News of the Church

By Karianne Salisbury, Church Magazines


Long-term Aid Helps Tsunami Victims Along the Road to Recovery

It was a long process for Sukardi of Indonesia and his family to find closure and hope following the 2004 tsunami that devastated the coasts of Southeast Asia.

“We thought it was the end of the world; it was unbelievable,” said Sukardi, looking back to December 26, 2004, the day a massive underwater earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia, causing a tsunami that killed more than 225,000 people in 11 countries. “But we are alive, and we are together, and we are happy.”

Sukardi, like thousands of others, lost family members and friends, his home, land, and nearly his life. After being washed away with the tsunami, he managed to grab hold of a coconut tree and cling to it as he waited for the floodwaters to recede.

Joined by family members, each with similar survival stories, Sukardi now resides in a home built with the help of Latter-day Saint Charities, an arm of Church Humanitarian Services, as part of the Church’s efforts to assist tsunami survivors.

Committing to Long-Term Recovery

The Church’s emergency relief efforts during the months immediately following the tragedy provided commodities such as food, hygiene kits, medical supplies, and clothing. Because of members’ significant donations, the Church began planning longer-term relief. As part of that long-term effort, fishermen and carpenters were given jobs constructing more than 130 replacement fishing boats. Men were hired to use large, wide-tracked backhoes to help reconstruct the dikes around shrimp farms. Sewing machines, looms, hand tractors, and other tools were donated to encourage a return to self-sufficiency.

“All of the first year was focused on reestablishing livelihood and helping individuals get back to work,” said Brett Bass, director of Church Humanitarian Services. “Then we looked at our resources, identified the most pressing needs, and refocused our efforts on permanent reconstruction.”

The Church’s efforts included constructing community centers, homes, schools, medical clinics, and clean water systems—all made possible by a tremendous outpouring of humanitarian generosity. In the time of need, Church members from around the world contributed to help make these efforts possible.

The Church’s monumental efforts in Indonesia concluded in December 2007. Major projects included building 902 homes and 3 community centers, constructing 15 schools, building 3 fully equipped health clinics, rebuilding a hospital wing, and completing 24 village water projects.

Rebuilding Homes and Lives

Abdul Samad lived in a hastily constructed community barracks for two and a half years before he and his family moved into their new home. He lost his wife and her mother in the flood but now hopes to make life better for his remaining family, three daughters and a son.

Each of the 902 homes built and donated is 44 square meters. The hundreds of recipients frequently said they believe their homes were the best homes built, that they would pass them on to their children and grandchildren. They loved the colors used and the tile on the floors and expressed gratitude for having something solid and reliable in their lives again.

“When the earthquake hit and the tsunami followed, the first thing they did, if they were in their house, was run outside,” said Jeff McMurdo from International Organization for Migration, which partnered with the Church to build homes. “From the moment it started, they were running. So when they get the keys to a house, they are able to get some measure of closure to the whole tragedy of the tsunami experience.”

Establishing Schools and Hope

The Church continued rebuilding efforts by partnering with Islamic Relief and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency to build 15 schools, along with training new teachers and developing curriculum and education support systems.

Many of the area’s teachers were killed in the tsunami, creating a significant teacher shortage. Kamaruzzaman, a teacher from Banda Aceh, is one of just two surviving teachers from his school. With the loss of buildings, teachers, and children, the education system operated in a very makeshift fashion until these new schools were constructed.

“They have been going to a temporary building for school—a community hall where there are about 40 students in the room,” said Kamaruzzaman, who is now a head schoolmaster of a newly built school. “The students now have a better school that’s more helpful to learning. They now have a more hopeful future.”

Each school building was furnished with desks, whiteboards, and libraries to provide a quality learning environment for children. As more teachers became available, an emphasis was put on training and developing new curriculum.

Herliana, an education coordinator for Islamic Relief, said she is very proud to be a part of this project. “There were no schools; there were few trained teachers left,” she said. “This has been a great contribution to the communities. Together we are making a big difference in the lives of the children, teachers, parents, and families.”

Providing Clean Water

Fauziah, an animated and smiling woman, is now a water operator for her small village near Bireuen in Aceh Provence. In this position, she keeps records and collects water-usage fees from those who use the community’s new water system.

In partnership with International Relief and Development, the Church completed 24 village water projects that consisted of renovating wells, installing storage tanks, improving sanitation, and upgrading delivery systems. These efforts are providing clean water to 20,000 people.

“Before, it was hard to get good water and it took a long time to go get it,” said Fauziah as she expressed gratitude to have access right outside her home. “Now our children will be healthier and will have a better future.”

Bath and laundry facilities were also built in the villages, and residents received training on how to take care of the facilities and keep them clean.

Improving Health Care

While each village also received personal hygiene training, the more elaborate efforts to improve healthcare moved forward with the completion of three fully equipped health clinics and the rebuilding of a hospital wing.

“This is much-needed,” said Syarman, a community leader in the Bireuen district, where access to medical care previously required a 15-kilometer walk. “Our people will be able to get needed medical assistance near their homes. It is better than before, and we are grateful.”

The Church also arranged training for doctors and medical staff and provided needed medical equipment.

Doing It the Lord’s Way

For Bill and Linda Hamm of Anchorage, Alaska, USA, the work presented a personal challenge: they were called to serve as humanitarian service missionaries to oversee tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia. “We were exhilarated by the challenges and overwhelmed by the opportunity,” Brother Hamm said.

This opportunity was also extended to Jim and Karen Greding of Thousand Oaks, California, USA, a couple called to oversee the completion of the projects after Brother and Sister Hamm’s 18-month mission concluded. With the assignment to be present and to check on the work being done, these individuals acted as representatives not only of the Church, but also of the many individuals who made contributions.

“We were to oversee the quality of the work and to make sure the money allotted for projects was being used properly,” Sister Greding said. Church representatives were present at every stage of the process, an act that, combined with their funding methods, distinguished the Church from other organizations.

“We regarded our finances as sacred funds and made every effort to see these funds used efficiently and not be wasted,” said Bill Reynolds, director of field operations for tsunami relief. “Many organizations provide funding and wait to see what is happening through infrequent reports. We provided sequential funding that relied on benchmark expectations that we personally oversaw. The organizations we worked with knew that if we said we wanted something done and in a certain way, they needed to meet those expectations.”

Restoring Hope

The Church focused on helping Indonesia and its people take a simple step forward, a step away from tragedy and pain, a step toward reestablishing life. While these efforts played just a small part among the many individuals and organizations that offered aid to the tsunami victims, the missionaries were able to share their love, the love of the members, and the pure love of Christ.

“We were not permitted to proselyte, but we were representing the Lord and tried to share our testimonies through our work by being kind, polite, or simply by smiling,” Sister Hamm said. “Sometimes we had the opportunity to explain where the funds came from, and we told about our prophet and how he called for a 24-hour fast, with the money that would otherwise be spent on food to be donated to a special fund. I think the Spirit bore witness and they understood that there were individuals around the world who loved them.”

Evidences of the tsunami are still very much apparent, but the people have expressed gratitude for every effort that has been made on their behalf.

“This is simply an experience you can never forget, and anyone who travels to these areas will not be able to miss the evidences of destruction where the land became sea permanently, where so many lost their lives and loved ones,” Sister Greding said. “But many who were suspicious of Christians have changed their hearts. Some stared at us, but most in their limited English said to us, ‘Thank you, mister.’ We heard that often.”

Other Aid Ongoing in Indonesia

Though the Church has concluded a major undertaking with its long-term tsunami relief projects in Indonesia, Humanitarian Services will continue a variety of ongoing aid projects and has no intention of walking away from new relationships forged and old relationships strengthened during the tsunami relief efforts.

“We were doing humanitarian work in Indonesia before the tsunami, and we continue to do projects in that nation today,” said Brett Bass, director of Church Humanitarian Services.

Since the beginning of 2007, more than two dozen humanitarian aid projects have been completed or are ongoing. Among those projects were emergency relief to victims of flooding in Jakarta and Solo, mud flows in Java, and earthquakes in Sumatra and Bengkulu. Other projects include donating wheelchairs and vocational training materials to the disabled, supplying medical equipment to a hospital, sponsoring a number of pediatric surgeries, providing furniture and sanitation equipment to various schools, and overseeing several projects to bring clean water to villages that had none.

Photographs by Ron Taylor

This new community center near the local mosque was one of three the Church helped build in Indonesia.

Jim Greding shakes hands with Abdul Samad after turning over a new house to him and his surviving family members.

New teachers prepare to teach at the Min Lampuuk school, 1 of 15 built to replace destroyed schools.

Yards have already been enclosed around these two of the more than 900 homes built.

LDS Students Seem to Counter Dropout Trend

While an increasing number of teenage students are dropping out of school, according to a report from a U.S. advocacy group for youth, many young Church members are not only staying in school, they are also taking extra classes.

Both secular and religious education have been emphasized in Latter-day Saint doctrine and culture since the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote in the nineteenth century, quoting scripture, “The glory of God is intelligence” (D&C 93:36).

President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, emphasized the link between religious and secular study in a speech to Church educators in 2001.

“Remember, you are interested in education, not just for mortal life but for eternal life. When you see that reality clearly with spiritual sight, you will put spiritual learning first and yet not slight the secular learning. In fact, you will work harder at your secular learning than you would without that spiritual vision,” he said.

This love of spiritual learning by Latter-day Saint youth was documented in another report, the National Study of Youth and Religion, which studied religion among U.S. teens. It described LDS youth as excelling in religious knowledge and devotion in a time when church attendance and religious study among teenagers in general are at an all-time low.

The results of the study have caused many to wonder what it is about Latter-day Saint culture and doctrine that helps parents shape dependable, educated, and well-adjusted young people. Part of the answer is the emphasis on learning in LDS culture, and part involves an important rite of passage for many 14- to 18-year-old Latter-day Saints—graduating from seminary.

For the majority of LDS teens, graduating from seminary requires young people to meet five days a week, generally from about 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m., for four years to study the scriptures and discuss how scriptural principles can be applied in their daily lives. All this happens outside of regular high school classes—though many in the western U.S. are allowed to meet during school hours—and involves approximately 1,056 hours of religious education.

Attending seminary requires a tremendous amount of commitment and sacrifice for students who live in areas where there are not large populations of Latter-day Saints. But consistent self-discipline begins to turn into confidence and character, and it shows in other aspects of these young people’s lives.

One of the reasons for this early-morning dedication comes from the teachings of the Church. President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008), 15th President of the Church, said: “This Church came about as a result of intellectual curiosity. We believe in education, and we spend a substantial part of our budget on the education of our young people. We expect them to think. We expect them to investigate. We expect them to use their minds and dig deeply for knowledge in all fields. If we have a motto, it is this: ‘The glory of God is intelligence.’ ” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [1997], 127).

More than 360,000 high school students are enrolled in seminary, 211,000 of whom attend in the morning.

Many young Latter-day Saint students are committed to education.

Photograph by Matt Reier

Church Continues “Open Door” Tradition

In his homes in New York, Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois, the Prophet Joseph Smith often entertained visitors—both those he invited and those who were passing through town. In fact, he built a hotel in Nauvoo, Illinois, to accommodate the frequent guests who called upon him and other leaders of the Church.

The extension of hospitality continued as the members of the Church settled in the West. Many notable people visited Salt Lake City during the early years of the Church.

Today, visits to Church sites such as the Temple Square complex rank high on the itineraries of tourists and travelers to Salt Lake City.

Millions of visitors annually tread the manicured grounds of Temple Square, the site of not only the architecturally significant Tabernacle but also the granite-walled temple that has become a symbol synonymous with the Church itself.

People arrive at Temple Square and the surrounding sites of the Church headquarters—the Conference Center, Family History Library, Museum of Church History and Art, Joseph Smith Memorial Building, or even the Church Office Building—as visitors on family or personal vacation trips, as business people on a break from conventions or other meetings, as leisurely wanderers, or as notable or invited guests.

Upon arriving at Temple Square, guests are greeted by young women from all parts of the world serving as full-time missionaries for the Church. These young missionaries are supported by a group of nearly 1,300 part-time volunteers—couples or individuals who, with the young missionaries, give brief tours and explain Church history and beliefs to interested visitors. Volunteers invested nearly 240,000 hours in their 2007 hosting assignments on Temple Square.

In 2007 an estimated five million people stopped to explore Temple Square, one of the most frequently visited tourist destinations in the state. Records indicate visitors represented every state in the United States as well as 83 countries of the world.

No matter where the guests come from, the enthusiastic and dedicated guides who serve as full- and part-time missionaries show the traditional hospitality that has existed in the Church since the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

An international delegation of Hindu swamis visiting Salt Lake City is hosted at the Church’s Humanitarian Center.

© 2008 Intellectual Reserve, Inc.; all rights reserved

Temple News

Rexburg Temple Becomes 125th

The Rexburg Idaho Temple is open and operating after the February 10, 2008, dedication by President Thomas S. Monson in one of his first acts as the 16th President of the Church.

President Monson presided over all four sessions of the dedication and was accompanied by Elder Russell M. Nelson and Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Located to the south of the Brigham Young University–Idaho campus, the Rexburg Idaho Temple is the Church’s 125th operating temple worldwide and the third in Idaho. Approximately 200,000 individuals attended the open house during the month before the dedication.

The 57,504-square-foot (5,100-square-meter) temple was first announced in December 2003, and ground was broken in July 2005. The temple’s exterior features a quartz rock finish and 700 art-glass windowpanes. The temple serves approximately 47,000 Church members in eastern Idaho.

Temple Dedicated in Curitiba Brazil

The Curitiba Brazil Temple was set to open on Monday, June 2, 2008, the day after its four dedicatory sessions planned for Sunday, June 1.

A cultural celebration was to be held on Saturday, May 31, the night before the dedication. The celebration and dedication followed a month-long public open house held from May 10 to 24, 2008.

The Curitiba Brazil Temple is the 126th temple operating worldwide and the fifth Latter-day Saint temple in Brazil. Temples are also located in Campinas, Porto Alegre, Recife, and São Paulo. The Manaus Brazil Temple, which was announced in 2007, will be Brazil’s sixth temple.

The Curitiba temple was first announced in August 2002, and ground was broken in March 2005. It will serve more than 42,000 members, including those from 21 stakes in the states of Paraná and Santa Catarina.

The dedication and associated events were scheduled to occur after this issue was printed.

Panama City Temple Events Announced

The First Presidency has announced open house and dedication dates for the Panama City Panama Temple, the 127th operating temple worldwide.

The temple, which is the first in Panama, will open to the public on July 11, 2008, and will remain open until July 26, excluding Sundays. A cultural celebration will take place on August 9 before the four dedicatory sessions scheduled for Sunday, August 10, 2008. The temple will open for ordinances on Monday, August 11.

Construction began in October 2005 after Elder Spencer V. Jones of the Seventy, then President of the Central America Area, broke ground. The temple was announced in August 2002. There are approximately 22,000 members in seven stakes and three districts in Panama.

World Briefs

Site Offers Online Focus on the Savior

JesusChrist.lds.org, a new Web site featuring the Savior, launched to English audiences on February 25, 2008, with plans to be available in additional languages in the future.

Visitors will find information, articles, and multimedia presentations about the Savior, focusing on three main themes: faith in Jesus Christ, His life and ministry, and testimonies of Him.

Visitors to the site will have access to materials such as music or video clips and can find direction to other related sources.

Ruth Faust Dies

Ruth Wright Faust, 86, passed away surrounded by family on February 10, 2008, from causes incident to age, six months after the death of her husband, President James E. Faust (1920–2007), formerly of the First Presidency. The couple married on April 21, 1943, and had 5 children, 25 grandchildren, and 28 great-grandchildren. Sister Faust served in many callings, including ward and stake Relief Society president, and accompanied her husband around the world, coming to love members from many cultures.

Preparedness Pamphlets Available in 33 Languages

All is Safely Gathered In, a pair of pamphlets offering simple messages on family home storage and family finances, is now available in 33 languages. The pamphlets, which can be obtained through local priesthood leaders, are also available online in 24 languages at ProvidentLiving.org. Click on Family Home Storage or Family Finances on the left side of the page. Then click on Family Home Storage Pamphlet or Family Finances Pamphlet on the right side of the page. Then select the appropriate language.

Church Launches Latvian Country Site

The Church has launched an official Web site for those in Latvia. This site will contain Church news and information specific to Latvia and serve as the official Church Internet presence in the country. The Latvian site brings the total of Church country sites to 63. Each site is offered in the country’s official language and is available through LDS.org (click on Languages, then on Country Sites).

Additional Sharing Time Ideas, July 2008

The following are additional ideas Primary leaders may use with the Sharing Time printed in the July 2008 Liahona. For the lesson, instructions, and activity that correspond with these ideas, see “I Can Be a Missionary Now” on pages F4 and F5 of the children’s section in this issue.

  1. 1.

    Prior to sharing time, review the story about Richard that President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) shared (see “The Need for Greater Kindness,” Liahona, May 2006, 59–60). Be prepared to share the story in your own words.

    Scramble the words of the statement “Living the gospel standards helps me be a missionary now.” Invite the children to place the words in the proper order. Ask the children to name some of My Gospel Standards, and briefly discuss them.

    Ask the children to listen for a gospel standard as you share President Hinckley’s story. Discuss how important it is to be kind to others. If possible, invite the full-time missionaries or ward or branch mission leader to talk about how being kind to others and being a good friend are important parts of being a missionary.

    Provide the necessary materials for each child to make a missionary puppet (see Primary 3, 120–21). When the puppets are completed, invite the children to choose one way to show kindness and write it on the back of their puppet. Use the puppets to sing a song or hymn about missionary work. Bear testimony that obeying gospel standards helps all of us be missionaries.

  2. 2.

    Divide the Primary into three groups, and have each group learn a phrase of D&C 18:15. Repeat the scripture several times, and then say it together as a group. Sing a song or hymn about missionary work. Ask the children what kinds of things they can do to be missionaries now, and make a list on the chalkboard.

    Place the gospel-sharing home from page F4 on the chalkboard. Ask a child to choose a window and place it on the home. Read the words in the window. If the idea is not on your list on the chalkboard, add it. Discuss ways to live what is described in each window. Continue to place windows on the home and discuss ways to have a gospel-sharing home.

    Provide a copy of the gospel-sharing home for each child, and allow time to complete the project during sharing time. When the children are finished, review how to have a gospel-sharing home.

    Tell a good experience you have had of sharing the gospel, or relate one from the Liahona. Bear testimony of the blessings we receive as we share the gospel.

  3. 3.

    Song presentation: “Called to Serve” (Children’s Songbook, 174–75; or Hymns, no. 249). Hum or play the song once. Ask the children to raise their hands if they recognize the song. Ask how the song makes them feel. Tell them the name of the song, and show Gospel Art Picture Kit 612 (Missionaries Teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ). Explain that this song is a favorite of missionaries who have been called to serve.

    Teach the chorus first. Sing the last phrase “God our strength will be; press forward ever, called to serve our King.” Have the children raise their hands when they hear the words “called to serve.” Sing the phrase to the children, and have them listen for whom they will serve. Divide the Primary into three groups. Have the first group sing “God our strength will be,” the second group sing “press forward ever,” and the third group sing “called to serve our King.” Sing the line several times so each group has a chance to sing each phrase.

    As you teach the verses of the song, define words as needed for the children.

    Share a brief example of a missionary who was called to serve and did so with the strength of God (for example, Paul, Ammon, Samuel Smith, a General Authority, a local Church leader, or a member of your family).