News of the Church


Reader’s Digest Inserts Spark Interest

They are perhaps the Church’s smallest missionaries measuring just seven and a half inches high. But when a series of Church-sponsored inserts published in the Reader’s Digest went into homes of Digest readers in 1978, they proved that impact can’t be measured by size.

The four inserts were published in the English and German editions of the April, June, September, and December issues of the Digest. The inserts, labeled clearly as advertisements, explained the family, the roles of men and women, self-reliance, and the relations of parents and children. Since the inserts were published, stories of their effect on individual lives have been accumulating.

Two missionaries serving in the Massachusetts Boston Mission reported that while four elders were at a meetinghouse, a woman called to ask if she could learn more about the Church. She said she and her husband had read the insert in the Digest.

One month after their first appointment with the missionaries, the couple were baptized.

In New Orleans, Louisiana, a woman read the insert and went to a public library to study about the Church. The next Sunday she and her two children attended meetings. They were baptized a few weeks later, followed in two weeks by the woman’s mother.

Two elders tracting in the Oregon Portland Mission met a nonmember woman who told them she had just read the insert. She requested that they come in and tell her more about their church. They subsequently taught her the gospel, and she prepared for baptism.

In the Texas San Antonio Mission, a ten-year-old girl read the insert, and called two missionaries to tell them that she wanted to belong to that kind of family. She asked if they would teach her.

Any conversion to the gospel can have far-reaching effects on the family and friends of the convert. In Howard, Kansas, those effects are quickly becoming obvious.

Michael Land of Howard had been dissatisfied with churches he attended; he began holding services in his home, for his family. He saw Donny and Marie Osmond on television and was impressed with them. Then he read the first insert published by the Church in the Digest. He and his wife wrote Church headquarters for more information. The same day they received information in the mail, they were telephoned by two missionaries. They were taught by the missionaries, and they attended the Missouri, Mormons, and Miracles pageant at Independence, Missouri. Within a week of the pageant, they were baptized, on 26 June 1978.

Brother Land says that before finding the gospel, he was lost in a forest. Now that he is out of that wilderness, he goes back in to help others find their way out. First he introduced his wife’s sister and her husband to the Church. In December, another family he approached were baptized.

The converts in Howard are looking toward a time when they can have a branch of the Church and full-time missionaries in their town.

The Church’s Public Communications Department reports receiving an average of 575 letters a day from Digest readers requesting more information. Those responding to the December insert are sent a recently published brochure What Keeps the Osmonds Together and Happy? It is the same size as the Digest inserts.

Missionaries have used the insert in tracting, and members have given copies of the insert to nonmembers.

[Illustration] German edition of Reader’s Digest insert.

Pageants Scheduled for 1979

This year, like recent years, is one of pageantry for Saints in the United States, Canada, and New Zealand. Nine pageants—eight of them outdoor productions—have been announced. Admission to all is free.

Hamilton, New Zealand, January 18–20—This is the second year for Hear Him, a religious pageant staged on the New Zealand Temple hill. In 1978, 28,000 people saw the production.

Mesa, Arizona, April 10–13—An Easter pageant will be produced on the grounds of the Arizona Temple. Attendance in 1978, 36,000.

Independence, Missouri, June 14–16— Missouri, Mormons, and Miracles will be staged near the Church’s visitors’ center. Attendance in 1978, 9,000.

Oakland, California, July 10–14, 17–21—The Oakland Temple pageant, staged indoors at the tri-stake center near the temple, tells of the organization of the Church and the pioneers’ westward trek. Attendance in 1978, 18,000.

Manti, Utah, July 12–14, 17–21—The Mormon Miracle pageant is shown on the grassy slope of the Manti Temple hill. Attendance in 1978, 125,000.

Idaho Falls, Idaho, July 24–27, July 31–August 3—This is the first year for III Nephi,a religious pageant to be staged outdoors at Freeman Park.

Palmyra, New York, July 27–28, July 31–August 4—1979 brings the 42nd anniversary of the production of the Hill Cumorah Pageant, America’s Witness for Christ, presented outdoors on a hillside staging area at the Hill Cumorah. Attendance in 1978, 140,000.

Nauvoo, Illinois, August 15–19—City of Joseph will be presented outdoors near the Nauvoo Visitors’ Center. The pageant tells of the development of Nauvoo as a Mormon settlement and of Joseph Smith. Attendance in 1978, 45,000.

Calgary, Alberta, Canada, December 18–26—The Christmas Nativity Pageant in Heritage Park will depict the birth of the Savior. Attendance in 1978, 30,000.

[photo] The Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti is one of many Church pageants being performed again in 1979.

Church Continues Progress in Nicaragua

The Church’s full-time missionaries were evacuated from Nicaragua in September amid political strife, but that didn’t stop missionary work.

Some fifty full-time missionaries of the Costa Rica San Jose Mission were evacuated as violence broke out between Nicaraguan government and insurgent forces. Later that fall, Mission President Joseph C. Muren sent eight missionaries back into Nicaragua for a brief period to help train district missionaries—part-time missionaries who are local members. Subsequently, in one two-week period, forty-three persons were baptized, many of them having been taught by the local missionaries.

The work has been bolstered by a Nicaraguan who recently completed his labors in the Costa Rica San Jose Mission. Elder Jose Boza, the first Latin American assistant to the mission president in his mission, accompanied the eight missionaries as he returned home to Nicaragua. He is now helping the sixty-six local district missionaries.

The local missionaries had a great challenge, since the month the full-time missionaries were pulled out of the country, their baptisms reached an all-time high. “But the local missionaries have high goals,” says a current assistant to the president.

During November, the local missionaries baptized fifty-six persons.

Not only are new converts joining the Church, but members are continuing with Church activities as normally as possible. Recently members attended a district conference in Nicaragua.

And President Muren has returned to Nicaragua several times.

Church leaders are unsure how soon full-time missionaries will be able to return to Nicaragua. But in the meantime, the work goes on.

Released-Time Seminaries Ruled Constitutional

A U.S. federal judge ruled December 14 that granting school credit for seminary Bible classes is unconstitutional, but that released time for those classes is not. In his comments he praised the good done by the seminary program.

Judge Clarence A. Brimmer, Wyoming federal district judge, ruled that Logan, Utah, school districts cannot grant credit to students for Bible classes taught through the Church’s seminary program. Three Logan residents had challenged the Logan policy of granting credit for Bible classes, and also the policy of releasing students for the classes. At the same time, Judge Brimmer ruled that releasing students from school to attend such classes is permissible under the guidelines of a 1952 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Judge Brimmer found that giving credit for released-time seminary is “Constitutionally flawed,” but he had high praise for the program itself:

“We find that the aims and objectives of the program—its development of character, faith, integrity, and industry in the youth of the LDS Church—are most laudable and praiseworthy. We admire the deep sense of good citizenship and responsible concern for inculcation of such necessary values in their youth that has inspired the leaders of the LDS Church to strive to indelibly impress those virtues in the minds of young people.”

“Small Means,” Thousands of Miles Away, Help the Church in Spain

When Elder Gordon B. Hinckley of the Quorum of the Twelve visited Spain in August 1978, news media and politicians took notice.

Elder Hinckley was met at Madrid’s Barajas International Airport by 500 members of the Church. As he spoke to them in the airport, television crews from Spain’s two stations recorded the event—and as a result, an estimated 22.5 million viewers shared the experience.

Later, Elder Hinckley met with the king of Spain, Juan Carlos. He also met with the cabinet minister in charge of Spain’s Health, Education, and Welfare, Senor Enrique Sanchez, and with the mayor of Madrid, Jose Luis Alvarez.

It was not the first time that journalists and political figures in Spain took active notice of the Church. However, it did represent a dramatic change in attitudes toward the Church in a country that is mostly Catholic and that only in recent years legalized religious liberty.

The Church has been in Spain since 1969, when a religious liberty law was passed. Discrimination that remained after the passage of the law is being eliminated by a new constitution, now being completed by the Spanish parliament.

The original Spain Mission was divided on 1 July 1976; now there are three Spanish missions—in Barcelona, in Seville, and in Madrid. Church growth has brought positive recognition for the Church, some of it the result of events thousands of miles away.

A key has been positive firsthand experiences of Spanish citizens with Church members in the United States.

The Spanish newspaper ABC had never published information about the Church until recently. Then one day Ashby D. Boyle, the Church’s national director of public communications in Spain, was at the newspaper office to deliver a news release. A Catholic priest, a correspondent for the paper, noticed Brother Boyle’s North American accent and asked where he was from. “I told him I was from Salt Lake City, and he reacted warmly, saying he had once stayed with a Mormon family there,” Brother Boyle says. After the priest learned that Brother Boyle was a Mormon, he took the press release; the next day, it was published in the newspaper. Now, news of the Church is frequently printed in the paper.

“The effect of the quality of the lives of that Salt Lake City family has been felt several thousand miles away,” says Brother Boyle. “Unknowingly, they have made an important contribution to the growth of the kingdom in a distant vineyard.”

ABC, however, is not the only newspaper willing to publish stories about the Church. El Pais, one of the most influential newspapers in Europe, published a derogatory story about the Church in March 1978. When Brother Boyle inquired about the origin of the story, the editors of the section said they had purchased it from a newspaper in London, England, and they had intended no harm.

A reporter for the newspaper (who had not seen the story before its publication) offered to “undo the damage” by writing a more fair article himself. He had been impressed with the way members of the Church treated him during a visit to Utah. “He knew from his own experience that Mormons were friendly and basically good,” says Brother Boyle. “He felt badly about us having been portrayed as the opposite, and his story was published recently.”

The positive contact with members of the Church was not limited to visits to Utah, ( ) however. In fact, a man impressed with a Mormon family in Louisiana was instrumental in arranging Elder Hinckley’s visit with King Juan Carlos.

More than twenty years ago, the U.S. State Department arranged a tour for several promising young Spanish journalists. One of these, Jesus de la Serna, son of an important Spanish family, stayed with a Latter-day Saint family in New Orleans, Louisiana.

“It was a hard time in his life, as his father—an important Spanish philosopher and politician—had just died. Mr. Serna arrived in the U.S. dressed completely in black, which was a traditional Spanish way of mourning,” Brother Boyle says.

The head of the family hosting him was a graveyard caretaker. The family lived in a cottage at the edge of the graveyard. The family’s compassion dissolved any uneasiness Mr. Serna felt about staying so near a cemetery. In fact, the family and their visitor discussed life and death together, and prayed together.

More than ten years later, when Mr. Serna was the publisher of Informaciones, an important national daily publication, he had not forgotten his Latter-day Saint friends in New Orleans. When the Church’s chapel in Madrid was dedicated in 1977, Informaciones featured the story on its front page—a rare occurrence in Europe.

“This impression was sufficiently strong that Mr. Serna would talk to his brother, Victor, of the great charity and Christian goodness he had seen in Mormon people,” Brother Boyle says. Victor de la Serna is a senator of the king. When difficulties arose in arranging a visit between Elder Hinckley and the king, Victor de la Serna offered to help. “The result is now history,” Brother Boyle says.

After Elder Hinckley’s visit with the king, the king gave a full report on the visit to his minister of religious affairs, who told Church officials that the king sincerely desires to help the churches in Spain.

Queen Sophia of Spain noticed Victor de la Serna’s enthusiasm for the Church and asked him, “Could it be that you are a Mormon?” He wrote Brother Boyle of his response:

“I answered her that no, I am not a Mormon; but yes, I do have a great deal of respect and sympathy for their people.

“I said that it was very impressive that they would come to Spain with such unselfishness to Christianize a people that so often today seem to have forgotten the message of Christianity.”

“Perhaps the moral of these experiences,” Brother Boyle concludes, “is that the success of our relations with others depends on the quality of the lives of our members.”

[photo] Elder Gordon B. Hinckley meets with the mayor of Santiago de Compostella, Spain, and other government officials. With him are Elders Charles A. Didier and Neal A. Maxwell.

Symposium Examines International Understanding

The three days of sessions and workshops could have been a direct response to President Kimball’s address to Regional Representatives in September, urging that the gospel be taken to the “uttermost parts” of the world.

But BYU’s Language and Intercultural Research Center had been planning its winter “Bridges of Understanding” symposium for months. Representatives from education, government, journalism, law, linguistics, and other disciplines less easy to classify came to share their insights, gained by living and working with different cultures.

Even in the most academic sessions, the spirit brought by President Kimball was there, testifying, as he had, “We feel that the spirit of the Lord is brooding over the nations to prepare the way for the preaching of the gospel.”

F. Lamond Tullis of BYU’s Department of Government, and editor of the recently published Mormonism: A Faith for All Cultures (BYU Press, 1978), said President Kimball had “now made it mandatory to cross cultural frontiers.”

He discussed in greater detail some of the things that might be done to meet President Kimball’s challenge: “I can see no good reason why the Lord would open doors that we are not prepared to enter.”

“We work pretty hard at being aware of what’s ‘out there,’” said Brother Tullis. “We learn languages, we keep up on current affairs. But I think we may be less aware of our own strengths and weaknesses as messengers, less aware of our own political and cultural jingoism.” He cited hypernationalism, racial intolerance, and economic inequality as areas where we need to develop more sensitivity.

Sharing this vision was Spencer J. Palmer of BYU’s Religious Studies Center, former mission president in Korea, and author of a recently published book, The Expanding Church (Deseret Book, 1978). He added his own testimony about President Kimball and described “the exhilaration of having a prophet with such sympathy and concern for people who, in many cases, have been excluded from the mainstream of Mormon life.”

He recalled a Chinese student several years ago who came to him in tears, having been told that the Chinese would not be candidates for the celestial kingdom because they were not descendents of Shem. “I couldn’t help remembering that incident when I heard President Kimball’s heartfelt praise of the Chinese people and their worthiness for the gospel,” said Brother Palmer quietly.

“Someone needs to study how quickly this miracle of transition toward cultural sensitivity has taken place,” he emphasized. As a former mission president in Korea, he recalled his concern at seeing only the American flag fly over the mission compound—“and don’t misunderstand. I love that flag. I helped defend it as an American chaplain during the Korean War. But the Korean Saints needed to see their own flag over their Church headquarters.” He still remembers the exhilaration he felt seeing President Hugh B. Brown, the first member of a First Presidency ever to visit Asia, raise the Korean flag for the first time over the property of the Korean Mission.

“President Brown had accepted our invitation in a very gracious letter,” quipped Brother Palmer, “in which he mentioned something about being a Canadian.”

Brother Palmer also quoted David Kennedy, the Church’s ambassador-at-large, about the problem of “old attitudes” that have hampered missionary work in many non-Christian lands. Brother Kennedy urges that Latter-day Saints evaluate the worthiness of others in terms of their “righteousness,” more than by their cultural or governmental systems.

Eric Shumway, chairman of BYU—Hawaii’s Division of Communications and Language Arts and president of the campus stake, also spoke about the problem of intercultural understanding. “Every person in the Church must feel the implicit meaning of the apostle Peter’s vision of the descending vessel [see Acts 10],” he said, and shared his own moment of understanding as an inexperienced missionary in Tonga, seeing the Tongan Saints dance for Elder John Longdon, assistant to the Twelve. The lakalaka concluded with a solo dance by the district president from Vava’u. Suddenly Elder Longdon sprang to his feet and joined in the dance, imitating Malakai Unga’s whirls, nods, and bows. “I nearly swallowed my tongue with surprise,” remembers Brother Shumway, and when the dance ended with an embrace “which transcends color, race, and culture,” Brother Shumway testified that “for me it was as if the barriers of race, ignorance, and prejudice had fallen and I stood bathed in the insight of Peter’s vision, ‘Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.’”

As students come to BYU—Hawaii from many cultures, they bring different standards, he said. “By emphasizing the similarities among us, especially by acknowledging the gospel as the common ground for the understanding of all men, we have reduced the students’ temptation to ‘appeal to their culture as a sanctuary from things they fear or personally dislike.’” When the traditional hostility between two peoples flared into an altercation on campus, one student tried to excuse himself by saying that history was repeating itself. President Shumway firmly informed him: “History cannot be a convenient excuse by which you can strike down a brother. Before all else, you are a Latter-day Saint.”

A similar approach is taken when questions involving chastity, work priorities, and high academic standards are involved. “We make no bones about the importance of the gospel of Christ in the lives of our students, that it supersedes all cultural considerations. We stress that we are followers of Christ first and foremost, Latter-day Saints, a fraternity of priesthood which is more infinitely precious and meaningful than any cultural institution or national identity.” He reminded his audience that “the average American probably has to make just as many drastic changes in his cultural orientation as the native Samoan or Thai when he converts to true gospel living.”

In another presentation, H. Ned Seelye, who dropped out of high school at the age of sixteen to go live in Mexico and who later married a Guatemalan wife, talked about coping with culture shock ahead of time by orienting students and missionaries to what they will see and hear in the first twenty-four hours. “Your problem is that you’re trying to manage the basics of living,” he said.

Within a month, people living abroad have to deal with telecommunication, banking, traffic schedules, introductions, and handling telephone directories. Within two or three months, they need to understand what the newspapers are saying; and by the fifth or sixth month, they need to be involved in the civic clubs, cultural events, and social life of the country.

Mario Aranda, now director of bilingual curriculum for the Illinois Department of Education, grew up in Colonia Juarez as “a Mexican of Chinese extraction in an American colony and a Mormon in a Catholic country.”

He spoke of the difference between “colonizing,” which he defined as a power struggle, and “proselyting and educating,” which delights in “individuality.”

“We give children a double message,“ he pointed out. ”If they speak Spanish as grade-schoolers, we communicate to them that this is a terrible handicap that must be overcome. But by the time they’re in college, we tell them how wonderful it is to speak another language.”

Joseph C. Rust, a legal counsel for the Church, gave some suggestions for those traveling or living abroad; and L. Robert Kohls of the government’s International Communication Agency, summarized the course that cultural attaches take to develop intercultural sensitivity.

Other presentations included parallels and differences between Russian religion and Mormonism; how to deal with journalists in other countries; the advantages of Esperanto as an international language; the Church graphics department’s attempts to internationalize the visual appearance of Church publications; and how film, puppets, and BYU’s folk dancers have helped intercultural understanding. Other faculty members who have lived in Middle Eastern and African nations shared specific lessons in cultural awareness they learned.

Logan Temple Rededication in March

The Logan Temple, closed for extensive renovation for the last two years, will be rededicated March 13, 14, and 15 in nine dedicatory services.

The temple, originally dedicated 17 May 1884, will be open for public tours February 6 through March 3, except for Sundays and Monday evenings.

President Spencer W. Kimball will preside at the dedicatory services. The Logan Temple was the fourth completed by the Church and the second in Utah. It will become the Church’s seventeenth operating temple.

Reed Bullen of Logan will serve as temple president, as announced in 1978. Kathryn Bowen Bullen, his wife, will serve as temple matron. Oral L. Ballam and Arlin R. Pugmire, both of Logan, will serve as counselors to President Bullen.

Church Purchases Kansas City Land

A tract of 4,250 acres of land in and near Kansas City, Missouri, has been purchased by an investment arm of the Church. Announcement of the purchase was made at a luncheon in Kansas City in December.

Elder Howard W. Hunter of the Quorum of the Twelve, chairman of the Church Investment Advisory Committee, said the land is being purchased as a long-term investment. The tract was assembled and sold by a Kansas City attorney in behalf of a group of Kansas City businessmen.

The tract, in Clay County, Missouri, is about ten miles northeast of the Kansas City city hall. Most of the land is being farmed, and probably will continue to be.

LDS Scene

The Japan Sendai Mission has a new president. Kiyoshi Sakai of Tokyo, Japan, has been called as president, to succeed Richard D. S. Kwak. The mission is one of eight in Japan.

President Sakai, who has served as first counselor in the Yokohama Japan Stake and as a bishop in Tokyo and high councilor in the Tokyo Stake, has been employed by the Church’s distribution center in Tokyo. Serving with him in his mission assignment will be his wife, Mitsuyo Ogawa Sakai. They have three children.

For Church scholars, the invitation was a first. Jeffrey R. Holland, Church commissioner of education, participated in December in the international Jerusalem Seminar on Monotheism, Tradition, and Modernization. The invitation to participate was the first extended to the Church. He joined with education, business, and religious leaders from North and South America, Europe, and the Middle East in Jerusalem to discuss the effect of modern politics and economics on the teaching of personal values, public morals, and traditional religious beliefs.

Dale R. Curtis of Salt Lake City has been called as director of the Temple Square visitors’ centers in Salt Lake City. He succeeds Keith E. Garner, who has served in the position for four years. Brother Garner’s counselors, Gerald G. Smith and Clyde J. Summerhays, also have been released. Counselors to Brother Curtis have not been announced.

The director of Temple Square visitors’ centers oversees some 1,050 volunteer guides and hosts who assist the more than four million visitors to Temple Square annually.

News of BYU

The first Tongan member of the Church to receive a doctorate degree has also received an honor. Inoke Funaki, assistant professor of educational psychology at Brigham Young University—Hawaii Campus, has been given the Alumni Distinguished Service Award of Latter-day Saint Church Schools—Tonga. He is the only alumnus of Church Schools—Tonga to receive a doctoral degree and is the only Tongan member who teaches at a university in the United States.

A BYU graduate program taught in Spanish for Mexicans has its first graduates. In November, sixteen teachers and administrators of the Church received master’s degrees in education through the program, one of the few graduate programs taught, in Spanish, by a North American university in Mexico.

The program has some features that make it desirable as an educational experience for Mexicans, although the experience is not easy. “One of the most distinctive factors of the program is that it allows students to continue with full-time employment while obtaining a degree,” says Clark D. Webb, director of Education, Advisement, and Certification at BYU. Courses are taught during summers and vacations. Other requirements are fulfilled independently.

However, the thesis-writing is a challenge. “There is no tradition of serious thesis writing in Mexico,” says Brother Webb. “But in this program the students were held very rigidly to every period and semicolon.” Since no standards of thesis writing were available in Mexico for models, students were at a disadvantage. Students had a problem even finding typewriters good enough for thesis work. All typing, proofreading, and binding had to be done at BYU in Provo, Utah.

BYU’s Bilingual-Bicultural Teacher Training Program has received a financial boost. The BYU Indian Education Department has received a $15,000 grant from the Clark Foundation of New York. Some twenty Navajo students currently enrolled in elementary teacher preparation are expected to be involved in a training program. They will learn to teach in Navajo and English, or Spanish and English, using one language to teach the other.