News of the Church

By Adam C. Olson, Church Magazines


Changes in Auxiliary Presidencies; Conference Reaching Increasing Numbers

Members of the Sunday School and Young Men general presidencies will no longer be called from the ranks of the Quorums of the Seventy, Church leaders announced during the Saturday afternoon session of the 174th Annual General Conference. (For the names of those sustained and released, see page 24. For information on the new presidency members, see the biographies on the following pages.)

Since October 1979, the presidencies of the Sunday School and Young Men have been composed of General Authorities serving as full-time members of the Seventy. These new auxiliary leaders will not serve as General Authorities; they will continue their employment while serving part-time in their auxiliary presidency positions.

Other changes include the call of Elder John H. Groberg to the Presidency of the Seventy. Released was Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander, who will begin serving as President of the Europe East Area on 15 August 2004.

In addition, 35 new Area Authority Seventies were called and 11 received releases.

More than 100,000 members gathered at the Conference Center and on Temple Square for the five sessions of general conference. Millions more participated through television, satellite, radio, and Internet broadcasts to receive counsel from Church leaders.

“We are now a great international family,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley during his opening remarks. “To me, it is a marvelous and miraculous thing that … our images and words are available to 95 percent of the membership of the Church.”

In order to reach as many of the almost 12 million members of the Church as possible, conference sessions were interpreted in 66 languages, including in Arabic and several Micronesian languages for the first time.

Members in the Conference Center sustain Church leaders during the Saturday afternoon session of general conference.

Priesthood Restoration Event Is Set

A broadcast commemorating the 175th anniversary of the restoration of the priesthood will be held Sunday, 16 May 2004, at 6:00 P.M. MDT in the Conference Center. The event will be broadcast in 66 languages in 80 countries. All brethren 12 years of age and older are encouraged to attend at their respective stake centers wherever it is available.

In a letter to Church leaders, President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, encouraged wards and branches to commemorate the anniversary in a special sacrament meeting between 16 May and 13 June 2004.

Conference Available Online

Written transcripts of the Church’s 174th Annual General Conference are now or will soon be available online at www.lds.org in Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, and Tagalog.

Video and audio files of the four general sessions in English and Spanish are now available online. Audio files of the sessions will be made available in 35 additional languages. For information on a specific language, visit www.lds.org and click on the world map in the upper right corner of the screen.

Marjorie Pay Hinckley Dies at 92

For 67 years, Marjorie Pay Hinckley kept pace with her husband, President Gordon B. Hinckley, as he traveled the world. On 6 April 2004, her mortal journey ended. Surrounded by family and loved ones, Sister Hinckley quietly passed from this world to the next due to causes incident to age. Born on 23 November 1911, she was 92.

Often expressing surprise at the course her life had taken, Sister Hinckley often joked, “How did a nice girl like me end up in a mess like this?” In an interview with Church magazines several months before her death, Sister Hinckley said, “Well, it turned out better than I expected. It has been a good life.” Known for her caring heart and quick wit, she told Church magazines, “If we can’t laugh at life, we are in big trouble” (see “At Home with the Hinckleys,” Liahona, Oct. 2003, 32–37; Liahona, Oct. 2003, 22–27), and at her funeral services she was eulogized as “charity personified.”

As evidence of the countless lives she touched, thousands attended a public viewing, some of them standing in line outside on a blustery spring day for more than three hours. Thousands attended the funeral held in the Tabernacle on 10 April, and tens of thousands more watched on television and by satellite broadcast.

“She conversed with kings and queens. She loved little children,” President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, said of Sister Hinckley’s ability to relate to people from all walks of life. “There was no flaw in her character. … Like the Master, Marjorie went about doing good.”

“She had such a good life,” said President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency. “All of us would benefit from following her faith, commitment, and devotion.”

During the funeral services, the Hinckleys’ five children—Kathleen, Richard, Virginia, Clark, and Jane—shared quotes from Sister Hinckley and gave expressions of gratitude to their mother. Clark Hinckley read a letter written by President Hinckley to his wife after nearly 60 years of marriage. “My darling, … I have known you for a long time … and it has turned out as I had hoped it would. … Now we have grown old together. … And when in some future day the hand of death gently touches one or the other of us, there will be tears, yes, but there will also be a quiet and certain assurance of reunion and eternal companionship.”

Sheri L. Dew, former member of the Relief Society general presidency and biographer of President Hinckley, said that while 12 million members together cannot take Sister Hinckley’s place, each would be praying that President Hinckley would have the strength to carry on. She said that each member would try a little harder in order to ease the prophet’s burden.

Marjorie Pay Hinckley died on 6 April 2004.

President Gordon B. Hinckley follows his wife’s casket into the Tabernacle.

A. Roger Merrill

Sunday School General President
A. Roger Merrill

Ariel Roger Merrill first learned of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s leadership philosophy to “teach [people] correct principles and [let them] govern themselves” as a young missionary. “That became one of the defining moments of my life,” Brother Merrill says. It became the theme of the teaching, learning, and leadership at the center of his personal and professional life for the past 40 years.

“Much of what happens in the world, good and bad, comes from the influence of leaders,” observes Brother Merrill. “The Savior and His righteous influence are at the center of the battle for the souls of men. And among our greatest weapons are the teaching of true principles and the power of choice.” For Brother Merrill, these ideas play out most importantly in the family unit. He sees the family as providing the greatest opportunity for teaching, learning, and leading.

“Great families create great societies, and great societies nurture great families,” says Brother Merrill. “And one of the most important factors in a successful family is the leadership exercised by the parents. In that sense, family is the defining activity of the human experience.”

He points to his wife, Rebecca, as a good example. “One of the most important things about me is that I have an incredible wife,” he says. “We are very unified in our faith and our love of each other, the Lord, and our family.”

Brother Merrill, 59, was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Ariel Carden and Edith Horsley Merrill on 2 May 1945. He grew up in Carmel, California, served in the Texas Mission, and graduated from Brigham Young University. He is a senior consultant for a leadership training company and a partner in his own consulting firm.

Brother Merrill married Rebecca Rippy in the Salt Lake Temple on 7 June 1967. They have seven children and 16 grandchildren.

Daniel K Judd

First Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency
Daniel K Judd

Daniel K Judd’s life has been a unique combination of sacred and academic training. As a returned missionary from the California San Diego Mission, he pursued a B.S. in zoology from Southern Utah University (SUU) and an M.S. in family sciences and a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Brigham Young University (BYU). During those years, he also worked for the Church Educational System as a seminary and institute teacher.

“As I have counseled with families as a professional or as a bishop or stake president, I have seen how profound the gospel can be in helping us heal,” he says. “I hope that through Sunday School Latter-day Saints can comprehend the power that is available to us as we come unto Christ through the teachings of our prophets and the scriptures.”

Born on 17 September 1956 in Kanab, Utah, Brother Judd was the youngest of four children born to LeRoy P. and Phyllis Farnsworth Judd. He met his future wife, Kaye Seegmiller, at SUU. They were married in the St. George Utah Temple. Now as the parents of four children, the Judds emphasize the Savior in their personal and family life.

“Salvation is so much more about Him than it is about ourselves,” says Brother Judd. “I have learned that with Christ and His gospel as our foundation nothing can ever go permanently wrong.”

Serving as both president of the Orem Utah Canyon View Stake and chairman of the Department of Ancient Scripture at BYU when he was called to the Sunday School general presidency, Brother Judd, 47, hopes to continue to draw upon his experience in both the sacred and the academic to help others.

“My desire for Sunday School is to emphasize Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice,” he says. “As it states in 2 Nephi 32:3 [2 Ne. 32:3], if we will ‘feast upon the words of Christ … [they] will tell you all things what ye should do.’”

William D. Oswald

Second Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency
William D. Oswald

William Duncan Oswald says that “spending time in the scriptures” has been a powerful influence for good in his life.

He counts his service as Gospel Doctrine teacher, a calling he has filled four different times, as being among his most enjoyable experiences in the Church. His love for teaching the gospel and his Church service have prepared him for his new calling, which he will assume when he finishes his service as president of the Russia Vladivostok Mission in July.

In the 1970s, Brother Oswald served on the Sunday School general board and later as first counselor in the Sunday School general presidency to Russell M. Nelson, who is now a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. With his new call to the Sunday School general presidency, Brother Oswald is excited for the opportunity to finish what he started more than 25 years ago.

In the interim, he was privileged to preside as bishop over President Spencer W. and Sister Camilla Kimball’s ward, an experience Brother Oswald describes as a “wonderful training ground” for learning to love others.

“It was a wonderful experience that has had a lifetime impression on me as to what a good man he was. His ability to express and show love to others had a great effect on me. Because of that experience, I’ve tried to express love and appreciation to others around me more than I might have otherwise done.”

Brother Oswald, 68, was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. He attended the University of Utah, where he earned his undergraduate and law degrees. He served a mission to England and Scotland. In 1961, he married Mavis Morris in the Salt Lake Temple. They have six children.

Charles W. Dahlquist II

Young Men General President
Charles W. Dahlquist II

Charles Winston Dahlquist II says that his testimony has grown “little by little, just through doing the things the Lord has asked me to do—like going to seminary and responding to Church callings.”

He hopes the youth will have a similar experience during his time as Young Men general president. “I would like to help build a generation of young men who not only know who they are, but also have a little inkling of why they were sent here and the part in the plan of salvation they can play,” he says.

Brother Dahlquist believes the youth will be blessed in the same way he was if they are faithful. And, he says, because we live in a wicked world “we need the strongest youth that we have ever had, and I believe we have as fine a generation—if not finer—than any we’ve ever had before in the history of the world.”

Brother Dahlquist has had experience working with the young men of the Church. A recipient of the Silver Beaver Award, he has been involved in Scouting for most of his life and has been a ward Young Men president. Other Church callings he has fulfilled include president of the Germany Hamburg Mission, full-time missionary in the Swiss Mission, stake president, counselor in a stake presidency, and high councilor. Brother Dahlquist is an attorney and is actively involved in community service.

Born in Provo, Utah, to C. Winston and Afton Ahlander Dahlquist, Brother Dahlquist, 56, spent his childhood in Boise, Idaho. Following Brother Dahlquist’s mission, he married Zella B Darley in the Salt Lake Temple on 2 June 1969. They now live in Sandy, Utah. They have five daughters and seven grandchildren.

“I married my high school sweetheart,” Brother Dahlquist says. “We were in the same ward in Boise. I was the Sunday School music director, and she was the Sunday School organist. We say we’ve been making music together ever since.”

Dean R. Burgess

First Counselor in the Young Men General Presidency
Dean R. Burgess

The first real test of my young testimony came when I had to decide between going on a mission and playing basketball,” says Dean Reid Burgess. Brother Burgess had spent his freshman year playing basketball for the College of Southern Utah on scholarship.

It was 1965, the height of the war in Vietnam, and not every young man had the chance to serve a mission because of the United States military draft. But Brother Burgess had the chance and the choice. “It took a lot of prayer and a lot of fasting,” he says. “But I knew serving a mission was a real privilege, so I left school to serve.” While serving in the Brazilian Mission, Brother Burgess solidified his testimony of the restored gospel.

Upon returning home, he completed his education at Brigham Young University in business management and graduated in 1970. Some time later, he met Annette Christensen at a BYU student ward. “She was the Relief Society president, and I was the elders quorum president,” he says. “She was always busy serving in worthwhile and constructive ways.” They began dating and were later married in the Provo Utah Temple on 27 December 1973. They have five children and reside in Sandy, Utah.

Brother Burgess, 57, was born in Alpine, Utah, to Reid and Ethel King Burgess on 24 May 1946. He grew up working in the family-owned mercantile store and on their 20-acre (8-ha) farm. His parents taught him the value of family, hard work, and the principles of the gospel—the same values he has tried to teach his own children.

In 1997 Brother Burgess returned to Brazil, where he served as president of the Brazil Belo Horizonte East Mission. His other Church service includes counselor in stake presidencies, stake Young Men president, bishop, and high councilor; all told, he has served with the youth of the Church for more than 24 years.

Michael A. Neider

Second Counselor in the Young Men General Presidency
Michael A. Neider

Trying to find his father’s golf balls, which he had lost, is one of Michael Antone Neider’s first memories concerning the development of his faith.

Growing up in the small farming community of Tyhee, Idaho, he had sneaked his father’s golf clubs out of the garage and hit all the golf balls into their horse pasture. “I had no idea it would be so hard to find those balls in the tall grass. I felt a pressing need for divine help. After praying I went back out and found all but one of them, as well as a never-to-be-forgotten lesson that God loves me.”

Brother Neider says he’s not sure if the Lord would help him find those balls today. “As I’ve learned and grown, the Lord has expected more from me. I feel He has taught me to use more wisdom and faith in moving closer to Him.”

Brother Neider learned to feel the guiding influence of the Spirit from his mother and in the small meetinghouse in Tyhee. “I remember sitting in church and noticing my mother at times becoming emotional. That’s when I started to pay attention and feel something special as I heard testimonies about the Savior.”

Brother Neider, 55, was born in Pocatello, Idaho, to H. Boyd and Donna Neider. He was the third of six children. He attended Brigham Young University, where he earned his bachelor’s and law degrees. He served a full-time mission in the Central Atlantic States Mission. In 1971 he and Rosemary Curtis were married in the Salt Lake Temple. They have eight children and six grandchildren. They live in Sandy, Utah, where Brother Neider is an executive in his own construction-materials manufacturing business. He has served as counselor in the Utah Salt Lake City South Mission presidency, stake president, stake Young Men president, bishop, ward mission leader, and Scoutmaster.

Celebrating the Gospel around the World

From song and dance to speech and drama, the cultural arts have long been a part of the Church’s history. Choirs, dances, plays, and other cultural arts events bring members together and offer unique ways to express devotion to God.

With those ends in mind, Church leaders are encouraging stakes, districts, wards, and branches all over the world to make the cultural arts part of the Church’s future as well, by planning and participating in cultural arts activities.

“We encourage local leaders to hold stake and multistake events and activities to provide a sense of unity and opportunities to develop friendships, especially among the youth,” wrote the First Presidency in a letter to leaders throughout the Church. “These events could include music, dance, drama, speech, sports, or visual arts.”

Anticipating an increase in requests for appropriate plays and musicals, the Church’s Music and Cultural Arts Division is accepting scripts, readers’ theaters, oratorios, and other cultural arts submissions. (More information, including submission guidelines, will be included in the June Liahona and July Liahona.)

As part of the Brethren’s encouragement of cultural arts activities, the Church is organizing cultural arts celebrations large and small in conjunction with temple dedications. The first was held in January, prior to the dedication of the Accra Ghana Temple. Similar events have been held in Anchorage, Alaska, and São Paulo, Brazil. Saints in Copenhagen, Denmark, and New York City are putting the final touches on their own celebrations, scheduled for 23 May and 13 June respectively.

Sunshine in Ghana

As part of the special celebration in Ghana, the local stadium was filled with almost 2,000 youth singing and dancing under the summer sun in the largest Church youth activity ever held in Africa.

Based on folktales and dances of west Africa, the storyline of the celebration followed Kwaku Anansi, who searched for all the good things in the world to keep for himself. Each stake and district sang and danced and gave him something good, like courage, love, or family. But when Anansi saw the Accra Ghana Temple, its beauty convinced him that he should share all the good things he had collected.

Snow in Alaska

Saints in Alaska prepared a musical production entitled In the Shadow of the Mountains as part of their cultural celebration on 6 February. With a cast of 600, the performance portrayed the cultural heritage of the state’s Native Alaskans, frontier settlers, and early Mormon pioneers.

The production featured Native Alaskan dancing, a spirited frontier wedding dance, a 300-voice Primary choir, and other songs as part of the storyline. The midwinter event was held indoors at a local high school.

Rain in Brazil

A reported 60,000 members filled Pacaembu Stadium, while thousands more watched via satellite around the country, as more than 8,000 local Saints and 1,200 missionaries sang and danced in celebration of the São Paulo Brazil Temple’s rededication on 21 February.

A continuous rain failed to thin the crowd as dancers in traditional costumes, a 1,200-voice choir from 60 stakes, and giant props such as animals, soccer players, and other puppets performed.

The 1 1/2-hour show took four months to prepare and required several hundred volunteers involved with planning, security, cleanup, and medical assistance.

Ghanaian youth prepare to perform for the prophet prior to the dedication of the Accra Ghana Temple. (Photograph by Linda Leeper.)

Church members in Alaska sing at a celebration for the rededication of the Anchorage Alaska Temple. (Photograph by Lynn Howlett; courtesy of Church News.)

Members depict scenes from Brazil’s past during their celebration. (Photograph by Samir Baptista.)