News of the Church


Statue of Joseph Smith Unveiled

On the anniversary of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s birth 192 years ago, the First Presidency presided on 23 December 1997 over the unveiling of a statue depicting young Joseph reading James 1:5. Created by Stanley James Watts and titled “Leaning into the Light,” the larger-than-life-size bronze statue is located near the Legacy Theater in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City. Several children performed the actual unveiling.

“It is a beautiful piece of work, and it is very fitting that it should be in the building bearing his name,” President Gordon B. Hinckley remarked at the unveiling ceremony. “He became the great prophet of this dispensation. I marvel at Joseph Smith. I absolutely marvel at him, at what he accomplished during his short lifetime.”

Also present at the ceremony were President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency; President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency; Elders M. Russell Ballard and Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elder Joe J. Christensen of the Presidency of the Seventy; and Bishops Richard C. Edgley and Keith B. McMullin of the Presiding Bishopric.

[photo] Members of the First Presidency participate in statue unveiling ceremony. (Photo by Craig Dimond.)

Elder Paul H. Dunn Passes Away

Elder Paul H. Dunn, an emeritus General Authority, died Friday, 9 January, of cardiac arrest in Salt Lake City while recovering from back surgery. He was 73.

“He was a longtime teacher and advocate of youth and served as a mission president and General Authority of the Church over a period of 34 years,” said the First Presidency in a released statement. “We extend our sympathy and love to his wife, Jeanne, and family.”

Born on 24 April 1924 in Provo, Utah, Elder Dunn earned a bachelor’s degree from Chapman College in 1953 and subsequently received master’s and doctoral degrees in educational administration at the University of Southern California. He began his association with the Church Educational System in 1952 as a seminary teacher in Los Angeles. After serving for several years as a Church institute coordinator in southern California, he was sustained to the First Council of the Seventy in April 1964. Elder Dunn served as president of the New England Mission from 1968 to 1971. He was sustained to the First Quorum of the Seventy in October 1976 and served in the Presidency of the Seventy from 1976 to 1980. He received emeritus status in 1989.

Elder Dunn married Jeanne Alice Cheverton on 27 February 1946. They became the parents of three daughters. He was named Utah’s Father of the Year in 1972.


Eight of the 17 worldwide missionary training centers have received new presidents, who each will serve for two years.

Joseph K. Brooks of the Mapleton Sixth Ward, Mapleton Utah North Stake, has been called to lead the Argentina MTC. He will be assisted by his wife, Ida Jean Lewis Taylor Brooks.

W. Roy Brown of the Belmont Ward, Meridian Idaho East Stake, has been called to lead the New Zealand MTC. He will be assisted by his wife, Everlyn Marie Johnson Brown.

Joseph W. Cook of the Hermosa Vista Ward, Mesa Arizona Red Mountain Stake, has been called to lead the Peru MTC. He will be assisted by his wife, Enid Caldwell Cook.

Gil Whe Do of the Soon Cheon Branch, Soon Cheon Korea District, has been called to lead the Korea MTC. He will be assisted by his wife, Young Ae Kim Do.

Fernando R. Gomez of the Pleasant View Fifth Ward, Provo Utah Sharon East Stake, has been called to lead the Chile MTC. He will be assisted by his wife, Enriqueta Pina Gomez.

Ronald E. Hall of the Hibbard Second Ward, Rexburg Idaho North Stake, has been called to lead the Guatemala MTC. He will be assisted by his wife, Helen Winona Murdoch Hall.

Melvin Rey Robinson of the Solomonville Ward, Safford Arizona Stake, has been called to lead the Dominican Republic MTC. He will be assisted by his wife, Ella Mae Robinson.

Masaru Tsuchida of the Meito North Ward, Nagoya Japan Stake, has been called to lead the Japan MTC. He will be assisted by his wife, Junko Wakamatsu Tsuchida.

The Church has announced a new president and officers for Sigma Gamma Chi, the Church fraternity for college men: Daniel M. Jones of the Pheasant Ward, Centerville Utah Stake, as president, with Richard O. Clark of the Mount Olympus Eighth Ward, Mount Olympus Utah North Stake, as first counselor, and Allan M. Gunnerson of the Wasatch Third Ward, Salt Lake Wasatch Stake, as second counselor. H. Kent Rappleye of the Windsor Second Ward, Clearfield Utah South Stake, is executive secretary.

Flooding the Earth with the Book of Mormon

Since the Book of Mormon’s publication in 1830, more than 83 million copies have been circulated throughout the world. That figure includes individual copies as well as triple and quadruple scripture combinations and Book of Mormon selections translated into other languages. In the year-by-year chart that follows, the quantity for 1830–1981 is an estimate based on the best historical information available.



































Note: In 1987 President Ezra Taft Benson urged Church members to “flood the earth with the Book of Mormon” (Ensign, May 1987, 85).

Natural Disasters Affect Members

During January, ice storms hit large parts of eastern Canada and the northeastern United States. In Montreal and Ottawa, several missionary apartments, member homes, and Church buildings were without power for several days. Emergency generators shipped from the Indianapolis Bishops’ Central Storehouse provided power and heat at Church meetinghouses. Church leaders, home teachers, and visiting teachers provided assistance to affected members.

Typhoon Martin struck the Cook Islands in the central Pacific late last year. The storm’s 90-mile-an-hour winds swept over small atolls that barely rise above sea level, with the islands of Pukapuka and Manihiki suffering the worst damage. Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone of the Seventy, President of the Pacific Area, reported that all missionaries were safe and that no Church property was damaged. Church humanitarian funds were donated.

Cyclone Osea hit the Society Islands, part of French Polynesia, in the central Pacific in November 1997. Of the 80 member homes on the island of Maupiti, 77 were destroyed. Four member homes on the island of Bora Bora were destroyed. The Church meetinghouse on Maupiti received minor damage and was used as an emergency shelter for members and others. Elder Featherstone reported that all missionaries and members were safe.

Drought conditions related to El Niño have led to serious water and food shortages in Papua New Guinea. Elder Featherstone reported that all members and missionaries are safe but that many member families are at risk. The Area Presidency has arranged to provide food to members, and local priesthood leaders are working closely with the Salvation Army.

Cyclone Ron struck the Tongan island of Niuafo’ou in January. Elder Featherstone reported that all missionaries and members were safe, but their homes were destroyed, as was the home where Church meetings were held.

With wind gusts that exceeded 230 miles per hour, Typhoon Paka struck Guam in December 1997. Power and water were not available in most areas, and nearly all roads were blocked for a time. Elder Sheldon F. Child of the Seventy, President of the Philippines-Micronesia Area, reported that all members and missionaries were safe. One missionary apartment was seriously damaged, and all member families sustained some water damage to their homes, with two member homes destroyed.

Panama: Sheltered by an Umbrella

Panama, a country surrounded by beautiful beaches and transparent water, links not only two continents but also two oceans. This Central American country, easily traversed in two and a half hours between its Atlantic shores and the Pacific Ocean, is home to more than 27,000 Latter-day Saints. Best known for the Panama Canal, the country is a melting pot of many races and is characterized by a happy and affectionate people.

The first known members of the Church to visit Panama arrived in 1941, when soldiers stationed at the military bases of the Canal Zone held meetings at Fort Clayton, where the first branch was organized. However, it wasn’t until 1961 when Elder Marion G. Romney of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave a copy of the Book of Mormon to the president of the Republic of Panama, Robert F. Chiari, that serious efforts got underway to have the Church officially recognized. In 1965 the Church received official authorization for the preaching of the gospel in Panama. Today the nation has 5 stakes, 5 districts, 25 wards, and 38 branches.

The blessings that have been left upon this country by the Apostles who visited it in recent years have resulted in many positive changes for members. Even youth feel a need to contribute to the expansion of the kingdom through active participation in Church programs, including seminary and institute classes. Youth and adults alike gain much spiritual strength through performing ordinances in the Guatemala City Temple, which to reach by land they must pass through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador.

When the first stake was organized in November 1979, Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “This stake will be an umbrella for Panama. … It will be a protection for her.” At the time there were 3,500 members of the Church in Panama. Still, the idea that someday Panamanians would be taking the gospel to their own countrymen seemed unlikely. Then in 1989 the Panama Panama City Mission was created, and in the same year the majority of the assigned missionaries—mainly from the United States—were reassigned to other countries due to harsh dictates of the governing regime. Young Panamanians not only stepped in and did the proselytizing work but also developed great self-discipline as they obeyed mission rules. Several of them worked only minutes from their homes.

Many of the earliest converts are still active and serving diligently in the Lord’s work. Sister Dalila Samaniego de Torrero, once a single mother, found the Church when two sister missionaries knocked on her door. “The gospel came into my life at the exact moment I needed it,” she says. “My conversion was a fountain of strength for the challenges of raising youth of Zion in this dispensation.”

Her dream was to send each of her children on missions. In time they served missions to Panama, Costa Rica, and Honduras. And in 1989 Dalila was sealed in the temple to her husband, Marco. Over the years she served faithfully in many callings, including seminary and institute teacher and Church Educational System coordinator for Panama.

Another faithful family is Nelson and Ester Altamirano and their four children, who were baptized in 1972 and sealed as a family in the Los Angeles Temple in 1976. Brother and Sister Altamirano have been leaders in the Church since the time of their baptism. In fact, Brother Altamirano was the first Panamanian to be called to serve as a district president. He later served as president of Panama’s first stake, formed on 11 November 1979. He also served as a regional representative until 1992. Brother Altamirano is an aircraft mechanic, and Ester is working toward a master’s degree in education.

In this country that links continents, the gospel message is increasingly bringing families together in joyful ways.

[photo] A panoramic view of Panama City, the capital of Panama, greets visitors. The country is home to more than 27,000 Latter-day Saints. (Photo by Geovanni Samaniego.)

[photo] La Chorrera stake president José Martínez and his wife, Rosalba.

[photo] The Balboa chapel was the first built by the Church in Panama and was dedicated in 1958. (Photo by Geovanni Samaniego.)

[photo] One of Panama’s early converts, Sister Dalila de Torrero; her husband, Marco; and her three children, Moisés (rear left), Dalila, and Geovanni.

Romelia de García, a director of Church public affairs for Panama, is a member of the Cincuentenario Branch, Panama City Panama Stake.

Temple Square: “All Nations Shall Flow unto It”

Question: What is the smallest mission geographically in the Church?

Answer: The three-year-old Utah Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission, which takes in only 10 acres and the Joseph Smith Memorial Building across the street. Temple Square was formerly part of the Salt Lake City mission, but the high number of missionaries needed to staff Temple Square justified a separate mission.

“Temple Square seems to be an unusually fruitful place to do missionary work,” says Lowell Snow, president of the Temple Square mission since February 1997. “It’s often been a fruitful place to give tours, but it is proving to be an exceptional place to teach people who come of their own accord and their own desire to learn more.”

President Snow often refers to 2 Nephi 12:2–3 [2 Ne. 12:2–3], which applies in part to this mission: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, when the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it.

“And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths.”

“That is exactly what we are seeing happening more and more,” says President Snow. “The people of the world are coming here and saying, Teach us of your ways, tell us who you are, tell us what you believe. In the year I’ve been here we’re seeing interest increase almost monthly.”

The grounds and two visitors’ centers of Temple Square are staffed by 8 Church-service couples and about 180 full-time sister missionaries from all over the world—but not by any full-time elders. The Square receives some five million visitors a year, including about 3,000 bus tours. “If you’re from Germany, for instance, and you’re on a tour bus in Las Vegas and you’re going to Yellowstone, you will likely stop at Temple Square,” says President Snow. “It’s enough of a destination that if you’re anywhere in the area, you’ll make a special effort to visit.” More than half the bus tours bring visitors who speak a language other than English—and they are greeted by missionaries who together are able to speak as many as 30 languages.

“More and more we are teaching people the gospel, not just conducting tours and giving historical highlights,” says President Snow. “We will often teach principles from the first discussion here to those who agree to have missionaries come visit them when they go home. We do that as a means of deepening their spiritual experience prior to having the missionaries visit. We are also sharing a lot of information about the Book of Mormon, the temple, and families.”

Although most missionaries called to serve on Temple Square consider it a great privilege, they do make unusual sacrifices. “It takes a great deal of faith to work here,” says President Snow, “because you seldom see the fruit that results from the seed that is planted. Aside from occasional phone calls, letters, and later visits, the missionaries here do not know how visitors respond to the rest of the gospel as they learn it from the missionaries who visit them at home.”

Sisters called to Temple Square and other visitors’ centers in North America spend an extra week in the Provo Missionary Training Center receiving special training. As they serve on Temple Square, missionaries may greet visitors, conduct tours, run information desks, teach visitors how to use family history software, or usher at the Legacy Theater in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Like full-time missionaries everywhere, Temple Square sisters give community service. At some point during their 18-month missions to Temple Square, all sisters spend about four months enhancing their proselyting experience in various other North American missions.

One recent success at Temple Square has been a program that brings travelers passing through nearby Salt Lake International Airport downtown to see Temple Square and other sights. “Each day we get a number of people from the airport,” President Snow says. “They uniformly have a terrific experience. They are very appreciative that the Church and the community and the airport would give them a way to avoid a lengthy layover and take in the sights of the city and have a special experience on Temple Square.”

People from all over the world flow into Temple Square. “Every day we open the gates and the people of the world flood in to find out more not just about our history but about who we are and what we believe,” says President Snow. “As awareness of the Church increases, people want to know a little bit more about what makes us tick. And this is a comfortable, nonthreatening, accessible place to come look.”

[photos] Photography by Craig Dimond

[photo] A view of Temple Square facing east in downtown Salt Lake City.

[photo] Sisters greet Temple Square visitors.

[photo] Missionaries conduct a tour.

Conversation: Member Talent Needed for Church Audiovisual Productions

The Church continually produces high-quality audiovisual materials to support the mission of the Church through proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the Saints, and redeeming the dead. Under the direction of the First Presidency, the Church’s Audiovisual Department has developed a talent resource file that identifies the talents of thousands of members for possible use in audiovisual materials. To find out how members—professional and amateur—can help in this work, the Ensign spoke with William Hanson, the Audiovisual Department’s director of human resources and casting.

Question: What opportunities are there for members to participate in Church audiovisual productions?

Response: The Audiovisual Department relies heavily on experienced actors and crew members and on volunteers as it produces filmed and recorded materials. Because the materials typically involve such sacred subjects as the Savior, the Atonement, prophets, Church history, and scriptural events, it is desired that individuals who work on and appear in such materials have a testimony of and live in accordance with gospel principles.

The Audiovisual Department’s primary need is for members to appear in productions as actors and actresses and as extras. However, needs also arise in areas such as cinematography, scenery, makeup, artistic design, costume design, hair styling, and electrical work.

While most of the Church’s audiovisual materials are produced along Utah’s Wasatch Front, sometimes materials are filmed elsewhere in the United States and the world. Even if members don’t live near Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, they are invited to make the Audiovisual Department aware of their talents in case a production is filmed near where they live or in case their talents are needed elsewhere.

Q: How do members make their talents known to the Audiovisual Department?

R: The department has compiled a talent packet that includes a talent data sheet to be filled out by members who are interested in offering their talents and services to the Church’s audiovisual efforts. Many meetinghouse bulletin boards display a “Talent Search” poster that includes reply cards members can use to receive a talent packet. Or members can send a request directly to the Casting Group, 22nd Floor, Audiovisual Department, 50 East North Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84150-0002, or telephone the department at 801-240-6073.

On the talent data sheet, members are asked for personal information such as what languages they speak; what professional talent agencies or unions they may be affiliated with, if any; what experience they have had in theater, film, video, voice-overs, or radio; and what special abilities they may have in dialects, character voices, or specialized skills. Also, members can check boxes for areas they are interested in being considered for, such as film or television acting; modeling for still photography; composing; creating storyboards; acting as an extra; performing voice-overs of dramatic, narrative, or scriptural readings; or technical crew positions. The Audiovisual Department is not seeking singers or musical performers at this time.

Members interested in being considered as actors, actresses, or extras are asked to send a recent, dated photo along with the talent data sheet. Members who are interested in narration or voice-over work are asked to send a five-minute voice audition tape that includes a reading from the scriptures and one other piece selected by the member. For those with acting, voice-over, or technical crew experience, a résumé listing projects worked on would be appreciated.

Generally, it is helpful to attend an Audiovisual Department audition in person to be considered for speaking roles. The department’s monthly open auditions are conducted by a Church-service committee called to coordinate auditions and maintain a talent file. The auditions include both a prepared monologue and an impromptu reading. However, members living outside of Utah may arrange to submit a demo videotape when it is not possible to attend an audition. The Church-service committee holds special auditions and workshops periodically in locations outside of Utah. Those interested in modeling or being an extra do not need to audition. More information on auditioning is included in the talent packet.

The packet also includes a worthiness clearance letter that should be given to the applicant’s bishop or branch president to complete and mail directly to the Audiovisual Department. A person’s talent packet does not become active in the talent resource file until the worthiness clearance letter is received. In part, the letter states: “Inasmuch as individuals involved in Church audiovisual productions are looked upon as representatives of the Church, it is Church policy that participation in the productions is dependent upon individuals conducting their lives in a manner that would qualify them for a temple recommend. It is vitally important that production participants be loyal, dedicated, and worthy in every respect to accomplish the work they are assigned.”

Once a person’s talent packet is complete and active, he or she can be considered to participate in Church productions whenever that person’s attributes and qualifications match a particular production’s needs. However, completing a talent packet does not by any means guarantee that a person will be involved in future productions. Talent packet information should be updated when any personal information has changed.

Q: Are there rewards and challenges for participating in Church audiovisual productions?

R: Participation in these projects is often done on a Church-service basis. Many participants report feeling inspired as they work on Church materials. For example, one sister described the new depth of feeling about the Atonement she experienced as she acted on a set with an actor portraying the Savior. Members who participated in a video depicting the last week of the Savior’s life expressed how difficult it was to portray enemies of the Savior who were involved in the Crucifixion, yet at the same time they felt the Spirit and through this experience came to better understand the Savior’s sacrifice. Church audiovisual materials represent a powerful way to spread the gospel message, and much more good is expected to be accomplished through them.

[photo] William Hanson

[photo] A behind-the-scenes view from Lamb of God, a Church audiovisual production in which members assisted in cast and crew capacities.


“Becoming Whole Again”

Thank you for printing “Becoming Whole Again” (January 1997). I am so grateful the author was willing to share his experience, thereby enlightening others. The solutions he offered can help with any morality problem. I’m sure this article has given many people encouragement and hope. It has helped me see that weaknesses truly can become strengths with much prayer and effort.

Name Withheld

Thanks for Pioneer Articles

I just had to thank you for the wonderful job you did in 1997 in presenting the story of the pioneers. I have been a member of the Church all my life, but many events were clarified in my mind by reading the wonderful articles that were in the Ensign.

Everything was so interesting and informative. Thank you for a great year.

Lyla Joy Thomas St. George, Utah