News of the Church

By and Joyce B. White


Architectural Rendering of Madrid Spain Temple

The First Presidency has released an architectural rendering of the Madrid Spain Temple. The temple will be built in Mortalez, an area west of Madrid, and is to be of modern classical design, reminiscent of earlier Spanish architecture. Outside, the building will be clad in white carrara marble from Italy; inside will be marble from southern Spain. The temple’s three levels will comprise 46,000 square feet, including four ordinance rooms and four sealing rooms. A statue of the angel Moroni will rest atop the temple’s single spire.

Plans for the temple’s 3 1/2-acre site also include an eight-story high-rise building that will house a missionary training center, temple missionary housing, patron housing, a Beehive Clothing outlet, a family history facility, and a reception area. There will also be a stake center built on the site. All three buildings will be connected underground with an underground parking structure.

Church members in Spain, Portugal, the Azores, and the Canary Islands will be served by the Madrid Spain Temple. The ground was broken for the temple on 11 June 1996, and construction is now under way.

[illustration] Construction began this year on the Madrid Spain Temple. The design is reminiscent of earlier Spanish architecture.

Members Help Clean Up after Hurricanes, Floods

In September, hurricanes hit North Carolina and Puerto Rico, causing severe damage and even some deaths. Local Church leaders and members reacted quickly in both areas to provide assistance in whatever ways were necessary.

Hurricane Fran

On Thursday, 5 September, Hurricane Fran hit near Wilmington, North Carolina, and then headed north through the communities of Raleigh, Kinston, and Durham. The storm was the worst to hit North Carolina since 1954, killing 12 people and leaving an estimated one million people without electricity. In addition, significant flooding damage was done by the heavy rainfall following the storm.

Before the storm had even hit land, two 18-wheel tractor trailers from the Atlanta bishops’ storehouse headed for the scene, loaded with food, diapers and baby food, chain saws, generators, and other emergency supplies needed for cleanup. “The trucks arrived in Wilmington in less than 24 hours,” reported Elder Alvie Evans, Area Authority in the North America Southeast Area.

In addition, after requests from the Red Cross and Salvation Army, local Church leaders made significant acquisitions of bedding and underclothing and donated those items to victims who had lost their possessions in the floods.

For several weekends following the hurricane, a total of approximately 250 members from surrounding stakes arrived at the damaged areas to help with cleanup efforts. These members assisted mainly in clearing trees and cleaning out flooded homes.

“I know we gained a lot of respect and confidence within the community,” Elder Evans reported. “We were also very proud of the self-sufficiency of our members. They were self-reliant as they tended to their own needs, the needs of their families, and the needs of those around them. Much good will come out of this; we’ll hear of it for years to come.”

Hurricane Hortense

Hurricane Hortense hit Puerto Rico on Tuesday, 10 September, bringing heavy rains and flooding. Sixteen deaths were reported, and most of the island was left without electricity. Many roads were closed because of the flooding, and the lack of potable water was a serious concern.

“There was quite a bit of member help here,” noted Area Authority Elder Dale Miller, who resides in Puerto Rico. “A bishop lost the roof of his home, and the priesthood brethren in his ward organized to rebuild the roof. In addition, members helped in many areas clearing out homes, cleaning up items, cleaning out and drying out the homes, and then getting people moved back in again.”

Local Church leaders also prepared to use a meetinghouse in the area for a shelter, but it was not needed. “The gospel was certainly a source of comfort to the members,” Elder Miller said. “The concept of having faith and knowing they would be okay brought comfort and strength. It’s amazing how fast the people got on with their lives and got things back together.”

Series on Family History Produced by KBYU

The first U.S. national television series dedicated to family history will be available for broadcast on PBS television stations beginning in January. Ancestors, a 10-part documentary/how-to series, was produced by KBYU Television with support from Brigham Young University and several large corporate donations.

“The series is intended to be motivational,” explained Diena Simmons, director of program services for KBYU. “Each of the ten half-hour episodes explores the why and how-to of family history research through personal stories and expert instruction from some of the most respected professional genealogists in the country.”

Ancestors teaches how to get started in the research process, interview living relatives, and learn about the basic records and new technology available. Other topics include medical research and genetic issues, African American research, and census and military records. The first half of each episode is a feature story illustrating how family history has changed lives; the last half of each program has the program’s hosts, Jim and Terry Willard, talking with noted family history experts.

“Doing family history is part of our theology as Latter-day Saints,” said Sterling VanWagenen, the program’s executive producer. “But we were convinced there is tremendous value for anyone in doing family history, not just for Church members. We really wanted to accomplish two things through the series. First, we wanted others to understand the intrinsic value for families of doing family history. It brings families together when they find out who their ancestors are; it can create healing across generations.

“And second, we wanted to do a series that convinced people that family history could be simple and enjoyable. It doesn’t have to be as complicated or intimidating as it sometimes seems to be.”

The last 10 years have been spent solidifying the concept, writing the scripts, and gathering funding for the project. PBS stations throughout the United States now have access to the series and can schedule it for broadcast. In addition to the 10 episodes, a companion book is available through local public television stations airing Ancestors, or anyone can get a copy on the Internet at <http://www.kbyu.byu.edu/ancestors.html>.

[photo] Hosts Jim and Terry Willard are amateur genealogists and former high school teachers. (Photo courtesy of KBYU.)

Seminary, Institute Taught in Romania

Seminary and institute classes are now being taught in Romania. Alan and Patricia Dudley, Church Educational System missionaries from Alberta, Canada, provide training for instructors.

“Every day brings some spiritual experiences for us,” Sister Dudley said. The youth are becoming stronger in the gospel.”

CES classes are being taught in 135 countries, said Bruce Lake, CES zone coordinator. The program in Romania is similar to programs in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine. Students meet once a week and study the scriptures on their own.

The classes in Romania have been in effect since September. CES tries “to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to young people all over the world on a daily basis,” said Brother Lake.

Missionary Training Centers Churchwide

Early Church missionaries received little training and were often sent to areas that reflected their national origin or that required language skills they already possessed. Much has changed in the past century and a half of missionary work. Today most missionaries spend at least three weeks in 1 of 15 missionary training centers located around the world, and missionaries who learn a new language spend eight weeks in the Missionary Training Center at Provo, Utah.

Mission Training Facilities

North America

1. Provo Missionary Training Center (Provo, Utah)

Mexico and Central America

2. Mexico Missionary Training Center (Unidad Aragón, Mexico)

3. Guatemala Missionary Training Center (Guatemala City, Guatemala)

South America

4. Colombia Missionary Training Center (Bogotá, Colombia)

5. Peru Missionary Training Center (Lima, Peru)

6. Chile Missionary Training Center (Santiago, Chile)

7. Argentina Missionary Training Center (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

8. Brazil Missionary Training Center (São Paulo, Brazil)

Europe

9. England Missionary Training Center (New Chapel, England [near London])

Asia

10. Korea Missionary Training Center (Seoul, Korea)

11. Japan Missionary Training Center (Tokyo, Japan)

12. Philippines Missionary Training Center (Manila, Philippines)

Pacific

13. Samoa Missionary Training Center (Apia, Western Samoa)

14. Tonga Missionary Training Center (Nuku‘alofa, Tonga)

15. New Zealand Missionary Training Center (Frankton-Hamilton, New Zealand)

Family Times—New Church TV Series Produced

A new television series produced by the Church’s Public Affairs Department focuses on the challenges facing families and practical solutions to those challenges. Family Times, a half-hour show, promotes many of the good things families are doing and helps them make choices in today’s society. “The series looks at contemporary life from an everyday viewpoint and offers something for every family member,” explained William S. Evans, assistant executive producer of the series. “Family Times offers simple, practical tips on a wide variety of daily family challenges such as family communication, finance, and unity. At Family Times, we know life’s challenges never go away. We want to be part of the solution, not the problem.”

Currently, 26 segments of Family Times are available, with another 13 in production. The show, which follows a newsmagazine format, has two television hosts and offers advice for viewers on everything from selecting art that teaches values for their homes to planning successful family reunions.

The show airs on the cable television network Odyssey and is also available for broadcast on other cable networks, according to Don Russell, Church Public Affairs media marketing manager.

Gospel Gains Foothold in Cambodia

“The Church provides Cambodians with a way to seek spirituality, which for many Cambodians has been nearly absent for the past 20 years,” says Vichit Ith, a convert who has been instrumental in helping the Church pioneer in Cambodia. “The teachings of the Church help me more than anything else,” he says. “I am more focused on my family life, and I am striving to keep the commandments.”

Though Cambodian refugees have been joining the Church around the world since the 1970s—in fact, several cities throughout the world have Cambodian-speaking units—the gospel did not officially enter their homeland until January 1993. Soon after Thailand Bangkok Mission president Larry R. White heard a favorable report about religious progress in Cambodia, Brother Ith (who was then living in Thailand), President White, and Elder John K. Carmack of the Seventy, a member of the Asia Area Presidency, entered Cambodia to ask government representatives about the possibility of establishing humanitarian projects.

Cambodia’s political and social situation has been extremely volatile—even brutal at times—since the nation became independent from France in 1953. Nevertheless, a United Nations-sponsored peace treaty was signed in 1991, and elections held soon after the first visit of Church representatives in 1993 went smoothly, allowing Cambodia to make much progress toward democracy and rebuilding. At that time Brother Ith received an appointment as a special adviser to the new prime minister. Today Brother Ith works as president of Cambodia’s national airline and as secretary-general of the Cambodian Investment Board.

Elder Carmack and President White returned to Cambodia to submit the Church’s formal application for legal recognition and arrange for couple missionaries to assist the Cambodian people by teaching English, distributing clothing donated by Church members, participating in technical university projects, and sharing the gospel. Legal recognition was granted to the Church in March 1994, and before the month ended Donald C. and Scharlene Dobson of Logan, Utah, were transferred from their missionary labors in Madras, India, to Phnom Penh as Cambodia’s first missionaries. The first Church meeting was held at a hotel on 27 March 1994, with six members and nine investigators in attendance. On 9 May 1994 Sister Pahl Mao became the first member baptized in Cambodia. Other humanitarian-service couples soon arrived, and four young proselyting elders were transferred to Cambodia from Cambodian-speaking missions in the United States. Since these recent beginnings, the Church in Cambodia now has 12 proselyting elders and 285 members organized into three branches.

One of the most impressive things about the Church in Cambodia is the cooperation between Cambodian and Vietnamese members despite long-standing political antagonism between the two populations. About two-thirds of the members are Cambodian natives, and the rest are Vietnamese.

Eighteen-year-old Vietnam native Phuong Hong Hanh first visited the Church in July 1994 because she was interested in learning English—but she was soon converted to the gospel. “I knew it was right,” she said. An Chea Maline, a Cambodian who joined the Church in May 1995 and served as a branch Primary president before immigrating to Australia, recalls that for a long time she knew nothing about God. “But now I know this Church is true,” she says. “It is a bright sun for me.” Seng Suon, a convert of nearly a year, was a university student when missionaries met him. “I prayed to know if the Book of Mormon and the Church were true and if Joseph Smith was a prophet,” he says. “The answer came around midnight. I awoke, and everything seemed bright. I had the feeling that it all was true.”

When young-adult Cambodian convert Theany Reath was investigating the Church two years ago, she worried that her family would be offended when she stopped praying to her deceased ancestors. To her relief, her parents have been tolerant of her new beliefs and behaviors. “I feel the love of my parents a great deal,” she says. “They respect my new practices such as fasting, and they no longer expect me to drink tea with them.” Today she serves as a branch Young Women president.

Oum Borin, Cambodia’s first native branch president, along with his wife, Samay, joined the Church more than a year ago. “One night, my wife had a dream of two stars that fell into the house,” Brother Oum recalls. “Then two missionaries came to our house, and we felt the stars symbolized the elders. I know this Church is the true Church of Christ.”

Ha Phuoc Thach and his wife, Nguyen Thi Hong, are Vietnamese converts of nearly two years. In 1990 all three of their teenage children were lost at sea in a boat filled with Vietnamese refugees. Despite—or perhaps because of—this tragedy, the couple embraced the gospel when they heard it. Speaking about their baptism, Brother Ha says: “Our lives changed. It was a spiritual change.” His wife adds, “I want everyone to pray, because God does answer prayers.” Brother Ha serves as a counselor in the Vietnamese-speaking branch presidency, and his wife is Relief Society president. When asked why with all they have suffered they are always smiling, the couple respond: “Because now we are happy.” The same could be said of numerous other Saints in Cambodia as they embrace the gospel.

After the May 1996 dedication of the Hong Kong Temple, President Gordon B. Hinckley, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Elder John H. Groberg of the Seventy flew to Cambodia with their wives and met with some 439 members and investigators there. Early in the morning of 29 May 1996 on the banks of the Mekong River, President Hinckley dedicated Cambodia and left a beautiful blessing upon the land.

[photo] Meetinghouse of the Phnom Penh Second Branch. (Photography by Robert E. and Carol P. Warnick.)

[photo] As a branch Primary president, An Chea Maline helped teach children.

[photo] Branch members, shown here in front of their meetinghouse, have found joy in the gospel.

Leland D. and Joyce B. White are serving as humanitarian-assistance missionaries in Cambodia, where Elder White is district president.

Cable Station Changes Name

The Faith & Values Channel, a cable television network that carries several Church programs and specials, has changed its name to the Odyssey Channel.

The network, which is formed by the National Interfaith Cable Coalition, of which the Church is a charter member, is carried on some 1,500 cable systems and a satellite service and reaches 265 million households.

The name change is designed to ensure the continued growth of the channel by making it attractive to the broadest audience possible while maintaining its core audience, explained Garry E. Hill, Odyssey president and chief executive officer.

“The planned changes should enhance the channel’s long-standing commitment to bring viewers the most diverse range of religious, faith- and values-based programs on television,” Mr. Hill said. “We believe that the new name, Odyssey, and the new tag line, Exploring Life’s Journey, better convey the breadth of our program offerings and better meet the ever-increasing demands for programming that both inspires and entertains.”

Among the values-based programs on Odyssey are Church-produced programs, which include Center Street, a show focusing on teenagers; Family Times, a television magazine program for today’s families; Music and the Spoken Word, the weekly Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcasts; and LDS Worship Service, a series of programs portraying sacrament meetings in a 30-minute format.

In addition, the channel has aired several Church television specials, including “A Prophet Remembered,” “Tyler, a Real Hero,” Tabernacle Choir specials from Israel and Russia, and “An Easter Dream.” Past programming has also included broadcasts of BYU devotionals, a series called Families are Forever, and selected addresses from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

“The Church’s participation in the Odyssey Channel provides an opportunity to promote the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ in a variety of ways,” said Arnold R. Augustin, media relations director for the Church’s Public Affairs Department. “It’s also a vehicle to promote wholesome family-oriented programming that reaches millions of households in the United States at a time when the nation so desperately needs positive, uplifting programs.”

Odyssey was first launched in 1988 under the name VISN, standing for Vision Interfaith Satellite Network. The Church was among the original 12 charter members of the network, which was created to provide uplifting television viewing for people of all faiths nationwide. In 1992 the American Christian Television System (ACTS) joined the network, resulting in the creation of the VISN/ACTS Channel. Confusion of viewers led to a name change to the Faith & Values Channel in 1993. Today, 64 religious groups participate in the network.

Elder Jay E. Jensen

Conversation: The Church in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela

With temples built, under construction, planned, or announced in all five countries of the Church’s South America North Area, more dramatic growth in conversion, retention, and activation is expected. For an update about the Church in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela, the Ensign spoke with Elder Jay E. Jensen of the Seventy, South America North Area President, and his counselors, Elder Francisco J. Viñas of the Seventy and Elder Carl B. Pratt, an Area Authority.

Elder Jay E. Jensen Elder Francisco J. Viñas Elder Carl B. Pratt

Elder Jay E. Jensen Elder Francisco J. Viñas Elder Carl B. Pratt

Question: Tell us, please, about the temples in these five countries.

Answer: We are very excited to have so many temples soon to be available to the members in our area. Every time we attend a local conference, members want to know the latest details about the temple planned for their country. Since the Lima Peru Temple was dedicated in 1985, growth in terms of spiritual strength and number of members has accelerated in Peru. However, our members in Venezuela have to travel five to seven days to reach the Lima Peru Temple, and those in Ecuador and Colombia have to travel three to five days. Because of this cost in time and money, many members have not been able to visit the temple as often as they would like, if at all.

That will soon change, however. As we speak, the Bogotá Colombia Temple, located about 10 miles from downtown Bogotá, is well into the concrete phase of its foundation and basement, and nearby temple-patron housing is almost completed. Construction on the Guayaquil Ecuador Temple is scheduled to begin soon, and work on the Cochabamba Bolivia Temple is expected to begin sometime during the first half of 1997. A site has not yet been finalized for the temple announced for Venezuela.

Temples have a profound effect not only on Latter-day Saints but also on the communities and even the nations in which they are built. We saw that happen with the Lima Peru Temple. In the beginning, very little was located near the temple, but today beautiful, lighted streets of well-kept houses surround the temple. Similar improvements are already beginning to happen around the Bogotá Colombia and Guayaquil Ecuador Temple sites. Wonderful things also happen inside people’s hearts as the influence of the temple reaches them. Building a new temple is like throwing a stone into a lake: the resulting ripples radiate out and lift everything they touch.

Q: How is the Church progressing in these countries?

A: Church membership in this area of 95 million people is about 700,000, and the Church has 148 stakes and 20 missions. Peru has the most members with 300,000, followed by Ecuador with 128,000, Colombia with 115,000, Bolivia with 90,000, and Venezuela with 75,000. We have found that the Church grows fast in Peru, Ecuador, and parts of Bolivia. In Colombia, Venezuela, and other parts of Bolivia, we find a little less openness to the gospel among the people. In the area as a whole, the Church baptizes between 35,000 and 40,000 new members per year.

We are excited to see a second generation of Church members rising strong in these countries. For example, on a recent visit to the missionary training center in Bogotá, Colombia, we found that out of nine missionaries in one training district, eight were the children of returned missionaries. This statistic represents significant maturation and development among our members. Although North American missionaries and General Authorities serving in Peru and Colombia in recent years were reassigned elsewhere due to political unrest, Latino and North American missionaries now work side by side in all five countries, complementing and strengthening each other’s cultures.

Challenges are what help us grow, and the same is true for the Church in these countries. For instance, when Elder Jensen was serving as a mission president in Colombia during the mid-1970s, North American missionaries began having problems obtaining visas to enter Colombia. Although only three native Colombians were serving as full-time missionaries in 1975, by 1978 more than 50 native missionaries were serving. The members successfully met the challenges presented by the decreased availability of North American missionaries. Today those native missionaries are serving in stake presidencies and bishoprics, and some have served as mission presidents and regional representatives. We’re very confident about the depth and strength of seasoned Church leaders in these countries.

Q: How are members pioneering in the gospel?

A: One challenge faced by our members is poverty. Many members are limited in their transportation and communication, which makes it more difficult to carry out shepherding efforts such as home and visiting teaching. Even attending Church meetings can be a struggle for some members. It is not uncommon for us to attend a stake conference and see only half a dozen or fewer cars parked outside the building. We have also heard of families who, because of the cost of traveling to meetings, must alternate their Church attendance: one Sunday the mother and daughters might go, and the next Sunday the father and sons take their turn. To help members pioneer through some of these difficulties, the Church is striving to make units smaller both in terms of geographical reach and number of members. The ideal is for each Church member to be able to comfortably reach a meetinghouse by walking.

The Church in these countries has grown and will continue to grow from centers of strength. However, we are also finding more clusters of strength in unexpected, remote places. We find that because of the efforts of latter-day pioneers our members are located throughout these countries. For instance, we are aware of gospel inroads being made with some remote Indians who have maintained traditional language and culture. The son of the governor of one of these groups went to a major city to gain an education, and while there he met the missionaries and was converted to the Church. Now he has returned to his group and has become a gospel influence among them. Pioneers like him are encouraging gospel growth all over the five countries.

Most of the Church’s converts in these countries come from among the humbler, poorer classes. For many of these new members, the gospel becomes a catalyst that helps them pioneer into new areas of progress and improvement in their lives. The gospel gets inside their hearts and makes them want to reach out and serve others and better provide for their families by getting an education, working harder, and raising standards of living.

Q: How do members meet the challenges of retention and activation?

A: One key to retaining new members is to baptize entire families whenever possible, which our missionaries are striving to do. Another goal is to get the priesthood into homes, first the Aaronic Priesthood and then the Melchizedek Priesthood. We find that when the head of a household holds the priesthood and is active, he can unify his wife and children in Church activity. With temples in all five countries, retention of converts will improve as more members are able to achieve the realistic goal of attending the temple a year after their baptisms.

We echo President Spencer W. Kimball’s expressions that the humble children of Lehi are very open to being taught, converted, and activated. They seem to have a spiritual receptivity that no doubt hearkens back to the wonderful promises made to them in the Book of Mormon (see Gene R. Cook, Ensign, Nov. 1980, 67–69). For those members who for some reason slip away, often all it takes is a loving visit for them to come back. For example, two months before we created a fourth stake in a Peruvian city, local leaders organized an effort to visit every member of record in the area. Within weeks, sacrament meeting attendance rose dramatically in many units. Results such as this demonstrate the willingness of the people to be loved and led into the gospel. We feel that the Church’s growth in these countries is just beginning.

[photo] The Maldonado family of Otavalo, Ecuador, are second- and third-generation Church members. (Photo by Pam Wilkes.)

Comment

Early Texas Colonies

“Giving a Texas Welcome” (Ensign, Oct. 1996) says that the Latter-day Saint colony near Kelsey was the first LDS colony in Texas. Actually, the Kelsey colony is one of the earliest surviving colonies established by the Church in Texas. In the 1840s, an LDS colony was established by Church members prior to the Kelsey colony; the site is now at the bottom of Medina Lake (northwest of San Antonio).

William R. Harrison San Antonio, Texas

“What about Abstinence?”

Thank you for printing “What about Abstinence?” (Sept. 1996). What a powerful message!

Vicki Casto Scott Depot, West Virginia

Update

I’m writing in response to “Temple Square’s Early Warm Welcome” (Feb. 1996).

The Bureau of Information was established under the direction of President Lorenzo Snow in 1900. He appointed my father, Ephraim Jensen, who had just returned from his mission on the Boston Common, to be in charge of Temple Square and start the Bureau of Information. He also wrote and distributed the Bureau’s first tract, entitled “What Shall a Man Do to Be Saved?” This account was written in his journal.

Phyllis Jensen Dunnigan Salt Lake City, Utah