Lord, and he was a man for all seasons.”
In his remarks, President Faust talked about Prospero, a Shakespeare character who prized his library above his dukedom. The library “will be one of the treasures of this special, wonderful, and unique university of the Lord,” President Faust observed.
Fireside for Single Adults
In a special fireside for single adults, President Hinckley talked of marriage, divine worth, and service. He also assured those attending the 22 September fireside of his love for them.
Speaking to those who long to be married, he said: “Do not give up hope. And do not give up trying. But do give up being obsessed with it. The chances are that if you forget about it and become anxiously engaged in other activities, the prospects will brighten immeasurably.”
President Hinckley also assured those in attendance that “there is something of divinity in each of you. You are a son or daughter of God, and you have a wonderful inheritance. I hope you will never belittle or demean yourself. Some of you may think that you are not attractive, that you have not talents. Stop wandering around in the wasteland of self-pity.”
The Church leader also urged members to reach out to those “whose problems are more serious than yours.” And he noted that life is challenging and difficult for all people, both single and married. “When all is said and done,” he said, “we should not be classified as married and single, but as members of the Church, each worthy of the same attention and the same care, the same opportunities to be of service.”
Boy Scout Jamboral
Some 28,000 Boy Scouts in Fillmore, Utah, at the Utah Heritage Jamboral heard President Hinckley promise them they could find happiness if they would “do their best” as the Scout Oath urges.
“If every boy in America would adopt that pledge, our prisons would be empty,” President Hinckley observed during his remarks at the 27 September ceremonies of the three-day Utah National Parks Council event. “If you develop the habit of doing your best at all times and in all circumstances, it will bless your lives forever afterwards,” he said.
President Hinckley also shared some of his own Scouting experiences during his remarks, and he paid tribute to the pioneers who came to Utah 150 years ago.
Milestones for Four New Temples
Ground was broken for two temples recently, and the First Presidency announced plans to build the Church’s 63rd temple. In addition, almost 680,000 people toured the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple prior to its dedication.
Guayaquil Ecuador Temple
Temples are “tangible evidence of our certainty that there is a life after this one,” said Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as he presided at the 10 August ground-breaking ceremony of the Guayaquil Ecuador Temple.
Attendance at the temple site was limited to stake presidents and their wives and a few other invited guests, but almost 10,500 people gathered in the nearby Guayaquil Coliseum to hear the proceedings via local radio.
Accompanying Elder Scott were Elder Jay E. Jensen of the Seventy, president of the South America North Area, who conducted the meeting, and Elder Julio E. Dávila of the Seventy, then first counselor in the Area Presidency, who gave an address.
During his remarks, Elder Scott said that within the temple “our sons and daughters are sealed to us for eternity. And not only can we do this magnificent work of incredible significance for those who live, but also through vicarious ordinances we can perform those same ordinances for our ancestors who were not able to enjoy the blessings of the gospel during their sojourn on earth.”
He invited members to “prepare spiritually to enter the temple. Use the time of construction of the temple to identify your ancestors. It is not difficult to obtain the instructions from your wards and your branches on how to prepare the names of your ancestors, so when the temple is dedicated here we may enter therein and do their work. …
“In a special way, I wish to give my testimony of the validity of the ordinances done in the temple,” he continued. “I have experienced a great consolation in my own life to know that our two children who died are sealed to us. Now my wife has gone on ahead of me, across that veil, and I have great consolation in the certainty that she lives and that I will have the privilege of dwelling with her in the presence of God if I am true and faithful.”
During his remarks, Elder Dávila paid tribute to the pioneers of the restored gospel, including the Prophet Joseph Smith and President Brigham Young. He also paid tribute to the pioneers of the Church in Ecuador, who in the past 30 years have “sacrificed, dedicated themselves, and continued in faith—the presidents of stakes and branches, the presidents of missions. These have worked enthusiastically on many occasions to make this moment a reality.”
Elder Dávila noted that there are many in the world who, in an effort to be closer to the Savior, would walk the paths of the Holy Land. “But for me,” he noted, “it seems it would be a greater blessing to enter the temple and walk where Jesus walks.”
Plans for the Guayaquil temple were announced 14 years ago in March 1982, by President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor to President Spencer W. Kimball.
Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple
A week after breaking ground for a temple in Ecuador, Elder Scott also broke ground for the first temple in the Caribbean, the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple. Accompanying Elder Scott was Elder F. Burton Howard of the Seventy, president of the North America Southeast Area. Elder Dale E. Miller, Area Authority, conducted the ceremony.
Church members began to gather four hours before the 18 August ground-breaking ceremony on the temple site, a beautiful, tree-covered, slightly elevated parcel of ground in Santo Domingo that has a breathtaking view of the ocean. Nearly 4,000 people attended the ceremony.
During his remarks, Elder Scott explained to the large crowd that temples are different from meetinghouses. He noted that everyone would be invited to attend the open house but that only temple-worthy Church members would be able to enter and perform the sacred ordinances once the building was dedicated.
Elder Scott invited members in the audience to imagine that they were with him in a private interview as he explained the purpose of eternal marriage and contrasted it with the marriage of the world, which is based on a contract that lasts only until death. He then challenged members in the audience to have a temple recommend with them from the time of the dedication onward, and he offered suggestions on how they should live their lives as members of the Church in a country that will enjoy the presence of a temple.
Those suggestions included making Jesus Christ the center of their lives, determining to follow his teachings, and seeking his will and making it their own.
In his address, Elder Howard explained the purpose of temples. He began by noting that a large group of missionaries had walked nearly three miles from a nearby chapel to attend the ceremony. When those missionaries arrived at the temple site, they assembled on the east side of a rope barrier. Many of their families and loved ones were across the road on the opposite side of the barrier. Elder Howard had watched as these loved ones strained to wave to the missionaries. He observed that many parents wanted to reach out and touch their children, but they could not because of the barrier set up for the ceremony.
Elder Howard used this as an analogy, explaining how tragic it would be in the next life if families were separated by barriers. He told the audience that the purpose of the temple was to enable families and loved ones to live together forever, and he testified that this could not happen without the ordinances performed in the temple of God.
Temple in Billings, Montana
The First Presidency announced that the Church’s 63rd temple will be built in Billings, Montana. The new temple will serve about 58,000 members in 21 stakes in Montana, South Dakota, and northern Wyoming. Land has already been acquired for the building, and construction will begin once architectural drawings are complete and necessary governmental approvals are obtained.
Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple
The announcement of the temple in Montana came during the open house for the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple. During the open house, which ran from 10 August to 21 September, 679,217 people toured the temple. In addition, thousands of members from 43 stakes in the temple district volunteered their time during the open house, working on the facilities and grounds, cleaning up before the open house and during, and acting as guides and ushers.
Among the highlights for many open house visitors were art-glass windows with prisms embedded in the glass, refracting light into its colorful spectrum. Other visitors commented on the furnishings and features, including crystal chandeliers in the celestial and marriage ordinance rooms.
The Church’s 49th operating temple was scheduled to be dedicated beginning on 13 October in 27 separate sessions extending through 19 October.
Work is proceeding on temples in St. Louis, Missouri; Preston, England; Vernal, Utah; and Bogotá, Colombia. In addition to the Guayaquil and Santo Domingo temples, ground has been broken for a temple in Madrid, Spain. Temples have also been announced for Boston, Massachusetts; White Plains, New York; Nashville, Tennessee; Monterrey, Mexico; Cochabamba, Bolivia; and Recife, Brazil.
Members of the First Presidency Meet with Tongan Royalty
President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, recently met with members of Tonga’s royal family at Church headquarters in Salt Lake City. During the meeting, President Hinckley expressed gratitude to the king for all he does for the people of Tonga. (Some 40 percent of the 100,000 people living in Tonga are members of the Church.)
Attending the 2 August meeting were King Taufa‘ahau Tupou IV, Queen Halaevalu Mataaho, Princess Pilolevu Tuita, Princess Mele Siuilikutapu Kalaniuvalu-Fotofili and Tonga Consulate General Siosaia M. Tuita. In addition to President Hinckley and President Monson, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Alexander B. Morrison of the Seventy were in attendance.
Following the meeting, the royal party attended a luncheon held in their honor. At the luncheon the Seacology Foundation honored the king with the Indigenous Conservationist of the Year Award.
First Stake in Kiribati Formed, Islands Dedicated
Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles created the first stake in Kiribati on 11 August after he had dedicated, just one day earlier, the Pacific island groups of Kiribati, Nauru, Tuvalu, Tokelau, Wallis, Futuna, and Vanuatu for the preaching of the gospel.
The Tarawa Kiribati Stake is headquartered in Tarawa, near where the international dateline crosses the equator. Tarawa, composed of several small islands, is one of three Micronesian coral atoll groups that compose the island republic of Kiribati, which stretches out for more than two million square miles in the central Pacific.
The gospel was first introduced on Tarawa only about 25 years ago, but currently there are approximately 4,600 members among a population of 70,000 in the republic. Two-thirds of the republic’s citizens live on Tarawa, and 2,400 of those are members of the newly formed stake.
On Saturday, 10 August, Elder Perry dedicated the six islands for the preaching of the gospel. “Thou hast kept these islands isolated from the worldly things that bring contention among the people, where their understanding of the gospel truths that thou has ordained for thy children here on earth will be simple and plain,” Elder Perry said in the dedicatory prayer. “Our hearts go out to thee in gratitude, dear Father, for the great truths of the everlasting gospel that have been established here on these islands.”
After Elder Perry returned home from his assignment in Kiribati, he noted: “There is such a community feeling among the Saints on these islands. It gives you such an uplift. When you meet with them, you can’t help but have tears in your eyes. I just fell in love with the people. To think we would have this kind of representation today as members of the Church on these islands is absolutely amazing.
“The Lord must have a great love for the people of the isles of the sea because he mentions them so many times in the scriptures,” he continued. “I think the promises he made are being fulfilled now as we see the growth of the Church in these island nations.”
Elder Holland Visits Bosnia and Hungary
Almost 1,000 Hungarian Church members gathered to hear Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during his recent visit to Hungary.
Elder Holland spoke to them of his admiration for the Hungarian freedom fighters, then compared that group who strove for freedom to the Hungarian members and missionaries. He also spoke of the importance of temple sealing ordinances. Calling a young mother and child to the stand and holding the youngster in his arms, Elder Holland explained that the sealing bond was so strong “that no external power could break it if we remain faithful to the covenants we make. Heavenly Father has a plan prepared where all families can be sealed together forever in his holy temple.”
He encouraged members to share the gospel with others. “You are the only way they will learn about these truths,” he said. “The people of Hungary have the right to know that they can be safe and that through the gospel their children can never be taken from them.”
After meeting with the Saints in Budapest, Hungary, Elder Holland, accompanied by Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander of the Seventy and his wife, LeAnn Clement Neuenschwander, traveled to Taszar, Hungary, where they met with some 20 members. They were also joined by servicemen and servicewomen who had traveled from the border of Croatia and the Serbian-held region of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Next, Elder Holland went to Ruzla, Bosnia, and met with about 70 American service personnel staying in base camps in the area. In his address, Elder Holland told them that though they were thousands of miles from home, they were not alone.
“I can see in your faces the faces of your loved ones—your mothers and fathers, your sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters, and the loved ones who are praying for you and looking forward to your return. … They are lending their support to you in whatever ways they can, and you need to acknowledge their efforts and love them for their concern and interest in you, even as you have great concern and interest in them.”
Elder Haight Celebrates 90th Birthday
The oldest living General Authority, Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, celebrated his 90th birthday on 2 September at a reception hosted by his family.
Some 1,200 well-wishers attended the reception, including all three members of the First Presidency—President Gordon B. Hinckley; President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor; and President James E. Faust, Second Counselor; members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and their wives; many close friends; community, business, government, and civic leaders; and about 100 guests from Palo Alto, California, where Elder Haight served as stake president and mayor before his call as mission president in the Scottish mission.
Elder Haight was born 2 September 1906 in Oakley, Idaho, to Hector C. and Clara Tuttle Haight. He married Ruby Olson on 4 September 1930 in the Salt Lake Temple.
He currently serves as chairman of the Church Missionary Executive Council, as a member of the board of Deseret Management Corporation, and as a member of the Church Board of Education and the board of trustees at Brigham Young University, BYU—Hawaii Campus, Ricks College, and LDS Business College.
Elder Haight is the 11th man to reach 90 years of age or older while serving in the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Elder Maxwell Appears on PBS Program
Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared his feelings about God in one part of an eight-part television special, “Searching for God in America.”
During the 30-minute segment, which was taped in 1995 and aired on public television in July 1996, Elder Maxwell spoke with Hugh Hewitt, the interviewer for the eight one-on-one conversations with a variety of religious leaders. Elder Maxwell shared his testimony and several personal experiences, including recollections of the first time he felt the witness of the Spirit in his life.
As a 14-year-old boy, he came home from work one night to find his six-week-old sister desperately ill. “She was lying on the round dining room table and had stopped breathing,” Elder Maxwell recalled. “I watched my father, after the manner of the New Testament, bless her by the power of the priesthood, and I saw her begin to breathe again. I knew then the power of the priesthood was real.”
Elder Maxwell also spoke of his teenage years and the experiences he’d had in his life that had prepared him for his service as an Apostle.
Other subjects covered during the interview included beliefs and doctrines of the Church, differences between the LDS Church and traditional Christian churches, marriage and the sealing power, and family history.
The purpose behind the series was to look at the experiences of various religious leaders to see what had happened in their lives to confirm their faith. Mr. Hewitt thought of the idea for the series as he spoke with religious leaders during his weekly broadcasts in Los Angeles. The interviews conducted for the television series have also been compiled into a book with the same name, Searching for God in America.
Temple Presidents Trained at Seminar
Seventeen new temple presidents and matrons received special training at the annual temple presidents seminar held in Salt Lake City.
During the 20–22 August event, the new leaders received instruction in matters related to temple administration. Most of the leaders, whose new assignments were announced earlier in the Ensign, are seasoned in Church administration. They began serving in September. Temple presidents and matrons generally serve for three years.
The First Presidency has announced the calling of 15 new Area Authorities to assist various Area Presidencies, bringing the total of Area Authorities to 133.
Following are the areas and number of new Area Authorities called: two in the Brazil Area, one in the Central America Area, three in the Chile Area, one in the Mexico South Area, one in the North America Northeast Area, one in the Pacific Area, one in the South America North Area, three in the South America South Area, one in the Utah North Area, and one in the Utah South Area.
Inasmuch as Area Authorities serve in specific ecclesiastical areas of the Church and speak many different languages, Church magazines that serve members in each specific area announce the names of the Area Authorities called there. Below are Area Authorities called in areas served by the Ensign:
J. Willard Marriott Jr. of Bethesda, Maryland, to serve in the North America Northeast Area; Victor D. Cave of West Pennant Hills, New South Wales, Australia, to serve in the Pacific Area; Jon M. Huntsman of Salt Lake City, Utah, to serve in the Utah North Area; and James G. Larkin of St. George, Utah, to serve in the Utah South Area.
Tabernacle Choir Broadcasts 3,500th Program
On Sunday, 15 September, the Tabernacle Choir presented its 3,500th consecutive weekly program of Music and the Spoken Word, which has been on the air longer than any other continuous network radio program in history.
To mark the event, Lloyd Newell, who presents the spoken message during the program, talked of the program’s 68-year run.
“First airing on radio July 15, 1929, Music and the Spoken Word has seen its audience through war and depression, peace and prosperity,” he noted. “The inspirational programming it promises has steadied troubled hearts, assuaged disappointments, added upon joys, lightened loads, and led one generation after another to God.
“Times have changed since 1929, to be sure,” he continued. “Consider how different the world was then. The single microphone that carried muffled sounds to 30 radio stations on the premier broadcast has now been replaced by stereophonic microphones and satellites, transmitting music and message over hundreds of television and radio stations and cable systems. While technology has advanced and the world has changed, the essence of this broadcast, its uplifting music and message, has remained much the same.”
The program Music and the Spoken Word was created by Elder Richard L. Evans, the announcer, writer, and producer of the program for 40 years. Elder Evans served as a General Authority from 1938 to 1971, including the years 1953 to 1971 as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. During its years on the air, the program has been broadcast from such places as Israel, Russia, Australia, and Brazil.
The choir’s weekly broadcast is listed in The Guinness Book of Records as the longest continuous network broadcast in the world. CBS Radio is the program’s primary carrier. The program is also carried by 575 other radio stations, as well as 57 broadcast television stations, 35 cable television stations, and 1,561 television affiliates of the Odyssey Channel (formerly the Faith & Values Channel).
Conversation: The Church in Japan, Korea, and Far-East Russia
While Japan and Korea have both long been centers of Church growth, far-east Russia (better known to many Westerners as eastern Siberia) is now showing early signs of growth. For an update about the Church in the Asia North Area, the Ensign spoke with Elder of the Seventy, Area President, and his counselors, Elders and also of the Seventy.
Question: Can you help us see the developments that have taken place in far-east Russia?
Answer: The Church’s Asia North Area includes the eastern half of the vast Russian province of Siberia, a portion that is home to some eight million people. Late in autumn 1994, terrible flooding was experienced along Russia’s Pacific coastline. The Church was able to send food, clothes, blankets, and medical aid to more than 5,000 needy families. As always, we provided this humanitarian aid without any thought or expectation of favors being returned by those assisted. However, we were pleased when, as a result of contacts made through the Church’s flood relief efforts, government agents extended an invitation that led to the calling of four humanitarian-service missionary couples to teach English, business, law, and accounting at a university in Vladivostok. The Church now has small branches in Vladivostok and Magadan. We look forward to seeing the gospel further progress on this new frontier.
Q: What are the developments that are taking place in Japan and Korea?
A: While Church growth in these two countries might appear slower by some standards, we are very pleased with the progress of members. Christians in Japan still represent only about 2 percent of the total population, but The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the third largest Christian denomination in Japan.
We have more than 100,000 Japanese members organized into 25 stakes. In Korea, where Christians make up a much higher percentage of the population than in Japan, we have more than 60,000 members in 16 stakes. Further, despite the considerable cultural pressures working against members, retention and activity rates in both countries are improving.
It takes great courage and dedication to be a Latter-day Saint in Japan and Korea. The work ethic of these cultures is well known in terms of the time and energy workers routinely devote, and furthermore many employers expect a level of allegiance and commitment that many people would probably rather reserve for their family and religion. The Japanese have a saying that goes something like this: “The stick that sticks out needs to be pushed down.” With 125 million people inhabiting islands that together total less than the land mass of Montana in the United States, the Japanese have had to learn how to get along with each other very well. They have a strong, unified sense of community, and sometimes Church members are perceived as unsettling that community by being “sticks that stick out.” We are striving to change that perception by helping the Japanese see that Church members among them are sticks that strengthen the fiber of the whole.
Q: What efforts are going forth to improve people’s understanding of the Latter-day Saints in these two nations?
A: The area public affairs director has been working to set up public affairs councils in stakes throughout Japan and Korea to help members spread positive messages about the Church to the public. Members are using media resources to highlight what Latter-day Saint lifestyles and beliefs are all about. After the January 1995 earthquake in Kobe, for example, several positive articles were published in newspapers and magazines about the impact and timeliness of Church assistance. More than 150 articles about the Church and its members have appeared throughout Japan during the past year, and similar public affairs initiatives are going forth in Korea.
We are very excited about members’ great upsurge of interest in family history work, which naturally dovetails with the feelings of respect and reverence toward ancestors shared by most Asian cultures. Church members are taking the lead by setting up family history centers, using them, and inviting members of other faiths to take advantage of them. Despite other demands on their time and energy, many members are working very hard on their family histories. We know that this effort is blessing their lives and the growth of the Church in significant ways. In conjunction with family history work, the Seoul Korea and Tokyo Temples continue to be spiritual sanctuaries for members. In many stakes new converts are encouraged to perform baptisms for the dead, which helps them feel inspired with a desire to return to the temple soon to take out their own endowments and be sealed to their families.
Q: What are some other manifestations of strength among members?
A: We are increasingly seeing the fruits of the efforts and sacrifices of the pioneering first generation of Japanese and Korean members. A second generation is rising in strength and beginning to swell the ranks of missionaries and leaders. More than a quarter of the full-time missionaries serving in both countries are Japanese and Korean, and fully two-thirds of the young people who enter the Japanese missionary training center are second-generation members. In Korea, students who interrupt their university studies to serve a mission often face significant hurdles to resume their studies when they return, yet many choose to make this sacrifice. Also, all young men in Korea have a three-year commitment to serve in the armed forces. First-generation converts who have endured because of their faith and abiding testimonies are as strong as Latter-day Saints anywhere in the world.
The young people joining the Church are also a source of great strength. Because of the high costs of living and the rigors of gaining an education and starting a career, many people in Asian nations are increasingly delaying marriage until later in life. Church leaders are striving to be sensitive about the social mores that contribute to the large single population in the Church, yet at the same time they are teaching and encouraging them to make marriage an important priority. Latter-day Saints who choose to make marriage and family important priorities are being blessed for their efforts to live Heavenly Father’s plan.
One college student who recently joined the Church illustrates the courage that young Japanese and Korean converts demonstrate. This man was part of a somewhat rowdy group of friends. On a lark, they accepted the invitation of some missionaries to attend one of the English classes that are part of missionary labors in Asia and elsewhere. This young man decided to listen, and he came back a second time on his own. He began studying the Latter-day Saint scriptures to find something wrong, but instead he was converted. His parents were disturbed that perhaps his joining this new religion represented more rebellion, and his friends threw a party on the night of his baptism, hoping to divert him. However, he persevered with what he knew was right. Impressed with the changes in his life, the man’s parents and two of his friends recently started taking the missionary discussions.
Members in Japan are preparing to celebrate a significant milestone in their history. The Japanese Mission was opened by Heber J. Grant in 1901. In preparation for the centennial of the Church in Japan in 2001, a committee of members is compiling historical information and testimonies to be published in a book meant not only for the enjoyment and edification of members but also, through placement in libraries, to help tell the story of the Church to the public.
We cannot rehearse the strengths of members without mentioning the humanitarian efforts that are so vital and helpful to so many. Both countries are practically self-sufficient in tithes and fast offerings—in fact, often their contributions help support Church growth and assistance in other parts of the world. Church members’ response to the Kobe earthquake demonstrates their willingness to be prepared to help. Members helped set up temporary housing and soup kitchens, and food, clothing, and medical supplies poured in from members all over Japan. For three weeks, members filled five-gallon containers with water and brought them into the devastated areas. On the first Sunday in February 1995, members throughout the area held a special fast and earmarked their donations to help quake victims, including the 60 members who lost their homes.
Another manifestation of strength among members in Japan and Korea can be found in the international community. Tokyo has three English-speaking wards. Japan has two English-speaking military districts, and Korea has one. Also, students of Brigham Young University have become ambassadors of the Church as they participate in BYU’s successful, growing business internship program in Japan. In the military districts, sacrament meeting attendance is as high as 80 percent, which represents unusual dedication. Expatriates are loved and greeted with open arms by local members in both countries.
On the other hand, perhaps the most gratifying thing we observe among the Korean and Japanese members is a definite shift from leaning upon leaders closer to Church headquarters to accepting more responsibility for the destiny of the Lord’s Church in Asia. It thrills us to see this taking place. So many of Asia’s cultural values and practices are already in harmony with the principles of the gospel. Once they are truly converted, Asian members make devoted, dedicated Latter-day Saints.
We would also like to mention some of the positive results of recent visits to Japan and Korea by President Gordon B. Hinckley and Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who were in the Far East for the dedication of the Hong Kong Temple in May 1996. After a news conference in Tokyo, favorable articles about President Hinckley appeared in newspapers and magazines with a total readership of more than 12 million. After a news conference in Seoul, positive features appeared in 12 newspapers that reach over 20 million people. Reporters commented on President Hinckley’s wit, humor, and energy, and they seemed particularly interested in the prophet’s comments about the Word of Wisdom. President Hinckley was also quoted about the importance of families and the home, stating that the “basis of the human race and the family is peace at home. Homes should be filled with love and harmony. In order to cultivate a strong nation, we must cultivate strong homes.”
Waiting in Line for Literacy Program
The article “I Have Hope in the Future for Me” (March 1996) inspires us and other members in our calling as Church Educational System literacy missionaries. We serve in the Port Harcourt Nigeria Mission. In our districts, stakes, wards, and branches, we have people waiting in line to start the literacy course. They want to be able to read their scriptures, prepare for missions, and strengthen their testimonies. The article inspired the teachers and students in the program when we shared it with them.
Elder and Sister Paul Dee Payne Nigeria Port Harcourt Mission
Port Harcourt, Nigeria
Memorial to Mormons
I read with interest the last page of the September 1996 issue about Kanesville and Council Bluffs. My husband’s relatives live in Illinois, so we tour Latter-day Saint historical sites whenever we visit family. During one recent visit, we discovered a nice, well-kept museum and historical society building in Corydon, Iowa. As we browsed, we noticed in the back a memorial to the Mormon handcart company that had traveled through the area.
Doris LaGaisse San Marcos, California
It was with compassion and empathy that we read “The Refining Fire” (July 1996). We, too, recently had a fire that completely destroyed our home and everything we owned except for the clothing we wore. We could certainly understand the feelings of the Allen family.
The things we lost are only material possessions, and many can be replaced. Of course, we mourn the things that were irreplaceable—pictures and journals, and so on. We served a mission in South Africa, and the items from that period in our lives were certainly precious.
But how blessed we are to be members of this Church, to feel the love and concern of the other members as they helped us rebuild our lives.
John and Wealthea Clow Center, Colorado
His Image in Our Countenances
I’m a convert to the Church of nearly a decade. The turning point for me in gaining my testimony was reading 10 years’ worth of general conference issues of the Ensign in a two-week period.
As I continue to rely on the Ensign for spiritual strength and enlightenment, I come across such articles as “Becoming a Disciple” (June 1996), in which Elder Neal A. Maxwell details what the phrase “his image in our countenances” really means. This is one of the finest articles I have ever read.
You might be interested to know that last year I gave my nonmember parents a subscription to the Ensign as a missionary tool. This year, when I failed to renew it for them, they renewed it themselves!
Lorna Goodman Mesa, Arizona
In July’s News of the Church section, photos of President Gordon B. Hinckley in Logan, Utah, were taken by Lynn Kay. In September, the Ensign listed Latter-day Saint women who were recognized at the annual American Mothers convention. In addition to those named, Karen Sowards of the Volcano Cliff Ward, Albuquerque New Mexico Stake, was recognized as New Mexico’s Mother of Young Children at that convention.