News of the Church

By Lynda L. Hansen, Church Magazines

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Ward Members a Model of Missionary Preparation

Strong, supportive families who are grounded in the gospel play a vital role in preparing youth to share the gospel as full-time missionaries. Add the support of dedicated leaders, and the result is a generation of committed missionaries.

Such has been the experience of the Voyager Ward in the Gilbert Arizona Val Vista Stake. Of its 310 members, 21 elders and 1 sister have accepted calls to serve the Lord over the past two years.

What has been done to help produce such dedication? Family foresight, excellent examples, and making preparation a priority early.

Family Foresight

Christopher Law recently returned from the Massachusetts Boston Mission. “I can’t remember when I decided to serve a mission,” he said. “I always knew I would. Going on a mission was a part of our family’s daily conversation.”

Families who help their children look ahead to missionary service from an early age help build enthusiastic, committed youth.

Bishop William Whatcott of the Voyager Ward said: “I believe the emphasis our parents have put on the importance of serving has been critical. Because of that, we have found that by the time our young men receive the Aaronic Priesthood as deacons, the decision to serve a mission has already been made, and their desire to stay faithful and close to the gospel through their teenage years is greater.”

Families are best at equipping a future missionary with what he or she will need both spiritually and practically. One of the key tools a family has for helping children prepare to serve is family home evening.

Frank Lang, an advisor in the priests quorum and parent of a missionary, encouraged parents to hold family home evening whether they are new or established members. “That is where our children learn about the gospel,” he said. It also offers frequent opportunities to emphasize the importance of missionary preparation and service.

Brother Law noted that family home evening was a time for his family to do member missionary work. “Making missionary work a part of the family helps develop the desire to serve,” he said.

Excellent Examples

While the family is key in fostering practical and spiritual preparation, the encouragement and examples of good Church leaders can support the instruction given in the home and can make a big difference in the lives of the family members.

“We have had wonderful leaders who have been great examples, mentors, and instructors,” Bishop Whatcott said. “From the time these young men are deacons until the time they leave on their missions, their leaders have focused on helping them stay active and maintain their desire to serve a mission.”

Once a month the young men of the Voyager Ward meet together to hear returned missionaries from their ward, including those who served many years ago, share their testimonies and life-changing mission experiences. Bishop Whatcott calls the monthly experience “invaluable.”

Brother Lang agrees. “The boys catch the vision of how important a mission is in their lives—that it still affects these men even now,” he said. “These returned missionaries bear powerful testimony of the importance of serving a mission.”

Leaders in the Voyager Ward have also felt it would be appropriate in their ward to gather the young men together on a Sunday evening before one of them leaves for the missionary training center. After a simple dinner, the young men share what the departing elder means to them. He in turn shares his testimony.

Making Preparation a Priority

Mission preparation is more likely to become a priority in the lives of young men when it is a priority in the lives of parents and leaders.

Priesthood leaders make an effort to support the family years before a young man is of missionary age.

At weekly missionary preparation classes, priesthood leaders teach with the assistance of recently returned missionaries. The Preach My Gospel manual is used for the lessons and discussions. Once a month parents attend the class to serve as investigators so the class participants can practice teaching the gospel.

Seminary attendance is also an important factor in helping to prepare young men for a mission, according to Brother Law. “Be active in seminary,” he said. “It helped me a lot. Scripture mastery is key. I used those scriptures every day on my mission.”

However, no matter how high a priority a mission may be for parents and leaders, the choice to serve and the choice to prepare must be made by the future missionaries.

“No one can convince them to serve without the Spirit touching their hearts,” Brother Lang said. “They each must be taught and converted by the Spirit. We leaders or other boys cannot do it.”

Vee Hiapo, the mother of two returned missionaries, B. J. and Kiana, says, “We must have faith that our children will make the right decisions and allow them to use their agency.”

And in the end, if a young man or woman chooses to serve, even those who may be struggling with finances or a lack of family support will find a way. “The Lord will provide a way for them to serve if they follow Him in faith,” says Lothaire Bluth, Val Vista stake president.

Like many families in the Voyager Ward, the Law family is dedicated to cultivating a missionary spirit.

Photograph by Marci Johnson

Members Rely on Prayer During Deadly Tornado

News reports on May 25, 2008, predicted the mile-wide tornado that had wiped out half of Parkersburg, Iowa, would head north. But as Wes Godfrey videotaped the tornado from his home to the east in New Hartford, Iowa, the rotating funnel slowly started to fill up his camcorder’s screen.

Brother Godfrey rushed his 8-months-pregnant wife, Erin, and two children into their tornado shelter and huddled his family together to pray. As Brother Godfrey asked Heavenly Father to spare their lives and the lives of their neighbors, the Spirit touched his heart, and he immediately knew two things: (1) they would be OK, and (2) they were going to get hit.

After the prayer, an eerie silence fell. Moments later, rain and wind exploded against the steel door of the shelter. The commotion lasted only a few seconds before silence returned.

When the family decided it was safe to come out, their home was gone.

“I was devastated,” Sister Godfrey said. “I thought our house would still be there, but at the same time I was glad that we were alive. I realized how fragile life is.”

Winds of the tornado, rated as a low-end EF-5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, 1 peaked at 205 miles per hour (330 kilometers per hour), completely destroying more than 240 homes and businesses and killing six people in Parkersburg. In New Hartford, the tornado destroyed an additional 30 homes and killed two people within a two-block radius of the Godfreys’ home.

After the tornado, neighbors stood in bewilderment, crying. Children ran around aimlessly, searching for lost pets. People drove through the area, asking if everyone was okay.

After calming his shoeless family, Brother Godfrey used his wife’s cell phone to call their home teacher, Jason Meyers, who lived 30 minutes away in Cedar Falls. Without hesitation, Brother Meyers said he was on his way. He and two other members journeyed along country roads, past open fields, and around downed power lines to get to New Hartford. When they arrived, Brother Meyers jumped out of the vehicle to hug Brother Godfrey and his family.

“It was good, because we didn’t have any family out there. But our ward family was there for us,” Brother Godfrey said while choking back some tears.

They whisked the Godfreys out of the disaster area to stay at the Relief Society president’s house, where members brought food and clothing.

The next morning the Godfreys wanted to try to find some valuables, even though pieces of their home were spread over 3 miles or more—and pictures of the Godfrey children were later found 100 miles away. Before they started searching, Brother Godfrey offered a prayer that they would be able to find some specific items, namely his and his wife’s wedding rings, their wallets, scriptures, a journal, and a diabetic blood tester.

After 30 minutes of searching, a counselor in the stake presidency found the Godreys’ rings under some insulation. Fifteen minutes later their wallets turned up, fully intact with licenses and credit cards inside. Then the blood tester, the journal, and the scriptures were found.

“All that stuff is replaceable, but I think the reason we found them was to build everyone’s testimony of prayer,” Brother Godfrey said.

The home of another member family, Laverne and Melva Gnade of Parkersburg, was also destroyed by the tornado. However, the one part of their house left standing contained their extensive family history and genealogical work. Home teachers also came to the aid of the Gnade family and helped take care of their needs.

Following the tornado, members of the Cedar Falls Ward, Cedar Rapids Iowa Stake, helped with various clean-up efforts. They helped turn an elementary school in nearby Aplington into the Parkersburg Distribution Center. At the center, tornado victims could pick up donated clothing, food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, and various other items, including microwaves and some appliances. Church members volunteered at the center three nights a week through August.

“We were so taken care of there,” Sister Godfrey said. “Heavenly Father took care of us [then], and He still is, and that’s what’s so amazing.”


  •   1.

    The Enhanced Fujita Scale, or EF Scale, is an updated version of the Fujita or F scale used for rating the strength of tornadoes in the United States by the damage they cause. It still estimates wind speeds, as did the original F scale, and still has 6 categories, from 0 to 5, but is more detailed and specific. It has been in use since February 2007.

  • Wes and Erin Godfrey walked out of their home—shown before and after the massive tornado struck.

    Photographs courtesy of Godfrey family

    Members Bring Hope to U.S. Flood Victims

    Throughout the midwestern United States, color-coded signs hanging outside buildings indicated the level of structural damage caused by the historic flooding that occurred between June 7 and July 1, 2008. More than 40 homes in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, received a purple placard from city inspectors. Such homes were considered beyond repair and were destroyed.

    However, while purple signaled demolition, another color, yellow, came to symbolize service as hundreds of Church members and missionaries donned yellow Mormon Helping Hands T-shirts during sandbagging and other relief efforts.

    Appreciation for those in yellow T-shirts surfaced as the floodwaters came and went. For instance, after inspectors marked his home “unlivable but repairable,” Dustin Kane, a 35-year-old single father, received help from members of the Cedar Falls Ward, who ripped out contaminated flooring and provided a generator for power washing. Dustin’s mother, Nan, was impressed with the group’s selflessness.

    “These are people who didn’t even know us, but they opened their arms and were so helpful and so kind, and nobody gave up,” Mrs. Kane said.

    To help flood victims, the Church sent 26,000 cleaning kits and 15,000 hygiene kits, which members distributed. Members also worked with other relief organizations as needed.

    The Cedar Rapids stake set up a relief warehouse filled with the wheelbarrows, shovels, and work clothes the Church sent. Being the most heavily impacted by the flooding, the stake also received funds to purchase power washers and generators. The community received the relief efforts with open arms.

    The swollen waters killed at least 20, left thousands homeless, and resulted in damages of U.S. $5 billion to North America’s farmlands. The homes of several Church members were affected, but none were reported as being torn down.

    In Nauvoo, Illinois, sandbagging efforts prevented floodwaters from damaging historical landmarks. Elder Vern Whisenant, a public affairs missionary in Nauvoo, said events in Nauvoo proceeded as normal in June and July.

    This summer season, Church directors felt inspired to move the Nauvoo Pageant from the Sunset by the Mississippi site, which became submerged during the flooding, to a spot near the Nauvoo temple. The new Nauvoo Outdoor Stage sits on top of a hill well above the flood plain.

    Members in their yellow Helping Hands T-shirts volunteer at the flooded home of Jeff and Melissa Smith.

    Photograph by Laure Shaerr

    Historic Help Remembered in Sandbagging Effort

    During heavy flooding across the central United States in June, full-time missionaries joined in sandbagging efforts in many areas, including the city of Quincy, Illinois.

    For two days, on June 18 and 19, 2008, more than 130 missionaries from the Illinois Peoria and Nauvoo Missions and the Missouri St. Louis Mission helped prevent flood damage to the city that once provided refuge for early Saints exiled from Missouri.

    “I cannot put into words, quite frankly, how much it meant to us to have members of the ministry group from the Latter-day Saints, the young and the old, men and women, pitch in and help us like that,” said Quincy mayor John Spring.

    National Guard troops, prison inmates, missionaries, and others assembled about 25,000 sandbags per hour on June 18 and supplied 1.2 million sandbags in less than a week.

    The missionaries considered the two days spent sandbagging a small way to pay back the city of Quincy for its hospitality to early Church members.

    In February 1839, heavy persecution stemming from the Mormon Extermination Order 1 in Missouri forced nearly 10,000 Church members to flee to various locations in Illinois and Iowa. Quincy’s 1,500 residents sheltered more than 5,000 members. Quincy provided the exiled Saints with clothes, jobs, and protection for a few months before the Prophet Joseph Smith led them 40 miles north to establish Nauvoo.

    During the flooding, missionaries also helped with many other sandbagging efforts throughout the Midwest, including towns south of Indianapolis, Indiana; Fort Madison and Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and in Niota and Dallas City, Illinois.


  •   1.

    See History of the Church, 3:175; also quoted in “News of the Church,” Ensign, Jan. 1995, 76.

  • Missionaries from Illinois and Missouri fill sandbags in Quincy, Illinois.

    Photograph by Lee Lyon

    In the News

    New Manual Designed for Nursery Classes

    A new lesson manual will soon be making its way to nursery classrooms throughout the Church.

    The manual, Behold Your Little Ones, contains 30 lessons focused on gospel doctrine and is specifically designed for nursery classes.

    Each lesson includes a color photograph as well as a line drawing that can be copied or traced to help reinforce the principles taught in the lesson. Suggestions for using the visuals, teaching tips, and optional activities are included in every lesson.

    The resource offers flexibility for teachers to present the lessons in any order or use consecutive weeks to emphasize a principle not easily understood by this age group.

    With topics such as “I Can Pray to Heavenly Father” or “My Family Can Be Together Forever,” these lessons can help build a foundation of understanding in any setting and can also be used by parents as a tool for teaching in the home.

    “We are so pleased to have this new nursery manual,” said Cheryl C. Lant, Primary general president. “It has been created for the children, for their spiritual development, and for their social experience. It will be equally valuable in the hands of nursery leaders and parents.”

    Behold Your Little Ones will be available in 27 languages by the end of 2008 and will be distributed to local priesthood leaders. It is available through Church distribution at

    Behold Your Little Ones is a new manual specifically for children in nursery.

    World Briefs

    Humanitarian Services Receives Award from Madagascar

    In recognition of its welfare contributions in Madagascar, LDS Humanitarian Services received the Chevalier de L’Ordre Nationale Madagascar award in June 2008 from the country’s Ministry of Health. In 2007 and 2008, the Church provided equipment for dentists treating patients in remote areas and for doctors to perform cataract surgery. The Church has also donated 500 wheelchairs and completed clean water projects for 17 communities.

    Kenya Recognizes Church’s Welfare Efforts

    The Kenyan government commended the Church’s relief efforts after a dispute following the country’s presidential election left 1,500 people dead and displaced 600,000. The Church sent 20 40-foot containers packed with blankets, hygiene and school supplies, dry milk, and nutritional food as well as kits for use in orphanages and for newborn care. The supplies will be distributed by partner agencies within the African country to families seeking assistance to return to their homes.

    Preach My Gospel Downloads Available

    The Preach My Gospel manual used by members and missionaries all over the world can be viewed online or downloaded in PDF format in 42 languages. It is also now available as an English audio recording in MP3 format. To download the files, visit and select Preach My Gospel from the “Shortcuts” menu on the right. Church audio files can also be found at

    Joseph Smith Manual MP3s Available

    The manual Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith is now available to download online in MP3 audio format in 11 languages. The files are available in Cantonese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. Access all the audio files at or by clicking on Listen in the individual text chapters found in the Gospel Library.

    Danish, Dutch, Hungarian Triples Available Online

    The Danish, Dutch, and Hungarian versions of the triple combination are now available online at The online triple combination provides footnotes, study helps, maps, photographs, and the ability to mark scriptures. To help more members have access to the scriptures, the Church has previously placed English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish versions of the triple online. The LDS scriptures in more than two dozen languages are currently being converted for use online.

    Swedish Triple Combination Now Available

    Swedish-speaking members can now study the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price together with the publication of the new triple combination in Swedish. A First Presidency announcement encouraged members to obtain their own copies of the new triple combination, with associated study guides, through local Church distribution centers or local leaders. A new edition of the Book of Mormon is also available in the language.

    Elder Paul V. Johnson New CES Commissioner

    On June 7, 2008, the First Presidency announced the appointment of Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Seventy as Commissioner of the Church Educational System (CES), replacing Elder W. Rolfe Kerr, who was called to serve as president of the Logan Utah Temple. The change took effect in August 2008.

    Under the direction of the Church Board of Education, Elder Johnson will oversee operations of all CES entities, including the Church’s institutions of higher education: Brigham Young University, BYU–Idaho, BYU–Hawaii, and LDS Business College; the Church’s seminary and institute of religion programs; and a number of Church-operated primary and secondary schools.

    After receiving a bachelor’s degree in zoology/botany from BYU in 1978, Elder Johnson shifted his studies from dentistry to teaching seminary. He received a master of education degree from BYU in 1982 and a doctorate in instructional technology from Utah State University in 1989.

    He taught seminary for 12 years in Arizona and Utah before working in administrative positions at CES in the departments of religious education and elementary and secondary education. Elder Johnson has served as a member of the Seventy since 2003.

    Elder Paul V. Johnson


    Turned to the Savior

    Thank you for the article “Armor of Battle, Armor of God” (Ensign, June 2008, 24). My husband is in the Navy and returned in December from a goodwill deployment in Africa. Only two weeks ago, the ship left again for a three-month trip. We have small children, and my days are full of fun and frustration. How I needed a reminder to turn to my Savior rather than try to fill my empty evenings with entertainment.

    Michelle Callihan, Virginia

    Hymns of Sweet Comfort

    I would like to share my own experience with “The Healing Power of Hymns” (Ensign, April 2008, 66). One early October morning, my husband, age 57, died unexpectedly of a heart attack. I remember that first Sunday after losing him, forcing myself up the sidewalk and into the chapel alone. It was so difficult to sit on that bench and feel the vacancy beside me. But then the opening song brought sweet comfort to me: “Lead, kindly light … I do not ask to see the distant scene—one step enough for me” (Hymns, no. 97).

    Orvetta Groom, Utah

    Hands Guided by the Spirit

    Thank you for your recent article, “The Spiritual Component of Healing” (Ensign, June 2008, 46). As an emergency medicine physician, I have witnessed patients and families encounter the differing manifestations of the gift of healing in the face of tragedy. Thank you for discussing the relationship of medical science with the Spirit in the healing process. An additional spiritual component of healing we should remember is the influence of the Spirit on those medical providers from whom we seek help. The gift of healing and the power of the Spirit to heal often extend to the hands and minds of those health professionals caring for our loved ones.

    Rourke M. Yeakley, MD, Idaho

    Answers and More Answers

    I received my July Ensign today and flipped right to “Lesson from a Milk Jug” (p. 48). It was an answer to hours of tearful prayers. I, too, have been dealing with the consequences of my husband’s choices, and it can be a very lonely road to travel as a young wife. For every step I take forward, I feel as if I’m taking two back. I have prayed for peace and understanding, but the answers just didn’t seem to be coming.

    But then I read “Lesson from a Milk Jug;” the Spirit overcame me and the tears just flowed. It was Heavenly Father’s way of reminding me, once again, that I’m not alone in this, and that I can be healed of my pain through Christ’s Atonement, if I will just let Him carry me.

    Then I turned the page to “Hope, Healing, and Dealing with Addiction” (p. 50) and found many more answers that I’ve been praying for, answers I haven’t been able to find elsewhere. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I know you were guided at this time to share these stories.

    Name Withheld