News of the Church

By Adam C. Olson, Church Magazines


Director of U.N. World Food Program Lauds Church’s Humanitarian Efforts

Members of the world’s largest food aid organization recognized and thanked the Church for its commitment to helping “people who are poor and hungry and at risk and vulnerable.”

James Morris, executive director of the United Nations World Food Program, toured the Church’s Humanitarian Center and Welfare Square in Salt Lake City on 16 July 2004. He came to Salt Lake City to thank Church leaders for a $1 million donation to the World Food Program in 2002. “It was a very important gift at a time when we needed it,” he said. The donation was used for famine relief in Africa.

“If everyone was doing as much as the … Church is doing, the problem [of hunger] would be solved quickly,” he said.

Wanting to see more of the Church’s humanitarian aid operation, Mr. Morris and two others from the World Food Program toured Welfare Square’s 178-foot-tall grain elevator, storehouse, bakery, cannery, thrift store, and employment center.

The thing Mr. Morris says he will remember most about his time in Salt Lake City is the many people “living out, day after day, their faith and commitment. It is one thing to talk about your beliefs and spiritual commitments,” he said, “[but] this is a place that realizes, actualizes it, and lives it day in and day out. You see volunteers of all ages here doing good things to help people all over the world who desperately need it.”

Helping those who desperately need it is the objective of the World Food Program. Formed in 1963, it is the largest agency of the United Nations. “Our objective is to feed the most vulnerable, the hungriest, and the poorest,” said Jordan Dey, a WFP spokesman. Last year the program provided 104 million people in 81 countries with food.

Garry Flake, director of Church Emergency Response, said that the Church has great appreciation for the World Food Program and its global efforts. “For them to identify the Church as a partner in this effort is a great compliment,” he said. Brother Flake, along with Elder Harold C. Brown, an Area Authority Seventy and managing director of Welfare Services, hosted Mr. Morris.

Mr. Morris also praised the Church’s fast offering program as an “extraordinary, generous way of fighting world hunger every single month.”

Church News contributed to this report.

[photo] From left: James Morris, Michael Crosthwaite, and Jordan Dey, all of the World Food Program, listen as Mel Gardner, right, and Elder Harold C. Brown, director of Church Welfare Services, show them around Welfare Square. (Photograph courtesy of Church News.)

LDS Family Services Helping Parents

Melissa (name has been changed) had always wanted children. But not like this—not alone and away from the Church. At 29, Melissa found herself pregnant, single, and uncertain.

Her situation is not unique. According to statistics from 2000, one out of every three births in the United States (1.34 million) is to an unmarried woman. 1 Sadly, those births represent only about 49 percent of pregnancies to single women. According to a 1999 study, 39 percent of pregnant single women choose to abort their pregnancies. 2

“I’ve always been against abortion,” Melissa says. “But all of a sudden I was in that place. It seemed like an easy way out. No one would have to find out. Nothing would have to change. I wouldn’t have to be embarrassed. But I knew if I had done it, I would never have gotten over it.”

Instead, Melissa decided to seek help from LDS Family Services even though she had not been active in the Church for some time. LDS Family Services is a Church-sponsored nonprofit organization that, among other things, provides free counseling for birth mothers.

Because “the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children,” 3 the Church encourages women who are single and pregnant to marry. But when a successful marriage is unlikely, Church leaders have repeatedly endorsed adoption as a way to provide the child with the blessings of being sealed to an eternal family.

Melissa barely knew the father of her child, and she knew marrying him wasn’t an option. Only two choices remained: raise the child alone or give the child up for adoption.

“I cried every day,” she says. “I’ve always wanted a family, so I didn’t want to give the baby up. Even after I decided that adoption was the right thing for me to do, it was hard to come to grips with it. But I knew I had to do what was best for my son.”

Had Melissa chosen to raise her child alone, she would have been in the majority. Data provided by LDS Family Services suggests that of single women who give birth in the U.S., almost three out of four choose to raise the child alone. About 1 percent of all U.S. pregnancies to single women end in adoption. 4

Unfortunately, studies have shown that single mothers experience elevated rates of depression, low self-esteem, and poor health. 5 Children raised by a single mother are six times more likely to live in poverty, 6 are twice as likely to drop out of high school, and are two to three times more likely to have serious emotional and behavioral problems than children who grow up with both parents. 7

“I chose to give my son up for adoption because I wanted him to have everything I grew up having,” Melissa says now, a year after giving birth. “I am so grateful he has exactly what I wanted him to have. He has what he should have. It’s more than I could have given him.”

Because of the Church’s emphasis on the importance of the righteous influence of a mother and father sealed together, it’s no surprise that LDS Family Services is the largest private adoption agency in the world, with 56 agencies in the United States and nine more in Canada, Great Britain, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

Birth mothers seeking help from LDS Family Services can find free and confidential services such as individual counseling and group meetings; temporary housing for birth mothers who wish to relocate during their pregnancy; help in identifying educational needs and resources; information about marriage, adoption, and parenting; and medical and legal support.

LDS Family Services has provided members of the Church with adoption services and individual counseling since 1973, though its roots reach as far back as 1919 when the Relief Society Social Service Department was formed. Today, the organization focuses on four key activities: providing consultation and support for ecclesiastical leaders, counseling birth parents, placing children with temple-worthy adoptive parents, and counseling individuals with problems such as marital conflict, parent-child conflict, addiction, abuse, depression, anxiety, and same-sex attraction.

Counseling for birth parents is free, as is medical and legal support and adoption planning. There are fees for adoptive parents and individuals seeking socioemotional counseling. For information call 1-800-537-2229, or visit www.itsaboutlove.org.

[photo] Brett and Shannon Hadley of the Harrisville 10th Ward, Harrisville Utah Stake, play with their son, eight-month-old Logan. The Hadleys say they were overjoyed to be able to adopt Logan through LDS Family Services two days after his birth. (Photograph by Adam C. Olson.)

    Notes

  1.   1.

    J. A. Martin, B. E. Hamilton, and S. J. Ventura, “Births: Preliminary Data for 2000,” National Vital Statistics Reports, vol. 49, no. 5, 24 Jul. 2001, pp. 1–4.

  2.   2.

    S. J. Ventura, J. C. Abma, W. D. Mosher, and S. Henshaw, “Revised Pregnancy Rates, 1990–97, and New Rates for 1998–99: United States,” National Vital Statistics Reports, vol. 52, no. 7, 31 Oct. 2003, pp. 4–5.

  3.   3.

    “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102.

  4.   4.

    Christine Bachrach, et al., “Adoption, Adoption Seeking, and Relinquishment for Adoption in the United States,” Advance Data, no. 306, National Center for Health Statistics, 11 May 1999.

  5.   5.

    Kristin A. Moore, Report to Congress on Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing (1995).

  6.   6.

    Patrick Fagan, “How Broken Families Rob Children of Their Chance for Future Prosperity,” The Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, no. 1283, Jun. 1999.

  7.   7.

    Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur, Growing Up with a Single Parent (1994).

Keyboarding Classes Bless Many with Music

While serving a full-time mission with her husband in Brazil, Sister Joan P. Fisher from Salt Lake City spent much of her time preparing simple music for beginning ward and branch choirs. She also distributed keyboards to stakes and districts across Brazil as part of a request from the Area Presidency to help members learn to play hymns. “Music brings the Spirit,” says Sister Fisher. “And my greatest joy has been helping members have more music of better quality.”

Music can set the tone for uplifting spiritual experiences. It can bless the lives of those who perform as well as those who listen. In addition to their other assignments, many senior missionaries like Sister Fisher are using their talents to bless the lives of members as part of the Church’s effort to make the music of the Church accessible to more Latter-day Saints around the world. Using Church-developed materials and a Church-administered grant, these missionaries are teaching music or keyboard classes in units where accompanists are needed or where members need help learning the hymns.

The Church Keyboard Course materials are available at most distribution centers in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Tahitian. Mission presidents and area priesthood leaders can also obtain the materials through the Church’s Music and Cultural Arts Division for wide-scale efforts in which members or missionaries are involved in teaching others.

In Wales, Elder LeRoy and Sister Rosan Nichols from California were assigned to the Newtown Branch, Newcastle-Under-Lyme England Stake. Because the small branch had limited resources, Sister Nichols agreed to play the keyboard each week, but she realized that she would not be in the branch forever. When branch leaders learned about the Church Keyboard Course, Samantha Hughes, a 14-year-old studying music in school, volunteered to take lessons from Sister Nichols and practice 20 minutes a day. Already she is able to play prelude music in sacrament meeting.

Dedicated students like Samantha who are committed to playing in Church meetings and who are willing to teach others can qualify for assistance in their studies from the Church. Where possible, keyboards can be obtained for members learning to play for Church meetings so they can continue practicing at home and eventually help teach others.

Elder Bert and Sister Lorna Pack from Provo, Utah, are currently teaching keyboard lessons to 52 students in seven branches in the South Africa Johannesburg Mission. They note that while many people enthusiastically begin the keyboard course they provide, few continue beyond three to six lessons because of the time and commitment it takes to learn.

When George Mholo began taking the course, the 14-year-old didn’t impress them as being any different from most of the others. To their surprise, George worked hard. He faithfully attended lessons and practiced four hours a week on the keyboards at the church and up to two hours per day at home on his “silent keyboard”—a cardboard keyboard that comes with the course. Before long, George was playing with both hands, and the Packs felt like he was qualified to borrow one of the Church-owned keyboards to practice on at home.

George and his 11-year-old brother, Kenny, were the only members of the Church in their family and had been baptized less than two years before. When the sister missionaries delivered the keyboard to George’s home, they met with his mother. After taking the missionary discussions for several weeks, she was baptized. George spoke at her baptism and played a piano solo, “Families Can Be Together Forever.”

While the music classes may not have such a dramatic effect on all of their students, the Packs estimate that by the end of their mission, each of the seven branches in the area where they are serving will have two to seven accompanists who will be able to play hymns from Hymns Made Easy for sacrament meetings and other occasions.

[photo] The dedication of George Mholo (right) in learning to play the keyboard helped lead to the baptism of his mother, Tsoake. His brother Kenny (left) is also a keyboard student. (Photograph by Elder Bert Pack.)

[photo] Elder Bert and Sister Lorna Pack, shown with Sbongile Zanele Nophali, teach keyboard skills in South Africa. (Photograph by Elder Ferrin L. Orton.)

More and More Full-time Missionaries Attending International Training Centers

As Missionary Training Centers (MTCs) have been built around the world, more and more missionaries from the United States and Canada are being sent directly to the MTC in the country where they have been called, or splitting their time between the Provo MTC and one of the 16 international MTCs.

Because of the increasing number of missionaries being sent to international MTCs, there is now space available for the senior missionaries at the Provo MTC. In May 2004, the Senior Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, was torn down, and the land was returned to Brigham Young University for future development.

The first MTC outside of Utah was built in 1977 in São Paulo, Brazil, and it remains the largest international MTC. Today missionaries from the United States and Canada receive training in the Brazil MTC if they are going to serve in Brazil, in the England MTC if they are going to serve their mission in the United Kingdom, and in the Ghana MTC if they are going to serve in Ghana.

Other missionaries receive their first three weeks of training in the Provo MTC, then spend the remaining five and a half weeks in the Dominican Republic MTC if they are going to serve in the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico, the Peru MTC if they are going to serve in Peru or Bolivia, or the Spain MTC if they are going to serve in Spain or the Canary Islands.

The remaining 10 MTCs principally train missionaries who live in the area around them. These MTCs are located in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, and South Africa. Almost all missionaries now attend at least one of the MTCs for training prior to serving their missions. All of the MTCs also serve missionaries from their areas—for example, missionaries from South America may attend the Brazil MTC if there is not an MTC in the area where they will be serving.

No matter which MTC a missionary attends, all will have the opportunity to reach goals of learning and cherishing the doctrines of the gospel and developing Christlike attributes; learning to teach with power to help others have faith in Christ, repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end; and seeking the gift of tongues and becoming functional in the mission language, according to Guidelines for MTC Presidents.

As of 31 December 2003, 56,237 full-time missionaries were serving around the world.

[photo] With an increasing number of international MTCs, fewer missionaries are coming to Provo for training while more from the U.S. and Canada are being trained internationally.

BYU Conference Examines “Families and Poverty”

The Family Studies Center at Brigham Young University recently sponsored a research conference entitled “Families and Poverty,” addressing the negative implications of poverty on the family. The conference featured presentations from both national and international researchers and scholars. Presenters shared their research on topics such as health care for poor families, consequences of welfare reform in the United States, efforts to reduce poverty by strengthening and promoting marriage, evaluating state efforts to encourage work among low-income families, and how microentrepreneurship strengthens families in developing countries. This year, the presenters came from Australia, Great Britain, India, Malta, and throughout the United States.

On the second day, conference attendees participated in a lunch designed to teach more than to feed. Sixty percent of participants ate rice and beans, a typical meal in third-world countries, 30 percent ate a slice of pizza, representing second-world conditions, and 10 percent were served a full meal with a salad and dessert, typical of first-world standards of living. The percentages corresponded with the actual breakdown of the world population into first-, second-, and third-world demographics.

On the final day of the conference, participants joined together in a hands-on humanitarian effort, packaging pencils, pencil sharpeners, scissors, and notebooks into 1,000 book bags for needy schoolchildren. BYU sociology professor Tim Heaton and several students will take 300 bags to children in Mexico as part of the Mexico sociology program. The remaining bags were given directly to Church Humanitarian Services for distribution.

“Combating poverty takes work,” said D. Russell Crane, professor of marriage and family therapy and director of the Family Studies Center. “We can’t just sit back and talk about the problem; even though our efforts were small in comparison to the magnitude of the issue, we had to do something.”

The “Families and Poverty” conference, held 10–12 March 2004, was part of a series of biennial conferences on the family organized and hosted by the Family Studies Center. In 2000, the conference topic focused on revitalizing marriage. The 2002 conference dealt with family health issues. The conference scheduled for 2006 will concentrate on the family and work.

[photo] Those attending the BYU conference learned that combating poverty requires effort, like that of members shown here at Welfare Square.

Book of Mormon Timeline Poster Now Available

The “Book of Mormon Times at a Glance” timeline printed in the January and July 2004 issues of the Ensign is now available for purchase as a two-sided foldout chart. The Book of Mormon Timeline Poster maps the history of the prominent people and nations in the Book of Mormon. It is designed to assist members in their study of the Book of Mormon. To order, contact your local distribution center or order online at www.ldscatalog.com (item no. 37013; U.S. $.65).

Leaders around World Trained by Satellite

A Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting took place on 19 June 2004 in Salt Lake City and was broadcast to chapels throughout the world.

The messages gave counsel to bishops, branch presidents, and other Aaronic Priesthood leaders. President Gordon B. Hinckley; President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency; Elder M. Russell Ballard, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, and Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; and Presiding Bishop H. David Burton all addressed the global congregation.

The Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting scheduled for 8 January 2005 will be a special broadcast for stake presidents and stake patriarchs only, according to a letter from the First Presidency.

The next annual Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting will be held on 18 June 2005.

Policies and Announcements

The First Presidency has sent the following letter, dated 21 July 2004, to priesthood leaders.

Members Encouraged to Exercise the Right to Vote / Reaffirmation of the Church’s Policy of Political Neutrality

In this election year, we urge Church members to register to vote, to study the issues and candidates carefully and prayerfully, and then vote for those they believe will most nearly carry out their ideas of good government. Latter-day Saints are under special obligation to seek out and then uphold leaders who will act with integrity and are “wise,” “good,” and “honest” (see D&C 98:10).

While affirming its constitutional right of expression on political and social issues, the Church reaffirms its long-standing policy of neutrality regarding political parities, political platforms, and candidates for political office. Church facilities, directories, and mailing lists are not to be used for political purposes.

Candidates for public office should not imply that their candidacy is endorsed by the Church or its leaders, and Church leaders and members should avoid statements or conduct that may be interpreted as Church endorsement of any political party, political platform, or candidate. In addition, members who hold public office should not give the impression they represent the Church as they work for solutions to social problems.

Comment

Depression Is a Widespread Disease

I cannot thank you enough for the article “When Your Child Is Depressed” in the August 2004 issue. I have both a spouse and a child who struggle with depression. I want to help them but have been at a loss over what I can do to help. So it was an answer to prayer that this article was printed when it was. I feel it was printed just for me, although I know that depression is a very widespread disease and many other parents must be feeling as I do. I especially appreciated how Sean Brotherson focused most of his article on what I can actively do to help my child.

Thank you again for your inspiring articles that continue to give me hope in the midst of trial. Name withheld

Thank you for the great article addressing how parents can cope with children who struggle with depression. This is such a challenge, as my wife and I know firsthand. It’s a topic we were all afraid to discuss a few years ago. We are so pleased that the Church is addressing these tough issues and offering support to loved ones of those who struggle. Keep up the great work! Brad Douglas, Windridge Ward, Kaysville Utah Haight Creek Stake

Sharing the Gospel in Prison

I was so touched to read the Comment letter printed in the August Ensign. I just wanted to give a different perspective. I am the daughter of one of those in prison. I know how much it means to my dad to have members visit and teach him. I also know how much it means to him to have my friends write to him and bear their testimonies. There are so many opportunities to share the gospel in the prison systems. I am grateful that his faith has not faltered, and I hope that members of the Church will be willing to take time to serve these people and their families—the wife who is left struggling, the children who need the priesthood in their lives. It is hard to have my dad taken away from me, but I know what a difference it makes to have people show genuine concern and the pure love of Christ toward me and my family. Name withheld

Articles an Enormous Help

I just want to thank all those who work on the Ensign for the enormous help the articles in the August issue have been to me personally and in my calling. Thank you for all you do. Bishop David Whitehouse, Banbury Ward, Northampton England Stake