News of the Church

By Marged Kirkpatrick

Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting Highlights Auxiliaries’ Supporting Roles

In a world where the traditional family is under attack, the auxiliary organizations of the Church are meant to support the family in bringing individual members to Christ, local leaders were told during the Church’s third Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, held on 10 January 2004.

The broadcast, presided over by President Gordon B. Hinckley, reached priesthood and auxiliary leaders in 76 countries and 56 different languages worldwide. “You can see only those assembled in your own chapel,” said President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, as he welcomed everyone to the training. “There are similar congregations … in more than 5,000 other buildings in 76 countries. So it really is a congregation of the Saints worldwide.”

The training meeting focused on the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary auxiliaries. Instructions for the leaders of the Young Men and Sunday School auxiliaries will be given in future broadcasts. Printed copies and DVDs of the broadcast will be distributed to leaders worldwide.

Challenges That Face the Family

President Gordon B. Hinckley and President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, emphasized the importance of the family and warned of threats to its survival in our day.

“No one need tell you that we are living in a very difficult season in the history of the world,” said President Hinckley. “Standards are dropping everywhere. Nothing seems to be sacred anymore. … The traditional family is under heavy attack. … In the Church we are working very hard to stem the tide of this evil.”

President Faust cited statistics showing a worldwide increase in the postponement of marriage and in cohabitation, divorce, and births out of wedlock. Statistics also point to the “devaluation” of children. Worldwide, more than 25 percent of all pregnancies are aborted.

“The challenges facing families today are many and great. Our family relationships need every protection that can be instituted,” President Faust taught. The auxiliaries and the priesthood are meant to support the family in strengthening individuals against the evils of the world.

The Roles of Auxiliaries and the Priesthood

The purpose, function, and inner workings of Church auxiliaries, and how auxiliaries relate to the priesthood, took the spotlight for the remainder of the meeting.

“The fundamental role and purpose of an auxiliary organization of the Church is to help plant and make grow a testimony of Jesus Christ,” said Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Elder Scott explained how auxiliaries work under the direction of the priesthood and warned against replacing the family as the primary support for building testimonies. He instructed auxiliary leaders to rely on the Spirit for direction.

Bonnie D. Parkin, Relief Society general president, Susan W. Tanner, Young Women general president, and Coleen K. Menlove, Primary general president, reinforced Elder Scott’s instruction. “Our mission is to bring all to Christ,” Sister Parkin said. Their presentation used video vignettes and commentary to demonstrate how priesthood and auxiliary leaders should work together and how auxiliary presidency meetings should be conducted.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, speaking from the Philippines, emphasized the role of priesthood leaders in overseeing the work of auxiliary organizations. “All who work in the auxiliary organizations must have hands placed upon their heads to give them the authority to lead and teach in the kingdom of God. … The priesthood authorities who preside over the auxiliary organizations must direct and supervise their work.” His instructions included examples of how priesthood and auxiliaries should work hand in hand.

[photo] Members of the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the general presidents of the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary auxiliaries addressed thousands of Church leaders in 76 different countries during the third Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting. (Photograph by Craig Dimond.)

President Hinckley Dedicates Ghana Temple

The Accra Ghana Temple, open to the public 3–20 December 2003, was dedicated by President Gordon B. Hinckley in three sessions on Sunday, 11 January 2004. Sister Marjorie Hinckley, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Elders Sheldon F. Child, H. Ross Workman, and R. Conrad Schultz of the Africa West Area Presidency were also present at the dedication.

President Hinckley said the dedication of the temple marks “a new day in west Africa,” fulfilling the hopes and dreams of many, according to a Deseret Morning News interview. During his time in Africa, President Hinckley visited with Ghana President John Agyekum Kufuor.

The temple, constructed solely of native materials, features a Namibian granite facade, African granite floors, and makore wood moldings. It is adorned with carved carpets, handcrafted furniture, original artwork, and unique art-glass windows. The largest room seats 80 people.

Missionaries first entered Ghana nearly 26 years ago in 1978. The Accra Ghana Temple is the 117th temple dedicated. Eleven more have been announced or are under construction. The next scheduled temple dedication is in Copenhagen, Denmark, in May.

[photo] President Gordon B. Hinckley presided at the temple dedication. (Photograph by Linda Leeper.)

African Saints Celebrate New Temple, Old Culture

Latter-day Saint youth, children, and missionaries in Ghana and throughout west Africa combined their creative efforts to celebrate the dedication of the Accra Ghana Temple (see accompanying story) and to honor President Gordon B. Hinckley’s visit to their country on 10 January 2004.

At the direction of President Hinckley, and after much work and planning, the LDS youth of Ghana performed a special cultural “folklorica” called “A Day of Celebration.” Almost 2,000 youth sang and danced in this the largest Church youth activity ever held in Africa.

Youth, Primary children, and missionaries came to the Accra Sports Stadium from all over Ghana to perform. In the audience were President Hinckley and his wife, Marjorie; Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; members of the Africa West Area Presidency and their wives; the Ga Tribal Council; Church members; and other spectators.

Based on the folktales and dances of west Africa, the storyline of the celebration followed a folk character named Kwaku Anansi, a spider whose stories are sometimes used to teach values to children. Desmond Ahwireng played the legendary spider, weaving together the different dance numbers of the youth.

In the show, Anansi searched from village to village for all the good things in the world to keep for himself. As he approached the various villages on stage, each stake and district sang and danced and gave him something good, like courage, love, or family. At the end of his journey, when Anansi saw the Accra Ghana Temple, its beauty convinced him that he should share the good things he had collected with the world.

Anansi’s good deed was rewarded by about 800 Primary children, all dressed in white, entering the stage to sing “I Love to See the Temple” (Children’s Songbook, 95). They were followed by the entire cast singing “I Am a Child of God” (Hymns, no. 301).

[photo] Members attend one of three dedicatory sessions for the Accra Ghana Temple, held on 11 January 2004. (Photograph by Linda Leeper.)

[photo] Young Latter-day Saints performed during a cultural celebration held the day before the temple dedication. (Photograph by Linda Leeper.)

Daily “Commute” to Mars Nearing End for LDS Man

Gary Anderson has enjoyed a new perspective during the past few months on the lessons he’s taught in his East Pasadena Ward, Pasadena California Stake, Gospel Doctrine class. While his lessons on Sunday have followed Nephi across the ocean to the promised land and seen the Nephites into the wilderness, during the week Brother Anderson has helped pilot two spacecraft across the vastness of space to Mars and watched the Red Planet’s “wilderness” unfold. He is one of seven NASA rover “drivers” on a historic exploration of the Martian landscape.

“I don’t think anyone can look up at the stars at night and not feel awed at the marvelous universe we are a part of, whether you are an astronomer studying the heavens or a Boy Scout on an overnight hike,” said Brother Anderson, a mission control engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

“It is fascinating to me that we are able to go millions of miles through space, land on another planet, and maneuver about … as if we were here on Earth exploring some place we had not been to before.”

The rover Spirit landed on Mars on 4 January 2004 and, barring unforeseen problems, is nearing the end of its projected 90-day mission. The rover Opportunity was set to have landed on 25 January on the opposite side of the planet. The rovers are capable of transmitting tremendous amounts of data to Earth, including measurements of radiation, magnetic fields, temperature, weather, and soil, as well as thousands of photos. It could be some time before scientists can analyze all of the information gathered during the mission. Among other objectives, scientists hope the rovers will find evidence in the rocks and soil that potentially life-sustaining water existed in the planet’s past.

As for Brother Anderson and his team of drivers, they are as close to living on Mars as they can get without being there. “We see this world through a camera’s eye, and it is as if we were there ourselves,” Brother Anderson said. “It is incredible to me that we can do things like this.”

The team is living and working on Mars time. A day on Mars is 40 minutes longer than an Earth day, which means that Brother Anderson has seen a number of Mars sunrises while at work in the middle of the night.

Brother Anderson holds degrees in psychology, electrical engineering, and astronomy. He was a mission controller for the space shuttle program and has worked more recently on projects with the Hubble Space Telescope and probes to Jupiter and Saturn.

[photo] This 360° panoramic photo of Mars is one of thousands sent back by the rovers. (Photograph courtesy of NASA/JPL/Cornell.)

[photo] Brother Gary Anderson is part of the NASA team that controls the Mars rovers.

Results of Service Seen in Wake of Wildfires

Full-time missionaries serving in California have made a lot of new friends after helping out when massive wildfires swept through the state in October and November of last year. The fires, which left more than 3,400 families homeless and killed 20 people, affected communities in the California Arcadia, Carlsbad, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Fernando, and Ventura Missions.

Missionaries around the world give regular service as part of their weekly schedules. But following the devastation late last year, many California missionaries were instructed to put aside their regular schedules and pitch in where they were needed.

Missionaries in the Carlsbad and San Diego missions, for example, could often be found working from 6:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M., hauling ash, sorting clothing at various distribution centers, or generally lending a hand to whoever needed one—and then going out to do their regular teaching in the evenings.

Missionaries in the San Diego mission volunteered long hours with the Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Relief Center. The center served hundreds of thousands of meals, set up shelters, helped find temporary housing, and delivered necessities to residents who had lost their homes.

“Without the missionaries’ help, we would not have been able to do what we have done,” said Major Glen Madsen, commanding officer for the Salvation Army. He said he was impressed by their efforts, along with their integrity, work ethic, and commitment. “Their loving spirit came out, and it changed the complexion of the setting and spilled out to the other volunteers and employees.”

After 20 homes burned in Scripps Ranch, missionaries from the Carlsbad mission sifted through ashes by hand helping the residents look for valuables such as jewelry, coin collections, and heirlooms.

“We couldn’t have been more thankful to have them,” said Julianne North, a member of St. Gregory’s Catholic Church and in charge of organizing the fire relief at St. Gregory’s in the community of Scripps Ranch. “They came from out of the blue. I can’t speak highly enough about them.”

In the community of Loire Valley, Amy Colbert, a resident of two years, returned home to find that 31 of her neighbors’ homes had burned to the ground. Seeing the missionaries working in the area, she asked if they could help her friends with clearing their property. The next morning, 40 missionaries showed up ready to work.

It was all in a day’s work for the missionaries, but to residents of evacuated or otherwise affected communities, they were angels.

“It is amazing to watch them make a difference in so many people’s lives,” said Mrs. Colbert. “It is great to see the love of others given to people they don’t know. It rekindles my belief in kindness. … They are part of our [neighborhood] family now.”

Carlsbad Mission President Stephen M. Studdert said there has been no end to the stories of how missionaries in California have affected others. “A San Diego City engineering official told me they had assessed what was needed to complete a project by week’s end,” President Studdert said. “He said, ‘We’ll need either 195 men or five Mormon missionaries.’ That official is now reading the Book of Mormon.”

The wildfires burned more than 800,000 acres. About 400,000 Latter-day Saints were affected, with 67 families losing their homes. All members and missionaries were reported safe, and no Church buildings were damaged.

[photo] Elders from the California San Diego Mission haul off the ruined garage door of a home burned during the wildfires. (Photograph by Dan Northcutt.)

Youth Collect Winter Clothing for Mongolians

The combined efforts of several Church youth groups in northern Utah and southeastern Idaho resulted in nearly 50,000 articles of clothing for the people of Mongolia, who suffered through an unusually cold winter. Temperatures reached -40° Fahrenheit (-40° C).

When Sandra Curtis heard about the widespread need for warm clothing from her brother serving a full-time mission there, the Laurel from the North Logan Second Ward, North Logan Utah Green Canyon Stake, decided she could help.

Sandra invited her seminary class to collect clothing to send to Mongolia. “They were really excited,” she said. “They thought it was a good idea, especially since it was during the Christmas season.”

Word of the project spread to four nearby seminaries. Within two weeks, nearly 3,000 students from seminaries in northern Utah and southeastern Idaho had collected coats, gloves, shoes, socks, belts, suits, sweaters, and blankets. One student knitted hats; another bought socks and gloves. Others searched their closets at home to find warm clothing suitable to donate.

With permission from their priesthood leaders, students asked ward members to participate, using their Mutual activities to collect donations. Chuck Summers of the Newton First Ward, Benson Utah Stake, said members made considerable and generous contributions. “The project was absolutely phenomenal,” he said.

Even with the Christmas season in full swing, the students diligently collected clothing until school was released for the holidays. By the last day of school, the hallways, foyers, and classrooms at Sky View Seminary in Smithfield, Utah, were filled with clothing. Deseret Industries in Logan, Utah, collected and packaged the clothes, filling nearly four semitrailers. The clothing was shipped in 900-pound (336-kg) bales to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital.

In the News

Elder Nelson Dedicates Republic of Tanzania

Overlooking Oyster Bay on the Indian Ocean, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicated the United Republic of Tanzania on 18 November 2003, and pronounced a blessing upon its leaders, citizens, missionaries, and members of the Church. Meeting with a small number of members on a promontory near Dar Es Salaam, Elder Nelson dedicated the land and asked God to bless the nation’s leaders “that they will lead in righteousness, mercy, and compassion,” and the country’s citizens “that they may pursue righteous endeavors. … Bless them to learn Thy commandments and prosper in the land. Help them to raise righteous families with honesty, integrity, and love for Thee and one another.”

Elder Steven E. Snow of the Seventy, President of the Africa Southeast Area, observed: “It was thrilling to be present as an Apostle gave this special blessing to the country of Tanzania. While the gospel has been established here, it will now firmly take root and grow and flourish.”

Elder Nelson later spoke to about 300 of the approximately 500 Tanzanian Church members. There are currently three branches in Tanzania, organized under the Kenya Nairobi Mission: the Kinin Doni, Changombe, and Ubungo Branches.

Church Member Killed in California Earthquake

Marilyn Southam Zafuto, 55, of the Paso Robles Second Ward, San Luis Obispo California Stake, was killed on 22 December 2003 in a central California earthquake.

Zafuto, a retired schoolteacher from Vernal, Utah, was found along with another woman amid the debris of a 19th-century clock tower building in Paso Robles, a town of 25,000. Several stores within the building collapsed, while the structure’s roof vaulted into the street, crushing numerous cars.

The 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck 20 miles west of Paso Robles near the coastal town of Cambria, affecting areas from San Francisco to Los Angeles. It was the largest California quake in four years.

California Ventura Mission President David J. Henderson reported that no missionaries were harmed and that they had been instructed on earthquake safety in recent zone conferences. Two member families were displaced from their homes due to structural damage. Two Church buildings in Paso Robles and Morro Bay required minor repairs.

LDS Soldier Killed During Ambush in Iraq

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stephen Bertolino was killed during an ambush on his military convoy on 29 November 2003 in Haditha, Iraq. Brother Bertolino, a member of the San Diego 19th Ward, San Diego California East Stake, leaves behind a wife and four children. Brother Bertolino was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Meritorious Service Medal during funeral services.

Church Aids Survivors of Quake in Iran

Latter-day Saint Charities was among the first non-government organizations to respond to the earthquake in Iran that killed 37,000 in late December 2003. The Church sent four and a half tons (4,500 kg) of emergency medicines, including enough antibiotics and allergy medicines to treat 90,000 people.

Church Humanitarian Emergency Response worked with M. Javad Zarif, ambassador from Iran to the United Nations, to assess needs, then collaborated with a company in Holland to rush the supplies to Iran. Garry Flake, director of the Church’s Humanitarian Emergency Response, said the shipment was an initial response and that the Church will monitor the need for additional aid.

In a letter to Brother Flake, Ambassador Zarif wrote: “I have been aware all along of the sincere efforts of Latter-day Saint Charities. … Such support provides an invaluable source of comfort to those bereaved quake survivors and the whole Iranian people as they note that the outside world shares in their sorrow.”

Eastern Malaysia Teens Gather for First Conference

Three years ago there was no organized Young Men or Young Women program in the Miri Branch in Malaysia. Now 10 young women attend regularly, know the Young Women theme, and are working toward completing the Personal Progress program.

These young women are some of the 80 teenagers from various parts of Malaysia who attended the year-old Kuching East Malaysia District’s first youth conference last December.

The remarkable growth of the Young Women program in Miri is mirrored by the success of the Bintulu Branch’s program, which has grown from one to 14 young women in the past year.

“These wonderful young women … cried tears of joy when the Young Women program was explained to them,” said Sharon Bray, district Young Women president. “Their personal growth has been tremendous. These young people are hungry for the gospel.”

The youth of the district prepared for months to perform in a variety show as part of the 2003 youth conference. The show featured singing, dancing, and acting that represented how the youth’s cultural roots had helped prepare them for the gospel. The Kuching East Malaysia District is one of four districts covering the country of Malaysia.

[photo] Stephen Bertolino. (Photograph courtesy of Church News.)

[photo] Youth in the Kuching East Malaysia District held their first youth conference in December. (Photograph by Sharon Bray.)


December Ensign Brings Christmas Spirit

My grandmother died about six years ago, and after that, Christmas wasn’t the same. I forgot its true meaning. But after joining the Church about six months ago, I now understand that while I lost a relative who was dear to me, I have found a family that is bigger than I had ever imagined. The spirit of Christmas is back in my life.

After reading the December Ensign I was overcome with the Spirit. I had never before understood the importance of the Ensign. I now realize it is an integral part of any Latter-day Saint’s life. After watching the video Joy to the World, I realized that while decorations and gifts are nice, the greatest gift anyone can give this or any other Christmas is that of love, peace, happiness, and the glorious news of Christ’s birth. Kellie Oldfield Kings Meadows, Australia

Subscription as Christmas Present

I just received my December Ensign. I can hardly wait for it each month. I’m in a senior rest home, but I’ve always received the Ensign, and its stories, pictures, and articles have always been what I’ve needed. I have always sent an Ensign subscription to someone as a Christmas present. Thank you for the work that goes into the magazine. Ruth Christensen Elk Grove, California

Art Credits

The artwork in the Ensign is beautiful! Could you please identify the names of the paintings and the artists’ names? My thanks to the art director for adding to the spiritual message of a wonderful magazine. Joan Bybee Oakton, Virginia

Editor’s note: Photo and art credit lines appear in the small print in the margins of each article. If a painting has a title, that title is listed, along with the artist’s name. Some of the art used in Church magazines is owned by the Church, while some is commissioned specifically for a particular article. If no art credit appears, this usually means that the art in question comes from a collection of stock photos that require no credit or that the artist or photographer is unknown but the original is either in Church possession or in the public domain. In some cases, a photo or painting is copyrighted and the Church’s contract with the artist does not permit readers to photocopy or otherwise reproduce the image used in the magazine. These restrictions appear in the credit line. If the line reads “May Not Be Copied,” it is illegal to do so. Readers should carefully read credit lines before copying pages from the magazine. If no restriction appears, readers may copy art for incidental, noncommercial use such as for teaching in the home or in Church classes.