News of the Church

By Abbey Olsen, Church Magazines


President Hinckley Begins 96th Birthday Breaking Ground

President Gordon B. Hinckley started off his 96th birthday celebration with a shovel and some dirt.

Hundreds of Brigham Young University alumni, faculty, family, friends, and students looked on as President Hinckley took his own shovel in hand to scoop dirt to kick off the construction of an 80,000-square-foot building that will bear his name at the school in Provo.

“You do me a great honor and a great kindness in what you do today,” President Hinckley told guests at the groundbreaking celebration for the new Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni and Visitors’ Center on June 23, 2006.

President Hinckley thanked guests and commented about how his wife, Marjorie Pay Hinckley, who died in 2004, had also been honored at BYU when the Social Work and Social Sciences chair was named in her honor in 2003.

“Maybe we could move her chair into my building, and we’d be together again,” he said.

President Thomas S. Monson, President James E. Faust, and President Hinckley’s son Clark also spoke at the groundbreaking. Family, counselors in the First Presidency, BYU Board of Trustees, friends of the university, and donors joined President Hinckley in ceremoniously turning the first dirt for the building. Afterward President Hinckley donated the shovel he used from his own tool collection. Construction commenced immediately after the ceremony.

The BYU Board of Trustees approved development of the new center in October 2005, and President Cecil O. Samuelson announced the new building the following month. The building is funded entirely from private donations. Brigham Young University has eight other buildings named after Presidents of the Church.

“This new building is singular in the fact that it has been built while the man whose name it bears is still alive,” President Hinckley said. “I suppose Brother Samuelson concluded I was only half dead and that we could go forward accordingly.”

The Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni and Visitors’ Center is scheduled to be finished by fall 2007. A building bearing the prophet’s name was also dedicated at Brigham Young University–Idaho in October 2002.

In addition to being a gateway to BYU and a campus home for alumni, the building is a tribute to President Hinckley and his life.

“Because of his unflagging efforts in the areas of education, public outreach, and international friendship, his name evokes the very purposes of this building,” the BYU Alumni Web site states. He is “an extraordinary ambassador” for the Church, and “his long life is characterized by openness, understanding, and love of the Savior.”

After the groundbreaking, family, invited guests, and university leaders hosted President Hinckley at a private luncheon.

His children paid tribute to their father, and President Samuelson presented him with a brick with his name on it to represent the new center that bears his name.

President Hinckley has served as the 15th President of the Church since 1995. Before that, he served 14 years as a counselor in the First Presidency and 20 years as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. President Hinckley has traveled around the world, dedicating many temples and visiting Church members, who now number more than 12.5 million worldwide. He has been interviewed by several major news organizations.

CBS newsman Mike Wallace paid tribute to President Hinckley at the “Celebration of Life” program for his 95th birthday last year.

“He is and has always been a builder,” Mr. Wallace said, “a builder of families, youth, missionaries. A builder of character and faith, and through it all, a builder of people. The pace has been tiring, but he has been tireless. But from his point of view, it’s been worth it to help build the organization he loves by building the people that he loves so much.”

[photo] President Gordon B. Hinckley breaks ground for a building named in his honor at Brigham Young University. (Photograph by Keith Johnson, courtesy of Deseret Morning News)

Church Members Affected by Flooding

Extensive rainfall from New York to Virginia in the eastern United States in June caused widespread flooding and evacuations.

Flooding occurred in low-lying areas. Particularly hard hit were areas along the Susquehanna River. Thousands were evacuated from their homes temporarily, roads were closed, and buildings were damaged. Governors of flooded states declared a state of emergency in several counties. There were 16 confirmed deaths. All missionaries and Church members were reported safe.

“We felt a kinship to Noah,” said William Nixon, president of the Mount Vernon Virginia Stake, near Washington, D.C., as he described the approximate foot of rain that drenched the area.

He said four Latter-day Saint families in the Franconia Ward, Mount Vernon Virginia Stake, were displaced when 200 homes in their neighborhood were evacuated due to flooding. Although other members in the stake weren’t required to evacuate, many had anywhere from three inches to three feet of water in their basements.

Farther north in the Scranton Pennsylvania Stake, members were also affected by the flooding.

Keith Dunford, president of the stake, told of one family whose house succumbed to the flooding. Crews helped the family get their belongings out of the house before it slid into the water.

For the most part, Church members have maintained a positive attitude in the wake of the flooding. “We’re grateful that the levy along the Susquehanna held,” President Dunford said. Otherwise, “that would have been a disaster.”

Members in the Wilkes-Barre Ward evacuated and stayed overnight with other members but were able to return the next day.

In the Owego New York Stake, members evacuated their homes, and some were housed temporarily in a meetinghouse. One couple in Binghamton was rescued by a helicopter, and some in Owego were rescued by boat. Many stayed at shelters until the water receded.

Richard Miller, president of the Owego New York Stake, said that as the floods abated, members were able to go in, clean up, and help the people affected.

The Church’s Welfare Department stayed in contact with leaders across the flooded states, offering support and assessing needs in the different areas.

President Nixon said, “At times like this, you feel extremely blessed that you’re part of such a magnificent organization. … When you have people … calling from Salt Lake to check on members whom they don’t even know, and also willing to provide resources to the community at large, it’s a pretty remarkable organization.”

[photo] Heavy storms flooded the northeastern United States and knocked down this elm at the White House. (Photograph by Ron Edmonds, courtesy of the Associated Press)

Deaf Attend Family History Workshop

An occasional laugh from the audience broke the silence as full-time missionary Robert Powers explained different family history resources at the Church’s Family History Library.

Elder Powers’s library orientation class was one of 50 classes taught at the fourth biennial genealogical workshop for the deaf and hard of hearing June 19–23, 2006, in Salt Lake City.

“It’s probably the quietest conference you’ll ever go to,” remarked an observer as Elder Powers communicated through sign language to his audience.

“The goal of this workshop is to have the deaf community and the deaf patrons come here and take these classes the same as hearing people,” said Dulane Woodhouse, chairperson for the workshop.

Twenty-five instructors, 17 of whom are deaf, taught genealogical classes on 40 topics to 135 registered participants in classrooms at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Workshop participants learned everything from family history basics, such as using PAF or TempleReady, to more advanced information such as the Napoleonic Civil Registration. Many participants practiced their newfound skills a block away at the Family History Library.

Elder Robert and Sister Virginia Powers have been serving as full-time missionaries in the deaf zone of the Family History Library for more than two years. They helped organize and coordinate the event.

“I’m at a loss for words right now to describe the spirit that is here,” Sister Powers said. “It’s very touching.”

Although they left 14 grandchildren behind when they left their home in Riverside, California, to serve a mission, Elder and Sister Powers have been influential in making Family History Library resources more accessible to deaf patrons.

With a force of about 14 Church service missionaries helping in the library, Sister Powers said deaf people comment that it is easier to come to the library because they know someone can communicate with them.

In addition to classes and family history work, workshop attendees participated in activities such as going on an interpreted field trip to the Humanitarian Center, watching the film Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration in an ASL-interpreted and closed-captioned session, touring the Lion House and Museum of Church History and Art, and visiting This Is the Place Heritage Park. Some participants attended a special temple session for the deaf in the Salt Lake Temple as well.

About 50 percent of workshop attendees came from outside Utah, across the United States and Canada. Although three-fourths of the participants are Latter-day Saints, a fourth are not members of the Church but are actively interested in genealogy.

The weeklong activities and workshops culminated on June 25, 2006, when all the deaf wards and branches from Utah gathered in the Conference Center Theater on Sunday morning for a family history regional conference.

Church Satellite Broadcasts Available Online

Web users will be able once again to see and hear the prophet speak live through video streams online in next month’s general conference.

Beginning with the first major test at the April 2006 general conference, the Church partnered with BYU-TV to provide live video streams of general conference in English through a link on LDS.org.

The Church had previously provided live conference video streaming online, but the cost became prohibitive per user when it was last available on LDS.org about three years ago.

Last year BYU-TV offered to provide the service, and the partnership began when the Church linked to BYU-TV to provide live video streams of the Joseph Smith celebration and the 2005 Christmas devotional.

Ron Schwendiman, manager of Internet coordination in the Church’s Curriculum Department, says the service “enables English speakers who are not able to get to a building or who are unable to receive it through other means to be able to watch conference live on their computers.”

Through this technology, more than 200,000 live online video connections from more than 126 different countries were provided during general conference in April. Of the sessions, the Sunday afternoon session had the most Internet traffic with 108,312 connections.

Brother Schwendiman said some interruptions in the service occurred during conference, but feedback has been mostly positive as the Church and BYU-TV continue to work to understand how to best use the technology to provide another venue to access conference.

Web users who have a high-speed Internet connection can go to the broadcast page on LDS.org during live Church broadcasts and click on a link that will take them to BYU-TV’s live video stream.

BYU-TV launched in 2000 and has regularly broadcast Church content for programs such as general conference, the Young Women and Relief Society general meetings, and Church Educational System firesides.

BYU-TV had previously provided a limited number of online video streams, but in November 2005 it partnered with a company that provides mass video streaming capability on the Internet. The technology allowed BYU-TV to provide online video streams to thousands of viewers. The technology also allowed viewers who live on the other side of the globe, where conference airs during the middle of the night, to access sessions at a time convenient to them.

BYU-TV also offers a Windows Media stream for Mac, Linux, and other users (www.byutv.org/streaming). The Church provides Windows Media video archives of the conference broadcasts at www.lds.org/broadcast.

Although the live video stream is currently available only in English, discussions are ongoing about the possibility of providing the live video streams in other languages such as Spanish and Portuguese.

Strengthening the Community

Youth Take On an “Extreme Neighborhood Makeover”

Getting up before 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning to shingle roofs, paint houses, and mow lawns after being soaked in a mountain downpour the day before might deter some people, but not Andy Pearce and Ryan Wheeler, youth from the Alpine Fourth Ward, Alpine Utah Stake.

Arriving before the majority of their youth counterparts, who came at about 8:00 a.m., they climbed a roof and began reroofing in a small neighborhood in Provo and didn’t want to eat breakfast until they’d finished a good portion of the job.

These young men were just 2 of almost 400 young people and 100 leaders and adults in the Alpine Utah Stake who joined forces June 10, 2006, to work in a neighborhood fix-up project in Provo, Utah, as part of their stake’s three-day youth conference. They reroofed 5 homes, painted 15, and laid a few lawns with sod, performing service on a total of 25 homes.

Some homeowners were skeptical when stake service committee members visited their neighborhood in the weeks before the project to find out what repairs needed to be done.

But eight months of planning paid off as leaders directed the youth, who were organized into “families,” in making requested repairs on each house. They pulled weeds, primed houses, edged lawns, shingled roofs, painted fences, and held a carnival for children to attend while the repairs were being completed.

“It’s just been amazing to watch how hard these kids have worked,” said Joseph Nilson, president of the Alpine Utah Stake. “You don’t have to go too far to find service opportunities, and it’s wonderful for them to get out and see their religion in action.”

The morning before, the group had traveled up the mountain for a sunrise fireside. But a storm met the youth, and they trekked down the mountain in a downpour. They relocated to a nearby college campus to listen to speakers and attend workshops. They got rained out again as they tried to hold some outdoor games.

“I hope the service day [was] the highlight of youth conference,” said JoAnn Tolman, stake Young Women president. “This is why missionaries say that [missions are] the best two years of their lives. It’s because they were in complete service—complete.”

Sister Tolman said some homeowners just stood there and cried with the offers of service:

“Can we paint your house?”

“I can’t afford the paint.”

“We’re going to provide the paint. What color do you want?”

“I have a choice of color?”

“Yes.”

She said, “It’s just been like opening the windows of heaven for them, and it’s our opportunity to let the youth reach out.”

Brad Christensen, who was a youth conference coordinator with his wife, Kim, said he hopes the youth will take at least two things from the experience. First, a rain metaphor: when it rains, it doesn’t rain everywhere, but everyone needs water.

“The water in the mountains we pipe to people in the valley so that they can use it even though no rain fell on them,” he explained. “Material wealth is the same way. It rains in different places. What I hope they walk away with is that God expects us to share the wealth.”

Brother Christensen also hopes the youth learn that one way to find more happiness “is the least obvious way they ever would have considered, and that is to get out and work and help other people.”

“I hope they leave here feeling happier and more fulfilled and more full of light today than they ever would playing video games or going to a movie or doing something self-indulgent, and that they’ll catch onto the idea that true happiness is found through helping other people,” Brother Christensen said.

Oregon Stake Serves Neighbor to Neighbor

Performing for inmates, refurbishing the roof on the local Baptist community center, or pruning yards—the Oregon City Oregon Stake is in its fifth year serving neighbor to neighbor.

The Neighbor-to-Neighbor initiative—created to unite in service and enhance the image of the Church in the community—brings members together to serve others with whom they would not likely come into contact otherwise, such as the inmates of Oregon State Prison.

Inmates and volunteers worked side by side, shoulder to shoulder, in the demolition and construction of a new chapel.

“I’ve learned that together we can accomplish very difficult things,” said Oregon City Oregon stake president Gene Trone. “Doing the Lord’s work is always worth it.”

The stake also remodeled the chapel in the Coffee Creek Women’s Correctional Facility and performed the musical Honk for inmates, though bringing the production to a secure facility was a challenge. The process of checking all the props and materials took hours.

“But the look on the faces of the guards and the inmates made all the hard work worthwhile,” said Don Ririe, high councilor over this part of Neighbor-to-Neighbor.

“We enjoyed laughing with each other and feeling close to one another,” one guard shared. “No one has ever done this before. Thank you for coming and helping us remember we are really more alike than different.”

Approximately 150 members toured the prisons to learn how they can play a supportive role in reducing recidivism rates in their community.

While this year’s Neighbor-to-Neighbor service projects focused on serving inmates, the stake has also reached out to numerous groups in the community under this initiative, including the Oregon City School District, Clackamas County Mental Health agencies, and Oxford Homes—homes providing shelter to women recovering from substance abuse.

This year each ward within the stake was assigned to an Oxford Home to assess and address the needs in each. Bishops and Relief Society presidents each toured their ward’s assigned home, and volunteers cleaned, painted, weeded yards, repaired roofs and decks, and completed other construction projects.

“Never has there been a better way for my family to grow than serving in the Neighbor-to-Neighbor projects,” said Kati Morris, a member of the Oregon City stake. “I cannot tell you how strong the desire is in my own heart to become a better person.”

Church Aids More Than 200 Brazilian Hospitals

Sixty thousand Brazilian Church members have concluded a four-month service project that provided aid to more than 200 hospitals in 150 cities throughout Brazil.

Church members held workshops and sewing bees in which they produced approximately 150,000 items to be donated to local hospitals. The items included bedsheets, shoe coverings, gowns, pillowcases, and infant clothing.

Items such as bedsheets are scarce for many hospitals in Brazil, as most funds go toward medications, hospital equipment, and employee salaries. And since hospital clothing is subjected to sterilization up to four times daily, the clothing has to be replaced frequently.

In one month Restauração Hospital in Recife admits 800 patients, performs 700 surgeries, treats 12,000 outpatients, and handles 12,000 emergencies. Hospital director George Teles was happy to receive supplies from the Church. “We give thanks for any help we get, since we always work beyond our patient capacity,” he remarked. “Now we will have some breathing room in terms of bedclothing changes.”

Members of the Church not only sewed clothes and bedsheets but also volunteered their time giving presentations to school-age children to teach them the importance of helping others. Others worked in hospitals providing service wherever needed.

[photo] Youth from the Alpine Utah Stake clean up, reroof, and paint one of the homes selected for service during their youth conference. (Photograph by Abbey Olsen)

[photo] Members of the Brazilian media reported on a 150-city service project organized by Church members.

October Special Issue Aimed at Helping New Members

New members of the Church and those who work with them will receive an important additional resource in October. The October Ensign and Liahona will speak directly to those who have recently joined the Church, providing information and encouragement aimed at strengthening their testimonies and commitment while explaining some of the blessings and challenges associated with joining the Church.

New and long-time members alike will find the issue helpful in dealing with common challenges and frequently asked questions. The issue features a welcome by President Gordon B. Hinckley, an article explaining what a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wishes every member knew, and articles addressing the topics of learning new traditions and leaving old ones behind, finding peace in part-member families, how to share what you’ve learned, finding your place in the Church, and more.

The Ensign will retain all of the magazine’s usual departments, including the First Presidency Message, Visiting Teaching Message, Random Sampler, and Latter-day Saint Voices, yet each article will contain a special message for new members. Many converts will share how they overcame the challenges and difficulties they experienced as new members. The issue will also include an introduction to the Church magazines and suggestions for getting the most out of them.

For members who would like additional copies of the issue, the magazine will be available through local distribution centers.

Comment

Protecting Minds and Bodies

Your article “A Hole in Her Soul” (July 2006) brought with it a flood of tears and memories of my experience some 27 years ago as a teenager. I met a young man at a stake youth dance who claimed to be a member of a ward in a nearby town. We began dating. My mom didn’t like him, but she never told me this or forbade him to come over. I suppose she feared it would make me like him more. One day he dropped by the house when no one else was home, and that was when he assaulted me. I was in shock and had no idea what to do or how to handle the situation. I felt like my life was over and there was nothing anyone could do. I was “dirty,” and no one would want “used merchandise.” Like the girl in the story, I followed a path of self-loathing and destruction that lasted nearly four years. The mother of the young woman in the article rightly explains that being a loving parent and providing “a soft place to fall” was key to the daughter’s recovery. For the rest of us, prevention is of utmost importance. Your dating-safety inset is fine but may not go far enough. Parents need to come up with as nearly foolproof guidelines as they can, no matter how strict. There were a few times I didn’t give my daughter permission to attend a social function simply because I had a bad feeling about it. She would complain and say I didn’t have concrete evidence, but my point was that if something bad were to happen, there would be no reversing the effect of it. We would never know what might have happened, nor did we want to know. As we move farther and farther into these perilous times, we cannot be too careful in protecting the minds and bodies of our precious children from the predators who would do them harm. Name Withheld

A Realistic Preview

I appreciated the perspective shared in “Yelled At, Barked At, and Rained On” (July 2006). Offering prospective missionaries an honest and realistic preview of what missionary service entails is valuable and commendable. As more of them understand that even sincere and obedient missionaries often experience profoundly difficult challenges, the quiet strength and maturity of our missionary force will increase. Cameron Turner, Indiana

Call for Articles

Has your ward or branch experienced notable success in its missionary efforts? Please send us your experiences or stories about sharing the gospel with family, friends, and neighbors.

Please send your submission (up to 1,600 words) by October 15, 2006, to ensign@ldschurch.org or to Ensign Editorial, 50 East North Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150-3220, USA. Clearly mark your submission “Missionary Work,” and at the top of your submission include your name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, and ward and stake (or branch and district).

While we cannot acknowledge receipt of individual responses, we will notify authors whose submissions we select for publication. If you would like us to return your manuscript, please enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope, and allow up to a year.