Church Blossoms in the Big Apple

New York City is the kind of place that draws visitors. At a sacrament meeting in Manhattan, you might talk with a sampling of members and find that most see themselves as temporary residents, here only to begin or advance a career.

But attitudes toward the city are changing, says President Brent J. Belnap of the New York New York Stake, which covers the borough of Manhattan. More members from other areas are putting down roots and raising their families in the city, and the number of native New Yorkers among members is also growing.

President Belnap and his wife, Lorinda, are examples of the shift in attitude. Now senior vice-president and general counsel for a division of an international financial institution, President Belnap came to New York nearly 18 years ago to study law. After marrying President Belnap and living in Manhattan for five years, Sister Belnap thought of their life there as temporary. Then she awoke one morning in 1997 thinking, “I like living in Manhattan. It’s all right if we stay and raise our children here and send them on missions from here.” Shortly afterward, her husband was called as stake president.

Michelle Larsen of the stake’s Inwood First Ward is originally from Louisiana, and her husband is from Maryland. They came to the city when Sister Larsen, now a scientist studying the causes of tuberculosis, was beginning her graduate work. Her husband owns a book importing business. New York City, she says, “is a very friendly place. It’s just a whole bunch of little neighborhoods strung together.” There are many educational and social opportunities for their children. “We like the energy of the city. It’s home.”

Young Latter-day Saints in New York City are a minority in their schools, but there is strength for them in the Church. Ellen Comp, director of an afternoon television program and a member of the Manhattan First Ward, says that the possibilities Mutual offers to her children are “exciting.” She notes that Latter-day Saint families in Manhattan cultivate friendships in the ward and stake in order to have associates with similar values, particularly for their children. “We work at being friends.”

Schoolteacher Ross McDonald, a member of the Inwood First Ward originally from El Paso, Texas, admits to having reservations about rearing children in the city because of some of the problems in public schools. While he sees many parents in the stake who find ways to deal with those public school difficulties, others choose to send their children to private schools. Still, he enjoys his teaching and leaves it to his wife to decide if she wants to stay. So far she does. Andrea McDonald, who grew up in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, has come to love the vibrancy of Manhattan. A dancer and musician, she says there are more opportunities than she could ever have imagined.

And there will soon be a temple, located in a Church-owned building across the street from the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, just west of Central Park. After the temple is dedicated on June 13, Sister Larsen says, “I can get on the A [subway] train, ride down to 59th Street, get off, and walk to the temple. It’s amazing just to think about it.”

The subway fare will be U.S. $2. That compares with as much as U.S. $100 in costs to travel to the next nearest temple in Boston, Massachusetts, President Belnap says.

In the past, one of the Church’s biggest challenges in Manhattan has been temporal success among the members, President Belnap says. Many become successful in business, law, or entertainment and are often drawn away from Church activity. “But the stronger the Church gets, and with the temple here now, we are going to be able to retain more of these people.”

Members in the entertainment industry, for example, are challenged daily. Sandra Turley, who performed the role of the adult Cosette in Les Miserables on Broadway, says those challenges can be met. Problems come when people lower their standards to perform on stage, she says. A performer can learn in advance what a role will require and avoid ones that may lead to compromise.

When President Belnap came to Manhattan, there were five units: four English-speaking wards and one Spanish-speaking ward. Now the stake has twelve units, including two Spanish-speaking wards, wards for both older and younger singles, a branch in Harlem, a deaf branch, and a small Chinese branch that meets in an office suite in Chinatown.

Dolores Zecca of the Manhattan First Ward, baptized in 1996, is one of the local members who grew up in the area. A former stake missionary, she is one of the Latter-day Saints on a committee to help to strengthen the Church in Harlem, where a new meetinghouse will soon be built. Last Christmastime she was energized by a project to help police collect toys for needy children. A letter from the local precinct commended Sister Zecca and Harlem member Herbert Steed for their work, adding, “This is an example of the type of positive interaction we have begun to develop and wish to continue.”

Sister Zecca looks forward to “being able to go [to the temple] as often as I like.” She still recalls the first time: “Oh, what a feeling!”

It is a feeling that she and other New York City Saints hope to recapture again and again.

[photo] The Manhattan New York Temple—which will occupy the top floors of this Church building—will be a U.S. $2 subway fare away for many New York City Saints. (Photograph by Don Searle.)

[photo] The Canal Street (Chinese) Branch is one of seven units that have been formed in the New York New York Stake since the early 1990s, bringing the stake’s total to 12. (Photograph by Don Searle.)

State of Illinois Expresses Regret for Expulsion of Saints

A delegation of Illinois government officials met with Church leaders and members of the media on 7 April 2004 to officially express regret for events that happened nearly 160 years ago.

Beginning in early 1846, approximately 20,000 Saints were forced out of Illinois, which was the start of what would become the “largest forced migration in American history,” according to Resolution 793 of the Illinois House of Representatives. Passed with unanimous consent on 1 April 2004, the resolution expresses regret for the murder of Joseph Smith in 1844 and the ultimate expulsion of the Saints from their beloved Nauvoo.

The resolution recognizes that “biases and prejudices of a less-enlightened age in the history of the State of Illinois caused untold hardship and trauma for the community of Latter-day Saints by the distrust, violence, and inhospitable actions of a dark time in our past.”

The idea for the resolution came from Chicago Alderman Edward Burke while he was vacationing in Utah with his wife, Anne, an Illinois Appellate Court Justice. At a dinner with Governor Olene S. Walker, Alderman Burke heard about the Church’s history in Illinois from Governor Walker’s husband, Myron. “I am embarrassed to say that was the first time I learned about Nauvoo and the details of what happened,” said Alderman Burke. “I thought that, number one, the people of Illinois ought to know more about their own history; and number two, it’s a travesty that’s gone on for too many years.”

When he returned home, Alderman Burke spoke to his brother, Illinois State Representative Daniel Burke (D-Chicago), about drafting a resolution. Ed and Anne Burke showed President Gordon B. Hinckley a draft of the resolution in March 2004.

At the 7 April press conference, President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust, First and Second Counselors in the First Presidency, formally accepted the resolution from Illinois delegates Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn and Representative Dan Burke. (President Hinckley, whose wife, Marjorie, had passed away the evening before, was excused from the event.) Ed and Anne Burke also attended the conference.

On behalf of the State of Illinois, Lieutenant Governor Quinn expressed regret for the injustices suffered by the early Latter-day Saints in Illinois. “There was a day in February 1846 on Parley Street [in Nauvoo] where people who were practicing their faith, people of good faith, were asked to leave the state and … move to another place,” said Lieutenant Governor Quinn. “It wasn’t right. We acknowledge it was wrong and express our regrets and look forward to the future.”

Representative Dan Burke read Resolution 793 aloud to reporters and presented a leatherbound copy to President Monson.

President Monson thanked the delegation for their “kind words and this gracious gesture. We’re grateful to you and the good people of Illinois,” he said.

“We view this resolution as an affirmation that Nauvoo is and will always be a place of peace,” said President Faust. “We know that Latter-day Saints will always have a home in Illinois.”

[photo] Left to right: President James E. Faust and President Thomas S. Monson accept a copy of the resolution from Illinois Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn and State Representative Dan Burke. (Photograph courtesy of Church Public Affairs.)

Church Launches Interactive Music Web Site

Music has long been associated with the gospel, from before the foundation of the world “when the morning stars sang together” (Job 38:7) to the closing hymn of last week’s sacrament meeting. Almost all members have been affected by music somehow, whether as part of their worship or simply as uplifting entertainment.

In an effort to make the blessings of Church music more accessible to members, the Church has created and launched the Church Music Web Site ( as a resource for Church members, families, choir directors, music leaders, speakers, accompanists, and performers.

“The most important benefits of the new site will be spiritual,” says David Warner, director of the Church’s Music and Cultural Arts division. “As the First Presidency teaches in the preface to our hymnal, music has the power to move us toward greater spirituality in our homes and families. Whether or not members have a background in music, the site will help them in studying doctrinal principles, conducting family home evenings, serving in Church callings, and teaching the gospel in many settings.”

The centerpiece of the site is the Interactive Church Music Player, a tool that will play, print, download, or transpose most of the hundreds of songs from Hymns and Children’s Songbook. (A few songs from Hymns and Children’s Songbook had to be omitted because of copyright restrictions.) The player can play the music with or without vocals. Users may isolate and play specific parts of a song—helpful in learning a part. The player also allows users to change a song to a higher or lower key and even print it out in the new key.

Members can download any of the available songs with or without vocals as MP3s. The songs are all searchable by title, first line, topic, scripture reference, keywords, or author’s first or last name. Information about each song is available, as are quotes from current and past General Authorities regarding the blessings of good music.

“The hymns and children’s songs present gospel concepts in musical form,” says Diane Bastian, the Web site’s coordinator. “By including a variety of searches, the site becomes a resource for parents, leaders, and speakers to teach the gospel through the hymns.”

The site includes help for members who have a range of musical experience from basic to more advanced. Suggestions are included on selecting hymns for meetings, adapting hymns for choral use, teaching songs to children, adding variety to singing, accompanying singers, and choosing easy-to-play hymns. The Interactive Conducting Course provides helpful instruction on leading music.

Also included on the site are guidelines and rules for sending original songs and hymns to the Church’s annual music submission. Members can also print out sheet music from a number of past submissions.

“By including approved submissions, we hope the site will become a sort of living choirbook,” says Brother Warner. “We think it will become a great resource for ward choirs.”

Macromedia Flash 7.0 is required to view most of the site’s content. Flash is included in many newer Web browsers. Older browsers may be directed to download the free software before being able to access the site.

[photo] The Church’s new music Web site was created to provide a resource for Church members, families, choir directors, music leaders, speakers, accompanists, and performers.

Church Seeks Cultural Arts Submissions

As part of the Church’s encouragement that wards, branches, stakes, and districts plan and participate in more cultural events such as dramas and dance and music festivals, the Church’s Music and Cultural Arts Division is accepting cultural arts submissions from Church members.

By creating a year-round submission process, the division hopes to accomplish two goals: to awaken members’ creative talents by providing an outlet for devoted artistic expression and to share gospel-oriented works with other Church units as they plan similar activities. The ultimate goal is that Church members will be strengthened in the gospel and unified in fellowship through planning and performing cultural arts activities.

“The cultural arts have been part of the Church for a long time,” said David Warner, director of the Music and Cultural Arts Division. “They can draw people closer to the gospel.”

Selected submissions will be performed—some in an abbreviated form—in the Conference Center Theater in the days leading up to October general conference. While the division will accept submissions year-round, the deadline to be considered for the October presentation is April 1 of the same year. Entrants will be notified in August if their submission has been selected.

Plays, musicals, readers’ theaters, oratorios, and poetry are welcome. Entries should be suitable for ward/branch or stake/district use, teach gospel principles in uplifting ways, be doctrinally correct, and be Church-oriented and accurate if historically based. Scripts should be a minimum of one act long. Submissions are welcome in all languages.

Submissions should include:

  1. 1.

    Two copies of the entry and any applicable music on 8 1/2 x 11 inch (22 x 28 cm) paper.

  2. 2.

    A statement signed by all contributors that says, “The work submitted, entitled ________ , is my original work, is owned by me, and conforms to the submission rules.”

  3. 3.

    A cover letter with the piece’s title; author’s name, address, phone number, and e-mail address; central theme; synopsis; and cast requirements.

The names of all contributors should appear on the cover letter, entry, and signed statement. Authors of productions accepted by the committee may be asked to grant the Church a nonexclusive, perpetual license for unlimited use.

Send submissions to: Church Theatrical Script Submission, 50 East North Temple Street, Room 2082, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84150-6070, USA. For more information, call 1-801-240-6492.

[photo] The Church is seeking scripts for dramatic and musical productions. This musical was part of the cultural celebration held in conjunction with the Anchorage Alaska Temple rededication. (Photograph by Lynn Howlett.)

In the News

Spanish Members Finding Comfort After Attacks

In the aftermath of the 11 March terrorist train bombings in Madrid, Spain, Spanish members of the Church are gaining comfort from the Lord and from one another.

Killing nearly 200 and injuring 1,400 more, the bombs exploded in several commuter trains carrying passengers into Madrid. Ángel Gómez, bishop of the Azuqueca Ward, Madrid Spain East Stake, said that when he learned of the bombings, he immediately called his ward members who frequently use the trains. He was relieved to find that none had been hurt.

A member of another ward, Bitin Uema, was seated not far from where one of the train bombs exploded. Knocked unconscious by the blast, he awoke in the wreckage and was at first counted among the dead. His hearing was damaged by the explosion, but Brother Uema is grateful his life was spared. “Although I was very [shaken] by the nightmare that I was going through, … I broke into tears and thanked Heavenly Father that I was still alive,” he wrote in an e-mail to Church News. A physician, Brother Uema regrets he was unable to use his skills to help other bomb victims.

One of the bombs detonated at the Santa Eugenia train station, located within a few kilometers of the Madrid Spain Temple. Though temple operations were not disrupted by the blasts, some evening sessions were cancelled the next day because of a national anti-terrorism rally. In an effort to help, a number of members also donated blood.

“The members are very sad,” said Bishop Gómez, but he noted that the tragedy has brought his ward closer together. “I have witnessed love and unity among the members. Our ward is big, and the members don’t see each other much. … But the members are showing love for each other.”

A commemoration of the organization of Relief Society for the Madrid Spain East Stake was held on 13 March, two days after the bombings. Stake leaders had considered canceling it in light of the attacks, but decided to go ahead with it. “It was a great activity. Attendance was strong,” said stake president José Reina. “It was good for the sisters to be together.” Approximately 34,000 Church members live in Spain.

Missionaries Transferred; Members in Haiti Continue to Meet

The Church pulled all 56 non-native single missionaries out of Haiti in February prior to the ousting of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide as intense civil conflict swept across the Caribbean nation. The missionaries were temporarily transferred to other missions. Native Haitian missionaries remaining in the country were transferred from unstable areas and continue to follow safety measures, avoiding crowds and demonstrations and staying indoors when they feel it is unsafe to be outside.

Despite the deaths of dozens of Haitians during the unrest, no Church members have been reported harmed. Several member families’ homes were destroyed in northern Haiti, where fighting was most intense. There has been no reported damage to Church property. Church membership in Haiti exceeds 10,000.

In an interview with Church News, President Eddy Bourdeau of the Port-au-Prince Haiti Stake reported that Sunday services and stake and ward business have mostly continued despite tension between insurgents and supporters of the former government. During the insurgency, some Church meetings were cancelled. As of press time, the Haiti–Dominican Republic border remained closed, preventing Haitian members from attending the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple.

Vanuatu Saints Picking Up after Tropical Cyclone Ivy

The lives of about 1,100 Church members on the islands of Vanuatu, west of Fiji, are finally beginning to return to normal after tropical cyclone Ivy tore through the southern and northern islands. The storm, which occurred on 26 February 2004, killed two people and caused major damage, with winds up to 125 mph (200 kph). All missionaries and members were reported safe.

Among the estimated 2,500 families seriously affected by the cyclone, 10 member families sustained major damage to their homes, while the homes of 62 other member families sustained less serious damage. The roofs of three temporary meetinghouses on the island of Tanna required repairs.

Residents of the islands are left facing potential hardships because of substantial crop losses. The Church has sent aid to the islands, including containers of clothing and medical supplies.

Two Family History Products Now Sold Together

Personal Ancestral File (PAF) 5.2 and PAF Companion are now being sold together as a single package. PAF is the Church’s personal genealogy management software. It allows members to capture and organize their personal and family history electronically on a personal computer and helps in preparing and tracking ancestors’ names and information for temple ordinances. Users can attach digital pictures or images of original sources, print charts and reports, capture personal notes about an ancestor, and add research notes. PAF 5.2 can be downloaded for free from the Internet at

PAF Companion allows users to create additional reports and charts from their family history databases. Using information from the user’s PAF database, the Companion software can also print narrative reports on an ancestor in a book format that includes pictures, notes, and sources. PAF Companion is also compatible with earlier PAF versions (PAF 3, 4, and 5). The package of both CDs sells for $8.25 and is available at distribution centers (item no. 77065).

New Digital Keyboards Available to Units, Members

Two new digital keyboards, suitable for use in Church meetinghouses, are now available. Both instruments are combination piano/organ keyboards that never need tuning and can be played by members with limited or no keyboard skills.

The Kawai LH-1 Digital Piano/Organ is housed in a cabinet the size, appearance, and weight of an upright piano. It includes 176 prerecorded hymns and children’s songs in its memory that can be played automatically or as directed by a person tapping out the rhythm on any key. The price is $5,950 for individual purchase.

The Kawai L1-LDS Digital Piano/Organ is a keyboard designed to provide accompaniment for smaller groups, such as priesthood and auxiliary meetings, choir rehearsals, sacrament meetings with fewer than 50 people, or in the home. It includes 88 prerecorded hymns and children’s songs in its memory. The keyboard is supported by a wooden pedestal. It costs $895 for individual purchase.

Local priesthood leaders may request these items by contacting their physical facilities support team. The Kawai LH-1 is approved as an alternative instrument to an acoustical upright piano and may be provided for new meetinghouses. It is also approved as a replacement instrument for an existing upright.

Individual members may purchase the instruments for personal use by calling the Kawai America Corporation at 1-800-421-2177, ext. 358.

Church News contributed to these reports.

[photo] Workers and police search the debris of a train destroyed by terrorist attacks in Madrid, Spain. (Photograph by Anja Niedringhaus/Associated Press.)


Lending Support During Unemployment

“Helping Marriage Survive Unemployment: Seven Principles” (Ensign, Apr. 2004) struck a resonant chord in my heart. Jim’s feelings, experiences, and challenges in dealing with unemployment were all too familiar to me. We should be open to lending our support to those in our midst who are faced with this and similar situations. In our home, home teachers and priesthood leaders have been a great comfort. A concerned Relief Society president was also there to lend encouragement to our family. I have found great strength from my friends, both in and out of the Church, who remain in contact to give their support. Thank you, Ensign, for dealing with such an important topic. Bill Gaudette, Shawnessy Ward, Calgary Alberta Foothills Stake

Interest in Finances

Lane V. Erickson’s article on financial well-being (“Five Steps to Financial Well-Being, Ensign, Mar. 2004) was excellent and timely. However, rather than paying off the smallest debts first, I suggest paying down those with the highest interest rates. The more quickly people can pay off high-interest debts, the more money will be available for paying off the rest. Harold Lillywhite, Reedville Ward, Cedar Mill Oregon Stake