Added Elder Cook: “We are confident that our youth will rise to this challenge, become more Christlike in their lives, and receive the eternal blessings that come to those who labor in the vineyard for their deceased ancestors. We pray that this will be an individual, a family, and a ward endeavor so that every youth, including those who are not able to identify ancestors, can be blessed by performing these sacred ordinances.”
Depending on the needs at a particular temple, temple presidencies will have the option of asking young women ages 12–18 and ordained priests with limited-use temple recommends to serve at the temple in additional ways.Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President, said, “We are very excited about this change to Temple and Priesthood Preparation so that our 11-year-old boys and girls can be taught to understand the priesthood, the blessings of temple service, and the importance of making and keeping sacred covenants. We pray that these children of the covenant will focus on and prepare for the temple from an early age.”According to Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Chairman of the Temple and Family History Executive Committee, these changes will be a great blessing to the young women, young men, and children of the Church. “With magnificent advances in technology, the rising generation has responded spiritually to the opportunities and challenges it presents,” he said. “These changes will allow increased preparation and participation in the great work of salvation for the dead.”“Our youth have accepted the invitation to engage in doing family history and temple work in amazing ways,” said Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women General President. “These additional opportunities to serve in the temple will add meaning to their experiences as they perform baptisms for their ancestors. I am truly excited that they will be able to engage in this work in more ways.”A December 14 letter outlines the following policy changes that go into effect beginning on January 1, 2018:Depending on the needs at a particular temple, temple presidencies will have the option of asking young women ages 12–18 and ordained priests with limited-use temple recommends to serve in the temple in additional ways.
O God, our Eternal Father, we come unto Thee in the name of Thy Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Our hearts are filled with gratitude on this historic day. A sealing room in the Cedar City Utah Temple. Cedar City Utah Temple on Sunday, December 10, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer. Cedar City Utah Temple on Sunday, December 10, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.We thank Thee for the beauty of this structure and for all who have labored to build it. We are grateful for the consecration of Thy faithful Saints throughout the world who have imparted of their tithes with generous hearts and with love for Thee. Bless them Father, and open the windows of heaven to shower upon them every needful gift. May the example of their lives lead others to seek Thine everlasting truth. Praise be to Thy wondrous ways, dear Father.Now, acting in the authority of the holy priesthood, we dedicate and consecrate unto Thee this sacred structure as the house of the Lord, a prophesied place of rest for Thy Son (see Acts 7:49), and a house of holy ordinances where Thine eternal work may be carried forward. Window detail found in the Cedar City Utah Temple. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and President Henry B. Eyring at the Cedar City Utah Temple on December 9, 2017. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver. The celestial room in the Cedar City Utah Temple. The bride’s room in the Cedar City Utah Temple.Father, bless Thy worthy Saints who come here that they may grow in faith and testimony concerning Thy Beloved Son. May they grow also in understanding of Thine eternal purpose to bring to pass their immortality and eternal life. May Thy Holy Spirit bear witness of these truths and bring them to their remembrance. Bless the temple presidency and matrons, ordinance workers, volunteers, and patrons. We pray for Thy blessings upon those who go out from this place to serve as missionaries throughout the world. Sustain them, inspire them, and lead them to those who prayerfully look for eternal truth.We thank Thee for the mighty faith and marvelous works of the pioneers who preceded us in building Thy kingdom in this area. Help us to be worthy of their heritage.Now, we consecrate the ground on which this temple stands. We dedicate the structure with all of the components appertaining thereto. It is our gift to Thee, dear Father, given in acknowledgement of Thy great gifts to us, most notably the gift of Thy Beloved Son. An instruction room in the Cedar City Utah Temple. The entrance to the Cedar City Utah Temple. Cedar City Utah Temple on Sunday, December 10, 2017. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver. Entrance into the celestial room of the Cedar City Utah Temple. Entrance into the chapel in the Cedar City Utah Temple. We come unto Thee with thankfulness for Thy generous blessings. Father, we thank Thee for this remarkable time, when Thou hast parted the veil and revealed Thyself and Thy Son to open the dispensation of the fulness of times.We seek Thy favor, our Father in Heaven, upon all those who reside in the temple district and all who visit here. Bless the students and their families who gather here. Prosper them as they honor Thee and Thy Son. Forbid the adversary from having power or influence over them.We are grateful for the coming forth of the Book of Mormon as another witness of Thy Son. We thank Thee for the restoration of the holy priesthood, with authority, power, and keys that will be exercised in this holy house.May all people who enter upon the threshold of this house feel Thy power and feel constrained to acknowledge that Thou hast sanctified this temple as Thy house, a place of Thy holiness. The Cedar City Utah Temple. Photo by Rachel Sterzer. The baptistry in the Cedar City Utah Temple.Please strengthen the youth, who are surrounded by temptations. Give them the courage to seek for truth and righteousness. Bless them with a vision of their eternal purpose.Father in Heaven, please look down upon us this day with favor and mercy. Please accept of our offering. In deep gratitude, we offer this, the Cedar City Utah Temple, to Thee and to Thy Son and ask for these blessings in the sacred name of Him whose redemption has opened the way into eternity for Thy sons and daughters. In the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, amen.Guard and fortify and strengthen all who come here against the forces of evil. Bless the marriages that are sealed in this temple. May the peace, harmony, and kindness felt here permeate into families and homes. One of the chandeliers in the Cedar City Utah Temple.May all that is done herein be done with an eye single to Thy glory and to the building of Thy kingdom. May hearts be turned to ancestors in the spirit world. May those who serve here feel the love and appreciation of those for whom they perform ordinances.We are profoundly grateful for the laws of this land. Preserve them through the generations to come that Thy children may worship Thee in freedom and attend this house in safety. Bless those who govern in this nation that they may be inspired to do that which will ensure peace and freedom. Bless leaders in all nations where Thy children dwell.Following is the text of the dedicatory prayer of the Cedar City Utah Temple offered by President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, on Sunday, December 10. An instruction room in the Cedar City Utah Temple. “Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord,” the inscription on the front of the Cedar City Utah Temple.We are grateful for Thy kindness and blessing in granting the sealing power to Joseph Smith, a power passed through succeeding prophets to our day. Because of that power, Thy faithful Saints may be endowed from on high and live with Thee in glorified families forever. One of the many lighting features in the Cedar City Utah Temple. Carved carpet detail in the Cedar City Utah Temple. Detail work found within the Cedar City Utah Temple.We dedicate this beautiful temple with all of its facilities and furnishings. We dedicate the surrounding trees, flowers, and lawns that add beauty to this structure. We dedicate the temple from its foundation to the figure of Moroni crowning its steeple. We dedicate the baptistry, the initiatory ordinance facilities, the endowment rooms, the celestial room, the sealing rooms and their altars, and every part of this sacred house. May it be safeguarded from any untoward event. May no unclean thing enter the portals of this, Thy holy house.The presence of this house is an answer to the prayers of Thy people. We thank Thee for it and ask for Thy Spirit to dwell continuously within its walls. We pray that this beautiful temple will be a haven for all who enter.
“Fourteen young elders will return to Puerto Rico, and two senior couples will return to St. Croix and St. Thomas. Decisions about the return of the additional missionaries will be made at a later date.”For Mormons here, both reasons double as symbolic victories. Latter-day Saints in San Juan, Puerto Rico, gather at a meetinghouse in October 2017 to help distribute relief supplies in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. A photo from October 2017 of the San Juan, Puerto Rico, airport shows the significant damage from Hurricane Irma.Having a senior missionary couple back in St. Thomas “will be great,” said St. Thomas Branch President Steven Richards. President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, visited with government officials and ministered to local Mormons and residents in the Caribbean September 15, 2017, in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Damage from recent hurricanes is evident in this image taken in San Juan, Puerto Rico, October 2017.“About 60 or 70 percent of the capital has power now.”The announcement noted “some of the missionaries” would be returning to the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission:The stake conference represents a moment of victory, emergence, and resiliency for the San Juan members, said President Rosa. They will look back on what they’ve endured—and look forward to better days ahead.“It will be great to have the missionaries back,” said San Juan stake president Wilfred Rosa. “They will have a lot of opportunities to tract and find people, but I’m sure the missionaries will also be involved in a lot of service projects.”SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO“We still have issues, but things are getting better now,” said President Rosa on Friday, who added he still does not have electrical service in his own home.And second, the San Juan Puerto Rico Stake gathered for stake conference on December 10. The gathering was postponed multiple times during the ongoing hurricane recovery.“They will be able to help us a lot—especially in providing some additional priesthood leadership,” he said Friday. “Having a couple here will be very beneficial.”The Church’s ongoing humanitarian efforts across the island, he added, “have opened a lot of doors for us here; we’ve worked closely with the government.”Meanwhile, on the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Thomas, a small branch of Latter-day Saints continue their own recovery following Irma’s arrival months ago.Across the island, Puerto Ricans have endured months without reliable power and drinking water.That’s allowed Latter-day Saints assigned to that building to enjoy somewhat normal Sabbath services and activities. More remote meetinghouses in the stake are still without power, so local members continue to meet in the dark for Sunday sacrament services.The mid-September removal of the missionaries unsettled many of the members, said President Rosa. Their return will allow them to feel a new measure of security and optimism.Puerto Rico suffered a two-fisted disaster combo that began with Hurricane Irma, followed a short time later by the severely destructive Hurricane Maria.Immediate plans are also underway to begin rebuilding the St. Thomas meetinghouse, which was severely damaged during Hurricane Irma. The small branch has been meeting for Sunday services in recent months at President Richards’s home.After many difficult weeks and months, hurricane-weary Latter-day Saints in Puerto Rico’s capital finally have a couple of reasons to celebrate.First, on December 8 the Church announced that full-time missionaries would be returning to the island after being removed in September following Hurricane Maria.Electrical service in the San Juan stake center was restored about two weeks after Maria. “Which was a real miracle,” he said.
Similarly, every Sunday in Young Women, we begin a Come, Follow Me lesson with the “share experiences” portion of the lesson. “At the beginning of each class, invite the young women to share, teach, and testify about the experiences they have had applying what they learned in the previous week’s lesson. This will encourage personal conversion and help the young women see the relevance of the gospel in their daily lives.”Four days after the passing of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, Jesus traveled to Bethany. Martha heard Jesus was coming and went to meet Him. In a conversation where Martha shares her knowledge of the Savior’s teachings, Jesus declares, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” Then Jesus asks, “Believeth thou this?” Martha’s response affirms her faith. “Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come in to the world.” Martha applied the teachings of Christ to her life experience, and her testimony stands as a witness to the world of the power and glory of Jesus Christ, our Savior (see John 11:14-40).Through sharing experiences young women begin to feel the Lord’s love for them. They recognize their divine identity, that they are responsible for their own spiritual and temporal progress, and that they have the ability to influence and strengthen others. Their words spoken by the Spirit of truth are a gift of testimony in the minds and hearts of those who speak and those who listen.Every year at Christmas, when we gather with our family to celebrate the birth of the Savior, we share a gift of the heart. For our family, a gift of the heart is an opportunity for each person to share a talent, an experience, or something they have done or learned that has been personally meaningful during the past year. The gift of the heart always reflects a witness of our love for the Savior. Sharing these experiences invites a spirit of love and unity and creates a deep sense of gratitude for the temporal and spiritual blessings we have received.In our day, disciples of Christ also are commanded to live His gospel and then bear witness of Him and of His teachings. Young women cannot be anonymous in living the gospel. They have covenanted to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places. Neither can young women be dependent on another’s testimony. Young women gain confidence and assurance as they practice articulating the experiences they have had applying gospel principles in relevant ways. They share what they have learned and how they have felt. As they exercise the faith to speak, their testimonies grow. President Boyd K. Packer taught, “Oh, if I could teach you this one principle: a testimony is to be found in the bearing of it” (“The Quest for Spiritual Knowledge,” New Era, Jan. 2007, 6).This Christmas season may we encourage young women to share experiences that they may be blessed as the Lord has promised, “For the testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon; and they rejoice over you, and your sins are forgiven you” (D&C 62:3).As we follow this direction, sharing gospel experiences is an opportunity to invite the Spirit of the Lord and help young women become witnesses of Jesus Christ. As they speak from the heart and share, teach, and testify of gospel principles, the Holy Ghost will confirm truth. This can be particularly effective when a class president is prepared to lead by sharing her experience. The young woman who is speaking and those who are listening feel the Spirit and grow in love and unity one with another. Sharing experiences is a gift of spirit and a gift of truth, where young women grow in understanding “and [all] are edified and rejoice together” (D&C 50:22).As the disciples of Jesus Christ followed Him, He offered them many opportunities to share what they had learned. Arriving at the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked them, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” The disciples shared several names. Then Jesus asked, “But whom say ye that I am?” It was Peter who answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter’s response was a simple and powerful witness of what he had learned by the Spirit. His testimony must have been sincere because Jesus answered, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” Peter had received knowledge by the Spirit, and in sharing his witness he was blessed and prepared for further responsibility in the Lord’s kingdom (see Matthew 16:13–19).
In keeping with tradition, the concert climaxed with Bonneville’s reading from Luke 2 of the birth of the Christ child followed by a stirring performance of the French carol “Angels from the Realms of Glory.”
Broadway star Sutton Foster sings during the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert in Salt Lake City on Thursday, December 14, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.He admonished the audience to watch him “because with 21,000 of us, it’s the only way we’ll stay together.” English actor Hugh Bonneville, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir ,and Orchestra at Temple Square perform during the Christmas concert in Salt Lake City on Thursday, December 14, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Later, the Spaffords moved to Jerusalem, where they engaged in philanthropic work, culminating in a hospital for orphaned children. The Orchestra at Temple Square performs during the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert in Salt Lake City on Thursday, December 14, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,“I really wish that my mom could be here tonight, but she passed away a couple of years ago,” she said in introducing the song, “so as I sing this song for all of you, I would also very much like to sing it for her.” Dancers perform during the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert in Salt Lake City on Thursday, December 14, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Sunday’s “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast by the choir and orchestra will feature selected music and guest-artist performances from the evening concerts. No tickets are required for the broadcast in the Conference Center.In his sorrow, he wrote: Broadway star Sutton Foster sings during the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert in Salt Lake City on Thursday, December 14, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.
Richard Elliott takes a bow during the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert in Salt Lake City on Thursday, December 14, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.The orchestra’s impeccable performance of the classic Leroy Anderson composition and arrangement of “Sleigh Ride” followed. Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Bells on Temple Square perform during their Christmas concert in Salt Lake City on Thursday, December 14, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square perform during their Christmas concert in Salt Lake City on Thursday, December 14, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Bells on Temple Square perform during their Christmas concert in Salt Lake City on Thursday, December 14, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Bells on Temple Square perform during their Christmas concert in Salt Lake City on Thursday, December 14, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.It is well, it is well with my soul. Drummers perform during the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert in Salt Lake City on Thursday, December 14, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News. Dancers perform as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings during their Christmas concert in Salt Lake City on Thursday, December 14, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Guest artist Bonneville did not take the stage until late in the concert but performed its highlight. With music from the choir and orchestra as background, and with actors giving a portrayal, Bonneville narrated the tragic story behind the composition of the Christian hymn “It Is Well with My Soul.”A distinctly Victorian flair marks this year’s concert of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Orchestra at Temple Square, and Bells on Temple Square, which played to a sold-out LDS Conference Center Thursday night, December 14, in the first of three performances that will conclude Saturday.Horatio Spafford penned the hymn after the tragic loss in a shipwreck at Christmas time in 1873 of his four daughters who were traveling with his wife, Anna, en route to Paris, where he expected to join them.“I love playing intimate venues like this,” Foster quipped in ironic reference to the 21,000-seat Conference Center as she greeted the audience following her opening performance of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”Bonneville, who played Robert, Earl of Grantham, on the television series “Downton Abbey,” was one of two guest artists this year, the other being Sutton Foster, the Tony Award-Winning Broadway actress and current star of the TV series “Younger.”
From the opening processional featuring dancers performing to the music of a fiddler on stage, to the audience sing-along of “Jingle Bells” conducted by music director Mack Wilberg, to the narration by British actor Hugh Bonneville of a heart-rending 1873 tale of tragedy and triumph, the show evoked an 1800s yuletide feeling. Dancers perform as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings during their Christmas concert in Salt Lake City on Thursday, December 14, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Later, recalling childhood memories of listening to “John Denver’s Greatest Hits” on her mom’s 8-track player, she sang her favorite from that album, “Sunshine on My Shoulder.”“I absolutely love Christmas,” she exclaimed, adding that she begins her Christmas season each year by watching the 1960s TV special “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and she can’t help joining in when the “Peanuts” kids sing “Christmas Time Is Here.”“Christmas is a time of music and singing, and not just listening,” the maestro said. “So for the first time in, well, as long as I can remember, we’d like to invite you to sing with us.”Under his baton, performers and audience members then sang “Jingle Bells,” as a wintry motion picture was projected on the wall behind the organ pipes, giving the effect of riding in an immense, 21,000-seat, “one-horse open sleigh.”Then came a real change of pace for these annual concerts, as Wilberg turned to the audience. Dancers perform as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings during their Christmas concert in Salt Lake City on Thursday, December 14, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Thereafter, Foster segued into “Pure Imagination,” from the 1971 movie “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”
Trumpeters perform during the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert in Salt Lake City on Thursday, December 14, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Conductor Mack Wilberg leads an audience song during the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert in Salt Lake City on Thursday, December 14, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News. Guest artist Bonneville did not take the stage until late in the concert but performed its highlight. With music from the choir and orchestra as background, and with actors giving a portrayal, Bonneville narrated the tragic story behind the composition of the Christian hymn “It Is Well with My Soul.”Audiences at the annual concert have come to expect each year some new, holiday-themed wizardry from Mormon Tabernacle organist Richard Elliott. They were not disappointed this year, as Elliott performed an intricate arrangement of “I Saw Three Ships,” accompanied by three drummers from the orchestra who kept an eccentric beat and dazzled the audience.Audiences at the annual concert have come to expect each year some new, holiday-themed wizardry from Mormon Tabernacle organist Richard Elliott. They were not disappointed this year, as Elliott performed an intricate arrangement of “I Saw Three Ships,” accompanied by three drummers from the orchestra who kept an eccentric beat and dazzled the audience.The tune from the Charlie Brown show may, in fact, already be Emily’s favorite, Foster said, just before singing it.
English actor Hugh Bonneville narrates during the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert in Salt Lake City on Thursday, December 14, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.
English actor Hugh Bonneville narrates during the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert in Salt Lake City on Thursday, December 14, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.But this year is different, she said, because she and her husband Ted have adopted a baby girl, Emily. “And now whenever I burst into song, Emily is there as my audience, and so far, she likes my voice.”Foster then took the stage again performing a medley arranged by associate conductor Ryan Murphy called “The Golden Age of Christmas.” It consisted of three Hollywood engendered Christmas classics: “Snow!” (from “White Christmas”), “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (from “Meet Me in St. Louis”), and “Happy Holiday” (from “Holiday Inn”), plus the Kay Thompson song made popular by Andy Williams, “It’s the Holiday Season.”The free tickets have all been distributed for the remaining two performances of the concert, but would-be attendees are encouraged to come and wait for stand-by tickets, according to the choir’s website. The line forms at the north gate on Temple Square about two hours before the start time of 8 p.m. Stand-by ticket seekers will be seated in the Salt Lake Tabernacle and ushered into the Conference Center as space becomes available. When sorrows like sea billows roll;
The Christmas memory
An LDS chapel stands in a picturesque setting in Kalaupapa, “a peninsula of sorrow,” on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, where leprosy patients were sent. The last LDS patient in the colony died in 2011. Photo by Gerry Avant.“Our children were taken from us,” Sister Bell explained. “We had no contact with them. None. … My mother took my children, and … Lucy’s family took hers. My mother brought my children to the receiving station so I could see them … through a glass partition.”So, what does my visit to Kalaupapa have to do with Christmas memories? Quite a bit. Foremost, it allowed me to see firsthand how followers of Jesus Christ ministered to three isolated Latter-day Saints by literally going the extra mile.Because of medical advancements, the isolation law was repealed in 1969. Even though no new patients were sent to Kalaupapa, no new residents were allowed to move in.For several years, the Church News has published stories about memorable Christmases. As I write about one of mine, I’m not delving into my memory bank and withdrawing something from my childhood or youth. Instead, I’m writing about some remarkable people I met while on an assignment to Hawaii in 1996 and the lesson they taught me about how the Lord has blessed us.A brief history of the settlementMeetings on the day I visited resonated with the Savior’s declaration, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20) and with one of His Book of Mormon prophet’s eloquent pronouncements, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).Several residents chose to stay; Kalaupapa was the only home they’d ever known. Since no children under 16 were permitted to live there, in its later years Kalaupapa became a dying settlement. It gained national historical park status on December 22, 1980.“This was a terrible place to come to in the old days,” Sister Bell told me. However, by the time I visited, it was a beautiful settlement featuring comfortable homes, a hospital, and a store, among other amenities.On January 6, 1866, the first patients were sent to a settlement at Kalawao, a short distance from the current settlement at Kalaupapa. Sister Bell told me the banished people were treated inhumanely. As there was no dock, the patients entered the settlement by jumping overboard from the ships that sailed them to the remote peninsula. Those reluctant to jump were pushed.On Sunday, December 2, I visited the island of Molokai and attended meetings in a little LDS chapel in a beautiful setting at Kalaupapa, a settlement initially established for people who had leprosy, or Hansen’s disease. In past generations, several hundred Mormons lived there, but by the time I visited, membership had dwindled to three: Kuueli Bell, Lucy Kaona, and Peter Keola. The last of them, Sister Kaona, died in 2011. With no Mormons left at Kalaupapa, the chapel stands empty. Over the years, hundreds of Latter-day Saints were sent Kalaupapa, a leprosy colony on a peninsula of the Hawaiian island of Molokai. Photo is of the LDS cemetery, one of many graveyards on the peninsula. Photo by Gerry Avant.Bordered on three sides by the ocean and on one side by cliffs ranging up to 3,000 feet, the peninsula was an open-air prison. Patients had no way to leave. Some 8,000 people—including hundreds of Latter-day Saints—were sent to the peninsula over the years.Bishop Elia said old-timers told him it didn’t seem natural to live in a place with no children.In 1865, Hawaii’s King Kamehameha V signed the Act to Prevent the Spread of Leprosy. A peninsula on Molokai was designated as a place of settlement for those who had contracted the disease.A couple of years later, I sent Christmas cards in which I wrote about that December morning and Sister Kaona’s testimony about a loving Heavenly Father sending His Son to bless all the world through His atoning sacrifice and His restored gospel.Sister Bell and Sister Kaona knew the emptiness of living in a childless society. Sister Bell was sent to the colony when she was 16; Sister Kaona came when she was a little girl. Both met and married men living in the colony and had children.We sang Christmas hymns, including “Silent Night.” I wondered what Sister Bell and Sister Kaona thought as they sang about a mother and her baby—a woman who, eventually, would have her son taken from her.Every Sunday, two or three—or more—Melchizedek Priesthood brethren from Molokai’s Hoolehua Ward made a three-and-a-half-mile trek down a steep mountain trail to preside over humble meetings, administer the sacrament, teach Sunday School lessons, and, when requested, give blessings for comfort and healing. The day I was there, Bishop Leonard Elia and two full-time missionaries made the trip down and back up the trail.“If they could not swim, they drowned,” Sister Bell said. “People were sent here to die. This was a living tomb.”
Kuueli Bell, one of the last Latter-day Saints to live at Kalaupapa, was sent to the leprosy settlement when she was 16. She died in 2009. Photo by Gerry Avant.With a sweetness in her halting voice, Sister Kaona declared: “I know that Heavenly Father loves me because He has been so good to me.”
On December 2, 1997, Bishop Leonard Elia of Molokai’s Hoolehua Ward, at left on back row, and Elders Lance Wesche and Christian Lelepali visited Peter Keola, front left, Kuueli Bell, and Lucy Kaona, the last three LDS Hansen’s disease patients at Kalaupapa. Photo by Gerry Avant.The spirit of the sacrament meeting that day coalesced in the testimony expressed by Sister Kaona. Her face and other parts of her body bore evidence of the ravages of the disease known as the scourge of all ages, which ancient Egyptians called “death before death.”
Tonya Engen, co-director of the Church’s British Columbia Public Affairs Council, speaks with attendees at the Fraser Valley Community Awards event.Sister Jones encouraged others to seek ways to “lift others’ burdens” and shared personal experiences of finding joy in serving and helping people who are disadvantaged.This year the Family Values Award was given to Focus on the Family (Canada), an organization known for promoting and supporting traditional family values. Gloria Storsley accepted the award in behalf of the organization.
Sister Carol F. McConkie, First Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, speaks with an attendee at the Fraser Valley Community Awards event on December 2 in Langley, British Columbia.Women auxiliary leaders for the Church, joined by Mary Polak (fifth from left), present Gloria Storsley, (second from left), representing Focus on the Family (Canada), with the Family Values Award.“We are the hands and feet of the Lord,” Polak said, according to a news release on MormonNewsroom.org. “We have a responsibility to care for our neighbors.”Collison said she was impressed that the Church honored a variety of organizations and people “who are making a positive difference in our community.”“Serving our fellow [beings] is one of the greatest ways for us to demonstrate our love of God,” Elder Michael R. Murray, an Area Seventy, said in the release. “Events like these show that there are many good people from all faith traditions who are seeking to lift the burdens of others and that we can be a source of strength and inspiration to each other through our efforts to serve.” Auxiliary leaders with Mary Polak (front right), a member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, at the Fraser Valley Community Awards on December 2 in Langley, British Columbia. Christine Collison receives the Humanitarian Award for her many years of voluntary service in the community helping the disadvantaged. With her to receive the award is Liz Dechenes from Semiahmoo House Society, which is one of the organizations where Ms. Collison volunteers. Sarah Laeeq, president of the Ahmadiyya Women’s Auxiliary organization from the Baitur Rahman Mosque, addresses the audience upon receiving the Faith Award. Sister Joy D. Jones, General President of the Primary, speaks with attendees at the Fraser Valley Community Awards event on December 2 in Langley, British Columbia.Her remarks included a personal experience when she, as a young mother, was encouraged by a mentor to become involved in politics. She spoke of how that encouragement has been a source of inspiration to her to help others. She referred to the question “Why am I here?” and invited listeners to ask themselves that same question as a way to evaluate their own efforts in helping others.The Fraser Valley Community Awards are a way for the Church to honor people and groups who are caring for others in their community. There are three awards: the Family Values Award, the Humanitarian Award, and the Faith Award.Three women auxiliary leaders of the Church—Sister Jean B. Bingham, Sister Joy D. Jones, and Sister Carol F. McConkie—met on December 2 with community members of all faiths living in Fraser Valley, British Columbia, to honor individuals and organizations that have made positive contributions to the area.The event honored three award recipients and included speeches from two keynote speakers, Mary Polak, a member of the legislative assembly of British Columbia, and Sister Jones, who serves as the Primary General President. Sister Bingham, Relief Society General President, and Sister McConkie, First Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, also attended. Mary Polak, member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, delivered a keynote speech at the Fraser Valley Community Awards event.Award recipient Storsley said she was “thrilled to see such diversity of faith and individuals at the ceremony” and commented on the unifying nature of such events, adding that they “show how much we all share in common.”The Faith Award was presented to Sarah Laeeg, who is the president of the Ahmadiyya Women’s Auxiliary organization from the Baitur Rahman Mosque.Meant to be a way to honor people and groups that help promote faith and support families and humanitarian service in the community, the event—sponsored by the Church—brought more than 100 people together in an LDS Church building in Langley, British Columbia. Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society General President, speaks with an attendee at the Fraser Valley Community Awards event on December 2 in Langley, British Columbia.The Humanitarian Award was presented to Christine Collison for her work with refugees, support of caregivers, and many years of service volunteering to help disadvantaged—especially individuals with physical and mental disabilities—in her community.
I am the oldest of seven siblings in my family. With both parents being deceased, I had the nagging feeling for years that I needed to work on our family history.— J. Scott Sceili is a member of the Midas Creek 1st Ward, South Jordan Utah Midas Creek StakeWith this miracle came the responsibility of doing the temple ordinances for these relatives. During the process I definitely felt the presence of those on the other side somehow assisting in the work. Since that time I have been blessed by the willingness of family members, ward members, and many others to help with these sacred ordinances. To date, the work for more than 9,000 relatives has been completed and I estimate that somewhere around 27,000 individual ordinances have been done.In 2010, I was on the internet looking for information on one of my current relatives, which had nothing to do with my family history activities. In the process, a posting popped up and in the posting was the name of a person with my last name: Sceili. Our last name is not very common and suddenly it got my full attention. I clicked on the posting, and to my astonishment and surprise there were 135 pages filled with names of my relatives. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It seemed like a miracle. I quickly printed two copies of the posting. Three days later, I searched again for that posting and it had been taken down.This information had been posted by a fellow in Canada. I emailed him and found out he was not a member of the Church and the actual research had been done by one of his neighbors who was legally blind, and he had volunteered to post this genealogy online.My maternal grandparents both came from a long line of stalwart members of the Church, and most of their genealogy had already been done. My paternal grandmother also came from stalwart settlers in the Utah Territory. My paternal grandfather, Joseph Edmunds Sceili, however, was not a member of the Church and we had very little information on him. He was born in 1862 in Stephens Township, Ontario, Canada. He married his first wife, Margaret May Blesser, in 1889 and had three daughters with her.She died in 1913. He then married my grandmother, Cordelia Susan Middlemas, in 1919. My grandfather was 57 years old and my grandmother was 23. They had four children, and he passed away in 1931. My father and his siblings were very young at his passing, and there was little or no written or verbal family history regarding his ancestors. My grandmother never remarried. She passed away in 1971.
That is why it is so important to take time to reflect on the Savior, he said. “Let it be an hour of reassurance and renewal.”Recognizing that Satan did not volunteer to be a savior, Elder Christofferson taught, “He was not interested in suffering or dying for anyone. He wasn’t going to shed any blood. He wanted the glory, honor, and power of God without paying any price.”
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during a campus devotional at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, on December 12, 2017. Photo by Nate Edwards, BYU Photo.What Satan failed to understand is that a person cannot possess the power of God without being the embodiment of justice. Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visits with educators and and students gathered in the Marriott Center for a campus devotional at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, on December 12, 2017. Photo by Nate Edwards, BYU Photo.“So, the answer to our question is no, God cannot act any way He pleases to save a person. He must do it in a way that upholds immutable law, and thanks be to God, He has done so by providing a Savior.”“How we ought to rejoice that this Firstborn Son in the spirit was willing to become the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, to suffer incomprehensibly and die ignominiously to redeem us,” Elder Christofferson said. “He perfectly unites justice and mercy. He saves us from—not in, but from—our sins. And He also redeems us from the Fall, from spiritual and physical death. He opens the door to immortality and eternal life.”He continued to answer about the need that even the best people have for the forgiveness and cleansing that is only possible through the Savior’s atoning sacrifice and grace.Because of the Savior’s Atonement, God is able to be merciful to those who take responsibility and repent, he said.The Apostle shared an experience he had when a woman who has been a member of the Church for many years asked him, “Why do I need Jesus Christ? I keep the commandments; I’m a good person. Why do I need a Savior?”“As Christmas approaches, I realize that some may have concerns and perhaps anxiety about the future,” he said. “There may be a lot of ‘noise’ in your life, more or less constant engagement online without ‘down time,’ without time to be quiet and reflect and think, without time to look inside and discern where you are and where you should be going. You may be influenced by unrealistic expectations like perfection should be immediate or uninterrupted happiness and success should be the norm in life.”
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during a campus devotional at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, on December 12, 2017. Photo by Nate Edwards, BYU Photo.That philosophy has ancient roots, the Apostle taught. From the beginning, Satan wanted to redeem all mankind without allowing God’s children agency or giving the glory to the Father.In contrast, the Savior understood that both justice and mercy would be required for all humankind to advance. He didn’t coerce or dominate but did all He could to free and lift God’s children, His brothers and sisters, to “have all power” with the Father.“This was not simply a case of Jesus supporting the Father’s plan and Lucifer proposing a slight modification,” he said. “Lucifer’s proposal would have destroyed the plan by eliminating our opportunity to act independently. Lucifer’s plan was founded on coercion, making all the other sons and daughters of God—all of us—essentially his puppets.”“At another level, however, her question might be, ‘Can’t God do whatever He wants and save us just because He loves us, without the need for a Savior?’ Phrased this way, there are quite a few people in today’s world who would share that question. They believe in God and a postmortal existence but assume that because God loves us it doesn’t matter so much what we do or don’t do; He just takes care of things.”The justice of God, a system of fixed and immutable laws that He Himself abides by and employs, is needed to have and exercise agency. Justice is the foundation of freedom to act and is the only path to ultimate happiness. Yet, because no one is perfect, mercy is also needed, he said. Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visits with educators and and students gathered in the Marriott Center for a campus devotional at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, on December 12, 2017. Photo by Nate Edwards, BYU Photo.Elder Christofferson quoted President Gordon B. Hinckley, who said, “There would be no Christmas if there had not been Easter. The babe Jesus of Bethlehem would be but another baby without the redeeming Christ of Gethsemane and Calvary and the triumphant fact of the Resurrection.” A men's choir performs during the campus devotional at BYU on December 12, 2017. Photo by Nate Edwards, BYU Photo. Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Kathy Christofferson, after a campus devotional at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, on December 12, 2017. Photo by Nate Edwards, BYU Photo.Sharing a Christmas message with college students, Elder Christofferson highlighted Christmas memories from pioneer forebears and spoke of the need for the Savior.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during a campus devotional at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, on December 12, 2017. Photo by Nate Edwards, BYU Photo.lder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during a campus devotional at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, on December 12, 2017. Photo by Nate Edwards, BYU Photo.PROVO, UTAHEncouraging listeners to take time to think of the Savior this Christmas season, Elder Christofferson said, “Take time to relax, be at peace, and see this little child in your mind. Do not be too concerned or overwhelmed with what is coming in His life or in yours. Instead, take a peaceful moment to contemplate perhaps the most serene moment in the history of the world—when all of heaven rejoiced with the message ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men’ (Luke 2:14).”“Being just, but also being motivated by love, our Heavenly Father created mercy,” he said. “He did this by offering His Only Begotten Son as propitiation for our sin, a being that could, with His Atonement, satisfy justice, putting us right with the law so that it is once again supporting and preserving us, not condemning us.”“Lucifer was seeking for power without goodness,” he said. “He supposed that he could be a law unto himself, meaning the law would be whatever he said it was at any given moment, and he could change his mind at any time. In that way, no one could count on anything, and no one would have the ability to be an independent actor. He would be supreme, and no one else could advance.”“It is because of the Atonement of Christ that we can recover from bad choices, and it is because of the Atonement of Christ that the impact on us of others’ sins and mistakes and every other injustice is redressed,” he said. “Yes, to be made whole and holy we need a Savior, and God needed to include a Savior in His plan if He was to have any chance of saving and exalting any of His children.“Take time this Christmas season to set aside some time, at least an hour if not more, to reflect on the wonder and majesty of the Son of God,” Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told students at Brigham Young University during a campus devotional on December 12.Choice, in turn, requires law, or predictable outcomes, Elder Christofferson taught.Elder Christofferson recounted his response: “Well, to start with, … there is this small matter of death. I assume you don’t want your death to be your final status, and without Christ there would be no resurrection.”By contrast, the Savior chose to carry out the Father’s plan, offering every person an essential mortal experience.“We must be able by a particular action or choice to cause a particular outcome or result and by the opposite choice create the opposite outcome. If actions don’t have fixed consequences, then one has no control over outcomes and choice is meaningless.”“By ‘mortal experience’ I mean choosing our course, ‘tasting the bitter, that we might know to prize the good,’ learning, repenting, and growing, becoming beings capable of acting for ourselves rather than simply being ‘acted upon,’ and ultimately overcoming evil and demonstrating our desire and ability to live a celestial law,” Elder Christofferson said. “This requires a knowledge of good and evil on our part with the capacity and opportunity to choose between the two. And it requires accountability for choices made—otherwise they aren’t really choices.”
DeLong and her fellow Mids’ gameday duties are pretty straightforward: keep the Bills well hydrated; get them out of the sun if it gets too hot; and, of course, clean up after the goats do their business.There’s a “big man on campus” at the United States Naval Academy—and he’s not the star quarterback, the captain of the lacrosse team, or even the brigade commander.A testimony of the restored gospel and its principles keeps the future Marine aviator well grounded. DeLong’s studies at the Naval Academy were put on hold for two academic years while she served a mission in Russia. “I enjoyed every second of my mission,” she told the Church News. “It was hard work, but I loved it.”
U.S. Naval Academy Midshipman Cathryn DeLong served a Mormon mission in Russia. The future military aviator is part of Team Bill—a group of students who care for Bill the Goat during Navy football games. Photo courtesy of U.S. Naval Academy.Team Bill also protects its thick-fleeced charges from the plebes (that’s Navy-speak for freshman) who rush toward the end zone to do push-ups whenever Navy scores.
Cathryn DeLong, right, a senior midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy and a returned missionary, is part of a small group of handlers who care for the school’s mascot goats during Navy football games. Photo from U.S. Naval Academy Facebook.(If you spot two goats on the sideline at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, you’re not seeing double. Bill the Goat is actually plural. The current iterations of the academy’s animal mascots are Bill #36 and Bill #37. The goats are said to be full of spunk, energy, and, of course, “vitriol toward Army.”)And like any BMOC worth his weight in mohair, he never goes anywhere without an entourage. His “staff” is aptly called Team Bill.Bill, of course, is a live Angora goat and the iconic mascot of the 172-year-old Naval Academy. And, yes, Bill the Goat is cared for at Navy football games by Team Bill—a small group of student handlers that includes a Latter-day Saint returned missionary, Midshipman Cathryn DeLong.DeLong will soon leave Annapolis with rich memories—including the many Saturday afternoons she spent caring for a couple of popular goats named Bill.Bill’s beard is long and thick.Head football coach Ken Niumatalolo may be the face of Navy football, but he’s not the only Mormon at the academy with a coveted job. Being a member of Team Bill, said DeLong, “is actually pretty exciting—a lot of people want to be a part of it.”Everyone knows him as Bill, and wherever the kid goes, people call out his name. Admirals and generals gather around him for photos. And he commands a prime sideline spot at Navy football games even while gruffly flaunting the military school’s strict facial hair policy.“The plebes aren’t thinking about watching out for the goats when they run out on the field, so we have to make sure the goats don’t get run over,” said DeLong.Being part of Team Bill has been a welcome diversion for the State College, Pennsylvania, resident during her final year at the historic academy. In a few months she will graduate in operations research, be commissioned an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, and begin training to fly C-130 transport planes.ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND“It’s been a lot of fun being on the sidelines this season,” she said. “It’s exciting being so close to the games.”
Then Hurricane Harvey hit and the service project was canceled, allowing LDS members to help with the more immediate needs of hurricane disaster relief in the community. But one of the congregations had already started working on these service projects.Wedding dressesAfter hundreds of hours of preparation work and cutting out the tiny patterns, the kits were prepared for a sewing day, hosted at Abby’s house. More than 30 sisters of the Nottingham Country Ward came that day and on additional days. The goal of 50 burial gowns was quickly met, but the efforts did not stop. There were still more donated wedding dresses to cut, and the work continued.The Nottingham Country Ward took this service request and made it personal. They had two families who had each lost a baby within the past year, and both families had been recipients of the beautiful angel burial gowns at the hospital.Cutting out the little patterns for the gowns took time, and many donated wedding dresses were needed. Keesler, the mother of baby Oliver, took on this challenge. The Emmanuel Episcopal Church, where Angel Gowns Foundation meets each month, donated seven bridal dresses for the goal of 70 baby burial gowns. But as it turned out, that was not enough for what Keesler, an experienced seamstress, had in mind. The project became a very tender and personal opportunity.With her sister-in-law, Tiffany Hansen, and other sisters, including Daisy Page, Keesler cut patterns out of additional wedding gowns donated by members of the ward. A display shows an “angel gown” made by the Nottingham Country Ward. Photo by Lindsay Harper.With all the service rendered during Hurricane Harvey, these tender acts of service complimented all the Mormon Helping Hands efforts. Katy Stake Relief Society president, Kim Higbee, said, “It is hard to imagine what it must be like to lose a baby. … But our sisters have derived great joy in knowing that something quite small … might bring a measure of peace and joy to someone else.”In total, the sisters of the Nottingham Country Ward sewed 152 baby burial gowns. These gowns were on display during the broadcast of the general women’s session in a spirit of handiwork and reverence for the sweet souls being served. Most of the gowns were delivered to the Angel Gowns Foundation organization at the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, while Abby and Daisy took some to the hospitals that cared for them when they lost their babies. A display shows “angel gowns” made by the Nottingham Country Ward. Photo by Lindsay Harper.Keesler and her sister-in-law, Hansen, had to evacuate during the storm but took gowns with them and hand sewed the gowns with buttons, bows, and embellishments as they waited to return to their homes.When Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area, shortly after the big sewing day, some sisters who had taken extra kits home with them kept sewing as the storm brewed. Houston resident Michelle Schmidt sewed 15 gowns during the four-day storm. Michelle exclaimed, “We still had power and were not in danger of initial flooding. But everyone was still nervous, especially with all the tornado and flash flood warnings. I just kept sewing to calm my nerves and focus on something positive.” Abby Keesler displays memories of her son Oliver David, who died in utero at 33 weeks. Photo by Lindsay Harper.Angel gowns A display shows an “angel gown” made by the Nottingham Country Ward. Photo by Lindsay Harper. A display shows an “angel gown” made by the Nottingham Country Ward. Photo by Lindsay Harper. A display shows “angel gowns” made by the Nottingham Country Ward. Photo by Lindsay Harper. The Nottingham Country Ward made more than 150 “angel gowns” to be donated to families who have lost an infant prior to or shortly after birth. Photo by Abby Keesler.Page recalled, “When I heard about doing the baby gowns project, I was excited and grateful. After my baby passed away I wanted to do whatever I could to support the charity that had donated the beautiful baby angel gown to our daughter, Isabel Rose. I donated my own wedding dress and a few extra ones from friends and family. But having the opportunity to not only donate the wedding dresses but to actually make something beautiful out of them was a privilege and a blessing.” A display shows “angel gowns” made by the Nottingham Country Ward. Photo by Lindsay Harper. Daisy Page shares a display of mementos from her daughter Isabel Rose, who passed away only four days after birth. Photo by Lindsay Harper.Barbara Salt, the Relief Society president for the Nottingham Country Ward, shared her thoughts when donating her own mother’s wedding gown, “I have been holding onto my mother’s wedding dress for all of these years. I couldn’t part with it until this opportunity came to donate it to this great cause. What joy fills my heart to see her dress bless a grieving family.” A display shows “angel gowns” made by the Nottingham Country Ward. Photo by Lindsay Harper. A display shows an “angel gown” made by the Nottingham Country Ward. Photo by Lindsay Harper.Daisy and Seth Page lost their daughter, Isabel Rose, October 2016, at 25 weeks. She had lived for only four days. Abby and Wesley Keesler lost their son, Oliver David, February 2017, at 33 weeks, in utero. In honor of baby Isabel and baby Oliver, the Nottingham Country Ward Young Women and Relief Society organizations set a goal of sewing 50 baby burial gowns.When the Relief Society presidency of the Katy Texas Stake were planning their fall social held in conjunction with the broadcast of the general women’s session of October general conference, they turned to the JustServe.org site to find meaningful service opportunities.“This was a way to give back and serve those who had served me and my family and share my talents in the process,” she said.They selected a project for the Angel Gowns Foundation organization. The sisters would create from donated wedding dresses little burial gowns for babies who pass away prior to or shortly after birth.
“Our most desperate need is to have senior couples serve as member and leader support (MLS) missionaries,” President Melonakos said. “We have 18 small, struggling branches/groups in the Adriatic North Mission, and they are in continual need of leaders who use their diverse talents and experiences to support and nurture our wonderful members and young missionaries.”The Swendsens are fascinated with the refugee challenge, clean-water projects, and other possible opportunities to magnify their humanitarian calling. “There’s lots to love here!” Sister Swendsen declared. “The flexibility of a senior mission is wonderful.”As with many missions throughout the world, its leaders are always seeking senior couples to help administer the branches and further missionary work in cities and widespread rural areas.Elder Swendsen observed, “It helps if you’re a little adventuresome to begin with.” That can-do attitude and a positive outlook on the many unfamiliar experiences is making their humanitarian mission a delight for the couple. Sister Swendsen keeps a running list of all the wonderful things she discovers, actively looking for things to add to it, such as the color of a cabbage field as they drive through the countryside or the name of a different kind of tree in a park near their street.The Draxlers accompanied 20 young adults from the mission on a bus trip to the Bern Switzerland Temple while the Frankfurt Germany Temple was under renovation. During the week there, seven received their own endowment; some of those are among seven who are currently serving missions.There are 66 young missionary elders and sisters serving in Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, shepherded by President Dave Melonakos and his wife, Sister Becky Melonakos. Although they have a mission home in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, they spend many days and nights weekly on the road (and at the sometimes lengthy border checkpoints) between the five countries.She and Elder Newton also arranged to partner with an organization to provide three-day training to help teachers learn how to teach children with disabilities. The teachers are now teaching their staffs at 10 centers around the country.Life in Serbia has been a new experience for Elder John Swendsen and Sister Cathy Swendsen, who arrived as LDS Charities country directors in July.Office couples in Zagreb work on the second floor of a historic building across from a park in downtown Zagreb. The late Kresimir Cosic, who joined the Church in 1971 while playing basketball for BYU and went on to help the Yugoslavian team win a gold medal at the 1980 Olympics, donated the space where the offices are located.Marija Tomic, emergency relief project coordinator at Krnjaca, said LDS Charities provided funding to help replace roofs as well as renovate and update an entire barrack. The center currently houses 600 Muslim asylum seekers from Afghanistan and other nearby countries. Most are families, but there also about 70 unaccompanied boys whose families sent them ahead, hoping to join them later.Compared to what they’ve been used to at home in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, “everything moves more slowly,” Sister Swendsen said, adding in her upbeat tone, “but we will find ways to get things done.”Because they are so far-flung, Sister Melonakos regularly creates opportunities to bring the mission couples together to find connection and let them feel each other’s support.Humanitarian needs remain in many parts of the Adriatic North Mission after devastating wars in the 1990s. Humanitarian missionary couples here work with LDS Charities through its Frankfurt area office to identify and fill needs in the countries where they serve as directors.A “can-do attitude”Such is the case for the Adriatic North Mission, which consists of five independent nations of the former Yugoslavia. Each has a different language or dialect and currency. Add multiple deep religious and ethnic identities, plus wars as recent as two decades ago, and the challenges for spreading the gospel are multiplied. Sister Dionne Newton’s horse-riding skills have helped disabled and special needs children in Bosnia. Photo by Laurie Williams Sowby.Elder Newton told of the unforgettable expression on a boy’s face when he was able to match something and play the card game with other kids. “Our hope is to change the way children are accepted and taught in Bosnia,” Sister Newton said. Dennis and Dionne Newton, LDS Charities country directors for Bosnia, Croatia, and Slovenia, use their unique talents as they serve. Photo by Laurie Williams Sowby.With her certification in therapeutic horse riding as well as a teaching degree, she became a riding instructor at the Riders of Hope facility in Sarajevo. Four young missionaries serve as volunteers at the center each Saturday.They’ve logged thousands of miles on their car each month as they concentrate their efforts on helping people with disabilities.The Draxlers help organize two YSA conferences a year, in April and October, bringing LDS young adults together from the five different countries in the mission. The young adults helped with a Red Cross project to aid Syrian refugees as part of the April YSA conference. Sister Draxler observes that the YSAs are able to find unity as Church members rather than different nationalities.Elder Jack Draxler and Sister Marilyn Draxler, from Logan, Utah, work with young single adults throughout Slovenia from their base in Maribor, about 90 minutes northeast of Ljubljana. They happily noted that they added one more member to the tiny Maribor Branch recently when a young woman who’d been introduced to the missionaries at their English conversation group was baptized.Based in a small but comfortable apartment that also serves as their office in Belgrade, the Swendsens are exploring opportunities and visiting places where LDS Charities might be able to help. One is Asylum Center Krnjaca, which began as a temporary refugee camp in 1992 and now has permanent structures to house migrants while they transition.Elder Dennis Newton and Sister Dionne Newton, from Kansas City, Missouri, were hoping to be called on a proselytizing mission when they filled out the application to serve two years ago. But they have been extremely happy as LDS Charities country directors for Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. (Elder Newton has also been serving as branch president in Sarajevo.)Many of the senior elders serve as branch presidents in these units. Other assignments range from office staff (financial, clerical, and administrative work) at the mission headquarters in Zagreb to assignments working with young single adults, teaching self-reliance, and humanitarian service.ZAGREB, CROATIAHumanitarian needsMost facilities in the region are not handicap accessible, which makes basic things like going to school impossible, so they’ve worked with community leaders and representatives of nongovernmental agencies (NGOs) to “improve the quality all across Bosnia,” Sister Newton explained.Young single adultsLDS Charities provided funding for a supplemental project to provide tool kits for implementing the training program. In their quest to spend wisely, the Newtons themselves printed, laminated, cut, and sorted 1,300 picture cards rather than having them commercially produced. Elder John and Sister Cathy Swendsen look on as boys paint T-shirts at the Social Cafe at Asylum Center Krnjaca in Belgrade. The International Red Cross and Divac Foundation fund the activities program. Other NGOs also help support the camp. Photo by Laurie Williams Sowby. LDS Charities representatives John and Cathy Swendsen, left, and President Dave Melonakos and Sister Becky Melonakos of the Adriatic North Mission, right, tour Krnjaca with hosts Marija Tomic and director Djurdja Surlan of Serbia’s Commissariat for Refugees. Photo by Laurie Williams Sowby.“The same is true wherever we go in public—many, many people speak English, and there is always someone around to translate,” President Melonakos emphasized. He also notes that senior missionaries do not keep the same schedule as young elders and sisters and do no street contacting. A mountain landscape in Slovenia. The Church was established as a legal entity in Yugoslavia, which later became Slovenia, in 1975. Photo by Laurie Williams Sowby.Upbeat. Hard-working. And totally dedicated.Looking back as they prepare to end their mission in January, Elder Newton recalled one of the many projects LDS Charities partnered on, infant resuscitation training. “This means future generations of Bosnians will be here.”None of them speak the local languages, nor do they need to, with so many locals speaking English and young missionaries available to interpret.Such adjectives could describe senior missionary couples anywhere in the world, but it’s particularly noticeable in a part of the world where the Church is relatively unknown, with a short history and less visible presence.Just before he was called to the First Presidency, then-Elder Thomas S. Monson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicated Yugoslavia for missionary work in 1985. The breakup of the country began soon after as communism crumbled throughout Eastern Europe. Then-Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visited and blessed the individual nations in September 2010.With a membership totaling somewhere around 1,400, there are no stakes yet in these Balkan countries, so President Melonakos is the ecclesiastical authority over the three districts that make up the mission, in addition to his duties as mission president.Sister Draxler said, “If we can get them on a mission, it makes a huge difference in their depth of devotion to the Church.”LDS Charities has partnered with other NGOs in keeping the asylum center operational under Serbia’s Commissariat for Refugees. “This is just one small part of our work and efforts to create a more suitable environment for the most vulnerable among us,” Tomic explained. Of the visit from the Swendsens and President and Sister Melonakos, she said, “It is really appreciated when our partners and donors visit us and see in the field what we are doing and how big is the change which we are jointly making.”Note: Senior missionary applicants who desire to serve in a particular place are welcome to contact the mission president, indicate preferences on the application, and inform their stake president before the application is submitted. For more information about opportunities, visit www.lds.org/senioropportunities, or call 801-240-6741 or toll free at 800-453-3860 ext. 2-6741.The space acted as the first meetinghouse in Zagreb. Now members meet in another structure, which is one of only two LDS chapels in the Adriatic North Mission. (The other is in Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia.)
I found it remarkable that President Kimball, at age 86 and tired after several days of traveling and speaking at multiple meetings while mourning his sister’s death, would take the time to hold an extra meeting and answer questions. By that time, it was close to midnight.President Kimball recapped the message he had delivered earlier at the member meeting and then asked if they had any questions he might answer for them. They looked timid, too shy to speak up. Gradually, a few raised their hands and asked their questions.President Spencer W. Kimball is remembered as a compassionate man. Numerous stories tell of his kindness, consideration, and caring nature. Let me add one more account, one of how he reached out to a group of Caribbean Saints to encourage and lift them up even when it wasn’t convenient for him to do so.“Now?” I asked. He said, “Yes.” I thought he was kidding. Then I realized he wasn’t.They stood as President Kimball entered the conference hall. He greeted them, thanked them for coming, and apologized for making them wait for him. The members looked at each other and at him, smiled, and shook their heads. They seemed surprised that he would apologize to them when they were the cause of him staying up so late.He was on Church business in Florida when his sister, Alice Kimball Nelson, died on Thursday, March 5, 1981. He was scheduled to dedicate the site for the Atlanta Georgia Temple on Saturday, March 7, and then preside over and address a member meeting in Puerto Rico on Sunday, March 8, and in the Dominican Republic on Monday, March 9. Realizing the members’ disappointment would be immeasurable should he cancel his visits to Georgia and the Caribbean, he kept on schedule and arranged to attend his sister’s funeral upon his return home.Brother Haycock was on his way back from delivering President Kimball’s message when I met up with him at that late hour. As he returned to President Kimball’s room, I went into the conference hall to wait with the members. They looked tired, but I could tell there was an air of anticipation as they waited for the prophet in the hall that earlier held some 1,500 members, about 300 of whom stood since the congregation exceeded its seating capacity. The members from Puerto Plata were about to have a more intimate meeting with President Kimball.Brother Haycock told me that President Kimball had already gone to his room and dressed for bed when he learned of the Puerto Plata members. He told Brother Haycock to ask them to wait in the conference hall; he would dress and go down to meet them.I have no way of knowing the weight President Kimball felt upon his shoulders that week, but I can attest that the trip was strenuous. I met up with him and those traveling with him in Atlanta and then went with them to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.Here was our beloved Church President willing to go the extra mile at personal sacrifice. I was privileged to witness this moment as a prophet salvaged a trip for a group of members in the Caribbean.I was exhausted by the time the last member meeting concluded Monday evening in Santo Domingo. After the meeting, I interviewed some members, ate dinner, and was wearily making my way across the lobby of the hotel, where the meeting had been held, when President Kimball’s personal secretary, D. Arthur Haycock, stopped me and asked if I wanted to go to another meeting.In both of the islands, President Kimball spoke at member meetings and met with missionaries and local leaders and government and civic representatives.It was going on 11 p.m. Brother Haycock told me that about a hundred members from the Puerto Plata Branch had missed the meeting that evening because their bus had broken down. They rode in extremely crowded circumstances, with some sitting on others’ laps and some in the aisle of the bus. Under ordinary circumstances they would have arrived in Santo Domingo in about four hours. They left Puerto Plata at 1:30 p.m. When they arrived at the hotel, about 10 p.m., the member meeting was over and the conference hall was empty. They were disappointed and tearful. They had traveled to Santo Domingo at great sacrifice, including a day’s wages lost and money for transportation.
“I pray the blessings of the Lord upon you, for your goodness and your faithfulness,” President Eyring told the crowd. “I know that this house will be a blessing to all of you, to your families and for the generations.”CEDAR CITY, UTAH Jeff Thomas and his son, Grant, 6, wait for the cornerstone ceremony to begin for the Cedar City Utah Temple on Sunday, December 10, 2017. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.For many in these communities, a new temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—the Cedar City Utah Temple—stands as a symbol of that legacy.Descendants of pioneer settlers—sent south by Brigham Young in the 1850s to mine iron deposits in the hills of what would become Iron County—have been raised with an “iron will.”Almost 170 years after southern Utah settlements sprang up, local residents continue to carry on the legacy left to them—one of hard work, pioneer grit, determination, sacrifice, and faith. The Cedar City Utah Temple at night. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.
Early settlements in the area were dependent on unstable water sources and were built in areas with rocky soil and limited timber. Settling southern Utah was “beyond hard work,” said Richard Saunders, dean of library services at Southern Utah University.
“Survival was their biggest focus, and they suffered,” said Yardley. “This climate is not the best to grow something in. They grew something that mattered—children.”
As a result, many residents of cities in the temple district are second- and third- and fourth-generation southern Utahns.
Kerry Jones, a former Cedar City mayor and city council member, said the temple is a tribute to the lives of his father and grandfather. Jones was born in Cedar City in 1929. His father, Lehi M. Jones, was born in 1890 in the city; his grandfather Lehi W. Jones moved to the city at age 9.
His ancestors sacrificed, “and he never forgets that,” said Jones’s wife, Sue. “He feels a debt to them.”
That is why Jones is so happy to see the temple honor the pioneers in design and decor—drawing upon the rich colors and textures of southern Utah, incorporating native flowers and juniper berries.
“It looks like a pioneer temple,” said Elder Holland. “They’ve had a pioneer’s touch on some of the wood and the craftsmanship.”The Cedar City Temple “is, in a way, a great tribute to the wonderful pioneers who came, who not only pioneered here, but then went on,” he said. “They went in all directions from this place.” Youth from the Cedar City Utah Temple district perform the finale during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration on Saturday, December 9, 2017. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver. The Cedar City Utah Temple. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.
President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, cheers for more than 3,700 youth from 14 stakes after the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration, titled “A Light on a Hill, Iron in Our Will,” on Saturday, December 9, 2017.President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency dedicated the new temple—the 17th in Utah and 159th worldwide—on Sunday in three sessions. (See related story.)During a three-week open house in October and November, more than 187,000 people visited and toured the temple. (See related story.)
Crowds gather on the grounds of the new Cedar City Utah Temple on Sunday, December 10, 2017. President Henry B. Eyring dedicated the temple in three sessions. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.The Cedar City Utah Temple district includes 45,000 Latter-day Saints from Ely, Nevada, to Panaca, Cedar City, Panguitch, and Beaver, Utah.Elder Holland and his wife, Sister Patricia Holland, share southern Utah roots. Raised in Enterprise, Utah, Sister Holland was born in Cedar City. Elder Holland was born and raised in St. George. (See related story.)
“We pray for the first responders working tirelessly to fight the fires and for all those affected by this disaster.”“All missionaries in southern California are safe and accounted for as wildfires continue to burn. However, conditions have required the evacuation of some missionaries. This includes 30 young missionaries and three senior couples in the California Ventura Mission and six missionaries in the California Arcadia Mission, all of whom have been temporarily moved to other proselyting areas. Additionally, the California Ventura Mission president and his wife have been evacuated from their home.“The impact of the fires in southern California on local communities has been severe and devastating. Two Church buildings in the area are being used as temporary community centers, and we are in touch with relief partners to understand where the Church can be most helpful. A few Church buildings have sustained minor smoke damage, but thus far none have been destroyed. Church members are safe and accounted for, but several have lost homes as a result of the fires. Local Church leaders are assessing needs in the community and making plans to assist in local shelters and feeding locations this weekend. Evaluations are ongoing as first responders work to control the fires.The Church released the following statement December 8:
According to Erin Gray, founder and artistic director of the Minnesota Mormon Chorale, “It was thrilling and inspiring to work with Mack Wilberg. Several conductors commented on how impressed they were by the humility and servant-leader example he showed, especially from someone of his caliber.” She also felt honored to collaborate with so many talented Twin Cities conductors and musicians. “They were all very welcoming, receptive, and encouraging to the Minnesota Mormon Chorale,” she said.Mack Wilberg also expressed his pleasure in being involved in the conference and concert experience. “It was wonderful to be a part of this great event sponsored by the American Choral Directors Association of Minnesota where the members of the Minnesota Mormon Chorale represented themselves and the Church so splendidly,” he said. Erin Gray, founder and artistic director of the Minnesota Mormon Chorale, poses with Composer and director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Mack Wilberg. Photo by Josh Yorgasen.“One of my first thoughts was to invite the Minnesota Mormon Chorale,” Becker said. “Having heard numerous glowing reports of the outstanding reputation of the conductors and choir from trusted colleagues, I wanted them to be involved.”Tickets are free, but seating is limited. Visit https://mn-mormon-chorale.ticketleap.com/come-let-us-adore-him/ for more information.Minnesota is often recognized as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” but for fans of choral music, it has long held a reputation as the “Land of 10,000 Choirs.”The Minnesota Mormon Chorale’s 75-voice auditioned ensemble and the associated Minnesota Mormon Orchestra is comprised of musicians from the Twin Cities and surrounding areas. Although the choir started small, its appeal and reputation has continued to grow both among local Latter-day Saints and in the greater Twin Cities community. The choir has performed over 100 concerts and frequently fills stake centers and other venues to capacity, particularly when given the opportunity to share sacred music during the Christmas and Easter seasons.According to Bruce Becker, Executive Director of ACDA of Minnesota, “Dr. Wilberg and the six community choirs comprising over 475 singers provided one of the most satisfying and successful festival concert experiences our professional organization has ever produced.” He felt the support of the Minnesota Mormon community played a key role in the concert’s success. “A capacity audience of 1,200 people enjoyed a performance that will live in the hearts and minds of concert patrons for years,” he said.For over a decade, members of the Minnesota Mormon Chorale have added their voices to the scores of exceptional collegiate, community, and faith-based choirs found across the state. On Saturday, November 18, the chorale joined with Mack Wilberg and five other critically acclaimed local choirs to perform a holiday concert, “A Christmas Portrait.”Bruce Becker, executive director of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) of Minnesota, is a longtime admirer of Wilberg’s work as both a composer and the director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. After receiving Wilberg’s enthusiastic acceptance to appear as headliner and guest conductor of the 2017 Minnesota ACDA conference, Becker invited six local choirs to participate in a concert featuring Wilberg’s Christmas arrangements.Judy Sagen, conductor of the Minnesota Valley Women’s Chorale, also appreciated the chance to participate in the concert. “The opportunity for our singers to work with Mack Wilberg this past weekend was the ultimate experience,” she said. “He is the consummate musician and conductor whose musical arrangements are both inspiring and magnificently creative. This was the experience of a lifetime!”The Minnesota Mormon Chorale and Orchestra will perform its repertoire of holiday music one more time this season at its Christmas concert on December 16, “Come, Let Us Adore Him.” The concert also serves as a benefit for homeless Twin Cities youth, through a partnership between the chorale, Lutheran Social Service’s StreetWorks initiative, and the Church’s LightTheWorld campaign.The opportunity to collaborate with the excellent choirs showcased at the ACDA conference, under Mack Wilberg’s direction, has already proved to be one of the highlights of the chorale’s 13-year history.Barbara Thibaudeau, executive director and assistant conductor of the chorale, feels the choir has a special mission to connect members of the LDS Church with their neighbors throughout Minnesota. “We have made great friendships and collaborated with many different groups,” she said. “We feel the Lord’s hand guiding us and opening many doors to allow us to build bridges with others and help the church come out of obscurity in Minnesota. We have testified of Christ in powerful ways, helping others view us as Christians.” The Minnesota Mormon Chorale and five other critically acclaimed local choirs perform a Christmas concert November 18. Composer and director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Mack Wilberg was the headliner and guest conductor of the 2017 Minnesota ACDA conference. Photo by Josh Yorgasen.In addition to performing Wilberg’s work in collaboration with other choirs, the Minnesota Mormon Chorale also enjoyed the honor of debuting an exciting new composition. “Njooni Waaminifu,” a Swahili interpretation of “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful,” was composed Christopher Tin, a Grammy Award-winning creator of choral and orchestral work, including the critically-acclaimed “Baba Yetu,” a version of the Lord’s Prayer also sung in Swahili. The performance incorporated choreography and proved to be a particular favorite among many audience members, one of whom exclaimed, “Who knew Mormons could dance?”
As a result, most early settlers in Cedar City traveled around the Black Ridge—at least a two-day trip through Enterprise, Utah—to reach the St. George Temple, said Richard Saunders, dean of Library Services at Southern Utah University.He also married a southern Utah girl; Sister Patricia Holland is from Enterprise, Utah, and “claims a magnificent pioneer heritage of her own.”“That colorful corner of the Lord’s creation means everything to me. I was born there. I was raised there. I grew up there hearing those stories and cherishing that heritage. And, yes, my burial plot is there,” said Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.“Clearly the purpose for building the temple in St. George was to bless the early settlers and give them courage to stay there,” said Elder Holland. “They fought alkali in the soil, mosquitoes in the air, and a raging Virgin River every year. The people were so discouraged most of the time that it would have been so easy to leave—and some did. But the devoted ones stayed and the rest is history.”Cedar City and St. George—connected today by 50 miles of Interstate 15—were not as accessible to one another more than a century ago.The Black Ridge, a deep, rough, lava flow, became a barrier between the two cities. Even Apostle George A. Smith, for whom St. George was named, called the path “the most desperate piece of road that I have ever traveled in my life, the whole ground being covered for miles with stones, volcanic rock, cobble heads—and in places deep sand,” according to the Markers and Monuments Database of the Utah Division of State History.“You have faithful people in Beaver and Panguitch, in Panaca and Parowan, and many other communities,” he said. “The whole region is filled with devoted, faithful people who are going to be blessed by this temple. It is their faithfulness that has justified building it.“Settling southern Utah was “beyond hard work,” he said.Elder Holland grew up almost literally in the shadow of the St. George Temple, which was announced November 9, 1871, and dedicated 6 years later on April 6, 1877. The St. George Utah Temple is the oldest operating temple of the Church and was the first built in Utah. It now becomes a southern Utah bookend with the Cedar City Utah Temple—the newest temple in the Church, 159th worldwide, and the 17th temple in Utah.A “southern Utah boy through and through,” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has “red sand in my shoes and lava in my bones.” The Cedar City Utah Temple, which was dedicated December 10, 2017.“When the history of this dispensation is written what is obvious now—that might not have been so obvious early on—is that it was the dispensation of temple building and temple covenants,” said Elder Holland. “We will never again count temples by twos and tens in this Church. We will now count them by hundreds. … That is the destiny we have in this work, and we are not through yet. We are to be a temple-going, a temple-attending people.”Now Elder and Sister Holland participated in the dedication of the area’s second Latter-day Saint temple in Cedar City, Utah, December 10.“President Young, with that prophetic vision of his, felt these little communities needed to be established, including the difficult ones,” said Elder Holland. “I marvel at the faith and devotion that those people showed in taking those assignments and going at great sacrifice, leaving homes, farms, and the personal possessions they had in the northern part of the state.”That legacy of faith continues today, said Elder Holland, speaking of the new Cedar City Utah Temple district.That faith has defined not just the area’s past, but will also define its future, added Elder Holland.Although St. George and Cedar City shared a legacy of sacrifice and pioneer grit—and for 140 years a temple—Elder Holland’s early connection to Cedar City is defined by an athletic rivalry between two high schools and colleges. A student leader and varsity athlete at Dixie High School and Dixie College in his native St. George, Elder Holland often traveled north to Cedar City for athletic challenges. Now as he participated in the dedication of the new temple, “all of that has been forgiven—I hope!” he said.Both the St. George Temple and the new Cedar City Temple stand as a legacy to early pioneer sacrifice, determination, and hard work. Early settlements in the area were dependent on unstable water sources and were built in areas with limited timber.CEDAR CITY, UTAHBorn and raised in St. George, Utah, he claims a southern Utah legacy that literally runs through his blood; he is the direct descendant of Robert Gardner, William Snow, Richard Bentley, and William Carter—great-great-grandfathers all sent during original colonizing years into Utah’s Dixie.President Thomas S. Monson announced construction of the temple in Cedar City at the Church’s April 2013 general conference. Ground was broken for the temple August 8, 2015, at 300 South Cove Drive in Cedar City. President Henry B. Eyring dedicated the temple Sunday.
In 1851, Joel H. Johnson was one of the original Saints sent by Brigham Young to travel to Iron County in southern Utah. He founded what is now Enoch, Utah, about 6 miles away from Cedar City in the northeast of the Cedar Valley. Almost 2 years later, in the midst of the rigors of establishing a settlement in a harsh environment, he penned the words:One of the beginning numbers highlighted the pathfinders, such as Father Dominguez and Father Escalante, who blazed the first trails through the area’s rugged terrain, and then the Mormon pioneers who answered the call of a prophet to forge mines in the iron-rich mountains. Youth from the Cedar City Utah North Stake carry flags during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration on Saturday, December 9. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver. Cason Deschine, 16, wearing his own regalia, performs during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration, titled “A Light on a Hill, Iron in Our Will,” on Saturday, December 9. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver. Youth from the Enoch Utah West Stake perform a dance to a song titled, “Learning” during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration on Saturday, December 9, 2017. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.The production developed several themes throughout the program, repeatedly using images of light, red rock, iron and the woven patterns of a quilt. Youth sang and danced to music from a combination of LDS and contemporary artists and two original songs composed by local Steve Meredith.
Cason Deschine, 16, wears his own regalia and honors Native Americans the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration, titled “A Light on a Hill, Iron in Our Will,” on Saturday, December 9. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.Youth participate in a musical number highlighting the importance of the iron mines in the history of Cedar City during the youth cultural celebration held in the America First Event Center on Southern Utah University campus on December 9. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.Pre-recorded video montages played throughout the roughly 60-minute production. The segments not only featured youth from stakes throughout the temple district, but also showcased the diverse and dramatic local landscape including the aspen trees, juniper bushes, columbine flowers, and the red rock hoodoos of Cedar Breaks. Youth from the Ely and Panaca stakes perform a line dance during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration on Saturday, December 9. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver. Young people participate in the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration, titled “A Light on a Hill, Iron in Our Will,” on Saturday, December 9. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.The new Cedar City temple—like the words of the hymn—sits high atop a hill. At night, it shines like a lighthouse across the Cedar Valley, which inspired in part the title of Saturday’s event, “A Light on a Hill, Iron in Our Will,” explained the program’s director and producer Michael Bahr.A banner is unfurled. More than 3,700 youth from 14 stakes cheer for President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency before participating in the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration, titled “A Light on a Hill, Iron in Our Will,” on Saturday, December 9. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.CEDAR CITY, UtahThe words of that beloved hymn were the opening strains for the youth cultural event celebrating the completion of a temple in the valley where it was written.“A cultural celebration is kind of like the world’s largest Primary program. Everyone brings their A-game—whatever that is,” he said. People love it because they see the kids enthusiastically participating and connecting to the theme. The same has been true for his involvement in the cultural celebration, he said.On Zion’s mount behold it stand!” (“High on the Mountaintop,” Hymns, No. 5).“Like those who answered the prophet’s call in the winter of 1850 to mine and forge iron, we today, continue to forge the iron within ourselves,” said one of the narrators.
Youth perform during the Cedar City Utah Temple cultural celebration held in the America First Event Center on Southern Utah University campus on December 9. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.Youth from the Cedar City Utah Cross Hollow Stake honor weavers as they create blankets during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration on Saturday, December 9. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver. Youth from the Cedar City Utah West Stake honor early iron miners in Southern Utah during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration on Saturday, December 9, 2017. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.He encouraged the youth to record in their journals what they saw and felt during the evening. “That record will help you when you tell your children and your grandchildren what it meant to you to be a part of the celebration of the completion of a temple of God in Cedar City.”Brynlee Barrick, 14, said participating in the cultural celebration was fun. “There’s a lot of energy,” she said. “We’re excited for the temple. This is how we show how we feel about the temple.” Youth perform a line dance during the Cedar City Utah Temple cultural celebration held in the America First Event Center on Southern Utah University campus on December 9. Photo by Rachel Sterzer. Ashlyn York, 14, and Jasie York, 16, of the Cedar City 17th Ward, Cedar City Utah West Stake, participate in musical number paying tribulation to iron miners during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration, titled “A Light on a Hill, Iron in Our Will,” on Saturday, December 9. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.Melo Egerton, 16, said she made the goal to be more spiritual this year. Participating in the cultural event and all the practices has helped her to feel connected, she said, both with other youth and with her Heavenly Father.It waves to all the world.“We realized the temple isn’t just for Cedar [City], but for all the stakes in the district,” Bahr said. “It was important to us to tell stories from the entire district.” Youth from the Cedar City Utah North Stake carry flags during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration on Saturday, December 9. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.President Eyring promised the youth that participation in the cultural event “will stay in your memory like a light and will draw you back to the light of the temple time and time again.”In Deseret’s sweet, peaceful land, Youth from the Cedar City Utah Canyon View Stake perform to a song titled, “Look Up,” during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration on Saturday, December 9, 2017. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.Ye nations, now look up;The program featured songs and choreography paying homage to the area’s rich heritage and culture while striving to connect the youth to the new temple. More than 3,700 youth from 14 stakes gathered to the America First Event Center on the Southern Utah University campus to participate on December 9.“High on the Mountaintop Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Sister Patrica Holland greet some of the more than 3,700 youth from 14 stakes who participated in the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration, titled “A Light on a Hill, Iron in Our Will,” on Saturday, December 9. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver. Youth from the Cedar City Utah Canyon View Stake perform to a song titled, “Look Up,” during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration on Saturday, December 9, 2017. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver. Youth from the Cedar City Utah Cross Hollow Stake honor weavers as they create blankets during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration on Saturday, December 9. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.The youth provided a warm welcome to President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other visiting Church leaders and their wives. Also in attendance were Elder Craig C. Christensen of the Presidency of the Seventy and Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr., Elder Joseph W. Sitati and Elder Larry Y. Wilson, all General Authority Seventies, in addition to Sister Patricia T. Holland, Sister Debbie J. Christensen, Sister Jane C. Curtis, Sister Gladys N. Sitati, and Sister Lynda M. Wilson. Youth perform a line dance during the Cedar City Utah Temple cultural celebration held in the America First Event Center on Southern Utah University campus on December 9. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.The program acknowledged the holiday season by explaining that another hymn often sung at Christmas—“Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains” (Hymns, No. 212)—was also written in the Cedar Valley by a pioneer who responded to Brigham Young’s call—John Menzies Macfarlane. President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency speaks during the Cedar City Utah Temple youth cultural celebration held in the America First Event Center on Southern Utah University campus on Saturday, December 9. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.Other songs told the story of the Panguitch quilt walk that saved the lives of early starving settlers, as well as the founding of Southern Utah University and the importance of education in the area.Youth rehearsed the music and dances in their individual wards and stakes for close to two months before the event. The logistics surrounding these events can be formidable. However, Bahr said he saw many daily, small miracles in every step of the planning process—from production to casting to feeding and transporting close to 4,000 youth.“I’m really pleased with watching the youth connect and get involved.”
The Black Ridge—a deep, rough lava flow—disrupted the path with sheer vertical drops, jagged rock, and/or deep sand. Going around required at least a two-day detour through Enterprise, Utah.Despite challenges, and with hard work, loyalty, and conviction, these Saints persisted and prevailed. “What a tribute to the people of this district—Cedar City and Parawan and Panguitch and around—that for all these years, what 140 or so, they have gone to St. George, faithfully and devotedly, and served down there. … The whole region is filled with devoted faithful people who are going to be blessed by this temple. It is their faithfulness that has justified building it.“A temple-going people Cedar City Utah Temple on Sunday, December 10, 2017. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency (center) are joined on the left by Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr. and Elder Joseph W. Sitati of the Seventy and on the right, Elder Craig C. Christensen of the Presidency of the Seventy and Elder Larry Y. Wilson, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the temple department, at the Cedar City Utah Temple on December 9, 2017. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.Not long after leading the Saints to the Salt Lake Valley, the prophet Brigham Young called 100 men to what would be named the Iron County Mission to tap into the rich veins of ore found within Southern Utah. These stalwart Saints obediently traveled to the Cedar Valley, where they grappled with harsh conditions such as unreliable water sources and rocky soil.Alissa Crockett, who attended Sunday’s cornerstone ceremony with her husband and six children, has already scheduled her appointment to do an endowment session four days after the dedication.As much as people connect with the beauty and craftsmanship of the temple, the real purpose is to help people connect to the Savior and to their families, said Elder John Yardley, a former Area Seventy and the local temple committee coordinator. “Beyond the brick and mortar is our love and connection with the Savior and that families can be forever. That’s really what this boils down to,” he said. Cedar City Utah Temple on Sunday, December 10, 2017. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.CEDAR CITY, UtahAlthough the edifice has materials from around the world—including rugs from China; stones and tiles from Israel, Spain, and Iran; and wood from Africa—the details—the mill work, inlays, moldings embossing, and hardware—all reflect pioneer-era sensibilities and local flora. Crowds gather on the grounds of the new Cedar City Utah Temple on Sunday, December 10, 2017. President Henry B. Eyring dedicated the temple in three sessions on December 10, 2017. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver. Shanna Downing from the Murphy's Ward, Lodi California Stake, waits for the cornerstone ceremony to begin for the Cedar City Utah Temple with her daughters Sierra, 15, and Aspen, 11, on Sunday, December 10, 2017. Photo by Rachel Sterzer.And yet, the legacy of sacrifice and faith exhibited by those early settlers continues in the new Cedar City temple district, Elder Holland said.Now the two look forward to even more opportunities to serve in the community where Kerry grew up, where they met and married, where they raised their children and where they love. “I feel so grateful,” Sue said. “It can’t come soon enough for us to serve.”As President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, dedicated the newest temple in the Church in the midst of the Cedar Valley on Sunday, December 10, he called the edifice a tribute to the wonderful pioneers who came at Brigham’s call.Kerry and Sue Jones have loved the opportunity to serve in the St. George temple as ordinance workers for many years. “Almost every facet of your life is positively impacted by working in the temple,” Kerry said.By design, the newest temple in the Church looks reminiscent of other pioneer temples—such as Nauvoo, Manti, or St. George—as it rises from a hilltop covered in cedar trees, juniper bushes, and sagebrush.Settling Southern Utah was “beyond hard work,” Saunders said.Leaders participating in the dedication of the Cedar City Utah Temple included:For those early settlers and before the development of roads and the interstate in the 1930s, the trail between Cedar City and St. George was “deathly dangerous,” said Richard Saunders, dean of library services at Southern Utah University. Crowds gather on the grounds of the new Cedar City Utah Temple on Sunday, December 10, 2017. President Henry B. Eyring dedicated the temple in three sessions on December 10, 2017. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.President Eyring told those gathered for the cornerstone ceremony he wasn’t sure if Brigham Young foresaw a second temple in Southern Utah. “But I know that he’s looking down on us right now, and I think we owe something to him and to the pioneers who must be so aware of this day. We honor them as we now seal the cornerstone.”The new temple reflects the beauty, cleanliness, and splendor of a contemporary temple and has the most modern technology, but “it looks like a pioneer temple,” noted Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who accompanied President Eyring to the dedication. “It is very striking.”The Cedar City Utah Temple—the 159th in the Church and 17th in Utah—will accommodate 45,000 members throughout the communities carved out of rocks and ridges by those early Saints, including Parowan, Cedar City, Panguitch, Beaver, Escalante, Enoch, and many others.“Always remember that you were here for the dedication. I know I will,” he said. The new temple has already been a blessing, she said, as her oldest children were able to participate in both the open house and youth cultural celebration and look forward to doing baptism for the dead.During the cornerstone ceremony on Sunday morning, President Eyring said that he knew this temple would be a blessing to them now and for generations. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and President Henry B. Eyring at the Cedar City Utah Temple on December 9, 2017. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Sister Patricia Holland—who share deep Southern Utah roots—stand in front of the Cedar City Utah Temple on December 9, 2017. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.
Mike and Alissa Crockett and their six children—Adelen, 13, Michael, 12, Joey, 9, Braden, 6, Nelson, 6, and Ellie, 3, wait for the cornerstone ceremony to begin for the Cedar City Utah Temple on Sunday, December 10. Photo by Sarah Jane Weaver.
As the reporter walked through Grocio Prado, he encountered an unexpected oasis of hope, love, and grit.One woman traded a quick glance with her fellow sisters and then answered, “No, Hermano, we’re not visitors. This is our neighborhood. We live in Grocio Prado.”“The RVs and the TVs and retirement ease make it interesting to wander and play, but people’s needs for selfless deeds are important” (“Selfless Service”).“As we make these choices, we might consider that the glitter and excitement of festive, fun-filled projects are interesting, but the shut-ins, the lonely, the handicapped, the homeless, the latchkey kids, and the abandoned aged are important.A group of women were huddled around a roadside table chopping up chickens, carrots, onions, and potatoes to be added to a giant kettle of soup that would soon feed dozens of local quake victims. Despite being flanked by the stark, fallen reminders of the disaster, the women laughed and swapped stories as they went about their charitable work.With the approaching Christmas season, many are trying to find that perfect gift for a loved one, a neighbor, or maybe even a stranger. Consider President Spencer W. Kimball’s timeless counsel:“Many of you have put on Helping Hands T-shirts and worked tirelessly to relieve suffering and improve your communities. … Through our heartfelt kindness and service, we can make friends with those whom we serve. From these friendships come better understanding of our devotion to the gospel and a desire to learn more about us” (“Finding Joy through Loving Service”).Perhaps charitable service helped the Grocio Prado Relief Society sisters cope with their own personal tragedy. Courage and community replaced their fear and emptiness as they discovered ways to ease their neighbors’ burdens.She then pointed across the street to a massive pile of brick, rebar, and dust. “That’s my home,” she said.In a moment of immediate insight, the reporter realized the service-driven Relief Society sisters were not simply helping the earthquake victims—they were the victims.“Other kinds of service take time, intentional planning, and extra energy. But they are worth our every effort. Perhaps we could start by asking ourselves these questions:“It is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom. … So often, our acts of service consist of simple encouragement or of giving … help with mundane tasks, but what glorious consequences can flow … from small but deliberate deeds!” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball , 82).• Who in my circle of influence could I help today?The reporter introduced himself, snapped a few photos, and then asked what part of Peru the Relief Society sisters had traveled from to assist the Grocio Prado quake victims.The love of the Savior is an active love, taught Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in his April 2011 general conference address. “It is not manifested through large and heroic deeds but rather through simple acts of kindness and service” (“Finding Joy through Loving Service”).The Relief Society sisters in southern Peru followed a Christian impulse to put aside their own troubles and serve others during a desperate, dire episode of their lives. Fortunately, few of us will have to choose to serve after witnessing the destruction of our own home or neighborhood. But we will all face the choice to serve when there are other options vying for our time and attention.Another woman raised her hand and pointed to another toppled structure. “And that’s where I live.”• In what ways can I use my talents and skills to bless others?“But some things are important,” said Elder William R. Bradford, a General Authority Seventy in his October 1987 general conference talk. “The limits of time dictate that we must prioritize what we do. The divinely given and heaven-protected gift of agency allows us to determine to what degree we will serve others and allow them to serve us. The depth of involvement in that which is important, rather than just interesting, is our own choice.One of the regions hit hardest by the disaster was the Grocio Prado neighborhood in Peru’s Chincha province. Many of the homes were reduced to rubble in an instant. Hundreds were forced to find shelter at nearby Church meetinghouses or under makeshift awnings. It was a grim sight. Residents mourned their dead even as they picked through their collapsed abodes in search of heirlooms and other personal treasures.“All of us can incorporate some service into our daily living,” said Sister Cheryl A. Esplin of the Primary General Presidency. “We live in a contentious world. We give service when we don’t criticize, when we refuse to gossip, when we don’t judge, when we smile, when we say thank you, and when we are patient and kind.• What might we do as a family?” (“He Asks Us to Be His Hands,” Apr. 2016 general conference).An array of things in our busy lives is interesting and enticing.Whether you live in Grocio Prado, Peru, or in Draper, Utah, or in Accra, Ghana, or in any other community, there are opportunities to serve. Look around your neighborhood, your ward, or within the walls of your home. There are people in need—and they need you. “Worldly magazines, tabloids, and much of the multi-mass media mess of fast-track information we are receiving is interesting and enticing, but the scriptures are important.• What time and resources do I have?“As a pure expression of our love and concern, we can reach out to those who have need of our help,” concluded Elder Ballard.In August of 2007, a Church News reporter was dispatched to southwest Peru after a massive earthquake decimated several cities and claimed hundreds of lives—including many Latter-day Saints.Most of the women wore Church-issued Manos que Ayudan vests. They were Relief Society sisters eager to offer comfort at a difficult moment with a warm bowl of chicken soup.They were also true disciples of Christ. And all who found themselves within their tiny circle of service that day could trace the Lord’s loving hand at work. As Jesus Himself once taught: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).