News of the Church

By Nicole Seymour, Church Magazines


Youth to Be a Light to the World

Young men and women around the world are focusing on this year’s Mutual theme: “Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations” (D&C 115:5). The theme was announced in the November 2005 issue of the Liahona (p. 128).

At that time, the Young Men and Young Women general presidencies released a statement. “We bear testimony that the Lord loves you and needs you to help build His kingdom,” the general presidencies stated. “You can be a light that dispels darkness, revealing by your example the path to celestial glory in the kingdom of God. ‘Arise and shine forth,’ that the Spirit of the Lord may continue to bear witness of the Restoration of the gospel through you.”

How can you tell if you have a testimony of Jesus Christ and His restored gospel? Is it by the words you say? It is where you spend Sundays? Is it by the things you do?

One of the best measures of your testimony of Jesus Christ is how you treat others. When you love the Lord Jesus Christ and turn your heart to Him, you will automatically turn to those in need, especially those in need of coming to Christ.

The scriptures remind us, “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32). There are examples from the scriptures of those who have turned testimony into action. Alma and the sons of Mosiah changed and went about preaching the gospel after they were visited by an angel. Enos also wanted to share what he knew to be true after he received forgiveness in answer to his prayers.

The path you follow on earth may not always be easy. But you can be assured that the Lord has not sent you here to fail. You will succeed as you follow the prophet and stand strong. As your testimony grows in intensity and strength, you will be able to help friends and family strengthen their testimonies. It is time to arise and shine forth.

Activity Ideas for This Year’s Mutual Theme

  • Find and read scriptures that talk about being an example.

  • Have a testimony meeting at sunrise.

  • Memorize the words to “High on the Mountain Top” (Hymns, no. 5).

  • Perform an anonymous act of service.

  • Read about the title of liberty in the Book of Mormon (see Alma 46:11–27). Make a flag or banner representing your ideals.

  • Role-play some of the stories in the scriptures with your Mutual group or family. Dress like the people in the scriptures might have dressed, and memorize and present their testimonies as given in the scriptures.

  • Plan a family home evening based on the Mutual theme. Present it to your family with your parents’ guidance.

Atmit to the Rescue

In August 2005, when the Church received a request from Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to partner with them to send aid to Niger, an African nation facing major food shortages because of crop-devastating locust attacks and severe drought, the Church responded immediately with its largest ever air shipment of Atmit. The Church provided 80,000 pounds (36 tonnes) of the specialized porridge made for those suffering from severe malnourishment. Since then, subsequent shipments have been made and will continue according to need.

In Ethiopian, atmit means “thin, nourishing porridge.” The Church began using Atmit as a life-saving food supplement during the Ethiopian famine of 2003. It is an easily assimilated food made especially for children and the elderly—and it has saved tens of thousands of lives. It contains 50 percent fine oatmeal flour, 25 percent nonfat milk, 20 percent sugar, and 5 percent vitamins and minerals. After Church representatives received the formula in Ethiopia, they took it to nutritionists at Brigham Young University to verify the nutritional value. The Church began manufacturing Atmit in 2003 and since then has produced almost 1,500 tons (1350 tonnes) at the Church’s Welfare Services dairy processing facility in Salt Lake City.

During that time, Atmit has also been distributed by the Church to Uganda, Sudan, South Africa, Haiti, Gaza, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka.

Children are particularly susceptible to malnourishment, as their young bodies have not yet been able to store a reserve of nutrients. For that reason, Atmit is given specifically to children age five and younger.

“When the whole family isn’t getting adequate food, it really affects a small child more than anyone else. Because of the type of food they are being fed, they’re not getting the nutritional value they need, so they just become more and more malnourished,” said director of Humanitarian Emergency Response for the Church, Garry Flake, who visited hard-hit areas of Niger in late August 2005.

Mothers bring children in to be measured and weighed to determine whether they are malnourished enough to benefit from the product. The mother is taught how to prepare the porridge and how to administer it periodically throughout the day. After a week, the child is brought in again and assessed.

“We find that within three to four weeks some children really respond,” Brother Flake said. “For others it takes longer. Our goal is to feed them just long enough with this supplement that they can then get back to the type of food the rest of the family is eating.”

As part of a scheduled trip to Africa, Brother Flake made a stop in Niger to witness the distribution of the Atmit. “It was a very sobering experience to see malnourished children, but an uplifting feeling to realize the Church is there so quickly with such an effective product that has now been proven to make a difference for so many children,” he said.

Brother Flake said the Church’s belief in preparedness puts it in a position to be an asset to the world in times of need. “The Church has become a worldwide-recognized humanitarian relief organization, particularly in emergency response,” he said.

Brother Flake said his involvement with the Atmit distribution has been a spiritually touching experience. “When we know through Church teachings the worth of a child, I don’t know of anything that we do that can be more special than helping a child to live and grow normally,” he said. “This intervention with the Atmit nutritional supplement has to be one of the finest humanitarian interventions that we do in the world. I think it is really what the Savior would have done—to help these children who are so malnourished to live a happy, normal life.”

[photo] Atmit is a nutritional supplement produced by the Church to save the lives of the severely malnourished.

[photo] Mothers in Niger hold their children while waiting to receive Atmit. (Photograph by Garry Flake.)

Three Temples Open

Three temples were completed and dedicated in August and September 2005, bringing the total number of operating temples to 122. President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the Aba Nigeria Temple on August 7, 2005; the Newport Beach California Temple on August 28, 2005; and the Apia Samoa Temple on September 4, 2005.

Although each dedication was unique to its land and people, all the dedicatory prayers expressed gratitude to the Lord for the Restoration of the gospel and priesthood keys and asked that the Lord might grace the temple with His presence. The Aba Nigeria and Apia Samoa dedicatory prayers also included a blessing on the new adjacent stake centers.

Aba Nigeria Temple

As the third temple to be built on the vast continent of Africa, the Aba Nigeria Temple is seen as a product of the faith and works of the Saints of that land as well as of the Saints who went before.

“We thank Thee for the faith of Thy people through all of the many years since the Church was organized. … We thank Thee for this time when Thy Church is increasingly admired and respected,” President Hinckley said.

He prayed that the sacred building would be protected and respected. “May all who look upon it do so with reverence and respect. May no unhallowed hand vandalize it in any way,” he said. “May it always be sacred to those who are eligible to come within its walls. Save it from storm and tempest.”

President Hinckley said that the Saints in Africa are ready for another temple in order to have the gospel more fully established in the land. He offered a special blessing on Nigeria, that it may be a land of peace, accepting of the gospel.

“Bless this nation that it may rise in strength and freedom among the nations of Africa. Bless its leaders that they may look with favor upon Thy Saints and safeguard their rights, property, and privileges,” he said.

Newport Beach California Temple

“We thank Thee that Thy Church has come out of obscurity and darkness and now shines forth before the world, ‘fair as the moon, and clear as the sun,’ as the Prophet prayed in dedicating the temple in Kirtland. May it continue to roll forth in majesty and power to fill the whole earth,” President Hinckley said in the dedication of the Newport Beach California Temple.

He blessed the new temple that it would be protected from nature and man, that it would be kept pure and protected. He also expressed gratitude for the faithful tithes contributed by the members of the Church.

President Hinckley offered a special blessing upon the youth, that the temple would be an important part of their lives. “May the youth of this temple district come with rejoicing for the great opportunity to serve in behalf of the dead,” he said. “May such service build within them a testimony of the truth of this, Thy great latter-day work, and fortify them against the wiles of the adversary and the beckoning ways of the world. May they grow in faith and testimony and love for Thee and Thy Son.”

In the blessing, President Hinckley said the new temple would be a beacon of light to passersby. “May the presence of this beautiful structure lead to interest and desire on the part of those who are not members of Thy Church, that they may be led to inquire and learn the truths of the everlasting gospel,” he said.

Apia Samoa Temple

Just more than two years after the original Apia Samoa Temple burned to the ground in July 2003 during renovation work, President Hinckley visited Samoa to dedicate the new temple.

He acknowledged that the presence of temples in Polynesia is fulfillment of ancient prophecy: “In these islands of Samoa, Thou hast remembered Thine ancient promise ‘unto them who are upon the isles of the sea’” (2 Ne. 10:21).

He asked a special blessing upon the building and the ground—that they would be sanctified and also recognized as sacred. “We reconsecrate the ground on which [the temple] stands with its beautiful and verdant growth. … We pray, Father, that all who look upon this structure may recognize its sacred nature and be constrained in their hearts to acknowledge it as Thy holy house. Hold back any hand that may be raised with malicious intent,” he said.

President Hinckley also asked a special blessing on Samoa and prayed for peace in the world: “Bless this land of Samoa and those who govern it,” he said. “We pray that it may ever remain a land of peace and freedom. We pray for peace in all the world, that Thy work may be accomplished among all kindreds, tongues, and peoples, to the blessing of Thy children throughout the earth.”

[photo] Aba Nigeria Temple

[photo] Newport Beach California Temple

[photo] Apia Samoa Temple

Measles Initiative Saving African Children

A study published in the Lancet, an international medical journal, in September 2005, credits high-quality measles immunization campaigns such as the Measles Initiative in which the Church is participating for having reduced measles cases by 91 percent in 19 African nations from 2000 to 2003, preventing an estimated 90,000 deaths in 2003 alone.

“One of the clearest messages from this study is that with the right strategies, a strong partnership of committed organizations, and the investment of sufficient resources, you can rapidly reduce child deaths in Africa,” said Dr. Mac Otten, medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and lead author of the study. “A big reason for this success is the support from the Measles Initiative.”

The Measles Initiative is a five-year program created in 2001 by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The goal of these organizations was to control measles deaths in Africa by vaccinating 200 million children in 36 African countries by the year 2006, preventing an estimated 1.2 million deaths.

Having worked with the Church before on disaster relief, the Red Cross approached the Church to support the initiative in 2002. After Harold Brown, managing director of Welfare Services for the Church, observed the Measles Initiative at work in Zambia in June 2003, the Church pledged U.S. $3 million to the effort over the remaining three years of the initiative.

“We were analyzing our major initiatives and felt the Measles Initiative was a good fit and a way for us to make a real difference,” said Brother Brown. “There is really no way to convey what it is like to see the Measles Initiative at work. It’s a logistics miracle, the way they can vaccinate millions of children in only a few days.”

Measles-related deaths worldwide have plummeted 39 percent, from 873,000 in 1999 to an estimated 530,000 in 2003, according to the American Red Cross. The largest reduction occurred in Africa, the region of the world most affected by the disease. Estimated measles deaths decreased by nearly half. Before the Measles Initiative, measles killed nearly half a million children each year in Africa.

At the end of 2004, more than 150 million children in more than 30 countries had been vaccinated at a cost of less than U.S. $1 per child. In 2005, the initiative’s partners hope to vaccinate more than 45 million additional children, exceeding their original goals. (See accompanying article about Relief Society general president Bonnie D. Parkin.)

“The Church has once again illustrated its significant commitment to ending suffering on a worldwide basis,” said Marsha J. Evans, American Red Cross president and CEO, upon receiving the Church’s pledge. “We cannot express our enormous gratitude.”

Bonnie D. Parkin Pitches In against Measles

Bonnie D. Parkin, Relief Society general president, believes that when President Gordon B. Hinckley approved the Church’s commitment to the Measles Initiative, he “didn’t foresee this as just a way to protect children against measles, but as a way to give members a chance to serve.”

In an interview with the Church magazines, Sister Parkin said many members from among the more than 3,000 living in 16 branches in Mozambique participated in the Measles Initiative mass vaccination campaign held in areas outside of Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, during September 2005.

“The members really became involved in the community,” said Sister Parkin. “This has helped bring the Church out of obscurity.”

Many of the young men and women and young single adults living in the campaign’s target areas went door-to-door, notifying people of the availability and the importance of the vaccinations.

Relief Society sisters helped to manage the hundreds of children who came for the vaccinations.

“I saw women who are no different than I am,” Sister Parkin said. “They care about their children and their grandchildren. They came with children on their backs and one holding each hand. They walked the dusty road. I didn’t see any one of them drive up. They wanted their children to be well. It was because of the love mothers feel for their families and their children, who aren’t any different from my own grandchildren.”

On one day of the campaign, Sister Parkin was helping with crowd control, checking children for the ink mark indicating those who had received the vaccination. One young boy didn’t have the mark. Through her translator, Sister Parkin asked why he hadn’t received his shot. He said he was afraid. “Will you go if I go with you?” Sister Parkin asked. He agreed.

“It was a sweet experience,” Sister Parkin recalled after returning from the trip. “Maybe I’ve helped one child. It was life-changing for me.”

More than nine million children were vaccinated during the vaccination campaign in Mozambique. The campaign was the second in which Sister Parkin has participated because of her role on the Church’s Welfare Committee. She also visited Ethiopia as part of the Measles Initiative in 2004.

Sister Parkin said part of her role was “to see that it really does come together the way it’s planned.”

Months of preparation precede a mass vaccination campaign. A full-time missionary couple, Elder Blair and Sister Cindy Packard, served a specialized four-month mission to lay groundwork for the September 2005 campaign in Mozambique. Part of their work was to publicize the event. They worked closely with Maria de Lourdes Mutola, an 800-meter gold medalist at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, who is from Mozambique. Another full-time missionary couple was called to prepare for the Ethiopia campaign.

Sister Parkin also held training sessions with local leaders who are relatively new to the Church. The Mozambique Maputo Mission was created in December 2004. “They are young pioneers,” she said.

She also met with Mozambique president Armando Guebuza. She said he was appreciative of the Church’s role in what was being done for his people.

“I feel blessed to be a member of the Church, which cares not just for its own members but for everyone,” Sister Parkin said. “It’s truly amazing. I’m grateful that I can tell my grandchildren what kind of church we belong to.”

[photo] Bonnie D. Parkin, Relief Society general president, participates in a measles vaccination campaign in Mozambique. (Photograph by Dale L. Jones.)

[photo] Children in Mozambique wait to be vaccinated against measles. (Photograph by Dale L. Jones.)

Sacred Grove Poster Available

Beginning in January, a special poster featuring the Sacred Grove was made available through distribution centers. The framable 16″ x 20″ (40 cm x 50 cm) poster (item no. 00204), also distributed with the December 2005 Liahona, may be available in Chinese, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Samoan, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Thai, Tongan, and Ukrainian. Check with your local distribution center for details on availability, price, and ordering.

Additional Sharing Time Ideas, February 2006

The following are additional ideas Primary leaders may use with the Sharing Time printed in the February 2006 Liahona. For the lesson, instructions, and activity that correspond with these ideas, see “My Life Has a Plan” on pages F4 and F5 of the children’s section in this issue.

1. Explain that we lived with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ before we came to earth. We chose Heavenly Father’s plan, and we must continue to choose to follow Him here. Divide the children into four or five stations (see Teaching, No Greater Call [1999], 179). Give each adult leader of a station a picture of a person from the scriptures. For example, use Gospel Art Picture Kit 240 (Jesus the Christ), 303 (Nephi Subdues His Rebellious Brothers), 319 (Mormon Bids Farewell to a Once Great Nation), 400 (Joseph Smith), 117 (Daniel in the Lions’ Den), 124 (Ruth Gleaning in the Fields), 314 (Samuel the Lamanite on the Wall). Tell how each person chose and followed Heavenly Father’s plan. Give each child an opportunity to pantomime one way he or she follows Heavenly Father’s plan, and ask the group to guess what it is. Sing a song or hymn as they move from station to station.

2. Use puzzles and songs to help children understand that “to help us prepare ourselves for life with Him, our Heavenly Father has organized us into families” (Family Guidebook [2001], 3). Give each class a picture of an animal family that has been cut into puzzle pieces. Have the class put the puzzle together. Discuss that many creatures live in families. As each class shares its puzzle, you could sing a song or hymn.

Before Primary, cut up a picture of a family into puzzle pieces. On the reverse side, list songs or hymns about the family. Have the children take turns choosing a puzzle piece, singing the song or hymn with the other children, and suggesting ways to strengthen their family.

3. Song presentation: Teach the song “I Know My Father Lives” (Children’s Songbook, 5) by first bearing your testimony of Heavenly Father’s love for you. Then have four helpers hold the words Lives, Loves, Spirit, and True, printed on separate papers. Ask them to stand in different corners of the room (out of order) and repeat their word. Instruct the children to stand, and as they listen to you sing the phrases in the first verse, turn to face the word you’re singing about, and echo the phrase. Repeat, having them sing each phrase with you as the helpers hold their signs up high. Let the children tell the helpers where to stand up front, in order, and sing the verse again. Repeat the process with the second verse using the words Sent, Faith, Spirit, and Can.

For younger children: Assign helpers a word to say rather than having them hold the printed word.

Scriptures More Precious Than Gold, Sweeter Than Honey

Young Women general president Susan W. Tanner spoke to young adults throughout the world about the infinite value of the scriptures at the Sunday, September 11, 2005, Church Educational System fireside.

Speaking to thousands present at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, and to many more watching the broadcast, Sister Tanner conveyed her deep love for the scriptures. Referring to Psalm 19:10, she said the scriptures are “more to be desired … than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” She said the scriptures are the source of a spiritual feast that all can partake of daily. Through examples from her family, from Saints throughout the world, from the words of General Authorities, and from the scriptures, she illustrated how the scriptures are a rich treasure.

She referred to her missionary daughter’s increased enthusiasm for the holy scriptures. “I am excited that Mom will be talking about scripture study,” her daughter wrote. “I feel like one of the ways I’ve changed the most is in the way I study my scriptures. I love studying the scriptures now. … I can hardly explain it, except that it is like Alma 32:28 where the words become delicious. I used to like them and now I love them.”

Sister Tanner described the sacrifice of African Saints who seek to fill spiritual hunger in spite of great physical hunger by walking long distances to attend church. She said the African Saints spiritually feast on the words of God.

She said the word of God is so sacred that it is considered a covenant, as is illustrated in the actions of her favorite example in the Old Testament, King Josiah. “And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant” (2 Kgs. 23:3). She said that like Josiah, all should read, heed, and stand by the covenants found within the sacred scriptures.

Sister Tanner said the scriptures ought to be so valued that their possessors continually feast upon them. She said that as Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) once asked expectantly, “What scriptures have you been studying today?” the scriptures should be continually on our minds in order to draw closer to the Lord and to keep spiritual hunger at bay.

“I hope that you can learn early in your lives to love the scriptures and feast upon them,” she said.

Likewise, Sister Tanner said learning true doctrine is a sure way to change attitudes and behaviors. She also said the Holy Ghost accompanies those who study the scriptures. She cited an example where women at a concentration camp received light, warmth, and sustenance from their daily gatherings around a Bible.

“It is never too late to start feasting on doctrine in the scriptures,” Sister Tanner said.

Sister Tanner explained that while translating the Bible and pondering the Gospel of John, Joseph Smith received 50 percent of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants. Similarly, she said, sincere feasting, studying, and pondering of the scriptures can bring personal revelation to each of us.

She said that when President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) encouraged women to study the scriptures, she heeded the challenge. Through fulfilling her responsibilities as a mother and in her Church callings, she has found scriptures that tie directly to her experiences.

She said that those who heeded President Gordon B. Hinckley’s challenge to read the Book of Mormon by the end of 2005 would receive the promised blessings that accompany the study of that sacred book. Those who read the Book of Mormon will gain an added measure of the Spirit as well as a strengthened testimony.

A woman in Guadalajara, Mexico, was converted after being asked by an intuitive mother to teach two boys Spanish by reading from the Book of Mormon. “Every time the boys read from the Book of Mormon, she saw light around their faces,” Sister Tanner said. “She wanted to discover what that light was.”

Sister Tanner said she recently reread the Book of Mormon, and it strengthened her testimony that Jesus is the Christ because the Book of Mormon protagonists endured and overcame burdens and challenges through their faith in Christ.

“I love the Lord; in Him my soul delights,” Sister Tanner said. “I testify with Nephi: ‘My soul delighteth in the scriptures’” (2 Ne. 4:15).

[photo] Susan W. Tanner