News of the Church

By Naomi Frandsen

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    New Leaders Called, Policies Announced

    In general conference broadcasts reaching the largest-ever percentage of Church members, President Gordon B. Hinckley announced policy changes, and members of the Church sustained a new Young Women general presidency, several new General Authorities, and new members of the Presidency of the Seventy and of the Sunday School general presidency.

    The 172nd Semiannual General Conference was the first general conference ever broadcast in parts of Asia, Australia, Eastern Europe, and the South Pacific. More than 5,000 meetinghouses are now equipped to carry Church broadcasts, giving 90 percent of the Church access to general conference satellite broadcasts. In addition, sessions were carried live on the Internet.

    At the October 2002 conference, a new Young Women general presidency was sustained. Sister Susan W. Tanner was called to serve as general president of the Young Women organization. Sister Julie B. Beck was called as first counselor, and Sister Elaine S. Dalton was called as second counselor.

    Released as the Young Women general presidency were Sister Margaret D. Nadauld and her counselors, Sister Carol B. Thomas and Sister Sharon G. Larsen.

    Five new General Authorities were called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy: Elder Craig C. Christensen, Elder James M. Dunn, Elder Daryl H. Garn, Elder D. Rex Gerratt, and Elder Spencer V. Jones.

    Released as members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy were Elder Richard D. Allred, Elder Athos M. Amorim, Elder L. Edward Brown, Elder Earl M. Monson, and Elder Jerald L. Taylor.

    Also released were 21 Area Authority Seventies. Of those released, 11 served in the United States and the others served in Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, England, Germany, Japan, Korea, Peru, and Uruguay.

    Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf was sustained as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, and Elder Val R. Christensen was sustained as second counselor in the Sunday School general presidency. Elder Ben B. Banks of the Seventy was named an emeritus General Authority and released from the Presidency of the Seventy, and Elder Richard J. Maynes was released as second counselor in the Sunday School general presidency to fulfill other assignments.

    During the priesthood session, President Hinckley announced several policy changes and reemphasized current policy and practice. Recognizing the heavy load borne by priesthood leaders, President Hinckley announced that effective on 1 November 2002, temple recommends will be valid for two years instead of one, reducing the amount of time leaders spend interviewing.

    He also announced that missionary farewells will be limited to a sacrament meeting talk by the departing missionary and that family members will not participate in or plan the meeting. President Hinckley reminded members that open houses for missionaries are discouraged.

    President Hinckley also asked community leaders to honor Church members’ desire to hold family home evening by leaving Monday evening free of school activities or other functions. He also spoke out against debt, immorality, and child abuse.

    During general conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley announced a few changes to policies.

    Elder Craig C. Christensen

    Of the Seventy
    Elder Craig C. Christensen

    “Our family has an acronym taken from Alma 32:28—SEED—Spiritual Exercise Every Day,” says Elder Craig C. Christensen, recently sustained as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy.

    Exercise has been a large part of Elder Christensen’s life. As a family that is very physically active, even enjoying scuba diving together on family vacations, Elder Christensen, his wife, Debora, and their four children get spiritual exercise through family devotionals and scripture study. In addition, Elder Christensen has his own routine of spiritual development. “Over time,” Elder Christensen says, “that process of reflection and searching the scriptures has strengthened me and built my testimony.”

    Elder Christensen was born on 18 March 1956 in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Sheron Glen and Colleen Cloward Christensen. His family moved to Concord, California, before he was in middle school. He later returned to Utah as a college student to play football for Brigham Young University.

    “Football was my focus before my mission to Chile,” says Elder Christensen. “Becoming a missionary changed all that. It gave me great love for people and the desire to really serve.”

    Married in the Salt Lake Temple on 28 March 1978 to Debora Jones—“my example of living the gospel”—he studied accounting and business. As the owner of automobile dealerships, he is committed to “living the principle of integrity and teaching it to others.”

    He learned this principle from mentors throughout his life, including his father, who was his bishop and stake president; his brother; and his mission president.

    These mentors also helped prepare him to serve as a bishop, mission president, and an Area Authority Seventy. Through these examples and experiences, Elder Christensen says, “I’ve learned that the Spirit really teaches us and those we teach. In any calling, we need to look for what the Lord would have us do.”

    Elder James M. Dunn

    Of the Seventy
    Elder James M. Dunn

    “Like many others, I’ve built my testimony day by day, one brick at a time,” observes Elder James M. Dunn, recently called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy. “The spiritual stirrings I felt as a little boy have matured over time through service and doing what I was taught to be right.”

    Born on 16 April 1940 in Pocatello, Idaho, to Billy E. and Melba Meyers Dunn, Elder Dunn and his five siblings grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, “having all the opportunities and blessings that a Latter-day Saint child could have.”

    After serving a mission in Uruguay, Elder Dunn married Sandra (Penny) Barker in the Salt Lake Temple on 7 August 1963. He had admired and respected Penny since they had worked together as class officers in high school. In their early years of marriage, Elder Dunn served as a commissioned officer in the Utah National Guard, pursued a Latin American studies degree at Brigham Young University, and received a law degree from the University of Utah.

    In his demanding profession as a trial lawyer, Elder Dunn learned that one less client or fewer billed hours were small prices to pay for his active Church service, which included callings as high councilor, bishop, stake president, mission president, and Area Authority Seventy.

    As the father of six daughters, Elder Dunn says, “I have a special life; daughters and dads have a unique connection.” This connection was strengthened when his family served with him in Colombia, where he was a mission president. He and his wife and daughters returned home fluent in Spanish and spiritually strengthened.

    Upon receiving his new calling, Elder Dunn commented: “One wonders why these things happen, what life will be like in the next years. But from past callings I know that serving will be a tremendous blessing. Over the years, the Church has been at the center of all the good things in my family and in my life.”

    Elder Daryl H. Garn

    Of the Seventy
    Elder Daryl H. Garn

    When Daryl H. Garn was a missionary in western Canada, his mission president made a visit to his area. Elder Garn hadn’t seen much of the mission president because the mission was so large, so this was a special occasion.

    “As President Arave concluded his testimony, he said he knew those things better than he knew anything,” remembers Elder Garn, “and the Spirit witnessed to my mind that it was true—that you could know things of the Spirit as well or better than you know anything.”

    Since that day, Elder Garn, sustained in October as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, has experienced the truth of his mission president’s testimony again and again. He recalls a few years later when he was sitting in a stake conference in Ohio and the Spirit whispered that he would be called into his ward’s bishopric. He had been in dental school for just two weeks, but before the day was over, President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985), then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, made the call official.

    “Elder Kimball said, ‘Brother Garn, the Lord has called you to this position, and if you put first things first, He will bless you,’” Elder Garn remembers. He feels that by serving diligently in his callings—including bishop, stake president, Young Men president, high councilor, and Area Authority Seventy—he has been sustained in all aspects of his life.

    His wife, Irene, says he is always willing to put the Lord first, and he responds to any call—be it to help around the house or lead a ward—with an agreeable, “That’s just what I want to do!”

    Elder Garn was born on 28 December 1938 in Tremonton, Utah, to Uel and Lolita Hodges Garn. He married Irene Hall on 19 December 1961 in the Logan Utah Temple. They have six children and 19 grandchildren. They raised their family in Mesa, Arizona.

    Elder D. Rex Gerratt

    Of the Seventy
    Elder D. Rex Gerratt

    Elder D. Rex Gerratt was sustained on 5 October 2002 as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy. “I have never been given a calling I felt adequate to do, but I know that whom the Lord calls, the Lord prepares and helps,” says Elder Gerratt, a soft-spoken crop and dairy farmer from Idaho. “As I have accepted each call in my life, I have pleaded with Heavenly Father to help me be effective in His hands.”

    Elder Gerratt was born in Heyburn, Idaho, on 9 April 1936 to Donald Wayne and Ann Bailey Gerratt. He grew up in nearby Burley, farming with his father and brother. He married his childhood friend, Marjorie Crane, in the Idaho Falls Idaho Temple in 1955. They have 9 children and 35 grandchildren.

    “I can remember many mornings when our children and I would sit on the back porch with our family dog, putting on our boots to do our dairy chores,” recalls Elder Gerratt. “Sister Gerratt and I are, of course, concerned for our children, but we have great confidence in them because they all know how to work hard and they have testimonies of the gospel.”

    Hard work in his profession and his community has brought Elder Gerratt honors such as induction into the Idaho Dairy Hall of Fame and the Southeastern Idaho Livestock Hall of Fame. He was also named Conservation Farmer of the Year.

    His callings in the Church have included Area Authority Seventy, mission president, regional representative, stake president, stake clerk, bishop, ward clerk, and home teacher. These callings have helped teach him gratitude and humility.

    “When we realize the many blessings we receive from our Heavenly Father and that we are indeed led by His living prophet,” says Elder Gerratt, “we ought to be very grateful and committed to do our very best at whatever we are asked to do in His Church.”

    Elder Spencer V. Jones

    Of the Seventy
    Elder Spencer V. Jones

    “Let’s all go up. Let’s make the bishop faint. Let’s all go up and bear our testimonies.” This was the challenge young Spencer V. Jones made to his fellow deacons. It was also a turning point in the maturing of his testimony. “As I bore my testimony, at the end—where maybe a month before I was giggling at the people who cried while bearing their testimonies because I didn’t really understand—I found myself in tears,” Elder Jones recalls. “I’ve never forgotten that moment, because when spirit speaks to spirit, something special happens.”

    Elder Jones, recently sustained as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, was born in Safford, Arizona, to Virgil and Nellie Baker Jones on 17 September 1945. He grew up a farmer’s son in the small Latter-day Saint community of Virden, New Mexico, where the meetinghouse was the center of activities. “We called almost everyone in town aunt and uncle—even if they weren’t related—and everybody took care of everybody as if they were.”

    After serving in the Argentina North Mission, Elder Jones attended Brigham Young University, where he earned a degree in animal science. At an Arizona Club dance on campus, he met Joyce Elizabeth Mathews. They were married on 3 June 1968, and after graduation, they moved to Gallup, New Mexico. Elder Jones has worked in a variety of businesses, including a furniture company and a cattle company. He and his wife have three children and eight grandchildren.

    Elder Jones explains that each of his assignments has been a blessing and has prepared him to further serve in the Lord’s kingdom. He has learned much from each calling, whether serving as Young Men president, bishop’s counselor, bishop, seminary teacher, mission president, area executive secretary, or Area Authority Seventy. “Each calling is a stepping-stone and a learning experience,” says Elder Jones. “You grow one step at a time.”

    Susan Winder Tanner

    Young Women General President
    Susan Winder Tanner

    Having served on both a ward and stake level in Primary, Young Women, and Relief Society, Susan W. Tanner sees a relationship between the organizations.

    “The little girls learn ‘I am a child of God.’ And that carries them to ‘We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him.’ Then we come to ‘Charity never faileth,’ and we feel that love enfold us,” she says. “I think there is perfect unity in each stage, with expanded vision and ability as we grow.”

    As the newly called Young Women general president, Sister Tanner feels committed to helping young women understand their place in Heavenly Father’s plan.

    Born on 10 January 1953 in Granger, Utah, to Richard W. and Barbara Woodhead Winder, Sister Tanner grew up on a large dairy farm. She later earned a degree in humanities from Brigham Young University, where she met John S. Tanner. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple on 3 September 1974. Sister Tanner became a homemaker and piano teacher. The Tanners live in Provo, Utah, and have five children and three grandchildren.

    While her family was living in Brazil, where her husband was teaching as a Fulbright scholar, Sister Tanner gained insight into the Young Women program. Her two oldest daughters learned the Young Women theme in Portuguese. “I wanted to learn it with them,” she says. “As I started to memorize the theme, the message really sank into my heart. I am a daughter of Heavenly Father, and He loves me. And because I know this, I love Him and want to show by my actions that I love Him.

    “The message is right there in the Young Women theme in the proper order,” she continues. “I just want the young women of the Church to know it can be the foundation of their testimonies, their actions, and their lives.”

    Julie Bangerter Beck

    First Counselor, Young Women General Presidency
    Julie Bangerter Beck

    “We had to come up with a way to help our children learn how to work,” says Sister Julie B. Beck, newly sustained first counselor in the Young Women general presidency. “We didn’t have a farm, so they couldn’t milk cows. Music was our cow.”

    Just as her own three children learned how to work by practicing the piano, Sister Beck learned the joy of work and service by growing up in the middle of 11 children. Born on 29 September 1954 to William Grant and Geraldine Hamblin Bangerter, Sister Beck grew up in Granger, Utah, and in São Paulo, Brazil, where her father was a mission president.

    Sister Beck graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in family science. On 28 December 1973 she married Ramon P. Beck in the Salt Lake Temple. They live in Alpine, Utah, and have two daughters, one son, and three grandchildren. Sister Beck’s favorite activities are with her family. “Our children are our best friends,” she says.

    Sister Beck has held several callings in Relief Society and Young Women, but she has a special place in her heart for the young women of the Church and recognizes the role hard work and service play in their spiritual development.

    “I still have my bandolo from my Beehive years,” says Sister Beck, mentioning a Church program from her youth. “I enjoyed working to earn all my Young Women awards.”

    She carries that enthusiasm into the current Church program for young women—Personal Progress. She served on the Young Women general board and worked on the revised Personal Progress program.

    “I think Personal Progress helps a young woman understand and practice keeping her baptismal covenant,” says Sister Beck. “And I believe if she can understand and keep her baptismal covenant, she will be prepared to make and keep temple covenants.”

    Elaine Schwartz Dalton

    Second Counselor, Young Women General Presidency
    Elaine Schwartz Dalton

    Not long before Elaine S. Dalton entered her second year at Brigham Young University, her father passed away unexpectedly. It was a trying time in her life, and she prayed often to understand why her father would be taken away from a family that needed him so much.

    The answer to her prayers didn’t come until the following summer, when she was touring Europe with the BYU folk dance team. On Father’s Day, as the team held sacrament meeting, one of the speakers referred to Proverbs 3:5–6 [Prov. 3:5–6]: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

    “I realized that scripture was my answer,” Sister Dalton says now. “I still didn’t know why my father passed away, but I knew I needed to trust in the Lord. That scripture has since guided my life. In everything that has happened that I haven’t understood, I’ve known that if I trust in the Lord, He will direct my path.”

    In her new calling as second counselor in the Young Women general presidency, Sister Dalton hopes to encourage young women to develop that same trust in Heavenly Father and to seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost.

    Sister Dalton was born in Ogden, Utah, on 1 November 1946 to Melvin Leo and Emma Martin Schwartz. She married Stephen E. Dalton on 13 September 1968 in the Salt Lake Temple. They have six children and live in Salt Lake City.

    Sister Dalton earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Brigham Young University. She has served as a member of the Young Women general board, as stake Young Women president, as a Laurel adviser, and as a Relief Society teacher.

    “The young women of today are incredible—they’re spiritually sensitive and strong,” she says. “They have an unusual challenge to be righteous in the world we live in now. As members of the Church, they can stand out and lead others who are looking for righteous examples.”

    Ghana’s President Expresses Thanks for Humanitarian Services

    In a meeting with the First Presidency, the president of the Republic of Ghana, John A. Kufuor, expressed appreciation for the Church’s humanitarian and religious contributions to his nation. “We consider you as part of Ghana,” he told President Gordon B. Hinckley; President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency; and President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, during a visit to Salt Lake City in September.

    Visiting the United States to attend United Nations General Assembly meetings, President Kufuor traveled to Utah with several other officials to discuss economic development with local government and community leaders. While there, he visited Church leaders and toured Church sites, including Welfare Square, Temple Square, and the Conference Center.

    President Kufuor thanked the Church for humanitarian efforts and employment services in his country. The Church has sponsored more than 140 humanitarian projects in Ghana during the past 15 years.

    In return, President Hinckley invited President Kufuor to the open house of the Accra Ghana Temple, scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2003. He also thanked President Kufuor for cooperating with the Church.

    “It was a very mutually beneficial visit, as well as an opportunity to express thanks and appreciation,” said Elder H. Bruce Stucki of the Seventy, former President of the Africa West Area.

    The Church has five stakes and an estimated 20,000 members in Ghana. Currently under construction there are a temple, temple patron housing, a stake center, and an area office building.

    John A. Kufuor, president of Ghana, tours the Conference Center during a recent visit to Salt Lake City. Here he is accompanied by Norman D. Shumway, director of Church hosting. (Photograph by Tom Smart/Deseret News.)

    Church Hosting Builds Bridges

    When Norman D. and Luana Shumway, directors of Church hosting in Salt Lake City, met a prominent Christian minister from the midwestern United States, he told them he didn’t know exactly why he had come to visit. Brother and Sister Shumway decided to take him on a tour of the Latter-day Saint Humanitarian Center and Welfare Square to help him find out.

    “During the more than two hours we spent with him,” recalls Brother Shumway, “the words that he used over and over again were ‘incredible,’ ‘unbelievable,’ ‘amazing.’ And he kept saying, ‘Oh, there’s so much we can learn about how to be followers of Christ.’”

    From Buddhist monks to military personnel to government officials, hundreds of leaders in business, politics, and religion visit Church headquarters in Salt Lake City each year. They are welcomed by the directors of Church hosting and taught about Church history and doctrine at sites such as Temple Square, the Family History Library, the Humanitarian Center, Welfare Square, the Museum of Church History and Art, and the Conference Center.

    “We believe we can show these guests what the Church does, and we don’t have to explain very much,” says Brother Shumway. The First Presidency gave Lowell and Tamara Snow, former directors of Church hosting, similar instructions: “Don’t talk too much. Let the Church speak for itself.”

    And speak for itself it does. At Welfare Square, guests see basic Church beliefs in action while they take a tour of welfare facilities. “As members of the Church we have a covenant obligation to care for the poor and the needy,” explains Mel Gardner, manager of the bishops’ storehouse located at Welfare Square. “But everything we do is designed to foster self-reliance. In turn, people who receive help can lift others through meaningful service.”

    Brother Gardner leads guests through a grocery store with no cash registers, where those who are in need and who have been referred by their bishops receive food. “We say it’s the best food money can’t buy,” he quips.

    Guests are often impressed by the multitude of volunteers from local stakes working at the storehouse, the bakery, the cannery, the dairy plant, and the Deseret Industries thrift store. A framed quote from the Prophet Joseph Smith explains why that spirit of volunteerism pervades the Church: “A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race” (History of the Church, 4:227).

    “That’s what we’re all about”—blessing and serving, says Brother Gardner at the end of a tour, when guests are invited to drink chocolate milk and eat cheddar cheese produced by Deseret Dairy.

    The nearby Latter-day Saint Humanitarian Center shows the international scope of the Church’s welfare projects. “We are followers of Christ, and in everything we do, we try to exemplify the things He taught,” explains Elder Jerry Brown, a full-time senior missionary, as he leads guests through warehouse rooms stacked from floor to ceiling with bales of clothing, shoes, medical supplies, and educational materials awaiting shipment. Sometimes guests meet trainees involved in a training program at the Humanitarian Center and Welfare Square, a program that includes employment and language training.

    “It is so gratifying to see shipments of essential clothing, medical equipment, and other materials leave each week for the needy nations of the earth,” says William D. Reynolds, manager of the Humanitarian Center. “But equally gratifying is to see the joy in the eyes of the trainees as they gain more self-reliance through learning and applying job skills.”

    At Temple Square, sister missionaries share basic gospel messages. Guests of the Church can usually receive tours from sister missionaries who speak their native language, and often the choice of tour guides proves inspired. Sister Shumway recalls a time when one guest antagonistically asked how Native Americans feel about the Book of Mormon. The sister missionary leading the tour responded, “Well, I’m part Blackfoot and Shoshone.” Then she shared her love for the Book of Mormon.

    When the bobsled team from Monaco arrived for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, they had a request—a visit to the Family History Library. At the library, guests learn what “families can be together forever” means. “We believe we can be with our families for eternity, and part of that is identifying these people that we can be with,” explains Elaine Hasleton, supervisor of library public affairs.

    Guests often begin feeling the excitement of family history work as they see hundreds of patrons searching four floors of genealogical records. During one memorable visit, a guest of Eastern European ancestry who had felt only lukewarm interest in family history was shown ships’ registers and immigration records of his ancestors. “Two and a half hours later,” recalls Sister Shumway, “we told him we had to leave, and he said, ‘Go ahead and leave. I’m staying.’”

    Guests do eventually go on their way, and they take lasting impressions with them. “Guests usually leave Salt Lake saying, ‘I came not knowing about the Church, but I found warmth, friendship, love, and caring,’” says Brother Snow. And that, adds Brother Shumway, “is what we try to do first of all—create bridges of understanding between the world and the Church.”

    Sister missionaries show guests from Ghana around Temple Square. (Photograph courtesy of Church hosting.)

    Family history consultant Wolfgang Lebedies (left) assists guests from Germany who are touring the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. (Photograph courtesy of Church hosting.)

    Ordinance Index Available on the Internet

    A new version of the FamilySearch™ Ordinance Index is available for the first time online at This database contains a record of all completed temple ordinance work for deceased individuals. Members can access this database to verify if temple ordinance work has been done for deceased individuals before submitting names to the temple. This verification will help reduce duplicate ordinance work.

    Millions of names have been added to the Ordinance Index recently, and it will be updated weekly to ensure members have current information about their ancestors.

    To register and receive access to ordinance information in the online version of the Ordinance Index, Church members will need their membership record number and confirmation date. Ward and branch clerks can provide members with this information.

    Members who have access to the Internet at home or through their local family history center will be able to use the online version of the Ordinance Index. Family history centers without Internet access may contact the Family and Church History Department about being connected to the Internet after receiving authorization from local priesthood leaders.

    LDS Church Is United States’ Fastest Growing Denomination

    In a study updated every 10 years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was named the fastest growing denomination in the United States for the years 1990 to 2000.

    The study also indicated that the fastest growing churches were those considered socially conservative—and that the slowest growing churches were those viewed as socially liberal. With a growth rate of 19.3 percent, the Church led the trend toward conservative religion in the United States. The next fastest growing religions were the Churches of Christ, the Assemblies of God, and the Roman Catholic Church.

    The Glenmary Research Center, a Catholic research and social service organization, conducted the study through responses received from 149 religious groups. Because the United States census does not seek information about religion, this study is widely considered the most comprehensive assessment available of religious affiliation in the United States.

    Also according to the study, the Church is the sixth largest denomination in the United States, and Utah tops the nation for “most faithful states,” having the highest percentage of religious adherents (75 percent). Provo, Utah, was singled out as the metro area with the highest percentage (90 percent) of its population claimed by one of the 149 participating religious groups.