Church Membership Reaches 10 Million
During the first week of November 1997, the Church reached 10 million in membership. Church statisticians say the estimate is based on reports from local units around the world and recent growth trends. Currently the Church grows annually at an average rate of 3.8 percent; in the United States and Canada, the rate is about 2 percent, while in all other areas of the world the combined growth rate is 5.6 percent.
From the Church’s formal organization in western New York in 1830, it was 117 years before membership reached the million mark in 1947. The latest million have been added in just the past three years. Total Church membership reached the nine-million mark in 1994 and the eight-million mark in 1991. During 1996, the most recent year for which complete statistics are available, 321,385 converts and 81,017 eight-year-olds were baptized worldwide.
Pacific Members and Heads of State Welcome President Hinckley
President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke to about 52,000 members in Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, and French Polynesia who were gathered in more than 10 meetings during a 10–17 October 1997 trip to the Pacific. He also met with four heads of state of the five nations or territories he visited. In addition to these activities, he delivered the keynote address at the Pioneers in the Pacific conference in Laie, Hawaii. He was accompanied by his wife, Marjorie; Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Elisa; and Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone of the Seventy, President of the Pacific Area, and his wife, Merlene.
Pioneers in the Pacific
President Hinckley began his trip activities on 10 October by offering remarks and a dedicatory prayer at the unveiling of a statue of President George Q. Cannon (1827–1901), a counselor in the First Presidency, and Jonathan Napela, a Hawaiian judge. These pioneers of the Church in Hawaii together translated the Book of Mormon into Hawaiian. The statue was sculpted by Viliami Toluta’u and is located on the BYU—Hawaii Campus.
“In the turbulent and difficult times of the establishment of the work in these islands,” President Hinckley said, “these two men stood strong and tall. Their coming together was an inspired thing. There isn’t any doubt in my mind that the Lord brought them together for His great eternal purposes.”
Recalling that George Q. Cannon came to Hawaii with several other young missionaries, President Hinckley said: “Most of the others went home discouraged. But George Q. Cannon said, ‘I came here to do the Lord’s work, and I will not leave it until I have completed my mission.’ And in the course of that mission, he met this wonderful Hawaiian native, a man of tremendous capacity and great strength who proved to have courage and vision and faith.”
The next day, after enjoying a musical production performed by more than 300 local children in Laie, Hawaii, President Hinckley addressed some 8,000 listeners on the final day of the Pioneers in the Pacific conference (see story on page 77). He spoke of the commitment of the early Hawaiian pioneers, a people “who had nothing, who lived off the land as it were. … They were poor, but they were faithful.” President Hinckley rejoiced to see their progeny be able to celebrate their forebears’ early efforts on this “very significant occasion when you honor in your way this great pioneer year.”
President Hinckley began Sunday, 12 October, by speaking to about 4,000 members on the Samoan island of Savai’i, where he was greeted by Samoan prime minister Tofilau Eti Alesana. He then made the 20-minute flight to the island of Upolu, where he met with full-time missionaries and addressed about 10,000 members in Apia.
“I was thrilled and happy to have been here,” said Brother Lisona Tumanuvao after hearing President Hinckley speak. “It is a blessing to all of us.” Brother Tumanuvao’s wife, Faapale, with whom he serves as an ordinance worker in the Apia Samoa Temple, said, “It was a blessing to have my whole family see and hear the prophet.”
On 14 October President Hinckley flew to Pago Pago, American Samoa, where he spoke to about 8,000 members in the new Veterans Memorial Stadium. Also in attendance were about 100 members of other faiths, mostly local government officials and business executives, who were seated under a tent near President Hinckley. The 90-minute program was broadcast live on radio and rebroadcast on prime-time television later that evening.
Before the meeting began, Senator Tuana’itaua Tuia, a Church member and prominent lawmaker, read a legislative tribute to President Hinckley, welcoming him to the shores of American Samoa and commending him for his long, distinguished, and dedicated service. The governor of American Samoa, Tau’ese Sunia, then presented the document to President Hinckley and said, “I am grateful that there are Latter-day Saints in American Samoa, that there are such people like you.”
President Hinckley’s remarks focused on what is expected of Church members, including treating each other as brothers and sisters, teaching children the gospel, observing the laws of God and the land, and loving and nurturing spouses and children. “If you live the gospel teachings and walk in the ways of the Lord,” President Hinckley said, “you will receive blessings. You will always have a roof over your heads, clothing on your backs, and food on the table.”
Dr. Sili Satua, chief of staff for the governor of American Samoa, expressed how impressed he was with President Hinckley and Church members. “There is unity in the Church, from young ones to the older ones. The strength of the family is felt and seen.
So much respect for mothers. Your leader has so much love for the people and God. I could feel it.”
President Hinckley crossed the international date line on his way to Nuku‘alofa, Tonga, where he met with King Taufa‘ahau Topou IV on the afternoon of 14 October. He subsequently met with missionaries and spoke to more than 11,000 people gathered on a sports field at Church-owned Liahona High School. Dignitaries in attendance included the prime minister’s wife, the acting prime minister and his wife, the speaker of the parliament, and representatives from other religions.
“My message to you today is to live the gospel,” President Hinckley said. “Cultivate in your hearts a testimony and a love for God, your Eternal Father. We sing, ‘I am a child of God.’ That isn’t just a figment, a poetic figment—that is the living truth. There is something of divinity within each of us, my brothers and sisters, that needs cultivation, that needs to come to the surface, that needs to find expression.”
After hearing President Hinckley, Church member Saane Kongaika said: “I was so excited! My heart cried when the prophet spoke about living the gospel because although I try, sometimes I fall short of the mark. But he gives me the strength to go on trying. I am the only one who can make me live the gospel.”
On the morning of 15 October, after a night interrupted by an earthquake that caused shaking but no serious damage, President Hinckley flew to Vava’u, Tonga, to address about 2,200 people at a sports field. “You men who hold the priesthood of God, are you living worthy of it?” President Hinckley asked. “Are you living in such a way that the power of the Almighty may be expressed through you? Are you the kind of husband that you ought to be to your wife? Do you speak to her with kindness, respect, and love?”
President Hinckley flew to Suva, Fiji, on the afternoon of 15 October, where he spoke to about 5,000 members gathered in a stadium and later met with missionaries. A choir of 400 students from Church-owned technical and primary schools performed in the stadium.
“We are building a different kind of temple, in that it will be much smaller,” President Hinckley said, referring to the new small-temple design announced in October 1997 general conference. “We are trying to take the temple to the people, instead of having the people go great distances to the temple.”
Prominent businessman Raghubar Singh commented, “This afternoon’s meeting was very educational. It’s like we’ve come out of the darkness into the light. He is more than a king—he is truly a prophet.”
Crossing back over the international date line, President Hinckley arrived in Papeete, Tahiti, on the afternoon of 15 October. The Church leader was greeted with songs, speeches, and leis by French Polynesian president Gaston Flosse and other dignitaries. Later he met with missionaries, and that evening he spoke to about 7,000 members.
In his remarks, President Hinckley expressed joy at seeing in the congregation Sister Claire Manea, one of those who survived the 1963 sinking of the Manuia, a boat that was taking Church members back to Maupiti after the dedication of a meetinghouse on the island of Huahine, which President Hinckley had dedicated.
After resting overnight in Honolulu, Hawaii, President Hinckley arrived home in Salt Lake City on 17 October, having again fulfilled his desire “to get out and see you, look into your faces, share my testimony with you, and speak to you words of appreciation and respect for all you do as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Pacific Pioneers Celebrated in Hawaii
For five days in October, Latter-day Saints from as far away as Papua New Guinea, where the Church is less than two decades old; French Polynesia, where the gospel was first preached four years before the pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley; and other islands throughout the Pacific joined together to celebrate their faith in a climate of testimony and scholarship. President Gordon B. Hinckley delivered the keynote address to some 8,000 listeners on the final day of the conference (see story on page 74).
Held in Laie, Hawaii, at Brigham Young University—Hawaii Campus and the 150 Years of Latter-day Saint History in the Pacific” conference featured more than 200 presenters sharing messages in more than 150 sessions. Topics included “The Spirit of a People: Telling the Gospel in Pacific Dance Forms,” “Intercultural Harmony in LDS Homes,” and “Pioneer Builders: Labor Missionaries in New Zealand.” Academic papers and presentations were complemented by pageants, plays, and other arts.
Conference presenters ranged from names familiar to many Church members to names hardly recognized outside their own villages. Chieko Okazaki, formerly a member of the general Relief Society presidency, helped set the tone for the conference with an impassioned plea for listeners to love one another. Other well-known presenters included Elder Adney Y. Komatsu, emeritus member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, and Sam K. Shimabukuro and Glen L. Rudd, former members of the Seventy.
“It was a very overwhelming feeling to be here,” said Irene Teio of Tahiti. “The high point is to reunite everyone, to come together as one and to uplift each other with a spiritual feeling and a partaking of the fruit of life.”
The conference was sponsored by BYU—Hawaii Campus, Hawaii Reserves Incorporated, the Hawaii Temple, the Laie Community Association, the Mormon Pacific Historical Society, and the Polynesian Cultural Center.
Milestones in Pacific Church History
Following are the years when the Church first entered these Pacific islands:
Northern Mariana Islands—1975
Federated States of Micronesia—1977
Papua New Guinea—1979
Vernal Utah Temple Dedicated
On Sunday, 2 November 1997, President Gordon B. Hinckley presided over the first of 11 dedicatory sessions for the newly completed Vernal Utah Temple, the Church’s first temple to be built incorporating an existing structure, in this case the historic Uintah Stake Tabernacle. The Vernal temple is the 10th temple in Utah, the 51st operating temple worldwide, and the 26th temple that President Hinckley has dedicated.
Before the first dedicatory session, President Hinckley and other Church leaders participated in a cornerstone ceremony with tools originally used to build other historic tabernacles in Utah. “We had a large choir from surrounding stakes singing at the cornerstone ceremony,” said Vern Osmond, president of the Roosevelt Utah West Stake and temple publicity chairman. “President Hinckley invited some children to participate, and then anybody that wanted to after that. It was such a calm, beautiful morning—a little cold, but just right.”
The dedicatory prayer offered Sunday morning by President Hinckley was repeated at subsequent sessions that day and on Monday and Tuesday, 3 and 4 November. Dedicatory proceedings were viewed via closed-circuit television by congregations gathered in four nearby meetinghouses. “I attended two sessions on Sunday, one in the stake center and one in the celestial room,” said President Osmond. “I just felt an overwhelming spirit in both places.”
The new temple was shown to the public during an open house held 11–25 October, during which nearly 120,000 people toured the building after viewing an introductory video and walking through an exhibit. “Everyone that I’ve talked to has just felt a really comfortable feeling, a feeling of peace and excitement to see what has taken place in that building,” said President Osmond. “We’ve had quite a few members of other faiths [come to the temple], and they’ve been very complimentary of the way the Church has put together this building.”
On Sunday, 25 August 1907, at a stake conference in which the Uintah Stake Tabernacle was dedicated, President Joseph F. Smith said he “would not be surprised if the day would come when a temple would be built in your midst here.”
Announced in February 1994 with construction commencing in May 1995, the Vernal temple serves more than 42,000 Church members in eastern Utah, western Colorado, and southwestern Wyoming. Alva C. Snow serves as temple president, and his wife, Jean Olsen Snow, serves as matron.
“We’ll see a lot of increased peace and comfort in people’s lives because it’s right here—we’re in the shadows of the temple,” said President Osmond.
President Monson Receives Exemplary Manhood Award
President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, received the 1997 Exemplary Manhood Award given by Brigham Young University students. Alternating each year with the Exemplary Womanhood Award, the honor has been given since 1959 to men and women who set an outstanding example of living gospel principles and serving others. Past award recipients have included President Gordon B. Hinckley and his wife, Marjorie.
“You are very personal with people and show a great love for individuals and especially children,” said BYU student-body president Dallin M. Anderson to President Monson at an award luncheon held 24 October 1997 in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. “Your smile and your humor are a wonderful example and appreciated.”
President Monson directed his remarks at the luncheon to students. “It’s a great time of your life,” he said. “Don’t daydream about tomorrow. Don’t moan about yesterday, but live in today and always be your best self.”
In addition to the Ensign, New Era, and Friend magazines, the Church publishes an international magazine that is translated into numerous languages. Usually titled Liahona, the International Magazines feature articles from other Church magazines, original articles, and local Church news. Members living anywhere in the world may subscribe to any language edition through the Salt Lake Distribution Center (see page 1 of this issue for the address and phone number).
Depending on how many members are available to subscribe in each language, the various editions appear monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly. For languages in which available readership does not yet allow a magazine, monthly First Presidency and visiting teaching messages are translated. For subscribers of the bimonthly and quarterly magazines, First Presidency and visiting teaching messages are made available in the months when no magazine is published. As readership numbers increase, magazines can be started or increased in frequency.
Quarterly or Less Often
Monthly First Presidency and visiting teaching messages are published in Albanian, Arabic, Armenian (East), Bislama, Braille (English), Cambodian, Croatian, Estonian, Greek, Haitian-Creole, Hiligaynon, Hmong, Ilokano, Kosraean, Laotian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Marshallese, Mongolian, Motu, Neomelanesian, Niuean, Pohnpeian, Rarotongan, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Tahitian, Trukese, Turkish, and Waray.
New editions for 1998.
Hurricane, Earthquake in Latin America
Hurricane Pauline struck the Pacific coast of Mexico and Guatemala in October 1997 with winds up to 120 miles per hour. Damage was reported to several member homes in both countries, and two Church meetinghouses were used as emergency shelters in hard-hit Acapulco, Mexico. Responding to the concern of local civic authorities about malaria, dengue, and other waterborne diseases, the Central America Area Presidency approved a temporary clinic staffed by volunteer doctors and nurses in La Gomera, Guatemala, to provide medicine to Church members and others. Help was provided to members by local leaders in accordance with Church welfare principles.
Also in October, an earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale struck off the coast of Chile about 190 miles north of Santiago. Minor damage to two Church meetinghouses was reported, the homes of 40 members were damaged, and 20 adobe homes belonging to members were destroyed. Other member families helped assemble emergency wooden structures to assist members who lost their homes.
FARMS Becomes Part of BYU
Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy, who serves as president of Brigham Young University, has announced that the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) has accepted an invitation from the BYU board of trustees to become part of the university.
“FARMS represents the efforts of sincere and dedicated scholars,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley, who serves as president of the BYU board of trustees. “It has grown to provide strong support and defense of the Church on a professional basis. I wish to express my strong congratulations and appreciation for those who started this effort and who have shepherded it to this point. I see a bright future for this effort now through the university.”
Though previously separate entities, FARMS and BYU have had a long-standing relationship. More than 100 BYU faculty members have participated in FARMS projects, and the foundation has provided them with financial and staff support for scholarly work, including opportunities for scholarly publication and peer review. Scholars now working on FARMS projects will have access to university services, and BYU faculty from a wide range of disciplines will be able to participate more readily in FARMS projects.
“Bringing FARMS into the university will give both entities more visibility and increased scholarly prestige,” said Elder Bateman. “I am excited about the work that we will be able to do together.”
When Loved Ones Go Astray
I appreciate the articles the Ensign publishes dealing with spiritual and emotional survival after divorce. I am concerned, however, about many people’s perception of divorced brethren.
There are numerous men who have kept their covenants and been there for their wives and children and have, for one reason or another, found themselves in divorce court. It must be remembered that not all divorces involve bad husbands abandoning faithful wives and children.
Help and support should be offered to brethren as well as sisters who find themselves in divorces they did not instigate or bring about. We all need help to struggle through our terrible ordeals.
Tears, Trials, Trust, Testimony
I just read the article “Tears, Trials, Trust, Testimony” in the September 1997 Ensign and would like to comment.
I attended a class at an institute as a nonstudent. On one occasion the instructor asked how the worth of something could be assessed. After some profound comments by class members, an economics student piped up and said, “Something is worth whatever another is willing to pay for it.” Everyone agreed that this was the most correct answer.
The instructor read scriptures that talk about the worth of a soul, then reminded the class that Jesus Christ paid with his life for ours. This realization has helped me through many situations since.
Jeff Wright Cheyenne, Wyoming
On the Trail
As a history teacher and former seasonal ranger at Fort Laramie National Historic Site, let me say how much I appreciate the balance found in “On the Trail in October” in the October 1997 Ensign. While I have appreciated recent articles about the Willie-Martin Handcart Companies and hardship on the trail, I was definitely feeling the need for this article, which describes the typical trail experience.
Years ago an elderly neighbor told us about an incident in her life. Her father had come across the plains as a small boy. One day she asked him, “What was it like to cross the plains?” He just smiled and said, “Well, honey, nothing happened. We just crossed the plains.”
The reality of travel on the trail for many later travelers was generally four months of monotony, punctuated occasionally by events that might or might not have been worth a sentence in a diary.
Carla Kelly Valley City, North Dakota