News of the Church

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New Church Documentary Film: Ensign to the Nations

A new Church-produced documentary film titled Ensign to the Nations premiered on KSL-TV in Salt Lake City during October 1997 general conference and was also broadcast via satellite to Church meetinghouses. Featuring Church members telling their stories of gospel pioneering in nations worldwide, the documentary touches on Church history from 1847 to 1997.

“It features people who took hold of the Church in their native land and spent their lives bringing it to their countrymen,” said Russ Holt, senior producer in the Church’s Audiovisual Department. “It offers a panoramic view of the Church.”

The new documentary will be made available on videocassette through Church distribution centers in the near future.

[photo] A film crew shoots a scene for Ensign to the Nations at the Hawaii Temple. (Photo by Rhett Fernsten.)

Elder Peterson Critically Injured

Soon after arriving in Salt Lake City for general conference in October, Elder Andrew W. Peterson of the Seventy, President of the Mexico North Area, was critically injured in a motorcycle-related accident near a family cabin in Parleys Canyon. At press time Elder Peterson was listed in serious but stable condition, breathing with the help of a ventilator.

A dentist by profession, Elder Peterson was born on 8 June 1947 in San Francisco, California. He married Christine Swensen on 20 June 1969 in the Salt Lake Temple, and the couple have eight children. Prior to his call to the First Quorum of the Seventy in October 1994, Elder Peterson served as a regional representative, as a stake president, as president of the Mexico Merida Mission, and as national vice president of Sigma Gamma Chi, the Latter-day Saint fraternity for university students.

Appointments

Glenn L. Goodwin of Hurricane, Utah, has been called as president of the Chicago Illinois Temple. His wife, Rosemary Badger Goodwin, will serve as temple matron.

R. Kay Holmstead of Boulder, Colorado, has been called as president of the newly created Dominican Republic Missionary Training Center. He will be accompanied by his wife, May Louise Gillison Holmstead.

Fan Hsieh of Taipei, Taiwan, has been called as president of the Taipei Taiwan Temple. His wife, Shouyi Lu, will serve as temple matron.

Spencer F. Jenson of Salt Lake City has been called as president of the Stockholm Sweden Temple. His wife, Joyce Love Jenson, will serve as temple matron.

Kensei Nagamine of Okinawa, Japan, has been called as president of the Tokyo Temple. His wife, Hiroko Taira Nagamine, will serve as temple matron.

R. Wayne Shute of Elk Ridge, Utah, has been called as president of the Apia Samoa Temple. His wife, Lorna C. Hart Shute, will serve as temple matron.

Kenneth L Zabriskie of Longwood, Florida, has been called as president of the Orlando Florida Temple. His wife, LeOra Williams Zabriskie, will serve as temple matron.

Personal Ancestral Software Compatible with Windows

The Church’s Family History Department has announced the release of Personal Ancestral File® Companion, which allows the Church’s family history computer software to be used with the Microsoft Windows operating system, including Windows-compatible printers. Among other functions, the software companion allows users to generate and print various kinds of family group records and pedigree charts and to compile indexes and tables of contents for family history volumes.

System requirements to use PAF Companion include Windows 3.1 or later, Personal Ancestral File 2.0 or later, a VGA monitor, a high-density disk drive, and four available megabytes of hard disk space. To run the software, four megabytes of RAM are recommended. The new product is available through Church distribution centers for $10 U.S. (item no. 50094).

Conversation: The Church in Western Europe

The opening of the former Soviet bloc has allowed the Church to grow and expand in Europe, which is now divided into three administrative areas. The Church’s Europe West Area is made up of Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, and Switzerland, as well as the Azores, the Madeira Islands, the Canary Islands, and Cape Verde in the Atlantic. To learn more about the progress of the Church in western Europe, the Ensign spoke with Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Seventy, President of the Europe West Area; Elder Gene R. Cook of the Seventy, First Counselor; and Elder F. Burton Howard of the Seventy, Second Counselor.

Elder Gene R. Cook Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf Elder F. Burton Howard

Elder Gene R. Cook Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf Elder F. Burton Howard

Question: Could you give us a picture of the Church’s progress and growth in western Europe?

Response: We are really feeling a groundswell of hope and anticipation for what the future will bring for the Church in Europe. The Church here has had a wonderful history and has made wonderful progress, but in a sense it has just begun. The Church is at different stages of growth in various countries. In the Germanic countries, missionaries first began proselyting and establishing units in the 1840s, and hundreds of immigrants journeyed to Utah. Today there are many multigenerational Church families in these countries. In Germany, for example, it is not uncommon to hear a member say, “My grandfather joined the Church in 1901.” The same pattern applies in the Netherlands, where the Church’s first non-English-speaking stake was organized in 1961.

As one moves south, one finds more recent growth. Before World War II, there were few members in France; the Church didn’t start to really catch hold there until the 1960s. At one point recently, of eight stake presidents in French-speaking areas, only one had grown up in the Church with parents who were members. The Church was not allowed into Italy until 1965, and formal legal status was not granted until as recently as 1993. Modern missionary work did not begin in Spain until 1968 and in Portugal until 1974. In the more mature parts of the Church the challenge is baptizing new members, while in newer areas where baptism rates are higher the challenge is retaining converts and encouraging activity.

One sign of the Church’s strength in western Europe is the progress in organizing stakes and building temples. Stakes have recently been formed in Italy, Spain, and Portugal, and the Germanic countries are now almost completely organized into stakes except for one district in northeast Germany. The temple under construction in Madrid, Spain, will unleash wonderful spiritual power in the Iberian Peninsula. The members continue to make good use of the two temples in Germany and the Swiss Temple; many plan their year to spend at least a week working full-time at the temple.

Looking statistically at the entire Europe West Area, some 170,000 members are organized into 45 stakes, 55 districts, 219 wards, and 594 branches. The area is served by 26 missions, and 7 different languages are spoken throughout the area.

Q: How do members of different nationalities in western Europe work together to build a unified church?

R: There is a realization more and more that this is not a church of nationalities but a worldwide, universal church. This is reflected in the Europe West area council, which is made up of leaders from all over Europe, including Austria, Germany, Portugal, France, and Italy. Also, the Church in western Europe is benefiting very much from the calling of Area Authority Seventies by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. For many years, American General Authorities visiting stake conferences in Europe would have their remarks translated from English into the local language. However, now an Italian Area Authority Seventy might preside over a stake conference in France, or a French brother might preside in Spain, or a Portuguese brother might preside in Germany. This is a wonderful transition in the Church that encourages Europeans to cooperate and to take care of the Church in Europe.

Recently in Germany, the government formed a committee to look into religious groups and organizations because of concern about some developments in that area. As an Area Presidency, we had the opportunity to appear before the German parliament in Bonn. It was significant that Elder Uchtdorf, a European and a German, spoke for the Church in Europe rather than an American representative. The Lord really blessed him to represent the Church well and to respond in an appropriate way to some very heavy questions. Discussion about sects and cults might sometimes reflect negatively upon our church as well as other religions, but great opportunities can arise to represent ourselves accurately and persuasively to important dignitaries and organizations. The German parliament was particularly interested in the Church’s humanitarian efforts both in Europe and worldwide. Many of the government’s representatives already had good feelings about the Church because of temple open houses and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Q: What are some other ways in which members in western Europe are striving and being blessed in the gospel?

R: For members in western Europe to embrace the gospel, they have to exclude many other things. In some countries religious traditions are woven tightly into the fabric of society. At the same time, resistance to new religions is high. Many people say they don’t believe in God or that there couldn’t be a God with all the suffering in the world. Yet we see examples of faith in those who have resisted the strong winds of negativism and received a witness of the restored gospel and have given their all for it. We see over and over again how people are willing to give their whole lives to establish the kingdom of God in their lands. One family in Portugal, for instance, joined the Church after two missionaries knocked on their door and subsequently turned down a wealthy inheritance of family vineyards because of the conflict with gospel standards.

Members in western Europe are increasingly serving their communities. One of the most impressive things is when whole units do service projects together, often in celebration of a significant local anniversary such as the founding of a branch. One mayor said in a public speech that he wished more citizens would be members of the Latter-day Saint church because of its strong values. After some Latter-day Saint youth gave community service, another mayor wrote an appreciative newspaper article pointing out that money is often donated but rarely is heartfelt time and labor contributed. Efforts in community service can reach far beyond what is immediately apparent.

We are noticing a real groundswell of attention to activation and retention. A lot of leaders in western Europe are taking the commitment upon themselves as a stake presidency or a bishopric or a quorum presidency that not one new convert will be lost on their watch. That is not an easy thing to do, but they are putting in the effort. One stake presidency in the Netherlands has been making sure they meet with every new convert to see that the men have been ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood and are working toward the Melchizedek Priesthood and that both men and women have a Church calling and have set a goal to attend the temple a year after their baptisms. Another area of success is teamwork between members and missionaries, with members going out proselyting with the missionaries and missionaries helping with activation.

Things are on the move in Europe, and we feel very encouraged. Members have been excited to have President Gordon B. Hinckley visit several places in Europe recently, and they are taking his instructions and challenges seriously. With devotion and righteousness increasing among members, it is clear that the greatest times of the Church in Europe still lie ahead.

Members Deal with Effects of Typhoons, Floods, Fire

In areas around the world recently, members have felt the effect of natural disasters and been forced to cope with the aftermath.

In Taiwan, one member was killed by a typhoon.

In all of the areas, there were members whose property was damaged or destroyed, or whose lives were disrupted, but their immediate needs were met through assistance from other members or local Church units.

A forest fire burned parts of northern California during September. In the Yuba City California Stake, five homes of members were destroyed and the home of another member family was damaged. No Church property was damaged, but one Church meetinghouse was used as a temporary shelter for 16 members. In the community, about 1,000 people were evacuated from their homes and 80 buildings were destroyed, including 20 homes.

“When the fires came, the bishop, elders quorum president, and Relief Society president were all out of town,” says Larry DeLeeuw, first counselor in the bishopric of the Loma Rica Ward, where most of the fire damage occurred. “But we opened the meetinghouse and assigned families to different classrooms. The Relief Society provided meals for two full days.”

Volunteer crews soon began salvage and cleanup work. Several member families lived with other members until permanent replacement housing could be arranged. “Members pitched in and took care of everything,” said Brother DeLeeuw.

The forest fire was the second disaster to hit the area during 1997. In January, flooding caused evacuations and damage in the same locality.

During August, Typhoon Winnie struck Taiwan and the Chinese mainland. Elder Cree-L Kofford of the Seventy, First Counselor in the Asia Area Presidency, reported that all missionaries were safe. In Taiwan one sister was killed, two member families were relocated, three other member homes were flooded, and the basement of one Church meetinghouse was flooded. The typhoon killed 24 people in Taiwan and 19 people in China and caused nearly a million people to be evacuated and damages in excess of one billion dollars.

Typhoon Winnie also reached the Philippines, where it caused extensive flooding. Elder Sheldon F. Child of the Seventy, President of the Philippines-Micronesia Area, reported that all missionaries and members were safe. As many as 250 Church members were evacuated from their homes during the flooding, but most were soon able to return. Local Church leaders provided assistance to members from local fast offerings, and the Area Presidency arranged for a contribution to the Philippines Red Cross to help victims of the flooding.

In Chile, extraordinary rains caused serious flooding. Elder Dallas N. Archibald of the Seventy, President of the Chile Area, reported that all missionaries and members were safe. One member family lost almost all their belongings when their home was flooded, and 10 other member families were temporarily evacuated from their homes. No damage to Church property was reported. One Church meetinghouse was used briefly as an emergency shelter. During the flooding 10 people were killed from flash floods and high water on the coast, and roads were blocked and communications hampered.

[photo] Allen Hetrick, Loma Rica Ward, Yuba City California Stake, surveys ashes of his home, destroyed by forest fire. (Photo by Lee Smith.)

Kiribati Flowers in the Pacific

Legend has it that when a certain immortal picked flowers from the ancestral tree and threw them into the Pacific Ocean north of Samoa, islands were formed that today are part of the Micronesian nation of Kiribati (pronounced kiribas). Now flowers of a more spiritual nature are appearing in Kiribati as the restored gospel blooms in the lives of Latter-day Saints.

The Church first made inroads to Kiribati in 1972, when a man named Waitea Abiuta contacted the Church’s Liahona High School in Tonga. Waitea was the headmaster of a school in Kiribati, and he requested that some of his graduates be allowed to pursue further education at Liahona High School. Soon a dozen students from Kiribati were enrolled at the Church school in Tonga. A few years later, six of those students returned to Kiribati as the nation’s first missionaries. Among their initial converts was Brother Abiuta, their former headmaster. Eventually Brother Abiuta’s school became the Church-owned Moroni High School, which continues to play a central role in the development of the Church in Kiribati.

Iotua Tune was one of Brother Abiuta’s students who later attended Liahona High School and joined the Church. Brother Tune’s pathway to the truth was unusually difficult. Before he went to Tonga, he received a soccer injury to his hip that caused him to spend two years in the hospital, with infection spreading throughout his body.

“I heard the doctor tell my grandmother that I was going to die,” Brother Tune recalls. “I decided I was not going to die. I got out of bed and walked a few steps for the first time in many months. I sat and offered a fervent prayer. I promised the Lord that if he would heal me, I would become a missionary.”

Brother Tune recovered, and he fulfilled his promise to the Lord. After joining the Church at Liahona High School and returning to Kiribati as a missionary, he attended Brigham Young University’s Hawaii campus and later earned a master’s degree at BYU’s Provo campus. He was offered a lucrative position in the United States, but he turned it down so he could return to his homeland and serve his people. The day he arrived back in Kiribati, he was called as the nation’s first native district president. He also served as the first native principal of Moroni High School. Today he serves as bishop of the Eita Ward and as Kiribati’s Church Educational System director.

An island chapel in Kiribati

An island chapel in Kiribati.

Kiribati’s first meetinghouse was completed in 1982, and selections from the Book of Mormon in Gilbertese were published in 1988. Some 25 years after the Church first reached Kiribati, membership in the 33-island nation totals 5,100 out of a population of about 80,000. Most members live in the Tarawa Kiribati Stake, organized on 8 August 1996 and named after the nation’s capital, which is located in the Gilbert Island chain some 1,700 miles north of Fiji. The largest atoll state in the world, Kiribati straddles the equator near the intersection with the international date line. The nation comprises 280 square miles of land but more than two million square miles of ocean. For the most part, sailing canoes have not yet been replaced by outboards, and tourists are rare. The people grow much of their own food. Kiribati is part of the Fiji Suva Mission.

From its center of strength in Tarawa, the Church is reaching out to other islands in Kiribati. Liahona graduate Herman Tikana, now a teacher at Moroni High School, was among the first missionaries to serve on Tabiteuea, a 50-mile-long island located 80 miles below the equator at the southern end of the Gilbert Islands. “Many people came to our first meeting because they heard the Mormons were rich and they thought we would give them something,” Brother Tikana recalls. “When they found out we were only going to talk, most wandered away. Some listened, though, and within a month we had a small but active branch of committed members. I still remember the homemade kerosene lamps in marmalade jars that provided light for many of our discussions.”

“You can spend your money on things, and soon they are gone. Or you can save it for something really important,” says Kaumai Tiaon of the Teaoraereke Ward. Brother Tiaon saved for more than 10 years and sacrificed much—including his job—so he could take his family to the Sydney Australia Temple to be sealed. That ordinance meant even more to Brother Tiaon after his wife died on 30 December 1996 from cancer. “When you go to the temple with your family, you are very happy,” he says.

Like flowers in a tropical climate, the members of Kiribati are growing and blossoming and carrying the seeds of the gospel to families and friends throughout the islands of Kiribati.

[photos] Photography courtesy of Joyce Findlay

[photo] Tarawa Atoll, capital of the island nation of Kiribati, seen from the air.

[photo] The presidency of the Tarawa Kiribati Stake with their wives: left, Levita Lamese, first counselor, and wife, Rose; President Atunibeia Mote and wife, Talime; Teakai Tune, second counselor, and wife, Rena.

[photo] Right: Herman Tikana.

[photo] During a visit to Tarawa, Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Barbara, take a guided tour of Moroni High School.

[photo] Young Women camping in the maneaba, the “meeting place.” Right: Moroni High School students Ritang Aram, left, and Maraema Taketau.

[photo] The Kaumai Tiaon family at the temple in Sydney, Australia. Back row, left to right: Kaumai, Kobua, Arintetaake, Tetaenikai, Temoanne, Tiaon, and Maara holding baby Tieua. Front: Tioti, Woster, and Teeta.

Joyce Findlay and her husband, DeMoine, recently completed a two-year Church Educational System mission in Kiribati. The Findlays live in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada.

Church’s Public Affairs Projects Promote Values

“I started watching your show last Sunday and was really surprised that you talked about God. Most shows never talk about him, and I think that talking about God is what makes your show so unique for me. I also think your show is great because you talk about real-life problems and solutions” (letter from Aviano, Italy).

“I’m from Virginia and am a young Christian. A lot of my friends aren’t Christian, and it’s really hard for me to witness to them sometimes. … Through the Lord I have strength—I know that. But I’d like to see what other teens go through and how they cope with the pressures from their friends. Thanks for what you’re doing” (letter from Virginia).

Whether broadcast on radio or television, programs produced by the Church Public Affairs Department are being received with gratitude and appreciation by listeners and viewers and are respected as quality values-based offerings by programmers.

“People are bombarded with negative messages in society,” explained Arnold Augustin, director of media relations in the department. “There are so many negative aspects affecting the family and individuals, and many of those, unfortunately, negative things are available through the media. The Church continues to offer values-based programming that focuses on positive aspects of our lives, our communities, and our society.

Brother Augustin quoted President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who said, “I have long believed that the study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than talking about behavior will improve behavior” (“Washed Clean,” Ensign, May 1997, 9). Brother Augustin added, “That’s what we do, try to take a gospel principle and teach it through a program or spot.”

In the past, the Church has produced two public-affairs television series, Center Street and Family Times, which focus on contemporary topics, and a variety of public-affairs radio programming.

Center Street showcases today’s teenagers who are searching to find themselves in a complex world,” said Bruce Olsen, managing director of the department. The show helps teenagers realize that they’re not alone and that they can make wise choices and responsible decisions, he said. The series has finished production, and 75 shows are available for broadcasting.

“To date, Center Street is on 76 stations in the U.S., in addition to the Odyssey cable channel,” said Brother Augustin. “That’s an estimated potential viewing audience of more than 18 million. It’s also broadcast on the Armed Forces Television Service, which has another two million viewers. Family Times, which is still relatively new, is broadcast on 23 stations, but that number is growing steadily.”

Family Times offers simple, practical tips on a wide variety of daily family challenges such as family communications, finances, and unity, explained William S. Evans, assistant executive producer of the series. “At Family Times we know life’s challenges never go away. We want to be part of the solution, not the problem,” he said.

The Church’s radio spots offer values-based messages, many of them targeting teens and spreading antitobacco and antialcohol messages.

“Through the years the Church’s programs have won a variety of awards and honors,” Brother Augustin observed. “The Church has always made gospel-centered principles and the quality of the production the priorities in these projects.”

The Church’s media projects are produced by the Church Public Affairs Department as well as the Church Missionary Department. Missionary Department spots are direct gospel messages and Home Front spots, Brother Augustin explained, while the Public Affairs Department spots are oriented toward public affairs or contemporary issues.

“We focus on positive values that are shared by people everywhere,” he said. “And we apply those values to real-life situations and try to provide realistic, gospel-based solutions.”

[photo] Center Street, a Church-produced program aimed at teens, features hosts Carl Sokia, back left, Abe Mills, Boni Newell, Ben Ellis, front center, and Ivey Lloyd.

Comment

Same-Gender Attraction

As an active member I have struggled with same-sex attraction for many years. I was delighted to see this topic addressed in recent articles (“Same-Gender Attraction,” Oct. 1995; “Becoming Whole Again,” Jan. 1997; “When Our Children Go Astray,” Feb. 1997). The articles show a sensitivity and compassion for those of us who face this challenge. I hope articles such as these will educate members and help them better understand these tremendous trials.

I am fortunate to have had sensitive, loving friends in the Church, as well as priesthood leaders who have counseled with and assisted me over the years. I was also blessed to work with a competent, caring counselor at LDS Social Services.

One of the most helpful things for me as I’ve faced this ordeal has been to know that there are other members of the Church who struggle with this issue who remain faithful and obedient.

I remain active and faithful in the Church. I meet with my bishop and priesthood leaders and request blessings when needed. I still face struggles on occasion, but overall I am happy and content with my life. I would like for others in the midst of these struggles to know that peace is available through Jesus Christ.

Name Withheld

Lesson Lifesavers

Our family recently moved. Before we lived near a temple and had two Latter-day Saint bookstores close by. Our new area has neither, and I’ve missed the convenience.

Your pictures and inspirational articles have been a lifesaver for more than one lesson.

We cut out pictures for use as visual aids, as well as around the house, and the articles provide support and encouragement.

Susan Farnsworth Canton, Michigan

Starting Family History

“Getting Started with Family History” (February 1997) was a great inspiration for me to continue searching my family history.

I am a convert and thought my task of family history would be overwhelming. I didn’t even know where to start. Because of my family’s feelings about the Church, I was unable to get any information about any family beyond my own grandparents.

Eventually I found a great-aunt who was willing to give me my great-grandfather’s name. I went to the new family history center located in our meetinghouse, and with the help of workers there I was able to locate more information on my family.

Imagine my joy when I found that my great-great-grandfather had been baptized; his endowment work had even been performed. I found out that my ancestors came from Holland nine generations ago and that some of my ancestors made that long journey to Utah in the 1800s. What an exciting discovery to know that I am not alone and that I have family who are members of the Church.

Michelle Ouderkirk Orton Grandview, Washington

“Pioneering in the Andes”

My heartfelt thanks for “Pioneering in the Andes” (January 1997). As a missionary in the Andes Mission from 1965 to 1967, I prepared much of the music for the meetings President Roberto Vidal attended. He was a cultured, dignified, and articulate man whose knowledge of administration allowed the Church in Lima to function efficiently. There wasn’t a member or missionary in Peru who didn’t love and respect him.

All of us were pioneers in those early days of the Church in the Andean Region; we just didn’t realize it. There wasn’t anything we didn’t think we couldn’t do. We had great and inspiring pioneer leadership.

When Ecuador was opened, Elders Spencer W. Kimball and Franklin D. Richards, accompanied by a handful of missionaries and President Avril Jesperson, our mission president, climbed a hill in the center of Quito. Elder Kimball dedicated the land for the preaching of the gospel, and the General Authorities returned to Lima, leaving behind the elders to find places to live and places to worship. There was little communication with Lima; distances were too far and communication too unreliable. We received one package of supplies a month from Lima by private carrier. If we needed help, Elder Robert E. Wells (then president of Citibank of New York in Quito) provided it. Other than that, we took care of ourselves, did our work, and the Lord took care of us.

Thank you for highlighting this wonderful place and some truly great people.

Ronald Horton Madrid, Spain