News of the Church

By Brittany Karford, Church Magazines

President Hinckley Recovers from Surgery

After his first overnight hospital stay in 96 years of life, President Gordon B. Hinckley appeared to be recovering well in the weeks after a cancerous portion of his large intestine was removed, and as this issue of the Liahona was being prepared to print, he looked forward to resuming his busy schedule leading the more than 12 million members of the Church.

When called as the 15th President of the Church in 1995, President Hinckley told reporters he had spent only one night in the hospital—not for himself, but with a sick child. Throughout his 70 years of full-time Church service, the prophet has remained healthy and active.

However, when a cancerous growth was discovered in his large intestine during a routine medical screening earlier this year, he was scheduled for surgery at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City. The growth was successfully removed on January 24, 2006, in a laparoscopic procedure, a less invasive process in which the surgeon makes smaller incisions and uses tiny cameras as guides. President Hinckley was discharged one week later.

As expected, his counselors, President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust, handled his workload in his absence.

The Church received a number of heartwarming get-well wishes for President Hinckley during his stay in the hospital. “President Hinckley is grateful for the outpouring of love and concern shown by members of the Church during his recovery,” one of his immediate staff members reported.

He even received wishes for a speedy recovery from Mike Wallace, a well-known news reporter from CBS and 60 Minutes. The two met 10 years ago when the veteran journalist did a profile on President Hinckley, a report Mr. Wallace later said was one of his most memorable experiences.

“I send a message of respect, of love, of friendship, and admiration,” Wallace said upon hearing of President Hinckley’s surgery. “And darn it, get back on your feet quick.”

Aside from having lived a life of good health, President Hinckley has been known Churchwide as the most traveled President in Church history. Just last fall he completed a 10-city worldwide tour in 13 days.

The last Churchwide appearance he made before his surgery was on December 23, 2005, where he spoke from Vermont in a broadcast to Saints for a bicentennial birthday celebration honoring the Prophet Joseph Smith.

President Hinckley celebrated his 95th birthday nearly a year ago, on June 23, 2005, with a gathering attended by 22,000. President David O. McKay (1873–1970), who lived to be 96 years old, was the oldest President of the Church.

President Hinckley’s own father, Bryant S. Hinckley, lived to be 94. His mother fought cancer, but she eventually lost the battle, passing away during his youth.

President Hinckley served in the First Presidency for 14 years and in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for 20 years prior to being called to lead the Church on March 12, 1995. At the time Elder Jeffrey R. Holland commented on his energy: “President Hinckley is the youngest 84-year-old anyone can remember. The brisk bounce in his step, the unrestrained buoyancy of his spirit, and his consuming appetite for hard work and long hours would be admired in a man half his age. President Gordon B. Hinckley looks young, acts young, and loves youth with all its potential and promise” (“President Gordon B. Hinckley: Stalwart and Brave He Stands,” Liahona, special edition, June 1995, 2–4).

[photo] President Gordon B. Hinckley acknowledges the audience during his 95th birthday celebration. (Photograph by Craig Dimond.)

Members Grateful for the Challenge

In the last few weeks of 2005, two sisters in the Madagascar Antananarivo Mission posed a familiar question to members in their mission, a question that at the time resonated with Church members anywhere in the world: “Manao ahoana ny famamkiano?” they asked. “How’s your reading?”

It is likely that, at the time, more people were reading the Book of Mormon than at any other time in the history of the Church.

And many of those in Antananarivo were among them. They had not only heeded President Gordon B. Hinckley’s challenge to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year, but they had already finished and were beginning again. The report of this success in Madagascar, shared by Sister Brittney Jorgensen and Sister Carrie Schow, is one of overwhelming thanks for the guidance and direction of President Hinckley.

When the invitation was published in a First Presidency Message in the August 2005 issue of the Liahona and Ensign magazines, President Hinckley promised in the article that those who completed the Book of Mormon by the end of the year, regardless of how many times they had read it before, would experience an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord in their homes and in their lives, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God.

With the close of 2005, Sisters Jorgensen and Schow related how they saw these promises fulfilled in the lives of those they teach.

“Even though we are one of the farthest missions from Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, the members hear and follow the direction of the prophet just the same,” they said. “We have had the opportunity to see the effects of diligence and obedience in our lives and in the lives of investigators and recent converts.”

One recent convert, they said, showed them the last page in her book, where she had marked the date she finished: December 31, 2005, 7:05 p.m.

Whether readers finished on New Year’s Eve or before, meeting the challenge has strengthened them with faith and confidence to share the message of the book.

After reading the Book of Mormon cover to cover twice, Elder David Walker, a missionary in Barcelona, Spain, found the renewed testimony of the book he had been searching for. “Now when I give my testimony, even on the street, I can feel something inside reaffirming the things I’m saying,” Elder Walker said.

Similar responses have come from Church members all over the world. Brother Aldemir Guanacoma Ave, a member of the Abundancia Ward, Santa Cruz Bolivia Piray Stake, said that when he read President Hinckley’s counsel to read the Book of Mormon again, he felt something deep in his heart.

“At that very moment I asked my Heavenly Father to give me the courage to do it,” he said. “And that is what happened. I have achieved that goal, and now I can’t believe what happened to me during the time I was reading it. I came to understand what it means to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now I am sure that the Book of Mormon is true.”

Such knowledge comes because “this wonderful book, this book which has come out of the dust, to speak to men of our generation, stands as another witness of the divinity and reality of the Redeemer of the world,” President Hinckley said at the First Presidency Christmas Devotional held in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City in December 2005. “I thank each of you, and I know that you have been blessed.”

[photo] In response to the First Presidency’s challenge, members around the world read the Book of Mormon, all or parts of which are available in more than 100 languages.

“This Work Will Continue”: Elder Ballard Discusses Missionary Safety

“This work will continue to go forward, regardless of what happens, regardless of what the future may hold,” said Elder M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, as he discussed the safety and well-being of the Church’s 52,000 missionaries in January 2006.

Earlier that month, three missionaries lost their lives in the field: one was killed in a shooting and two died in an automobile collision. A fourth missionary made a full recovery from wounds he suffered in the shooting.

Elder Ballard expressed condolences to all those grieving: “The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve extend our love to you, pray the Lord will bless you and that the peace of the Lord will ultimately come to your hearts.” He added, “It doesn’t matter how many missionaries we have, when we lose one the whole Church mourns and our hearts go out to the parents, to the siblings, and to the priesthood leaders over such a tragic loss.”

Though violence and accidents happen from time to time, Elder Ballard said such deaths are rare among Latter-day Saint missionaries. “The safest place in the world for 19- to 21-year-old young men and 21-year-old young women is in the service of the Lord in the mission field, scattered out over the four corners of the earth,” he said.

Elder Ballard emphasized that the Church does “the very, very best we know how” to protect their health and safety while they serve in 343 missions covering the earth. He reviewed several key elements of missionary organization and training that help keep missionaries safe:

  • Training in personal safety and good health practices begins in the Church’s 16 Missionary Training Centers and continues in zone conferences and district meetings throughout the missionary service.

  • Missionaries always work in pairs and are required to stay with their companions.

  • Qualified, mature, inspired mission presidents and their wives shepherd the young people in their missions “like they were their very own children.”

  • An organization of assistants to the mission president, zone leaders, and district leaders “is structured to watch over and be very careful where we place missionaries.”

  • Consultation with local Church leaders and members about the safety of specific areas and neighborhoods is ongoing. Missionaries are instructed to avoid unsafe areas.

  • Careful instruction in automobile safety is provided for those using cars.

  • When walking, missionaries are encouraged to walk swiftly and with purpose. They are instructed to minimize the objects they have with them and only carry cash sufficient for that day’s needs. If accosted by thieves, missionaries are trained to not resist, to avoid confrontation, and to give up whatever money they have.

  • A network of 80 physicians serve as full-time volunteer missionaries around the world “so mission presidents have access to the best medical advice they can possibly get right within the boundaries of their own areas.” An additional 200 volunteer nurses and others with medical and health care backgrounds “are out there shepherding this missionary force,” said Elder Ballard.

  • Missionary apartments are periodically inspected for safety and cleanliness. Missionaries are moved to different apartments whenever needed.

Elder Ballard concluded by emphasizing that such events will not stop the Church’s work of sharing the restored gospel of the Savior: “Joseph Smith made it abundantly clear that there would be nothing that would stop this work from rolling forward till the Great Jehovah comes forward and says the work is done. And He hasn’t said that yet.”

[photo] Elder M. Russell Ballard

[photo] Elder Ballard says the Church takes seriously the safety of its more than 52,000 missionaries in 343 missions around the world.

Museum Says Farewell to a Record-Breaking Exhibit

The Museum of Church History and Art’s exhibit Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration officially closed on January 15, 2006, after running for almost a full year. During that year the museum broke records for the highest number of visitors in a single year with a total of 437,787 visitors.

“We broke all the records because people wanted to come see Joseph,” said Mark Staker, the exhibit curator.

Though the total count hasn’t been tallied for the number of visitors in January, more than 200 visitors an hour were reported coming in the evening to see the exhibit during its last days.

“It broke the record for day, for hour, and for the full year,” said Darrell Jones, a museum volunteer who worked in the exhibit. “One night we had 1,800 people between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. You couldn’t even move.”

According to current totals, July and December were the busiest months in the exhibit. During July, 64,452 visitors came to the museum from the United States and around the world.

Opened on February 4, 2005, the exhibit celebrated the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith with displays of original artifacts, documents, art, and media presentations that explored the process by which Joseph was prepared, tutored, and refined to fulfill his prophetic calling.

The exhibit contained revelations from the scriptures as they were originally penned, letters, journal entries, a cloak worn by the Prophet Joseph Smith, and fragments of the vest he was wearing at his Martyrdom. All of these artifacts and more illustrate the context in which the gospel was brought forth.

At the end of the exhibit there was a place where visitors could share their testimonies of Joseph Smith. These testimonies have all been kept and will be placed in a permanent collection in the Church archives so that future generations can read the testimonies members shared of the Prophet Joseph Smith during his bicentennial celebration.

“We even had many youth who could not travel to Salt Lake City to see the exhibit write their testimonies and send them in so their testimonies could be included as part of the permanent record,” Brother Staker said. Those testimonies will continue on as mementos of the event.

As the exhibit was being dismantled, Linda Johnson, a museum volunteer, pulled back a curtain, hoping to have one last glimpse of Walter Rane’s painting Desires of the Heart only to find that it had already been taken down. The painting portrayed the boy Joseph kneeling in the Sacred Grove.

“We are sad to see it go,” Sister Johnson said. The painting had always struck her as particularly moving. Brother Staker said the most moving feature in the exhibit varied depending on what each individual visitor most related to, but for many, it was to feel they were in the presence of work Joseph did while on earth.

There are two permanent areas in the museum that continue to celebrate the Prophet Joseph Smith: the Presidents of the Church exhibit and the Birth of the Book of Mormon exhibit.

[photo] Visitors to the Museum of Church History and Art’s exhibit on Joseph Smith broke the museum’s attendance records. (Photograph by Welden Andersen.)

[photo] Medical instruments such as these from the early 1800s may have been used to operate on Joseph Smith’s leg when he was age 7. (Photograph by Welden Andersen.)

A Shot in the Arm for Children in Africa

In a continent trying to hold itself together politically and economically, only a few years ago measles—a disease that is almost never heard of in other parts of the world—killed more than 282,000 children each year.

Like many people, Elder DeMoine and Sister Joyce Findlay knew little of the disease until they were called as a missionary couple to help coordinate the Church’s involvement with the Measles Initiative in Ivory Coast. The Measles Initiative is a movement to immunize 200 million children in Africa sponsored by the Red Cross, UNICEF, CDC, WHO, and other agencies.

During their service, the Findlays witnessed the members in Ivory Coast volunteer by the hundreds, working long days to ensure the success of the campaign. Church members with medical training helped at vaccination sites, others knocked on countless doors to promote the campaign through education, and still more helped to gather families and children together. Even Primary children helped by submitting drawings for the campaigns. By contributing to the remarkable turnout, the Saints hoped to “show President Hinckley that they would do their best to support this unique opportunity.”

Still, providing the life-saving medicine was no easy task. Due to civil unrest, all full-time foreign missionaries, including Elder and Sister Findlay, were evacuated in November 2004 before they could complete their initial campaign. The campaign was postponed until August 2005, at which time they returned to finish the job.

This time Elder and Sister Findlay met with the partnering agencies to determine their needs and to identify ways in which the Church could best use its funds and resources. It was decided that the Church would support the Measles Initiative by providing volunteers; producing printed materials such as posters, fliers, and stickers; and supplying the Red Cross with megaphones, uniforms, and batteries. The Ministry of Health was enthusiastic about the Church’s participation and designated it an official partner in the campaign, announcing on television all the contributions the Church made.

From there, Elder and Sister Findlay set out to help organize the campaign. Ten-year-old Roseline Dekaye’s artwork was chosen to be featured on the printed materials. Her drawing was also used in both the Tanzania and Malawi campaigns.

Working under the direction of stake presidents in the area, Elder and Sister Findlay recruited the regional welfare committee as their working group. This committee coordinated volunteers from every one of the 23 wards and branches in Ivory Coast.

One of the main responsibilities of the member volunteers was to ensure that the general population knew where vaccination sites were located. To do so, many were up at 6:30 a.m. knocking on doors, educating their neighbors about the dangers of measles, and inviting them to bring their children to get vaccinated. They often took the time to physically show the people where to go, at times bringing groups to the vaccination site. The full-time missionaries wanted to help as well, so they stuck campaign stickers on their bags and encouraged their contacts to take their children to be vaccinated.

Hundreds of vaccination sites were set up in the capital city of Abidjan alone, with locations including health units, the village chief’s home, and a parking lot. Some sites were just small plastic-covered shelters beside the road.

During the first few days the people came in masses. Children filled the lines—some were accompanied by parents, but most came on their own. When the people stopped coming to the fixed vaccination sites, the teams gathered up their materials and walked through busy markets and neighborhoods looking for unvaccinated children to vaccinate on the spot.

With the help of more than 700 Church members, the measles campaign in Ivory Coast was a huge success. Vaccinating nearly 8 million children, workers met 87 percent of their goal in a country so politically divided that 50 percent is considered a good campaign success rate.

In all, members donated 40,000 hours of volunteer labor. They could be seen everywhere wearing their colorful badges, and they became quite popular and well known. In all but one of the health districts, members were the only mobilization volunteers. The health districts were grateful for their help and asked if they could contact the Church for help in future campaigns.

But more important was the spirit of love that was felt and shown by the members. The following are some of their comments about the change this opportunity made in their lives.

Digbeu Gnoleba: “I am so pleased with how the whole campaign went—many times I felt the Spirit of the Lord. I know that God has His eyes on each of us and that He knows what His children do.”

Raymond Beda: “I felt such joy serving as a volunteer. I did not have the opportunity to serve a mission, but this experience gave me the chance to feel like a missionary. It felt good.”

Franck Delord Tokpa: “Each day when the people from the Ministry came to pay the workers, they asked me to sign up so they could pay me. Every day I refused, telling them that this was a service I was doing for the community and for my church.”

Jean Bosoco Kouassi: “This has been such a positive experience. Every morning before going out, we had a prayer. We learned that we could talk to people in a way that we had never done before. Now we believe that we can open our mouths and do missionary work and do our home teaching.”

[photo] Long lines of children and parents were a common sight during the measles vaccination campaign in Ivory Coast. (Photograph by DeMoine Findlay.)

[photo] Elder DeMoine and Sister Joyce Findlay stop for a photo with some of the many volunteers who helped make the Measles Initiative campaign successful.

Additional Sharing Time Ideas, June 2006

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

1. Explain that My Gospel Standards help keep Heavenly Father’s commandments. On the chalkboard display the My Gospel Standards poster or list (found on page F4 in this issue or on the back cover of the Faith in God guidebooks). Write on slips of paper these scripture references containing commandments that match My Gospel Standards: Abr. 3:25, Mosiah 18:10, Mosiah 4:10, Ex. 20:15–16, Ex. 20:7, Ex. 20:8, Ex. 20:12, D&C 89, D&C 42:40–41, A of F 1:13, D&C 25:12, John 13:34–35, D&C 109:12–13. Ask a child to choose one slip of paper and read the reference. Have all the children look up the scripture. Ask which commandment is contained in the scripture. Have the children in the class of the child who chose the slip of paper match the commandment to a standard. Ask another class how we are blessed when we live the standard. Sing a song or hymn about obedience. Testify of the blessings that come from being obedient to Heavenly Father’s commandments.

For younger children: Prepare five or six slips of paper with one of My Gospel Standards written on each one. Have a child draw a slip of paper out of a basket and act out how to keep that standard. Have that child lead the other children in acting out the standard as they all sing a song or hymn about obedience. Teach the children that My Gospel Standards help us choose the right.

2. Lead a discussion to help the children discover the blessings that are promised if they are faithful. Have older children look up scriptures; younger children can guess the principle from the picture clues. Ask, “What is the principle taught? What are some blessings that come from being faithful to this principle?” Sing a song to reinforce the principle. For example, tithing: Mal. 3:8–12, Primary picture 3–26 (girl with tithing envelope), song or hymn about tithing; Sabbath day: D&C 59:12–19, Primary picture 3–25 (family going to church), song or hymn about the Sabbath. Hand out paper and crayons to the children. Have them fold the paper in half. On one half, have them draw a picture of themselves obeying one of the commandments taught today. On the other half of the page, they can draw one of the promised blessings. Have them include the scripture reference on the drawing. Encourage each child to take the drawing home to share with his or her family and to post as a reminder of Heavenly Father’s promises.

3. Song presentation: “Dearest Children, God Is Near You” (Hymns, no. 96). Role-play being really cold. Say, “Now we’ve come inside to sit by a glowing fire and nestle in a soft, warm quilt.” Place a warm quilt around a helper. Ask, “Doesn’t that warm you and make you feel better?” Explain that we may have times that feel like a cold, stormy day. We can feel warmer and better during those times if we will remember what this song teaches. Sing the phrase, “Dearest children, God is near you,” and ask, “Doesn’t it make you feel better to know that?” Sing that part with the children. As you sing the next part, ask the children to listen for what God is doing and when He does it. Sing the next phrase, and pitch lead (indicate the pitch of each note by raising your hand higher or lower) “watching o’er you day and night.” Take responses, review, and have the children sing with you. As you sing the rest of the song, have the children listen to see what delights Heavenly Father (“to own and bless you”), what we must do to receive His blessings (“strive to do what’s right”), and what phrase is repeated (“He will bless you”). Pause after each phrase to take responses. Review and lead the children in singing by phrases, helping them understand what they are to do to receive His blessings. Testify that Heavenly Father is near them and will bless them.

Speaking Today

President Packer Keys In on Personal Revelation

Looking out over a sea of graduates in a commencement address at Brigham Young University–Hawaii in December 2005, President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, recounted the first time he came to Hawaii’s shores.

He was but a few years younger than most of the 250 graduates he addressed and was stationed on the island of Kauai as a bomber pilot in the midst of World War II. A number of friends and classmates had already become casualties of war, and he said that his family didn’t know where he would be going or what would become of him.

Yet when news came that the war was over, his joy was only temporary. He thought he was going home, but instead, he was assigned to Osaka as an operations officer.

“I asked the Lord why—why would He do this to me?” President Packer said. He had earned the necessary points. He was eligible to be released. He had kept his standards. But he was denied the thing he wanted most. Looking back now, he knows why.

“If I hadn’t gone to Osaka then, I wouldn’t be standing here now in this capacity,” President Packer said.

In his new post, he met and was involved with baptizing the first Japanese members of the Church after the war.

From this experience, President Packer said he learned to love his fellow man, and he learned to recognize revelation when it came to him. He learned the importance of receiving revelation again in his capacity as a seminary teacher, as a General Authority—called at age 37—and as an Apostle of the Lord.

“Standing shoulder to shoulder with the Apostles, I’ve learned this: the pattern of our receiving revelation is no different than the pattern that is available to you,” President Packer said.

In a noisy world, Elder Packer told the graduates, they must learn personally, privately, and individually that revelation comes when the Lord speaks to our feelings. While telling them they have wonderful opportunities ahead in this marvelous time, he emphasized the need to learn to receive revelation.

“You are going out into a world that is different than the world I faced when I was your age—when I was 19, on my first visit to Hawaii,” he said, reviewing the calamities that have occurred in the last year alone. “You won’t survive spiritually unless you know how to receive revelation.”

“You’re baptized a member of the Church; you’ve had conferred upon you the gift of the Holy Ghost to be a companion and revelator to you. Go quietly into the world and quietly about your affairs. Learn that in the still, small hours of the morning, the Lord will speak to you. He will never fail to answer your prayers.”

Elder Perry Says Saints Should Be Involved

In a visit to BYU–Idaho, Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told students that they must take an active role in the world to help prepare it for Christ’s Second Coming. He challenged them not only to be a light to the world, but to “turn up the candlepower and illuminate!”

Just as the Prophet Joseph Smith illuminated the world, this generation too must be a source of light in a time of ever-changing values, Elder Perry said.

He continued his address at the school’s weekly devotional by reviewing the events of the Savior’s life and death, the ministries of His Apostles, and the Apostasy, ending at the point where revelation came to a standstill. Turning then to the great events that prepared the world for the Restoration, he pointed to the invention of the moveable-type printing press by Johannes Gutenberg, which eventually led to the mass printing of an English translation of the Bible and the dissemination of scripture. These events, culminating with the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith, set the scene for the time when the Restoration could unfold.

“With the birth of the Prophet, it was just as if the Lord illuminated the minds of mankind to make it possible that technology and communications would be such that the gospel could be scattered throughout the earth,” Elder Perry said.

Bringing his timeline to present day, Elder Perry admonished students to “keep the light of the gospel shining in mankind.”

To do so, he said we must separate the two distinct parts of being “in the world” but not “of the world” (see John 17:11–14).

“Too often, I think we use them together and think of them as justification to remain somewhat detached, somewhat removed from the world,” Elder Perry said. “I would like to separate the two and just talk about being ‘in the world.’”

He spoke of the world’s need for individuals who bring solutions, who are physically and emotionally prepared to lift souls and increase the happiness of others.

“We will play no part in preparing the earth for the Savior’s coming if we refuse to make a contribution to the world,” Elder Perry said.

Elder Perry cautioned, however, that in this endeavor we cannot fall into “sins of materialism in the world.” Although many are embracing secularization, false ideas, and eroding traditions, Elder Perry recognized that this lifestyle has a spiritual and moral price for those who exercise it.

He challenged those in attendance not to be detached from the world. “Throughout your life, you must set an example of the principles and doctrines which bring about the blessings of the Lord,” he said.

Sister Barbara Perry accompanied Elder Perry in the January 24, 2006, visit, speaking at a fireside for female employees and wives of employees on the subject of “Joy and happiness from an LDS perspective.” Elder Perry also made brief remarks during the fireside.

[photo] President Boyd K. Packer