“A door was opened for me, and I will return,” wrote Jan Bishop at the bottom of her contest letter. And she did return to Czechoslovakia, not once, but twice.
Jan made the first of her three trips to the eastern European country back in 1971 as a member of her Montclair, New Jersey, high school choir. The choir toured and sang concerts in Prague, Bratislava, and other cities and villages in Czechoslovakia.
Shortly after her return to the United States, Jan learned about a letter-writing contest being sponsored for the students who had participated in the tour. First prize was a free return trip to Czechoslovakia as an “Ambassador for Friendship.” She entered the competition and won.
During her second visit Jan stayed in Prague with the family of a young man with whom she had been corresponding.
“This time, instead of being a tourist living in hotels, I was able to participate in Czech family life,” said Jan. “The family I stayed with had two children and lived, as many Czech families do, in a large apartment complex. Their apartment contained three rooms for living, dining, and sleeping, plus a small kitchen and bathroom. Both parents worked in fairly prominent government and business positions and lived very well by Czech standards.
This second trip awakened in Jan an interest in Slavic culture, particularly music. And so it was no great shock to her family and friends when Jan made plans last year as a European studies major at BYU to return to Prague once again to research an independent project on Czech music.
After many days of burrowing in libraries and museums and many evenings at concert halls, Jan returned with more than enough material to compile a report. The young man of the family she had stayed with immigrated to the United States, and Jan was able to help him establish himself here.
“As a result of my travels,” said Jan, “I’ve become acquainted with the Slavic people and their culture. I feel a special love for them and a renewed love and deeper appreciation for my own country.”
Knowing how to organize a service project, plan a youth conference, or work with the service and activities committee isn’t going to be a problem for the youths of the Pleasant Hill Ward, Walnut Creek California Stake. A day-long leadership conference for class presidencies, advisers, and the ward bishopric was held recently beneath beautiful redwood trees in the Oakland Hills.
Stress was placed in four areas: conducting meetings, delegating responsibilities and then following up, working with advisers, and understanding the purpose of the service and activities committee. Those leading the workshops made it clear that they were there to guide and encourage but not to lecture.
After discussing basics, the participants divided into small groups to practice delegating responsibilities for a sample party. They were “criticized” by their group, received a “second chance,” and “phoned” for follow-through experience. In addition, youths and adults practiced agenda writing and planned the calendar of activities for the coming year.
But it wasn’t all work. Following the workshops time was set aside for softball, volleyball, and horseshoes. The day concluded with inspirational talks by ward and stake leaders together with testimonies from those participating in the conference.
Seminary students in the Capitol Ward, Annandale Virginia Stake, had the memorable experience of assisting at the prededication activities of the new Washington Temple. Their duties were varied. Some of the young people were ushers, elevator operators, parking attendants, and errand runners. Many helped tourists in wheelchairs.
It was a special, spiritual feeling to help in the house of the Lord, and it was a thrill to hear the comments of the visitors as they viewed the magnificent temple.
What’s happening with Latter-day Saint youths in South America?
Fifty-two Venezuelan young people, representing the seminary enrollment of three Maracaibo branches, enjoyed an evening with family and friends when they received their diplomas at graduation ceremonies.
Maracaibo, situated near the Caribbean Sea on the shore of oil-rich Lake Maracaibo, was opened up to proselyting in 1968. Today, in the Venezuela-Caracas Mission, Maracaibo has three flourishing branches and a strong seminary program for its youth. Brother Alejandro Portal doubles as first counselor in the mission presidency and as mission coordinator for the seminary and institute program. Brother Romulo Lopez serves as supervisor for the Maracaibo District.
Meeting only once a week, these 52 students had to do plenty of home study to complete their assignments on the New Testament.
Graduation ceremonies included words from Howard J. Marsh, mission president, and Luis Ramirez, president of the Maracaibo District. Following the presentation of diplomas, all joined in and enjoyed an evening of fun and activity.
Membership in the Maracaibo seminary program has increased from 25 to 52 in its two years of existence. Reaction from the young Venezuelan Latter-day Saints is highly favorable to the seminary program. Enrollment for next year is expected to go up to 90 students.
Stand Ye in Holy Places
by Harold B. Lee
Deseret Book Company
$5.95, pp. 398
“Wherefore, stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly, saith the Lord.” (D&C 87:8.)
From this oft-quoted passage in the Doctrine and Covenants comes the title for a collection of writings and sermons by President Harold B. Lee.
The volume contains 40 selections, each filled with President Lee’s warmth and his knowledge of scriptural doctrine. And there is even more, as President Spencer W. Kimball explains in his introduction to the book: “As he deals with a matter, immediately there comes to mind the realization that here is a man who knows his antecedents and knows the meaning and purpose of life.”
In seven sections President Lee presents the elements of preparedness necessary for each Latter-day Saint to one day “stand in a holy place.” Included are sections on “Learning to Know God, Christ, and the Holy Ghost,” “Revelation,” and “Basic Principles and Ordinances of the Gospel.”
To the youth in particular, President Lee offers these words of advice and encouragement: “God bless you, my young friend. Keep on thinking the serious thoughts and asking those serious questions and in time, as you keep your eyes fixed upon the stars to guide you on and on and upward, you will reach your objective—an exaltation in the celestial kingdom of our Heavenly Father. …” His book of sermons and writings is full of many other such examples of his hopeful and profound outlooks.
On one occasion he said, “The only true record that will ever be made of my service in my new calling will be the record that I may have written in the hearts and lives of those with whom I have served and labored within and without the Church.” Stand Ye in Holy Places is a vivid portion of that record.
The Majesty of Books
by Sterling W. Sill
Deseret Book Company
$4.95, pp. 315
“There is no frigate like a book/ To take us lands away,” wrote Emily Dickinson, a 19th-century American poet. But in today’s world of jet travel, radio, television, and the automobile, can books possibly play the same vital role in our lives?
The question is answered in Sterling W. Sill’s The Majesty of Books: “By the proper use of books, we may learn great leadership, great occupational know-how, great wisdom, great religion, great happiness, and the way to eternal life. Through the majesty of books, we may transfer the glory of God into the eternal lives of his children.”
Foremost in Elder Sill’s discussion of great books are the standard words. By absorbing the words of counsel, courage, and faith contained in them, Elder Sill suggests that we might become the mirror of those values in our everyday lives.
But reading, besides being instructional and inspirational, can also be fun, as Elder Sill is excited to point out. It is still the easiest, least expensive, and often the only way to escape to other places, other times, and other lives.
Throughout much of his book Elder Sill discusses the great literary masterpieces he feels should become a part of every Latter-day Saint’s reading experience: Hamlet, Paradise Lost, the Odyssey, and the Divine Comedy, among others.
Literature preserves of all men the best that has been said and thought throughout the ages: “The greatest human being may spend his entire lifetime learning the secrets of some outstanding success and then make it available in a book to all nations and all future generations of individuals.”
Another important part of our personal libraries, according to Elder Sill, should be the books we write ourselves—our journals, books of remembrance, and collections of notes—containing the insights into our lives and minds that will some day fascinate our children and can serve right now to guide us toward greater self-knowledge and improvement.
Reading is vital to our enjoyment of life, our general knowledge, and our understanding of the gospel: “How much will we get by way of doctrine, how much inspiration, how much devotion, how much will our lives actually be changed for the better? All of this will be determined by how well we answer that great question asked by the Master, ‘How readest thou?’ This will determine every other condition in our lives.”