Thirty-two Seventies Sustained in New Callings

During the 168th Annual General Conference, three brethren were called to the First Quorum of the Seventy, 13 brethren were called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy, and 16 new Area Authority Seventies were called to the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Quorums of the Seventy.

Elders Sheldon F. Child, Quentin L. Cook, and Francisco J. Viñas were called from the Second Quorum of the Seventy to the First Quorum of the Seventy; all three brethren were sustained to the Second Quorum of the Seventy in April 1996.

Called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy were 13 brethren—one each from Brazil, Maryland and Ohio, two from Texas, and eight from Utah: Elders Athos M. Amorím, E Ray Bateman, Val R. Christensen, Ronald T. Halverson, Earl M. Monson, Merrill C. Oaks, H. Bryan Richards, Ned B. Roueché, D. Lee Tobler, Gordon T. Watts, Stephen A. West, Robert J. Whetten, and Ray H. Wood.

The 16 new Area Authority Seventies are Henry F. Acebedo, assigned to the Philippines-Micronesia Area; Juan A. Alvaradejo, Mexico South Area; Modesto M. Amistad Jr., Philippines-Micronesia Area; Horacio P. Araya, South America North Area; Gustavo A. Barrios, Chile Area; Craig A. Bullock, North America West Area; Adhemar Damiani, Brazil Area; Edgardo E. Fernando, Philippines-Micronesia Area; Franz R. Gaag, Europe West Area; Daniel L. Johnson, South America North Area; Wilfredo R. López, Chile Area; Jairo Mazzagardi, Brazil Area; Jesús Nieves, North America Southeast Area; Adrián Ochoa, Mexico North Area; Emmanuel O. Opare Sr., Africa Area; and Willy F. Zuzunaga, South America North Area.

Thirty Temples to Be Built

Some 30 new temples are to be built “in Europe, in Asia, in Australia and Fiji, in Mexico and Central and South America and Africa, as well as in the United States and Canada,” announced President Gordon B. Hinckley at the conclusion of general conference.

“This will make a total of 47 new temples in addition to the 51 now in operation,” President Hinckley continued. “I think we had better add 2 more to make it an even 100 by the end of this century. … I will not give you the specific cities at this time. Stake presidents will be advised as property is secured.”

Elder Athos M. Amorím

Of the Seventy
Elder Athos M. Amorím

Elder Athos M. Amorím of the Second Quorum of the Seventy is not what many people might expect in a retired army officer. Given the chance to serve as chief of staff for Brazil’s highest military court, he declined and chose to stay home in Resende, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, “as a gardener.” He cultivates flowers because he loves their beauty, and he feeds the birds that fly so freely around his home because “I love to hear them singing in the morning and the evening, happy in my garden.”

He is less concerned about where he serves than how he serves. After his release from being president of the São Paulo Temple, he was called as second counselor in his ward elders quorum presidency and “was very happy in the calling” because he loves working with Heavenly Father’s children in any capacity.

That love goes back at least to the day he was baptized in 1972. He felt very deeply that his heart was being changed, a feeling he still finds difficult to put into words. He knows, though, that he became a new man that day.

He remembers the humble missionary who confirmed him and who indicated that one day this new member would serve as a mission president. Athos Amorím later presided over the Brazil Fortaleza Mission. He has also been a district president and, in his mobile military career, president of several small branches where there are now stakes.

Born on 14 June 1932 in Rio de Janeiro, he married Maria Alice Ferrao on 31 May 1957. They were sealed in the Washington [D.C.] Temple in 1978. They have two sons and seven grandchildren.

Sister Amorím, he says, “always has supported me well in the service of the Lord.” She shares his awe and happiness at his new calling because “she loves working in the Church and she has a very strong testimony.”

He hopes his own service can reflect his “joy in the work. I love Church work, and it is very easy for me to love the people. I want to share with everyone my testimony of Jesus Christ. That is my greatest desire.”

Elder E Ray Bateman

Of the Seventy
Elder E Ray Bateman

For most of the 36 years of their married life, Ray and Mira Bateman have lived away from their Utah roots—in California, New York, Colorado, and Missouri. “Because we usually lived so far from our extended families, our immediate family became very close,” says Elder Bateman. “Though we visited Utah every year, our wards have also been our family, and the gospel has been the center of our lives.”

A native of Sandy, Utah, E Ray Bateman was born on 20 October 1937 to Marlon Samuel and Mary Armstrong Bateman—the third of four boys. He attended Brigham Young University before serving a mission in 1957–59 to Toronto, then part of the Canadian Mission. Upon his return, he attended the University of Utah, where he studied general business.

While in college, he met Mira Dorene Odette from Monticello, Utah. The students married in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 11 November 1961 and moved to the San Fernando Valley in California. There Ray found success in business with his first job—working in sales with the Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.—and remained with the company for 32 years.

Serving as president of the California Carlsbad Mission when he received the call to the Seventy, Elder Bateman has also served as a Sunday School teacher, bishop, multiregion welfare director, stake mission president, and stake high councilor.

The Batemans are the parents of five children—three daughters and two sons—and the grandparents of nine grandchildren, eight living. “Our little granddaughter lived only nine days,” says Elder Bateman, “but it was surprising how close we got to her. We want to keep our lives in order to make it to where she already is.”

In July 1997 in the San Diego California Temple, the Batemans witnessed the sealings of their two youngest children to their spouses. “It was the first time in our lives that we’ve been in the temple with all five of our children and their spouses. We felt close to each other and to our little granddaughter. That was a great experience, a glimpse of heaven.”

Elder Val R. Christensen

Of the Seventy
Elder Val R. Christensen

As a young child, Elder Val R. Christensen was taught in Sunday School that he belonged to the world’s only true and living church. “In that moment I received a confidence of that testimony,” recalls Elder Christensen. “I remember the room, the teacher, and how it came to me that this was the true church. Nothing in my whole life has ever caused me to doubt that.”

Born in Hooper, Utah, on 27 September 1935 to Leonard and Jeanette Lowe Rigby, Val grew up on a farm. “My father passed away when I was a child, so I learned early in life how to work, take care of animals, plant crops and gardens, and run a farm,” he says. “It was challenging in some ways to grow up in what we now call a single-parent home, but I never felt deprived of love, affection, or attention.”

After serving a mission to western Canada from 1955 to 1957, Val received a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in secondary education administration at Utah State University and subsequently earned a doctorate at Michigan State University. He met his future wife, Ruth Ann Wood, at a canning factory during high school. Married in 1958 in the Salt Lake Temple, the couple have 5 children and 16 grandchildren. After some years of serving in the army, teaching high school, and working at Brigham Young University’s Continuing Education Center in Ogden, Utah, Brother Christensen accepted employment in 1965 at Utah State University, where he retired in 1996 as vice president of student services.

He has previously served as a regional representative, stake president, stake presidency counselor, high councilor, bishop, and bishopric counselor. Since July 1996 he has been serving as president of the Arizona Phoenix Mission. “This calling has occupied our minds and thoughts absolutely every hour of every day,” he says. “It is so inspirational to sit in the presence of our more than 200 missionaries, who are the up-and-coming leaders of the Church. We love them and often sing my favorite song, ‘Love One Another,’ at our meetings together. We appreciate the sacrifices they and their families make to have them serve.”

Elder Ronald T. Halverson

Of the Seventy
Elder Ronald T. Halverson

“I have been very blessed to see the hand of the Lord in my life,” says Elder Ronald T. Halverson, “and I have learned that the gospel brings happiness and joy when you are obedient.”

Born on 18 December 1936 in Ogden, Utah, to Marlowe and Hilda Tomlinson Halverson, Ronald was the third in a family of four boys. He grew up in Ogden and attended Weber State College, where he met Linda Kay Jensen, of Hooper, Utah. In 1957–59, he served in the Oslo Norway Mission. After his mission, while attending the University of Utah, he and Linda married in the Salt Lake Temple on 13 October 1960. The parents of 5 children—4 boys and 1 girl—the Halversons are the grandparents of 11.

Upon leaving the University of Utah, he worked at his father’s company, Marlowe Plumbing and Heating. He quickly discovered that he had an ability in business, and eventually he and his brother started three companies: Halverson Mechanical, Inc.; H&H Mechanical, Inc.; and RHYCO, Inc.

Active in politics, Elder Halverson served for a total of 16 years (1966–82) in the Utah State Legislature in both the House and Senate. He has also served for nearly 10 years as chairman of the State Building Board and as a member of the Board of Trustees at Weber State College.

The Halverson family enjoy vigorous outdoor sports and activities, such as skiing, snowmobiling, desert biking, fishing, and hunting. They also raise and train horses.

Elder Halverson has fulfilled Church callings with a vitality for which he is known in his personal and professional life. He has served as a stake president and counselor, regional representative, president of the Oslo Norway Mission 1990–93, and member of the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy serving in the Utah North Area.

“My testimony grew line upon line, precept upon precept,” says Elder Halverson, “and I have been privileged over the years to have personal spiritual experiences. My testimony is very strong that Jesus is the Christ and that it is only through him that we can return to the presence of the Father.”

Elder Earl M. Monson

Of the Seventy
Elder Earl M. Monson

Elder Earl M. Monson has a strong testimony of temples. While serving as director of the Church’s Temples and Special Projects Division, he was responsible for temple construction and design, under the direction of the First Presidency. “It didn’t take long for me to realize that there are powerful forces on the earth that don’t want temples to be used or to be constructed,” he says. “But when the Lord wants them, he will help us find a way to build and to use them if we put our trust in him.”

Born on 26 July 1932 in Salt Lake City, Utah, Elder Monson grew up in an active Latter-day Saint family. Even with that kind of environment, he says, “You still have to gain a testimony of your own.” One pivotal experience occurred when he received his patriarchal blessing as a teenager. “I prepared myself beforehand, and I sought for several important answers that the patriarch did address in the blessing,” he says. “It was a powerful experience.”

Two years spent in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, where he trained to be an infantry soldier, helped him appreciate the gospel and his family. “Suddenly there was an awareness of all that I had,” he says. “I hadn’t realized before how very blessed I was.”

Elder Monson earned his bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Utah and his master’s degree in structural engineering from Iowa State University. In 1954 he married Donna Mae Hill in the Salt Lake Temple; the couple have 5 children and 12 grandchildren.

Elder Monson’s Church callings have included stake Young Men president, bishop, high councilor, stake president, and stake mission president. “Our lay leadership is one of the great things about the Church,” he says. “A calling can be a stimulus to learn and to seek for help, which strengthens our testimonies.”

Of his new calling, Elder Monson says, “My wife and I have had many blessings and wonderful people come into our lives. We share the feeling that any chance to further the work and tell people of the Savior is very exciting and is a way to show our gratitude to him.”

Elder Merrill C. Oaks

Of the Seventy
Elder Merrill C. Oaks

Elder Merrill C. Oaks was just four years old when his father passed away. For many years afterward, his mother raised her three children as a single parent, assisted by her own parents. “My testimony started at home with my mother,” says Elder Oaks. “She was a great human being and a great teacher. When she would pray, her conversation with Heavenly Father would be so direct and personal that I almost wanted to open my eyes to see if he was standing there listening.”

Born in Twin Falls, Idaho, on 12 January 1936, Elder Oaks spent most of his youth in Provo. He served a mission in Ontario, Canada, where, he says, his testimony “really blossomed” as he bore witness of the gospel and saw it change others’ lives. He went on to receive a bachelor’s degree at Brigham Young University, and it was there he met his future wife, Josephine Ann Christensen, from Payson, Utah. They were married in September 1958. Elder Oaks later earned a medical degree from the University of Rochester School of Medicine, interned at the University of Kentucky, and specialized in ophthalmology at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

“If you let it, a medical education can challenge your testimony,” Elder Oaks says, “but after you work through that, you’re left with such a tremendous respect and awe for the human body and how it functions. You see God’s hand in its design and know that it did not happen by accident.”

Through the years Elder Oaks has had the opportunity to travel throughout the world to instruct other doctors and medical students in ophthalmology. Often Sister Oaks and some of their nine children have accompanied him on these trips, which have included destinations such as Bahrain, China, and India.

Elder Oaks has served twice as a bishop and has been a stake high councilor, counselor in the stake presidency, and stake president. Currently president of the Washington Seattle Mission, he will be reassigned to fulfill his new responsibilities in June. When asked how the gospel has affected his life, he replies, “The gospel is my life. I know that this is God’s work with absolute certainty.”

Elder H. Bryan Richards

Of the Seventy
Elder H. Bryan Richards

When H. Bryan Richards was nine years old, he attended Sunday School one week and heard a lesson about the Prophet Joseph Smith. He came home and asked his father, “How do we really know if this church is true?”

“My father sat down with me and told me the story of Joseph Smith, and from then on I never doubted,” says Elder Richards, who was born on 18 March 1934 and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. During his school years, he developed a love for sports, especially basketball, and later, as an adult, spent many hours coaching youth sports teams.

Bryan attended Brigham Young University, and as he entered the Joseph Smith Building one day, he saw a girl standing on the steps outside and thought, I’d like to marry a girl like her someday. A few months later, in 1955, he was called to serve in the Great Lakes Mission. When he returned to BYU, he met the same girl again while walking to class and learned her name: LynnAnne Taylor. The two began dating and were married in the Salt Lake Temple on 23 August 1957.

The couple settled in Salt Lake City and raised a family of eight children. During those years Brother Richards worked as benefits administrator for E-Systems, which manufactures airplane parts and navigation equipment. His Church service includes 7 years in a bishopric and 14 years in a stake presidency—9 as president. After serving for 3 years as a regional representative, he was called to serve as mission president in the England Manchester Mission from 1994 to 1997. “One of the finest experiences my wife and I have enjoyed together, other than raising our family, has been presiding over the mission,” he says. “I learned there the worth of a single soul and grew in my understanding of the price paid by Jesus Christ for the redemption of each soul.”

Elder Richards, whose faith has grown deeper with the years, feels the Church is literally a marvelous work and a wonder. “This is the Church of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon is a witness from another nation of Christ’s divinity, and Joseph Smith is the prophet of the Restoration,” says Elder Richards.

Elder Ned B. Roueché

Of the Seventy
Elder Ned B. Roueché

Growing up on a farm in Kaysville, Utah, taught young Ned Roueché (pronounced Roo-SHAY), born on 5 August 1934, how to work. His parents were less active during his childhood years, but one night Ned, who enjoyed ballroom dancing, was asked to help with a floor show at an MIA dance. “I went on a Tuesday night and decided to go to church on Sunday. I began attending and never quit,” he recalls. A year later his bishop called him on a mission at the age of 21. “I knew it was the right thing to do,” he says.

After serving a mission in Mexico, Ned married JoAnn Sheffield in the Salt Lake Temple in 1958 and studied engineering at the University of Utah. After the birth of the third of their five children, he interviewed with IBM and knew he wanted to join the company. Following one more year of schooling at Weber State College in electronics engineering, he began his 31-year career in field engineering with IBM.

During those years he dedicated his hours out of the office to his wife—whom he describes as being a support and inspiration—and to his family, to the community, and to the Church. He served as bishop of the Kaysville First Ward and then the Sixth Ward and later served nearly 10 years as a counselor in a stake presidency. He likes people and recalls a conversation he had while fishing with a less-active friend, who said to him, “Whatever you have, I want.” It proved a turning point in his friend’s life. “I’ve enjoyed feeling directed as I’ve worked with people,” he says. “And I’m happy that I’ve always been ready and willing to serve the Lord.”

Upon his release from the stake presidency, he worked with Varsity Scouts for a four-year period, during which time he retired from IBM. “It was good preparation,” he admits, for his calling to serve as president of the Venezuela Barcelona Mission, where he served from 1994 to 1997.

Of his call to the Seventy, Elder Roueché says, “My wife and I enjoy serving the Lord. I have gained a deep testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, the Lord’s living prophets, and the Savior, our Redeemer, and His restored Church, which continually blesses our lives.”

Elder D. Lee Tobler

Of the Seventy
Elder D. Lee Tobler

“The most significant shaping of who I was and what I could become was set on my mission,” says Elder D. Lee Tobler, who served in the Swiss Austrian Mission from 1953 to 1956. “I was raised with sound, solid gospel underpinnings, but I had some difficulty as a youth with self-confidence. On my mission I came to better understand the Lord and who I was and what he would do for me. That was the turning point. My life since then has been full of growth and rising confidence, with periodic setbacks but an overall upward trend. I’m grateful for the Lord’s blessings.”

Born in Provo, Utah, on 25 July 1933 to Donald and Louise Shoell Tobler, Lee is the second of four children. He grew up in Nevada and Idaho and earned a bachelor’s degree at Brigham Young University and a master of business administration degree at Northwestern University in Chicago. He started his career at Exxon in New York City, and 14 years later he began a decade of employment at Aetna Life and Casualty in Hartford, Connecticut. After returning to the oil industry for four years in Houston, Texas, he joined the BF Goodrich Company in Akron, Ohio, from which he retires in July 1998 as executive vice president and chief financial officer.

Lee married Darlene Thueson in 1956 in the Salt Lake Temple, and the couple have 6 children and 12 grandchildren. The Toblers have been living in Marshallville, Ohio, on a five-acre farm where Lee has been an avid landscape gardener with flowers, shrubs, and vegetables. He also likes to read histories and biographies and play tennis.

His Church service has included serving as an Area Authority Seventy in the North America Northeast Area since April 1996, and he has served as a stake president and stake presidency counselor and twice as a bishop. “I particularly enjoyed the calling of bishop,” Elder Tobler says. “It’s very intensive and demanding, but loving and caring for members of a ward is a real blessing. In fact, love is the whole reason for any calling, priesthood or otherwise. First of all we love the Savior, and if that love is real we will love our brothers and sisters.”

Elder Gordon T. Watts

Of the Seventy
Elder Gordon T. Watts

Currently mission president of the Philippines Quezon City Mission, Elder Gordon T. Watts says this and other experiences have taught him the importance of following the Lord’s prophet. He affirms, “What [the prophet] says is not just for different parts of the world; it’s for the whole world.”

Born in South Weber, Utah, on 23 February 1935, Gordon grew up in Utah and graduated from Weber State College. He then served in the U.S. Armed Forces, served a mission to the Hawaiian Islands, and later graduated from Utah State University with a degree in business and education. He married Connie Welling in the Logan Temple on 19 September 1963.

In sales and marketing managerial positions for Ford Motor Company, Gordon traveled extensively during his 32-year career. Consequently, the couple and their four children lived in various parts of the United States, most recently in Roanoke, Texas.

Fortunate in being able to meet many new people, they tried as a family to focus on setting a good example to others. On one occasion in Cleveland, Ohio, they rented a city bus and invited their neighborhood to attend a member-missionary fireside. From that experience, two of their neighbors joined the Church.

Elder Watts loves spending time with his wife, children, and grandchildren. He also enjoys woodworking, drawing, golfing, and gardening. Referring to his gardening, he says, “I take a lot of pride in things looking very neat and nice.”

Elder Watts’s Church callings include serving twice as a bishop, as a counselor in a stake presidency, and twice as a stake president. In February 1993 he was called as a regional representative and served in the Houston Texas East and Plano Texas regions. He will complete his current calling as mission president in July.

He attributes many blessings in his life to the strong work ethic and gospel focus his parents taught. They often told him, “The most important things in your life should be your family and the Church and living its standards.” Elder Watts firmly believes this, adding that “God does direct people in their lives. I have no doubt in my mind about the divinity of [this] work and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Elder Stephen A. West

Of the Seventy
Elder Stephen A. West

The day Stephen A. and Martha Alice Sears West closed on the purchase of their new house in Logan, Utah, he was interviewed to serve as president of the Texas San Antonio Mission. A call came three days later, and shortly thereafter they left for Texas. The decision to go was an easy one. “Our testimonies and the teachings of the Church have dictated our decisions throughout life,” says Elder West. He was serving as mission president when he received the call to the Second Quorum of the Seventy.

Born in Salt Lake City on 23 March 1935, Stephen returned to Utah after serving a mission to the northwestern states. He then earned a bachelor’s degree and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Utah. Meanwhile, Stephen and Martha were married in the Salt Lake Temple on 21 March 1960; they are the parents of three children.

Stephen clerked for a judge and then worked in a Salt Lake City law firm before moving in 1967 to work in Washington, D.C. One year later he joined the Marriott Corporation in Bethesda, Maryland, where in time he became senior vice president and general counsel for Marriott International, Inc. In 1994 Brother West retired, and he and Martha moved to Logan, Utah, just before he was called to serve as mission president.

A former bishop, bishop’s counselor, high councilor, and sealer in the Washington [D.C.] Temple, Elder West says he has appreciated all his opportunities for service but says he particularly learned a great deal while serving as a counselor in the branch presidency of a small central city branch in the District of Columbia. “It was a great experience for us,” he says, still impressed by the “unbelievable faith and strength” of those members.

“Our Texas San Antonio Mission scripture is 3 Nephi 5:13 [3 Ne. 5:13], which says, ‘Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life,’” says Elder West. “I can rarely say that scripture without choking up. I think it says everything about what I want to be and do.”

Elder Robert J. Whetten

Of the Seventy
Elder Robert J. Whetten

It was a privilege to grow up immersed in two cultures and two languages, says Elder Robert Jay Whetten, newly called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy. Born in the LDS colonies in northern Mexico on 12 April 1943 and educated in Church schools there, he grew up loving Spanish and English, both the history and culture of Mexico and the U.S.

It was a blessing, then, for him to find a wife, Raquel López, who was also born in Mexico but grew up largely in the United States with a similar love of the two languages and cultures. They were married on 17 December 1966 in the Arizona Temple and have eight children.

They agreed that they would enjoy living abroad, so when he finished a master’s degree at Brigham Young University, he accepted a job with an international banking company. For several years they lived in various locations in Mexico and South America. After he left the company, they lived in El Paso, Texas, where he was involved in consulting, electronics manufacturing, and banking again. He was president of Norwest bank in El Paso when he was called in 1996 to preside over the Paraguay Asunción Mission.

Both his career moves and Church service (he has been a bishop, high councilor, and counselor in a stake mission presidency) have brought opportunities for growth, Elder Whetten says gratefully. This new calling offers the opportunity to dedicate to the Lord “all that we have and are.”

His wife is excited about the opportunity to support and serve with him in his new calling. He says, “We love the Lord, love the work, and are willing to do all that we’re asked to do in building the kingdom.”

“I look back on my life and realize I have been given experiences and blessings that are special,” Elder Whetten says. He hopes to draw from them lessons that will benefit those he is called to serve.

“Many of life’s greatest lessons are learned through prayer,” he says, citing Moroni 7:48: “Pray unto the Father with all energy of heart, that ye may be filled with love.”

“Life is fleeting,” he explains, so “we should be diligently involved every day in becoming more Christlike in our service to others.”

Elder Ray H. Wood

Of the Seventy
Elder Ray H. Wood

Hoping to bring their family closer together and closer to the Lord, Ray H. and Ann Aylett Wood moved in 1978 to San Juan Bautista, a small town of 1,100 in central California. They left behind an affluent neighborhood in Saratoga, bought a farm, put in an orchard, and took care of 280 rabbits, 5 pigs, 3 cows, 100 chickens, 3 ducks, a dog, and a cat. “The kids used to get up at 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning and go out and do their chores. Then they’d trot off to seminary and then go to school,” recalls Elder Wood. Two of their six children still credit this move with helping them recommit to the gospel.

When Ray and Ann were married in the Logan Temple on 8 August 1955, they promised to serve the Lord, stay active in the Church, and strive to raise an eternal family. He says that Ann has been his great support in life and in his callings as bishop, bishop’s counselor, stake president’s counselor, and stake high councilor. When his call to the Second Quorum of the Seventy came, he was serving as stake president in the Salt Lake Eagle Gate Stake.

Born on 11 July 1931 in Salt Lake City to Ray G. and Mary Hunter Wood, Brother Wood served a mission to England in 1950–52. Upon his return, he earned a bachelor’s and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Utah before working for a local accounting firm in Salt Lake. In 1958 he entered the U.S. Air Force and served three years as an officer in the judge advocate, stationed in Spokane, Washington, and Ogden, Utah. He then returned to Salt Lake for two years to work for Peat Marwick Mitchell; was transferred to Denver, Colorado, for two years; and then went to San Jose, California, where he stayed until retiring as partner of the tax department in 1982. He returned to Salt Lake City to become director of tax administration for the Church until retiring in 1997. He also served for 14 years on the tax review commission for the state of Utah.

Elder Wood is grateful for the guiding influence of the Lord in his family’s life and is humbled by this new calling: “The Lord has blessed us; we’re now looking forward to a great period of service.”

President Hinckley Uplifts Members in Nova Scotia, Africa, Northern Mexico

In 1998’s early months President Gordon B. Hinckley made two major journeys within weeks of each other to meet Church members worldwide. While visiting five African countries and locations in Canada, the Canary Islands, and Cape Verde during a 12–22 February trip, President Hinckley was accompanied by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. With President Hinckley’s trip to Africa—his longest yet, involving nearly 54 air-travel hours and 25,000 miles—he has completed visits to every continent except Antarctica while serving as Church President.

Two weeks after his African assignment, President Hinckley visited a number of cities in northern Mexico during a 9–15 March journey. He was accompanied to Mexico by Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Eran A. Call of the Seventy, President of the Mexico North Area.

Nova Scotia, Canada

On his way to Africa, President Hinckley stopped on Thursday, 12 February, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, where about 1,700 members from Canada’s maritime provinces filled the World Trade and Convention Center to hear President Hinckley and Elder Holland speak. Elder Donald L. Staheli of the Seventy, Second Counselor in the North America Northeast Area, also addressed members.

“Sometimes we feel isolated up here,” said a member from St. John’s, Newfoundland, “but every kilometer we drove, every fathom of water we sailed, and every ache and pain we suffered was well worth it. It was such a blessing to come see the prophet.”

During his address President Hinckley illustrated the principle of gratitude by telling the story of a devastating explosion in Halifax harbor during World War I that was caused when an ammunition ship accidentally ran into another ship. Thousands of people were killed or injured, and extra medical help was provided by the city of Boston, Massachusetts. Since that time, the people of Halifax have sent a Christmas tree each year to the people of Boston to express their gratitude.

“That was the most spiritually powerful experience I have ever had, just being in the same room as the prophet,” said Daphne Oliver of North Sydney, Nova Scotia. “He radiated his love towards us. I felt it so strongly.”

Canary Islands

Before reaching Africa, President Hinckley stopped on Friday, 13 February, in the city of Las Palmas in Spain’s Canary Islands, located in the Atlantic off the coast of northwest Africa. President Hinckley and Elder Holland were met in Las Palmas by Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Seventy, President of the Europe West Area. A group of children in native dress greeted President Hinckley at his hotel and presented him with flowers and a timple, a local musical instrument similar to a ukelele.

After being interviewed by radio and newspaper journalists and meeting with a local government official, President Hinckley spoke to about 800 members gathered in the Palace of Congresses. During his press conference, President Hinckley said, “Our purpose is to lift people’s lives and help them find the answers to life’s most important questions.”

Francisco Barrera, president of the Fuerteventura district, said: “When the mission president told me that President Hinckley was going to visit the Canaries, I laughed and told him I didn’t believe him. As time passed I started to see the preparations, and it was like a dream come true. This visit will strengthen our members.”


President Hinckley arrived on the African continent on Saturday, 14 February, where he was met in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, by Elder James O. Mason of the Seventy, President of the Africa Area, who accompanied him throughout his Africa travels. A group of children sang “I Am a Child of God” (Children’s Songbook, 2) and “Follow the Prophet” (Children’s Songbook, 110) for President Hinckley, and then he addressed about 1,100 priesthood leaders gathered in a concrete-and-tin structure with open sides.

“I am thrilled with the prophet’s visit and his counsel to the brethren to be committed in their callings,” said Calabar district president Imoh Eshiet after the priesthood leadership meeting. “I will take back this message to my members and encourage them in their duties as parents in the home and leaders in the community.”

The next day, Sunday, 15 February, President Hinckley drove to Aba, Nigeria, to look at some Church property. To his surprise, the roadway approaching the property was lined with hundreds of Aba stake members and friends dressed in their Sunday best and waving small green-and-white Nigerian flags in greeting. Later that day President Hinckley addressed some 12,000 members in a regional conference in Port Harcourt. Numerous members from distant Nigerian cities traveled up to 12 hours to attend the conference. Before the conference, hundreds of members had spent hours preparing the civic center for President Hinckley’s visit by cleaning walls; removing cobwebs; cleaning and painting the VIP lounge; sweeping; installing lights and fans; constructing a stand and a toilet facility; preparing draperies, a podium, and potted native plants; renting and setting up 10,000 chairs; and temporarily installing an organ from a stake center.

“The Church will grow in Nigeria as you grow,” President Hinckley said. “If you don’t do anything, nothing very much will happen with the Church. But if you are anxiously engaged in assisting those for whom you are responsible, the Church will grow in strength.”

Speaking of the 1978 revelation extending the priesthood to all worthy males, President Hinckley said, “I am an eyewitness to what happened.”

After the conference, a sister from Benin City commented, “This conference was like Moses gathering the children of Israel.”


One of President Hinckley’s first actions in Accra, Ghana, on Monday morning, 16 February, was to visit a site for a potential temple. He then met for about 30 minutes with the president of Ghana, His Excellency Jerry John Rawlings, at his palace. Speaking briefly about the period beginning in 1989 when Ghana’s government banned all activities of the Church (see Don L. Searle, “Ghana: A Household of Faith,” Ensign, Mar. 1996, 38–39), President Rawlings said, “We take back the conflicting signals of the past and look forward to the spiritual developments of the future.” President Hinckley responded, “Let’s put all that behind us now.”

Later that afternoon President Hinckley addressed about 6,500 members gathered in Independence Square near Accra’s Atlantic coastline. During his remarks he announced that land had been purchased for the construction of a temple there. The temple will be the Church’s second on the continent, the first announced for Africa since the Johannesburg South Africa Temple was dedicated in 1985. The 6,500-strong congregation responded with great fervor in the outdoor square.

Upon returning to his hotel that evening, he gave interviews with national TV and radio reporters.


President Hinckley traveled east across Africa and arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, on the afternoon of Tuesday, 17 February. He addressed some 900 members in a large conference room at his hotel, including some members who had traveled from Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda. In areas where members could not afford to travel to Nairobi, some pooled their funds to send representatives who could return and share the experience with them.

“There is a tremendous bond of love that grows among the Saints of God wherever they may be found,” said President Hinckley in his remarks. “It is a marvelous and wonderful thing. As I look into your faces, I can see the same bond of affection as I do when I look into the faces of people in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. We are all part of this great family—this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, now 10 million strong, scattered through 160 nations of the earth.”

President Hinckley also said: “There isn’t the slightest doubt in my mind that the time will come if you will walk in faith and patience that a temple will be built in this land to serve the needs of this people. Now, don’t count on it for a few years, … but it will be so.”


Addressing some 1,500 members in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Wednesday evening, 18 February, President Hinckley quoted Peter, who said, “God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34–35). Then President Hinckley said: “That, my beloved brothers and sisters, describes you. I’ve had that testimony reconfirmed in my heart on this trip as I have met with you and many others that all are alike unto God. … We’re all of a great family, a marvelous family, the family of the living Christ, worshiping Him together.”

Several government and religious representatives were in attendance at the conference, including Zimbabwe’s secretary of defense and social welfare director. At the end of the conference, as the congregation stood and sang “God Be with You Till We Meet Again” (Hymns, no. 152) in English and two local languages, President Hinckley was presented with a stone sculpture titled The Eternal Family, created by Agrippa Ndongwe of the Mutare district.

South Africa

President Hinckley arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Thursday morning, 19 February. That afternoon he toured the Johannesburg temple, met briefly with temple workers, and gave an interview for South Africa’s largest newspaper. That evening he addressed about 5,500 members at Johannesburg’s National Recreation and Exhibition Center.

“What a glorious season this is in the history of this Church, my brothers and sisters,” President Hinckley said in the Johannesburg conference. “Never was the Church stronger than it is today. Never was its voice more widely listened to than it is today. Never have we built buildings to the degree that we are building them today. This is the greatest stage in the history of the Church.” He reminded members of what the Lord’s Church expects of them, including developing a testimony of Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ; acquiring a personal conviction of Joseph Smith’s mission and the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon; honoring the priesthood; living the Word of Wisdom; paying a tithe and offerings; showing charity toward others; and praying often.

On Friday, 20 February, President Hinckley addressed 1,800 members gathered in a convention center in Durban, and later that afternoon he flew to Cape Town and addressed about 1,500 members at a suburban university sports stadium.

“Many of you are concerned about conditions here,” President Hinckley said in Durban. “Some of you worry whether you should emigrate and go elsewhere. … I want to give you assurance that the Church is here to stay in South Africa. We have been here a very long time, and we are going to be here for a long time. We have that beautiful temple in Johannesburg. We have meetinghouses up and down the land. We’ll build buildings. The membership of the Church will increase. We now have five stakes in Johannesburg, but the time will come when we will have five stakes here [in Durban].”

As President Hinckley entered the conference in Cape Town, he was handed a collection of personal notes written by the youth of the stake. “Tired? He might have been, but no one in the congregation would have recognized,” observed Clive Nicholls of Rondebosch. “Something special happens to a congregation when the Lord’s anointed encourages, reproves, and gives counsel to guide and direct their spiritual development. Tears and smiles from the Saints seemingly contradict, but there is no doubting the exchange of love and affection between the Saints and their prophet.”

When President Hinckley left his hotel the next morning, he was greeted outside by local Primary children singing “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet” (Hymns, no. 19). Ruffling the children’s hair and shaking hands as he moved toward his car, the Church leader said, “I’m thrilled you all came out to say good-bye.”

Cape Verde

President Hinckley departed the African continent on Saturday, 21 February, and later that day arrived in Praia, the capital of the Cape Verde islands. He met with Cape Verde’s secretary of state and held a press conference with radio and television representatives. The next day, Sunday, 22 February, he gave the final address of his journey to about 800 members gathered from several islands.

“Once again, President Hinckley demonstrated his incredible vigor and insatiable desire to be among the Latter-day Saints,” commented a traveling companion. “‘This is where the action is,’ [President Hinckley] said with a gleam in his eye.”

Hermosillo and Ciudad Obregón, Mexico

Hermosillo was the first of 10 stops President Hinckley made during his 9–15 March trip to northern Mexico, during which he addressed a total of about 53,000 members. A few months earlier, he had visited cities in southern Mexico and Belize (see “President Hinckley Tours Mexico and Belize,” Ensign, Feb. 1998, 75–77).

Speaking in Hermosillo, President Hinckley said: “I hope that every adult in this congregation will qualify for a temple recommend. Even though you may not be able to get to the temple, you get a temple recommend from your bishop and stake president. Carry it with you, and it will remind you of the great and sacred covenants which you have made to the Lord to live lives of cleanliness and purity, to be kind and dear one to another, to reach out to your neighbors even though they are not members of the Church, and to help and bless their lives.”

Later on Monday, 9 March, President Hinckley addressed some 3,300 people in Ciudad Obregón. “You are just as dear to me as are the Saints in Salt Lake City,” President Hinckley said. “What wonderful people you are! If you are living the gospel, you are the best people in the world. I believe that! We pray for you. We know that you pray for us, and we thank you for your prayers, and we leave our blessing upon you this night that the heavens will be opened as you walk in righteousness. … Don’t you ever forget that you heard Brother Hinckley say tonight that he knows that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ and in a glorious vision they ushered in this great dispensation of eternal truth.”

Culiacán and Guadalajara, Mexico

President Hinckley spoke to about 4,100 members in Culiacán on Tuesday morning, 10 March, and to about 6,000 members in Guadalajara that evening.

“You are now as strong as any group of members anywhere in the world,” President Hinckley said in Culiacán. “You have testimonies. You know the great plan of happiness of God. Do your very best to build and strengthen the kingdom and others. May you be true and virtuous. … You are a beautiful people. I love you.”

In Guadalajara, President Hinckley reiterated his urgent message about retaining new converts: “I plead with every one of you tonight to find out about the converts to the Church and put your arms around them and make friends of them, and you bishops and branch presidents put them to work. Give them something to do. As they work, they will grow in faith. Faith is like the muscle of my arm. If I use it, if I nurture it, it will grow strong. If I put it in a sling and leave it there, it will grow weak. Brothers and sisters, please, please reach out to every convert in the Church and help him or her to become established in the faith.”

Torreón, León, Ciudad Victoria, and Monterrey, Mexico

Keeping up his pace of two cities per day, President Hinckley met with about 5,300 members in Torreón on Wednesday morning, 11 March, and with thousands more in León that evening.

“It has been a grand experience to listen to the prophet of our God speak clearly and to receive his blessing as an individual and a family,” said Torreón member Victor Rios Avendaño. “Participating in the choir has been an extra blessing,” remarked Brother Avendaño’s wife, Norma Oralia. “Along with being able to sing and sit near the pulpit, I was able to see a living prophet for the first time in 20 years, and I was able to do it with my husband and our children.”

President Hinckley spoke in Ciudad Victoria on Thursday morning, 12 March, and addressed about 12,000 people in Monterrey that evening.

“It was something very special for us to have the opportunity to listen to President Hinckley’s message in this part of the world,” said Abelardo Morales Méndez, president of the San Nicolás stake. “We love him very much, and we wish to continue being blessed, as he said. I believe that all members feel the same love and the same harmony for him. I felt very pleased and strengthened.”

Commenting on the unusually cold weather in Monterrey, choir director Mormón Treviño of the Roma stake said: “I enjoyed seeing that even though the Brethren were suffering from the cold and the rain they were calmly seated. The prophet’s message touched my heart.”

Chihuahua and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico

“I have the feeling that there are wonderful days ahead for Mexico,” said President Hinckley to nearly 4,000 listeners in Chihuahua on Friday evening, 13 March. “This nation is standing on its feet and moving forward. The Church is maturing in this country. … I am impressed with you, with the strength of your faith, with the leaders that are growing up among you, with a generation of young people who have a knowledge of the gospel and a love for the work and faith in God.”

In Ciudad Juárez the next day, Saturday, 14 March, President Hinckley conducted a priesthood leadership meeting that afternoon, and the next morning, Sunday, 15 March, he addressed a large conference. “There is no greater blessing in all the world than the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God and the living reality of the Savior of mankind,” President Hinckley said. “God is a personality. He is an individual being of flesh and bones. Jesus is a resurrected being of flesh and bone. The Holy Ghost is a personage of Spirit, but an individual. They are not three in one, but three individuals of one purpose. That knowledge has come to us through the restoration of the gospel.”

Ciudad Juárez is located about a three-hour drive from Colonia Juárez, where ground was recently broken for a small temple (see “Colonia Juárez Temple Groundbreaking” on page 118 of this issue).

About 1,700 members, including the above family, gathered to hear President Hinckley and Elder Holland speak in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

President Hinckley is greeted by children from the Canary Islands.

A Nigerian member.

President Hinckley waves to the audience at Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Hundreds of members had spent hours preparing the building for his visit.

About 12,000 members hear President Hinckley speak in Port Harcourt.

Saints in Aba, Nigeria, line the roadway to see the arrival of President Hinckley.

Members in Accra, Ghana, anxiously await President Hinckley’s arrival.

President Hinckley and the president of Ghana, His Excellency Jerry John Rawlings, greet each other. (Photo by Steve Fidel/Deseret News.)

President Hinckley speaks to a member in Cape Town, South Africa.

Left to right: Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Elder José A. Teixeira da Silva, President Hinckley, Cape Verde secretary of state Ana Paula Almeida, and Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf speak at a press conference in Cape Verde.

Members of the Church in Cape Verde rejoice at the visit of the President of the Church.

In the Nuevo Gimnasio of Sonora University in Hermosillo, President Hinckley greets a crowd of approximately 3,100 Latter-day Saints gathered from 10 surrounding communities. (Photo by Gerrado Rivera.)

Dressed in white, a 100-voice choir performs for President Hinckley’s visit to Ciudad Obregón.

Thousands gather in Guadalajara to hear the prophet of the Lord. (Photo by Manuel Garcia.)

Members lined up for hours before entering the Domo de la Feria in León. (Photo by Victor Ramirez Anaya.)

Members and investigators fill the Auditorio Municipal in Torreón, Mexico, to hear President Hinckley speak. (Photo courtesy of Juan José Magallanes Lopéz and B. Samuel Sánchez Garcia.)

A translator assists President Hinckley during his remarks in Chihuahua, Mexico. (Photo courtesy of Leonel Silva and Fidel Marquez Proa.)

Members in Chihuahua stand to sing farewell as President Hinckley leaves. (Photo courtesy of Leonel Silva and Fidel Marquez Proa.)

Saints listen attentively to a prophet’s voice in Ciudad Juárez.

Palmyra Sites, Historic Utah Chapel Dedicated

Hundreds of persons congregated in early spring in a Church meetinghouse in Palmyra, New York, for the dedication of two important, nearby Church history sites: the renovated Grandin building, now officially known as the Book of Mormon Historic Publication Site, and the newly constructed Joseph Smith log home replica.

“They’re not shrines,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley regarding the sites. “We don’t worship them, but we respect them and honor them and like the common feel of the spirit that’s to be found in them. … Our roots are here.”

The Grandin building, located in the business center of Palmyra, was dedicated by President Hinckley on Thursday evening, 26 March 1998, the anniversary of the completion of the first printing of the Book of Mormon in 1830. Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy, President of the North America Northeast Area, conducted the meeting. Several descendants of printer Egbert B. Grandin attended the service, as well as members from nearby stakes and several former missionaries who had served in Palmyra.

The Prophet Joseph Smith signed a contract with E. B. Grandin in 1829 to print 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon at a cost of $3,000. Since that time, the building has housed a law office, a millinery, tailor and tin shops, a hardware store, and a variety store. Intensive renovation of the building, donated to the Church in 1978, took about 2 1/2 years. Visitors are now able to better experience the setting in which the Book of Mormon was published and learn about Church history through new exhibits.

The Book of Mormon “is going across the earth in a miraculous and wonderful way,” remarked President Hinckley. “We are printing now about five or six million copies a year in various tongues and languages. I think that those who set the type and those who rolled the press … never in their wildest imaginations dreamed that this marvelous testament of the New World would go forth across the earth in the fashion in which it has done.”

The next morning, Friday, 27 March 1998, President Hinckley gave a dedicatory prayer for the 1 1/2-story replica of a log home originally built during the winter of 1818–19 by the family of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith. The replica is located on the log home’s original site near the Smith family’s frame home, a restored version of which has served for many years as a Church visitors’ center. The log home was where the angel Moroni appeared to 17-year-old Joseph Smith in September 1823 to instruct him about the plates buried in nearby Hill Cumorah. Both Smith houses are located near the wooded area known as the Sacred Grove.

Speaking of the First Vision, President Hinckley said: “I can imagine in my mind the boy coming up here from the grove, walking very slowly, thinking of the things that had happened. … That began the unfolding of this, the most wonderful and remarkable manifestation and dispensation in the history of all mankind.”

President Hinckley concluded his remarks in the log home by saying, “May we remember always the things that have occurred here and carry them in our hearts and bolster our faith in this great latter-day work.”

Shirley Woodruff, who served with her husband, Rex, as a full-time missionary in Palmyra during the early 1990s, said: “I remember telling people at the Joseph Smith home that at first he lived in a log cabin just down the road. They just couldn’t visualize it. Now they can!”

Springville, Utah, Meetinghouse

“This building came out of faith,” said President Hinckley at the 1 March rededication of a restored Springville, Utah, meetinghouse. “The value of all the eggs that were laid on Sunday was contributed to the purchase of nails. I suppose some of those old nails are still in the shell of that building—egg nails. They are holding on, and that is a sign of the great faith of these people.”

The meetinghouse was originally dedicated in 1913 by Elder Reed Smoot of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and after expansion and improvements it was rededicated by President Heber J. Grant in 1931. “We have a history of prophets and Apostles dedicating this beautiful edifice,” remarked Elder Ben B. Banks of the Seventy, President of the Utah South Area, who conducted the meeting. “How fitting today to have our living prophet, even President Gordon B. Hinckley, here to rededicate this beautiful edifice.”

Recalling that the Springville meetinghouse property was purchased in 1895 and that construction took some 18 years, President Hinckley said: “What a beautiful structure it is. When I came in here today, I just marveled at it.”

About 1,400 people attended the rededication service, most of whom were members of the Kolob Second and Kolob Fourth Wards, which meet in the building.

President Hinckley speaks at the dedication of the Joseph Smith log home replica. (Photography by Craig Dimond.)

President Hinckley talks with a reporter outside the log home replica on Stafford Road near Palmyra, New York.

President Hinckley conducts the dedication for the renovated Grandin building in the Palmyra chapel. Overflow crowds in the Rochester New York Palmyra Stake Center listened to the dedication via an audio feed.

Colonia Juárez Temple Groundbreaking

“On this small hill the temple will shine as a pearl to all who see it,” said Elder Eran A. Call of the Seventy, President of the Mexico North Area, at a groundbreaking ceremony held on 7 March for the temple to be built in Colonia Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico.

The temple will be the second completed of the new smaller temples announced by President Gordon B. Hinckley in October 1997. The first small temple is already under construction in Monticello, Utah, a town in the southeastern corner of the state, and the third will be built in Anchorage, Alaska.

“These three temples are to be models for those that follow,” Elder Call said. “Let this temple be a model of frequent use.”

Colonia Juárez is one of the Latter-day Saint pioneer colonies founded in the 19th century in northern Mexico. The temple site, a hillside immediately west of Church-owned school La Academia Juárez, was donated by a local member. John Whetten, director of the academy, remarked, “I never would have imagined that the academy would be in the shadow of a temple.”

Also participating in the services were Elder Dale E. Miller and Elder Tomás Valdéz of the Mexico North Area Presidency. Elder Joe J. Christensen of the Presidency of the Seventy, who was visiting the area to reorganize a stake, was also present. Local government officials attended, as well as Elder Servando Rojas, an Area Authority Seventy, and Samuel Cluff, president of the Mexico Chihuahua Mission. The site was dedicated by Elder Call.

Unusually cold weather for the arid northern Mexico region did not deter hundreds of members from attending the groundbreaking. In addition to local residents, members arrived by busloads from Ciudad Juárez to the north and Chihuahua City to the south.

Strong, cold winds followed by a rainstorm drenched those who attended, and later in the hour-long ceremony hail and then snow fell.

In his remarks, President Carl Call of the Colonia Dublán stake said, “At least this storm will keep us awake!” and reminded listeners of the hardships their forebears suffered when settling the colonies over 100 years ago. President Meredith I. Romney of the Colonia Juárez stake said, “You may be cold now, but you will soon have the warmth the temple will bring.”

Urging members to renew their temple covenants again and again, the brethren of the area presidency reminded listeners that the Colonia Juárez temple will serve not only the region surrounding the LDS colonies but also a large area of northern Mexico. An increase in interest in family history work has already begun. According to Colonia Juárez stake family history consultants Lupe and Rubén Vizcaíno, requests for rolls of microfilm have increased from 4 per month to 40.

The Colonia Juárez Mexico Temple will become the second operating temple in Mexico. The Mexico City Temple has been in operation since 1983, and another temple has been announced for Monterrey, Nuevo León, in northeastern Mexico.

View of the site for Colonia Juárez Mexico Temple. Juárez Stake Academy administration building is at left and homes of Colonia Juárez are in the background. (Photo by Maria Ontiveros Jones.)

Maria Ontiveros Jones serves as music director in the Oquirrh Fourth Ward, West Jordan Utah Oquirrh Stake.

Temple Groundbreaking in Billings, Montana

On 28 March more than 4,800 people gathered beneath sandstone rimrocks during a spring snowstorm to witness the groundbreaking of the Billings Montana Temple. The North America Central Area Presidency was present, with Elder Hugh W. Pinnock of the Seventy presiding and his counselors Elder Kenneth Johnson and Elder Lynn G. Robbins, both of the Seventy, giving addresses. Billings mayor Charles F. Tooley attended the ceremony, as did several city council members, city administrators and staff, and local clergy.

Stating that the groundbreaking day was also the birthday of his father, who had passed away 16 years before, Elder Pinnock said: “I hope that he is witnessing this groundbreaking today. It is because of temples that he and Mother and those of their family will be together again, because we have been sealed.”

Elder Pinnock challenged those living within the temple district—which covers some 60,000 members in Montana, northern Wyoming, North Dakota, and western South Dakota—to accomplish three tasks before the temple is dedicated: “Live the commandments and be the best neighbors and missionaries you know how to be. Prepare a temple-ready file so you may come here in just 18 months to accomplish the vital ordinances and covenants for your relatives. Continue to teach our youth to be worthy so they will be able to [be baptized for] those that have died and to prepare for their own eternal marriages.”

After the ceremony, Billings East Stake president Michael G. Bowman said: “When I arrived and saw the crowd all huddled together, my heart was really warmed. This is a momentous occasion for us. The Saints in this area are becoming stronger and stronger, and we feel a greater commitment, a greater love for the Lord.”

A choir of 700 youth from throughout the temple district sang at the groundbreaking. “This has been one of the most beautiful days of my life,” said 17-year-old choir member Maggie Koernig of the Billings Eighth Ward. “Just sitting here and feeling the energy of all of us being together and strong in the faith and knowing that it is true was really awesome. Even though it was really bad weather, I wouldn’t trade it for anything, being able to see the groundbreaking and know that some day I can go in that temple and be married.”

With completion projected in 18 to 24 months, the Billings temple will be approximately 33,000 square feet, with a 117-foot central spire and an exterior of Wyoming white dolomite and tan aggregate sandstone.

In spite of snowy weather, thousands joyfully attend groundbreaking ceremonies for the Billings Montana Temple. (Photo by David Hein.)

Ricks College President Inaugurated

Elder David A. Bednar, an Area Authority Seventy and former business management professor at the University of Arkansas, was inaugurated on 27 February as the 14th president of Ricks College, a Church-owned junior college in Rexburg, Idaho. The inauguration ceremonies were conducted by President Gordon B. Hinckley. Speakers included Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, chairman of the executive committee of the Church Board of Education, and Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, commissioner of Church Education. Also in attendance were Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy, president of Brigham Young University; Sister Mary Ellen W. Smoot, Relief Society general president and a member of the Church Board of Education; and Stephen K. Woodhouse, president of LDS Business College.

“It will be your responsibility and that of your associates to train your students to think with intellectual integrity, to act with moral responsibility, to stand as examples of men and women possessed of a great sense of service to their fellow men and a love for God and His Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ,” said President Hinckley in his inaugural charge. “We charge you to see that there is taught on this campus a recognition of God as our Eternal Father. This recognition inherently leads to recognition that all men are brothers. Only as men everywhere come to recognize this can we hope for true peace in the world.”

In his inaugural response, Elder Bednar observed that “sweeping changes are occurring” in the world of education. Further, “the rapid growth of the Church throughout the world will require us to be ever better stewards of the sacred resources and support we receive,” he said.

Comparing the educational efforts of Ricks College to Nephi’s building of the ship that carried his family to the promised land, Elder Bednar said: “I know that we will be guided and directed by Him whose school this is as we respond to the challenge to build an educational ship of curious workmanship. Surely we must build this ship after the manner which the Lord will show unto us and not after the manner of men. Our standards and practices indeed will be unique, and we will be set apart from the world.”

A native of San Leandro, California, Elder Bednar earned a master’s degree in organizational communication at Brigham Young University in 1977 and completed his doctorate at Purdue University in 1980. His previous Church leadership experience includes serving as a regional representative, as a stake president twice, and as a full-time missionary in Germany during the early 1970s. Elder Bednar assumed his duties as president of Ricks College on 1 July 1997, replacing Stephen D. Bennion, who served as college president for eight years.

Left to right: Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Susan K. Bednar, new Ricks College president David A. Bednar, and President Gordon B. Hinckley at inaugural ceremonies. (Photo by Michael Lewis.)

Don W. Sparhawk is coordinator of press relations at Ricks College.