Not long ago, a man ran into an old high school friend, one he had not seen for many decades. He remembered his classmate as a reckless teenager, but he was now well into his 60s, and he was noticeably different: certainly more responsible and mature, but also kinder and more caring. What a pleasure it was to get reacquainted with this new version of his long-lost friend. He couldn’t help but ponder what experiences must have influenced him over those many years. What heartache and happiness, what successes and sorrows had shaped him and made him into the person he had become?Life is all about growth. Our physical growth is most obvious, but we also grow in other ways that are more meaningful. And yet we sometimes struggle to let other people grow too. For some reason, we hold fast to our first impressions of them. It’s as if we have already written their life stories—in permanent ink! Maybe it’s our way of simplifying our complex world. But can’t people change? If someone was wild and wayward years ago, can he mature and straighten out his life? If someone was careless and conceited in the past, can her heart be humbled and softened?Tuning inThe program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at musicandthespokenword.org.So the next time you meet someone you haven’t seen in a while—or even someone you see every day—open your heart to a new narrative, a new memory in the making. Allow others, and yourself, to become the people we were meant to become.Editor's note: The “spoken word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square broadcast. The following was given January 13, 2019.The Music and the Spoken Word broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL Radio 1160 AM/102.7 FM, ksl.com, KSL X-stream, BYU-TV, BYU Radio, BYU-TV International, CBS Radio Network, Dish Network, DirecTV, SiriusXM Radio (Channel 143), and on the Tabernacle Choir’s website and YouTube channel.Then he had a more sobering thought: Have I changed too? How have my experiences shaped and molded me? Do my friends see in me a gentler, more compassionate person? Or do they see the same immature youth I once was?We had better hope the answer is yes, because each of us has something to change. And if we hope others will allow us to grow and improve, we must allow them to do the same. Life is not about holding on tightly to what we’re familiar with, to what we think we know. It’s about learning and progressing and becoming better versions of ourselves with every passing day.
“We talked about the water going directly between the symbol and the source,” she said after a tour of the temple and visitors’ center and its statues. “The water flows from the temple because it’s higher here, but it goes to the source [Jesus Christ] and there is this kind of a circular movement between them.” (See related story.) Elder Ronald A. Rasband, center, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles poses with officials from the Church of Our Lady in Denmark, which is home to the original Christus statue, after giving them a tour at the Rome Temple Visitors’ Center and gifts of Christus figurines in Rome on Wednesday, January 16, 2019. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.“The way the square is built reminds me of an ancient Roman forum,” he said. “This is not just an American church planting a flag here in Rome. This feels Italian. It’s the perfect blend of excellence and culture. It was built with consideration and love for the people of Italy to help us feel it’s ours now.”Valentiner said the difficulty makes it likely the Rome Temple will be one of a kind.Italian media left the news conference on January 14 and lit up social media with photos of the temple and visitors’ center. The following day, the newspapers were full of stories about what in Italian is called the Tempio di Roma.“It was not easy,” he said. “It probably will never be done again. It’s complicated to build. But I think the beauty of the temple is being appreciated and recognized.”“So the temple is spectacular in every way. … Not all the temples have visitors’ centers, so this is a very special place that we’re in right here. And I hope that the members and the missionaries bring their family and their friends and teach the gospel of Christ right here in this visitors’ center.”“Now the members of the Church here will be happy and proud to take their relatives and friends to this compound and show them the temple and visitors’ center,” he added.That’s a feeling all Church members can share, said Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.Finally, the visitors’ center includes a stained-glass representation of 40 of Christ’s parables.ROME, ITALYThe fact that the water flows from the house of the Lord to the Christus statue was a striking symbol of the living water of Jesus Christ to Susanne Torgard, who is the curator of the Church of Our Lady Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark—the church home to the original Christus statue.“We kept coming back to this oval design, which is really seen by many as an expression of Italian baroque architecture,” he said. “It takes from Italy an architectural statement and brings it into the temple.” The cornerstone of the Rome Italy Temple, to be dedicated in March 2019, in Rome, Italy, is shown in the foreground with the piazza in the background on Friday, November 16, 2018. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.“I just sat here for about an hour yesterday, trying to look at every one of the parables that I could figure out that were shown in this art glass,” Elder Rasband said. “On the other side of it is the magnificent Christus statue and the 12 Apostles that are shown there. I’m going back to when I was a mission president, but I’m thinking if I had missionaries in the Rome Italy Mission, I would surely want them to be bringing people who are interested in the gospel to this visitors’ center and to show them the beautiful cutout of the temple that’s over there and this diorama and just study it and look and bear testimony in front of the Christus statue.”President Cordani’s sensation was exactly what the architect had in mind. Niels Valentiner came to the project with a clear concept in mind for the vast site, which at 15 acres is 50 percent larger than Temple Square in Salt Lake City.“Now they have this exquisite, beautiful, magnificent temple that will be a destination temple, not just for the Italian Saints but European Saints,” he said. “Saints throughout the world are going to come to the Rome Italy Temple.”They will find a temple that combines contemporary Italian architecture with the local past, Valentiner said.The square sits on the site of an old farm that was covered in olive trees and Roman umbrella pines. The pines are protected, and they remain where they were, flanking the temple on both sides. Dozens of olive trees have been transplanted around the site strategically, and four olive trees ranging in age from 400 to 500 years were brought in from northern Italy as symbolic accents in the piazza.“Our city is well-known for its Renaissance and baroque styles,” he said. “This is a very nice modern architecture which will add to our city.” Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gestures as he speaks with officials from the Church of Our Lady in Denmark, which is home to the original Christus statue, after giving them a tour of the Rome Italy Temple and visitors’ center on Wednesday, January 16, 2019. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.“This is like a beacon,” he added. “This specific room attracts you. You want to be at the Savior’s feet. In our Catholic tradition, people go up and touch statues. I understand that tradition now. It’s powerful. It reminds you for whom the temple is built.” One of four trees that are 400 to 500 years old on the grounds of the Rome Italy Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Tuesday, January 15, 2019. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.“I have a sensation that is hard to describe,” President Cordani said as he stood in front of the statues in the glowing rotunda after dark. “It feels like we are entering a new phase in this country. This light will not just shine on this square. It will spread throughout the country.”A piazza—the Italian word means square or courtyard—is regularly surrounded by buildings and includes fountains, gardens, and trees.“With the fountains, the structures, and the greenery, this is a magnificent place people will flow to,” President Cordani predicted. “I can imagine spending hours here with friends.”“We knew we wanted to connect [the temple to Italy], and one of the most important things that was very clear in the beginning was that we really wanted to make sure that we created the concept of an Italian piazza,” said Valentiner, president of VCBO Architecture.“I see a bright future for the Church.”The center is the perfect complement to the temple, said President Cordani, who was at the temple for training to host VIP tours before the public open house. He drove more than five hours south from Piacenza in northern Italy to Rome.The president of Rome’s city council, Marcello De Vito, praised the square at a news conference.The temple’s square includes more significant details. A fountain flows down the steps that cover a slight incline from the temple down to the visitors’ center on the opposite end of the piazza.Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles agreed.To his left as he first left the meetinghouse was the granite temple, uniquely oval and regally tall at three stories. Directly ahead, across a plaza of marble, fountains, flowers, and olive trees, was the patrons’ housing. And to his right was a visitors’ center with a two-story rotunda that, when lit up at night, becomes a jaw-dropping display case for the Carrara marble statues of Bertel Thorvaldsen’s Christus and 12 ancient Apostles from Peter to Paul.Visitors to the Rome Italy Temple open house that runs through February 16 will see the front of the uniquely oval building for the first time the way President Andrea Cordani of the Verona Italy Stake did earlier this month, by walking out of the adjacent meetinghouse and into a square.Most of his stake is coming to the open house. They have rented buses and arranged for cars and rented camping sites.“Now we will be even more visible, and we will have a stronger presence here,” said Elder Massimo De Feo, a native Italian and General Authority Seventy who serves in the Europe Area Presidency. “We better do the right things, and we will.Already, Elder De Feo said, the Church is growing in Italy, which he called a miracle.“The temple is a place of spiritual power,” Elder Bednar added. “And that power blesses not only Latter-day Saints, but it extends into the neighborhood and into the community. If you take, for example, the temple in Accra, Ghana: I visited there the first time in 2005, and there wasn’t much there other than the temple, a stake center, and the area offices. To see how that surrounding community has been blessed and prospered in the years since then is stunning. So, I think the spiritual power that emanates from the house of the Lord, it’s not the building. The building is nice, but it’s the power of the ordinances and the covenants. And when you have Latter-day Saints striving to honor those covenants, who come here to be reminded to renew, to remember, that can’t help but bless the entire community, even the entire nation.”
Niels Valentiner, architect of the Rome Italy Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, poses for a photo on Tuesday, January 15, 2019. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.“If you want to try a difficult construction project, build something the shape of an oval,” he said. “Many of these interior walls are the shape of an oval. That piece of furniture looks like it’s sitting flat against the wall, but if you go look at it carefully, it’s custom made in the shape of the wall. So it’s actually curved on the back of it to fit against the curved wall.”The view initially overwhelmed President Cordani, who first saw it during daylight. Later, lit up after nightfall, it stole his breath.“We have Salt Lake Temple Square. Now maybe we have Rome Temple Square.”“We had the four buildings,” Valentiner said. “They made it so obvious that we could create a piazza that I think is felt by all as being very Italian. We knew that was an important feature for us if we were going to create what we think of now as the Rome Temple Square.”Elder Larry Y. Wilson, Executive Director of the Temple Department and a General Authority Seventy, discussed the challenge of building an oval temple with one tour of international academics.“Anywhere a temple is announced and constructed and dedicated blesses the people; it brings a power to that place,” he said. “It’s the power of the ordinances, the power of the covenants, the power of the light that emanates from the temple, and that blessing occurs everywhere.”“It will be farther for some Church members than the Bern Switzerland Temple, but it’s an Italian temple,” he said. “It feels like ours.”
When signed into the FamilySearch Tree app, users can find relatives standing within approximately 100 feet of each other. Photo courtesy of FamilySearch.One of the two more popular features is called “Relatives Around Me.” When a group of people log into the app, they hit the “scan” button and see how they are related to others within a 100-foot radius.“Everyone could use a bit of heaven’s help,” Miles said.In recent years the FamilySearch Tree mobile app has become a nifty way for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to learn about ancestors as well as find and prepare names to take to the temple.For the past year, the 42-year-old wife and mother of four has opened the app on her smartphone whenever she has time—waiting for kids in the carpool line at school, showing Relief Society sisters how to use one of the features, and when interacting with her children during fun family home evening activities.The app has also allowed nonmember users to build, view, preserve, and share family history stories, as well as complete short and simple tasks, thanks to its handy access and convenient usage, said Todd Powell, a FamilySearch senior product manager and mobile apps experience manager.
The FamilySearch Tree app’s most popular features include viewing ancestors and relatives around me. New additions will be coming in 2019. Graphic by Aaron Thorup.Then there’s the main feature people like to use, Powell said, which for Miles is her “absolute most favorite” feature on the FamilySearch Tree app. It’s called “Tasks,” a check-mark symbol at the bottom of the screen. This feature allows users to view new ancestor hints or prepare ancestral ordinances for the temple.“It stayed with me … and I knew it would be OK,” Smedley said. “I had a profound sense of not being alone. I think that’s why people love the temple and doing family history work, because it deepens and builds your family connections. It builds love, and you feel less alone.”Since its launch in July 2014, more than 4 million users have downloaded the free FamilySearch Tree mobile app. It averages 700,000 monthly users, most of which fall in the 20–45 age range. The mobile app can also do 90 percent of the functions a user can find using the web on a desktop or laptop computer, according to FamilySearch.Engaging the app also helped Miles to find comfort and healing when her husband suffered a brain aneurysm.“The experience really lends itself to the mobile app and allows you to do it [find and prepare names] quickly,” Smedley said. “We hope this becomes the norm for members.”This turned out to be an exciting activity for Garland, Utah, resident Carla Jeppesen and others at a recent Relief Society activity. She joked that it would be fun to try at stake conference, although the Wi-Fi would likely crash.
FamilySearch Tree app users are most likely to be between 20 and 45 years old and female. Graphic by Aaron Thorup.Amy Miles could talk for hours about how the FamilySearch Tree mobile app has enriched her life.With much of her ancestors’ temple work already done, Miles started becoming familiar with her family lines by attaching documents, like a birth or death certificate. Much to her delight, in the process of doing this, Miles discovered more than 300 family names needing temple ordinances, she said.“It’s allowing people to engage in family history when they have just a couple of minutes, on the go,” Powell said. “It’s the relative ease and availability of having the app with them at any time they want.”“I think the app brings people to family history who otherwise wouldn’t have come to family history,” said Wendy Smedley, FamilySearch marketing manager. “You can do many of the same things on the mobile app as you can on a desktop computer or laptop. The app feels less intimidating. It’s a simplified experience. It’s intended for people who want to do something quickly.”FamilySearch is planning some additional app developments for 2019, including simpler ways to review and attach sources and new discovery features that designers hope will enhance the overall user experience. Users can expect to learn more about new app developments while attending RootsTech, February 27 through March 2, in Salt Lake City.A third feature is “Map My Ancestors.” Using GPS technology, users can log in and access a map to discover where ancestors lived and died, including cemeteries where they are buried, depending on their location.“I had not done any family history previous to this. … It’s brought a peace into my life that never would have been there otherwise,” Miles said. “I feel like it’s a miracle and such a blessing to be alive during this age. Yes, there are things that are scary. But Heavenly Father has accounted for that. He’s given us tools that are actually stronger than what the adversary can throw at us. We just need to use them. This is definitely one of those tools. I feel it’s underutilized.”Miles “dove into family history work” after her husband was diagnosed with what she described as a “complex” brain aneurysm. In performing this sacred work she felt the power of words spoken by Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in April 2018: “Family history and temple work provided the power to heal that which needed healing” (“Family History and Temple Work: Sealing and Healing”).Smedley felt the same heavenly support while facing a difficult personal struggle. At a time when she felt particularly alone and isolated, Smedley was using the tree app and found an ancestor who had experienced the very same challenge. The discovery forged a strong spiritual bond that has helped her to keep going, she said.“It was a really neat experience for us,” Powell said.A second popular feature is “Ordinances Ready,” which makes it simple for Latter-day Saints to find and prepare an ancestor’s name for a trip to the temple.“It was fun to see who was related. Granted, they were eighth and ninth cousins, but it was still fun to see the connection. It gets you to go one step further and start looking in your family tree,” Jeppesen said. “One sister said she was a convert and didn’t have any relations. She was a little discouraged. We helped her do it and she found a couple of people that were related. She was excited.”On a road trip to Arizona last summer, Powell used this app feature to locate the burial spots of a great-great-grandfather and children who were great-aunts and uncles, he said.
The FamilySearch Tree app is free and most used in the United States, Brazil, and Mexico. Graphic by Aaron Thorup.With the app, there’s what people like to do and there’s what’s popular, Powell said.
T. Trevor and Jamie L. BellBrother Auna is an Area Seventy and a former stake president, stake presidency counselor, high councilor, bishop, bishopric counselor, and missionary in the Taiwan Taipei Mission. He was born in Hilo, Hawaii, to Aley Kahaawi Auna and Faye Portia Kekauluohi Morse Auna.Brother Piros is a stake president and a former stake executive secretary, bishop, bishopric counselor, elders quorum president, and missionary in the Brazil Manaus Mission. He was born in São Paulo, Brazil, to Romeo Antonio Piros and Ilza Maria Alves Piros.Sister Droubay is a former ward Relief Society and Young Women president, ward Relief Society presidency counselor, Young Women adviser, and ward Young Women camp director. She was born in Logan, Utah, to Russell Kay Port and Glenda Floy Palmer Port.Brazil Santos MissionNigeria Owerri Mission
Emmanuel Rodantes and Anabelle Abraham
Scott M. and Marcia A. StanfordSister Harman is a ward Primary teacher and a former stake Young Women presidency counselor and ward Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary president. She was born in Schenectady, New York, to Boyd Clark Brinton and Lota Ve Brinton.Brother Oldroyd serves in the BYU China Teachers Program and is a former stake presidency counselor, ward Young Men president, bishop, high councilor, Gospel Doctrine teacher, and missionary in the California Arcadia Mission. He was born in Salt Lake City to Ferris A. Oldroyd and Donna Vy Robison Oldroyd.Mongolia Ulaanbaatar MissionBrother Chapman is a Sunday School teacher and a former stake presidency counselor, stake Sunday School president, bishop, Primary teacher, and missionary in the West Virginia Charleston Mission. He was born in Provo, Utah, to Terrance Oliver Chapman and Linda Burnham Chapman.Texas Fort Worth MissionWeldon J. Reeves, 55, and Kathryn N. Reeves, four children, Clear Lake 1st Ward, League City Texas Stake: California Carlsbad Mission, succeeding President Glen B. Thomas and Sister Kim W. Thomas. Jeffery G. Chapman, 55, and Kristi Ann Chapman, five children, Salem 2nd Ward, Rexburg Idaho Henry’s Fork Stake: Texas Fort Worth Mission, succeeding President Darrell G. Whitney and Sister Sally A. Whitney. Sister Silas is a ward Primary and seminary teacher and a former stake Primary president; ward Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary president; and temple ordinance worker. She was born in Ikom Town, Cross River State, Nigeria, to Okon Emmanuel Anwakang and Euginia Egama Otie.
Bradly and Christy OldroydBrother Droubay is a former stake presidency counselor, bishop, bishopric counselor, ward Young Men and elders quorum president, and missionary in the New Hampshire Manchester Mission. He was born in Provo, Utah, to Wendell Paul Droubay and Kathleen Nielson Droubay.Sister Bell is a Relief Society compassionate service coordinator and a former Young Women adviser and Primary teacher. She was born in Nampa, Idaho, to Paul Sigmund Olson and Susan Olson.California Bakersfield MissionHonduras San Pedro Sula East MissionSister Chapman is a Sunday School teacher and a former stake Young Women president, stake Relief Society secretary, ward Relief Society and Primary president, ward Relief Society presidency counselor, and missionary in the West Virginia Charleston Mission. She was born in Salt Lake City to Edward Fraughton and Ann Stevenson.Brother Reeves is a former stake president, stake presidency counselor, ward Young Men president and counselor, seminary teacher, bishop, and missionary in the Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Mission. He was born in Redwood City, California, to Donald Lawrence Reeves and Lucinda Payne Reeves.Sister Abraham is a Relief Society teacher and a former ward Relief Society presidency counselor, ward Young Women president, and seminary teacher. She was born in San Jose City Nueva Ecija, Philippines, to Mariano Cruz Agustin Jr. and Aurora Reyes Domingo Agustin.
Chimka and A. David Hansen
Shirley A. and Brad W. KirkSister Oldroyd serves in the BYU China Teachers Program and is a former stake Young Women presidency counselor; ward Relief Society and Young Women president; ward Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary presidency counselor; Young Women adviser; and activity days leader. She was born in Logan, Utah, to Sterling John Jardine and Annette Lott Jardine.Paul M. Harman, 62, and Sue Harman, three children, Toll Canyon Ward, Park City Utah Stake: Brazil Santos Mission, succeeding President Carlos S. Obata and Sister Janete Obata. Brother Sandberg is a stake Young Men president and a former stake president, stake presidency counselor, stake executive secretary, ward Young Men president, bishopric counselor, and missionary in the Chile Antofagasta Mission. He was born in Provo, Utah, to Gilbert Ivar Sandberg and Michelle Hatch.Ntiedo Moses Silas, 40, and Gladys Emmanuel Silas, two children, Ediba Ward, Calabar Nigeria Stake: Nigeria Owerri Mission, succeeding President Solomon I. Aliche and Sister Victoria Aliche. Sister Sandberg is a ward Young Women secretary and a former stake Primary presidency counselor, ward Primary president, and ward Young Women and Primary presidency counselor. She was born in Summit, New Jersey, to Michael Marcello Jannelli and Elaine Armstrong.
Jonathan G. and Sharon Jannelli SandbergD. Greg Droubay, 49, and Kimberly Droubay, three children, Spring Creek 2nd Ward, Springville Utah Spring Creek South Stake: Virginia Richmond Mission, succeeding President Corey B. Smith and Sister Cynthia S. Smith. Sister Kirk is a ward Relief Society secretary and a former stake Young Women president, ward Young Women president, ward Primary president, Young Women adviser, Gospel Doctrine teacher, and seminary teacher. She was born in Ridgecrest, California, to Lloyd Pittmon and Jo Marie Durell Pittmon.Bradly A Oldroyd, 60, and Christy Oldroyd, five children, Oakridge Ward, Farmington Utah Oakridge Stake: Philippines Baguio Mission, succeeding President Dominic B. Bangal and Sister Edeline P. Bangal. Sister Piros is a Sunday School teacher and a former stake public affairs director; ward Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary president; young single adult adviser; and ward missionary. She was born in São Paulo, Brazil, to João Generoso Filho and Ilca Reis Generoso.Missouri St. Louis Mission
Weldon and Kathryn ReevesSister Reeves is a former stake Young Women presidency counselor, ward Relief Society president, institute instructor, seminary teacher, stake music chairman, and Relief Society teacher. She was born in Salt Lake City to Talmage Whiting Nielsen and Dorothy Levie Nielsen.Brazil Goiânia Mission
Eduardo R. and Ana Maria MoraBrother Kirk is a ward mission leader and a former stake executive secretary, bishop, high councilor, elders quorum president, ward clerk, and missionary in the Philippines Manila Mission. He was born in Houston, Texas, to Lyle William Kirk and Marjorie Ann Morf Kirk.Philippines Legazpi MissionEduardo R. Mora Villalobos, 46, and Ana Maria Segura de Mora, three children, Gravilias Ward, San Jose Costa Rica La Paz Stake: Honduras San Pedro Sula East Mission, succeeding President Rex T. Carlisle Jr. and Sister Susan Carlisle. Sister Hansen is a ward Primary secretary and a former ward Relief Society presidency counselor, ward Young Women secretary, ward Relief Society teacher, seminary teacher, and missionary in the Utah Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission. She was born in Batsumber, Tuv Aimag, Mongolia, and raised in Altanbulag, Tuv Aimag, Mongolia, to A. Dashzeveg and B. Nansalmaa.Brother Silas is a bishop and a former mission presidency counselor, bishopric counselor, high councilor, district president, district presidency counselor, and missionary in the Nigeria Lagos Mission. He was born in Akamkpa, Cross River State, Nigeria, to Moses Silas Nkan and Ikwo Philip Mkpat.Brother Mora is a stake president and a former stake presidency counselor, bishop, high councilor, ward Young Men president, seminary teacher, and missionary in the El Salvador San Salvador Mission. He was born in San Jose, Costa Rica, to Eduardo Mora González and Froilana Villalobos Méndez.Daniel M. Piros, 46, and Suzana C. G. Piros, four children, Bosque Ward, São Paulo Brazil South Stake: Brazil Goiânia Mission, succeeding President Francisco Bührer and Sister Sandra Bührer. Emmanuel Rodantes Gerdan Abraham, 53, and Anabelle Domingo Agustin Abraham, three children, San Jose 2nd Ward, San Jose Nueva Ecija Philippines Stake: Philippines Legazpi Mission, succeeding President Dale K. Kotter and Sister Lori Jan Kotter.
Jeffery G. and Kristi Ann ChapmanSister Walker is a Primary music leader and a former stake Young Women presidency counselor, ward Young Women and Primary president, ward Relief Society secretary, ward Young Women presidency counselor, and Gospel Doctrine teacher. She was born in Salt Lake City to Lewis Vernal Nord and Jo Ann Marie Thayne Nord.Sister Stanford is a Sunday School teacher and a former stake music chairman, ward Relief Society president, stake Primary presidency counselor, and ward Primary presidency counselor. She was born in Bountiful, Utah, to LeGrande Allen and Marva Genevieve Stevens Allen.Brother Harman is a high councilor and a former mission presidency counselor, stake presidency counselor, bishop, branch president, and missionary in the Brazil São Paulo North Mission. He was born in Tacoma, Washington, to Bobby Merrill Harman and Twila Doone Ivie Harman.Aley K. Auna Jr., 64, and Danelle L. Y. Auna, six children, Kona 2nd Ward, Kona Hawaii Stake: Washington Everett Mission, succeeding President Michael S. Wilding and Sister LeAnn F. Wilding.
Daniel M. and Suzana C. G. PirosPhilippines Naga Mission
Robert B. and Joni N. WalkerBrad W. Kirk, 60, and Shirley A. Kirk, three children, Dakota Ward, Fresno California East Stake: Philippines Naga Mission, succeeding President Tomasito S. Zapanta and Sister Marivic M. Zapanta. Brother Hansen is a bishopric counselor and a former stake clerk, elders quorum president, Young Men adviser, and missionary in the Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission. He was born in American Fork, Utah, to John LeRoy Hansen and Sandra Jane Saari.
Aley K. and Danelle L. Y. AunaSister Auna is a ward Primary presidency counselor and temple ordinance worker and a former stake Young Women president, ward Relief Society and Primary president, ward Young Women presidency counselor, seminary teacher, Primary teacher, and missionary in the Oklahoma Tulsa Mission. She was born in Hilo, Hawaii, to Leo Calabio and Florence Kaleilani’onamoku Calabio.
D. Greg and Kimberly DroubayBrother Bell is an executive secretary for the Utah Ogden Mission and a former stake president, bishop, bishopric counselor, elders quorum presidency counselor, ward Young Men president, and missionary in the England Birmingham Mission. He was born in Pocatello, Idaho, to Ted Wayne Bell and Robyn Sue Bell.Robert B. Walker, 55, and Joni N. Walker, four children, Mueller Park 10th Ward, Bountiful Utah Mueller Park Stake: Hawaii Honolulu Mission, succeeding President James H. Bekker and Sister Delsie A. Bekker. California Carlsbad MissionBrother Stanford is a Sunday School teacher and a former stake presidency counselor, stake mission president, bishop, bishopric counselor, ward mission leader, and missionary in the Chile Viña del Mar Mission. He was born in Provo, Utah, to Ralph Chadwick Stanford and Shirley Yvonne Firth Stanford.The following new mission presidents and their wives have been called by the First Presidency. They will begin their service in July of 2019. Biographies of other mission presidency couples will be published throughout 2019 on news.lds.org. Find other published biographies.Hawaii Honolulu Mission
Paul M. and Sue HarmanJonathan G. Sandberg, 48, and Sharon Jannelli Sandberg, four children, Lindon 1st Ward, Lindon Central Utah Stake: California Bakersfield Mission, succeeding President Tim W. Layton and Sister Nancy S. Layton.
Ntiedo Moses and Gladys Emmanuel SilasSister Mora is an institute teacher and a former stake Relief Society presidency counselor, ward Young Women president, ward Primary president, and seminary teacher. She was born in San Isidro del General, Costa Rica, to Marjorie Segura Navarro.T. Trevor Bell, 45, and Jamie L. Bell, five children, Wilson 4th Ward, Ogden Utah West Stake: Missouri St. Louis Mission, succeeding President Michael J. Bateman and Sister Cheryl M. Bateman. A. David Hansen, 41, and Chimka Chimeddulam Hansen, four children, Alpine Cove Ward, Alpine Utah North Stake: Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission, succeeding President Jeffrey C. Harper and Sister Kim E. Harper. Scott M. Stanford, 59, and Marcia A. Stanford, four children, Northridge 2nd Ward, Orem Utah Northridge Stake: Bolivia Santa Cruz Mission, succeeding President Luis Rodríguez Serrano and Sister María Consuelo Abellan de Rodríguez. Bolivia Santa Cruz MissionWashington Everett MissionBrother Walker is a former stake presidency counselor, bishop, bishopric counselor, elders quorum president, ward executive secretary, ward Young Men president, and missionary in the Switzerland Geneva Mission. He was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, to Robert Harris Walker and Barbara Amussen Benson Walker.Brother Abraham is a Sunday School teacher and a former stake president, bishop, high councilor, bishopric counselor, and missionary in the Philippines Davao and Micronesia Guam Missions. He was born in Lucena City, Quezon Province, Philippines, to Emerson Bedoya Abraham and Pacita Ablan Gerdan Abraham.Virginia Richmond MissionPhilippines Baguio Mission
Lindsay and Christine Dil have a long list of Church service in and around Auckland, New Zealand—he as a bishop, stake president, and Area Seventy; she in numerous stake and ward auxiliary callings; and together as Pacific Area Church history advisers and three years leading the Ghana Cape Coast Mission.With presenters almost outnumbering attendees, all MEC members except Elders Andersen and Soares led training sessions, joined by Elder S. Gifford Nielsen—one of the half-dozen General Authority Seventies who double as Missionary Department assistant executive directors—and other directors and managers from within the department.One of the new presidents said, “The best thing you did was having the MTC director sitting beside me because it gives us so much confidence,” said Elder Brent H. Nielson, a General Authority Seventy and the Missionary Department’s Executive Director. “We know this person knows what’s going on, and they can help us when we get there.”And President Timothy M. Olson of the Mexico Missionary Training Center anticipated having a familiar face in a new place after attending with MTC manager Nicolás Casteñeda.“A friend that you know”She expressed gratitude “for two very stressed-out missionaries who, when I was 2 or 3 years old, knocked on one more door on a rainy night.” The pair felt prompted to try one more home after unsuccessfully stopping at more than 150 others; the elders were invited in by her father, leading her family to join the Church.Mission president vs. MTC presidentIn short, the MTC president ministers to the new missionaries, while the MTC manager administers for them.It marked the first time the annual seminar featured incoming MTC presidents and their wives being accompanied by the managers of operations—in all, five president-wife-manager trios from the Provo, Brazil, Mexico City, Philippines, and New Zealand missionary training centers. Of the 12 MTCs worldwide, those five account for about 75 percent of the 40,000 new missionaries trained annually.Even with four months of MTC leadership experience, President Milder repeatedly exclaimed, “My eyes have been opened,” in Portuguese during seminar sessions and a subsequent interview, opening his fists in front of his eyes for emphasis.
President César A. Milder and Sister Maureen Milder of the Brazil Missionary Training Center examine a first-edition Book of Mormon that was shown to participants of the 2019 MTC Leadership Seminar on January 16, 2019. Photo by Scott Taylor, Church News.Speaking on the conversion of missionaries, Bishop Waddell compared the short-term “tasting” by some of the fruit of the tree of life in Lehi’s dream to the long-term “partaking” by others. “To be converted is good, but it is not sufficient,” he said, adding “it must be ongoing and a life-long conversion, not just a missionary event.”Mission presidents have day-to-day oversight of missionaries and their lives—including housing, transportation, finances, and well-being. With new missionaries spending the first three to nine weeks of their missions at a training center, it is the manager—not the MTC president—who handles daily operations and training.“When they come to you and when they are with you, they feel their confidence in God is so great that they can do whatever,” he said.“It’s the commonality—the unity of the training,” said Provo MTC President David E. LeSueur.The 2019 MTC Leadership Seminar featured several other “firsts”—the first time held solely for MTCs as well as the first leadership training under the recently expanded Missionary Executive Committee.Sister Franco reviewed the Adjusting to Missionary Life guidebook on physical, mental, and emotional well-being, and she proved to be unflappable despite technological glitches hampering her presentation. “My stress level is good,” she quipped.For example:President César A. Milder and Sister Maureen Milder attended the seminar having started their assignment at the Brazil MTC four months ago, their call to serve coming only days before—similar to their responding to last-minute calls to open the Brazil Ribeirão Preto Mission in 1993 and the Brazil Cuiabá Mission in 2006.With the seminar under the direction of Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and chairman of the Church’s Missionary Executive Council, the distinct yet complimentary roles of the MTC president and wife and the MTC manager of operations were emphasized.PROVO, UTAHAnd Elder Nielsen underscored the powerful resource of the Book of Mormon combined with the Spirit, urging MTC leaders to continue to find meaningful scriptures and share them with the new missionaries.All five MTC leadership couples have previously presided over missions, and all were appreciative—and relieved—to learn that an MTC president’s responsibilities are less demanding than their previous ones as a mission president.Yet the three recently met for the first time 7,000 miles away from their native country, as President and Sister Dil—the incoming MTC president and Relief Society president of the New Zealand Missionary Training Center—sat side by side with Sister Gasu at the 2019 MTC Leadership Seminar, held January 14–17 at the Provo MTC.Other firstsOffering an overall vision of missionary work, Elder Nielson encouraged the leaders to teach the “why” to help missionaries learn the “how.” “If we can know the ‘why,’ we can figure out the ‘how,’” he said.
The fire was reported first seen on the building’s east-side attic, working its way westward. A large portion of the roof collapsed from the fire and water damage. Firefighters battle a blaze consuming the under-construction St. George East Stake center early Saturday morning, July 26, 2019, in St. George, Utah. Photo courtesy of the St. George East Stake Presidency Facebook page.Firefighters worked through Saturday morning to completely extinguish hot spots. According to an article in the Deseret News, fire officials there are saying the fire was intentionally set. Firefighters battle a blaze consuming the under-construction St. George East Stake center early Saturday morning, July 26, 2019, in St. George, Utah. Photo courtesy of the St. George East Stake Presidency Facebook page. Firefighters battle a blaze consuming the under-construction St. George East Stake center early Saturday morning, July 26, 2019, in St. George, Utah. Photo courtesy of the St. George East Stake Presidency Facebook page.Facebook posts credited to the St. George East Stake presidency shared photos, a video, and response regarding the blaze.A day earlier, a November 4 date was announced for closure of the St. George Utah Temple for renovations.“We were deeply saddened to have received a call at 2:30 a.m. informing us that our new St. George East Stake Center was on fire,” states the posted comment. “The building that we were so anticipating moving into over the next few months is gone. Those that were up watching it burn were stunned and in complete shock. Our faith is only strengthened as we work through this bump in the road.” Firefighters battle a blaze consuming the under-construction St. George East Stake center early Saturday morning, July 26, 2019, in St. George, Utah. Photo courtesy of the St. George East Stake Presidency Facebook page.Firefighting crews from St. George and several surrounding communities arrived shortly before 2 a.m. Saturday, January 26, to battle the blaze as residents watched. The new St. George East Stake Center, located at 453 S. 300 East, was to open later this year.An early morning fire Saturday destroyed a stake center under construction across the street from the historic St. George Utah Temple.The stake’s previously building was torn down in February 2018 to make room for the construction of its replacement. One of 18 stakes in the two St. George / Virgin River Coordinating Councils, the St. George East Stake is comprised of eight wards and three branches.
“4. Participate fully in Relief Society.”“3. Establish a pattern of regular temple attendance.Responses regarding the challenge to read the Book of Mormon by the end of 2018 came from women of all ages. Karen Christenson Lisonbee posted for her 88-year-old mother-in-law, who has Parkinson’s disease. “I’m proud to say that she took your challenge and will be finishing the Book of Mormon today,” she said.Many women expressed appreciation for President Nelson’s posted reassurance that “the Lord is happy with any effort we make to draw closer to Him.” “If you have struggled with any of them,” he said in his post, “please don’t be hard on yourself. You can start today.”“I wish to thank you all for responding to my invitations. Your experiences with these challenges have been varied but meaningful,” he said.“I am eager to hear about what you have learned as you have focused on these four invitations,” he said, expressing his hope “that each of these invitations has brought you closer to the Savior.”Amy Menlove Parker said she read the Book of Mormon with her 11- and 9-year-old daughters. “We read along and marked as we listened on the library app. We paused regularly to talk about words or events that confused them. Sometimes we’d get behind and have to spend an hour catching up. Sometimes I didn’t want to do it and they pushed me and sometimes i pushed them. It was a team effort. It was cherished mother/daughter time.”“Thank you for being merciful and encouraging in your comments!” Rachel Williams Keppner responded, explaining that her husband’s prolonged hospitalization kept her from reading the Book of Mormon as much as she had planned. “Your kind words have reminded me that the Lord understands and is very familiar with my life circumstances.” President Russell M. Nelson’s Instagram post at the end of December requesting comments about women’s experiences with his four challenges generated more than 5,700 comments.“The social media fast helped me gain grater self control, clarity of mind, find my creativity again and connect with my children more,” Tali Hall commented.In Facebook and Instagram posts published at the end of December, President Nelson asked women of the Church to “report what you have learned as you have focused on these four invitations.”“Pres. Nelson, thank you for the challenge of reading the Book of Mormon,” Connie Harrison shared in her reply. “I started the next morning. Little did I know that later that week I would be diagnosed with cancer. I have loved my time with those wonderful prophets and their teachings. Every morning I have found something to help me through one more day of my battle with this disease.”Several mothers posted about their experiences reading the Book of Mormon with their daughters.“Thank you President Nelson for your challenges,” posted Khand Tenney. “Attending the temple more regularly has blessed my life. I’ve been able to strengthen my faith and testimony of personal revelation and how much the Lord loves me to provide for us His holy temples. I’m very grateful to the Lord for a living prophet.”More than 10,000 women have responded to President Russell M. Nelson’s call to report on their experiences with the four challenges to the women of the Church he issued during the October 2018 general women’s session as part of his invitation to help gather Israel.Mirja Soukko Tapola said, “I learned—or maybe re-learned—that Relief Society isn’t meetings or even being included in a group, that it is a state of mind, a feeling of love, acts of service and being a daughter of God. That participating fully isn’t about the time spent with other sisters but about who you are.”More than 4,500 women on Facebook and 5,700 on Instagram responded, representing many ages and backgrounds and all sharing unique experiences and feelings.Several women commented on President Nelson’s challenge to participate in a 10-fast from social media, which was similar to one he issued to the youth on June 3, 2018:“Sisters, I love you and thank you. As a result of your efforts, I promise that the heavens will open for you. The Lord will bless you with increased inspiration and revelation. Together we can do all that our Heavenly Father needs us to do to prepare the world for the Second Coming of His Beloved Son.”Makenzie Richey said, “As I have attended the temple regularly, my week days seem to be filled with more hours to get everything done I need to. I’ve been able to feel greater peace in my life and my priorities align more with my Savior’s! I have truly felt His love.”“2. Read the Book of Mormon by the end of 2018.“1. Participate in a 10-day fast from social media and any other media that bring negative and impure thoughts to your mind.Women also expressed increased appreciation for opportunities to attend the temple and participate in Relief Society.In an LDS.org blog article and follow-up posts on his social channels this week, President Nelson thanked women for accepting his invitations and leaving so many comments.Participating in the challenges helped many women cope with personal trials such as strained relationships, poor health, infertility, and cancer diagnoses.
Elder Wilford Woodruff was the first president of the St. George Temple, which was dedicated in 1877. Photo by Kenneth Mays.According to Elder Bruce C. Hafen, former president of the St. George Temple and an emeritus General Authority Seventy, the building was one of the most important in this dispensation (in addition to the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples), helping to bring about the restoration of priesthood keys and ordinances. It was in the St. George Temple that temple ordinances were “put into a written form for the first time,” according to a Church News article.According to Newsroom, renovation will be extensive and include “structural, mechanical, electrical, finish, and plumbing work.”The St. George Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will close on November 4 for renovations.Temples in Logan and Manti followed and also preceded the Salt Lake Temple.In July 2018, the St. George Tabernacle was rededicated by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles after a two-year renovation. At the time of the rededication, the building was nearly 150 years old and was originally dedicated 1876, just prior to the temple.During the October 2018 general conference, President Russell M. Nelson announced plans to renovate the Salt Lake Temple and other pioneer-era temples as well as build 12 new temples.Read the full article on Newsroom here.Renovations to the St. George Utah Temple are expected to be completed in 2022.The Cedar City Temple, dedicated by President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency on December 10, 2017, is the nearest temple to the St. George Temple, some 50 miles away.In 1871, President Brigham Young announced a temple would be built in St. George, although at the time only 1,100 Latter-day Saints lived there and were in extreme poverty. The St. George Utah Temple was the first temple to be completed in Utah and was originally dedicated in 1877—a decade and a half before the Salt Lake Temple.
Following this counsel, Weeks put a plan in motion. For Young Women leaders, the Personal Progress requirements are not quite as rigorous as they are for the young women. However, Weeks would settle for nothing less than doing everything required of the young women—reading all the required scriptures, watching all the videos, and completing all the projects and other requirements.When you think of someone receiving her Young Womanhood Recognition, you might think of a young, happy, faithful teenager who has completed all the Personal Progress requirements.Jerene Weeks, who recently received her award, certainly qualifies as happy and faithful. But “young” might be replaced with “youthful,” because Weeks is 83—with a posterity totaling 101 (8 children, 32 grandchildren, 60 great-grandchildren, and 1 great-great-grandchild).“As I marked all the attributes of Christ, I realized that all the Book of Mormon prophets, as well as our latter-day prophets, have those same attributes,” Weeks said. “Sister Weeks has been such an example of hard work and growth, not only to the girls but to the leaders as well,” Christiansen said. “She has worked very hard and poured herself into the Personal Progress program. We are so excited for her to get her medallion. All the girls say they want to be Sister Weeks when they grow up.” After three years, Weeks reached her goal—happy, faithful, and youthful as ever. Her son Kenneth was honored to present her award in December 2018. Weeks said she is grateful for what the Personal Progress program has done for her. Weeks had another spiritual experience while visiting a family history center with the young women. During that visit, Weeks found 18 ancestors (12 women and 6 men) who needed temple work. Weeks completed the temple ordinances, including baptisms, for all 12 women. Her son David helped with the ordinances for the men.Of course, the young women in her ward were an important part of Weeks’s participation in the program. They encouraged her, and she encouraged them too—teaching them how to direct music, sew, decorate cakes, and bake bread and pies. When Weeks called Christiansen to report that she had completed the requirements, Christiansen and her two teenage daughters cheered. “I’m so glad I did it. It has helped me stay focused on Christ and has greatly increased my gratitude for my Savior, for His gospel, and for His great love and atoning sacrifice for me.”Why would someone 64 years past her teenage years undertake such a challenge? Weeks serves as the Young Women secretary in her Logan, Utah, ward, and three years ago, her Young Women president, Heidi Christiansen, told the presidency that if they expected their young women to complete the Personal Progress requirements, the Young Women presidency ought to set the example. Weeks said one of her most faith-promoting experiences was reading and studying the Book of Mormon. Following President Russell M. Nelson’s invitation to read the Book of Mormon and mark all the references to Christ, she completed the challenge in just 38 days.
According to Elder Christofferson, engaging in God’s work and earning His trust requires focusing outwardly rather than on ourselves.“That is not an easy thing to do at any point in your life. It’s especially difficult, perhaps, now, as you worry about the future,” he said.Because God has promised to forgive His people as often as they repent, Elder Christofferson taught that no one ought to become discouraged. “There’s not an upward limit; there’s not a quota,” he said. “You don’t get just 12 tries or 100, you get whatever it takes.”He cited the Savior’s promise, “Whosoever [shall] lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:25). Conversely, Elder Christofferson cautioned that “if we are caring only about our well-being, our comfort, and ourselves, in the end, that’s a recipe for losing happiness and our possibilities and potential in life.”Sister Christofferson spoke about finding truth and recognizing the adversary’s lies. “When you’re young, you need to be aware of how the devil works and functions,” she said.“Gathering is an essential part, truly, of how the Lord does His work,” he said. “Lift—that really is, if you could summarize it in one word, the purpose of the gathering—that we lift and are lifted, that we develop, that we become stronger, that we have greater capacity, that we have greater understanding. … And then launch—do something with it. Have I done any good in the world today? Have I made a difference? Have I served? Have I helped in the Lord’s redemptive work?” Elder D. Todd Christofferson addresses students, faculty, and staff about participating in the Lord’s work in the Knight Arena at Southern Virginia University on Friday, January 11, 2019. Photo by Brinn Willis.Elder Christofferson spoke about the blessing of social media but also warned against letting it become a distraction.God brings about the redemption of His children from physical and spiritual death, Elder Christofferson taught, as well as redemption from things like poverty, ignorance, and suffering. “All of it is work that you and I are invited to participate in,” he said. “Yes, He loves us, but can He trust us?” Elder Randall K. Bennett of the Seventy, Sister Shelley Bennett, Sister Katherine Christofferson, and Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at Southern Virginia University on Friday, January 11, 2019. Photo by Brinn Willis.“It is certainly a blessing in our lives to have that capacity in our hands,” he said. “But it is possible to be so absorbed and so focused on the entertainment aspects of it that it becomes inward looking—that is, you cannot focus on things and people and needs beyond what may show up on the screen. I hope that you can use it and not let it use you—that you can use it to help you think about and relate to other people.”Elder Christofferson also focused on the theme of “gather, lift, and launch,” which forms the basis of Southern Virginia University’s mission statement. Elder and Sister Christofferson were accompanied by Elder Randall K. Bennett of the Seventy, who assists in supervising the North America Northeast Area, and his wife, Sister Shelley Bennett. They shared their testimonies about the power of listening to the voice of the Savior and how prayer and reading the Book of Mormon bring relief from anxiety and despair. Reading from Genesis 3, Sister Christofferson shared her perspective about how Satan belittled Eve in order to convince her to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. “I believe he said to her, ‘Eve, you are pretty naïve and don’t know very much. That’s why you need that tree; you don’t know what I know.’ … Here’s the lie: this is the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It is not the tree of wisdom. … People will try to convince you that you’re not very bright, that you haven’t been around the block or that you’re not old enough—but you have sufficient to know the right path to choose, and you do have the truth,” she said.Emphasizing the importance of Christ’s command to take up one’s cross daily (see Luke 9:23), Elder Christofferson challenged those at the devotional to make an enduring decision to follow God and keep His commandments. In an address at Southern Virginia University on January 11, 2019, Elder D. Todd Christofferson and his wife, Sister Katherine Christofferson, spoke to more than 1,250 students, faculty, and staff about God’s invitation to assist in His work of redemption.“Don’t be discouraged if perfection eludes you for the next several millennia,” he continued. “I don’t know how long it takes. It won’t happen by the end of this life for sure, but as you progress on the path, He will be with you. He will forgive, He will extend mercy, He will lift, and His Spirit will be given to you to guide and sustain and direct you.”“As you seek to be trustworthy in the Lord’s eyes, settle it in your heart, once and for all, that you will do the things that He commands and teaches,” he said.
As second counselor in the Sofia Branch (and having already served twice as branch president), Plamen believes the best way Church members in Bulgaria can help their country is to be good, strong members.“It is so marvelous to see how technology has helped,” Sister Davis said. She related how Turkish-speaking sisters who have been reassigned to Bulgaria are still teaching contacts in Turkey via Skype. “The Lord knows how to get through blockades!”“We felt like we should serve foreign if we could, and our health has allowed us to,” Sister Lynch said. “The Church is in great need of office couples in these countries.” She and her husband agree that couples should be helping the president so that the young missionaries are free to find and teach prospective converts rather than dealing with office matters.The Lynches raised their six children in San Jose, California, while running a CPA firm. Elder Lynch officially retired in October 2008, and they entered the missionary training center the following Monday for their first mission.SOFIA, BULGARIAMarried nearly 22 years, they live in the same apartment Boryana grew up in. A wall of shelves and cabinets display part of the collection of geodes that were her father’s. Delicate lace crocheted by her grandmother is displayed beneath glass on the living room table.In 1991, then-Elder Russell M. Nelson, who was serving in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, dedicated Bulgaria for the preaching of the gospel, shortly after communism fell in Eastern Europe, according to President Davis. Since then, there have been nearly 3,000 baptisms, and the Church has had as many as 13 meeting locations around the country, including some in rented building space.What about speaking Bulgarian?Neither the mission president, his wife, nor missionaries wear name tags in the Bulgaria-Central Eurasian Mission to avoid contention with residents. Mission boundaries include Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, but there are only a few hundred members in Turkey and the other countries. It is part of the Church’s Europe East Area.“I can see how the gospel helps families, and I can reflect that to the people,” he said.As the Davises sit side-by-side in the spacious mission office in a building that also houses a chapel and missionary apartment, their appreciation for the hard-working missionaries under their care is evident. They’re eager to share the latest success story.Faithful Bulgarian members share love for the gospelFour of the six couples serving in Bulgaria, including those reassigned from Turkey, will soon return home. The Davises hope their places will be filled.Boryana, who teaches Primary classes for children ages 3–8, said, “The gospel gives me peace and safety” and helps her feel valued.This time, they started out in January 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey, but were asked to transfer to the Sofia, Bulgaria, office in March and all missionaries in Turkey were reassigned in April. Sofia is headquarters for the Bulgaria-Central Eurasian Mission whose boundaries include Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, in addition to Bulgaria.
Boryana and Plamen Penev, who each joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Bulgaria in 1992, were married in 1997. Photo by Laurie Williams Sowby.Thanks to technology, they are able to speak with their daughter every day. One of the great blessings of the gospel, Plamen adds, is that “our daughter was raised a good girl and is now a good woman.”Plamen and Boryana Penev sit in a small living room that tells a story.“We’re trying to change things” President Davis said. “We have incredible, hardworking missionaries and wonderful faithful Saints here in Bulgaria.” “The language should not stop anyone from serving,” Sister Lynch said. “We get by just fine with English.” She said they appreciate the variety of experiences they’ve had serving as a couple and value the lifelong friendships they’ve made with other senior couples.“As we’ve been obedient in consolidating into centers of strength and following our leaders’ counsel to talk to more people every day, miracles are happening everywhere,” President Davis said.Despite challenges, miracles happen in Bulgaria-Central Eurasian MissionMost recently from Midway, Utah, the Lynches have previously served in mission offices in Lagos, Nigeria; Milan, Italy; and Wellington, New Zealand.“We’ve had some miracles” as struggling branches have been consolidated into centers of strength, President Davis said. “When we closed down one branch, an entire family became active again.”Sister Davis said, “We’ve challenged our missionaries to have at least 10 conversations per day (that’s 20 per companionship) with people who are not members of the Church, and we’ve seen a spike in interest about the Church.”Senior missionary couple finds joy serving in BulgariaWhen President Stephen Davis and Sister Mary Davis arrived in Istanbul, Turkey, in July 2017, from Riverside, California, they expected to be there for three years, heading the Central Eurasian Mission.Over the years, Bulgaria has sent 75 missionaries into the field, but only 28 of those returned missionaries currently live in their home country. The combination of less-active Church members and families with few children (Bulgaria’s population is not at replacement rate) affects growth for the Church.Running a mission office for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is second nature to Elder Morgan Lynch and Sister Jan Lynch, who are serving for the fourth time in 10 years as an office couple.Missionary work is deeply personal to Elder Lynch, who joined the Church as a BYU student. He was baptized in the fall of 1965, and the couple was sealed in the Salt Lake Temple in December 1966. Sister Lynch shares his compassion for newly baptized converts: “It must be very difficult to be the first in your generation.”The senior couples in their mission presently include a humanitarian couple and four member-leadership-support couples in addition to the Lynches.The Lynches take care of all the temporal details such as missionary housing, vehicles, finances, and administrative reports, leaving the missionaries and the mission work to President Stephen Davis and his wife, Sister Mary Davis. The Lynches also assist the mission’s 34 missionaries with travels and transfers.Noting that a grandson who recently left to serve in Mexico mentioned the example of his grandparents’ service in his sacrament meeting talk, Elder Lynch said, “The grandkids see and appreciate our service.”These three stories—ranging from a Bulgarian couple who joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about 25 years ago to an American couple serving in the mission office—show how Church members have found meaningful ways to serve in the Bulgaria-Central Eurasian Mission.President Davis said that with few priesthood holders among local members and a complement of 34 missionaries, it isn’t always feasible to send missionaries to oversee sacrament meeting in distant towns.He tears up when he shares his testimony: “I love God and my Savior. The gospel really helps me to be a better person. Now I know my prayers of years ago have been answered.”The mission—comprising 24 elders and 10 sisters—is using technology to connect with members, missionaries, and those they’re teaching throughout Bulgaria and beyond. Six missionaries who are Turkish-speaking are using technology to reach out to those who speak Turkish in distant locations. Economic opportunity has drawn many away from their native land, and Bulgaria has about 2,400 members today. In addition, Sister Davis said, most people in Bulgaria are Orthodox by birth and baptism, and converts are not used to the amount of time required by an active Latter-day Saint lifestyle.Plamen describes himself as “golden” when he first met missionaries in the city’s train station in 1992, not long after communism fell in Eastern Europe and many Christian churches entered Bulgaria. He had been praying just the day before to know if God existed: “If you’re there, show me how to find you!” He recognized the missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as soon as he saw them; they taught him for 2 1/2 months before he was baptized.“We need senior couples in every one of our centers of strength,” Sister Davis said. Her husband noted that almost all the younger people in the country speak English, so language should not be a concern for those willing to serve.Months later, in April 2018, Bulgaria was added to the mission, and headquarters moved to its capital, Sofia, along with the Davises. At the end of April 2018, all the missionaries were removed from Turkey and assigned elsewhere.
Sister Jan Lynch and Elder Morgan Lynch feel their best work in supporting the mission is in the office. They serve in Sofia, Bulgaria. Photo by Laurie Williams Sowby.There’s an old photo of their daughter, Severina, now 21 and away at a university in Wales pursuing her studies in genetics. There are stacks of books on mathematics and science from their own studies. And there are multiple copies of the Book of Mormon, Bible, and other Latter-day Saint scripture.Meanwhile, his future wife, whom he hadn’t yet met, also joined the Church in 1992. When missionaries knocked on the door and her grandfather wasn’t home, they left a card with their phone number on it. Her mother called the elders and was baptized along with Boryana a few weeks later.Plamen was the first native Bulgarian called to serve as a missionary in his own country. He calls his fluent English “one of the gifts I received from my mission.” When he was set apart, he wondered why he was given the gift of tongues in the blessing, since he already spoke Bulgarian. But when he stepped into the foyer immediately afterward and encountered American missionaries, he was astonished to be able to understand every word of English they spoke.He worked as a guard at the U.S. Embassy but says that his ease with English helps him every day. His mathematical abilities were greatly aided by having Boryana as his math tutor when he was earning a master’s of electrical science. After graduating from the University of Sofia, Boryana taught math for 10 years and is now a data processing specialist in a research company. Her husband works as head of maintenance at a private school.The branch presidency makes a personal visit at least once a month to each participating group.
I remember Ike telling me about many water projects, some involving laying miles of pipes for transporting spring water or digging boreholes for village wells. He described how women and children in some African villages made daily treks to rivers to bring water to their homes. The women usually carried five-gallon containers on their heads; their young children trailed behind them carrying smaller buckets or jugs of water.During one of the interviews, I asked Ike to tell me what he thought about when he returned home from his assignments. He said that one time he walked into the kitchen and turned on the water tap and then stood there for a few moments. He looked at the flow of clean, clear water. He thought of how fortunate, how blessed, he was to have such water so readily and abundantly available.In 2004, I had the opportunity to witness a ceremony in which LDS Charities handed over two boreholes, or fresh water wells, to the village of Katapor. Derl and Erma Walker, who were serving as LDS Charities directors in Ghana, gave David Pickup, a photographer, and me a ride. Although Katapor was only 40 miles from Accra, Ghana, the drive took two hours, the last stretch over a narrow and bumpy dirt road.Everyone was in a festive mood; the ceremony that day marked the end of villagers having to walk a half mile or so to draw from a polluted river water for drinking, cooking, and bathing.For some reason, his description has stuck with me over the years. I often think about what the Church is doing to bring clean water to people in Africa and other places.
A young girl works the hand pump to start the flow of water into a bucket at a ceremony on January 8, 2004, in which Latter-day Saint Charities handed two boreholes (fresh water wells) over to Ghana’s village of Katapor. Two other girls wait to present the water to village and district dignitaries. Photo by David M. W. Pickup.After the program’s speeches, singing, and dancing, the villagers and visitors walked a short distance to the boreholes fitted with hand pumps. As everyone crowded around a concrete square surrounding the boreholes, Ike removed a cloth that covered one of the pumps. A girl began pumping; water flowed into a plastic pail which, when full, was lifted by a young woman onto the head of another girl, who then walked with it to the Ga chiefs and tribal council members. In turn the village and district officials dipped a glass into the bucket, held it up to inspect the clear water and took a sip. One by one, each nodded, pronouncing the water “good.” Villagers then lined up to get a drink of water.For many years I wrote articles about the Church welfare program. One of my primary sources was Ike Ferguson, who held several titles, including director of international welfare and humanitarian services. He spent a lot of time in Africa working on behalf of the Church to bring relief, supplies, and support to countless people suffering from famine or the effects of drought or other challenges on the continent.No Latter-day Saints lived in the village, yet the program’s opening hymn was a Church standard, “The Spirit of God.” The program began and ended with prayers.The village had no electricity. Villagers found entertainment in the playing of drums, joining neighbors in traditional West African dances and songs, and visiting one another. All in all, it was a pleasant place, with views of gently sloping hills in the distance, a school, and very friendly residents. With no display of timidity, children ran to greet us.I don’t remember the facts and figures of how many tons of grain or the number of wheelchairs or shipments of medicine and medical equipment that were sent by humanitarian services, which worked with government and nongovernment organizations and other faith groups.“Many women are stooped over by their late 30s or 40s,” he said.It was a day of rejoicing. I understood what Ike had felt when he talked about watching water flow from the tap in his kitchen.
Over 55 years have passed since Sandegren first met these four girls. Their lives have all gone in different directions, but each has remained faithful in the gospel and their contact with one another over the years has helped them to grow together.President Omer promised to discuss the matter with the European mission president, and after a week or so, he phoned to tell Elder Sandgren and his companion, Elder Gordon Olson, that they had permission to teach the girls on the conditions that they get permission from the girls’ parents and teach the girls in the home of an active member.“We’ve always been active because I’ve just always said that when you believe, you believe. That’s it,” she said.“No one had asked us,” Johansson said. “We just came, and we were so young, so we weren’t too serious about the gospel. We just went for friends. But after a while, of course, we started to think about things and felt the Spirit, … but we just grew into it in different ways.”Vizulis, Pettersson, and Lindburg all eventually moved to the U.S. and met their spouses.Getting permission from their parents, who had no interest in the Church themselves, proved difficult, but for three of them, their parents finally consented.Looking back on all that has changed over the years since meeting those four girls in Sweden, Sandgren said he couldn't help but feel awed by the workings of the Lord.When she finished her studies in Germany, she returned to Sweden. At that time, President Omer contacted her—knowing she had studied languages—and asked if she would accept an opportunity to move to America and help translate and create mission plans and lessons for missionaries learning Swedish. Vizulis was thrilled at the opportunity to go to America but felt that she needed to be baptized first.They all came from different and somewhat difficult backgrounds, and their family lives weren’t easy, Sandgren explained. But the gospel was a positive influence for all of them.Thrilled to finally be able to teach the four girls who had made such a strong impression on him, Sandgren said, “We taught them the discussions and discovered they already had testimonies and desired membership.”Together with their friends Lisbeth Pettersson and Lena Lindburg, the girls had dreams of one day moving to America together and starting a whole new life. They were learning English in school, but when Vizulis saw an advertisement for free classes in American-style English, she was excited to share the news with her friends.The first night the girls showed up for the class, they found two young men, Americans, there to teach the class. They were welcomed in and sat down, but were surprised moments later when the two young men requested to begin with a prayer.Family and home life was not easy for Vizulis or her friend Margareta Johansson, who lived in her same building. Both their parents were divorced, and as Johansson described it, “we had bad times, but we found each other.”A missionary’s invitation
Daila Vizulis Jaussi and Margareta Johansson Mattson smile together in 2015. Photo courtesy of Margareta Johansson.
From left: Lisbeth Pettersson Slater, Dee Sandgren, and Margareta Johansson Mattsson stand in front of Salt Lake City Temple in 2010. Photo courtesy of Margareta Johansson.“I was then 18 years old and no longer needed permission from my parents,” Vizulis explained. “So one day I was on a streetcar and I saw two missionaries. I approached them and asked if one of them would baptize me. … You should have seen the look on their faces.”“Each of them has continuously held on to the iron rod,” Sandgren said, noting that despite the fact that none of their parents ever joined the Church, the women have built strong and faithful families of their own, and each has done the temple work for their families.Joy added“They were active all of their adult lives, but he died a number of years ago and she followed him in death a few years ago,” Sandgren said.Each woman has individually maintained contact with one another and with Sandgren over the years, exchanging emails, Christmas cards, and occasional visits or reunions of sorts.A little over a year later, in July of 1960, a young Dee Sandgren arrived in Göteborg as a new missionary. On his first Sunday there, Elder Sandgren didn’t speak a word of Swedish—the language training programs and missionary training centers for the Church were not yet established at that time.“Dee was the only one that persisted,” Pettersson said, noting her gratitude for his efforts to baptize them.As Johansson recalled, Sandgren was frustrated when he found out the girls hadn’t been baptized.“My assumption for weeks thereafter that was that they were active members because they were there every week,” Sandgren said. “Then I started asking questions and that’s when I found out that none of them had been baptized.”Lindburg, always a quiet one as Sandgren described her, settled in New Jersey with her husband, Larry Crickenberg.Lives centered in the gospel“They have accomplished these wonderful things because of their close companionship with their Heavenly Father, their righteous husbands, and their priceless children and grandchildren,” Sandgren said. “I feel like I have grown into the gospel all my life. It wasn’t one big thing; it has been thousands of small spiritual things that have told me that the gospel is really true,” Johansson said. “I can only answer for myself, but life has been really great for me since then.”A series of conversionsAt age 14, Daila Vizulis came across a small newspaper advertisement that would change the lives of her and three of her close friends forever.“Nobody who was young really went to church in Sweden,” Vizulis said, recalling the surprise she felt sitting in that almost empty classroom of her high school in Hisingen, Sweden, nearly 60 years ago. At the time, the girls had no idea what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was or what missionaries were, and, as Pettersson recalled, the young men didn’t even wear name tags then.When Sandgren found out the girls hadn’t been baptized, he reached out to his mission president, President A. Gideon Omer, to ask if he could teach the girls and prepare them for baptism. President Omer declined the request initially, but Sandgren wasn’t willing to give up so easily. He watched the girls regularly attend Church meetings and MIA activities for a few more weeks and then reached out to President Omer again.“The Spirit kept whispering to me that those girls should be baptized. … The next time I saw my mission president I asked him again about the girls,” Sandgren said.Sandgren said that part of why he stayed in contact with all of them over the years, as well as with others he taught on his mission, was that he felt an obligation to see to their spiritual well-being.“We kept going and then they invited us to church. All the people just took us right in and made us feel welcome and so we kept going all the time,” Pettersson said.It wasn’t long before the four girls were integrated into their new group of friends and attending Church meetings each week, including MIA activities with the youth of the Göteborg Branch.“I love the Church,” Pettersson said. “I love the gospel and the people.”“It’s not that I had anything to do with their conversions, because they really came pre-converted, but I felt like I was an older brother to them, and I felt that was important,” Sandgren said. “I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, but they are the ones that have strengthened me.”Shocked by such a direct request, Vizulis said the two elders nearly fainted. But they agreed, and in May 1962 she was baptized. A small reunion at the Slaters’ home in Heber, Utah. From left: Tom Slater, Lisbeth Pettersson Slater, Gordon Olson, Bert Mattsson, and Dee Sandgren. The Mattssons visited the U.S. for several months in 2010. Olsen and Sandgren were missionaries who taught Lisbeth in Sweden in 1960. Photo courtesy of Lisbeth Petersson Slater.Thinking back on how much the four girls have influenced his life, Sandgren said, “I am so grateful that I listened to those whisperings of the Spirit 58 years ago and that I acted upon them. Their families have inspired and added joy and an eternal dimension to my life.”Pettersson moved to the U.S. and met her future husband, Tom Slater, in 1965. The two were married in 1966.A group of youth, including several young men, from the nearby Göteborg Branch of the Church, heard of the group of girls attending the English classes in the Hisingen Branch and began attending the classes as well to meet the girls.“When I went to church, I didn’t understand anything going on,” Sandgren said, recalling how uncomfortable he felt in his first few days there. “But then these four girls came up and spoke to me because they wanted to practice their English.”Johansson was baptized first, in August 1960, followed by Pettersson and Lindburg in September. Vizulis, however, was unable to get permission from her parents to be baptized. But despite being unable to officially join the Church, Vizulis felt strongly that the Church was where she needed to be and kept attending. Even after leaving Sweden to study in Germany for time, Vizulis found the Church and walked to meetings each week.Of the four girls, Johansson was the only one to remain living in Sweden. She married a man, Bert Mattsson, from the Göteborg Branch and together they have served faithfully, working to build the Church in Sweden. “We have done this conversion for ourselves,” Johansson said. “Living in Sweden isn’t the easiest thing when it comes to religion.” Lisbeth Pettersson, center left, with family and friends at the airport before leaving for America in 1964. Left to right: Lena Lindberg, Gull-brit Bjorklund, Lisbeth Pettersson, Ann-Marie Pettersson, a work friend, Margareta Johansson, Alice Pettersson, and former coworkers. Photo courtesy of Lisbeth Petersson Slater.Shortly after being baptized, Vizulis moved to Idaho and attended Ricks College while helping translate and prepare language materials for missionaries going to Sweden. There she met and married her husband, David Jaussi.Sandgren was excited to be able to communicate with the girls, but something else about Vizulis, Johansson, Pettersson, and Lindburg made them stand out to Sandgren.But the religious aspect of the class was minimal and the girls wanted to learn English, so they kept attending for several weeks.
The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at musicandthespokenword.org.Because Nelson Mandela kept on trying, the world today is a better place than it was. But there is still room for improvement. And fair-minded, good-hearted people all around the world are still working to make a positive difference for others. Great leaders and citizens of the past and present know that human rights and human dignity are at the core of our shared humanity. They may not consider themselves saints, but they are, because they keep on trying—to love, to forgive, to welcome, and to embrace all the diverse and unique people of the world.As Nelson Mandela so clearly showed, saintliness is not just about improving ourselves. It’s about blessing the world around us. To do that, we certainly need to “keep on trying.” We need to recognize our shared humanity and treat all people with dignity and respect. We need to stand up not only for our own rights but also for the rights of others. We need to champion fairness and equality and oppose injustice and prejudice wherever we find it.What a profound statement!Nelson Mandela’s rare combination of courage and kindness made him one of the world’s most beloved leaders and citizens. But Mandela remained modest and unassuming, often reminding people, “I am not a saint—unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying” (Baker Institute for Public Policy address, Rice University, Oct. 26, 1999).The Music and the Spoken Word broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL Radio 1160 AM/102.7 FM, ksl.com, KSL X-stream, BYU-TV, BYU Radio, BYU-TV International, CBS Radio Network, Dish Network, DirecTV, SiriusXM Radio (Channel 143), and on the Tabernacle Choir’s website and YouTube channel.Mandela’s words should reassure and encourage each of us. We all know that we aren’t perfect; we know we have room for much improvement. But if we just keep trying, we can change for the better. In that trying, our hearts begin to change and open to others. We become more accepting and generous, more loving and caring. And in the end, isn’t that what it means to be a saint?Nelson Mandela spent nearly 27 years of his life in prison, from age 45 to age 71, for his efforts to end racial segregation in South Africa. Then, in what some people consider a modern miracle, Mandela became his country’s first black—and first democratically elected—president (see “Biography of Nelson Mandela” on nelsonmandela.org). But perhaps a greater miracle was his forgiveness of those who had imprisoned him.Tuning inEditor’s note: The “spoken word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square broadcast. The following was given January 20, 2019.
In a new video released on Mormon Channel on January 17, 2019, Michael McLean—a well-known songwriter and playwright among The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints community—detailed a nine-year struggle with his faith when he learned to trust in God. Recounting this journey, McLean shared how his son had come out as gay and how, as a father, he was trying to find a way to best support him.In the video McLean says, “I started praying like I’d never prayed before. … I just begged God to talk to me. It was the first time in my life where I felt like heaven was shut. I couldn’t get past the ceiling.”In an LDS Living feature about McLean’s trial, he said: “I kept thinking this would end—that there would be some peace that would come or some answers that would start trickling down. But they didn’t. I couldn’t believe I was saying it out loud, but I was thinking about an exit strategy. It was so painful.”“I listed 25 things that had happened where the Lord was reaching out to me,” he said. “It was a discovery of the fact that for nine years, the Lord hadn’t been punishing me; … He was trying to teach me that even when I didn’t see it, His grace was trying to save me.”McLean realized that there were times in those years of trial when God’s hand was in his life, but he hadn’t recognized it before.“And that’s when this revelation that kind of changed my life happened—that the Lord loved me so personally and so individually and so completely that He would send an answer that I would recognize could have only come from Him. … I was overwhelmed with grace.”After nine years of waiting for peace and honestly questioning if God knew him and heard his prayers, McLean recounted in the video: “I went into my study and for 10 days it was like I got downloads of songs [into my head]. … I realized that when I reviewed the 10 or 12 songs … that my answer about who Jesus was and how He felt about me … came in songs.”Watch the full video here.
Witnessing a Nobel Peace Prize recipient minister to some of India’s most helpless people proved career defining for the BYU dance major.“Would you like to sing to Jesus?”“We went up to her sanctuary and sang ‘I Am a Child of God,’” Rutherford said. “It seemed an obvious choice for that moment, that setting, and that unique audience.”“It is a song that extends across cultural boundaries,” the returned missionary who served in Sweden told the Church News. “One of the most powerful moments in the conversion process is discovering that one is a child of God and that God the Father is there and that He cares.” Taunalyn Rutherford smiles with full-time missionaries serving in India. Photo courtesy of Taunalyn Rutherford.Now, in an exchange of services of sorts, Mother Teresa was asking the students to sing for the Lord.Fast-forward 33 years. Rutherford is now a BYU Religious Education professor and much of her academic research has focused on the history of the Church in India.“The experience we had spending a day with Mother Teresa was completely pivotal in my decision to study world religions,” she said.2018—a pivotal year“When the [Indian] members go to the temple, the result is stronger families,” Rutherford said. “They prosper, and that prosperity will increase exponentially when the temple is built and as people prepare for the temple.”Rutherford’s ongoing research in India has also been academically informative and spiritually uplifting. The Church is recording its maiden moments in the world’s second most populous nation.And so it is, and will continue to be, in India, Rutherford said. The growth “has been very organic—one person is baptized, who then shares the gospel with their friends and family members.”Today there are approximately 13,500 members and four stakes in India. It’s a vast understatement to say the Church remains a tiny presence in a country of over 1.3 billion people. Taunalyn Rutherford, in green, stands with Relief Society sisters during academic research in New Delhi, India, in 2014. Photo courtesy of Taunalyn Rutherford.It was the winter of 1986 in Calcutta, India, and Taunalyn Rutherford and her fellow BYU Young Ambassadors had spent several hours, unexpectedly, with the venerated Catholic nun visiting orphanages and end-of-life care facilities.Many live the gospel at great personal sacrifice because of their love for their children and their progeny, she said. That’s why the future temple in India will “have a huge impact” on the Church in India.While the Church is undeniably young in India, it is defined by stability, Rutherford added. “They are strong members—India has one of the highest activity rates in Asia.”Persecution is a reality for many Latter-day Saints, Rutherford said. Meanwhile, Indian cultural traditions such as arranged marriages and caste class structure could be impediments for those striving to live the gospel in full.Last April, President Russell M. Nelson announced the Church’s plans to build its first temple in India in the southern city of Bengaluru. Weeks later the Church President visited Bengaluru and promised that the future temple would be a spiritual game changer.And she remains inspired by the benevolent actions of Mother Teresa and her fellow nuns. “God is working in the lives of so many people—and not just those of our religion. We can learn so much from others, particularly those who are living a Christ-centered life.”Rutherford fights emotion as she considers the devotional depth found in the Latter-day Saint Indians she has interviewed in her research.Temple and family history work will connect Indian families across generations. The members know this—and they rejoice in simply knowing a temple will soon operate in their native land.2018 will forever be called a blessed year for Latter-day Saints in India.“But there has been wonderful growth,” Rutherford said.
Mother Teresa, right, on the streets of Calcutta, India, during a 1986 visit from Brigham Young University’s Young Ambassadors. Photo courtesy of Taunalyn Rutherford.Just five years before BYU’s Young Ambassadors sang for Mother Teresa, the Indian government allowed a missionary couple to establish a branch.It is tempting to study Latter-day Saint missionary success stories in areas of the world (think Latin America) and focus on macro-trends and continental explanations. But ultimately, each conversion happens one person at a time. Each baptism is a singular event.Latter-day Saint beginnings in an ancient landBut whenever she sings “I Am a Child of God,” whether in a Primary class or at home with her own children, her thoughts inevitably return to that convent in Calcutta.Of course, there are challenges in a nation where only a tiny percentage of people follow a Christian faith.“The influence of the temple will be felt not only by the people here in this particular part of India, but it will bless the people of the entire nation and neighboring nations,” he said.When a mission was created in 1993 in Bengaluru (under the presiding direction of India native Gucharan Singh Gill), there were just over 1,100 Latter-day Saints worshipping in 13 branches, according to Newsroom.Before bidding farewell to a group of Brigham Young University students, Mother Teresa asked her visitors from distant Provo, Utah, a final question:
Holding up a set of scriptures, Elder Corbridge told students gathered in the Marriott Center, “This is more powerful than fear, addiction, pornography, or anything else.”“Just read them and ask yourself and ask God if these are the words of deceit, delusion, or truth.”Academic methodThe gloom that came while reading so much material antagonistic to the Church did not come as the result of belief bias or the thought that everything he once believed could be wrong. Rather, “the gloom I experienced as I listened to the dark choir of voices raised against the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ … is the absence of the Spirit of God,” Elder Corbridge said.
“The mids know Sister Niumatalolo’s meals are always fantastic,” he said, laughing.But President Niumatalolo, 53, has long proven an adroit time manager when it comes to faith, family, and football.Annapolis-area Latter-day Saints have witnessed firsthand President Niumatalolo’s devotion to faith and family. He doesn’t work on Sundays—even during the hectic months of the season. His scandal-free success at Navy has also earned him high regard as a leader and a sought-out speaker at business conferences, coaching clinics, and youth gatherings.He has served in a bishopric and as a high councilor in the Annapolis Maryland Stake, where he utilized the Spanish skills he learned on a full-time mission during his recent assignment in the stake’s Spanish-language branch.
Newly called Annapolis Maryland Stake President Ken Niumatalolo, bottom far left, often shares counsel with Latter-day Saints enrolled at the United States Military Academy, where he is the head football coach. Photo courtesy of Latter-day Saint Midshipman Facebook page.“Here he was, one of the most respected football coaches in the nation, but you could tell he was so honored to pass the sacrament with those deacons,” Reid Chambers said.“President Niumatalolo is a very high-profile college football coach, but we found him to be a humble and devoted disciple of Jesus Christ. He and his wife, Barbara, are faithful members of the Church, and he will serve well as the new president of the Annapolis Maryland Stake. We were very pleased to be part of the process of identifying who the Lord had already chosen as the new stake president.”President Niumatalolo and his Church affiliation are well-known both inside and outside Latter-day Saint circles, thanks to his success on the college gridiron and his prominent role in the Church-produced documentary Meet the Mormons.While serving as military missionaries in Annapolis, Reid and Shirley Chambers invited the popular coach to speak to the Latter-day Saint “plebes” who were beginning their training at the military academy.The coach/stake president is also a committed family man. As Meet the Mormons audiences learned, he and his wife, Barbara, are the parents of three adult children. The Niumatalolos also recently became grandparents.“All of the leadership principles that I know are principles I learned in Church—those things like working in a priesthood quorum and learning how to lead like the Savior leads,” he told the Church News.“In his message to the midshipmen, he said that earning titles and ranks was nice—but they should first strive to be righteous [Latter-day Saints],” Reid Chambers said.Many in the college football world will likely ask how the coach of a Division 1 program will be able to manage his professional duties and a demanding ecclesiastical calling.Elder Kevin S. Hamilton, a General Authority Seventy, presided over Sunday’s stake reorganization in Annapolis. President Niumatalolo’s counselors are President Jay Sweany and President Troy Corbett.At the time of his new calling as stake president, President Niumatalolo was serving as the second counselor in the Washington D.C. North Mission.Ken Niumatalolo, the veteran head football coach at the United States Naval Academy, was called January 20 to preside over the Annapolis Maryland Stake.“I’m very proud to be the head football coach at the U.S. Naval Academy; it’s a great responsibility and I love the job,” he said in a 2017 Church News profile. “But it’s not the most important thing. Number one is being a husband and a father.”Elder Kevin S. Hamilton, a General Authority Seventy, presided over Sunday’s stake reorganization and was joined at the meeting by Elder Milan F. Kunz, an Area Seventy.The Chambers also witnessed Niumatalolo’s humility when he was once invited to pass the sacrament with several young deacons in the Spanish-language branch.The Niumatalolos have also been known to invite Latter-day Saint midshipmen to their Annapolis home to watch general conference and enjoy a home-cooked meal.President Niumatalolo reminded the young plebes that the most important thing they could be was disciples of Christ.“One of the miracles of the restored gospel is that two Seventies can come into a stake without knowing anyone and, after a series of very short interviews, can receive revelation as to who the Lord has chosen to lead that stake,” he wrote in an email. “In the reorganization of the Annapolis Maryland Stake this weekend, it was crystal clear that President Niumatalolo was prepared and called by the Lord. We were grateful to witness that miracle.”President Niumatalolo, he added, is a well-known person in the Annapolis community. “The Lord will use him to further His work in the Annapolis area. President Niumatalolo will be a tremendous blessing to the Church in this part of the vineyard.”
She married a wonderful husband for time and all eternity in a holy temple, he said. “The most important date in her life is neither her birth date nor her death date. Her most important date is August 27, 1974. That is the date she and Norm were sealed. Each child was born under the everlasting covenant made on that memorable date.” President Russell M. Nelson hugs members of his family at the Cottonwood Heights Utah Brighton Stake Center after President Nelson spoke at his daughter Wendy Nelson Maxfield’s funeral on Saturday, January 19, 2019. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.President Nelson told his posterity: “I, with most of you, have shed many tears. I am especially comforted by the Lord’s commandment that ‘thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die’ (Doctrine and Covenants 42:45).”Thanks to the Atonement of Jesus Christ, Wendy Nelson Maxfield’s spirit still lives as an eternal entity, he said. With that eternal perspective, Latter-day Saints can understand better the purposes of life and death.Quoting President Joseph F. Smith, President Nelson said, “‘Children should be taught early in life that death is really a necessity as well as a blessing, and that we would not and could not be satisfied and supremely happy without it.’To her children and grandchildren, President Nelson said: “She can minister to you in what I call ‘parenting through the veil.’ She can see us more clearly through the veil than we see her. We cannot forget her. We do not cease to love her. We are sealed to her by eternal ties. She loves us now more than ever. Her desire for our well-being will be even greater than that which we feel for ourselves. So, dear family, stay tuned.”“But when love pours in so bounteously from family, friends, and colleagues, that grief is assuaged in a most marvelous way,” said the leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.“Our precious Wendy had to pass through that gateway we call death in order to experience a fulness of joy.”
President Russell M. Nelson hugs members of his family at the Cottonwood Heights Utah Brighton Stake Center after President Nelson spoke at his daughter Wendy Nelson Maxfield’s funeral on Saturday, January 19, 2019. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.“I believe my mother’s happiness came from her faith and belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Blake Maxfield.A wife and mother, Wendy Maxfield was remembered for the love, testimony, music, energy, and laughter she shared. She and her husband, Norman A. Maxfield, are the parents of seven children and have 20 grandchildren. She is the second of nine daughters and one son born to President Nelson and Sister Dantzel White Nelson.President Nelson was joined at the funeral service by his wife, Sister Wendy W. Nelson; three generations of his large family; his counselors in the First Presidency—President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring; and numerous members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, UTAH Family and friends exit the Cottonwood Heights Utah Brighton Stake Center after funeral services for Wendy Nelson Maxfield on Saturday, January 19, 2019. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.
President Russell M. Nelson with his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, stand with son in-law Norman A. Maxfield after funeral services at the Cottonwood Heights Utah Brighton Stake Center for President Nelson’s daughter Wendy Nelson Maxfield on Saturday, January 19, 2019. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.President Nelson told his grandchildren that they will honor their mother—who spent her entire life ministering, teaching, loving, and serving others—through their own righteousness.All seven Maxfield children—Marissa Jackson, Blake Maxfield, Matthew Maxfield, Brady Maxfield, Megan Hammond, Bryndy Bradshaw, and Makenzie Taylor—spoke of their mother’s many attributes. She spent her days serving others; loving her husband, children, and grandchildren; and creating a home “centered on Christ,” they said.In his last conversation with his daughter, President Nelson reported to her “that her daddy is very proud of her,” he said. “She has always chosen to do that which is right.“ The casket of Wendy Nelson Maxfield is lifted and placed into the hearse after funeral services in the Cottonwood Heights Utah Brighton Stake Center on Saturday, January 19, 2019. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.“Our tears of sorrow will turn to tears of anticipation as we gain an eternal perspective,” he said.Sister Gloria Nelson Irion, matron of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple, remembered her sister’s “love of the Lord and her desire to serve Him,” which extended naturally to serving others—especially her family.When a parent bids farewell to a child, something dies within that parent’s heart, said President Russell M. Nelson, speaking at funeral services for his “righteous and joyful” daughter on Saturday.Thousands filled the Cottonwood Heights Utah Brighton Stake Center to capacity to pay tribute to Wendy Nelson Maxfield, 67, who died Friday, January 11, of cancer.President Nelson said his daughter has been welcomed home by her mother, Sister Dantzel W. Nelson, who died unexpectedly on February 12, 2005, and her sister Emily Nelson Wittwer, who died on January 29, 1995. She will continue to grow, learn, and progress, he said. “Just think of what lies ahead for her.”
In one line of the song, President Tanner’s mother sang out, “Teach me all that I must be,” rather than “do.”“She then stopped and began to explain, with great animation and enthusiasm as she often does, how ‘be’ expresses what the Lord really expects of us,” President Tanner said to BYU–Hawaii students during the first devotional of the semester held on January 15. His wife, Sister Susan Tanner, also spoke during the devotional.While it is not found in the scriptures, there are similar phrases like “with real intent” or “with full purpose of heart.”“In all these ways and more, we want you to become a more devout disciple here, not just to do well in school and refrain from breaking the rules,” he said.“What do the scriptures promise us if we are intentional followers of Christ?” she asked. “If we come to Him with all of our hearts, He will deliver us out of bondage, heal us, and gather us.”The principle of becoming a disciple also applies to the direction President Russell M. Nelson is trying to take the Church, President Tanner said. President John S. Tanner speaks during a BYU–Hawaii devotional on January 15, 2019. Photo by Monique Saenz, BYU–Hawaii.Sister Tanner focused her message on the word intentional.Getting good grades is important, but President Tanner said he wants students to come to love learning so they become lifelong learners.These changes are intended to help members of Christ’s Church become more fully converted and move along the path of true discipleship.President Tanner shared how in the Sermon on the Mount in the Old World and the Sermon at the Temple in the New World as recorded in the Book of Mormon, “Jesus tries to move His followers from outward observance to inward, wholehearted embrace of righteousness. From conformity to consecration.”“It underlies the move from lower law, once-a-month visiting and home teaching to higher law, Christlike ministering. It underlies the renewed emphasis on deep and genuine Sabbath worship, on meaningful covenant making in the sacrament, on personal responsibility for gospel learning and living.”In applying these principles to the students’ education, President Tanner explained that while he wants them to obey the Honor Code, “we want you to internalize the principles of modesty and integrity in the Honor Code rather than just grudgingly conform to its rules.” Sister Susan Tanner speaks during a BYU–Hawaii devotional on January 15, 2019. Photo by Monique Saenz, BYU–Hawaii.The great aim of discipleship is to become like Him, a new man or woman in Christ.“This is not a time to be casual or half-hearted, to waffle, to be lazy, to let things just happen as they may. This is the time to gather Israel, to prepare the world for Christ’s coming.”Attending church and the temple are important, but truly worshipping is more so.While visiting his 98-year-old mother in Utah for Christmas, BYU–Hawaii President John S. Tanner sang “I Am a Child of God” with her. Due to her failing memory, singing songs is one thing she especially loves.“All of these words mean that you work toward something with design, purpose, intention, or determination,” she said. “Having a goal or an aim or a plan is the foundation. The plan provides something on which we can focus our hearts and minds.”“The purpose of the gospel is to ‘teach us all that we must be to live with Him someday.’ It is not enough to know or to do, as important as those are. We must become like Christ.”Sister Tanner encouraged the audience to be intentional about education, following the Honor Code, and teaching in families.His remarks focused on becoming a disciple of Christ, rather than going through the actions.This is an era that requires intentional efforts in teaching, learning, and living the gospel and striving to become like the Savior Jesus Christ, she said.“While knowledge and action are important to our mission [at BYU–Hawaii], becoming is the most important of all,” he said.Becoming like Christ is simple, but soul stretching, President Tanner said.Christ repeatedly compared His teachings to Moses’s as He taught His higher law. “Refraining from sinning is essential but not enough,” President Tanner said. “His disciples must overcome anger and lust, they must love even their enemies, and so forth. The Lord wants us to change who we are, not just what we do. Hence His eye is ever upon our motives and our hearts.”