New Seventies Sustained
During the 169th Annual General Conference, six new Brethren were called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy, and three new Area Authority Seventies were called to the Fourth and Fifth Quorums of the Seventy.
The new members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy are Elder Adhemar Damiani of São Paulo, Brazil; Elder Stephen B. Oveson of San Juan Capistrano, California; Elder David R. Stone of Windermere, Florida; Elder H. Bruce Stucki of St. George, Utah; Elder Richard H. Winkel of Provo, Utah; and Elder Robert S. Wood of Middletown, Rhode Island. New Area Authority Seventies called to the Fourth Quorum of the Seventy are Elder Benjamin De Hoyos of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Mexico, serving in the Mexico South Area; and Elder Pedro J. Penha of Cariacica, Brazil, serving in the Brazil South Area. Elder Steven E. Snow of Washington, Utah, was called to the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy, serving in the Utah South Area.
Members of the Seventy have responsibility for administering the work of the Church throughout the world under the direction of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Nauvoo Temple to Be Rebuilt
The Nauvoo Temple, which was dedicated in 1846, once stood on the east bank of the Mississippi River in Illinois, but it was destroyed by fire in 1848 after early Church members were forced out of their city. A tornado later toppled the ruins, and scavengers removed the massive limestone blocks. Only a few ornamental stones have been preserved from the Church’s second temple.
At the close of the recent April 1999 general conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley made the following surprise announcement: “We plan to rebuild the Nauvoo Temple. A member of the Church and his family have provided a very substantial contribution to make this possible. We are grateful to them. It will be a while before it happens, but the architects have begun their work. This temple will not be busy much of the time; it will be somewhat isolated. But during the summer months, we anticipate it will be very busy. And the new building will stand as a memorial to those who built the first such structure there on the banks of the Mississippi.”
Today, the four-acre, Church-owned temple grounds are landscaped and surrounded by a wrought-iron fence, with excavated remains of the temple foundation and basement visible to tourists. Last year the Church purchased about eight acres west of the temple grounds, where a Catholic monastery and academy operated for many years. The Church has restored a number of pioneer buildings and has a large visitors’ center in historic Nauvoo.
The Nauvoo Temple, which was in full operation for only eight weeks, had 60 rooms, light-gray limestone walls four to six feet thick, and a single 165-foot tower. The temple’s bell was carted by wagon to the Salt Lake Valley and presently hangs on Temple Square.
Elder Adhemar Damiani
After many years of serving in Church leadership positions, Elder Adhemar Damiani, newly called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy, is well schooled in receiving direction from General Authority leaders. It is an adjustment for him to think now in terms of giving counsel as a General Authority himself.
“It was only through the help of the Lord that I came to this point,” he says, “and it will only be with the help of the Lord that I will be able to carry out this work.”
He was an Area Authority Seventy before receiving this calling and continues to serve as second counselor in the Brazil South Area Presidency. His previous callings include mission president, counselor in the presidency of the São Paulo Missionary Training Center, regional welfare agent, counselor in a stake presidency, high councilor, and bishop.
A native of Brazil (born 18 December 1939), he was baptized in May 1961 after being introduced to the gospel by the woman who would become his wife, Walkyria Bronze. She was baptized in March 1961. Married in March 1963, they have two children and five grandchildren.
His wife’s “complete support,” in both spiritual and emotional ways, and her many other strengths have helped make his service possible, Elder Damiani says.
His career was in business. He retired as owner and a partner in SEDA Tecnologia, a company specializing in customized software for business applications. He hopes that years of administrative and leadership experience gained in his work will be helpful in training leaders for the rapidly growing Church in Brazil.
But more important, Elder Damiani says, is his broadened responsibility to testify of Jesus Christ.
His is a testimony built on truths he first learned through the Book of Mormon’s witness of the Savior. It is a testimony that has been fed through service in the Church, particularly as mission president (Brazil Curitiba, 1995–98), when he saw the gospel change lives of both missionaries and the people they taught.
It is a testimony he delights in sharing. “I have no doubt that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that Gordon B. Hinckley is a prophet today.”
Elder Stephen B. Oveson
“We are here to establish Zion,” says Elder Stephen B. Oveson, a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, currently serving as president of the Argentina Buenos Aires South Mission. “Every member of the Church has to work to make this come to pass, and I plan do the best I can to help build up the kingdom.”
Born 9 July 1936 in Grass Valley, Oregon, to Merrill and Mal Berg Oveson, Stephen was the third child in a family of four. He grew up in Oregon, then attended Brigham Young University before serving in the Northern Mexican Mission from 1956 to 1959. Upon his return to BYU to study finance and banking, he met Dixie Randall of Tempe, Arizona. On 7 September 1960, they married in the Arizona Temple. After they graduated from BYU in 1961, they moved to Tempe.
Brother Oveson spent the first 10 years of his career in finance and banking. In 1970, he went to work for the founder of Granada Royale Hometels—the first all-suite hotel chain in the United States. This chain eventually became Embassy Suites. In 1985, Brother Oveson started his own hotel development and management company—Suite Thinking, Inc.
Now residents of San Juan Capistrano, California, the Ovesons are the parents of six children, all sons, and grandparents of 15. With a family of boys, the Ovesons have always enjoyed sports and outdoor activities. Among their favorite memories over the last 25 years are yearly family vacations on Lake Powell and skiing trips to Utah. All of the boys have served missions.
No strangers to heartache, the Ovesons lost a two-and-a-half-year-old son to death. Today, still aware of the suffering of little children, Brother Oveson has found time among his many activities to be involved with Pathway, a center for disadvantaged children in Madras, India.
“I have a strong conviction that Heavenly Father’s plan for me is the one that I need to follow,” says Elder Oveson, who has served as a bishop, a stake missionary, a stake high councilor, and a temple ordinance worker in the San Diego Temple. “I look upon this calling as another blessing and opportunity from the Lord, and I plan to fulfill it to the best of my abilities.”
Elder David R. Stone
Seeing the world has been a commonplace experience for Elder David R. Stone, recently called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 16 June 1936, he grew up speaking English at home and Spanish at school. When he was 10, his parents divorced, and during his teen years he lived in a boarding school and spent summers on a cattle ranch near Córdoba.
His mother, who was baptized in 1951, moved to Provo, Utah, so that her children could attend Brigham Young University. David was 18 when he arrived at BYU. On a visit to the health center, the doctor happened to find out he had been investigating the Church and asked how long. “For two or three years,” replied David. The doctor looked at him and said, “If you don’t make decisions in time, time makes decisions for you.” The words lodged in his mind, and David decided to pray for an answer. He was baptized six weeks later.
Elder Stone served in the Spanish American Mission, and after graduation from BYU, he went to work for Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati, Ohio. On a visit home, he met Rosalie Erekson. On their first date, both felt good about each other. Nine days later they became engaged by telephone when he called Rosalie from Chicago between flights home. They were married in February 1966 in the Salt Lake Temple.
In 1967 he became marketing manager for the Gillette Company in Argentina. He stayed with the company for 16 years, during which he and his wife had six children: Eric, born in New York; Angela, in Argentina; Julie, in Peru; Carolyn, in Boston; Michael, in Argentina; and Jonathan, in England. During these years he served in six bishoprics in four countries. Other assignments included serving on a stake high council, in a stake presidency, and as a regional representative.
In 1986 he joined Black & Decker, retiring in 1994. In 1996 he and his wife were called to preside over the Dominican Republic Santo Domingo West Mission. “My previous executive positions were only preparation for my work as a mission president,” said Elder Stone. “We have always been willing to do what the Lord has asked us to do.”
Elder H. Bruce Stucki
“Everything we did, we did together,” says Elder H. Bruce Stucki about life with his wife, Cheryl Cox Stucki, and their six children. “My wife made a family flag with the names of our kids and the motto We Do It Together. We fished, went boating, hunted, worked, and gathered wood together. We worked hard, but we always made it enjoyable and had a reward at the end, like a cookout or ice cream party.”
At the time of his call to the Second Quorum of the Seventy, Elder Stucki was serving as president of the England Manchester Mission. “We carried that slogan with us into the mission,” he says. “The missionaries were all our family: our sons and daughters. We did the Lord’s work together as missionaries, local leaders, and members.”
Born 1 December 1937 in St. George, Utah, Elder Stucki grew up in the nearby farming community of Santa Clara, Utah. He married Cheryl Cox in 1955, and they were sealed in the St. George Temple in 1957. Today they have 17 grandchildren. After graduating from Dixie College and the University of Utah in management, Elder Stucki entered the food distribution business and later became a real estate developer in the western United States.
“The knowledge of how to organize and plan helped in my Church involvement,” he says. “And the tempering of the Church made me a better employer.” He served on the St. George Utilities Commission and Utah Board of Regents, and with the Utah Partnership for Economic Development, and he began the scheduled air service in Utah that later developed into Skywest Airlines.
In the Church, Elder Stucki has been a Scouting and Young Men leader, a bishop, a stake president, a regional representative, and an Area Authority. “The Lord has been very good to us,” he says. “There was a time when we needed the Lord’s help and a blessing when a member of our family was seriously ill. We received that special blessing from the Lord, and we have always been grateful and felt indebted to Him. But we have learned that the more we try to pay Him back, the more He blesses us. So we just focus on the joy and happiness that come from serving Him.”
Elder Richard H. Winkel
Elder Richard H. Winkel of the Second Quorum of the Seventy attributes much of his strong testimony to the influence of his family as well as to a lifetime of missionary experiences. He says his two years spent as a young missionary in Chile were particularly influential.
Elder Winkel arrived there in 1962, not long after the Chilean Mission was organized. There he witnessed the gospel take root as Chileans eagerly embraced its restored doctrines.
He recalls one young family he contacted. “I baptized the wife and worked with the husband in the Scouting program,” he says. “I wrote in my journal that I felt someday the husband would join the Church.”
Twenty years later Elder Winkel received a telephone call from two sister missionaries in Amarillo, Texas. They had met the couple, who had immigrated to the United States and now had five children. The wife was no longer active, they said, but she recalled the name Elder Winkel. “They wanted me to call this couple and bear my testimony to them after they heard the first discussion, and I did that,” says Elder Winkel. “We were all thrilled to have a reunion over the telephone.” A few weeks later he flew to Amarillo and baptized the husband and children.
Elder Winkel, born on 17 May 1942 in Oakland, California, earned a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and an MBA from Pepperdine University. While attending BYU he met Karen Hart, and they were married 31 August 1966 in the Salt Lake Temple. They are the parents of nine children and live in Provo, Utah.
Elder Winkel’s father established a lumber business, Beaver Lumber, in California’s Bay Area, and Elder Winkel followed in his footsteps, buying a mill in Arcata, California. Seven of his children were actively involved in the business as they grew up, working in the summers and on weekends. “We all say we have a little sawdust under our fingernails,” he says.
Elder Winkel has served as a bishop, stake president, and president of the Spain Madrid Mission. “I love the gospel, I love the Savior, and I love the prophet,” he says. “I am happy to serve whenever and however I am called. I have always known the gospel is true, and my testimony has grown and grown.”
Elder Robert S. Wood
“Twelve years old—my first Church calling,” remembers Elder Robert S. Wood of the Second Quorum of the Seventy. “I was asked to be the music director in Mutual.” But he had to overcome two difficulties: one, he couldn’t sing; and two, he didn’t know anything about music. “The Young Women president took me aside and said, ‘OK, Robert—one, two, three, four,’” his arm sweeping the air in four-four time as he recounts the story. “And so I learned how to do it.”
The youngest of four children, Robert was born in Idaho Falls, Idaho, on 25 December 1936 to Jack and Blanche Wood. After graduating from high school, he began studies at Stanford University, where he met Dixie Leigh Jones. He then served in the French Mission from 1957 to 1959. When Robert returned to complete his degree in history, he and Dixie began dating. He recalls, “Probably the most significant question she asked after we had been dating for a while was when she looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘Robert, are you going to stay active?’” His answer was clear, and they were married in the Idaho Falls Temple on 27 March 1961.
The couple moved to Massachusetts, where he earned both a master’s and doctoral degree in political science from Harvard University. A specialist in international affairs, he has taught at Harvard, Bentley College, and the University of Virginia. Most recently, he has served as the dean of the Center for Naval Warfare Studies at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.
The Woods are the parents of four daughters and the grandparents of eight grandchildren. “Two things explain our family,” says Elder Wood. “First, Heavenly Father just sent us four terrific kids. And second, their mother … I would never have been able to do anything that I’ve done professionally or in the Church had I not married the right woman who asked the question, ‘Are you going to stay active?’”
Of the many responsibilities required of a Seventy, Elder Wood adds, “Whatever my weaknesses, there’s one thing I can do with utter confidence—and that is to bear witness of Jesus Christ.”
Temples Dedicated in Colonia Juárez and Madrid
Colonia Juárez Chihuahua Temple
“It was here in northern Mexico that Thou didst reveal the idea and the plan of a smaller temple, complete in every necessary detail, but suited in size to the needs and circumstances of the Church membership in this area of Thy vineyard,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley in his dedicatory prayer for Mexico’s recently completed Colonia Juárez Chihuahua Temple. “That revelation came of a desire and a prayer to help Thy people of these colonies who have been true and loyal during the century and more that they have lived here. They are deserving of this sacred edifice in which to labor for themselves and their forebears.”
A total of about 5,000 people attended four dedicatory sessions held 6–7 March for the Church’s 55th and Mexico’s second operating temple. Located 15 miles from a main highway in a community of fewer than 1,000 residents, the new temple crowns a hilltop above Juárez Academy, a Church school started soon after pioneers established Colonia Juárez in 1885. Also participating in the temple dedication were President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Elder Eran A. Call of the Seventy, President of the Mexico North Area. Prior to the dedication, some 11,000 people attended an open house held 25–27 February.
“This temple is the result of the work of those who went before,” said President Packer. “While it is a fulfillment and a fruition, it is also certainly a great beginning in this beautiful valley where the Saints have been so faithful.” He continued: “Ninety mission presidents from these two stakes have gone out to preach the gospel, and innumerable missionaries. They have undergone sacrifice for generations, and now the Lord has blessed them with a house of the Lord.”
Elder Call, who grew up in nearby Colonia Dublán, said, “It was just a year ago, on March 7, 1998, that we had a groundbreaking on this hill overlooking this beautiful little town. Now, one year later, to participate in the open house and dedicatory service of this beautiful temple is a thrill and a joy.” Describing his experience guiding Chihuahua governor Patricio Martínez and former governor Francisco Barrio and their wives through the temple open house, Elder Call said, “They sensed a very beautiful spirit. It was my privilege to explain to them the different parts of the gospel.”
Madrid Spain Temple
“Who would ever have dreamed just a few years ago that we would have a temple in Madrid, Spain?” said President Hinckley during dedication services held 19–21 March for the recently constructed Madrid Spain Temple. About 10,000 people attended 10 dedicatory sessions, and an open house held 20 February to 13 March drew more than 100,000 visitors.
Also participating in the dedication were President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency; Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elder David E. Sorensen of the Presidency of the Seventy, executive director of the Temple Department; and Elder F. Burton Howard of the Seventy, a member of the Europe West Area Presidency. Before the temple dedication, President Hinckley and other Church leaders visited Spain’s King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía at the royal palace on 18 March.
“We thank Thee for this great kingdom of Spain which has been hospitable to Thy Saints,” President Hinckley said in his temple dedicatory prayer. “Bless this land. We are mindful that it was from these shores that Columbus sailed to discover America as foretold in the Book of Mormon. Bless the king and the queen. Bless those who govern in any capacity in this nation and in other nations from which Thy people will come to this House. May they be friendly and generous toward Thy cause and kingdom. Bless this Thy work that it shall flourish and grow in wondrous splendor, touching for everlasting good the hearts of people everywhere.”
Located in the suburb of Moratalaz, the Church’s 56th operating temple is the centerpiece of a complex that also includes a stake center, a missionary training center, an institute, temple patron housing, a distribution center, a family history library, and underground parking. The large temple has four ordinance rooms and four sealing rooms, with the structure measuring 116 feet by 138 feet and containing 45,800 square feet. About 80,000 members live in the temple district, which takes in 12 stakes and 28 districts in Spain, Portugal, and southern France.
“Perhaps some of my most sensitive feelings regarding the dedication concern those who traveled great distances with little means but felt the urgency not to miss the blessed event of the dedication of a temple,” President Monson said. “I have observed an expression of true joy. Members came anxious to be filled with the Spirit and will return to their homes with their hearts overflowing. This is a watershed moment for Spain, when one considers the recent opening of our missionary work in these countries and the phenomenal membership growth that has taken place.”
Elder Holland said: “Spain has been central to the drama and has influenced Western culture for millennia now. To have a beautiful temple—an exquisitely beautiful temple—in this country with such a Christian tradition and historic influence has been truly inspirational.” He continued: “I have been so deeply touched by the love, devotion, and emotion of the members here, such as the sisters who served in the cafeteria and volunteers who have cleaned every aspect of the temple grounds, to say nothing of the temple itself. A sweet sister, in the dark on her hands and knees, washed the marble trim at the base of the fountains of the garden plaza. They are all so grateful for this temple and so moved to realize that this magnificent edifice is for them.”
Ten New Temples Announced
Australia’s fourth temple, the Adelaide Australia Temple, will serve about 7,300 members in three stakes and two districts.
Europe’s eighth temple, the Copenhagen Denmark Temple, will serve about 7,700 members in two Danish stakes and two Swedish stakes.
Kentucky’s first temple, the Louisville Kentucky Temple, will serve about 36,500 members in 11 stakes in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio.
Oregon’s second temple, the Medford Oregon Temple, will serve about 28,600 members in three California stakes and six Oregon stakes.
The Church’s second temple, dedicated in Nauvoo in 1846 and destroyed soon after, will be rebuilt as the Nauvoo Illinois Temple.
Mexico’s ninth temple, the Oaxaca Oaxaca Temple (pronounced wah-HAH-kah), will serve about 26,600 members in seven stakes and one district.
Oklahoma’s first temple, the Oklahoma City Oklahoma Temple, will serve about 32,000 members in 15 stakes in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas.
The Church’s 100th and New York’s second temple, the Palmyra New York Temple, will serve about 18,000 members in the region of the Church’s birthplace.
Central America’s second temple, the San José Costa Rica Temple, will serve about 32,000 members in 5 stakes and 17 districts.
Mexico’s 10th temple, the Tuxtla Gutiérrez Chiapas Temple, will serve about 19,000 members in five stakes and one district.
Ground Broken for Nine Temples
Groundbreaking ceremonies signaling the start of construction were recently held for the following nine temples:
Edmonton Alberta, Fresno California, Fukuoka Japan, Kona Hawaii, Melbourne Australia, Nashville Tennessee, Oaxaca Oaxaca (Mexico), Raleigh North Carolina, and Tuxtla Gutiérrez Chiapas (Mexico). As of 1 April 1999 the Church had 56 temples in operation and 53 temples under construction or announced, for a total of 109 temples.
Elder Carlos E. Asay Eulogized
Elder Carlos E. Asay, an emeritus General Authority, passed away on 10 April 1999 at age 72 due to a heart attack. At the time of his death, he was serving as president of the Salt Lake Temple.
“Carlos Asay’s testimony of the great eternal truth was as certain as the fact that I speak to you today,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley at Elder Asay’s funeral in Temple Square’s Assembly Hall on 13 April. Also speaking at the funeral were President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Elder Dean L. Larsen, an emeritus General Authority.
Born 12 June 1926 in Sutherland, Utah, and reared in Monroe, Utah, Elder Asay served in the U.S. Army during World War II and subsequently attended the University of Utah, where he played on the basketball team that won the National Invitational Tournament in 1947. After receiving a master’s degree from Long Beach State College and a doctorate from the University of Utah, he worked as a teacher and administrator in public schools and later became a professor of education at Brigham Young University and an assistant dean at BYU—Hawaii Campus. He married Colleen Webb on 20 October 1947, and the couple had eight children.
Elder Asay served in the Palestine-Syrian Mission from 1947 to 1950, learning to speak Armenian. He served as a bishop, a member of the Sunday School general board, president of the Texas North Mission from 1970 to 1973, and a regional representative.
He was called to the First Quorum of the Seventy in 1976. During his years as a General Authority, he served twice in the Presidency of the Seventy; was executive director of the Correlation, Curriculum, and Missionary Departments; and presided over the Europe Area. He received emeritus status on 5 October 1996.
Church Sends Aid to Kosovo
To assist ethnic Albanians forced to flee the Serbian province of Kosovo, the Church sent emergency supplies to neighboring Macedonia. About 3,000 “family boxes” of food and soap were transported by air and about 200,000 pounds of clothing, blankets, and hygiene kits were sent by sea.
The Church relocated 14 single missionaries and a missionary couple from Belgrade, Yugoslavia, to Croatia. “Our anxiety now is for the 100 or more members who reside in Serbia,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Church Leaders Speak Out on Gospel Values
Speaking at various recent events, several members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles made significant statements in support of gospel values. Following are highlights from selected addresses.
President Thomas S. Monson
“We are our brothers’ keepers,” said President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, in Oakland, California, where he received the 1999 Distinguished Public Service Award from the Bay Area BYU Management Society and the BYU Alumni Association. Speaking about public service, President Monson described a Church-initiated water project that “changed the lives of more than 1,100 families” in Africa: “Drinkable water now flows through 25 miles of pipes to waiting homes in a 15-village area. The simple blessing of safe drinking water recalls to mind the words of the Lord, ‘I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink’” (Matt. 25:35). President Monson continued: “When we work together cooperatively to lift the level of life for so many people, we can accomplish anything. When we do so, we eliminate the weakness of one person standing alone and substitute the strength of many serving together. While we may not be able to do everything, we can and must do something.”
During a satellite-transmitted Church Educational System fireside in February, President Monson said, “Amidst the confusion of our age, the conflicts of conscience and the turmoil of daily living, an abiding faith becomes an anchor in our lives.” He continued: “Each one of us is a runner in the race of life. Comforting is the fact that there are many runners. Reassuring is the knowledge that our Eternal Scorekeeper is understanding. Challenging is the truth that each must run. But you and I do not run alone, for our Heavenly Father will never forsake us.” He further counseled: “Let us shed any thought of failure. Let us discard any habit or trait that may hinder. Let us seek; let us obtain the prize prepared for all, even exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God.”
President Monson also said: “Where money, rather than morality, dictates one’s actions, one is inclined away from God. Turning away from God brings broken covenants, shattered dreams, crushed hopes, and wrecked lives. Such a quagmire of quicksand I plead with you to avoid. You are of a noble birthright. Eternal life in the kingdom of our Father is your goal. Such a goal is not achieved in one glorious attempt; rather, it is the result of a lifetime of righteousness, an accumulation of wise choices, even a constancy of purpose.”
President James E. Faust
“There is nothing like what is happening through the influence of this Church in all of the world,” said President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, during a 14 February fireside celebrating the 150th anniversary of the South Cottonwood Ward, the first pioneer-era ward created outside of Salt Lake City proper. “There is no church which can compare with the activity and the growth. There is no organization which fosters the principles of truth and righteousness as this Church does. And those of us who stand at the very vortex of it have a hard time even to conceive of what is happening in the onrolling of the work in our day and time.”
He said: “I rejoice in all that has happened in the past. And I look forward in confidence to the future.” In commenting about the years ahead, President Faust also said: “The progress, the onrolling, the outpouring of knowledge and truth and scientific wonders beyond that which we have even dreamed about so far will continue. And the work of God will go forward, as the Prophet Joseph said, nobly and boldly until it fills the whole earth.”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks
“If we say we are anti-abortion in our personal life but pro-choice in public policy, we are saying that we will not use our influence to establish public policies that encourage righteous choices on matters God’s servants have defined as serious sins,” said Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during a BYU devotional on 10 February. “I urge Latter-day Saints who have taken that position to ask themselves which other grievous sins should be decriminalized or smiled upon by the law on this theory that persons should not be hampered in their choices. Should we decriminalize or lighten the legal consequences of child abuse? Of cruelty to animals? Of pollution? Of fraud? Of fathers who choose to abandon their families for greater freedom or convenience?”
Elder Oaks reaffirmed that the Church condones abortion only in rare cases of rape, incest, or life-threatening situations and only after a bishop’s counsel and divine guidance are sought. “Choice is a method, not the ultimate goal,” he said. “We are accountable for our choices, and only righteous choices will move us toward our eternal goals.” He continued: “In today’s world we are not true to our teachings if we are merely pro-choice. We must stand up for the right choice. Those who persist in refusing to think beyond slogans and sound bites like ‘pro-choice’ wander from the goals they pretend to espouse and wind up giving their support to results they might not support if those results were presented without disguise.”
Elder Oaks also said, “Using arguments of choice to try to justify altering the consequences of choice is a classic case of omitting what the Savior called the ‘weightier matters of the law.’” Speaking about the modern call to accept diversity, he said: “Jesus did not pray that His followers would be ‘diverse.’ He prayed that they would be ‘one.’ Modern revelation does not say, ‘Be diverse; and if ye are not diverse, ye are not mine.’ It says, ‘Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine’” (D&C 38:27).
Elder M. Russell Ballard
“Churches not only have the right to speak out on public moral issues, but they have the solemn obligation to do so,” said Elder M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, at a military-sponsored prayer breakfast in Salt Lake City on 9 February. “To remove the influence of religion from public policy simply because some are uncomfortable with any degree of moral restraint is like the passenger on a sinking ship who removes his life jacket because it is restrictive and uncomfortable.”
Elder Ballard focused his remarks on the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” He said that the “principles and philosophies upon which our constitutional law is based are not simply the result of the best efforts of a remarkable group of brilliant men. They were inspired by God, and the rights and privileges guaranteed in the Constitution are God given, not man derived.” He continued: “No nation or people that rejects God or His commandments can prosper or find happiness. History and the scriptures are filled with examples of nations that rejected God. Let us be wise and remember the source of our blessings and not be timid or apologetic in sharing this knowledge with others.”
The Church’s first meetinghouses in two nations—Iceland and Estonia—are currently being built. The meetinghouse in Iceland, which will be used by two branches, is under construction on a hill overlooking the sea in the Reykjavik suburb of Garoabaer. About 200 members live in Iceland, and 10 missionaries from the Denmark Copenhagen Mission serve there. When Estonia’s first meetinghouse is completed, it will serve about 350 members living in the capital city of Tallinn.
Two new exhibits have opened at the Museum of Church History and Art, located across the street from Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City. To commemorate the museum’s 15th anniversary, an exhibit titled Celebration! Of History and Belief is on display from 27 February to 13 September 1999. “The new exhibit represents the increasingly varied and rich art traditions of Latter-day Saints worldwide,” said museum curator Marge Conder. “It features public favorites from selected past exhibitions and some new and unusual artifacts.” The other new exhibit, titled Practicing Pure Religion: Latter-day Saint Welfare and Humanitarian Service, began on 13 March and runs through 13 February 2000. To illustrate the theme of “People helping people; people giving compassionate service to those in need,” this exhibit features historical settings, newly commissioned works of art, artifacts, videos, and interactive learning stations.
As part of annual Black History Month celebrations, about 450 people gathered on 13 February in the Oakland Interstake Center near California’s Oakland Temple to participate in an African American family history program titled “Finding Your Roots.” The event was sponsored by the California Oakland Mission, the California African American Genealogical Society, the California Genealogical Society, and the California Veterans Advocacy Corporation. Elder William W. Parmley, an Area Authority Seventy who spoke during the program, said, “Some of the local African Americans volunteer at the Family History Center here on Temple Hill, some LDS and some non-LDS. So there are close ties between the African American Genealogical Society and the Family History Center.” Participants also included Rev. Franklin A. Dorman, author of Twenty Families of Color, a book that traces living descendants of African American Civil War soldiers; Rev. J. Alfred Smith Sr. of the Allen Temple Baptist Church; U.S. congressional representative Barbara Lee; Oakland mayor Jerry Brown; and NAACP Mid-Peninsula Chapter president Janet Wells.
Teburoro Tito, president of the 36-island, mid-Pacific republic of Kiribati, was recently the guest of honor at a celebration held by members at Church-owned Moroni Community School. Focusing on the theme of “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” (A of F 1:12), the celebration featured feasting and traditional dancing groups from eight wards in the Tarawa Kiribati Stake. In his closing remarks, President Tito commented on the spirit of cooperation among Latter-day Saints and on the rapid growth of the Church in Kiribati.
In an effort to make materials about Latter-day Saints more widely available, the Church recently placed 15,000 packets of LDS-oriented texts, videos, CDs, and CD-ROMs in public and university libraries throughout the United States and Canada. “Finding accurate, positive information at libraries will help both investigators and new converts strengthen their growing testimonies,” stated the packet instructions to local members, who were trained to place the packets in libraries. The library materials included a triple combination of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price; the Encyclopedia of Mormonism; books titled Faith: The Essence of True Religion, Our Search for Happiness: An Invitation to Understand The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism; and several Mormon Tabernacle Choir CDs.
Six members from Vladivostok, on Russia’s east coast, recently attended the Seoul Korea Temple’s first session held in Russian. Also present during the session were Elder Rex D. Pinegar of the Seventy, then serving as President of the Asia North Area, and Elders Ko Won Yong and Kim Chong-Youl, both Area Authority Seventies. Of the Russian members, Elder Pinegar said, “I am very pleased with them. The Church in Russia will make remarkable progress in the future. And many more Russian members will come to Korea to receive temple ordinances.” Vladimir Nechiporov, president of the Vladivostok Russia District, said: “I have met my brothers and sisters here in Korea. Although we speak different languages and I can’t speak Korean, I can still understand that we are heading in the same direction. I feel close to the Korean Saints. I feel very comfortable and safe in Korea.”
While in Hawaii for a Pacific Islands leadership conference, French Polynesia president Gaston Flosse visited Brigham Young University—Hawaii Campus in Laie. “I want to have more Tahitian young people here at this university because it teaches of your spiritual life, not just scholarship and some foreign studies, and we need to have young people like that,” commented President Flosse. He and his wife took a tour of the campus with BYU—Hawaii president Eric B. Shumway, and President Flosse spoke at a luncheon given in his honor. “In our country, we have some problems among our young people, and we think that if they come to study at this university they are going to be good leaders for our people,” he said. Addressing Tahitian students, he said, “We need you to come back to Tahiti.”