BYU art history students hang an illustration as part of the ongoing Meditate on the Lord exhibition at the Museum of Art. The display was curated largely by undergraduate students. Photo by Jason Swensen, courtesy of BYU Museum of Art.Meditate on the Lord is a collection of seven illustrations that originally appeared in Annotations and Meditations on the Gospels—a devotional text created in 1595 by Jerome Nadal, a Jesuit priest.Located adjacent to the museum’s major To Magnify the Lord exhibition, Meditate on the Lord will be on display through the end of the year.An ongoing exhibition at Brigham Young University’s Museum of Art utilizes centuries-old images to again teach a contemporary audience—Study. Ponder. Pray.And just days ago, President Russell M. Nelson challenged his general conference audience to finish the Book of Mormon by year’s end, marking passages about Christ. The 1647 engraving The Nativity of Christ is one of seven highly detailed images on display in the BYU-MOA exhibition Meditate on the Lord. Photo by Jason Swensen, courtesy of BYU Museum of Art.Study. Ponder. Pray.Meditate on the Lord was largely pulled together by a group of undergraduate art history students who were eager to utilize objects at the museum not being used. The museum owns dozens of the 16th-century Jesuit illustrations, but the ongoing exhibition is believed to be the first time any have been publicly displayed.“He will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost,” wrote Moroni (Moroni 10:3–5).The text “was intended to help young Jesuits learn how to meditate on the scriptures,” said religious art curator Ashlee Whitaker. The highly detailed engraving Jesus Eats Breakfast with Seven Disciples depicts the Savior interacting with His followers during His mortal ministry. Photo by Jason Swensen, courtesy of BYU Museum of Art.For students of the scriptures, it remains the time-tested, fundamental call to action for transforming printed words on a page into personal dialogues with the divine.Originally crafted as engravings by the artist Bernardino Passeri, the highly detailed images capture moments from the life of Christ and His followers that viewers will recognize from the New Testament. The book was designed for students of the Jesuit Order in Spain to help them prayerfully connect with the scriptures as they study and ponder its meanings.PROVO, UTAHAdmission is free.Millennia ago, an ancient American prophet promised modern-day readers that they could know the Book of Mormon was God’s word if they study its pages “with a sincere heart” and with real intent and faith in Christ. The Glorious Resurrection of Christ by Bernardino Passeri celebrates a defining moment from the New Testament. Photo by Jason Swensen, courtesy of BYU Museum of Art.But BYU-MOA patrons need not be art history majors to appreciate the centuries-old illustrations. The images invite all viewers “to reconsider the idea of what it means to meditate and thoughtfully approach sacred texts.”“If you will accept this invitation with full purpose of heart, the Lord will help you find a way to achieve it,” he said. “And as you prayerfully study, I promise that the heavens will open for you.” The Annunciation, an engraving on paper, catches a pivotal moment from the New Testament. Photo by Jason Swensen, courtesy of BYU Museum of Art.
As a service to readers, the Church News has created a downloadable PDF summarizing every talk in the historic October 2018 General Conference:Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, as well as in chapels and homes around the world, to participate in the 188th Semiannual General Conference on October 6–7.View and download the PDF here. Watch, read, or download entire talks at conference.lds.org.During the historic conference, President Russell M. Nelson emphasized the correct name of the Church and announced a new focus on “home-centered, Church supported” instruction, requiring a new Sunday meeting schedule. The women's session of general conference was also held for the first time on Saturday evening, between the Saturday and Sunday general sessions.
Elder Echo Hawk, who also is a Native American, encouraged those listening to study the Book of Mormon. “We are descendants of Book of Mormon peoples,” he told the group during his brief remarks. “And the [title page] to the Book of Mormon says it was ‘written to the Lamanites … and also to the Jew and Gentile’—but it mentions the Lamanites first.”He related the story of his first time attending general conference, when his group was unable to enter, despite having tickets, because they arrived late. When the conference was over, young Larry Echo Hawk climbed a high fence to catch a glimpse of President David O. McKay leaving the conference.“[I was] curious about it all at a time when we really, really needed guidance,” Nelson said. She had no idea then that a short time later, she, her mother, and two of her sisters would be baptized. In December of 2017, they joined the Fort Wingate Branch, an Native American branch near Gallup, New Mexico.“President McKay looked back and saw me, this kid who wasn't supposed to be up there, and he just smiled and waved. When I saw him, I felt something very powerful,” Elder Echo Hawk said. “It melted my heart. I hope each of you felt something similar this weekend.”She told the missionaries, who had stopped by to see her elder sister, that she was interested in what they had to say.Elder Pieper echoed Elder Echo Hawk’s testimony. “Be proud of the tribe you come from,” Elder Pieper said, after noting that those in attendance represented several nations, including Navajo, Hopi, and Southern Cheyenne. “Be confident in your heritage. But the name that you should be most proud of … is that of Jesus Christ.” Elder Larry J. Echo Hawk of the Seventy addresses youth and other Latter-day Saints from wards in Arizona and New Mexico in a special devotional October 7 at Temple Square. Photo by Clarissa McIntire.When the missionaries knocked on her door nearly a year ago, Felicia Neswood Nelson had already heard of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her husband was a less-active member, and one of her uncles was a member as well.
Sister Echo Hawk watches as Elder Echo Hawk smiles for a photo with attendees of a special devotional held on October 7. Photo by Clarissa McIntire.“I’ve had my testimony expand in this way: I know that Jesus Christ is at the head of this Church, and He pays attention to the details,” he said. “God knows you. He knows each and every one of you.”Turning to Nelson, Elder Pieper asked her if knowing that she is a member of the house of Israel makes a difference in her life. “It does,” she answered. “We feel a part of something even bigger. It makes us feel special.”Several people shared moments when Elder Echo Hawk’s visits to their wards and branches had changed their lives. After one such visit, one woman’s husband decided to go to the temple; another young woman prayed for an answer to a question on Elder Echo Hawk’s advice and received a prompting to serve a mission. Elder Echo Hawk, who was released and designated an emeritus General Authority during the Saturday afternoon session of general conference on October 6, expressed his gratitude that his service made a difference.Nelson may also have been surprised if she’d known that they would soon all attend their first live session of general conference and be part of a special devotional October 7 on Temple Square with Elder Paul B. Pieper and Elder Larry J. Echo Hawk of the Seventy. Others in attendance included a group of youth and their leaders, largely from the Papago Ward on the Salt River Indian Reservation near Scottsdale, Arizona, as well as one of the former missionaries who taught the Neswoods, Teagan Cordes. Elder Paul B. Pieper of the Seventy stands beside the Neswood family (from left: Natasha Neswood, Nadia Neswood, Felicia Neswood Nelson, and Flora Neswood), who joined the Church in December of 2017. Photo by Clarissa McIntire. Elder and Sister Echo Hawk and Elder Paul B. Pieper pose for a photo with youth and other members of the Papago Ward on October 7. Photo by Clarissa McIntire.
Recently Church volunteers staffed a JustServe booth in Long Beach, California, at the League of California Cities Expo. The purpose of the event was for leaders from cities throughout the state to see and learn about resources that could help them to govern and their cities to thrive. Mayors, city managers, and city officials visited the JustServe booth in a constant stream.Here is a story from Johanna Davis of the Murrieta California Stake: The JustServe logo is found on the home page and on the downloadable app. Photo courtesy of JustServe.What is JustServe.org?How do we use JustServe?A JustServe volunteer told me the following story: “I attended an informal community meeting where a prominent nonprofit leader bemoaned the fact that there were very few nonprofits in the area. He claimed there were less than 10 in the entire city. I opened up JustServe in the app and typed in the zip code in question. Instantly, 55 separate posts showed up within five miles of the city. I raised my hand and showed the speaker the JustServe posts, each from separate and distinct nonprofit agencies. The entire audience became excited and asked that I pass my iPad around to show them how JustServe worked. That day, everyone who attended that meeting, about 50 people, registered on JustServe and were extremely anxious to post additional projects. JustServe.org generated so much excitement.”“We are grateful to have received the help from JustServe by posting our project on their website.”Tom Bartholet, a volunteer from the Canoga Park California Stake, writes: “I began serving at the Prince of Peace Community Dinner as a favor to a friend using JustServe.org. After my first experience with the guests, I was hooked by the love and joy that emanated from not just the other servers and staff but each guest (the poor and needy) that received the meal. A graphic from the JustServe.org website. Photo courtesy of JustServe.“I like the person that I am becoming and have a deeper understanding of giving from the heart. The lines are a bit blurred as to just where the ‘service’ is being rendered.”Some other personal accountsLike many other organizations where I have introduced JustServe, Major League Baseball’s San Diego Padres team was extremely receptive to the prospect of working with JustServe. The Padres organization was about to start a community volunteer team by sending players out into the community to volunteer with local charities. When shown how they could find service projects on the website and encourage the public to support their volunteer team, the Padres easily saw the benefit of being part of JustServe.org.As a JustServe specialist in Southern California, I offer some insights about the initiative and its website, JustServe.org.“This is the second month I have been able to deliver food [from St. Martha Food Pantry] to seniors that cannot leave their house to get to the food pantry. The recipients are so sweet and appreciative. They love chatting with us, especially my daughter, Camryn. I love that I have so many opportunities to serve through JustServe.org. Not only does serving bless me personally, but it is also a great blessing to be able to teach my children that other people matter. It is our responsibility to care for people who might not be able to care for themselves.”While the booth stood out for many reasons, the possibility of communicating with local volunteers instantly resonated with each leader as we demonstrated the JustServe website.There are two important aspects to JustServe. First, JustServe, the initiative, is an invitation to serve as the Savior would. Second, serving others, both inside and outside the Church, has always been a vital tenet of our faith. Screenshot from the “About Us” page on the JustServe.org website.JustServe.org, the website, is the resource to help us act upon this invitation as our time and circumstances permit.To fully use the resource, individuals first register at www.JustServe.org, then search by area or interest to find service opportunities around them.Many community organizations are involved in worthwhile causes, and local JustServe representatives can show them how to take advantage of the website by posting projects—a simple and intuitive process.JustServe.org is a resource to link community volunteer needs with volunteers, providing opportunities to help those in need and enhance the quality of life in the community. And it’s quickly becoming an invaluable website to help find ways to serve.When they discovered they could manage their own projects and update their own page on the JustServe website, they became genuinely engaged. The interactive aspect of JustServe.org was extremely attractive to city leaders.Suzanne Hodges, executive director of EQUU8 Therapeutic Riding on service rendered by teen volunteers from the Murrieta California Stake, writes: “EQUU8 (pronounced ‘equate’) provides free certified equine services for children of all ages with disabilities. Most of the children and their families could never afford to participate in equine therapy on their own because they are so burdened financially and physically. We also rely almost exclusively on volunteers to exist.“For the past few months we have enjoyed happy, cheerful volunteers who have signed up to serve on the JustServe website. Our program has never run so smoothly. We have had multiple volunteers who showed up for our training day and then signed up to volunteer once a week.“As I continue to serve, I am renewed every week that I am there. I have come to know the guests not as ‘homeless’ but as friends that I look forward to seeing and interacting with. I have a deeper understanding of the humanity of those who may not have much in the way of possessions but are rich in associations and are God’s children walking a bit different path.To this day, I continue to get notifications advising me that volunteers are signing up to serve side by side with Major League Baseball players from the San Diego Padres. Youth are particularly excited to volunteer with Padres players. This is just one example of the impact JustServe is having on individuals and communities. JustServe volunteers pick up trash in Warner Valley, near St. George, Utah. Photo courtesy of JustServe.Service could be included in some of the things we are already doing. For example, JustServe opportunities can be a date night activity, a way to minister together, a family home evening activity, service projects for youth and single adults, and something of mutual interest to do with our friends and neighbors.
JustServe.org hosts hundreds of listings for local volunteer opportunities for those who want to be involved in their community. Photo courtesy of JustServe.
The Lord is my Light;We pray to Thee, our Heavenly Father,President Nelson, who sang in choirs and musicals in high school and college, plays the organ and piano and has perfect pitch. Also known as absolute pitch, perfect pitch is the ability to identify or play a musical note without a reference note.My joy is in service to others;He preceded the final musical number by saying, “I wrote the words to that song as my prayerful feelings for our Father in Heaven. Please receive this prayer as part of my testimony that God is our Father and that we are His children. I know that He lives. Jesus is the Christ and the Head of this Church that bears His holy name.”“Our God is my maker;On April 5, 2003, then-Elder Nelson—a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the time—concluded his Saturday morning session conference talk with a brief introduction to the musical piece. “I have felt impressed to conclude this message on prayer with a prayer presented as a hymn,” he said, acknowledging the help of Tabernacle Choir director Craig Jessop and assistant director Mack Wilberg, the latter’s arrangement meshing Elder Nelson’s text with Joseph Parry’s music.For loving faith and endless splendor— President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, acknowledges The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square during the Saturday morning session of the 188th Semiannual General Conference in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, October 6, 2018. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Parry was a prominent 19th century Welsh composer and musician and is not to be confused with fellow countryman John Parry, the Tabernacle Choir’s founding director. Actually, the music for “Our Prayer to Thee” is a composition used in a hymn found in the Church's Hymns—“O Home Beloved,” hymn number 337, which is listed as for a men’s choir.In a May 2008 Church Educational System fireside for young single adults and high school seniors, then-Elder Nelson spoke on the power and protection provided by worthy music. A choir from the Ogden Institute of Religion sang “Our Prayer to Thee” as the closing hymn.My message is, my life.”“Our Prayer to Thee”That we could live again with Thee!With grateful hearts and fond emotion.We thank Thee for our loving Savior,President Russell M. Nelson’s final contribution to October 2018 general conference wasn't his concluding remarks and temple announcements in the Sunday afternoon session. Rather, it was the conference’s closing hymn he penned, as performed by the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square immediately after those remarks.Joseph Parry, who worked, taught, and performed throughout Great Britain and the United States, in fact once visited the Salt Lake Tabernacle. In 1898, he adjudicated the third annual Salt Lake Eisteddfod, a local version of the Welsh festivals of literature and music that date back to the 12th century.We pray to Thee, our Heavenly Father,
Imagine receiving glares from passersby and getting turned away from shops with food and other necessities.“I think the value of history is finding something to relate to in a contemporary context … and sometimes we take for granted that there’s actually a lot we have in common with the early Saints of the Church,” Larson said. “So my hope with 'Jane and Emma' is that … people are going to see the movie and hopefully be moved by the stories that are being told but also that they will want to find out more about Jane and Emma and, you know, maybe do some research, or go pick up ‘Saints.’”Despite popular belief, Vranes said, “1978 wasn’t our beginning. The Restoration was our beginning.”Women ahead of their time“Being a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ puts us in proximity everyday with people we would never be in contact with if we didn’t have this foundation of faith,” Smith said. “But there’s a reason we are brought together, and finding that reason is important in spreading the gospel.”Imagine prayerfully calling on God for a blessing of healing to be able to continue the journey when all hope feels lost.Jane and Emma takes a faithful and inspirational approach “to some of the more difficult topics,” said Arthur Van Wagenen, CEO of Excel Entertainment. “That's what I think is unique about it.”Prior to pitching the story of Jane and Emma to Excel Entertainment, Smith and Vranes said they were wrestling with the idea that too often within the Church, people act friendly to one another, but don’t actually become friends. But being friendly is not enough, they explained. People need one another because it is through relationships that they learn and grow. And Jane and Emma are an example of two people who didn't realize how much they needed one another until they had opened the door to accept and bless one another.The word pioneer is often presented as a singular image within the Church, Vranes said. And the image of families crossing the plains with handcarts isn’t exactly inclusive. “It’s hard for a lot of the rest of the 16 million of us to see ourselves in what the depiction of a pioneer is,” Vranes said. “So this is the first feature that is really going to show and elevate pioneer stories that we haven’t seen before, and I think that is really special because we’re from a faith that has global reach.”“I think we're seeing a version of Emma Smith on screen that we've never seen before.” Van Wagenen said. “That might be jarring for some, because of the strength that she exhibits in the film.”With Jane and Emma’s relationship as the focal point, the film naturally addresses some of the more difficult topics in Church history.Then imagine knocking on the door of a large house, hoping and praying that the people behind the door will be different from all the others along the way.“The real truth behind the relationship between Jane and Emma is so much more beautiful than what we were able to portray in this movie,” Smith said. She explained that there are many details about the women’s relationship that weren’t able to make it into the film, and she hopes that viewers will feel inspired to learn more about them through historical research.Speaking particularly of people of African descent, Vranes said there are many who mistakenly think that the origins of black members in the Church came with the 1978 revelation on the priesthood.“The beauty of the film is that it’s not telling people how these conversations should look,” Vranes said. “And we’re not telling you we have the magic wand to make it all fine, but we are saying we can talk about this and we’re all in this together.”The topics covered in the film open new avenues of understanding for what the Church was like during its early years and the roles and influence that women held. By doing so, the film gets at the spiritual truth of the relationship between two women who despite all that separated them, wanted to be sisters for eternity, Van Wagenen explained. Actresses Danielle Deadwyler who plays Jane Manning James and Emily Goss who plays Emma Smith in “Jane and Emma.” Photo courtesy of Excel Entertainment.“But I think it’s really powerful to see that we have been here since the beginning,” Vranes said. “The earliest black Saints were baptized in 1831 and the gospel was restored in 1830. So I think that will be very grounding for a lot of people who are of black descent to see that we have been part of the restored gospel just as long as descendants of Brigham Young.”“I feel like our film is the answer to the question of why she stayed,” Squires said, explaining that Jane knew what she believed and why she believed it, and she never strayed from that.Jane and Emma in the spotlightIn addition to writing the script for ”Jane and Emma,“ Larson also worked on the recently released Church history series “Saints.” She said that both projects have taught her the importance of understanding and connecting to one’s history.Smith and Vranes explained that for many, they hope the film will act as an ice-breaker for opening up conversations about the human differences they find difficult.For Smith, one of the things she has learned from Jane and Emma is that blessings come from “unlikely friendships.” Director Chantelle Squires with actress Danielle Deadwyler and actor Daner Gerald on the set of ”Jane and Emma.“ Photo courtesy of Excel Entertainment.She described her belief that Church members have a responsibility to reach out to one another and seek out “unlikely friendships” in their own lives. She said, “I hope people think about the friends they have around them and think about how we are following in the legacy of Jane and Emma.”For Vranes, the messy and real way that Jane and Emma are depicted while grappling with complex issues in the film proves the importance of learning from history. It also gives an example of how and why having such difficult conversations is continually necessary.Imagine walking more than 700 miles with blistered and bleeding feet to reach a destination after being denied passage on a boat that would go directly there.Excel Entertainment, which is releasing the movie today, October 12, announced yesterday that LDS Charities agreed to match any movie tickets purchased this Friday with a donation to the NAACP, up to $40,000.Beyond a single version of historyMaking unlikely friendshipsAlthough their life experiences were vastly different, Jane and Emma were two women connected as sisters through their faith in Christ. Jane was a free black woman who found strength and purpose in joining the Church. Emma was the first wife of the Church’s founding prophet in the modern day.“I think it's unfortunate that Jane is not as familiar to us in our culture as she should be,” Larson said. “At the same time, Emma is a very iconic character, but we always kind of attach her to Joseph ... . She was also her own person who made choices and was an elect lady.”And while Jane Manning James is technically an 1840s pioneer who went across the plains, Vranes said, “I think just being someone that looks different, it broadens the mind and starts people thinking.”Pioneers of a different kind
This is the caption.“The NAACP applauds the producers of the film, Jane and Emma for working to bring to light of the figure in Latter-day Saints history. The donation will help further the NAACP’s mission to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination,“ Jeanetta Williams President of the NAACP Salt Lake Branch & NAACP Tri-State Conference of Idaho.Chantelle Squires, the film’s director, said that one of the remarkable things she has learned from studying and getting to know Jane and her history is the true power of faith. Sometimes, people may question why Jane stayed in the Church throughout her life, despite all the opposition, trials and societal wrongs she experienced.It’s also unique for a film centered on Church history to have two women as the main protagonists.Looking beyond just the examples of Jane and Emma, Smith said, “If you want to know what getting it right looks like in the Church, look at some of those Saints that embraced people 'in spite of', 'regardless of', because they knew that they were children of God and they knew it was the right thing to do.” Danielle Deadwyler who plays Jane Manning James with other cast members in ”Jane and Emma.“ Photo courtesy of Excel Entertainment.When the door opens, a woman with a bright face smiles, says, “Welcome, sister,” and lovingly receives you into her home as if you were her own flesh and blood returned home after a long absence.While the film blends fact with educated fiction, Melissa Leilani Larson, the film’s writer, explained in a recent Church News interview that, due to the limited records detailing the history and relationship of the two women, the film’s creative team opted to allow the characters to grapple with factual tensions in as real of a way imaginable.The bigger picture“I just think that there's so many truths in (the film) that people will related to in different ways,” Squires said. “I think it’s important to learn how to empathize with someone else, and really do the work to get there. I believe that’s the only way that we can really be working together as a whole in the world.”“All of the things that we struggle to do in 2018, they were somehow doing in 1843,” Vranes said, noting how the two women balanced complex issues like race, gender and class boundaries in their pre-Civil War time period. “They really were doing things that were so ahead of their time.”History can be presented a hundred different ways from the same few facts, explained Van Wagenen, stating that too often, people take historical facts at their first face value and then paint a character with a single stroke. Such a limited view of history doesn’t allow for the nuances that likely formed their true character to shine through, he said. “But this group of filmmakers and artists are after a dramatic and spiritual truth about the relationship between Emma Smith and Jane Manning James.”Together, Jane and Emma pioneered positive examples of how people should treat one another, explained Zandra Vranes and Tamu Smith, co-founders of Sistas in Zion and producers of the new film.Noting that there are pioneers within the Church across the globe, many of whom don’t connect back to the 1840s but are pioneers now, in their own time, Vranes explained her hope that the film will show that not all Church history stories are the same.While Jane has gained more recognition in recent years, Larson said she hopes the film will bring more people to become curious about her and seek to learn more.Such was the beginning of the “unlikely friendship” and sisterhood of Jane Manning James and Emma Smith as detailed in the new film “Jane and Emma.”
Admission is open to those ages eight or older. No tickets are necessary, and seating will be general admission. A recording of the broadcast will be archived at lds.org/media-library.The Fall Church Music Festival will be held in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square on Friday, October 19, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. mountain daylight time, and will be streamed live at lds.org/events.Additionally, sheet music from this concert will be made available to download for free at lds.org/music/library/submitted-music-2012-present.Through the annual Church Music Submission, Latter-day Saints are invited to submit one work per category (up to three categories per year) for consideration. For more information, visit lds.org/music/submit-music.This 90-minute concert will feature original award-winning works from the 2018 Church Music Submission, including hymns, children’s songs, youth music, and hymn arrangements for choir, instrumentalists, and vocal soloists. The composers and lyricists featured are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from all over the world.
President Fish said a “good number” of his stake members living near the coast evacuated. Hurricane Michael formed quickly in the Atlantic, so local priesthood and Relief Society leaders were forced to move quickly.“We have accounted for each and every one of them,” wrote Florida Tallahassee Mission President Clint Smith in a Facebook post. “They are in good spirits and safe.”The historic hurricane made landfall Wednesday near Mexico Beach—pulverizing homes, snapping trees, and sending debris flying, reported USA Today. Thousands of roofs were blown from their homes in affected communities.While Florence was defined largely by floodwaters and overflowing rivers, Michael is already infamous for its brutal, historically powerful winds.“This was an unprecedented wind event,” said Panama City Florida Stake President Jacob Fish, a longtime resident of the region.Lists were compiled with the names of those evacuating, and those who opted to stay in their homes during the storm.A Tuesday posting on the Florida Tallahassee Mission Facebook page reported that all the missionaries serving in Tallahassee, Panama City and most of Dothan were heading west or northwest.President Fish is among the many Latter-day Saints who evacuated from their coastal homes in front of Michael’s arrival. “I reside in one of the areas anticipated to be adversely affected and, as far as I know, it was,” he told the Church News.Hurricane Michael is already being called the strongest storm to ever hit the Florida Panhandle.There were no reports of injuries to members Wednesday evening, “although we know of at least one member who has lost his home.”President Fish said he was still awaiting a comprehensive report from heavily affected areas in his stake—including Panama City, Lynn Haven, Callaway, Mexico Beach, Bristol, and Apalachicola.The images emerging from Panama City and neighboring communities are sobering, he added. “There are downed trees and a lot of water. It will all present a number of challenges in the days ahead.”“Every fall we don the yellow shirts and go help others in, say, Louisiana or Jacksonville,” he said. “We love serving others, but never hoped to don the shirts in our own backyards. This will be our opportunity.”They were expected to be “hunkered down” Wednesday in Church buildings or with fellow missionaries serving in communities in Florida and Alabama.The coming days and weeks will offer members in storm-affected communities countless opportunities to serve—and to be served.Meanwhile, the Church released a statement Wednesday regarding missionaries.Even as Latter-day Saints in the Carolinas are continuing their cleanup Wednesday following Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Michael is battering their fellow members in coastal regions of the Florida Panhandle.“Missionaries in the path of Hurricane Michael have taken necessary precautions to remain safe as the storm passes,” said Church spokesman Daniel Woodruff. “Missionaries serving in coastal areas have been moved to safe locations with adequate supplies. Our mission presidents are in close contact with their missionaries and have instructed them on safety protocols.President Fish said Wednesday he has no information on how Church meetinghouses in his stakes have fared.The Panama City resident said communication with his neighbors in his home city has been difficult. “I’ve only been able to get one call in or out of Panama City. Cell towers are down.”“We worked diligently to get the word out and encourage people, particularly those in mobile homes, to evacuate,” he said. “Fortunately, each ward or branch had a hurricane plan in place.”“We pray for all those in the storm’s path. The Church continues to monitor conditions on the ground and will make any necessary adjustments as the storm progresses.”
“One thing I love to say is that we’re just offering free help. … Our job is the nuts and bolts of including everyone,” she said.“I felt like I had somebody to help me advocate for my children, somebody who really cared about my children and cared about my family,” Grandy said.Grandy has also seen the impact in her community, where there’s a high special needs population and people on local Facebook groups often ask, “Where is a church that is aware of kids’ special needs?”Despite this, Ferguson said she’s been told many times that having a child with disabilities is a blessing; though she understands people are well-meaning, it still makes her angry sometimes.But when a disability specialist was called in their ward, “instantly there was a difference,” Grandy said. “The work that she was able to get in and do was such a blessing to our family.”Grandy said they couldn’t go anywhere—simple things like putting her son in the car and picking him up from school resulted in meltdowns. There was even a six-month period where attending church meant catching a few minutes of sacrament meeting or Relief Society, and she felt the impact of that on her relationship with her husband, on her family, and on her testimony.The disability specialist calling certainly isn’t limited to traditional disabilities; Savage said their ward disability specialist has addressed issues such as bullying, suicide, self-worth, and elderly people’s needs. Grandy also said issues like wheelchair accessibility and adult-sized changing tables in meetinghouses are concerns within the special needs community that could still be addressed.The calling naturally comes with its difficulties. For example, Rast feels it’s been challenging helping people understand how to use people in her calling; this is partly because of how new the calling is but also because people are sometimes shy or in denial about their conditions.Kelley Grandy, a mom from Arkansas with two kids with special needs, has felt that difference firsthand. Her 11-year-old son has Down syndrome and her 9-year-old son has autism. Shortly before her younger son’s eighth birthday, he began having violent, 10- to 12-hour-long meltdowns.An inspired calling“This is something we don’t need to be scared of,” he said. “We can help these individuals and bless these individuals.”Further, the Church handbook states, “Leaders and members … should never suggest that a disability is a punishment from God. Nor should they suggest that it is a blessing to have a child who has a disability.”Prior to the creation of the disability specialist calling, Rast would ask her children’s leaders for accommodations—a particular roommate at youth conference for her daughter, for example—but was often told if exceptions were made for her children, they would have to be made for everyone. As a result, she didn’t always require her kids to attend activities if they were already overstimulated from school.He also said it’s important that Church leaders stay sensitized to the special needs in their wards and stakes.The Church handbook also states, “Many members with disabilities can serve in nearly any Church assignment,” and Humpherys said those with special needs should be involved as much as possible.According to the Church’s website, the role of the stake and ward disability specialist is “to help facilitate increased participation and inclusion of Church members with disabilities.” Some responsibilities are including members with disabilities in Church meetings and activities, responding to disability-related concerns, and identifying resources for members with disabilities. Ben Grandy, right, hugs his dad, Scott Grandy. Ben is 11 and has Down syndrome. Photo courtesy of Jessica Fuhriman.Still, those early years may have been easier if someone had been advocating for her son, helping him receive accommodations, and communicating with Church leaders about his needs.Their ward disability specialist reached out to teachers, set up trainings, and met with families to learn about their children’s needs. She also talked to the bishopric about leaving teachers in their callings longer so they could build relationships with Grandy’s sons.Community benefits“They have not experienced all the intense challenges and everything that comes with it, or the emotions that I go through,” she said.It took about six months after her son’s diagnosis for Danyelle Ferguson to tell people he had autism.“It’s a continual effort to keep that type of information and [those] resources available,” he said.It’s also “a really powerful opportunity for us to do good and make sure that we reach out equally to all God’s children,” said Anna Rast, who has been the stake disability specialist for the Valencia California Stake since 2014.“Merging what we have to offer with the community is one of the best parts of the calling,” Rast said.The disability specialist calling doesn’t only benefit Church members—it impacts the entire community. For example, under the direction of her local priesthood leaders, Rast’s stake runs support groups that continually see more nonmembers in attendance. The faith-based groups don’t proselytize, but they also don’t steer away from religious conversation.“We as leaders have to give special attention to ways that we can allow those with special needs to participate in a meaningful way,” he said.But when Ferguson told her son’s nursery leader about his diagnosis, the leader’s response was, “No, he doesn’t have autism. You just need to love him more.”“You don’t have to have a technical disability. If you have an aspect of a Church activity or Church meetings that you struggle with, come see us,” she said.In addition, Ferguson feels special needs children could receive more help transitioning into young adulthood. While young adults traditionally move on to work, school, or other opportunities after high school, she said people often forget that a young adult with special needs has graduated.
Introduction to responsibilities of a ward and stake disability specialist. Courtesy of Aaron Thorup.That’s why Rast is adamant they’re there for everyone.Although accommodating special needs can require sacrifice, Rast said those sacrifices can sometimes make the difference between someone attending a church function or not.Doing things differentlyBut with the creation of the stake and ward disability specialist calling, that type of person now exists.A happy, snuggly child with “this beautiful laugh,” he was two years old when he was diagnosed on the severe end of the autism spectrum.Accommodating and advocating
Isaac Grandy, 9, poses for a photo. Isaac is autistic. Photo courtesy of Jessica Fuhriman.“They really need to receive callings, and they need to have a purpose at church,” Ferguson said. This means making new friends, being reached out to, and generally being treated as an adult.For example, her stake offers a “sensory-friendly room” during stake conferences where regular reverence rules don’t apply. She’s found members will reach out to families who don’t often come to stake conferences because of disabilities, letting them know about the sensory-friendly room. Beyond that, simply giving a smile and letting families who are struggling know that help is available can make a great difference, Rast said.So when she heard about the new disabilities specialist calling, “I thought, ‘This will make a difference for so many families,’” she said.Rast’s son and daughter were both diagnosed with autism when they were each four years old. She said the Church’s youth programs are “amazing” but can be difficult for children with autism due to large amounts of unstructured social time and sometimes chaotic atmospheres.Rast said the number-one way members can support disability specialists is by helping people know what accommodations are available.
The responsibilities of a ward and stake disability specialist. Courtesy of Aaron Thorup.Though their disability specialist was only in the calling for several months before she moved out of the ward, “I just felt like the brief respite that we had … was enough to kind of get me back on my feet and help me be aware that the Lord really does know who we are,” Grandy said. “I feel like I can go forward again.”“As you stop doing the things that you’ve always done, you kind of lose a little bit of yourself,” she said.“It was decently discouraging for me as a convert and as a young mom,” Rast said.In addition, Rast began the “Stake & Ward Disability Specialists - Church of Jesus Christ LDS” Facebook page about two years ago. The page is not only for stake and ward disability specialists or even just for Church members; it’s for anyone even interested in knowing more about the calling. Since last March, the page has grown from 300 members to over 800 members, and Rast accepts “100 percent of people” who request to join.“It totally, totally broke my heart because he was my first child. I adored this child,” Ferguson said. From left: Ben Grandy, 11, Scott Grandy, 39, Grant Reader, 17, Kelley Grandy, 41, Isaac Grandy, 9. Center: Lydia Grandy, 6. Photo courtesy of Jessica Fuhriman.And Ferguson said it’s important not to get hung up on doing things the “right” way. “It may not be that they know how to do [something] perfectly, … but it’s the way that they can do it, and it still blesses everybody else,” she said.And for Savage, the disability specialist calling is inspired, and he’s grateful for the tools the Lord has provided.“If the disability specialist were a calling in all wards, I feel like more families would feel comfortable recommending [the Church] to their friends or acquaintances,” she said.Grandy began asking for a ward disability specialist around Christmas of last year. Prior to their ward getting a disability specialist, Grandy felt like it was entirely her and her husband’s responsibility to train their children’s teachers and leaders on working with their sons, which became frustrating when those teachers and leaders were then released from their callings after only a few months. From left: Alan Rast, Valencia California Stake disability specialist Anna Rast, Kevin Rast, and Kirsten Rast. Keven and Kirsten are autistic and were given a low chance of ever speaking when they were children; however, Kevin served a two-year mission and Kirsten recently graduated from BYU–Idaho. Photo courtesy of Nikki Pollard.Katie Steed, disability specialist manager for the Church, said, “The job of helping any of God’s children, whether they have a disability or not, extends to all of us. The role of the disability specialist can help facilitate some of these relationships, but in the end the greatest support will come from every member lifting where they stand.”“We just felt isolated,” she said.Handling challengesRich Humpherys, who was recently released as the first counselor in the Bountiful Utah Orchard Stake presidency, said leaders can support the disability specialists by inviting them to ward council at least quarterly.Ferguson is the cofounder of a nonprofit that supports a preschool for children with autism. She is also the coauthor of the book (dis)Abilities and the Gospel: How to Bring People with Special Needs Closer to Christ and has traveled the country speaking on how to help people with cognitive disabilities be successful at church. Her son is now 19 and serving a two-year Church-service mission at Church headquarters in Salt Lake City.
A new temple president and matron have been called by the First Presidency. They will begin their service in November.President Pilz’s wife, Karin Lange Pilz, will serve as temple matron, succeeding Sister Myriam E. Koch. Sister Pilz is a ward temple and family history consultant, a former ward Relief Society president, and ward Young Women and Primary presidency counselor. She was born in Mittelbrink, Niedersachsen, Germany, to Horst Erhard and Justine Sophie Wilhelmine Lange.Frankfurt Germany TempleWolfgang Pilz, 65, Darmstadt Ward, Frankfurt Germany Stake, called as president of the Frankfurt Germany Temple, succeeding President Robert Koch. He is an Area Seventy and a former stake president, bishop, and welfare region chairman. Retired surgeon, he was born in Michelstadt/Odenwald, Hessen, Germany, to Rudolf and Anneliese Pilz.
Karin L. and Wolfgang Pilz
Second, they were impressed by the family-centric nature of Cambodian society.“But everything has to come on your own,” she said. “Once you understand [the gospel] and you know it, when you have a true conversion, most likely you will stay strong in the Church.”But while the landscape is rugged and breathtaking, he said, there is also immense poverty among those whose entire livelihoods depend on the work of the rice paddy fields.Challenges of faith Buddhist monks ride during a religious ceremony at Angkor Wat in Cambodia on April 28, 2018. Angkor Wat is a 12th-century temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News. A man fishes in Cambodia on April 28, 2018. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“[The members] have hearts of gold in wanting to care for each other, but they’re young in the Church so they’re still learning how to do their duties, … how to support one another,” President Lewis said.And for the rising generation of Church members in Cambodia, making the sacrifices necessary for true conversion is all part of their learning curve. Elders Bailey (left) and Christiansen meet with Dara Leng (third from left) as he prepares to leave on a mission.
Photo courtesy of John Lewis.However, in the process he discovered something he could not deny. He was baptized March 22, 1998. A year later he received a called to serve in the California Sacramento Mission.After landing a full scholarship to a local college in her province, Leng said she felt lucky to have had all four years of college paid for. And she said she feels even more blessed for her current schooling opportunities. She is currently studying for a masters of public administration at Brigham Young University. A typical Cambodian entrepreneur on the side of the road selling goods. Photo courtesy of John Lewis.“I wish I could describe the color of the rice fields and the palm oil palms and the banana palms that separate the farmers’ land out there,” Elder Smith said. “Every time I drive out there I try to fill my eyes. Photos are nice, but they don’t reflect the beauty and the pastoral peace that you feel out there.”Despite its youth, the Church has grown remarkably fast, and it doesn’t seem likely to slow down anytime soon.With the majority of its population working as farmers, merchants, and laborers, Cambodia has worked to improve its economy and move into the modernized world.A bright future“We have a bright future,” said Touch. “We are on a bright path.” A sculptor works on a statue in Cambodia on April 28, 2018. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.First was the beauty of the countryside.Reflecting on where she grew up, Leng said most of her neighbors didn’t seem to value education.The Christian population is only 0.4 percent in Cambodia, and as such, it would be easy to assume that members of the Church might be seen as outsiders. But as Elder and Sister Smith explained, the Church holds a very positive standing among the people and government entities within Cambodia. It may even be the most prominent Christian religion there, they said. Children play near a display at Angkor Wat in Cambodia on April 28, 2018. Angkor Wat is a 12th-century temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Sophornn C. Touch was first introduced to the Church in Cambodia in 1994 when he began attending English classes taught by the missionaries.While members in Cambodia continue to face the challenges of their developing country, both Leng and President Lewis said their hope for the future of the Church there is bright and unwavering.
Graphic by Aaron Thorup.“He’s very dedicated in helping people get to church,” said President John Lewis, president of the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission.“Because Buddhism is rooted deeply into the cultures and traditions, usually if you convert to Christianity it can be weird because some people may say you abandoned your own culture,” Leng said.Their optimism for the growth of the Church was strengthened earlier this year when Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visited Cambodia and referred to it as a “new Kirtland” based on the strength of its members. (See related story.)With nearly 97 percent of Cambodia’s population identifying as Buddhist, the culture of the country is steeped in Buddhist history and traditions. A typical Tuk Tuk parked near the mission home in Phnom Penh. Cambodians often use these modified motos to transport goods and people around the cities and countryside. Photo courtesy of John Lewis.“My motive was not to learn the gospel, but to learn English,” he said.Following high school, Leng set her sights on the idea of college. She applied for loans through the Church’s Perpetual Education Fund as well as scholarships.Hul is an example of how Church members in Cambodia are beginning to own the idea of ministering to one another, President Lewis said. It was only 24 years ago that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was officially established and recognized by the government of Cambodia, so the Church is still considered very young there.As many families now begin to reach their third generation of membership in the Church, their dedication to the gospel principles is growing with their knowledge of the eternal importance of families.Although she and her older brother were both able to graduate high school, Leng said she remembers her father worrying often that he wouldn’t be able to support her finishing. But she was a dedicated student who worked hard, and her parents did all they could to help her reach her goal of graduating.So, rising with the sun, Hul spends his Sunday mornings before Church driving his Tuk Tuk—a Cambodian motorcycle with an attached carriage—and pulling an extra trailer. Hul goes from house to house, picking up members of his congregation and taking them to the meetinghouse in time for their 8 a.m. sacrament meeting. Nearly 20 members and families are blessed by his service each week.Each representative was given bags of rice, cans of fish, and boxes of noodles and soy sauce to help supply their families as they recover from the flood damages. Kampong Thom Branch Primary children pose in the chapel in Cambodia on April 28, 2018. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Recognizing the importance of education for her country, Leng said she intends to return to Cambodia and work with NGOs and nonprofit organizations to help provide more opportunities for young people to receive education there.The first convert in Cambodia was baptized in May 1994. Now, in 2018, Church membership in the country stands at 14,256 and is steadily growing. In 2014, the first two stakes were established in the country, and, President Lewis said, it won’t be long before there is a third.“The men are nurturing just as much as the mothers are,” Sister Smith said. “They just love their little kids.” Missionaries with a Church leader from Kampong Thom who uses his Tuk Tuk every Sunday to pick up members who live far from the Church building to get them to the church for services. Photo courtesy of John Lewis.Centered on familyTheary Leng, a native Cambodian from the Kampong Cham province, remembers the difficulty of getting to church when she was younger. Unable to afford a motorbike or a car, her family would bike to church every Sunday, despite the weather.The Church is maturingAnother aspect that sustains the Church’s good standing is their many humanitarian efforts in the country. In addition to helping build wells for clean water, providing health and immunization care, and food and housing projects, the Church’s humanitarian efforts often help out during times of disaster.He said the gospel and membership are maturing in his country. Cambodian members “have strong faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said.Currently, Leng’s father, Leng Hun, works as a security guard for the Church. “He also makes and sells soy milk,” Leng said, explaining that her father has found various means over the years of generating extra income as needed. Street markets near the mission home in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Photo courtesy of John Lewis.“It took us like 30 or 40 minutes,” Leng said. “Sometimes it was raining and sometimes it was really hot.”Leng said she remembers often questioning to herself why they went through the trouble.“All the culture is centered on the family,” Leng agreed. “We really praise the family, and we think that bond is really important.”August this year brought major flooding to the Kampong Cham province. With hundreds of rice paddy fields flooded and ruined before harvest, the Church and LDS Charities responded to the needs of some of the devastated communities. Kampong Thom Branch in Cambodia on April 28, 2018. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“I’m grateful that my parents, especially my dad, understands the value of education,” Leng said. Samnang Sea (left) stands with two of the government officials with whom he worked closely to coordinate the efforts of the Church and LDS Charities for the distribution of food—the director of Cults and Religion for the Kampong Cham province and the district governor. Photo courtesy of John Lewis.So while the Church membership is still young, she said, Cambodia’s strength in the gospel is continually growing, just like her own.“The development of the Church here is certainly in front of us,” President Lewis said.
Kampong Thom Branch member Somnang Pat holds her baby, Dana, after church in Cambodia on April 28, 2018. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.In the rural and green landscape of Cambodia’s Kampong Thom province, getting to the meetinghouse for Church isn’t an easy task—especially for members who live far from the building or have limited to no means of transportation.Cambodia’s climate, like that of the rest of Southeast Asia, is dominated by monsoons. The rainy season is generally accompanied by high humidity. During the dry season, temperatures can reach up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Street markets near the mission home in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Photo courtesy of John Lewis.The average daily wage is around $3–$4 for many, and as a result people will often prioritize work and money over education to meet their basic needs.He consulted his mission president, who suggested he enroll in BYU–Hawaii. After graduating from BYU–Hawaii, Touch received a graduate degree from the University of Hawaii and found work with the Church.“The average income he makes is about $10 a day,” Leng said. “It’s pretty good income for over there, but not really good.” Visitors to Angkor Wat walk near the Siem Reap River in Cambodia on April 28, 2018. Angkor Wat is a 12th-century temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Elder Smith described a recent instance where a Christian family from Thailand took a trip to Cambodia. After arriving, they hailed a cab and asked the driver if there was a Christian church anywhere nearby. Not a Christian himself, the cab driver took the family to the only Christian church he knew of.Leng said one of the lessons she has learned is that obedience and conversion to Christ is a lifelong process. “It took a long time for me to see that,” she said. “It’s not just a short period and then you can expect to see blessings afterward. … You can’t expect blessings without any work.”Leng’s parents grew up during the genocide, when the Khmer Rouge were in power, and as she described, both her mother and father received little more than the education required to teach them the basics of reading and writing. With no more than three or four years of education each, Leng said her parents experienced the true hardships of war but have always been able to find a way to provide.President Lewis noted that many families are making it a priority to hold current temple recommends, and the number of couples and families making trips to the temple to be sealed is increasing steadily as well. Buddhist monks wave during a religious ceremony at Angkor Wat in Cambodia on April 28, 2018. Angkor Wat is a 12th-century temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News. A family from Battambang meets at the mission home to celebrate the release of Sister Sorn from Tacoma, Washington. The family represents three generations of Church membership, with the first having joined nearly 17 years ago. Photo courtesy of John Lewis. Cows rest near the Kampong Thom Branch in Cambodia on April 28, 2018. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Noting that there are many families who don’t even have bikes, Leng described how some people take taxi-like Tuk Tuks to church, which means not only are they not working and earning money, but they have to spend money to get to church. It is a great sacrifice for them, Leng said.The first time Elder Michael and Sister Janis Smith, public affairs missionaries for the Church in Cambodia and Thailand, traveled to that corner of Southeast Asia, they said they were impressed by two things.“When I went to my mission, I had been thinking about my future,” Touch said. “I kept thinking about ‘what I am going to do?’ I had no education. The jobs in Cambodia were meager and payment was not that much.”When it comes to loving and serving his neighbors, Keom Chhoeun Hul doesn’t hesitate. As the elders quorum president in his local branch, Hul has taken it upon himself to see that one of the most common challenges facing Church members is overcome with relative ease, every Sunday morning.One of the biggest reasons Church members in Cambodia become inactive after baptism is due to the difficulty and cost of getting to church. Issues of transportation are a common factor, President Lewis said, but as the country slowly improves its infrastructure and as members learn to serve one another, the Church will only continue to grow.He added, “It’s amazing to see what people can load on a Tuk Tuk.” Missionaries and members outside their chapel in Kampong Cham, Cambodia. Photo courtesy of John Lewis.Elevating the Church Missionaries meet with a Church member in Mongolia. Photo courtesy of John Lewis. Residents of the rural community of Maha Leap wait for the arrival of the governor with the donations they received from LDS Charities. Photo courtesy of John Lewis.A learning processWorking against the oddsAnd despite the cultural differences of Buddhism and Christianity, President Lewis said that those who meet with the missionaries can usually accept the gospel message rather quickly. Pointing to the gospel’s focus on forgiveness, which in Buddhism it is believed a person cannot attain until the next life, President Lewis said, “So when a missionary teaches that we have a loving Heavenly Father that sent His Son to be our Savior and Redeemer, it immediately gives tremendous hope because it means they can be forgiven in this life. And that message resonates.”“Because I am converted and I know it is true, it doesn’t matter what happens now,” Leng said. “I know it’s going to be OK in the end. Maybe right now it’s hard, but once we follow all the teachings, we will be OK at the end.”“The growth continues and the strength of the membership continues,” President Lewis said. “It’s quite an exciting place to be.”“[The Church] is so prominent here, … he brought them to our building,” Elder Smith said. “They were not [members], but it was the most prominent Christian building in the city. So we have a really good reputation.”And although many lives are still focused on finding where their next meal will come from, President Lewis said, “The entrepreneurial spirit of life is very much alive.”
Graphic by Aaron Thorup.President Lewis said, “It was an emotional scene of ‘feeding the poor and needy’ whose homes had been flooded and crops washed away.”“Faith is a principle of action and power,” Leng said, noting that the Cambodian people have great faith. “The only way you can overcome struggles and poverty is through faith in Christ.”
Residents in Maha Leap receive LDS Charities donation bags of rice with cans of fish, boxes of noodles, and soy sauce in late September following flooding in their rural community. Photo courtesy of John Lewis.
Elders Oudomvichea Yous and Karona Phork pose after attending the Kampong Thom Branch in Cambodia on April 28, 2018. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.On a bright morning in late September, representatives from the Church, including President Lewis, arrived in the rural community of Maha Leap, where nearly 600 representatives of families from flooded areas sat next to rows of food donations from the Church. Volunteers from the Church distributed LDS Charities donation bags of rice with cans of fish, boxes of noodles, and soy sauce to residents in Maha Leap in late September following flooding in their rural community. Photo courtesy of John Lewis.Then one day while reading his patriarchal blessing, Touch knew he needed to return to Cambodia. Now married to Ludy Ann Campo Touch, the couple decided to take their family home to Cambodia. Elders Christensen (left) and Bailey meet with a recent convert shortly following his baptism. Photo courtesy of John Lewis.
The official English text for all the general conference talks is now available at conference.lds.org and will soon be in the Gospel Library app. Text in many languages will be posted over the next several days.At conference.lds.org, click the title of the talk to read the text or watch the video. You may then click the icons at the top of any talk page for additional actions (listen, download, print, share, and watch). “This has been an inspirational and historic conference,” President Russell M. Nelson said at the end of the Sunday afternoon session. “We look to the future with enthusiasm. We have been motivated to do better and to be better. The marvelous messages delivered from this pulpit by our General Authorities and General Officers and the music have been sublime! I urge you to study these messages, commencing this week. They express the mind and the will of the Lord for His people, today” (“Becoming Exemplary Latter-day Saints,” Oct. 2018 general conference).
The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a change last month to the Africa West Area Presidency that is effective today, October 9. Africa West Area. Elder Larry S. Kacher was released as First Counselor in the presidency and has a new assignment at Church headquarters.Elder Marcus B. Nash will continue to serve as Area President, with Elder Edward Dube now serving as First Counselor. Elder Hugo E. Martinez of the Seventy has been called to serve as Second Counselor. Prior to this change, Elder Martinez had been serving at Church headquarters.
Africa West AREA PresidencyEdward Dube
First CounselorMarcus B. Nash
PresidentHugo E. Martinez
Second Counselor Elder Larry S. Kacher of the Seventy
Saturday, October 20—Lima, Peru: An afternoon missionary meeting will be broadcast to all missionaries serving in the region, followed by an evening devotional with members and friends. Set for Lima’s Coliseo Mariscal Caceres, the devotional will be broadcast to meetinghouses throughout Peru.The Church’s roots in Uruguay date back to the first congregation in 1944, with a current membership of nearly 105,000 Latter-day Saints as well as the Montevideo Uruguay Temple.The country’s first convert in 1948 has led to a Church membership of more than 93,000. The Asunción Paraguay Temple, which was dedicated in 2002, is currently closed for renovations.On Sunday, October28, President Nelson will preside over the dedication of the new temple—including the cornerstone ceremony and three dedicatory sessions—before the Nelsons and Stevensons return to Salt Lake City.South America is home to more than 4 million Latter-day Saints as well as 17 of the Church’s operating temples and 94 missions.The country counts more than 203,000 Latter-day Saints in 255 congregations and the Cochabamba Bolivia Temple in the five-plus decades since missionaries first arrived in 1964.The itinerary includes:Thursday, October 25—Montevideo, Uruguay: Again, the leaders will have a pair of meetings—an afternoon session with the missionaries of the Uruguay Montevideo and Montevideo West missions and an evening member devotional at the city’s Landia Complex, the latter to be broadcast throughout the country.With the Church first organized in Peru in 1956, the country is home to nearly 600,000 members and a pair of operating temples in Lima and Trujillo. Construction is ongoing for a temple in Arequipa, with a second Lima temple announced for the Los Olivos area.Sunday, October 21—La Paz, Bolivia: An evening devotional at Polideportivo Heroes de Octubre will be broadcast to meetinghouses in Bolivia.The temple is the country’s second after the Santiago Chile Temple, which was dedicated in 1983 and then rededicated in 2006 following renovations. Nearly 600,000 Church members comprise more than 600 congregations in Chile, with the Church first organized there in 1956.President Nelson has dedicated one temple previously, presiding over the August 21, 2016, dedication of the Sapporo Japan Temple when he was President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.Joining the Nelsons on the nine-day, five-country trip—set for October 19–28—will be Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson.In addition to holding meetings with members and missionaries in Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Chile, President Nelson and Elder Stevenson are scheduled to meet with government and religious leaders during their travels.Fresh off of October general conference, President Nelson and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, are set to travel to South America later this month, with the trip culminating in the dedication of the Concepción Chile Temple.To become the Church’s 160th operating temple, the Concepción Chile Temple will be the first temple dedicated since President Nelson was set apart as Church president in January 2018. The most recent temple dedication was the Cedar City Utah Temple, dedicated on December 10, 2017, by President Henry B. Eyring, then the first counselor in the First Presidency.Monday, October 22—Asunción, Paraguay: An afternoon meeting with missionaries of the country's two missions—the Paraguay Asunción and Asunción North missions—will be followed by an evening devotional in the city’s Conmebol Convention Center.Saturday and Sunday, October 27–28—Concepción, Chile: After touring the new Concepción Chile Temple with other Church leaders in the afternoon, the Nelsons and Stevensons will speak at a Saturday evening youth devotional.
Applications and further information may be obtained from the China Teachers Program, David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, Brigham Young University, 220 HRCB, Provo, Utah, 84604; 801-422–5321, firstname.lastname@example.org, or online at kennedy.byu.edu/chinateachers.Teachers are currently placed at 18 partner universities in eight cities in China. Over 1,700 people have participated in and loved this program since 1989.Although most teachers are hired to teach oral and written English, there is an increasing need for professionals with experience in the fields of linguistics, business, law, economics, science, medicine, culture, history, and literature.Chinese universities provide teachers with adequate housing and a small but adequate living stipend. Airfare is also provided for the participants.Completed applications for the 2019–20 academic year must be received by Friday, February 1, 2019, or preferably sooner (the directors are in China during October and November).Assignments are for 11 months beginning August 2019 and include an intense two-week orientation at BYU.All selected teachers will participate in a mandatory two-week, 100-hour training program at the Kennedy Center prior to leaving for China. They will also attend a midyear inservice conference in Hong Kong where teaching materials will be exchanged, support given, and friendships renewed.Kennedy Center teacher nominees’ names will be sent to Chinese universities around March 1.Applicants must be active members of the Church, have university degrees, be in a secure financial situation, have excellent emotional and physical health, be age 64 or younger (younger is very helpful), with no childcare responsibilities. Mid-career professionals in a position to take a sabbatical are encouraged to apply.While formal teaching experience is recommended, it is not required for placement, nor are Chinese language skills—all classes are taught in English.Teaching in China is an academic service activity, and teachers are expected to exemplify high moral values, professionalism, and integrity. Teachers do not proselyte actively or passively in accordance with Chinese law.Participants will have a rare opportunity to teach Chinese university students, experience a year living in China, absorb the ancient and modern culture of Asia, and contribute to building a relationship of trust between two great nations. Their conscientious service benefits Chinese students, host universities, and the teachers themselves. BYU participants are clustered at Chinese partner universities for support and social interaction.The David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies at Brigham Young University (BYU) is seeking qualified couples and individuals to teach at highly respected universities in the People’s Republic of China during the 2019–20 academic year.
Nauvoo Productions, under the direction of the Church’s Historical Department, is now accepting applications for the summer 2019 Young Performing Missionary (YPM) program in Nauvoo, Illinois.The YPM opportunity is open to all single adult members ages 18 to 25. Each year, 24 singing missionaries, 4–6 tech missionaries, and 16–18 brass band missionaries are selected through a rigorous audition process and will receive a 4-month Church-service mission call to the Illinois Nauvoo Mission, assigned to serve in Nauvoo. Applications for summer 2019 (May 1 through August 14, 2019) are now being accepted and processed through November 30, 2018.BandThe brass band performs as the show band in stage shows and daily concerts and participates in the Nauvoo Pageant. Members of the brass band also perform on a horse-drawn bandwagon throughout the streets of Nauvoo.TechThe Nauvoo singers sing, dance, and act in seven separate productions in addition to entertaining on the streets of historic Nauvoo. They also participate as dancers for the Nauvoo Pageant during the month of July.The Nauvoo techs are responsible for stage management, setting and running lighting and sound, assisting with costuming, and overseeing all technical aspects of each performance.All YPMs are called as Church-service missionaries. Once they are selected, they must obtain an ecclesiastical recommend and complete all service missionary application documents. During their missionary service they are expected to live in mission companionships, abide by all mission rules, and provide their own financial support (outside of travel, which is provided).Interested applicants can find more information, as well as the application, online at www.historicnauvoo.net/ypm.SingersYoung performing missionaries perform in various venues in Nauvoo. These include daily performances of dancing, acting, singing, and playing musical instruments, along with providing technical support for all shows and performances. They also participate in the Nauvoo Pageant. Young performing missionaries in the brass band perform in Nauvoo, Illinois.All YPMs must be in excellent physical and mental health, as they are required to consistently put in 12- to 14-hour performance days, 7 days a week for the entire season, with little downtime. Applicants are asked to submit a full audition application, including an audition video. Between 300 and 400 applications are received each year. From these initial applications, applicants may be invited to participate in a full-day call-back audition, at the conclusion of which the final YPM candidates will be selected for the summer 2019 season.
This family, “filled with grace, composure, serenity, and strength,” will “carry on as living witnesses that God is our Eternal Father, that Jesus Christ broke the bands of death to grant us life everlastingly, and that with the sealing ordinances of the holy priesthood—exercised in the holy temple—life will continue to be lived as families.”Members of the Ballard family were ministering to members of the Holland family long before President Nelson invited that kind of care throughout the Church, he said.In addition to President Nelson, President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency read a letter to the family from the First Presidency. President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Holly B. Clayton and Craig B. Ballard, two of the Ballards’ seven children, offered remarks and remembrances.“Dad trumped all of us. He was the center of her universe. … And she was his.” Pallbearers carry the casket of Sister Barbara Ballard, wife of President M. Russell Ballard, following her funeral in Salt Lake City, Monday, October 8, 2018. The First Presidency of the Church attended and spoke at the service.Family members were joined by the Church’s entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and their wives, other General Authorities and general auxiliary leaders, and hundreds of friends for the service—held one day after the conclusion of the 188th Semiannual General Conference.“None have performed that vital task more valiantly and effectively than Barbara Bowen Ballard,” he said. “She was a valiant servant of the Lord who was a great supporter of her husband in all that he did.”Thousands gathered Monday to celebrate the “matchless life” of Sister Barbara Bowen Ballard—a loving wife, mother, grandmother, and friend who made the lives of those around her “a little better, a little happier, and better focused on the Lord and His gospel.”Music for the service was provided by David Archuleta, Melissa Garff Ballard, Dallyn Vail Bayles, and Jenny Oaks Baker.Craig B. Ballard said “simple faith was the hallmark of my mother’s life.”“We rejoice with you in her life of devoted service,” read President Eyring. “Sister Ballard’s selflessness and faithfulness made it possible for her to place the needs of others above her own. She gave of herself in every way.”She helped others build their faith and follow the Savior, he said.
Sister Barbara Bowen Ballard, 1932–2018. Photo courtesy of the Ballard family.“Thus, one day, if we are worthy, we shall see the glorified, redeemed, exalted, and perfected Barbara Bowen Ballard, mother, Saint, sister, and daughter of the living God.”President Ballard, marking his 90th birthday on the day of the funeral, spoke about his wife of 67 years during general conference. “How grateful I am today to know where my precious Barbara is and that we will be together again with our family for all eternity,” said President Ballard.President Oaks said one of the great resources in the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are the spouses of General Authorities and General Officers, who aid and support their respective wife or husband in all they are called to do.Sister Ballard found joy in nature, taught her children to appreciate the elegance of the English language, and accepted those she met with love and without judgment. “Mom blessed the lives of so many,” she said.A capacity congregation filled the chapel and overflow rooms of the Salt Lake Monument Park Stake Center in Salt Lake City to honor Sister Ballard.Quoting his wife, Sister Kristen Oaks, President Oaks said Sister Ballard had a love that “just washes over you.”He can because of “the anchor that meant everything, and continues to mean everything, in the lives of Barbara and Russell Ballard, the anchor that keeps them safe during stormy times and personal loss, that anchor that is their abiding conviction, their sure knowledge and uncompromising testimony of the life and mission, the Atonement and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Elder Holland said. President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, exits the meetinghouse where the funeral for his wife, Sister Barbara Ballard, was held, October 8, 2018.Thanks to the Atonement of Jesus Christ and to Sister Ballard’s “exemplary life as a covenant keeper,” she will “achieve her perfection, the brightness of her youth, the restoration of her body to her spirit, and the full radiance of her celestial glory. Her resurrected body will assume the exact stature of the spirit that possessed it here, only in its glorified and perfected state.”“That love was felt by all she visited and all who visited her. … When Barbara entered a room, a warm feeling enveloped everyone.”Her children “were her everything,” except for President Ballard.Sister Ballard will help prepare a place for each “precious and beloved” member of the Ballard family, he added.President Oaks assured the congregation that “through our sure knowledge of the resurrection,” they will see Sister Ballard again. “In our eternal journey, the resurrection is the mighty milepost that signifies the end of mortality and the beginning of immortality. … We testify of the truth of the resurrection and the glory of eternal life.”Sister Ballard will eventually be joined by her husband and their great posterity “to experience the fulness of joy that God has in store for His faithful children,” said President Nelson.“The simple personal touch of my mother was what the Savior would do if He were here. She truly did live a Christlike life.”Reading the First Presidency letter, President Eyring said Sister Ballard leaves a rich heritage for her family and many friends.During Sister Ballard’s funeral, President Russell M. Nelson praised President and Sister Ballard, who “are still teaching us” by their example.“She has responded to a call from our Heavenly Father to come back home to Him. And her husband continues to do his duty here in the Church. He knows the doctrine.”Elder Holland said President and Sister Ballard have been “something of surrogate parents” to he and his wife, Sister Patricia Holland, ever since his call as a General Authority.“We have lost our ministering wife and mother and grandmother and friend and sister. How can anyone stand this? How can President Ballard stand this? How can he go on?”Daughter Holly B. Clayton spoke of her mother’s “peaceful and kind nature” and ability to “spread sunshine everywhere she went.”The wife of President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sister Ballard died October 1 at her home in Salt Lake City. She was 86. (See related story.)
In the days leading up to the dedication of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple June 27–30, 2002, members of the Church News staff and a Deseret News photographer set up shop in the Printing Office, home of the Times and Seasons. From left: Shaun Stahle, Gerry Avant, Scott Lloyd, Jason Swensen, and Jeffrey D. Allred. Photo courtesy of Elder Jay Price, Deseret News.I covered many temple dedications during my Church News career. Usually, I worked solo. I had double duties as reporter and photographer, but on one assignment three Church News staff members and a Deseret News photographer accompanied me: Shaun Stahle, Scott Lloyd, Jason Swensen, and Jeffrey D. Allred.My colleagues and I were grateful for the opportunity to go to Nauvoo and report from the Times and Seasons building the events surrounding the dedication of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple.With our laptop computers, cell phones, and digital cameras we set up shop, so to speak, upstairs. We walked on wide-planked floors that creaked with every step, sometimes disturbing a tour group downstairs.For several years, from our office in Salt Lake City, we received news of the progress of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple as it was being built. We sent members of our staff for on-site reports and photos. We were awed by the prospect of Nauvoo once again having a temple on the gentle rise of land facing the Mississippi River. Being journalists, we wanted to cover the events surrounding the temple’s dedication. Being sentimentalists, we wanted to do our part in re-creating a bit of history, even if for only a few days.To report the news of the Church and publish counsel and teachings of prophets and apostles and other Church leaders was the aim of the Times and Seasons. It was ours also.Back at our office in Salt Lake City, other members of the Church News staff gave us support and wrote articles based on research and telephone interviews to round out our coverage of that historic event. Those staff members were John Hart, associate editor, and staff writers Julie Dockstader Heaps, Greg Hill, and Sarah Jane Weaver (the latter of whom is now Church News editor).We were visitors for about a half-hour, and then the five of us settled in to work in the rooms where the newspaper was published until Latter-day Saints were forced to abandon their temple—and their newspaper—in 1846.As far as I know, we were the first newspaper staff of a Church-owned publication to work out of that building for more than a century and a half. We hoped to pick up the thread of communication that once emanated from that old red brick building.An old conference table with spindle-backed and cane-bottomed chairs served as our office furniture. We looked out windows and saw through hand-blown glass panes a wavy glimpse of pastoral settings.In early days, the press was located on the upper floor, so we were pleased to have that room available for our use. However, Nauvoo’s almost steam-like heat drove us to other floors. The basement, where it is thought that the stereotype foundry was located, was several degrees cooler and provided more comfortable working conditions for some of our team. I found a spot in a corner on the main floor. As I worked at my laptop computer, I could hear tour guides and visitors talking about the famed building. I spent some time at a window, gazing at Brigham Young’s home and contemplating what life might have been like when the Saints lived there.The cancellation gave us the opportunity to work out of the Printing Office, home of the Times and Seasons newspaper, at the corner of Main and Kimball Streets in Old Nauvoo.We went to Nauvoo, Illinois, several days before the dedication of the temple there June 27–30, 2002. In addition to covering the dedication, we were to participate in a marketing campaign for the paper. However, after we arrived in Nauvoo, the project was cancelled.Most people who go to the building do so as visitors who want to learn about life there in the 1840s and, in particular, how newspapers of that time were published. Missionary tour guides explain the intricacies that went into publishing a newspaper back then. They point to an old press, cases of type, and racks where newspaper pages hung to dry. When John Taylor—who became the third President of the Church—was editor of the Times and Seasons, this must have seemed like state-of-the-art machinery and technique.
“I’m in the maintenance phase right now,” he said.Ricky, meanwhile, works full-time at a car dealership and plans to play college basketball.Ricky was a leukemia survivor. The talented young basketball player from Orem, Utah, had discovered his own illness when he was 15 and being treated for a sports injury.And some more good news. Ricky’s treatment is working. His latest tests reveal no signs of cancer, but he remains a weekly face at the clinic where he goes for frequent checkups and blood work.“We both knew we liked each other, but we never admitted it,” she said. “We dated other people for a couple of years, and it was soon time for Ricky to go on his mission to Boston.”Ricky became a frequent hospital visitor. He encouraged Lexi to stay strong. She laughed at his goofy jokes.“They told me that Ricky had relapsed,” she said. “I was shocked. He was serving a mission. He was where he needed to be. I didn’t understand it. It was harder for me than my own diagnosis.”Lexi had planned to marry a man she loved in the temple long before she ever heard the ugly word “nueroblastoma” or learned the “clinic-speak” common to all cancer patients.Their shared gospel testimonies continue to bind and sustain them. Hardships have forged spiritual sensitivities and wisdom in Lexi and Ricky that belie their youth.Once again, Ricky pulled Lexi from a dark place. But the roles defining their relationship had unexpectedly reversed. It was Lexi’s turn to be there for Ricky. They stayed connected through texts and FaceTime.“It would have been so much different. A lot of my nurses told me they can tell when people are Latter-day Saints because they are more peaceful. Their rooms are peaceful, and people are happier.”Then a few months into her treatment she met Ricky, who was at the clinic for a checkup following his cancer remission. Lexi and Ricky Stafford enjoy a quiet moment during Ricky’s recent cancer treatment. Photo courtesy of Lexi Stafford.“He had hair,” she said, laughing, “which was super weird for people in that unit.”Two weeks after Ricky’s mission departure, in the spring of 2017, Lexi was clinically declared cancer free. She shared the happy news with now-Elder Stafford in an email.Ricky and Lexi may have just met, but they related to each other in ways others could not. “Cancer is a weird thing—you have to go through it to really be able to understand it,” said Lexi. “We instantly became best friends right after we met.”“I’m doing great,” he wrote.But the Staffords’ story is no Hollywood contrivance. It’s the true and painful and joyful story of two young people holding tight to their faith and friendship to absorb life’s unexpected jolts and jostles.“We have seen God’s hand so many times in our lives,” she said. “We look for His hand in little things. We see His tender mercies.”“I felt it was necessary to ask her to marry me at that time,” he said. “We both knew we wanted to be with each other. … We knew God wanted us together. We didn’t want to put it off if it was meant to be.”
Lexi Gould and Ricky Stafford prepare for a school dance shortly after Ricky returned home from his mission to continue with his cancer treatment. The two recently married. Photo courtesy of Lexi Stafford.“Ricky got a little teary eyed and gave me a big hug,” she said.Ricky was soon moved from Boston to New York to begin initial stages of his cancer care. Doctors said it was too risky for him to fly home to Utah. Ricky Stafford jokes with Lexi Gould during cancer treatment a few years ago. Photo courtesy of Lexi Stafford.A pretty teenage girl with big dreams is shocked to learn she has cancer. At the clinic she meets a handsome young man named Ricky, a cancer survivor. Ricky knows Lexi’s fears and frustrations. They talk and talk and talk. He makes her laugh. Ricky’s victory over the disease comforts Lexi. The two fall for each other—but they’re high school kids, so they simply call each other “best friends.” Ricky leaves for his mission. His cancer returns. This time, Lexi is there for Ricky. Their love grows, and Ricky asks Lexi to be his wife. She says yes, just as she always knew she would.Last December, Elder Stafford was eight months into his mission when he received awful news. His cancer had returned.Elder Stafford was immediately released from missionary service. His stake president, via FaceTime, assured the young man that the Lord accepted his offering of service. He had fulfilled his mission. It was time to focus entirely on his health and recovery.“Sometimes it still doesn’t seem real,” said Lexi.“I’ll wait for you—and if I should fall behind, wait for me.” —Bruce SpringsteenOn a frigid day last February, Ricky dropped to one knee and asked Lexi to be his wife. She said, “Yes.” Working closely with their respective families, they planned for a September wedding as Lexi finished her high school studies and Ricky continued his treatment.“We’ve got a lot going on,” he said, “but we’re happy.”Strengthened by past trials, the Staffords are focusing on their future. Lexi is enrolled at Utah Valley University and plans to become a pediatric oncology nurse. She’s eager to help other kids and teens battling cancer. “The nurses, I found, become your family,” she said.A visit to the emergency room revealed grimmer news. Lexi had nueroblastoma, a cancer that develops from immature nerve cells.“We remained best friends, but our relationship had grown, and we were falling more and more in love every day,” she said.“Lexi meant a lot to me,” added Ricky, “and for her show up to support me meant everything because I missed my best friend.”Lexi Gould Stafford is 18 years old. Her newlywed husband, Ricky, will soon turn 20. It will be years before either of them is old enough to rent a car.By the end of their first chat they were trusted friends. They understood each other’s unique teenage-cancer-patient challenges: losing hair, chemo treatments, missing out on benchmark high school moments, facing uncertain futures.It sounds cliché, but Lexi and Ricky have grown adroit at “living in the now.”Cancer brought the Staffords together. And yes, people often tell them their love story is the stuff of movies. But the disease does not define their new marriage. They are simply a “good fit,” they say, with or without their illness.The two relished their brief time together in New York. Despite their eight-month separation, they immediately reconnected. When Lexi returned home they were “officially boyfriend and girlfriend,” she said.A couple of weeks ago, family and friends cheered as Lexi and Ricky exited the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple, hand-in-hand. They had been best friends for years. Now they were family.Lexi was sitting on her bed watching a movie when her parents quietly walked into her room. She knew something was wrong before they could say a word.“I was drawn to her—she had a spirit that was so attractive. I just wanted to be around her all the time,” he said.“When I met Lexi I immediately thought, ‘What a beautiful girl,’” remembered Ricky.After enduring several days of difficult treatment, he was rewarded with a surprise. After wandering into the waiting room of the hospital cancer unit he found a smiling Lexi and her mother sitting on a couch.No one is promised a tomorrow, so enjoy everything today offers. “We appreciate each and every moment,” she said. “We try to stay positive no matter what is going on. We are grateful just to be here.”Ricky is certain he and his new wife were placed in each other’s sometimes-rocky paths. “Once I met Lexi, I wanted to be with her. From the beginning, I hoped she would one day marry me.”“We would read scriptures together and share favorite quotes with one another,” she said. “We found that during cancer, or during any hard time, really, if you stayed close to God things became a lot easier.” Lexi and Ricki Stafford show of their “his and hers” pick lines during their respective cancer treatments. The two helped one another out during their fights with the disease. Photo courtesy of Lexi Stafford.Her life changed in an instant. While her classmates were cheering at football games and picking out prom dresses, Lexi’s days and nights were spent with cancer specialists and oncology nurses. She drew strength from her parents, Kris and Emily Gould, along with the rest of her family and her Latter-day Saint faith.One of the first people he texted following his mission release was his best friend, Lexi.Lexi was always at his side.She can’t imagine battling cancer without the gospel.She was two weeks into her sophomore year at Utah’s Cyprus High School when she felt a sharp pain stretch across her abdomen and back. “I thought I had appendicitis,” she said.Ricky eventually built up enough strength to travel to Utah for aggressive cancer therapy, including a bone marrow transplant last April. His brother was the donor.But the young Staffords could aptly be called old souls. Together, they’ve both endured far more trials, fears, and setbacks than anyone their age expects or deserves.Their love story—tethered to their shared faith in Christ’s healing hands—seems pulled from the pages of a young-adult novel:
The Cambodian members have to make the costly trip to Hong Kong to worship in the temple and be sealed to their families.• Although the new temple in Washington County, Utah, will reside in the same county as the oldest operating temple of the Church (the beloved St. George Utah Temple), residents are “inspired and thrilled” to welcome another holy edifice.• Puebla Mexico Valsequillo Stake President Jose Rivera can relate to President Rosa’s joyful response.“They serve so faithfully in the Sacramento Temple, so I know they will step up for the future temple.”Those temples will be built in Mendoza, Argentina; Salvador, Brazil; Yuba City, California; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Praia, Cape Verde; Yigo, Guam; Puebla, Mexico; Auckland, New Zealand; Lagos, Nigeria; Davao, Philippines; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Washington County, Utah. “Having a temple in Auckland will be a great religious symbol” for the community, he said. The Utah resident has great memories of traveling with his family to Hamilton New Zealand Temple. He knows blessings now await his Auckland family, friends and neighbors. “Wherever there is a temple, there is a great sense of peace.” Joyce Owens listens to new temple announcements during the Sunday afternoon session of the 188th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, October 7, 2018. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.President Rosa and his fellow Puerto Rican members are still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Many went months without electrical power—enduring both physical and emotional hardships.“My sister texted me and told me about the new temple in Cambodia,” he wrote. “I almost jumped off the ground and hit my room ceiling. I then texted my bishop and other bishops in my stake and my friends, as many as I could. I know some of them were still in bed sleeping, but I hoped the first thing they saw when they woke up was my text.” “We have held out hope for a temple for a long time,” said Mendoza Argentina Stake President Juan Naccarato.“That was about 10 hours of driving on not-the-best of roads infrastructure-wise, so there were lots of accidents. Cases of robbery on the road are not uncommon. Also, it's an expensive trip for most people.”“In the future, the Cambodian members will not have to travel far from [home] to go to the temple,” he added.They were uplifted by President Nelson’s visit last month. His announcement Sunday now signals another chapter of hope.The Dowdles, who live in Utah, delight in imagining their friends on the islands waking up to the happy news that a temple will be built in Guam.On Sunday, it finally happened.“This is the beginning of great days to come. …Words cannot express our feelings,” said President Rosa.• Meanwhile, Latter-day Saints in Mendoza, Argentina, reacted to the temple news “like we had just scored a goal in the World Cup.”• Kelechi Ugoh was listening to the Sunday afternoon session of general conference on the radio while driving when he heard President Nelson announce the 12 temples to be built in the coming years. A native of Lagos, Nigeria, living in Orem, Utah, he nearly stopped in the middle of the road while driving when he heard his city's name announced.• For the past several years, Jonny Linehan has sat tall in his seat whenever the president of Church announced plans to build new temple, hoping to hear his hometown of Auckland. Conferencegoers react to the announcement of 12 new temples during the Sunday afternoon session of the 188th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City on Sunday, October 7, 2018. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.President Russell M. Nelson's announcement Sunday of the Church's plans to build 12 new temples prompted cheers and tears inside the Conference Center and in living rooms and meetinghouses across the globe.President Frei was in the Conference Center for the announcement and although he was initially “very surprised” when he heard a temple would be built in Washington County, he isn’t shocked because St. George is one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S., with many retirees.• Pheak Leng woke up before dawn Monday in Cambodia. Despite the early hour, there was a message waiting on his phone.“This has been a dream,” he said.• “We are all crying here,” reported San Juan Puerto Rico Stake President Wilfred Rosa. “We have been working hard for many years and this will bless our island in so many ways.”“I’m excited The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints chose Yuba City to located their next temple. I know the members of the Church in our city, region and Northern California will benefit from this important religious facility. Yuba City is the ideal location for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days to build a temple. Known for our diversity, our city embraces all cultures and religious beliefs. I look forward to working with the Church to ensure a smooth and efficient processing of this project.”Pires said he feels blessed to visit five temples during his life, but for most members in Cape Verde, getting to the temple is difficult and demands great financial sacrifice. “I just feel so blessed; and now we have to work harder here to deserve these blessings of the temple. …Our country will be blessed with more peace once a temple is here.”Yuba City Mayor Preet Didbal issued a statement pledging support for the future temple.Lagos is the most populous state in Nigeria, so a temple “would create more awareness and increase people's interest in the Church in Nigeria. And I can see increased growth in the Church in Nigeria with a temple in Lagos.”• Former Micronesia Guam Mission President Michael Dowdle and his wife, Sister Gayla Dowdle, know well the deep love the members in the Micronesia Island have for the temple. Most have had to travel to Hawaii or the Philippines to claim their temple blessings. A future dedicated edifice will offer unprecedented spiritual blessings.A new temple, he added, is both a great blessing and a blessed responsibility. “We have a lot of work to do, but we will see so much growth — especially among our youth. Mark Richey reacts to the announcement of 12 new temples during the Sunday afternoon session of the 188th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City on Sunday, October 7, 2018. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.“When I heard Lagos, Nigeria, I gasped in surprise and then was really, really excited,” he told the Church News. “I’ve heard friends and family talk about where the next temple will be built in Nigeria and Lagos was usually top on the list, but I think no one was expecting it to happen.”• Carlos Pires was greeted at his office at the United States Embassy in Cape Verde by a fellow member who works as a security guard.“We feel so humbled and blessed by the Lord.”“When I came home, everyone was crying and happy,” he wrote in an email. “They told me that they all started crying in the Church when they heard the news and saw the temple on the map.”“I just feel an amazing sense of gratitude” he said Sunday.“This will provide an opportunity for more Church members to serve in the temple,” President Frei said. “It is also an indication of the Lord’s confidence in the people who live in the area. We will need to staff the new temple and do the work—it creates more opportunity for us to serve.”“A temple in Puebla will be a new source of light,” he said. “For many years, we have wanted a temple for our members and our community.The greater-Yuba City community is defined by cultural and religious diversity. Having a dedicated temple in their midst will prompt unity and cooperation.The Church News contacted several people overjoyed by President Nelson's announcements. Here are a few responses:“They are going to be so overjoyed,” said Sister Dowdle. “The temple will be such a blessing.”Members in Nigeria will relish the temple news, Ugoh said, “This will boost temple attendance, missionary work, and general spirituality of members in Nigeria.” Erik Ramsay and Amy Ramsay react to the announcement of 12 new temples during the Sunday afternoon session of the 188th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City on Sunday, October 7, 2018. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.Pires could not believe what he was hearing—but it was true.He thought about his family's reaction to this news and how it is spreading to all he knows back in Nigeria. While living in Nigeria, he and his family and friends attended the Aba Nigeria Temple.• When Yuba City California Stake President Stephen Hammarstrom considers the opportunities that will be offered by a temple in his northern California community, his thoughts turn to his fellow members.“Many people are moving here,” said President Daniel K. Frei, Santa Clara Utah Stake president. “We do have a temple, but only so much work can be done, and a lot of temple work is being done. We are already at capacity.”President Nelson, he said, had just announced a temple would be built in his African nation.