News of the Church

By Laurie Williams Sowby

Gift of Music Blesses Many

In many small congregations around the world, Latter-day Saints are singing hymns to simple accompaniments played on basic keyboards.

Although the music is simple, teaching members to play the piano rather than relying on recorded accompaniments brings blessings to the individual, his or her family, and his or her congregation as a whole.

The growing number of members blessed by learning to play the piano is the result of a partnership between the Church and one couple’s desire to leave a legacy of music that would live on after them.

The Basic Music Course

In 1992, the Church created the Basic Music Course with the intent to teach members basic piano skills and how to lead music. During the previous 15 years, Church membership had more than doubled from 3.7 to 8.1 million, however, the number of members with music skills who could accompany singing during worship services had not kept pace, particularly in areas where resources for music lessons were scarce.

The Basic Music Course includes the Conducting Course manual, the Keyboard Course manual, a Hymns Made Easy simplified hymnbook, a CD of examples, music flashcards, and a cardboard keyboard for practice at home.

While anyone can purchase the course through distribution centers, it is usually taught by senior missionary couples under priesthood leader direction in locations as diverse as Brazil, Cambodia, Europe, Jordan, India, South Africa, the South Pacific, Ukraine, and more.

“Because the conducting course and keyboard course teach music skills using the hymns, members focus their learning on preparing to serve in the Church,” said Diane Bastian of the Music and Cultural Arts Division “These members are blessed by developing their own talents and being able to serve. In addition, their dedication and participation in Church meetings blesses and inspires others in their families and congregations.”

The Harman Music Fund

In 1998, Jack and Wauna Harman, a philanthropic couple in the state of Washington, set up the Jack and Wauna Harman Music Fund to work in harmony with the Church’s Basic Music Course.

The fund pays for the Music and Cultural Arts Division of the Church to purchase four-octave electronic keyboards and ship them with the Basic Music Course when requested.

The fact that the Church had already published the Basic Music Course and had missionaries in place around the world as potential teachers “helped seal the deal” for the Harmans as they were searching for the right place for their endowment fund, Sister Bastian said.

The availability of the electronic keyboards has made a difference for those participating in the Basic Music Course.

“Having the keyboard has made a world of difference in students’ interest in learning and how quickly they progress,” said Sister Bastian.

Sister Bastian now sends about 1,000 four-octave keyboards each year to areas where the Church is relatively new or music instruction is scarce or unaffordable. The keyboards are loaned to students during the course, but at the completion of the course, budding musicians without the resources to purchase their own keyboard can apply for help from the Harman Music Fund.

“The Harman Music Fund has blessed a lot of people,” said Sister Bastian.

Blessing Church and Family

The goal of the program is for the students to learn basic skills well enough to provide keyboard accompaniment for hymns in their meetings. But the benefits extend far beyond keyboard ability. Learning to play is increasing self-confidence, inviting the Spirit into homes and Church meetings, and blessing individuals and families.

Sister Susan Nye, a missionary serving in the Uganda Kampala Mission with her husband, teaches the keyboard course in three branches. She told of a young convert of 10 months, a keyboard student for less than a year, who was called upon at the last minute to accompany four young men in a talent show.

“Although he played only the melody,” she wrote, “it gave the group the confidence to sing.” Previously, the young man would not play in sacrament meetings because he felt he wasn’t accomplished enough. “After the talent show, he realized that even if only the melody is played on a keyboard, it helps promote reverence and invites the Spirit in sacrament meetings,” Sister Nye continued.

Sister Shona Kasper, living in Hyderabad, India, and serving in the India Bangalore Mission, reported there were no experienced pianists in one branch, but “through the music training program, one young man, Rama, has become very capable playing the melody line of most hymns and even a few hymns with both hands.” She added that Rama is the only member of the Church in his family, “and they are very proud of what he is doing.”

In another branch, a young mother named Siritha was allowed to take a keyboard home to practice because coming to the meetinghouse every day was a hardship. Sister Kasper said Siritha made quick progress and surprised herself as she learned to put two hands together and play a hymn in a very short time.

“Siritha tells of how music has brightened the spirit of their home,” wrote Sister Kasper. “These people are so thrilled with what they are doing and learning. This would never have happened without the wonderful keyboard program.”

Sister LaVonne Riggs, a missionary in the Chile Santiago West Mission, teaches Magdalena Palma, right, and Zamara Herrera.

“Every Member a Missionary” for 50 Years

Fifty years ago this month, in the spring of 1959, President David O. McKay (1873–1970) addressed members gathered in the Salt Lake Tabernacle for the 129th Annual General Conference of the Church. As President McKay closed the meeting, he shared his testimony of the restored gospel and left the members a charge that remains in effect today.

President McKay related how in 1923, in response to negative public opinion in the British Mission, the Brethren sent instructions to the members stating: “Throw the responsibility upon every member of the Church that in the coming year of 1923 every member will be a missionary. Every member a missionary! … Somebody will hear the good message of the truth through you.”

“And that is the message today,” President McKay said, extending the challenge to that 1959 audience. “Every member—a million and a half—a missionary!”

He then quoted Doctrine and Covenants 107:99: “‘Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence.’

“That is the responsibility of every man and woman and child who has listened to this great and wonderful conference,” President McKay said. “God help us to be true to our responsibility and to our callings.” (See Conference Report, Apr. 1959, 122.)

With the Church growing from 1.5 million member missionaries to more than 13 million, Church leaders have continued to echo the call.

“For years we have remembered the words of President David O. McKay: ‘Every member a missionary,’” said President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, during the April 2008 general conference. “I am confident that the day is coming that through the faith of the members we will see increasing numbers of people invited to hear the word of God who will then come into the true and living Church” (“The True and Living Church,” EnsignMay 2008, 20).

Fifty years ago this month, President David O. McKay encouraged every member to be a missionary.

Church Adds to Personal Progress Program

The Church released information on in February with additional instructions on how to incorporate virtue as a value in the Young Women Personal Progress program. The First Presidency announced the addition of the new value in a letter dated November 28, 2008.

An eight-page insert for young women to add to their Personal Progress books contains a scripture, motto, value experience and value project instructions, the color of the value, and more.

The scripture chosen to represent virtue is: “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies” (Proverbs 31:10). The chosen motto is: “I will prepare to enter the temple and remain pure and worthy. My thoughts and actions will be based on high moral standards.” The color that represents virtue is gold.

Four value experiences are outlined that help young women to understand the meaning and importance of chastity and virtue, and the blessings that come from being virtuous. They also help young women, their mothers, and their leaders understand how the quality of virtue enables a young woman to enjoy the constant companionship and guidance of the Holy Ghost and prepares her to worthily enter the temple to make and keep sacred covenants.

The value experiences encourage young women to study the selected doctrines in the scriptures and then write in a journal about the things they learn and the commitments they will make to live a virtuous life. The importance of repentance and the sacrament are also emphasized as a means to be virtuous and pure. The Young Women general presidency said, “These experiences are an important foundation for a young woman’s understanding of the meaning of virtue and its application in her life.”1

After the young women complete the four virtue value experiences, they complete a virtue value project. The project is to read the entire Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ and apply its teachings to their lives and circumstances. The project includes the young women recording their thoughts regularly in a journal. Upon completing the reading, the young women write their testimonies on the pages provided in the insert.

“We desire that all young women will make the reading of the Book of Mormon a daily habit,” says a statement by the Young Women general presidency on the Web site. “Her testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ, will be strengthened as she reads. Developing this testimony is vital to a young woman’s ability to face the challenges of life and to prepare for her future.”

The insert is currently available in English only, but translation has begun in additional languages and other inserts will be released as soon as their translations are completed. It will be incorporated into the Personal Progress booklet in a new edition soon.

In a letter dated March 6, 2009, the Young Women general presidency invited young women who have not completed Personal Progress to add the experiences and project for virtue to the other requirements for earning the Young Womanhood Recognition award and certificate.

On the Young Women Web site, the Young Women general presidency states that through 2009, a young woman may choose to earn her recognition under the old requirements or with the new virtue experiences and project. It is hoped that all will want to complete the new requirements, but leaders are encouraged to make the program work for each young woman.

In the letter, young women who have already earned their Young Womanhood Recognition are invited to complete the requirements for virtue if they choose. Leaders and mothers are also invited to participate.

Download the insert as a printable pdf document by visiting and selecting the feature Personal Progress Content for Young Women Value of Virtue. Implementation instructions, frequently asked questions, a revised Personal Progress record sheet, and achievement certificate are also available at the site.

The Church has released information on changes to the Personal Progress program in order to incorporate the value of virtue.


  1.   1.

    Go to, select implementation instructions under “Personal Progress Content for Young Women Value of Virtue” and see “Frequently Asked Questions.”

Disaster Relief

Deadly Wildfires in Australia

Roaring wildfires, fed by fierce winds and lingering drought, spread across southern Australia in January and February, killing at least 200 people, destroying more than 800 homes, and consuming thousands of acres of vegetation. Three member families are among those whose homes were destroyed.

The wildfires are being called the worst natural disaster in Australia’s history; however, police believe some of the wildfires may have been intentionally started.

The fires razed entire rural towns. In Victoria, several communities were still at risk at the end of February, with 30 fires still burning. As disaster crews made their way deeper into disaster zones, they anticipated the death toll would rise.

Australia had fire safety plans in force. However, scorching temperatures, drought, tinder-dry bush, and fast-moving winds that constantly changed directions increased the ferocity of the wildfires and seemed to catch many residents by surprise.

All members and missionaries were accounted for. One member, whose home was destroyed, was hospitalized because of heart complications. The fires did not damage any Church buildings.

The Church made a monetary donation to the Australian Red Cross disaster fund, and many members volunteered to help in emergency shelters and in the cleanup process.

Australia experiences wildfires every year. However, the previous most deadly bushfire in Australia was in February 1983 on what is now called Ash Wednesday, when 75 people died.

Church Responds to Costly Ice Storm

A deadly ice storm killed at least 42 people across the United States, 30 of those in the state of Kentucky, as it swept from the southern plains to the East Coast. Many members’ homes were affected, but no members or missionaries in the storm’s path were killed.

Kentucky declared 101 counties and 75 cities in states of emergency. In Kentucky alone, the expected cleanup costs exceeded U.S. $45 million.

The ice storm, which started on January 27, 2009, cut off power to 1.3 million people and forced more than 6,500 people from their homes. Two weeks later, 35,000 customers across Kentucky continued to experience power outages.

Local priesthood leaders worked with community and state officials to assess the needs of the people in the areas and to administer Church assistance. Bishops’ storehouses in Carrollton, Texas; Indianapolis, Indiana; Slidell, Louisiana; and Tucker, Georgia, sent several truckloads of relief supplies to the people in need.

The Church provided blankets, hygiene kits, cots, water, food, and other supplies to several Red Cross shelters in Kentucky. Members and others who had critical and special needs received generators. The Church also sent chain saws and other supplies to support the volunteer cleanup efforts.

More than 1,350 Church members worked the weekend after the storm to clean up the damage. Their efforts totaled more than 16,000 hours of service.

World Briefs

Oquirrh Mountain Temple Prepares to Open

The Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temple is scheduled to open its doors to the public on June 1, 2009. The free open house requires reservations and will run through August 1, 2009. Twelve dedicatory sessions are planned from August 14 to 16, 2009; local priesthood leaders will distribute tickets for the dedication. The temple will open for ordinances on August 17, 2009. The temple is the 130th operating temple in the world and the 13th in Utah.

Conference to be Available on CD, DVD in Spanish

General conference is being made available in Spanish on CD and DVD. Both formats will contain the full proceedings and will be available within eight weeks after conference. Subscriptions to these products will be available in some areas. Contact local distribution centers for more information.

Audio of conference is available in more than 70 languages at, along with text in 30 languages and video streams in American Sign Language, English, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Church Shares Gospel Messages on YouTube

The Church has established official Church channels on YouTube to share the gospel message. The YouTube channels MormonMessages, MormonNewEraMessages, and LDS Public Affairs feature short videos that teach gospel principles or report on newsworthy Church events.

Videos on MormonMessages include excerpts from messages from Elder L. Tom Perry, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, and Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917–2008) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. MormonNewEraMessages includes messages based on New Era MormonAds, such as “Wish You Were Here.”

Three New Triples Now Online now includes the triple combination of the scriptures in Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish. The Church has published the triple combination in 38 languages. Twelve of those translations are now online: Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish. To access the scriptures online, go to and select your language from the upper right-hand corner.

New Era Publishes Issue on Education and Careers

The April 2009 New Era is devoted to the topic of education and careers. In this issue teens can find counsel, guidance, and encouragement for their current and future studies, both spiritual and secular. This issue contains such features as:

Parents, teachers, and leaders can use this issue as a resource for lessons and discussions. Additional copies of the April 2009 New Era (item no. 04244) may be ordered from Distribution Services.

For more, including an online video series on education, go to

The April 2009 issue of the New Era is dedicated to helping youth explore the importance of education.


Bittersweet Miracle

Thanks for the article in the February 2009 Ensign about adoption (“The Gift of Adoption,” 36). My life changed forever on April 19, 2007, when my son was born and his sweet birth mother placed him in my arms. Adoption is a bittersweet miracle for everyone involved in the process. Thank you for sharing the stories of these courageous birth families who were strengthened by the Lord’s love during a difficult time.

Alison Carlson, Utah, USA

Adopting Joy

This morning I read and cried over the adoption stories in the February 2009 Ensign (“The Gift of Adoption,” 36). One thing that attracted my husband and me to each other was that he wanted 14 children and I wanted 12. What a shock to us when, after five years of marriage, we were still childless. We went to LDS Social Services, completed all the paperwork, and waited. After 6 months, our social worker called to tell us we had a baby girl waiting for us. I still cry just thinking about it. Her middle name is Joy, for all the joy she brought into our lives.

We never met the birth mother or father and we know very little about them because of closed records. We never got to thank them for blessing our lives with Joy. Thank you.

Dale and Mary-Jo Christensen, Missouri, USA

An Answer to Prayer

Thank you so much for the January 2009 article “Bipolar Disorder: My Lessons in Love, Hope, and Peace” (p. 62). When I came to that article I cried as I witnessed a tender mercy from the Lord. I was officially diagnosed as having the disorder a little over a year ago and have been struggling to become well.

That day I had pleaded in my morning prayer that Heavenly Father would help me know what I need to do to help me on my journey to health. Just a couple of hours later my prayer was answered through this article.

It wasn’t a solution to all of my problems but it testified to me that the Lord loves me, that He knows my struggles and pain, and that He wants to help me and wants me to have true and everlasting happiness.

Name Withheld


In “Doctrine and Covenants Revealed,” in the January 2009 Ensign the caption on the top of page 45 under the heading “Missouri,” should have read: “given in Jackson County, Caldwell County, Daviess County, and Clay County, Missouri.”

In News of the Church in the January 2009 issue, page 74, the credit for the photograph in the article “Mormon Helping Hands Completes First Decade of Service” should read “Photograph by Norman Burningham.” Our apologies to Mr. Burningham.