“The future of augmented reality and education is bright and exciting,” added Murdock, “and we are thrilled to see how the world responds to this all-new experience.”Justin Lether, an audience experience manager for the Church’s Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, said that “organizations all over the world are experimenting with augmented and virtual reality right now. Our interest is to figure out how we can use this emerging technology to bless people around the world with the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Watch at demo of the app at https://vimeo.com/383131751.The app allows you to “walk around” and learn more about the characters and objects you see, such as Laman and Lemuel, the path, fountain, mists of darkness, rod of iron, great and spacious building, and tree of life. “Navigation is driven primarily through physical movement, said Murdock, “which adds a new level of engagement and a more unique experience.”Have you ever wished you could experience and explore Lehi’s vision of the tree of life for yourself?What Is Augmented Reality?The Book of Mormon augmented reality experience of the tree of life allows you to look around and explore the different aspects of Lehi’s symbolic vision.In addition, “many of the 3D assets, video, and photos we needed were captured during the production of the Book of Mormon Videos created by the Church,” said Michael Murdock from Murdock Motion, who partnered with the Church on the project. “This made Lehi’s dream ideal for the creation of the content and mobile app experience.”Download the AppUsing the AppOnce published, the app will be available to download in English, Spanish, and Portuguese for Apple and Android devices from the iOS App Store or Android Play Store. You can also find descriptions and links on ChurchofJesusChrist.org/pages/mobileapps. Note that only newer versions of mobile devices have the capacity to fully process the experience.
A screenshot from the Tree of Life AR app on a mobile phone. Scriptures, videos, and questions to ponder help you learn more and relate elements of the vision to your life.Future Applications“The app follows the learning pattern for Come, Follow Me curriculum by providing members with a non-linear experience to explore gospel materials, think about open-ended questions, and to have a unique visual experience that can help them relate the dream to their own lives,” said Kristin Yee, interactive and animation manager in the Church’s Publishing Services Department.Augmented reality is a method of superimposing sounds, images, and text onto the world we see. According to Lefler, the technology is a relevant learning tool for today’s young people. “They’re comfortable in it,” he said, “and augmented reality calls upon almost all of your senses in the learning process.”To change the language or send feedback, click on the three dots in the right-hand corner of the app’s screen. “We really want to hear from those who use it,” said Lefler. “It’s only through the user’s experience can we understand how to improve.”The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is releasing an interactive mobile app that uses augmented reality to engage members—particularly children and youth—to learn from the scriptures in a new way and apply what they learn to their lives.
A screenshot of the Tree of Life AR app on a mobile phone shows an expanded, close-up view of one of the elements from the vision—the tree of life.The Church is launching the app in time for parents and teachers to download and use the app for the January 13–19 Come, Follow Me lesson that focuses on Lehi’s vision of the tree of life.After you select a viewing surface, such your table or floor, the experience opens on your mobile device, combining the environment around you with an artist’s interpretation of what the vision may have looked like. Sound effects of rushing water, voices, laughter, and music add to the reality of the experience.Teaching Tool for Come, Follow Me LessonsScriptures, questions to ponder, and videos from related conference talks explain the significance of each element you select to study and help make it applicable to your life today.“With this app, we’re trying to learn how augmented reality might engage young people in gospel study,” said Lether. “Will this self-directed learning environment deepen understanding and strengthen faith in the truths taught in the scriptures? We are hopeful that we can learn from this and figure out how the technology might be used to engage youth in the scriptures.”The Tree of Life AR app—developed using content from the Book of Mormon Videos—focuses on the tree of life vision from 1 Nephi 8 in the Book of Mormon. The vision was selected as the subject for the app “because it’s rich in metaphor and appeals to a wide group of people,” said Bryan Lefler, an animation writer and director in the Church’s Publishing Services Department.Lefler said that in early prototype testing, children spent anywhere from 12–60 minutes and teens spent 10–12 minutes exploring the app and the gospel teachings associated with it. “Regardless of age and understanding, everyone—from a sunbeam on up—discovered something new that enlarged their understanding of Lehi’s vision,” he said.
Apply online before February 5 at noon. Applicants will be notified via email whether or not they are selected to participate by February 14.Male and female Latter-day Saints ages 18 and older of all ethnicities are welcome to apply online. To participate, choir members must live along the Wasatch Front and be able to attend all of the choir rehearsals listed on the application. Rehearsals begin February 23, 2020.Applicants may note in the online application whether they are willing to assist with the choir in other capacities (choir usher, attendance assistant, etc.) in case they are not selected as a choir member.The music division of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is now accepting applications to participate in a multicultural choir for the Saturday evening session of the April 2020 general conference.During his “Closing Remarks” in October, President Russell M. Nelson designated the year 2020 as a bicentennial year, and described the upcoming “unique” April conference as “different from any previous conference,“ and one “that will commemorate the very foundations of the restored gospel.” Rather than what normally would be a priesthood session, the Saturday evening session will be for all Latter-day Saints ages 11 and up.
Tuesday’s event followed a lesser quake Monday in Puerto Rico that measured 5.8.One man from the southern city of Ponce, where Tuesday’s earthquake was strongest, was killed and several others were injured. Hundreds of people have flocked to the streets in Ponce, too frightened to return to their homes after the main quake and subsequent aftershocks, the Associated Press reported.Tuesday’s main quake and frequent aftershocks have left some in the Ponce region hysterical with fright, said President Ruiz.All missionaries serving in Puerto Rico are safe and accounted for and were in contact with their families Tuesday via phone texts. Meanwhile, there were no early reports of injuries to Church members. “Since the hurricane, we’ve maintained 72-hour kits and a supply of water in all the missionary apartments,” said President Smart.Immediately, President Ruiz began contacting fellow Church leaders in the area.“We’re doing fine,” said San Juan Puerto Rico Stake President Wilfred Rosa. “Everyone is kind of scared right now—but it’s not as bad as a hurricane.” Still, he added, many across Puerto Rico live in older or less stable homes or apartments that remain vulnerable to natural disasters.“People are parking on the main roads and freeways and just waiting. We are still in an emergency situation as this point.” Meanwhile, local leaders in the Ponce stake made preliminary structural assessments of local Church buildings and did not discover any obvious damage.There is, perhaps, no mission in the Church more savvy in dealing with natural disasters lately than the San Juan Puerto Rico Mission. Following Hurricane Maria in 2017, full-time missionaries were evacuated to ensure their well-being. “I woke up and told my wife and parents and kids that this was the [big] one, so let’s get out of the house,” he said. “We walked calmly outside, and all my neighbors were also leaving their homes.”President Rosa said Puerto Rico is a seismic region and he and his fellow islanders are accustomed to occasional temblors. Most of the newer buildings are designed to withstand quakes.“All of the missionaries were able to get smartphones just before Christmas, so we are all connected now,” he said. “Around 4:30 or 5 a.m. this morning, we started receiving messages from the missionaries saying that they felt the quake, but that there were no injuries or problems.”Ponce Puerto Rico Stake President Franki Ruiz said violent tremors jostled him from bed Tuesday shortly after 4 a.m. He was expecting a major quake because of frequent seismic activity on the island in recent days.Electrical outages were common across the island Tuesday morning because of downed power lines and voluntary shutdowns to allow for maintenance and inspection of potentially compromised infrastructure.“We have no reports of members being harmed or reports of their homes being seriously damaged,” he said. “We are still trying to account for everyone—but so far, things seem to be OK for the members.” Latter-day Saints and their neighbors across Puerto Rico were rattled awake Tuesday morning, January 7, when a 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck the Caribbean island that remains haunted by recent natural disasters.Despite being more than an hour’s drive from Ponce, “we felt the earthquake very strongly here in San Juan.”Puerto Rico San Juan Mission President David Smart told the Church News a short time after Tuesday’s quake that the elders and sisters serving on the island were accounted for and in good condition and spirits.He and other stake presidents on the island were in communication with one another shortly after the main quake.In the capital of San Juan on the north end of the island, residents and members were dealing Tuesday morning with widespread power outages—but were grateful that the quake did not cause greater damage.All the missionaries, he added, have texted their parents, letting them know they were safe.
The recent alignment of curriculum for youth—the Book of Mormon will be studied in seminary, Young Women classes, and Aaronic Priesthood quorums in 2020—also “makes the lives of families easier and more exciting to study together,” Brother Camargo said. For Brother Jan E. Newman, Second Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency, as well as for several of the Latter-day Saints he has met, the integrated curriculum has been “transformational” for studying the scriptures.Latter-day Saints “are putting to the test the prophet’s encouragement and receiving his promised blessings,” Brother Pace said. And that promise wasn’t just for 2019 and the study of the New Testament.Brother Camargo has observed how Primary children are excited to study the gospel at home and are encouraging their parents to do it. “I heard from parents saying, ‘Now we have to study with our children because they want to be prepared for Sunday Primary.’ So that was a blessing,” he said. “The curriculum team has done such a great job of putting together elements that help people understand the scriptures more effectively,” Brother Newman said. “I think that Come, Follow Me is really going to open the Book of Mormon even more deeply than what the members have experienced in the past.”The Book of Mormon Come, Follow Me manual will also be a wonderful tool to share with family members, friends, and neighbors who might not otherwise be reading the Book of Mormon, Brother Pace said. First, schedule a time for scripture study using “Come, Follow Me” as a guide. Be consistent and do what works. For those who weren’t as diligent with Come, Follow Me in 2019 as they hoped to be or felt overwhelmed, don’t worry, Brother Camargo said. Fourth, take advantage of the new resources in the 2020 manuals. The Book of Mormon Videos are one example and “will help many families to see the Book of Mormon was a reality,” Brother Camargo said. Videos for 1 Nephi-Enos have been already released with more videos to come in 2020 and 2021. The appendix in the individuals and families manual includes additional information on learning to recognize the witness of the Spirit while studying the Book of Mormon, as well as “plain and precious truths” found within the Book of Mormon and information and background about the Three Witnesses. Said Brother Pace: “As you go from ward to ward and stake to stake, you see just a great fervor of scripture study unlike anything I’ve seen before in my life.”To make 2020 “a year of powerful scripture study unlike any other,” the Sunday School General Presidency offered some ideas. “So many Latter-day Saints are trying to follow the prophet’s counsel to read the Book of Mormon. And this year, everything will be aligned in a wonderful effort to read the Book of Mormon with the Come, Follow Me resource as a guide.”Now with a year of experience under their belts, Latter-day Saints have felt the “profound influence” of President Russell M. Nelson’s invitation for home-centered gospel learning. “They can feel that the Lord is expecting more at home,” Brother Pace said. “They can feel His trust.”New Year, New Experience“Changes in your family will be dramatic and sustaining,” President Nelson promised.“I think we are doing a better job of doing what we always said we did. This year we’ve really done it—we’ve really been studying the scriptures. … We couldn’t be more grateful for what’s happening in the lives of the Latter-day Saints.”Members will find a section titled “Prophetic Promises” within the Introductory Materials about the blessings that come from studying the Book of Mormon. The Introductory Materials are a great reminder of the “why” and “how” of Come, Follow Me. Members should review those materials often, Brother Newman said. As Brother Pace and his counselors have traveled around the world, they have spoken with Church members about their experiences with “Come, Follow Me” and what they are learning. “That is his enduring promise to each and every Latter-day Saint who will remodel their home into a sanctuary of faith by reading the scriptures with the Come, Follow Me resource as a scripture study guide,” Brother Pace said. A father helps his two daughters read from the scriptures. Family members sit down together to read the scriptures from books and smartphones.Second, listen to the Spirit. “We are hopeful that the Saints would pay attention to what the Spirit teaches them during the week as they’re reading the Book of Mormon, and that they would be in their classes on Sunday with a willingness to share what the Spirit has taught them,” Brother Pace said. As Latter-day Saints “diligently work to remodel (their) home into a center of gospel learning,” three things will happen over time, President Nelson said. First, “your Sabbath days will truly be a delight”; second, “your children will be excited to learn and to live the Savior’s teachings”; and third, “the influence of the adversary in your life and in your home will decrease.”The Sunday School General Presidency also emphasized that each ward has the flexibility to have as many Sunday School classes as would be beneficial. This includes multiple adult classes, young single adult classes, language classes, or classes for friends learning of the gospel and new members.Church meetings, including Sunday School, have improved because members come prepared. “Everybody knows what we’re going to talk about, and they’re prepared to discuss it. And it makes the job for the teacher a lot easier because people are willing to share,” Brother Newman said. “The curriculum for all those classes is the same: studying the scriptures using Come, Follow Me, Brother Pace said.“With the 200th anniversary of the First Vision and celebration of the Restoration, I think it’s going to be a year of powerful scripture study unlike any other,” said Brother Mark L. Pace, Sunday School General President. Another resource in the appendix is “Suggested Music for Families,” which lists hymns and Primary songs by week that can be used during family scripture study or home evening to support the doctrine taught in the specific scripture blocks. “We’re excited about the additional emphasis on Church music,” Brother Pace said. Covers of 2020 curriculum manuals for Sunday School, Individuals and Families, Primary, and Young Men and Young Women.“I think what members have learned is Come, Follow Me is a great way to help you get your feet wet,” he said. “People that maybe have struggled in the past or have just kind of systematically read verses … are now getting a better, deeper understanding of the scriptures.”
General Sunday School Presidency (left to right) Milton Camargo, First Counselor; Mark L. Pace, President; Jan E. Newman, Second Counselor.New ResourcesThird, study with questions in mind. “The Book of Mormon answers all the questions of the soul,” Brother Camargo said. “Through the scriptures, members can recognize the voice of the Lord. This year, we can have all of our questions answered by reading and studying the Book of Mormon.”Remember, while Sunday lessons are important, the learning that happens at home is equally important, Brother Newman said."" book="" of="" mormon="" /> “Start and do your best. Don’t be concerned about being perfect in your effort. Everyone does it differently,” he said. “There is no failure as long as we try our best.”As Latter-day Saints begin studying the 2020 Come, Follow Me curriculum, the Sunday School General Presidency is thrilled for individuals and families to dive in and experience the power of the Book of Mormon perhaps more than they ever have.A Look Back at 2019
“As this Fast Sunday draws to an end for the Pacific Area we are heartened as an Area Presidency to hear reports of just how many members joined with the Pacific Area Presidency in dedicating a portion of their fast to petition the Lord for relief from the bushfires and drought conditions in Australia,” the statement read. “We thank all who participated for this physical demonstration of their faith in Christ and their love and compassion for their fellow Saints.”The presidency concluded, “Please know that our prayers will continue on your behalf.”The Pacific Area Presidency released a statement of gratitude at the end of the day on January 5, thanking all those who participated in a national fast for Australia’s relief from ongoing fires and drought.Read the full Pacific Area statement.Although winds in New South Wales and Victoria calmed over the weekend, a report from The Guardian noted that the danger of the fires is far from over. Fires are expected to continue to burn for weeks to come as weather patterns continue to change.To Australian Saints, the Area Presidency expressed hope that the prayers and fasting of members from around the world will help give them strength and ease their burden in the face of “unprecedented conditions of fire and drought.”“In temporal terms, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, through the generosity of its members, will continue to respond to the needs of local communities and Saints alike,” the Pacific Area Presidency said in their statement Sunday evening. “Comparatively, as limited as our help might be, we gladly step forward with assistance to make a difference for good, for that is who we are as Latter-day Saints and what we do.”According to a Monday morning report by Time, the wildfires have burned a total area about twice the size of the state of Maryland in the U.S., and more than 135 bushfires continue to burn, with 70 of them uncontained.In Canberra, Australia’s capital city, the air quality Monday morning was the worst of any major city in the world due to the smoke and pollution caused by the fires.
For Grover, serving others is what really drives him. “It has given my life meaning,” he said. “And I just go by the feeling of the Spirit. It’s really pulled me to those areas and it’s been powerful to see what happens just by providing people with what I think Christ would do by serving them. I’m trying to inspire them to expand their capacity and to grow their spirit and to grow their ability to achieve more in life.” Making a Difference One by OneWhen Kenneth Grover made the decision to retire early from full-time work at the age of 48, he spent a good deal of time pondering what he wanted to do with the next 30 or so years of his life. Students and teachers at one of the schools where the SOYLA Foundation sponsors scholarships in Guatemala pose for a group photo. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Grover.Hope for the Future“Both for me and the educational community, Kenneth Grover’s work is a light of hope helping to overcome the difficult but necessary challenges of improving humanity,” she said. “The love and devotion, which he demonstrates through his kind acts, strengthens our vocation and helps us improve our dreams as educators and learners.” “I’m not a big believer in doing tons of infrastructure because lots of foundations do it, but then they don’t provide that ongoing,” Grover said. But, because the idea of 180 kids using a single pit toilet at the school seemed like a health hazard waiting to happen, Grover helped to build and install flush toilets with proper plumbing at each of the schools. “We also painted the school and little things like that to kind of build a sense of pride and show that the school means something.”“Now my students are happier,” he said. “Through education, they are realizing that they can have a better life. They have dreams now, beautiful dreams. Some want to be doctors, teachers, engineers. … They have dreams that they previously viewed as something impossible to accomplish. … He has helped our young people dare to dream.” The SOYLA Foundation and the work Grover is doing in the communities “fills us with hope,” Obispo said. “It fills us with joy and demonstrates to us the power of charity. Through his example, we have discovered that loving one’s neighbor means becoming part of their history. He has given us back our dignity and is teaching us to believe that together, we can achieve great things.” The young boy, picking up another star fish and tossing it back into the ocean, says to the old man, “It makes a difference to the ones that get thrown back.” Kenneth Grover, center, poses for a photo with students at their school in Guatemala where the SOYLA Foundation helped to build new facilities and sponsors scholarships for students. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Grover. Kenneth Grover, founder of the SOYLA Foundation, greets scholarship students prior to a ceremony honoring their academic achievements for the year. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Grover.The short poem tells the story of an old man, walking along a beach covered with starfish washed ashore by the tide. As he walks, the old man comes across a young boy picking up the starfish one by one and throwing them back into the ocean. The old man somewhat incredulously asks the boy why he is bothering to throw them back. There are millions of them, he says, telling the young boy he’ll never be able to save them all and then asking what difference it makes. Jose Luis Gulaj Obispo, the former principal of INEB Telesecundaria B-16 in La Maquina, said that Grover’s scholarship program has completely changed the lives of his students.As a young man, “the greatest joy I had was the time I had serving and working with the people of Guatemala on my mission,” he said. “So, I decided to give back to the community that had given me so much.”As a result on the increase, Grover met with the minister of education to request more teachers be brought in to handle the increase in student attendance. After a few initial return visits to the country to meet with old friends and get reacquainted with the communities he hoped to help, Grover set to work.By changing some of the infrastructure of the schools, Grover has helped the children want to be there, Paz explained.By January of 2020, Grover said he expects the foundation will be sponsoring more than 450 students with scholarships. And although at times it feels like he’s not doing enough, Grover said he likes to think of his work in Guatemala like the parable of the starfish. Students and teachers at one of the schools where Kenneth Grover and the SOYLA Foundation sponsors scholarships in Guatemala pose for a group photo. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Grover.“They know there is someone else willing to listen to their needs and give them support through the difficult process of getting an education,” Morales said. “Most of them, in order to continue studying through the basic cycle (primary school), had to buy their own school supplies. But this year that was no longer necessary thanks to the generosity of Kenneth Grover and his SOYLA foundation. The students strive with increased enthusiasm to accomplish their work and as a result are becoming increasingly competitive.”In addition to the scholarships, making the schools a place that both the children and teachers want to be was also important, Grover explained. With very little money or resources from the government each year to improve the facilities and supplies at the schools, Grover has worked with the communities to help improve the school buildings as well.“I wanted to get busy now,” he said, expressing his desire to serve others. “I didn’t want to wait until I’m 70 and then say ‘I wish I would have done that’ because I might not even have the capacity at that point.”In 2018, when the program began, 68 children were attending the secondary school in La Maquina. Once the scholarship applications went out, enrollment went up. This year there are 183 students, Grover said, “simply because we have scholarships for kids to be able to go to school and get their books and pay for their uniforms.” Daring to DreamIn Guatemala, public education is only funded through the sixth grade, Grover explained in a recent Church News interview. After that, students have to pay to continue their education; and even prior to that, students are responsible for paying for their uniforms, books, and other school supplies, which often cost more than they or their families have the means to afford. It is during the primary and secondary school years where scholarships and outside funding are not often available that the educational system loses the majority of its students, Grover explained.For both the children and the teachers—who can also qualify for merit scholarships—the addition of the incentivized scholarships has already brought about an increase in performances, Grover noted. When it comes down to it, there are really only two commandments from the Lord, Grover said. “To love the Lord and to love one’s neighbor. And for me, the best way to love my neighbor and to love my God is to love His children. And my neighbor could be next door or they could be down in Guatemala.”“You want to treat people with dignity,” he said. “They don’t want to just receive something. They want to feel like they earned it, and so this is a way for me to work with the community to offer that.” So, after making the necessary contacts to begin his work, Grover established the SOYLA Foundation—a scholarship program directed at helping entire communities in poor rural areas of the country—in July 2018. The foundation’s name, Grover explained, is in honor of a 13-year-old girl he knew in the area who passed away from ovarian cancer in 1989.And as Morales explained it, Grover’s work is doing just that. “For me, I know it’s only 300 or so kids, and maybe in three years it’ll only be 3,000 kids, but, well, it matters to them,” Grover said. “So, I’m going to do my part wherever I’m led to shift the trajectory of these lives.”In recent months, in addition to all he is doing for education, Grover has started looking into other ways he can help these communities. From providing wheelchairs to people in need, to helping sponsor medical services with the help of local doctors, Grover said he is trying to help in any way he can. It’s incredible to know the impact that such small acts can have on the lives of individuals as well as whole communities, he explained. Kenneth Grover, left, meets with community members in one of the areas where he sponsors scholarships for primary school-aged children in Guatemala. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Grover.Reflecting on his life as an educator and thinking of where he would best be able to utilize his talents to make a difference in the lives of others, Grover’s thoughts returned to the thing that brought him the most joy in his life, apart from his family.“Part of my logo is ‘juntos logramos,’” Grover said, explaining that the phrase means “together we achieve.” So with every project, whether with the scholarships, building of bathrooms, painting the schools, donating new desks, or building a community center, the focus is always on bringing the community together, Grover explained. “The whole community has benefited because more boys and girls have hope for a better world and a better future,” she said. Griselda Margoth Perez Morales, a teacher at the Instituto Nacional de Educación Básica de Telesecundaria Siglo I in Retalhuleu, said because of Grover and the work he is doing in their community, children are starting to believe achieving their dreams is possible. New desks, donated by the SOYLA Foundation, are delivered to a school in Guatemala. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Grover.For each of the building projects, for example, Grover sought out skilled artisans and laborers from the community to help plan, direct, and build everything. As a former teacher, Grover felt that every child, regardless of their circumstances, should have the opportunity to receive an education. So, Grover decided to make the scholarships both blind and merit based—meaning every child in the community who applies will get their basic education covered by the scholarships, but if they work hard and perform well, they can receive extra scholarship funding as they advance. “The scholarships offer an opportunity amid the great poverty and inequality that exists in this country,” said Doris Adriana Morales Paz, a licensed social worker with the mayor’s office in Santa Andres Villa Seca in Retalhuleu, Guatemala. “They have changed the students’ way of viewing life and have given them other opportunities for personal progress.”
Community members help paint at their local school in Guatemala as part of a project to upgrade the schools sponsored by the SOYLA Foundation. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Grover.Students gather in the courtyard of one of the schools where Kenneth Grover sponsors scholarships in Guatemala. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Grover. “They were more than willing to dig the holes and lay some pipe,” he said. “I provided all the materials, and I did provide some contractors to do some permitted work where needed, but I wanted them to have a part in it, because if they have skin in the game then they are more likely to feel ownership for it.”“I was an educator for over 20 years of my career and one of the things I believe in is incentives,” Grover continued. Community members help paint at their local school in Guatemala as part of a project to upgrade the schools sponsored by the SOYLA Foundation. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Grover. Newly built toilet facilities donated by the SOYLA Foundation at a school in Guatemala. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Grover.Grover started the scholarships first in two schools in La Maquina—a community in the state of Suchitepequez. He began offering what he calls “blind scholarships” for children in the community to attend either the primary school, Linea B-14, or the secondary school, INEB Telesecundaria B-16. Once scholarships in that community were established, he expanded to schools in the neighboring states, offering scholarships at Canton Siglo I, Santa Cruz Mulua, Retalhuleu, and INEB Telesecundaria Mangales, Retalhuleu.In Mangales, Retalhuleu, the SOYLA Foundation also helped to build a small community center to provide a place for the community to gather. As Grover explained, he simply wanted to ensure that every student, or every family in each of the communities he works in, has the opportunity to go to school without money as an obstacle.
Responding to the growing concerns raised by the devastating wildfires sweeping across Australia in a season of drought, the Pacific Area Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement inviting Australian Latter-day Saints to unite together on the first Fast Sunday of the new year, January 5, for a day of fasting and prayer “to petition the Lord for relief from the bushfires and drought conditions.”For Latter-day Saints around the world wishing to donate funds to be used in relief efforts for those impacted by the ongoing fires in Australia, the area presidency noted that contributions can be through the Humanitarian Aid category on Church donation slips.The wildfires, which have been raging in Australia since November, have “prompted one of the largest evacuations in the country’s history,” according to an AP News report, and are expected to cause increasing damage across the country in the coming days and weeks. In a statement released on the Pacific Area Newsroom on December 31, 2019, the Pacific Area Presidency noted that all missionaries serving in Australia are safe and accounted for, with some missionaries being relocated within the country for safety. Mission leaders continue to provide regular updates for their local situations and are maintaining contact with families regarding the status of their missionaries, the area presidency reported. The Church has already contributed “thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid and stands ready to donate further funds” as they are needed, the area presidency said in their statement, adding that local members “have also responded by donating hundreds of hours of service to their fellow citizens.”Read the full Pacific Area presidency statement. The area presidency also noted their gratitude for the Welfare and Self-Reliance teams in the area who have been monitoring the ongoing situations with the fires and have been providing guidance for local leaders and the area presidency for how to respond.Concluding their statement directed at Latter-day Saints in Australia, the area presidency stated that their prayers “will continue on behalf of your nation during this challenging time.” Locations of bushfires across Australia that are 12-48 hours as of January 3, 2020. Map courtesy of Landgate Firewatch. With more than 200 wildfires blazing, government leaders throughout affected areas have been ordering evacuations as fires continue to spread due to the strong winds and hot weather of Australia’s summer. Some 12.35 million acres of land have already burned throughout the country, with more than 1,400 homes destroyed.According to a recent AP report, more acres have burned this summer in Australia than have burned in the United States since the time of Harry Truman’s presidency.
Editor’s note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square broadcast. This message was given December 29, 2019.The “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL Radio 1160AM/102.7FM, ksl.com, BYU-TV, BYU Radio, Dish and DirectTV, SiriusXM Radio (Channel 143), The Tabernacle Choir’s website and YouTube channel, and Amazon Alexa (must enable skill). The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at musicandthespokenword.org/schedules. Emerson once wrote to his daughter while she was away at school: “Finish every day and be done with it. … You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. To-morrow is a new day; … begin it well and serenely. … It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the rotten yesterdays.”What is it you want to do this year? What kind of person do you want to become? Maybe you want to read a little more, eat a little better, be a little kinder, and feel a little happier. Perhaps you want to slow down and enjoy life a little more, or maybe you want to be more productive and spend more time on things of lasting worth. Whatever your hopes may be, your “best days” are still ahead for you. Tuning in …“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. At first, that may seem like an overstatement. But while some days are clearly better than others, every day deserves at least the chance to be the best day of the year. That’s good to remember as we look forward to another year of “best days”—every day is worth living, and every day holds promise and possibility. Very often, this truth is best understood by those who have more days behind them than in front of them. One such man was known to say, “Every day is precious—what a gift!” Or as a woman in her 80s used to say, “I’m so grateful for another day of life.” Whatever our age or stage of life, we can all give thanks for the opportunities that come with each new day. The ability to live fully in the present—while continuing to look forward to the future—is the essence of hope. Yes, the past can give us wisdom and perspective, but it can also be disheartening if we stay there too long. Tomorrow is precious because it is yet unwritten, unlived, and full of opportunity. That’s why a sunrise, a new day, and a new year are so meaningful. They give us hope for better days ahead.
The location of the Tooele Valley Utah Temple was announced on September 25.Elder Cook spoke about religious freedom at Pembroke College at the University of Oxford on October 23. Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society General President, meets with members in their home in Sierra Leone during a recent 11-day trip from June 5 through June 16, 2019, to the West African country. President Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, smile and wave to the Amway Center attendees following the June 9, 2019, devotional in Orlando, Florida. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visited with Church members during his February 14-24 visit to the Carribean Area and met with grieving missionaries in the Dominican Republic Santo Domingo East and West missions following the loss of Elder Brennan Conrad, who died on February 20. Elder Cook expressed gratitude for official Church recognition in Kuwait during a meeting with country officials on June 10. Senior Church leaders hosted a delegation from Vietnam, headed by the Vietnamese Committee for Religious Affairs, in Salt Lake City on June 4-6. President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors in the First Presidency, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring, met with Mr. Vu Chien Thang, chairman of the Committee for Religious Affairs in Vietnam; Mr. Nguyen Hu’u Tuan, director of the Department of Personnel and Organization, Ministry of Home Affairs; Mr. Nguyen Duc Vinh, director of International Relations Department; Mr. Nguyen Phong Thinh, head of General Administration-Statistic Office; and Mr. Dao Huy Cuong, Protestant Department specialist. President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican in Rome, Italy, on Saturday, March 9, 2019. Photo courtesy of The Vatican.Elder Bednar spoke at the RootsTech London conference—the first of its kind held outside of the United States—which was held October 24-26.Elder Rasband reiterated President Nelson’s promise of a temple in Russia during a May 22-June 3 tour of the Europe East Area.Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles surprised missionaries with the news they can now phone home once a week during his visit to Mexico, February 8-17.President Nelson drove a ceremonial spike during the Golden Spike Sesquicentennial Celebration and Festival, marking 150 years since the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads met, on May 10.President Ballard visited India for the first time on a 10-day trip to the Asia Area May 17-26. During a June 5-16 trip to the Africa West Area, Sister Bingham observed how the Gospel Literacy program is helping Church members in Sierra Leone read.RootsTech kicked off on February 27 with Elder Bednar’s announcement of the Church donating $2 million to the forthcoming International African American Museum Center for Family History, which will be located in Charleston, South Carolina.The Church announced on August 19 the location of the headquarters for the new Africa Central Area, which will be in Nairobi, Kenya.President Nelson, accompanied by Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, embarked on a nine-day ministry to the Pacific from May 16-24. During his ministry, President Nelson announced a $100,000 donation from the Church to help rebuild and renovate mosques damaged in a deadly attack in Christchurch on March 15.Sister Bingham; Sister Cristina Franco, Second Counselor in the Primary General Presidency; and Sister Becky Craven, Second Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency; met with members in San Jose, California, from September 13-15. Sister Bingham and Sister Craven then traveled to Guatemala and Honduras from September 20-22.Elder Bednar visited Jerusalem for the first time in January 2019.Following a devastating fire that severely damaged the Notre Dame Cathedral, President Nelson offered words of comfort to Pope Francis in a letter on April 15. The Pocatello Idaho Temple groundbreaking was held on March 16.The 2019 Temple Leadership Seminar for new temple presidents and matrons was held in Salt Lake City, from October 15-17. An image of the Church News app. Photo by courtesy of the Church News.On January 25, the Church announced the St. George Utah Temple would close for extensive renovations. Beginning September 20, the new Book of Mormon Videos series was released, one episode each Friday until December 27.Sister Eubank hosted a group of spouses of American governors who teamed up to assemble hygiene kits at the Latter-day Saint Humanitarian Center on July 25.Elder Uchtdorf returned to Germany to rededicate the Frankfurt Germany Temple on October 20.The 2019 Mission Leadership Seminar was held at the Provo MTC June 23-25. Elder Cook spoke at the semiannual Jewish-Latter-day Saint Dialogue in the BYU Jerusalem Center on June 5.The First Presidency discontinued a policy on May 6 of the year-long wait period for temple sealing following civil marriage. President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meets Linwood mosque victim Ahmed Jahangir and imams in Auckland, New Zealand, on May 21, 2019. Jahangir is recovering from his injuries from the attack. Two imams represented the Al Noor and Linwood mosques, where innocent worshippers were gunned down March 15 in Christchurch. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred.Elder Bednar rededicated the Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple on September 1.Elder Renlund spoke about ministering “Isa, Isa” following a 10-day visit to the Philippines May 17-26.The annual Light the World campaign, encouraging everyone to serve others the way Christ did, officially launched on December 1. In conjunction with the campaign, the film “The Christ Child,” was released.Sister Jean B. Bingham and Sister Bonnie H. Cordon traveled to West Africa to meet with Latter-day Saints during an 11-day tour March 3-13.The First Presidency announced on February 15 that missionaries can now communicate with their families once a week through phone calls and video calls, in addition to email and letters.During BYU’s annual Women’s Conference, Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society General President; Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women General Ppresident; and Sister Jones participated in the first-ever “Sister-to-Sister” event on May 3.Elder Gong addressed “faith, hope, and goodwill” and Sister Eubank spoke on practical, tactical, and “small and simple” strategies at a G20 Interfaith Forum in Japan on June 8.The 68th United Nations Civil Society Conference—the first to be held in the U.S. outside of U.N. headquarters in New York City—was held in Salt Lake City from August 26-28. Sister Sarah Emmett of the Layton Utah Mission visits with her parents, Marie and Chad Emmett, during video chat on Monday, February 18, 2019. The First Presidency announced February 15 that missionaries worldwide 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. Photo by Chad Emmett.President Nelson spoke to 15,500 people in the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, on June 9. Earlier that day, he met with Barbara Poma, the owner of the Pulse nightclub, a gay club in Orlando that was attacked in June 2016. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s nine-day assignment to Brazil mid-February included devotionals with members and missionaries and comforting the family of a missionary who had died while serving in the Portugal Lisbon Mission a month earlier.Elder Soares returned to his childhood neighborhood during a visit in which he presided over the São Paulo Brazil Cumbica Stake conference March 23-24.Elder Rasband spoke to nearly 1,700 people during a devotional at the Tempe Institute of Religion in Arizona, on October 20. During his October 19-20 visit to Arizona, he met with government leaders and the editorial board of the Arizona Republic newspaper. That same weekend, Elder Soares visited welcome centers for refugees in Austin, Texas, on October 18.President Nelson became the first Church leader to meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican on March 9. He was joined by President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.Elder Soares visited Japan and South Korea for the first time during a trip to the Asia North Area from August 21-September 1.Elder Bednar, Elder Stevenson, and Elder Renlund shared their united testimony of the “truthfulness, the divinity and the reality” of temple and family history work in a leadership instruction meeting for ward and stake leaders, held in conjunction with RootsTech, on February 28.Elder Uchtdorf ministered to Church members during an April 11-29 visit to Germany and Austria.President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency rededicated the Oklahoma City Oklahoma Temple on May 19.Accompanied by President Oaks, President Nelson enlisted thousands of Latter-day Saints in the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, to help gather Israel on both sides of the veil, in a devotional on February 10.During RootsTech’s Family Discovery Day on March 2, Elder Bednar and his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, encouraged Latter-day Saints in their family history endeavors. From left: Richard E. Turley, former managing director of the Family History Department; Elder Richard Maynes, General Authority Seventy; and Elder Kent F. Richards, emeritus General Authority Seventy, chat during the FamilySearch 125th anniversary celebration at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, November 13, 2019. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.The First Presidency announced a cost increase for missionaries beginning in 2020 from $400 USD a month to $500 USD, in a letter on June 27. People tour the Children's Pioneer Memorial at This Is the Place Heritage Park in Salt Lake City after its dedication on Saturday, July 20, 2019. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.Elder Rasband met with Church members and missionaries in New Zealand, Australia, and Fiji during a November 16-24 visit to the South Pacific. President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, left, speaks with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence during a brief meeting Thursday, August 22, 2019, at Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City. At right are Elder Jack N. Gerard, a General Authority Seventy, and Elder Ronald A. Rasband, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.After a prolonged period of construction, the Rome Italy Temple opened for a public open house from January 28 through February 16, excluding Sundays. Elder David A. Bednar and Elder Ronald A. Rasband, both of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, led tours for dignitaries and led a virtual tour through the temple.President Ballard and Elder Rasband met with U.S. Vice President Michael R. Pence in Salt Lake City on August 22.HUD secretary Ben Carson visited the Church’s Welfare Square on July 11.FamilySearch released a new online editing tool for indexed records on August 6."" lessons="" from="" watergate="" and="" at="" the="" newseum="" in="" on="" jan.="" /> Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke to famed journalist Bob Woodward during a January 14 forum entitled “Integrity & Trust: Lessons from Watergate and Today.”Sister Sharon Eubank, First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, spoke at a UN summit on refugees and preventing religious discrimination on April 29. President Eyring and Elder Stevenson met with Maryland’s governor on November 15 and spoke at the Charlotte Leadership Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, on November 16. Attendees leave the Sunday afternoon session of the 189th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, October 6, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Elder Renlund met with Church members “off the beaten path” in Chile and Argentina during a February 15-24 visit to the South America South Area. Sister Wendy Nelson and President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints listen to performers during a celebration of President Nelson’s 95th birthday at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, September 6, 2019. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.In a special BYU devotional on September 17, President Nelson explained how love motivated the policy changes toward LGBT parents and children. President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, and Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, wave to attendees after a devotional in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Sunday, November 17, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles met with Church members in the United Kingdom, France and Austria during a European assignment January 18-January 27.The location of the Washington County Utah Temple—the second temple in St. George, Utah—was announced on November 6. On May 16, it was announced that several Church apps’ names would change to reflect the full name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.September Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles demonstrates features of the new Gospel Living app during a Face to Face event for Children and Youth on November 17, 2019. The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square rehearses for “Music and the Spoken Word” in Salt Lake City on Sunday, July 14, 2019. The choir celebrated the 90th anniversary of “Music and the Spoken Word” being on air. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.DecemberPresident Oaks spoke to nearly 8,500 Church members during a devotional in rural northeastern Arizona on September 14.The Church announced the creation of eight new missions on November 21, which will go into effect on July 1, 2020. The 189th Annual General Conference was held on April 5-6. President Nelson announced eight new temples to be built, and 10 new General Authority Seventies, including the Church’s first African-American General Authority, and a new Sunday School General Presidency were called.Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles presided at the January 16 groundbreaking for the Urdaneta Philippines Temple—which will be the Philippines’ third temple.The groundbreaking of the Bangkok Thailand Temple—to be the country’s first temple—was held on January 26. President Russell M. Nelson, center, hoists his hammer after driving a golden spike during the 150th anniversary celebration of the transcontinental railroad at the Golden Spike National Historical Park at Promontory Summit on Friday, May 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.The groundbreaking of the Saratoga Springs Utah Temple was held on October 19.Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General Pesident, offered a prayer at the White House Rose Garden during the National Day of Prayer in Washington D.C. on May 2.The location of the Moses Lake Washington Temple was announced on October 29.President Ballard dedicated the Pioneer Children’s Memorial at This is the Place Heritage Park on July 20. Elder David A. Bendar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, 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.The First Presidency met with His Excellency Dr. Mohammad Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League, at Temple Square on November 5.July 14 marked the 90th anniversary of the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square’s weekly broadcast “Music and the Spoken Word.”Sister Cordon and Sister Lisa Harkness, First Counselor in the Primary General Presidency, visited the Africa Southeast Area from May 16-28. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is asking all adults in the U.S. and Canada serving or interacting with children and youth to complete a new training course on preventing and responding to abuse. President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles walk at the Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial in Sharon, Vt., on Saturday, October 19, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.The Tierra del Fuego Argentina Stake was organized on June 2, making it the Church’s southernmost stake.OctoberFor the first time in 10 years, the Church revised its missionary handbook, which was released on November 15.The First Presidency released a statement on December 2 encouraging Church members and friends to help create welcoming communities for refugees. Groundbreakings were held for the Praia Cabo Verde, Yigo Guam, and San Juan Puerto Rico temples on May 4. After Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a $2 million donation from the Church to the International African American Museum Center for Family History. Its president and CEO, Micael Boulware Moore, gives him knuckles at Rootstech in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, February 27, 2019.On July 8, the Hong Kong Temple closed for renovations until 2022. Renderings of the expected renovations were released on August 6.Elder Christofferson rededicated the Asuncion Paraguay Temple on November 3. Ryan Wood, who plays the part of Abinadi, shares a laugh with Sister Reyna I. Aburto, Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency and member of the Book of Mormon Videos steering committee, on a filming set at the Church's Motion Picture Studio on Tuesday, September 3, 2019. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.President Oaks addressed issues specific to immigrants during a unique devotional in Chicago, Illinois, on November 23.Just days after losing his daughter Wendy Nelson Maxfield to cancer, President Russell M. Nelson spoke to Latter-day Saints in Paradise, California, on January 13, a community that had been savagely destroyed by Camp Fire two months earlier.FebruaryElder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Ruth Renlund, spoke to young adults during a worldwide devotional on January 13.August Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women General President; holds a bag of popcorn before giving it to Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President, who reacts to the gift as Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society General President, reacts as well during a “Sister to Sister” event at Women's Conference at BYU's Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, on Friday, May 3, 2019. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.Ground was broken for the Belém Brazil Temple, one of 11 in the country, on August 17.Sister Eubank and Sister Craven ministered to Church members in the Pacific during an October 19-27 visit.The Church released the location and rendering of the Feather River California Temple on September 26.Elder Stevenson met with Church members all across Brazil during a nine-day visit from April 19-28.The Church released “The SafetyZone,” a 12-part video series designed to increase the safety of full-time missionaries, on March 1.March Missionary training centers in the Dominican Republic, Spain and Chile closed in January 2019.January A rendering of the new temple annex for the St. George Utah Temple. The temple closed November 4 for extensive renovations. With every member of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in attendance, President Nelson dedicated the Rome Italy Temple on March 10.Astrid A. Tuminez, a Latter-day Saint convert who grew up in the slums of the Philippines, was inaugurated as Utah Valley University’s first female president on March 27.The annual Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir concert, with special guests Kelli O’Hara and Richard Thomas, was held December 12-14. Sister Sharon Eubank, First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, delivers a donation check for more than $93,000 from the Church’s 2018 Light the World campaign to Joseph Carbone, president and founder of Eye Care 4 Kids, at Eye Care 4 Kids in Midvale, Utah, on Thursday, February 7, 2019. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News. In an April 19 press conference, President Nelson announced renovation plans for the Salt Lake Temple and that it would close for four years beginning December 29. The 2020 youth theme was announced on August 1. It is centered on 1 Nephi 3:7.June 27 marked the 175th anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.President Nelson’s 95th birthday was celebrated with musical performances and personal tributes in an event held in the Conference Center on September 6. The newly renovated Oakland California Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, May 6, 2019. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News. Whitney Peterson, a FamilySearch content strategist specializing in the British Isles, gives historical background for the St. Pancras Old Church to Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, on October 25, 2019, in London. Photo by Scott Taylor, Deseret News.Latter-day Saint Charities released its 2018 annual report on February 19. Renovation plans and renderings for the St. George Utah Temple were released on May 22, and a closing date for November 4 was announced.President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency spoke to young married Latter-day Saints in Chicago, Illinois, who he called “the rising generation … raising the next generation,” in a devotional address on February 2.The Church History Museum opened the “Sisters for Suffrage” exhibit on November 21, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Utah women’s right to vote.Elder Rasband joined Boy Scouts of America leaders in celebrating the Church’s 106-year-old relationship with the BSA during a Scouting gala on September 3.President Nelson embarked on a ministry tour to Southeast Asia, accompanied by Elder Christofferson, from November 15-22. President Russell M. Nelson delivers a devotional address at the Marriott Center at Brigham Young University on Tuesday, September 17, 2019, in Provo, Utah. Photo by Jaren Wilkey, BYU photo. President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, center, and his counselors, President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency, left, and President Henry B. Eyring, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, right, enter the Conference Center in Salt Lake City for the morning session of the 189th Annual General Conference in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 6, 2019. Photo by Steve Griffin, Deseret News.Church leaders announced that children of LGBT parents can be blessed as infants and baptized in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints without First Presidency approval, during a leadership session of the 189th Annual General Conference on April 4. Additionally, the Church will no longer consider same-gender marriage by a Church member as apostasy for purposes of Church discipline.The Church released a statement on the Word of Wisdom, clarifying that the commandment forbids vaping and e-cigarettes, on August 15. The Church donated more than $2.3 million in proceeds collected through the Giving Machines during the 2018 Christmas season, in mid-February. The Church's new missionary safety video series is patterned after a fictitious studio show called “The SafetyZone,” with hosts talking about safety principles and showing “highlight” clips.Elder Rasband spoke to CES educators on the worldwide crisis of teen suicide, during “An Evening with a General Authority” devotional on February 8.David M. Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program, met with Church representatives and toured the Bishops’ Central Storehouse and Welfare Square on September 30.President Nelson spoke at the 110th annual national convention for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Detroit, Michigan, on July 21.Elder Rasband and other dignitaries ushered in the Festival of Lights at the Washington D.C. Temple Visitors’ Center on December 3.Sites for the Orem Utah, Taylorsville Utah, and McAllen Texas temples were announced on December 11.The Church News released a mobile app in conjunction with Spanish and Portuguese versions of the website, on August 30. Elder Holland rededicated the Memphis Tennessee Temple on May 5. The Rome Italy Temple is seen through the window of the Rome Temple Visitor's Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Monday, January 14, 2019. In the foreground is a statue of Christ. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.The groundbreaking ceremony for the Puebla Mexico Temple was held on November 30. The First Presidency issued a statement on the importance of temples on January 2.Elder Soares dedicated the Fortaleza Brazil Temple on June 2.Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Gisozi, Rwanda, during his February 14-25 visit to the Church’s Africa Southeast Area.Elder Uchtdorf spoke to thousands of young adults at a devotional in the Stanford Memorial Church in Palo Alto, California, on October 27.JuneElder Bednar met with Church members in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras during a visit to Central America November 8-17.The Church released artistic renderings of renovated interiors of the Salt Lake Temple on December 4.The First Presidency Christmas Devotional was held on December 8.AprilNovemberThe First Presidency released a statement on Church finances on December 17, followed by an explanation on how Church finances are handled, on December 20.Ground was broken for the Quito Ecuador Temple on May 11.On January 2, the Church announced the creation of four new missions and the dissolution of 12 missions, which went into effect on July 1.Elder Cook returned to his mission in England during an assignment to the country on October 20.Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé dedicated the Gilbert Arizona Welfare and Self-Reliance Facility on October 18.New safety guidelines for Church members were released by the Church on October 10.Elder Cook rededicated the Baton Rouge Louisiana Temple on November 17.Elder Soares dedicated the Arequipa Peru Temple on December 15.The First Presidency met with Cuba’s Ambassador to the U.S., José R. Cabañas, at Temple Square on October 23.The 189th Semiannual General Conference was held October 5-6. On Saturday, it was announced that Young Men presidencies are to be discontinued by 2020. During the women’s session, a new Young Women theme was announced, class names were discontinued, and President Nelson announced eight new temples. On Sunday, President Nelson announced updated temple recommend interview questions and that 2020 would be a bicentennial to celebrate 200 years since the First Vision.JulyPresident Ballard spoke to high-ranking United Nations officials, religion reporters from the Associated Press and New York TImes, and others during the November 15-17 weekend.MayThe Church released a statement on May 13 expressing opposition to the Equality Act and reemphasized its stance for “fairness for all.”The Church launched a training course on preventing and responding to child abuse on August 16.Sister Reyna Isabel Aburto, Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, and Sister Harkness ministered to refugees in South America during a November 15-25 trip to the South America Northwest Area.An introductory video outlining the new Children and Youth Program was presented during the second hour of Church meetings on September 29.The First Presidency hosted a Vietnamese delegation in Salt Lake City, June 4-6.Elder Andersen met with Church members in Argentina and Chile during his visit to the South America South Area April 18-29.The 2019 MTC Leadership Seminar was held for new MTC presidents and their companions at the Provo Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, January 14-17.In order to reflect the full name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the websites LDS.org and Mormon.org were renamed to ChurchofJesusChrist.org and ComeUntoChrist.org, respectively, on March 5. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced its annual Light the World campaign, which encourages everyone to minister to others the way the Savior did, one by one, and includes a new nativity video called “The Christ Child.”Ground was broken for the Lima Peru Los Olivos Temple, the city’s second temple, on June 8.Elder Christofferson visited Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire during a May 24-June 2 trip to the Africa West Area. President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints looks over destroyed homes with his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, in Paradise, California, on Sunday, January 13, 2019, two months after the Camp Fire destroyed 1,400 homes and hundreds of businesses. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.President Ballard rededicated the Raleigh North Carolina Temple on October 13.The Church donated a $4 million grant to nine national refugee resettlement agencies in the United States on May 14 and 15. For those “Oh, I forgot that happened this year,” moments and the “I thought it had been longer than that,” events, here’s a chronological look back at key Church events during 2019.Elder Holland spoke in an annual global training broadcast to seminary and institute instructors on June 12.In a video released by Seminaries and Institutes of Religion of the Church on March 22, it was announced that seminary curriculum would change from a school year calendar to an annual calendar to align with “Come, Follow Me.”The Church announced that all missionaries are preapproved for admission to BYU-Pathway Worldwide’s PathwayConnect program, on May 6.An online mission planning tool to help prospective missionaries, which includes Mission Release Date Planning and Submission Planning tools, was released on January 30.The Argentina MTC closed as of July 2019.Elder Holland spoke about the miracles that made the BYU Jerusalem Center possible during the 30th anniversary of the center’s dedication on October 11.FamilySearch donated 400 years of digitized Filipino records to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on September 18.During an October 18-20 trip to New England, President Ballard and Elder Christofferson visited the birthplace of Joseph Smith and spoke at a Boston, Massachusetts, devotional in which President Ballard invited the approximately 12,000 attendees to pray for the country.Elder Andersen dedicated the Lisbon Portugal Temple on September 15.President Nelson, accompanied by Elder Cook, embarked on his Central and South America Ministry from August 24-September 2.Renderings for the Richmond Virginia Temple were released on August 28.Sister Cordon, Sister Eubank, and Sister Harkness visited the North America Northwest Area from August 16-18. The first chapter of the second volume of “Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days” became available in the Gospel Library on June 20, with subsequent chapters released each month thereafter. The printed volume will be released in February 2020.Elder Rasband met with members and leaders in Belarus during the end of May and beginning of June.The First Presidency expressed gratitude on September 12 for the Church’s official recognition in Mali on January 22. Dancers perform with the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square and Orchestra at Temple Square during a Christmas concert at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, December 12, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.President Nelson announced on October 2 that women, youth, and children can serve as witnesses of sealing and baptismal ordinances performed in and out of temples. President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints greets His Excellency Dr. Mohammad Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League, on November 5, 2019.Elder Soares spoke to young adults in a Face to Face broadcast on September 15.The Church announced on September 19 that the Guatemala MTC would close in January 2020.President Oaks rededicated the Oakland California Temple on June 16.Ten Giving Machines were opened to the public beginning November 8 in conjunction with the Church’s annual #LightTheWorld campaign.A Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults was held on May 5.Elder Holland met with Church members in Angola, Mozambique, and South Africa during a November 9-16 visit to the Southeast Africa Area.Elder Christofferson hosted a Home Evening broadcast with Latter-day Saints in Central America on February 15. Ground was broken for the Quito Ecuador Temple on May 11.Elder Holland spoke to Latter-day Saints in Mexico during a May 24-June 3 trip to the Mexico Area.Elder Renlund dedicated the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple on April 14.Elder Gong and other general Church leaders discussed the new Children and Youth Program during a Face to Face event on November 17.FamilySearch, formerly known as the Genealogical Society of Utah, celebrated its 125th anniversary on November 13.
In a message posted on his Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts and published on the ChurchofJesusChrist.org blog on January 1, 2020, President Nelson recalled designating, in October general conference, 2020 as a bicentennial period of commemorating 200 years since “God the Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith in a vision.”Then President Nelson extended a special invitation to Latter-day Saints: “We invite you to be a major part of sharing the message of the ongoing restoration of the Savior’s gospel. We will share more about this soon, but you can start today by acting on the invitations I extended to you at last general conference to immerse yourself in the glorious light of the Restoration.On the first day of 2020—the year marking the bicentennial of the First Vision—President Russell M. Nelson asked members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to share the gospel with others.“Just as He listened to Joseph’s prayer in 1820, He listens to you and yearns to speak with you through the Spirit.”“You may wish to begin your preparation by reading afresh Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price. Or ponder important questions such as, “How would my life be different if my knowledge gained from the Book of Mormon were suddenly taken away?” or “How have the events that followed the First Vision made a difference for me and my loved ones?”President Nelson wrote that God loves all of His children and has a vision for each. President Russell M. Nelson asked members of the Church to share the gospel with others in social media posts and on ChurchofJesusChrist.org.“That singular event in human history initiated the Restoration of the Lord’s gospel—an unfolding Restoration that continues today,” he wrote.“Select your own questions. Design your own plan. Act on any of these invitations to prepare yourself for sharing the important messages of the ongoing Restoration. It is your personal preparation that will help April’s general conference become for you not only memorable but also unforgettable. The time to act is now. This is a hinge point in the history of the Church, and your part is vital.”
A new stake has been created from the Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa Guatemala District. The Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa Guatemala Stake, which consists of the Ceiba Amelia, La Gomera, and Sipacate branches and the El Bilbao, El Palmar, Las Delicias, Rio Santiago, Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa, and Siquinala wards, was created by Elder Juan A. Uceda, General Authority Seventy, and Elder A. Moroni Pérez, an Area Seventy.LEHI UTAH CEDAR HOLLOW STAKE (November 10, 2019): President—Timothy Quinn Sloan, 61, employment resource services director, Corporation of the Presiding Bishopric; succeeding Kenneth S. Raines; wife, Cynthia Sandeers Sloan. Counselors—William Clifford Duncan, 47, executive director, Marriage Law Foundation; wife, Catherine Allred Duncan. Larry David Cox, 50, certified public accountant, Larry Cox CPA, Inc.; wife, Racheel Elizabeth Ure Cox.SANTA LUCIA COTZUMALGUAPA GUATEMALA STAKE (September 8, 2019): President—Luis Eduardo Sánchez Lezana, 35, seminaries and institutes coordinator, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; wife, Silvia Lorena Jímenez Sánchez. Counselors—Merlvin Dany Gómez Chávez, 45, graphic designer; wife, Quenla Damariz Ramírez Gómez. Gioheldi Gamaliel Barrios Rosales, 51, workshop chief, Tecnología Agricola S.A.; wife, María Teresa Molina Barrios.IMPERATRIZ BRAZIL STAKE (October 13, 2019): President—Mário Clemilson Alves da Silva, 34, self-employed; succeeding Marcos Cleve Alves da Silva; wife, Wlaldiane Kássia Bandeira Barros da Silva. Counselors—Gildelson Manoel Santos Silva Filho, 40, consultant, Claro; wife, Adriana Bezerra Lima Silva. Leandro Antônio da Silva, 27, IT analyst, Fribal; wife, Clenilda da Silva Costa.PIRACICABA BRAZIL REZENDE STAKE (October 13, 2019): President—Admilison Gil, 46, commercial representative, JCA Foods; wife, Christiane Archanjo Miguel. Counselors—Eduardo Pereira Bertine, 41, import analyst, Paiva Comércio Exterior; wife, Michele Paiva Araujo. Ulisses Vicente Pereira, 40, sales manager, Cat Marine; wife, Maria Helídia Neves Pereira.MAKATI PHILIPPINES STAKE (November 10, 2019): President—Peter Adrian Bulos Ballados, 46, financial advisor, AXA Philipines; succeeding Ferdinand R. Arzaga; wife, Calixtra Tarrayo Somoray Ballados. Counselors—Stephen Figuereos Notarte, 44, travel manager, Philippines Area, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; wife, Catherine Matriano Garcia Notarte. Julio Manahan Macababayao, 50, sales manager, Philko Peroxide Corporation; wife, Concepcion Laluz Dy Macababayao.ROOSEVELT UTAH STAKE (September 29, 2019): President—Brandon Russell King, 38, teacher/principal; succeeding Gregory L. Staker; wife, Emily Renay Tracy King. Counselors—Keith Pratt Hicken, 58, manager, Recreation Properties Unlimited, and business owner; wife, Nerissa Acosta Balingit Hicken. Todd Sterling Jensen, 57, grader operator, Encana, Chapman Construction; wife, Drinda Kay Gibson Jensen.KAYSVILLE UTAH STAKE (October 20, 2019): President—Robert Douglas Weger, 50, division president, Pennant Services; succeeding Kent J. Brown; wife, Mylissa Kaye Richins Weger. Counselors—Larry Dustin Hancock, 44, president, Terra Energy Group; wife, Christie Hollingshead Hancock. Lee McKay Wells, 51, vice president of sales, Peek Travel; wife, Pamela Harding Wells.CHICLAYO PERU FEDERICO VILLARREAL STAKE: (Oct. 13, 2019) President — Daniel Alberto Cruzado Becerra, 44, business manager, Business Cross; wife, Yackeline Quispe Diaz. Counselors — Cholfrey Dino API Abanto, 33, regional manager of financial services, Banco Azteca Del Peru; wife, Cynthia Debora Gutierrez Fernandez. Ricardo Sadoc Gallegos Blua, 32, administrative assistant, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; wife, Nadia Nayo Chancafe Bonilla.AMES IOWA STAKE (October 27, 2019): President—James Randall Teusch, 53, dentist; succeeding Jared A. Danielson; wife, Nancy Sue Flack Teusch. Counselors—John Daniel Lippolis, 55, research scientist, USDA; wife, Lea Francis Tucker Lippolis. David Joseph Byrd, 42, assistant scientist, Iowa State University; wife, Sarah Barlow Byrd.INDIANAPOLIS INDIANA WEST STAKE (October 20, 2019): President—Lansford Hatch Jameson, 56, research fiscal officer, Indiana University; succeeding Richard W. Anderson; wife, Michella Ann O’Very Jameson. Counselors—Walter Lee Harper, 56, engineer, Eli Lilly and Company; wife, Carla Deniece Green Harper. Matthew Jon Bloxham, 40, aerothermal turbine designer, Rolls-Royce Corporation; wife, Mary Catherine Memory Bloxham.TREMONTON UTAH WEST STAKE (October 27, 2019): President—Steven Todd Jensen, 50, chief financial officer, Lewis Cabinet; succeeding Chris W Thurgood; wife, Jodee Raquel Figgins Jensen. Counselors—Matthew Scot Adams, 48, certified registered nurse anesthetist, Bear River Valley Hospital; wife, Rachael Anne Richins Adams. Howard Clamonte Rawlinson, 60, finance manager, Nothrop Grumman; wife, Kerry Ann George Rawlinson.CONCEPCIÓN CHILE ANDALIEN STAKE (October 13, 2019): President—Patricio Marcelo Toloza Balboa, 44, property administration, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; succeeding Christian M. Olate; wife, Sara Elena Rodriguez Cid. Counselors—Carlos Gustavo Pino Mellado, 38, superior and machine operator, Juan Urra; wife, Karen Yanira Olate Ojeda. Roberto Alejandro Requelme Lagos, 39, commercial operations; wife, Lorena del Pilar Saez Zarate.New stakesReorganized stakesA new stake has been created from the Piracicaba Brazil and Rio Claro Brazil stakes. The Piracicaba Brazil Rezende Stake, which consists of the Limeira, Nova Itália, Parque das Nações, Piracicaba 2nd, Piracicaba 4th, São Pedro, and Vila Sônia wards, was created by Elder Marcos A. Aidukaitis, General Authority Seventy, and Elder Henrique S. Simplicio, an Area Seventy.CAJAMARCA PERU STAKE (October 13, 2019): President—Jose Alberto Alvarez Barrantes, 42, academic director, Northern Private University; succeeding Miguel Angel Barboza Villalobos; wife, Violeta Maria Chong Lorrea. Counselors—Daniel Jayo Lopez, 30, audiovisual consultant, Minera Yanacocha; wife, Diana Sthepani de Jesús Benites Muñoz. Felipe Campos Alva, 51, teacher, Ministry of Education; wife, María del Pilar Terrones Palomino.CHANDLER ARIZONA WEST STAKE (November 10, 2019): President—Daniel Walter Shkapich, 48, territory sales manager, State Farm Insurance; succeeding Kent O. Johansen; wife, Donna Faye Schlegel Shkapich. Counselors—Spencer Grant Wilson, 50, oral and maxillofacial surgeon; wife, Tamara Kaye Taylor Wilson. Scott Allan Duncan, 57, operations manager, Honeywell Aerospace; wife, Kalli Beth Figueroa Duncan.LOPEZ PHILIPPINES STAKE (November 10, 2019): President—Rexter Juarez Anda, 36, elementary school principal; succeeding Joenil Z. Española; wife, Aleli Mae Belmonte Ayala Anda. Counselors—Dominicano Rolly Alano Salumbides, 56, computer shop owner; wife, Norilet Ludana Abrera Salumbides. Tito Caballero Clemente, 49, ABS-CBN employee; wife, Rowena San Juan Veran Clemente.CHICLAYO PERU LATINA STAKE (October 13, 2019): President—Franklin Alonso Bazan Terrones, 36, chief of logistics, Procesadora Peru SAC; succeeding William Sarango; wife, Maricruz Elizabeth Ortiz Alarcon. Counselors—Gustavo Navarro Sordlich, 52, car salesman; wife, Zoila Consuelop Quiroz Chavara. Willy Oswaldo Rostaing Rios, 30, president, real estate agency; wife, Blanca Irene Diaz Piscoya.A new stake has been created from the Wangaratta Australia District. The Riverina Australia Stake, which consists of the Echuca, Swan Hill, and Wangaratta branches and the Albury, Bendigo, Finley, Griffith, Shepparton, and Wagga Wagga wards, was created by Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita, General Authority Seventy, and Elder Daniel G. Hamilton, an Area Seventy.RIVEREINA AUSTRALIA STAKE (October 20, 2019): President—Craig Edward Williams, 55, insurance broker and adviser; wife, Joanne Lee White Williams. Counselors—Joshua Daniel Wolff, 41, general counsel, company secretary, Rivaleae; wife, Deborah Ana de Bulhao Pato Freitas Wolff. Solomon Gumabay Casilen, 49, nurse, Mary Potter, and manager, Zafarri Importing; wife, Maria Elena Dalngey Ramirez Casilen.COMAYAGUELA HONDURAS COUNTRY STAKE (September 22, 2019): President—Orlyn Antonio Díaz Antúnez, 35, principal, Lifting Generations; succeeding Fernando A. Valladares Alvaroado; wife, Ana Alejandra Pérez Aguilar. Counselors—Juan Carlos Sierra Zeitun, 38, mathematics teacher, Dowal School; wife, Sahara Navarro Sierra. Raoyden Orlando Cano Andino, accountant analyst, Secretaría de Salud; wife, Maryorie Antoneth Vásquez Cano.KALAMAZOO MICHIGAN STAKE (October 20, 2019): President—Michael Keith Christensen, 40, senior director, human resources—commercial, Kellogg Company; succeeding Mark A. Witt; wife, Elizabeth Hasler Christensen. Counselors—Clark Edward Volz, 68, construction and carpentry manager, Creative Kitchens and Baths; wife, Nora Irene Johnson Volz. Blake R Larkin, 56, vice president of business development, Hanson Logistics; wife, Noralie Stephens Larkin.CHICLAYO PERU CENTRAL STAKE (October 13, 2019): President—Marabel Elias Garcia Mendo, 40, general manager, Garmen Contratistas SAC; succeeding Daniel A. Curzado; wife, Carol Ingrid Lapoint Tirado. Counselors—Nelson Santiago Riojas de la Cruz, 44, business advisor; wife, Jenny Del Rosario Camacho Rodriguez. Michael Juan Millones de la Barra, 37, owner, Empresa Servingsud; wife, Katherina Claudia Alejandra Torres Davila.TOOELE UTAH SOUTH STAKE (October 27, 2019): President—Jeff C Zaleski, 42, principal, Tooele County School District; succeeding Richard A. Droubay; wife, Terreye Marie McNeill Zaleski. Counselors—Edwin Darrell Johnson, 46, teacher, Tooele County School District; wife, Hollie Dawn Moore Johnson. Kateni Taniela Leakehe, 60, attorney, US Army Dugway Proving Ground; wife, Colleen Cardon Leakehe.HIGHLAND UTAH WEST STAKE (November 3, 2019): President—Robert Keith Galloway, 53, president, US Synthetic; succeeding T. Kevin Anderson; wife, Benette Lynn Bailey Galloway. Counselors—Kim W Rindlisbacher, 58, owner, Scenic Development, Inc.; wife, Carol Mae Shumway Rindlisbacher. Jeffrey William Shaw, 61, retired; wife, Cynthia Roberts Shaw.SÃO PAULO BRAZIL ITAQUÁ STAKE (October 13, 2019): President—Julio Pereira de Oliveira, 45, business owner; succeeding Andre Dos Santos Franco; wife, Nanci Aparecida da Conceição Oliveira. Counselors—Wagner Cristóvão, 33, purchaser, ULU Caminhões e Onibus; wife, Shula Rodrigues de Oliveira Cristóvão. Gery Antonio Dartora, 48, partner, Cia do Brownie; wife, Edilio de Jesus Santos Dartora.HIGH POINT NORTH CAROLINA STAKE (November 3, 2019): President—Dennis Andrew Sweat, 45, human resources director, Avery Dennison; succeeding Joseph T. Baughan; wife, Andrea Gerber Sweat. Counselors—Robb Jerrad Anderson, 45, teacher, seminaries and institutes coordinator, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; wife, Starr Ann Guy Anderson. Michael Wayne Evans, 39, ophthalmologist, Wake Forest Health Network; wife, Emily Button Evans.AUCKLAND NEW ZEALAND MANUREWA STAKE (November 10, 2019): President—Andre Paul Rangi, 45, senior investigator, Ministry of Health; succeeding Michael J. Edwards; wife, Ngawai Harvey Rangi. Counselors—Fotuotautai Autufuga, 45, maintenance engineeer, Nestle; wife, Ana Tautu Autufuga. ’Uluaki Falemaka Fisi’ihoi, 51, owner operator, Castle Parcel; wife, Meleane Fakahau Fisi’ihoi.RIO CLARO BRAZIL STAKE (October 13, 2019): President—Vagner Aparecido Dos Santos, 49, consultant, Sg Consulting; succeeding Alan Sergio Bezarra de Oliveira; wife, Ana Paula Gozetto. Counselors—Luiz Fernando Ferreira De Castro, 35, executive of transportation, Profrio; wife, Monique Cristina Barbi. Leandro Sarti Luna, 31, behavior manager, Movae; wife, Camila Barbarini Takaki Luna.ACCRA GHANA TESANO STAKE (November 10, 2019): President—Titus Tawiah Tagoe, 55, analyst, MLU, FRD; succeeding Marc Badou Gohi; wife, Dora Akutor Agbaglo Tagoe. Counselors—Damoah Manu, 35, senior accountant, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; wife, Emmanuella Anita Appiah Manu. Francis Baidoo Jr., 34, head teacher, Little Miracles School; wife, Gloria Arthur Baidoo.AREQUIPA PERU UMACOLLO STAKE (November 3, 2019): President—Michael Alexander Mutze Chavez, 41, business executive, Interbank; succeeding Carlos A. Rodriguez; wife, Claudia Jeanette Carrera Chicata. Counselors—José Alberto Ramos Rivera, 38, Latin American manager, RAVN; wife, Maribel Carolina Davila Ulloa. Richard Williams Mercado Martinez, 31, director, founder, Richard Mercado; wife, Julissa Barriga Mansilla.SEATTLE WASHINGTON NORTH STAKE (October 27, 2019): President—Trevor John Boll, 50, partner, Deloitte; succeeding Thomas M. Fairbanks; wife, Kathleen Ann Williams Boll. Counselors—Theron Jewell Baker, 45, dentist; wife, Sarah Anne Bagley Baker. Brian Wilchoi Chan, 41, president, Chan Healthcare Group; wife, Hsiao Ching Shen Chan.IKOT EKPENE NIGERIA STAKE (October 20, 2019): President—Theophilus Udenyi Agbese, 43, seminaries and institutes coordinator, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; succeeding Emmanuel I. Okon; wife, Anwuli Joyce Agbese. Counselors—James Okon Ekanem, 54, technical manager, Gaset Farm; wife, Patience James Udo Ekanem. Dominic James Okunam, 46, director, self-employed; wife, Mary Dominic Essien Okunam.CAMPINA GRANDE BRAZIL LIBERDADE STAKE (September 29, 2019): President—Romero Pereira da Silva, 41, businessman, Cartuchos and Co.; succeeding Ataandson de Souza Paes; wife, Silvia Adelma de Miranda Costa. Counselors—Vagner Rodrigues dos Santos, 42, technical consultant, State University of Paraiba; wife, Maria Elizete Bezerra de Lima. Vancarlos Picanço Castro, 47, public employee, City Hall; wife, Xênia Albuquerque Leal.A new stake has been created from the Chiclayo Peru Centra, Chiclayo Peru El Dorado, Chiclayo Peru Latina and Chiclay Peru stakes. The Chiclayo Peru Federico Villarreal Stake, which consists of the Chiclayo Central 1st, Federico Villarreal, Los Artesanos, Moshoqueque and Santa Victoria wards, was created by Elder Mathias Held, General Authority Seventy, and Elder Edgar A. Mantilla, Area Seventy.
“We extend our sincere condolences to the Meyocks family and their loved ones and pray they will feel peace and support, particularly at this time of year. We also pray for the other individuals involved in this accident,” said Church spokesman Daniel Woodruff in a Newsroom release.Elder Meyocks and his wife, Sister Brenda Meyocks, had been serving in the Illinois Nauvoo Mission since March 2019. Sister Meyocks was also injured in the accident, but is expected to recover. Elder and Sister Meyocks are from Dammeron Valley, Utah.Elder Craig L. Meyocks died on Thursday, December 26, following a car accident on Christmas Day in Iowa. He was 66 years old. Dressed in period costume worn as part of their volunteer service in historic Nauvoo, Elder Craig L. Meyocks and his wife, Brenda, had been serving in the Illinois Nauvoo Mission since March 2019. Elder Meyocks passed away Thursday, December 26, 2019, following a car accident.
Christmas Day at the Provo MTC started with a hot breakfast in the cafeteria and personal study in the missionaries’ classrooms, followed by an hour period with three options—participating in choir practice, watching Christmas video clips provided by the MTC or communicating with family.And it takes considerable planning and adjustments to provide a memorable Christmas for missionaries away from home for the holidays—many for the first time—while trying to free up volunteers to spend Christmas Day with their own families.Later in the afternoon, the holiday movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” was showed in the auditorium, followed by time to eat the sack lunch and review individual learnings from the morning devotional as branches, zones, and district gathered in small discussion groups.Missionaries are calling by using the smartphones they’re directed to bring with them into their respective fields of service. For those who don’t take smartphones with them because of security concerns, technology limitations, or other issues, they are issued phones for use while at the MTC.And he also underscored the shared moment as Christ’s representatives at a special time.“So the programs and activities have been tailor-made to bring them as much security and reassurance and feeling that while this isn’t home, it’s pretty close.”“Christmas Day opens an opportunity to focus on the Savior,” said Elder Carter Coleman of Clinton, Utah, who is learning the Hmong language for his service in the California Roseville Mission and has been in the Provo MTC for five weeks. He also attended the MTC’s Thanksgiving Day devotional with Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the service project later that afternoon.Following the devotional on Christmas day, missionaries enjoyed a Christmas meal and additional time for those who had not phoned home yet. Before leaving the cafeteria, each missionary packed his or her own sack lunch for later in the evening, freeing up kitchen and cafeteria works from having to return for an evening shift for supper.With the recent policy change allowing missionaries to phone home on a weekly basis, missionaries at the MTC calling their families on Christmas isn’t quite the same, singular event as in past years.As she related the New Testament account of Christ’s birth, Sister Christofferson likened the shepherds of Bethlehem to modern-day missionaries, since the shepherds “made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.”Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Kathy Christofferson, were featured in a 10 a.m. Christmas devotional—which was broadcast by satellite to all missionary training centers worldwide, with most joining to view it live.A family-oriented program traditionally has been held on Christmas Eve for the missionaries at the Provo MTC. But this year, the evening program was moved to the afternoon of December 24 to allow the MTC to conduct its regular Tuesday night devotional with a Church general authority or officer.Christmas events actually started the week before, at the Provo MTC’s weekly devotional held each Wednesday. Since Christmas fell on a Wednesday this year, the December 18 staff devotional took on a Christmas flavor with the messages and treats.“They were the first ones who bore the message and testimony of the Savior,” she said. “They were the first missionaries, and that relates to you.”Speaking Christmas Eve at the MTC was Elder James R. Rasband, a General Authority Seventy, and his wife, Sister Mary Rasband.Concluding the evening was a special Christmas program and music featuring singer-songwriter David Archuleta, returned for his second such performance at the Provo MTC in as many years. Archuleta had just concluded his own Christmas Tour 2019 earlier in the week.The family program was set in a family home evening setting with President LeSueur and his wife, Sister Nancy LeSueuer, telling the Nativity story to some of their grandchildren, while grandchildren of other MTC presidency members and leaders acted out the scene being told.Added Sister LeSueur: “And while they might be mission out on certain family traditions, we’re hoping they’re creating memories.”The missionaries had prepared for Christmas by participating in a Sunday night devotional on December 22, President George R. Rahlf, first counselor in the Provo MTC presidency, and his wife, Sister Lori Rahlf, spoke to the missionaries on the elements of the doctrine of Christ—faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end—and how they can be found in the Christmas hymns that most think only focus on the Savior’s birth. Children reenact the birth of Jesus Christ during the annual Christmas Day devotional at the Provo Missionary Training Center on Tuesday, December 25, 2019, in Provo, Utah. Photo by Colter Peterson, Deseret News.“It’s still an important call,” said President LeSueur of missionaries phoning home on Christmas Day. “It’ll be a big thing on Christmas morning, when they wake up without Mom’s hot chocolate and Christmas music in the home. So we’re anxious for them to stay connected and feel reassured.”“What greater privilege could we have than to find ourselves on Christmas in the service of the Savior whose birth we are celebrating,” he said. “There won’t be many Christmases when you are entitled to carry His name on your dress or shirt or jacket as His emissary, His ambassador. You are the companions of the Apostles in this work, and what an honor it is to be serving together at Christmas.”The MTC’s holiday week seemed scaled back in some regards—no senior missionary couples came for their week-long training and no young full-time elders or sisters left the MTC for their respective fields of service as they normally do Mondays through Wednesdays. Also, while Wednesday is the day for the Provo MTC and its 250 volunteers to welcome and process the weekly intake of new missionaries, no arrivals were scheduled for Christmas Day. Members of the MTC choir sing during the Christmas Day devotional at the Provo Missionary Training Center on December 25, 2019, in Provo, Utah. Photo by Scott Taylor, Deseret News.Mindful both of missionaries being away from their families and the training center’s goal to strengthen faith and deepen conversion, President David E. LeSueur, Provo MTC president, said: “Missionary hearts are a little more tender at Christmas—we want to be very aware of and very sensitive to that fact.“I’m lucky because I have one Christmas in the MTC and I’ll have one in the field,” Elder Coleman added, having heard from his parents of their Christmas experiences as missionaries. Missionaries return a wave to Elder D. Todd Christofferson following the Christmas Day devotional at the Provo Missionary Training Center on December 25, 2019, in Provo, Utah. Photo by Scott Taylor, Deseret News. An elder takes a photo of four sister missionaries on the Provo Missionary Training Center campus on Christmas Day, 2019, in Provo, Utah. Photo by Scott Taylor, Deseret News.If the African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” is true, then it must take a major metropolitan area to run the Provo Missionary Training Center with its current contingent of 1,223 new missionaries and a staff of some 100, more than 1,000 part-time teachers and workers, and another 2,000 volunteers. Sister Nancy LeSueur, right, President David E. LeSueur, and their grandchildren welcome guests during the annual Christmas Eve Nativity Program at the Provo Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, December 24, 2019. Photo by Colter Peterson, Deseret News. Elder Brent Poole of Brisbane, Australia,left, and Elder Cody Hunter of Lehi, Utah, pose for a Christmas Day photo with a snowman on at the Provo Missionary Training Center campus on December 25, 2019, in Provo, Utah. Photo by Scott Taylor, Deseret News. Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles waves to missionaries following a Christmas Day devotional at the Provo Missionary Training Center on December 25, 2019, in Provo, Utah. Photo by Scott Taylor, Deseret News.And the move of the Christmas Eve program to the afternoon meant MTC teachers could break away a little earlier than on a typical December 24.Travel of missionaries to and from the MTC on Christmas and the days before and after is usually avoided because of travel blackouts, higher airfare costs, overbooked flights and overcrowded airports.Elder Chistofferson encouraged his listeners to use the day and their experiences as “the pioneers who will establish happy Christmas memories and traditions” for their future families.“This is a special time of year,” President LeSueur said. “Their hearts are more open, perhaps to messages sinking in deeper and having a greater impact. So, we’re especially grateful to have Elder Christofferson and Elder Rasband and those giving the missionaries messages that might be personally impactful to them.”PROVO, Utah
The mortal life of every individual on the earth has eternal meaning, Sister Clyde taught during a general conference address in April 1995. “We are central in [God’s] great work,” she said. “He teaches that as we receive His light, we can reflect that light in the world.”In addition to serving as Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency from 1990 to 1997—with Sister Elaine L. Jack, President, and Chieko N. Okazaki, First Counselor—Sister Clyde served in various capacities in the Church, including as a member of the Young Women General board. There will be a viewing at the Wheeler Mortuary, 211 East 200 South, in Springville, Utah, on Friday evening, January 3, 2019, from 6-8 p.m. and funeral services will be at the Springville Stake Center, 245 South 600 East, Saturday, January 4, 2019, at 11 a.m., with a viewing at 10 a.m.In 2015, while working with the Utah Citizen’s Council on the group’s 2015 Assessment of Public Policy Progress, Sister Clyde told the Deseret News that the strength of Utah society is dependent on “fundamental fairness and equal opportunity for all of those in our increasingly diverse society and state.”Born in Springville, Utah, on May 18, 1926, Sister Clyde lived in Utah nearly all of her 93 years and was well known in the community for her involvement with several nonprofit organizations and work regarding social justice and equality.Sister Clyde and her late husband, Hal M. Clyde, had three sons and 11 grandchildren.Throughout her Church and civic service, Sister Clyde’s focus on fairness, equality, and the importance of working together across societal borders was constant. After graduating with honors from Brigham Young University, Sister Clyde taught English at the Church-owned school for 10 years. Later, in 2000, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Southern Utah University. She also worked for several years as a certified construction flag person, a job that she is said to have enjoyed because of the uproar the unconventional job caused among those who saw her on the job. Sister Clyde was involved in various civic and public affairs in Utah over the years. She was a founding member of the Utah Women’s Forum and served as the chair for the Utah Task Force on Gender and Justice, and as a chair of the Coalition for Utah’s Future. Additionally, Sister Clyde served on the Board of Trustees of the University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics, as the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, as well as 12 years on the Utah State Board of Regents.She continued: “We believe that meeting the challenges that face us in Utah requires joint action by governments, nonprofits, religious groups, families, and individuals. While valuing our tradition of self-reliance, we must work together to solve intractable problems.”Through her work, both in the Church and in the larger community, Sister Clyde was an example of such changes and often spoke about the importance of understanding the value of each person on this earth. Sister Aileen H. Clyde, former member of the Relief Society General Presidency, died Tuesday, December 24, in Springville, Utah at the age of 93.Speaking in general conference during October 1995, Sister Clyde said, “Consider how the very powers of modern communications that promise to make of our world an interconnected network are the cause of much public worrying about our increasing isolation from one another. Even privately, in our wards and, yes, in our families too, we sometimes find ourselves, and often hear of others, feeling isolated or downright unloved because there is neither the time nor a sufficiently legitimate purpose to connect across the hall or across the street. It is that increasing vacuum of connecting, one to another or among our families or within our ward family, that calls us increasingly to participate in Relief Society.”The American Judicature Society awarded her the Herbert Harley distinction for the promotion of the effective administration of justice and she was also awarded the Amicus Curiae Award by the Utah Judicial Conference for uncommon commitment to the Judiciary’s goal of equal justice for all. In 2014, the Aileen H. Clyde 20th Century Women’s Legacy Archive at the University of Utah was established in Sister Clyde’s honor. The archive—which contains journals, letters, photographs, news clips, and other materials—serves to document and preserve the history of women whose lives and work have helped to create social and cultural change.
Sister Aileen H. Clyde, former member of the Relief Society General Presidency, died December 24, 2019.
Wrote Elizabeth Huffaker of Christmas 1847, the first year in the Salt Lake valley:“We all worked as usual. The men gathered sagebrush, and some plowed; for though it had snowed, the ground was still soft, and the plows were used nearly the entire day. [Christmas was on a Saturday, but] we celebrated the day on the Sabbath. . . . We sang praises to God, we all joined in the evening prayer, and the speaking that day has always been remembered. There were words of thanksgiving and cheer. Not a despairing word was uttered. The people were hopeful and buoyant because of their faith in the great work they were undertaking. After the meeting there was handshaking all around. Some wept with joy. The children played in the enclosure, and around a sagebrush fire at night. We gathered and sang ‘Come, Come Ye Saints.’ We had boiled rabbit and a little bread for our dinner. Many who were there for that first Christmas in the Valley later remarked that in the sense of perfect peace and good will, they never had a happier Christmas in all their lives.” Missionaries return a wave to Elder D. Todd Christofferson following the Christmas Day devotional at the Provo Missionary Training Center on December 25, 2019, in Provo, Utah. Photo by Scott Taylor. The MTC choir sings during the Christmas Day devotional at the Provo Missionary Training Center on December 25, 2019, in Provo, Utah. Photo by Scott Taylor.The latter-day Apostle then shared other Christmas-related reflections—of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s late December birth, of pioneer-era experiences, and of the birth and Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ—as he and Sister Kathy Christofferson spoke to 1,223 missionaries in a December 25 devotional at the Provo Missionary Training Center.The convincing evidence that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is real is the Resurrection, with the fact that Jesus rose from the dead being proof that He indeed is the divine Son of God and that His power to redeem is unlimited, Elder Christofferson said. And Hannah Daphne Dalton recalled this as a child in Parowan, Utah, in 1862: “All of us children hung up our stockings Christmas eve. We jumped up early in the morning to see what Santa had brought, but there was not a thing in them. Mother wept bitterly. She went to her box and got a little apple and cut it into little tiny pieces, and that was our Christmas. But I have never forgotten how I loved her dear hands as she was cutting that apple.”“They were the first ones who bore the message and testimony of the Savior,” she said. “They were the first missionaries, and that relates to you.”“I arrived in my mission in Argentina 10 days before Christmas,” recalled the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “I had been used to snow and cold for Christmas in the United States. I found in South America that you can actually celebrate Christmas in the heat of summer, and with fireworks.”Elder Christofferson likened the pioneer times—with scarce food, few possessions, and constant labor in order to survive—as conditions in which the Savior grew up.PROVO, UTAH
Sister Kathy Christofferson speaks during a Christmas Day devotional at the Provo Missionary Training Center on December 25. 2019, in Provo, Utah.
Photo by Scott Taylor.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson speaks during a Christmas Day devotional at the Provo Missionary Training Center on December 25, 2019, in Provo, Utah.
Photo by Scott Taylor.
The total number of deaths from the storm, as reported by CNN on Friday morning, stands at 28, with 12 people still missing.A total of 37,473 families, or 157,345 persons, have been affected in 434 barangays—wards or districts in the Philippines. The report listed that some 19,605 persons are taking temporary shelter following the damages caused by the storm. In the aftermath of the storm, the Church has, as always, proven to be a “reliable force for good in providing relief and ongoing assistance in the recovery process,” Elder Schmutz said.The typhoon hit hardest in the Eastern and Central Visayas regions and has “maintained its strength while traversing the northern tip of Aklan and Antique provinces in Western Visayas,” according to the Church report. In Capiz and other places in Panay island, there continues to be severe flooding.While flooding, power outages, and debris continue to make it difficult to access and communicate with some affected areas, efforts continue to be made to reach all areas damaged by the storm to confirm safety and damage reports. In the Christmas Eve aftermath of Typhoon Phanphone (locally referred to as Ursula), which struck the Philippines on December 24, members and missionaries have been reported safe and accounted for.According to a report from the Church’s humanitarian emergency response team and the Philippines Area Presidency last updated on the morning of Friday, December 27, more than 20 Latter-day Saint homes have been partially damaged with six more listed as completely destroyed. Four Church meetinghouses are being used as evacuation shelters and are serving around 93 members who have been affected. As we work with our NGO and government partners to assess needs, the Church is already springing into action with relief goods and assistance,” Elder Schmutz said. “The Philippines is located in a part of the world that has more than its share of natural disasters, from frequent typhoons to earthquakes to active volcanoes. But the Filipino people are resilient and amazingly willing to pick themselves up after the disaster has passed and return to life and work.”“As is our practice, we are utilizing Church meetinghouses in the affected areas as refuge and gathering centers and supplying needed sanitary, sleeping, and survival kits,” he told the Church News in an email following the storm. Although the initial brunt of the storm came from the high winds and sea surge, the lingering damage of the flooding is what Church leaders are now concerned about, Elder Schmutz explained.Typhoon Phanfone, which made landfall on Christmas Eve, is reported to have sustained wind speeds of 93 miles per hour, with gusts up to 121 miles per hour. The storm additionally brought heavy rains, which have left flooding in its wake. “It was quite destructive, both in the taking of lives and property,” said Elder Evan A. Schmutz, General Authority Seventy and president of the Philippines Area. “Thankfully, no missionaries were injured—all were accounted for within 24 hours—and there were no injuries or death among members, according to our most recent reports.”
“There’s a sense of connection and covenant belonging together that makes each one feel as though this is for them individually, for their families, and for large groups, countries at the same time. That’s a remarkable thing to feel and see,” said Elder Gong.They talked about the spirit of love within the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “We feel as brothers in the gospel of Jesus Christ charged and commissioned to carry the name of Jesus Christ and His Church to the world.”Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared how “deeply touched” he was to see the way President Nelson ministered to large crowds, single families, and to the one during the Pacific Ministry Tour. Sharing their experiences of traveling with their husbands, Sister Nelson and Sister Mary Cook, wife of Elder Cook, sang a duet in this next video. The Rev. Amos C. Brown, pastor of San Francisco’s Third Baptist Church, commented in this video on how he sees the hand of God between the two organizations. “There’s nothing we’d rather do than try to be of help to others,” President Nelson said. “If you want to feel better, forget about yourself and serve somebody else.”“When we travel, I think of a statement by President Kimball, ‘I should come and see this country sometime when I come back,’” said Sister Nelson. “It’s not about sightseeing. It is about Saint-seeing.”“This is maybe a tender time, a new beginning for the Church here, but it will grow. It will be strong.”“I think it was a particularly significant message at this point to have the President of the Church come see a relatively small group and by his presence say, ‘You matter. You’re in our hearts, you’re in our minds, in our prayers. The Lord is mindful of you. And we’re mindful of you,’” Elder Christofferson said. During the Latin America Ministry Tour, President and Sister Nelson and Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared their thoughts about the impressive youth in Central and South America who are “hungry to hear the word of God” and “lift up above the mediocrity.”The purpose of ministering is ultimately to help Latter-day Saints be ready for what lies ahead, said Sister Cook. “There’s nothing sweeter. And you feel safe that you’re doing what the Lord wants you to do and you’re helping to prepare for His Second Coming.”President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visited the Prophet Joseph Smith’s birthplace in Sharon, Vermont, in October. “I do not consider it to be accidental. It was providential that the NAACP and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will come together on common ground,” he said. “We need each other. We should not turn on each other in these difficult times. We should turn to each other. Each of us has something to offer.”President Nelson traveled to Auckland, New Zealand, on May 21 to express his love for those impacted by the March 15 shootings in Christchurch and reiterated an unforgettable message of unity: “We’re brothers. We’re brothers.”While in Rome for the Rome Italy Temple dedication in March, the 15 living prophets and apostles testified of the role of priesthood keys, both anciently and today. Speaking at the 110th annual national convention for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Detriot in July, President Nelson said, “Arm in arm and shoulder to shoulder, may we strive to lift our brothers and sisters everywhere, in every way we can.”“It’s incomprehensible that anybody could do that to another human being,” he said. “So, what can we do? We can pray, we can love, we can minister.” Each of the two mosques damaged in the attacks received a total of $50,000 from the Church. In January, President Russell M. Nelson and his wife Sister Wendy Nelson visited Paradise, California, to mourn with the victims of the Camp Fire. Their visit came just two days after the death of the Nelson’s second daughter, Wendy Nelson Maxfield. “This personalization and connecting with them, I wish that you could be sitting where I am and see all the faces light up like Christmas trees,” said Elder Cook of President Nelson interacting with the youth. President Nelson and Elder Christofferson embarked on a ministry through Southeast Asia in November. During their visits in Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore, and Indonesia, they expressed their faith in the Latter-day Saints in each country and how they would help the Church grow.“It’s the greatest blessing and opportunity of my life to travel the earth on the errand from the Lord to employ those keys in the blessing of individuals and families,” said Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The Church News documented the travels of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles this year as they traveled around the world and met with Latter-day Saints and government and civil leaders. Here is a look back at nine videos you might have missed from their travels.
“My feeling is we have to stand in awe, in reverence, and deep appreciation for their courage, their spirituality, their integrity, and their love for the Lord Jesus Christ,” President Ballard said. “They were willing to give their lives, if required, to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ. So you are talking about two great men, perhaps as great of sons of God who have ever lived, with the exception of the Savior, of course, Who is the greatest of all. Every Church member should know and think about that.”Joseph Smith Papers, “Documents, Vol. 9”In a small farmhouse in Sharon, Vermont, Joseph Smith Jr., the fifth of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith’s 11 children, was born on December 23, 1805. This year marks 214 years since his birth, and falls in between the 175th anniversary since Joseph and Hyrum Smith’s martyrdom (June 27, 1844) and the 200th anniversary of the First Vision, which will be celebrated in the spring of 2020.“I can’t get anywhere near this birthplace without having deep affection and love for the Prophet Joseph Smith Jr.,” said President Ballard. “I feel obligated to do everything I can to declare and to teach that the gospel is once again on the earth.” Missionaries walk to a meeting at the Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial in Sharon, Vt., on Saturday, October 19, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“The Book of Mormon is filled with miracles for those who read it,” Elder Gary E. Stevenson said during the Joseph Smith Memorial Devotional in Logan, Utah, on January 27. “This is a book that brings faith, happiness, and joy.” Displayed items in the visitors center at the Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial in Sharon, Vt., on Saturday, October 19, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.President Ballard, Elder Christofferson visit Joseph Smith’s birthplaceThe latest Joseph Smith Papers Volume “Documents, Vol. 9: December 1841-April 1842” released in October gives insight into Joseph Smith’s many roles during the Nauvoo era, including Church president, mayor, judge, and editor, among others. 175th anniversary of Joseph and Hyrum Smith’s martyrdom
President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles walk at the Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial in Sharon, Vt., on Saturday, October 19, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Elder Gary E. Stevenson speaks at a BYU devotional, during Education Week, Tuesday, August 20, 2019. Photo by Rebekah Baker, BYU Photo.Commemorating the 200th anniversary of the First VisionPresident Ballard and Elder Christofferson also testified of Joseph Smith’s role as prophet in a Church News video filmed in Joseph Smith’s birthplace in Sharon.“In the next six months, I hope that every member and every family will prepare for a unique conference that will commemorate the very foundations of the restored gospel.” The Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial in Sharon, Vt., on Saturday, October 19, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“Here on December 23, 1805, a baby with the responsibility of restoring to the earth the fullness of the everlasting gospel, was born,” said President Ballard, speaking of his great-great-great-uncle Joseph Smith Jr. Elder Gary E. Stevenson speaks at the Joseph Smith Memorial Devotional, sponsored by the Logan, Utah, institute on January 27, 2019. Photo by Rebekah Baker, BYU Photo. President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles walk at the Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial in Sharon, Vt., on Saturday, October 19, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“It fills me with unspeakable joy to know that Jesus Christ stands at the head of this Church, that the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and is the word of God, and that Joseph Smith was the Prophet of this, the final dispensation,” he said.In a member devotional in Sharon, Vermont, President Ballard testified that Joseph Smith “is everything we say he is, the prophet of this, the final dispensation of the fullness of times.”Elder Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles invited the devotional audience to find more screen time with the Book of Mormon in order to make the book the cornerstone of their testimonies. Alex D. Smith, an editor with the Joseph Smith Papers project, shows a document from “Documents, Vol. 9: December 1841-April 1842.” Photo by Trent Toone, Deseret News. Apostles visit after the Sunday afternoon session of the 189th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, October 6, 2019. Photo by Laura Seitz, Deseret News. President M. Russell Ballard, left, and Elder D. Todd Christofferson, right, at the birthplace of Joseph Smith in Sharon, Vermont. Photo courtesy of screenshot from Church News video.On Saturday, October 19, President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visited a quiet rustic location in rural Vermont. There they observed foundation stones marking the dimensions of Joseph Smith’s grandfather’s log home and the original hearthstone of the fireplace of the house where the Prophet was born.Also commemorating the 200th anniversary of the First Vision is a free BYU art exhibit. “A Pillar of Light: Celebrating 200 Years of the First Vision” is on display in the Harold B. Lee Library in the L. Tom Perry Special Collection section through June of 2020.“As has been done for 75 years on this campus, I offer my witness of Joseph Smith,” he said, bearing testimony of Joseph Smith as a prophet of God.President Nelson invited everyone to prepare for the upcoming general conference by studying Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision, incorporating the Book of Mormon Videos into their scripture studies, and pondering questions such as, “How would my life be different if my knowledge gained from the Book of Mormon were suddenly taken away?” Or “How have the events that have followed the First Vision made a difference for me and my loved ones?” The exhibition “A Pillar of Light” at BYU's Harold B. Lee Library commemorates the upcoming 200th anniversary of the First Vision. Photo courtesy of BYU Photo. President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints works in his office in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.Some months later, on August 20, Elder Stevenson lead a ‘time travel’ review of the Restoration during a BYU Education Week devotional.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, holds hands with his wife, Sister Kathy Christofferson, at the Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial in Sharon, Vt., on Saturday, October 19, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.
Elder Randall Bennett, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, walk around the Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial in Sharon, Vt., on Saturday, October 19, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.While a lot of books and articles have been written on Joseph Smith, the documents readers find in the new volume will help answer the question of “why” he was so involved in Nauvoo and the development of the Church at this time, said Alex D. Smith, an editor of “Documents, Vol. 9.”Today, visitors at the Church History Library can view an exhibit that covers details of what happened to the Prophet and his brother on June 27, 1844. On display is a pair of death masks, giving visitors a chance to see up close what these men looked like.Elder Stevenson testifies of Joseph Smith’s role as Prophet of the RestorationWhile visiting the Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial, President Ballard and Elder Christofferson reflected with reverence and appreciation on the Prophet Joseph.“Tucked back in these trees came to the earth the Prophet Joseph Smith,” Elder Christofferson said, speaking of the baby born in “humble circumstances” who would “change the course” of history.At the close of the October 2019 general conference, President Russell M. Nelson announced that 2020 would be designated as a bicentennial year, commemorating the 200th anniversary of the First Vision. The Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial in Sharon, Vt., on Saturday, October 19, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.President Nelson described the event that occurred in the spring of 1820: “God the Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph, a 14-year-old youth. That event marked the onset of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fulness, precisely as foretold in the Holy Bible.”The April 2020 general conference “will be different from any previous conference,” he said. Already it has been announced that instead of a priesthood or women’s session, all Church members ages 11 and up will attend the Saturday evening session.A few months before visiting the Prophet’s birthplace, President Ballard spoke with the Church News about what he hopes Latter-day Saints will appreciate about the martyrdom of Hyrum Smith—the Apostle’s great-great-grandfather—and his brother Joseph Smith Jr.The year 2019 marked the 175th anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. “They provide what we hope will be enough context to really come to know who Joseph Smith was, not only as a leader of the Church and the people, but as a man,” he said.
He could not individually greet everyone in the meeting, but he hoped he made “the touch that heaven wanted to be made.”For 30 minutes during a morning breakfast meeting, Elder Bednar explained what a temple is and why The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is building a temple in Managua, Nicaragua.She looked at the Apostle and then threw her arms around his waist.Sister Bednar said it was also a blessing to be with the missionaries in Central America. Elder David A. Bednar speaks at a youth devotional in Nicaragua, during the Apostle's visit to the country in November 2019.“When you look at these members, you can tell the Father’s Plan is a plan of happiness because it shows in their countenances.”In the mountainside city of Solola, Guatemala—where a large percentage of the people still wear traditional Mayan clothing—thousands of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently gathered for a weeknight member meeting with Elder David A. Bednar.In response, Elder Bednar focused on the blessings of having a temple close by and how the members can claim those blessings. He spoke about the “need to understand the nature of the covenants and the ordinances that they’ll receive in the temple, so they can remember them and honor them.”Elder Bednar also spoke of the temple during visits to Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango, Guatemala—where the Church has temples—and San Pedro Sula, Honduras—where, like Managua, Church leaders have announced a temple.“We have remarkable experiences with people every day,” explained Elder Bednar. “It is not just one experience. It is the consistency of those experiences. … It really is one by one. Everywhere we go.” Youth participate in devotional with Elder David A. Bednar in Nicaragua, during the Apostle's visit to the country in November 2019. Sister Susan Bednar speaks to youth during a devotional in Nicaragua while visiting the country with her husband, Elder David A. Bednar in November 2019.“This is a miracle!”Sometimes people think Church leaders travel to foreign lands to help the members. “But seeing the deep devotion and Christlike goodness in the faces of members blesses Susan and me in extraordinary ways,” Elder Bednar said.“There is a sense of a spiritual momentum throughout Central America,” he said when he returned. “This is a thriving area of the Church. It is growing. We are building temples there. Stakes are being created. And you see the goodness in the faces of all these good members.Elder and Sister Bednar also met with Quetzaltenango Guatemala El Bosque Stake President Carlos A. Tzic and learned his daughter was returning home from the Guatemala Antigua Mission later that week. “We were excited that we would be meeting with the missionaries from that mission the very next day and could tell Sister Tzic how excited her family was for her to return home,” recalled Sister Bednar. “It was a ‘tender mercy’ for all of us.”She arranged a meeting for Elder Bednar in Nicaragua with a number of government ministers, representatives of the State Department, and representatives of the Office of the President.Temple citiesA 9-year-old girl from the Solola Guatemala Stake fought back tears as she asked Elder Bednar a question. “How can I get something out of the scriptures as I do Come, Follow Me with my family?” Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles responded to the question and then invited the child to come to the podium. He gave her a card with his address and asked her to do her best to live the gospel and draw closer to the Savior. “Every once in a while, send me a letter and let me know how you are doing,” he told her. Missionaries listen to Elder David A. Bednar in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, during the Apostle's visit to the country in November 2019.Only the Lord could orchestrate a seemingly chance meeting in London with a leader who who then would arrange important meetings in Nicaragua, said Elder Bednar, who had been assigned to visit both countries months earlier.“A missionary responded, ‘I should pray to know what God wants for me and have the faith to accept His will. I can find His will as I love others and serve.’ This missionary stopped briefly and then said that while he was sharing his thoughts, he received an impression right then about what God wanted him to do when he returned home from his mission.“At the missionary meeting with the Honduras San Pedro Sula East and West missions, Elder Bednar taught the missionaries that the Holy Ghost is the real teacher, and they should write down impressions and feelings that come from the Holy Ghost during the meeting,” Sister Bednar said. “He then asked, ‘What stood out to you about the messages you read?’ Later that day, Elder and Sister Bednar met with youth from the Managua Nicaragua Stake during a 2 p.m. devotional. “We were intrigued to learn that many bishops had written notes for their youth to be excused early from school so they could attend the meeting,” said Sister Bednar.“The missionary was visibly moved by what was happening. Elder Bednar said to him, ‘This is a revelatory miracle!’ The smile on the face of the missionary indicated that he understood.”Traveling with his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, Elder Bednar visited Central America November 8 through November 17—addressing members and missionaries and meeting with government leaders in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Elder David A. Bednar addresses members in Managua, Nicaragua, during the Apostle's visit to the country in November 2019.“You see what the gospel does across the generations to strengthen them as individuals and as families. … You see how the gospel changes people.”In every temple city, Elder Bednar encouraged the members to complete their family history. Only a small percentage of the members in Nicaragua and in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, have completed four generations of family history. Members gather for devotional with Elder David A. Bednar in Managua, Nicaragua, during the Apostle's visit to the country in November 2019.The questions the youth asked during the meeting were inspiring, she said. “One that stood out to me was: ‘How can we as youth prepare for a temple in our country and let our lights shine in our nation?’”Elder Bednar’s visit followed an earlier assignment to England, where he presided over the Church’s RootsTech London family history seminar. During the RootsTech VIP reception, Elder Bednar met Nicaragua’s ambassador to England.“It is easier to build a temple than it is to build a people prepared to receive the temple,” commented Elder Bednar, quoting President Russell M. Nelson.
President M. Russell Ballard, middle left, stands with President Henry J. Eyring and his wife, Sister Kelly Eyring, left, and Elder Paul V. Johnson and his wife, Sister Jill Johnson, right, at the podium during BYU–Idaho's fall commencement at the BYU–Idaho Center on Wednesday, December 18, 2019. Photo by Ericka Sanders, BYU-Idaho“It is estimated that John and Elizabeth’s posterity would number today over 5 million people, some of which rose to importance in every field of endeavor, including presidents of the United States of America and apostles and prophets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” he said. April 2020 will mark 200 years since Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith to open the final dispensation preparing for the Second Coming of the Savior. During a trip this past summer to Plymouth, Massachusetts, President Ballard walked the ground where the Pilgrims had walked and learned of the many miracles the Lord provided for them. Miracles of the American Revolution“It should not have been there. Yet there it was, precisely where young John needed it to be,” said President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, during Brigham Young University–Idaho’s fall commencement held at the BYU–Idaho Center on Wednesday, December 18. Live, he said, “with righteousness, humility, and gratitude to God” as General Washington taught his troops.General Washington ordered his men to take the cannons and guns to the top of Dorchester Heights. The high ground would allow the Americans to gain an advantage over the British troops hunkered down in Boston. Fortunately, the Pilgrims did not forget that the Lord had worked miracles for them. “They transferred their faith in miracles to the next generations,” President Ballard said. “And it was a good thing they did, because the kingdom of God on earth could not be restored in this land until a divinely inspired Constitution would protect its existence.”President Eyring awarded diplomas to 2,753 students. Of those, 607 began as BYU-Pathway students. With General Washington’s permission, Henry Knox had taken a 300-mile journey to New York to seize the cannons. To transport 120,000 pounds of mortars and cannons back to General Washington, Knox built sleds. But there was no snow. Then after much prayer, snow came on Christmas morning 1775. Even the Hudson River was frozen over. The journey back to General Washington was successful. “I invite you to think more upon these covenants you have made. Listen to the words spoken at the sacrament table during Sunday worship. Go often to the temple and listen to the blessings promised to you there. “I do not have adequate words to express to you all the blessings that are ours because we believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind,” President Ballard said.“We all need to do this every day,” President Ballard told the graduating class. This was the covenant formula Nephi saw that brought independence and the Restoration of the gospel, which “came through prayer and righteous believers in God.”“Washington moved anyway, and he was once again blessed,” President Ballard said. Most people have never heard of John Howland or his story. But he is the fourth great-grandfather of the Prophet Joseph Smith (and the ninth great-grandfather of President Ballard). Graduates enter the BYU–Idaho Center on Wednesday, December 18, 2019, for the fall commencement ceremony. Photo by J. Lawson Turcotte, BYU-Idaho.But the British were watching. It would be impossible to get to the heights without them noticing. The British were shocked. The incident had been done “with an expedition equal to that of the genie belonging to Aladdin’s wonderful lamp,” one British officer reported.Letters and diaries of the Founding Fathers and Mothers reveal a belief that if they would stay close to God—individually and as a nation—they had a better chance at receiving needed miracles. This relationship with God can be seen as a covenant relationship, President Ballard explained. Miracles for the PilgrimsHowland should have died. But as Howland plummeted into the sea, he felt in his hand a rope—the ship’s topsail halyard—and was pulled back onto the ship.“I encourage you to utilize these powerful covenants to seek those blessings and miracles you need. And again, I say to you: Expect those blessings. Recognize them—even and especially the small ones—when they come quietly. And be grateful for them.” A graduate smiles during the convocation for the College of Education and Human Development: Sociology, Social Work and Psychology on Wednesday, December 18, 2019. Photo by J. Lawson Turcotte, BYU-Idaho.Prior to President Ballard’s address, Elder Paul V. Johnson, a General Authority Seventy and commissioner of the Church Educational System, encouraged graduates to make a difference in the world by keeping their covenants and using their talents and gifts to further the Lord’s work. “These are your days,” he told them. The BYU–Idaho Women's Chorus performs a musical number during the BYU-Idaho fall commencement ceremony on Wednesday, December 18, 2019. Photo by Cami Su, BYU-IdahoThese miraculous trends continued through most of the key battles during the seven-year conflict, until the British abandoned the entire American continent, President Ballard said. “At last, the land was free and the foundation for the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ was surer than ever.”“Expect help from the Lord. Pray for it. And when it comes and appears to you to be small and simple means, do not disregard it. Do not dismiss it. Do not relegate these spiritual promptings to a footnote in your own personal history,” President Ballard said.“Just think of that, you are recipients of this great time when the gospel is upon the earth and you are free to receive it. You are free to live it.”At a devotional in Boston in October, President Ballard pled with Latter-day Saints to “join a new movement” by inviting their neighbors, colleagues, and friends to pray for the nation, its leaders and its families.“Indeed, the Lord placed that halyard line into the hand of the drowning John Howland, for in him was the blood of some of the leaders of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”“Now as you graduate and move to the next phase of your exciting lives, I pray you will never forget or become casual in your relationship with your Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son Jesus Christ. The life of Jesus Christ is one of miracle after miracle.”“Watch how line upon line, His tender mercies evolve into the greatest blessings in your lives and in the lives of those around you. The more you recognize God’s hand, the more you will feel His spirit and His love for you.”After a severely delayed voyage, the Pilgrims landed in a spot that had been prepared—nearly 250 miles north of their intended location—where the land could be planted and farmed, where the Town Brook supplied clean drinking water, and where the Native Americans taught them how to raise successful crops. Recognizing the Lord’s handDuring the night of March 4, 1776, a layer of fog dropped between the American and British troops. The next morning, General Washington and his troops were stationed and ready at the top of Dorchester Heights. Gratitude for the gospel and the Savior’s love for all of Heavenly Father’s children is what President Ballard felt as he overlooked the Sea of Galilee and the surrounding valleys and hills in Israel three weeks ago. From Plymouth, President Ballard traveled to Boston to learn more about the miracles of the Revolutionary War. One such miracle occurred on the high grounds of Dorchester Heights. It was the place where General George Washington’s men built two strongholds with at least 20 cannons and thousands of troops—enough to encourage the British to abandon New England. President Ballard said of the prophecy of the Revolutionary War: “There is perhaps no better example of history corroborating scripture than this.”“When I consider the Mayflower story, I can testify, not only as a Church leader, but also as a father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, that Nephi’s vision was correct when he declared that ‘by small means the Lord can bring about great things,'” he said. President M. Russell Ballard, right, and President Henry J. Eyring, president of BYU–Idaho, left, smile as they greet graduates following the convocation for the College of Education and Human Development: Sociology, Social Work and Psychology on Wednesday, December 18, 2019. Photo by J. Lawson Turcotte, BYU-Idaho.That Constitution would only come when “wise men” whom the Lord “raised up unto this very purpose” had “redeemed the land by the shedding of blood” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:80). Encouraging BYU–Idaho graduates to recognize the Lord’s hand in their lives, President Ballard reflected on Nephi’s vision in the Book of Mormon about the founding of the United States and preparation for the Restoration of the gospel—a vision based on one miracle after another.Wandering the decks of the Mayflower during a storm, a young, poor indentured servant named John Howland was knocked off by a wave and tumbled into the ocean. “In God, we can and must trust,” declared President Henry J. Eyring, president of BYU–Idaho. Amidst a widespread drop in spiritual faith in the world, BYU–Idaho graduates should “take the spiritual high ground” and continue to strengthen their testimonies of fundamental gospel truths. President M. Russell Ballard speaks during BYU–Idaho's fall commencement at the BYU–Idaho Center on Wednesday, December 18, 2019. Photo by Ericka Sanders, BYU-Idaho.After Nephi described the Pilgrims and early settlers in the land, he saw the patriots of the American Revolution. Though “their mother Gentiles were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them … the power of God was with them” (1 Nephi 13:17-18).