Newsmaker: Latter-day Saint Chief Elected

For the first time, a Latter-day Saint woman has been elected chief of a North American Indian nation. Gail Sparrow of the Vancouver First Ward, Vancouver British Columbia Stake, recently won a landslide victory over five other candidates to become chief of the Musqueam Nation.

Chief Sparrow, who had served for several years in various leadership capacities in her “band” (tribe) council, decided to run for chief when many members of the band approached her with the idea. “They told me they knew I would stand for what is true and right,” she says.

A member of the Church for 30 years, Chief Sparrow says she relies on principles of the gospel to help her lead her people. “I live by the Church’s standards of excellence. I want to apply those standards to leading my community.”

As chief, she plans to emphasize economic independence, higher education, and better employment opportunities for the Musqueam people. Chief Sparrow, in partnership with Victoria Hanneman of the White Rock Ward, Surrey British Columbia Stake, owns two businesses—a consulting firm for Native American entrepreneurs and a training institute that offers courses in computers, accounting, and office skills to Native Americans.

Because the chief of the Musqueam Nation is considered a spiritual as well as political leader, Chief Sparrow also desires to emphasize spirituality among her people. Under her leadership, community meetings are now opened and closed with prayer. “The Book of Mormon promises that the Lamanites will blossom as a rose,” she says. “I feel right now that our people are ready to blossom.”

Chief Sparrow first heard about the gospel as a teenager in 1966, when Sister Marion Hanneman and Sister Rebecca Ashton of the Alaskan-Canadian Mission received special permission from their mission president to visit the Musqueam reservation. The missionaries went directly to the Musqueam chief, who happened to be Sister Sparrow’s father.

“The sisters gave my father a brief presentation about the Church,” she recounts. “He knew nothing about the Church, but he could feel that the sisters had a good spirit about them, so he allowed them to share the gospel on the reservation.”

Through the invitation of these missionaries, Sister Sparrow soon became involved in various activities with the youth of the Vancouver Stake and began hearing the missionary discussions. She was impressed by the Book of Mormon account of Jesus Christ’s appearance in America, the basic principles of the gospel, the Church’s emphasis on families, and the examples of the missionaries and other Church members, and she decided to be baptized. “This is what I wanted in my life; I saw what I wanted to be when I grew up,” she explains.

“Since then, the gospel has taught me much about building character,” says Chief Sparrow. “I attribute what I am today to my acceptance of it.”Barbara J. Jones, Salt Lake City, Utah

A Touch of Glass

When Norman Rehme performs, it is crystal clear that his audience will be entertained. One of fewer than two dozen people worldwide who play the glass harp, Brother Rehme has performed in Europe and in several U.S. states.

Brother Rehme designed and built his elegant instrument, which consists of crystal goblets tuned individually by being cut and ground to pitch and then arranged chromatically. His water-dampened fingers stroke the rims to produce ringing six-note chords or delicate single-note cadences. “The type of music played on the glass harp can touch the heart and soul,” he says.

A bank trust officer by profession, Brother Rehme has played a major role in reviving the rare art form of glass harp playing, which reached the height of its popularity in the 1700s. He is cofounder and past president of Glass Music International, a worldwide organization dedicated to the promotion of glass music, and he has organized two international glass music festivals. His “glassy” act includes audience favorites such as “I Am a Child of God,” “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Several years ago he recorded a CD of classical music and Christmas songs.

Brother Rehme, a member of the Loveland First Ward, Greeley Colorado Stake, believes it is important that Latter-day Saints be involved in the arts. “The arts, especially music, can promote the Spirit,” he says. “They help add perspective and balance to one’s life.”

When asked about his personal goal for his unusual talent, this busy father of four smiles, “To perform on Temple Square, of course!”Carol McAdoo Rehme, Loveland, Colorado

A Teacher with Heart

After her first day as a teacher at a Salt Lake City school for homeless children, Stacey Bess put her head down on her desk and sobbed. She was already planning on finding another job.

Today, 10 years later, Sister Bess not only is still teaching at the school—known as the School With No Name—but has written a widely acclaimed book about her experiences. She has received national awards and recognition for her work, and a well-known film producer has met with her to discuss a possible movie based on the book.

Before being hired at the school, Sister Bess had envisioned teaching in a more conventional setting—not in a corrugated metal shed under a viaduct. “But I stayed because I realized I was giving these kids their childhood,” she says. “In their sad little lives, it was so rare to just be a kid. I fell in love with them and couldn’t let go.”

Sister Bess inherited a legacy of compassion from her mother, who formerly worked at a juvenile detention center and often brought home frightened children during emergencies. Occasionally Sister Bess, with the support of her husband and children, has brought kids to her own home during crises. On a daily basis her classroom provides a refuge for children who must deal with realities most adults never have to face.

Last year Sister Bess received the National Rescuer of Humanity Award, along with former United States president Jimmy Carter. “It is critical that we love our children,” she stresses. People shouldn’t feel they have to create huge miracles, she says, “but I can create small ones and you can create small ones, and together we can create something grand.”

She is a member of the Holladay Third Ward, Salt Lake Holladay Stake.

[photo] Photo by Rick Egan

In the Spotlight

  • Miss USA Brook Mahealani Lee was crowned Miss Universe in the pageant held on 16 May in Miami. Her yearlong round-the-world duties include charity work and appearances on behalf of sponsors. Sister Lee credits the Church with helping her develop a strong value system. In the Church, she says, “You’re given the responsibility to back up your beliefs with the way you live your life.” She is a member of the Pearl City Second Ward, Waipahu Hawaii Stake.

  • At the Western Athletic Conference indoor track and field championships held earlier this year, Brigham Young University student Tiffany Lott earned the “world best” title for running the 55-meter hurdles in 7.30 seconds. A six-time All-American, she has also been named Athlete of the Week twice by the WAC and three times by Trackwire Magazine. She is a member of the Oak Canyon Ward, Lindon Utah Stake.