British Area Authority Seventy
“To ask an Englishman to talk about himself is a difficult assignment since natural reserve must be overcome,” says Elder John Maxwell of Retford, Nottinghamshire, England, a member of the Europe North Area Presidency. He added, “My wife said that the process was akin to extracting teeth.” Still, as a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, he knows a great deal about relieving pain.
Elder Maxwell earned a bachelor of pharmacy degree from the University of London and a doctor of philosophy degree from the University of Bradford. He is retired as the director of pharmacy for the Rotherham Health Authority and is now a senior lecturer in pharmacy at the University of Nottingham.
In his late teens, growing up in a mining village in South Yorkshire, he considered a career as a minister in the Church of England, attending regularly as a choir member. Then Latter-day Saint missionaries knocked on the Maxwells’ door. After several months of investigation, he joined the Church in 1957, the only member of his family to be baptized.
The next year Brother Maxwell left for London to commence his undergraduate studies. There he told his friend Elizabeth Sheila Wright about the Church; she and her mother were soon baptized. After Elizabeth and John finished their studies, they were married and then sealed in the London Temple.
Elder and Sister Maxwell have four living children and eight grandchildren; two children died in infancy. “The influence of the gospel is profound, and permeated all our decisions and thinking, particularly when times were difficult,” says Elder Maxwell. “We have always tried to hold family home evenings, family councils, and family prayers, and we involve our children in the programs of the Church. Our children and grandchildren are a particular delight to us. We are grateful for them, for their faith and testimonies, and for the love they show to us and to each other.”
Strengthening the Fold in Palenque
Because of civil uprisings in 1994, full-time missionaries were pulled out of many areas in southern Mexico. Some fledgling branches, such as the one in Palenque, were closed. When missionaries returned some two years later, they faced the challenges of reopening the branch, locating and reactivating scattered members, baptizing new converts, and preparing members for leadership.
Among the first missionaries to arrive were Elder Bartolomé de la Cruz Reyes and his wife, Natalia, of the Arboleda Ward, Mexico City Mexico La Perla Stake. “This couple literally rescued our branch,” says President Benjamin De Hoyos Estrada, a new Area Authority Seventy. Their secret: hearts filled with love for the Lord, for one another, and for their fellowmen.
“Sister de la Cruz walks with me, and I walk with her,” says Elder de la Cruz. “This is the feeling we have—lots of love for our brothers and sisters, all of them, whether they are members of the Church or not.”
Within a few months of their arrival in Palenque, the branch had grown from just a handful of people attending meetings to an average weekly attendance of 50. Soon the branch had outgrown the rented house where they held meetings and moved to a larger meeting place.
Elder de la Cruz retired from his job early to serve. He and his wife had attended a meeting in Mexico City and heard Elder Lino Álvarez of the Seventy encourage couples to serve full-time missions. Facing the loss of some retirement benefits by retiring early, Elder and Sister de la Cruz nevertheless felt the Spirit telling them that now was the right time to go. “We did lose some benefits,” he says, “but our Heavenly Father has given us so much more. We decided to share with our brothers and sisters what we feel for Him.”
“For me it has been a great happiness and joy to come to know and teach these brothers and sisters in Palenque—and to bring more members to the Church,” says Sister de la Cruz. “I feel greatly strengthened by being with them.”
Elder de la Cruz gently takes his wife by the hand and gives her a smile. “Perhaps we have deficiencies,” he says, “but we do our part, and the Lord adds whatever we’re lacking to accomplish what we need to do.”
Latter-day Saint Teachers Visit Russia
Two Latter-day Saint schoolteachers from Utah were among eight chosen nationwide to participate in an exchange program sponsored by Partners in Education and the American Council for Teachers of Russian. During October 1998, Sara Hacken from the Sharon Second Ward, Orem Utah Sharon Stake, and Bart Farnsworth from the Timpanogos Sixth Ward, Pleasant Grove Utah Timpanogos Stake, visited Rostov-on-Don, located about 650 miles south of Moscow.
“We were asked to visit classrooms to observe how democracy, citizenship, and government were being taught to a new generation of Russians,” says Sister Hacken. Though the classrooms were austere, the teachers and students were anxious to learn about living in a democracy. In the Rostov school district, 15 teachers had developed The Game of Democracy to help students learn about political parties and how to vote. In one school, students and teachers alike wanted to know how to organize a student council, what decisions it made, and how it affected the students.
“It’s all new to them,” says Bart. “In one school we were proudly given a copy of a student newspaper. It represented their newfound freedom of the press.”
During conversations about freedom of religion, both Bart and Sara were asked about their own beliefs, which led to discussions about the Church. Their adherence to the Word of Wisdom also stirred interest in their religion, and in one place they were asked to explain their beliefs to a group of 150 college students and professors.
One night while attending a formal dinner with the president of the Polytechnic University of Novocherkassk, Sister Hacken felt to give him a cassette tape of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Through a translator, Sara asked, “Do you like music?” He nodded, and she offered him the tape, explaining that it included the history of her church.
“Everywhere we went, our religion occasioned as much interest as our civic involvement,” says Sister Hacken. “If you love missionary work, the Lord will open doors.”
In the Spotlight
Marilyn Jensen Dougall of Portland, Oregon, was recently recognized as 1999 Oregon Mother of the Year. Sister Dougall is the mother of 11 children and a member of the Raleigh Hills Ward, Beaverton Oregon Stake. Six of her sons and a daughter have served full-time missions. Two fellow nominees for the Oregon award were also active members of the Church. Sisters Marjorie J. Heppler of Oregon City and Carma Swalberg Puffer of Molalla were both finalists in the competition.
Lisa Wagner of the Laie Eighth Ward, Laie Hawaii North Hawaii Stake is another LDS woman being recognized as an exceptional mother. Sister Wagner was named Hawaii’s Young Mother of the Year in 1999. She is the mother of three adopted children and credits the gospel with her success as a mother. “My testimony and my belief in the Church are what have made me the person I am today,” says Sister Wagner.