“Of Good Report,” Ensign, Sept. 1993, 78–79
The “Heaven Ward” Project
The Crystal First Ward, in the Minneapolis Minnesota Stake, took their stake president’s challenge to increase temple attendance and family history research very seriously. As a direct result of this challenge, the ward adopted the idea of creating a “ward in heaven” by performing temple ordinances for enough ancestors—529—to equal the number of living members in the ward.
Not only was the program far more fruitful than ward leaders envisioned, but also its success has since motivated other wards to adopt similar goals.
The “heaven ward” project, suggested by high priests group leader Mark Paynter, did indeed change lives, President David M. Brown recalls, as people worked to become worthy to go back to the temple or to visit it for the first time. Bishop Joe Toone, who has since passed away, was a strong supporter of the project. He told ward members after it was completed, “These acts of service have brought us closer as a ward, closer to our ancestors, and closer to the Lord.”
The Crystal First Ward’s project was divided into two parts: the gathering and submission of names, which took place over a period of several months, and the temple excursion, scheduled for late August so families could plan it as part of their summer vacation.
Submitting 1,441 names for temple ordinances, the Crystal First Ward nearly tripled its original goal. Some 159 members traveled to the Chicago Illinois Temple for the ward’s planned three-day visit. In those three days, they did temple work that was the equivalent of one person’s serving eight-hour days for six months!
Since then, the Minneapolis stake’s Bloomington and Crystal Second Wards have been involved in similar efforts. Wards in other areas have also heard about the idea and adopted it.
The Grandmothers’ Pageant
When the young women and young men of the Brighton Eleventh Ward, Salt Lake Brighton Stake, planned a combined activity, they bypassed suggestions for skiing activities and pizza parties and decided to focus their efforts on others—their grandmothers.
The youth and their leaders planned a grandmothers’ pageant to highlight the accomplishments of the older women and emphasize their good examples.
Randy Waltman, ward Young Men president at the time, said the youth leaders wanted to shift the focus of their youth activities. “We were looking for something different,” he recalls. “We wanted the young people to do something that would mean a lot to someone else.”
At the activity, participants read short life histories of each of the women. During a question-and-answer segment, the grandmothers fielded questions about motherhood, family life, developing a testimony, and the qualities they had looked for when choosing their husbands.
At the end of the evening, the young people presented their grandmothers with flowers and read tributes to them, identifying the traits and accomplishments of their grandmothers that they most admired. Youth cited everything from cooking ability to sewing proficiency to their grandmothers’ willingness to serve missions and fulfill Church callings.
Brother Waltman believes the pageant helped erase any generation gap, and it showed the young men and young women that much can be learned from their older relatives.
Performing the Book of Mormon
“We are breaking the ice and taking some information about the Church to the people,” says President Pedro Brassanini of the Curitiba Brazil Stake. “People are responding very well to this dramatic portrayal of themes and stories in the Book of Mormon.”
He is describing the stake’s production of a play depicting stories of Nephi, Alma, Moroni, and others from the Book of Mormon.
“The stories have come to life for us and have sparked the interest of many people, who have since come into contact with the Church,” says President Brassanini. The stake has recently seen a 30 percent increase in their baptism rate. Within four months after the initial performance, missionaries had baptized twenty-seven families who were introduced to the Book of Mormon through the production.
President Brassanini estimates that some sixteen thousand people saw the stake play during its twelve performances in Curitiba. At one performance, there were more than three hundred investigators in the audience. As a result, missionaries were able to pass out more than six hundred copies of the Book of Mormon.
In addition to being helpful in stimulating the interest of those who attended, the play helped strengthen the testimonies of the more than 130 participants.
“Everyone who was in the play has a new view of the Book of Mormon,” President Brassanini remarks. “Acting out the stories gave them a desire to read the Book of Mormon.”
Producing the show made demands on the members of the Curitiba stake. President Brassanini, however, feels the benefits to members and the community greatly outweigh the cost and efforts. “This is our offering of love to the Lord, our consecration. Our people need the blessings,” he says. “Those who worked on the production learned to rely upon the Lord.”—Allison M. Hawes, Durban, South Africa