News of the Church

By Taralyn Trost, Church Magazines

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President Hinckley Joins in Island Celebrations, Groundbreaking

President Gordon B. Hinckley praised the people, institutions, and buildings of Hawaii during a weekend visit to the islands on 24–26 October 2003. The tour included festivities for the Polynesian Cultural Center’s 40th anniversary, a groundbreaking ceremony for the beautification project of the area surrounding the Laie Hawaii Temple, and an address to island members at a special combined conference on the Brigham Young University—Hawaii campus.

“We have here something that we have nowhere else in all the Church: we have the beautiful temple and all of its environs, we have Brigham Young University—Hawaii … , and we have the cultural center—and they work together,” said President Hinckley to 2,000 residents, visitors, and alumni gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony of a project that will renovate Hale La’a Boulevard from the Pacific Ocean to the Laie Temple and will include a new front entrance for BYU—Hawaii.

While asking the Lord’s blessing on the project, President Hinckley prayed that those who drive along the Kamehameha Highway may be inspired to “slow down and look to the House of the Lord and be constrained in their hearts to come and go about the grounds and visit these beautiful places. We pray that this project may result in greater respect for [Thy] church and its people and its purposes and its desires.”

The project will include an enclosed meditation garden on the beachfront, six-foot blue rock walls lining the boulevard, a new traffic roundabout for the temple, and extensive relandscaping.

“The project will open up a beautiful vista for the temple,” said John Hoag, director of Church public affairs for Honolulu. “It will set the tone for the community to upgrade and improve the neighborhoods surrounding the temple.”

Community leaders, including state senator Melodie Aduja and state House of Representatives member Michael Magaoay, also participated in the ceremonies.

After the groundbreaking, President Hinckley and his wife, Marjorie, served as grand marshals for the Polynesian Cultural Center’s 40th anniversary community parade. The prophet’s visit was the culmination of a year-long celebration commemorating the center’s 40th anniversary, which was 12 October 2003.

Dressed in matching Hawaiian-print outfits and beautiful leis, President and Sister Hinckley joined in a traditional Hawaiian Alii (royal) Luau and traditional Polynesian entertainment at the cultural center on Friday with alumni and local Latter-day Saints.

On Sunday President Hinckley spoke to Church members in an address broadcast from BYU—Hawaii’s Cannon Activities Center throughout the Hawaiian Islands. During his remarks, President Hinckley recalled being sent to Hawaii by President David O. McKay to look over the site for the cultural center. While walking through taro fields, then-Elder Hinckley and Elder Delbert L. Stapley of the Council of the Twelve decided on a location on the Kamehameha Highway.

“I have watched [the Polynesian Cultural Center] grow through the years and it has been phenomenal and wonderful,” said President Hinckley. “What a significant and wonderful institution it has become. How profound is its effect upon people.”

In this his second visit to Hawaii this year, President Hinckley also urged the island Saints to be a light and example for their friends, families, and neighbors.

“Let people see in us virtue that they would want to emulate in their own lives,” President Hinckley told the 7,000 Church members gathered for the conference.

“For many members it was historic and breathtaking,” commented Brother Hoag on President Hinckley’s visit. “It was a momentous occasion for the Saints as well as for other community members.”

[photo] Greeted by performers at the Polynesian Cultural Center, President and Sister Hinckley (center) helped the center celebrate its 40th anniversary in October. (Photograph courtesy of Polynesian Cultural Center.)

Students Help Prepare for the Prophet

Latter-day Saints usually think of the prophet as serving the members of the Church, but occasionally members are in a position to serve him. On 19 October 2003 about 500 young single adults from the BYU—Hawaii First Stake descended upon the Polynesian Cultural Center to help the center’s staff prepare for a visit from President Gordon B. Hinckley.

October 2003 marked the 40th anniversary of the cultural center, and President Hinckley was to attend the celebration in commemoration of the anniversary. To prepare for the prophet’s visit, stake president Keith Pierce and his counselors coordinated with PCC officials in scheduling a cleanup.

The date was set for the Saturday prior to President Hinckley’s arrival. The Friday evening before, BYU—Hawaii held its annual Fall Ball in Honolulu, which meant many students got home quite late. But they made the effort and sacrifice to be ready to work at 6:45 A.M. to beautify the center’s villages, parking areas, and lagoon. With laughter and joking, they made their way through the facility, picking up rubbish and dead vegetation, weeding flower beds, and making the center sparkle.

Following the cleanup, the bishops of the 12 wards in the stake served breakfast to their tired and hungry ward members. After the students had eaten their fill, they still had enough energy to play games and enjoy the spirit of a morning well spent.

When President Hinckley arrived later in the week, members of BYU—Hawaii First Stake had the joy of knowing they had been of service to their beloved prophet.

[photo] Young single adults in the BYU—Hawaii First Stake prepare the Polynesian Cultural Center grounds for President Hinckley’s visit in October. (Photograph courtesy of S. Rick Crump.)

Saints Reach Out in Wake of Wildfires

In true Brigham Young fashion, members of the elders quorum in the Redlands First Ward, Redlands California Stake, set aside the lesson one Sunday in October and organized the troops. From the windows of their Sunday School classrooms they could see the flames of a raging wildfire lapping the hills not far from their building.

“Most of us saw the flames coming down the mountains, coming near our neighbors, and we just wanted to do something,” said Robert Elkins, Redlands First Ward elders quorum president.

During elders quorum, the group decided to make lunches for weary firefighters and evacuees. After church, home teachers called upon families to prepare meals, and “within 45 minutes to an hour, we were able to fill up a truck and a minivan with what was on hand,” Brother Elkins reported. The meals were delivered to a fire command center in nearby San Bernardino and to a local Red Cross shelter.

This was just one of several examples of Latter-day Saints organizing in formal and informal ways to reach out during fires that ravaged southern California in late October 2003. The fires, stretching from Simi Valley to the U.S.-Mexico border, burned more than 740,000 acres and 3,600 homes and took the lives of 22 people.

About 400,000 Latter-day Saints in the area were affected by the fires, with 67 families losing their homes. All Church members and missionaries were reported safe, and no Church buildings were damaged.

On 2 November, after the area had suffered a long week of devastation, President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy, President of the North America West Area, visited with Saints in the San Diego area, and Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Ned B. Roueché of the Seventy, Second Counselor in the North America West Area Presidency, visited with Saints in the San Bernardino area. The leaders brought messages of comfort and commendation.

President Packer told members that they may have lost their houses, but they did not lose their homes. He said that as they work to keep their families together through this trial, they would find resilience and resourcefulness they did not know they had.

In his visit with the Saints, Elder Eyring commented, “Your children will always remember how you have acted and how you have handled this terrible situation.”

Teaming up with relief organizations, the Church made extensive contributions. It provided large cash donations to the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army and opened its bishops’ storehouses in the area to provide food for firefighters and displaced families. The Church also loaned tables and chairs from local meetinghouses to the efforts at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, a gathering point for 5,000 evacuees.

“It is a very sad situation, but there has been a lot of effort to rally and assist,” said Garry Flake, director of humanitarian emergency response for the Church.

In the San Bernardino California Stake, where almost 1,000 Church members were evacuated and two families lost their homes, members helped feed evacuees gathered in a hangar at Norton Airbase, and missionaries and Relief Society sisters in the Victor Valley area (north of San Bernardino) garnered attention from the local press as they prepared and served hot meals for several consecutive evenings to evacuees staying at a local high school.

In El Cajon and Santee (near San Diego), stakes had held an emergency preparedness training meeting only a day before the fires struck. Using the system taught just 24 hours earlier, Church members contacted 8,000 Saints in their area within 90 minutes, enabling safe evacuations. Preliminary counts indicated about 44 Latter-day Saint families in the San Diego area lost their homes.

Members also opened their homes to those of their wards and stakes who were evacuated, and missionaries were heavily involved in clean-up efforts.

“It’s just incredible how the Church works,” said Dale T. Poulsen, president of the San Bernardino California Stake, whose own home was threatened by the fires. President Poulsen said he received several phone calls from stake presidents throughout the Los Angeles area asking how their stakes could be of assistance. “It’s just amazing to see the love and concern to see that the Saints are provided for—and not just the Saints, but the whole community.”

Sonja Eddings Brown and Cray Carlson contributed to this report.

[photo] Duane and Rillene Nielsen from San Bernardino rummage through their burned home. They are among 67 Latter-day Saint families who lost their homes in California wildfires. (Photograph by Cray Carlson.)

Amid War, Church Members Find Strength in Gospel

Across the Tigris River and 40 miles (64 km) away from the biblical city of Nineveh, a dozen or so Latter-day Saint military personnel meet each Sunday in northern Iraq’s largest city, Mosul, to partake of the sacrament and have a lesson.

The group is called the Quyyaarah LDS service group. Along with the other LDS service groups in the region, they are finding spiritual sustenance amid the strife of war.

The first Church unit based on Iraqi soil was organized 27 April 2003 at Tallil Air Base in southern Iraq. Kenneth M. Lightheart, a member of the United States Air Force, was called to be the group leader.

Speaking of the first group meeting, held in a small room inside an Iraqi building, Brother Lightheart says: “The Spirit was strong that day, especially for me during the hymns. It almost sounded like home. We were all happy to be part of something special and to have the gospel and the priesthood in Iraq.”

Like their fellow Latter-day Saints serving in southern Iraq, Church members in the Quyyaarah LDS service group have been able to turn to each other and the gospel during difficult times.

Brian Marble is serving with the United States Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Mosul and has been in Iraq since March. Brother Marble says he has found strength in praying and reading the scriptures daily as well as in the knowledge that he and his wife were sealed in the Nashville Tennessee Temple about a month before he was deployed.

“Living under the guidance and protection of Heavenly Father has helped me to realize how true the gospel is,” says Brother Marble. “The gospel is a great source for strength to help me cope with this deployment.”

Latter-day Saint service members at Camp Speicher, Iraq, also boost morale and fill the void of being away from their families by participating in a weekly family home evening.

“Coming to family home evening allows us to recharge our spiritual batteries,” says Army Capt. John Stephenson. “Combat exposes many soldiers to a harsher side of humanity, so coming to family home evening offsets some of the unpleasant experiences dealt to deployed Church members.”

Unfortunately there have been unpleasant experiences facing Church members serving in Iraq. To date, four members have died as a result of the conflict, and one was taken prisoner of war and later rescued. The most recent casualty was United States Army Specialist Alyssa R. Peterson. She was killed in Tel Afar, Iraq, in September 2003 as a result of a noncombat weapons discharge. A member of the Cherry Hill Ward, Flagstaff Arizona Stake, Sister Peterson was in Iraq serving as an Arabic-speaking intelligence specialist assigned to the U.S. Army’s 311th Military Intelligence Battalion, 101st Airborne Division. Sister Peterson, 27, served a full-time mission to the Netherlands.

Church News contributed to this report.

An Artist’s Lifework Captured in Exhibit

When President Boyd K. Packer was in high school, he wanted to be an artist. He went on to become an educator, and while art did not become his profession, it has continued to be a treasured pastime. For the first time, a collection of his life’s artwork is gathered for display at the Church’s Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City and on the museum’s Web site.

The exhibit, Boyd K. Packer: The Lifework of an Amateur Artist, chronicles his art created over a lifetime—from some of his earliest sketches done at age nine to masterful carvings created in recent years. The exhibit also offers patrons a glimpse into the personal life of a respected Apostle and Church leader.

President Packer’s penchant for art began very early and was nurtured by his parents. “When I was a little boy and exhibited some creative talent, it was always encouraged and fostered by my parents,” said President Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He used whatever media was available to him to express his talent. His father would bring home scrap paper from work or give him and his siblings leftover wood. President Packer even sketched on the backs of the envelopes in which he mailed letters to his family during World War II.

Almost without exception his subjects include nature. With a keen sense of observation, President Packer has made the study of birds and other elements of nature a lifelong pursuit, and his attention to detail is evident in his work. “He is the master of [portraying] the natural attitudes of birds and animals,” artist Lance Turner noted.

Art was President Packer’s focus early on, but as he grew older, his priorities changed. He decided to channel his talent to support his family and other aspects of his life.

“When our children came, I knew that the time I spent improving my own abilities would be taken away, in a sense, from our children,” President Packer said. “So during the growing-up years of our family, perhaps 20 years, most of the things that I did in a creative way were done with the children in trying to teach them.”

Among the many projects completed as a family is a 14-foot-wide mural created for the family’s living room. It is a painting of a tree with 50 varieties of birds in the branches, most of which were seen in the trees around the Packers’ home. The children helped draw the birds, and President Packer taught the children each bird’s name and habits.

Like this mural, much of his art is created for personal purposes. A family favorite is a wooden Noah’s ark that President Packer carved for his grandchildren.

Noah’s Ark is a favorite thing with our grandchildren,” said Sister Donna Smith Packer, President Packer’s wife. “They can look at it, then they can enjoy it, but they can also handle it, and get their little chairs and kneel up and play with these animals.”

President Packer’s art has not only helped him teach his children and grandchildren but has also helped him in his service as a leader of the Church. Those who have heard him speak have likely heard wisdom and insight he gained while creating a work of art. “During those hours working with my hands, I pondered on the marvels of creation, and inspiration would flow. As I carved wood, I carved out talks,” he said.

Pieces from this exhibit can be viewed online at Click on “Exhibits and Galleries,” then “Current Exhibits,” then “Boyd K. Packer: The Lifework of an Amateur Artist.” The exhibit runs through 6 September 2004.

[photo] President Boyd K. Packer’s lifelong love of birds and nature is captured in this carved-wood and annealed-copper piece entitled Lazuli Bunting, Irises. (Photograph courtesy of Museum of Church History and Art.)

New Temple Presidents and Matrons

In October, 35 new temple presidents and matrons received training from members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. On 1 November 2003 they took their posts at their assigned temples. Assignments typically last for three years.


President and Matron

Accra Ghana

Grant and Alice P. Gunnell

Adelaide Australia

Thomas F. and Margaret F. Hooper

Albuquerque New Mexico

Allen E. and Jan M. Litster

Boston Massachusetts

Allan H. and Joanne G. Barker

Bountiful Utah

L. Stephen Jr. and Annette N. Richards

Brisbane Australia

John D. and Lois G. Jeffrey

Buenos Aires Argentina

Donald E. and Beverly Jacobson

Cardston Alberta

Lynn A. and Beth Ann K. Rosenvall

Fukuoka Japan

Kiyoshi and Aiko Sato Tokuzawa

Guatemala City Guatemala

Louis W. and Ruth H. Latimer

Hermosillo Sonora México

Albert M. and Constance A. Farnsworth

Houston Texas

Richard H. and Barbara F. Sutton

Las Vegas Nevada

Frank F. and Nancy S. Dixon

Manila Philippines

Ray W. and Kleah R. Nelson

Manti Utah

Archie M. and Doreen K. Brugger

Mesa Arizona

Albert Jr. and Marilyn J. Choules

Montevideo Uruguay

J. Robert and Carolyn P. Driggs

Monticello Utah

F. Cooper and Colleen W. Jones

Oaxaca México

Maurice D. and Petronella “Nellie” Bowman

Palmyra New York

Howard C. and Marjorie T. Sharp

Porto Alegre Brazil

Walter G. and Neide Ito de Queiroz

Preston England

John and Elizabeth Sheila W. Maxwell

Recife Brazil

Nivaldo and Clery P. Bentim

Redlands California

Rodney J. and Arleen E. Nelson

Regina Saskatchewan

Noel W. and Rita Burt

San José Costa Rica

Frank S. and Ingrid G. Moffett

São Paulo Brazil

J. Kent and Jill L. Jolley

Seoul Korea

Do Whan and Kim Jai Sook Lee

St. Louis Missouri

Michael W. and Barbara S. Barker

Stockholm Sweden

Max M. and Deborah L. Kimball

Taipei Taiwan

Jon N. and LeAnn C. Vawdrey

Tokyo Japan

Makoto and Yasuko Fukuda

Tuxtla Gutiérrez México

Earl W. and Rose Marie R. Redd

Veracruz México

William R. and Vicki K. Treu

Villahermosa México

Juan M. and Palmira Rubalcava Cedeño Rodríguez

Strengthening the Community

Australia Stake Helps Burmese Orphans

Members of the Church from the east coast of Australia recently responded with overwhelming support to the plight of Burmese children stranded near the Thailand border.

The Gold Coast Australia Stake donated 303 blankets, eight boxes of bedsheets, 54 boxes of books and activity sets, and cash donations to 200 Burmese children orphaned as a result of civil unrest that destroyed their villages and families.

Janelle Nicholson of the stake’s Lismore Ward first learned of the children—many who are younger than 10 years of age—from Norene Colley of Rotary International.

While Ms. Colley began an ambitious project to build a shelter to house the children, Sister Nicholson worked with her stake Relief Society president, Kaye Hettig, to help arrange for other much-needed supplies such as clothing and toiletries.

“The response swept through like a fever among our people, and they have really caught the vision,” Sister Hettig said. “We invited everyone to donate—to provide toiletries, basic hygiene essentials, and clothing for the little ones—and we have well exceeded our goals.”

Young women from the Mudgeeraba Ward took the children’s plight to heart and fashioned T-shirts from their wardrobes into sundresses that were packaged along with new hair ties and combs for the young girls in the camp.

“They now have something new and pretty that is just like them!” said 15-year-old Bianca Eagle of Bonogin. “I hope they can somehow feel our love for them through these dresses.”

Members in El Salvador Help Ease Parents’ Grief

Responding to the needs of impoverished families in their community, members of the San Salvador El Salvador La Libertad Stake built 300 small coffins for families who have lost children.

The unique service is particularly tender because Salvadoran health regulations require that parents provide a suitable coffin in order to claim the body of a child who has died in the hospital. Many parents who cannot afford a coffin fear they will not be able to claim their child’s body should he or she die. So at times parents choose to remove a sick child from the hospital. La Libertad Stake president Angel Duarte, a pediatrician at Benjamin Bloom Pediatric Hospital, worries that some children who might recover with diligent hospital care are dying as a result.

President Duarte contacted Church Humanitarian Services, who provided enough wood and materials to build 300 small coffins. Members of the La Libertad Stake donated time and labor. Each coffin was lined inside with white cloth. A floral pattern was then added—offering a personal, comforting touch to each casket.

The completed coffins were shipped to a government warehouse where they are provided by hospital social workers to needy families on a case-by-case basis.

Members of the stake hope the coffins will bring comfort to families who have lost children and that the availability of such coffins will help parents decide to leave a sick child in a hospital for continued care.

In addition, many Salvadorans are catching a glimpse into the hearts of their Latter-day Saint neighbors. Local television and radio stations and newspapers have covered the coffin project. President Duarte also appeared on a popular Salvadoran talk show, answering questions about the project and his faith.

“The more the Church requires,” he said in the interview, “the better we become.”

Church News contributed to these reports.

[photo] Church members in Australia load boxes full of donations for Burmese orphans. Thousands of blankets, articles of clothing, toys, and shoes were collected during the project. (Photograph courtesy of Australia/New Zealand local news committee.)

[photo] Relief Society sisters in San Salvador, El Salvador, help build small coffins for families who have lost children. The project served a unique need in their community. (Photograph courtesy of Angel Duarte.)