News of the Church

By Brittany Karford, Church Magazines

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Jeffrey R. Holland Dedicates Laos

On February 23, 2006, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicated the Lao People’s Democratic Republic for the work of the gospel.

A small group of local Latter-day Saints, humanitarian missionaries, and visiting Church leaders were in attendance as Elder Holland invoked God’s blessings upon the people of Laos. He prayed that the government, its leaders, the Laotian people, and the entire land would be blessed with peace.

Elder Holland was accompanied on his visit to Laos and other Asian nations by Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Seventy, First Counselor in the Asia Area Presidency; and President Scott F. Hansen of the Thailand Bangkok Mission.

The Vientiane Laos Branch of the Thailand Bangkok Mission was formed in June 2003. President Khampee Keosouphom and his two counselors in the branch presidency represent an emerging group of local leaders in Laos.

Two Church members present at the dedication have received mission calls to the Thailand Bangkok Mission. Elder Tiengsack Inthavong and Sister Lackhana Keosouphom, the Vientiane branch president’s daughter, will be the first two missionaries to leave from Laos to serve missions.

“This dedication will be a blessing to our country and to the Church here,” said President Keosouphom. “It is the first time an Apostle of the Lord has been on Laotian soil.”

Elder Lawrence Martin, a humanitarian missionary, said, “It was touching to hear Elder Holland bless the fields and crops, the very earth here, as well as blessing the government and the people.”

Sister Gaile Clark, a humanitarian missionary, agreed. “It was marvelous and moving, so filled with hope, optimism, and promise for the future,” she said.

Laos is located in Southeast Asia, northeast of Thailand and west of Vietnam. It is slightly larger than Utah, with just more than six million residents. The landlocked country is mostly mountainous and thickly forested. The Mekong River forms a large part of its western border with Thailand.

[photo] Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Patricia, center, visit with members in Laos.

New Mission Presidents Receive Assignments

Accepting assignments from the First Presidency, 108 new mission presidents will begin service on or around July 1, 2006.

The new presidents and their wives are humbled by the calls to serve in this capacity, each in an individual way.

For John Douglas Whisenant, serving in Brazil is going “home.” The president of the Brazil Porto Alegre North Mission served in this same mission as a young missionary.

“I was here when the first stake was organized in São Paulo in 1966,” he said. “When we talk about the growth of the Church in a short time, I think of those days and look at the Church in Brazil today. There are now 26 missions and about 200 stakes—incredible.”

David B. Iwaasa is also returning home—to his heritage. Both he and his wife, Jane Kadonaga, are third-generation Japanese Canadians and are heading the Japan Fukuoka Mission.

“Jane and I have a deep love for the Japanese people and want to share the joy of the gospel with them,” Brother Iwaasa said. He feels, just as in 1 Nephi 3:7, that the Lord has prepared a way for them to accomplish this calling, as he has been privileged to serve in Canada as a bishop of a Japanese-speaking ward and in a stake presidency of a Japanese stake. Sister Iwaasa has also served in a Japanese-speaking ward and stake.

“As a consequence, I feel that we can understand many of the challenges facing those who become members of the Church in Japan,” Brother Iwaasa said.

Peter Leonard Joyce expressed his feelings over different challenges as he prepares to preside over the Utah Ogden Mission: “I don’t know of many areas in the Church with 144 stakes and about 1,500 wards and branches,” he said. Yet adapting to this mission environment is a challenge he looks forward to. The location is special to his wife, Sheena, since the missionary who taught her the gospel 42 years ago resides within the mission. “It’s not a small world,” she said. “It’s a big Church.”

The missions and their respective new presidents are:

Argentina Bahía Blanca

Raúl H. Spitale

Argentina Neuquén

Carl L. Cook

Australia Adelaide

Robert E. Quinn

Australia Sydney South

Brent W. McMaster

Belgium Brussels/Netherlands

Paul R. Woodland

Brazil Belém

Roger D. Hoggan

Brazil Belo Horizonte East

P. Randy Johnson

Brazil Belo Horizonte

Daniel K. Frei

Brazil Porto Alegre North

J. Douglas Whisenant

Brazil Porto Alegre South

Ren S. Johnson

Brazil Salvador South

Getúlio W. J. Silva

Brazil São Paulo East

Craig D. Wilkins

Bulgaria Sofia

Blair S. Bennett

California Oakland

James C. Beck

California San Fernando

Robert L. Goodrich

California San Francisco

W. James Keller

California Santa Rosa

Charles C. Stoddard

Cambodia Phnom Penh

Robert W. Winegar

Canada Calgary

Gene F. Priday

Canada Halifax

S. Gardner Jacobsen

Canada Winnipeg

Judd D. Morgan

Cape Verde Praia

Ronald C. Tolman

Chile Concepción South

Jorge F. Zeballos

Chile Santiago East

Sofocles E. Morán

Chile Viña del Mar

Gerardo J. Wilhelm

China Hong Kong

Lee H. Van Dam

Colombia Bogotá North

Hernando Camargo

Colombia Bogotá South

Rene Arturo Martinez

Costa Rica San José

Luis Ricardo Arbizú

Dominican Republic Santiago

Richard W. Thomas

England Birmingham

Richard W. Moffat

England London South

Jeffrey C. Swinton

England London

Clayton F. Foulger

Florida Tampa

Clark A. Davis

Georgia Atlanta

H. Warren Mathusek

Germany Berlin

K. Günter Borcherding

Greece Athens

John Galanos

Haiti Port-Au-Prince

Fouchard Pierre-Nau

Honduras Comayaguela

Sergio A. Gómez

Hungary Budapest

G. Walter Gasser

Idaho Pocatello

K. Brent Somers

Illinois Chicago North

William H. Stoddard

Jamaica Kingston

David W. Gingery

Japan Fukuoka

David B. Iwaasa

Japan Tokyo North

Allen F. Hill

Korea Seoul

Man Goo Cho

Madagascar Antananarivo

Ricardo V. Gaya

Maryland Baltimore

T. Dean Moody

Massachusetts Boston

Edward C. England

Mexico Cuernavaca

Wayne L. Gardner

Mexico Guadalajara South

Ross J. Davidson

Mexico Hermosillo

Omar Villalobos

Mexico Mexico City South

Gary B. Doxey

Mexico Monterrey West

Ernesto R. Toris

Mexico Tampico

Brian H. Moss

Micronesia Guam

Gary L. Marshall

Mississippi Jackson

Parker J. Fuhriman

Montana Billings

Craig G. Fisher

Mozambique Maputo

Blair J. Packard

Nebraska Omaha

Jan E. Newman

Nevada Las Vegas West

Douglas M. Andrus Jr.

New York New York North

Richard M. Searle

New York New York South

Steven D. Bennion

New York Utica

Jay W. Eckersley

Nigeria Enugu

W. Blair Garff

Nigeria Ibadan

Steven G. Dyreng

Nigeria Lagos

Chad L. Evans

Nigeria Uyo

J. Wayne Brockbank

North Carolina Charlotte

Brad R. Hobbs

North Carolina Raleigh

W. Budge Wallis

Norway Oslo

Lynn J. Poulsen

Ohio Cleveland

Kenneth V. Peterson

Oklahoma Tulsa

Kent M. Seal

Papua New Guinea Port Moresby

Tevita Funaki

Paraguay Asunción

Matthew G. Bradley

Pennsylvania Harrisburg

Donald E. Pugh

Peru Lima Central

Jeffrey C. Elmer

Peru Lima South

Francisco W. Fierro

Peru Piura

Carlos A. Solís

Philippines Bacolod

Dany T. Daquioag

Philippines Baguio

Eleazer S. Collado

Philippines Laoag

Mark L. Lewis

Portugal Lisbon

Craig B. Terry

Portugal Porto

James F. Henry

Russia Moscow South

Philip L. Collins

Russia Rostov-na-Donu

Michael A. Harrison

Scotland Edinburgh

Lynn L. Summerhays


Bryan Skelton

South Dakota Rapid City

Joseph S. Cannon

Spain Barcelona

W. Christopher Waddell

Spain Bilbao

Kenneth L. DuVall

Spain Madrid

Brad W. Farnsworth

Switzerland Geneva

Paul T. Peterson

Taiwan Kaohsiung

William S. Hsu

Taiwan Taipei

Norman S. Nielson

Texas Houston South

Calvin W. Allred

Thailand Bangkok

Karl L. Dodge

Uruguay Montevideo West

Lewis C. Bankhead

Uruguay Montevideo

Frederick H. Ashby

Utah Ogden

Peter L. Joyce

Utah Provo

Harold C. Brown

Venezuela Barcelona

Alexander Mestre

Venezuela Maracaibo

Fidel Alberto Coello

Venezuela Valencia

Abraham E. Quero

Washington D.C. South

B. Jackson Wixom Jr.

Washington Spokane

David R. Clark

West Indies

Reid A. Robison

Zimbabwe Harare

Andre Bester

New Mission Opens; Anniversary Celebrated

Created from missions in Mexico City, the new Mexico Cuernavaca Mission opens in July. The mission boundary begins just below the heart of Mexico City and stretches west to the Pacific Ocean, taking in 350 miles (560 km) of coastline. Encompassing the states of Morelos and Guerrero and cities such as Acapulco, Ixtapa, and Iguala, it is larger geographically than any of the four missions from which it was created and reflects the growing missionary activity in a metropolitan area served by nearly 800 missionaries.

Though there will be no increase in the number of missionaries serving in the region when the mission opens, the creation of the mission by realigning the four Mexico City missions will allow for better administration of Church affairs in one of the largest cities in the world—home to more than 18 million residents.

Called to serve as the first president of the mission is Wayne Leroy Gardner, along with his wife Teresa. Though he previously served as president of the Chile Santiago East Mission from 2000 to 2002, he says opening a mission will be challenging. But he is excited to serve again.

The addition of the Cuernavaca mission also comes at a special time for members in Mexico, as they recently celebrated the 125th anniversary of the dedication of the country for missionary work. On April 6, 1881, Elder Moses Thatcher (1842–1909) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles knelt in prayer upon the face of Mount Popocatépetl—a nearly 18,000-foot active volcano—to dedicate the land for the preaching of the gospel.

Retracing those steps in two different hikes, about 300 missionaries and more than 200 members commemorated Elder Thatcher’s dedication with a plaque placed on Popocatépetl’s mountainside.

Map of Mexico

The new Mexico Cuernavaca Mission was created by realigning the four missions in Mexico City.

Two Temples to Open in 2006

Two new temples will be dedicated by the end of 2006—the Sacramento California Temple on September 3 and the Helsinki Finland Temple on October 22—bringing the number of operating temples to 124. Additionally, ground has been broken for the Twin Falls Idaho Temple, and the Papeete Tahiti and Los Angeles California Temples are currently being renovated.

New Temples

A statue of the angel Moroni is already atop the Sacramento California Temple, a sign of its pending completion.

“We have faith-promoting experiences every day working on the temple,” says Jacob Jensen, the project superintendent for the Sacramento temple. To him, it is evidence of Heavenly Father’s hand in the work.

The dedication of the Sacramento temple is set for Sunday, September 3, with the open house scheduled from July 29 through August 26. It will be the Church’s seventh temple in California.

The new Helsinki Finland Temple is scheduled for dedication in October. “Finnish members feel the temple is a great blessing for such a small nation,” says Ville-Matti Karumo, Church public affairs director in Finland.

But it will bless more than just members in Finland, as it will be the closest temple for members in Eastern European countries, including Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and northwestern Russia. The dedication will include four dedicatory sessions on October 22. The open house is scheduled from September 23 through October 7, culminating with a cultural celebration on October 21. Until then, stake presidents have asked all the members to visit the Stockholm Sweden Temple as often as they can to show appreciation to the Lord for blessing Finland with a temple.


In November 2005 the Los Angeles California Temple closed to undergo renovations, including a seismic overhaul.

“If there’s a big quake, the building will be fine,” explains John Dietrich, a temple recorder at the Los Angeles Temple. He explains that a crossbeam in the 115-foot (35-m) tower on the temple was bent by a 1994 earthquake, which reached a magnitude of 6.7.

Meanwhile, members in Tahiti await the time when they can perform ordinances and receive blessings again in the Papeete temple, one of four temples in the Pacific Islands. The temple was closed for renovations in August 2005.

As of May 1, no rededication dates had been announced for either temple.

Ground Broken

While work on these temples nears completion, work on another has just begun. On April 15, 2006, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Presidency of the Seventy broke ground for the Twin Falls Idaho Temple, the second temple in Idaho to undergo construction during the past year. It will be the fourth temple in Idaho, serving 40,000 Church members from 14 stakes.

[illustration] An artist’s rendering shows the Twin Falls Idaho Temple, which is now under construction.

View Art Competition Winners Online at

There is a story behind the tattered-lace Tree of Life, now viewable online at, along with the rest of the pieces from the Seventh International Art Competition exhibit, “Our Heritage of Faith.”

For the artist, a Merit Award recipient, the piece represents not only the heritage of the Book of Mormon but her own heritage as well, tracing back to her youth in Syria.

Melva Hindoian-Emrazian, born in Syria 81 years ago, learned lace making at age 14 from her mother, who learned the craft in an orphanage as a child. Sister Emrazian now teaches her daughter and granddaughter the technique.

Members worldwide have the opportunity to see her award-winning work online, even if they do not have the opportunity to visit the Museum of Church History and Art in downtown Salt Lake City, at least for the next few months.

Like the other 25 Merit Award recipients announced at the opening of the exhibit, Sister Emrazian’s work will be showcased and then returned. Curator Robert Davis explains that funds allowed the museum to bestow 15 Purchase Awards to acquire the pieces for the Church’s permanent collection of art.

Artists and guests filled the Assembly Hall on Temple Square for the awards ceremony on March 27, 2006. To have a work included in the 235 pieces displayed—out of more than 900 submissions in all—is an honor.

That’s nearly 200 more submissions than the previous competition.

Competitions are held every three years. The increase in submissions is a milestone in the effort to stimulate the production of Latter-day Saint art around the world. The competition was initially designed to help develop the museum’s collection of art but has yielded an ever-increasing response each year. A number of the pieces will be featured in the Ensign and Liahona magazines to touch the lives of members throughout the world.

The purchased pieces represent a variety of media and subjects. One in particular, a still-life oil painting done by Rebecca Wetzel Wagstaff, is unique in Brother Davis’s eyes. “The Church very seldom buys pieces like this,” he says, commenting on its content. The painting, Emblems, depicts a vase of flowers and various objects, such as two tickets and a picture of the Nauvoo Temple hanging in the background—nothing overtly religious, Brother Davis adds. And yet he favors it. “It shows the flow of life,” he says.

Richard G. Oman, senior curator at the museum and a judge in the competition, explains the selection process.

“What makes LDS art unified?” Brother Oman asks. “The gospel of Jesus Christ. The challenge we have is to put art in the context it comes from,” he said of the process of placing the style in its indigenous part of the world. Then comes the second evaluation—how well the artist conveyed the theme.

For Sister Emrazian, the theme “Our Heritage of Faith” aligned with the teachings of her grandfather.

“He had a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon, and he made sure we knew it,” she says. Her grandfather joined the Church in Turkey in 1893, shortly after the first missionaries arrived in the country. “He was eager to share [the gospel] with his family,” she says. “When Lehi ate the fruit from the tree of life, it was so delicious he wanted to share it with his family. With my Tree of Life, I pay tribute to my family. I like to keep the heritage alive.”

Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy, Executive Director of the Family and Church History Department, thanked the artists at the awards ceremony.

“This provides a way for art across the world to show reverence for Heavenly Father and His will,” he said. “It deepens our appreciation of each other.”

[illustration] Detail of A Child’s Prayer, by Dan Burr, which received a Purchase Award.

[illustration] Allegory of the Olive Tree, by Brad Teare, received a Purchase Award.

[illustration] The Five Wise Virgins, by Louise Parker, received a Purchase Award.

International Dancers Celebrate 50 Years

For 50 years and in more than 50 countries, members of the Brigham Young University International Folk Dance Ensemble (IFDE) have performed as ambassadors of their school.

This year, celebrating a half century of dance from cultures around the world, the group will take its performance to three countries it has never visited before—Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

At the end of February, the ensemble performed a 10-day tour in preparation for its annual summer traveling schedule. The repertoire this year consists of dances from 10 different countries.

The Baltic States, along with much of Eastern Europe, share a rich heritage of folk dancing. One traditional dance from the Baltic region, the hopak, has been in the IFDE repertoire for more than 30 years.

“The dance is exciting,” says Edwin G. Austin, the ensemble’s director. “The movement, the spins—it’s very acrobatic.”

After taking the hopak to the Baltic States, the ensemble will travel to Quebec, Canada, in response to a private invitation to an international dance festival. Brother Austin says the IFDE is one of the most sought-after groups in international dance. But the purpose of the ensemble’s travel, he says, is twofold: to help people get acquainted with the Church and to strengthen Church members in their own countries.

The IFDE started in 1956 with just a few couples, under the direction of founder Mary Bee Jensen. In 1964 Sister Jensen accompanied the ensemble on its first international tour—mortgaging her home to have the funds to do so. It was the first group of performing students from BYU to tour internationally. Today 30 of the ensemble’s 180 members are on the touring team.

Brother Austin succeeded Sister Jensen as the director of the ensemble—making him only the second director in its 50-year history. He says those first worldwide tours not only shared in the folklore of the countries visited but also helped to introduce the name of the Church in many places where it wasn’t well known. “Our group had the opportunity to travel to areas where the Church had not yet been recognized,” Brother Austin explains.

He says the group has an impact on those it encounters during its travels, leaving a distinct impression of standards and faith behind. Brother Austin is excited to take the ensemble into Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia, where the Church is still relatively small.

[photo] Brigham Young University’s International Folk Dance Ensemble celebrates its 50th anniversary in June 2006.

Celebrating Mormon Handcart Company 150 Years

For those who couldn’t get the word ses-qui-cen-ten-ni-al to roll off the tongue during the 1997 commemoration of the pioneers reaching the Salt Lake Valley, another chance to master the word comes this year as members celebrate the thousands of immigrants who joined the Saints by handcart.

Celebrations will include the Iowa City Mormon Handcart Trek Commemoration, taking place where it all began 150 years ago—Iowa City, Iowa. Here, where the westward railroad ended, 3,000 men, women, and children embarked on a 1,300-mile journey across prairie, desert, river, and mountain, pushing and pulling what few belongings they had in handcarts.

Taking place on June 9 to 11, the commemoration honors the departure of the first Mormon handcart company on June 9, 1856, with a daylong symposium, festivals, an interfaith devotional, and an evening fireside with a visiting General Authority. Paul Willie, a descendant of Captain James G. Willie, whose company is well remembered for its late start and ill-fated journey, will also speak.

Even those from other denominations will take part in celebrating the historical significance of the expeditions of the handcart pioneers. A song to be performed at the weekend’s interfaith devotional was composed by Jon Spong, a Methodist. The words were written by Loren Horton, a senior historian emeritus of the State Historical Society of Iowa. He and his wife, Carol, who will sing the song in the devotional, are Episcopalian.

In that Sunday devotional, a Methodist, Unitarian, and Episcopalian, along with Iowa City stake president Andrew Hall, will each speak to the interfaith gathering, which is representative of the various denominations that were present in Iowa City in 1856.

“It’s always a delightful thing to be able to have different background and beliefs working together,” Mr. Horton says. “This is a natural opportunity for that to happen.”

Mr. Horton will speak in the Friday symposium on the setting in Iowa in 1856, remarking on the social and economic impact of LDS handcart pioneers. Iowa City’s population at that time stood at 6,316. The following year brought 2,340 immigrants. This influx of Mormon settlers, who had faced persecution elsewhere, found a safe harbor in Iowa City, where Mr. Horton says members of other denominations often helped the Saints build handcarts and prepare for their journey.

Fred Woods, current chair for religious understanding at Brigham Young University and the executive director of the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation, helped to forge the union of denominations for the event.

“We want to emphasize the common ground which we all walk upon as we journey through life,” he says.

The Cedar Rapids Iowa Stake, Davenport Iowa Stake, Des Moines Iowa Mission, Des Moines Iowa Stake, Iowa City Iowa Stake, and Nauvoo Illinois Mission will all take an active part in the three-day event, but Brother Woods emphasizes that members worldwide can take part by honoring the pioneers’ sacrifice.

“The best way that Latter-day Saints can revere our rich pioneer ancestry is to live a faithful life,” he says.

New Collection of Church History Videos Now on DVD

An exciting new DVD compilation of Church history videos, including footage many members have never seen before, is now available for purchase. This DVD set, titled Church History, is part of the Home and Family Collection intended to enrich instruction and learning in the home.

The set includes three DVDs containing 29 videos that take viewers on a visual journey through a century and a half of Church history. Many of the segments are quite rare. One segment, LDS Leaders of the Past, includes black-and-white footage from the first half of the twentieth century.

The set contains 7 hours and 48 minutes of Church history videos and is packaged with a booklet that includes ideas and questions for discussion.

“It’s not just a collection of videos,” says Robb Jones, development designer for the Church Curriculum Department. “We designed it to be a teaching and learning tool for individuals, families, and teachers.”

Sold individually for U.S. $6.00 each (item no. 54116), or U.S. $4.25 each when a case of 38 is ordered, the Church History DVD set is available at distribution centers. It is available only in English since many of the individual videos were not translated into other languages.

New ASL Products Available

ASL Book of Mormon Released on DVD

The American Sign Language Book of Mormon is now available in DVD format, making it easier for the deaf community to study the scriptures.

A common misconception is that the deaf community can simply read material the same as English speakers, but because English and ASL are structured differently, many of those who are deaf cannot read the Book of Mormon.

“With the Church providing the Book of Mormon in their language, deaf members can comprehend it just as you and I,” says Doug Hind, a special curriculum specialist in the Church Curriculum Department.

It also means no more lugging around a bag of 17 VHS tapes and no more cuing to select scriptures.

The DVD boxed set contains 17 DVDs, containing a higher quality version of the same footage on 17 VHS tapes. The DVD collection is $2.50 a set. While the footage may be the same, the most important feature of the DVDs is the ability to search the scriptures by every 10 verses. Previously, finding a specific scripture was difficult for the deaf—they just had to fast-forward and guess. Now they can navigate the scriptures at the touch of a button, and members with iPod technology or portable DVD players can take the ASL Book of Mormon with them anywhere. This full-translation format for ASL scripture appears to be the first of its kind.

“No scripture has ever been done like this as a true translation—even the Bible,” Brother Hind says, adding that the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price are currently being translated.

Monthly Messages Now Available in ASL

The First Presidency and Visiting Teaching Messages are debuting in American Sign Language (ASL) at this year. The messages will be available each month on a new ASL page at General conference and First Presidency Christmas Devotional files will also be available on the page.

Previously many members who are deaf or hearing-impaired could read the messages only in print, which involved comprehending text and a verbal language on top of their primary visual form of communication. But the grammatical and conceptual makeup of ASL is significantly different from any spoken language.

The First Presidency and Visiting Teaching Messages in ASL are not the only recent milestone for the ASL community in the Church. Just months ago, the worldwide leadership training meeting was broadcast over satellite in ASL for the first time.

The First Presidency Messages and Visiting Teaching Messages are published in more than 50 languages worldwide.


Hope and Comfort

I have received and continue to receive so much hope and comfort from the beautiful message “Put Your Trust in God” by President Gordon B. Hinckley in the February 2006 issue. I have shared it with others who are struggling with adversity.

Last March I was diagnosed with a rare, incurable type of cancer, and I felt we were traveling in a “terrible wilderness.” Every source of encouragement and hope has been necessary in this interesting time. Thank you for that welcome message by President Hinckley. Dawne I. Gibson, Michigan

An Often-Forgotten Population

I was excited to see in the February 2006 Ensign the article “Church Programs Assist Often-Forgotten Population.” I have often wondered if the Church had such a program, and my prayers were answered with this article.

I have been incarcerated for two years now and am the only member of the Church at this facility. The Ensign has been my major contact with the Church for most of that time. I look forward each month to its arrival and the messages of hope and faith it brings with it. I especially treasure each of the conference issues for the messages from the First Presidency and other General Authorities. Thank you so much for the light and faith it brings with it each month into this often dark and dreary place. Name Withheld

Comfort from the Proclamation

I appreciated E. Jeffrey Hill’s article “The Proclamation: A Guide, a Comfort, and an Inspiration” in April’s Ensign. I related fully to the article. Many memorized scriptures have filled my mind with comfort and understanding at various times in my life, but particularly since the death of my husband. I appreciate the honesty given to an emotional subject and the message of hope, that we truly do have a loving Heavenly Father who is aware of us individually. Thank you for an insightful article, Tammy Mulford, Utah

March 12

The April 2006 Ensign has changed March 12 for me. In 2003, March 12 was the day I returned home from serving as a missionary in Taiwan. I wanted to celebrate March 12 every year in ways to thank my Heavenly Father and my Savior for allowing me to serve Them in that way.

Then on March 12, 2004, my best friend from high school took her own life. Suddenly March 12 became a day on which I could find no happiness. I felt guilty to be so blessed with an LDS upbringing, the opportunity to serve a mission, and a temple marriage to a wonderful husband. How could I celebrate my blessings now?

Nancy May’s article “Our Journey to the Temple” (April 2006) helped me feel that I can still find joy in the blessings God has bestowed on me—both before and after every March 12 of my life. Sarah Smith, Colorado