News of the Church


Ground Broken for Assembly Building

“We break the earth this day as our forebears first broke the earth with their plows in this valley 150 years ago,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley in his dedicatory prayer at a groundbreaking ceremony held 24 July 1997 on the future site of the Church’s new assembly building. Announced by President Hinckley during the April 1996 general conference, the assembly building will seat 21,000 people, more than three times the capacity of the Tabernacle. Designed to be built in harmony with the slope of the block north of Temple Square, the building is expected to be completed in time for general conference in April 2000.

First Presidency

Right to left: Presidents James E. Faust, Gordon B. Hinckley, and Thomas S. Monson of the First Presidency, joined by government leaders, break ground at the site of the Church’s new assembly building. (Photo by Tamra Hamblin.)

“We don’t know yet what to call it,” President Hinckley remarked at the groundbreaking. “But we will get a name, and that name will come to be known across the world by our people not only in this land but in distant lands of the earth. … We have never seen anything like it in the history of the Church, and I don’t suppose there will be any need for anything larger in the years that follow us.”

The new assembly building(click to view larger)

The new building will feature a large auditorium, a smaller theater, underground parking, and other amenities. (Visuals courtesy of the Church Public Affairs Department.)

The new assembly building will be used for general conferences, religious pageants and theatrical productions, other Church conferences, and appropriate cultural performances and events. While the historic Tabernacle on Temple Square will continue to serve as the primary venue for Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcasts, recordings, and other undertakings, the new assembly building will house a pipe organ for musical performances. With three levels of seats arranged in a semicircle, the main hall will feature a stage with a 400-seat choir section and 144 seats for leaders. The assembly building will also include a 1,000-seat theater, underground parking, a 120-foot bell tower, and terraced roof landscaping.

An artist’s view of the new assembly building

An artist’s view of the new assembly building. (Visuals courtesy of the Church Public Affairs Department.)

Among those also participating in the ceremony were President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency; President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency; members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; members of the Seventy; and others.

“I know that the idea has been in the mind of President Gordon B. Hinckley for a number of years,” said President Monson at the ceremony. “I envision pageants. I envision festivals. I envision individuals from far and near performing for a very large audience.”

The assembly building’s location

A model illustrates the assembly building’s location on the block north of Temple Square. (Visuals courtesy of the Church Public Affairs Department.)

Discussing the purposes of the new assembly building, President Faust spoke of Church leaders’ concern for members who come to general conference “from far corners of the earth without a realistic expectation of being able to worship together and be [with] the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve, and other General Authorities of the Church.”

In his remarks, President Hinckley said: “I hope we will be prudent and wise and careful and that the outcome of all this will be a structure of which we can be proud and of which I believe our Heavenly Father will be proud. His name will be spoken frequently within this hall. His name will be worshiped, as will the name of His Beloved Son, our Savior and our Redeemer. And the voices which speak in this hall, this enlarged hall, will be carried across the world to the nations of the earth as this Church goes on and continues to grow from its present membership of 10 million, scattered in more than 160 nations, to numbers beyond our ability to calculate and to places beyond our ability to guess at this time.”

Celebrating the Sesquicentennial

Throughout the Church, numerous dedications, reenactments, and other events took place during the months, weeks, and days leading up to the 150th anniversary of the arrival of pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley.

Early Nebraska Settlement Memorialized

In August 1846 about 2,500 pioneers settled Cutler’s Park, a camp in Nebraska that served as Church headquarters for a few months until the pioneers moved to higher ground and formed the settlement known as Winter Quarters. To memorialize the short-lived Cutler’s Park settlement, a park with trees, flowers, and a monument was opened in April 1997. President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, dedicated the site on 14 June.

Asking why Church members make sacrifices for the gospel’s sake, President Packer said, “The answer is simply because it’s true. … The invitation was open, as it is today. If you don’t believe the message that the Prophet gave, go ask for yourself, just as he did.”

Las Vegas Pioneer Plaque Dedicated

President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, gave remarks at the 21 June dedication of a plaque honoring Church pioneers involved in the early settlement of Las Vegas, Nevada.

President Brigham Young sent 30 missionaries in 1855 to the location that later became the city of Las Vegas. They built a fort, which was vacated in 1857, and today the remains of the fort are a state landmark. “While in the early days the fort marked the Church’s presence in Las Vegas, the Las Vegas temple symbolizes the rise of the Church in present-day Nevada,” President Faust said.

Mormon Battalion Reenactment in Los Angeles

On 4 July 1847, members of the Mormon Battalion took part in the first U.S. Independence Day celebration held in what is today the city of Los Angeles, California. On that day battalion members dedicated Fort Moore, which they had built as one of their final acts of service before their release later in July.

On 4 July 1997, 150 years later, Church members from several southern California stakes commemorated those historic events with a celebration on the downtown Los Angeles site where Fort Moore once stood and where a 400-foot-long, 45-foot-high memorial wall now stands, built by the city in 1958 as a tribute to the battalion and other California pioneers. The celebration included some 80 men marching in 1847-style military uniforms, the raising of a 28-star American flag, the firing of a 13-gun salute and of an authentic 19th-century cannon, a brass band performing songs played at the 1847 celebration, and folk dancing by members of local Spanish-speaking stakes.

Earlier in the year, the California State Assembly passed a resolution stating: “California has been immeasurably enriched since its earliest days … by the historical events involving members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Mormon Battalion. [The assembly] takes great pleasure in honoring the Mormon Battalion and the Church for their loyalty to the United States, for their participation in the early development of the West and California, and for their honorable place in California history.”

Sculptures Dedicated in Iowa and Utah

Bronze copies of artist Bill Hill’s sculpture titled The Family, an Everlasting Heritage were dedicated in Mendon, Utah, and Council Bluffs, Iowa, on 12 July. The sculpture shows a pioneer father, mother, and daughter standing outdoors in prayer.

In Mendon, Utah, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicated the town’s new three-acre Pioneer Park, of which Brother Hill’s sculpture is a centerpiece. Elder Ballard also visited the nearby gravesite of Captain James G. Willie, who led the beleaguered Willie Handcart Company.

During the same day, another copy of Brother Hill’s sculpture was dedicated by a state government official on the grounds of the restored Kanesville Tabernacle in Council Bluffs, Iowa. A sculpture by Bob Keiser titled Henry W. Miller: Pioneer Entrepreneur was also dedicated at the same time. Henry Miller was the founder of Miller’s Hollow, later renamed Kanesville and finally Council Bluffs. In 1847 Brother Miller directed the building of the Kanesville Tabernacle, where Brigham Young was sustained as President of the Church.

First Salt Lake Valley Encampment Dedicated

On 22 July Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicated a park located at 1700 South and 500 East in Salt Lake City, near where the pioneers made their first camp in the Salt Lake Valley 150 years ago. Constructed as part of sesquicentennial celebrations by members of the Salt Lake Emigration and Salt Lake Wells Stakes, the site was named First Encampment Park and presented as a gift to Salt Lake City.

President Hinckley Greets Wagon Train

“To every one of you who has made this long and difficult journey, we extend our sincere thanks,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley to members of the 1997 Mormon Trail wagon train at a welcome ceremony held on 22 July at This Is the Place State Park at the base of Emigration Canyon in Salt Lake City (see also “Letting the World Know,” page 54). “You have done something really extraordinary. You have caught the imagination of all of us.”

A large crowd of about 50,000 people was on hand to witness the arrival of the reenactment pioneer company, which left Omaha, Nebraska, on 21 April and employed pioneer means and routes to travel more than 1,000 miles across the plains to Salt Lake City.

“I am honored to salute you on this stirring reenactment of the Mormons’ arduous journey in search of religious freedom,” wrote U.S. president Bill Clinton to those participating in the trek. “The story of the Mormon pioneers is in many ways the story of America. It is the story of everyone who has ever traveled to our shores seeking freedom to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience. And it is the story of a people who know that, with hard work and faith in God, they can accomplish anything.”

Handcart Presented to President Hinckley

A handcart built in Siberia and pulled through 17 cities in Russia and Ukraine was presented to President Hinckley on 23 July in the Church Office Building lobby in Salt Lake City.

“It’s a very sobering thing,” said President Hinckley, “to realize that this handcart first began to roll in Siberia last February, and all the places it’s been and all the people who have seen it. Finally, after this long journey, it has come to its stop in the valley of the mountains, the Zion of which converts … abroad dreamed throughout their lives in the early years of the Church.”

Filled with 3,000 letters of greeting and faith from Church members in Russia and Ukraine as well as 30 handmade dolls dressed in colorful regional costumes, the cart traveled from city to city via train and was ultimately shipped to Utah, where it joined the wagon train reenactment on the last part of its trek into the Salt Lake Valley. The handcart has been added to the permanent collection of the Museum of Church History and Art.

Pioneer of Progress Award

President Hinckley was among those presented with a Pioneer of Progress Award at the 1997 Pioneer Luncheon held 23 July in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City. He was honored for his spiritual leadership and for his efforts related to education, health services, and business development.

“We have honored the pioneers,” President Hinckley remarked at the luncheon. “When they came here in 1847, they were all of one faith. Since then we have become a great diverse community of many faiths, of many languages, of many cultures working together to build this great state and a great community. May we go forward with appreciation and respect.”

Salt Lake City Sesquicentennial Celebration

From This Is the Place State Park, the Mormon Trail wagon train journeyed through the streets of Salt Lake City on 23 July to Washington Square, where pioneer plows broke the first ground in the valley and where the City and County Building now stands. There the modern-day pioneers were welcomed by President Gordon B. Hinckley, Utah governor Michael O. Leavitt, and Salt Lake mayor Deedee Corradini. The celebration included a giant 150th birthday cake designed as a replica of Salt Lake City.

“I want to remind you that the ground on which you stand is ground with history,” said President Hinckley. “Orson Pratt stood on this ground and dedicated it for all who would come here through the subsequent years.”

Pioneer Day Sunrise Service

Remarks prepared by Elder Alexander B. Morrison of the Seventy were read by Elder O. Brent Black, an Area Authority Seventy, at the Pioneer Day Sunrise Service held at 7:00 A.M. on 24 July in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Elder Morrison was unable to attend because of knee surgery. Elder Morrison’s remarks centered around the challenges faced by oceangoing pioneers and included an audiovisual presentation about the Martin and Willie Handcart Companies.

“Obedience and faith coupled with courage and perseverance combine to make a mighty people,” Elder Morrison wrote. “How great is our debt to the sacrifice of those who have gone before us. They learned to know God on their journeys. Their heritage belongs to us all.”

Days of ’47 Parade

Acting as grand marshals of Salt Lake City’s Days of ’47 Parade this year were Presidents Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson, and James E. Faust of the First Presidency. Held continuously since 1849 except for an interruption during World War II, the parade is one of the largest in the United States. With the theme of “Faith in Every Footstep,” this year’s parade featured 61 floats, 20 bands, 8 antique vehicle units, and 20 horse entries. The last entry was made up of 30 wagons, 7 handcarts, and about 50 members of the 1997 Mormon Trail wagon train, which had arrived in the valley on 22 July after their three-month trek.

New Orleans Honors Mormon Immigrants

For about 18,000 Latter-day Saint pioneers in the 19th century, New Orleans, Louisiana, was the U.S. starting point of the trek to the Salt Lake Valley. To celebrate those pioneers, city officials of New Orleans declared 24 July 1997 Mormon Immigrant Day and made President Gordon B. Hinckley an honorary citizen of the city.

“The hospitality offered to them in this city was most welcomed by the sea-weary travelers and provided a much-needed measure of comfort and rest before they continued their journey up the Mississippi River and, eventually, west to the Rocky Mountains of Utah,” wrote President Hinckley in a letter which was read during a commemoration ceremony held in New Orleans.

Sesquicentennial Spectacular

Brigham Young University’s 65,000-seat Cougar Stadium in Provo, Utah, was filled to capacity two nights in a row for the Church’s “Faith in Every Footstep” pioneer sesquicentennial production, held 24 and 25 July. The 90-minute celebration of music, song, dance, and pageantry was also broadcast on KBYU and carried on the Church satellite system.

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, chairman of the Pioneer Sesquicentennial Committee, welcomed the audience, and President Gordon B. Hinckley made brief remarks. “We are a blessed people,” President Hinckley said. “What a wonderful thing it is to have a great legacy, to have behind us men and women of faith and courage and determination and vision and understanding and industry and of prayer and hard work. They were our forebears. They have passed to us the baton to carry on in the same spirit.”

Two years in development, the production featured a 500-foot-long replica of the Mormon Trail, 4 stages, 4 water fountains, 130 automated light fixtures, 32 speaker clusters around the field, and dramatic scenic elements. Involved in the performances were 14 handcarts, 2,500 costumes, 3,000 balloons, 600 flags, 4 campfires, 4 colorful maypoles, and 200 confetti cannons. The evening production was preceded both days by the Pioneer Rendezvous, a five-hour fair that featured exhibits, demonstrations, games, and entertainment.

Native American Conference

A one-day conference for Native Americans was held on 25 July in Provo, Utah. Activities for children included stories, games, and songs, and workshops for adults and youth focused on self-esteem, leadership, Native American genealogy, and Native American pioneers. Between 400 and 500 people attended, representing tribes from across the United States.

Attending the conference were the three General Authorities on the Pioneer Sesquicentennial Committee: Elders M. Russell Ballard and Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Elder Joe J. Christensen of the Presidency of the Seventy.

“The Church is moving forward among the children of our Father at a pace beyond anything you can comprehend,” said Elder Ballard in his remarks. “You would not believe what has happened in Latin America. You would be overwhelmed if you had the opportunity to shake hands with Lamanite stake presidents and bishops who have come out of the world and embraced the gospel. In a very short period of time, they have taken the responsibility to magnify their calling and do what the Lord asked them to do.”

Ensign Peak Garden Dedicated

President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the new Ensign Peak Memorial Garden on 26 July at the base of Ensign Peak, the vantage point from which Brigham Young and others surveyed the broad vista below.

“This has been a most remarkable season, this great sesquicentennial celebration,” President Hinckley said. “I don’t know that we’ve ever had anything quite equal to it in all of the history of the Church.”

The dedication ceremony included addresses by other Church and government leaders and music performed by a pioneer-style brass band. At one point a parade of 200 flag bearers ascended Ensign Peak carrying the flags of the world’s nations while the audience sang “High on the Mountain Top” (Hymns, no. 5). As President Hinckley cut the ribbon at the entrance of the garden, colorful balloons were released.

[photo] Soldiers dressed in 1847-style uniforms helped commemorate the 150th anniversary of Mormon Battalion activities in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Barbara J. Jones.)

[photo] Some 50,000 people greeted the 1997 Mormon Trail wagon train at This Is the Place State Park in Salt Lake City. (Photo by Craig Dimond.)

[photo] At the Days of ’47 Parade, the Salt Lake Temple is visible behind a float depicting temples. (Photo by Tamra Hamblin.)

[photo] A scene from the Church’s Sesquicentennial Spectacular held in BYU’s Cougar Stadium. (Photo by Jed Clark.)

Worldwide Day of Service

As part of the celebration of the pioneer sesquicentennial, the First Presidency declared 19 July 1997 as Worldwide Pioneer Heritage Service Day. Following are some representative reports from among thousands of Latter-day Saint service projects around the world.

Australia

More than 80 families from the Baulkham Hills Stake in New South Wales turned up to help plant 2,000 trees in a community reserve. Members of English, Tongan, Samoan, and Vietnamese units in the Sydney Parramatta stake gathered for a hymn and a prayer and then separated to various projects that included planting trees, clearing vegetation, and assisting with land regeneration. Elsewhere in Parramatta, members of other units cleaned up the historic All Saints Church of England Cemetery.

Germany

Armed with shovels, brooms, rakes, and refuse containers, members of several Stuttgart wards and branches pulled on their gloves and cleaned up city parks, marketplaces, parking lots, and other public areas. “It’s not too often something is done like this nowadays,” said the mayor of Weilemdorf. Stake high councilor Sigfried Bartel commented, “I could feel the spirit of service of the millions of other members that are working together today.”

Hungary

When members of the Érd Branch gathered to refurbish and paint the interior of a local elementary school, they didn’t anticipate the project would take more than a day—but they unanimously agreed to return and finish the job, more than doubling their original goal of 150 service hours.

On the evening of 19 July, the branch held an open house with displays about the Book of Mormon, the Restoration, the 1847 pioneer trek, and the recent history of the Church in eastern Europe. Members wearing name tags bearing the sesquicentennial logo greeted visitors, and during a two-hour program members presented musical numbers and showed a video about the 1847 pioneer journey.

“I’ve seen many religious presentations before, but this was by far the best,” said a local television reporter to branch president Andrew Byrne. “The commitment of your members is amazing.”

Italy

Members of the Sardinia district donated a total of 613 service hours. In the Cagliari Branch, members helped nuns of the Order of Mother Teresa of Calcutta fix and serve food to needy people. “We felt in high cooperation with members of other faiths who were working with us in preparing the hall for receiving the needy people and cleaning it up at the end,” said branch president Piero Espis.

In the Milan mission’s Como district, about 80 members cleaned a public garden near Como Lake, the land around two famous monuments, and the garden and park of a large villa used for meetings and conferences. Elsewhere in the Milan area, members picked up garbage, removed weeds, and planted trees in one of Milan’s largest parks, and members also weeded and cleaned a cemetery.

In the Trieste Branch, Padova mission, about 50 members spent the day cleaning rooms and beautifying gardens at a museum located on the site of an old Nazi extermination camp, where some 5,000 Italian Jews, soldiers, political prisoners, and others died between 1943 and 1945. Members in Verona cleaned up an abandoned park adjacent to an ancient gate through which people used to enter the fortified city, and later that afternoon other members worked on the house of a disabled woman.

Korea

An estimated 4,000 members throughout Korea contributed more than 12,000 hours of service. In harmony with Korea’s proclaimed year of cultural heritage, many of the service projects revolved around cleaning up cultural relics. Members of the Pusan Korea Stake cleaned up litter on the climb to the Dong Rae mountain fortress. Seoul Korea Stake members labored at the famous Kyoung Bok Palace, and Seoul West Korea Stake members worked at the Tombs of Sa-Yook-Shin, which honor six martyrs.

“While I was participating in community service, I was able to greet many neighbors,” said Brother Kim Sang-Hyun of the Tae Gu Korea Stake. “I found out that there are many people who need our helping hands. Each of us, in spite of hot weather, found joy through unselfish service to our community and neighbors.”

Mexico

About 3,000 members from 10 stakes in Monterrey cut grass, pruned trees and shrubs, swept streets, gathered garbage, and painted benches and curbs in a 35-acre park. Families began arriving for the project before 8:00 A.M. Many were wearing blue, white, or grey T-shirts emblazoned with the “Faith in Every Footstep” emblem.

Netherlands

Members of the Zoetermeer Ward, The Hague stake, participated in three service activities. At a farm where city children visit to learn about cows, goats, sheep, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, donkeys, and other animals, members fixed fences, raked fields, and laid tiles underneath a chicken run to keep out rats in wintertime. At a nursing home, members visited with residents, played games with them, and took them for walks. Members also cleaned up a public area near some shops.

“We were very much aware of being part of a wave of charity, service, and sacrifice that swept the world that day,” said Marieke Moolenburgh, a ward public affairs representative. “When we started the day with a short meeting at the chapel, we realized that members in Japan were just about to round up their day’s work. When we assembled to end the day at a stake barbecue, we were aware that members in Brazil were just starting their day of service.”

Portugal

Brethren of the Campanha Branch gave service at the International Medical Association, where they separated X-ray plates and bundled them for recycling. The association director invited them to return every month, if possible, to keep up with the X-ray plates, and the brethren agreed. “It was an opportunity for my testimony to grow and at the same time a stimulus for me to work in favor of others,” said Manuel Carvalho, a branch member. Sisters of the branch spent the day helping care for women at a home for the aged. “It was a wonderful experience to serve the Lord and help the kind ladies of this home,” said branch Relief Society president Maria Augusta. After their service, the brethren and sisters met back at the branch to share testimonies.

Spain

Members of the Madrid stake’s Alcala de Henares Ward picked up trash on the trails and hillsides of a nature park near the historic 16th-century town of Alcala de Henares. Elsewhere in the stake, the Madrid Second Ward and Madrid Fourth Branch cleaned graffiti from park benches.

On a bare, rolling hillside overlooking a small salt lake, 80 members of the Zaragoza district planted 1,000 pine trees and other plants provided by the government. When the project was completed, they released balloons that carried cards bearing information about the project.

Russia

In northeast Moscow, members of the Pokrovsky Branch gathered at a nearby orphanage to paint a playground that had not been painted in years. Using donated blue, orange, yellow, green, and red paint, members painted swings, slides, jungle gyms, and make-believe animals.

At the Park of Friendship, nestled between the Moscow River and a subway line, members of the Severo-Zamoskvoretsky Branch joined groundskeepers in raking brush, moving and burying concrete blocks, and loosening soil around a large stand of trees.

“They were very surprised,” said branch Relief Society president Svetlana Babkina. “They’ve never had anyone come to them wanting to help before. I don’t think they quite understood what we wanted until we came—and that was part of the surprise, that we actually came and worked.”

United States

Members of the New Orleans Louisiana Stake donated quilts to a battered-women’s shelter and washed more than 1,000 headstones in the Chalmette National Cemetery. Children from the stake visited a nursing home, where they presented a program and then videotaped interviews with residents about what their childhoods were like. “We hope the project will help the children feel a connection to and reverence for the past,” said stake Primary president Marie Wallis.

In the Charlotte North Carolina Central Stake, members of the Lake Norman Ward restored the Rosenwald School in Huntersville. They cleared brush, shrubs, and trash and then bleached, caulked, and painted the four-room schoolhouse. At one point a beekeeper had to be brought in to relocate bees that had made their home inside a wall of the building. “The feeling of community and of service was incredible,” said Bishop Rick Walker. “This is one of the highlights of my life.”

Members in Fremont, California, donated about 1,500 hours working in the Ohlones Indian Cemetery. Their efforts included removing weeds, cutting down dead trees, redoing signs, and planting trees. The ancient graveyard was used for centuries before Spaniards and Anglo-Americans came in contact with the California Indians.

[photo] Members cleaned up grave sites in Parramatta, a suburb of Sydney, Australia.

[photo] Public areas were spruced up in Stuttgart, Germany.

[photo] Anyang Korea Stake members cleaned up a river area.

[photo] Brethren in Portugal’s Campanha Branch sorted and bundled X-ray plates for recycling.

Members and Church Assist Following Disasters

Natural disasters have affected members around the world and given many the opportunity to serve within their communities. In most instances, members assisted those in their stake, ward, or branch boundaries and then offered assistance through relief organizations already organized in the area.

Storms in the Midwestern United States

Thunderstorms and tornadoes struck parts of Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio on 3 July. At least 19 people were killed, and property damage was estimated in the millions, with the heaviest damage in the Detroit area.

“Members were relatively unaffected,” said John P. Livingstone, president of the Detroit Michigan Mission. “There were perhaps 4 areas with major storm damage, Detroit being the worst. There were around 20 families that helped with the cleanup efforts, but mostly it was the missionaries. In Detroit’s inner city, when the people saw the missionaries coming to help, they got so excited. It seemed like the whole area became invigorated.”

Earthquake and Flooding in Venezuela

An earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale struck Venezuela on 9 July. At least 67 people were killed, most of whom were children in two schools that collapsed during the earthquake. Damage was the heaviest near Cariaco, on the Caribbean coast.

“Two member children were killed in Cumaná,” said Timothy Nicolaysen, president of the Venezuela Caracas Mission. “The little twin girls were in their apartment building when the earthquake caused the building to collapse.

“Rafael Piño, president of the Caracas stake, coordinated relief efforts with several stakes under the direction of the Area Presidency. Food and clothing was collected for those in need. The relief effort started out for the earthquake victims, but then, two days later, we had major flooding in Caracas, so food and clothes also went to those affected by flooding.”

Flooding in Europe

Recent flooding in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Germany is perhaps the most extensive in recorded history. More than 100 people were reported killed and several thousand affected by the damage. Crops were ruined, houses were inundated, and roads, bridges, and utilities were out. The flooding began towards the end of July.

At the Europe East Area Presidency’s request, the Presiding Bishopric approved Church humanitarian relief for Poland and the Czech Republic to acquire disinfectants and emergency drugs to prevent flood-related sickness.

“We had members who were flooded out of their homes, but the homes were not destroyed. Most were able to move back within a week,” said Edwin B. Morrell, president of the Czech Prague Mission.

“Members are helping the cleanup efforts through community programs. Missionaries are spending many hours serving those in need. They help the Red Cross. They clean up basements, anything to assist others.”

Fort Collins, Colorado

On Monday, 28 July, extensive flooding killed at least four people and caused damages estimated in the millions. Minor water damage was reported in two Church meetinghouses.

“Around 20 basements of members’ homes were damaged,” said Richard Dee Park, first counselor in the Fort Collins Colorado Stake. “We had two families whose trailers were completely destroyed. One of those families had to wait on top of their trailer for rescue workers.

“The members are helping out in a twofold process. They are assisting members of the stake and also working with community agencies to offer service on a long-term basis.”

Church Aid to North Korea

“We were asked by the First Presidency to assess the current situation in order to determine the nature of further assistance in the northern provinces of [North Korea], where food is in short supply, rationing has been instituted, and there is a potential for famine,” said Elder David E. Sorensen of the Seventy. Elder Sorensen was accompanied on a recent tour of North Korea by Elder Rex D. Pinegar of the Seventy.

From 1995 to the present, the Church has contributed humanitarian aid to the needy people of North Korea through the Red Cross and other agencies. This aid has included 2,600 tons of flour, powdered milk, cooking oil, blankets, and first-aid supplies.

“The country has been mobilized to combat the food shortages, with military personnel, office workers, schoolchildren, and the general populace assisting the farmers in planting needed crops,” Elder Sorensen said. He also noted that Brent Chugg of Latter-day Saint Charities presented and helped plant 500 apple trees donated by the Church. Technical assistance to assess and prevent further soil erosion was provided by Church representative Garry Flake.

“It appeared to us during our tour that relief agencies were distributing aid in an efficient, satisfactory manner,” Elder Sorensen said. “These humanitarian efforts will bless the lives of those suffering in North Korea.”

[photo] Members and missionaries help clean up after storms in the Detroit area. (Photo by Greg Baker.)

Iceland’s President Speaks to Members

Iceland president Olafur Ragnar Grimsson and his wife, Gudrun Katrin Thorbergsdottir, joined Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Young Women general president Janette Hales Beckham as speakers at the Pioneer Heritage Fireside on 27 July in Spanish Fork, Utah, about 50 miles south of Salt Lake City. Spanish Fork has Icelandic ancestry going back to the 1800s, when 80 families immigrated to Utah, making Spanish Fork the oldest Icelandic community in the U.S. Lillian Shepherd, president of the Icelandic Association of Utah, conducted the meeting; Icelandic secretary general and ambassador Kornelius Sigmundsson, and J. Brent Haymond, a member of the Utah House of Representatives and vice consul to Iceland, also spoke.

President Grimsson commemorated the Latter-day Saints who came from Iceland in 1854 to settle the area. He thanked the descendants of those pioneers for keeping their “loyalty to the people who in the previous century endured difficult journeys from the valleys of Iceland to their new homes in Utah.” He went on to “pay tribute to those [early] pioneers and … salute all their families who for so long have been true to the Icelandic tradition.”

Elder Wirthlin joined President Grimsson in honoring the Icelandic Latter-day Saints. Those pioneers were part of thousands who helped establish the Church in Utah and helped Church growth throughout the world, said Elder Wirthlin.

President Beckham, whose Icelandic grandmother lived in Spanish Fork, said, “Our Icelandic ancestors gave us values and strength of character that are so much needed today.”

The fireside was one of many activities President Grimsson and his wife participated in during the week of 23–29 July.

[photo] Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Elisa (left), pose with Iceland president Olafur Ragnar Grimsson and his wife, Gudrun Katrin Thorbergsdottir.