News of the Church

By Kate McNeil, Church Magazines

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President Gordon B. Hinckley Becomes Oldest Church President

In November 2006 President Gordon B. Hinckley became the oldest President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

President Hinckley was born June 23, 1910, in Salt Lake City, Utah. On November 3, 2006, President Hinckley was 96 years and 133 days old, surpassing President David O. McKay, who died at 96 years and 132 days on January 18, 1970.

During the October 2006 general conference of the Church, President Hinckley said: “If I last a few months longer, I will have served to an older age than any previous President. I do not say this to be boastful but rather grateful. … The Lord has permitted me to live; I do not know for how long. But whatever the time, I shall continue to give my best to the task at hand” (“The Faith to Move Mountains,” Ensign, Nov. 2006, 82).

President Hinckley was set apart as the 15th President of the Church on Sunday, March 12, 1995. On January 20, President Hinckley will pass President Spencer W. Kimball as the fifth longest-serving President of the Church, having served for 11 years, 10 months, and 8 days.

Brigham Young had the longest tenure as President, with 29 years, followed by President Heber J. Grant with 27 years. President McKay was prophet for 19 years and President Joseph F. Smith for 17 years.

Prior to his call as President of the Church, President Hinckley had served 14 years as a counselor in the First Presidency and for 20 years prior to that as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. President Hinckley was named to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on October 5, 1961.

His Church service has been extensive. He was called as a member of the Sunday School general board in 1937, two years after returning home from missionary service in Great Britain. For 20 years he directed all Church public communications. In 1951 he was named executive secretary of the General Missionary Committee, managing the entire missionary program of the Church for seven years. He was president of the East Millcreek Stake in Salt Lake City at the time of his calling on April 6, 1958, as a General Authority in the capacity of an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

[photos] President Gordon B. Hinckley, shown above with his counselors in the First Presidency at the dedication of the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple and below at his 95th birthday celebration, became the oldest President of the Church in November.

Welfare Department Produces Tools for Wise Financial Management

President Gordon B. Hinckley and other Church leaders have frequently offered counsel concerning self-reliance, debt, and wise finance management, and the Church’s Welfare Department has produced tools designed to help Church members follow that counsel.

“So many of our people are heavily in debt for things that are not entirely necessary,” President Hinckley said in October 2001. “I urge you as members of this Church to get free of debt where possible and to have a little laid aside against a rainy day” (Ensign, Nov. 2001, 72).

A five-lesson course titled “Peace in Your Hearts” on and a redesigned One for the Money: Guide to Family Finance pamphlet are now available to help members understand debt and manage their finances.

The online lessons last about 10 minutes each and provide instruction in the following areas: an overview on managing finances, paying tithes and offerings, living within your means, getting out of debt, and planning for the future. Find the lessons at

“Church members are not immune from financial pressures,” says Dennis Lifferth, managing director of the Welfare Services Department. “From the earliest days of the Church, we have been counseled to be self-reliant and live within our means. These lessons provide encouragement and instruction to all who seek a stronger financial foundation.”

Statistics on debt in the United States show that 1.6 million households—1 in 73—filed for bankruptcy in 2003. The average household debt, not including mortgage debt, is $14,500, and a typical American family pays $1,200 each year in credit card interest. Sixty percent of credit cards are not paid off monthly.

The lessons, rooted in prophetic counsel, provide budgeting tools, a debt-elimination calendar, audio clips with counsel, testimonials from people who have applied financial principles, and references to additional resources.

In one lesson testimonial, a member told of her success after applying a financial management plan: “I was amazed as month after month temporal blessings became available from unexpected sources. I still have a ways to go, but following these gospel principles has made all the difference in my finances and in my life.”

In addition to the lessons, an electronic version of the redesigned One for the Money pamphlet will be available on

The content of the pamphlet is from a talk by Elder Marvin J. Ashton given in April 1975. It was last published as a pamphlet in 1992. The new pamphlet is designed to make the message of Elder Ashton’s talk more accessible to the reader. The design amplifies 12 timeless principles outlined by Elder Ashton:

  1. 1.

    Pay an honest tithing.

  2. 2.

    Learn to manage money before it manages you.

  3. 3.

    Learn self-discipline and self-restraint in money matters.

  4. 4.

    Use a budget.

  5. 5.

    Teach family members early the importance of working and earning.

  6. 6.

    Teach children to make money decisions in keeping with their capacities to comprehend.

  7. 7.

    Teach each family member to contribute to the total family welfare.

  8. 8.

    Make education a continuing process.

  9. 9.

    Work toward home ownership.

  10. 10.

    Appropriately involve yourself in an insurance program.

  11. 11.

    Understand the influence of external forces on family finances and investments.

  12. 12.

    Appropriately involve yourself in a food storage and emergency preparedness program.

The Church plans to make the pamphlet available not only in English but also in nine additional languages: Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

The redesigned pamphlet will be available free through distribution centers or online at

[photo] A five-lesson online course and an updated pamphlet are now available to help families with wise financial management.

Cultural Treasures Celebrated in Salt Lake

Two pivotal anniversaries were the foundation for the Church’s annual Latino cultural celebration held at the Conference Center on Saturday, October 21, 2006.

For Mexican members of the Church, 2006 marked the 125th anniversary of the organization of the Church in their homeland. The developing LDS history in Mexico is a success story. Today more than one million members live in Mexico and enjoy the blessings of a dozen temples.

The lives of Spanish-speaking people everywhere have also been blessed by the translation of the Book of Mormon into their own language 120 years earlier.

Thousands filled the Conference Center for the celebration, applauding and singing along with the hundreds of dancers and choir members who performed on an ornate Mesoamerican-themed stage.

The festive cultural program, entitled “Treasures of the Americas,” featured folk dances and songs from a variety of cultures and lands, including Hawaii, Samoa, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and the Native American cultures of the United States. Each performance was enhanced by native costumes rich in color and design and was accompanied by live folk music. A diverse chorus filled the Conference Center choir seats. Additional music and dances were performed in the Conference Center lobbies prior to the main program.

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles called it an excellent program. “What a wonderful way to get together this evening as brothers and sisters and friends and neighbors,” he said.

Elder Ballard also emphasized the value of each person who attended the event, which included many who are not Church members. “We want every one of you … to know how much our Heavenly Father loves each and every one of you,” he said.

[photo] Dancers perform a Salvadoran folk number during the Latino celebration “Treasures of the Americas.” (Photograph by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News.)

Maxwell Institute Formed, Will House BYU Studies

In 2006 Brigham Young University formed the new Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at BYU, which will now oversee the scholarly journal BYU Studies.

In 1959 BYU Studies began publishing a quarterly journal containing the work of a community of LDS scholars from a range of disciplines. BYU Studies has published hundreds of articles that bring Latter-day Saint perspectives to academic subjects using scholarly insights to elucidate gospel topics.

“We live in dynamic times,” states current editor in chief John Welch on the BYU Studies Web site. “The gospel gives needed orientation as the world faces a steady stream of new challenges. … BYU Studies hopes to fill a helpful and supporting role in these eternal purposes.”

The Neal A. Maxwell Institute, established by the BYU Board of Trustees, aims to organize, produce, and disseminate scholarship on ancient scripture and religious history and promote the study, illumination, preservation, and accessibility of religious texts and ancient scriptural sources. The Maxwell Institute also aims to build bridges to other cultures and peoples by contributing to scholarship in many disciplines and establishing contacts with scholars at universities and centers of learning worldwide.

In March 2006 the institute’s name was changed from the Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts (ISPART) to the Neal A. Maxwell Institute.

“By renaming ISPART, BYU honors the memory and life’s work of Elder Maxwell,” said Elder Cecil O. Samuelson of the Seventy, BYU president, in a news release. “This change firmly sets the future direction of the institute, which is to promote profound scholarship supporting the restored gospel of Jesus Christ—something Elder Maxwell cared about deeply.”

Andrew Skinner, former dean of religious education at BYU, heads the Maxwell Institute, which includes the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), the Middle Eastern Texts Initiative (METI), and the Center for Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts (CPART).

FARMS was founded in 1979 and is currently directed by S. Kent Brown. For more than 25 years, FARMS has been conducting research and publishing books and periodicals to further scholarship, make friends for BYU and the Church, provide educational tools and resources, and defend the faith. METI is led by Daniel C. Peterson, and CPART by Kristian Heal.

Young Women Web Site Redesigned

The entire Young Women Web site has been updated. In addition to new and easier navigation and shortcut links, the site includes many new materials, such as youth leadership training resources, help with Mutual planning, an interactive guide to help young women with Personal Progress, and much more.

Sister Elaine S. Dalton, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency, said Internet tools such as this new Web site benefit each individual young woman.

“We must never forget that the individual young woman is what this is all about,” Sister Dalton said. “It is not about programs but individual people. The Internet site puts tools at our fingertips to use to bless and teach and touch individual young women. As a presidency we are desirous that this tool will assist parents and leaders in their callings to increase faith and testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ and to strengthen families.”

Sue Groesbeck, Young Women general board member, said the Young Women general presidency has worked on this project for three years. The new content will benefit those called to serve young women.

“New sidebar topics and shortcuts were added in an effort to provide a home for every aspect of the Young Women program,” Sister Groesbeck said. “Our hope is that a Young Women leader can come to the site with any question and get some kind of help.”

New topics include Camp; Preparing Youth to Lead; Resources, Videos, and Music; Retaining Young Women in Activity; and Role of Young Women Leaders.

Sister Groesbeck said the Internet helps reach all Young Women leaders across the globe.

“We can’t get to them all, but many of them can get to the Internet,” she said. “We are confident that if leaders will spend some time exploring the site, it will answer important questions about how the program can bless lives. As they stay within the guidelines, they can then receive personal revelation on how to customize the Young Women program to meet the needs of their young women.”

Leaders will also benefit from additional helps added to the site, such as ways to improve Sunday lessons, planning youth conferences, and ideas for teaching and using the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. The Young Women Web site may be found in the “Serving in the Church” section of

[photo] The updated Young Women Web site makes navigation easier and offers new resources for leaders.

Spanish LDS Scriptures Available Online

More than 3.9 million Spanish-speaking members of the Church can now study the LDS triple combination on the Internet in their native tongue. The Spanish version of the LDS Scriptures Internet Edition was released by the Church in September 2006, at

Ronald Schwendiman, manager of Internet Coordination, says the Spanish version has footnotes, study helps, maps, photographs, and the ability to mark scriptures.

“The ability to access scriptures online helps in preparing for lessons and in personal scripture study,” Brother Schwendiman said.

Since the release of the English LDS Scriptures Internet Edition in 2001, millions of members have benefited from its accessibility and convenience. Brother Schwendiman said the Internet scriptures receive more than 4.5 million visits in a month, from about 350,000 visitors.

The English Internet edition saw increased traffic during the end of 2005, after President Gordon B. Hinckley challenged members to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year.

Kai Andersen, product manager, said the implementation of languages on the Internet required “mature technologies.” He said the 18-month project involved preparing a faster interface to handle new languages and new Web site visitors. Extensive proofreading also ensured the accuracy of the text.

Brother Schwendiman said the Internet edition of the Spanish Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and Guide to the Scriptures is just one step in providing all members with a positive Web site experience.

“Our focus was getting the Spanish scriptures up while preparing other Web site content, such as the Gospel Library, for translation,” he said. “We want more content for international members. We want them to have the entire Web site experience.”

The Church Curriculum Department is currently working on Internet editions of the scriptures in German, Italian, French, and Portuguese. More languages are in the planning stage.

[photo] The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and Guide to the Scriptures are now available online in Spanish.

Missionary Preparation by Mail

The March 2007 New Era focuses on missionary preparation. A similar issue in 2000 was so well received it went into extra printings. Now it’s time to update and give another group of future missionaries and their parents a useful new tool for mission preparation.

Included in the March New Era are messages from President Gordon B. Hinckley, President Thomas S. Monson, and other General Authorities; glimpses into life in the MTC and in the mission field; helps in preparing for the temple; and an overview of the mission call process.

If you are a parent or leader of prospective missionaries, you may find it helpful to be familiar with the contents of this special issue and may want to ensure that each young person has a copy.

In the United States and Canada, subscriptions or individual copies of the New Era can be ordered by phone at 1-800-537-5971 or online at Those living outside of the U.S. and Canada should contact their local Church magazines representative or a member of their bishopric or branch presidency for information on how to subscribe.


The Importance of Healthy Diets

In the October Ensign article “New Members, New Traditions,” under “We live the Word of Wisdom,” I felt that something could have been included about healthy eating. Eating whole grains, fruits, and vegetables is a big part of the Word of Wisdom. I feel that many members think they are living the Word of Wisdom by not smoking and drinking, but there is a lot more to it. We should eat to live, not live to eat. Sandra Longley Thomas, North Carolina

Light in a Dark Place

Thank you for including the article “For the Divorced Single Parent” in the September Ensign. My divorce is not yet final, but I have been living as a single parent for nearly two years. It is the most difficult trial I have been asked to endure in my short lifetime. There are so many questions and worries, prayers and tears. Frankly, I’m surprised anyone survives. This article was a light for me in a very dark place—so many ideas to try to implement and advice to make future events easier for me and my three beautiful children. Thank you, thank you for remembering those of us with less-than-whole families. Name Withheld

Heartfelt Thanks

Please accept our gratitude for the October Ensign. I have nearly worn out the pages. A close friend at work is a convert; she and I have wept together as she has gone through change as the gospel of Jesus Christ has enveloped her. I called her when she got her Ensign in the mail, and we wept again. I will order many copies of this issue and use them. Kathy Wheeler, Nevada

Great Timing, Great Blessing

My TV broke last night, and my October Ensign arrived today—what great timing, and what a great blessing. I am a long-time member (since 1977), but we had a sister baptized two weeks ago. In addition to enjoying the articles for myself, I find I am reading them through her eyes too. Well done—a truly inspired and remarkable compilation of articles. Susan Arkley, England