News of the Church


Elder Banks Called to Presidency of Seventy

Elder Ben B. Banks

Elder Ben B. Banks

The First Presidency has announced a change in the Presidency of the Seventy. Elder Ben B. Banks, who has served as a General Authority for 10 years, has been called to serve in the Presidency of the Seventy. Released from the Presidency is Elder Joe J. Christensen, who has served there since 1993.

Elder Banks was called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy in 1989 and to the First Quorum of the Seventy in 1992. He previously served as president of the Scotland Edinburgh Mission, as a stake president, and as a bishop of three different wards. He and his wife, Susan Kearnes Banks, have eight children.

The other members of the Presidency of the Seventy are Elders L. Aldin Porter, Harold G. Hillam, Earl C. Tingey, D. Todd Christofferson, Marlin K. Jensen, and David E. Sorensen.

Temple Dedicated in Guayaquil, Ecuador

In Guayaquil, Ecuador, President Gordon B. Hinckley recently dedicated the Church’s 58th operating temple and spoke at a regional conference. He was accompanied by President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency; Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elder Francisco J. Viñas of the Seventy, President of the South America North Area; and Elder Walter F. González, an Area Authority Seventy serving as a counselor in the South America North Area Presidency.

“The temple is made with the finest material that we could obtain,” remarked President Hinckley during the Guayaquil regional conference, which was attended by nearly 22,000 members gathered in a large soccer stadium on 31 July. “You now have in your midst everything that this Church has to offer.” Referring to worship in the new temple, he said: “Prayers will be offered which cannot be offered under any other circumstance. Covenants will be made which cannot be made under any other circumstances. Blessings will be received which cannot be received under any other circumstances.”

About 108,000 people toured the temple during an open house held from 23 June to 5 July, and a total of about 11,700 members attended the eight dedication sessions held on 1–2 August. “I sense a great spirit of gratitude for this new temple,” remarked President Hinckley. “The Saints have waited a very, very long time.” He continued: “It has been a very interesting thing to see the descendants of Father Lehi in the congregations that have gathered in the temple. So very many of these people have the blood of Lehi in their veins, and it is just an intriguing thing to see their tremendous response and their tremendous interest. This is the great day of their redemption, and it is evident that they are a devoted and faithful and able people.”

After the dedication, President Faust commented: “Now we have all these beautiful, magnificent temples dedicated and under construction, which will be a marvelous blessing. We see it in the lives of the people. We saw people of faith, dedication, commitment, and experience as we conferred the sealing power upon these great brethren. We see the seeds of faith have fallen on fertile ground.”

Elder Nelson noted that since Ecuador’s first stake was created in 1978, the Church has grown to 32 stakes and is approaching 150,000 members in a nation of 10 million people. “The presence of a temple here and the establishment of a people worthy of entrance to the temple will make a great difference to the future of this country and for the nations round about,” he said. “It is really a very important hinge point in the history of this nation.”

Located on a prominent hill in northern Guayaquil, the larger-sized Guayaquil Ecuador Temple has 45,000 square feet, four ordinance rooms, and three sealing rooms.

[photo] The new Guayaquil Ecuador Temple has four ordinance rooms and three sealing rooms. (Photography courtesy of Church Public Affairs Department.)

[photo] The celestial room is located at the center of the 45,000-square-foot temple. (Photography courtesy of Church Public Affairs Department.)

President Hinckley Addresses Venezuelan Members

President Gordon B. Hinckley recently addressed members in Maracaibo, Venezuela; rededicated a stake center he helped build during the 1950s; and was honored with a university endowment named after him.

Maracaibo, Venezuela

After the Guayaquil Ecuador Temple dedication, President Hinckley traveled to Maracaibo, Venezuela, where he spoke to about 5,300 members gathered in a convention center on 3 August.

“Let us grow the Church in Venezuela,” President Hinckley said. “Let us add to the membership. Let us hold on to every convert. I plead with you people that you will put your arms around those who come into the Church and be friends to them and make them feel welcome and comfort them.” He continued: “Most of you here are converts to the Church. You know something of the loneliness that you felt when you came into this Church. Now, will you please accept that challenge to warm up and be friendly to every man, woman, and child who is baptized into the Church? It all depends on you.”

President Hinckley also said: “There is no doubt in my mind that this Church will grow. It will grow through all of South America. Where there are now hundreds of thousands, there will be millions, and our people will be recognized for the goodness of their lives, and they will be respected and honored and upheld, and we shall build meetinghouses, more and more of them to accommodate their needs, and we shall build temples in which they may receive their sacred ordinances and extend those blessings to those who have gone beyond the veil of death. There is no doubt about the future of this Church.”

Stake Center Homecoming

As a stake president during the 1950s in Salt Lake City, President Hinckley oversaw construction of the East Millcreek Stake Center. Forty years later, on 27 June 1999, he rededicated the stake center, which now houses the Salt Lake East Millcreek and Salt Lake East Millcreek North Stakes. Presiding Bishop H. David Burton also gave remarks at the rededication.

“We had terrible financial worries,” President Hinckley recalled. The stake center was urgently needed then, he said, because the stake had five wards but only one building. “We needed a lot of money, a million dollars,” he said. “We needed to pay 50 percent of the cost of the ground and construction.” Yet, he noted, “the stake was composed, for the most part, of young married people who had young families, big mortgages, and high doctor bills.” President Hinckley went on to recall the members’ dedication, faithfulness, and commitment in raising the funds.

Before construction was completed, President Hinckley was sustained on 6 April 1958 as an Assistant to the Twelve. “I served simultaneously for five months as stake president and also as a General Authority,” he recalled. “I just about ran myself ragged trying to keep up with those things.” He dedicated the new stake center on 17 May 1959.

“The Church has moved a long way from what it was 40 years ago,” President Hinckley said. “We are spread across the earth. We have more people outside the United States than we have in the United States. We are in 160 nations.” He continued: “We have to provide meetinghouses for people everywhere, and we are building about 400 new buildings a year. None of you, I think, can appreciate the magnitude of this program, but it is happening and it is going forward, and we are building temples. We are dedicating 12 new temples in the remainder of this year and about another 30 next year. Things are happening in a marvelous and wonderful way.”

University Endowment

The University of Utah’s English Department recently honored President Hinckley by establishing the Gordon B. Hinckley Endowment for British Studies. In a prepared statement, President Hinckley said: “I feel deeply honored that the University of Utah would establish this endowment for the promotion of British studies. I developed a special fondness for the people and the history of this wonderful land when serving as a missionary there some 66 years ago. Prior to that, during my years at the university, I had read many of the great works of the British writers and appreciate the important influence in my life of some of these literary classics. British history becomes, in an essential way, American history. The study of matters British will always be important in gaining an understanding of and an appreciation for the history of mankind.”

[photo] Local priesthood leaders greet President Gordon B. Hinckley during his visit to Maracaibo, Venezuela.

Pioneer and Patriotic Observances

Pioneer Day in Salt Lake City

On 24 July President Hinckley and his wife, Marjorie, led Salt Lake City’s Days of ’47 Parade, held annually to commemorate the 1847 arrival of the pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley. The parade included floats created by 20 stakes, six of which won awards from parade judges.

Later on Pioneer Day, President Hinckley dedicated a new monument at This Is the Place Heritage Park near the mouth of Emigration Canyon. Titled Journey’s End, the monument features a heroic-size bronze sculpture by Stanley J. Watts depicting a pioneer family kneeling in prayer next to their handcart. “I think none of us can really imagine for a moment that which they endured,” remarked President Hinckley. “I hope that we will always remember them. And let us read again and again, and read to our children or our children’s children, the accounts of those who suffered so much.” Also present at the dedication ceremony were Elders Russell M. Nelson and M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. About 4,000 people attended the event.

At the Days of ’47 luncheon held in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, President Hinckley paid tribute to Brigham Young and the pioneers. “The older I grow,” President Hinckley said, “the more I appreciate the absolute tremendous leadership of Brigham Young and those who were associated with him in laying the foundations of this great commonwealth which we call the state of Utah.” He asked listeners not to forget “the bravery, the courage, and the faith that it took to lead thousands and thousands of people to this unknown area to establish themselves and, in a very real and literal sense, make the desert blossom as a rose.”

Elder Perry Dedicates Family Sculpture

A heroic-size bronze sculpture titled Family and the Covenant was dedicated on 17 July in Logan, Utah, by Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Created by Bill L. Hill and located on the grounds of the Logan Tabernacle, the sculpture depicts a couple and their three children gazing toward the Logan Temple, which is visible on the eastern horizon. “May this monument we dedicate today remind each generation who will frequent Tabernacle Square in Logan, Utah, of the sacrifices of those who have given so much,” Elder Perry said. “May these noble pioneer virtues be successfully passed on with faith and with courage to each succeeding generation which follows in the noble, historic footprints of our pioneer forefathers.” He also remarked, “I wonder if the challenges of today are hard enough to build sufficient character to create a lasting heritage of values taught by our great early pioneers who entered this valley, those values of honesty, industry, and morality as dictated to us by the Lord.”

Elder Ballard Dedicates Hyrum Smith Statue

Following a patriotic program in Hyrum, Utah, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicated a new bronze statue of Hyrum Smith. “In all things, Hyrum sustained his younger brother Joseph,” said Elder Ballard. “And it was Joseph who penned as one of the fundamental tenants of our belief: ‘We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law’ (A of F 1:12). It was their desires to be law-abiding citizens that caused them to make the trip to Carthage and surrender themselves. … Even in giving their lives for the cause they espoused, Joseph and Hyrum did not speak against this great nation or its constitutional government; they only decried the mobocracy of those who refused to abide by its laws.” Located in a city park, the statue was created by D. J. Bawden and made possible by more than 200 community donors.

Elder Wirthlin Addresses Freedom Festival

“The Constitution of the United States is a divinely inspired document created by Founding Fathers, who were raised up by God to establish the United States of America,” said Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the annual Freedom Festival patriotic service held on 4 July in Brigham Young University’s Marriott Center. “When was the last time that you read the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights, or the Declaration of Independence? I am amazed, every time I read those sacred documents, how sound and thorough they are.” He continued: “I have a great love and respect for the Founding Fathers. They have always been heroes to me. I worry sometimes about young people who idolize entertainers and sports figures. … I challenge you to become as familiar with George Washington, John Adams, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson as you are with sports figures, actors, and rock stars. I marvel as I think about the miracles these great men accomplished.”

Reenactment in Quincy, Illinois

In the winter of 1839, about 5,600 Latter-day Saint refugees journeyed under threat of extermination from Missouri to Quincy, Illinois, where they were welcomed and sheltered. As part of the Quincy Heritage Celebration on 24 July 1999, an estimated 2,000 members participated in a reenactment of that exodus. The procession spanned the mile-long Memorial Bridge and continued another seven blocks into downtown Quincy. Many participants wore period costumes.

Speaking of the kindness of the people of Quincy, Elder Hugh W. Pinnock of the Seventy, North America Central Area President, noted that Quincy residents helped not only Latter-day Saints but “German immigrants, blacks traveling from the South, and Potawatome Indians.”

At the conclusion of the reenactment, thousands gathered in Washington Park to witness a program written by Nauvoo historian Michael Trapp. In a dramatization, descendants of prominent Church members played the roles of their ancestors, and Quincy mayor Chuck Sholz played the role of John Wood, an advocate of the Latter-day Saints. A temporary family history center was set up for community use, and several LDS musical groups performed in the park. Also in attendance were Elder John M. Madsen of the Seventy and two Area Authority Seventies, Elders Bruce Bingham and Kay Christensen.

[photo] On Pioneer Day, President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated a statue of a handcart family at Salt Lake City’s This Is the Place Heritage Park. (Photo by Gary M. McKellar, Deseret News.)

[photo] In Logan, Utah, Elder L. Tom Perry (left) dedicated a new monument to the pioneers. Also pictured, left to right: sculptor Bill L. Hill and project director Bartell W. Cardon. (Photo by R. Scott Lloyd, Church News.)

[photo] In Hyrum, Utah, Elder M. Russell Ballard dedicated a statue honoring Hyrum Smith, his great-great-grandfather. (Photo by R. Scott Lloyd, Church News.)

Church Headquarters Sustains Minor Tornado Damage

Tornadoes are rare in Utah, but on Wednesday, 11 August 1999, a tornado sliced into downtown Salt Lake City, destroying a large commercial exhibition tent, killing one man and injuring many others, and doing major damage to a downtown hotel and to dozens of homes in the northern part of the city. While the storm’s path took it across the Church headquarters area, only minor damage was sustained.

Rated F2 on a scale of 5 with winds between 113 and 157 mph, the tornado touched down about one mile southwest of the Salt Lake Temple and LDS Church headquarters. Cutting a swath about three miles long, the storm damaged several smaller structures before hitting the Delta Center, the Wyndham Hotel, and a tent where workers were preparing for a retailers convention two blocks southwest of Temple Square. A Las Vegas man setting up for the exhibition was struck by debris and killed.

The tornado’s center passed north and west of Temple Square but slammed into the construction site of the newly named Conference Center across the street and snapped a 200-foot crane, which fell onto the structure. The storm then ripped huge old trees from the grounds of the State Capitol and Memory Grove, a park in City Creek Canyon, continuing its northeastern path into a residential area known as the Avenues before lifting off the ground. Some 300 homes were damaged, about 40 of those left uninhabitable. More than 150 people were injured, with about 50 being treated at local hospitals. Many of the injured were Latter-day Saints.

Due to the interest of many members Churchwide, following is a summary of damage to Church headquarters:

Temple Square: closed for two days; several trees were downed; no damage to the Salt Lake Temple, which remained open for scheduled weddings; North Visitors’ Center sustained damage to several glass windows, including the window in front of the Christus statue; minor damage to the southwest corner of the Assembly Hall from falling trees.

New Conference Center: primary damage came from the fallen crane and included minor damage to the stone on the building. Scaffolding was torn away, but only two of the nearly 1,000 workers were injured. “I don’t expect any appreciable delays,” said building architect Kerry B. Nielsen two days after the tornado. He indicated that all of the damage should be repairable.

Church Office Building block: one broken window and minor damage to the roof of the west wing of the Church Office Building; no damage to the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, Church Administration Building, or Relief Society Building.

Family History Library and Museum of Church History and Art: without power for more than 24 hours; damage to vents on the roof.

Parking lots: trees and power lines down; water lines broken; many parked cars lost windows.

Residential damage: primarily within the Salt Lake Ensign Stake, but no one was injured. A member of the stake presidency arrived at the scene about 30 minutes after the tornado and reported that there were already from 400 to 600 people clearing debris and searching for injured victims. They showed up spontaneously and began working. Several homes lost their roofs.

Chain saws buzzed that night until 10:00 P.M. as workers cut fallen trees into pieces. “There was an incredible outpouring of help,” said Gayle Walker of the Ensign First Ward. “There were pockets of people going door to door cleaning up glass and debris. It’s amazing what the youth did, especially hauling away tree branches. Ironically, that weekend was our youth conference, and the theme was service. The conference was canceled, but the youth learned about service firsthand.”

Members Churchwide Coping with Adversities

  • Near Ceibas, Argentina, eight people were killed and two people were critically injured when a minibus traveling through rain and fog to the Buenos Aires Argentina Temple collided with a large truck. All the passengers except the driver were members of the Rivera Uruguay Stake. “It is a great consolation to know that these youth and adults had, in recent hours, testified to their bishops and stake president that they were keeping all the commandments and living lives of worthiness,” said Elder Carlos H. Amado of the Seventy, President of the South America South Area. Hundreds of Church members and others in the community attended the funerals. Elder Cecil O. Samuelson of the Seventy, assistant executive director of the Church’s Temple Department, said: “Every precaution is taken to contract with reliable commercial carriers when temple trips are organized. Sadly, even the safest drivers with reputable companies cannot prevent all accidents. We offer our sympathies and prayers to those who are mourning the loss of loved ones.” The First Presidency also expressed condolences.

  • In Riverdale, northern Utah, an irrigation canal collapsed on Sunday, 11 July, and damaged about 70 homes with mud and water as high as six feet in some areas. Also affected were farmers whose pastureland was damaged and irrigation was interrupted, resulting in crop losses. Local priesthood leaders coordinated relief efforts, and about 2,000 volunteers from 45 stakes started cleanup efforts the next day. “Probably 60 or 70 percent of the homes were member homes,” said Carl Cook, president of the Riverdale Utah Stake. “But the mud didn’t differentiate between member and nonmember, so neither did we. We helped everyone.”

  • In Las Vegas, a severe summer rainstorm caused flooding that damaged numerous homes and businesses, including the homes of four member families. More than 100 Latter-day Saints assisted with cleanup efforts, and about 150 people took shelter in the Las Vegas Nevada East Stake Center after being evacuated. “We don’t have a lot of tragedies,” said David Efros, bishop of the Greenbriar Ward, Las Vegas Nevada Paradise Stake. “So this is the first time many have had to deal with a major disaster. But we’re coming through with lots of helping and giving.”

  • In San Manuel, Arizona, a copper mine shut down on 24 June, affecting 3,600 people directly or indirectly. Days later, local Church leaders opened a temporary employment center in the town’s LDS meetinghouse. Full-time and stake missionaries handed out 5,700 fliers informing people about the employment center, and 28 members traveled to Mesa, Arizona, for an intensive training course about how to run the employment agency. The temporary center offered not only job postings from all over southern Arizona but training in résumé writing, job hunting, and interviewing. “We have rallied around this community by having a stake fast for all those affected,” said Robert Ludwig, president of the Tucson Arizona North Stake. “The employment center was well received and contributed to a feeling of goodwill for all involved. Although the serious impact of this mine closure will be felt for months to come, the Church helped to fill a need at a critical time.”

[photo] A resident of Riverdale, Utah, looks into his truck, one of numerous vehicles damaged by mud and water after a large irrigation canal broke. (Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.)

[photo] Members from 45 nearby stakes helped clean up in Riverdale, Utah. (Photo by Shaun D. Stahle, Church News.)

LDS Scene

Temple Groundbreakings

Ground has been broken for two more smaller temples. On 3 July Elder Rex D. Pinegar of the Seventy, President of the North America Southwest Area, led the groundbreaking service for the Oklahoma City Oklahoma Temple. On 24 July Elder Pinegar broke ground for the Reno Nevada Temple.

Christmas Island Branch Created

The Church’s first branch on Christmas Island, a 4,000-citizen atoll located in the South Pacific about 1,500 miles south of Hawaii, was recently created. President H. Ross Workman of the Hawaii Honolulu Mission, who organized the branch, said: “A wonderful feeling pervaded the entire meeting. I was especially touched by the testimony of Anami Tiouniti, who wept that her worst fear, as she was released from her mission, was that she would lose the Spirit because she would return to Christmas Island as the only member of the Church in her family. In the absence of a branch of the Church, she feared for her opportunity to serve and strengthen her testimony. She wept as she expressed gratitude for the blessing of the branch not only for her but also for all the members.” Many of the island’s 117 Church members were converted while attending Church schools elsewhere in the Pacific.

Mongolia’s First Meetinghouse

A building located in the center of Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, has been renovated as Mongolia’s first Latter-day Saint meetinghouse. More than 650 people attended two dedicatory sessions for the new facility, and the dedicatory prayer was offered by Elder Richard E. Cook of the Seventy, First Counselor in the Asia Area Presidency. With a foundation dating to 1890, the building is a well-known landmark that has previously housed an art and design center, bank and government offices, and a children’s cinema and has been featured in magazines and on postage stamps. In Mongolia, the Church has six branches in Ulaanbaatar, one branch in Darkhan, and one branch in Erdenet.

Church Receives Two Awards

The American Society of Landscape Architects recently honored the Church with an award for its landscaping and gardens at Church headquarters in downtown Salt Lake City. Noting that the Church’s gardens are tended by 34 employees, 50 regular volunteers, and 3,000 spring and fall volunteers, Church gardener Peter Lassig said, “There is nothing like this in the world because no where else do you have such a concentration of so many thousands of volunteers willing to make so much happen at once.” When the Church’s new Conference Center is completed, the gardens will cover nearly 30 acres.

The Church’s other recent award was presented by the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill. The association’s Religious Advocacy Award recognized the Church’s corporate policy of providing its 48,000 employees with the same health-insurance consideration for mental illnesses as for physical illnesses. The award was accepted by Elder Hugh W. Pinnock of the Seventy, President of the North America Central Area, at a convention held in Chicago.

Tabernacle Choir Broadcast Milestone

The Tabernacle Choir first broadcast its weekly Music and the Spoken Word program on 15 July 1929. Today the program continues as the world’s longest-running weekly network broadcast; not even the choir’s international tours have interrupted the broadcast schedule. The 70th-anniversary broadcast on 18 July was the choir’s 3,648th consecutive weekly program. “This is a most remarkable thing that this broadcast is still an acceptable mode for music lovers throughout the world,” said Tabernacle Choir president Wendell M. Smoot. “Many other choral groups over these 70 years have long since gone by the wayside, but the appeal of the Tabernacle Choir’s music is apparently still well accepted and beloved by people of many faiths.”

Stories of Pioneer Women

A four-volume collection containing the stories of 8,000 pioneer women has been published by the International Society of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers. Titled Pioneer Women of Faith and Fortitude, the collection honors women who journeyed to the Salt Lake Valley by wagon or handcart between 1847 and 1868. “Society today does not have much of a future if we don’t look back on history,” said project leader Edith W. Menna, who also serves as director of the DUP museum in Salt Lake City. “These women were such examples of mothers and of kindness and of commitment to their faith, family, and cause.” To prepare the collection for publication, more than 30 women edited histories, another 15 women typed information, and about 7,000 photographs were scanned into computers.

[photo] On Christmas Island, Priesthood and Relief Society members participate in training in the new branch.

BYU to Publish Scholarly Religious Works

New plans for scholarly publishing at Brigham Young University will bring selected Latter-day Saint historical documents to print in books and journal articles. To publish books and scholarly religious studies on LDS subject matter, the university has revived its BYU Press, discontinued in the 1980s. Journal articles will be published in BYU Studies, the university’s scholarly journal which is celebrating 40 years in print this year.

The overriding objective of the BYU Press will be “to reach the scholarly market and to place high quality Latter-day Saint studies in the best libraries in the world,” said Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy, president of BYU.

Noel Reynolds, associate academic vice president at BYU and chairman of the university’s Council on Religious Education, commented, “Discerning readers and serious libraries look to university presses to publish top quality, specialized materials of scholarly quality rather than catering to commercial pressures.”

Works published by the BYU Press will come through several religious research entities on the university campus, including the Religious Studies Center, an arm of the Religious Education Department; the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History; and the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS).

The first in a series of Islamic texts and translations produced by the Center for the Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts (CPART), a division of FARMS, will also be one of the works to appear under the BYU Press imprint. In this series of books, important Islamic texts will appear in Arabic on one page with the English translation on the facing page. “These texts are being translated for the first time into English,” reported Daniel C. Peterson, director of CPART. “This series will make a real contribution to Western understanding of large Islamic populations around the world.”

Books published by the BYU Press will be available for purchase by the general public. Subscriptions to BYU Studies may be obtained by contacting BYU.

Appointments

Roy H. King Jr. of the Brighton Fifth Ward, Salt Lake Brighton Stake, has been called as president of the México City D.F. México Temple. His wife, Lila Darlene Olsen King, will serve as temple matron.

Jerry N. Martin of the Hilliard Ward, Columbus Ohio Stake, has been called as president of the soon-to-be-completed Columbus Ohio Temple. His wife, Norma Jane Gentry Martin, will serve as temple matron.

Mark G. Ricks of the Rexburg 19th Ward, Rexburg Idaho Stake, has been called as president of the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple. His wife, Evelyn Tonks Ricks, will serve as temple matron.