News of the Church

By Lisa Ann Jackson, Church Magazines

Listen Download Print Share

Wheelchairs Give Recipients Wings

You have to see how they arrive to really understand how they leave. One man carries a smiley son who is literally as big as he is. A little girl with her hair in pigtails shuffles on all fours, unable to straighten her legs. A man in a brightly colored shirt and Hawaiian-print shorts walks on calloused knees. A man scoots on a board with wheels, holding blocks of wood in his hands to propel himself.

They all have come to receive wheelchairs. Representatives of the Church, in partnership with the Wheelchair Foundation, are on hand to distribute chairs to hundreds of people unable to afford them. In many cases the country’s first lady is there to assist, and in some cases the nation’s president is there too.

This scene has been repeated in 27 countries since October 2001 as the Church has helped place 17,000 people in wheelchairs.

“How can there be a greater humanitarian work than helping the disabled?” asks Garry Flake, director of humanitarian emergency response for the Church.

A recent distribution of wheelchairs took place in December 2002. Brother Flake made stops in Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile. Along the way he was joined by members of Area Presidencies and their wives, as well as by Bishop Richard C. Edgley, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, and Sister Bonnie D. Parkin, Relief Society general president.

At a stop in Mexico City in December, the Church’s representatives, the Wheelchair Foundation, and the First Lady’s organization Vamos México presented 1,400 wheelchairs to disabled individuals. Mexico’s President Vicente Fox and First Lady Martha Fox attended the ceremony and thanked the Church for its efforts.

“It has been a great privilege for us to participate with the Wheelchair Foundation and to see the effects it has in the lives of the recipients,” says Bishop Richard C. Edgley.

Founder and philanthropist Kenneth Behring attributes the idea of the Wheelchair Foundation to an interaction he had with the Church in 1999.

“I owe this blessing to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Mr. Behring told graduates at Brigham Young University where he was awarded an honorary doctorate at the August 2002 commencement ceremonies. “About three years ago [the Church] asked me if I had room on my plane to drop off 15 tons of canned meat for refugees in Kosovo. Then the Church said, ‘And is there any chance that you might have a little extra room to drop off some wheelchairs in Romania?’

“I had never really thought about wheelchairs before. After that trip, I could think of little else.”

Mr. Behring went on to establish the Wheelchair Foundation, and a few years later, Church Humanitarian Services responded to a report that the foundation was looking for partnering organizations. When Mr. Behring traveled to Salt Lake City, the Humanitarian Services staff realized he was the person who had previously helped transport items to Kosovo and Romania. The Church partnered with the organization and started deliveries in October 2001.

“Everything changes with the mobility that can come through a wheelchair,” says Brother Flake. For the recipients it means being able to go to school, get a job, or simply leave the house. For some it means looking at people’s faces instead of their feet, moving themselves around rather than waiting for someone to move them, or getting out of bed for the first time in years. Wheelchairs also help caregivers, offering a measure of relief from carrying their growing children and providing constant care.

Etenesh Worikich was born with serious birth defects and has been homebound her entire life. When wheelchairs were distributed in Ethiopia, she was fitted with her own. “Now I can do whatever I want to,” Etenesh says, gently patting the armrests of her new chair, “maybe even go to school. Twenty-two is not too late to start, is it?”

For Hegazia Kamallah, receiving a wheelchair helped her regain dignity she lost when diabetes took the use of one of her legs. “I have crawled like a baby,” she says. But with the gift of the wheelchair, she declared, “I will never be shamed again from being dirty. … Thank you for bringing me a way to move again.”

In Nicaragua a mother carried her mentally and physically disabled daughter to the wheelchair distribution ceremony. When volunteers placed the young girl in a chair, all attention was on the mother and child. But off to the side, the young girl’s older sister watched, tears streaming down her face.

And in Tanzania, 50-year-old Rashidi Said spoke for all the recipients at the event as he shouted from his new wheelchair, “I can fly! I can fly!”

“This brings a new life to those receiving wheelchairs,” says Mercedes Menafra de Batlle, First Lady of Uruguay.

[photo] “I can fly!” shouts Rashidi Said as he is fitted with a wheelchair. The Church has helped distribute 17,000 chairs since 2001. (Photograph courtesy of Humanitarian Services.)

Strong Families Key to Future, President Hinckley Tells Colorado Forum

Strengthening the family is of “paramount importance in building bridges for the future,” President Gordon B. Hinckley told an audience of 6,500 people at the University of Denver in Colorado on 22 April. Society cannot destroy the family—with the values on which it must be based—without undermining the strength of a nation, he said.

“In my judgment the greatest challenge facing this nation is the problem of the family, brought on by misguided parents and resulting in misguided children,” President Hinckley said. “The family is the primary unit of society. I believe it was designed by the Almighty. A nation will rise no higher than the strength of its families.”

The address was part of a yearlong series sponsored by Colorado State University and the University of Denver. “Bridges to the Future: American History and Values in Light of September 11th” is an exploration of American values, said University of Denver Chancellor Daniel L. Ritchie. Other speakers have included former U.S. Senator John Glenn, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu, and columnist George F. Will.

Chancellor Ritchie told the Church News that President Hinckley was invited to participate in the series because of his international reputation and the forum organizers’ desire to learn more about the values he teaches.

Mentioning the recent war in Iraq, President Hinckley noted that there is still much work to do in winning peace around the world. “But,” he added, “there are bridges which we must build not only outside but also within our nation, important bridges, without which there will be increasing national decay.”

President Hinckley explained it is not the place or the “real estate,” but rather the parents who determine the quality of a home.

“As we contemplate the future I see only a small chance of improving our value system unless we can strengthen the sense of responsibility and acceptance of the vital truth that fatherhood and motherhood carry with them tremendous and lifelong obligations,” he said.

President Hinckley noted several factors that have brought difficulties to many families, including pornography, illegal drugs, divorce, and the “fruits of unbridled sex.” He then offered advice on how to improve and strengthen families, explaining the family home evening program and encouraging families to look to God.

“I submit that if we will work to turn the families of America to God, if they will recognize Him as our divine Father, as the Ruler of the universe, as the Giver of all good, something wonderful will happen,” he said.

If we, as individuals and parents, will use our energies to bring about a practice in the home of good reading, including the reading of the scriptures, of a desire for education, of an attitude of civility one to another, President Hinckley said, then can a nation that is a military leader become a moral light to the world.

[photo] President Gordon B. Hinckley speaks in Denver, Colorado, of the need to strengthen families. (Photograph by Susan Schaefer.)

Three Missions Created, Two Combined

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have approved the creation of three new missions and the merging of one mission with another.

The Chile Concepción South Mission was created out of the reorganization of the Chile Concepción, Chile Osorno, and Chile Santiago South missions.

The Georgia Atlanta North Mission was created out of the Georgia Atlanta and Georgia Macon missions.

The México Guadalajara South Mission was created out of the México Guadalajara and México León missions.

The Germany Leipzig Mission was absorbed by the Germany Berlin Mission.

Most changes become effective 1 July, bringing the total number of missions to 337. In addition, more than 100 new mission presidents and their wives began their assignments in July.


Map of Chile

Chile Santiago South Mission

Chile Concepción South Mission (new)

Rancagua Chile Stake

Angol Chile Stake

Rancagua Chile Tupahue Stake

Los Angeles Chile North Stake

Santiago Chile El Bosque Stake

Los Angeles Chile South Stake

Santiago Chile Gran Avenida Stake

San Pedro Chile Stake

Santiago Chile La Bandera Stake

Talcahuano Chile Stake

Santiago Chile Las Araucarias Stake

Talcahuano Chile Colón Stake

Santiago Chile O’Higgins Stake

Talcahuano Chile Hualpén Stake

Santiago Chile San Bernardo Stake

Temuco Chile Cautín Stake

Buín Chile District

Temuco Chile Ñielol Stake

San Fernando Chile District

Coronel Chile District

Santa Cruz Chile District

Lebú Chile District

Chile Concepción Mission

Nueva Tolten Chile District

Chillán Chile Stake

Victoria Chile District

Chillán Chile Ñuble Stake

Chile Osorno Mission

Concepción Chile Stake

Coyhaique Chile Stake

Concepción Chile Andalién Stake

Osorno Chile Stake

Concepción Chile Chiguayante Stake

Osorno Chile Rahue Stake

Concepción Chile Hualqui Stake

Puerto Montt Chile Stake

Curicó Chile Stake

Punta Arenas Chile Stake

Penco Chile Stake

Valdivia Chile Stake

Talca Chile El Mirador Stake

Valdivia Chile Calle Calle Stake

Talca Chile Lircay Stake

Chiloe Chile District

Linares Chile District

La Unión Chile District

Parral Chile District

Los Lagos Chile District


Villarrica Chile District

Georgia (U.S.)

Map of Georgia

Georgia Atlanta North Mission (new)

Georgia Atlanta Mission

Georgia Macon Mission

Lilburn Georgia Stake

Atlanta Georgia Stake

Albany Georgia Stake

Marietta Georgia East Stake

Columbus Georgia Stake

Augusta Georgia Stake

Roswell Georgia Stake

Jonesboro Georgia Stake

Douglas Georgia Stake

Sugar Hill Georgia Stake

Powder Springs Georgia Stake

Macon Georgia Stake


Savannah Georgia Stake


Map of Germany

Germany Berlin Mission

Berlin Germany Stake

Leipzig Germany Stake

Dresden Germany Stake

Neubrandenburg Germany District


Map of Mexico

México Guadalajara Mission

México León Mission

México Guadalajara South Mission (new)

Guadalajara México Independencia Stake

Aguascalientes México Stake

Morelia México Stake

Guadalajara México Lomas Stake

Aguascalientes México Jardines Stake

Guadalajara México Tlaquepaque Stake

Guadalajara México Mirador Stake

Celaya México Stake

Guadalajara México Victoria Stake

Guadalajara México Moctezuma Stake

Irapuato México Stake

Zamora México Stake

Guadalajara México Reforma Stake

León México Stake

Acambaro México District

Guadalajara México Unión Stake

San Luis Potosí México Stake

Ciudad Guzmán México District

Tepic México Stake

San Luis Potosí México Benito Juárez Stake

Colima México District

Nayarit México District


Manzanillo México District

Puerto Vallarta México District


Uruapan México District

SARS Claims Sister, Impacts Church in Asia

“How is our daughter?” were the last words that Chen Ching-chiu asked her husband, Tang Ssu Hu, as they spoke over the phone before she succumbed to the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) on 1 May. Sister Chen, the head nurse on the eighth floor of the Taipei Municipal Ho Ping Hospital, contracted SARS while caring for patients.

Sister Chen, 47, was the first medical worker in Taiwan to die from the outbreak. “Her selfless spirit … is an example to all medical workers,” said Chen Shui-bian, president of Taiwan. The government awarded Sister Chen a presidential commendation. Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou and a group of city government officials held one minute of silence on the day following her passing. Mayor Ma termed Sister Chen as “the first soldier who sacrificed herself fighting SARS.” The city will honor Sister Chen by listing her name at the Taipei Municipal Martyr’s Shrine.

Sister Chen was baptized in January 2002. She is survived by her husband and their seven-year-old daughter, Chia Ju. They are members of the Hsin Tien Ward, Taipei Taiwan West Stake.

In Hong Kong, in support of local government actions, church meetings were cancelled on a week-by-week basis during the month of April. The Hong Kong China Temple was closed from 29 March to 24 April. During the closures, all Church buildings and offices were thoroughly cleaned. Missionaries and members were reminded to clean their homes and take sensible precautions when traveling.

With the approval of local leaders, member families held sacrament meetings in their homes. Sister Lily Lew of the Victoria First (English) Branch, Hong Kong International District, reported a wonderful experience as her family held sacrament meeting. Her husband Gary, who serves as branch president, blessed the sacrament, and their 12-year-old son, Christopher, passed it. Christopher played the hymn “Press Forward, Saints” on the piano, and their seven-year-old daughter, Samantha, led the music. The three youngest children told the story of Christ’s Resurrection using pictures from the Gospel Art Picture Kit.

Where no priesthood holders were available to administer the sacrament, some families spent the Sabbath reading scriptures and lessons from Church manuals.

“We have had many reports from families who mention having had the most spiritual and sacred moments of their lives during their home sacrament meetings,” says Elder John B. Dickson, President of the Asia Area. “One of the greatest blessings, however, comes to us now in seeing the Saints longing for the moment when they can be together again.”

Missionaries have also made adjustments in their work. They have discontinued the traditional Western method of handshaking and are using the Chinese custom of greeting others with clasped hands and a slight bow or by giving a verbal greeting. In addition, missionaries are teaching lessons in outdoor parks or to one or two investigators at a time in Church classrooms to limit the number of people meeting in confined spaces.

[photo] Ricky Wong and his family hold church meetings in their home during the SARS crisis.

Elder Robert L. Simpson Dies at Age 87

Elder Robert L. Simpson Dies

Elder Robert Leatham Simpson, emeritus member of the First Quorum of the Seventy and former longtime member of the Presiding Bishopric, died 15 April at his home in St. George, Utah. He was 87 years old.

Elder Simpson was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 8 August 1915 to Heber C. and Lillian Leatham Simpson. The family moved to southern California in 1920, where Elder Simpson was reared and received his schooling, graduating from Santa Monica City College in 1937. Elder Simpson served in the New Zealand Mission and later married Jelaire Kathryn Chandler in 1942 in the Mesa Arizona Temple. They have four children.

For nearly 20 years he worked for a major California telephone company, serving as plant engineer, public relations supervisor, and head of the accounting office. He interrupted his business career to serve in the Air Force from 1942 to 1946 during World War II.

In 1958 Elder Simpson was called as a mission president in New Zealand. In 1961, he was called to serve as First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric under Bishop John H. Vandenberg. He served for more than 10 years in that calling. In 1972, Elder Simpson was called as an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve Apostles. He was later called as a mission president in England and also served as Area Supervisor for the Australia, New Zealand, and South Pacific Area of the Church. He was sustained to the First Quorum of the Seventy on 1 October 1976.

In 1980 Elder Simpson was called as president of the Los Angeles California Temple, where he served with his wife, Jelaire, until 1982, when he was called to be the Executive Administrator for the Southeast Asia/Philippines Area of the Church. From 1986 to 1989 Elder Simpson was general president of the Sunday School. On 1 October 1989 Elder Simpson was named an emeritus General Authority. He later served as director of the St. George Utah Temple Visitors’ Center.

BYU-TV Brings Church’s Message to Millions

A native of Texas, La Quitta Frenzel believed that Mormons were people she had better stay away from.

Then a few years ago, La Quitta was flipping through television channels when she came across a station called BYU-TV. “I didn’t even know what Brigham Young University was,” La Quitta recalls, “but I heard mention of the Book of Mormon, so I figured out it was a Church station.”

Some of the speakers on the station caught La Quitta’s attention. Eventually she became familiar with some of their last names—Faust, Perry, Nelson, Ballard. “All the speakers were straightforward, kind, and sincere,” says La Quitta. “The more I listened, the more I thought, ‘There’s nothing wrong with these people.’”

So when two missionaries happened upon La Quitta’s home, she decided to listen to their message.

Now members of the Waller Ward, Katy Texas Stake, Sister Frenzel and her two children continue to watch BYU-TV, and her husband, who is not a member, joins them for general conference broadcasts.

“Everything I saw supported what I learned from the missionaries,” Sister Frenzel says. “Through [BYU-TV] we’ve gained a better sense of the Church. We’ve learned about Church history. We’ve watched examples of how to give Church talks. It’s taught me how to teach in my calling as a Relief Society teacher.”

Every day BYU-TV broadcasts gospel messages to millions of people like Sister Frenzel. Its around-the-clock programming includes broadcasts of general conference, women’s conferences, Church Educational System firesides, Church-related documentaries, Music and the Spoken Word, and Brigham Young University devotionals, forums, symposia, performing groups, and sports.

Broadcast via satellite and cable television to 22 million homes in the United States, BYU-TV is also available worldwide on the Internet at and on the Church satellite system, carried by selected Church units across the globe. Although the station is not yet commercially available outside the United States and is currently available only in English, its managers are seeking ways to make it available to homes throughout the world and in additional languages.

Church members worldwide are discovering BYU-TV. For example, marketing manager Jim Bell mentions Rønne Branch, located on an island near Denmark. Members of the branch had purchased their own satellite equipment in order to receive general conference. “In doing so, they also discovered BYU-TV and now get together often to watch the station’s other programs as well,” Brother Bell says.

BYU-TV began broadcasting in January 2000, shortly after the United States government mandated that satellite companies make a number of their channels available for noncommercial, educational programming. DISH Network, a United States–based satellite television company, invited Brigham Young University to apply for one of these channels. The satellite company accepted the application and asked the university to create its programming and begin broadcasting in five days.

“Because we were scrambling to meet the tight deadline, we simply chose for our first broadcast the most recent address by President Hinckley, without knowing the content,” remembers John Reim, managing director of BYU’s broadcast services. “We began broadcasting the tape at the appointed time, and to our amazement President Hinckley spoke about the blessings of technology.”

Since that debut, other satellite and cable television companies have added BYU-TV to their lineup. The high quality and wide availability of the station have attracted many viewers. Brother Bell points to examples of mail the station has received:

“As a fan of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir,” wrote a Methodist man from Alabama, “I installed [a satellite network] in our home solely for the purpose of receiving the weekly broadcasts of Music and the Spoken Word. However, the other programming was a real bonus!”

A Church member wrote, “I cannot tell you how grateful I am to have this connection to the Church. Since joining in 1962, I’ve lived in Colorado, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, and Idaho. Had this kind of programming been available earlier, BYU-TV could have saved me from the isolation I’ve felt so many times when I lived in areas where there are not many members.”

Information about BYU-TV can be found at

[photo] Using satellite technology, BYU-TV is beamed throughout the United States and Canada and can be picked up in other countries around the world. The station’s programming includes conference talks, devotionals, Church-related documentaries, and other family programs.

In the News

Nauvoo Temple Design Wins Award

The Nauvoo Illinois Temple was named one of three winners of the Palladio Award during the Restoration & Renovation Exhibition and Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, on 20 March.

Winner in the category of New Design and Construction for public architecture, FFKR Architects of Salt Lake City was recognized for the replication of the original 50,000-square-foot Nauvoo Temple, dedicated in 1846. The Nauvoo Illinois Temple was dedicated in June 2002.

Organized and produced by Clem Labine’s Traditional Building magazine, the Palladio Awards honor outstanding achievement in traditional design.

Tabernacle Choir Forms Its Own Recording Label

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has announced the creation of its own recording label, a milestone in the musical organization’s 145-year history. The choir is the sole owner of the new label, called Mormon Tabernacle Choir™. The label was formed to leverage the strength of the choir’s well-known name and reputation.

After recording more than 150 albums for large industry labels, the choir will direct and produce its own recordings, including CDs, videos of special concerts, and documentaries. Recent video performances of the choir’s 2001 Christmas concert with Angela Lansbury and its tour to Nauvoo, Illinois, in 2002 will be rereleased under the new label later this year.

Inaugurating the launch of the new label is the choir’s latest CD, Consider the Lilies. For additional information, visit

[photo] Nauvoo Illinois Temple