News of the Church

By Nicole Seymour, Church Magazines

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First Presidency Christmas Message

At this glorious time of year, we bear witness of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He is indeed “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He is our Exemplar, our Teacher, and our Redeemer.

In this year commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith, we gratefully acknowledge the Prophet’s unparalleled role as the great testifier of the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. As he boldly declared:

“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

“For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—

“That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:22–24).

God be thanked for the gift of His Beloved Son. We add our testimonies that He lives and guides His people today. May His peace be with you and your loved ones this Christmas season and throughout the coming year.

[photo] Visitors to Temple Square will enjoy a blaze of holiday lights again this year. (Photograph by Craig Dimond.)

Christmas Devotional Scheduled

The First Presidency will hold their annual Christmas devotional in the Conference Center on Sunday, December 4, 2005. The devotional will include messages from the First Presidency and music by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Check with local leaders for broadcast availability.

Church Continues to Aid Hurricane Victims

Within just four weeks of each other in August and September 2005, deadly “sister storms” struck the Gulf Coast region of the United States. Hurricane Katrina, a category 4 hurricane that struck Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi on August 29, and Hurricane Rita, a category 3 hurricane that made landfall at the Texas/Louisiana border on September 24, together made for what some called the largest natural disaster in the history of the nation. More than 1,300 deaths, including two members of the Church, and over U.S. $200 billion in damages are blamed on Katrina alone.

Church Prepared to Assist

Before either hurricane struck, the Church was prepared with supplies in place and meetinghouses ready to act as shelters.

“We prepositioned supplies that we knew would be needed, we had a communications system that we knew would work, and priesthood leaders had put together lists of Church members and knew where most of them were evacuating to,” said Garry Flake, director of Humanitarian Emergency Response.

Brother Flake said the Church’s commitment to preparedness makes it a reliable resource in times of disaster. “Many organizations are working on identifying needs and looking for resources at the same time,” Brother Flake said. “We have the resources. We just need to identify the need and make sure those resources are used most effectively.”

The Church is widely recognized for its ability to help with disaster relief, Brother Flake said. “I can go to the government or other agencies and tell them whom I represent, and they know immediately who we are and that we’re there to respond,” he said.

Church Losses

The Gulfport Mississippi, Slidell Louisiana, and New Orleans Louisiana Stakes were hardest hit by the hurricanes. Two members were confirmed dead in the Waveland Ward of the Gulfport stake. All missionaries were evacuated early from areas affected by the hurricanes.

While some meetinghouses in Hurricane Katrina’s path sustained only minor wind and water damage, six Church buildings were significantly damaged: two in the Gulfport Mississippi Stake, three in the New Orleans Louisiana Stake, and one in the Slidell Louisiana Stake.

Brother Flake, who witnessed the damage from both storms, said that although Hurricane Rita’s destruction was less severe than Katrina’s, it was not insignificant. “They were sister storms in that there was a lot of damage—a lot of people displaced. There were businesses damaged. It’s going to take a long time to get people back.”

Volunteer Efforts

In the wake of both storms, the Church’s relief effort flowed steadily in the form of some 200 truckloads of food, hygiene kits, cleaning kits, school kits, medical supplies, and other relief supplies distributed to storm victims across the southeastern United States. Thousands of Church volunteers donated labor to assemble kits or assist with the cleanup. As Rita loomed, Church resources already in place during Katrina’s aftermath were simply expanded to cover Texas.

During and after the disasters, many Church meetinghouses served as shelters for evacuees in areas across the South. The Church also assisted other organizations, providing nearly 300,000 hygiene kits to the Red Cross and food to the Salvation Army’s kitchens.

In the aftermath of Katrina, a cleanup kit was introduced by Church Welfare Services for the first time. The kit consists of a five-gallon bucket containing bleach, dish soap, scrub brushes, gloves, dust masks, trash bags, a spray bottle, sponges, and rags. Members assembled the cleanup kits at bishops’ storehouses in Atlanta, Georgia, and Orlando, Florida. About 60,000 buckets had been given to Church members and numerous others by early October.

Church volunteer labor onsite was coordinated through stake presidents under the direction of Area Seventies and in conjunction with county emergency operations centers and other organizations. The crews of eight to ten people cleaned up debris and helped homeowners make their homes livable.

Some volunteers traveled from locations as far as Anchorage, Alaska, to assist with the cleanup effort. By mid-October, members had donated 35,000 man-days of volunteer hurricane relief work. “It has been one of the larger relief efforts that [the Church] has ever done,” said Elder John S. Anderson, an Area Seventy in the North America Southeast Area, who presided over Church relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina.

The volunteers’ efforts were greatly appreciated. “The community really responded positively once they learned who we were and what we had to offer,” said Elder Anderson.

He said seeing the Church’s multi-faceted response to the Gulf Coast hurricane disaster has touched him. “It is just marvelous to see the resources of the Church prepared and ready to assist anyone in need and the willingness of all the volunteers who gave and sacrificed so much to come and assist,” he said. “It was a great joy to be able to witness it. It has just been one of the highlights of my life.”

[photo] A sea of tents provides shelter for members providing relief to hurricane victims in the United States. (Photograph by John Hart, courtesy of Church News.)

Church Sends Relief in Wake of Earthquake, Hurricane

The Church continues to provide relief assistance and to assess member needs in areas harmed by natural disasters. A 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit the region bordering Pakistan, northern India, and Afghanistan on October 8, 2005, causing tens of thousands of fatalities. The category 1 hurricane, Hurricane Stan, which struck Mexico and Central America on October 6, caused significant destruction and sustained flooding.

Asian Earthquake

The 7.6-magnitude earthquake is estimated to have taken more than 50,000 lives, leaving 42,000 people injured and more than 3 million homeless. Substantial aftershocks and rain persist in the disaster areas, hampering relief efforts.

All missionaries in the affected areas were reported safe, and there are no reported member injuries or fatalities. Several member homes in Faisalabad, Pakistan, sustained minor damage. The meetinghouse in Taxila, Pakistan, near Islamabad, also received minor damage.

Asia Area Church representatives recently met with Pakistani officials in Hong Kong. The Church has also contacted Islamic Relief Worldwide, a Muslim humanitarian organization with which the Church has previously worked. Islamic Relief agreed to provide transportation for Church-donated goods such as blankets, clothing, and first aid and medical supplies.

Hurricane Stan

Tropical Storm Stan became Hurricane Stan, a category 1 hurricane, just as it made landfall on the southeast coast of Mexico, near Veracruz, on October 6, 2005. As it crossed Central America it caused torrential rain, flooding, and mudslides in Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador that killed at least two members of the Church and drove nearly 200 member families from their homes.

One member was killed in Guatemala, another in Mexico. All missionaries were reported safe. As this report was compiled, nearly 40 communities where members lived were still inaccessible due to flooding and mudslides.

The storm damaged 9 meetinghouses. About 27 other meetinghouses were used as shelters in Guatemala and El Salvador, housing more than 2,300 people.

While the Church continued to account for members and to assess their needs, 6,000 food boxes and a quantity of emergency funds were sent in the initial response.

Hundreds of people have been reported dead, most due to the more than 900 reported mudslides. The excessive flooding has damaged homes and property and wiped out bridges. More than 118 communities are isolated and inaccessible due to storm-related conditions.

[photo] Members in Guatemala load supplies to be distributed to victims of Hurricane Stan. (Photograph courtesy Central America Area.)

Church History Library Ground Is Broken

On Friday, October 7, the First Presidency and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, as well as members of the Quorums of the Seventy, missionaries, and others, gathered for the groundbreaking for the new Church History Library. The building will serve as a mark of the significance of maintaining a connection to past and future generations through record keeping in the Church.

Work will begin later this year on the 250,000 square-foot building, much of which will be underground. It will be built on a plot of land that is presently a parking lot, on the intersection of North Temple and Main Streets, northeast of Temple Square in Salt Lake City. The new building, just east of the Conference Center, will be similar in design to the Conference Center. The building’s architects and specialists from the Family and Church History Department have consulted with experts in record preservation to ensure that the interior temperature, humidity, and lighting best favor the preservation of Church records.

President Hinckley expressed gratitude that records had been so dutifully kept. “I wish to say with gratitude and appreciation that the custodians of the records of the Church through all of the years of its existence have been so conscientious and dutiful, helpful and devoted, in every respect to the duties that devolved upon them.”

In the prayer President Hinckley offered before the groundbreaking portion of the ceremony, he said, “As we look to the past and are reminded of the past, to that which has been preserved in history, our hearts are filled with gratitude and appreciation and love and respect for those that have gone before. Great was their work, tremendous their sacrifice. We thank thee for them.”

In his remarks about the Church History Library, President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, said, “We benefit from what our fathers did for us, and we have the privilege, through sacred records to be maintained here, to provide a legacy for those who follow.”

President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, said, “I believe that the principle benefit for the making and the keeping of records is to strengthen faith in those who make the history, and those who record the history, and those in the future who read of that history.”

Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy, who serves as Church Historian and Recorder, said the current location of the library, in the Church Office Building across the street from the new location, has outgrown its capacity. He noted that Church membership has increased from about 5 million when the Church Office Building was completed in the 1970s to over 12 million today.

[illustration] An artist’s rendering shows the exterior of the new Church History Library.

Measles Initiative Saving African Children

A study published in the Lancet, an international medical journal, in September 2005, credits high-quality measles immunization campaigns such as the Measles Initiative, in which the Church is participating, for having reduced measles cases by 91 percent in 19 African nations from 2000 to 2003. This prevented an estimated 90,000 deaths in 2003 alone.

“One of the clearest messages from this study is that with the right strategies, a strong partnership of committed organizations, and the investment of sufficient resources, you can rapidly reduce child deaths in Africa,” said Dr. Mac Otten, medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and lead author of the study. “A big reason for this success is the support from the Measles Initiative.”

The Measles Initiative is a five-year program created in 2001 by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The goal of these organizations was to control measles deaths in Africa by vaccinating 200 million children in 36 African countries by the year 2006, preventing an estimated 1.2 million deaths.

Having worked with the Church before on disaster relief, the Red Cross approached the Church to support the initiative in 2002. After Harold Brown, managing director of Church Welfare Services, observed the Measles Initiative at work in Zambia in June 2003, the Church pledged U.S. $3 million to the effort over the remaining three years of the initiative.

“We were analyzing our major initiatives and felt the Measles Initiative was a good fit and a way for us to make a real difference,” said Brother Brown. “There is really no way to convey what it is like to see the Measles Initiative at work. It’s a logistics miracle, the way they can vaccinate millions of children in only a few days.”

Measles-related deaths worldwide have plummeted 39 percent, from 873,000 in 1999 to an estimated 530,000 in 2003, according to the American Red Cross. The largest reduction occurred in Africa, the region of the world most affected by the disease; estimated measles deaths decreased by nearly half. Before the Measles Initiative, the disease killed nearly half a million children each year in Africa.

At the end of 2004, more than 150 million children in more than 30 countries had been vaccinated at a cost of less than $1 per child. In 2005, the initiative’s partners planned to vaccinate more than 45 million additional children, exceeding their original goals. (See accompanying article on Bonnie D. Parkin.)

“The Church has once again illustrated its significant commitment to ending suffering on a worldwide basis,” said Marsha J. Evans, American Red Cross President and CEO, upon receiving the Church’s pledge. “We cannot express our enormous gratitude.”

Sister Parkin Pitches In against Measles in Africa

Bonnie D. Parkin, Relief Society general president, believes that when President Gordon B. Hinckley approved the Church’s commitment to the Measles Initiative, he “didn’t foresee this as just a way to protect children against measles, but as a way to give members a chance to serve.”

In addition to pledging U.S. $3 million dollars to the project, the Church has offered its buildings as vaccination centers and its members as volunteers. In an interview with the Church magazines, Sister Parkin said many members from among the more than 3,000 living in 16 branches in Mozambique participated in the Measles Initiative mass vaccination campaign held in areas outside of Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, during September 2005.

“The members really became involved in the community,” said Sister Parkin. “This has helped bring the Church out of obscurity.”

Many of the young men and women and young single adults living in the campaign’s target areas went door to door, notifying people of the availability and the importance of the vaccinations. Relief Society sisters helped to manage the hundreds of children who came for the vaccinations.

“I saw women who are no different than I am,” Sister Parkin said. “They care about their children and their grandchildren. They came with children on their backs and one holding each hand. They walked the dusty road. I didn’t see any one of them drive up. They wanted their children to be well. It was because of the love mothers feel for their families and their children, who aren’t any different from my own grandchildren.”

On one day of the campaign, Sister Parkin was helping with crowd control, checking children for the ink mark indicating those who had received the vaccination. One young boy didn’t have the mark. Through her translator, Sister Parkin asked why he hadn’t received his shot. He said he was afraid. “Will you go if I go with you?” Sister Parkin asked. He agreed.

“It was a sweet experience,” Sister Parkin recalled after returning from the trip. “Maybe I’ve helped one child. It was life changing for me.”

More than nine million children were vaccinated during the vaccination campaign in Mozambique. The campaign was the second in which Sister Parkin has participated because of her role on the Church Welfare Committee. She also visited Ethiopia as part of the Measles Initiative in 2004.

Sister Parkin said part of her role was “to see that it really does come together the way it’s planned.”

Months of preparation precede a mass vaccination campaign. A full-time missionary couple, Elder Blair and Sister Cindy Packard, served a specialized four-month mission to lay groundwork for the September 2005 campaign in Mozambique. Part of their work was to publicize the event. They worked closely with Maria de Lourdes Mutola, an 800-meter gold medalist at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, who is from Mozambique.

Elder DeMoine and Sister Joyce Findlay served as the missionary couple to coordinate the vaccination campaign in Ivory Coast—originally scheduled for September 2004, but postponed until August 2005 because of civil unrest. More than 700 members participated in the Ivory Coast campaign, which vaccinated nearly eight million children. Members helped educate and mobilize the population; printed posters, flyers, and stickers; participated in crowd control; stamped immunization records; and in some cases helped administer the vaccine.

Materials and ideas have flowed freely between campaigns. Artwork created in Ivory Coast was used in Malawi and Tanzania. A radio spot developed in Madagascar was used in Ivory Coast.

“I feel blessed to be a member of the Church, which cares not just for its own members but for everyone,” Sister Parkin said. “It’s truly amazing. I’m grateful that I can tell my grandchildren what kind of church we belong to.”

[photo] Bonnie D. Parkin, Relief Society General President, participates in a measles vaccination campaign in Mozambique. (Photograph by Dale L. Jones.)

[photo] Children in Mozambique await their turn to be vaccinated against measles as part of the Measles Initiative. (Photograph by Dale L. Jones.)

Children in Ghana and Fiji Receive Children’s Books

The Church’s Humanitarian Field Services in partnership with Deseret Book recently donated 6,500 books to children in Ghana and Fiji. The shipment was the first for the partnership that began in September 2004. Through the program, called Chapters of Hope, Deseret Book raises money from its patrons to purchase selected books for children ages 6 to 18. Humanitarian Field Services shipped the books to Ghana and Fiji with other humanitarian aid supplies already planned for those areas. The books will eventually end up in schools, orphanages, and libraries.

The books sent to Ghana include early readers, dictionaries, single-volume encyclopedias, illustrated fact books, and values-based novels. While the books chosen are not religious books, copies of President Gordon B. Hinckley’s book Way to Be were included with this recent shipment. So far more than 15,000 books have been purchased through the program.

The Church’s area welfare managers request the books for specific needs in their area. Senior missionary couples in receiving countries then help distribute the books.

New Temple Presidents Prepare for Assignments

Thirty-five new temple presidents and their wives attended the annual temple president training in Salt Lake City on October 18 in preparation for their new assignments. The following presidents and matrons have been assigned.

Adelaide Australia

Charles and Anne L. Parsons

Apia Samoa

Suau‘upaia and Talaloa M. Pe‘a

Asunción Paraguay

Richard R. and Jeannine George

Baton Rouge Louisiana

V. Kenneth and Betty G. Dutile

Bern Switzerland

Wayne M. and Connie A. Hancock

Billings Montana

Robert M. and Estella W. Wilkes

Bismarck North Dakota

Robert L. and Bonnie B. Holyoak

Bogotá Colombia

Lawrence T., Jr. and Eileen M. Dahl

Boise Idaho

Harold G. and Carol R. Hillam

Buenos Aires Argentina

Ángel J. and Edith Leonor Sulé

Campinas Brazil

Adhemar and Walkyria B. Damiani

Columbia South Carolina

Alvie R. and Ruth G. Evans

Freiberg Germany

Manfred H. and Helga D. Schütze

Guayaquil Ecuador

Robert B. and Marian F. Marriott

Idaho Falls Idaho

John H. and Jean S. Groberg

Jordan River Utah

Robert L. and Janet W. Backman

Kona Hawaii

Earl E. and Audrey L. Veloria

Logan Utah

Dennis E. and Carolyn T. Simmons

Madrid Spain

F. Burton and Caroline H. Howard

Mexico City Mexico

Ned B. and Jo Ann S. Roueché

Mount Timpanogos Utah

Lawrence S. and Carole W. Clark

Newport Beach California

Stephen B. and Dixie Oveson

Oakland California

Darwin B. and Sandra L. Christenson

Ogden Utah

Gordon T. and Connie W. Watts

Oklahoma City Oklahoma

H. Aldridge and Virginia L. Gillespie

Salt Lake

M. Richard and Kathleen H. Walker

San Antonio Texas

A. Ray and Sonya S. Otte

San Diego California

David E. and Verla A. Sorensen

Snowflake Arizona

Larry B. and LaDawn Brewer

Suva Fiji

Richard W. and Helen B. Wells

Sydney Australia

Frank H. and Maxine J. Hewstone

The Hague Netherlands

Marcus and Cornelia J. Reijnders

Toronto Ontario

Harold F. and Maureen G. Walker

Vernal Utah

Norman G. and Lou Ann M. Angus

Washington D.C.

F. Melvin and Bonnie S. Hammond

DVD Given in the Spirit of Sharing the Gospel

This issue of the Ensign includes a 76-minute DVD containing Mr. Krueger’s Christmas, The Restoration, The Nativity, and carols by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. This year marks the 25th anniversary of Mr. Krueger’s Christmas, featuring Jimmy Stewart and the Tabernacle Choir.

This Christmas classic, seen on television worldwide, has been digitally remastered and remixed in surround sound. The DVD is intended as a means for members to share the restored gospel and the spirit of Christmas with their neighbors. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and chairman of the Missionary Executive Council said: “We hope that Ensign subscribers will take the opportunity to share this Christmas DVD with those who are not of our faith. It is an ideal way to help them understand our love for the Savior and the message of His restored gospel during this holiday season.” Additional copies of the DVD can be obtained through local distribution centers.


Thanks for Pertinent Articles

I want to sincerely thank you for the July 2005 issue of the Ensign. At that time, I was in the process of finalizing a divorce. Although I often find an article or quote here or there that pertains to my current needs, I was absolutely stunned at how many of the articles in that particular month seemed directed toward me personally! I consider this blessing to be one of the Lord’s “tender mercies.” I know I am not alone in my efforts to heal from a divorce and in my journey of single parenthood. I also know that the Lord loves all of us and we are all welcome in His Church. And so I want to thank you for including articles that are very pertinent and helpful for those of us who are not in an ideal family situation. Name Withheld, Mesa, Arizona

Understanding Mental Illness

Thank you for the article in the October 2005 Ensign about understanding mental illness. Last year we had a child diagnosed with a mental disorder. Initially, we knew nothing about the condition but learned that it is genetic and that, while it could be managed, our child would deal with it for life. As we came to terms with this reality, we grieved for our child. We wanted to share our feelings and educate others. But we were afraid our child would be labeled or judged, so we have told very few people. We hope this article will help dispel the stigma so people with mental disorders, their families, and those around them can communicate more openly and support each other better. Name Withheld

I Noticed the Change

I want to thank you for your recent article on missionary couples. As I read it, I remembered the mission my husband and I served. I returned a different person from the person I was when we left to serve in the Alabama Birmingham Mission. I quickly learned to love the people we served, and they had bushels of love for us. I don’t know if anyone else noticed the change in me, but it doesn’t matter because I knew. Uneva Workman, Sequim, Washington