Newsmaker: Appointment to Religious Freedom Commission

Michael K. Young, dean of the George Washington School of Law, was recently appointed by the United States Senate to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. At its first meeting in June he was elected vice chair. The commission, made up of representatives from many religious organizations, is advisory in nature and will provide recommendations for U.S. policy regarding international religious violations.

Prior to his current position with George Washington School of Law, Brother Young filled the Fuyo Professor of Japanese Law Chair at Columbia University Law School. While there, he was asked to co-direct Columbia’s program on human rights and international religious freedom at least in part because of his religious beliefs. “At the time it seemed an unlikely assignment for a law professor,” says Brother Young. “But it was in that position that I met religious advocates from all over the world.” The five-year post helped prepare him for his recent appointment. “That a Latter-day Saint was included on the commission is a reflection of the growing acceptance of the Church,” he says.

Brother Young, a former stake president and returned missionary from Japan, has held a number of government positions, including ambassador for trade and environmental affairs. “I feel honored to serve on this commission,” he says. “I hope to live up to the responsibility entrusted to us to identify religious persecution occurring in many countries and to help devise ways that the United States can effectively stop the abuses.” He and his wife, Suzan, have three children.

Area Authority in Asia

Elder Shih-an (Kent) Liang, an Area Authority Seventy from Asia, recalls the day his father came to him to tell him that at noon he would be baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “I thought none of my classmates were Christian, so I refused,” says Elder Liang. His father talked to him about the importance of taking this step, and, although reluctant, he finally agreed to baptism. “It was a cold and rainy day in December 1958, and there was no indoor font and no warm water,” he recalls. “But today I am deeply grateful to my father for bringing us into the Church,” says Elder Liang, a professor in the Department of Business Administration at the National Chung Hsing University in Taiwan.

During the 1960s Elder Liang’s father served as branch president. There were a number of severe typhoons during those years that caused great damage to the homes. After each typhoon, his father would get on his bicycle and visit every member of the branch. His example impressed his son, who soon put aside his reservations and became active in the branch.

In those early years of the Church in Taiwan, there were no translated scriptures except the Bible. Church materials were few, and members struggled. The strength of the Church at the time was in the Mutual program and missionary teachings. “Every Tuesday was a special day because Mutual made it different,” says Elder Liang. “During summer vacations, missionaries taught interested members the gospel early in the morning, and many, including myself, were deeply touched.”

When he began studying at the university, he realized that many school activities were held on Sundays. As a Church member, he did not participate. “At first my classmates thought I was very strange,” he recalls. “They gradually came to understand that my religion was important and meaningful to me.”

Several years later he met Hsiao-Yun and began dating her. She knew about his membership in what seemed to her to be an unusual church, but she continued to date him anyway. After studying in the United States for a year, he returned to Taiwan and married his sweetheart but soon left again to continue his studies in the States. While he was gone, Hsiao-Yun began studying with the missionaries and joined the Church. A year later she traveled to the United States to be with her husband. Later the couple went with his parents to Salt Lake City, and both couples were sealed in the temple. “From that moment we have truly received a life of happiness,” says Elder Liang. “I am so grateful for the gospel. I know it is true. It is an honor to belong to the Church.”

Elder Liang, who earned a master’s degree from Texas A&M University, has served as a counselor in a bishopric, high councilor, stake president, and regional representative. The Liangs have two children: a son, Howard, 21, who serves as ward clerk, and a daughter, Alice, 19, who serves in Young Women.

[photo] Elder Shih-an (Kent) Liang, second from right, and his wife, Hsiao-Yun, far left, with their children, Alice and Howard.

Looking Out for Others

Spring, summer, winter, fall—when folks in Monticello, Utah, need a little help in their yards or around the house they know where to turn. In fact, when winter snows fly it is not uncommon to find F. Bennion Redd, at age 77, clearing the walks and driveways of widows and other neighbors. Dressed warmly, Brother Redd whips around the neighborhood with his snowblower almost before the snow is through falling. If there is wood to be cut or other good to be done, the people of Monticello count on him to be among those helping out.

“It’s a great little town full of good people,” says Brother Redd with a smile. “Folks here tend to look out for one another, so it’s just natural to be a part of it.”

Serving for over 20 years as a U.S. magistrate judge, he is also a practicing lawyer, secretary in his high priests group, grandfather of 43, and great-grandfather of 13. Well acquainted with the grief of losing loved ones, he is generous and kind to all he meets. His first wife, Margaret, was killed in an automobile accident in 1954, only five years after they had married, leaving him and three children. In 1955 he married Ivalou Sperry, and their family increased to include seven children. When she died in 1974, Brother Redd continued to rear the children himself. His nurturing was needed again years later when one of his daughters and her husband were killed in an automobile accident. The five grandchildren who survived their parents depended on relatives, especially Grandpa Redd.

“For me, the strength and beauty of the gospel derive from its power to unify everything in our lives,” says Brother Redd. He keeps close ties with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren and has their birth dates on a computer so that each important day can be remembered with a card or phone call.

“It has been wonderful to have a new temple here in Monticello,” Brother Redd adds. “Since the temple’s dedication, spirituality and temple work in the area have increased tremendously.”

In the Spotlight

  • In a ceremony held 30 April 1999 in Honolulu, Hawaii, JaLynn R. Prince, a Latter-day Saint mother from Potomac, Maryland, was named National Mother of Young Children by American Mothers, Inc. Sister Prince and her husband, Gregory, are parents of three children: Chad, 14; Lauren Elyse, 11; and Madison, 9, who is autistic. As Sister Prince speaks to parents across the country, she especially hopes to reach out to other families with special-needs children.

  • Violist David Dalton, who recently retired as a professor of music at Brigham Young University, has been elected as the first non-European president of the International Viola Society during its 30-year history. The society, with a membership of nearly 2,500 violists in a dozen countries, promotes viola performance and research. Dr. Dalton, who established the world’s largest collection of materials related to the viola—known as the William Primrose International Viola Archive—will serve a three-year term.