Increased communication can help to unify missionaries and their families in this “great and marvelous work,” said Elder Uchtdorf. Missionaries can share with their families “the wonderful experiences they have in the field.”The significant adaptations to missionary communication are the result of the “options, possibilities, and technologies now offered in some parts of the world,” said Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and chairman of the Church’s Missionary Executive Council.In addition to weekly communication, missionaries are also encouraged to contact family on other special occasions such as Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, parents’ birthdays, and other culturally significant holidays.Church leaders trust the missionaries, he said. “They do this very well on Christmas or whatever the occasion is. We are confident that this will be very nicely done among the missionary companionships.”Elder Uchtdorf called this communication—made possible by technology—a wonderful thing. “We communicate with our Heavenly Father every day, and we would like to have our families communicate with the missionaries every week—maybe by letter or maybe by email, or now maybe by video chats or phone calls. This is an addition which brings more confidence, more peace.”With the new advances in technology, this communication should take place at little or no cost to the Church, the missionaries, or their families.Communication should occur on the missionary’s preparation day and be initiated by the missionary. Missionaries are asked to use good judgment in determining the length of phone calls and video chats and to be considerate of their companions.He rejected the philosophy that calling home more than twice a year will weaken or distract missionaries.Further, Elder Uchtdorf said new options of communication with home will be a motivating force, not a distraction. After their communication with families—in whatever form the missionaries select—they can “go out there and serve the Lord with even a brighter heart, a more joyful countenance.” They can smile at the people they meet and teach and say, “‘I just talked to my parents. They send their greetings and they send their love.’” In those few locations where families or missionaries do not have access to computers or phones, missionaries are encouraged to continue using their current means of communication.“Our missionaries are pretty tough,” said Elder Uchtdorf. “They receive rejection every day. They have tough weather conditions. They have to learn a lot. They have to work with new cultures, with new circumstances. But above all, they know in their hearts and minds that they are servants and representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ.”To avoid disruption to missionary schedules, family members are asked not to initiate calls or chats but instead wait for the missionary to contact them on his or her weekly preparation day. If a missionary’s parents live in different locations, he or she may contact each parent separately. Missionaries in Uruguay attend a 2018 devotional. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“Regular communication with their families is an important part of a missionary’s service,” said the First Presidency in a statement. “One of the major purposes of this adjustment is to encourage families to be more involved in their missionary’s efforts and experiences.”Effective immediately, the Church’s 65,000 missionaries are authorized to communicate with their families each week on preparation day by text messages, online messaging, phone calls, and video chats, in addition to letters and emails.
Missionaries pose for a photo in front of the Hyde Park Chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in London on Tuesday, April 10, 2018. Deseret News. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.Elder Uchtdorf added, “The Lord loves the missionaries and their families. We are confident that the expanded ways of weekly communication between missionaries and their families by letters, emails, online messaging, video chats, or phone calls will have a positive effect on the efforts to gather Israel, both in the mission field and at home.” Missionaries await the arrival of President Russell M. Nelson and Elder Dale G. Renlund at a missionary meeting in September of 2018, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Photo by Rex Warner.Increased communication may also help missionaries who are homesick and could benefit from the “comforting voice of their parents,” said Elder Uchtdorf.The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Friday an update to guidelines regarding communication between full-time missionaries and their families.Elder Uchtdorf said the new guidelines offer several additional benefits, including accommodating varied family circumstances, as well as better supporting those missionaries who would benefit from increased personal contact with family at home.Parents should remember that the missionaries have an important work to do. “They are called to bring the gospel message to all the world. They are called to find, teach, baptize, and help people to become disciples of Jesus Christ. They are the ones in charge of communication.”“As families, we love our missionaries,” he said. “Missionaries love their families. They want to communicate with them.”Missionaries “initiate the call to their parents because they have a schedule they want to fulfill. Missionaries and parents can plan ahead to find a time convenient to both. On preparation day, missionaries want to prepare physically, mentally, and spiritually for the rest of the week. They know best which time would be best for them to call home.”“We encourage missionaries to communicate with their families each week using whatever approved method missionaries decide,” said Elder Uchtdorf. “This may vary based on their circumstances, locations, and schedules for that week. It is not expected that all missionaries will call or video chat with their parents every week. The precise manner of communication is left up to the missionary as he or she decides what will best meet their needs.”
Missions: 6Barney hoped his two teenage sons—18-year-old Bryson and 15-year-old Bronson—would have a testimony-building experience as they occupied two of the 9,000 chairs set aside on the stadium floor for youth and young single adults.Temples: 3From shuttling propane tanks for outdoor heaters on a chilly February evening to overseeing the production and sale of tacos, burritos, and quesadillas, Bishop Waldo was kept plenty busy before the prophet’s arrival. He paused to talk about how the members in his congregation were looking forward to President Nelson’s devotional.Members viewing broadcast at meetinghouses: 64,000“We have 40 youth, so I was focused more on giving them to the youth and to the families,” he said. “The others will watch at the chapel.”Planning committee members: 16Fast forward nearly a century and a half later, as one of his great-great-grandsons—Elder C. Dale Willis Jr., an Area Seventy from Mesa, Arizona, whose profession is in commercial real estate and land development—heads the planning committee to organize the February 10 member devotional.The February 10 devotionalBarney was integral in helping arrange a venue for President Nelson’s devotional since his county position had him involved in related board assignments with the Chase Field baseball facility in downtown Phoenix and the football-oriented State Farm Stadium in Glendale on the metro area’s west side. Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium—an open-air venue—was ruled out because of uncertain winter weather.Putting two and two togetherTemples: 6And like Jarvis, she anticipated the potential impact on her 15-year-old son, Gray.“That,” he said, “is what gets me the most excited, the most emotional.”Stakes: 117Tickets for special guests: 1,200As a token of appreciation and an opportunity to share a message, Elder Willis, Jarvis, and others arranged for hard-back, name-embossed copies of the Book of Mormon for each stadium official involved in the planning and organization of the devotional. “We had many come up to us and thank us for the gift of the Book of Mormon,” said Jarvis, adding “they were very pleased and gracious.”Tickets distributed: 70,000Total planning man-hours: 3,500The result was a devotional planned in under three months—or less than half the time for the 2018 devotionals in Seattle, Washington, and San Antonio, Texas. The 16-member planning committee met weekly for about 90 minutes at a time, with nearly each committee member overseeing a subcommittee tasked with music, security, ushering, parking, publicity, and the like.In 1878, Brigham Young called John Henry Willis to take his family—which eventually totaled two wives, 14 sons, and four daughters—from their Kanarraville, Utah, home to help settle in what was then the territory of Arizona. Willis crossed the Colorado on Lee’s Ferry en route first to Winslow, then the Tonto Basin, then the Salt River Valley (now metro Phoenix), and finally on to Snowflake in eastern Arizona to begin ranching and farming efforts there.“It’s a very humbling experience as I think of what my great-great-grandfather went through in 1878, accepting that assignment from the prophet Brigham Young to help colonize northern Arizona in Snowflake,” said Elder Willis, whose great-grandfather in the 1910s homesteaded in Chandler, south of Mesa and Gilbert. “To see where the family has come since then in the Church as well as in our communities here in Arizona has just been humbling.”Tickets per stake: 850Stakes: 78“Almost on a nightly occurrence, at 3:00 in the morning, I wake up,” said Willis. “There are strong impressions that I need to do this or that. For that I am so grateful, that the Lord has communicated with him in such a holy and sacred way to help me with this assignment.”BY THE NUMBERSThe Church in Arizona“To have them sit, even in a large venue like this, and be in the presence of the prophet and to hear him testify—that’s what we want,” he said, “to cement the hearts of our children to this great man who is a prophet of God.”In the same roomChurch members: nearly 430,000While he has attended previous leadership and training meetings led by members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the Phoenix devotional was the first time Bishop Waldo has been in the presence of a Church President.“I want him to feel the strength of the youth and of the prophet, to help solidify his testimony,” she said. “We live in an area where there aren’t very many members of the Church, so this will be a unique experience for him to sit with 9,000 youth who are members and feel that strength that comes from other people with shared values and a shared understanding of Christ’s role.”No sites were available for an initially proposed date in mid-January. With all eyes now on February, Chase Field was booked for the proposed date, and Barney reached out to the Bidwill family that owns the Arizona Cardinals, the NFL team that plays in the State Farm Stadium with its retractable roof and retractable grass playing surface.Bishop Waldo’s two oldest children also helped provide Spanish translation for the devotional. Listening to the words of the Church’s two top leaders and their wives in his native tongue, via the efforts of his children, was something he was especially looking forward to. Elder C. Dale Willis, left, an Area Seventy and chairman of the planning committee for the February 10 member devotional at State Farm Stadium, visits with committee member Denny Barney as the devotional rostrum is put in place on Thursday, February 7, 2019. Photo by Scott Taylor.When her husband returned home, she asked, “So when is the prophet coming?” and James Jarvis could neither confirm nor deny, never sharing any details until they were approved for public dissemination. President Russell M. Nelson walks into the State Farm Stadium with his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, in Phoenix on Sunday, February 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.However, only a fraction of his ward members was able to attend the event at the stadium, since his ward received only 93 devotional tickets.“I hope my great-great-grandfather and my great-grandfather are proud,” he said, “and I look forward to the day of sitting down and visiting with them about it, comparing notes and making sure I have not soiled their name in any way or brought dishonor to the family.” Elder C. Dale Willis, an Area Seventy and chairman of the Phoenix member devotional planning committee, visits with committee members, stadium managers, and officials in an on-site meeting on February 7, 2019. Photo by Scott Taylor.Cementing a venueFloor seats for youth, YSAs: 9,000YSA ushers: 400One of the first individuals Elder Willis reached out to for his committee was Denny Barney, a sixth-generation Arizonan who at the time was a longtime elected Maricopa County supervisor (he resigned earlier this month to head a local coalition of civic, business, education, and political leaders).When she couldn’t locate him one day, she used a smartphone app to see where he was at—it showed State Farm Stadium. “I started putting two and two together, and I thought, ‘I know why he’s so busy; I know why he’s so excited.’”About five miles away from the stadium in a parking lot off Grand Avenue, Hector Waldo, bishop of the La Joya Ward in the Phoenix Arizona Stake, had his taco truck positioned for another six-hour stretch on a Saturday night. Waldo’s Tacos has been a west-side mainstay since 2005 for the family business.Jennifer Wheeler of the Phoenix Arizona North Stake’s Royal Palm Ward serves on the Greater Phoenix Public Affairs Council and is a point person for the devotional planning committee on handling media inquiries.One Church President. Two First Presidency members. A Sunday night devotional drawing some 65,000 at an indoor football stadium in metro Phoenix, with another 64,000 watching a live broadcast in meetinghouses across the state.State Farm Stadium seating: 63,400Devotional attendance: About 65,000 A training meeting is held on Saturday, February 9, 2019, in a bottom-floor conference area of the State Farm Stadium for the 400 young single adults volunteering as ushers in advance of the February 10 Phoenix member devotional to be held at the same site. Photo by Scott Taylor.Coming full circleTacos, tickets, and translatingThose are just some of the numbers that start to tell the story of the February 10 devotional featuring President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his First Counselor, President Dallin H. Oaks, at the State Farm Stadium.“They are very excited, very happy, very enthusiastic that the prophet has come,” he said in Spanish.Every person attending or watching has at least one story of preparation concerning the prophet’s visit to Arizona—making for tens of thousands of anecdotes. Here are just a handful that represent the preparation that went into the Arizona member devotional.Notified in late November 2018 of a desire to have a Phoenix devotional as early as mid-January, Elder Willis described the assignment as “a revelatory experience.” From the immediate promptings of names of who to call to the planning committee to settling on a preliminary devotional plan in less than two weeks, everything came together in a miraculous way.“Within 24 hours, we had secured a date that fit with the prophet’s schedule—it came together so quickly,” he said. “The stadium people have remarked several times that to pull together this type of event in the amount of time we’re doing it has been pretty unique.”Missions: 5“We were here over the holidays with my parents, counting out 70,000 tickets on our dining room table,” recalled Christy Jarvis, sharing how her family separated and packaged an allotted 850 tickets for each of the 78 stakes. “We sat there with the bowl games on—we had football and food and counting tickets. And it was really fun.”PHOENIX, ARIZONAAnd it now has gone full circle—from a Willis sent by a prophet to help settle Arizona to a Willis welcoming a prophet to speak in Arizona, where the Latter-day Saint membership is nearly 430,000 strong.The Church in the Greater Phoenix AreaChurch members: 242,000But family members noticed something was a bit off—he seemed a little distracted, a little preoccupied, and a lot busier. “He was very excited about something, and it definitely piqued my interested and I was watching very closely to see what was going on,” said his wife, Christy.“A lot of the media have asked me, ‘Why is President Nelson coming to Phoenix?’” she said. “And it hit me—for many of these members, even though we are so close to Utah, this will be the only time in their lives when they will sit in the same room as the prophet.”James Jarvis acknowledged the role of stadium managers and directors in organizing the devotional. “The people here at the stadium have been absolutely incredible to work with,” he said. “They’ve made our lives pretty easy.”Tabbed early as the committee’s executive secretary, James Jarvis of the Salt River Ward in the Mesa Arizona Alta Mesa Stake was all but sworn to secrecy in making initial inquiries and arrangements.
At the same time, though, that same technology also gave a way for Satan to destroy spiritual learning, especially with the evil of pornography.Underscoring his call as an Apostle of the Lord, President Ballard counseled listeners who are doing anything wrong in their lives or have succumbed to temptation. “Fix it. It’s called repentance. … Perfection is attainable, but it’s a long ways away. But we can get there.”“You’ll start to see, the older you get, what matters most in life,” said President Ballard, adding that it won’t be how much money one makes or other worldly possessions.“The best answer that I know of was given to us through the life and the ministry and the Atonement of the Son of God.”Like Watkins, William Ray Burk of the Riverside Ward, Salt Lake Pioneer YSA Stake, has moved from one community to another and found belonging. By attending institute, he’s found a sense of community. “Everyone is so open and willing to reach out to each other and so kind to each other,” he said.Belonging and community matter to all, especially students, she said. “Students succeed when they feel they are welcome. Students succeed when they feel they belong. Students succeed when they feel welcome in a community.”There are answers to life’s questions that are found in the Restoration of the gospel that are found in no other place. “There are answers in the scriptures; there are answers in the teachings of apostles and prophets who hold the same keys and authority and power as did Peter, James, and John and the other apostles in their day.”“I’d really never seen anything like that,” she said. “And one thing that I learned very quickly, there was an incredible community where we, by accident, wound up living that were incredible supporters of the University of Utah and, much more importantly, incredible supporters of each other.”Technological advances over the last two centuries or so have come about because the Church needed them. “Now, some people just cringe when I say that,” President Ballard said.“I’m sure the Lord wants you to be happy. I think He wants you to be successful. I think He wants you to accomplish your objectives in life. But He wants you to stay focused on what matters most—that is, the continual education of your eternal part of your being.”“Every student at the U should be able to find their faith community here, where they share values, the opportunity to learn and to grow. We at the U recognize the important role that the institute plays in attracting people to the U and supporting students through their success, in fostering graduation rates, in helping us build community. We’re very, very grateful for the work at the institute.”“I think I am talking with a group who clearly believes in community as I look at this gathering tonight and your partnership and your community and your engagement in the collective good with each other,” she said.Too often he hears of students who suffer from anxiety or depression, he said. “It saddens us when we hear that anyone would be so discouraged that they would be even thinking of such a thing as suicide. What can we do? How can we help anyone who is struggling with some of life’s problems?Watkins focused her remarks on the importance and value of community.
University of Utah President Ruth V. Watkins speaks to students gathered in the Salt Lake Institute for a devotional on Sunday, February 10, 2019. She spoke about the importance of developing community. Photo by Valerie Johnson.“I really appreciated the president’s words and her devotion to the cause of bringing us together as a community and not just as a school,” said Karen Gill of the Riverside Ward, Salt Lake Pioneer YSA Stake. “I like that she said that students succeed when they have a sense of community and a sense of purpose.”And second: “If you have a problem or if you’re struggling, you have a Father in Heaven. You have a Savior. Take it up with Them.”However, computers and the internet gave the Church the “capacity to do the great work that the Lord has placed on us in preparing and building temples where the blessings of eternity can be bestowed upon our kindred dead.”
President M. Russell Ballard waves to students as he leaves the Salt Lake Institute following a devotional on Sunday, February 10, 2019. Photo by Valerie Johnson.Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints understand the responsibility to live exemplary lives “because we have a prophet of God who restored the fullness of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ, under the hands of direction of the Lord Jesus Christ and our Eternal Father,” he said. “The teachings, the principles, the covenants, the ordinances of eternal salvation have been reignited and restated in clear terms.”While the education of one’s mind regarding things of the world is important, of greater importance is the education of one’s spirit and the things of eternity, President M. Russell Ballard told students gathered at the Salt Lake Institute on Sunday, February 10.President Ballard advised students to keep their antennas up: “Watch for those opportunities where somebody may be a little discouraged.”President Ballard, the Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, joined University of Utah President Ruth V. Watkins in speaking to students during the evening devotional.The University of Utah brings together people from all faiths and backgrounds. Watkins said that it is important that the university support students’ growth in their faith.Two things in the devotional stood out to Lisa Richardson of the Madison YSA Ward, Salt Lake Pioneer YSA Stake. First: “The education of your spirit is more important than the education of your mind.”Gill also expressed gratitude for President Ballard’s encouragement to stay focused on the things that matter. “He reminded us that we have a Father in Heaven and a Savior that loves us. And if we have any questions, we can take it up with Them.”But soon, one by one, their neighbors came with food, introduced themselves, and welcomed the Watkinses to the neighborhood.President Ballard’s message reminded him to focus on the spiritual side of education, as well as to remember who he is and that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ “are rooting for you.”“That helps me a lot with all the things that I need to do, whether it be education or knowing how I can minister to someone.”Watkins was reminded of when she and her husband, Bob Watkins, had first moved to Utah from Illinois in 2013. Relocating caused them both some measure of anxiety as they worried about whether or not they would be accepted or belong.He then left the students with a blessing of peace for whatever concerns or struggles they have. “You have a Father in Heaven; you have a Savior who loves you. Take it up with Them. Lean on Them. Listen. Learn. Be obedient to the things that matter most, and you’ll be protected.”
They, like all of God’s children, need the Spirit to help them learn.Students from around the world who participate in the BYU–Pathway Worldwide programs have one thing in common, said Brother Brian K. Ashton, Second Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency.Brother Ashton listed seven steps to accomplish learning by the Spirit:To help clarify the difference between learning and learning by the Spirit, Brother Ashton shared four key principles pulled from scriptures and the words of the prophets: Students and faculty at BYU–Idaho gather on February 12 to hear the words of Brian K. Ashton, Second Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency. Photo by Sarah Jones, BYU–Idaho.Sharing two examples from his own past, Brother Ashton contrasted what it is like to learn with the Spirit and what it is like to attempt to learn without the Spirit.
Change in Church leadershipThat year, Brigham Young established the Young Ladies’ Retrenchment Association, later renamed the Young Women Mutual Improvement Association, in the Lion House. The first president of the organization, Elmina Shepherd Taylor, was called in 1880.Missionary workOne century laterYoung WomenIn November 1969—50 years ago—the Southeast Asia Mission formally opened with headquarters in Singapore. The following year, the first missionaries traveled to Indonesia, which was part of the mission.In November 1869—150 years ago—the Church founded the forerunner for today’s Young Women program.The property deeds listed the date June 27, 1944, marking the 100th anniversary of the martyrdom.The martyrdom is one of several notable dates and anniversaries for the Church in 2019. The list includes milestones in the Young Women program, a historic site in northern Utah, the first temple built outside the continental United States, and significant moments in the history of missionary work, among others.TemplesIn April 1844—175 years ago—Addison Pratt, Benjamin F. Grouard, and Noah Rogers landed on Tubuai, 350 miles south of Tahiti, and opened missionary work in the South Pacific.One century after Joseph and Hyrum were killed, the Church purchased land in Spring Hill, Daviess County, Missouri. The property is more commonly known to Latter-day Saints as Adam-ondi-Ahman (see Doctrine and Covenants 116).President Joseph F. Smith, the son of Hyrum Smith and the sixth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, recorded these feelings about the martyrdom: “The martyrdom has always been an inspiration to the people of the Lord. It has helped them in their individual trials; has given them courage to pursue a course in righteousness and to know and to live truth, and must ever be held in sacred memory by the Latter-day Saints who have learned the great truths that God revealed through his servant, Joseph Smith” (in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, chapter 46).In 1944, a plaque dedicated by President Heber J. Grant was placed in the Lion House to celebrate the 75th anniversary.In May 1994—25 years ago—President Ezra Taft Benson died at age 94 after more than eight years of service as Church President. A short time later, President Hunter was set apart as the new President. He selected President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Thomas S. Monson as his counselors.The following list, which draws from timelines at thechurchnews.com and history.lds.org, is not all-inclusive.Additionally, Church members commemorated the 100th anniversary by holding memorial services. A special service was held at Carthage Jail.In November 1919—100 years ago—President Grant dedicated a new temple in Laie, Hawaii, the fifth temple in the Church and the first to be built outside the continental United States.Golden spike One century after Joseph and Hyrum were killed, the Church purchased land in Spring Hill, Daviess County, Missouri—commonly called Adam-ondi-Ahman by Church members. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Mays, Deseret News Archives. The ceremony commemorating the driving of the golden spike on the first transcontinental railroad in North America, May 10, 1869. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia. One hundred years ago, in November 1919, the Laie Hawaii Temple became the first temple built outside the continental United States. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Mays, Deseret News Archives.President Howard W. Hunter and other Church leaders visited Carthage Jail and delivered remarks in a special meeting in 1994 to commemorate the 150th anniversary.In May 1869—150 years ago—workers completed the transcontinental railroad at Promontory Summit in Box Elder County. The wedding of the rails strengthened the general economy of the Church in Utah and had a significant impact on immigration. (See related story.)On June 27, 1844, a mob stormed Carthage Jail in Illinois and shot the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum Smith.This year marks the 175th anniversary of that monumental event.In February 1994—25 years ago—the First Presidency announced plans to renovate the Uintah Stake Tabernacle into a temple. When dedicated in 1997, the Vernal Utah Temple, the first existing building to be renovated into a temple, became the state’s 10th temple.
With the closures, the Church now has 11 missionary training centers—the aforementioned in Provo, Mexico, Brazil, Philippines, Ghana, and New Zealand, as well as the Argentina, Colombia, England, Guatemala, Peru, and South Africa MTCs.The other large international training center is the Ghana MTC, which like the Philippines MTC also expanded in 2017; those two share similar facility designs and aesthetics to the Provo MTC buildings added that same year. The Ghana MTC has a capacity of 320 missionaries and trained 1,817 in 2018.This year, international MTCs are expected to collectively train their highest percentage of missionaries when compared to the Provo MTC. “Each year it has gone up about 1 percent,” said Lane Steinagel, the Missionary Department’s director of international MTCs, noting that last year, 53 percent of new missionaries were trained outside of the United States, compared to the Provo MTC’s 47 percent. Missionaries study at the Provo Missionary Training Center in Provo on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. Newly constructed training buildings were added to accommodate more missionaries. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News. The Provo Missionary Training Center. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.
The Provo Missionary Training Center in Provo on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. Newly constructed training buildings were added to accommodate more missionaries. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Steinagel underscored another benefit of fewer MTCs. “We’ll spend more resources and more time with these more established MTCs now,” he said, “and we may visit them more because they’re going to be getting more missionaries there.”“We have the capacity of 1,100 missionaries at a time, and right now, we usually have about 250 or 300,” Elder Nielson said. “We can triple the size of missionaries going to Mexico.”The three international missionary training centers closed in January 2019 were in Santiago, Chile, and Madrid, Spain, as announced in March 2018; and in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, as announced in December 2018. The Argentina MTC in Buenos Aires is scheduled to close in July (see related story). The announcements cited Church leaders continuing to seek the best use of resources worldwide, with plans for the future use of the facilities and space still being determined. Sister Graziele Lima Alves and Sister Fátima Luis Ndava work on a lesson together at the Brazil Missionary Training Center in São Paulo, Brazil, on Thursday, May 24, 2018. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.“It’s not only saving costs; it’s making us more efficient in training the missionaries,” Elder Nielson said, adding that the decisions have nothing to do with the number of missionaries worldwide but taking advantage of available resources. “It’s been a good change.”
The Brazil Missionary Training Center in São Paulo, Brazil, is photographed on Thursday, May 24, 2018. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.The closing of MTCs is nothing new—other previous training centers that have since been shuttered include those in Tokyo, Japan, and Seoul, South Korea.“And this year, it’s going to be 1 or 2 percent higher again.”And then there is the Mexico MTC, which moved into the Church’s Benemerito de las Americas school campus in 2013. It boasts some 80 buildings over 88 acres and trails only Provo among the current 12 MTCs with a capacity of 1,160 and a 2018 training total of 4,902 missionaries. Newly arriving missionaries say goodbye to family and friends and are aided by assisting missionaries at the Provo Missionary Training Center on January 16, 2019, in the MTC’s underground parking. Photo by Scott Taylor, Church News.With its roots dating back to the Language Training Mission of the early 1960s, the Provo MTC has a capacity of hosting 4,800 missionaries at a time, ending up having trained nearly 20,000 during 2018.“We have actually learned that it is often less expensive to bring a missionary to Provo than to maintain an MTC in their home country,” said Elder Nielson. “And they can come here and have a good experience, they can go to Temple Square, they can see the Church’s headquarters. … We’re always looking at the best and most efficient ways possible.” Missionaries study the three-dimensional map of the Mexico Missionary Training Center in August 2013. Photo by Jason Swensen, Deseret News.After expanding several times in the past eight years, the Philippines MTC in Manila can host 280 at time, having totaled 1,537 missionaries last year.
Nicole Luz, a youth singer from Brazil, performs a song in Portuguese at the 2019 Mutual theme album concert on January 15, 2019.The power of music to build testimonyIndeed—over 18,000 viewers tuned in to the 2019 Mutual album concert via Facebook live alone, leaving almost 500 comments of praise: “This music is beautiful!” wrote one youth; “I can feel God’s love through these songs. Thank youuu!!!” commented another. Youth even left comments in other languages: “Gracias por esto, lo necesitaba” (Thank you for this, I needed it).The 2019 Mutual album concert on January 15 showcased music from the 2019 Mutual album, If We Love Him. The album is one of the Mutual theme resources available for Latter-day Saint youth as they learn more about the 2019 theme in John 14:15: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”Youth, leaders, and other Church members are welcome to explore the following free 2019 Mutual theme resources on the 2019 youth theme homepage:Thousands more youth as far away as the Philippines, Argentina, and Saudi Arabia were tuning in via Facebook live, sharing their excitement for the concert through Facebook comments with smiling and waving emoji.Seeing other youth on stage performing faith-building songs about Christ and the Church was powerful for the youth watching the concert, said Temple Square Performances administrator Judy Alba.For Camilo, the songs on the Mutual album can serve as reminders of testimonies youth already have about gospel principles. “The Spirit touches them in a way that reminds them of the truth of the principle in the song, and the good melodies just help to carry the message through.”More than anything, Breinholt pointed out, the 2019 Mutual album and concert are meant to help youth know that there are positive, uplifting resources for them to access through the Church.
Talin Everett sings his song, “Forget,” from the 2019 Mutual album at a dress rehearsal for the Mutual album concert. Photo by Judy Alba.Although Temple Square Performances coordinator Stephen Breinholt suspected some youth attended the Tuesday-night concert somewhat reluctantly (as Breinholt, his own ward’s Young Men president, would know), he saw their attitudes shift the moment the music began.“Music is the quickest way to touch somebody’s soul,” she said. “It just seems to be something that can immediately give a feeling or bear testimony of the words that are spoken. It’s a really strong driving force, especially for youth that are looking for things that are positive in the world today.”Mutual theme product manager Fernando Camilo said the theme has a special unifying power for youth across the globe. From sharing the same 2019 theme T-shirts at For the Strength of Youth conferences to singing the same theme song in their native language, he said the single message creates a camaraderie between youth everywhere in their journey to learn about the Mutual theme scripture.Youth were also invited to participate during the concert via social media by sending Instagram messages to @ldsyouth explaining how the gospel has brought them happiness. Youth artists from the 2019 Mutual theme album take a bow after the Mutual album concert on January 15, 2019, in the Tabernacle at Temple Square.
Jordan James sings his song, “Merciful,” from the 2019 Mutual album at a dress rehearsal for the Mutual album concert. Photo by Judy Alba.Many of the youth leaders in attendance were surprised as well, Breinholt said. After all, most of the songs aren’t exactly the sort you’d expect to find in a typical sacrament meeting. “In some ways, that’s a real bonus,” he said. “It’s the kind of music youth want to listen to during their week to get them pumped up and jazzed up.”Youth started filling the Tabernacle pews at Temple Square, smiling and chattering as their ward leaders shuffled them along to settle in their seats before the concert began. But those few hundred Sunday-dress-clad youth weren’t the only ones about to watch the 2019 Mutual theme album concert.A unified message for youth everywhere
Read more about the 2019 theme from the Young Women General Presidency.
Find more inspiring content for youth on the LDS.org youth homepage.
Download 2019 Mutual theme posters, T-shirt designs, and logos.
Download and share the “If We Love Him” music video.
Claire Westcott sings her song, “His Name,” from the 2019 Mutual album at a dress rehearsal for the Mutual album concert. Photo by Judy Alba.Each year, the Mutual theme song is translated into over 30 languages. Often, the song is performed and recorded by Church members all over the world. The entire album is translated in Spanish and Portuguese, though some local areas in Europe and other countries also translate and record songs themselves.“We want to help the youth—wherever they are,” Breinholt said. “Since we have powerful music that's been created, my hope is to get that music out so that people know it's there and know that this is a resource to help them out.” Youth artists from the 2019 Mutual theme album sing at a dress rehearsal. Photo courtesy of Judy Alba.“They didn’t realize that these songs were so tailored to them and to what they’re going through,” she said. “Some of them had never even heard the songs before they came, so they were excited to know that there was something out there especially for them.”But more than that, the songs are geared toward giving youth a testimony-building resource to turn to amid the negative media pervading their daily routines. Music, Alba said, can be an especially poignant tool for good.
Elica Moore sings her song, “Rest,” from the 2019 Mutual album at a dress rehearsal for the Mutual album concert. Photo by Judy Alba.“Our audience is way out there in other places across the world,” Breinholt said of the concert’s intended international audience, “and they really appreciate this concert. They’re looking for these kinds of resources and connection.”One of many responders, a young man named Marshall wrote: “There’s one thing I can always, always rely on: the grace of God. He hears us, He knows us, but most importantly, He loves us. Hearing these singers and the Spirit that has been here so far has brought me so much joy and happiness. Christ truly does live, and, by His grace, loves us more than we will ever know.” Church composer Nik Day and guitarist Brady Bills accompany youth performers at a dress rehearsal for the 2019 Mutual theme album concert. Photo by Judy Alba.2019 Mutual theme resourcesThe Mutual album concert—now in its second year—featured performances from youth singers who helped record and write songs on this year’s Mutual album, including the 2019 theme song, “If We Love Him.” The album (available for free download) is now in its seventh year and features a variety of uplifting, modern songs by youth, for youth worldwide. The video of the concert is another good resource to help youth learn and appreciate the 2019 Mutual theme.
The fact that the acronym exists explains that people are trying to find ways to signal their commitment, Pixton said, but whether or not it actually happens or when it should happen is often less clear.“Secure commitments are clearly signaled … but ambiguity is the flavor of the age,” he said. The results are a phenomenon of ambiguous and often asymmetrical relationships where one partner is more clearly committed than the other. Guest speaker Dr. Scott Stanley of the University of Denver speaks about the challenges of dating and marriage during the 15th Annual Marjorie Pay Hinckley Lecture. Photo by Aislynn Edwards, BYU Photo.But there have been dramatic changes in the last few decades in terms of the ways relationships, marriages, and families do or don’t form, explained Dr. Stanley during his presentation at the 15th Annual Marjorie Pay Hinckley Lecture.Listing three main types of people in play on the relationship fields of today’s world, Dr. Stanley explained: there’s the seekers, those actively looking to find a partner—which he joked was likely most of the BYU student population; the delayers, those who are determined to not get tied down to any one person or relationship; and the wanderers, or those who are just in and out of the dating scene without giving much thought to what they want. Students attending the 15th Annual Marjorie Pay Hinckley Lecture on February 7, 2019, listen to guest speaker Dr. Scott Stanley in the Hinckley building on the BYU campus. Photo by Aislynn Edwards, BYU Photo.But even among those who are actively seeking committed relationships, fewer people overall are getting married nowadays, and those who are getting married are doing so at later ages than ever before—a phenomenon he referred to as “The Big Delay.”Looking back 40 years ago or so, there were pretty clear steps or stages that signaled where a couple was in their relationship with one another.For some of the students in attendance at that the lecture, Dr. Stanley’s research felt spot on for their college dating experiences so far.Advice for singles who are searchingWhere social norms or patterns used to exist to help signal and define the status of relationships as they progressed, there now exists a seemingly purposeful lack of defining signals in dating. Both fear and a lack of skill in communicating clearly have become driving factors in creating ambiguous, or not clearly defined, relationships, Dr. Stanley noted, so people often fail to communicate what they want or don’t want from their relationships.In many ways, on the broader scale, marriage is becoming less common, but it is increasing in status. Marriage is viewed as a somewhat unattainable gold-standard, particularly by populations unlikely to feel economically and culturally secure enough to attain it. And while Dr. Stanley noted that exceptions are found primarily in highly educated or highly religious environments or cultures—like those created at BYU or by members of the Church in general—where belief systems regarding the importance of marriage tend to outweigh the social trends of the day, many of the current dating phenomenons can still appear even in societies where marriage is still a common practice or goal.“I feel like I’m already starting to look back on relationships and think, ‘What was I doing there?’” Pixton said. “Most of the reasons I was probably ambiguous are reasons [Dr. Stanley] stated. Being afraid of rejection—I really don’t like rejection. … It’s difficult to open myself up emotionally and be vulnerable there. Most people tend to be ambiguous because they are hoping to avoid pain.”Noting the types dating “signals” at play in the BYU dating culture, sophomore Micah Pixton added, “I think there’s at least a tacit agreement that you should DTR (define the relationship) at some point.”In his conclusion, Dr. Stanley described how marriage will continue to become a stronger and more powerful signal of the best relationships over time, and as such, working toward it is still an economically and socially wise goal, particularly for those guided by their beliefs toward it.“In my day … you asked a girl out, and you went out a few times on dates,” Dr. Stanley said. “The next thing was one of you would say, ‘You want to go steady?’ ‘Sure.’ And that’s the whole discussion.”Leaving tips for those still in the dating scene, Dr. Stanley concluded with the following dating advice:Dr. Stanley’s research has helped shape much of the academic dialogue surrounding the topics of marriage and families in the U.S., and his theories about the effects of ambiguity among those searching for relationships in today’s dating environment heavily stress the negative effects of asymmetrical commitments.For Dr. Scott Stanley, a research professor of marital and family studies from the University of Denver, that's the metaphor of choice when describing what he calls “asymmetrically committed relationships.”Dating, relationships, and marriage aren’t quite what they used to be, Dr. Stanley said while speaking to students, faculty, and alumni on the BYU campus in Provo, Utah, on Thursday, February 7.Be realistic about potential mates; don’t look for perfection, Dr. Stanley said, because it’s highly unlikely that perfection is what you can offer them. Rather, look for someone who can be a good partner and match, he said.Imagine you are on a playground and you spot a giant, old-school teeter-totter. It's bright yellow and it rises well above your head on the upside. You look around the playground, find someone who looks well suited to be your partner, and together you climb onto your opposing seats. Rising and falling, you bounce up and down, enjoying the ride. Feeling confident that you and your partner have found a good rhythm, you tuck your feet up off the ground, trusting that the balance and rhythm will continue. Then, just as you begin to relax in your new position, your partner, across from you and on their way back to the ground, turns their legs to the side, and casually rolls off their seat as they touch the ground. High in the air on the other side it hits you: you're about to come crashing down.Signaling, ambiguity, and the big delay
Consistent for 100 years“There’s never been any hesitation. You don’t have to prequalify for her generosity, it’s just given. No questions asked,” Roe said. “She believes in love, and that’s her guiding light.”“I think it’s unusual to have a missionary reach the age of 100. I can’t name another missionary who has reached that,” said Rick Turley, Leighton’s close friend, former Church historian, and current managing director of the Church’s Public Affairs Department. “When you add up her total years of missionary service, it’s phenomenal. But she’s an example of how, if you have a desire and your health and abilities allow it, you can continue to serve.”For Leighton, serving as a senior missionary gives her a sense of purpose each day.At the library, Leighton’s main role is to sit at the third floor visitors’ desk two days a week where she greets visitors and points them in the right direction if they are looking for help with family history research.Leighton explained that the library was redone a few years ago and the visitors’ desk was moved from the first floor to the third floor. But even with the change, Leighton said, “It sure beats sitting at home and doing nothing.”“I don’t even have a scar,” she said, turning her head to show the right side of her face where she was shot by the gunman. “I was the first one shot. He shot me right in the face … but somehow, I wasn’t afraid. I just kept praying and asking Heavenly Father for help, and I guess when talking to Heavenly Father, you can’t be afraid.” Nellie Leighton, 99, wheels to her missionary work at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, January 22, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.At 99 years old, there aren’t a lot of things Nellie Leighton hasn’t seen or experienced.“She’s a wonderful mother, and she just continues to support everyone. She tries to keep up with everybody, and she likes to run things,” Bailey said, noting that despite protests from her children and grandchildren, Leighton has tried to be involved in all the plans for her upcoming 100th birthday bash.Nearly 20 years ago, on April 15, 1999, a lone gunman entered the library on West Temple and opened fire, killing two and injuring another three—including Leighton. But if you ask her about that incident today, there is no animosity in her voice. Nellie Leighton, 99, uses a magnifying glass for her missionary work at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, January 22, 2019. Leighton will celebrate her 100th birthday in February. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.By all who know her, Leighton is described as a kind, joyful, service-oriented, slightly stubborn, spiritual, and strong woman. And when asked what is most important to her, Leighton doesn’t hesitate in her answer.For the past 20 years, she has served as a senior missionary in the Church’s Family History Library, and, with any luck, that’s exactly what she’ll be doing when her birthday comes around this month.
Nellie Leighton, 99, welcomes visitors to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Leighton has served as a senior missionary for 20 years. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“I didn’t know Nellie on a personal level at that point,” he said. “I got to know her afterwards … and when I learned later on that she went through repair surgery and then went right back to her post, I instantly had admiration for this 80-year-old woman. … To me, it was just a model of brave behavior, and she became my hero.”For Turley, it’s Leighton’s ability to forgive and forget that make her such a remarkable person.Leighton added, “She’s the best medicine I’ve ever had. She makes me laugh.”“She genuinely cares about people. She has a great desire to serve,” Turley said.Stephan laughed as she described how Leighton gets back and forth to the library or church each week. “Nellie uses her Jazzy. And if you could see her roaring down West Temple … she has no fear. She just charges along, and I can’t keep up with her.”“I’ve learned to forgive and be kind. I never had any animosity towards him,” Leighton said of the shooter, Sergei Barbarin. “I just felt sorry for him and his family.”“I just love being a missionary and serving Heavenly Father there, but also serving the people that come into the library,” Leighton said. “For 17 years I sat at the front door and greeted everybody that came in and went out, and I miss that.” Nellie Leighton, 99, left, talks with fellow missionary Carolyn Woodman at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“Yeah, we’re a good pair,” Stephan agreed. Nellie Leighton, 99, talks with a fellow missionary at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, January 22, 2019. Leighton wants to keep serving as a missionary as long as she’s able. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“That’s why she’s my hero,” Turley said. “She tends to take life’s challenges and just make the best of them. If there’s an obstacle, she just finds a way around it and keeps going.”Although surprising that no physical damage from the bullet is visible, it’s even more surprising that Leighton seems to have no emotional scars from the incident. She discussed the shooting in a calm, matter-of-fact tone, only showing the slightest hint of emotion when she mentioned the death of her friend John Thomas, who worked as a security guard at the library and died during the shooting, or when she notes that there were angels standing watch over her and the others spared in the library that day.“We didn’t want to go up, but Mom said, ‘I came all this way and I’m doing it,’” Bailey said. So they helped her climb the steps to the top. Nellie Leighton, 99, wheels to her missionary work at the Family History Library with her friend Beverley Stephan and daughter Kathleen Bailey in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, January 22, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“I was practically raised by her … and I never saw her get angry; she never held a grudge and was always very quick to forgive everything,” Roe said. “She never changes as a person. Her personality has been consistent for 100 years.”A pattern of faith and forgivenessDetermined not to slow downAs Stephan described her, Leighton is a great neighbor and a great example of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.“I look forward to going over there to greet and meet people. I have so many friends,” she said. “So I just enjoy getting up, getting dressed and looking nice, and being able to smile. You don’t often get to laugh by yourself at home.” A birthday party invitation for Nellie Leighton’s 100th birthday is looked over in Salt Lake City on January 22, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.As her 100th birthday approaches, Leighton said there is nothing she would rather be doing with her time than serving the Lord as a missionary in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Matching this 99-year-old’s energy level can be a feat. “I get tired, you know, but she is 99 and she’s still running around like a spring chicken,” Stephan said. Nellie Leighton, 99, right, laughs with her friend and neighbor Beverley Stephan at her home on Tuesday, January 22, 2019. Stephan says Leighton is a great example of Christlike behavior. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News. Nellie Leighton, 99, talks with a friend at her home in Salt Lake City on January 22, 2019. Leighton is turning 100 in February. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.With her deteriorating eyesight, Leighton is now legally blind, but her mind is as sharp as ever. If you ask her the phone number of one of her children or grandchildren, she chimes out the memorized number as if she were reading it out of the directory. And since she can no longer see to read, she spends much of her time continuing to learn and study with the help of audiobooks.Up until now, her whole life has been about serving others and serving God, and if you ask her what she wants for the rest of the time she has left, the answer is the same.Sitting across from each other in Leighton’s West Temple apartment overlooking Temple Square, Leighton and her long-time friend and neighbor Beverley Stephan, 91, joke about their old age.“We’re a good pair,” Leighton said laughing. “She can’t hear, and I can’t see.”“Her spirituality is without measure. It is so strong,” Stephan said. “And it is so important for her to go over every first Sunday of the month and give her testimony. Even if she doesn’t feel good, she goes over in the Jazzy and gets up there and gives her testimony, and it’s such a sweet testimony.”
A wedding photo of Nellie Leighton and her husband displayed at her home in Salt Lake City. Leighton celebrates her 100th birthday in February. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“I just want to serve my Heavenly Father,” she says, smiling.“It’s coming so fast,” Leighton said of her birthday. “I just want to be a 100-year-old missionary and live that long, if Heavenly Father lets me.”She’s been through a lot in her 100 years of life, but with each speed bump she encounters, she gets up and moves on, Bailey said.20 years of missionary serviceBorn February 18, 1919, in Provo, Utah, she grew up in a small home with no plumbing, partial electricity, and a large coal-burning stove for heat. Her teenage years were marked by the Great Depression, and her early years of marriage and motherhood were similarly colored by the effects of World War II. In the 1950s and 60s, following the trend of many women, she joined the workforce when she took a job selling Tupperware. And, in 1999, a little over a year into her time serving as a senior missionary at the Family History Library at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah, Leighton was shot in the head by an intruder who took the lives of two others.That’s one of the amazing things about Leighton, explained her granddaughter Julie Roe. She couldn’t hold a grudge if she tried.But that’s just the way she’s always been, said Leighton’s daughter Kathleen Bailey. Sharing a story from 1996 when Leighton was busy traveling around the world with her siblings and children, Bailey recounted her mother’s reaction when faced with the challenge of climbing stairs to the top on the Great Wall of China at the age of 77.Recalling a poignant moment in their shared history, Roe recounted a time when she was staying with her grandmother and walked past her bedroom door before turning in for the night. “She was in her 70s … and I saw her kneeling to pray,” Roe said. “At a time when most people probably wouldn’t be kneeling, that stood out to me. That was dedication.”Leighton is never focused on herself. Anytime a family member or a friend needs anything, Leighton is the first one there to help provide it, Roe explained.
Sister Eubank began her afternoon by making a stop at the Utah Food Bank warehouse in South Salt Lake, where she presented the organization’s president and CEO, Ginette Bott, with a check for $163,718.If you visited the Joseph Smith Memorial Building anytime from late November through the end of December, you likely saw “giving machines”—those large, red vending machines where people donated money to purchase food, clothing, eyeglasses, medicine, livestock, or even sporting equipment to help families and individuals in need across the globe.It’s estimated that one in four children need some kind of corrective eyewear.“Anybody can do anything to help someone else,” she said. “We are all givers and receivers at the same time.”Other giving machines were placed in the Water Tower Plaza in Gilbert, Arizona; on the site of the Manhattan New York Temple in New York City; in the Hyde Park Visitors’ Center in London; and in the SM Mega Mall in Manila, Philippines.The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints presented cash donations February 7 to the Utah Food Bank, Eye Care 4 Kids, and the Utah Refugee Connection. All the money was raised through Church-sponsored “giving machines” during its Light the World holiday service campaign.Sister Eubank then moved on to the Midvale office of Eye Care 4 Kids, where she presented a donation of almost $94,000.The Light the World campaign, she said, allowed legions to exercise their faith in Jesus Christ by serving others. The local donations were also reminders that charity-minded people in Utah need not travel to another corner of the world to serve others in need.The giving machine funds will provide the refugees—many who come from war-torn regions of Africa and the Middle East—with gas cards, bus passes, cleaning kits, diapers, and other essential items.The “giving machine” gift will buy more than 600,000 meals, said Bott. “It will make a huge difference for multiple families—not just in Salt Lake, but across the entire state.” Sister Sharon Eubank chats with Eye Care 4 Kids bookkeeper Christie Allred at Eye Care 4 Kids in Midvale, Utah, on Thursday, February 7, 2019. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News. Abrile Vale tries on glasses at Eye Care 4 Kids in Midvale on Thursday, February 7, 2019. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 2018 Light the World campaign raised more than $93,000 for Eye Care 4 Kids. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.“We are humbled and grateful to the thousands who donated funds to this global project,” says Joseph Carbone, Eye Care 4 Kids founder and president. “We anticipate these funds will directly benefit nearly 4,000 children who desperately need glasses and, beyond that, will provide a new world of vision, understanding, and hope as these children see things more clearly for the first time.”Serving and befriending refugees who have settled in the Beehive State can be, at once, simple and life changing, she added.In all, giving machine “customers” donated more than $2.3 million in 2018.Bott added she was uplifted knowing so many of the giving machine donors were children. A new generation of compassion is being built as young people discover the joy of caring for others.The afternoon of giving ended at the Utah Refugee Connection headquarters, where Sister Eubank presented executive director Amy Harmer with a donation of more than $40,000.Harmer said the gift would help many in Utah’s growing refugee communities as they make homes in their new communities and connect with new neighbors.On February 7, Sister Sharon Eubank, First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, delivered checks to the Salt Lake-area organizations. She admits passing along the donated funds was a lot of fun. She knows many of her fellow Utahns would soon be the beneficiaries of the giving machines.The festive lights and ornaments were likely stashed away weeks ago—but the holiday season stretched into mid-February for a trio of Utah humanitarian organizations. Sister Sharon Eubank; Tohid Shokouhi, Eye Care 4 Kids optician and lab manager; and Joseph Carbone, president and founder of Eye Care 4 Kids, chat at Eye Care 4 Kids on Thursday, February 7, 2019. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 2018 Light the World campaign raised more than $93,000 for Eye Care 4 Kids. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.“For many refugees, their most important need is a friend.”
Bradley K. McKinnon, 57, and Sherry Rowe McKinnon, five children, Mountainville 5th Ward, Alpine Utah Stake: Brazil Londrina Mission, succeeding President Luiz Pereira and Sister Andreia Pereira.
Patrice and Maurice D. JonesGuatemala Cobán MissionSister Wilde is an institute teacher and a former ward Primary president, ward Young Women presidency counselor, Young Women adviser, Sunday School teacher, activity days leader, and Church-service missionary. She was born in Las Vegas, Nevada, to Michael Simkins and Shanna Hunt.Sister Packard is a stake Primary president and a former stake music chairman, ward Primary presidency counselor, ward Young Women camp director, Primary music leader, and ward organist. She was born in Boise, Idaho, to Robert Edward Simmons and Elzada Corinne Young.Brazil Piracicaba Mission
Karen K. and Ted A. ThomasSister Chatora is a self-reliance specialist and a former ward Relief Society president, ward Relief Society and Primary presidency counselor, and Relief Society compassionate service coordinator. She was born in Harare, Zimbabwe, to Mavhura Peter Musekiwa and Bessie Tsitsi Mavhura.Nicaragua Managua North MissionThe following new mission presidents and their wives have been called by the First Presidency. They will begin their service in July of 2019. Biographies of other mission presidency couples will be published throughout 2019 on news.lds.org. (See other published biographies.)
Benjamin and Hilda PoóuBrother Thomas is a stake president and a former stake presidency counselor, stake Young Men president, bishop, seminary teacher, and ward mission leader. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Theodore E Thomas and Georgia Louise Miller.Brother Packard is a ward Young Men president and a former stake president, bishop, stake mission president, bishopric counselor, Young Men adviser, and missionary in the Ecuador Guayaquil Mission. He was born in Nome, Alaska, to Robert Carter Packard and Talmadge Reyburn Meredith.Sister Cordón is a stake self-reliance specialist and a former stake Young Women presidency counselor, stake employment specialist, ward Relief Society and Young Women president, ward Young Women presidency counselor, and seminary teacher. She was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala, to Ronald Mackinley Zea and Irma Julieta Diaz.Liberia Monrovia MissionR. Scott Wilde, 50, and Sherry Ann Wilde, six children, Oakhills Ward, Layton Utah Valley View Stake: Oregon Salem Mission, succeeding President Paul Tateoka and Sister Nadine Tateoka.
Bradley K. and Sherry Rowe McKinnonBrother Rasmussen is a stake president and a former stake Young Men president, bishop, high councilor, bishopric counselor, ward Young Men president, and missionary in the Japan Nagoya Mission. He was born in Portland, Oregon, to Ralph Waldo Rasmussen and Mary Ellen Ward Rasmussen.Sister Price is a Young Women adviser and a former ward Young Women president, ward Relief Society and Primary presidency counselor, and Primary teacher. She was born in Heber, Utah, to Frederick Glen Carlile and Janice Ellen Johnson Carlile.Brother Wilde is a counselor in a young single adult stake presidency and a former stake presidency counselor, bishop, ward Young Men president, elders quorum president, Sunday School teacher, and missionary in the Taiwan Taipei Mission. He was born in Encino, California, to Loren Clyde Wilde and Caroline Busone.Sister Soto is a stake Primary presidency counselor and a former ward Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary president and institute and seminary teacher. She was born in San José, Costa Rica, to Juan Evangelista Muñoz Chaves and Glady Virginia González Hernández.Brother Price is an elders quorum instructor and a former Area Seventy, stake president, district president, bishop, bishopric counselor, and missionary in the California Arcadia Mission. He was born in Vernal, Utah, to Duane Price and Eula Pearl Sessions Price.Brother Chatora is an Area Seventy and a former stake president, stake presidency counselor, bishop, high councilor, and bishopric counselor. He was born in Zvishavane, Zimbabwe, to Tsikai Chatora and Machivei Chatora.Brazil Londrina MissionDonald E. Smith, 62, and Rebecca Smith, three children, Twin Falls 15th Ward, Twin Falls Idaho Stake: Italy Rome Mission, succeeding President Michael D. Pickerd and Sister Marian Pickerd.
Gary S. and Julie C. PriceSister Rasmussen is a temple ordinance worker and choir director and a former stake Young Women camp director, ward Young Women president, ward Relief Society and Primary presidency counselor, Relief Society teacher, and ward organist. She was born in Alamosa, Colorado, to John Lynn Shawcroft and Dorothea Carol Shawcroft.
Jared R. and Jessica Galindo de OcampoSister Jones is a stake seminary supervisor and a former ward Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary president and seminary teacher. She was born in Spanish Fork, Utah, to Roy Wylie Lundell and Carol H Boyack Lundell.James F. Wood, 59, and Christine G. Wood, four children, Imperial 2nd Ward, Salt Lake Highland Stake: Florida Jacksonville Mission, succeeding President Brent I. Lee and Sister Jacque S. Lee. Jared R. Ocampo, 44, and Jessica Galindo de Ocampo, four children, Arrazola Ward, Guatemala City Don Justo Stake: Texas McAllen Mission, succeeding President José S. Torres Caballero and Sister Vicky A. Godoy de Torres.
Meredith H. and Corinne S. PackardWashington Kennewick MissionTexas McAllen Mission
Walter and Diana ChatoraGary S. Price, 59, and Julie C. Price, six children, Shepard View Ward, Farmington Utah North Stake: Liberia Monrovia Mission, succeeding President Doug Clark and Sister Michelle Clark.
James F. and Christine G. WoodBrother Soto is a stake presidency counselor and a former stake president, bishop, mission presidency counselor, area public affairs director, and missionary in the Honduras Mission. He was born in San José, Costa Rica, to Rodrigo Alvaro Soto Coto and Dinorah Bolaños Badilla.Maurice D. Jones, 59, and Patrice Jones, five children, Manitowoc Ward, Green Bay Wisconsin Stake: México Mérida Mission, succeeding President Abel Ruiz Valadez and Sister Rocio Ángel de Ruiz.
R. Scott and Sherry Ann WildeSister Thomas is a ward temple and family history consultant and a former stake Relief Society and Young Women presidency counselor and ward Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary president. She was born in St. Charles, Illinois, to David Mitchell Krafft and Arlene Faith Kruse.Brother Jones is a stake president and a former stake presidency counselor, stake mission president, bishop, high councilor, bishopric counselor, and missionary in the Uruguay Montevideo Mission. He was born in Murray, Utah, to Merlyn Paul Jones Sr. and Rosemary Wright.Sister McKinnon is a stake young single adult adviser and a former stake Young Women president, ward Relief Society and Young Women president, ward Young Women camp director, and seminary teacher. She was born in Provo, Utah, to Fred Ares Rowe and Sherrel Gay Butler Rowe.Brother Ocampo is a ward Young Men president and a former Area Seventy, stake president, stake Young Men president, high councilor, elders quorum president, and missionary in the Chile Santiago South Mission. He was born in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, to Roberto Ocampo Reyes and Argentina Martínez.Sister Sturm is a Relief Society teacher and stake music chairman and a former ward Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary presidency counselor; ward missionary; and missionary in the California Fresno/San Diego Mission (American Sign Language). She was born in Mesa, Arizona, to Robert Dale Watson and Shirley Elizabeth Watson.Valeri V. Cordón, 49, and Glenda Cordón, three children, Concepción Ward, San José Costa Rica Los Yoses Stake: California Los Angeles Mission, succeeding President Robert M. Haynie and Sister Ruth E. Haynie. Brother Sturm is a high councilor and a former stake presidency counselor, bishop, branch president, and missionary in the Japan Kobe Mission. He was born in Carmichael, California, to Arthur William Sturm and Barbara D. Lythgoe Sturm.
Valeri V. and Glenda CordónBrother Smith is a Sunday School teacher and a former stake presidency counselor, bishop, high councilor, ward Young Men president, ward Young Men adviser, and missionary in the Italy Milan Mission. He was born in Salt Lake City to Donald Eugene Smith and Alice Barratt Smith.Elder Cordón is a General Authority Seventy and a former Area Seventy, stake president, bishop, high councilor, seminary teacher, and missionary in the El Salvador Mission. He was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala, to Ovidio Cordón and Ema María Orellana.
Edward R. and Carolyn RasmussenSister Ocampo is a stake Relief Society presidency counselor and seminary teacher and a former stake Primary president, stake Relief Society and Primary presidency counselor, ward Primary president, and missionary in the San Salvador El Salvador East Mission. She was born in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, to Gonzalo Galindo Galo and Anna Bessy Flores Milla.Sister Smith is a stake Relief Society president and a former seminary teacher and ward Young Women and Primary presidency counselor. She was born in Salt Lake City to Philip Hone Clark and Ruth Hawkins Clark.India Bengaluru Mission
Donald E. and Rebecca SmithOregon Salem MissionIowa Des Moines MissionSister Poóu is a stake Relief Society presidency counselor and a former ward Young Women president, ward Primary presidency counselor, and Relief Society teacher. She was born in Finca El Volcan, Senahu, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, to Ramiro Chiquín Cabnal and Cecilia Bac de Chiquin.Edward R. Rasmussen, 62, and Carolyn Rasmussen, five children, Provo Peak 10th Ward, Provo Utah East Stake: Washington Kennewick Mission, succeeding President Doneal L White and Sister Claudia Esplin White. Walter Chatora, 53, and Diana Chatora, three children, Centurion 1st Ward, Centurion South Africa Stake: Uganda Kampala Mission, succeeding President Stephen H. Collings and Sister Tracy Ann Collings. México Mérida MissionBrother Poóu is a mission presidency counselor and public affairs director and a former stake presidency counselor, bishop, high councilor, institute teacher, and missionary in the Honduras Tegucigalpa Mission. He was born in in Senahú, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, to José Herculano Poou Choc and Margarita Alva Yat.Florida Jacksonville MissionRodrigo B. Soto Bolaños, 55, and Maritza Muñoz de Soto, five children, La Victoria Ward, Liberia Costa Rica Stake: Nicaragua Managua North Mission, succeeding President Sergio A. Poncio Álvarez and Sister Jessiva L. Calderon de Poncio. Ted A. Thomas, 62, and Karen K. Thomas, eight children, Leavenworth 1st Ward, Platte City Stake: India Bengaluru Mission, succeeding President Fred M. Mortensen and Sister Shauna A. Mortensen. Sister Barros is a ward Relief Society president and a former ward Young Women and Primary president and ward Relief Society and Primary presidency counselor. She was born in Patos, Paraíba, Brazil, to Jaime Miguel de Araujo and Maria Auxiliadora Bolzan.Brother Barros is a bishopric counselor and a former stake president, stake presidency counselor, bishop, and missionary in the Brazil Brasilia Mission. He was born in João Pessoa, Paraíba, Brazil, to Antonio de Albuquerque Barros and Maria de Fatima Vasconcelos Barros.
Maritza Muñoz and Rodrigo B. Soto BolañosUganda Kampala MissionBruno V. Barros, 43, and Luciene M. A. Barros, three children, Jardim do Horto Ward, Maceió Brazil Stake: Brazil Piracicaba Mission, succeeding President Howard K. Bangerter and Sister Lissa H. Bangerter. Brother Wood is a ward Young Men presidency counselor and a former stake president, stake clerk, bishop, high councilor, Gospel Doctrine teacher, and missionary in the Italy Padova Mission. He was born in Salt Lake City to Franklin Snow Wood and Nellee Jean Abraham.California Los Angeles MissionMeredith H. Packard, 53, and Corinne S. Packard, six children, McKinney 7th Ward, McKinney Texas Stake: Perú Lima North Mission, succeeding President Matthew R Godfrey and Sister Monica A. Godfrey. Sister Wood is a stake Relief Society presidency counselor and a former ward Relief Society and Primary president; ward Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary presidency counselor; Primary music leader; Relief Society teacher; Gospel Doctrine teacher; ward missionary; and missionary in the Italy Catania Mission. She was born in Neubrucke, Germany, to Garth Lowe Geddes and Nordith Geddes.Brother McKinnon is a bishop and a former stake president, branch president, stake executive secretary, stake Young Men president, ward Young Men president, and missionary in the Brazil Porto Alegre Mission. He was born in Salt Lake City to Gary Francis McKinnon and Linda Rose Kempton McKinnon.Dale A. Sturm, 55, and Valerie Sturm, five children, Plano Ward, Rexburg Idaho Henry’s Fork Stake: Iowa Des Moines Mission, succeeding President Briant T. Badger and Sister Cynthia Badger. Italy Rome Mission
Bruno V. and Luciene M. A. Barros
Dale A. and Valerie SturmBenjamin Poóu, 45, and Hilda Poóu, five children, Coban 2nd Ward, Coban Guatemala Stake: Guatemala Cobán Mission, succeeding President Carlos A. Faundez Maureira and Sister Teresa Riquelme Faundez. Perú Lima North Mission
She said she also enjoyed Sister Nelson speaking of the process of inspiration and revelation for her husband at night and how he wrote them down. President Russell M. Nelson speaks a record crowd of 65,000 people gathered for at a devotional at the State Farm Stadium in Phoenix on Sunday, February 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.He cautioned against tattoos and piercings, immodesty, and pornography.“The changes we have experienced in our Church meetings and policies should help us, but by themselves they won’t get our members to where our Heavenly Father wants us to be,” President Oaks said. “The changes that make a difference to our position on the covenant path are not changes in Church policies or practices, but the changes we make in our own desires and actions.” President Russell M. Nelson and President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency speak with 10 young single adults prior to a devotional at the State Farm Stadium in Phoenix on Sunday, February 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News. President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks to 10 young single adults with his wife, Sister Kristen Oaks, prior to a devotional at the State Farm Stadium in Phoenix on Sunday, February 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.President Oaks spent much of his address reviewing and underscoring the many changes and points of emphasis from President Nelson and other Church leaders from the April and October general conferences—the changes in the Sunday worship schedule, the youth advancing to classes and quorums at the first of the year rather than on a birthday, the call to spend more time in the temple, the changes in the curriculum, the emphasis on a home-centered Church, the move to ministering, the challenge for the women to read the Book of Mormon by the end of 2018, and the correct use of the Church’s name. He focused some of this remarks on the youth and young adults in attendance, highlighting the importance of the gospel and the fact that God is our Father and Jesus Christ His Son. “And Their commandments and our obedience remain essential, whether we travel by wagon or spaceship, and whether we communicate by voice or texting.”“Everything in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints belongs to Jesus Christ,” Sister Nelson said. “The doctrine is His, the covenants are His, the ordinances are His, the priesthood power is His power. The Apostles are His. And the prophet is His prophet, chosen and instructed by Him.”President Nelson posed the question of what the gathering of Israel looks like, then listed four examples, punctuating each with a pointed phrase at the end of each.Testifying that the power of coming to Christ and following His teachings as taught by modern-day prophets is both tangible and attainable, Sister Oaks reminded: “We are not alone. We are children of a Heavenly Father who loves us and desires that we come to Him.Sister Nelson recounted personal and shared experiences with her prophet-husband in the 13 months since the passing of his predecessor, President Thomas S. Monson, and President Nelson’s sustaining as the Church’s leader. She also acknowledged the personal confirmation she received—twice—of his mantle. President Russell M. Nelson gestures to attendees at the State Farm Stadium in Phoenix on Sunday, February 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Displaying on the giant videoboards at both ends of the stadium a photo of President Nelson and President Oaks together, Sister Oaks underscored the energy and unity of the pair who have served side by side since their calls to the apostleship in the April 1984 general conference.Gail Ricks of Gilbert, Arizona, who attended with her husband and six children, said she was touched by “the prophet’s presence and the spirit he carries. I loved the message of gathering Israel and that we can have a mini-MTC (missionary training center) in our home.” Audience members at a devotional at the State Farm Stadium in Phoenix listen to President Russell M. Nelson on Sunday, February 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.
The devotional at the State Farm Stadium in Phoenix on Sunday, February 10, 2019, was also broadcast live to meetinghouses across Arizona. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.She was thrilled to hear one of her children say of the event: “We’re are in the same room as the prophet—but it is a really large room.” President Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, wave to audience members in the State Farm Stadium in Phoenix on Sunday, February 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“Loyal Saints of Arizona assembled to hear and heed our Prophet’s words, you must be very special,” she said, “because only 15 Apostles of Jesus Christ walk this earth, and two of them have been directed to come here in your behalf.”Citing the restoration of priesthood and its keys through heavenly messengers such as Peter, James, John, Moses, Elias, and Elijah as key to “gather together in one all things,” President Nelson emphasized the keys of the gathering of Israel coming from Moses and the restored keys of sealing authority from Elijah.Eleven-year-old Hailey Hinton of Peoria, Arizona, said it was her first time being with a president of the Church—other than attending general conference—as she sat six rows above the floor. “I was really excited to see him walk in,” she said of President Nelson. President Russell M. Nelson gestures to attendees at the State Farm Stadium in Phoenix on Sunday, February 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.When the house of Israel rejected the teachings of the Lord and persecuted the prophets in biblical times, Jehovah scattered His people far and wide among the heathen—but with a promise that one day they would be gathered back into the fold of the Lord, he said. “And that promised day is today.”The Book of Mormon, he added, serves as a tangible sign to all the world that the Lord has commenced to gather Israel and fulfill the Abrahamic covenant. It contains the fulness of the gospel and teaches the Savior’s Atonement, with its two primary and oft-repeated topics being Jesus Christ and the gathering of Israel.PHOENIX, Arizona President Russell M. Nelson speaks at a devotional at the State Farm Stadium in Phoenix on Sunday, February 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“Tonight Heavenly Father has sent His messengers to teach and inform us. I beg you to listen to what they say. I promise that their teachings, if you apply them, will uplift and edify you.”Regarding technology, he said cell phones “should be your slaves, not your masters … cut it back and rejoin the world of those who talk face to face.”The devotional in the indoor stadium was the largest congregation to listen to President Nelson, the largest Church gathering ever in the state of Arizona, and one of the largest of the Church since the area and regional conferences held in the 1970s and 1980s, which included a May 1980 Southern California area conference in the Rose Bowl that drew an estimated 75,000. President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaks to 10 young single adults with his wife, Sister Kristen Oaks, prior to a devotional at the State Farm Stadium in Phoenix on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Arizona is home to nearly 430,000 Latter-day Saints (263,000 in metro Phoenix) and six missions (five in the Valley of the Sun) as well as the birthplace of President Spencer W. Kimball, the Church's 12th president who served from 1973 through 1985.
“My dear brothers and sisters, these promises—first given to Abraham and later reaffirmed with his son, Isaac, and his grandson Jacob, who became ‘Israel’—are known as the Abrahamic covenant and are available to all of God’s children,” President Nelson said. “Yes, these divine promises are available to you!”President Oaks also urged care in how youth and young adults label themselves, asking them to not define themselves by some temporary quality. “Our single best quality to characterize ourselves is that we are a son or daughter of God,” he said. “That fact overrides all other labels, including race, occupation, physical characteristics, honors, or even religious affiliation.”“We have a prophet on the earth, and he came to see us and to tell us to join the Arizona battalion,” he said. “And he made it very specific for us.”The latter is done as missionaries take the gospel across the globe, as the light of the gospel and the love of the Lord infuse the lives of all; as men are ordained to the priesthood and women are endowed with the power of the priesthood through their temple activity; and as temples continue to dot the earth, he said.“I have an invitation for you as the Arizona battalion of the Lord’s army to help gather Israel on both sides of the veil,” proclaimed the 94-year-old President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as he spoke to about 65,000 gathered in State Farm Stadium, including the nearly 9,000 youth and young adults seated on the stadium floor for the Sunday, February 10 event. Hailey’s father, President Sean L. Hinton of the Peoria North Arizona Stake, appreciated the rallying cry for him, his family, and his fellow members from the prophet.She also shared her witness of him receiving inspiration and revelation—often in the middle of the night, sometimes while she is in the room with him and other times when she leaves him to be alone. “I am a witness of being present, and I am a witness by being absent, that the Lord indeed instructs His prophet....Called by a variety of names ranging from the Arizona Member Devotional to the Greater Phoenix Area Devotional, the event was the day’s finale for President Nelson, who had a guest column published in the morning issue of the state’s largest newspaper, the Arizona Republic; a television interview shared across the state’s television stations, several receptions with a collection of the state’s civic, educational, and faith leaders; a question-and-answer session with 10 young single adults, and then the stadium devotional, which was also broadcast live to meetinghouses across Arizona.
If you like to make lists, set goals, and check off accomplishments, you’ll love the new Study Plans feature in the latest update of the Gospel Library app.“We are pleased to add the study plans feature in the Gospel Library app,” said Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy. “The Church continues to innovate its resources to better support the new home-centered approach to gospel learning.”Study Plans helps you set up a schedule for studying any content found in the Gospel Library app.How to create a study plan
Set a schedule
Add a reminder
And in the rotunda of the Rome Italy Temple Visitors’ Center among the Christus and ancient Apostle statues, he pointed to Thorvaldsen’s statue of Peter that has two keys gripped in the right hand.Between Rome and Jerusalem, the assignment’s itinerary—ranging from conferences and devotionals to humanitarian visits—included stops in the United Arab Emirates cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai; Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan; and Cairo, Egypt.President Brimhall reported that in addition to the large-scale gatherings of members and students, Elder Bednar found ways to minister to individuals during his stay. One such person was a sister, Margreta Spencer, who is the district’s longest-residing member in Israel and is confined to a nursing home in the Golan Heights, nearly three hours north of Jerusalem. Sister Susan Bednar, right, visits with youth at the Ashti refugee camp near Erbil, Kurdistan, on January 21, 2019. LDS Charities assisted in providing 750 tents in two refugee camps in the area. Photo by Boyce Fitzgerald. Elder David A. Bendar, seated with folded arms to the left end of the table, holds an impromptu meeting with students in the cafeteria of the BYU Jerusalem Center during his visit there in late January 2019. Sister Susan Bednar is seated in front of him. Photo by Dennis Brimhall. A sign in the Ashti refugee camp shows the cooperative efforts of LDS Charities and the Barzani Charity Foundation to provide tents and shelter in several refugee camps in Kurdistan. Photo by Boyce Fitzgerald.Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stood in the urban grove of aged olive trees located at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. It is called the Garden of Gethsemane, although the precise location of the New Testament’s same-named site of the Atonement of Jesus Christ remains uncertain but likely nearby.The Apostle noted his affinity for having visited the areas of Capernaum and Tabgha off the shores of the Sea of Galilee—seeing the foundation of Peter’s home, visualizing the events of the New Testament in the area, and being mindful of the Savior’s teachings such as the Bread of Life sermon and the Sermon on the Mount.“When you are in a place very close to where Christ’s Atonement actually occurred, you try to imagine—but cannot totally—what that experience was like for Him,” said Elder Bednar, who also visited other historical and religious sites in the Old City and near the Sea of Galilee.Church members in the Middle Eastern countries face unique and difficult challenges, Elder Andersen said, explaining that “Elder Bednar’s visit was a comforting reminder to them that Heavenly Father remembers and loves all His children. His teachings and his testimony warmed their hearts.” Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Sister Susan Bednar pose for a photo at the excavated ruins of an ancient Byzantine-era synagogue in Capernaum, Israel, near the Sea of Galilee on January 27, 2019. Photo courtesy of Elder David A. Bednar. Children from the African Hope Learning Centre in Cairo, Egypt, gather to greet Elder David A. Bednar and other guests on Wednesday, January 23, 2019. Photo by Boyce Fitzgerald.In addition to visiting historical and religious sites in the Old City and around the Sea of Galilee, Elder Bednar presided over a conference of the Jerusalem District and a devotional at the BYU Jerusalem Center. The Bednars also hosted an impromptu gathering with students in the center’s cafeteria one evening.“Consider the antiquity of Egypt and its impact on the world and on world culture, and then think of the Roman influence and of Jerusalem,” he said. “It is just a remarkable sequence of places to be and to learn.” Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Susan, walk from the Rome Italy Temple to the Rome Temple Visitors’ Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Monday, January 14, 2019. Behind them at right is President President Marcello De Vito, president of the Rome City Council. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.“I love to read about Peter and Paul and their ministries in the New Testament,” he continued. “And the mantle they bore, that Elder Rasband and I have received, is real. For me, the bond with those ancient Apostles is in the majesty and powers of the mantle and in the spiritual witness of the reality of the Restoration in the latter days.” Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is joined by his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, at the pulpit during the Jerusalem District conference meeting in the BYU Jerusalem Center on Saturday, January 27. The Old City, including the Dome of the Rock, is seen in the background. Photo by Dennis Brimhall.One humanitarian stop was at the African Hope Learning Centre in Cairo, Egypt, where LDS Charities has donated computers and other materials. For more than two decades, the school has helped educate impoverished children—up to nearly 500 annually—who have fled from Sudan and a dozen other African nations, often without one or both of their parents. A group of visitors—including Elder David A. Bednar, Sister Susan Bednar, Elder Wllford W. Andersen, and Sister Kathleen Andersen—are greeted by children at the Ashti refugee camp near Erbil, Kurdistan, on January 21, 2019. LDS Charities assisted in providing 750 tents in two refugee camps in the area. Photo by Boyce Fitzgerald.“We are all sons and daughters of God,” said Elder Bednar of the displaced refugees and their needs. “We help provide some of the assistance they need to survive in really difficult circumstances.”In the UAE, Elder Bednar conducted a special meeting of the Abu Dhabi Stake as well as a meeting with youth and young adults ages 12 through 30. While geographically Abu Dhabi is a long distance from Salt Lake City, “the leadership and the Church are not a long way from Abu Dhabi,” he said. “There is a powerful message when we minister to them in their lands and in their homes.”It was a learning experience for others as well, as Elder Bednar met with many in meetings while ministering to the one. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Sister Susan Bednar stand at the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee on January 27, 2019. Photo courtesy of Elder David A. Bednar.Jerusalem District President Dennis Brimhall, who joined the Bednars and Andersens and others in the small group touring the Old City and Galilee, said, “We were continually thinking about a living Apostle walking where the original Apostles walked and were taught—and to be mindful that the words of a living Apostle are just as important as those we read in the New Testament.”“You are close to the location when time and eternity intersected in the Savior’s atoning sacrifice,” said Elder Bednar, recalling his first-ever visit to the Holy Land last month and the scriptural scenes of the Apostles Peter, James, and John accompanying Christ to the garden that night.Another visit was at the Ashti IDP Camp—IDP standing for “internally displaced persons,” or refugees within one’s own country—in Iraqi Kurdistan, near the city of Erbil. LDS Charities partnered with the Barzani Charity Foundation to provide 750 large tents—250 at Ashti and another 500 at the Khazer refugee camp. The tents offered shelter and protection from the cold winter weather, with November flooding in the area damaging the previous refugee shelter. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answers a question during a press conference in the Rome Temple Visitors’ Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Monday, January 14, 2019. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.The two locations—Rome and Jerusalem—served as fitting bookends for the modern-day Apostle’s 18-day assignment. Joined by his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, Elder Bednar went from Rome, with its history of influence, to Egypt and neighboring Middle East nations marked by the antiquity of the region’s early civilizations, and then on to the Holy Land. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stands with Sister Susan A. Bednar in front of the Christus and Apostle statues in the Rome Italy Temple Visitors’ Center in Rome in mid-January, 2019. Photo courtesy of Elder David A. Bednar. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, is the largest mosque in the country. Photo courtesy of Elder David A. Bednar. A young girl grins while greeting a group of visitors—including Elder David A. Bednar, Sister Susan Bednar, Elder Wllford W. Andersen, and Sister Kathleen Andersen—to the Ashti refugee camp near Erbil, Kurdistan, on January 21, 2019. Photo by Boyce Fitzgerald.
Children from the African Hope Learning Centre in Cairo, Egypt, gather to greet Elder David A. Bednar, second from left, Sister Susan Bednar, fourth from right, and other guests on Wednesday, January 23, 2019. Photo by Boyce Fitzgerald.“Peter received from the Savior the keys of the kingdom,” Elder Bednar said, “and there is a mantle associated with the ordination. The apostleship is never about the men. It is about the office and the mantle.“To be in Jerusalem with an Apostle of the Lord is an experience that none of us will ever forget,” said Elder Wilford W. Andersen, a General Authority Seventy who with his wife, Sister Kathleen Andersen, accompanied the Bednars in the Middle East and Israel. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles greets attendees following a special meeting of members ages 12 through 30 of the Abu Dhabi Stake, held on Friday, January 18, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Photo by Boyce Fitzgerald.Elder Bednar video-recorded a message and blessing for her, President Brimhall said. The district president added that he’ll deliver it to her soon when he goes to do a temple-recommend interview with her.“To have the responsibility to bear witness of Him, His divinity, His Resurrection, His living reality causes us to count our many blessings and reflect deeply on all we have been blessed to have received in this dispensation.”Less than two weeks earlier, he had been in Rome, joined by his fellow Apostle, Elder Ronald A. Rasband, in initiating the media and special-guest tours of the new Rome Italy Temple. (See related story.) During the nearly weeklong assignment there, the two visited the Mamertine Prison, believed to be the dungeon cells “where Peter and Paul were held captive for publicly declaring their witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Elder Bednar said. Elder David A. Bednar glances at a tent bearing the LDS Charities and Bargain Charity Foundation logos in the Ashti refugee camp near Erbil, Kurdistan. Elder Bendar was accompanied by, from left, Elder Wilford W. Andersen, a General Authority Seventy, and their wives, Sister Susan Bednar and Sister Kathleen Andersen. Photo by Boyce Fitzgerald. Children from the African Hope Learning Centre in Cairo, Egypt, gather to greet Elder David A. Bednar, Sister Susan A. Bednar, and other visitors on Wednesday, January 23, 2019. Photo by Boyce Fitzgerald.
Faith in God is, and has always been, the preeminent force for good in this world, wrote President Russell M. Nelson in an op-ed article published February 10 in the Arizona Republic.“Whatever your faith tradition or personal circumstances, as a servant of the Lord I invite you to look to Him and make Him the center of your life.”“If there is anything I’ve learned in my 94 years of living, it is that a life with God is far better—more filled with hope—than one without Him.”In the editorial, titled “Viewpoints: LDS president urges spirituality in an increasingly secular world during Phoenix-area visit,” President Nelson, 94, wrote that the most profound thing he has witnessed during his lifetime is the unrivaled difference that belief in God and His Son, Jesus Christ, has in a person’s life. “There is simply nothing to compare with the refining, ennobling strength and meaning that come into the life of a devoted believer and servant.” President Russell M. Nelson looks over a destroyed LDS chapel with his wife, Wendy Nelson, in Paradise, California, on Sunday, January 13, 2019, two months after the Camp Fire destroyed 1,400 homes and hundreds of businesses. President Nelson wrote about the visit in an op-ed published February 10 in the Arizona Republic. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Read the article here.In the op-ed President Nelson wrote about his visit last month to Paradise, California, where he met with and comforted those affected by the Camp Fire, which left 86 dead and destroyed more than 18,000 structures. He also wrote about the recent death of his daughter Wendy Nelson Maxfield to cancer.
President Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, stand with son in-law Norman A. Maxfield after funeral services for President Nelson’s daughter Wendy Nelson Maxfield on Saturday, January 19. President Nelson wrote about his daughter in an op-ed published February 10 in the Arizona Republic. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.
“Encourage your students to always hold a temple recommend … and then to share their feelings about being in the temple, the revelation and inspiration that comes as they reach beyond this life ‘for the things of a better’ serving those who cannot do the ordinances for themselves.”“To this day I can see my teachers’ imprint on how I study the scriptures and, in particular, how much I love the Book of Mormon.” Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Melanie Rasband, participate in “An Evening with a General Authority” devotional, which was broadcast from the Tabernacle on Temple Square on February 8, 2019.Elder Kim B. Clark, a General Authority Seventy and Commissioner of Church Education, introduced Elder Rasband and made brief remarks.“I have learned no one is immune,” he said. “Teen suicide is a crisis reaching all around the world. Statistics show that suicide is now among the three leading causes of death among youth ages 15 to 24.”Sustaining power also comes each week by renewing sacred covenants and partaking of the sacrament. “Let the blessing of the sacrament, to ‘always have His Spirit to be with us’, be something you talk about so that drawing upon the healing power of Jesus Christ, through His Atonement, is real.”Like the angel that comforted the Savior during the unfathomable pain of Gethsemane, the Lord’s teachers can be angels of comfort for those in their charge.The Church, he emphasized, takes teen suicide seriously. Seminary and institute teachers can help those at risk by utilizing love and the many Church-provided suicide-prevention resources. In doing so, they further fulfill their calling as “a teacher come from God” (John 3:2).Christ’s influence, impact, and reach are all encompassing. “He loves us in our brightest and our darkest hours,” he said.“Life-changing” influencersBut Elder Rasband warned that even youth who come from gospel-centered homes might be at risk. “One young man responded to a family home evening activity that asked each member to write down one thing that was important to them. The 14-year-old, seemingly on top of his world, wrote, ‘To know there is someone there for me.’” Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addresses Church Educational System employees, missionaries, and their spouses during “An Evening with a General Authority” devotional, which was broadcast from the Tabernacle on Temple Square on February 8, 2019.Life has always been filled with challenges and no one is immune. Trials come to all—they are part of the mortal experience to make one strong.“They need to be encircled in the arms of their Savior and know they are loved. So often the Lord calls on us; He expects us to be His welcoming, loving arms. We need to encourage their friends to do the same.”“The scripture states, ‘I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you,’” (Doctrine and Covenants 68:6).The Lord continues to look for those who can help a student who struggles or perhaps is declining in testimony and understanding.Teachers should ensure that academic rigor or gospel instruction never “get in front” of the power of the Spirit to touch and encourage students. Prepare them to receive inspiration and personal revelation—and then act upon it.There is no template for teens at risk for suicide, according to a Latter-day Saint Apostle.Elder Rasband counseled seminary and institute teachers to help their students identify a “protection scripture” that they can call upon whenever they are in a perilous situation or in need of strength. “‘Be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you’ is a good one.”But there are common threads, said Elder Ronald A. Rasband in his sober, yet hopeful, message to Church Educational System employees, missionaries, and their spouses.Healing in service, temple worship, and partaking of the sacrament“To be of good cheer is to trust Him when things don’t work as we planned,” he said. “It means to soldier on when difficult twists take us in unexpected directions, when tragedy and hardship shatter our dreams.”Students fear not being accepted by friends. They fear academic performance, pressures, and problems at home they can’t solve. They fear they can trust no one—and no one trusts them. They fear being alone, and fear being in groups. They fear there is no solution or relief to their pain.But never forget, divine assistance and ministering is found through the Savior. Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addresses Church Educational System employees, missionaries, and their spouses during “An Evening with a General Authority” devotional, which was broadcast from the Tabernacle on Temple Square on February 8, 2019.“He has prepared you to step forward in teamwork with parents and Church leaders. You stand before your students and reaffirm the truth that Jesus Christ lives, that our Father in Heaven loves each one of us, and that we have a place in His eternal plan. And best of all, you believe it.”Elder Rasband began his “An Evening with a General Authority” address—which was broadcast live from the Salt Lake Tabernacle at Church headquarters to a global audience—by noting the “life-changing” influence CES instructors have had on his own life.Elder Rasband concluded with an apostolic witness and reminder of the Savior’s loving power to lift and heal all who are in need.The Lord lifts His servants, telling them to be of “good cheer.”Suicide is often connected to the pain of unanswered questions, sorrows, griefs, what-ifs, and what-nows, he said. Suicide levels have reached such tragic proportions that people must reach out in new and more effective ways to counsel, care for, and support vulnerable youth.Additionally, many of today’s seminary and institute students have had their lives overtaken by stress, temptation, crisis, and disappointment.“He will be with us, He will comfort us, and He will heal us if we come to Him and draw upon His power to save us,” said Elder Rasband. “Most often He heals the wounded heart. How does it happen, we ask? By the power of the Atonement exercised in our lives today, not at the end before the final judgment, but every day as we seek to be like Him, to love what He loves, to follow His chosen prophets.”Those threads might include disappointment, a botched quiz, a break up, a string of bullying, academic stress, or perhaps what can aptly be called adolescent misery. Elder Kim B. Clark introduces Elder Ronald A. Rasband during “An Evening with a General Authority” devotional, which was broadcast from the Tabernacle on Temple Square to Church Educational System employees, missionaries, and their spouses on February 8, 2019.Discouragement, despair, anxiety, and depression are all products of such fears.Seminary and institute also offered young Ronald Rasband “a safe place” to hang out with friends gathered together in a gospel setting. “I particularly looked forward to taking Melanie Twitchell to the institute dances. Melanie is now my beautiful, wonderful wife.”“Jesus Christ is always the answer. In understanding His mission and His gospel, our love for Him, and our belief in and reliance on Him gives us strength.”Start by following the example of the Savior, who rescues through the Atonement and continues to love and heal His loved ones.“The blessing is that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can still be of good cheer,” he said.Elder Rasband then shared a hope-driven teaching from the Church’s presiding Apostle, President Russell M. Nelson: “When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation … and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives.”“When they do, they will experience the miracle of the Lord’s direction and guidance, a very real form of His love,” he said.Everyone must face the issue of suicide, he said.Gospel teaching in seminary and institute is especially vital for those students without a gospel support network at home.Be of good cheerThe weight of lifting, teaching and encouraging youth can be almost more than one can bear. Bringing souls to Christ can be hard—and the adversary is aggressively targeting those of the rising generation.Elder Rasband acknowledged that his days as a student in seminary were unburdened by today’s internet content that can undercut beliefs in God, religion, revelation, and prophets.“As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we must commit to do everything we can to reshape the thinking that suicide is an answer, a response worth considering. We must talk to teens about suicide and love them out of considering suicide as a solution to their pain.”Youths at risk may play the trombone, sing in the choir, compete on soccer teams, or bag groceries after school. Some regularly attend church. Others have set aside religion.The Lord’s sustaining promise to “stand by you” is not reserved for those “who are squeaky clean” or hold a seat on the seminary council.Fearful moments“He will stand by each one of our youth, each one of us for that matter, in our darkest hour. That is the power of the Atonement, and we need to teach it with such force that it reaches those who are suffering.”“Try just saying the name ‘Jesus Christ’ in a perilous setting with one who has lost hope. Just calling upon Him by name, with reverence, can make a difference in a difficult moment.”Seminary and institute teachers are in the corps of “first responders” for young people at risk and, tragically, believe life has no purpose for them.“Some students get derailed, but with the Spirit of the Lord, you can help put them back on track,” he said. “Remember the words of Paul: ‘We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed,’” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).“They may be the ones who privately ask a question just to engage in further gospel discussion because it is the only time they have that spiritual connection in their day. Treasure those opportunities, and make time for them.”Elder Rasband challenged seminary and institute teachers to help students know of God’s love while developing an understanding of the Atonement. Encourage them to find joy and purpose by serving others and serving in the temple.Elder Rasband also warned of suicide “clusters,” where one teen takes his or her own life and others see it as an option and follow.Throughout time, Christ has unceasingly demonstrated His love for all.“Fear in its many forms is manifest unfortunately in the cruelest of conclusions—suicide,” he said.Youth and young single adults who struggle with gender issues are particularly vulnerable, he added.“A greater understanding of Jesus Christ will help those who are spiraling down,” said Elder Rasband, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “His love for them and the profound and exalted place He has prepared for them in the eternities is a message of hope. He loves them. They need to know that.Life is fragile and uncertain. Homes that practice family prayer, scripture study, and family home evening offer precious tools for young people.Hope in Christ is the antidote for suicide“We can express love if that is what youth need; find them a friend, listen to them, and seek them out with a kind word or gesture. We may need to work with their parents and bishops to get counseling services for struggles, depression, or another mental illness.”Elder Rasband spoke of serving on the Utah governor’s task force that is charged with addressing the surge in teen suicide. It has proven to be a daunting responsibility.Never forget, the “cause of Christ” beckons with an everlasting promise: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Construction on the temple with an adjacent meetinghouse is expected to begin in 2019 and is anticipated to take about two years to complete.This will be the first temple in Cabo Verde, a country of 10 islands off the west coast of Africa. The temple was first announced October 7, 2018, by Church President Russell M. Nelson.An artist rendering of the temple was also made public Friday. The rendering features a single-story temple with an end spire reflective of the architectural styles in the area. The temple will be built in the capital city of Praia on the island of Santiago and located east of Avenida Cidade de Lisboa in the Tahiti Chã de Areia neighborhood.The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced that the groundbreaking for the Praia Cabo Verde Temple will be held May 4, 2019. Elder Paul V. Johnson, president of the Europe Area for the Church, will preside.Attendance at the site will be by invitation only. It is anticipated that the groundbreaking services will be transmitted via internet to local meetinghouses within the proposed temple district. Additional details will be forthcoming.
Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Friday, February 8 they will close the missionary training center located in Buenos Aires, Argentina, effective July 2019.
Plans for future use of the facilities will be determined in coordination with local leaders, according to Church spokesman Daniel Woodruff. Following the closure, missionaries who would have attended this center will be trained in the Mexico and Brazil MTCs.
This decision comes as Church leaders continue to seek the best use of resources worldwide according to the needs and demands of each area, said Woodruff. Specifically, this closure is designed to better utilize the Mexico and Brazil MTCs, among others, which train large numbers of missionaries who are assigned to serve in Latin America. Three additional Missionary Training Centers closed this month in Spain, Chile, and the Dominican Republic.
With the closures, the Church will operate 11 missionary training centers—located in Brazil, Colombia, England, Ghana, Guatemala, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Philippines, Provo, and South Africa.
This photo from 1983 includes Elder Laddie Stewart, left, and his investigator John Larkin. Larkin was baptized and is now serving as Elder Stewart’s mission president in the Marshall Islands/Kiribati Mission.In 1988, “Brother” Larkin became “Bishop” Larkin. He would later serve in a stake presidency and presided over the Canberra Australia Stake for nine years.Welcoming the Stewarts to the mission field marked an unforgettable moment for President Larkin.(He also remembers sweetening their frequent visits with generous slices of apple pie.)Anyone who has served a proselytizing mission likely recognizes the first two scenarios.They located the address and knocked on the door. John Larkin answered and invited them in. He had discussed the Church with a Latter-day Saint friend and eagerly began asking the missionaries question after question. Elder Stewart and Elder Bouy couldn't answer all his queries—but their teachings and testimonies soon took hold.Elder Stewart and his companion challenged their inquisitive investigator to find answers and guidance through prayer. Personal revelation, they taught, would become his trusted friend.At this moment a missionary is knocking on the door of a would-be investigator.Additional visits to the United States would follow, and the two growing families gathered together whenever possible. Sister Lori Stewart and her husband, Elder Laddie Stewart, outside the New Zealand Missionary Training Center prior to reporting to the Marshall Islands/Kiribati Mission. The Stewarts’ mission president, President John Larkin, was once Elder Stewart’s investigator in Australia.Elder and Sister Stewart have been in the mission field for just a few weeks, he added, “and already their love for the people and love for the gospel of Jesus Christ is touching the hearts of many others.”“Looking back, I can see that teaching institute was my mission for gaining a deeper knowledge of the gospel,” he said.John accepted their invitations and was soon preparing for baptism.The new convert initially hoped he could serve a full-time mission. But at 29, he was too old. So, he instead accepted a calling to teach institute. He also became a husband and later a father. He and his wife, Robyn, are the parents of six children.“Going on a mission when I was 19 years old was a dot. Meeting and teaching John was another. … Now, getting to serve with him is a milestone-sized dot. I am honored and filled with joy.”Soon a mission call to the Marshall Islands/Kiribati Mission arrived.“John reached out to me and said he was coming to the States on a business trip and would like to reunite and visit,” said Elder Stewart. “I was beyond thrilled to see one of my converts doing so well.”“I was deeply touched by their humility, their genuine concern, and their passion for the gospel—and I later realized that the greatest influence during the lessons was the Spirit of the Lord,” wrote President Larkin in an email to the Church News. “I always felt good when the missionaries were in my home, and I always looked forward to their next visit.”In the early weeks of 1983, 19-year-old Elder Stewart and his companion, Elder Michael Bouy, were serving in Melbourne, Australia, when they followed up on a member referral.Meanwhile, young Elder Stewart returned home to Arizona, attended college, began his career in education, married his wife, Lori, and started a family of his own.Then, “out of the blue,” he said, the phone rang. He immediately recognized the Australian accent on the other end of the line.The third outcome? Highly unlikely—and seemingly impossible. But for senior missionary Elder Laddie Stewart and his one-time-investigator-turned-mission president, President John Larkin, it’s a priceless reality.“I count serving alongside Elder Stewart on a mission as a highlight of our 36-year friendship,” he said. “His humility and kind nature continues to touch my heart.”A few possible outcomes:
As a child and young teenager, I asked all of my Primary, Sunday School, and Young Women teachers a lot of questions—questions that would be considered “deep” for a child. They fulfilled their callings faithfully and blessed my life in indescribable ways, yet they often did not have the answers I sought. At times, this made church a difficult experience for me.He also helped us learn by teaching. When he was sick or out of town, instead of getting another adult to substitute, he would ask one of us to teach. The first time he asked me, I felt surprised, nervous, and super excited. I don’t really remember how it went, but I know I loved it. I now even wonder how much of that experience contributed to my desire to become a teacher by profession.I couldn’t believe my ears. “Really?” I thought. “OK, let’s do this.” I sat up in my chair and raised my hand. He called on me and the questions began. I honestly don’t remember my first question. But I remember his response: “Wow, that’s a really good question. Let’s turn to Doctrine and Covenants.”I have questions. Lots of them. I always have. For as long as I can remember, I have believed in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and I have had an insatiable appetite for truth and a burning desire to know more about Them. Over the years, this gift has brought many blessings and some challenges.That became a normal Sunday for our class, but the other classmates started joining in as well. Soon enough, even those of us who used to have to get escorted to class by the Sunday School president were now running to class after sacrament meeting. We truly wanted to learn the doctrine.Heavenly Father sent me one of the greatest gifts of my teenage years in the form of a Sunday School teacher named Brother Brent White. Shortly after Brother White and his family moved into the ward, he was called to be my Sunday School teacher. When he was sustained in sacrament meeting, I remember thinking, “Who is this guy in the blue framed glasses? Should I really give him a try?” It sounds so silly to my adult mind now, but that was my thought as a 14-year-old. And I am grateful I did “give him a try.”I turned to the reference and there was my answer—right in the scriptures. That verse led me to another question, which I asked right away. And that was the pattern for the rest of the class. I don’t think I even let anyone else in the class talk that day. I kept firing questions and he kept taking me to the scriptures.On his first Sunday as my teacher, he started the class by asking, “Does anyone have any questions?”Brother White would regularly take us to the scriptures and the words of prophets. He would lead discussions that allowed us to think and share and ask more questions. If he didn’t know something, he would tell us he didn’t know. And then he would invite us to keep thinking and would give us more questions to consider about that topic. I was OK that he didn’t know all the answers—I didn’t expect him to know everything. He testified that Heavenly Father wanted to teach us and wanted to help us understand truth as we are taught repeatedly in the scriptures. “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:63).Lori Newbold serves as the director of training services for Seminaries and Institutes and is a member of the Young Women general board.I felt my small flame of a testimony growing into a blazing fire that year because of my Sunday School experience. We knew he loved us, and we loved him. I am eternally grateful for Brother White and the way that he led me to the Savior and assisted Him in my personal conversion.Some of us class members were so engaged that the 40-minute Sunday School session was often too short for all we wanted to learn. Brother White would allow us to come to his home on Sunday nights, and we would continue our questions and conversations from class. He took time to help me understand—lots of time.This is by no means a criticism of any of those wonderful teachers; at age 11 I was asking questions that I still don’t know the answers to a couple of decades later. I remember complaining to my mom one Sunday after Church: “Why do I even go to church if no one can answer my questions?” She compassionately listened to my frustrations and witnessed of the importance of following the Savior at all times.