by Jeanne McInelly
The silent dignity of the Arkansas House of Representatives was pierced with shouts of “Contact! Contact!” A hundred Arkansas seminary students were clamoring for points in the final scripture chase contest of the year.
“Hold it down! Quiet, quiet! Let’s remember where we are,” cautioned the teacher. “Are you ready? Here’s the clue for scripture number seven.”
It all began the month before in seminary officers meeting where plans were being laid for the next Super Saturday.
“Hey, our lesson is on good government next month.”
“Wow, let’s all go to Washington!”
“No, we’ve got roadshow practice that morning.”
“Well, how about having our lesson at the state capitol building at Little Rock?”
“You’ve got to be important to get in there.”
“Well, so who’s more important than LDS seminary students from all over the state—in our Sunday best?”
“It’s worth trying for. At least after we ask they’ll know there are Mormons in Arkansas.”
Within a week officials were approached, permission was received, and the secretary of state had agreed to speak to the group. Bright picture postcards of the capitol building arrived at all 12 seminary classes around the state announcing the news.
“We’ve got the state capitol building for the next month’s Super Saturday! Be sure to dress up. Now we’re the VIPs.”
The morning of the activity, prior to the lesson, the seminary officers met in a plush committee room complete with microphones at each desk and swivel executive chairs.
“Such class! We ought to meet here every month.”
“So this is what my license plate fee pays for!”
For the lesson students climbed the white marble stairs leading to the assembly room where a seminary fife and drum corps brought in the flag. The Arkansas secretary of state, Kelly Bryant, was a special guest speaker. Some visitors touring the building paused to admire the group and to ask, “Are these kids some special committee for the governor?”
As part of the lesson students impersonating prominent Book of Mormon characters gave campaign speeches in an effort to win votes from the group and gain imaginary seats on the Zarahemla City Council. As this was in progress, one of the state representatives, returning with his wife for some papers, paused to listen and chuckle at King Noah as he confused his interrogators with evasive answers and political double talk. “He sounds like one of us at a press conference,” laughed the representative.
After the lesson students were treated to a tour of the governor’s conference room. Their enthusiasm and good deportment won them a rare peek at the chambers of the state supreme court. “Nobody gets to see these rooms except on court day, but for you I’ll make an exception,” said their guide.
Picnic lunches under the sweet Magnolia trees on the capitol grounds rounded out the impressive day. Between crunches of potato chips, conversations were overheard:
“You know, one of our seminary group just might be a state legislator here someday.”
“Yeah, that kid who played King Noah seemed like he had potential.”
The Tender Apples Foundation home sits hunched between gray-drab buildings on a street in Seoul, Korea, that seems intent on winding its way into an incomprehensible tangle. But when the 23 orphans living in the home burst into a chorus of “I Am a Child of God,” somehow the grayness outside brightens up for a moment.
Stan Bronson wanted to do something significant. It was 1967, and as an LDS serviceman stationed in Korea, he saw people around him who needed help. Especially the children. On his own time he would sling his guitar over his shoulder and go somewhere to sing for the children. He noticed that often his songs could fill up their hollow eyes with a smile.
At Church he met a Korean sister, Kun-ok Hwang, who worked as the director of an orphanage. Stan asked Sister Hwang if he could do something for the children, and she invited him to help them with their singing. So off he went with guitar and a desire to give.
The singing visits began a warm relationship with Sister Hwang and the girls of the orphanage. The children called themselves “orphan trash,” but Stan noticed that their attitudes brightened when they sang. He began arranging opportunities for them to sing for others. They sang on military bases and even cut an album. When they went on national TV, girls who used to think of themselves as “orphan trash” began to understand what they could do if they tried.
In 1969 before he left Korea, Stan wrote to his brother who was attending BYU and asked him to set up a foundation to provide monetary support for Korean orphans. He wanted to give more—the girls could not be taught the gospel in the large Protestant-supported orphanage and that was something he really wanted to share. As a result, the Tender Apples Foundation, completely volunteer staffed, was formed. Sister Hwang resigned as director of the larger orphanage and began a smaller one in her own home—the Tender Apples Foundation home.
Originally nine girls came to live with Sister Hwang, and eventually some of them joined the Church. Steadily the home has grown. Presently 23 girls live with Sister Hwang. Most are now members of the Church.
Stan Bronson returned to the United States, but the girls at Tender Apples kept on singing. Their talent and reputation have continued to grow. Their songs are mainly Korean and English pop songs but include many musical styles and songs from other countries. The girls’ singing has helped spread the name of the Church in Korea.
As performers the girls have a goal of making other people happy. Sister Hwang, who is also the mission Relief Society president, says, “Our purpose is to make the people who watch us happy and help the girls feel good about their success.”
Sister Dong-rae Kim, one of the girls who came to live with Sister Hwang when the home was first started, is presently serving as a full-time missionary in the Korea Seoul Mission. She says, “The other girls want to go on missions. Circumstances are difficult, but each has the desire.”
Love in the home is shared by small acts of service. Hea-sook Yi, 10, confided, “I am always impressed with the older girls’ examples. Whenever I have been sick or had trouble studying, one of the other girls has helped me.” Mee-ja Kim, 15, added, “Life here has taught me how to better serve others.”
Last year the home received from friends a gift of 270 heads of cabbage. The next few days were filled with chopping and pickling the cabbage to make kimchi, a peppery-hot cabbage dish Koreans eat as a staple food. After preparing the kimchi, they shared their surplus with members of the ward who were in need.
Monday nights the girls’ voices raise in song at the beginning of their family home evening, and each day begins and ends with family prayer. Days are filled with school lessons supervised by Sister Hwang who graduated from a Korean university and studied two years at BYU. Daily scripture study is a part of each day’s lessons.
A young LDS serviceman wanted to do something significant, so he taught a few orphan girls how to sing. Not satisfied, he set up a way to support them so the gospel could be taught to them. Now they teach it to others. A guitar, a smile, and commitment made the difference. Girls who once thought of themselves as “orphan trash” now brighten each morning with an understanding chorus of “I Am a Child of God.”
It’s getting to be a tradition. Last year’s Miss Hawaii Teenager, Elizabeth Lindsey, was LDS and won the Miss Congeniality award while representing her state in the national Miss America Teenager contest. Norma Anne Coburn, a member of the Laie Second Ward, is Miss Hawaii Teenager 1975, and she was also voted Miss Congeniality at the national finals.
A straight “A” student, Norma has a 100 percent attendance record for four years of seminary. She plays the piano, organ, flute, piccolo, and ukulele and has served as Junior Sunday School chorister for five years.
Missionary work is one of Norma’s major interests. She gives away at least two gift subscriptions to the New Era each year. As Miss Hawaii Teenager, Norma realizes people are watching her. “But,” she says, “I just try to set a good LDS example.”
While busily bruising bodies and benignly busting blocks, Latter-day Saints practicing karate helped introduce the gospel to Baguio, Philippines.
Karate is a popular sport in the Philippines. While there had been several karate exhibitions in Baguio, there had been no tournaments. Tying on their black belts, the members of the Baguio Branch went to work organizing a karate tournament. Here was a missionary project that would really attract the attention of nonmembers—something few branch open houses have the charisma to accomplish.
Tickets were printed, and the gymnasium of the local university was rented for the evening. Medals and trophies were made or donated by members. The night of the tournament the city of Baguio filed in to watch.
After passing out trophies, binding bruises, and sweeping up broken blocks, the missionaries added families to their investigator lists. Because of the event several people were taught the gospel and baptized, and the missionaries and members of Baguio decided that even if black belts weren’t proper missionary attire, they are good missionary tools.
Chewing the end of his pencil, Dan sizes up the figure on the paper before him. Deciding it isn’t quite right, he changes the tilt of the head and redraws the hairstyle, bringing it down across the forehead.
For Dan Freed of Ucon, Idaho, this process is a continual one. At 17 he is already a fashion artist for a large department store chain, and his work appears weekly in an Idaho Falls daily newspaper.
A member of the Ucon Second Ward, Dan is an accomplished artist. He recently won first place in Idaho’s “Hire the Handicapped” poster contest. At the contest, winner Dan received $100 and an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. His poster is being displayed throughout Idaho, and the poster design is used on official state government stationery.
Dan plans to attend Ricks College and study art.
Tony Williams, 13, is the only LDS student in his junior high school, so he took advantage of the situation. During the school’s social science fair he set up a display telling the residents of Kennett, Missouri, about the Church, and he walked away with first prize.
Tony’s display included three panels. One part told of the apostasy and restoration while another explained the Church’s First Presidency, Council of the Twelve, Articles of Faith, and the standard works. Details of the pioneer trek from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City was on another panel.
After winning first place in his school’s fair, Tony’s display won third place in the district social science fair held at Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
Active in the Hayti Ward (Memphis, Tennessee), Tony serves on the bishop’s youth committee and is president of his deacons quorum.
“A great new adventure in taking the whole program of the Church out to the people of the whole world” is President Kimball’s description of LDS area conferences. Now Church members in Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific Islands will have the opportunity to hear the First Presidency and other General Authorities in eight conferences planned for February and March 1976.
More than 106,000 Latter-day Saints have been invited to attend the conferences that will focus on strengthening individual lives with gospel values and principles. The conferences will be held in Apia, Samoa; Hamilton, New Zealand; Suva, Fiji; Nuku’alofa, Tonga; Papeete, Tahiti; and Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney, Australia.
Church members will attend activities, social programs, and special group meetings in addition to general sessions conducted by the First Presidency.
In announcing the conferences, President Kimball added, “We will increase our quiet determination to cope with challenges the only way we know how—by keeping the commandments ourselves and by teaching our youth, young adults, and adults, to do the same—if they desire health, happiness, and salvation. Moral purity involves not only one’s salvation, but our mortal happiness.”
The South Pacific conferences will follow those previously held in Manchester, England; Mexico City; Munich; Stockholm; Sao Paulo; Buenos Aires; Tokyo; Manila, the Philippines; Paipei, Taiwan; Hong Kong; and Seoul, Korea.