News of the Church

By Lisa Ann Jackson

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    Members Sustain Changes; Leaders Speak Out against Worldly Influences

    In the Saturday afternoon session of the 173rd Semiannual General Conference, several General Authorities and Area Authority Seventies were released and four Area Authority Seventies were sustained. Changes were also announced for the Young Men general presidency.

    Three members of the First Quorum of the Seventy were granted emeritus status and released from full-time service as General Authorities. For their years of service to the Church, Elder Angel Abrea, Elder William R. Bradford, and Elder Cree-L Kofford received expressions of gratitude from Church members gathered in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City and in meetinghouses throughout the world.

    Released as members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy and given a vote of thanks for their service were Elder Duane B. Gerrard, Elder J. Kent Jolley, and Elder D. Lee Tobler.

    Four new Area Authority Seventies whose callings had been previously announced were sustained at the conference: José A. Castro, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; William K. Jackson, New Delhi, India; Paul V. Johnson, Sandy, Utah; and Jay L. Sitterud, Highland, Utah.

    Seventeen Area Authority Seventies were released. (For a full list, see “The Sustaining of Church Officers,” page 23, this issue.)

    Changes to the Young Men general presidency were also announced. Elder Glenn L. Pace and Elder Spencer J. Condie of the Seventy were released as first counselor and second counselor respectively. Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy was sustained as first counselor, and Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Seventy was sustained as second counselor. Elder F. Melvin Hammond of the Seventy continues as Young Men general president.

    During the Saturday morning session, President Gordon B. Hinckley invited Elder David B. Haight to join him at the stand. President Hinckley told the congregation that Elder Haight is 97 years old and “has lived longer than any other Apostle in the history of this dispensation.” Elder Haight waved to the congregation and was then excused from sitting on the stand during conference due to a recent illness.

    In his address that morning, President Hinckley reviewed the growth of the Church, noting congregations of Saints worldwide: “We now have strong congregations in every state of the United States and in every province of Canada. We have such in every state of Mexico, in every nation of Central America, and throughout the nations of South America. We have strong congregations in Australia and New Zealand and the isles of the Pacific. We are well established in the nations of the Orient. We are in every nation of Western Europe and in much of Eastern Europe, and we are firmly established in Africa.”

    “And this is only the beginning,” President Hinckley went on to say. “We have scarcely scratched the surface. … Our work knows no boundaries. Under the providence of the Lord it will continue.”

    President Hinckley provided updates on several aspects of the work, including missionary work, humanitarian efforts (see related article on page 123), and the Perpetual Education Fund.

    “To date the Church has granted about 10,000 loans to young men and women in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and other areas of the Church,” he reported. “To date about 600 young men and women have completed their training. … We are happy to report that the plan is working well and gradually expanding as we gain experience.”

    President Hinckley and several other leaders also spoke of the declining standards of the world and reminded conference attendees that the Church’s standards will not change.

    “I believe and testify that it is the mission of this Church to stand as an ensign to the nations and a light to the world,” President Hinckley said in his Sunday morning address. “There are forces all around us that would deter us from that effort. The world is crowding in on us. From all sides we feel the pressure to soften our stance, to give in here a little and there a little. … We must stand firm. We must hold back the world. If we do so, the Almighty will be our strength and our protector, our guide and our revelator.”

    President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, also confirmed the Church’s unwillingness to alter its standards. “However out of step we may seem, however much the standards are belittled, however much others yield, we will not yield, we cannot yield,” he said during the Saturday afternoon session.

    Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles called the Saints to action in his Saturday morning remarks, encouraging them to take a stance against growing trends. “We need to raise our voices with other concerned citizens throughout the world in opposition to current trends. We need to tell the sponsors of offensive media that we have had enough. We need to support programs and products that are positive and uplifting,” Elder Ballard said. “Brothers and sisters, refuse to be used. Refuse to be manipulated. Refuse to support those programs that violate traditional family values.”

    General Authorities and the choir join with Church members worldwide in sustaining Church leaders.

    Church Supplies $3 Million and Other Resources to Fight Measles in Africa

    To combat a disease that in some parts of the world is almost eradicated while in other parts still commonly kills children, the Church has joined an effort to immunize millions of children in Africa against measles. Church officials announced their support at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on 17 September 2003.

    Offering both financial aid and logistical support, the Church pledged U.S. $3 million over the next three years and will provide local volunteers and facilities to the Measles Initiative to help stem the tide of measles in Africa.

    With the vaccine costing less than U.S. $1 per child, “our contribution alone will provide vaccine for three million children. What a marvelous and wonderful thing that is,” President Gordon B. Hinckley stated during the Saturday morning session of the October 2003 general conference.

    The Measles Initiative is a five-year effort to vaccinate 200 million children in Africa. Measles is the leading cause of blindness and the leading vaccine-preventable cause of death in Africa. The initiative will prevent an estimated 1.2 million measles deaths.

    Involved in the initiative are the American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United Nations Children’s Fund, World Health Organization, and Pan American Health Organization, as well as international Red Cross and Red Crescent offices and governments of affected nations.

    “The Church has once again illustrated its significant commitment to ending suffering on a worldwide basis,” said Marsha J. Evans, president and CEO of the American Red Cross, in accepting the first installment of the gift. “We cannot express our enormous gratitude.”

    Ms. Evans noted that the Church has worked extensively with the Red Cross in other relief efforts, including an additional U.S. $2 million donated in recent years for other Red Cross efforts and assistance with a Red Cross vaccination campaign in Zambia in June.

    “We are delighted to partner with the Red Cross,” Presiding Bishop H. David Burton told the Deseret News. “Over the years we’ve done so on a number of projects, and we’re eager to continue that relationship.”

    In his Saturday morning general conference address, President Hinckley noted that the money for the measles donation did not come from tithing funds. “It came from contributions of the faithful to the humanitarian work of the Church,” he said.

    The Church also pledged logistical support to the initiative. Local Church members will serve as volunteers, and meetinghouses will be made available.

    “To be able to prevent a child from dying, to be able to help so many so easily—now what could be better than that?” said Harold C. Brown, managing director of the Church’s Welfare and Humanitarian Services Department, who presented the donation in behalf of the Church.

    A Red Cross nurse vaccinates a child in Africa. A donation from the Church will help vaccinate three million children in Africa against measles. (Photograph by Garry Flake.)

    Church Launches Official Web Sites for Individual Countries

    In a continuing effort to make the gospel message available to all people through a variety of means, the Church is expanding its Internet presence to serve individual countries and languages. Areas have begun creating country-specific Web sites, which serve as the official Church presence on the Internet in a given nation.

    “Technology has blessed us with many new innovations to spread the message of the gospel through satellite systems, our own … Web site, television, radio, as well as the written text in our magazines and newspapers,” said Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “All of these add to our delivery systems, which greatly increase our ability to receive the messages that are delivered” (“‘Thou Shalt Give Heed unto All His Words,’” Ensign, May 2000, 25).

    Area Presidencies are assessing the needs of the Church in their areas to determine what the scope of their local Internet presence should be. At press time, eight country sites had been launched, with 26 additional sites under construction. The live sites include Austria, Chile, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.

    Country sites serve a variety of purposes both for Latter-day Saints and for those who would like to learn more about the Church. For instance, on Sweden’s site, visitors can refer friends to the missionaries; on Austria’s site, media professionals can access information regarding the local Church; on Norway’s site, visitors can find news about the area; and on Chile’s site, members can read messages from the Area Presidency and other local Church leaders.

    “The purpose is to strengthen the members of the Church with inspirational content,” says Elder Oscar Chavez, an Area Authority Seventy in Chile. “It is a great privilege to participate during these times with these forms of communication, especially in our respective callings and assignments, to bring to pass the work of the Lord.”

    Links to individual country sites can be found at Click on “Country Sites” in the upper right corner of the home page for a current list.

    The Church’s Web site in Germany is one of several country-specific sites recently launched.

    Saints in Hyderabad, India

    The 400-year-old city of Hyderabad, India, bustles with a population of approximately 4.2 million people. In this city where old-world charm blends with growth and enterprise, those who walk the streets may hear the many languages of India.

    The official language is Hindi, spoken by 30 percent of the population. English is the associate official language, and the most widely used for higher education, government, and commerce. The Book of Mormon has been translated into Hindi and Telugu, and selections from it have been trnslated into Bengali and Tamil. Additionally there are at least 300 known languages in India, but one language is universal to all—the language of the Spirit.

    From the humble beginnings of the Church in India in 1850, the Church has grwon to 3 districts with 22 branches in this predominantly Hindu nation. The first chapel to be built in the city of Hyderabad, a center of science and technology located in south-central India, will be completed in December 2003.

    “It is a dream come true,” says 18-year-old Gunday Solomon Israel, who goes by his last name. “The design of the chapel itself makes me feel the Spirit. I am grateful to my Father in Heaven for answering my prayers.”

    With the completion of the chapel, Church members and investigators in Hyderabad will have a beautiful building in which to meet and feel the language of the Spirit touching their hearts, just as it did Israel’s three years ago.

    “When I first came to church, I was surprised to see the love among the Saints. They were so happy. I could see the glow of the gospel in their faces,” recalls Israel.

    Like Israel, 17-year-old Madhu Bunga remembers the first time he attended a Church meeting and felt the Spirit.

    “I was glad to see so many strangers come and sit beside me and talk to me about my life,” says Madhu, who attended his first Church meeting in December 2000. “I was amazed how people taught and approached things by the Spirit of God. I loved it, and I ran to my house, thinking all the world was in my hands.”

    Madhu and other young members of the Church keep the Spirit in their lives by attending church and seminary and participating in service projects in the community.

    “I am the only member of the Church in my family,” says Madhu. “To stay strong, I attend seminary regularly. We have done many service projects, like going to a charity to teach children English, fun stories, and games. I went with the young men and women to a government hospital to paint the walls, and we helped Church members when they moved.”

    Joseph Cornelius, president of the Hyderabad First Branch, also recognizes the importance of service and attending Church meetings to feel the Spirit.

    “Members have service projects like collecting clothes for the orphanage once a year,” says President Cornelius. “We attend all the Church meetings an dactivities. WE have family prayer and family home evening.”

    Recently members from the Hyderabad First and Second Branches collected old clothing and bought rice and cereal to give to a boys’ shelter. The people who run the shelter go to a train station in the area, find boys who are living there, and bring them back so they have a place to sleep. Schooling and counseling are also provided at the shelter.

    When Church members arrived at the shelter, they were warmly greeted. After much visiting and an exchange of games and laughter, members sanded down the walls of the shelter, which were in dire need of repair. Paint was donated and applied, giving the shelter a clean, cheery appearance.

    Whether it is at the service projects or in friendly gospel discussions, the Spirit continues to whisper the gospel to many in Hyderabad. Though soft, the language of the Spirit is clear, uniting Saints across one of the most populous countries in the world.

    A group of Saints in Hyderabad gather for a service project. Serving together is one way Church members in Hyderabad feel the Spirit. (Photograph courtesy of Sandra Daley.)

    Women from the Hyderabad First and Second Branches in India sand walls at a boys’ shelter. (Photograph courtesy of Sandra Daley.)

    In the News

    First District in Western Kasai Province Organized

    The first district in the province of Western Kasai in the Democratic Repulic of Congo was organized on 21 April 2003.

    The Kananga district was organized by Brent Phil Peterson, then mission president of the Democratic Republic of Congo Kinshasa Mission, and includes the Kananga First, Kananga Second, Kataoka, and Ndesha Branches.

    The first formal meeting in Kananga occurred in May 1988, when the late Gregory Kalala Bakadiabanya recieved permission from the mission president to meet with neighbors and family when he visited the area after his baptism in Kinshasa. Almost five years after Brother Bakadiabanya’s visit, the first branch was organized on 12 January 1993.

    The Democratic Republic of Congo granted the Church formal recognition in February 1986. There are around 11,000 members in the West African country.

    “As [our] prayers will be without ceasing, [we] believe that [we] will have the opportunity to greet full-time missionaries in this part of the vineyard of the Lord and [witness] the creation of a stake in Zion,” says Eric Belangenyi Kapanga, Kananga district president.

    Cardston Temple Wins Beautification Award

    The Canadian town of Cardston recently recognized the Cardston Alberta Temple with one of the city’s annual beautification awards—the first time the temple has been honored in such a way.

    Stan Johnson, former Cardston mayor and a counselor in the temple presidency, said the award is one indication of the “tremendous contribution that is made to the overall beautification of our community by the temple.”

    The Cardston Temple was dedicated in 1923 by President Heber J. Grant, seventh President of the Church, and was rededicated in 1991 by President Gordon B. Hinckley, then First Counselor in the First Presidency.

    Adapted from Church News, 20 September 2003.

    Conference Center Earns Award

    The American Society of Landscape Architects has recognized the Conference Center in Salt Lake City with a Design Merit Award for excellence in landscape architecture. It was one of 33 award-winning projects selected from 436 entries. The awards are presented according to quality of design, functionality, context, environmental responsibility, and relevance to the profession, the public, and the environment.

    Designed by Olin Partnership of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the landscaping of the Conference Center features trees, grasses, and wildflowers native to Utah.

    Adapted from Church News, 13 September 2003.

    Members Honored with National Volunteer Award

    Thanks to a seven-year partnership between the Tucson Community Food Bank and Arizona Church members, a United States coalition of food banks called America’s Second Harvest has honored the Church with its national Group Volunteer of the Year award. This tribute recognizes the thousands of hours of service provided by Church members in Tucson.

    The food bank provides 100-pound (37-kg) bags of rice and beans and, three nights a week, up to 100 Church volunteers gather at the Church’s cannery in Tucson to package the food into family-sized meals. Each month, about 50,000 pounds (19,000 kg) of food is repackaged and returned to the food bank for distribution.

    Adapted from Church News, 20 September 2003.

    Brethren of the newly created Kananga district gather for a priesthood leadership meeting. The district was organized in April 2003. (Photograph courtesy of Kananga district.)

    The Cardston Alberta Temple was recently honored with a beautification award from the town of Cardston, Alberta, Canada.