News of the Church


New Area Presidencies

The First Presidency has announced changes in assignments for Area Presidencies effective 15 August 1997.

The 23 Area Presidencies that cover the worldwide Church are filled at the present time by 60 brethren from the First and Second Quorums of the Seventy and by 9 brethren from among the 134 Area Authority Seventies sustained in April to the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Quorums of the Seventy.

Presidencies of North American areas are based in Salt Lake City, while presidencies of other worldwide areas are based within their areas.

1. North America Northwest: Glenn L. Pace, President; F. Melvin Hammond, First Counselor; C. Scott Grow, Second Counselor

2. North America Central: Hugh W. Pinnock, President; Kenneth Johnson, First Counselor; Lynn G. Robbins, Second Counselor

3. North America Northeast: Marlin K. Jensen, President; W. Don Ladd, First Counselor; Donald L. Staheli, Second Counselor

4. North America Southeast: John K. Carmack, President; Loren C. Dunn, First Counselor; Gary J. Coleman, Second Counselor

5. North America Southwest: Lynn A. Mickelsen, President; Angel Abrea, First Counselor; D. Todd Christofferson, Second Counselor

6. North America West: David E. Sorensen, President; John B. Dickson, First Counselor; John M. Madsen, Second Counselor

7. Utah North: Alexander B. Morrison, President; Robert K. Dellenbach, First Counselor; Jay E. Jensen, Second Counselor

8. Utah South: Ben B. Banks, President; Dennis B. Neuenschwander, First Counselor; Neil L. Andersen, Second Counselor

9. Mexico North: Andrew W. Peterson, President; Dale E. Miller, First Counselor; Tomás Valdés, Second Counselor

10. Mexico South: Carl B. Pratt, President; Richard E. Turley Sr., First Counselor; Octaviano Tenorio, Second Counselor

11. Central America: William R. Bradford, President; Julio E. Alvarado, First Counselor; E. Israel Pérez, Second Counselor

12. South America North: Francisco J. Viñas, President; Eran A. Call, First Counselor; Richard J. Maynes, Second Counselor

13. Brazil: W. Craig Zwick, President; Claudio R. M. Costa, First Counselor; J. Kent Jolley, Second Counselor

14. Chile: Dallas N. Archibald, President; Jerald L. Taylor, First Counselor; Eduardo A. Lamartine, Second Counselor

15. South America South: Carlos H. Amado, President; Richard D. Allred, First Counselor; Hugo A. Catrón, Second Counselor

16. Europe North: Cecil O. Samuelson Jr., President; Spencer J. Condie, First Counselor; Wm. Rolfe Kerr, Second Counselor

17. Europe East: Charles Didier, President; F. Enzio Busche, First Counselor; Wayne M. Hancock, Second Counselor

18. Europe West: Dieter F. Uchtdorf, President; Gene R. Cook, First Counselor; F. Burton Howard, Second Counselor

19. Africa: James O. Mason, President; Dennis E. Simmons, First Counselor; Christoffel Golden Jr., Second Counselor

20. Asia North: Rex D. Pinegar, President; L. Lionel Kendrick, First Counselor; L. Edward Brown, Second Counselor

21. Asia: John H. Groberg, President; Cree-L Kofford, First Counselor; Richard E. Cook, Second Counselor

22. Philippines/Micronesia: Sheldon F. Child, President; Quentin L. Cook, First Counselor; Duane B. Gerrard, Second Counselor

23. Pacific: Vaughn J. Featherstone, President; Bruce C. Hafen, First Counselor; P. Bruce Mitchell, Second Counselor

New Mission Presidents Instructed

“Each of you will have a wonderful experience and work very hard, perhaps harder than you have ever worked in your lives, but you will gain deeper satisfaction as you do so,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley to new mission presidents and their wives at the annual seminar for new mission presidents held the last week of June at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. “Your burden will be lightened by the Spirit of the Lord. You will be motivated by that Spirit, and you will do things you thought you were never capable of accomplishing.”

Suggesting five principles for effective missionary work, President Hinckley said, “I don’t hesitate to promise that if you observe them, you will be blessed in your work and in your ministry.” The principles included working with an eye single to the glory of God, practicing and teaching effective habits of study and work, observing habits of personal safety and welfare, having love be the lodestar of their lives, and living close to the Lord at all times and in all circumstances.

“Draw near to the Lord and make Him your constant source of strength,” President Hinckley said. “I know as you do that, there is joy in this service that can be found nowhere else.”

During the week-long seminar, Presidents Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor, and James E. Faust, Second Counselor, of the First Presidency spoke, as did several members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Presidency of the Seventy.

“The promise I want you to carry in your minds and in your hearts and to instill within your missionaries is in the 84th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 88,” said President Monson: “‘I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.’ On disappointing days, if you just read that promise, the Spirit will enlighten your soul and you will be doubly prepared to move forward with that great band of missionaries.”

Talking about cooperation between stake and full-time missionaries, President Monson said, “I maintain that no mission will achieve its full potential unless it has a cooperative effort with the members of the Church in bringing that about.”

President Faust expressed how, in selecting mission presidents, one question was particularly meaningful: “Would I wish my son or grandson to serve under that mission president and his wife?” He then discussed his hopes that mission presidents and their wives would help their missionaries acquire a testimony of the Savior’s Atonement and of the mission of Joseph Smith and develop traits of honesty, courage, and obedience.

[photo] New mission presidents who attended the annual training seminar are now serving in some 39 lands. (Photo by John Hart, courtesy of Church News.)

President Hinckley Honors Brigham Young, Celebrates Freedom

At a dinner honoring Brigham Young, President Gordon B. Hinckley commented that the enterprises started by the Church’s second president “were so numerous and so boldly conceived as to merit him the honor of possibly being America’s greatest entrepreneur.”

The dinner was held in the bowery of Old Deseret Village at This Is the Place State Park in Salt Lake City by the Newcomen Society, an organization that honors entrepreneurship. President Hinckley was accompanied by his wife, Marjorie. Also in attendance were President Thomas S. Monson and his wife, Frances; President James E. Faust and his wife, Ruth; several other General Authorities and their wives; and more than 50 descendants of Brigham Young, including Marian Young Morgan, age 98, who accepted an award honoring her grandfather.

“I stand in awe of his boldness in leading his people to this valley,” President Hinckley said. After enumerating Brigham Young’s accomplishments in colonizing, agriculture, industry, construction, finance, commerce, and publishing, President Hinckley said: “Over all of these institutions, past and present, rests the lengthened shadow of Utah’s greatest pioneer, greatest colonizer, and greatest entrepreneur, Brigham Young.”

Freedom Festival

“Without acknowledgment of Deity, without recognition of the Almighty as the ruling power of the universe, the all-important element of personal and national accountability shrinks and dies,” said President Hinckley at the annual Freedom Festival in Provo, Utah, attended by more than 24,000 people on 29 June 1997 in Brigham Young University’s Marriott Center.

President Hinckley was joined by U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, Utah’s U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch and Robert Bennett, and U.S. Representative Chris Cannon, also from Utah. Prior to President Hinckley’s address, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang selections from a sesquicentennial program the choir has been performing during 1997 throughout the state of Utah.

The patriotic service was broadcast via satellite to Church meetinghouses throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.

Simpson’s Hollow, Wyoming

“I’m grateful for our people who did what they did in the desperate circumstances in which they found themselves and finally worked out a compromise, a reconciliation which brought peace,” said President Hinckley on 5 July at the dedication of a roadside exhibit at Simpson’s Hollow, Wyoming, where in 1857 a group of 40 Latter-day Saints captured and burned an army supply train in perhaps the most dramatic confrontation of the “Utah War.”

“To me it’s a miracle that in all of this campaign, that really began in 1857 and continued into the summer of 1858, not a single shot was fired by the Utah militia,” said President Hinckley. “This, in my judgment, represents one of the great and dramatic events in the history of the West.”

After hearing false rumors that Church members were rebelling against the government, President James Buchanan sent some 2,500 soldiers to the Utah territory 140 years ago. The destruction of U.S. military supplies succeeded in delaying troops for the winter. Although U.S. soldiers did later occupy locations in Utah for a time, negotiations eventually led to a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

“They loved the Constitution of the United States,” said President Hinckley about the early Latter-day Saints. “They wanted to be loyal citizens of the United States. But they did not wish to be punished by reason of the false tales by officials who had been sent to Utah to govern them.”

Boston Temple Groundbreaking

Under assignment from the First Presidency, Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles broke ground for the Boston Massachusetts Temple and dedicated the site on 13 June 1997. Also in attendance were Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy, President of the North America Northeast Area; Elder W. Don Ladd of the Seventy, First Counselor in the North America Northeast Area Presidency; and Elder Robert S. Wood, an Area Authority Seventy.

“We are so grateful for those who have made this possible, those who worked so long to clear the way for construction,” Elder Scott said. “We are especially appreciative of the civic authorities and religious leaders in this community who supported this effort, some of whom are present today.”

In his prayer, Elder Scott said, “Above all, we thank thee for the reason for which this temple is being built, made possible because of the Atonement of thy holy Son, which provides the ordinances to be performed here to join husband and wife and children in family lines forever.”

The Boston temple will be constructed on a hilltop in Belmont, Massachusetts, a suburb northwest of Boston. When the temple is completed sometime before the turn of the century, it will be the Church’s first temple in New England and will serve about 54,000 members.

[photo] Elder Richard G. Scott, left, assists a young member during the groundbreaking. (Photo by Ron Catalano.)

New Personal Ancestral File Version Released

The Church’s Family History Department has announced the release of a new DOS version of Personal Ancestral File® (PAF) 3.0, a computer program that helps users compile and organize family history information. Among major changes made to the software are several new features:

  • Larger data files that allow up to one million records

  • Longer name, data, and place fields

  • Diacritics and other special characters

  • Searches focusing on marriage information

  • Easy switching between data files

  • Easier data entry from the Small Pedigree screen (formerly known as Pedigree Search)

  • Ability to link a child to more than one family (adopted, guardian, etc.)

  • Ability to add and store sources

  • Ability to add notes to marriage records

  • Improved notes editor

  • Ability to correct Ancestral File™ records and submit corrections

  • Improved reports and charts

  • Improved use of the mouse

Users of the new PAF version can update and use data from previous versions of PAF. The new software is available for $15 to registered, nonregistered, and first-time users from the Salt Lake Distribution Center or a local Church distribution center.

New Missionary Training Center Dedicated in Brazil

In an auditorium designed to seat 800, more than 1,100 people gathered for the 18 May 1997 dedication of the new Brazil Missionary Training Center in São Paulo. Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave remarks in English and then offered the dedicatory prayer in Portuguese. Also in attendance were Elder Harold G. Hillam of the Presidency of the Seventy and Elders Dallas N. Archibald, W. Craig Zwick, and Claudio R. M. Costa of the Seventy, who made up the Brazil Area Presidency before the Presidency was reorganized on 15 August 1997. New missionary training center president Jerry F. Twitchell attended, as did former Brazil MTC president H. Birch Larsen.

In his prayer Elder Nelson blessed “the citizens of Brazil with freedom and accountability to grow in righteousness” and “the leaders of this great nation with wisdom and integrity.” He also blessed “this sacred edifice funded by the tithes of faithful people from many nations and circumstances … [to] be a place for the blessing of sons and daughters who are privileged to enjoy these wonderful facilities.”

One of the largest buildings constructed by the Church outside the United States, the new Brazil MTC is made up of two six-story parallel buildings that each can accommodate 375 missionaries, although only one building will be used initially. The buildings are joined by a structure containing the cafeteria and auditorium.

[photo] The new Brazil MTC is one of the largest structures built by the Church outside the United States.

Floods in Idaho and Chile

During June, heavy snowmelt and rain caused Idaho’s Snake River to flood in the southeastern part of the state. Although no deaths or injuries were reported, more than 100 Latter-day Saint homes were damaged by floodwaters. Officials estimate that more than $35 million in damage was caused to roads and farmland.

“The first day we had 500 members out sandbagging the main current of the river,” reported Gerald A. Mead, president of the Pocatello Highland Stake and welfare chairman of the Pocatello region. Much of the flooding occurred in the Blackfoot area. “For about a week our people kept just inches ahead of the river. Typically we’d get 1,000 or 1,500 people out in the morning and maybe that many in the afternoon. One day we laid down five miles of sandbags.” The civil authorities were surprised to have so much done in one day.

President Mead described one nonmember’s experience with the Latter-day Saint helpers: “He stood there with tears running down his face as his house was basically saved. At one point he said, ‘I know where this help came from.’”

In Chile, severe weather resulted in flooding in eight regions, affecting more than 63,000 people. The Chile Area Presidency reported that no members or missionaries were injured, but the homes of 15 member families were destroyed and 22 member homes were seriously damaged. Damage to 26 Church meetinghouses was reported, and five meetinghouses were used as emergency shelters. Local Church leaders allocated fast-offering funds to assist members in need.

[photo] Volunteers help remove household items from an evacuated home in Firth, Idaho. (Photo by Kelton Hatch, courtesy of Idaho State Journal.)

Elder Dennis E. Simmons

Conversation: The Church in Africa

Though the Church was established in South Africa in 1853, missionary work did not begin in many other parts of the continent until after 1978. “It is exciting to have the Church firmly founded and at the same time moving forward on new frontiers,” said the members of the Africa Area Presidency. To learn more about the development of the Church in Africa, the Ensign recently spoke with Elder James O. Mason of the Seventy, President of the Africa Area; Elder Dennis E. Simmons of the Seventy, First Counselor; and Elder Christoffel Golden Jr., an Area Authority Seventy and Second Counselor in the Area Presidency.

Elder Dennis E. Simmons Elder James O. Mason Elder Christoffel Golden Jr.

Elder Dennis E. Simmons Elder James O. Mason Elder Christoffel Golden Jr.

Question: In January 1997, the Africa Area reached 100,000 members. Would you tell us more about the Church’s progress and growth in Africa?

Answer: Covering territory three times larger than the United States and populated by about 600 million people, the Africa Area includes all the nations on the continent except those bordering the Mediterranean Sea, and, in addition, includes the islands of Madagascar, Mauritius, and Réunion. Of the area’s 47 countries, the Church is now officially registered in 27. The Church has 11 missions in the area, with 930 missionaries serving in 18 nations. One indication of the strength of the Church in Africa is that 436 of those missionaries were called from African countries. The Church now has 17 stakes in Africa: 8 in Nigeria, with 90 wards and branches; 6 in South Africa, with 74 wards and branches; 2 in Ghana, with 24 wards and branches; and 1 in Zaire, with 9 wards and branches. In addition, the area has 42 districts. Since 1990 the rate of convert baptisms has slowed somewhat, but the numbers are again rising, with nearly 7,000 people baptized during 1996.

Leaders continue to focus on developing the Church from centers of strength in the countries where the Church is recognized. It is amazing how rapidly the Church has progressed since President Spencer W. Kimball received the revelation extending the priesthood to all worthy males in 1978. In Africa, we find that wherever the Church is able to supervise missionaries and provide priesthood training and direction, the Church will grow. With more than 1,000 languages and many dialects spoken in the area, our proselyting efforts are concentrated in the three colonial languages of English, French, and Portuguese, which means that growth generally occurs in more urban areas. The Church is building a foundation that will greatly benefit the spread of the gospel in Africa in the future.

We are pleased and gratified by the strength of the members in Africa. The Church is reaping a great harvest of brethren and sisters who are willing to assume the responsibility of Church leadership. Families are very strong in African cultures, which helps the gospel grow rapidly and solidly. In many units the ratio of active Melchizedek Priesthood holders to total membership is as high as anywhere else in the Church, and in some stakes sacrament meeting attendance is as high as 70 percent. In training meetings we often observe that Church handbooks and manuals are marked point by point and referred to frequently. Members in Africa know the doctrines and order of the Lord’s kingdom, and their appetite for the messages and blessings of the gospel is powerful.

Q: How does the gospel help African members and leaders overcome their challenges?

A: From the time an African first responds to the light of the gospel, he or she begins to make a pioneering effort. Often new converts must leave behind cultural traditions that are inconsistent with the gospel. For many, incorporating the teachings of the gospel into their lives constitutes real pioneering. For instance, members in Africa have taken very seriously the prophetic counsel to hold a current temple recommend whether they are able to visit a temple or not. It is about as far and costly to fly from Nigeria to London as from Nigeria to Johannesburg, to give an idea of the challenges some members face in getting to a temple. Nevertheless, one mission president reported that a couple walked a round-trip distance of 18 miles for their temple recommend interview. Though they had little hope of attending the temple, they were willing to go that distance to show their loyalty to the Church and obedience to the prophet. Many examples could be told of people who undergo physical hardship as well as social and lifestyle changes on behalf of the Lord.

Two Church programs in particular are helping members embrace the gospel. Because of challenges of language and education, the gospel literacy program is of much value in Africa. Also, seminary and institute are having marvelous effects on both youth and leaders. In Zimbabwe, for example, a seminary teacher who started out the year with one student had 30 students by the end of the year. Seminary and institute are perhaps the most powerful ways to inculcate gospel values and principles into young people and help them form a gospel tradition and culture that takes the best from their own cultures and adds to it.

The story of the growth of the Church in Zaire is particularly inspiring. Some time after missionary work began in that large country, missionaries had to be withdrawn for about a year and a half due to civil unrest. However, local priesthood leaders kept the members organized, and the Church continued to do missionary work and prosper and grow. Despite those interruptions and challenges, we were able to form the Kinshasa Zaire Stake in November 1996. That stake of 2,056 members has nearly 400 active Melchizedek Priesthood holders, and more than 1,600 members attended the first stake conference, most arriving by taxi, bus, or foot. Recently full-time missionaries were again withdrawn due to civil unrest, but the progress of the Church continues in Zaire.

Q: What are your thoughts on the future of the Church in Africa?

A: The gospel of Jesus Christ as restored by the Prophet Joseph Smith is the answer to Africa’s problems of tribalism, war, and poverty. We firmly believe that as Church members continue to obey the commandments and build the kingdom, conditions on this continent will improve. The Church brings in light and truth and knowledge that affects these countries far out of proportion to the actual number of Latter-day Saints. We see the hand of the Lord outstretched to preserve the people and make it possible for the gospel to be preached among them. For instance, who would have thought the apartheid situation in South Africa would change so rapidly? We cannot measure the full impact of the Johannesburg South Africa Temple on the African continent. The influence of that temple and other temples that yet may be built will have a profound impact on changing lives and blessing nations.

During the 19th century, hundreds of converts left the Cape of Good Hope to settle in Utah. The pioneering spirit was strong then, and it is strong now. The Church is one great family. Where else in the world do so many white and black missionary companions have the opportunity to live together and work together and show others that the gospel of Jesus Christ is a true brotherhood and sisterhood? Such companionships bring together the best of two worlds. Because of what they learn from one another, neither missionary in such a companionship will ever be the same again. The same can be said for the different races and cultures within the Church throughout Africa—and throughout the world—as we come together as brothers and sisters in gospel unity.

[photo] Young women of the Tema Ward, Accra Ghana Stake, with some of their leaders. (Photo by Don L. Searle.)

[photo] Newly baptized members in Madagascar. (Photo courtesy of Richard P. Lindsay.)

Members Invited to Submit Music

To encourage musical talent and bring new musical works to light, the Church annually invites members to submit original children’s songs, hymns, anthems, hymn arrangements, and instrumentals.

Submissions are reviewed for artistic merit, usefulness for home or church, general appeal, ease of performance, originality, quality of text, and compatibility of music to text. Awards in various dollar amounts are given.

Entries for the next submission must be postmarked by 31 March 1998. For more information about rules and categories, please send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Church Music Submission, 20th Floor, 50 East North Temple Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84150-5460, U.S.A.

Ricks Victory

Dominating in the discus, shot put, and hammer, the Ricks College women’s track-and-field team won its first-ever National Junior College Athletic Association championship on 17 May in Odessa, Texas. The Lady Vikings totaled 154 points and defeated the seven-time defending champions from Barton County Community College. Coach Ferron Sonderegger was named National Women’s Coach of the Year for the second year in a row.