Members Serve Communities Worldwide

Following the counsel of Church leaders to be good neighbors, Latter-day Saints throughout the world are serving their communities.

Central Arizona

Members in central Arizona gave unexpected community service in October. After a volunteer group was not able to participate in a planned neighborhood cleanup project in Peoria, Arizona, a city official turned to the Peoria and Peoria North stakes for help. Some 600 Latter-day Saints turned out for the 21 October project, in which they worked on 47 lots in a mobile home park.

City officials were impressed that Church units could muster up 600 people so quickly, said President Lloyd Price of the Peoria North stake. Members trimmed dozens of trees and bushes and planted new foliage, repaired roofs and painted homes, spread new gravel on lots, and removed 350 tons of debris.

As members were completing their work, rain began to fall. By the following day, two inches had fallen in many parts of Arizona, causing extensive flooding in Wendon, a town of 3,000 that is part of the Peoria North stake. The flooding continued for weeks.

After the flooding abated, men of the two Peoria stakes were back at it again, this time using heavy equipment to remove mud, silt, and debris. They were joined by men of other stakes in the region. The Church meetinghouse in Wendon became the distribution point for much of the community aid. Truckloads of food from the bishops’ storehouse were delivered to the meetinghouse and distributed to the community within days of the flooding.

“It’s been gratifying to see how quickly the Church can move into action to help others in need,” President Price said.

Porto Alegre, Brazil

After heavy October flooding killed six people and destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes in Porto Alegre, Brazil, local Latter-day Saints assisted those displaced by the floods. Missionaries and members teamed up with others in the community to repair damaged homes and to organize food boxes for distribution. Building materials and food were purchased with Church humanitarian funds. Local fast-offering funds were used to assist some LDS families who lost their homes. No damage was reported to the Porto Alegre Brazil Temple, which was nearing dedication.

Springvale, Victoria, Australia

Missionaries of the Australia Melbourne Mission recently worked with community members to help spruce up a shopping district in Springvale, Victoria. The group painted benches, power boxes, and graffiti-covered walls; filled two large bins with garbage; planted 30 trees; and washed a pedestrian underpass.

“The project was an enormous success,” said Tim Holding, the local member of parliament. Many passers-by stopped to thank the missionaries.

[photo] “It’s been gratifying to see how quickly the Church can move into action to help others in need,” said a stake president in Peoria, Arizona, after hundreds of local members united to give service. (Photo by Terry Weinberg.)

[photo] Some of the 85 missionaries of the Australia Melbourne Mission who joined community members to spruce up a district in Victoria, Australia. (Photo by Pam Hodson.)

Illinois Nauvoo Mission Created

The Illinois Nauvoo Mission, the Church’s 334th, was created on 1 November 2000. The new mission unifies missionaries involved in a variety of activities at or near the historic location. Nauvoo had been included in the Illinois Peoria Mission and will now function as a mission within a mission, much like the Utah Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission.

Various groups of missionaries are currently at work in the Nauvoo area, including temple construction missionaries, building restoration missionaries, Nauvoo Visitors’ Center and Carthage Jail Visitors’ Center missionaries, and guides at other Nauvoo locations. The creation of the new mission brings these groups of missionaries under the ecclesiastical leadership of one mission president.

“This is a unique situation,” said Richard K. Sager, newly called president of the Nauvoo mission, who had been serving as director of the Nauvoo Visitors’ Center. “There aren’t many places in the world where there is such a concentration of 200 or more missionaries in one place.”

[photo] Missionaries in Nauvoo, including those involved in temple construction, are now under the ecclesiastical leadership of one mission president. (Photo courtesy of Gene and Peggy Shurts.)

New On-line Church Resources

Several curriculum items have recently been added to the Gospel Library Archive listings on the official Church Web site at They include “Teachings for Our Time, 2001,” the material to be used in priesthood and Relief Society lessons on the fourth Sunday of each month; Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Sunday School manuals and study guides for 2001; resource guides for Aaronic Priesthood and Young Women lessons; and Primary manuals 1 through 7.

Church magazines, which were previously available on the Internet three months after publication, are now available on-line shortly after publication.

Exhibits Open at Church Museum

Three new exhibits at the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City employ a variety of modern techniques to present Church themes.

“The Living Christ” document, issued in 2000 by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, provided the title and inspiration for a new exhibit that features artistic portrayals of the ministry of Jesus Christ.

“Jesus Christ is the center of our religion and the focus of our faith,” says curator Richard G. Oman. “The exhibit communicates this through visual and symbolic means.” Brother Oman said that rather than exhibiting a chronological narrative of the life of Christ, the curators chose more than 30 works of art that “demonstrate how His life affected those who lived at that time and how His teachings and Atonement affect us today.”

A photographic exhibit titled “In the Footsteps of Joseph Smith: Photographs of Early Church Historic Sites, 1805–1846” features historic glass-plate photographs and modern photographs side-by-side. The glass-plate photographs were made in 1907–8 by George Edward Anderson as he traveled to buildings and sites of early Latter-day Saint history. These historic photographs are displayed alongside modern photographs of the same locations, taken by Scot Facer Proctor in 1990.

In the “Valiant Pioneer Children” interactive exhibit, visitors ages 2 to 12 and their adult companions can “learn about the values that motivated Latter-day Saint emigrants from the British Isles as they sailed the Atlantic and trekked across America in the 19th century,” says Glen M. Leonard, museum director. Children can blow a tiny ship across the “ocean,” pull a handcart, choose what to take and what to leave behind as they load miniature wagons, build a replica keystone arch of the Salt Lake Temple, and do many other activities. Curator Marj Conder says that as children interact with the exhibit, they are introduced to values such as courage, gratitude, helpfulness, work, responsibility, learning, loving, and remembering.

The new exhibits will remain on display through fall 2001. Admission is free. The museum is open from 9:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M. on weekdays and from 10:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. on most weekends. For more information, call 801-240-3310.

[photo] Pulling a handcart is just one activity youngsters and adults can try at the “Valiant Pioneer Children” exhibit. (Photo by Barbara Jean Jones.)

Church Literacy Program Increases Its Reach

If you’ve ever thought illiteracy is not a serious problem in today’s modern world, think again. The Office of Technology Assessment, an analytical arm of the U.S. Congress, recently found that at least 35 million adults in the U.S. alone have difficulty with common literacy tasks. In some countries, up to 75 percent of the population is illiterate.

“Theirs is … a world in which they are literally blinded from much of that which goes on about them. Now there is to be provided a means to open the doors of communication and let in the light of understanding,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley, speaking of the Church literacy program that was introduced in 1991 (see Ensign, Mar. 1992, 6).

Since that time, the Relief Society, working with the Church Educational System, has made great strides in teaching thousands of members to read.

Today, besides focusing on literacy, Relief Society leaders are also emphasizing the importance of teaching gospel literacy, meaning the ability to gain gospel knowledge through prayer, searching the scriptures, and writing down what is learned.

“It is thrilling for us because those who were illiterate are now learning the gospel as well as literacy,” said general Relief Society president Mary Ellen Smoot.

Other new approaches are also going forward. Ward literacy specialists are now encouraged to teach people in family groups in the home where possible rather than just as individuals. Besides strengthening families, this approach encourages children, who learn more quickly, to help their parents and relatives learn.

In a third new approach, those who are illiterate are taught not only how to read but also how to teach others to read. “No longer do we face the literacy program with the idea to simply teach the illiterate to read. It is more than that,” says Sister Smoot. “We are asking instead, ‘Who would like to instruct how to teach literacy?’ If one has an opportunity to teach, they receive a greater desire to learn.”

The Mesa Arizona Southern Estates Ward is experiencing success using this approach. The ward literacy specialists teach members how to read, then train these members to use the literacy materials to teach their families and others. The ripple effect has been powerful. Ward member Shellie Gibson tells of a 15-year-old boy who began attending literacy classes only because of his parents’ insistence, but he is now able to read and is teaching others to do the same.

“He loves the fact that now he can understand and really read the scriptures,” says Sister Gibson. “He now has a hope he didn’t have before. It is true: teaching someone to read can change their life forever.”

Relief Society leaders may obtain the Church’s literacy manuals, teaching charts, and training video free of charge through their local CES representatives.

[photo] In addition to literacy, gospel literacy, or the ability to gain gospel knowledge through searching the scriptures, is now being emphasized.

Krista Miner is a member of the BYU 92nd Ward, BYU 9th Stake.


James O. Mason, who served as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy from April 1994 to October 2000, has been called as president of the Bountiful Utah Temple. His wife, Marie Smith Mason, has been called as temple matron. President and Sister Mason are members of the Farmington 10th Ward, Farmington Utah North Stake.

Thriving in Victoria, British Columbia

Although the first independent branch on Vancouver Island wasn’t established until 1946, two stakes are now burgeoning on this island off the southwest coast of British Columbia, Canada. One of them is the Victoria British Columbia Stake. Latter-day Saint immigrants from around the world, attracted to the area’s beauty, mild climate, and recreation and employment opportunities, have contributed to the increase. Church converts also have fueled the growth.

Map of Victoria, British Columbia

“Many members in the stake are first- or second-generation converts and feel great appreciation for the impact of the gospel in their lives,” says stake president Jackson Ellis. “They have helped establish the kingdom through their own faith and works.”

Yet, whether they are converts, immigrants, or lifelong local members, Latter-day Saints in Victoria are flourishing as they live the gospel and share its blessings in various ways.

Eileen Bevan, a convert from South Africa, organizes sisters in the Victoria First Ward in making blankets, quilts, clothing, and leper bandages for the needy. The sisters work together on their humanitarian projects once a week. Some continue the projects on their own. Through word of mouth and the local media, the sisters have involved members of other faiths in the effort.

Member and nonmember visits to the Victoria Stake Family History Center total more than 1,000 per month, thanks in part to outreach efforts organized by Barry Stewart, director of the center. A Church member recently spoke on a local talk show about genealogy and the Family History Center. That event was followed by a daylong family history seminar that many members and nonmembers attended. After the seminar, “attendance at the center doubled,” said Brother Stewart. “The event was a huge success, and another is in the works.”

Another important outreach effort is made by members to new converts and move-ins to help them feel part of the stake family. Melissa Orrego, a 15-year-old who recently moved to Victoria from Australia, says: “Even though the people and their customs were different, I felt welcome right away. It was like I had known them for a long time.”

As members of the Victoria stake continue to enthusiastically reach out to strengthen each other and to share the gospel with those around them, there’s no doubt that the Church here will flourish.Carey Barnard, Victoria First Ward, Victoria British Columbia Stake

Victoria B.C. Stake

Organized: 1975

Members: 1,800

Units: 5 wards, 2 branches

Full-time missionaries from stake: 13

Temple district: Seattle Washington Temple

[photo] Members of the Victoria stake are flourishing as they reach out to others in their picturesque city, the capital of British Columbia, Canada. (Photo © Superstock.)

[photo] Eileen Bevan, right, has organized members and nonmembers in a weekly humanitarian effort that has produced hundreds of quilts and blankets. (Photography by Carey Barnard.)

[photo] “I felt welcome right away,” says Melissa Orrego, center, of her recent move to Victoria, where she was surrounded by Church friends. (Photography by Carey Barnard.)