No “right way” prescribed “We can do a lot better in our classrooms and in our homes to train our children not just to learn the gospel but to teach the gospel. It’s embedded into your soul more when you have to think it through and articulate it. It develops your own testimony as well as your capabilities, and you’ll be a better servant in the gospel.” Brother Callister underscored that the manual’s topic statements are not simply factual statements but doctrinal statements—not simply “Jesus went into the garden of Gethsemane” but rather “Jesus suffered in the garden of Gethsemane so He could pay the price for our sins.” All subsequent materials in the manual—stories, questions, videos, and more—align with the doctrine being taught. Teaching in the home is nothing new, given decades of handbooks and centuries of scriptures like Deuteronomy 6 and Doctrine and Covenants 68 underscoring such responsibilities. More than just Sunday Another avenue to enhance advance preparation is to encourage study via social media or other online methods, such as a Facebook or WhatsApp group sharing insights throughout the weeks. “It can get more of a conversation going,” said Brother Ashton, “and it will encourage people to study.” Like others of the Church’s general presidencies and staff testing the new 2019 Come, Follow Me integrated curriculum, Brother Tad R. Callister has looked for opportunities to implement its patterns, principles, and practices in personal and family gospel study settings. The grandson identified a train by the description of its wheels and the sparks from the track. That exchange in turn led to more discussion of how and why Isaiah prophesied millennia in advance the latter-day gathering of Israel and how the ancient prophet described transportation unfamiliar to his day. But one shouldn’t focus solely on an enhanced Sunday study experience, Brother Callister explains. “Just as President Nelson said we are going from home teaching to ministering, which is a higher, holier way,” he said, “hopefully we’re going from just reading the scriptures to pondering them, which is a higher and holier way to invite revelation.” “I think if we develop that pattern, trying to ask inspired questions and giving our children a chance to answer, we’ll be amazed at how much insight and revelation will come to them,” said Brother Callister, adding, “If you really give them a chance, you’ll have some incredible comments from these young children who are 8 years old or from a 13-year-old teenager.” “Then the integrated curriculum came along, and it’s not just a reduction in time at Church but provides a means and an emphasis to teach the gospel at home that we didn’t have before,” he said. “It is kind of a package deal—it’s going from three to two hours [of meetings], but here are the materials to help you use Sunday wisely.” “In a way, it’s an opportunity to repent, to change, to start anew, and to be more diligent in personal study as well as family study,” he said. Brother Callister says he has heard the Brethren talk for some time about a change in Church meeting schedules, but something always seemed missing in the discussions. Now more than ever, Sunday School teachers will have more discussion material than can possibly be taught in a 50-minute setting. And with Sunday School classes scheduled for the first and third Sundays of the month, there could be anywhere from two to five weeks between class discussions, given calendar configurations and possible conflicts with scheduled conferences.Rather than being its past separate, weekly series of classes, Sunday School now shares a second-hour meeting slot with the priesthood quorums and other auxiliaries. Newness all around Combining the Teaching in the Savior’s Way principles with the 2019 integrated Come, Follow Me study of the New Testament makes for “a marvelous example and prime opportunity … not just to teach the doctrine but see how the Savior taught,” Brother Durrant said. Brother Callister recently joined his counselors in the Sunday School General Presidency—Brother Devin G. Durrant, First Counselor, and Brother Brian K. Ashton, Second Counselor—to discuss with the Church News their insights on and hopes for the 2019 curriculum and the Sunday School’s role. The reasoning, explained Brother Callister, “is that if you do so, you’ll increase your personal revelation, and the rest of the material becomes a supplement to your revelation, not a replacement for your revelation. “So while we’ve always had an understanding that parents are the prime teachers of the children,” said Brother Durrant, “now we have a resource that helps us implement and provide those learning and teaching experiences in the home.” Brother Durrant sees newness all around—new year, new curriculum, new topic of study (the New Testament), as well as new opportunities to decide how one will use available time on the Sabbath and to refine new study and discussion practices in the home. Like the time the Sunday School General President and extended family members were reading the Isaiah chapters of 2 Nephi in the Book of Mormon—a challenging stretch of Old Testament writings and expressions. Brother Callister engaged a teen-aged grandson with a question, asking if he could identify in 2 Nephi 15 where Isaiah prophesies about modern-day means of transportation. Parents can provide their children with an even greater benefit if they teach them not just to be good students but good teachers, Brother Callister added. Brother Durrant said he hopes members return from Sunday classes and continue sharing and discussing the gospel “until we go back to Church … so that the gospel becomes a part of every day, a part of our conversation and the threads woven throughout our week, not just contained in a certain time frame.” “Parents should feel free to follow the Spirit and do what they feel good about as they study individually and with their children and how they’re going to convey this information. We’re not prescribing a so-called ‘right way.’ We’re just inviting them to allow gospel learning to take place in the home as they see fit.” The home-centered, Church-supported alignment is synergistic—studying at home to prepare for Church meetings, and sharing good Church experiences in turn enhancing home study, Brother Callister said. And an increase of study frequency should foster a reciprocal increased quality. The premise of the new curriculum is for the teacher “to start by reading the scripture block and praying to know what the Lord wants you to teach—and if you need help, then go to the manual,” said Brother Ashton. Such was a glimpse into the potential of the new curriculum and accompanying emphasis on “home-centered, Church-supported” gospel study—an elevated learning experience for individuals and for families, with benefits no matter the age of the learner or the teacher. Likening teachers to shepherds, Brother Ashton says a reduction of classroom instruction could result in increased time available for teachers to go outside the classroom to meet the needs of the students, such as providing encouragements or assistance in the home of either the teacher or the student. Added Brother Ashton: “We have an opportunity to do what President [Russell M.] Nelson has said, to remodel our homes into centers of gospel learning.” “It’s designed to stretch teachers not to be prescriptive givers of the lesson but deliverers of personal revelation.” “With the new curriculum, we’re all being invited to take responsibility for our own learning,” he said. “And a teacher can assist in that process.”
The Come, Follow Me integrated curriculum is an opportunity to be more diligent in personal and family study. Graphic by Aaron Thorup, Deseret News.“It is a total of weekly and daily family and individual experiences to help us get into the scriptures.” “In the Savior’s way” For families with younger children and younger attention spans or families that feel like the new curriculum is too much, too demanding, or too much of a burden, Brother Durrant says, “Don’t go there—we’ve gone to great lengths to not prescribe what should be happening in the home as far as teaching the materials. Preparation and revelation “They’re all designed to support the doctrine, which we know is the greatest converting power, when taught by the Spirit,” he said. “A package deal” “The vision here is Sunday is one key part, but we want our people studying the scriptures as families every single day, and this allows us to do that,” he said, noting that while Sunday allows for a more concentrated time of study and discussion, similar but briefer opportunities can come throughout the week. The new integrated Come, Follow Me curriculum invites us to take responsibility for our own learning, with Sunday class teachers assisting in that process. Photo courtesy of Deseret News. With teachers having received the Teaching in the Savior’s Way training for several years, Brother Durrant sees the new curriculum as an opportunity to apply those principles—loving those being taught, preparing by the Spirit, teaching doctrine, teaching by the Spirit, and extending invitations to class members to act. Brother Ashton calls 2019’s gospel-study emphasis “a new pattern” rather than a new program. “In my mind, much of what we’ve done in the Church is just read the scriptures. The command is to feast, and this is a pattern for how to feast.”
The testimony of those “watchmen on the tower” (see Ezekiel 3:17; Doctrine and Covenants 101:45) whom we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators is that the Savior is leading His Church today. I know that more surely now than ever before.Almost 50 years ago, I sat on the floor in front of a small bookcase in the dining room of our tiny two-bedroom apartment. At this early stage of our life together, my wife, Shauna, and I had been blessed with two children.I explained to Angie that I was very busy and wouldn’t be joining them. Within three minutes, David ambled over and asked: “Dad, you come play?” I called out to my wife at that point: “Shauna, can’t you see that what I am doing is important? Could you please keep these children out of my way until I finish this project?”The focus became the scriptures themselves. I am also persuaded that what is true for college students is also the case for older adults: we have come to better understand and apply the principal messages of holy writ and the teachings of the restored gospel. Jenny Friesen listens as her son Luke Friesen reads at home in Langley, British Columbia, on Sunday, September 16, 2018. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.Keeping these marvelous truths in mind, perhaps we can better appreciate the inspired prophetic direction that has come to us in recent months—to put in place “an integrated curriculum to strengthen families and individuals through a home-centered and Church-supported plan to learn doctrine, strengthen faith, and foster greater personal worship” (Russell M. Nelson, “Opening Remarks,” Oct. 2018 general conference).I teared up, and in that brief instant there came a whole host of emotions: an elevated perspective, for in a flash I saw and felt things as they really are; feelings of overwhelming love for a trusting wife and beautiful children; and yes, feelings of guilt for neglecting the most important people and the most important enterprise in my life. A rapidly repentant father crawled over to his family and became involved in things that really matter.Mercifully, our Father in Heaven does not expect those living in our day to face and do battle against moral and spiritual corruption with yesterday’s armor. For that reason, the Lord will not allow His covenant people to coast spiritually.“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” delivered by President Hinckley in 1995, is a godsend. It is essentially the constitution, the prophetic foundational document that sets forth beautifully and informatively why Latter-day Saints place such great emphasis on families.The latter group not only knew their Book of Mormon better (largely as a result of President Ezra Taft Benson’s ministry), but they were also much more knowledgeable of and conversant with the Bible. Why?Beginning in the 1970s the leadership of the Church established an ongoing study in Sunday School of the four books within our standard works. In addition, in the early 1980s, seminaries and institutes shifted from delivering “lessons” to what was called “sequential scripture teaching.”As a religious educator for almost 40 years, I can say without hesitation that the young people I taught in my last year at Brigham Young University in 2014 were much more scripturally literate than those wonderful youth I taught in my first semester there.For many years we have been taught by those charged to guide the destiny of this Church that the family is in fact the most important unit in time or eternity. Constant and consistent efforts to strengthen the family within the walls of our own homes is the most important work we will ever do (see, for example, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee , 280).This and other related articles will focus attention on many of these valuable new resources in gospel learning.If I might borrow words spoken by President Spencer W. Kimball: “Now, my brothers and sisters, it seems clear to me … that the Church is at a point in its growth and maturity when we are at last ready to move forward in a major way. … We have paused on some plateaus long enough. Let us resume our journey forward and upward” (“Let Us Move Forward and Upward,” Apr. 1979 general conference).—Robert L. Millet is professor emeritus of religious education at Brigham Young University.My hope is that our journey on the covenant path in the days and years to come will be joyous and spiritually invigorating and that each of us may come to enjoy the abundant life promised by the Lord Jesus Christ (see John 10:10). In a similar vein, President Gordon B. Hinckley counseled the Latter-day Saints to “stand a little taller, to lift our eyes and stretch our minds to a greater comprehension and understanding of the grand millennial mission of this, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (“This Is the Work of the Master,” Apr. 1995 general conference).As Elder Quentin L. Cook explained, the Brethren “desire to bring greater gospel joy—to parents, children, youth, singles, the elderly, new converts, and those people the missionaries are teaching—through a home-centered, Church-supported, balanced effort” (“Deep and Lasting Conversion to Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” Oct. 2018 general conference).I dove back into my research. Within less than a minute, however, I felt my attention being drawn back to the threesome, almost as if I were being turned about physically. I looked into three sets of eyes, and what I saw was not very settling—there was hurt and, in Shauna’s eyes, a look of disappointment. And then a quiet “voice” came into my mind. Whether it was the enticing of the Holy Ghost or the sweet scolding of conscience, I don’t know. As I sat looking at my little family, that voice spoke simply but boldly: “Behold the plan of salvation!”This particular evening, I was immersed in reading and referencing and marking; I was engrossed in a writing project, and deadlines were crowding in on me. Interestingly (and ironically), I was at that moment perusing President David O. McKay’s book Gospel Ideals, when our daughter Angela walked over to me and asked me to join her, her younger brother David, and my wife in some games they were playing on the floor about 20 feet away.I have reflected many times on that singular experience and have thanked God on my knees that in His mercy He chose to “snatch” me (see Mosiah 27:28; Alma 26:17) away from matters of secondary importance. I haven’t always been the perfect husband and father since that red-letter day, but I have been better. I also appreciate the gracious privilege of being reminded and thus tutored periodically by the medium of memory.
“Our children will be strengthened at a time when they need it most, when they are being bombarded by the darts of the adversary. This will suit them in their protective armor every day.Sister Harkness: “Primary lessons will provide a time where children can share their unique perspectives and insights of the scriptures. As children share, ask questions, and sing together, they will be able to learn from each other—whether or not they were able to study in their homes the previous week.” Primary children raise their hands at the request of President Russell M. Nelson at the Langley Events Center in Langley, British Columbia, on Sunday, September 16, 2018. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.“Children are very sensitive to the Spirit, and they will be a strength to their families in this wonderful revelation process. We hope our children will share their voices, ask questions, and give their thoughts about what they are reading and what they are feeling. In doing so, we know they will be an influence for good in their families. Their little voices will have such an impact.”
Jenny Friesen listens as her son Luke reads at home in Langley, British Columbia, on Sunday, September 16, 2018. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.“Children love to sing. Children learn the gospel through music, and music brings the Spirit. We hope the children will teach their parents, their families, their grandpas and grandmas to know the Primary songs too.CN: What advice would you give to parents with young children who are trying to do home study?“Parents can help children apply the scriptures to their needs. Little children can come to understand how the scriptures bless their lives, and they will learn to be centered on the Savior all the time. Isn’t that our aim, to teach our children to remember the Savior and always have His Spirit to be with them?
Children attend Primary in the Philippines, during the 140th anniversary year of the organization in August 2018. Photo by Haidi F. Fajardo.Hevenxen de Guzman and Baelfire de Guzman play in front of the Vancouver British Columbia Temple in Langley, British Columbia, on Sunday, September 16, 2018. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.Sister Jones: “I believe this will create a greater unity and protection for our families. What a blessing to draw closer and prepare children for covenants and ordinances and teach them continually of the covenant path. This is an opportunity to know each other better and to share in the richness of understanding the family threads that have made them who they are as a family unit. Families will be drawn to the temple and to each other, on both sides of the veil.Sister Harkness: “Sing with your children! Primary music has the ability to plant the seeds of doctrine deep into the hearts of your children. Talk about the gospel as you sing—it will help them apply gospel principles to real world experiences. Look for the songs suggested in the Come, Follow Me lessons. Have fun singing them as a family during the week. These songs will provide strength and protection for them as they grow. Your children will remember the gospel truths you sang about as you studied the scriptures together.”“Parents can ask simple questions and let the children be part of discovering the treasures that abound for them in the scriptures. They will come to know their children better and deepen their relationships in the process. I hope they will notice opportunities to teach and reinforce gospel principles outside the home as well—in the car, at the checkout stand in the grocery store, in personal one-on-one moments. Loving, teaching, and testifying can take place anywhere, and children love to be loved. Enjoy and celebrate the gospel together.”Sister Harkness: “Children are facing increasingly difficult challenges at younger and younger ages. This new curriculum will fortify families and children as they study the scriptures together and learn how to apply them as they serve and love each other.”“The Savior taught in Doctrine and Covenants 46:33, ‘And ye must practice virtue and holiness before me continually.’ What an opportunity we have to ‘practice’ the Savior’s ways in our homes and in our lives.CN: What does a shorter lesson time mean for Primary?Sister Harkness: “As children study Come, Follow Me at home with their families, they will come to Primary on Sundays able to strengthen each other. They will be able to minister to each other as they learn to apply the gospel in their lives. I really love Sister Jones’s thoughts about how children can be a strengthening, fortifying anchor in their homes. Children can also be a strengthening, fortifying influence to their peers in their Primary classes.”As the new Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families manuals are distributed to Latter-day Saints throughout the world, many have questioned how the coming year’s curriculum will be integrated into their lives, especially with regards to Primary-aged children.“There is remarkable faith and strength in today’s children. You can see their light and courage in their actions and examples. I pray for the children and for their families to be happy. I am so grateful for the love of our Savior and Father in Heaven for each of us.” Children attend Primary in the Philippines during the 140th anniversary year of the organization in August 2018. Photo by Haidi F. Fajardo.“[Children] will have insights that the Spirit will bring to their precious, open, faithful little hearts, and they will share and testify, even if they didn’t study in their homes.”Sister Jones: “I hope they won’t feel that they must follow an outline exactly as written. They may spend five minutes talking about one scripture, one principle or doctrine, or one story. They may see a picture in the manual and talk about it. The artwork in the manual is exquisite. There will be many opportunities to let the children share and ask questions. They can also role-play and let the children act out a story or concept. When they role play, they own it.“There is more than enough material in the lessons, more than they will ever be able to teach in 20 minutes. What a blessing for teachers to read and study the same scriptures as the children … and then let the Spirit guide them as they teach in their classroom.CN: What does a home-centered, Church-supported curriculum look like for Primary?Sister Jones: “Because in some ways it will be a review, teachers can prayerfully prepare their lessons and invite the children to share what they learned and felt in their home study.Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President, and Sister Lisa L. Harkness, First Counselor in the Primary General Presidency, recently sat down with the Church News to share insights and answer questions regarding how the new curriculum applies to children and youth. Here are their responses:CN: How will the changes benefit children and families? Children attend Primary in the Philippines during the 140th anniversary year of the organization in August 2018. Photo by Haidi F. Fajardo.“We are confident that children will be blessed in marvelous ways as they are taught and strengthened in their homes and continue to be taught and supported in Primary. I hope families will recognize that each home may do things a little bit differently. That is the beauty of what we have been asked to do—to gather and counsel together as families, to kneel and pray, to ask Heavenly Father how and when to implement this inspired curriculum.“I have heard some members say, ‘I’m really nervous to begin,’ but so many are already doing this … in their homes. I hope they will continue what they are doing and perhaps now expand their efforts. Just begin, just jump in. The Lord will guide and magnify their righteous endeavors.Sister Jones: “Scriptures make it clear that parents have the primary responsibility to teach the doctrine to their children. It is the responsibility of the Church to assist each member in the divinely defined goal of increasing his or her gospel knowledge (see Russell M. Nelson, “Opening Remarks,” Oct. 2018 general conference).
Adapting and embracing“We want our children to understand the scriptures are meant to be applied to our lives so that we can draw nearer to God,” Daniele Salerno said. Daniele Salerno plays with his daughters Emma, left, and Alice, right, at home in Rome, Italy, on Sunday morning, November 18, 2018. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.“What this phrase means to us is a loving invitation to gain a deeper understanding of the sacred trust God has placed in us as spouses and parents,” said Daniele Salerno, whose family attends the Roma 2nd Ward. “It’s helping us feel and understand how we can teach our precious girls the gospel truths so they can feel Heavenly Father’s love and grow to become spiritually self-reliant individuals early in their lives.”Given the promptings and directions received through the Holy Ghost, “I feel that the new curriculum stresses the important truth that we need revelation from God in order to know how to adapt the gospel to our own family and circumstances,” she said.They see the new curriculum and patterns of study being easily adapted and embraced by families with young children, as parents use prayer and constant planning in finding new ways and methods of teaching the gospel. Norma Salerno calls the new curriculum “a heaven-sent blessing” for fathers and mothers in the Church.Bringing scriptures to lifeAnd as a couple, she and Daniele plan to hold weekly discussions on topics that can strengthen their relationship and help them better understand and live their roles as wife and husband.Well aware of the proximity of the temple grounds and the new building under construction, the family requested to see the view.“I asked if they knew what they were building out there,” Daniele Salerno recalled. “The agent replied it was ‘the Mormon Church’ and said nothing else about it. Obviously, we knew what it was, and it made us smile—they thought the construction site would deter buyers, but we decided to take the apartment because of it.”In implementing the home-centered study emphasis, the Salernos hope to bring the scriptures to life to help their daughters appreciate them and recognize the Spirit testifying of truths. To accommodate the children, they’ve decided to read shorter passages—rather than full chapters—daily from the Book of Mormon and to role-play scenes and stories.“Knowing that each member of the family is studying the same scripture passages during the week and during Church hours will provide daily and Sunday discussions on what every family member learned from that specific passage and how they will apply it in their lives during the week,” she said. “This will surely unite and fortify families even more in the gospel and also provide quality experiences spent together.”An obscured selling pointAs the new year approaches, the Salerno family looks forward to the opportunities and blessings of a new pattern of home study and discussion. In fact, they already have applied some of these practices.The figurative phrase “you are never lost when you can see the temple” has a special, literal meaning for the Salerno family. They’re at home when they see the temple—enjoying a view of the soon-to-open Rome Italy Temple from their apartment.The home becomes the hubThe Salernos have been in their northeast Rome apartment since October 2014. Ironically, when the real estate agency first showed them the property, the curtains were shut, obscuring the temple construction site.When the parents sensed a need to teach 7-year-old Emma specific principles to help her be better equipped to make correct choices throughout her life, they prepared a month-long series of family home evenings on a specific topic.Another home-centered approach the family has taken recently is memorizing a scripture verse each week, which the young girls see as a challenge. “Because they want to show they are capable of memorizing things, they give more heed,” he said. “And we have found that our time learning the gospel together is more meaningful this way.”Entrusted to teachFor his wife, the “home-centered, Church-supported” phrase helps underscore the responsibility of having been entrusted to teach oneself and one’s family the gospel.“It expresses the concept that the Church helps—but does not substitute [for]—parents in rearing children in righteousness,” Norma Salerno said. “In addition, I believe the new manual and program empowers families even more in receiving important and specific personal revelation that will help them live better through these latter days.”Combining desires and efforts for a strong family with the constant visual reminder of the role of the temple, the Salernos—early-30-somethings Daniele and Norma Salerno, their daughters Emma (age 7) and Alice (3), and a third baby girl due in February—are eager to apply the new “home-centered, Church-supported” curriculum and patterns of gospel study.That approach led to more purposeful family discussions and interactions, as well as informal opportunities to reaffirm principles taught during the week. Also, Daniele Salerno said, family members felt closer with a strengthening of trust between one other.“There exists a righteous unity between the temple and the home,” he added in his 2009 message. “Understanding the eternal nature of the temple will draw you to your family; understanding the eternal nature of your family will draw you to the temple” (“Sacred Homes, Sacred Temples”).“I feel that gospel study is home-centered when the home becomes the hub of all meaningful teaching and learning experiences,” he said. “To do this, as parents we feel the need to prayerfully develop a constant awareness of the spiritual needs of each of our children at different stages of their lives.”The quote comes from an April 2009 general conference address by Elder Gary E. Stevenson, now a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
The Rome Italy Temple on Sunday, November 18, 2018. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.Emma Salerno, 7, prepares her Primary talk at home with her mother, Norma, and sister, Alice, in Rome, Italy, on Sunday morning, November 18, 2018. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.
The mission changes were announced in a Wednesday, January 2, Newsroom statement, which noted a leveling off in the number of full-time missionaries since the 2012 age-change announcement. The number reached 88,000 at its height and has dropped since to today’s 65,000.The new missions are:Parents of missionaries serving in the affected missions—whether created or dissolved—will receive additional information from their mission presidents. Information about new mission presidents will be announced later in January.These changes will take place July 1, at which time the Church will have a total of 399 missions worldwide.Four newly created missions have been announced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with 12 existing missions being dissolved into neighboring missions.
On January 2, 2019, the First Presidency issued the following statement on temples:
“Whenever the Lord has had a people on the earth who will obey His word, they have been commanded to build temples. Scriptures document patterns of temple worship from the times of Adam and Eve, Moses, Solomon, Nephi, and others.
“With the restoration of the gospel in these latter days, temple worship has also been restored to bless the lives of people across the world and on the other side of the veil as well.
“Over these many centuries, details associated with temple work have been adjusted periodically, including language, methods of construction, communication, and record-keeping. Prophets have taught that there will be no end to such adjustments as directed by the Lord to His servants.
“A dedicated temple is the most holy of any place of worship on the earth. Its ordinances are sacred and are not discussed outside a holy temple.”
“Living by and reading the word of God will build faith in Heavenly Father and His plan of salvation and in the Savior Jesus Christ and His Atonement,” the First Presidency wrote in the letter.Nearly three months after President Russell M. Nelson announced a “new balance and connection between gospel instruction in the home and in the Church” on October 6, Latter-day Saints are preparing to implement the changes.President Nelson promised Latter-day Saints during general conference that the inspired “organizational adjustments”—and extra time to study the gospel in the home—will “fortify our members and their families.” Ben, Tom, Daniel, and Emilia Allen play Memory at home in Renton, Wash., on Friday, September 14, 2018.
Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.The changes are meant to help members increase faith and spirituality and deepen conversion, said Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and chairman of the Church’s Priesthood and Family Executive Council.Elder Cook said he hopes that Church members will make a considerable effort to implement and teach “Come, Follow Me” in their homes and receive the promised blessings.In a letter dated June 29, the First Presidency announced “Come, Follow Me” resources to support personal and family scripture study.Church leaders hope members will do their best to teach and learn the gospel during a year when the Church is studying the Savior's life and ministry in the New Testament during Sunday School, said Elder Cook.He recommends Church members spend some time with “Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families.” If they will prayerfully look at the manual and other resources, then they will be able to see how they can use them in a way that is “best for their individual and family situation,” he said.They should make the hour they are given for home study “a joy and a delight,” counseled Elder Cook.There is no reason families need to remain in Sunday dress, said Elder Cook. “Would it be wonderful to sing gospel hymns? Yes. Would it be wonderful to sing other music or engage in other enjoyable or uplifting activities? Yes.” Justin Allen reads to his daughter Emilia Allen at home in Renton, Wash., on Friday, September14, 2018.
Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.“The strongest feeling is that we should not regulate families or individuals or determine what they should do,” he said.The “home-centered and Church-supported plan” necessitates an adjustment to the Church’s Sunday meeting schedule beginning January and provides the opportunity for families and individuals to study the gospel at home in a new way.
Sister Jean B. Bingham and Sister Joy D. Jones have a dialogue with a Muslim council member at the World Women’s Interfaith Conference 2018. From left, Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita, General Authority Seventy, and his wife, Sister Tazuko Yamashita; Sister Lesa Stevenson and Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; and the two youth hosts, Miyu Nakiatania and Mashahiro Yoshikawa, during the Face to Face event held in Japan on August 15.
Second, Elder Orson Hyde was assigned by the Prophet Joseph Smith to dedicate Jerusalem for the return of the Jews and left for Palestine early in 1841. On Sunday, October 24, 1841, Elder Hyde “knelt on the Mount of Olives and dedicated the Holy Land for the gathering of the Jews and of Israel as their ancient inheritance.”Elder Cook said his personal relationship with Rabbi Potasnik was greatly enhanced when Abrams suggested “that a commemoration of Orson Hyde’s 1841 dedication of the Holy Land as a gathering place for Jewish people would further unite both of our communities.”Accompanied by Elder Jack N. Gerard, General Authority Seventy, and Elder David L. Bauckner, an Area Seventy, during his visit to New York, Elder Cook also visited the American Jewish Committee headquarters and met with senior leadership of the global Jewish advocacy organization. He also met with Ambassador Dayan in his office. Ambassador Dayan later tweeted about the meeting. “We will continue to enhance the friendship between the Church and the State of Israel,” he wrote. And Elder Cook also enjoyed time with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who was honored by the Latter-day Saint Professional Association two years ago.Elder Cook asked Abrams to participate in the introduction of Rabbi Potasnik, noting that each time he brought the two faiths together he chose Rabbi Potasnik as a major centerpiece in the relationship. He also asked Ambassador Dani Dayan, Consul General of Israel in New York, to participate in the introduction of Rabbi Potasnik. Rabbi Joseph Potasnik receives the Visionary Leadership Award from the New York Latter-day Saint Professional Association on December 18, 2018. From left: Elder David Buckner, Area Seventy; Andrea Combs, local Latter-day Saint representative; Ambassador Dani Dayan; Elder Quentin L. Cook; Rabbi Joseph Potasnik; former New York attorney general Robert Abrams and Elder Jack N. Gerard, General Authority Seventy. Photo by Nicole Ekberg.During the event, held in the historic Riverside Chapel in Manhattan and attended by a capacity crowd of more than 400, Elder Cook addressed some of the unique Church doctrine that ties Latter-day Saints closely to those of the Jewish faith.“We share with our Jewish friends the concern for oppressed people and those who face special challenges,” said Elder Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.After lauding the service of his friend Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Elder Quentin L. Cook spoke in New York City on December 18 about the common ground that exists between the Latter-day Saint and Jewish communities.“What has become clear on these occasions, including tonight, is the common ground that exists between the Latter-day Saint community and the Jewish community,” said Elder Cook.
Elder Quentin L. Cook and his wife, Sister Mary G. Cook, visit with guests after the New York Latter-day Saint Professional Association dinner, held in the historic Riverside Chapel in Manhattan on December 18. Photo by Nicole Ekberg.Elder Cook said when he became acquainted with Rabbi Potasnik he understood why he is so well respected. “We enjoyed marvelous conversations on important issues. I found him to be respectful even when we were not in total agreement.”Sharing a media account from the Times of Israel, Elder Cook spoke about Rabbi Potasnik’s role as chaplain for the New York Fire Department. On September 11, 2001, Rabbi Potasnik arrived at Ground Zero 32 minutes after the North Tower collapsed, and he returned every day for a month. “Being there all those days, all those weeks; it was a family of faiths,” Rabbi Potasnik was reported as saying. “We decided to have a Christmas tree and a menorah. Ground Zero became a place where death taught us love.”Elder Cook spoke of the 1836 dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple, set forth in Doctrine and Covenants 109. “One aspect of the Kirtland dedicatory prayer is of particular significance to the Jewish people. It is faith promoting and evidence of Joseph Smith’s prophetic mission.”“Each has a fundamental focus on family, each place a very high value on education, each has a strong commitment to charitable giving, each demonstrates humanitarian concern and response when there are international catastrophes such as earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis around the globe, each has a history of disproportionate success due to ability, hard work and determination and each has been subjected to fierce persecution and prejudice.”Inherent in this geographical distance was the potential for misunderstandings even with respect to actions that were meant to be respectful and kind, said Elder Cook. Elder Jack Gerard, a General Authority Seventy, participates in meeting sponsored by the New York Latter-day Saint Professional Association on December 18. Photo by Nicole Ekberg. Elder Quentin L. Cook and his wife, Sister Mary G. Cook, visit with guests after the New York Latter-day Saint Professional Association dinner, held in the historic Riverside Chapel in Manhattan on December 18.
Robert Abrams, the former New York attorney general; Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; and Rabbi Joseph Potasnik participate in meeting sponsored by the New York Latter-day Saint Professional Association on December 18. Photo by Nicole Ekberg.While there is no analogue to the Holocaust, the extermination order issued by Missouri governor, Lilburn Boggs, in 1838 caused atrocities, he added. “But even with a difficult shared past, the relationship between members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Jewish community is based on positive and uplifting approaches that bless everyone.”
The 2019 Come, Follow Me youth curriculum also includes a new unit focused on reviewing the teachings of Church leaders in general conference. Various study suggestions and activities will help youth review conference messages and apply what they learn. “We’re grateful to have living prophets and the direction they give us,” said Sister Michelle D. Craig, First Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency. “With the addition of a new unit focused on studying messages from general conference, the teachings of living prophets will be elevated in the lives of the youth.” Additionally, recent changes have been made to the structure of each outline to help leaders and teachers use the curriculum more effectively. The new meeting outline emphasizes counseling together and sharing experiences, learning together, and planning to act. “These elements of the meeting outline,” added Brother Holmes, “are a reminder of our need to help classes and quorums focus on applying gospel principles and fulfilling their duties.”Beginning in January 2019, an updated Come, Follow Me curriculum will be available for Young Women classes and Aaronic Priesthood quorums. As before, the curriculum is divided into topical units based on fundamental doctrinal principles—but now, youth will have greater involvement in selecting doctrinal topics to study in their Sunday quorums and classes. In the past, Come, Follow Me curriculum for Aaronic Priesthood holders and young women designated one topic to be taught each month: for example, the Godhead was scheduled for January 2018, the plan of salvation for February, and so on. But because quorums and classes meet only twice a month beginning in 2019, the curriculum no longer assigns a topic to each month. Instead, quorum and class presidencies, with guidance from their advisers, will be responsible for counseling together to select topics from Come, Follow Me and determine the number of weeks or months to study those topics. These decisions should be made based on the needs of the youth. “These changes will allow leaders greater flexibility to follow inspiration when determining the topics to be discussed,” said Brother Douglas D. Holmes, First Counselor in the Young Men General Presidency. “Together, youth presidencies and their leaders can decide what topics best meet the needs of the youth and help them understand the doctrine and apply it in their lives.”
Celestino Orellana, center, and his family with Tommy Upshaw, left, at their home in Tupiza in 1999. Photo courtesy of Tommy Upshaw.“I was so discouraged when we left our hotel for the fireside having not heard back from [Orellana] at all,” Upshaw said.SomedaySanchez’s wife and 8-year-old son had been meeting with the missionaries for a while and wanted to get baptized. Sanchez too enjoyed the messages shared by the missionaries but felt he wasn’t ready to get baptized because he didn’t want to change his lifestyle.During his trip, Moore also reunited with a young man he had taught named Tono Daza. Moore had taught Daza when he was a teenager and Daza later served a mission, married, and served as a bishop.Moore had returned to Bolivia on his own about 15 years prior to the mission reunion trip. When he did, he prayed he would be able to find people from his mission there.After meeting at the temple, the group of former missionaries spent the afternoon serving at a local orphanage. They then spent the evening together with some of their former investigators from the Cochabamba area as they gathered for a fireside. Many got up to share their testimonies. Some of the mission reunion group on a bus to the Ciudad de la Bonded orphanage on their way to help with a service project in October. The bus was completely filled and, for many passengers, there was standing room only. Photo courtesy of Davis Smith.After embracing again, Upshaw inquired about their father and learned that he was standing just around the corner and that their family had room for Upshaw and his wife to join them. The whole family had come together for the fireside, Upshaw explained.
Scott Mortensen, left, and Gonzalo Cadiz by the same palm tree, now fully grown, outside the Church where Mortensen baptized Cadiz nearly 20 years ago. Photo courtesy of Scott Mortensen.He found that although Orellana’s family was still living in Tupiza, Orellana was frequently in La Paz due to medical treatment he was receiving there. So, Upshaw and his wife planned to travel to La Paz to meet up with Orellana. “Once we planned our trip we learned that President Nelson would be in La Paz the same day we were,” Upshaw said, noting that they only had 24 hours in the city where thousands were traveling to hear the words of the prophet.The next day, they split off their separate ways to travel throughout the country seeking out their converts and friends, most of whom they hadn’t seen in 20 years.Orellana agreed. One lesson turned into another and then another, and each was accompanied by another video or gospel message.“Most people had never seen the temple dedicated,” Smith said.“Everyone loves him as a bishop, and he has been a miracle for many members in his ward,” Moore said. And among his ward is Betsabe’s family. Although Betsabe was killed two years ago in a tragic bus accident, her husband and five surviving children said Daza was instrumental in helping them through the loss of their wife and mother. “I am ever so amazed at how intricately the Lord’s hand works in our lives,” Moore said. “God is good.”A reason to return“Then this year, I happened to go to that same chapel on my first Sunday,” Moore continued. “On the exact same bench where I saw Betsabe 15 years before sat another [woman] I had baptized. I was immediately absolutely amazed at how good God is.”“Who would have thought, that day when Celestino came running across that plaza, that we’d end up here, listening to the prophet of God in Bolivia with his family?” Upshaw said. “I’m so lucky. I’m so blessed.”Once they got through security, they still didn’t know their seat assignments and, with thousands of people surrounding them, they walked somewhat aimlessly inside the venue. Standing there in the middle of a huge crowd, Upshaw suddenly heard his name before being instantly embraced by a Bolivian sister who was crying. Another woman came up next to them who was also weeping.“Now, over 30 members of his family are members of the Church,” Smith said. And the small branch that was once the only Church presence in Tarija is now a stake center with 18 missionaries in the area where once there were just two.“It was a joyous reunion,” McConkie said. “To return now and see that the branch was now a stake was overpowering. So many families have been vital to the growth of the Church.” Some of the mission reunion group pose for a photo outside the Cochabamba Bolivia Temple in October when they returned for a reunion trip. Photo courtesy of Davis Smith.Smith wanted others to have the same types of experiences he had by returning, so, about a year ago, after meeting up with some old mission buddies who had also been able to return to Bolivia, Smith decided they needed to create a reason for everyone to go back.On October 23, 2018, nearly 70 former missionaries, coming from all over the United States and South America, arrived at the Cochabamba Bolivia Temple.“I’ve just always felt that my converts, they’re my converts forever,” Smith said, laughing. “And I told a few of them, ‘What you didn’t realize when you committed to being baptized with me is that you’re gonna have to deal with me for the rest of your life.’”“So here we are, two gringos, standing outside an auditorium waiting for a conference with no tickets, knowing no one, with no way to contact anyone, and discouraged that the window we had to meet the person we came to see had closed,” Upshaw said.The four friends set a date. Then, they began reaching out to everyone they knew from the mission.That’s when a young David McConkie showed up.Reunited in the House of the LordIt’s an amazing experience to see the fruit, or what we learned as missionaries, Smith said, noting that missionaries often never get to see what comes of the seeds they have planted.Celestino Orellana told the young American missionaries that he had seen them before and wanted them to come and teach English to his computer students.Ginny Watts remembers watching the dedication from Utah after returning home from her mission and wishing she was there in Bolivia to see the finished building which had been under construction during much of her mission.After the reunion, Watts said, “It was a great joy to see the temple completed and to do work there.”When Upshaw promised Orellana 20 years ago that they would see each other again someday, he meant it. Prior to arriving in Bolivia, Upshaw did his homework, knowing that if there was only one person he could see on the trip, he wanted it to be Orellana.Davis Smith, who served his mission in Bolivia around the same time as Upshaw, has returned to the country several times since completing his mission there 20 years ago, and he said that going back and seeing the people whose lives were changed by the gospel can be a life-changing experience.Both Smith and McConkie returned to Tarija on their recent trip, and they noted the immense strength they felt from members in the area and their excitement in reuniting with Sanchez all these years later.“We actually moved into their house,” Smith said. “I was like, I want to be as close to this person as possible because he is just going to convert his whole neighborhood.”McConkie noted that the combined efforts, memories, photos, and relationships of the various missionaries helped many to find families and converts they may never have been able to find again on their own. It was amazing to see the Lord working to use each of them within His intricate web, Smith said.“The joy I felt to see this man after nearly 20 years … left me speechless,” Upshaw said. “As I sat in that auditorium … we cried. I loved these people 20 years ago, and I loved them at that moment.”For Shawn Moore, one of the greatest miracles was seeing how interconnected everything is, and how eloquent the Lord is in His orchestration.Tavia Mathers, another former missionary in the group, added: “I felt like it was really just a glimpse of the eternities when we will all come together from different backgrounds.”Together, the reunion group filled the temple as they entered to do a session. They brought in extra chairs to fit people, Smith said, and even then, some of the missionaries had to do a separate session to get through.“We offered him a deal,” Upshaw said, describing the experience from 20 years ago. “We’d teach a class in his school if he’d watch a video about the Church.” Davis Smith and his companion at a baptism for some of the extended family members of Naval Sanchez, who joined the Church shortly before Smith was transferred to his area 20 years ago. Many of Naval Sanchez's family members followed his example and joined the Church. Photo courtesy of Davis Smith.After arriving at the venue, Upshaw realized he couldn’t even contact his friend who had tickets to the fireside for them because his phone still wasn’t working.It was a small moment in time, but it connected two families, through their love for Christ, across the years and the continents. It was the moment everything felt whole, Upshaw explained, and it left him speechless. Crowds fill the Polideportivo Heroes de Octubre in El Alto on Sunday, October 21, to hear President Nelson speak. Photo courtesy of Tommy Upshaw.“Sitting in the session, I was in the front row, and looking back and just seeing the faces of all these missionaries there that I served with, it was like I understood Alma and the sons of Mosiah when they got together again after all those years. … It was just a beautiful experience,” Smith said. Scott Mortensen, left, and Gonzalo Cadiz by a small palm tree outside the Church where Mortensen baptized Cadiz nearly 20 years ago. Photo courtesy of Scott Mortensen.And, considering half the neighborhood was related to Sanchez, that turned out to be true. During his time there, Smith baptized five or six people related to Sanchez. But now, 20 years later, Smith and McConkie said they are both surprised by the effect of that one man. Members of the Tabladita area in Tarija Bolivia, many of whom are related to Naval Sanchez, gathered together in October when several missionaries who helped convert them some 20 years ago came to visit the area. Photo courtesy of David McConkie.And for Upshaw, the Lord’s helping hand was particularly meaningful in one instance.“I had no idea who these people were and why they were hugging me,” Upshaw said. “And then it hit me. It was [Orellana’s] daughters, Nivia and Daniela.”In Tarija, Bolivia, the seeds of many missionaries are particularly apparent through the fruit that has come from the conversion of one man.The woman, Natividad, had only recently returned to Church with her two granddaughters who had been baptized a few months prior.“Something about Elder McConkie touched him,” Smith said, “and he ended up getting baptized after his wife and son.”But Upshaw and his companion were transferred away from the area shortly after and were only able to get updates about him from other missionaries in the area when they met together for zone conferences.“Every time I get together with missionaries from my mission—and I’ve done a decent job of staying in touch with a lot of my mission friends—I’d ask them if they’ve had a chance to go back and most of the time they say, ‘No, but I want to. I’ve been dying to, I just haven’t been able to find a way to do it yet,’” Smith said. Celestino Orellana and Tommy Upshaw, center, with their families when they reunited at the Polideportivo Heroes de Octubre in El Alto on Sunday, October 21, at the fireside where President Nelson spoke. Photo courtesy of Tommy Upshaw.It was 1998, and Orellana felt that the youth around him needed to learn English and technology in order to be successful.Once they landed in La Paz, Upshaw was distressed to find his phone had stopped working. He hadn’t heard from Orellana about a plan to meet up either, so he and his wife made their way to the El Alto area where President Nelson was speaking. From left: David McConkie, Franz Sanchez, Naval Sanchez, and Kevin Burke in the mountains outside of Tarija, Bolivia. McConkie and Burke taught and baptized the Sanchez family 20 years ago and returned to visit them in October this year. Photo courtesy of David McConkie.Despite many trials, Orellana and his family were baptized, and when Upshaw went back to visit him a year later before heading home from his mission, he left Orellana with a photo of them together and wrote on the back, “I love you so much. Don’t forget about me, and I know that someday we’ll see each other again.”While serving in the small city of Tupiza in southern Bolivia, Elder Tommy Upshaw and his companion, Elder Ryan Hamilton, were walking through the main plaza of town one day when an older man with glasses ran out from his “technology center” to greet them.
The note on the back of a photo which Tommy Upshaw wrote on the last day he visited Celestino Orellana while serving in Tupiza some 20 years ago. It reads, “I love you so much. Don't forget about me, and I know that someday we'll see each other again.” Photo courtesy of Tommy Upshaw.“Then the miracles started.”
Crowds gathered in the Polideportivo Heroes de Octubre in El Alto on Sunday, October 21, to hear President Nelson speak. Photo courtesy of Tommy Upshaw.“I think it boosted not only our own testimonies but lit a fire with the people we were able to find again, even if they weren’t necessarily active,” Mathers said. “When there’s that many missionaries getting together, there’s a lot of miracles.”Fast forward 20 years. Upshaw, like many returned missionaries, longed to go back and visit the places and people he served as a young adult but hadn’t found a good opportunity to do so.The fruit they could not seeOne reunion, many miraclesNaval Sanchez was a professional soccer player in the late 1990s, and in addition to competing nearly every Sunday, Sanchez enjoyed spending time drinking with his teammates.“We embraced and [she] told me that I had come at a special and crucial time in their lives,” he said. “My being there was a testimony for them and for me how much the Lord cared about them and their journey.” The Sanchez extended family 20 years ago. Since the initial baptism of Naval Sanchez and his wife and son, many of their family members have been baptized and their local branch has grown into a stake. Photo courtesy of Davis Smith.“On my first Sunday in Bolivia, the first person I saw was Betsabe, the second person I ever taught and baptized,” Moore said explaining that he found her in a chapel he had never attended before, in an unfamiliar area.Shortly after Sanchez was baptized, McConkie was transferred to a new area and Smith was transferred to Tarija. When he got there, the Sanchez family was on fire when it came to the gospel.Orchestration of the LordThe temple in Cochabamba was dedicated in April 2000, after most of the missionaries he served with had returned home.“This man was the definition of a golden contact,” Upshaw said. “He had an awesome wife, two adorable daughters, and a son.”
Much like last year, livestock and animals—such as goats, cows, and chickens—are among the most popular items purchased from the machines. This year those items have brought in $517,023 to date.Lines continue to form at the large red vending machines at five locations across the globe. Locations include the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City, Utah; the Water Tower Plaza in Gilbert, Arizona; the Manhattan New York Temple in New York City, New York; the Hyde Park Visitors Center in London, England; and the SM Mega Mall in Manila, Philippines.
A woman looks through the selection of water bottles available to buy as donations to charitable water causes at a #LightTheWorld “giving machine.”In 2017, there was a single giving machine in Salt Lake City for the #LightTheWorld campaign, which raised more than $550,000 for global and local charities.“The giving machines will remain open in each location through the end of December 2018,” Woodruff said. “We are truly touched by the willingness of people to follow the example of our Savior Jesus Christ and make a difference this Christmas season.”Since the #LightTheWorld campaign kicked off in November at Temple Square in Salt Lake City and select locations around the world, giving machine donations have surpassed $1 million.“We are thrilled with the enthusiastic and generous response worldwide to the #LightTheWorld giving machines,” said Church spokesman Daniel Woodruff in a statement on December 18. “In just a few weeks, these machines have generated 52,279 contributions, resulting in $1,332,128 in total donations to local and global charities.”Other popular items include meals, at $207,974.86; sewing machines, at $75,465; water bottles, at $53,150; and Polio vaccines, at $35,986.
“You know by virtue of all the work and personal effort that has brought you here today that your life is your responsibility,” Elder Christofferson continued. “Your choices will ultimately make the difference for you.”Elder Kim B. Clark, General Authority Seventy, Commissioner of Church Education, and former BYU–Idaho president from 2005 to 2015, told the graduates: “This is a day of beginnings. Many of you are off to new opportunities and new responsibilities, but no matter where you go, I hope all of you will create what President Nelson has called a sanctuary of faith and a center of gospel learning in your homes.”He said he was reminded of a poem by Civil War–era author and poet Stephen Crane: BYU–Idaho graduates gather in the BYU–Idaho Center for commencement on December 19, 2018. Photo by Cami Su, BYU–Idaho.In closing, Elder Christofferson said, “I have spoken of gratitude, personal responsibility, and faith in God and Christ. If each of these abound in your life, I have no fear for your future.”Life without God often is fraught with fear and foreboding. By contrast, confidence comes by making one’s life a shared undertaking with Deity, Elder Christofferson said. “This means coupling faith in God and Christ with an energizing sense of personal responsibility.” Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks in the BYU–Idaho Center during the BYU–Idaho 2018 fall semester commencement on December 19, 2018. Photo by Cami Su, BYU–Idaho.A crucial element of this personal responsibility is a sense of accountability to God. Faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and the right to rule in one’s life, will lead one to do the right thing, he said. “It will also empower you to have Their help and, with that help, to dare and to do great things.”Fourth, feast on the words of Christ. “They are the iron rod, the sure way through the mists of darkness to peace, divine power, and joy,” Elder Clark said.“But such paradoxes are common in this life, and people who can identify and optimistically deal with paradoxes are rare and valuable,” President Eyring said. Doing so is a means of transcending binary thinking.“In fact, the gospel reflects the kind of balance that can flow from apparent paradox,” President Eyring said.“A man said to the universe:
‘Sir, I exist!’
‘However,’ replied the universe,
‘The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.’”Third, the house of the Lord is very close, both physically and spiritually. BYU–Idaho graduates gather in the BYU–Idaho Center for commencement on December 19, 2018. Photo by Cami Su, BYU–Idaho.For example, the Savior taught in Mark 8:35, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.”BYU–Idaho President Henry J. Eyring spoke about paradoxes of life in his commencement address.“A sense of gratitude is critical to the success and joy you hope to experience as you now go forward with the balance of your life,” Elder Christofferson said. Conversely, ingratitude leads to a sense of entitlement.Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told 2,562 BYU–Idaho graduates that they don’t need to fear the future, so long as they exercise gratitude, responsibility, and faith.Elder Christofferson testified at the close of his remarks: “You can rely on the love of your Heavenly Father, the grace of His Only Begotten Son, and the inspiration of His Holy Spirit. They are real. They live. … Draw upon Their help, answer to Them for your life, and be a pillar of strength and resilience for others. Be grateful for the constant blessings that flow to you, even in the breath of each moment.”He counseled the students to accept responsibility for what they are currently and what they may become.Second, he said, “Here we learn and teach by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Ghost inspires, strengthens, and sanctifies us on this campus.”
BYU–Idaho graduates mingle before convocation on December 19, 2018. Photo by Cami Su, BYU–Idaho.Brigham Young, the namesake of the university, exemplified combining responsibility with faith in the great western exodus he led. Some might have thought he acted recklessly leading hundreds and thousands into an isolated wilderness where he’d never been. But rather, President Young acted “with full confidence that the Lord would not let the undertaking fail.”Elder Christofferson quoted President Young, saying, “I have faith in my God, and that faith corresponds with the works I produce. I have no confidence in faith without works.”For instance, new graduates may find that even though most companies’ fiscal years begin in January and have the most money to allocate to new hires, they may not be actively seeking to hire recent college graduates.Speaking during commencement exercises, Elder Christofferson offered counsel to the graduates gathered in the BYU–Idaho Center in Rexburg, Idaho, on December 19.“This is a place of obedience, consecration, humility, and trust in the Lord,” Elder Clark said, describing first how BYU–Idaho is a sanctuary of faith in Jesus Christ.Elder Clark shared five ways BYU–Idaho can be a model for a house of learning for their own homes.“Without the love of Jesus Christ in our hearts, we could not learn in His way in this place,” Elder Clark said finally, describing BYU–Idaho as a house of love.
No members or missionaries were injured, but the catastrophe caused severe wind damage to dozens of Latter-day Saint homes and multiple meetinghouses.In Taiwan, a February 6 earthquake killed 17 and injured hundreds more. No members or missionaries were injured. A North Carolina resident tells President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency, about his experience of living through Hurricane Florence.Strength, he added, has been found in the concerned actions of others.Many residents living in impacted areas had to flee from their homes and had no time to gather even their most basic provisions. Hilo Hawaii Stake members donated clothing, shoes, food, and other essentials for members and other folks sheltered at Red Cross facilities.The blaze began November 8 and destroyed nearly 14,000 homes and hundreds of businesses, scorching an area roughly the size of Chicago. A meetinghouse in Paradise was also lost.In California, the historic Camp Fire wildfire incinerated the Northern California city of Paradise and destroyed the homes of hundreds of Latter-day Saint families.The magnitude 6.4 quake rattled the popular tourist city of Hualien just before midnight—toppling buildings, buckling streets, and leaving thousands without water and power.After spending time in North Carolina, the visiting Brethren and their wives met with hurricane-weary members along Florida’s Panhandle cleaning up following Hurricane Michael.Paradise 1st Ward Bishop Robert Harrison said it’s difficult to know what the future holds for Paradise members. Some are planning to rebuild. Others will likely move someplace else.As soon as it was deemed safe, Helping Hands crews from several Southeast states were dispatched to the Tar Heel State to help folks in need.For thousands of Latter-day Saints across the globe, 2018 will be forever remembered as the year nature turned mean and indiscriminately destructive. Members clad in yellow Helping Hands vests help repair the roof of a damaged home on Harkers Island, North Carolina, following Hurricane Florence. Local Relief Society and priesthood leaders joined forces to minister to members in need. Photo by Mariah Gillikin.From Northern California to the coastal regions of the U.S. Southeast and across vast sections of Asia—and several points in between—natural disasters largely defined the past 12 months.Several Church leaders—including President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency and Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—would later visit flood-impacted regions, sharing encouragement and love.Missionaries were well prepared for the disaster, and several who were evacuated from their apartments for a short time relied upon provisions stored in their 72-hour kits.There were no reports of injuries to missionaries or members.Teams of missionaries and members in yellow Helping Hands vests helped clean up flood-damaged homes in saturated communities such as Okayama City.But Latter-day Saints did not endure tragedy alone. Ministering was found in quiet moments of one-on-one service and through massive, well-publicized Helping Hands projects.Finding housing continues to be a daunting challenge for displaced members from Paradise’s two wards. In the days and weeks following the fire, many found shelter in the homes of fellow members from the Chico California Stake.In Hawaii, several member families from the Pohoa community in early May were forced from their homes after being threatened by a lava flow from the erupting Kilauea Volcano. Dozens of homes were destroyed, including the residence of at least one Latter-day Saint family.Hit especially hard by Michael were communities in the Dothan Alabama and Panama City Florida Stakes.Dozens of people were killed in landslides, and more than three dozen Latter-day Saint chapels in affected areas of the Philippines sheltered thousands as the typhoon raged.“We have been blessed with many donations and prayers.”Located less than 30 minutes from the capital city, Guatemala City, the volcano erupted multiple times, forcing the evacuation of thousands, destroying key roads and bridges, and even temporarily shutting down the international airport.Two members were believed to have perished, while several more were hospitalized after being severely burned.In the Philippines and Hong Kong, Super Typhoon Mangkhut, a Category 5 storm, walloped residents with destructive winds and torrential rains.Church-sponsored humanitarian relief efforts did not remove the pain felt by those affected by the many disasters—but they did offer measures of peace and sustaining moments of hope and community.“This one will compare to any of the worst storms we’ve had in Florida, post-Hurricane Andrew,” said Elder Douglas B. Carter, an Area Seventy and longtime resident of the Sunshine State.In Japan, dramatic weather that included heavy rains and mudslides forced members from their homes and prompted Church-sponsored relief projects across several Asian countries.Here's a look back at a year that, for legions of Latter-day Saints, was marked by natural disasters:Command centers operated out of five area stake centers even as Church welfare trucks delivered needed building and relief supplies.By the time the massive storm finally dissipated, more than 30 people had been killed and thousands were left without homes or shelters.The Church responded immediately—converting a local stake center into an emergency shelter and distributing food and other provisions to displaced people.In North Carolina, Hurricane Florence reached landfall on September 13 and began its slow, wet crawl across much of the eastern half of the state.In Guatemala, Latter-day Saints were counted among the injured and missing following the June 3 eruption of the Fuego Volcano. Almost 170 people were killed.The Church provided food, medicine, blankets, and other relief supplies in the aftermath of the disaster. And members and missionaries throughout impacted regions of Asia worked together to help clean their respective communities.Meanwhile, a stake in Virginia shipped work clothes, shoes, and other provisions to Raleigh to outfit missionaries who were eager to join the cleanup efforts.Thousands of Helping Hands volunteers—including many who responded to Hurricane Florence in North Carolina—spent their weekends serving on cleanup crews.Hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis hit members and their neighbors historically hard. Homes and businesses were lost. Families were displaced. Lives were changed, sometimes in an instant.Japan was hit especially hard, enduring its worst flooding and landslides in decades following torrential rainfall. More than 200 people were lost in what was the country’s deadliest disaster since the earthquake and tsunami of 2011.The Kea’au Ward meetinghouse doubled as a shelter, and local Latter-day Saints and their neighbors stepped up to help wherever needed, demonstrating “the Aloha spirit.”No members were killed, but Florence exacted a heavy cost, causing extensive flood damage to Latter-day Saint homes in communities such as New Bern, Lumberton, Hampstead, Harkers Island, and Wilmington.Meanwhile, the Church provided counseling services to help displaced families cope with the horror of losing their homes and their community.In Florida and Georgia, a Category 4 storm dubbed Hurricane Michael made landfall on October 10 along the Florida Panhandle.
In addition to safety concerns, Sister Cordon said the change will help sister missionaries who serve in cold climates to stay warm. Wearing dress slacks will also make it easier for sister missionaries to ride bicycles.Sister missionaries should continue to wear dresses or skirts when attending the temple and during Sunday worship services, leadership and zone conferences, baptismal services, and missionary training center devotionals, according to the letter. In areas where for cultural reasons it is not acceptable for women (including sister missionaries) to wear dress slacks, sister missionaries may choose to wear ankle-length skirts for additional protection from extreme weather and vector-borne diseases such as Zika, dengue fever, West Nile virus, Lyme disease, and malaria, according to the letter.“Adjustment to the missionary dress and grooming standards have changed over time since the beginning of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in 1830 and will continue to do so in the future,” said Elder Uchtdorf. “As we adapt these standards, we always carefully consider the dignity of the missionary calling to represent Jesus Christ, the safety, security, and health of our beloved missionaries, and the cultural sensitivities of the places where they serve.”Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women General President and a member of the Missionary Executive Council, elaborated on the changes for sister missionaries.Details of the revised missionary dress and grooming guidelines can be found online.“Sister missionaries are amazing people,” said Sister Cordon. “We want to make sure that they’re protected.”“There are a lot of vector-borne diseases because of mosquitoes and ticks and fleas,” said Sister Cordon. “This helps the sisters to prevent any of those bites or at least minimizes them.” Sister missionaries serving in Lima, Peru, post for a photo on October 20, 2018. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred. The option of wearing dress slacks will make it easier for sister missionaries to ride bicycles.Sister missionaries in roughly half of the Church’s missions have previously been wearing dress slacks during the wet seasons to help protect them from mosquito-borne viral diseases such as dengue fever, Chikungunya, and Zika. This latest change will allow all sister missionaries to do so year-round, based on their own discretion.“This is truly optional,” said Sister Cordon. “The sisters can wear dresses, they can wear slacks, whatever will help them in their service as they’re out amongst the people.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have given sister missionaries the option of wearing dress slacks in their work.In missions where sister missionaries were not previously approved to wear dress slacks, the mission provides funds for young sister missionaries who entered a missionary training center before March 1, 2019, to purchase three to four pairs of dress slacks (or long skirts, as explained above).The First Presidency updated the missionary dress and grooming guidelines for sister missionaries in a letter sent to local Church leaders dated December 20, 2018.Sister missionaries serving for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now have the option to wear pants during regular missionary activities—including during normal training activities at missionary training centers.The adjustment to dress standards, which takes effect immediately, was approved by the First Presidency and is primarily motivated by safety concerns, said Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and chairman of the Missionary Executive Council. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have given sister missionaries the option of wearing dress slacks in their work.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have given sister missionaries the option of wearing dress slacks in their work.
Describing the interview in a Church News article, Weaver, wrote, “I will never forget the way President Nelson watched as Sister Dew answered Mr. Rubin’s question. It was a look that reflected gratitude and trust for all Latter-day Saint women.”A historic momentDuring the devotional, President Nelson said he was “deeply moved by the faith of Lydia and her family” in the face of their monumental challenges.Promising “there’s much more to come” as the Church and gospel continue their restorations, President Nelson said he is looking forward to the future. But before the new year begins, here is a look back at some of the most tender moments the prophet shared with Church members around the world in 2018.As his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, said upon completing their first world tour in April, “We don’t have time for jet lag.”When an Argentine reporter, Sergio Rubin, asked President Nelson during his South America tour in October if the Church excludes women, the prophet redirected the reporter’s question by saying, “Well, you should talk to a woman about that.”When one of the children asked the prophet what to do to prepare for a mission, President Nelson responded, “Be like your daddy. Be like your mother. Home is the best MTC [missionary training center]. All others are secondary.”“We watched the 93-year-old leader reach down and pick up a child who had brushed against his leg. We watched him kneel down to another child’s level. We saw him respond to the hugs of others. The scenes became so commonplace during the tour that we almost forgot to be awed by them,” wrote Church News editor Sarah Jane Weaver after traveling with the prophet on his world tour. “Ministering to God’s children—especially His little ones—is second nature to President Nelson,” she said.Training at homeHours earlier, Ella had boldly declared that the prophet would greet her. No one could have guessed just how personal that greeting would be and how much it would mean to Ella and her family.Many Church members, including his wife, have commented on the fast-paced and energetic nature with which President Nelson has tackled his first year as President of the Church. If his own words are any indication, he won’t be slowing down anytime soon.During their visit to Chile in October, Sister Nelson spoke of the changes she has seen in her husband since he became the prophet and President of the Church. Noting his fearless focus in doing what is directed by the Lord, Sister Nelson also noted his deep sentiment for sharing the love of God with children. President Russell M. Nelson hugs children after they rushed to meet him in Asuncion, Paraguay, on Monday, October 22, 2018. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.In the two photos, children gathered around the President Nelson, smiling and excited to hold the attention of a prophet of God.Visiting with the Risso family—a family with four generations in the Church—in Uruguay near the Rio de la Plata on October 25, President Nelson picked up 3-year-old Pierina Risso before bending down to speak with some of her young cousins.After the devotional, Lydia said that meeting President Nelson was a wish fulfilled. “It is so amazing just to know the prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” she said. “It was probably the greatest experience of my life.” President Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, hold up Four Tanapumtonger after a devotional in Bangkok, Thailand, on Friday, April 20, 2018. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.President Nelson added, “It’s a luxury we can’t afford.”It’s been a busy year for President Russell M. Nelson, who in his first year as prophet-president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has traveled to 18 different countries around the world and touched the lives of millions of Latter-day Saints through his words and actions.Man on a missionGratitude, trust for women President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds Pierina Risso, 3, while meeting with her three-generation Latter-day Saint family in Montevideo, Uruguay, on Thursday, October 25, 2018. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.The prophet’s simple statement, “With your permission, I would like to speak in Spanish,” marked what is thought to be the first time a President of the Church spoke for an entire devotional address in a language other than English.Sister Nelson shared how her own knowledge of the reality of the gospel has grown in the months since her husband became prophet and how she has been touched to witness the love others have for him.“Now I can see you”On September 1, Latter-day Saints in the Dominican Republic witnessed a historic moment when President Nelson began his address at the Santo Domingo stake center with the words, “Con su permiso, quisiera hablar en español.” President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meets with area youth prior to a devotional in Lima, Peru, on October 20, 2018. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News. Primary children raise their hands at the request of President Russell M. Nelson during a devotional at the Langley Events Center in Langley, British Columbia, on Sunday, September 16, 2018. Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.She explained that children are drawn to the love that he exudes and said, “They feel very safe with him. They feel they can trust him.”On his first tour, President Nelson returned to the Holy Land and spoke to members at the BYU Jerusalem Center.As they did so, President Nelson smiled and said, “Oh yes. Now I can see you.”Drawn to the prophetA slice of a prophet’s lifeHe then turned to Sheri Dew, executive vice president of Deseret Management Corporation, the CEO of Deseret Book Company, and former Relief Society General Presidency member, and said, “Can you help with this answer about the role of women in the Church?”While following President Nelson during his South America tour in October, Deseret News photographer Jeffrey Allred captured two particular moments of President Nelson’s interactions with members that he characterized as a “slice of life” for the prophet. President Russell M. Nelson greets Juan David Vargas Saavedra, left, and Joseph Daniel Vargas Saavedra at the Hyde Park Visitors’ Center in London, England, on Thursday, April 12, 2018. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.The story behind the photo President Russell M. Nelson enjoys a lighthearted moment with a baby girl following a September 1, 2018, member devotional in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Photo courtesy of the Caribbean Area.Following his address, as he was making his way up the steps of the center’s auditorium, a young girl, Ella Bautista, caught the eye of President Nelson. He made his way toward her through the aisle. When he reached her, he bent down, placed his hands tenderly on the back of her head, and looked into her eyes.With an unrestrained smile, Lydia stood as President Nelson shared her story.A video of the interview shows President Nelson smiling as he said, “Wait until next year. Eat your vitamin pills. Get your rest. It’s going to be exciting.”Power in brief scenesDuring the First Presidency Christmas Devotional on December 2, President Nelson asked a young girl from the audience, Lydia Terry, to stand with her parents.Hoping to see them better, he asked the children to stand on their chairs, raise their arms high, and wave to him.Members in attendance remarked it was something they would never forget and a true blessing to hear the prophet of the Lord address them in their native language. President Russell M. Nelson speaks with Ella Bautista after the Jerusalem District Conference at the BYU Jerusalem Center on Saturday, April 14, 2018. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“We will never forget this moment and this day,” said Ella’s father, John Rey.But despite his busy travel schedule, President Nelson has never failed to take time to minister to individuals and share the love of Christ with everyone he encounters.For those traveling with the Nelsons to eight different cities on three continents in 11 days, one thing was clear: President Nelson loves the children of the Lord.When President Nelson spoke to an audience in Langley, British Columbia, he strained to see the small Primary children among the 4,600 Latter-day Saints in attendance on Sunday, September 16.“There’s much more to come,” President Nelson said when asked what is next for the future of the Church in an interview in October.A Christmas wish Stephen Terry, left, Lydia Terry, 12, and Kellie Terry stand up and are recognized during President Russell M. Nelson’s address during the First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, December 2, 2018. Lydia, of Bountiful, Utah, suffers from a rare, aggressive form of brain cancer. Photo by Qiling Wang, Deseret News.Suffering from a rare form of brain cancer, Lydia got her wish to meet President Nelson a few weeks prior to the devotional. Together, they had a heart-to-heart conversation as he answered her questions about the purpose of life.
The 2019 event will also feature a new addition as RootsTech goes international, with a second conference scheduled for October in London, England.Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, will be the featured speakers at the popular Family Discovery Day for the upcoming RootsTech 2019 conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.In addition to the Bednars’ remarks, Family Discovery Day 2019 will offer opportunities for attendees to experience the interactive expo hall and attend classes centered on how to find and prepare family names for temple ordinance work.Those unable to attend the event can watch Elder and Sister Bednar’s remarks and other select presentations streamed live on the LDS.org home page at 9:30 a.m. MST on March 2. Elder David A. Bednar and Sister Susan Bednar pose for a photo at the Star Valley Wyoming Temple in Afton, Wyoming, on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.View online streamRegistration is required to attend Family Discovery Day and the weeklong RootsTech conference. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, share a laugh as they attend the campus devotional in the Marriott Center at BYU in Provo on Tuesday, December 4, 2018. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.They will speak Saturday, March 2, at the free, one-day event geared specifically toward families and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.RootsTech 2019 is scheduled to run from February 27 through March 2 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City. Additional guest keynote speakers include actress Patricia Heaton—best known for her role on the TV series Everybody Loves Raymond—and ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro. Elder David A. Bednar and his wife, Sister Susan Kae Bednar, exit following the morning session of the 184th Semiannual General Conference Sunday, October 5, 2014, at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.Last year’s RootsTech Family Discovery Day featured speakers were Elder Dallin H. Oaks, then of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and his wife, Sister Kristen Oaks. (See related story.)Sharing from “a wealth of knowledge and family history experiences,” Elder and Sister Bednar’s message will help audiences make new connections to family history, according to the December 17 RootsTech announcement.
In Los Angeles she landed prominent acting roles, married David Hunt, and raised their family. She now believes that motherhood, and all the responsibility that came with it, only made her a better actress.Heaton’s is a remarkable story of perseverance and ultimate success. With 18 successful sitcom seasons playing a wife and mother and many more seasons as an actual one, she has much to share about family and values. Join us at RootsTech 2019 to hear from one of the most recognized and beloved actresses in television. Learn more or register at RootsTech.“We’re thrilled to welcome Patricia to RootsTech,” said Jen Allen, event director. “Not only is she a celebrated actress who has personified the iconic American mother on television, but she’s also a wife and mother of four boys who understands and cherishes the role of family. Her message of faith, family, and supporting one another will resonate with the RootsTech audience.”Heaton was born and raised in Bay Village, Ohio. She was the fourth of five children and spent much of her youth dreaming of musical theater. As a child she and her friends would memorize songs from popular musicals and act out the plays together at nearby parks. She has always had a lovely singing voice and as a child enjoyed being the center of attention.Although Heaton has played many roles throughout her career, she is celebrated for her relatable and funny representation of what being a typical American wife and mother looks and feels like. If anyone knows personally and understands the crazy and sometimes complicated ins and outs of family life, it’s Heaton. As a wife for nearly three decades and a mother of four grown sons in real life, Heaton has had plenty of personal experience fueling her success in her iconic motherly roles.Heaton is also an author of two books. Her most recent, a recipe book, is Patricia Heaton’s Food for Family and Friends: 100 Favorite Recipes for a Busy, Happy Life, and her humorous collection of essays about life and family, published in 2003, is Motherhood and Hollywood: How to Get a Job Like Mine.
Actress Patricia Heaton, best known for her roles in Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle, will be a keynote speaker at RootsTech 2019.Raised in a devout Catholic family, Heaton grew up saying grace, saying prayers, and attending weekly Mass. Her father, Chuck Heaton, was a bit of a local celebrity, a respected sports writer that covered the Browns and other Cleveland teams for over 50 years. Heaton’s mother, also named Patricia, died unexpectedly at the age of 46 from a brain aneurysm when Heaton was just 12 years old. The loss was devastating, but in time Heaton found that participating in theater and singing ebbed the pain. She believes that although the loss of her mother was extremely difficult, it instilled in her an independence that has served her well in life and in her career.Heaton attended Ohio State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in theater. Shortly thereafter she moved to New York to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. After nine challenging years filled with acting classes, a number of small roles, and multiple odd jobs, she was ready for a fresh start and moved across the country to Los Angeles.RootsTech is delighted to announce that actress Patricia Heaton will keynote at the conference on Thursday, February 28, 2019, in Salt Lake City. Heaton is best known for her role as Deborah Barone on the hit sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond (1996–2005) and more recently as Frankie Heck on The Middle (2009–2018).
The Clanton Branch members felt truly blessed to be participating in the event. Somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 cards were given out, and the religious message and beauty of the float drew numerous accolades from parade-goers. Several people commented how grateful they were that the parade finally had a float depicting the true meaning of the reason for the parade. Even small children were heard exclaiming as the float came into view, “Look, it’s baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!”Members of the Clanton Branch, Montgomery Alabama Stake, recently wanted to help people in their area understand that the focus of the Church is on Jesus Christ. The #LightTheWorld message is displayed on the Clanton Branch’s parade float on December 7. Photo courtesy of Wayne Turnbow.The missionaries and the branch president walked beside the float handing out #LightTheWorld pass-along cards to people along the parade route. The many other parade entries featured themes such as Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Santa’s workshop, and “Christmas on the islands,” but the Clanton Branch’s float was the only one with a nativity and Christ-centered theme. The live nativity scene exemplified the committee’s original design concept of “simply beautiful and beautifully simple.” Because no one in their branch had experience with parade float construction, Clanton Branch members learned to put their float together through trial and error. Photo courtesy of Wayne Turnbow.Though their branch has existed for over 40 years, few people in the nearby Bible Belt community seemed to know such a congregation existed or that the Church’s main focus is on Jesus Christ. So branch members decided to raise awareness by entering a float in Clanton’s annual Christmas parade—and despite several setbacks, their float had an even bigger impact than they’d imagined. Caleb and Brittany Gray prepare to play Joseph and Mary in a live nativity as Mary Alan Phillips and Pam Ellmore make final arrangements for the parade on December 7. Photo courtesy of Wayne Turnbow.
Sister Skylar Clifford, Sister Megan Lyon, and Sister Kaylee Holtry distribute pass-along cards along the parade route on December 7. Photo courtesy of Wayne Turnbow.
Papier-mâché animals adorn a parade float in front of Caleb and Brittany Gray, playing Joseph and Mary, on December 7. Photo courtesy of Wayne Turnbow.With the Church’s #LightTheWorld intiative in mind, the branch’s committee met several weeks ahead of the parade to discuss ideas for the float’s design, and one theme emerged overall—“simply beautiful and beautifully simple.” A nativity scene was selected to be the focus of the float.CLANTON, ALBAMAMost of the branch members came together to assist with the float’s construction, which was necessary, as the Clanton Branch is a small one. Each member contributed in his or her own way. The children of one member who owns a printing company made decorative banners at no charge; another member supplied plywood, one had chicken wire, one had a trailer, and—perhaps most important for creating a stable scene—one member knew how to build papier-mâché animals. The full-time missionaries even brought a nonmember who wanted to help. The construction took many hours and a few do-overs, as this was the first float the branch had ever made, but the float was finally parade-ready.On December 7, 2018, the night of the Clanton parade, it began sprinkling before the parade began. Members worried that the evening would be like those of the other two Christmas parades that branch members had planned on participating in—both of which had been cancelled due to inclement weather. So the members offered many prayers asking that the rain be stopped so they could share the message of the gospel and their hard work wouldn’t go to waste. Soon after, the rain completely stopped, and the parade began.