News of the Church

By Abbey Olsen, Church Magazines

Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Orchestra Celebrate Christmas in August

Christmas trees, holly, wreaths, lights and poinsettias adorned the stage of the Conference Center complementing holiday and patriotic music that rang throughout the auditorium August 19, 2006, as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square joined international relief organization Feed the Children and special guests to provide a tribute Christmas Concert to the military that will be rebroadcast in December.

Sandi Patty, the most awarded female vocalist in contemporary Christian music; guest hosts Lorianne Crook and Charlie Chase, long-time TV broadcasters on The Nashville Network and hosts of a daily radio show; and The Band of the Air Force Reserve joined with the Choir and Orchestra. President Thomas S. Monson of the First Presidency attended the concert.

“Joy to the World,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” were a few of the traditional carols the hundreds gathered in the Conference Center enjoyed on the warm August night. Other Christmas music favorites included “The Most Wonderful Christmas Waltz,” “I Saw Three Ships,” and “Sleigh Ride.”

Lorianne Crook told the audience that although it was unusual to celebrate Christmas in a warm summer month, the warmth they felt would reach out to those who were away from loved ones across the world when it was broadcast during the holiday season.

Many of the selections performed testified of the Savior, Jesus Christ, reiterating that the Christmas spirit reaches across cultures, backgrounds and traditions to furnish hope and peace in a world of conflict.

At the end of the concert, the performers were given a standing ovation. As an encore the Choir, Orchestra, and Band performed their signature arrangement of “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

The Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) will air a 60-minute radio version of the concert on Christmas day as their annual Christmas special. The relief organization, Feed the Children, will air 30-minute and 60-minute television versions of the program during the holiday season from Thanksgiving until Christmas.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square perform a Christmas concert for rebroadcast to members and military personnel around the world. (Photograph by John Luke.)

The Orchestra at Temple Square and the U.S. Air Force Band perform Christmas music under the baton of Chad A. Shelley. (Photograph by John Luke.)

Sandi Patty, a contemporary Christian vocalist, performs with the Choir and Orchestra. (Photograph by John Luke.)

President Hinckley Celebrates 96th by Breaking Ground for BYU Building

President Gordon B. Hinckley started off his 96th birthday celebration with a shovel and some dirt.

Hundreds of Brigham Young University alumni, faculty, and students, plus family members and friends looked on as President Hinckley took his shovel in hand and scooped dirt to kick off the construction of an 80,000-square-foot (7.432-square-meter) building that will bear his name at the school in Provo.

“You do me a great honor and a great kindness in what you do today,” President Hinckley told guests at the groundbreaking celebration for the new Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni and Visitors’ Center on June 23, 2006.

President Hinckley thanked guests and commented about how his wife, Marjorie Pay Hinckley, who died in 2004, had also been honored at BYU when a social work and social sciences chair was named in her honor in 2003.

“Maybe we could move her chair into my building, and we’d be together again,” he said.

President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, and President Hinckley’s son Clark also spoke at the groundbreaking. Family members, President Hinckley’s counselors in the First Presidency, members of the BYU Board of Trustees, friends of the university, and donors joined President Hinckley in ceremoniously turning the first dirt for the building.

After the ceremony, President Hinckley donated the shovel he used, which came from his own tool collection. Construction commenced immediately after the ceremony.

The BYU Board of Trustees approved development of the new center in October 2005, and BYU president Cecil O. Samuelson announced the new building the following month. The building is funded entirely from private donations. Brigham Young University has eight other buildings named after Presidents of the Church.

“This new building is singular in the fact that it has been built while the man whose name it bears is still alive,” President Hinckley said. “I suppose Brother Samuelson concluded I was only half dead and that we could go forward accordingly.”

The Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni and Visitors’ Center is scheduled to be finished by fall 2007. A building bearing President Hinckley’s name was also dedicated at Brigham Young University–Idaho in October 2002.

In addition to being a gateway to BYU and a campus home for alumni, the building is a tribute to President Hinckley and his life.

“Because of his unflagging efforts in the areas of education, public outreach, and international friendship, his name evokes the very purposes of this building,” the BYU alumni Web site states. He is “an extraordinary ambassador” for the Church, and “his long life is characterized by openness, understanding, and love of the Savior.”

After the groundbreaking, family, invited guests, and university leaders hosted President Hinckley at a private luncheon. President Hinckley’s children paid tribute to their father, and President Samuelson presented him with a brick with his name on it to represent the new center that bears his name.

President Hinckley began his service as the 15th President of the Church in 1995. Before that, he served 14 years as a counselor in the First Presidency and 20 years as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

President Hinckley has traveled around the world, dedicating many temples and visiting Church members, who now number more than 12.5 million worldwide. He has been interviewed by several major news people.

CBS newsman Mike Wallace paid tribute to President Hinckley at the Celebration of Life program in honor of his 95th birthday last year.

“He is and has always been a builder,” Mr. Wallace said, “a builder of families, youth, missionaries. … A builder of character and faith, and through it all, a builder of people. … The pace has been tiring, but he has been tireless. But from his point of view, it’s been worth it to help build the organization he loves by building the people that he loves so much.”

President Gordon B. Hinckley breaks ground for a building named in his honor at Brigham Young University. (Photograph by Keith Johnson, courtesy of Deseret Morning News.)

Central American Saints Rejoice at Honduras Temple Announcement

The news spread quickly across the country when a First Presidency letter dated June 9, 2006, reached members in Honduras with the announcement that a new temple would be built in Tegucigalpa.

“We’ve been waiting a long time,” said Jorge Sierra, Honduras public affairs director and first counselor in the Honduras Comayaguela Mission presidency. “The people are very happy. Our Church leaders are very motivated. They’re committed to prepare themselves and the members to be ready for the opening of the temple.”

Tegucigalpa, Honduras’s largest and capital city, is home to more than 1.6 million people. The new temple will be especially significant to the more than 168,000 Latter-day Saints across Honduras and Nicaragua. Until the new temple is finished, the closest temple to these Saints is the Guatemala City Guatemala Temple (dedicated in 1984), located about 214 miles (344 km) from Tegucigalpa.

The Saints in the area have not only sacrificed time and funds, but they have had to travel dangerous roads to get to Guatemala and attend the temple. Despite the danger, members still make the trip.

“For us, it’s a pleasure to go to the temple and work there,” said Eliana Sierra. She said many members have done family history work, sacrificed, and saved money in preparation to travel to and do work at the temple.

“We are so humbled and grateful, and [we are] waiting anxiously for the temple,” Sister Sierra said. She said the members are grateful to President Hinckley and area leaders for their hard work in preparation for the temple.

“It’s a moment we have highly anticipated,” said President Sierra. “Temple attendance at the Guatemala temple by members in Honduras has been good. We believe it will only grow having the temple here in our own country.”

Besides the Guatemala temple, other Central American temples are in San José, Costa Rica (2000), and Panama City, Panama (under construction), making the Honduras temple the fourth in Central America. The Tegucigalpa Honduras Temple will be the 134th temple of the Church that is operating, under construction, or announced by First Presidency letter.

The Church in Honduras has grown since 1952, when the gospel was first introduced through Elder Spencer W. Kimball of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Gordon M. Romney, Central America Mission president. They left a Book of Mormon with a hotel waiter who was later baptized. A month later missionaries entered Honduras. The first converts were baptized and the first congregation was organized in Tegucigalpa in March 1953. Honduras now has three missions: Comayaguela, San Pedro Sula, and Tegucigalpa.

According to December 2005 estimates, Nicaragua and Honduras are the fastest-growing countries in Church membership in Central America over the past five years. Church membership in Nicaragua has grown an estimated 50 percent, and in Honduras 16 percent.

President Sierra said the temple will help facilitate Church growth and retention in different ways, such as through the open house and as a talking point for home and visiting teachers and leaders to open doors with the less active.

In 1980 Church membership in Honduras was about 6,300. Today it is more than 116,000. In 1989, at the formation of the Nicaragua Managua Mission, Church membership in Nicaragua was 3,453. Today Nicaraguan Saints number more than 52,000.

The temple will be a blessing to the fast-growing body of Saints in Nicaragua who have had to travel a great distance at great expense to attend the temple.

Map of Central America(click to view larger)

A recently announced temple in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, will join Central American temples already operating in Guatemala and Costa Rica and one under construction in Panama. (Map by Thomas Child.)

Latter-day Saints Send Aid to Middle East

The Church responded to an appeal by the United Nations for humanitarian aid to help civilians affected by the conflict between Israeli and Hezbollah forces in Lebanon and Israel.

U.N. officials asked for supplies to provide three months of assistance to about 800,000 people who have been displaced, wounded, or otherwise affected by the fighting.

The Church donated medical supplies, powdered milk, baby formula, hand soap, and hygiene kits, which were flown to the affected region by Islamic Relief Worldwide. The planeload of supplies left Salt Lake City on Tuesday, August 1, 2006, and arrived in Lebanon a few days later. Representatives of Islamic Relief Worldwide and the Hariri Foundation, a Lebanese development and education organization, coordinated the distribution.

The Church has also met a request for financial aid to the Magen David Admon, the Israeli affiliate of the International Red Cross. The donation was to be used in Haifa to respond to increased demand on Magen David Admon’s blood services program, to help with ambulance response, and to support individual family needs.

President Gordon B. Hinckley has emphasized that the Church’s humanitarian assistance is provided to those in need wherever they may be without regard to religious affiliation, race, ethnicity, or political persuasion.

“We have done a great deal and have blessed the lives of many people who are not of our faith but who also are children of our Father,” President Hinckley has said. “We will continue to do so for as long as we have the means” (“Thanks to the Lord for His Blessings,” Liahona, July 1999, 105; Ensign, May 1999, 88).

Member Walks with Faith, Not Legs

As an 11-year-old, Victor Penafiel was playing at a train station in Colombia near his home. School was out, and he decided to jump on a train. The train operators told him to get off, but when they weren’t looking, he jumped on again. Two more times they caught him and told him to get off. It was God’s way of warning him to get off the train, he recalled.

When the train started with a jerk, he lost his balance and fell with his legs under the train. His automatic reaction to the intense pain was to reach down with his left arm. Victor lost both legs at the hip and his arm just below the elbow.

He was rushed to a small hospital nearby because he wouldn’t have arrived alive if they had tried to reach a larger but more distant hospital. He needed a blood transfusion, but blood supplies were scarce. A petition went out to a nearby naval base for someone to donate blood.

“They asked for 1, and 11 came,” Victor recalled, noting that all 11 blood donors had his blood type.

The doctors treated him, and despite losing three limbs, he miraculously survived.

“Ever since, my life has been a series of miracles,” Victor said. “I’m certain the Lord works miracles.”

Victor has lived his life maneuvering in a wheelchair without allowing his disability to limit his faith. More than 30 years after the accident, another series of small miracles that began several years ago brought him an opportunity to walk, but with a very different outcome than expected.

The First Steps

The first steps on the road to walking again actually took place in the water.

At 23 years old, Victor Penafiel watched others swim while he clung to a corner of the pool. His friend, Arturo Espinoza, saw his desire to swim and offered to teach him. But Victor had a great fear of water. Even before his accident, he didn’t know how to swim. Swimming wouldn’t be easy, especially with only one arm. After a year of struggling with Victor’s fear, Arturo guided Victor into the middle of the pool and removed the life vest he wore during lessons.

“Let’s see how you get out of this,” Arturo said, leaving him there.

Victor got out of it, and the challenge helped him see he could swim. After that, Victor never used a life vest. Now he loves swimming, he said, because when he is in the water, he feels free.

About 10 years later, Victor entered a competition where he swam about three miles (5 km) across the Guayas River in Ecuador. The current was strong, the water dirty and cold. He was the only disabled competitor among some 120 swimmers, he said. He made it across the river while many of his competitors weren’t able to complete the race. He finished 3rd in his age group and 15th overall.

A History of Helping Others

Victor and his story are well known in his home city, Guayaquil, Ecuador, and he has served as an inspiration to many. He said it’s important to take advantage of every moment in life to help others. “Part of our happiness depends on our helping others to be happy,” he said.

His wife, Mercedes, said once they were invited to appear on television in Quito, Ecuador. During the trip home, a woman stopped them and thanked them. Her son had lost his leg, and Victor’s story had motivated him. The boy had said, “If he can, why can’t I?”

Once he accompanied the missionaries to teach an investigator. “Is he a member of your Church?” the investigator asked upon seeing Victor. The missionaries responded affirmatively, and the investigator said, “Well, if he’s a member, baptize me now.”

“It’s because of his example and the way he lives his religion,” said Sister Ann Long, who served with her husband, Clyne, as missionaries in Ecuador at a Church employment resources center.

Unemployed people came to the center, and after watching a recorded news story about Victor, they often were motivated to successfully search for and obtain employment.

“They said, ‘We don’t have any excuse,’” recalled Sister Long.

Victor’s Turn?

On the last day of their mission, the Longs, having not yet met Victor in person, wanted to find and thank him for his help. They found him working in the temple. They wanted to do something to help this man who has helped so many others. After returning home, they began making plans to help Victor receive prosthetic legs.

The Longs found a company in the United States willing to donate prosthetics, but when Brother and Sister Penafiel arrived in Utah in June 2006, they discovered that because of a miscommunication, prosthetic feet had been donated but not legs. Because their visas would soon expire, Victor and Mercedes had until July 24 to raise the necessary money for the legs.

Media organizations in Utah did news reports on Victor, and a donation fund was set up. Donations both small and large began coming in. “It was something that was beyond our comprehension. God helped us understand in that instant His love and His power,” Victor said.

A Turn of Events

With the donations, enough money was raised for the prosthetic legs. Victor looked forward to the long-anticipated ability to again “walk, walk, walk.” On July 13, 2006, Victor took his first steps in more than 30 years as he began the physical therapy process.

However, the prosthetic legs caused excruciating pain. After being unable to adjust to them, he visited another specialist. The pain resulted from a nerve problem that would likely worsen if he continued using the prosthetics and that doctors recommended against trying to repair surgically.

Victor was sad that he would have to give up his new legs, but in typical Victor fashion, he turned the experience into something positive, expressing thanks that the doctors discovered the nerve problem.

Then Victor donated his prosthetic legs—and with them his dream to “walk, walk, walk”—to the company that provided them, so that they can be donated to people in Haiti.

“At least they’ll help someone,” said Victor. “Not just one person, but two. They’ll be a great help. That’s how I see it.” Instead, Victor received a motorized wheelchair.

“I don’t know why all of this happened,” he said. “But I know it wasn’t a surprise to the Lord. We don’t always comprehend how He works. But he manifests His powers in many ways. I know He knew about this nerve problem before I came, even though I didn’t. Yet, He brought me here. Now we have to wait to see why He brought this all to pass. He knows. For that I feel fine. Because I know He knows what he’s doing.

“To lose a finger or hand, an arm, a leg is a difficult situation, but while there’s life, there are reasons to be happy,” Victor said. “And if God is in our life, it’ll be much better.”

Victor Penafiel, who lost his arm and legs in a train accident during his youth, later inspired fellow countrymen after competing in a swim across an Ecuadorian river. (Photograph by Adam C. Olson.)

Additional Sharing Time Ideas, December 2006

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

1. Display Gospel Art Picture Kit 113 (Isaiah Writes of Christ’s Birth) and 201 (The Nativity). Point out the similarities between the two pictures. Explain that the man who is writing in the first picture is Isaiah. Isaiah saw the birth of the Savior in a vision hundreds of years before the Savior was actually born, but Isaiah did not call the Savior Jesus. Isaiah used other titles for Jesus Christ.

Display wordstrips with scrambled letters of the following words: Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Divide the children into five groups. Give each group a wordstrip, telling them how many words are in that title and what letter the word or words start with. Because the puzzles may be difficult, give them a hint every few seconds. As the children solve the puzzles, write the correct word(s) on the back of the wordstrips. You may want to attach a large feather to your marker and let the children write with a “feather pen” just like Isaiah in the picture. Display the five titles. These are the titles that Isaiah used for the child in the picture. Have the children put the wordstrips in order by looking up Isaiah 9:6. Help them understand what each word means and how it is an appropriate title for Jesus Christ.

Sing a Christmas song or hymn about the Savior. Bear testimony that Jesus came to the earth as the literal Son of God.

2. Have the children read Genesis 1:16. Ask them what they think “the greater light” might be (the sun). Display a large yellow ball or a picture of the sun. Ask the children how they would feel if, when the sun went down, it did not get dark. Let the children share their ideas. Ask them how they would feel if the prophet told them that one day the sun would go down and it would not get dark. Would they be less frightened? Tell them that this really happened and that they will find out more about it in the scriptures.

Tell the children that even though Jesus did not live on the American continent when He had a mortal body, Book of Mormon prophets still prophesied of Him. Review Isaiah 9:6 and 2 Nephi 19:6.

Play a matching game by pairing Book of Mormon prophets who testified of the Savior with the scripture that records their prophecies. (Nephi—2 Nephi 25:19; King Benjamin—Mosiah 3:5; Abinadi—Mosiah 15:1; Alma—Alma 7:10; Samuel—Helaman 14:2.) Write each prophet’s name on the board. You may want to add pictures of each of these prophets from the Gospel Art Picture Kit or from the Primary 4 picture packet. Write the scriptures in a separate list. Give the children a few minutes to look up one of the scriptures. Have the children read the prophecy and then match the prophecy to the prophet.

For younger children: Display pictures of the same five prophets. Allow five children to wear simple costumes depicting the prophets mentioned. Read the prophecies from the scriptures. Let the children guess which prophet each child is representing.

Help the children understand the sign of Christ’s birth, as recorded in the Book of Mormon, by reading Helaman 14:3–4. You might want to explain to the children that because Christ is the Light of the World, having light even when the sun was not shining was an appropriate sign for His birth. Testify that Jesus came into the world to be an example and to atone for the sins of all people.

Speaking Today

Elder Andersen Urges Young Members to Understand Their Past and Future

Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Presidency of the Seventy taught Brigham Young University–Idaho students at a devotional held on May 16, 2006, of the importance of keeping past and future generations in perspective. “You have been who you are for a very, very long time. As we see through our generations both backward and forward, we see who we are, and we see more clearly what we must become.”

Elder Andersen said the idea of a “me world” inhibits understanding other generations. “In the world in which we live, there is a great focus on me, I, my world, my style, my satisfactions, and my things,” Elder Andersen said. He said the idea of “me” describes the direction of the generation to which the youth of the Church belong.

“If we could look back through the generations, we could see those who helped us to get where we are now.”

When students look at their own lives, they also must be prepared to look at the generations they will create, Elder Andersen said. “Our footprints will be seen in homes and on paths where we will never walk. As we are righteous, there is a power in the priesthood that passes through us into our posterity, shaping their eternity as it shapes ours.”

“Although people on earth may not understand why they live in this present day, it is not a coincidence,” Elder Andersen said. Each person’s life has been planned for a long time, and each has been chosen to be part of a holy family, he said. “When we see ourselves in this holy family, those who came before us and those who come after us become very important to us.”

Elder Andersen said an individual’s perspective must be shaped by something bigger than his or her own ideas. “Somehow I sense that my reality as an individual walking through earthly time could be very limited without some perspective greater than my own.”

Elder Andersen left the audience with the promise that as they learn to see through the generations by looking back and looking forward, they will see more clearly who they are and who they must become.

“You will better see that your place in this vast beautiful plan of happiness is no small place, and you will come to love the Savior and depend on Him as His great gift to us makes this all possible.”

Elder Jensen Speaks at BYU Family History and Genealogy Conference

At a keynote address given on August 1, 2006, at the 38th annual Brigham Young University Genealogy and Family History Conference, Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy urged family history enthusiasts to actively seek out opportunities to share what they’ve learned with others.

“I want you all to know how grateful we are for you and how critical your support and assistance will be to the success of the Church’s family history enterprise in coming years,” said Elder Jensen, who is also the Church Historian and Recorder and Executive Director of the Family and Church History Department.

He said the staff at the Family and Church History Department, under the direction of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, are hard at work developing an Internet-based system to better assist members with family history work. The new system, announced by President Hinckley in the October 2005 general conference, will minimize duplication of work and consolidate family history software products.

“Lest we forget why we are going to such great lengths, let me remind us all that … family history and the temple are inseparably connected by sacred doctrines having to do with the eternal nature of marriage and families,” Elder Jensen said. “Family history research should be the primary source of names for temple ordinances, and temple ordinances are the primary reason for family history research. Family history is more than just a hobby.”

He said those who are successful at family history work are examples, giving hope to those who “still stand on the outside of family history looking in.”

“As you assist with the recruitment and training efforts that are planned, your devotion to and love of the work will be contagious and critically important,” he said.

He said one way to promote greater interest in family history is for those already involved to share their feelings and talk about the spiritual blessings of the work.

He said he believes that engaging in family history work for the benefit of ancestors motivates people to get along better and create stronger relationships with living family members.

Elder Jensen said family history work by its nature is a constant reminder of the worth of a soul as each person, one by one, is identified by name and other verifying data. “Jesus, who did nothing but what He saw the Father do, ministered in this very personal way,” he explained.

Elder Jensen said another goal of family history work is to become better acquainted with ancestors, for example, by discovering intergenerational transfer of values and things held dear.

He concluded by saying that engaging in family history work requires strong faith in the reality of deceased ancestors, their need for saving ordinances, and the eventual reunion with them. He said the Holy Spirit plays a vital role, and those who perform family history work are entitled to help from the other side of the veil.

“The ultimate reward we receive in doing family history work is to be found in the relationship and feelings we develop for those for whom we stand as proxy … in the temple.”

Elder Staheli Gives Counsel on Preparing for the Future

At a devotional at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, on June 13, 2006, Elder Donald L. Staheli of the Seventy encouraged students to evaluate their current course in life and prepare temporally and spiritually for the future.

Quoting philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, he said, “Choose well; your choice is brief and yet endless.”

“It has been said that one of the greatest tragedies of our time is that so many people live so far below their potential,” Elder Staheli pointed out. “President Hinckley has counseled, ‘Do your best,’ and then he frequently adds, ‘but I want to emphasize that it be the very best. We are too prone to be satisfied with mediocre performance. We are capable of doing so much better’ (“Standing Strong and Immovable,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 10, 2004, 21).”

Elder Staheli said a personal testimony that is nurtured daily will keep students close to the Spirit, which is essential to future success. “Just claiming to know the gospel is true is not enough,” he said. He explained that faith, consistent prayer, scripture study, and obedience strengthen a testimony.

“Understanding and responding to the principle of obedience has been of singular importance in preparing us for success and eternal happiness,” he said. “As the Lord promised Joshua, He will not fail you or forsake you as long as you’re striving daily to obey His commandments” (see Joshua 1:5–9).

Satan encourages a casual approach to commandment keeping, Elder Staheli said. He warned of harmful media, pornography, and other destructive tools of Satan.

“As you’re able to recognize and overcome any personal irritants you may have toward certain principles of obedience, you will feel God endowing you with the power and spirit to resist the inappropriate things of the world,” he said.

Elder Staheli explained that the Lord wants each person to find joy and success in his or her pursuits but warned the students not to let the ambition for success supercede the priority for living gospel principles.

“Think carefully, my brothers and sisters, about where you are,” he said.

Elder Staheli counseled students to remember the parable of the talents and that the Lord does not measure a person’s progress against that of others, but He blesses people as they magnify whatever talents they have.

“As you have the courage to be true to your beliefs, your exemplary conduct will not go unnoticed,” he said. “And while you will be tried and tested, your faithful adherence to the Lord’s standards will be seen as a beacon in the night to those around you.”

Elder Marlin K. Jensen

Elder Donald L. Staheli

BYU–Hawaii Choir Performs in New York

Brigham Young University–Hawaii’s Concert Choir shared its love for music and demonstrated music’s power as the choir took the stage at one of the world’s most musically elite venues—Carnegie Hall—in New York City in June. The mixed voice ensemble brought a packed New York audience to its feet at the conclusion of the performance of Mozart’s Requiem.

The group traveled about 5,000 miles (8,046 km; 10 hours by plane) from the North Shore of Hawaii to perform in the prestigious hall with five other choral groups.

“The experience was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the members of the choir,” explained the group’s director, Dr. Michael Belnap. Choir members represent more than 15 countries, including Hong Kong, New Zealand, South Korea, French Polynesia, Japan, Malaysia, Tonga, and Samoa. According to U.S. News, BYU–Hawaii is the most internationally diverse campus in the nation per capita with more than 74 countries represented.

While in New York City, the choir performed a musical fireside in the newly dedicated Latter-day Saint meetinghouse in Harlem.

“Performing at Carnegie is such an accomplishment and a great feather to put in the hat of our music department,” said Justin Smith, the coordinator for the university’s performance tours. “But when we did the Harlem fireside with the newly formed BYU–Hawaii Alumni Chapter of New York, that became my tour highlight.”

Brother Smith continued: “Before the tour, the fireside seemed like just another ‘appointment’ on the itinerary—it kind of flew under the radar. That’s probably why it was so incredible, because it was an unexpected moment on the tour that really struck a chord. Carnegie was commendable. Harlem was the highlight.”

Isrin O’Connor, a sophomore from Thailand studying vocal performance, thought the Harlem fireside was one of the greatest musical performances she had ever been a part of.

“I felt so strongly that the Spirit was there around us, everywhere!” she said. “I could feel the Lord’s love for us, His children. It was truly uplifting.”

The choir also had the rare opportunity to perform at Old Slip Park in lower Manhattan, the site where a statue of Joseph Smith Jr. has stood since December 2005, commemorating the Prophet’s 200th birthday.

In addition to performing, the choir visited several famous sites, such as Grand Central Station, the Empire State Building, Times Square, and Ground Zero.

Nearly half of the 60-member choir is bilingual. English is a second language for nearly one-third of the choir members, who study a wide variety of majors, including international business management, mathematics, vocal studies, history, and political science.

Its reputation and international flavor have opened many doors for the choir, both locally and internationally, resulting in performances in New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Taiwan, and Singapore.

The members of the choir are now preparing for their June 2007 tour to China and Mongolia, where they plan to perform in Beijing, Xi’an, Ürümqi, Tianjin, and Ulaanbaatar.

Four Triple Combination Translations Completed, Now Available

The people of four nations have received another portion of the printed word of God in their own language. In letters to area Church leaders dated July 28, 2006, the First Presidency announced the completion of the triple combination of the scriptures in Armenian, Latvian, and Lithuanian. On May 11, 2006, the First Presidency announced the completion of the triple combination of the scriptures in Malagasy. The completion of new editions of the Book of Mormon in the four languages was also announced.

“We encourage members to obtain their own copies of the scriptures and to use them in regular, personal, and family study, and in Church meetings and assignments,” the First Presidency stated in the letters. “As they prayerfully learn and teach from the scriptures, their testimonies will grow, their knowledge will increase, their love of family and others will expand, their ability to serve others will enlarge, and they will receive greater strength to resist temptation and defend truth and righteousness.”

Member Response

Church members have responded with excitement to the new triple combinations.

“To see how people receive the books when they come out—it’s just fantastic,” said Jim Berlin, a scripture translation supervisor.

In Armenia, Brother Berlin gathered with a group of about 20 people, and each person shared a scripture from the new publication and told why it had touched his or her heart.

“It is so powerful as 15 to 20 people hold in their hands their own copy of the Book of Mormon—marked up, loved, cherished,” he said. “They shared their love for scripture passages and for the Lord.”

Although some preparatory work was done beforehand, translation of the scriptures in Armenian, Latvian, and Lithuanian began in 1998.

Translation Process

After a new scripture translation is requested by an Area Presidency and approved by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the Church’s Translation Division begins the translation process, communicating with local priesthood leaders to find and recommend candidates from the area as scripture translators.

“The Lord prepares souls in all these lands, and one thing that we as supervisors see very clearly is that this is the Lord’s work and He has His hand on it,” said Brother Berlin, who supervised the translation process for Armenian and initiated and later finished the process for Latvian and Lithuanian.

Brother Berlin told the story of a brother who had joined the Church in St. Petersburg, Russia, many years ago and felt prompted to return home to Armenia to build up the kingdom. He did so, and a year later Brother Berlin arrived to begin the scripture translation work.

The man had helped in the translation of the Book of Mormon, published in 2000, and after his English skills increased, he became the translator of the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price in the full triple combination.

Brother Berlin said scripture translators in Latvia and Lithuania have similar experiences of how the Lord had prepared them.

“The Lord has prepared people in all these countries and is currently preparing people to accomplish His work,” he said.

The Languages

The first full edition of the Book of Mormon in Malagasy was published in 2000; selections from the book were published in 1986. Malagasy is a language spoken by the people in Madagascar, an island off the east coast of Africa. Just months after the first full edition of the Book of Mormon was published, the first stake was organized in Madagascar—the Antananarivo Madagascar Stake. Madagascar is home to more than 3,300 members of the Church. Church membership there grew 86.3 percent from 2000 to 2005.

The first edition of the Book of Mormon in Armenian was published in 1937. A newer version of the Armenian Book of Mormon language edition was published in 2001. The distribution of this edition in Armenia in May 2001 coincided with the 1,700th anniversary of Christianity in Armenia—one of the oldest Christian nations in the world.

Located in southwestern Asia, Armenia is home to more than 2,000 members of the Church. Membership has almost tripled in Armenia since 2000.

Latvia and Lithuania, Baltic States in Europe, are home to more than 800 and more than 750 members of the Church respectively. From 2000 to 2005, Church membership grew by 62 percent in Latvia and by 42.8 percent in Lithuania.

Copies of the triple combination editions of the scriptures are available through local Church distribution centers and may be ordered through local Church leaders.

New translations of the Book of Mormon in Armenian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Malagasy have been released, along with new triple combinations in those languages.

Church Members Affected by Flooding

Extensive rainfall from New York to Virginia in the eastern United States in June caused widespread flooding and evacuations.

Flooding occurred in low-lying areas. Particularly hard hit were areas along the Susquehanna River. Thousands were evacuated from their homes temporarily, roads were closed, and buildings were damaged. Governors of flooded states declared a state of emergency in several counties. There were 16 confirmed deaths. All missionaries and Church members were reported safe.

“We felt a kinship to Noah,” said William Nixon, president of the Mount Vernon Virginia Stake, near Washington, D.C., as he described the foot (30.5 cm) of rain that drenched the area.

He said four Latter-day Saint families in the Franconia Ward were displaced when 200 homes in their neighborhood were evacuated due to flooding. Although other members in the stake weren’t required to evacuate, many had from three inches (7 cm) to three feet (91 cm) of water in their basements.

Farther north in the Scranton Pennsylvania Stake, members were also affected by the flooding. Keith Dunford, president of the stake, told of one family whose house succumbed to the flooding. Crews helped the family get their belongings out of the house before it slid into the water.

For the most part, Church members have maintained a positive attitude in the wake of the flooding. “We’re grateful that the levee along the Susquehanna held,” President Dunford said. “Otherwise, that would have been a disaster.”

Members in the Wilkes-Barre Ward evacuated and stayed overnight with other members but were able to return the next day.

In the Owego New York Stake, members evacuated their homes, and some lived temporarily in a meetinghouse. One couple in Binghamton was rescued by a helicopter, and some in Owego were rescued by boat. Many stayed at shelters until the water receded.

Richard Miller, president of the Owego New York Stake, said that as the floods abated members were able to go in, clean up, and help the people affected.

The Church’s Welfare Department stayed in contact with leaders across the flooded states, offering support and assessing needs in the different areas.

President Nixon said: “At times like this, you feel extremely blessed that you’re part of such a magnificent organization. … When you have people … calling from Salt Lake to check on members whom they don’t even know and also willing to provide resources to the community at large, it’s a pretty remarkable organization.”

Heavy storms flooded the northeastern United States and knocked down this elm at the White House. (Photograph by Ron Edmonds, courtesy of Associated Press.)

Baris Ozturk maneuvers his rowboat during flooding in the Northeastern United States. (Photograph by Mike Derer, courtesy Associated Press.)

Church Satellite Broadcasts Available Online

Web users are able once again to see and hear the prophet speak in archived electronic text, audio, or video versions of general conference online in more than 40 languages.

Users can find their language archives by visiting the Gospel Library on and selecting “General Conference.” Some of the languages offered are Cambodian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Samoan, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Thai, and Ukrainian.

Internet users can now also access live video streams of general conference. Beginning with the first major test at the April 2006 general conference, the Church partnered with BYU-TV to provide live video streams of general conference in English through a link on

The Church previously provided live conference video streaming on about three years ago, but stopped when the cost per user became prohibitive.

Last year BYU-TV offered to provide the service, and the partnership began when the Church linked to BYU-TV to provide live video streams of the Joseph Smith celebration and the 2005 First Presidency Christmas Devotional.

Ron Schwendiman, manager of Internet coordination in the Church’s Curriculum Department, says the service “enables English speakers who are not able to get to a building or who are unable to receive it through other means to be able to watch conference live on their computers.”

Through this technology, more than 200,000 live online video connections from more than 126 different countries were provided during general conference in April. Of the sessions, the Sunday afternoon session had the most Internet traffic with 108,312 connections.

Brother Schwendiman said some interruptions in the service occurred during conference, but feedback has been mostly positive as the Church and BYU-TV continue to work to understand how best to use the technology to provide another venue to access conference.

Web users who have a high-speed Internet connection can go to the broadcast page on during live Church broadcasts and click on a link that will take them to BYU-TV’s live video stream.

BYU-TV launched in 2000 and has regularly broadcast Church content for programs such as general conference, the Young Women and Relief Society general meetings, and Church Educational System firesides.

BYU-TV had previously provided a limited number of online video streams, but in November 2005 it partnered with a company that provides mass video streaming capability on the Internet. The technology allowed BYU-TV to provide online video streams to thousands of viewers. The technology also allowed viewers who live on the other side of the globe, where conference airs during the middle of the night, to access sessions at a time convenient to them.

BYU-TV also offers a Windows Media stream for Mac, Linux, and other users ( The Church provides Windows Media video archives of the conference broadcasts at

Although the live video stream is currently available only in English, discussions are ongoing about the possibility of providing the live video streams in other languages.

The Church and BYU-TV have teamed up to provide online streaming of general conference.

Call for Articles

How do you most effectively study the scriptures? Are there things you do that help you gain new insights? Are there study techniques you use that might benefit others? We invite you to share your ideas for spiritual growth through scripture study.

Please send your submission (500 words or fewer) by January 15, 2007, to or to:

Liahona, Scripture Study Skills
50 E. North Temple St., Rm. 2420
Salt Lake City, UT 84150-3220,

Please include your name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, and ward and stake (or branch and district).