News of the Church

By Nicole Seymour, Church Magazines

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First Presidency Announces New Guidelines for Enrichment Meetings and Activities

Beginning January 1, 2006, new guidelines from the First Presidency take effect for Relief Society home, family, and personal enrichment meetings. The guidelines indicate that enrichment meetings take place quarterly and that enrichment activities should be scheduled according to the needs or interests of the sisters. The changes are intended to provide greater flexibility for individual units and also to place a greater emphasis on the home and family.

“The purposes of home, family, and personal enrichment are to strengthen faith in Jesus Christ and to teach parenting and homemaking skills,” said the First Presidency statement outlining the guidelines. “Enrichment is a time for sisters to socialize, learn, and be uplifted.”

The First Presidency lists three parameters to consider when planning any enrichment gathering: know the needs and interests of Relief Society members, consult with priesthood leaders, and be prayerful and purposeful in planning activities. Also, all sisters ought to feel appropriately included and welcome.

Home, Family, and Personal Enrichment Meetings

Home, family, and personal enrichment meetings are for all sisters to meet together. The statement from the First Presidency directed that each ward or branch Relief Society presidency should carry out four enrichment meetings per year. Enrichment meetings are to take place during the week, at times other than on Sunday or on Monday evening. One of the four meetings ought to center on the commemoration of the March 17, 1842, organization of the Relief Society. The stake or district Relief Society presidency is responsible for one to two additional meetings per year. One of these meetings should be in conjunction with the annual broadcast of the general Relief Society meeting.

Home, Family, and Personal Enrichment Activities

Home, family, and personal enrichment activities are for sisters with similar situations, needs, or interests. Enrichment activities are less structured than enrichment meetings and serve as a means of friendshipping and support. “The activities should offer a safe, relaxed, and engaging environment where sisters learn and share ways to strengthen homes, families, and individuals,” the First Presidency directed. Relief Society leaders are encouraged to keep the activities flexible in order to help the sisters meet their home, family, and other obligations. More information regarding home, family and personal enrichment meetings and activities is available in the Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2: Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders (1998), pages 204–5.

[photo] Guideline changes for enrichment meetings and activities take effect this month. (Photograph by Matthew Reier.)

New Joseph Smith Film Portrays Prophet as Exemplar

First Presidency input, historically accurate script and sets, vivid cinematography, and a spiritually minded cast and crew all played a role in the creation of the new feature film on the Prophet Joseph Smith now playing at the Legacy Theater at Temple Square. The new film, which succeeds The Testaments of One Fold and One Shepherd and Legacy, also began showing at some visitors’ centers at Church historical and temple sites in December.

Under the direction of the First Presidency, Joseph Smith The Prophet of the Restoration was released December 17, 2005, in time for the 200th anniversary of the Prophet’s birthday.

A Prophet’s Life

The 65-minute film depicts events from Joseph Smith’s life, beginning with his youth in Vermont and ending with his Martyrdom in Illinois at age 38. It helps members and others to become acquainted with Joseph Smith as a man of character, said Ron Munns, the film’s producer.

Elder Ronald T. Halverson of the Quorum of the Seventy, an assistant executive director in the Audiovisual Department, said the film’s portrayal of the Prophet Joseph’s character, difficulties, and accomplishments will encourage viewers to learn “more in-depth of the Prophet so that their testimony is not shallow, but very solid.” He feels that everyone who views the film will be affected. “There is a spiritual impact to the film. You can’t know of the Prophet Joseph and not be changed.”

“We’re trying to really give a feeling for the Prophet Joseph Smith in perhaps a different way than he’s been viewed in the past—not only his prophetic persona, but his personal life and the trials he had to endure,” said Lyle Shamo, managing director of the Audiovisual Department

There are several life lessons that can be learned from Joseph Smith’s example, Brother Munns said. For instance, the way Joseph handled adversity and the way he fulfilled his life’s mission are applicable for all lives and circumstances.

“Joseph was totally dedicated, and he didn’t always get a fair shake with things,” Brother Munns said. “In his life came a lot of adversity, right from the beginning. And yet Joseph was not deterred in his quest for truth and for his desire to do what Heavenly Father wanted him to do.”

Playing the Prophet

After an extensive nationwide search for a temple-worthy member to represent the Prophet, Nathan Mitchell, who previously played the adult Joseph in the recent Church film The Restoration, was again chosen to play the role of the Prophet. Two other actors played the role of Joseph at age seven and as a teenager.

After receiving the role, Brother Mitchell was struck by a line from the hymn “Praise to the Man” (Hymns, no. 27): “Millions shall know ‘Brother Joseph’ again.”

“I realized that if this film is to be one of the means by which millions come to know the Prophet, then first I had to know him,” Brother Mitchell said.

He began extensive research of Joseph Smith’s character by reading books and Joseph’s journals and papers and by speaking with Church history professors and others.

“My feelings about the Prophet Joseph are so special to me that I wanted to do him justice,” he said. “I just hope that the audience can have some of those same realizations and that they can start to understand Joseph. Then they will begin to understand his love of the Savior, and they will really feel his testimony.”

Making the Movie

The Lord was mindful of the production of this film, Brother Munns said, citing instances when snow seemed to come on cue or when rain may not have been planned for a particular scene but made it better.

Throughout the filming process, the Spirit was present, said Brother Munns. He said it was often obvious that the Lord enhanced the talents of the cast and crew.

Brother Munns said the consecrated efforts of hundreds went into the production. The movie’s director, Gary Cook, was also the principal screenwriter. T. C. Christensen was the codirector and director of photography. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Orchestra at Temple Square, and Church composers Merrill Jenson and Arlen Card also combined their talents in a powerful way for the film’s soundtrack, Brother Munns said.

The movie was filmed at the LDS Motion Picture Studio in Provo, Utah; on location at Church history sites in New York and in Nauvoo, Illinois; in a historical village in Canada; and along the Mississippi River in Michigan.

Initially, the film will be offered in five languages in addition to English.

Admission to the movie is free, but advance reservations will be required. Online reservations will be accepted at Telephone reservation requests will be taken at 1-866-LDS-TIKS (1-866-537-8457, toll-free in the U.S.) or at 570-0080 (local calls in the greater Salt Lake City area).

[photo] Nathan Mitchell portrays Joseph Smith in the recently released movie about the Prophet. (Photograph by John Luke.)

Atmit to the Rescue

When the Church received a request from Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in August 2005 to help send aid to Niger, an African nation facing major food shortages because of crop-devastating locust attacks and severe drought, the Church responded immediately with its largest ever air shipment of Atmit. The Church provided 80,000 pounds (36 tonnes) of the specialized porridge made for those suffering from severe malnourishment. Since then, subsequent shipments have been made and will continue according to need.

In Ethiopian, atmit means “thin, nourishing porridge.” The Church began using Atmit as a life-saving food supplement during the Ethiopian famine of 2003. It is an easily assimilated food made especially for children and the elderly—and it has saved tens of thousands of lives. It contains 50 percent fine oatmeal flour, 25 percent nonfat milk, 20 percent sugar, and 5 percent vitamins and minerals. After Church representatives received the formula in Ethiopia, they took it to nutritionists at Brigham Young University to optimize the nutritional value. The Church began manufacturing Atmit in 2003 and since then has produced almost 1,500 tons (1350 tonnes) at the Church’s Welfare Services dairy processing facility in Salt Lake City.

During that time, Atmit has been distributed to Uganda, Sudan, South Africa, Haiti, Gaza, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka.

Children are particularly susceptible to malnourishment, as their young bodies have not yet been able to store a reserve of nutrients. For that reason, Atmit is given specifically to children age five and younger.

Mothers bring children in to be measured and weighed to determine whether they are malnourished enough to benefit from the product. The mother is taught how to prepare the porridge and how to administer it periodically throughout the day. After a week, the child is brought in again and assessed.

“We find that within three to four weeks some children really respond,” said the director of Humanitarian Emergency Response for the Church, Garry Flake, who visited hard-hit areas of Niger in late August 2005. “For others it takes longer. Our goal is to feed them just long enough with this supplement that they can then get back to the type of food the rest of the family is eating.”

As part of a scheduled trip to Africa, Brother Flake made a stop in Niger to witness the distribution of the Atmit. “It was a very sobering experience to see malnourished children, but an uplifting feeling to realize the Church is there so quickly with such an effective product that has now been proven to make a difference for so many children,” he said.

Brother Flake said: “This intervention with the Atmit nutritional supplement has to be one of the finest humanitarian interventions that we do in the world. I think it is really what the Savior would have done—to help these children who are so malnourished to live a happy, normal life.”

[photo] Atmit is a nutritional supplement produced by the Church to save the lives of the severely malnourished.

New DVD Reaches Out to Members in the Military

A new DVD, Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled: A Message of Peace for Latter-day Saints in Military Service, has recently been released for members of the Church serving in their countries’ armed forces. The DVD addresses the spiritual and emotional difficulties that confront military personnel, including the difficult separation from family, the challenging atmosphere of military life, and the emotional burden that accompanies combat.

The DVD, released in September 2005 and distributed to priesthood leaders and chaplains in English-speaking areas, contains remarks by President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. It also includes messages given during a fireside for members of the military by Elder Robert C. Oaks of the Presidency of the Seventy and Elder Lance B. Wickman of the Seventy. Both men drew on their own military experiences.

“We are all indebted to those of you who serve,” President Hinckley said on the DVD. “You have taken upon yourselves an obligation that frequently requires great sacrifice. Whether you serve in combat or in a support role, your life is not your own. You have given your allegiance to the nation of which you are citizens. We commend you for your willingness to do so.”

Elder Oaks quoted President Hinckley, who remarked about some individuals’ quest for peace but also their obligation to fight for their governments. “I believe that God will not hold men and women in uniform responsible as agents of their government in carrying forward that which they are legally obligated to do,” President Hinckley said.

Elder Oaks warned: “Never become too comfortable in this role of warrior, even though the war must indeed be fought. War has a frightening ability to numb our Christian sensitivities.”

The messages on the DVD help to assure servicemen and women that the gospel will bring them the peace sufficient for them to handle their burdens.

Elder Wickman said the Book of Mormon is a source of perspective and spiritual strength and pointed out how in the Book of Mormon some of the most righteous, noble figures are soldiers who serve as role models for the latter days.

He pointed out that with a righteous foundation, the honorable warriors in the Book of Mormon had enhanced strength and insight. “[The Book of Mormon] tells us that service on the battlefield in time of war does not by itself remove one from the ranks of the righteous,” Elder Wickman said. “Mormon and Moroni saw and participated in a carnage so widespread and terrible that the experiences you and I have had pale in comparison. … They were soldiers because they had to be, because their people needed them, because it was the right thing to do. Is not that also the case with you, my beloved friends?”

Elder Wickman advised those who are in the armed forces not to get caught up in the politics of war. “Do not despair because there are some who question the rightness of the cause in which you are enlisted to fight and for which you may sacrifice so much,” he said. “The Lord will find a way eventually to turn the course of political events to his purposes.”

Although young men and women involved in military service are in a challenging position, President Hinckley said they are also in a position of influence and honor. “Your effort to live the gospel can do wonders,” he said. “You can influence others to change their ways and improve their lives, and you will be blessed in the process.”

The speakers encouraged members to stay worthy and keep the Spirit by clinging to their scriptures, by attending church services regularly, by praying frequently, and by attending the temple whenever possible.

“Even in seasons of conflict, the gospel is a message of peace and love,” President Hinckley said. “It is a comfort and a strength, even in circumstances where man’s inhumanity to man is plainly evident.”

“[War] is dreadful,” Frank Clawson, director of Military Relations for the Church, told the Church magazines while explaining the reasons for creating the DVD. “Anyone who has a sensitive heart and knowledge of God and Christ wants to know how war and their participation in it affects their status with God.”

Brother Clawson said he thinks the DVD brings a great deal of comfort for those involved with the armed forces. “I think that often our emotional and spiritual sensitivities are harmed during war, and I think this video will help [those so affected] to reconnect with God.”

Cultural Arts and Music Submissions Deadlines Approaching

The deadline for members of the Church to submit uplifting musical and theatrical works is only a few months away. Music submissions are due on March 31, 2006, and cultural arts submissions are due on April 1, 2006.

According to the Music and Cultural Arts Division of the Priesthood Department, the purpose of the submission program is threefold: to encourage members to develop their talents, to recognize the ability of members to seek and create music and scripts that are wholesome and uplifting, and to encourage members to express themselves in a manner that conveys their gratitude for and testimonies of the gospel.

Music Submissions

The submission system provides a way for musical works to be evaluated regularly. Each year, about 50 musical works are recognized through this evaluation process. Of those, some are recognized on the Church music Web site, and others are sent on to the Church magazines for possible publication. Each author retains the copyright to the musical piece and is sent a letter regarding the status of his or her work.

Selected musical works are presented during one of two events. The Relief Society entries are presented in the Relief Society Music Festival, held in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square each October. All remaining selected entries are presented in the Church Music Festival each February.

Music submission guidelines can be found by visiting and clicking on “Share your musical talents.”

Cultural Arts Submissions

In November 2005 the Cultural Arts Submission Presentation took place for the first time at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square. A cast of actors representing members of any ward or branch showcased excerpts from selected scripts. The presentation will continue as an annual event. Some scripts may be selected for distribution through the Church’s distribution centers.

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

Submissions should include:

  1. 1.

    Two copies of the script 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, script, 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 E. North Temple St. Rm. 2082, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84150-6070, USA. For more information, call 1-801-240-6492.

[photo] Actors representing members of a typical ward perform one of several theatrical works presented at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square. (Photograph by Christina Smith.)

Church Offers Temple Information Online

Along with the worldwide boom in temple construction that the Church has seen in the last decade, a surge has also occurred in the use of technology. The growth of temples and technology together has allowed the Church to fill a need through the creation of a section of the Church’s Web site devoted to temples.

By visiting or clicking on the “Temples” link on, visitors may access resources that explain the importance of temples, list schedules for each temple, and give locations and directions.

The “Temples” link was created in the beginning of 2002 to better fulfill three purposes. First, the Web site allows Church members to access an official source of temple information. Second, the site emphasizes the importance of temples within the Church as well as in the lives of its members. Third, it assists in encouraging temple ordinance participation by providing information that is easy to access.

The site can be useful for people who want to learn more about temples or simply check the schedule of a temple they want to visit.

In addition to allowing visitors to find general information about the temples, the site offers users an opportunity to read brief background information on each temple, view photos of completed temples, and even review the progress made on temples under construction by seeing photos throughout the construction process.

Visitors to the site may view a chronological list of all completed temples along with dates when the temples were dedicated. A world map allows users to click on an area of the world to see which temples have been announced or completed.

In addition to English, the site is available in Spanish, German, and Portuguese. The site is updated when new information is announced or becomes available. A feedback link is also available to visitors.

In addition to addressing the needs of members, the site also caters to members of other faiths who may have questions about the temple. The Frequently Asked Questions page answers questions concerning the functions of temples, what temples are like inside, the differences between temples and meetinghouses, and other questions that may be helpful to members of other faiths.

[photo] The temple Web site has information in four languages on each temple’s history and schedule.

Digitizing Church History

While Church historians, archivists, and librarians plan for a new Church History Library in Salt Lake City, they also face another task—transitioning into a digital age in which information from libraries and archives is stored and accessed without physical walls.

In 1995, as users began to use the Internet more widely, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described the future of storing information online: “This is an age of digital information. Our computers have become windows through which we can gaze upon a world that is virtually without horizons or boundaries. Literally at the click of a button, we can browse through the digitized libraries of universities, museums, government agencies, and research institutions located throughout the world” (“Windows of Light and Truth,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 75).

The Church has already begun to use the Internet to increase access to its library, museum, and archives for people all over the world. Information previously available only in Salt Lake City can now be found online through interpreted and database Web sites.

Interpreted Sites

While many historians and archivists digitize millions of pages of documents, the Church’s digitizing efforts are more targeted. Steven Olsen, associate managing director of Church history in the Family and Church History Department, said the Church digitizes documents and information to be packaged around a theme and posted online in what are called interpreted sites.

Brother Olsen said interpreted sites help members find useful information by the way the sites are organized. “For someone who is not versed in historical research, an interpreted site helps him or her get information much quicker,” he explains.

Two recent examples of interpreted sites are, a new Web site about Joseph Smith, and “Rembrandt: The Biblical Etchings,” an online exhibit from the Museum of Church History and Art.

Brother Olsen said joseph includes the most reliable information about the Prophet’s life and ministry. Visitors can view information by theme or go to the resource center to find a specific fact, quotation, painting, photograph, or virtual tour listed under one of 26 topics.

The site was launched in mid-July 2005 with more than 10,000 visitors viewing its pages on the first day. The site currently averages almost 2,500 visitors per day.

“Rembrandt: The Biblical Etchings” is the 10th online exhibit created by the Museum of Church History and Art. Robert Davis, senior museum curator, said online exhibits increase the number of visitors who can view the museum’s collections beyond the almost 400,000 museum visitors in Salt Lake City each year. He said online exhibits are of most benefit to members living outside the United States, who may never have the opportunity to visit.

“The farther away you get from Utah, the harder it is to come to the museum,” said Brother Davis. “But you can see what the Church is about through these sites.”

Database Sites

Interpreted sites are only the beginning of attempts to use the Internet to increase access, Brother Olsen said. The Church also uses database sites to display historical records online.

An online index from the Church History Library shows the differences between a database site and interpreted site.

The Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847–1868 Index contains the names of individuals and companies that crossed the plains between 1847 and 1868. Unlike an interpreted site, the index displays a catalog of information. The index includes a search engine and displays information contained within the collection. Unlike an interpreted site, an index is not typically designed to preselect information around a theme.

Online database sites are tools that can be used for a variety of reasons, including research and family history. is a database Web site that includes a search engine for census, vital records, and international genealogical indexes.

Preserving History

Interpreted sites and database sites help librarians and historians increase access for patrons. They also help archivists preserve original documents. When these documents are digitized and made available online, they are handled less frequently, extending the life of the original document.

Creating digital documents isn’t without challenges. Every 10 years, advancing technology dictates that digitized documents be moved to a more current electronic medium. However, archivists and librarians agree that increasing access to members throughout the world is worth the trade-off.

“Clearly we recognize that the Church’s library, archives, and museum have extraordinary resources that can bless the lives of members and others around the world,” said Brother Olsen. “We recognize the Internet is going to be the means to accomplish wider access for members.”

Hispanic Saints Gather at Family History Conference

Close to 200 Hispanic Latter-day Saints gathered at the Church’s Family History Library on October 15, 2005, for the eighth annual Hispanic Family History Conference.

The conference, cohosted by the BYU Center for Family History and Genealogy and Legado Latino, is held each year to help Hispanic members learn what resources the Church has made available to them and help them conquer any fears that keep them from doing their family history.

“The Church has put a lot of effort into providing family history resources,” said Carlos Alvarez, president of Legado Latino. “But many people don’t know anything about what’s available to them at the library, Family History Centers, or on the Internet. We try to be a bridge to show them what’s available.”

Brother Alvarez said it is important for members to understand that they don’t have to live in Salt Lake City to have access to Church family history resources.

“Family History Centers are critical to the Church’s family history program. If I can get to a Family History Center, I’ll find missionaries or members trained to be consultants, printers, and film readers. They help with the equipment, Internet access, and the Church’s FamilySearch™ and TempleReady programs, and they have the ability to request microfilm from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City that I can keep for up to three months.”

Members who attended the conference could find classes on how to prepare names for TempleReady, how to use a census, how to use Personal Ancestral File, what is available on the Internet, how to interest youth in family history, how to use civil records, and how to breathe life into family histories.

The Family History Library maintains the world’s largest repository of genealogical resources with vital records from more than 110 countries. There are more than 4,000 branches of the library, called Family History Centers, in more than 70 countries.

“I really believe that by knowing where we came from, we gain a sense of who we are. And that means something,” said Brother Alvarez.

[photo] José Sanchez teaches Hispanic members how to prepare names using TempleReady. (Photograph by Adam C. Olson.)


Only the Lord Knows

The article “Not Enough for Tithing” in the October 2005 Ensign touched my heart and caused me to remember an experience I had several years ago when I served as bishop in our ward. A family came in to see me. They placed on my desk a sheet of paper showing their total income and their total expenses. These totaled themselves out. But their list of expenses did not include tithing. So I challenged them to pay tithing.

Much later they returned to my office. There had not been an increase in their income. Their total bills were still the same. Added to their list, however, was tithing. To this day, neither they nor I can tell how they managed it. Only the Lord knows. George H. London, California

False Beliefs about Mental Illness

Thank you so much for your article “Myths about Mental Illness” by Elder Alexander B. Morrison in the October issue. As one who has experienced bouts of depression over the years, I am grateful for this clear explanation of false beliefs about mental illness among members of the Church and the offering of helpful, correct information. Some of my family members have harbored similarly incomplete understandings, which have created complications during my times of distress. I appreciate that this difficult topic was addressed in such a compassionate manner. Name Withheld

Sticking with the New Era

I was reading through the Ensign one day when I came across “A Look at the New Era” (October 2005). It was of the story of a girl who wanted to buy a teen magazine that all the girls in school were reading, but she decided not to because she realized that her joy and happiness came from the New Era. Earlier that week my sister and I had thought about buying a teen magazine because we thought it would be fun to see all the stars and the styles, but as I read the article I knew this was my answer. I shouldn’t buy the magazine and waste my money. Instead, I should read the New Era more often and be filled with its joy and happiness. I would like to thank the girl who sent you her story and tell her that she made a big impact on my life. Thank you so much. I always look forward to getting the Ensign and the New Era every month. Sami S., Arizona

Teaching with the Spirit

Thank you for the September 2005 article “Teaching the Gospel with Power.” The principles of teaching with the Spirit outlined by Brother Roylance were explained so beautifully, and as I have enjoyed being a teacher in various Church positions over the years, I identified with many of them. On a personal note, I had the privilege to attend several classes taught by Brother Roylance at the San Diego State College Institute, and they changed my life. It was wonderful to have those familiar feelings again as I read this article. Bonnie Northcutt, Utah