News of the Church

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Storms Cause Tragedy, Extensive Damage

Members of the Church were affected by storms around the world in recent months. They were also affected by the response of their fellow Church and community members as they served side by side in the aftermaths.

Hurricanes

Hurricane Isidore tore across Mexico in September 2002, affecting members and leaving a temple and several meetinghouses damaged.

Elder Gregory Scott Johnson of Fountain Green, Utah, was killed near Mérida, Mexico, in an incident related to Hurricane Isidore. He came in contact with a live electrical wire downed during the storm. Elder Johnson was serving in the México Mérida Mission at the time.

The Mérida México Temple sustained substantial damage to the roof and exterior walls during the storm, causing water damage to the interior of the temple. Several meetinghouses in the area were also damaged by the storm. Continued heavy rains and flooding after the hurricane slowed repair efforts, but all buildings were repaired and the temple was soon functioning. An estimated 800 Latter-day Saint families had to leave their homes due to the storm.

The Church’s first humanitarian response came the day after the hurricane. Working with the administration office in Mexico City, Luis Felipe Cejín, president of the Mérida México Stake and chair of the regional welfare committee, arranged for the immediate purchase and distribution of 430 food boxes to members.

In the ensuing days, additional food, building supplies, and tools were sent to the region. Members from throughout Mexico joined in the relief effort. People gathered at the Villahermosa México Stake Center to package food, medication, and construction materials and load them for shipment. Stakes in Tula, Anáhuac, and Puebla responded with similar contributions.

Terry J. Spallino, director for temporal affairs in Mexico, recalls the reaction of one brother, baptized two years ago, when he received building supplies to replace the roof blown off his business during the storm.

“He told us he could hardly believe what had happened,” says Brother Spallino. “Then he bore his testimony of how blessed he and his family had been since joining the Church.”

Church Humanitarian Services in Salt Lake City responded with a cargo jet filled with food, hygiene kits, blankets, and other emergency supplies. The government of Mexico asked that the Church care for its own members first and then assist others as possible. The 128,000 pounds (60,000 kg) of supplies, equivalent to six semitrailers full of goods, aided more than 20,000 people in the Yucatán Peninsula.

“We want to take care of our members, of course,” says Garry R. Flake, director of Humanitarian Services, “and we’re working with local authorities to see that the aid reaches as many additional people as possible.”

As supplies flooded in from around Mexico and from Church headquarters, members and missionaries were on hand to unload and distribute materials to those in need.

The response was wonderful to observe, says Brother Spallino. “While many continue to suffer from lack of electricity and loss of employment, at least there were roofs overhead and food on the tables during this difficult time,” he said.

Tropical Storm Lili swiped the island of Jamaica on its way to becoming a hurricane, leaving several member homes damaged. When the storm reached Louisiana in the United States, it was a category two hurricane. Reports indicate one member home was severely damaged from the winds and several others were damaged from flooding. Members and missionaries contributed to community cleanup efforts in this area.

Floods

What experts called the worst flooding in 200 years left several countries in central Europe with considerable damage and ruin in August. Bridges, homes, and freeways were swept away in many parts of Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, and southern Russia. At the height of the flooding, some areas were submerged under as much as 12 feet (3.5 m) of water.

As the cleanup began, the Church donated U.S. $635,000 and worked with local governments and relief groups to provide food, pumps, drying equipment, and other emergency supplies.

“These supplies augmented the enormous contribution of labor from our members and missionaries in Europe,” says Garry R. Flake, director of Church Humanitarian Services. Members and missionaries throughout central Europe were on hand to assist in cleanup efforts in their local communities.

The meetinghouse of the Döbeln Branch, Dresden Germany Stake, was flooded with water and mud. No members or missionaries were reported injured.

The Church has an established tradition of humanitarian service throughout Europe. It sponsored 203 projects among 18 European nations during 2001.

[photo] Members and missionaries unload supplies sent from a stake in Villahermosa, Mexico, to aid victims of Hurricane Isidore. (Photograph courtesy of Church Temporal Affairs, Mexico.)

[photo] Volunteers from the Freiberg Ward, Dresden Germany Stake, clean a neighbor’s yard after severe flooding. (Photograph by Claire Freedman.)

Satellite Broadcast for Children

The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles invite children of the Church to attend a special satellite broadcast on 8 February 2003 at 2:00 P.M. mountain standard time. A member of the First Presidency and members of the Primary general presidency will address the children.

“We hope children will remember this all their lives,” says Sister Sydney S. Reynolds, first counselor in the Primary general presidency, noting that broadcasts especially for children are rare.

The theme of the broadcast is “I’ll Follow Him in Faith.” “We want to help parents strengthen their children’s faith in the Savior, because He is ultimately the source of comfort, peace, and direction,” Sister Reynolds says.

Primary children ages 7–11, their parents, and Primary leaders are invited to attend the broadcast. The occasion takes place during the 125th anniversary year of the Primary organization and is the first broadcast for children to take place in the Conference Center. It will be broadcast in many languages, with rebroadcasts scheduled to accommodate time zones throughout the world.

Young Women Are Models of Modesty

On Saturday, 12 October 2002, 33 young women from 14 stakes in southern California fixed their hair, put on makeup, and stepped into formal gowns. But they didn’t have dates waiting to take them to dances—they were getting ready to model their dresses for more than 900 people gathered for a special fashion show. The theme? Modesty.

“I think modesty strikes a sympathetic chord across religious lines,” observes Karen Baker, an organizer of the event and a member of the Mission Lake Ward, Santa Margarita California Stake. “All the seats were filled, we had people standing in the back, and there were requests for twice as many tickets as were available.”

In recent years, Latter-day Saints in several states have met with clothing retailers about expanding their line of modest clothes. Sister Baker, who serves as assistant director of public affairs for her stake, had attended a “modest” fashion show organized by Latter-day Saints and retailer Nordstrom in Upland, California, early last year. In May 2002 when she and her 17-year-old daughter couldn’t find any modest formal dresses for a school dance, she decided it was time to talk to the fashion industry. By June, she and the Nordstrom store in her area had a date set for “A Class Act”—a fashion show of modest formal gowns.

“Generally our events are organized at least a year and a half in advance, but we were fortunate to have the budget, time, and resources to make it happen,” says Kim Cimino, store manager for the South Coast Plaza Nordstrom. “This is truly a rare occurrence.”

Sister Baker concurs. “How could I just go into one of the biggest retailers in one of the biggest malls in the United States and have them put up thousands of dollars for a fashion show? I can’t say enough how the Lord’s hand has been in this whole thing.”

From June to October, a “fashion board” composed of Sister Baker; Carol Starr, also an organizer of the fashion show and a public affairs specialist in the Santa Margarita stake; stake Young Women leaders; and young women selected because of their modest dress standards worked together with Nordstrom to find appropriate dresses for the show.

“They were very passionate about finding a solution for their daughters,” remembers Ms. Cimino. “They went so far as to bring us framed photos from the walls of their homes showing how they had modified their daughters’ previous formal dresses to be more modest.”

But the “Mormon moms,” as they became known, found they weren’t the only ones passionate about modesty. Another large Christian church in the area sent an e-mail to its members, encouraging them to call Nordstrom and voice their support. The Los Angeles Times ran a front-page article about the show and the modesty-conscious Latter-day Saints who made it happen. And a local paper ran a poll about the fashion show and discovered that 96 percent of their readers were in favor of more modest dress standards.

“Ninety-six percent!” effuses Sister Baker. “In southern California! We were astounded. Who would have thought fashion would show us how many common values we hold with our neighbors?”

Steven Bangerter, first counselor in the Santa Margarita stake presidency, is equally enthusiastic. “What a remarkable accomplishment in this culture where modesty is ridiculed as a thing of the past,” he says. “There is a silent majority thirsting for someone to boldly step forward toward a reasonable level of self-respect and higher ideals.”

These ideals are also on the minds of Church leaders. In September, just two weeks before the show, Sister Kathleen H. Hughes, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, made a call for modesty during the general Relief Society meeting.

“Modesty is a battle worth fighting because it so often affects more serious moral issues,” Sister Hughes said. “Now, this doesn’t mean that we have to demand that our daughters and sons are covered from neck to ankle, but it does mean that we help them dress in a way that shows they are children of God” (“Blessing Our Families through Our Covenants,” Ensign, Nov. 2002, 106–7).

After the flurry and excitement of the fashion show, one of the models-for-a-day reflects on the broader impact of the event. “A lot of girls had been struggling with standards,” says Mandi Young of the Los Alamitos Ward, Long Beach California East Stake. “It was an awesome way to get girls to say, ‘Wow, I can be modest and look cute!’ I think they saw that they’re not alone.”

Now that the fashion show is over, the “Mormon moms” are considering what to do next in the cause of modesty. They have met with their stake presidency, suggesting ideas about videos, Web sites, and television shows. Their advice to others is to simply do something.

“I would encourage people everywhere—across the country, internationally—to go to stores and promote the sale of modest clothes,” says Sister Baker. “I’ve been remembering President Spencer W. Kimball’s motto: Do it! If something occurs to you, if you feel directed by the Spirit, even if it seems impossible, take little steps and the Lord will show you the way.”

[photo] Young Women from several stakes in California model formal gowns in a fashion show dedicated to modesty. (Photograph courtesy of Encore Design Studios, Inc.)

[photo] Shoppers snatch up modest fashions. Organizers of a fashion show discovered that many people, not just Latter-day Saints, want more modest clothing options. (Photograph courtesy of Encore Design Studios, Inc.)

Naomi Frandsen is a member of the BYU 154th Ward, Brigham Young University Second Stake.

Volunteers Brighten the Face of a Nation

On Brazil’s independence day last year, 7 September, an estimated 30,000 Church members and their friends held a massive service event, refurbishing more than 120 city, state, and national schools across Brazil. The project was held in more than 100 cities in 12 states.

Throughout the cities, people in pullover vests labeled SUD (LDS in Portuguese) swarmed school buildings and grounds, carrying paintbrushes and scrapers. In addition, many of the schools’ directors, teachers, and students joined the massive effort. When they finished hours later, the face of the nation was a little brighter.

The project was held under the auspices of a Church program in Brazil called “Hands That Help.” This program organizes volunteers to provide community service.

The event in September included maintaining electrical and hydraulic systems in the schools, as well as pruning trees and cleaning, painting, and repairing whatever needed sprucing up. Materials and paint were donated by private businesses or provided by community resources.

In Manaus, a large city at the headwaters of the Amazon River, more than 1,500 volunteers worked at 12 day-care centers and elementary schools.

“The work was very useful,” says community volunteer Sonia Lafayette, expressing her happiness at helping repair the school she attended as a child. “I was able to repay a little to the school that gave me so much.”

Another volunteer in Manaus, Valdemar Siquiera da Costa, operator of a small boat that transports people across the rivers around Manaus, observes: “On this day, no one refused to work, and all refused to be paid. My wife, our two children, and I were very happy as we worked alongside others.”

In Rio de Janeiro, after a cold and windy night, Renata Silva, a 15-year-old who had been baptized just a month earlier, put on her SUD jacket and reported to a school for her task. A coordinator asked her to go outside and direct those arriving at the school. Despite the fact that she was expecting to paint and clean, she remained in her assignment until she was no longer needed there.

“Renata realized that it is not where you serve but how you serve,” says Nei Garcia of Church public affairs in Brazil. “She was a great example of humility and the desire to make things better.”

Artur Segurando, director of the state school in Campinas, was surprised by the enthusiasm with which the members worked. “We received a multitude of people—men, women, youth, and children, all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—imbued with a great spirit of unity,” he said. “They cleaned the school, painted the patio, washed the windows, and cleaned the gardens. Certainly, our school gained greatly in this spirited service.”

Heloisa Helena Linhares of the Maraponga Ward, Fortaleza Brazil Montese Stake, and a teacher at one of the schools, says, “I feel great joy to be able to tell my fellow teachers and the officials and students that this work was done by the church of which I am a member.”

[photo] Clothed in vests identifying them as Latter-day Saints, volunteers work to refurbish a school in Brazil. (Photograph courtesy of Brazil Public Affairs.)

[photo] Volunteers of all ages pitch in to paint, clean, and repair schools across Brazil. (Photograph courtesy of Brazil Public Affairs.)

Fernando Assis is a member of the São Paulo Fifth Ward, São Paulo Brazil Stake.

In the News

Census Information Now Available through FamilySearch™

On 23 October 2002 President Gordon B. Hinckley announced that data from the 1880 United States Census, the 1881 British Census, and the 1881 Canadian Census are now available at www.familysearch.org. The announcement, broadcast across the United States and Canada, brought record numbers of visitors to the site, with new visitor traffic surging 500 percent immediately following the announcement and leveling off to between 6 and 10 percent above normal the following week.

“This signifies another leap forward in family history research,” President Hinckley said.

The census data represent more than 17 years of effort from the Church and partner organizations, the Minnesota Population Center at the University of Minnesota and the Institute of Canadian Studies at the University of Ottawa, in extracting information from census records. All three censuses have been available on CD, but the announcement marks the first time this information is accessible via the Internet.

The censuses include a combined total of 85 million names, including significant listings for diverse groups such as Asian, Black, Caucasian, Hispanic, and Native American. Each name includes all census data gathered about that individual, such as profession, members of household, birth date and place, and parents’ names. Individual records are linked to other individual records (such as parents, children, and siblings), and neighboring households are also linked together.

“An amazing thing happens when people trace their roots,” President Hinckley said. “They discover they are not alone in the world.”

Church Made Part of BBC’s Web Site

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has made the history and teachings of the Latter-day Saints a permanent part of its religion and ethics Web site. The on-line section www.bbc.co.uk/religion includes news and background of the world’s major religions, including Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. “The LDS Church is growing strongly and has had a presence in the UK almost from the very beginning, so it was entirely appropriate to include it,” says David Kremer, executive producer for the BBC’s religion and ethics section.

Monument Honors African-American Pioneer

Baptized in 1832, Elijah Abel was one of the earliest members of the Church. He was also a former slave and one of the few African-Americans to join the Church in his day. Brother Abel and his family traveled west with the Saints, and he lived in Salt Lake City until his death in 1884. He was characterized as a true, pure, and spiritual man, and his memory was recently honored with the dedication of a monument at his grave site in a Salt Lake City cemetery.

The monument was created through private efforts, and Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offered the dedicatory prayer. “It’s a wonderful thing you’ve done here today,” Elder Ballard told about 200 people gathered for the ceremony. “The Church is pleased.”

Australian Stake Hosts Prime Minister

In support of a community antidrug campaign, the Ipswich Australia Stake hosted John Howard, the prime minister of Australia, in a speaking engagement on 5 September 2002. During the meeting, the prime minister announced funding to expand a community partnership to fight illegal drug use.

Grant A. Pitman, president of the Ipswich stake, offered opening remarks for the gathering, which included speakers from various community and religious organizations.

The prime minister updated audience members on the Tough on Drugs initiative and thanked Church members for their warm welcome. He also praised the music provided by a neighboring Seventh-Day Adventist school and a Samoan choir from the Ipswich stake.

“That beautiful singing … is really a reminder better than anything I could say about what this campaign is all about,” he said. “It’s making sure that those young children go through their lives free of the scourge of drugs.”

After the meeting, Mr. Howard was presented with a Mormon Tabernacle Choir CD, a Brigham Young University choir CD, and an interactive DVD introducing the Church.

BYU Ranked Most “Stone-Cold Sober”

For the fifth year in a row, Brigham Young University—Provo has been named the most “stone-cold sober school” in the United States by the Princeton Review. BYU also ranked first in the category of most religious and fifth for quality of life.

“I think it says something that we are the most sober school and we are also ranked number five in the quality of life category. I think the two are correlated,” says Carrie Jenkins, spokesperson for BYU.

The Princeton Review polled 65,000 students at the top 345 colleges in the United States to formulate its rankings.

[photo] The 1881 Canadian census paints a portrait of life in Canada when the young nation was carving out a national identity. (Courtesy of Canadian Provincial Archives, Archives of Ontario.)

[photo] Elder M. Russell Ballard (left) stands with Hugh J. Barlow, program master of ceremonies, at a marker honoring early Church member Elijah Abel. (Photograph by Johanna Workman.)

[photo] A Samoan choir from the Ipswich Australia Stake provides music for a community gathering featuring John Howard, Australia’s prime minister. (Photograph by Stewart Glass.)