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President Hinckley Continues to Share Pioneer Message

In recent addresses to students, business leaders, members, and history buffs, President Gordon B. Hinckley continues to focus on the legacy of the Latter-day Saint pioneers.

Weber State University Institute Devotional

On 15 April, President Hinckley spoke to institute students at Utah’s Weber State University.

In answer to a question about the experience that had the greatest effect on the Church leader’s spiritual life, President Hinckley related this story from his mission: “I was not well and I got a little discouraged and I wrote home to my father and said, ‘I am just wasting your money and my time. I think I might as well come home and do vicarious baptisms.’

“He wrote me back a very short letter in which he said, … ‘I have only one suggestion: forget yourself and go to work.’ About the same day I received that letter, we were reading in the scriptures and I read these great words: ‘He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it’ (Matt. 10:39). Between my father’s letter and that statement, I made a resolution which changed my whole attitude and outlook on life, and everything that has happened to me since then that is good I can trace back to that decision.”

BYU Management Society

On 17 April, President Hinckley addressed the BYU Management Society, Salt Lake Chapter, and talked about Church growth, training leaders in areas of Church growth, and Brigham Young as a great example of an effective leader.

“Brigham Young, of course, was never compensated as are chief executive officers today,” President Hinckley said as he outlined many of the pioneer prophet’s accomplishments. “But I do not know of any chief executive officer of these days whose reach covers as much as did that of Brigham Young in the establishment and development of these western communities. He was, as I have said, CEO extraordinaire.

“I stand in reverence as I contemplate the breadth of his interests. I think of the tremendous mark that he left behind as pioneer, organizer, statesman, and chief executive officer in moving forward a tremendous enterprise and above all as prophet of the Lord.”

Nauvoo, Illinois, and Omaha, Nebraska

In a flurry of activity in the Midwest, President Hinckley traveled to Nauvoo, Illinois, and Omaha, Nebraska, to participate in a variety of sesquicentennial events.

On 18 April, President Hinckley dedicated the Nauvoo Pioneer Memorial Park, an area on Parley Street from the Seventies Hall to the ferry along the Mississippi River, where the early Saints began their exodus west. Included in the park area is a memorial to approximately 2,000 Church members who died along the Mormon Trail between 1846 and 1868.

During his remarks, President Hinckley talked about what had been accomplished in Nauvoo during the seven years the Saints lived there, including draining swamps, platting streets, building homes, chartering a university, forming a military legion, and building a temple.

The Church leader then talked of the long journey west and the communities the early pioneers established along the way. “There is no other pilgrimage certainly in the history of this nation to compare with it,” said President Hinckley. “The remarkable thing to me is that they went to a place where no plow had ever previously broken the ground. … The miracle they accomplished is something I never quite get over.”

Just a few hours later, President Hinckley was in Omaha, Nebraska, where he met with media representatives and then dedicated the Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters.

Again speaking of the early pioneers, President Hinckley remarked: “These were great people in whose footsteps we walk. They were men and women of courage and faith, of enterprise and great capacity to do what they set out to do.

“How thankful I am, how deeply grateful I am, how profoundly I feel a sense of gratitude for the pioneers who left here 150 years ago and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, and all those who followed them. … God be thanked for their faith.

“We come of great people, and whether we are of that stock or whether we have just come into the Church, we are all a part of that legacy of greatness, that exodus to greatness which occurred at the base of Parleys Street, where the first wagons moved down and crossed the Mississippi.”

President Hinckley greets Joe Vogel, wagon master for the Nebraska leg of the journey

President Hinckley greets Joe Vogel, wagon master for the Nebraska leg of the journey, during ceremonies wishing the modern-day pioneers well. (Photo by Welden C. Andersen.)

The next morning, 19 April, President Hinckley bid farewell to the participants of a modern wagon train leaving to retrace the steps of the pioneers of 1847.

“That which you are doing is not going to be easy,” President Hinckley told participants, many dressed as the early-day pioneers might have been. “You have more than three months of long and difficult travel ahead of you.”

He urged these modern-day pioneers to “pray together and work together and be respectful of the desires and comforts of each other.”

President Hinckley wears a colorful blanket given to him by Omaha Indians

President Hinckley wears a colorful blanket given to him by Omaha Indians. (Photo by Welden C. Andersen.)

Elko Nevada Regional Conference

On 20 April, President Hinckley spoke to more than 4,000 members gathered for the Elko Nevada regional conference. Again, his remarks focused on the sesquicentennial.

“That little handful that left Nauvoo 151 years ago has become a vast concourse that has spread over the nations,” he said. “We are now approaching a membership of 10 million people in about 160 nations. We are doing some wonderful things. I hope and believe we are doing the right things.”

President Hinckley briefly mentioned the Church’s emphasis on education, its family history library, the missionary program and missionaries, and the building of 350 new meetinghouses every year.

“There has come down to us a remarkable and wonderful inheritance of courage, of loyalty, of sacrifice, of love, of faith in the living God from those who have gone before us. As our past was great, let our future be even greater, brothers and sisters. … We must live above the cheap and tawdry things of the world. We are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have taken upon ourselves the name of the Redeemer of the world, and it becomes us to stand tall with a smile on our face and march forward into the future.”

Salt Lake Rotary Club Address

On 22 April, President Hinckley spoke at a luncheon for the Rotary Club of Salt Lake, where the Church was honored for its contributions to help eradicate polio around the world.

A letter, read during the meeting and signed by Rotary leaders from India and Argentina, said the Church’s donations were “the largest of any charitable organization in the world. … The support offered by your organization has moved us much closer to a polio-free world.”

“I don’t know of a better thing we could do than assist in this cause,” President Hinckley said. After accepting the honor, President Hinckley spoke on the pioneers who settled the Salt Lake Valley a century and a half ago. “This is a time of great celebration for all of us, members of the Church and those who are not members of the Church,” he observed. “All of us are the beneficiaries of what they did in laying the foundations of this city 150 years ago.”

President Hinckley mentioned the story of his grandfather, whose wife died on the westward trek, and then noted the difference in traveling today compared with 150 years ago. He also talked about the pioneer wagon train that is reenacting the three-month trek west and the celebrations that are scheduled for 24 July. “In more than a thousand communities across the world there will be celebrations commemorating this event,” he said. “Hundreds of cities in the United States and Canada will memorialize this great occasion. There will be parades in Australia, New Zealand, South and Central America, Mexico, even Hong Kong.”

“As we enter this great year of celebration,” he concluded, “I hope that we will all carry in our hearts some deep and sincere respect for Brigham Young and those who came with him to lay the foundations of this community. Regardless of our religious faith, regardless of where we come from, we owe them a very deep and solemn debt of gratitude.”

Potomac Virginia Regional Conference

On 27 April, President Hinckley addressed nearly 14,000 Church members from the eight stakes in the Potomac Virginia region. “We are the greatest society of friends on earth,” said President Hinckley, referring to the camaraderie of Saints around the world. “Wherever you go, if you are a Latter-day Saint you walk into a meeting and introduce yourself and you have friends. It is a wonderful thing.”

President Hinckley talked of the importance of gratitude for the many blessings of the Lord, including the First Vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, priesthood authority, temple work, the law of tithing, the Word of Wisdom, the growth of the Church, and prayer. “I hope that never a day passes that you do not get on your knees and thank the Lord for his goodness to you,” the Church leader said.

On 26 April, President Hinckley spoke at a leadership training session for the stake leaders, where he focused his remarks on three areas: building the kingdom, blessing the people, and living the gospel.

Women’s Conference

President Hinckley spoke to more than 13,000 people at the 1997 BYU Women’s Conference fireside. He focused on pioneers, speaking of early women in the Church and honoring them for their courage and faith.

President Hinckley also spoke to today’s mothers: “Most of you and your associates who are married are now employed outside the home. That is a statistical fact. You feel you must do this if you are to provide a home, music lessons, and other costly and consuming things. … I wish it were otherwise. I wish every mother could be at home. I recognize that this is not possible.

“But I warn you against too fancy a home and too large a mortgage, perhaps with a boat and such costly things in the driveway,” the Church leader continued. “I simply say that there is nothing in all this world which will bring you greater satisfaction, as the years pass ever so quickly, than seeing your children grow in faith, confidence, freedom from the enslavements around us, and accomplishment in the world. You will be a very important part of what happens to them. None can adequately substitute for you as mothers.”

Cedar City, Utah

President Hinckley joined former U.S. president George Bush and Utah governor Michael Leavitt on 2 May for Southern Utah University’s Centennial Convocation.

In his remarks, President Hinckley talked of the contributions of Utah’s pioneers to the settlement of the Cedar City area. “They were a people who fought to tame the wilderness,” he said. “They were people of the frontier in a very real sense. They struggled to bring water to the parched land. They wrestled with the vagaries of the weather. They were men of the soil, most of them. They were poor by today’s standards. … But they were also people who carried in their lives a love for the artistic and beautiful, for education and refinement, for the more subtle things of the soul. They recognized that education is the key to achievement and economic opportunity.”

Sun Ranch in Wyoming

On 3 May, President Hinckley dedicated the Mormon Handcart Visitors’ Center at Sun Ranch in Wyoming. The center commemorates the rescue of the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies.

“Legion are the stories of the suffering of those who lived and died on this long journey,” said President Hinckley during his address. “They traveled from Liverpool. They traveled from Boston and New York. They went through New Orleans and came up the river, then up the Missouri, and then came west. They suffered untold suffering. Thank the Lord we live in a better time. This is a new season. There is greater understanding and respect. This once small Church has grown into a mighty congregation of nearly 10 million people scattered across the earth. Today there is more of tolerance, forbearance, love, respect, and appreciation.”

[photo]Members shake hands with President Hinckley at Potomac Virginia regional conference. (Photo by Page Johnson.)

[photo] Former U.S. president George Bush and President Gordon B. Hinckley enjoy the Centennial Convocation at Southern Utah University. (Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred.)

[photo] Thousands gather for the dedication of the Mormon Handcart Visitors’ Center at Sun Ranch in Wyoming. (Photo by Welden C. Andersen.)

Modern-day Trek

In 1846 the Saints left Nauvoo, Illinois, to find peace and religious freedom in the Rocky Mountains. Today, 150 years after the arrival of the Saints in the Salt Lake Valley, modern-day members are retracing the early pioneers’ steps.

The Mormon Pioneer Trek reenactment began on 21 April in Florence, Nebraska, near Winter Quarters, and will end with a celebration at This Is the Place State Park in Salt Lake City on 22 July. Approximately 200 people, half of them Church members, will travel with the wagon train for the three-month trek. Thousands more will join the trek for a few days, weeks, and even months.

200 modern-day pioneers reenact the 1847 LDS pioneers’ westward journey

In celebration of the sesquicentennial, some 200 modern-day pioneers reenact the 1847 LDS pioneers’ westward journey. (Photography by Welden C. Andersen.)

In contrast to the first pioneers, the modern-day trekkers are welcomed and cheered along the trail. Governors of Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Utah each support the trek and helped plan events to celebrate it. In fact, Nebraska state senator Dan Lynch gave the wagon master an “eternal flame” lantern to show his goodwill and support. Communities along the way are celebrating the modern-day trekkers’ journey. Members of the Rockbrook Ward, Omaha Nebraska Stake, wrote the names of pioneers who died at Winter Quarters on bright yellow ribbons and tied them to the fences surrounding the cemetery there. Some communities are sponsoring special events. In Schuyler, Nebraska, a man in the community prepared a steak dinner for the modern-day pioneers camped that night.

Although the trekkers are trying to follow the exact route of the pioneers, in many instances the route is inaccessible. However, the wagon train generally is within a few miles of the original course. Many times they travel on the side of the highway or along a dirt road instead of on primitive paths. Along the way, occasional tracks and wagon ruts, remnants of the first pioneers’ struggles, greet the modern-day trekkers. Unlike the early pioneers, the Mormon Pioneer trek organizers had to obtain licenses, permits, and permissions.

But the path the early pioneers forged was not only a physical one; it was also a spiritual one. “The legacy of our pioneer forefathers is a very important legacy to every member of our Church,” said Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who traveled the first leg of the trek with the wagon train.

Brother and Sister Osamu Sekiguchi traveled from Japan with their two sons, ages six and eight, to be in the wagon train. Members also came from England and Austria.

The early pioneers’ determination to reach the Salt Lake Valley has inspired Church members as far away as Siberia. Church members in Krsynoyarsk, Siberia, constructed a handcart that was pulled by local members in small parades through key cities in Russia and Ukraine, including Rostov, Samara, St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Kiev, and was transported between cities by train. In each town, members wrote down their testimonies and put them in the handcart. The handcart will be flown to New York City, where it will be displayed at a museum and then will be flown to Utah, where it will join the wagon train to become part of the final few days of the trek.

[photo] Two young boys enjoy a wagon ride.

[photo] Dressed in ancestral costume, members participate in the trek.

[photo] Modern-day pioneers pull a handcart.

[photo] Elder M. Russell Ballard bids farewell to the wagon master.

[photo] Participants on modern-day journey are retracing steps of early Church members, who traveled 1,032 miles to settle the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.

Faith in Every Footstep CD-ROM Sent to Media

In a trailblazing effort to inform the media about the early LDS pioneers and the Church, the Church’s Public Affairs Department produced a 600-megabyte compact disc and sent it to 20,000 media sources, half outside the USA. The disc, Faith in Every Footstep, guides the media through video and audio clips, text, photos, and pioneer journal entries, allowing them to have a more accurate look at the pioneers’ lives and the lives of Church members today.

Elder M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and chairman of the Church Sesquicentennial Committee, said the disc will make it possible for the media to “walk the trail with the pioneers and listen to their stories of faith and sacrifice.”

Through the disc, viewers are taken on a video tour of the early pioneer trail, the Church today, the restored gospel, and sesquicentennial events. Detailed maps follow the pioneer trail through Chimney Rock, Fort Laramie, Independence Rock, Big Mountain, and other historic pioneer trail locations. Reporters can read the history and pioneer experiences of each location. “There are 120 pioneer journal entries on the disc,” Elder Ballard said, “all of them seen on the screen and voiced by narrators.”

“The disc is a virtual library of information covering not only the history of the Church and the pioneer trek but also providing information about the Church today in all 50 states and in 57 nations,” said Elder Ballard.

“This is the first time the Public Affairs Department has created something like this to go to the media,” says Val Edwards, a department staff member, about this pioneer effort to inform the media about the Church. Brother Edwards directed the efforts to collect material for the disc, and Brent Peterson, a member of the Church and vice president of photography and news media for ABC Television in New York City, handled the technical production.

“The disc localizes the sesquicentennial for the media,” said Brother Edwards. Reporters can access information about general Church membership, membership in their area, and even local spokespeople for the Church. For example, after clicking on an area of the world such as Asia, a reporter can select Thailand and find the number of Church members in the country, how long they have been there, and a wealth of other information.

General information about the Church is included on the disc to help viewers understand more about Church practices and beliefs. Information and statistics are available about missionaries, missions, family values, and the Word of Wisdom. Also, there are biographical sketches of Church leaders and interviews with well-known members. Further, there is a style guide where journalists can find correct names for Church-related references.

Church Leaders Meet with Hong Kong Official

In a recent meeting, Church leaders were assured that freedom of religion for all residents of Hong Kong would continue after the area transfers from British rule to Chinese sovereignty on 1 July.

That assurance came from Mr. Tung Chee Hwa, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China during a meeting with President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency; Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; and Elders Kwok Yuen Tai and John H. Groberg of the Seventy and of the Asia Area Presidency.

During the meeting, President Faust told Mr. Tung about the history of the Church in Hong Kong, noting the activities of members and missionaries, outlining the Church’s humanitarian service, and expressing gratitude for the Hong Kong Temple.

“Wherever our members live, they believe in being subjects to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law,” President Faust observed during the meeting. “Our members here and Church leaders will be praying for your success.”

During their visit to Hong Kong, President Faust and Elder Nelson also attended a regional conference for the five stakes in Hong Kong.

[photo] President James E. Faust, right, and Elder Russell M. Nelson, left, met with Tung Chee Hwa, the People’s Republic of China government administrator over Hong Kong.

Flooding in the U.S. Northern Plains

At a time when members of the Church are reflecting on the challenges early pioneers faced, such as leaving homes in severe winter weather and wading through frigid waters, members in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Canada have experienced some of the same challenges, facing the most severe weather conditions the region has seen in 100 years.

While no members have died, virtually all in the area have been affected by flooding and storms that lasted most of April along a 195-mile stretch of Red River from Wahpeton, North Dakota, to Manitoba in Canada. Some members have lost homes and businesses; many have lost possessions, including food storage, furnishings, and irreplaceable mementos.

Following the flooding, Elders Hugh W. Pinnock and J. Richard Clarke of the North America Central Area Presidency traveled separately to various areas affected by the flood, surveying damage and encouraging members. Additionally several truckloads of needed commodities from nearby bishops’ storehouses were sent to humanitarian agencies offering flood relief, and local Church leaders requested generators and other emergency equipment for the flood victims.

Perhaps hardest hit by the flood were Grand Forks, North Dakota, and East Grand Forks, Minnesota, where more than 80 percent of the residents were evacuated, including 400 Church members and all the missionaries serving in the area. One missionary apartment in Grand Forks was destroyed in a fire resulting from the flood.

Many members were given only minutes to leave their homes in the dead of night “taking only the clothes on their backs,” said Joel C. Smith, president of the Fargo North Dakota Stake. Forty-six members of the Grand Forks Second Ward stayed with members of the Grand Forks First Ward until they could return to their homes.

“Members stayed up all night to make sure dikes weren’t leaking and pumps were running,” President Smith continued. “At the height of the flood in Fargo, water was running through the city at 20 million gallons per minute.”

After weeks of receding water, residents throughout the flooded area began to return to their homes and the huge task of cleanup, while others returned to rebuild homes that had been destroyed. Members joined forces with others in the communities and volunteers from surrounding areas to empty basements, clear out debris, gather trash, and do any other necessary tasks.

Particularly outstanding have been the efforts of the youth, reported Janna Hayne, Fargo North Dakota Stake public affairs specialist. “They were the backbone,” she observed. Students throughout the flooded communities sandbagged prior to the flooding and then offered their services afterward in flood refuge centers.

Others stood out as well. Nicknamed the “Brownie Lady,” Amy Fontaine of the Grand Forks First Ward regularly took brownies and cookies made by refugees staying in her home, including full-time missionaries, to the medical team serving the flood refugees.

Members in Cass Lake, Minnesota, helped evacuate flood victims from neighboring Bemidji and then opened their homes to those who needed shelter. Primary children offered stuffed animals to youngsters who had been forced from their homes. President Smith said the refugees coming into Cass Lake have doubled the population.

Missionaries in Minnesota turned from proselyters to sandbaggers. They sandbagged throughout the week from morning until evening. Often they found times where they could share the gospel with an investigator who had come with them or with other sandbaggers.

Local Church leaders in Grand Forks received calls from members all over the country offering to help. One family from Lovell, Wyoming, saw the report on the news and wanted to do something. They called Craig Whitehead, bishop of the Grand Forks First Ward, to find out what was needed. Then they loaded their truck and horse trailer with supplies and drove to Grand Forks, staying briefly to unload before returning home.

“Home teaching and visiting teaching lines of communication were used effectively,” reported Carl Johnson, bishop of the Grand Forks Second Ward. “It was rewarding to see people work like that.

“Sunday morning we held a sacrament meeting with the flood victims from the ward,” he continued. “They came wearing the clothes they had on when they left their homes. It was really touching, but everyone came telling jokes and had a good attitude. It was so different from the looks on the faces of those who don’t have the gospel; our members don’t feel they’ve lost everything. The morale of the members is tremendous.”

Some areas farther north were also flooded, although not to the same extent. More than 300 members in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, joined in sandbagging efforts prior to the flooding. “We are aware of only one member family affected,” reported Stephen W. Hansen, president of the Minneapolis Minnesota Stake.

“The Wakpala Branch meetinghouse flooded due to an underestimation of the amount of runoff,” reported Bismarck North Dakota Stake president Richard Adsero. Sixty people, including some members, were housed at a nearby motel, and priesthood leaders together determined how they could best meet needs in the community.

[photo] Flooding in Grand Forks, North Dakota, caused the evacuation of more than 80 percent of the city’s residents. (Photo by Janet Kruckenberg.)

[photo] Members unload supplies sent to flood victims from bishops’ storehouse. (Photo courtesy of Bemidji Ward.)

Janet Kruckenberg serves as a stake missionary in the Fargo North Dakota Stake.

Church Lends Expertise with Volunteerism

As a result of a White House request for LDS participation and input regarding volunteerism, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles served as a co-chair of the Communities of Faith section at the Presidents’ Summit for America’s Future.

“It’s a compliment to the Church that organizers at the White House asked for our participation,” said Elder Holland. “They were quick to recognize that otherwise there would be a serious gap among the faith groups represented.”

The summit, whose goal is to help 2 million youth by the year 2000, drew thousands of participants from the media and corporate, nonprofit, and faith organizations.

“Recognition of the need to strengthen families was one of the strongest things to come out of the Communities of Faith working session at the summit,” noted Elder Holland.

“Virtually everyone agreed emphatically with the position that we can best strengthen our communities and the nation by strengthening families. We know that by revelation. They know that from all the social data they are collecting.”

Church member Stephen R. Covey, a well-known author and motivational speaker, played an important role as the moderator of a panel discussion at the Community of Faith session.

In addition to the faith groups working session, a “Festival of Faith” session was held, where various speakers talked about the needs of youth. Rachel Moss, a young woman from the Marshallton Second Ward, Philadelphia Pennsylvania Stake, spoke of the need to serve others.

Toll-Free Referral Line

A 24-hour, toll-free telephone line has been established to assist Church members in the United States and Canada when making missionary referrals.

The toll-free number, 1-888-LDS-7700 (1-888-537-7700), is answered by missionaries at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, who contact by telephone the referred individual the same day the referral is made.

Callers are asked to provide the name and telephone number of the individual to be visited, as well as the caller’s name, telephone number, and home ward.

“When the member’s name is associated with the referral, the person is much more likely to invite the missionaries in,” explained Elder Earl C. Tingey of the Presidency of the Seventy and executive director of the Missionary Department. “A high percentage of these people are interested.”

Update: International Magazines

In 1846 Dan Jones, a missionary in Wales, began an LDS Church magazine in Welsh. He published 32 issues of the magazine. In 1851 three more Church magazines began publication separately in Danish, French, and German. By the turn of the century, Swedish and Dutch magazines had been added.

Today Church magazines are published in 23 languages, including English.

1930: 8 languages

1950: 10 languages

1960: 12 languages

1970: 16 languages

1980: 17 languages

1990: 20 languages

31 December 1996: 23 languages