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President Hinckley Visits Members in California, Idaho

The influence of early members of the Church and the importance of living the gospel and strengthening testimonies were subjects addressed by President Gordon B. Hinckley during regional conferences in California and Idaho.

“There are Mormon footsteps over this part of the world, over this part of California,” said President Hinckley during a May 21 regional conference address in the Santa Rosa-Vacaville, California, area. “In 1846, when our people had been driven from Nauvoo, marched out of their homes, lost all their possessions, and their faces turned toward the setting sun, when they crossed the Mississippi, made the long [trek] across Iowa to Winter Quarters/Council Bluffs, Nebraska, they were called upon by the government of the United States, which had failed to protect and defend them, to raise a battalion of five hundred men.

“When Brigham Young asked for those … young men to enlist, they responded. They walked all the way down to Fort Leavenworth [Kansas], and there they received some money for their services, and they sent it back to help their destitute families.

“Then they marched all the way to San Diego, through the desert of Arizona and southern California. From there some of them came up to Los Angeles to establish Fort Moore and raise the American flag for the first time in what is now this area. …

“There was Mormon heroism, there was Mormon sacrifice, there was Mormon faithfulness long before any of us came on the scene here in this area of California,” he said.

President Hinckley also recounted the part that members of the Mormon Battalion played in the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in California, where a few men were working. Forty-seven years ago the Church was invited to participate in the state’s one hundredth anniversary of that discovery. As public relations officer for the Church at the time, President Hinckley suggested that a replica of the cabin where members of the Mormon Battalion lived be made for the event.

Members and missionaries in the area built the cabin, which is still standing in the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historical Park at Coloma. While in California for the regional conference, President Hinckley visited the cabin site, accompanied by his wife, Marjorie, and Elder Loren C. Dunn of the Seventy and his wife, Sharon.

On Sunday, June 4, President Hinckley addressed an estimated thirty thousand members in two different regional conferences held in Pocatello, Idaho.

“We all have problems,” said President Hinckley during a morning conference for members in the Pocatello, Idaho, regions. “On nearly a daily basis, I see the problems that affect most of you. Some of you are sick and have health problems. Some of you have money problems. Some of you have family problems. Some of you worry about your children. I guess all parents worry about their children. I know that grandparents worry about their grandchildren. I hope that with all the burdens that you carry, you know that you have the gospel, which will provide the answers to most of those problems with which you live.

“If we will live the gospel, if we will put our trust in God, our Eternal Father, if we will do what we are asked to do as members, we will be the happiest and most blessed people on the face of the earth.”

During the afternoon, President Hinckley promised members from the Bear Lake and Bear River Idaho regions that those who didn’t feel they had a testimony would receive one if they lived the gospel, studied the scriptures, and got on their knees to ask.

He quoted the words of the Savior, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17). This is the key to gaining a testimony, he said—doing the will of the Father.

“I leave with you a blessing of peace in your homes and love in your hearts,” he said, “shelter over your heads and clothes on your backs, and that your land may multiply and prosper and that your children will grow up in light and truth.”

[photo] President and Sister Hinckley, right, accompanied by Elder and Sister Dunn, visit a replica of the cabin where members of the Mormon Battalion lived while in California. (Photo by Lowell Hardy.)

Construction Begins on Vernal Utah Temple

Standing in the welcome brilliance of morning sunlight, President Gordon B. Hinckley told a crowd of nearly twelve thousand people gathered for the ceremony to commence construction of the Vernal Utah Temple that, when dedicated, the new temple will become a spiritual center where thousands will carry on the work of the Lord.

Also in attendance at the May 13 ceremony were President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency; Elder W. Eugene Hansen of the Presidency of the Seventy; and Elder Earl C. Tingey of the Seventy, president of the Utah South Area.

The Vernal temple will be the first of its kind, built within the shell of the 88-year-old Uintah Stake Tabernacle, which has been largely abandoned for the past twenty years.

“I don’t hesitate to tell you, on the basis of the architectural drawing, … that when [the temple] is completed and you have the opportunity of walking through it, you will feel touched by that which has been created out of this historic, dedicated, sacred structure,” said President Hinckley. “It will stand hereafter as a monument to the faith, the conviction, the testimony, the knowledge of the Latter-day Saints that life is everlasting, that this stage of mortality is only a stage in the grand march of our lives on the road to immortality and eternal life.”

President Hinckley reminded his listeners of the prophetic utterance of Church President Joseph F. Smith, who said during the 1907 dedication of the Vernal tabernacle that he “would not be surprised if a temple was built here someday.”

President Faust, who expressed delight regarding the unexpected sunshine that interrupted days of rain, described his first visit to the tabernacle when, as a General Authority, he presided over a stake conference held there.

“I felt a special spirit and a special legacy of the devotion of Saints who in their great poverty erected this magnificent building,” he said. “This ground on which we’re presently situated … has been hallowed for over a hundred years.

“In its springtime, the Vernal tabernacle was dedicated by a President of the Church, and after the period of our further labors, this building will be beautified and magnified and then dedicated again, probably by President Gordon B. Hinckley, as a temple of God,” President Faust continued. “Then, as Saints meet here to make sacred covenants, this ground which has been holy for so many years will become holier still.”

Elder Hansen told the gathered Saints, “As we look to the day when this venerable building is dedicated as a house of the Lord, … we do have the opportunity to place something on the altar, so to speak, as we prepare ourselves to come to the house of the Lord,” he said. “In fact, our preparation may be even more challenging as we strive to rid ourselves of some of the habits, practices, or failings that may be deterring or stalling our spiritual progress.”

The Vernal Utah Temple, the tenth to be built in Utah, will share a 1.6-acre site with the Glines Utah Stake meetinghouse in the heart of Vernal. When completed, it will serve thirty-six thousand Latter-day Saints who reside in a twelve-stake district that includes portions of eastern Utah, western Colorado, and southwestern Wyoming.

[photo] Almost 12,000 people gathered at the historic tabernacle in Vernal. (Photography by Steve Wallis.)

[photo] Invited by President Hinckley, a boy participates in the ground breaking.

Kathi Irving serves as director of public affairs for the Vernal Utah Region.

Howard W. Hunter Law Library Ground Breaking at BYU

President Gordon B. Hinckley and his counselors, President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust, remembered President Howard W. Hunter warmly during ground-breaking ceremonies for a new Brigham Young University law library that will be named after President Hunter.

The First Presidency and BYU president Rex E. Lee, who conducted, spoke at the May 1 ceremonies. Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in attendance were Elders David B. Haight, Neal A. Maxwell, M. Russell Ballard, and Henry B. Eyring. Sister Janette Hales Beckham, Young Women general president and member of the BYU Board of Trustees, attended. President Hunter’s wife, Inis Hunter, and his sons, John and Richard, along with other family members, were also in attendance.

The library will be built as an addition to the north end of the already existing J. Reuben Clark Law Building, located on the east side of the BYU campus. “The action we take here today will begin the process of making this into a tremendous library that will enhance the quality of the graduates turned out of this law school,” President Hinckley stated.

President Monson described President Hunter as an organized and remarkable individual. “He loved books. He loved learning. He loved history. He loved the law. Most of all, he loved the gospel of Jesus Christ,” President Monson said. “I am pleased that he is being honored today.”

President Faust told the people gathered that it was “a personal pleasure and a great honor to participate in these exercises.”

President Lee said that funding for the facility will be obtained from outside sources and that approximately half of those costs had already been donated by local businessmen.

The library, upon completion, will be thirty-eight thousand square feet in total floor space, which will include fifty computer stations, three computer classrooms, twenty-six group study rooms, and a number of Internet-wired study carrels for students of the law school.

At a luncheon prior to the ceremonies, President Hinckley expressed a desire to have a tablet or marker placed in the law school with an inscription from Doctrine and Covenants 134:5 [D&C 134:5], which reads, “We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected, and should be punished accordingly.”

After the benediction, President Hinckley led the way to the site where he, along with his counselors, Sister Hunter, and other dignitaries, turned over the first shovelfuls of earth for the new library.

Tabernacle Choir Plans Concerts in Washington, New York

The Tabernacle Choir will be performing four concerts in Washington, D.C., and New York City as part of events commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II.

The 320-voice choir will perform August 4–5 at the Kennedy Center in Washington and August 8–9 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.

Concerts will feature the national premiere of James DeMars’s An American Requiem, which was commissioned by the Art Renaissance Foundation of Phoenix, Arizona. Michael F. Sarda, the foundation’s founder, said An American Requiem is memorial music, “a tribute to people who worked to achieve a dream, who made something happen.”

Tabernacle Choir director Jerold Ottley is preparing the choir for the requiem performances, but will turn the baton over to DeMars during the Washington and New York concerts.

Colombia Reaches 100,000 Members

The prophetic words of Colombia’s national anthem, which state that “good will germinate from furrows of aches,” are being fulfilled. By the end of 1994, Church membership had reached one hundred thousand members in this country of thirty-six million inhabitants. It was only thirty years ago, in 1965, that Colombia was dedicated for the preaching of the gospel.

Colombia now has 13 stakes, 262 wards and branches, 4 missions, and a missionary training center all under leadership almost wholly composed of Colombians.

In addition, one of the Church’s General Authorities was called from among Latter-day Saint Colombians. Elder Julio Dávila of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, the first General Authority of Colombian origin, was also Colombia’s first stake president, its first regional representative, and its first mission president from that country. His dedicated service to the Lord has been an example and inspiration to many.

Despite the Church’s impressive growth in Colombia, there have been several challenges to overcome in spreading the gospel. Ranging from nearly overwhelming economic difficulties to political unrest, these obstacles have helped strengthen testimonies of the faithful.

In May 1966 the first two missionaries arrived in Colombia from the Peru Andean Mission. Today, nearly half of the five hundred missionaries serving in Colombia are native to the land. A missionary training center in Bogotá provides preparation for missionaries leaving from Ecuador, Venezuela, and Colombia. In addition, Colombian mission presidents have served in their own country and in other Latin American countries.

The Church has at least one stake in each of the larger cities, including Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla, Pereira, and Bucaramanga. In many other cities, wards and branches are growing rapidly. This year construction began on a temple, which will be a strong support to the Saints in Colombia.

The Book with the Light-Blue Cover

There are many stories of strength, courage, and the workings of the Spirit among the faithful Saints of Colombia.

Armando Gomez gave a Book of Mormon with his personal testimony inscribed therein as a gift to an acquaintance he thought he would never see again. After some years had passed, Brother Gomez attended a meeting where one Henry Olaya spoke. Brother Olaya explained that in 1975 he bought some used books, one of which had a light-blue cover; he had felt particularly impressed to purchase it.

Henry read the book with the light-blue cover and felt it was true, but for some reason he set it aside for five years. Then he read it again. His wife encouraged him to look for the Church using an address written in the book. Henry searched for three Sundays in a row with no success because the address was incorrect. He finally found the Church, received the missionary discussions, and was baptized with his family. The book with the light-blue cover turned out to be the same book Brother Gomez had given away years earlier. In 1994 Henry lost his wife in an automobile accident and was left alone with three children. Through this tragedy, however, his faith has remained unshakable.

A Missionary Song

Patricia Cerro sells chocolates to pay for her journalism studies. In her returned-missionary enthusiasm, she sings as she sells her chocolates. On one occasion a young man passing by turned and asked, “Why are you so happy, and what are you singing?” She told him about the Church, and after several weeks of showing interest he attended church one Sunday and thereafter was taught the gospel by the missionaries and baptized. Later he married a returned missionary in the temple, and he is now bishop of the Fontibon Ward in the Bogotá Kennedy stake.

Strong Church Programs

The seminary program has spread rapidly in Colombia and, like other programs of the Church, has had a major influence in the lives of youth and leaders alike.

Lucia de Gomez, who taught the first seminary classes in Colombia, remembers Jaime Ferreira as a young man who diligently studied the seminary lessons. The influence of those classes taught Jaime things he later needed when serving as president of the Colombia Cali Mission.

In April 1975 during a regional representatives’ training seminar, President Spencer W. Kimball spoke of the future growth of the Church in South America: “I seemed to see a vision of tens of thousands of priesthood bearers, leaders in thousands of wards and stakes in hundreds of mountain valleys, … and I could seem to hear … a host of fond parents and prophets praising God for this long-promised miracle” (Ensign, May 1975, p. 120).

With more than one hundred thousand members now, the Church in Colombia has reached a significant milestone, yet this is certainly not the peak of the Lord’s work in that land.

[photo] Missionaries from Ecuador, Venezuela, and Colombia receive training at the Missionary Training Center in Bogotá.

[photo] The La Alhambra chapel in Colombia.

Javier Tobón Gónima is public affairs director for the Cali Colombia Region.

Gospel Splendor in Sri Lanka

In 1977 Sunil Arsecularatne met Elder and Sister Stanley C. Kimball, the Church’s first missionaries to Sri Lanka since two elders visited briefly in 1853. Touched that Elder Kimball pronounced “Sunil” exactly like Sunil’s father did while he was alive, Sunil agreed to read Joseph Smith’s testimony. He immediately knew it was true. However, when Sunil’s mother found out he was studying about the Church, she considered disowning him. Elder Kimball advised Sunil to show his mother an increase of love and respect, and soon her heart softened and she said, “Son, you have my blessing.”

Located twenty miles off the southeast coast of India, Sri Lanka is a beautiful tropical island about the size of Ireland, with a population of eighteen million. Known earlier as Ceylon, the country gained its independence in 1948 after 450 years of European rule. As an important Asian crossroads, Sri Lanka boasts a rich ethnic background. Most citizens trace their ancestry to Sinhalese and Tamil settlers from India; Arab Moor traders; Dutch, Portuguese, and British colonists; or Malaysians.

Map of Sri Lanka

Sunil remembers attending a 1979 ceremony in capital city Colombo’s Victoria Park at which Elder James E. Faust, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, dedicated Sri Lanka for the preaching of the gospel. A senior public service official, Sunil has twice served as president of Sri Lanka’s sole Church unit, the Colombo Branch. His wife, Lilani, has served as the branch’s Relief Society president. Today, sixteen years after the Church’s legal incorporation in Sri Lanka, the Colombo Branch has 125 members.

When Colombo resident Nancy Ferdinando attended her first Church meeting on Easter Sunday in 1980, she felt that the branch was “a warm, peaceful place.” Hospitalized at one point after she became a member, she was told in a blessing that she would be a missionary tool. Sure enough, a hospital receptionist named Patrick Janssen and his wife, Iroma, joined the Church as a result of contact with branch members visiting Nancy. She has served as the branch’s Relief Society president and has worked for ten years in the name extraction program, and she currently serves as branch librarian. Her son served in the Singapore Mission, and her daughter is serving in the Australia Brisbane Mission. Nancy works in a home for the elderly.

Raised in a Christian family and long interested in other religions, Anton Kumaraswamy was intrigued by an anti-Latter-day Saint book he came across while in a Colombo bookstore. The book’s strong negative bias made him want to hear Latter-day Saint teachings firsthand. He finally met two native Sri Lankan missionaries a year and a half later and soon became converted to the gospel. His father initially opposed Anton’s baptism, but when ill fortune forced the father to seek work in the Middle East, he was fellowshipped by Church members there. He then supported Anton’s desire to be baptized and was soon baptized himself. Today, Anton’s mother, father, and brother are all active Church members. Anton serves as a counselor in the Colombo Branch presidency and is completing medical school.

The name Sri Lanka means “resplendent land.” As Church members continue increasing in spiritual strength and adding to their numbers, the land’s splendor will intensify as the light of the restored gospel shines forth.

[photo] Colombo Branch members pose in front of their meetinghouse.

[photo] Sunil and Lilani Arsecularatne

Douglas L. Vermillion is president of the Colombo Branch, Singapore Mission.

Appointments: New Temple Presidents

The First Presidency has called seven new temple presidents and matrons:

James E. Hill, president of the Atlanta Georgia Temple, and his wife, Betty Valentine Turner Hill, matron.

Laurence Charles Bundy-Palmer, president of the Johannesburg South Africa Temple, and his wife, Freda Steenkamp Bundy-Palmer, matron.

Tausilinuu David Hannemann, president of the Hawaii Temple, and his wife, Carolyn Harline Hannemann, matron.

Philip Tadje Sonntag, president of the Portland Oregon Temple, and his wife, Voloy Andreasen Sonntag, matron.

Kenneth John Domney, president of the New Zealand Temple, and his wife, Joyce M. Garnham Domney, matron.

‘Uiha Tu‘ikolovatu, president of the Nuku‘alofa Tonga Temple, and his wife, Losevati Senivievia Houp‘ia Tu‘ikolovatu, matron.

Elder Eduardo Ayala of the Seventy, president of the Santiago Chile Temple, and his wife, Blanca Espinoza Ayala, matron.

Institute Reaches Out to All Young Adults

In July 1993 the First Presidency announced an enhancement of the institute program to increase involvement of college-age young adults throughout the Church. For an update about the progress of this effort, the Ensign spoke with Stanley A. Peterson, Church Educational System administrator for religious education and secondary and elementary education.

Question: To start, could you describe the enhanced institute program.

Answer: The Church presently has over a million young adults aged eighteen to thirty, and this number is constantly increasing. The Church Educational System has offered institute of religion classes and activities to young adults all over the world for many years, but before 1993 we concentrated mainly on adding a gospel element to the educations of young adults attending colleges or universities. We didn’t discourage nonstudent young adults from participating in institute, but neither did we go out of our way to invite them to enroll in religion classes or come to social and service activities.

Realizing that young adulthood is a critical time of decision and development whether one is a student or not, the Church Board of Education decided that institute could be a powerful way to help all young adults build a stronger gospel foundation in their lives. Between the ages of eighteen and thirty, most young adults are deciding whether to serve a mission, whom to marry, and how to earn a living. As they experience adult independence and responsibility, they set patterns of behavior and commitment that will affect the rest of their lives. With classes about the scriptures, missionary preparation, and celestial marriage, and with meaningful social activities and service projects, institute can help all young adults make wiser decisions, shape stronger characters, increase their spirituality, and feel solidarity with their fellow Saints.

A study of people who graduated from institute over a twenty-four-year period in Boise, Idaho, highlights the effects of institute on individual lives. About 92 percent of the graduates are sealed to their spouses, 82 percent of the men and 31 percent of the women served missions, 74 percent hold personal prayer daily, 38 percent read the scriptures daily, 88 percent pay a full tithe, 98 percent keep the Word of Wisdom, and 77 percent hold a current temple recommend.

Q: How do you view the relationship between institute and the Church’s Young Adult program?

A: The enhanced institute program is no more designed to replace the Young Adult program than seminary is designed to replace the Young Men and Young Women programs. We encourage priesthood leaders to view institute as simply one more tool in the Church’s toolbox for blessing the lives of members. Young adults can easily fall through the cracks, and we hope the combination of institute and Young Adult units and programs helps them build stronger bonds with the Church and the gospel. For me, I know I need all the help I can get to assist the young adults in my family at this critical time in their lives.

Q: Is it too early to know if this new institute enhancement program has made an impact?

A: It is too early to get a complete picture of the impact this new emphasis will have, but we have some very exciting indications that the institute program is expanding at an ever increasing rate. In Guatemala City, for example, we’ve had to build a new institute building to meet the needs of the six hundred young adults now enrolled there. In Seattle, Washington, institute enrollment is up by 470 students. An institute fireside held in Orem, Utah, each year has in the past attracted up to six hundred young adults, but that number doubled when the invitation was extended to all young adults.

With enrollment limited at the Church’s university and colleges, institute has become more important to young adults. Study has shown that the opportunities for young people are enhanced when larger numbers associate together in social and service activities and in religious education. We’d like to see institute become as central in the Church experience of young adults as seminary is in the experience of the youth.

Q: Are there challenges that the Church faces as the institute program expands?

A: With higher enrollments comes the need for more classroom space and more instructors. In the past, we’ve conducted classes in or near about twelve hundred schools of higher learning worldwide. However, rather than asking nonstudent young adults to drive to and park at what are often large, crowded campuses, we are trying to bring institute classes to them. We are building more institute buildings, and classes are now often held in released-time seminary buildings, local stake centers, and meetinghouses. As we have with seminary, we are relying more and more on volunteers to teach institute classes.

To make sure that the needs of all young adults are met, a new Young Adult council structure has been organized that allows young adults to direct their own activities under priesthood supervision. However, we still rely on priesthood leaders to keep communication channels open. When a Churchwide CES institute fireside is broadcast, for example, we need priesthood leaders to promote the date and time in meetings. We also rely on priesthood leaders to inform young adults about what programs are available in locations where individuals are moving for school or work. The Church Educational System annually circulates a directory of institutes and Young Adult units to priesthood leaders for this purpose. When local leaders and members catch the vision of this opportunity for all their young adults, tremendous things can happen anywhere in the world.

Policies and Announcements

Book of Mormon Available in American Sign Language

The following letter, dated May 10 and signed by members of the First Presidency, has been sent to Church leaders throughout the United States and Canada.

“We are pleased to announce the Book of Mormon in American Sign Language. Copies are available on videotapes from the Salt Lake Distribution Center and may be ordered through your ward or branch leaders. Two of the projected eleven videotapes are available at this time. These two videotapes cover the introduction and 1 Nephi 1–22. Notices will be sent as each of the remaining videotapes becomes available.

“We encourage members who will benefit from the use of the American Sign Language videotapes of the Book of Mormon to obtain their copies of the scriptures and to use them in regular personal and family study and in Church meetings and assignments as appropriate. As members prayerfully learn and teach from the scriptures, their testimonies will grow, their knowledge will increase, their love of family and others will expand, their ability to serve others will enlarge, and they will receive greater strength to resist temptation and defend truth and righteousness.”