News of the Church

By Eric Eames, Church Magazines

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    FamilySearch Indexing: Anyone Can Help with Family History Anytime, Anywhere

    As they pore over digitized census records and church ledgers, Church members participating in FamilySearch indexing are reminded that with every click of the mouse a person comes closer to being found and closer to receiving temple ordinances.

    Henry Burkhardt, who is indexing the Brandenburg Church Book Transcripts from the Potsdam State Archives in Germany, has experienced this feeling, as have many others.

    The vision of FamilySearch’s volunteer indexing projects is spreading worldwide from Latin America to Asia and from the old to the young. Members with access to the Internet are taking advantage of FamilySearch’s user-friendly Web site and taking time to index between classes, during work breaks, or in place of watching television.

    For some people like Austin Corry, a university student and a member of the Logan University 15th Ward, Logan Utah University Fifth Stake, indexing has became a fun, relaxing experience.

    “I found time to index 15 minutes here, an hour there,” said Brother Corry, who has indexed more than 17,000 names in his spare time. “It really isn’t an inconvenience but a great opportunity to bring the Spirit into your everyday life.”

    Global Indexing Fits a Busy Life

    One of the reasons members worldwide love the FamilySearch indexing program is because the software is designed to fit a busy lifestyle. Previously known as extraction, indexing was once a time-consuming, monotonous process of shuffling through paper copies, taking weeks to do a single batch.

    With the help of digitization and the Internet, each batch of names now takes some 30 minutes to complete. Volunteers are given a week to complete a batch, and they can save their work at any time and start again later where they left off.

    “What I really like about indexing is that you can do it on your time, one batch at a time,” said Patricia Mollemans of Germany. “It is not overwhelming; it can be done in half an hour or so. I do a batch, I upload it, and it’s done. I think this is great for a lot of people who would not find the time with the old extraction model.”

    Indexing creates data files from digitized records, and that allows the information to become searchable through a free electronic database on There is no minimum or maximum limit to how many names an individual can do. Every name indexed makes a difference in helping people locate their ancestors.

    FamilySearch has a variety of indexing projects available in Dutch, French, English, German, Italian, and Spanish. Indexing projects in Czech and Russian are forthcoming. Area FamilySearch managers are helping recruit index volunteers in many countries to become a part of the global effort.

    “Now that records for more countries are available, more members are enthusiastic about participating,” said Francisco Javier Gómez, FamilySearch support manager for the South America North Area. “They feel that this is one more proof that the Church is really engaged in helping the whole world to get to know their ancestors.”

    Indexing Strengthens Testimonies, Unity

    In 2007 students in the Logan Utah University Fifth Stake not only met their goal of indexing 100,000 names but exceeded it by 3,000. They surpassed that total after the first two months in 2008 while on the way to shattering their new goal of 200,000 names.

    But results can’t always be quantified. Blessings have come through increased sacrament meeting attendance and stronger testimonies. Elaine Mander, a FamilySearch representative in West Midlands, United Kingdom, said indexing has brought her closer to heaven more than any other form of service.

    The effort put forth in the Logan stake has unified wards. Individually, students have turned their eyes to the temple, gaining a greater appreciation for its significance by committing themselves to maintain their covenants and live temple standards.

    “The Spirit is present,” said Kay Baker, stake high councilor over the indexing work. “As young people get on the computer and start entering names and doing family history work, they find it fun and exhilarating.”

    Activity has also increased among less-active members as bishops have given them assignments to do indexing.

    “[Through indexing] they can serve and feel like they are contributing, and it has helped some of them come back into activity and to correct what was wrong in their lives,” said Bruce M. Cook, recently released president of the student stake.

    Students Redefining Stereotypes

    While family history work is generally regarded as the domain of older members, the students contradict that stereotype. Some ward socials and family home evenings in the stake have turned into indexing “extravaganzas.” Between completing index batches, students snack on treats, socialize, or play a game of volleyball. Some of these socials have lasted into the wee hours of the morning with students signed up to come in at various times of the night. One ward started an indexing marathon at 6:00 p.m. and ended at 8:00 a.m. the next day.

    “It was fun to see members of the bishopric and high council stay up through the night with students to [help us] reach our goals,” Belinda Olsen, a member of the stake, said.

    The indexing has motivated some to begin working on their own family roots and to do temple work. In 2007 students in the stake researched and cleared some 2,500 family names for temple ordinances.

    “I think that it is really important for all members to become involved with indexing and family history work,” Sister Olsen said. “If we always leave the responsibility up to someone else, it will never get done.”

    New Technology Sparks Youth Interest in Family History

    FamilySearch public affairs manager Paul Nauta said the Church-owned family history service is thrilled to see the increasing volume of teenagers and college students who are motivated to do indexing work or search for their own ancestors. He also hopes continued enhancements to the FamilySearch Web site will attract more technology-minded youth.

    “As opportunities to do family history or volunteer online grow, youth seem naturally primed to get involved,” Brother Nauta said.

    Anyone interested in family history work can become an indexer by going to the Web site, clicking on the “Volunteer” link, and following the step-by-step download instructions.

    Now anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can help with family history.

    Photograph by Welden Andersen

    Members around the world are spending a little time each week to help prepare indexes.

    Photograph by Welden Andersen

    Water Project Provides More than Just Water

    A drilling rig bored deep into the African wilderness as a few villagers from the Makueni region in Kenya waited anxiously nearby. Like many of them, Alice Musili hoped life-sustaining water would spring from the hole. If so, she would no longer need to walk 30 kilometers to fetch water or resort to drinking from contaminated riverbeds.

    When the drilling stopped, a pipe was dropped into the 75-meter-deep hole. Air was pumped in to clear out loose dirt, and water bubbled out of the hole like a fountain. Some villagers shouted for joy. Some danced. Some were overwhelmed and cried.

    “They were so excited and grateful,” said Elder Tom Pocock, a humanitarian services missionary from Virginia, USA, serving in Kenya with his wife, Ellie. “Water means everything to them.”

    The Church’s clean water initiative is providing remote communities like Makueni with hand-pump wells to reduce waterborne diseases. But by allowing villagers to spend less time fetching water, the wells also enable families to spend more time together and children to attend school more frequently.

    In July 2008 in the neighboring district of Mwingi, the Church, with help from the local residents, built 30 wells that serve 56,000 people. Around the same time, 20 wells in Masinga, Kenya, were also completed, serving 32,000 people. Seven other projects in the country are in process.

    Taking Ownership

    As with other major humanitarian initiatives, the clean water projects incorporate principles of self-reliance and sustainability. Matthew Heaps, the Church’s clean water initiative manager, said that because the communities are involved in every aspect of the project, the people gain a greater sense of ownership for the well.

    “Our whole goal is to keep the water system working long after we are gone,” Brother Heaps said. “So we make it clear that it is theirs, and it becomes their responsibility to maintain it. Months of preparation work by missionaries and partner organizations go into making sure there is a local infrastructure in place before we hand it over.”

    In the first stages, a local expert determines where to best drill for a well. Once a spot is located, the person who owns that portion of land is asked to donate it. Because of the generosity of landowners and their commitment to helping their community, not once has the Church paid for land use.

    From there, the Church humanitarian missionaries and partner organizations help the community form a water committee. This committee is responsible for a number of issues. For instance, they determine a maintenance schedule and decide how to charge people for the water they use and how to collect money to maintain the system.

    “If it is the [members of] the community making the decisions, the well will last,” said Patrick Reese, manager of planning and administration for humanitarian services. “If it is some engineer making the decisions for the community, it will not take hold.”

    The Church also supplies the water committee with the tools necessary to repair and maintain the well and trains the community on hygiene so they can use the water safely and properly.

    Working Together

    As these details fall into place, the digging begins. While local contractors take care of major construction elements like drilling, community members are expected to use their tools to dig trenches, move pipe, and mix cement, among other things.

    In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, more than 400 people are digging a 30-kilometer trench and laying pipe to create a gravity-fed water system. The four-year project will benefit an estimated 160,000 people, making it the largest clean water project the Church has funded.

    In a recent trip to Kenya, Brother Heaps said he constantly saw volunteers with their shovels and pick axes digging through hard dirt or mixing cement and rock that the community provided as a display of their commitment to the project.

    “People here have a great desire to be successful,” said Sister Marilyn Barlow, a humanitarian services missionary in the DR Congo, “and given the right information and tools, they will be successful.”

    What’s in It for Us?

    With so few members of the Church on the continent, the clean water projects become the first introduction to the Church for many African communities, and Elder Farrell Barlow, humanitarian services missionary, said the projects are leaving a favorable impression on the people.

    “Sometimes we are asked what’s in it for us,” Elder Barlow said. “While we [don’t] proselyte, we do tell them that we believe we are all sons and daughters of Heavenly Father and we are to serve and help each other.”

    With an estimated 23 projects in progress for 2008, the clean water initiative continues to touch hundreds of thousands of lives. Since 2002 the projects have provided more than four million people in 50 countries with access to clean water.

    “To see the joy in the faces of the people as water flows from the well is the greatest experience,” Elder Barlow said.

    Kenyans in the Makueni region celebrate as water sprays from a new borehole.

    Photograph by Matthew Heaps

    Congolese children help bring pipes to those working on a clean water project in Luputa, DR Congo.

    © 2008 Intellectual Reserve, Inc.; all rights reserved

    Members Rely on Prayer During Deadly Tornado

    News reports on May 25, 2008, predicted that the mile-wide tornado that had wiped out half of Parkersburg, Iowa, USA, would head north. But as Wes Godfrey videotaped the tornado from his home to the east in New Hartford, Iowa, the rotating funnel slowly started to fill up his camcorder’s screen.

    Brother Godfrey rushed his 8-months-pregnant wife, Erin, and two children into their tornado shelter and huddled his family together to pray. As Brother Godfrey asked Heavenly Father to spare their lives and the lives of their neighbors, the Spirit touched his heart, and he immediately knew two things: (1) they would be OK, and (2) they were going to get hit.

    After the prayer, an eerie silence fell. Moments later, rain and wind exploded against the steel door of the shelter. The commotion lasted only a few seconds before silence returned.


    When the family decided it was safe to come out, their home was gone.

    “I was devastated,” Sister Godfrey said. “I thought our house would still be there, but at the same time I was glad that we were alive. I realized how fragile life is.”

    Winds of the tornado, rated as a low-end EF-5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, 1 peaked at 205 miles per hour (330 kilometers per hour), completely destroying more than 240 homes and businesses and killing six people in Parkersburg. In New Hartford, the tornado destroyed an additional 30 homes and killed two people within a two-block radius of the Godfreys’ home.

    After calming his shoeless family, Brother Godfrey used his wife’s cell phone to call their home teacher, Jason Meyers, who lived 30 minutes away in Cedar Falls. Without hesitation, Brother Meyers said he and two other members were on their way. When they arrived, Brother Meyers jumped out of the vehicle to hug Brother Godfrey and his family.

    “It was good, because we didn’t have any family out there. But our ward family was there for us,” Brother Godfrey said while choking back some tears.

    They whisked the Godfreys out of the disaster area to stay at the Relief Society president’s house, where members brought food and clothing.

    Lessons to Learn

    The next morning the Godfreys wanted to try to find some valuables, even though pieces of their home were spread over 3 miles (5 km) or more and pictures of the Godfrey children were later found 100 miles (160 km) away. Before they started searching, Brother Godfrey offered a prayer that they would be able to find some specific items, namely his and his wife’s wedding rings, their wallets, scriptures, a journal, and a diabetic blood tester.

    After 30 minutes of searching, a counselor in the stake presidency found the Godreys’ rings under some insulation. Fifteen minutes later their wallets turned up, fully intact with licenses and contents inside. Then the blood tester, the journal, and the scriptures were found.

    “All that stuff is replaceable, but I think the reason we found them was to build everyone’s testimony of prayer,” Brother Godfrey said.

    Helping Out

    Following the tornado, members of the Cedar Falls Ward, Cedar Rapids Iowa Stake, helped with various clean-up efforts. They helped turn an elementary school in nearby Aplington into the Parkersburg Distribution Center. At the center, tornado victims could pick up donated clothing, food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, and various other items, including microwaves and some appliances. Church members volunteered at the center three nights a week through August.

    “We were so taken care of there,” Sister Godfrey said. “Heavenly Father took care of us [then], and He still is, and that’s what’s so amazing.”


  •   1.

    The Enhanced Fujita Scale, or EF Scale, is an updated version of the Fujita or F scale used for rating the strength of tornadoes in the United States by the damage they cause. It still estimates wind speeds, as did the original F scale, and still has 6 categories, from 0 to 5, but is more detailed and specific. It has been in use since February 2007.

  • Wes and Erin Godfrey lived in this home before it was destroyed.

    Photograph by Wes Godfrey

    The Godfreys survived the tornado that destroyed their home.

    Photograph by Wes Godfrey

    Temple News

    Panama Temple Dedicated

    Following an open house and cultural celebration, the Panama City Panama Temple was dedicated by President Thomas S. Monson.

    Luis Farias, one of the more than 32,000 people who visited the open house, said that his experience has allowed him “to renew hope.”

    “I see that the world is losing its values,” he said, “and after I entered the temple my hopes increased that not all is lost.”

    The first lady of Panama, Vivian Fernández de Torrijos, also attended the open house, along with several government officials. She told her host that she was impressed with the beauty and reverence of the temple.

    There are 140 temples either in use or under construction throughout the world.

    The first lady of Panama, Vivian Fernández de Torrijos, visited the new Panama City Panama Temple with Elder Don R. Clarke, Central America Area President, and his wife, Mary Anne Clarke.

    © 2008 Intellectual Reserve, Inc.; all rights reserved

    Mexico City Temple to Reopen after Renovation

    Following an open house scheduled from October 20 to November 8, 2008, the Mexico City Mexico Temple was set to be rededicated on November 16, 2008. The 25-year-old temple closed for renovation on March 31, 2007.

    There are more than one million Latter-day Saints in Mexico. For a quarter of them, the Mexico City temple is the nearest temple.

    In conjunction with the temple rededication, a cultural celebration of music and dance was scheduled for November 15, 2008, in Mexico City. The Mexico City Mexico Temple, originally dedicated on December 2, 1983, was the first of 12 temples constructed in Mexico.

    Disaster Report

    Church Sends Aid to Philippines

    In response to local needs, Church leaders in the Philippines purchased bulk packages of staple food and bottled water after a typhoon caused mudslides and deep flooding.

    Typhoon Fengshen swept through the country on June 21 and 22, destroying homes and killing more than 1,000 people. Church members and missionaries were reported safe.

    The Church area welfare team provided 20 sacks of rice and boxes of sardines, corned beef, milk, and water for members on the island of Panay, which received the most damage. They also distributed more than 160,000 bottles of water to the governor’s office. Stakes and districts on Panay went on to organize cleanup efforts at local schools.

    Church Responds after Hurricane Dolly Hits U.S.

    Church Welfare Services supplied more than 15,000 hygiene kits, 8,000 cleaning kits, and 2,000 boxes of basic food to areas of the United States affected by Hurricane Dolly.

    The storm blew off rooftops and caused flooding in towns along the Texas-Mexico border on July 24, 2008. Days later, remnants of the storm dropped heavy rain in New Mexico, causing flash floods and leading to the evacuation of hundreds of people.

    All members and missionaries were reported safe. At least three Church meetinghouses in Texas reported receiving minor damage from lightning and leaky roofs.

    The Church worked closely with Texas Emergency Management and the Salvation Army to get supplies to those in need. Local members worked with disaster response officials to offer volunteer cleanup assistance.

    World Briefs

    Humanitarian Services Receives Award from Madagascar

    In recognition of its welfare contributions in Madagascar, LDS Humanitarian Services received the Chevalier de L’Ordre Nationale Madagascar award in June 2008 from the country’s Ministry of Health. In 2007 and 2008, the Church provided equipment for dentists treating patients in remote areas and for doctors to perform cataract surgery. The Church has also donated 500 wheelchairs and completed clean water projects for 17 communities.

    Kenya Recognizes Church’s Welfare Efforts

    The Kenyan government accepted Church aid after a dispute following the country’s presidential election left 1,500 people dead and displaced 600,000. The Church sent 20 40-foot (12-m) containers packed with blankets, hygiene and school supplies, dry milk, and nutritional food as well as kits for use in orphanages and for newborn care. The supplies were distributed by partner agencies within the African country to families seeking assistance to return to their homes.

    Swedish Triple Combination

    Swedish-speaking members can now study the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price together with the publication of the new triple combination in Swedish. A First Presidency announcement encouraged members to obtain their own copies of the new triple combination, with associated study guides, through local Church distribution centers or local leaders. A new edition of the Book of Mormon is also available in the language.

    Additional Sharing Time Ideas, December 2008

    The following are additional ideas Primary leaders may use with the Sharing Time printed in the December 2008 Liahona. For the lesson, instructions, and activity that correspond with these ideas, see “Stories of Jesus, Tell Them to Me” on pages F4 and F5 of the children’s section in this issue.

    1. 1.

      Place pictures of Joseph Smith’s life on the chalkboard. (From the Primary 5 picture packet, use 5-1 [Joseph Smith], 5-3 [Joseph Smith’s family], 5-4 [Joseph Smith reading the Bible], 5-5 [the Sacred Grove], 5-6 [the First Vision], and 5-8 [visit of the angel Moroni].) Use the pictures to tell the story of the Restoration of the gospel. (For older children: Find verses in Joseph Smith—History that relate to the pictures. Invite several children or classes to find a reference and read Joseph Smith’s own words to learn about the Restoration of the gospel.)

      Invite two children to hold Gospel Art Picture Kit 240 (Jesus the Christ) and 400 (Joseph Smith). Repeat the weekly gospel principle together as a Primary: “Jesus Christ restored His gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith.” Place the two pictures on the chalkboard. Read 3 Nephi 27:13–16. Help the children understand that the word gospel means “good news,” and the good news is the birth, life, and mission of the Savior Jesus Christ. Write the word gospel on the chalkboard.

      Play a musical guessing game to discover six of the many blessings we receive because of the gospel of Jesus Christ (priesthood, scriptures, baptism, Holy Ghost, prophets, and temples). Choose Primary songs or hymns that are familiar to the children and that describe these blessings. Ask the pianist to play the first few notes of the song. Have the children guess the song, adding more notes as needed. When the children have guessed the song and the blessing, sing the song together.

      If time allows, provide paper and pencils or crayons for the children to draw a blessing they receive because of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

      Conclude by bearing testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and of the Savior.

    2. 2.

      Before sharing time, create several case studies to help children practice making good choices (see “Case Studies,” Teaching, No Greater Call [1999], 161–62).

      Begin sharing time by helping the children find 3 Nephi 27:21 and reading it together. Emphasize the phrase “For that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do,” and discuss why it is important to try to be like Jesus. Sing “The Church of Jesus Christ” (Children’s Songbook, 77). Share several examples of children who are trying to be like Jesus (see “Trying to Be Like Jesus” articles from The Friend, or share examples of children from your Primary making good choices). Sing the last line of “The Church of Jesus Christ” between each example.

      Place a picture of a child and a picture of the Savior on the chalkboard, and repeat the weekly gospel principle: “Because I know that I am a child of God and that Jesus Christ is my Savior, I will …” Give each class a case study. Invite each class to read the case study and decide how to solve the problem by making good choices. Provide time for each class to share its case study and solutions with the Primary.

      Conclude by singing “The Church of Jesus Christ.” Bear testimony of how knowing that you are a child of God and that Jesus Christ is your Savior helps you make good choices every day.