News of the Church


Cornerstone Ceremony Included in Conference Center Dedication

Dedication of the Conference Center on Sunday, 8 October 2000, included a cornerstone ceremony conducted by President Gordon B. Hinckley at the building’s southeast corner about an hour before the morning session of conference.

Those waiting outside the new building’s southeast doors at 8:45 a.m. were surprised when members of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the Senior President of the Quorums of the Seventy, the Presiding Bishop, and the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary general presidents walked out of the doors to participate in the ceremony. The crowd looked on in quiet reverence as President Hinckley explained that the cornerstone is symbolic of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the cornerstone of the Church.

A stainless steel time capsule previously placed within the cornerstone box contains numerous items, including a triple combination signed by the First Presidency, a small beehive replica made from the same walnut tree as the Conference Center podium, information about and pictures of the building’s king truss, a hard hat used in the building’s construction, April and October 2000 issues of the Church magazines, and photos of the first ticket holder to enter the Conference Center for general conference.

“We now declare the Conference Center finished and complete. God bless this great and marvelous building,” said President Hinckley after Church leaders placed mortar around the cornerstone.

Some 30,700 people attended the morning session. In addition to the Conference Center’s 21,000-seat auditorium and 900-seat theater, congregations filled the Tabernacle, the Assembly Hall, and rooms of the North Visitors’ Center and the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, spilling over to the outside grounds of Temple Square and surrounding areas. Millions more participated via the Internet and satellite in their homes and in Church meetinghouses throughout the world.

[photo] President Hinckley prepares to apply mortar to the cornerstone of the Conference Center as President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, and President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, look on.

Changes Affect the Seventy, Sunday School

Church members sustained changes in the Presidency of the Seventy, Quorums of the Seventy, and Sunday School general presidency during the Saturday afternoon session of general conference on 7 October 2000.

Elder Harold G. Hillam was released from the Presidency of the Seventy and is now serving in the Europe West Area Presidency. Elders F. Enzio Busche, Loren C. Dunn, and Alexander B. Morrison of the First Quorum of the Seventy were given emeritus status. Four members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy were released : Elders Eran A. Call, W. Don Ladd, James O. Mason, and Richard E. Turley Sr.

Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander was called to fill the vacancy in the Presidency of the Seventy.

Elder Hillam was also released as Sunday School general president with his counselors, Elder Neil L. Andersen and Elder John H. Groberg. Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Presidency of the Seventy was sustained as Sunday School general president, with Elder Andersen again called as first counselor and Elder Groberg again as second counselor.

Twenty Area Authority Seventies were released, and two new ones were sustained.

“A Milestone in Church History” Reached: 100 Temples

President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the Boston Massachusetts Temple, the 100th operating temple of the Church, in four sessions on 1 October 2000.

In his dedicatory prayer he said, “Almighty Father, … in humility and with solemn reverence we bow before Thee on this historic day.

“We are assembled to dedicate this Thy holy house. It is a special occasion. This temple becomes the 100th operating temple of Thy Church.

“We have looked forward to this occasion. We have prayed for this day. We extend our gratitude to all who have labored so faithfully and diligently, often in the face of serious opposition, to bring to pass the miracle of the completion of this temple.

“To us it is indeed a miracle. The ground on which it stands, the circumstances of its preservation for this use, and the decision to build it here—all are miracles unto those who have been a part of this process.

“Now it is ready for the purposes for which it has been constructed. We are deeply grateful. We thank Thee for Thy marvelous and overruling actions which have made all of this possible.”

President Hinckley was accompanied by President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and by Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Seventy, First Counselor in the North America Northeast Area Presidency.

“This is a milestone in Church history,” said President Hinckley at the dedication of the temple, which marks the achievement of a goal he expressed in the April 1998 general conference that 100 temples be completed by the end of the year 2000.

Some 16,800 members participated in the Boston temple’s dedicatory sessions. Thousands more watched the ceremonies via satellite broadcast at meetinghouses in the temple district.

The dedication of this 100th temple did more than capture the attention of local Church members and many more worldwide; 82,600 guests attended its open house (held from 29 August to 23 September, except Sundays), which received extensive media coverage. A local radio station and newspaper produced the first on-line tours of a temple, complete with narration and accompanying photographs of the temple’s interior.

Because of a lawsuit filed by some local residents who objected to the temple’s proposed steeple, the temple was dedicated without a steeple. Yet in a press conference on the eve of the dedication, President Hinckley expressed optimism concerning the issue.

“We wish the steeple were on it. I regret that it isn’t. But we can get along without it while awaiting the outcome of the legal action,” he said. “In the meantime, we’ll go forward performing the ordinance work of this sacred house.”

In the weeks prior to the dedication of the Boston temple, President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated four other temples, located throughout the Americas.

Caracas Venezuela Temple

The Caracas Venezuela Temple, the first in that nation, was dedicated in four sessions on 20 August 2000. “We pray for this great nation of Venezuela,” said President Hinckley in his dedicatory prayer. “May it hold its place among the sovereign nations of the earth. May its people be blessed and prospered. May they enjoy freedom to worship Thee without molestation of any kind. Bless the leaders of the nation with wisdom and understanding and a great desire to serve the needs of the people.”

Accompanying President Hinckley were Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Robert J. Whetten of the Seventy, President of the South America North Area.

The temple open house, held on 5 and 7–12 August, drew 27,806 visitors. “Many left the temple in tears,” said Jorge Alberto Ruiz, president of the Caracas Venezuela Urdaneta Stake. “One woman walked out and asked, ‘What next? How can I be a part of this Church?’”

Nearly 6,000 members from throughout Venezuela attended the dedication. “Having the prophet dedicate the temple in our country is something I will always remember,” said Carlos Ordeneta of Maracaibo, Venezuela, who traveled 10 hours with many other Maracaibo members to attend. “The temple is the best thing that has ever happened to Venezuela.”

Houston Texas Temple

President Hinckley dedicated the Houston Texas Temple in eight sessions on 26–27 August 2000. “How glorious and complete is Thy plan for the salvation and exaltation of Thy children of all generations. How tremendous is our obligation to carry forward this great vicarious work in their behalf,” he said in the dedicatory prayer. “Bless the families of the Church with security and unity. … Let them feel of Thine overpowering love.”

Accompanying President Hinckley at the dedication were Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Richard J. Maynes of the Seventy, First Counselor in the North America Southwest Area Presidency. More than 20,000 members attended the services.

The open house (held from 5 to 22 August, except Sundays), drew 110,000 visitors. Guests were impressed by the beauty and spirit of the new temple; for example, one woman who turned into the temple parking lot by mistake decided to stay and tour the building.

The Church has grown significantly in southeast Texas since the first stake was organized in Houston in 1953; now there are 22 stakes in the Houston area alone. “Today, our stakes are as strong as you will find anywhere,” said Sterling Pack, a local branch president. Having a temple in Houston will make frequent temple attendance possible for nearby members, who previously traveled seven hours to reach the Dallas Texas Temple.

Birmingham Alabama Temple

President Hinckley dedicated the Birmingham Alabama Temple in four sessions on 3 September 2000. In his dedicatory prayer, he asked, “May the influence of this Thy house be felt throughout this great temple district. May the Church grow and prosper here. May those in government be friendly to Thy people. Let Thy Holy Spirit lead those called to preach the gospel that they may seek out and find those who will accept the everlasting truth revealed in this the dispensation of the fulness of times. May all who come into the Church remain faithful and true and advance in maturity and worthiness to participate in the sacred activities of Thy house.”

With President Hinckley were Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Gordon T. Watts of the Seventy, First Counselor in the North America Southeast Area Presidency. Nearly 5,000 Church members attended the dedication.

The new temple and members of the Church in Alabama received positive media attention. After attending the open house (held on 19 and 21–26 August), which drew 21,000 visitors, one newspaper reporter wrote, “Entering the sacred temple, … visitors are greeted with open arms. A portrait of Jesus holding out his arms to welcome those [who enter] the temple hangs on the wall.” A letter to the editor in another paper, written by a Birmingham man, said, “Having lived for some 70 years and having had a number of next-door neighbors, I can truthfully tell you the Mormons are the best of neighbors you can ever expect to find.”

The members in the temple district have eagerly awaited the temple’s advent. “In the last year, I’ve done more first-time temple recommend interviews than the previous five years,” said Birmingham Alabama Stake president Richard D. May. “Our members have been so excited. They’ve been working more diligently on their family history. During our open house, I saw a lot of less-active members come out. They said, ‘We’re ready to get back to living the gospel.’”

Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple

President Hinckley dedicated the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple in four sessions on 17 September 2000. “Dear Father, please look down with love upon Thy sons and daughters in this island nation and in surrounding lands,” he petitioned in his dedicatory prayer. “Prosper them in their labors that they may have food upon their tables and shelter over their heads. As they look to Thee, reward their faith and open Thy hand of providence toward them. May they find peace in the midst of conflict, and faith amidst the stress of the world. Open the windows of heaven, as Thou hast promised, and let blessings flow down upon them.”

Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Richard D. Allred of the Seventy, President of the North America Southeast Area, also participated in the dedicatory services. Some 10,000 Dominicans and their neighbors from Haiti, Puerto Rico, and other islands gathered to witness the dedication of the temple, the first to be built in the West Indies.

“This is the most special day in the history of our country,” said Georgina Rosario, a Dominican woman who joined the Church a decade ago. “Our country and our families will be strengthened because of the influence of the temple.”

The temple open house, held daily except Sundays from 26 August through 9 September, attracted nearly 40,000 people. After touring the temple, a local journalist reported: “Within the temple, one receives the impression of being in another world, … mostly because of the images of Christ displayed throughout the building. Nothing in the country can compare with this temple. Its beauty is without equal.”

The Santo Domingo temple will be an especially significant blessing to the members in its district, which includes the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Haiti, and small surrounding islands. Economic limitations have kept most of these members from attending the closest temples, in the United States or Guatemala.

The experience of Roland Ciochy, a member of the Jacmel Branch on Haiti’s southern coast, is typical. “I have been a Church member for 13 years and will now be able to go to the temple for the first time,” he said.

[photo] Set high on a hill, the Boston temple is designed with New England-style architecture. (Photograph by Jeffrey D. Allred, courtesy of Church News.)

[photo] Nearly 6,000 members attended the dedication of the Caracas Venezuela Temple. (Photograph by Jason Swensen, courtesy of Church News.)

[photo] The Houston temple district covers a large portion of the state of Texas.

[photo] Framed by foliage, the new Birmingham Alabama Temple awaits dedication on the morning of 3 September 2000. (Photograph by Julie A. Dockstader, courtesy of Church News.)

[photo] The Santo Domingo temple serves members in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Haiti, and small surrounding islands.

Church European Areas Realigned

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles recently announced a realignment of the boundaries of the Church’s Europe East, Europe West, and Europe North Areas. The three newly defined areas are now called the Europe East, Europe West, and Europe Central Areas; the title “Europe North Area” will no longer be used.

The Presidency of what was the Europe North Area is now the Presidency of the Europe West Area; the Presidency of what was called the Europe West Area now presides over the Europe Central Area. The Europe East Area Presidency will continue to preside over that newly realigned area.

A significant change associated with the realignment is the relocation of the Europe East Area office to Moscow, Russia, from Frankfurt, Germany, where both the Europe East and Europe West Area offices had been located.

“The realignment is particularly designed to aid in the development of the Church in Eastern Europe [and] Central Europe,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “We’ve seen significant missionary work and Church growth in Eastern and Central Europe over the past decade, with eight missions in Russia and a temple already announced for Kyiv, Ukraine,” he added.

Map of Europe

Headquarters for the newly aligned areas are Solihull, England; Frankfurt, Germany; and Moscow, Russia. (Map by Thomas S. Child.)

The Europe East Area no longer includes North Africa, the Middle East, and certain parts of central Europe. It now encompasses 13 missions and 25 districts in 18 countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Russia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

The Europe Central Area office is in Frankfurt, Germany. This area takes in parts of northern and central Europe, the Middle East, and Egypt. It includes 20 missions, 34 stakes, 20 districts, and 37 countries: Albania, Austria, Bahrain, Bosnia, Croatia, Cyprus, Northern Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Lebanon, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

The Europe West Area now encompasses Greenland and the United Kingdom (formerly part of the Europe North Area); the North African countries of Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia (formerly included in the Europe East Area); and Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, and Spain. This area, which includes 24 missions, 66 stakes, and 53 districts, is headquartered in Solihull, England, former headquarters of the Europe North Area.