News of the Church

By Barbara Jean Jones

Church Joins Salt Lake City in Welcoming the World

The eyes of the world were on Utah in February as Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. Much attention was focused on the Church as its leaders and members joined with the Salt Lake community in welcoming the world. “It goes clear back to the book of Isaiah, which says that Zion would be established at the tops of the mountains and that the nations of the world would come there,” said Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in a Los Angeles Times article. “In a sense we expected it. Only, the prophecies didn’t say anything about downhill skiing.”

Meeting Global Leaders

On 8 February, the First Presidency greeted United States President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush in the Church Administration Building, where they gave the president and his wife each a personal copy of their family history. Following the meeting, President and Mrs. Bush attended a private reception at the Utah State Capitol. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir opened the reception by singing “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

The following morning, the First Presidency also met briefly with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Secretary-General Annan and the First Presidency discussed peace initiatives, humanitarian aid efforts, and how such efforts are working to relieve human suffering.

Following the meeting, Primary general president Coleen K. Menlove joined Secretary-General Annan and other global leaders such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge in a panel discussion on helping disadvantaged children. The discussion, held in the Church’s Conference Center, was sponsored by Olympic Aid, the official charity of the Olympic Games, which seeks to use sports to rehabilitate children in war-torn countries.

Dressing Up the City

Downtown Salt Lake City provided a breathtaking backdrop for the games, and the Church played a big part in helping the area shine. Hundreds of thousands of lights on Temple Square, normally displayed only during the Christmas season, were lit up again for Olympic visitors.

Two of the 12 giant banners of winter athletes that graced the west sides of some of Salt Lake’s buildings were hung at Church Headquarters—a 289-by-133-foot banner of a figure skater on the Church Office Building and a 46-by-108-foot banner of a skeleton racer on the Church Museum of History and Art. A huge image of the Olympic rings was projected onto the west side of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building each night of the Olympics. At the request of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the Olympic Winter Games (SLOC), the Church donated the use of one of its downtown parking lots, where SLOC built the Olympic Medals Plaza. “The Church was so wonderful, so helpful in making all this happen,” said Kathy Hunter, cityscape manager for SLOC.

Opening Ceremonies

When Emmy Award–winning producer Don Mischer and his colleagues were hired to stage the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympics in Salt Lake City, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was the first performance group they thought of including. Indeed, from the first moments to the grand finale of the opening ceremonies, the music of the choir was a prominent feature in the two-and-a-half-hour spectacular, seen by a TV audience of an estimated three billion. “What a tremendous honor it was for the choir to be asked to represent the Church, the state of Utah, the United States, and even the power of humanity and what it can do,” said choir director Craig Jessop.

As the U.S. flag found in the rubble of the World Trade Center was carried into the Olympic Stadium, the choir sang “The Star Spangled Banner.” Many of the 52,000 spectators present were visibly moved. Accompanied by the Utah Symphony Orchestra, the choir also sang “Call of the Champions,” this year’s Olympic theme composed especially for the choir by five-time Oscar-winning composer John Williams; Spiro Samara’s “Olympic Hymn,” traditionally performed during Olympic ceremonies; Mikis Theodorakis’s “Ode to Zeus,” performed as the torch came into the stadium and the Olympic caldron was lit; and Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” performed during the fireworks of the grand finale. The choir provided backup to other numbers performed during the ceremonies.

The story of the Mormon pioneers was presented as the ceremonies turned to telling the history of Utah. Horses, wagons, and handcarts rolled into the stadium while performers dressed like pioneers danced to Western music.

Thousands of the volunteer performers in the ceremonies were members of the Church.

Cultural Olympiad

At the request of SLOC, the Tabernacle Choir offered four free Saturday-night concerts in the Salt Lake Tabernacle as part of the Cultural Olympiad that runs concurrent with the games.

Accompanied by the Orchestra at Temple Square, the choir kicked off the Olympiad concert series on 9 February with a musical tribute to the Olympic Games. Musical guests included mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, John Williams, the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, and Salt Lake’s International Children’s Choir. A highlight of the program occurred when Mr. Williams conducted a set of his own compositions, including this year’s Olympic theme, “Call of the Champions.”

“This is by far the best thing I’ve seen since I got here,” remarked an Olympic visitor from Maine.

Clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, a cappella ensemble king’singers, and percussionist Evelyn Glennie were featured guest artists at the other Cultural Olympiad concerts with the choir. On the Sunday morning following each of the concerts, guest artists joined the choir for its weekly broadcast Music and the Spoken Word.

Light of the World

The Church put on its own cultural offering for visitors to Salt Lake City during the games. Light of the World: A Celebration of Life, the first theatrical spectacular held in the Conference Center, ran for 14 performances from 5 February to 2 March, before a total audience of more than 290,000. The Tabernacle Choir and a cast of 1,500 volunteer musicians, dancers, and actors, accompanied by the Orchestra at Temple Square, performed on a domed stage designed to represent the earth.

Written by Latter-day Saint composers and writers, the production told the story of the Creation and the purpose of life. Interwoven throughout the spectacular were inspirational stories of Olympic athletes and a brief history of the Church, including the stories of the Prophet Joseph Smith, President Brigham Young, and the Mormon pioneers. The production ended with a video clip of President Hinckley bearing testimony of Jesus Christ as the Light of the World.

[photos] The First Presidency met with President and Mrs. Bush (top) and with U.N. Secretary-General Annan (bottom). (Photos by Craig Dimond.)

[photo] The Church helped welcome Olympic visitors by displaying giant banners of athletes on two of its buildings (far left) and by donating the use of a parking lot for th Olympic Medals Plaza (foreground). (Photo by Tom Smart, Deseret News.)

[photo] On stage at the Conference Center, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and volunteer cast members performed in Light of the World. (Photo by Jed Clark.)

Many Latter-day Saints Pass Torch

On 22 December 2001, Elizabeth Howell ran with the Olympic flame down the White House south lawn track and handed the torch to United States President George W. Bush. She opened the locket that hung around her neck and showed the president a photo of her husband, Brady, who was killed in the 11 September terrorist attack on the Pentagon.

“My husband was all-American,” she told the president. “I know,” he answered, tears visible in his eyes.

Sister Howell, a member of the Crystal City Ward, Mount Vernon Virginia Stake, was chosen by White House officials and the Salt Lake Organizing Committee of the Olympic Winter Games (SLOC) to pass the torch to the president. She represented her late husband, who was a returned missionary, a Primary teacher and Cubmaster, and an intelligence watch officer of the Pentagon’s Navy Command Center. The U.S. Department of Defense posthumously awarded Brady the Defense of Freedom Medal, the civilian equivalent of the military’s Purple Heart.

Passing the torch to the president “was healing in so many ways,” said Sister Howell. “[He] was warm and genuine. He looked me in the eyes and said, ‘I’m sorry for your loss. You’ve done a terrific job carrying on.’”

Sister Howell, who was also invited by SLOC president Mitt Romney to carry the nation’s placard in front of the U.S. athletes during the Olympic opening ceremonies, was one of 11,500 inspirational torchbearers chosen to carry the Olympic flame. The torch carriers relayed the flame 13,500 miles across the United States to its final destination in Salt Lake City. Torchbearers—nominated by a person whom they inspired—were selected to carry the flame within their own communities. Like Sister Howell, hundreds of these flame bearers were Latter-day Saints. Featured here are a few who represent the kinds of people who carried the torch.

Jason and Jenny Pyle, members of the Joshua Ward, East Lancaster California Stake, together carried the torch on 18 January in San Francisco as hundreds of people cheered them on. Brother Pyle was chosen to be a torchbearer for risking his life to donate part of his liver to save his infant son, David, who suffered from a potentially fatal liver disease. David is now a healthy and active three-year-old.

Gary Rowels of the Arvada Third Ward, Arvada Colorado Stake, carried the flame on 27 January in Bozeman, Montana, the city where his five daughters were born. His daughters nominated him because of his commitment to children—as a teacher, coach, and father. “As a dad you do your best all through your life and try to be a good example to your children,” Brother Rowels said. “For my daughters to think enough of me to nominate me to carry the flame is beyond words.” A 30-year convert to the Church, Brother Rowels says he uses the gospel as a blueprint for being a good father.

Mike Taylor and Pat West of the Orem First Ward, Orem Utah Stake, carried the flame consecutively on 5 February in Provo, Utah. Sister West nominated Brother Taylor because of his dramatic recovery from a serious head injury that put him in a coma, at age 20, while serving a mission . Within a year of his injury, Brother Taylor relearned how to talk, walk, and even run. He joined the BYU track team and wrote a book about his recovery. Pat West was among those torchbearers asked to pass the torch to the person they had nominated.

In Salt Lake City, Dale Hull of the Highland Third Ward, South Jordan Utah Highland Park Stake, walked with the torch on 8 February without the help of his cane. After Brother Hull suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed in 1999, he learned to walk again with the help of his physical therapist, who nominated him to carry the flame. Brother Hull trained with his therapist for months to prepare for his portion of the torch relay. Supported by a harness, he practiced walking on a treadmill, carrying a weighted baseball bat as a makeshift torch.

The torch had made its entrance into Salt Lake City the day before Brother Hull carried it. Following the same route that Mormon pioneers traveled, the torch passed through Emigration Canyon, entering This Is the Place Heritage Park to the cheers of a crowd of some 25,000. A few hours later, Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles carried the torch up the steps of the Church Administration Building, where the First Presidency and other members of the Quorum of the Twelve welcomed it.

President Gordon B. Hinckley, while holding the torch up to the thousands of spectators and media who had gathered, said, “We salute the state of Utah, whose party this is. We salute the United States of America, the host country of these games. We salute the whole world as it joins in celebrations of excellence. We salute the officials who have worked so hard and who have gathered from over the world to make of this a great success. And most of all, we salute the athletes who will join in a great contest of excellence.

“To every one we extend our gratitude and best wishes. Let this be a great and historic and wonderful occasion for everyone who joins with us here in this beautiful city and in this great mountain place of beauty.”

President Hinckley then passed the torch to Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve, who carried the flame a short distance through the cheering crowd toward its eventual destination in the Olympic stadium.

[photo] Members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles cheered as President Hinckley passed the flame to Elder Maxwell. (Photo by Craig Dimond.)

[photo] In Washington, D.C., Elizabeth Howell was chosen to carry the torch to the White House, where it was received by President Bush. (Photo courtesy Associated Press.)

[photo] Mike Taylor. (Photo by Emily Sorenson Stone.)

[photo] Dale Hull. (Photo by John Luke.)

Heather Simonsen is a member of the Stratford Ward, Salt Lake Highland Stake.

Elder Scott Teaches Young Adults to Face Challenges

In a recent CES satellite broadcast, Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke to young people about facing and overcoming personal challenges.

“You are making better progress than you realize,” said Elder Scott. “Your struggles are defining character, discipline, and confidence in the promises of your Father in Heaven and the Savior as you consistently obey Their counsel.”

Elder Scott spoke on 13 January from Brigham Young University’s Marriott Center, where more than 20,000 college-age adults were assembled. The fireside, translated into 22 languages, was broadcast throughout North, Central, and South America and Europe. It was made available on videotape for institute students in other parts of the world.

Elder Scott told the young people that God knows how to resolve any challenge they face, no matter how difficult. “As you exercise faith, doing what you can, He will help you handle those things within your capacity. He will bring into your path priesthood leaders who can counsel and advise, friends who can give you support, and parents who can provide answers. Through the avenue of prayer and the path of inspiration, He will help you know what to do.”

Rarely, said Elder Scott, will a person receive a complete answer to prayer all at once. Rather, answers often come a little at a time. “When you seek inspiration to help make decisions, the Lord will give gentle promptings that require you to think, to exercise faith, to work, to struggle at times, then to act.” He continued, “If you have a feeling that an impression has come through inspiration, try your faith by diligently living it. When it is truly a prompting of the Lord, there will be a confirmation that what you have done is right. You will learn what it feels like to have that witness.”

In conclusion, Elder Scott spoke of the growth that comes from overcoming challenges through the help of the Lord. “As you discipline yourself through careful obedience to the commandments of the Lord, you will qualify to receive inspiration and direction in your life. You will grow in discipline, capacity, devotion, understanding, compassion, and joyful service. Your worthy life will allow you to interpret and apply the inspiration that will come through the Holy Ghost. Your love of Heavenly Father and His Son will increase. It will be a love of reverence, awe, and gratitude of a child to the greatest of all.”

Referrals from Visitors’ Centers and Historic Sites Are Increasing

Referrals from North American visitors’ centers and historic sites have increased significantly in recent years, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said at a recent seminar for new visitors’ center directors and Missionary Training Center presidents.

“The efforts at our visitors’ centers and historic sites have begun to make a positive difference,” said Elder Oaks, citing a more than three-fold increase in the number of annual referrals received from these locations in North America over the past six years. “These impressive increases in teaching opportunities are especially significant when you know that the total number of visitors at our visitors’ centers and historical sites has not [significantly] increased and, in fact, was almost the same in the year 2001 (6.6 million) as it was in 1996 (6.3 million).”

Elder Oaks urged new visitors’ center directors to “double and quadruple the number of teaching opportunities we receive from our visitors’ centers and historical sites,” especially those received from Church members.

Elders Joseph B. Wirthlin and Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and several members of the Seventy also participated in training during the four-day seminar held 15–18 January at the Provo MTC.

“The best thing you have is your testimony,” Elder Wirthlin told the new leaders and their wives. Elder Wirthlin shared experiences that led to gaining his own testimony, as well as experiences from the lives of Elder Parley P. Pratt and President Heber J. Grant. Elder Holland shared his witness of the Atonement and of the importance of missionary work in a testimony meeting with the newly called couples.

BYU Women’s Conference Will Be Broadcast in May

Brigham Young University will hold its 2002 Women’s Conference on 2–3 May. Selected talks will be broadcast to meetinghouses throughout the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, and Latin America from 6:00 to 10:00 P.M. mountain daylight time on the days of the conference. The broadcasts can also be seen at the same time on the Internet at

Television broadcasts can be found on KBYU-TV (channel 11) and on BYUTV (DISH Network channel 9403, DirecTV Plus channel 374) where these signals or systems are available. Please check individual schedules for broadcast times.

Church units in Europe, the British Isles, and South Africa can capture the broadcast on 18 May. Local units are authorized to record and retain a set of the broadcasts for Church use.

For more information, call 1-801-378-7692, or access the Web site at

Washington D.C. Visitors’ Center Hosts African American Exhibit

In honor of Black History Month, held each February in the United States, the Washington D.C. Temple Visitors’ Center hosted during February and March an extensive display of rare African American artifacts spanning 400 years of history. The exhibit comprised one-of-a-kind photographs, books, letters, newspapers, and documents. These included a note written by Martin Luther King Jr. from jail in Alabama, an 1840 print depicting the Spanish slave ship L’Amistad, and a letter from Frederick Douglass on the death of abolitionist Sojourner Truth.

Part of the Mark E. Mitchell Collection of African American History, the exhibit was sponsored by the Friends of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). The display also featured artifacts from the Museum of Church History and Art, including photographs, audio and video recordings, journals, and letters of early and more recent black members of the Church.

The exhibit received a great deal of positive public and media attention, said K. Gary Garff, director of the Washington D.C. Temple Visitors’ Center. Individuals attending the exhibit’s debut included members of the U.S. Congress, international ambassadors, collection owner Mark Mitchell, and Frederick Douglass IV, president of the Friends of the NMAAHC.

[photo] Frederick Douglass IV (right) joined Washington D.C. Visitors’ Center Director K. Gary Garff and his wife, Linda, at the exhibit’s opening. (Photo by R. Cole Goodwin.)