News of the Church

By Brittany Karford, Church Magazines


Church Supports Call for Constitutional Amendment

In April Church leaders added their voices to those of the leaders of many other religions in support of an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to protect and preserve the institution of marriage between a man and a woman.

“We take the unprecedented stand of uniting to call for a constitutional amendment to establish a uniform national definition of marriage as the exclusive union of one man and one woman,” states a letter signed by American religious leaders, including Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “We are convinced that this is the only measure that will adequately protect marriage from those who would circumvent the legislative process and force a redefinition of it on the whole of our society” (“A Letter from America’s Religious Leaders in Defense of Marriage,” http://www.religiouscoalitionformarriage.org).

The doctrine of the Church affirms marriage between a man and a woman, and it opposes same-gender unions and any other sexual relations outside of marriage.

“The union of husband and wife assures perpetuation of the race and provides a divinely ordained setting for the nurturing and teaching of children,” stated a news release based on a letter dated February 1, 1994, from the First Presidency to priesthood leaders. “This sacred family setting, with father and mother and children firmly committed to each other and to righteous living, offers the best hope for avoiding many of the ills that afflict society.”

“The Family: A Proclamation to the World” states, “We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society” (Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102).

Because national campaigns on moral, social, or political issues often become divisive, the Church urges those who participate in public debate to be respectful of others.

“We can and do work with those of other religions in various undertakings in the everlasting fight against social evils which threaten the treasured values which are so important to all of us,” President Hinckley said in April 1998 general conference. “These people are not of our faith, but they are our friends, neighbors, and co-workers in a variety of causes. We are pleased to lend our strength to their efforts. But in all of this there is no doctrinal compromise. There need not be and must not be on our part. But there is a degree of fellowship as we labor together” (“We Bear Witness of Him,” Ensign, May 1998, 4–5).

The Church has previously issued two statements in support of a constitutional amendment on marriage—on July 7, 2004, and on October 19, 2004.

The October 2004 First Presidency statement reads: “We of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reach out with understanding and respect for individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender. We realize there may be great loneliness in their lives but there must also be recognition of what is right before the Lord.

“As a doctrinal principle, based on sacred scripture, we affirm that marriage between a man and a woman is essential to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. The powers of procreation are to be exercised only between a man and a woman lawfully wedded as husband and wife.

“Any other sexual relations, including those between persons of the same gender, undermine the divinely created institution of the family. The Church accordingly favors measures that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman and that do not confer legal status on any other sexual relationship.”

Tabernacle Choir Honored for 4,000th Broadcast

Both President Gordon B. Hinckley and U.S. president George W. Bush had something to say at the 4,000th broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word, the world’s longest-running continuous network radio broadcast.

The 4,000th program is but one more record for the weekly Sunday broadcast. It is a notable achievement for broadcasting, both in the United States and around the world.

“We are thrilled with its continued prosperity,” said Scott Barrick, general manager of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which performs at every broadcast. “People still love the music—it’s a vibrant force for good in the world today.”

The 4,000th broadcast featured “A Legacy of Music through 4,000 Broadcasts”—a special retrospective broadcast tracing historical and meaningful moments in the program’s 77-year history—and included a recorded message from President Bush.

Brother Barrick said the president was grateful to be involved. During its nearly 160-year history, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has performed for ten U.S. presidents and at five presidential inaugurations. The choir’s most recent appearance at the White House was in November 2003 to be awarded the National Medal of Arts, the nation’s highest honor for artistic excellence.

Recognition during the program also came from Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr., who proclaimed the April 30th milestone as Mormon Tabernacle Choir Day in Utah.

Yet even with all the choir has accomplished, Brother Barrick said there is much more to look forward to. “President Hinckley said the choir is only at the foothills of what it could accomplish,” he said, recalling the prophet’s words from the 2004 celebration of Music and the Spoken Word’s 75th year. “The 4,000th is just another marker on the slope President Hinckley has asked us to climb.”

Those in attendance at the Conference Center were privileged to see and hear from President Hinckley, who spoke briefly in a live program following the retrospective broadcast. U.S. senator Orrin Hatch, Governor Huntsman, and others who are involved with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir also gave brief statements.

Led by music director Craig Jessop, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed with the Orchestra at Temple Square following the broadcast. Since its initial broadcast on July 15, 1929, Music and the Spoken Word has featured the Mormon Tabernacle Choir weekly, joined in recent years by the orchestra. Over the years the program has featured a variety of religious, patriotic, folk, show-tune, and other music, accompanied by inspirational spoken messages.

[photo] The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs during the 4,000th broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word.

[photo] President Gordon B. Hinckley honors the choir for reaching the 4,000th broadcast milestone.

Pioneer Day Concert Set for Broadcast

Thousands will gather in the Conference Center on July 21, 2006, for a Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra on Temple Square concert to celebrate the 159th anniversary of the first Latter-day Saint pioneer company to enter the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847, and the 150th anniversary of the first handcart companies to enter the valley.

“The choir and orchestra are honored to be invited by the First Presidency to help commemorate the great latter-day pioneers who laid the foundation for so much of what we cherish as members of the Church,” Mormon Tabernacle Choir music director Craig Jessop told the Church Magazines. “Our commemoration concert will be a celebration of the pioneer spirit not only of those who went before us but also of those who are pioneering in the Church today.”

One such pioneering family, the Brett Family Singers, has been invited to perform with the choir and orchestra at the concert. This Latter-day Saint family performs a daily morning variety show broadcast on PBS television from Branson, Missouri.

Three years have passed since the last Pioneer Day commemoration concert. In 2005 the choir and orchestra focused on celebrating President Gordon B. Hinckley’s 95th birthday, and in 2004, the 75th anniversary of Music and the Spoken Word.

Past Pioneer Day concerts have included music from the Nauvoo Illinois Temple dedication and hymns associated with pioneer heritage. The Pioneer Day concert this year is listed as an official event in Salt Lake City’s pioneer celebration, the Days of ’47.

The Pioneer Day commemorative concert will be broadcast over the Church satellite system at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 21, to meetinghouses worldwide, with subsequent rebroadcasts. Live audio, and later archived audio and video, versions will be available at www.lds.org/broadcast.

The Internet audio live and archived versions of the concert will be available in 17 languages (English, Cambodian, Cantonese, French, Haitian, Hmong, Korean, Laotian, Mandarin, Marshallese, Navajo, Polish, Portuguese, Samoan, Spanish, Tongan, and Vietnamese). The archived video version will be available in English, American Sign Language, and Spanish.

The concert will also be rebroadcast Sunday, July 23, over the Church satellite system to meetinghouses in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean in 15 languages (English, Cambodian, Cantonese, French, Haitian, Hmong, Korean, Laotian, Mandarin, Navajo, Portuguese, Samoan, Spanish, Tongan, and Vietnamese).

Visitors’ Center Reopens in Independence

Just about everything is different than it used to be inside the Independence Visitors’ Center in Independence, Missouri, which recently reopened after more than a year of renovations.

Closed for 13 months, the visitors’ center opened its two new theaters, 23 exhibits, and unique interactive children’s area to the public in March. The new features give more than a historical context of Independence.

“It’s really almost completely different,” says Sister Stacy Jorgensen, who served as a full-time missionary in the center prior to its closure. Before, she says, missionaries did most of the tour, which emphasized the background of Independence. And that was for a good reason—the center stands 70 miles south of Adam-ondi-Ahman and across the street from the site consecrated for a temple by the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Needless to say, the center still retains a historical presence, with features such as a log cabin exhibit of frontier life and a replica of the William W. Phelps printing press used to print the Evening and Morning Star, the Church’s first newspaper. But it also incorporates the rich historical background of Independence with its marvelous future through a focus on Christ and His role in the eternal plan of happiness for Heavenly Father’s children.

Many who visit the center comment about a replica of the Christus statue standing at the entrance. It replaces the 28-foot (8.5-m) mural that once stood in the entryway.

“You see Christ is the centerpiece of our religion—it is just so clear,” says Jose Mendoza, a member of the Independence Third Ward. He received a tour of the center in Spanish along with his father-in-law. “My father-in-law does not easily express his feelings,” Brother Mendoza said. “But after the tour, he said to me: ‘I have no doubt that God exists.’ It was incredible—to see him almost in tears over what he saw and felt. Whether you are a Church member or not, you can be touched by the message delivered there.”

The center’s three missionary couples, 16 sister missionaries, and additional volunteers are eager to share the gospel through the center, where interactive media exhibits answer questions about the gospel and the Lord’s plan for families. Visitors can also see some 30 different Church films on request, including the new production, Joseph Smith The Prophet of the Restoration.

“Before, we were telling people about the plan of salvation,” says Paul Tonga, who worked as a host in the old center. “Today we show them.” After visiting the center with his wife, Brother Tonga could not wait to return with his 7 children and 18 grandchildren. “The message is there for families and individuals—whoever decides to follow Christ,” he said.

The Independence Visitors’ Center is open from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. seven days a week, free of charge.

[photo] The recently reopened visitors’ center includes this re-creation of the William W. Phelps print shop.

Taiwan Jubilee: Saints Celebrate 50 Years

Melvin C. Fish was one of the first four missionaries to set foot in Taiwan. He was also the first Relief Society president—just one of the many privileges that come with opening a new mission in a new land. Now, 50 years later, there are nine stake Relief Society presidents. Those 50 years are also marked by the creation of three missions, construction of a temple, and membership approaching 50,000.

From those first 4 elders in 1956 to almost 400 elders in 2006, missionaries and members are celebrating half a century of the gospel in Taiwan.

“And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you,” Elder Ho Yu-Chen, an Area Seventy, reads from Leviticus 25:10 as he talks about events to commemorate 50 years of the Church in Taiwan.

Members and missionaries are invited to pedal from Taitung or Hangchuen, depending on the route, all the way to Taipei in the Taiwan Legacy Bike Relay.

“Two missionaries riding bikes have been the symbol of our Church in Taiwan,” Elder Ho explains. Missionaries are even pictured on bicycles in children’s textbooks in Taiwan.

As such, the Taiwan Jubilee logo features two missionaries on bikes, and the relay requires missionary-standard clothing, including helmets with reflective stickers. With team leaders carrying flags and a support car trailing, they expect to receive some local media coverage. The journey, from July 31 to August 7, requires a six-or seven-hour ride of about 50 miles (80 km) per day, finishing at the Taipei Taiwan Temple.

Officially, the summer events kicked off in May with historic firesides taking place in three key locations: Kaohsiung, Taichung, and Taipei, culminating in a dedication commemoration at the Grand Hotel in Taipei on June 3. This is believed to be the site where Elder Mark E. Petersen, an Apostle, dedicated Taiwan to the preaching of the gospel on June 1, 1959.

Several cultural performances are planned in July and August, featuring drama, dancing, and a 50-member orchestra, in addition to member-missionary reunions, leader appreciation dinners, and the much-anticipated islandwide youth conference.

“We focus on that because that’s the future of our Church,” Elder Ho says of the youth conference. Coordinating with three Especially for Youth trainers from Brigham Young University, organizers plan on more than 1,000 youth attending.

A Time Line of the Church in Taiwan

1956

Four missionaries arrive in Taiwan to preach the gospel.

1959

Elder Mark E. Petersen (1900–1984) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicates Taiwan for missionary work.

1965

First Chinese edition of the Book of Mormon is published.

1971

Taiwan Mission is organized.

1975

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) presides over a Taiwan regional conference.

1975

First Chinese edition of the Doctrine and Covenants is published.

1976

Taipei stake, Taiwan’s first stake, is organized by Elder Gordon B. Hinckley.

1976

First Chinese edition of the Pearl of Great Price is published.

1980

President Spencer W. Kimball returns to preside over another Taiwan regional conference.

1984

Taipei Taiwan Temple is dedicated.

1996

President Gordon B. Hinckley presides over a special conference.

1999

Church magazine the Voice of Saints becomes the Liahona.

2000

Taipei Employment Resource Service Center (ERSC) is created.

2001

Church’s Chinese name is changed from Chinese characters to Chinese characters.

2005

President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicates the new Church Administration Building–Taipei.

Seminary and Church Magazines Music Now Available Online at LDS.org

“The Olive Tree,” “Walk His Way,” and “I’ll Trust in the Lord” are a few of several seminary video song titles visitors to the Church music section of www.lds.org can now download as sheet music in English and as MP3s.

The Music and Cultural Arts Division of the Priesthood Department has updated the “Other Music” section of the Web site to include the digital music files and printable music from the Church Educational System video series, which includes the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Old Testament, and New Testament sound tracks.

Besides making available the new seminary sheet music, the site now links to music from the Church magazines, which is indexed alphabetically, by topic, and by author/composer.

The update gives youth, choirs, children, and families another, more accessible, resource for music.

“The hope is to provide some uplifting, modern music that seminary students are familiar with and can listen to and enjoy,” says Ron Schwendiman, manager of Internet coordination in the Church’s Curriculum Department, who worked on the project.

The goal is to strengthen testimonies, families, and overall knowledge of the gospel, he says.

Diane R. Bastian, product manager of the Church music Web site, says that in addition to the Priesthood Department’s emphasis on providing more material for the youth, the department is also focused on making the music site accessible in different languages. She says feedback received from the Web site indicates, “We love your English site, but we want something in our language.”

The Priesthood Department is working to make Church music available in Spanish, Portuguese, and French and also plans to make selected music from the Children’s Songbook and Hymns available in American Sign Language.

The Church music site launched in May 2004, and the update and other music resources can be accessed at www.lds.org/cm.

[photo] Sheet music printed in the Ensign, New Era, and Friend is now available online, as are the MP3 files for music from seminary videos.

EFY Marks 30 Years, Looks Ahead

This year 50,000 youth from all over the world will take part in the 30th year of the Especially for Youth summer program. This summer 100 sessions are taking place, the most ever and in more places than ever before.

The program has become a phenomenon over the last 30 years, as youth return for an atmosphere that program director Greg Tanner says changes their hearts.

“They come back because the Spirit is here,” he says. “It comes down to the strength of the youth.”

In the weeklong gathering, teens ages 14 to 18 kneel in prayer together, get to know each other, and bear their testimonies to peers they have never met before. Between dances and variety shows, sharing meals and living quarters, and in-depth doctrinal study and firesides, the youth, who were strangers at the beginning of the week, find it difficult to part.

Brother Tanner’s recent questions to youth in Mexico sum it up: “How many of you have two friends your age who are members?” Almost all the hands go up.

“How many of you have five?” A few hands go down.

“Ten?” Few hands are left.

“Well, at EFY you have 600!”

Or more. Attendance at the largest-ever session held at Brigham Young University in July 2004 boasted 1,400 participants—far more than the first EFY in 1976. That year 172 participants and 15 counselors gathered in Helaman Halls dormitories at BYU. The following year 863 attended, an increase of 500 percent.

The Provo location is not necessarily the best, adds assistant EFY director Pete Kadish. Many of the regional sessions may be more financially feasible. At the six EFY sessions in Virginia this summer, more than 2,000 participants are expected to attend.

Dan Heaton, a director of the Virginia conference, has attended EFY as a participant, a counselor, and now a liaison for the regional programs as he studies law in Washington, D.C. “I’ve felt the impact, and I want to give something back to the youth,” Brother Heaton says.

EFY recruits worthy, enthusiastic, young single adults as counselors for the youth, a choice Brother Tanner says makes a powerful connection. “The youth look up to them,” he says. “They see these young adults—they’ve made it and they are happy and energetic—they absolutely love that,” Brother Tanner says.

The response is overwhelming, as EFY has expanded to 34 of the 50 states, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. A “Best of EFY” program takes the sessions’ best speakers on tours to stakes by request, and participants have come from more than 15 countries, including Australia, China, and Uganda, to name a few.

“Our goal is to reach as many youth as we possibly can,” says Brother Tanner, looking to the future. “Wherever they may be.”

Call for Articles

Are you a Church member with a physical disability? Or are you a caretaker, teacher, or leader of someone with such a disability? We invite you to submit personal accounts of how you or others have adapted Church programs or materials to fit the needs of those with physical disabilities.

Please send your submission (500 words or less) by August 21, 2006, to ensign@ldschurch.org or to Ensign Editorial, 50 E. North Temple St. Rm. 2420, Salt Lake City, Utah 84150-3220, USA. Clearly mark your submission “Adapting,” and at the top of your submission, write your name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, and ward and stake (or branch and district).

While we cannot acknowledge receipt of individual responses, authors whose submissions are selected for publication will be notified. If you would like your manuscript returned, enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope, and allow up to a year.

Comment

Remaining in the Field

I recently read in the April issue of the Ensign the article titled “I Needed to Know,” about the sister missionary who lost her father while serving our Heavenly Father. This article spoke directly to me, showing me what kind of trial it can be for a very limited number of missionaries. I lost my father seven months ago in a motorcycle accident and am still serving my own mission. When my mission president showed up on our doorstep at 6:30 a.m., I knew something wasn’t right. He quickly informed me of the terrible news, and I was in shock. As I called home, I too was surprised to hear my bishop’s voice on the other end. It wasn’t easy for me to deal with my father’s death, and I wanted to go home for funeral services. But my supplication in prayer to my Heavenly Father revealed that the answer would be found in my patriarchal blessing. As I read it over the phone to my sister, a certain phrase made sense to me that I hadn’t ever understood before. It was clear to me from then on, and now I know that remaining in the field was the best thing for me to do. Our Heavenly Father watches over us, especially in the more dire circumstances. Elder Brant Cox, Switzerland Zurich Mission

His Child

It’s 2:30 a.m., and I am awake because I had a nightmare. Being a single mother, I cannot rely on a husband to comfort me after scary dreams, but I have come to rely on the Lord. After saying a prayer, I decided to read the Ensign to calm my spirit. Wouldn’t you know it—the second article I read was “Our Child, His Child,” about a faithful father comforting his daughter after a scary dream. A coincidence? Perhaps, but I am grateful to my Heavenly Father, who knows exactly how to bring me peace after my scary dreams, and I’m grateful to the Ensign for being there when I need it—even at 2:00 a.m. Thank you. Jenny McMullin, Arizona

Ensign and Improvement Era

Thank you for the wonderful Ensign magazine. I love every issue, and even though we watch the sessions of general conference, I try to read every issue from cover to cover.

During World War II, I subscribed to 10 years of the Improvement Era, as I never wanted to be without it. Recently I ran across the July 1947 issue of the Era, and I sat down, looked through it, and cried as I thought about the wonderful influence it has been in my life in building my testimony. Thank you, thank you. Sarah C. Fernsten, California