News of the Church

By Brittany Karford, Church Magazines

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    Elder Russell M. Nelson’s Visit Historic for Church in Brazil

    Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was hosted by São Paulo city mayor Jose Serra and by São Paulo state governor Geraldo Alckmin, two of the most influential and well-known officials in the country, making February 3, 2006, a historic day for the Church in Brazil.

    During the meeting with Mayor Serra, Elder Nelson renewed a friendship that began when they met in Brasilia on August 15, 2001, when the mayor was the health minister for the federal government. During this most recent visit, the mayor showed great interest in the humanitarian aid and community service programs of the Church and expressed his appreciation for that service. He commented that participation by Church volunteers in the fields of education and health makes a huge difference. Over the past several years the Church has sponsored many large service projects in Brazil, such as painting schools, cleaning parks, and sewing gowns for hospital patients.

    Elder Nelson had the opportunity to speak with the mayor concerning the basic beliefs of the Church and emphasized the importance of the family. He presented Mayor Serra with a copy of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” and bore his testimony of the divinity of the Savior. He also presented the mayor with a small statuette of The Christus, a replica of which stands in a visitors’ center on Temple Square in Salt Lake City; the original by Bertel Thorvaldsen is located in Copenhagen, Denmark.

    At the end of the visit, Mayor Serra said, “The purpose of the Church and of the mayor’s office becomes the same—to serve people, to help people, and to improve the lives of those who are in need.”

    Later that afternoon, Elder Nelson was hosted in an official audience with São Paulo state governor Geraldo Alckmin, with whom he established ties of friendship and understanding. Known to be a man of high family standards, Mr. Alckmin recalled the teachings of his own father. Elder Nelson then shared a few principles and values of the Church and discussed the importance of the family in the Lord’s plan. The governor recalled that he had attended the open house prior to the rededication of the São Paulo Brazil Temple in February 2004.

    “I have been to see the temple of the Church here in São Paulo and have felt a deep emotion in being there and gaining a greater understanding of its work,” he said to Elder Nelson.

    The governor expressed appreciation for the visit, saying, “We are happy to see the Church growing here in São Paulo and performing important voluntary work to improve people’s lives. Members of the Church are God-fearing people and families who love their neighbor and who have principles and values to guide them in their lives.”

    While recording an interview at the end of the visit, the governor made a point of saying, “It was a great thrill to talk and to listen to Elder Nelson, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, and to feel his generous heart.”

    The governor also received a copy of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” and a small replica of The Christus.

    Elder Nelson was accompanied by Elder Mervyn B. Arnold of the Seventy, Brazil South Area President; Elder Ulisses Soares of the Seventy, First Counselor in the Area Presidency; Moroni Torgan, a federal congressman; and Fernando Assis, director of public affairs for Brazil.

    Adapted from Church News, February 18, 2006.

    [photo] Elder Russell M. Nelson (left) presents a statuette to Geraldo Alckmin, governor of São Paulo. Next to him are Elder Mervyn B. Arnold, Brazil South Area President; Moroni Torgan, an LDS federal congressman; and Elder Ulisses Soares, First Counselor in the Area Presidency. (Photograph courtesy of Brazil South Area presidency.)

    Church Service Missions Offer Many Opportunities

    Catching Elder Don Ziegler on the phone is difficult.

    “Don Ziegler here, wondering if we can burn up some calories here playing phone tag,” he says in a voice mail message. Chuckling follows. But if the Church-service missionary isn’t out burning calories while climbing the stairs of the Church Office Building, he’s busy promoting fruits and vegetables, planning health fairs, or posting the nutritional value of frozen yogurt in the cafeteria.

    It’s part of the calling he and his wife, Sharon, share as Church-service missionaries.


    There is a wide range of part-time Church-service opportunities available for both young and old. To be recommended as a Church-service missionary, one must be temple worthy, physically and emotionally able to perform required duties, able to support him- or herself financially, and at least 19 years of age. There is no upper age limit.

    The Church maintains listings of these needs on The postings, submitted by Church-service missionary coordinators worldwide, are updated regularly and published online at

    Doctors, hosts, grounds crew, even someone to change the tires in the fleet garage—they are all enlisted as volunteers that help the Church run smoothly.

    There are nearly 12,000 Church-service missionaries currently serving worldwide today, but Elder Larry L. Whiting and Sister Kaye W. Whiting, director and administrative assistant of the entire Church-service missionary program, feel there would be more positions filled if more people knew about the opportunities available.

    Church-service missionaries live at home while serving part-time, anywhere from 8 to 32 hours a week, magnifying their talents in the service of the Lord.

    Those who work with Church-service missionaries around the world agree that they bring a special spirit to their work.

    Elder and Sister Whiting serve as full-time missionaries while they oversee operations of all Church-service missionaries, but they attest that part-time service missions are divinely inspired, just as full-time missions are.

    “In Church-service work, as well as other missionary work, you see the Lord’s hand in placing people,” Elder Whiting said.

    However, the call to fulfill a Church-service mission comes a little differently than a call for a full-time mission. Worthy individuals willing to serve are encouraged to select an open position they feel they are qualified for. In addition to being interviewed by their bishop and stake president, they are often interviewed by the given department or job manager to ensure they are up to the tasks required. They are then called by their stake president—not the prophet—and set apart by their bishop.

    Elder Whiting emphasized that Church-service missions are a secondary choice to full-time proselyting missions.

    “But they are an excellent alternative if full-time service is not an option,” he said. “Many who go on service missions end up serving full-time missions later. It’s excellent preparation.”

    Some opportunities are age specific, such as the annual call for 35 young (ages 19–24) performing stage and band missionaries to take part in a summer of musical productions in Nauvoo.

    Elder Whiting commented on the blessing of young service missionaries, such as those serving in the Audiovisual Department, who bring with them a “fresh knowledge” of computers. Close to 300 young adults who could not serve full-time missions currently work as Church-service missionaries, but there are still many opportunities for those who wish to serve.

    Members of any age over 19 can serve in almost any calling.

    In fact, Sister Mary Alice Hansen, who is 102 years old, put in her request to serve for three years as a host in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. She has served as a Church-service missionary for the past 20 years.

    “I’ve just loved it,” Sister Hansen said. “It’s been fun meeting all the people.”

    “It’s an exciting thing for members to do,” Elder Whiting said. “We have 160 postings currently available right here in this office.”

    The list of positions can be found online at, and many wards and branches print out the list of opportunities in their area to display in their building.

    [photo] Church-service missionaries Tim Campbell and Daryl Miles prepare the grounds around Temple Square for spring. (Photograph by Adam C. Olson.)

    [photo] Gary Fitzgerald shares stories about the Presidents of the Church as a host at the Conference Center. He and his wife, Garna, serve as supervisors of hosting as Church-service missionaries. (Photograph by Adam C. Olson.)

    Touring Torino: LDS Olympians Make a Good Showing at Games

    The Church was well represented by Latter-day Saint athletes at the Torino 2006 Winter Olympic Games—even on the podium.

    From countries such as Argentina, Australia, Canada, Germany, the United States, and Venezuela, member athletes could be found competing in nearly half of the events sanctioned by the Games. Members both young and old pushed themselves to their limits and lived out their dreams on the world stage.

    Shauna Rohbock, representing the United States of America, took home a silver medal in the women’s two-man bobsledding competition with a final run of 57.71 seconds. The 28-year-old Orem, Utah, native took up bobsledding after playing soccer and running track at Brigham Young University for four years. She was a two-time All-American in both sports. It was her first Olympic Games, having been bumped from competition in the Salt Lake 2002 Olympics due to a hamstring injury.

    However, she had much more experience than another first-time Olympic bobsledder, David Bissett, a member from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

    David’s first ride in a bobsled was just three months before the Games, because he was still playing running back for the University of Alberta’s football team while the Canadian bobsled team was preparing for international competition.

    “They were ready to leave for Europe, and he still hadn’t been in a bobsled,” said David’s father, Ron Bissett. And yet David’s start times were the third and fourth fastest at the Games. He placed 11th overall.

    Watching from home, his parents couldn’t believe he was really there. During the opening ceremonies they talked to David on the cell phone while watching him enter the Olympic stadium on TV.

    “He waved to us while he was talking to us,” said Kim Bissett, David’s mother. “We almost tried to wave back!” They are excited, as he plans to compete in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games, which will be closer to home.

    It was also the first Olympic experience for Steve Nyman, a member from Orem, Utah, who returned home astonished at the volunteer work he saw in Torino.

    “I thought, ‘Wow, there are so many people here for us,’” he said. “They were there doing everything they could to make us happy. It was humbling.”

    In his first year competing at this level, Steve placed 19th in the downhill and 43rd in the super-G, celebrating his 24th birthday on the hill the day of the downhill competition.

    “I made some big mistakes, but just to get to the bottom and see my name up there on the sign—it said ‘Happy Birthday’ and people were singing—was great,” Steve said.

    Family ties in the snow run deep for Torah Bright, a snowboarder from Coomba, Australia, who made her first Olympic appearance at the Games too. Her older brother, Ben, is her snowboarding coach; her older sister, Rowena, competed in alpine skiing at the 2002 Salt Lake Games; and her younger sister, Abi, is an up-and-coming snowboarder. Torah finished just two places shy of a medal in the women’s half-pipe, and she is only 19 years old.

    At the older end of athletes, Werner Hoeger, age 52, represented Venezuela in the luge as the oldest male competitor this year. In the 2002 Olympic Winter Games he competed with his then-18-year-old son, Chris, as the first father and son to compete against each other in the same event at the same Games. Finishing 40th in 2002, he improved to 32nd place this year.

    The Hoegers are dear friends to a fellow Latter-day Saint Olympic luger, Michelle Despain Carbajal, who represented Argentina in this year’s Games. Werner said he was blessed to have the opportunity to give Michelle a priesthood blessing after she took a perilous spill during her training runs for the Torino Games. Michelle made a remarkable recovery, and though she had trouble in all four of her runs at the Olympic Games, she was still able to compete—and lift others as well.

    A fellow luger, Anne Abernathy, noted Michelle’s kindness after she received a gift signed by Michelle and all of the women’s luge racers. “Michelle Despain of Argentina wrote something nice,” Abernathy told the Associated Press. “She wrote, ‘Thank you for your example, Anne.’ It made me feel good.”

    Other Latter-day Saint athletes from the 2006 Torino Olympic Winter Games include Stephanie Wartosch-Kuerten, a goalie for the German women’s hockey team, which finished sixth in the Games, and Joe Pack, a U.S. aerial skiing competitor. Joe placed 15th this year, but earned a silver medal in the 2002 Salt Lake Games.

    Steve Nyman expressed the general theme of the Games: “It’s an eye-opening experience. You just have to take in the atmosphere and [hope you] make it back in 2010.”

    [photo] Shauna Rohbock of the United States and her bobsled partner cross the finish line in Torino, earning a silver medal. (Photograph courtesy Church News.)

    [photo] Werner Hoeger of Venezuela was the oldest male competitor at the Games this year. He took 32nd in the men’s luge. (Photograph courtesy Boise State University.)

    [photo] Michelle Despain Carbajal of Argentina credits a priesthood blessing with allowing her to compete in the Olympics after a painful crash during training. (Photograph courtesy Rick Despain.)

    BYU International Folk Dancers Celebrate 50 Years

    For 50 years, in more than 50 countries, members of the Brigham Young University International Folk Dance Ensemble (IFDE) have performed as ambassadors of their school.

    This year, celebrating a half century of dance from cultures around the world, they will take their performance to three countries they have never visited before—Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Their repertoire this year consists of dances from 10 different countries.

    At the end of February, the ensemble performed a 10-day tour in preparation for their annual summer traveling schedule. This summer they will perform in the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. These countries, along with much of Eastern Europe, share a rich heritage of folk dancing. One traditional dance from the region, the hopak, has been in the IFDE repertoire for more than 30 years.

    “The dance is exciting,” said Edwin G. Austin, the ensemble’s director. “The movement, the spins—it’s very acrobatic.”

    “It’s hard,” said Eddie Cha, a dancer on the team. He describes various moves from the hopak: the duck-walk, where the men kick their feet while remaining in a seated crouch; or the four-man butterfly, where two-by-two, a pair will burst into the air over one another in a full split.

    After taking the hopak to the Baltic States, the ensemble will travel to Quebec, Canada, in response to a private invitation to an international dance festival. Brother Austin says the IFDE is a much-sought-after group in international dance. But the purpose of their travel, he said, is twofold: to help people get acquainted with the Church and to strengthen Church members in their own countries.

    Brother Cha can attest to this. He joined the team shortly after coming to BYU from his home in Seoul, Korea. He remembers a traditional fan dance the ensemble performed last year.

    “The people from Korea loved it,” Brother Cha said.

    The IFDE started in 1956 with just four to six couples, under the direction of founder Mary Bee Jensen. In 1964 Sister Jensen accompanied the ensemble on its first international tour—mortgaging her home to have the funds to do so. It was the first group of performing students from BYU to tour internationally. Today, 30 of the ensemble’s 180 members are on the touring team.

    Brother Austin succeeded Sister Jensen as the director of the ensemble—making him only the second director in its 50-year history. He said those first worldwide tours not only shared in the folklore of the countries they traveled to, but they also helped to introduce the name of the Church in many places where it wasn’t well known. “Our group had the opportunity to travel to areas where the Church had not yet been recognized,” Brother Austin explained.

    Brother Austin danced with the group under Sister Jensen’s direction while he was a student at BYU. He also met his wife while they were both in the ensemble.

    “Out of all our experiences at BYU, our participation with this group is the one that had the greatest impact on our lives,” Brother Austin said.

    The group also has an impact on those it meets during its travels, leaving a distinct impression of standards and faith behind. Brother Austin is excited to take the ensemble into Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia this summer, because the Church is still relatively small in those countries.

    [photo] Brigham Young University’s International Folk Dance Ensemble celebrates its 50th anniversary in June 2006.

    Church Offers Special Issue of Liahona for New Members

    The October 2006 issue of the Liahona may seem a little different.

    A special issue for new members, the October 2006 edition of the Liahona will speak directly to those who have recently joined the Church.

    Elder Jay E. Jensen, Executive Director over the Church magazines, said: “The Lord said that ‘the worth of souls is great in the sight of God’ (D&C 18:10). This truth speaks volumes about our new brothers and sisters whom we welcome as new members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We love each one and want to help strengthen them and to speak directly to their common questions in this special issue.”

    A welcome from a living prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley; what a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wishes every member knew; direction for how to fit into the framework of the Church—all these topics and more are included in the magazine, written especially with new members in mind.

    For long-time members, it may seem strange to receive an issue addressed to new members, but long-time members play a vital role in nurturing new members. This issue can strengthen all members and help them be more aware of the challenges faced by new members.

    Some of these challenges include accepting a new lifestyle, trying to meet new people, and making difficult changes. New words, meetings, and teachings can be overwhelming to new members, who may not have the support of friends and family in their decision to join the Church. This issue will be a forum for these concerns.

    Within its pages, terms are defined, testimonies are shared, and difficult questions are answered, such as “How do I answer friends and family who question my decision to join the Church?” and “Now that I’ve been baptized, where do I go from here?”

    The issue will retain all of the magazine’s usual departments, including the First Presidency Message, Visiting Teaching Message, Sharing Time, and Latter-day Saint Voices, yet each article will contain a special message for new members. Many converts will share how they overcame the challenges and difficulties they experienced as new members. The issue will also include an introduction to the Church magazines and suggestions for getting the most out of them.

    “Conversion is a process through which every member must pass, regardless of how he or she came into the Church,” said Elder Jensen. “We hope the Church magazines, and this special issue in particular, will help members deepen their commitment to gospel living and encourage them to become and stay fully engaged in the Church so that they may enjoy all that the gospel has to offer.”

    The Church offers this issue to all members with the encouragement to become familiar with its content. Members who wish to give a gift subscription to a new member—or anyone else—can contact their local distribution center.

    Sharing Time: Additional Sharing Time Ideas, July 2006

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

    1. 1.

      Invite each Primary teacher to come prepared to share a simple experience of when his or her prayers were answered. You could also invite older children to be prepared to tell the suggested stories from the Liahona. The leaders of the Church today confirm that prayers are answered. Tell, or have an older child tell, one or more of the following stories from the Liahona: “The Lifeline of Prayer,” by President James E. Faust, July 2003, F2–F3; “A Growing Testimony,” by President James E. Faust, Apr. 2003, F2–F3. Sing a song or hymn about prayer. Invite the children to gather in small groups around their teacher. Have the teacher share his or her experience with prayer, and invite the children to share their own experiences, if they have some. (Remind them that some experiences are too sacred to share.) Return the children to their original places, and invite each group to share experiences with the whole group. Take responses as time permits. Bear testimony that Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers.

    2. 2.

      Song presentation: “Tell Me, Dear Lord” (Children’s Songbook, 176). This song is actually a prayer with a melody. As you teach the first line, direct the children’s thinking by asking, “In whose way are we asking that our prayers be answered?” Sing the first line. Invite the children to respond to the question (“thine own”—the Lord’s). Sing the first line together. Continue teaching the song the same way with each line. Say, “We are asking for guidance in something today. What is it?” Sing the second line, have them echo and respond (“what thou would’st have me say and do”). Ask, “What do we want Him to teach us?” Sing the third line. Have them echo and respond (“to know and love thy will”). Ask, “What do we need help in understanding?” Sing the last line. Have them echo and respond (“thy loving word”). Sing the whole song, share D&C 112:10, and testify that prayers are answered.

    Speaking Today

    Sister Lant Teaches Love of Self

    When Primary general president Cheryl C. Lant was sent to visit with children in South Africa in 2005, she worried about whether she could emotionally handle the living conditions of some of the children. When she actually met with them, though, her reaction surprised her.

    “I did see children in terrible conditions, and I knew I could do nothing to change it,” Sister Lant told students during a February 2006 devotional at Brigham Young University. “But I also felt an overwhelming love for them and a sense of God’s love for them.”

    Speaking on Valentine’s Day, a holiday devoted to the celebration of love, Sister Lant told students they could prepare to truly love others by first loving themselves and appreciating their worth as children of Heavenly Father. She suggested that students develop righteous self-love by respecting their bodies, keeping themselves pure, appreciating who they are, and forgiving themselves.

    Quoting Doctrine and Covenants 88:124, Sister Lant asked students to consider whether they “retire to thy bed early” and get appropriate amounts of sleep. She also urged students to exercise, eat the right kinds of food at the right times, and avoid fad diets.

    Addressing moral purity as an important aspect of self-love, Sister Lant recalled her thoughts as she looked at photographs of her sons’ rock-climbing adventures. “I remember thinking, ‘I’m glad they don’t make eternal choices like they rock climb,’” Sister Lant said. “Their eternal choices keep them firmly planted on solid ground.”

    Asking students whether they ever find themselves on the edge of rules and commandments governing morality, Sister Lant urged students to do everything in their power to avoid the temptation to defile their bodies. “Satan will do everything to persuade you to misuse and abuse your body,” she said.

    Sister Lant told students they shouldn’t compare themselves to others but rather appreciate their unique talents as divine gifts. “We owe all that we are to Heavenly Father,” she said.

    Finally, Sister Lant said students should be able to forgive themselves when they make mistakes.

    Once students achieve a sense of self-love and appreciation, they should focus outward and serve others, Sister Lant said. Service should ultimately be performed not out of a sense of duty or guilt, she said, but should spring naturally from a sense of love for others. This love includes understanding others rather than condemning them and accepting personal differences as strengths.

    “We can pray for this love,” Sister Lant said. “We can work for this love.”

    People who understand the laws of love and express pure love toward themselves, others, and God will be able to follow the commandments, while those who pursue lust or love of material things will be unsatisfied, Sister Lant said. “If our lives are about ‘me,’ we’re missing the point,” she said.

    Adapted from BYU NewsNet, February 14, 2006.

    [photo] Cheryl C. Lant