News of the Church

By Nicole Seymour, Church Magazines

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    Emulate Christ, Members Told

    In messages to members worldwide in the annual First Presidency Christmas Devotional, the First Presidency encouraged all to let Christ’s teachings and the spirit of Christmas spread through their thoughts and actions. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square also performed in the December 4, 2005, devotional, which was broadcast from the Conference Center in Salt Lake City.

    President Hinckley

    In his message, President Gordon B. Hinckley reminded Church members of the promises he made about the spiritual strength that would come into the lives of those who read the Book of Mormon before the year’s end.

    “It is probable that more people are presently reading the book than at any other time in the history of the Church,” he said. “I thank each of you, and I know you’ve been blessed.”

    Reading excerpts from the book, he shared his testimony of the Book of Mormon as a powerful witness of the divinity and reality of the Savior.

    “Suffice it to say that this wonderful and remarkable book is truly another witness of the Lord Jesus Christ, come forth to all the world bearing witness of Him,” he said.

    “At the Christmas season let us ponder these things,” President Hinckley said. “Let us reflect upon them. Let us pray concerning them. Let us emulate in our own lives the great and profound teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ, not only as they are set forth in the Bible, but also as they are set forth in this companion testament of the New World.”

    President Monson

    In words of hope and cheer, President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, reflected on the spirit of Christmas.

    “This joyful season brings to each of us a measure of happiness that corresponds to the degree in which we have turned our minds, our feelings, and our actions to the spirit of Christmas,” he said. “This is a time of remembering. It is a time for families. It is a time for gratitude.”

    President Monson asked that Church members focus more on giving than receiving during the Christmas season. “‘What did you give for Christmas?’ prompts stimulating thought, causes tender feelings to well up and memory’s fires to glow ever brighter,” he said.

    “Is gratitude part of our lives?” he asked. “Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit.”

    “Why does peace come closer to reality at this season than at any other?” President Monson asked. “Why is it that more friends are remembered and more enemies forgiven at the Christmas season than at any other time? Why is it that more acts of kindness and service and generosity take place? It is the Christmas spirit.”

    President Faust

    Charity is the pure love of Christ, President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, declared in his Christmas message.

    He recounted the story of an impoverished family in Mexico in 1941. A widowed mother of nine children struggled to provide for them. Neighbors gave of their time and means to provide something special for the children at Christmas.

    “The pure love of Christ goes beyond caring for your own,” he said. “Those who recently contributed to the Church Humanitarian Aid fund to help the thousands of people whose lives have been devastated by hurricanes and earthquakes have truly been manifesting the pure love of Christ.”

    President Faust recalled a former business partner—a member of another faith—who gave of his means generously to help those in need each Christmas and Thanksgiving. He said that this man searched out the needy and filled their needs, exemplifying pure charity.

    “When we see a need, we should fill it promptly,” President Faust said. “We should ever be mindful that it was the Savior who gave the greatest gift of all in offering Himself as the Redeemer through the Atonement.”

    [photo] The First Presidency sits surrounded by Christmas decor at their annual Christmas devotional.

    Members Prepare Themselves for Reopening of Santiago Chile Temple

    Waiting more than a year to attend the temple was apparently too much to ask of the members from Arica, Chile.

    While their country’s sole temple was closed for reconstruction, the Arica members traveled east to Bolivia via rail to attend the Cochabamba Bolivia Temple. The trip was not without risk. Amid tensions between the bordering nations, trains carrying Chilean goods had sometimes come under attack in Bolivia.

    Recognizing the danger, the Arica members prayed for safety, then traveled to the temple without incident, said Elder M. Gonzalo Sepúlveda, an Area Seventy in Chile. “It’s obvious that people are thirsty to attend the temple again,” Elder Sepúlveda said.

    After undergoing extensive refurbishing, the Santiago Chile Temple was to be rededicated on February 26, 2006, to once again serve more than 535,000 Latter-day Saints in 106 stakes and districts in Chile and Argentina.

    The Santiago Chile Temple was originally dedicated in 1983 as the 24th operating temple of the Church by President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor in the First Presidency.

    Besides being enlarged, the temple also underwent improvements to its exterior. The temple baptistry was renovated and a new font, supported by a dozen sculpted oxen, was installed, Elder Sepúlveda said.

    While the Arica members traveled to Bolivia for temple worship, other Chilean members made excursions to the Buenos Aires Argentina Temple. Thousands of other faithful Chileans simply crossed off the days and prepared for their temple to once again open its doors.

    “When we learned that the temple would be closed for remodeling, we suggested to the Chilean members that this would be a great opportunity to remodel our own lives in harmony with the principles of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Elder Francisco J. Viñas of the Seventy, President of the Chile Area.

    Even as Chilean members prepared for the time when they could return to the temple, they also used the rededication of the Santiago Chile Temple as a vehicle to share the gospel with others. Elder Sepúlveda said many brought friends and relatives to the temple’s open house, which began on January 26, 2006. Church public affairs officials in Chile worked with local media to gain attention for the temple.

    A Chilean cultural celebration was planned at a 14,000-seat stadium in Santiago on February 25, 2006, a day before the dedication ceremony. Two dedicatory sessions were scheduled to accommodate Latter-day Saints in the area who will be served by the temple. [The celebration was held March 11, 2006, and the temple was dedicated March 12.]

    Adapted from Church News, December 3, 2005.

    [photo] Workers remodel the interior of the Santiago temple. (Photograph courtesy of Chile Area.)

    [photo] Extensive remodeling of the Santiago Chile Temple was completed before the temple’s dedication in March. (Photograph courtesy of Chile Area.)

    Standardized Meetinghouses Worldwide Give More Members a Place to Worship

    In Hong Kong and New York City—cities of skyscrapers—often the only direction to build is up. Looking at both cities’ temples, one can see that an innovative approach had to be taken in order to fit the temples into these urban areas. Similarly, where a traditional meetinghouse layout is not practical, members must still be accommodated.

    In areas where land is at a premium, a typical meetinghouse layout must be adjusted to fit a smaller plot of land. Both New York City and Hong Kong have recently received new multistory meetinghouses based on the Church’s Worldwide Meetinghouse Standard Plan Program.

    Rolling Out a Standard Plan

    Whether large or small, multistory or not, regardless of location, meetinghouses throughout the world all have a standard look based on design guidelines set forth by the Church.

    In 2002 the Church released guidelines to areas throughout the world for a general design of Church meetinghouses. This plan, the Worldwide Standard Plan, provides essential elements and general layouts for meetinghouses to meet the needs of rural, suburban, and urban areas. The plan establishes a universal look for Church meetinghouses while still allowing for the detail work to be customized for a particular area. As part of the Worldwide Standard Plan Program, a new consistent model for urban meetinghouses was established. It is a unique multistory design that ranges from two to five stories but still leaves room for diversity in design.

    In creating the plan, Church architects carefully evaluated the needs of units of various demographics. The capacity of the classrooms, the Relief Society, Primary, Young Women’s rooms, and the chapel were then planned accordingly, taking into account the fact that the size of a Relief Society, Primary, or other organization may be above average for a given congregation.

    Under the Worldwide Standard Plan Program, most building options can be expanded according to growth. If substantial growth is anticipated in an area, a “phased” building may be built. When the need arises to expand the building to accommodate larger or additional wards, the original building can be added to, with each phase being added like another puzzle piece. For example, in phase one a chapel may be “multiuse” with removable seats. Phase two would add a cultural center and additional classrooms, making the chapel of singular use with fixed pews.

    The program establishes a uniform look for the Church and a way for meetinghouses to be built more efficiently and economically.

    An example of this efficiency is reflected along the Wasatch front in Utah, where the Church continues to build a large number of meetinghouses to accommodate growth. Standardization has cut building costs by as much as 20 percent.

    “These are sacred tithing funds, and we are trying to stretch them as far as possible,” says Randy Stenson, manager of the Worldwide Standard Plans Section of the Architecture and Engineering Division of the Physical Facilities Department.

    President Gordon B. Hinckley has said of the Church’s meetinghouses: “This tremendous building program is phenomenal. I know of nothing equal to it. Our structures are beautiful. … We have had long experience in constructing houses of worship, and out of that vast experience we are producing better buildings than have ever previously been constructed in the Church. They combine beauty with great utility. If they look much the same, it is because that is intended. By following tried and tested patterns we save millions of dollars while meeting the needs of our people” (“Condition of the Church,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2004, 4).

    Implementing the Plan

    Brother Stenson says the Worldwide Standard Plan Program provides design guidelines and conceptual floor plans to local architects hired by the Church to build a meetinghouse in a particular area. These become the framework around which are created plans unique to the area and its needs. The details are decided locally, such as what materials will be used and whether the building will have a natural or mechanical ventilation system.

    Wherever a meetinghouse is built, certain considerations must be made in creating the look and feel of the building. An architect must take into account the culture, the surroundings, and the building regulations of a particular area.

    Areas often adapt a building’s look to blend in with its surroundings or to establish a certain image. A meetinghouse in Eastern Europe may be entirely different than one in the Australian Outback, while both plans follow the same guidelines and principles set forth in the Worldwide Standard Plan Program.

    Some customization may be necessary based on a particular site. Brother Stenson says location is a very important consideration.

    “We would rather choose the right site and adapt our plan to it than choose the wrong site and use the standard plan,” he says. “The right site is key to exposure to the Church and accessibility by the Saints in getting to that site.”

    Meeting Urban Needs

    In some urban areas, a multistory building is more practical than a single level meetinghouse. Where an average meetinghouse is built on 2 1/2 to 5 acres (1 to 2 ha), these multistory meetinghouses are approximately 43 feet (13 m) wide and can fit on a plot of land as small as a quarter of an acre (.1 ha). Multistory meetinghouses are composed of the same number of rooms with the same capacity as single-level meetinghouses housing units of comparable sizes, but they are simply built in a vertical fashion. They are being built in cities across the world to provide facilities sufficient to meet the needs of Saints in urban areas.

    In New York City, members in Harlem were meeting in a marginal industrial building. A new five-story building was approved, with room to accommodate anticipated growth in the unfinished upper two levels. In Japan, a three-story meetinghouse was built recently. The building’s design allows for the construction of additional floors if the need arises.

    A five-story layout may consist of parking on the first level, the chapel on the second, classrooms and offices on the third and fourth levels, and a cultural center on the fifth level.

    For the multistory meetinghouse, architects at Church headquarters knew that they needed to use elements that would identify the building as a church rather than an office building and would provide a consistent, ecclesiastical look for the Church. They studied classics in ecclesiastical architecture including historic temples and cathedrals. From those buildings, key design elements of a religious nature were established as standard items for the multistory meetinghouse, says Wayne Balle, worldwide meetinghouse client manager for the Architecture and Engineering Division.

    Those essential elements include, for example, a tower and steeple, a distinctive front window, a distinctive entry, a pronounced base, and the Church logo sign. Area architects then determine their approach to the core elements, the structure, the materials, the colors, and other details as appropriate.

    Meetinghouses as a Place of Worship

    Brother Balle says that regardless of a meetinghouse’s style, height, or location, the Worldwide Standard Plan Program is meant to help the Church’s Physical Facilities Department fulfill its purpose to “serve priesthood leaders by providing them with temples, meetinghouses, and other facilities for their use to help bring souls unto Christ.”

    [illustration] For the Worldwide Meetinghouse Standard Plan, Church architects identified elements they felt were essential to make a building appear religious in nature.

    [illustration] Multistory meetinghouses planned for urban areas may appear similar to this rendering from the Asia Area.

    Brazilian Children Bring Help to Elderly

    For the second year, Brazilian children in the Church donated their holiday, Child’s Day, to serving the elderly. Some 40,000 members of the Church and friends, including 25,000 children in their Helping Hands vests, assisted nearly 16,000 elderly people in 120 cities and 26 states in Brazil.

    Prior to this event, the children joined youth and adults to assemble kits of personal supplies and to paint and prepare cards to give to the elderly. The children then went to 300 nursing homes to deliver the kits and share experiences, making it a day of celebration for all generations.

    In various cities, parents of the young volunteers had a memorable day repairing homes and providing haircuts, manicures, and other grooming for the elderly. Other activities included choir performances, plays, and dances.

    In Belo Horizonte, 500 boys and girls gathered in a plaza and from there divided up and visited 12 nursing homes. In one of the homes, Maria do Carmo, a 98-year-old resident who has no grandchildren of her own, for one day gained many of them. “This is so wonderful,” she exclaimed. “What can I say? I’m so happy!”

    In Porto Alegre, more than 3,000 volunteers visited more than 1,300 elderly in 40 nursing homes. In the state of São Paulo, volunteers visited and helped some 4,500 people in 45 cities and 90 nursing homes.

    As in other Brazilian regions, members in the North and Northeast regions enthusiastically participated, visiting more than 8,000 elderly.

    In Salvador, Abrigo de São Gabriel’s 45 elderly residents received gifts from 70 children, including 9-year-old Gabriela Conçeicão, who hugged her newest adopted grandmother, saying, “She was a child once. We need to take care of them as if they belonged to our family.”

    In Minas Gerais, the Uberaba Brazil Stake visited the 10 nursing homes located in their city. President Erick Maximo was very excited with the project and pleased with the members of the stake. “In the day reserved for them, our children gave a real gift to their neighbors; they gave of themselves in a moment of closeness and love between generations,” he said.

    At different times throughout the country, TV Globo, the largest television station in Brazil, broadcast a 30-second notice about the project. In the majority of the cities and in nearly all state capitals, television and radio stations covered the events.

    In Natal, in northeastern Brazil, Soyonara Alves, a journalist for TV Globo, commented, “They showed a lot of love; instead of receiving, they gave.”

    Other TV stations covered the project at different times of the day, reaching 318 cities in the state of São Paulo, and the interest multiplied in other regions of the country.

    All the events were under the direction of the coordinator of the Helping Hands program in each region of the country. The coordinators received help from private companies and government entities and from the media, besides getting help from Church Humanitarian Services.

    The Helping Hands project has been in action since 2001 and has involved thousands of social services agencies in the country. In 2005 there were more than 150 projects in various cities. In April 2005 about 50,000 volunteers refurbished and cleaned approximately 200 public schools throughout the nation.

    [photo] Members in Brazil visit with the residents of a living facility for the elderly during Child’s Day. (Photograph courtesy of Brazil Public Affairs.)

    Sharing Time: Additional Sharing Time Ideas, April 2006

    The following are additional ideas Primary leaders may use with the Sharing Time printed in the April 2006 Liahona. For the lesson, instructions, and activity that correspond with these ideas, see “I Can Repent and Be Happy” on pages F4 and F5 of the children’s section in this issue.

    1. 1.

      Using questions and Gospel Art Picture Kit pictures, have the children review the life of the Savior. For example, review the birth of the Savior by holding up Gospel Art Picture Kit 200 (The Birth of Jesus). Ask the children who is in the picture, what they know about this story, and what the people in the picture make them think of. Use similar questions with the following pictures: 209 (Calling of the Fisherman), 230 (The Crucifixion), and 239 (The Resurrected Jesus Christ). Give each child a piece of paper and a pencil. Divide the children into four groups. Assign each group to illustrate one of the events you have talked about. Have the pianist play quietly in the background as the children draw. Invite each group to show their pictures and describe them. Express gratitude for the Savior and for the blessing of having Him come to earth.

    2. 2.

      Using a glove, teach the children about resurrection. Show your hand without the glove and tell the children that before we came to earth we were spirits. We could move, think, choose, and learn. When we came to earth we each received a body (put hand in glove). We can still move, think, choose, and learn, but now we have wonderful bodies to take care of. When we die, the body and the spirit separate (take off the glove). The body can no longer move, but our spirit still lives. When we are resurrected, our body and our spirit are together again (put on glove), and the body and the spirit will never be separated again. Jesus was the first one to be resurrected. Because He was resurrected, all people who have ever lived will be resurrected. There are many witnesses who saw Jesus after He was resurrected. Sing a story about some of those witnesses (see Teaching, No Greater Call [1999], 174–75). Use Gospel Art Picture Kit pictures, and ask the children to read or tell in their own words the summary on the back of each picture. Choose a song or hymn to sing after each picture. Some suggested pictures are 233 (Mary and the Resurrected Lord), 315 (Christ Appears to the Nephites), 403 (The First Vision). Have the children read D&C 76:22–23. Testify, as these many witnesses have, that Jesus Christ lives.

    [illustration] © 1985 Robert Barrett, do not copy