News of the Church

By Don L. Searle


“Grab Life by the Horns,” President Hinckley Tells Saints in Southern States

A century and a half ago, the lower Mississippi River in the southern United States was the pathway to Zion for hundreds of converts who traveled the waterway on their journey to Nauvoo and later to the Salt Lake Valley.

Faithful members again descended on two of the river’s prominent cities in March to listen to the counsel of President Gordon B. Hinckley. He spoke to more than 10,000 people during a trip to Memphis, Tennessee, and New Orleans, Louisiana.

With a free weekend coming up, President Hinckley had asked his secretary where he hadn’t been before. “And he said, ‘You have not been to Memphis.’” The congregation gathered outside Memphis in Southaven, Mississippi, near the borders of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas.

President Hinckley was accompanied by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elder Gene R. Cook of the Seventy, President of the North America Southeast Area; and Elder Jon M. Huntsman, an Area Authority Seventy, who also spoke at the meeting.

Referring to 1 Peter 2:9 [1 Pet. 2:9] as his theme, President Hinckley told the congregation to “live up to the great and wonderful opportunity that is yours.” He mentioned an advertising sign outside the arena and said, “I would like to suggest to you that you ‘grab life by the horns’ and do not let life grab you by the horns. You take control of your lives. … Do not let life control you. … Take charge. Rise to the divinity that is within you.”

Lee Palmer of the Hot Springs Ward, Little Rock Arkansas Stake, who left home at 11:00 A.M. to attend the 6:00 P.M. meeting, said: “This will be a significant memory for us. President Hinckley is a wonderful man.”

Down river in New Orleans, Louisiana—while revelers filled the streets for Mardi Gras—members of the Church enjoyed the peace and serenity of a meeting with the prophet.

Arriving in cars, vans, and buses on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, nearly 5,000 people poured into the University of New Orleans Lakefront Arena on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain to hear President Hinckley.

The prophet told them the story of the resurrected Savior’s encounter with the Apostle Thomas as recorded in John 20:24–29, including His charge to “be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27). “My brothers and sisters, I’d like to leave with you those great words of the Lord spoken on that occasion: ‘Be not faithless, but believing.’ … Be not faithless, but believing in yourselves, in your capacity as a son or daughter of God, to do great and good things.”

Freddie Lee Brown of the La Place Ward, New Orleans Louisiana Stake, was happy to hear the prophet speak. While growing up as a member of another faith, she said, “I often wondered why the Lord loved people in the olden days more than He loved us, because He gave them prophets.” When missionaries knocked on her door, she invited them in. “They asked me if I knew there was a prophet on the earth today. … I just knew it and believed.”

While in Mississippi and Louisiana, President Hinckley and those he was traveling with made a detour to visit the grave site of Parley P. Pratt, an early Apostle of this gospel dispensation. Elder Pratt was assassinated on 13 May 1857 near Van Buren, Arkansas, and buried there while serving a mission. President Hinckley characterized his visit to the grave site as a “significant event.”

The day after the meeting in Louisiana, New Orleans Louisiana Stake president Scott N. Conlin showed Elder Gene R. Cook some of the Church historical sites in the city where early pioneers landed by ship from Britain and Europe to make their way up the Mississippi River. They discussed the growth of the Church in the area and the impact of the meeting with President Hinckley. “Who knows the number of souls that were touched,” Elder Cook commented, “not only by what was taught, but by who was teaching it.”

Church News contributed to this report.

[photo] The Smith family drove from Jonesboro, Arkansas, to hear President Hinckley speak at a gathering near Memphis, Tennessee. “Rise to the divinity that is within you,” President Hinckley counseled Church members in the meeting. (Photograph by Greg Hill, Church News.)

President and Sister Hinckley Celebrate 66th Anniversary

Marjorie Pay was the lovely young woman who had lived across the street and came to consider him her best friend. When they married two years after his mission, on 29 April 1937, Gordon Bitner Hinckley had already begun what would become his life’s work—teaching the gospel of the Master and helping to build up The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Their relationship has grown sweeter and deeper through the years. Today it stands as a model—in some ways a textbook—for anyone wishing to build an eternal marriage. On 29 April 2003 the couple celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary, and as they recently reflected on their lives together, President and Sister Hinckley each spoke of the other’s strengths that have contributed to their relationship.

“The basis of a good marriage is mutual respect,” President Hinckley said in an interview with the Church magazines. “If a husband would think less of himself and more of his wife, we’d have happier homes throughout the Church and throughout the world.”

Sister Hinckley expressed gratitude for the way her husband has lived by that advice, encouraging her growth and development as an individual. His efforts, she said, have “made me feel like a real person.” She spoke with gratitude of his confidence in and respect for the way she taught their children and cared for their household while he was away so often in connection with Church responsibilities.

“Mutual respect makes all the difference in the world—having respect for one another as individuals and not trying to change your partner after your manner,” President Hinckley said. “You let her live her life in her way and encourage her talents and her interests.”

Young Gordon Hinckley first noticed Marjorie Pay’s talents when she was the neighbor girl across the street. They courted in their early twenties while he was a university student. By the time she saw him off on a mission, a step she supported fully, she knew she would miss him as her “best friend and confidant” (see Sheri L. Dew, Go Forward with Faith [1996], 41, 58).

When they married in 1937, he had already been working for two years as executive secretary of the Church Radio, Publicity, and Mission Literature Committee. Except for a short time working for a railroad company during World War II, Gordon B. Hinckley was employed producing Church literature and audiovisual materials until his call as a General Authority—as an Assistant to the Twelve—in 1958. He was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1961.

President and Sister Hinckley have five children: Kathleen Hinckley Barnes, Richard Gordon Hinckley, Virginia Hinckley Pearce, Clark Bryant Hinckley, and Jane Hinckley Dudley. They have 25 grandchildren and 35 great-grandchildren thus far.

Family home evening was always a family priority when their children were growing up, President Hinckley recalled; when he was away on a Church assignment, Sister Hinckley carried through with it. Today, President and Sister Hinckley still enjoy a once-a-month family home evening with their extended family. Their children and grandchildren know that President and Sister Hinckley count as one of their greatest blessings in life the opportunity to spend time with members of their family. Traditionally, that is how they celebrate their anniversary—in an intimate family gathering.

“I don’t know how anyone could have been more richly blessed than we have been,” President Hinckley said. “If you can live with a good woman through your life and see your children grow to maturity as happy, able individuals who are making a contribution, then you can count your life a success.”

[photo] President Gordon B. Hinckley shares memories of his family life as his wife, Sister Marjorie Pay Hinckley, listens and smiles. They celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary in April. (Photograph by Craig Dimond.)

Encouraging Temple Worthiness and Preparation

The First Presidency sent the following letter, dated 11 March 2003, to priesthood leaders to be read in sacrament meeting:

We are grateful for the increased availability of temples worldwide and invite adult members to have a current temple recommend and visit the temple more often. Where time and circumstances permit, members are encouraged to replace some leisure activities with temple service.

“Millions of our ancestors have lived upon the earth without receiving the benefit of temple ordinances. We particularly encourage newer members and youth of the Church who are 12 years of age and older to live worthy to assist in this great work by serving as proxies for baptisms and confirmations.

“We request that local priesthood leaders encourage temple-worthy members to consider ways in which more frequent daytime temple attendance could occur. Home and visiting teachers may wish to arrange transportation for those who need it, particularly during the daytime.

“All of the ordinances which take place in the House of the Lord become expressions of our belief in that fundamental and basic doctrine of the immortality of the human soul. As we redouble our efforts and our faithfulness in going to the temple, the Lord will bless us.”

[photo] Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple

Church Sends Aid to Ethiopia

In response to one of the most widespread droughts in Ethiopia since the mid-1980s, Church Humanitarian Services has donated more than 3,000 tons (2,722 tonnes) of food to famine-stricken areas of the African nation. Included in the donation was a life-saving porridge to be given to the most severely malnourished children—the first donation of its kind in the current crisis.

“The assistance your organization has provided is critical,” says Mary Lewellen, director of USAID/Ethiopia. “While many donors provide cereals that are available in the market or in the communities for the adults, what is needed is food for the children.”

More than 11 million Ethiopians—roughly 20 percent of the nation’s population—are at immediate risk for starvation. An additional 3 million people are under close watch. The Ethiopian government estimates that it will take 1.46 million metric tons of food to address the crisis.

Using a centuries-old recipe, the Church has produced a food product called Atmit—an Ethiopian term for “nourishing porridge.” Atmit is an oat flour–based powdered milk product used to feed the most severely malnourished children and elderly adults whose bodies can no longer digest whole grains.

When Humanitarian Services staff in Salt Lake City received the recipe, they decided they could quickly produce the product locally at the Welfare Department’s food production facilities. Nutritionists from Brigham Young University were brought in to create the right blend of nutritional supplement for the recipe. Approximately 160 tons (145 tonnes) of Atmit were produced and shipped to Ethiopia. The Church was the first organization to provide Atmit in the current crisis.

“It is because of our Welfare Services program and the resources we have at Welfare Square that we were able to make this and be ready within a week’s time,” says Garry Flake, director of humanitarian emergency response for the Church. Brother Flake was in Ethiopia in March to coordinate the delivery of the Church’s food donations with Catholic Relief Services and Project Mercy.

The Church also donated 3,000 tons (2,722 tonnes) of a corn/soybean product called Unimix, which was produced and purchased in Ethiopia. The protein-based food is used to supplement whole-grain corn or wheat in the diets of those particularly vulnerable to starvation, such as pregnant and lactating mothers and small children.

This assistance resonates back to the roots of the Church’s current emergency response program. Almost 20 years ago the Church made its first large-scale humanitarian donation, sending aid to Ethiopia and other African nations suffering from widespread drought and famine. In early 1985, members of the Church fasted for famine victims in Africa and contributed generous fast offerings to be used for their relief. More than U.S. $6 million donated through the fasts was distributed to relief agencies working in Ethiopia and other African nations. The event marked the beginning of what has grown into an established program of emergency response by the Church.

“The welfare program, growing out of principles of giving and receiving, has always emphasized preparedness and service,” says Dale Bills, a spokesperson for the Church who accompanied Brother Flake to Ethiopia for the recent food distribution. “And it is on the strength of the Welfare Services infrastructure that we have been able not only to meet the needs of our own, but also to reach out through humanitarian efforts to bless the lives of others.”

Through the most recent donation to Ethiopia, an estimated 220,000 people will benefit for five months from the Unimix supplement, and tens of thousands of children and elderly will benefit from Atmit.

“Your efforts are going to save many, many lives,” says Marta Gabre-Tsadick, Project Mercy’s Africa representative. “I wish I could tell you how many lives this is going to save.”

“This is being done through the contributions and generosity of the members of the Church,” Brother Flake emphasizes. “There is a spirit that permeates what we do when it comes from the sacrifices and generosity and love of the members of the Church and concern for people in need wherever they are.”

[photo] Relief workers walk through a drought-stricken field in Ethiopia to distribute food to villagers at risk for starvation. The drought and famine are the country’s most severe in 20 years. (Photograph by Dale Bills, Church Public Affairs.)

[photo] Garry Flake holds a child suffering in Ethiopia’s current hunger crisis. Brother Flake was in Ethiopia in March to coordinate the Church’s donation of more than 3,000 tons (2,722 tonnes) of food. (Photograph by Dale Bills, Church Public Affairs.)

Church Leaders Share Goodwill with Various Nations

Germany

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Presidency of the Seventy met with German president Johannes Rau in December to honor a commitment made by the First Presidency during the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Meeting in Bellevue Palace, the residence of the president of the Federal Republic of Germany, Elder Uchtdorf presented a three-volume history of President Rau’s family and also his wife’s family.

“President Rau is a religious man,” says Elder Uchtdorf, who was accompanied by his wife, Harriet, and Elder Holger D. Rakow, an Area Authority Seventy. “He has teenage children and values the family. He believes the majority of people are looking for successful marriages with happy, secure families.”

The commitment to perform family history research came last year during the 2002 Winter Olympics when President Rau and his wife, Christina, met with President Gordon B. Hinckley and his counselors in the First Presidency. After learning of President Rau’s interest in family history, the Church leaders made a promise to research the Raus’ family history.

Missionaries serving in the Family History Library found 400 names in President Rau’s ancestry and another 800 names in his wife’s family.

Elder and Sister Uchtdorf, who have hosted President Rau at various events including a Tabernacle Choir broadcast during the Olympics, presented the findings in a private meeting on behalf of the Europe Central Area Presidency.

“It was a politically busy day when an important ruling was announced by the German courts,” Elder Uchtdorf says. “Because of the announcement, we expected a short visit. But it did not deter President Rau. We spent half an hour with him.”

“He thumbed through the pages, examining names,” Elder Uchtdorf says. “He was impressed that original copies of birth and death and marriage certificates were included in the old German handwriting, along with a more easily read copy in modern German.”

Elder Uchtdorf later received a letter expressing gratitude for the family history. “The joy and gratitude of receiving these volumes were immense,” President Rau wrote. “Many generations [in our families] are grateful for the effort of your Church.”

Bulgaria

The First Presidency welcomed the ambassador of Bulgaria and her family during a February visit to Utah. Elena Borislavova Poptodorova was in Utah for a speaking engagement at Brigham Young University’s Kennedy Center for International Studies. Ambassador Poptodorova, along with her husband, Georgi Petrov, and her son, Georgi, met with Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy, then president of Brigham Young University. They also enjoyed a performance of the university’s International Folk Dance Ensemble and a tour of the Missionary Training Center.

While in Salt Lake City, the ambassador and her family met with the First Presidency. Ambassador Poptodorova noted that Latter-day Saints are “people who lead wholesome lives.” She expressed her support of missionaries working in her country, and President Hinckley thanked her for her efforts to help missionaries enter Bulgaria.

The ambassador and her family also toured Welfare Square, Temple Square, and the Family History Library and met with Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander of the Presidency of the Seventy.

During her visit, the ambassador expressed great appreciation for the hospitality she had been shown, saying that she has never seen such a concentrated expression of love, warmth, and appreciation for her country. Expressing her desire to continue a positive relationship between the Church and Bulgaria, Ambassador Poptodorova said, “We would like to have you always in our lives, no matter where we are.”

French Polynesia

In Tahiti, M. Gaston Flosse, president of French Polynesia, and several of his cabinet members paid a courtesy visit to Church leaders at the Faaa Tahiti Stake Center in January.

“We thanked him for the government efforts on cleaning up the environment, reducing road accidents, and providing health programs for people in Tahiti,” says Elder Jean A. Tefan, an Area Authority Seventy. “We also expressed appreciation for his approval of our request to extend a land lease from 9 to 25 years for the construction of the institute building.”

President Flosse thanked the Church for the institute program and for the continuing efforts to support families and develop high moral and ethical standards for youth.

Yolande Bennett, Tahiti director of public affairs, presented information on families and family home evening, including the Liahona magazine and the proclamation on the family, to each of the government officials.

Church News contributed to this report.

[photo] Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf (right) and his wife, Harriet, present German president Johannes Rau (center) with his family history. The presentation fulfilled a promise made to President Rau by the First Presidency when they met with him during the Winter Olympics. (Photograph courtesy of the Office of the Seventy, Church News.)

In the News

Missionary Dies in Argentina

While attempting to save a 13-year-old boy, a full-time missionary in Argentina was killed on 9 March 2003. Elder Nathan Scott Godfrey, serving in the town of Gualeguaychu in the Argentina Rosario Mission, died when he jumped into a deep puddle to save the boy. A power line made contact with the water and electrocuted both of them.

Elder Godfrey, son of Scott Reyns Godfrey and Sarah Crookston Godfrey of the Columbia Heights Ward, Kaysville Utah South Stake, had been in Argentina since January. “He was where he should have been, doing what he should have been doing. We take comfort in that,” says Brother Godfrey.

LDS Servicemen Killed, Prisoner of War Rescued

Lieutenant Nathan White, a United States Navy pilot, died on 2 April over central Iraq when his aircraft was hit in what may have been a friendly fire incident. Brother White, 30, is survived by his wife, Akiko, and their three children, members of the Sandbridge Ward, Virginia Beach Virginia Stake. Brother White served a mission in Japan and later graduated from Brigham Young University, where he majored in Japanese.

James W. Cawley, a U.S. Marine staff sergeant and member of the Fox Creek Ward, Layton Utah Stake, died 29 March during combat in Iraq. He was responding with fellow soldiers to a firefight when he was struck and killed by a coalition forces Humvee military vehicle, according to U.S. Marine Capt. Jason Doughtery.

Brother Cawley, 41, leaves behind his wife, Miyuki, and two children. He completed a full-time mission in the Japan Fukuoka Mission and was a detective in the Salt Lake City Police Department, serving on the department’s SWAT team.

John Darren “J. D.” Smith, 32, was killed when his U.S. Army helicopter crashed in Kuwait on 25 February before the Iraq war began. Stationed in Italy before being sent to Kuwait, Brother Smith, his wife, Meredith, and their two daughters were members of the Pordenone Military Branch, Trieste Italy District. Brother Smith and his wife were high school sweethearts who married after each served a mission.

Chief Warrant Officer Ronald D. Young Jr., 26, a U.S. Army aviator based out of Fort Hood, Texas, was captured by Iraqi forces when his Apache helicopter went down 24 March during a combat mission. He was rescued on 13 April by coalition forces outside of Tikrit.

Sister Dew Serves As Delegate for Women’s Commission

Sheri L. Dew, former counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, served as a United States White House delegate and private-sector adviser to the Commission on the Status of Women, an international organization.

“My recent experience serving in the Relief Society general presidency has given me a great deal of love for the women of the world as well as an appreciation for some of the challenges they face,” says Sister Dew. “My hope is that that experience will prove helpful to the commission.”

At the invitation of the White House, Sister Dew participated in the 47th session of the commission, held in New York City in March. The commission, established in 1946, promotes women’s rights in political, economic, social, and educational fields.

Comment

Positive Depictions of Women

The March 2003 issue of the Ensign is one of the most beautiful issues I can recall seeing, as a subscriber to the magazine for more than a decade. Throughout the magazine are illustrations portraying beautiful, sensitive, and realistic representations of women as they are today, were in the past, and may become in the future. I found the illustrations to be uplifting, encouraging, and accurate in portrayals of women of the Church. For those women in the world who may be struggling with their identity, I believe this issue to be quite enlightening. My father used to say to me, “Remember who you are.” This beautiful issue is one I will refer to again and again for encouragement and support. Randi L. Phillips Citrus Heights, California

Unifying Effort

Thank you so much for streamlining the Ensign to help with the publication of the Liahona international magazine. I am currently working among the wonderful and humble Saints in Japan. The efforts to unify the Church worldwide are so greatly appreciated. They make gospel study so much easier for people who speak different languages. To be unified in learning the gospel of our Lord and Savior is such a wonderful blessing. Elder McCord Larsen Japan Sendai Mission

Across the Kilometers

Thank you for adding the metric equivalents in President Thomas S. Monson’s message in the January 2003 Ensign. Please continue. This is very helpful to those of us who enjoy reading Church publications in English but have problems “translating” the different measuring units. You have taken another step toward a truly international Church. Terez Nilsson Lund, Sweden

More Family Resources

Thank you so much for your articles in March 2003 about family home evening. I want to add one more thing to your list of lesson resources. In the Sunday School Class Member Study Guide, each weekly reading assignment includes a section called “Suggestions for Family Discussion.” We use this section as the basis for our home evening lessons each week and have found it to be very useful. It reinforces what we learned in church on Sunday and enhances our personal scripture study during the week. The discussions are short and to the point and usually include an object lesson, which helps keep our young children focused. Lynae McKay Derwood, Maryland

Call for Freelance Writers

From time to time the Ensign magazine has need for freelance writers for news and feature articles. We are currently compiling a database of professional freelancers to draw from as needs arise. If you would like to be included in our database, please send three clips; a cover letter detailing your writing experience; and your name, address, phone number, e-mail address, and ward and stake (or branch and district). Send materials to ensign@ldschurch.org with “Freelance Writers” in the subject line, or post materials to Ensign Editorial, attention News Editor, 50 East North Temple Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84150-3224, USA. Clips will not be returned.