News of the Church

By Cray Carlson

Print Share

    Members Sustain Changes; Leaders Speak Out against Worldly Influences

    In the Saturday afternoon session of the 173rd Semiannual General Conference, several General Authorities and Area Authority Seventies were released and four Area Authority Seventies were sustained. Changes were also announced for the Young Men general presidency.

    Three members of the First Quorum of the Seventy were granted emeritus status and released from full-time service as General Authorities. For their years of service to the Church, Elder Angel Abrea, Elder William R. Bradford, and Elder Cree-L Kofford received expressions of gratitude from Church members gathered in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City and in meetinghouses throughout the world.

    Released as members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy and given a vote of thanks for their service were Elder Duane B. Gerrard, Elder J. Kent Jolley, and Elder D. Lee Tobler.

    Four new Area Authority Seventies whose callings had been previously announced were sustained at the conference: José A. Castro, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; William K. Jackson, New Delhi, India; Paul V. Johnson, Sandy, Utah; and Jay L. Sitterud, Highland, Utah.

    Seventeen Area Authority Seventies were released. (For a full list, see “The Sustaining of Church Officers,” page 23, this issue.)

    Changes to the Young Men general presidency were also announced. Elder Glenn L. Pace and Elder Spencer J. Condie of the Seventy were released as first counselor and second counselor respectively. Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy was sustained as first counselor, and Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Seventy was sustained as second counselor. Elder F. Melvin Hammond of the Seventy continues as Young Men general president.

    During the Saturday morning session, President Gordon B. Hinckley invited Elder David B. Haight to join him at the stand. President Hinckley told the congregation that Elder Haight is 97 years old and “has lived longer than any other Apostle in the history of this dispensation.” Elder Haight waved to the congregation and was then excused from sitting on the stand during conference due to a recent illness.

    In his address that morning, President Hinckley reviewed the growth of the Church, noting congregations of Saints worldwide: “We now have strong congregations in every state of the United States and in every province of Canada. We have such in every state of Mexico, in every nation of Central America, and throughout the nations of South America. We have strong congregations in Australia and New Zealand and the isles of the Pacific. We are well established in the nations of the Orient. We are in every nation of Western Europe and in much of Eastern Europe, and we are firmly established in Africa.”

    “And this is only the beginning,” President Hinckley went on to say. “We have scarcely scratched the surface. … Our work knows no boundaries. Under the providence of the Lord it will continue.”

    President Hinckley provided updates on several aspects of the work, including missionary work, humanitarian efforts (see related article on page 123), and the Perpetual Education Fund.

    “To date the Church has granted about 10,000 loans to young men and women in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and other areas of the Church,” he reported. “To date about 600 young men and women have completed their training. … We are happy to report that the plan is working well and gradually expanding as we gain experience.”

    President Hinckley and several other leaders also spoke of the declining standards of the world and reminded conference attendees that the Church’s standards will not change.

    “I believe and testify that it is the mission of this Church to stand as an ensign to the nations and a light to the world,” President Hinckley said in his Sunday morning address. “There are forces all around us that would deter us from that effort. The world is crowding in on us. From all sides we feel the pressure to soften our stance, to give in here a little and there a little. … We must stand firm. We must hold back the world. If we do so, the Almighty will be our strength and our protector, our guide and our revelator.”

    President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, also confirmed the Church’s unwillingness to alter its standards. “However out of step we may seem, however much the standards are belittled, however much others yield, we will not yield, we cannot yield,” he said during the Saturday afternoon session.

    Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles called the Saints to action in his Saturday morning remarks, encouraging them to take a stance against growing trends. “We need to raise our voices with other concerned citizens throughout the world in opposition to current trends. We need to tell the sponsors of offensive media that we have had enough. We need to support programs and products that are positive and uplifting,” Elder Ballard said. “Brothers and sisters, refuse to be used. Refuse to be manipulated. Refuse to support those programs that violate traditional family values.”

    General Authorities and the choir join with Church members worldwide in sustaining Church leaders.

    President Hinckley Dedicates Redlands California Temple

    On 14 September 2003, with the San Bernardino mountain range as a backdrop, thousands of Church members gathered to participate in the dedication of the Redlands California Temple, the Church’s 116th. President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the temple and was accompanied by his wife, Marjorie; Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; and members of the North America West Area Presidency.

    “This beautiful structure has come of the consecrations of Thy Saints in all the world,” said President Hinckley in the dedicatory prayer. “Bless them for their faith and faithfulness. Open the windows of heaven, as Thou hast promised through the prophet Malachi, and pour down blessings upon them that there shall not be room enough to receive them.”

    The Redlands Temple was announced by the First Presidency on 21 April 2001. Construction began on 11 March 2002. The temple took approximately 16 months to complete.

    “We love this temple—from the concrete foundation to the top of Moroni,” said Elder Jerry Quinn, who with his wife is a missionary assigned to the temple project. “It is like having heaven in your backyard.”

    The temple was open to the public from 9 August to 6 September 2003. With the help of approximately 11,000 volunteers, more than 140,000 people were able to tour the temple and learn more about its purposes and ordinances.

    “Touring the temple gave me a spiritual understanding of God’s plan of salvation through the LDS Church. Thank you!” said Patricia Goodman, a Catholic from Long Beach, California, who attended the open house.

    “The neighbors have been so helpful and understanding,” said Douglas Glauser, chairman of the open house committee. This was also reflected in President Hinckley’s dedicatory prayer: “We are grateful for the spirit of hospitality which we have experienced here. May it increase that we may live in harmony with our neighbors, walking as examples before them. We pray that many may be constrained in their hearts to learn more of Thy great plan of salvation, that the mantle of membership may come upon them and enfold them.”

    The Redlands area has long been friendly to the Church. Brigham Young wanted to establish multiple way stations between Salt Lake City and the Pacific port of San Pedro Bay (now known as Long Beach). In the summer of 1851, two Apostles of the Church, Amasa Lyman and Charles C. Rich, were sent to California with authorization from Brigham Young to purchase land. The colonists who went with them included 437 men, women, and children.

    On 1 October 1851 they purchased 35,000 acres of land known as Rancho San Bernardino from Antonio Maria Lugo. The purchased property included the tract on which the Redlands Temple now stands.

    President Hinckley noted this long-standing connection as he dedicated the newly built temple: “Father, our people are not strangers to this area. … Thy work has more recently been firmly planted here. Wilt Thou cause it to grow and flourish and touch many hearts that they may turn to Thee and learn of Thy ways and do Thy will and bidding.”

    The Redlands California Temple, the fifth temple in the state, was dedicated in September 2003. (Photograph by Cray Carlson.)

    Temple Construction and Renovation Projects Continue

    Church members in Denmark gathered on 15 August 2003 near the Copenhagen City Center to watch a brief ceremony in which a statue of the angel Moroni was lifted onto a tower next to the Copenhagen Denmark Temple. Construction on the temple is expected to be completed in 2004.

    That same day, ground was broken for the Newport Beach California Temple. Elder Duane B. Gerrard, formerly of the Seventy, who was then serving as First Counselor in the North America West Area Presidency, dedicated the temple site. Following the dedication, Church leaders and others put on hard hats, took up shovels, and broke ground for the temple. The Newport Beach California Temple district will serve nearly 50,000 members of the Church and will be the seventh temple in California.

    The São Paulo Brazil Temple will be closed until approximately February 2004 for renovations, and the Apia Samoa Temple is currently under reconstruction after the original structure was destroyed by fire in July 2003 (see “News of the Church: Fire Destroys Samoa Temple,” Ensign, Sept. 2003, 74). The following additional temples have been announced or are under construction: Aba Nigeria, Accra Ghana, Curitiba Brazil, Harrison New York, Helsinki Finland, Kiev Ukraine, Manhattan New York, Panama City Panama, Sacramento California, and San Antonio Texas.

    Church News contributed to this report.

    Church Supplies $3 Million and Other Resources to Fight Measles in Africa

    To combat a disease that in some parts of the world is almost eradicated while in other parts still commonly kills children, the Church has joined an effort to immunize millions of children in Africa against measles. Church officials announced their support at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on 17 September 2003.

    Offering both financial aid and logistical support, the Church pledged U.S. $3 million over the next three years and will provide local volunteers and facilities to the Measles Initiative to help stem the tide of measles in Africa.

    With the vaccine costing less than U.S. $1 per child, “our contribution alone will provide vaccine for three million children. What a marvelous and wonderful thing that is,” President Gordon B. Hinckley stated during the Saturday morning session of the October 2003 general conference.

    The Measles Initiative is a five-year effort to vaccinate 200 million children in Africa. Measles is the leading cause of blindness and the leading vaccine-preventable cause of death in Africa. The initiative will prevent an estimated 1.2 million measles deaths.

    Involved in the initiative are the American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United Nations Children’s Fund, World Health Organization, and Pan American Health Organization, as well as international Red Cross and Red Crescent offices and governments of affected nations.

    “The Church has once again illustrated its significant commitment to ending suffering on a worldwide basis,” said Marsha J. Evans, president and CEO of the American Red Cross, in accepting the first installment of the gift. “We cannot express our enormous gratitude.”

    Ms. Evans noted that the Church has worked extensively with the Red Cross in other relief efforts, including an additional U.S. $2 million donated in recent years for other Red Cross efforts and assistance with a Red Cross vaccination campaign in Zambia in June.

    “We are delighted to partner with the Red Cross,” Presiding Bishop H. David Burton told the Deseret News. “Over the years we’ve done so on a number of projects, and we’re eager to continue that relationship.”

    In his Saturday morning general conference address, President Hinckley noted that the money for the measles donation did not come from tithing funds. “It came from contributions of the faithful to the humanitarian work of the Church,” he said.

    The Church also pledged logistical support to the initiative. Local Church members will serve as volunteers, and meetinghouses will be made available.

    “To be able to prevent a child from dying, to be able to help so many so easily—now what could be better than that?” said Harold C. Brown, managing director of the Church’s Welfare and Humanitarian Services Department, who presented the donation in behalf of the Church.

    A Red Cross nurse vaccinates a child in Africa. A donation from the Church will help vaccinate three million children in Africa against measles. (Photograph by Garry Flake.)

    Elder Nelson Dedicates Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic

    When his plane touched down in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on 25 August 2003, Elder Russell M. Nelson became the first member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to set foot in central Asia. During his visit he met with Church members and dedicated two nations where the Church is young.

    Accompanied by Elder Douglas L. Callister of the Seventy, Europe East Area President, Elder Nelson also visited with government and community leaders and was interviewed on a local television station.

    More than 90 members and friends of the Almaty Branch gathered at their recently rented meetinghouse to hear Elder Nelson’s testimony and counsel. He spoke of families and of the blessings that come from living the gospel.

    Members living in remote cities traveled by bus for as long as 13 hours to attend the meeting, with one member coming from neighboring Tajikistan. The meeting was the largest gathering of Church members ever in Kazakhstan, a land where the Church was officially recognized just three years ago. The Almaty Branch was organized in July 2001 by Elder Callister.

    Early the next morning, Elder Nelson, with Elder Callister and local Church leaders, climbed to the top of Kok Tobe (Kazakh for “Green Hill”), a prominent landmark in the city. There in the shadow of the snowcapped peaks of the Tien Shan Mountains, with the city of Almaty spread out below, the group met in a grove. From this location, the group could see the site of the first baptism performed in Kazakhstan in November 1999, as well as the current Church building.

    Elder Nelson dedicated the country, saying that in Kazakhstan, “a fresh spirit has sprung forth, laden with hope, merged with a hunger for enlightenment.”

    As the prayer concluded, the first rays of sunlight were breaking on the city. A new age had begun for the nation of 15 million people.

    Elder Nelson and Elder Callister then traveled four hours by car to Bishkek, the capital city of the neighboring Kyrgyz Republic, a nation of 5 million. During a recent visit to Salt Lake City, the foreign minister of the Kyrgyz Republic, Askar Aitmatov, had invited Elder Nelson to participate in the 2,200-year anniversary celebration in August of the birth of the Kyrgyz nation. Elder Nelson’s itinerary included meetings with the nation’s president and prime minister as well as with the mayor of Bishkek and the governor of Chui Oblast.

    During their visit, Elder Nelson, Elder Callister, and others met in Friendship Park in the center of Bishkek to dedicate the Kyrgyz Republic. They met in an area surrounded by evergreen trees with a bright blue sky overhead and the sound of the morning birds. In this sacred setting, Elder Nelson offered a prayer. Included in the prayer was a petition that “orchards and vineyards may be blessed to yield their fruit, that flocks and herds increase, and natural resources of this land provide for the needs of its people.”

    Map of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic

    Map by Thomas Child

    Church Launches Official Web Sites for Individual Countries

    In a continuing effort to make the gospel message available to all people through a variety of means, the Church is expanding its Internet presence to serve individual countries and languages. Areas have begun creating country-specific Web sites, which serve as the official Church presence on the Internet in a given nation.

    “Technology has blessed us with many new innovations to spread the message of the gospel through satellite systems, our own … Web site, television, radio, as well as the written text in our magazines and newspapers,” said Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “All of these add to our delivery systems, which greatly increase our ability to receive the messages that are delivered” (“‘Thou Shalt Give Heed unto All His Words,’” Ensign, May 2000, 25).

    Area Presidencies are assessing the needs of the Church in their areas to determine what the scope of their local Internet presence should be. At press time, eight country sites had been launched, with 26 additional sites under construction. The live sites include Austria, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.

    Country sites serve a variety of purposes both for Latter-day Saints and for those who would like to learn more about the Church. For instance, on Sweden’s site, visitors can refer friends to the missionaries; on Austria’s site, media professionals can access information regarding the local Church; on Norway’s site, visitors can find news about the area; and on Chile’s site, members can read messages from the Area Presidency and other local Church leaders.

    “The purpose is to strengthen the members of the Church with inspirational content,” says Elder Oscar Chavez, an Area Authority Seventy in Chile. “It is a great privilege to participate during these times with these forms of communication, especially in our respective callings and assignments, to bring to pass the work of the Lord.”

    Links to individual country sites can be found at Click on “Country Sites” in the upper right corner of the home page for a current list.

    The Church’s Web site in Germany is one of several country-specific sites recently launched.

    To Every Nation, Kindred, Tongue, and People

    Throughout 2003, Latter-day Saints in all corners of the world celebrated local anniversaries of the first Church presence in their lands. Although it has taken time for the Church to take hold in some nations, members today honor the Church’s first steps as they commit to going forward.

    150 Years Since First Missionaries Arrived in Hong Kong

    Hosea Stout, James Lewis, and Chapman Duncan left Payson, Utah, on 24 October 1852 to serve as missionaries in Asia. They went to San Francisco, California, and found passage on a ship that stopped in Hawaii and the Cook Islands and finally in Hong Kong.

    On 27 April 1853, 185 days after they set off on their journey, the three missionaries arrived in Hong Kong Harbor, “passing by Chinese Junks with people from all professions trying to market their skills or wares,” Elder Stout recorded in his journal.

    The Tai-ping Rebellion, which began in 1851 and lasted until 1864, prevented the missionaries from traveling inland to China, so they stayed in Hong Kong. The heat and humidity were stifling, but it was the language barrier that would eventually send them home. Elder Stout wrote, “There are different meanings to the same sound distinguished by intonations of the voice as in music, … making the language very difficult to learn and utterly impossible without a teacher.”

    Unfortunately, the three missionaries could not afford a teacher, and they returned home after four months.

    Almost 100 years later, in February 1950, missionaries returned to Hong Kong, only to be evacuated one year later because of the Korean War. In 1955 the mission reopened, and missionaries have served in Hong Kong ever since.

    Today Hosea Stout’s great-great-great-nephew, Adam Stout, is serving as a missionary in the China Hong Kong Mission. Elder Stout’s trip from the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, to his mission in Hong Kong took just 16 hours, compared to the 185 days of his great-great-great-uncle’s journey. Elder Stout also left the United States from San Francisco, just as his ancestor did so many years before.

    More than 4,000 missionaries have labored in the Hong Kong area in the past 50 years. Some have returned to Hong Kong as mission presidents. Of the 17 mission presidents in Hong Kong since 1950, 12 of them served missions there as young elders, and two mission presidents’ wives also served as young sister missionaries in Hong Kong. The current mission president, Ted Hop Ong, is of Chinese ancestry, and his wife, Wai-Mui Amelia Yeung, was born and raised in Hong Kong.

    Currently, there are more than 21,000 members meeting in 39 congregations throughout Hong Kong.

    Russia Dedicated 100 Years Ago

    It was 100 years ago, on 6 August 1903, that Elder Francis M. Lyman of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Joseph J. Cannon, a missionary accompanying him, knelt in St. Petersburg’s Summer Garden and dedicated Russia for the preaching of the gospel. Three days later, on 9 August 1903, a second dedicatory prayer was offered outside the Kremlin walls in Moscow.

    Recognizing the difficult circumstances of Russia at the time, Elder Cannon recorded his observations and hopes for the nation. “Freedom will come some day,” he wrote in the 27 August 1903 edition of the Millennial Star. “May that time approach steadily without the horrors of bloodshed and revolution.”

    Unfortunately, the Russian people would endure much bloodshed and revolution before they would enjoy freedom. World War I sparked the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, which was followed by a devastating three-year civil war. Then came the 70-year Soviet reign, marked by Joseph Stalin’s purges in the 1930s in which tens of millions of Russians were executed or consigned to brutal labor camps.

    But now, 12 years after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Elder Lyman’s second dedicatory prayer, offered in Moscow, is coming to pass.

    “[Elder Lyman] prayed that the hearts of the sincere and honest might be turned to seek for the truth, and petitioned the Lord to send servants full of wisdom and faith to declare the gospel to the Russians in their own language,” Elder Cannon wrote.

    Today Russian-speaking missionaries preach in the country of the tsars, and hearts are being turned to the truth. There are about 15,000 members in Russia.

    “I know that the gospel is true because you are all here,” said Vladimir A. Nechiporov, president of the Centralized Religious Association of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Russia (the Church’s legal entity) to a group of Utah athletes who recently competed in Moscow. “Nineteen or 20 years ago, no one would even have imagined that.”

    When President Gordon B. Hinckley traveled to Moscow in 2002, he also expressed his awe about the Church’s growth in Russia. “I never dreamed I could come to Moscow and see a congregation of this kind,” he told nearly 2,200 members, missionaries, and investigators gathered in Moscow’s Cosmos Hotel last September. “You look so good.”

    The Church has certainly taken hold. On a Sunday last July in Moscow’s Rechnoy Branch, Sergei Kozhemyakin, a counselor in the branch presidency, was teaching the Primary children about the Articles of Faith. Meanwhile, a few doors down, elders quorum second counselor Vagi Babayan was urging quorum members to do—what else?

    “It’s the last Sunday of the month,” he said. “You need to remember your home teaching.”

    South Africa Celebrates 150 Years

    Brother C. Kenneth Powrie vividly remembers the first Church service he attended in 1950 in Krugersdorp, South Africa. There were six people there, and two were missionaries. Later that year, he and his wife, Philippa, were baptized, and they attended a district conference in Johannesburg. There were 50 in that congregation.

    “Thus started a new life in a Church which, in its temporal appointments, showed very little sign of being the one and only Church of Jesus Christ, for we met in dingy halls and other humble surroundings in limited numbers and with very inadequate facilities,” says Brother Powrie, today a stake patriarch and formerly president of the Johannesburg South Africa Temple. “However, the true sweet Spirit was there to guide us as we, like infants, crawled, then toddled, then stood upright and walked with our heads high, yet humbled by the testimonies which we felt growing within our hearts.”

    It has been more than 150 years since Elders Jesse Haven, Leonard L. Smith, and William H. Walker arrived by ship in Cape Town to begin missionary work in South Africa. They arrived on 19 April 1853 and officially organized the Church in the Cape of Good Hope on 23 May. Less than three months later, on 16 August 1853, the first branch of the Church was organized in Mowbray, four miles from Cape Town. By 1855, the Church in the Cape of Good Hope consisted of six branches and 126 members.

    Since those early days, the nation of South Africa has weathered political strife and unrest. In addition, many Church members immigrated to the United States. But on the foundation laid by early missionaries and converts, the Church has grown to some 35,000 members in 10 stakes and three missions.

    In recent months, members have commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Church in South Africa with activities and service projects, beginning with a gathering of 91 members of the Cape Town South Africa Stake on Signal Hill above the city on 19 April 2003. Members arrived at sunrise to share testimonies and hear remarks from President Mervyn C. Giddey, first counselor in the stake presidency.

    In the Bedfordview Ward, Bedfordview South Africa Stake, members accepted a challenge to perform 150 hours of service at the Alex/Tara Clinic, which serves families, children, and the elderly affected by HIV/AIDS. In activities that lasted through July, Relief Society sisters packed food parcels for families; the priesthood quorums prepared a piece of ground to become a vegetable garden; and missionaries, youth, and Primary children hosted an Easter egg hunt.

    The Mowbray Ward in the Cape Town South Africa Stake celebrated the 150th anniversary of the organization of the Church’s first branch in South Africa with a lunch and birthday cake.

    “The future is bright,” said Elder Steven E. Snow of the Seventy, Africa Southeast Area President. “We are seeing a lot of good people of all races converting to the Church. … The gospel will be a great influence throughout the continent. To think it began with [the efforts] of three elders is just amazing to me.”

    Church News contributed to this report.

    The first Latter-day Saint missionaries arrived in Hong Kong Harbor more than 150 years ago. (Illustration courtesy of Hong Kong Public Affairs.)

    Galena Ganchorova assists Antorm Morozovi (center) and Timor Shilonsky during Primary in a Moscow branch. Russia was dedicated for the preaching of the gospel 100 years ago.

    Members in South Africa commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Church’s presence there in a gathering on Signal Hill in view of Table Mountain. (Photograph by Leslie W. Powrie, Church News.)

    In the News

    Elder Cecil O. Samuelson Installed as BYU’s 12th President

    Elder Cecil O. Samuelson of the Seventy was inducted as the 12th president of Brigham Young University during a ceremony led by President Gordon B. Hinckley on 9 September 2003.

    The simple ceremony was held during the school’s weekly one-hour devotional period. President Hinckley challenged President Samuelson to move the university forward “on its destined course as one of the great institutions of this nation.”

    The university must continue to strengthen its scholarship in every discipline, President Hinckley said. “But with that we must never let down on our determination to teach faith in the Living God, to build testimony of His Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to teach the validity of the Holy Bible and of its companion scripture, the Book of Mormon, and to build conviction concerning the Restoration of the gospel in this the dispensation of the fulness of times.”

    President Samuelson replaced Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy as president of Brigham Young University in May 2003. Elder Bateman was called to be a member of the Presidency of the Seventy.

    Michigan Stake Center Rebuilt after Fire

    Less than one year after the Lansing Michigan Stake Center was destroyed by fire, a new building was completed in the same location on 23 June 2003. In September a community open house was held to pay tribute to the area’s emergency service workers.

    In June 2002, a fire started by an arsonist destroyed the 40-year-old stake center that served more than 3,300 members in 11 wards and branches in Michigan. The fire caused U.S. $5 million in damages. No one was injured.

    Cooperation from the community and government officials resulted in timely approvals for clearing the destroyed building and receiving site plan approval for the new stake center. The community donated thousands of dollars to aid in the reconstruction. The donated funds have been used to reestablish and reequip a family history center destroyed in the fire.

    Missionaries Sing Out in Montreal

    About 200 elders and sisters in the Canada Montréal Mission sang the Canadian national anthem “O Canada!” to an appreciative audience prior to a Montreal Expos baseball game on 18 August 2003.

    Assembled as a choir on the field, with the name “Canada Montréal Mission” emblazoned on the scoreboard screen, missionaries stood and sang to about 10,000 fans in the stadium.

    “The Church in Quebec is not always understood or accepted,” said President David Ulrich of the Montreal mission. “No single activity will change an image, but this was a good activity that helped us communicate to this community who we are and what we do.”

    Later, at the end of the eighth inning, missionaries stood impromptu and sang “Called to Serve” (Hymns, no. 249), which drew applause from the fans. During the game the missionaries were repeatedly featured on the scoreboard screen.

    Missionaries say they are enjoying newfound visibility and recognition since the game. Some report being stopped on the street to be greeted by people who saw them sing. Local Church members report an openness or appreciation among neighbors who seem more willing to talk about religion.

    Tahitian LDS Choir Sings for French President

    A 400-voice choir of Church members sang at a gathering of 30,000 people honoring the visit of France’s president, Jacques Chirac, to Tahiti on 27 July 2003. The president of French Polynesia, Gaston Flosse, hosted the evening.

    Elder Ronald T. Halverson of the Seventy, then serving as President of the Pacific Islands Area, attended, along with the prime ministers of several Pacific island nations.

    As the flags of French Polynesia and France were raised in Pater Stadium in Papeete, the Church choir, consisting of members from five stakes in Tahiti, sang the national hymn of the Republic of French Polynesia and France’s national anthem.

    The audience was noticeably touched by the choir’s program, which included six numbers. The event was televised live in France and throughout the islands of French Polynesia.

    “This has made a tremendous impact for the Church here,” said Faaa Tahiti Stake President Benjamin Sinjoux. When the choir closed the program with a traditional Tahitian song of farewell, the dignitaries and crowd spontaneously joined them in singing.

    As the crowds left the arena, the choir rendered a last number, “God Be with You Till We Meet Again” (Hymns, no. 152).

    Church News contributed to this report.

    Missionaries of the Canada Montréal Mission sing the national anthem “O Canada!” at a Montreal Expos baseball game. (Photograph courtesy of Montreal Gazette.)