News of the Church

By Stephanie Long, Church Magazines


Three New Missions Bring Total to 347

The continued growth of the Church and the desire of priesthood leaders to further strengthen members and leaders throughout the world have prompted the creation of new missions in Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean, and the realignment of four missions in Japan.

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have approved the creation of three missions—the Ukraine Dnepropetrovsk Mission, the Sierra Leone Freetown Mission, and the Puerto Rico San Juan East Mission. This brings the total number of missions around the world to 347. The new missions will open in the next few months.

Japan Realignments

In Japan, the boundaries of the Hiroshima, Nagoya, and Tokyo missions were realigned in early March 2007.

Portions of the Japan Tokyo North Mission and Japan Tokyo South Mission are being consolidated and will be known as the Japan Tokyo Mission. The newly aligned Japan Tokyo Mission will be concentrated around the greater Tokyo metropolitan area and its 10 stakes.

The Japan Kobe Mission will include the Osaka-Kobe area, with its four stakes and another stake in nearby Kyoto. It is one of three areas in Japan with multiple stakes in a metropolitan area.

Ukraine Dnepropetrovsk Mission

The Church in eastern Ukraine has grown so much that it is now beyond the capacity of one mission president to administer effectively. The creation of the Ukraine Dnepropetrovsk Mission from the Ukraine Donetsk Mission will allow the mission president and missionaries to concentrate on strengthening existing branches and expanding into other large cities located within reasonable commuting distances of Dnepropetrovsk.

With the addition of a new mission, President Dale E. Anderson of the Donetsk mission anticipates strengthened leadership for central Ukraine. “We’ll be able to better serve the area,” he said.

“The local leaders are marvelous, faithful people. The Church is doing well in Ukraine,” he continued. “Converts are faithful and retention is good.”

Sierra Leone Freetown Mission

In the Africa West Area, the Sierra Leone Freetown Mission was created from a division of the Ghana Accra Mission. The countries of Togo and Benin will also be transferred from the Ghana Cape Coast Mission to the Ghana Accra Mission.

The new mission will include neighboring countries to reduce travel and administrative demands. Priesthood leaders will have more opportunity to care for new members and to conduct Church affairs in this area.

Approximately 38,000 members live in the three missions of Ghana Accra, Ghana Cape Coast, and Sierra Leone Freetown, with 10,000 in the Freetown mission.

Puerto Rico San Juan East Mission

In the Caribbean, the Puerto Rico San Juan East Mission has been created from a division of the Puerto Rico San Juan and West Indies Missions.

The current Puerto Rico San Juan Mission includes the island of Puerto Rico, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, and the islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao.

The West Indies Mission includes the remaining islands in the Lesser Antilles and the neighboring South American countries of Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana.

The division of these two missions will create the Puerto Rico San Juan West Mission, renamed from the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission. The mission headquarters will be centered in San Juan, and the mission will cover the western half of Puerto Rico. It will also include the islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao.

The new Puerto Rico San Juan East Mission will also be centered in San Juan and will contain the two stakes and one district in eastern Puerto Rico, as well as English-speaking Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, Dominica, and Barbados.

The current West Indies Mission will remain headquartered in Trinidad and will be renamed the Trinidad and Tobago Mission. It will cover French- and Dutch-speaking countries and islands in the Caribbean Area and will continue to oversee English-speaking Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Vincent, and the Grenadines.

The French-speaking areas are Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, and St. Martin. The Dutch-speaking areas include Suriname and the northern islands of the Netherlands Antilles, including St. Maarten, St. Eustatius, and Saba.

The new mission will reduce travel demands and allow the mission president more contact with missionaries and local priesthood leaders.

Adapted from Church News, February 10, 2007.

Several missions in Japan were realigned to create the Japan Tokyo Mission in place of the Japan Tokyo North and South Missions.

The Ukraine Dnepropetrovsk Mission becomes the third mission in Ukraine.

The Sierra Leone Freetown Mission was created from a division of the Ghana Accra Mission.

The Puerto Rico San Juan East Mission has been created from a division of the Puerto Rico San Juan and West Indies Missions.

[maps] Maps by Thomas S. Child

Church Diversity Breaks Stereotypes

In Harlem, an African-American bishop leads his congregation in prayer. In Miami, neighbors enter a bright yellow chapel and greet each other in Haitian. In Salt Lake City, a teacher instructs her New Testament class in Chinese. Meanwhile, in Florida, an entire congregation sings in the physical poetry of American Sign Language. And in California a young child gives his first talk in Primary in Spanish.

This picture is a striking contrast to the stereotypical image many have of members of the Church in the United States as white, middle-class people from Utah. Yet it accurately portrays the changing face of Church membership, which is becoming increasingly diverse, mirroring a wide range of cultures and experiences.

This diversity has not gone unnoticed by media trumpeting headlines such as “Mormons Gain in Inner Cities—Church Is Attracting More Blacks and Hispanics” in the Philadelphia Inquirer, “LDS Church Follows Members to Inner Cities” in the Denver Post, “Colorblind Faith” in the Chicago Reporter, and “For Mormons in Harlem, Bigger Space Beckons” in the New York Times.

Jan Shipps, a professor emeritus of history and religious studies at Indiana University, said reporters often call her, surprised by the growth of the Church in inner cities. “‘Where are the Mormons?’ they ask. I tell them, ‘They’re everywhere.’”

For example, in the United States, more than 150 Latter-day Saint congregations speak a total of 20 different languages, including Polish, Navajo, Russian, Spanish, and German.

Much of the Church’s growth is attributed to the global volunteer missionary program, the largest of its kind in the world. More than 52,000 missionaries teach in 347 missions in more than 140 nations.

“We work hard to send out a message that brings hope,” said Elder Earl C. Tingey of the Presidency of the Seventy. “We share messages that help families. We bring hope of how a father can be a father, a mother a mother—and all of it is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

At the same time, Elder Tingey was quick to point out the distinctiveness of the Latter-day Saint faith in the Christian world. He says the Church is neither Catholic nor Protestant, but a restoration of the ancient Church of Jesus Christ.

The Church is also growing more diverse internationally. More than half of all Church members now reside outside of the United States, a milestone that was reached in February 1996.

This worldwide membership of almost 13 million Latter-day Saints is a far cry from six members in April 1830, when Joseph Smith organized the Church in upstate New York.

Such growth among diverse cultures and nations has become the Church’s primary challenge. To help meet it, the Church translates scriptures, conference proceedings, satellite broadcasts, curriculum manuals, magazines, software, Web site information, and other materials into more than 100 different languages. The resultant translation system is one of the largest such networks in the world.

In a 2000 speech to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Church President Gordon B. Hinckley said that Church growth has brought some serious challenges. “The first is the training of local leadership,” noted President Hinckley. “The second … is providing places of worship as we grow so rapidly.”

In an effort to address the need for more places of worship, hundreds of new buildings are being constructed around the world each year.

But training leadership in congregations where no one has been a Church member for long brings special challenges. In some countries where the Church has only recently been established, some leaders have received their leadership assignments only a few months after joining the Church. These new leaders have few leadership role models.

Recognizing this challenge, the Church has established area offices around the world, overseen by General Authorities. They meet regularly with new local leaders and train them using their native language.

Also with dramatic growth comes the challenge of unifying Latter-day Saints of many cultures. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said that the growing diversity among the members is simply a condition, not a Church goal. The real goal is unity, not diversity. “We preach unity among the community of Saints and tolerance toward the personal differences that are inevitable in the beliefs and conduct of a diverse population.”

As a result, efforts are made to teach Latter-day Saints around the world the doctrines of the Church and to train local leaders without imposing American culture.

“Sometimes our culture and the Western culture are very different,” said Seung Hwun Ko, a Church member from Seoul, Korea, “but when we talk about the gospel of Jesus Christ, we meet.”

Interfaith Group Holds Concert on Temple Square

More than 700 people representing many faiths gathered in February 2007 in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square to attend the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable’s annual concert celebrating the culmination of its Interfaith Week.

The concert, “A Call to Prayer—a Call to Peace,” was billed as a musical tribute to the human spirit. It featured three cantors from Islamic, Christian, and Jewish traditions who called the concert attendees to prayer. Seven groups representing a cross section of Utah’s rich religious traditions performed a series of musical numbers and dances based on the prayer and peace themes.

Dr. James Pingree of the Salt Lake Public Affairs Council of the Church welcomed attendees and shared his excitement for the event. He referred to the closing song, “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” and indicated that the daughter of the song’s composers had given concert organizers permission to use it. Dr. Pingree quoted the daughter as saying: “This is exactly the kind of an event for which the song was written. Your use of it would please them very much.”

Utah governor Jon M. Huntsman Jr. also welcomed concert attendees by reading a declaration of the importance of interfaith dialogue and collaboration. Governor Huntsman emphasized the necessity of working together as Utah continues to grow in cultural and religious diversity. “Love and hope are two of the most powerful words in the English language,” he said. “And this great group is spreading love and hope through celebrating diversity.”

The Wesley Bell Ringers from the Christ United Methodist Church started the musical portion of the program by playing “La Paix” (“Peace”). Arvol Looking Horse then offered the Four Directions Prayer sacred to Native Americans.

Gayatri Jayaraman, wearing traditional Hindu dress, performed “Ganesha Kautuvam,” a Bharatanatyam dance. The Tongan Wesleyan Choir performed “All the Earth Will Bow Down to You, Jesus” under the direction of Anitoni Ma‘u.

The Buddhist Taiko Drummers, under the direction of Stan Hirai and the Buddhist Church of Ogden, performed a drum number. For Jodo Shinshu Buddhists, the drums symbolize the voice of Buddha.

Students from the Iqra Academy of Islamic Society sang two Islamic songs in Arabic: “Lejla Ramie” and “Talitha Two Moons.” The University Student Vocal Ensemble from the University of Utah, whose members represent a number of faith traditions, then performed a rendition of “Jesus, Once of Humble Birth.”

Jan Saeed, a member of the Baha’i Faith, offered a closing prayer of peace after which the audience stood and sang “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”

Many expressed their appreciation to the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable for organizing the concert. “Tonight represented harmony, unity, and openness,” said Heather Whiteblume. “Everyone here respects each other’s prayers, beliefs, and culture.”

The Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable was organized under the auspices of the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee in order to include all faith traditions in ministering to Olympic athletes and to “facilitate interfaith respect, understanding, and appreciation through interfaith dialogue.” The group continues to meet monthly.

The Buddhist Taiko Drummers perform a drum number in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

Church Aids Mexican Program

Since 1929 the government in Mexico has been trying to improve the lives of children through what is currently known as the National System for the Integral Development of the Family (DIF). Operated on federal, state, and city levels, DIF has been instrumental in strengthening families and helping low-income individuals. Now the Church has teamed up with DIF to continue improving the lives of children.

Luis Camarillo, area welfare manager for the Mexico North Area, has seen the problems children in his area face and wanted to help those children. He and others started to look at problems children faced in the area and found that many suffered from two things.

“Nuevo Leon State has no street children; however, it has children suffering from abuse or who are abandoned,” Brother Camarillo said.

Brother Camarillo and other members found out about DIF’s efforts to help the children through a local foster-care program and decided that they would like to assist DIF. He contacted Dr. Alejandro Alberto Morton Martínez, the child and family protection director at DIF, and offered to partner with the group to help the program. Since then, members have been working with Dr. Morton on the foster-care program.

Thanks to offers from the Church and the State of Utah’s foster-care system, the DIF and others involved have been able to receive valuable training on the topic of foster-care.

“A couple of service missionaries came down here to Monterrey from Utah and provided basic training to about 50 potential trainers,” Brother Camarillo said.

Through Humanitarian Services, Brother Camarillo, Dr. Morton, and several others have been able to travel to Utah to receive intensive training from the Utah Department of Children and Family Services. The training covered the basics of how to set up and keep a foster-care system functioning and also offered participants field experience. While in Utah, the participants visited with the Church Welfare Department and LDS Family Services.

Although the foster-care program in Nuevo Leon is still progressing, the training Brother Camarillo and others have received thus far has already started to pay off.

“Because of the training, DIF has improved the recruiting and selection process of potential foster families,” Brother Camarillo said. “The children are expected to have better experiences … than others placed in families who were not recruited applying the new process learned through the Church.”

Thus far the experience of working with DIF has been a good one for everyone involved, including Brother Camarillo. “It is hard to find an organization whose members are as committed to doing good as are those working for DIF,” Brother Camarillo said. “It has been a wonderful experience working with such an organization.”

In addition to helping start the foster-care program, Brother Camarillo has helped orchestrate several humanitarian and service projects with DIF, in which wheelchairs, medical equipment, and furniture were donated.

Family Gardens Program Lifts Members in South Africa

A number of families in the Richards Bay Ward, Durban South Africa Stake, are enjoying the fruits—or vegetables—of a year-old garden-plot program that began with the help of the full-time missionaries and the Church Welfare Department.

Many of the Church members in the townships surrounding the Richards Bay meetinghouse struggle financially because of high unemployment rates or low wages.

Elder Jack Davidson, a senior missionary serving in the area in 2006, saw a great opportunity in an unused portion of the Church property surrounding the Esikhawini meetinghouse and the excellent gardening skills of a few of the members. Vegetables could be grown year-round, and surplus produce could be readily sold to members of the community.

The Church had purchased property on which three small temporary Church buildings (a chapel and two sets of small classrooms) were built to serve the members’ needs at the time. These buildings, lawns, flowers, and parking occupied only about one-third of the property. The rest, about 45 meters wide by 80 meters long, was in tall, rough grass and weeds. This property was to be used for more permanent buildings as warranted in the future. A security fence surrounds the property.

It took almost six months for Elder Davidson to accumulate the resources to buy the tools, irrigation supplies, and other equipment and to build a secure building to house tools and supplies. The funds came from LDS Humanitarian Services and generous donations from family and friends.

The secure storage building was essential not only for security but for effective use of the site by members. Only a few members in Esikhawini have cars. If they were to try to garden without this building, they would have to carry heavy tools to and from their homes. Anything left on the site could be stolen. Also, some of the new gardeners would not be able to afford tools. With the building in place, members can check the hand and power tools in and out. Part of the overall ward gardening plan is for members and missionaries to take items from this set of tools and equipment to other townships in the ward to help members set up gardens. All the tools and power equipment are portable in a pickup truck.

Beginning in March 2006, more than a dozen full-time missionaries in the Richards Bay Zone of the South Africa Durban Mission set to work to help create the family garden plots and secure building and composting facilities.

Richards Bay Ward bishop Ted Baldwin laid the blocks for the secure building, and others helped as needed with this and the cement work.

Elder Davidson and the rest of the elders focused primarily on clearing the land so the plots could be laid out, the cultivating could get underway in earnest, the irrigation system could be installed, and the gravel could be cleaned out. Youth often turned out to help and to learn to use the equipment. The plots were to be 6 meters by 10 meters with one-meter paths all around.

As each plot was finished and ready for planting, families from the Esikhawini township were ready to take over and plant winter vegetables. Some of the families had already raised seedlings at home in anticipation of the gardens.

The number of individual plots had finally reached the set goal of 30 in early June. Throughout the process, the community took notice of the activities. On most days a few people would stop and ask the members or missionaries questions. Several of these conversations led to missionary lessons.

Unoccupied Church-owned land is currently being used as garden space to support local members. (Photograph courtesy of NaDee and Jack Davidson.)

Members of the Richards Bay Ward, Durban South Africa Stake, are benefiting from a year-old ward garden program. (Photograph courtesy of NaDee and Jack Davidson.)

Additional Sharing Time Ideas, July 2007

The following are additional ideas Primary leaders may use with the Sharing Time printed in the July 2007 Liahona. For the lesson, instructions, and activity that correspond with these ideas, see “Family Faith” on pages F4 and F5 of the children’s section in this issue.

  1. 1.

    Divide the Primary into two groups. Have one group look up Exodus 20:12 and the other look up Mosiah 13:20. Invite them to read their verses at the same time. Explain that the scripture in Exodus is part of the Ten Commandments, which Moses received on Mount Sinai. In Mosiah, Abinadi is quoting Moses. Help the children memorize this scripture by going down the rows and having each child say one word. Allow them to use their scriptures the first few times.

    Conduct a panel discussion (see “Panel Discussions,” Teaching, No Greater Call [1999], 175–76). Invite three to five members of the ward or branch of varying ages, including children, to come to Primary to answer questions about honoring parents. Let your panel members know what questions you will be asking. For example, “What is one thing that your child has done to honor you?” or, “How old do you need to be before you can stop listening to your parents?” Stress the importance of always honoring your parents—both your earthly parents and your heavenly parents.

    Show a picture of your parents, and share a story about how honoring your parents has blessed you. Bear testimony of Heavenly Father’s love for His children.

  2. 2.

    Help the children prepare a family home evening to share with their families (with their parents’ permission). Set up three stations (see “Stations,” Teaching, No Greater Call, 179). Divide the children into three groups, and have them rotate through the stations. At station 1 review “Love Is Spoken Here” (Children’s Songbook, 190–91)—or another song about the family—so the children will be able to teach their families the truths in the song. At station 2 tell a story of the first person in a family to join the Church. Challenge the children to find their own stories of an ancestor or family member to share in family home evening. At station 3 teach the children to prepare a simple treat. Select a treat that would be simple and inexpensive for a child to make.

    Sing “The Family” (Children’s Songbook, 194; Liahona, Apr. 2004, F11). Bear testimony of how family prayer, family scripture study, and family home evening bring families together.

  3. 3.

    Song presentation: “Love Is Spoken Here” (Children’s Songbook, 190–91). Display signs such as “English Is Spoken Here,” “Russian Is Spoken Here,” “French Is Spoken Here” around the room. Ask the children to describe where that language is spoken. Display another sign that reads, “Love Is Spoken Here.” Ask what kind of place this would be. Explain that it is important to speak loving words at home, no matter what language they are spoken in.

    Ask the children to help you create a picture of a place where love is spoken. Ask them to listen as you begin the picture. Sing, “I see my mother kneeling.” Invite a girl to represent a mother. The child representing the mother can reinforce the words by using gestures. For example, the child can bend her knees when the songs says, “kneeling”; the child can point to her mouth when the song says, “whispers”; the child can put her finger over her mouth when the song says, “quiets.” At the end of the verse, have the child point to the sign “Love Is Spoken Here.”

    Invite a boy to represent a father for the second part of the song. Use similar gestures to reinforce the words. Again point to the sign at the end. Teach the final line of the song by displaying a picture of the Savior next to the “Love Is Spoken Here” sign.

    Explain to the children that the picture you have created might not be the picture they see right now. Vicki F. Matsumori, second counselor in the Primary general presidency, says: “Because I grew up in a nonmember home, I did not see my mother kneel in prayer or experience my father exercising the priesthood. The song represents the example I hoped my own children would have in our home and the standard I hope will continue through the generations of our family.” Challenge the children to prepare to have eternal families of their own.