News of the Church

First Presidency Celebrates 10 Years

By Chad Phares, Church Magazines

Chad Phares, "News of the Church," Ensign, June 2005, 74
A decade after being called to lead the Church, President Gordon B. Hinckley and the counselors in the First Presidency, President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust, discussed in a news conference many of the challenges and achievements within the Church during the last 10 years and expressed continued optimism for the future.

President Hinckley remarked that several significant things have blessed the lives of members and others since the day he became the 15th President of the Church.

He mentioned the announcement and success of establishing the Perpetual Education Fund, the construction of the Conference Center, the distribution of more than 50 million copies of the Book of Mormon in the last 10 years, and the allocation of a significant amount in humanitarian aid to those in need.

President Hinckley spoke briefly about the traveling he has done since 1995. He has traveled to more than 70 nations and logged more than one million miles (1.6 million km).

"It becomes very tiring, very wearisome, but it's very faith promoting," he said. "When you get out among the people and see their strength and their capacity, their devotion and their love, it's a wonderful thing, really. You just can't believe it until you experience it, and it's tremendous."

President Hinckley praised his counselors as men of wisdom, faith, and devotion, saying he couldn't find any two men better suited to serve with him.

President Monson and President Faust spoke of their admiration for the work President Hinckley does.

"He is a man of vision who does not take counsel from his fears," President Monson said. "He plans, he prepares, he prays, then with that prophetic influence which comes to him ... he moves forward with faith."

President Hinckley said he was not concerned about what he and his counselors will be remembered for. "We just do our very best today and leave the rest for whatever happens," he said.

Deseret Morning News contributed to this report.

First Presidency Time Line

March 12, 1995

The First Presidency is set apart.

September 23, 1995

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issue "The Family: A Proclamation to the World."

February 28, 1996

International Church membership surpasses U.S. Church membership.

April 6, 1996

President Hinckley announces plans to construct the Conference Center.

May 27, 1996

President Hinckley becomes the first Church President to visit mainland China.

April 5, 1997

The office of Seventy is added to the call of Area Authorities, a part-time regional leadership position created two years earlier.

October 4, 1997

President Hinckley announces plans to build smaller temples.

November 1997

Worldwide Church membership reaches 10 million.

January 1, 2000

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issue "The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles," a declaration of their apostolic witness of the Savior.

April 1-2, 2000

First general conference is held in the new 21,000-seat Conference Center.

March 31, 2001

President Hinckley announces the establishment of the Perpetual Education Fund.

June 27, 2002

President Hinckley dedicates the rebuilt Nauvoo Illinois Temple.

January 11, 2003

First-ever global leadership training meeting is transmitted by satellite in 56 languages to more than 97 percent of the Church's priesthood leaders.

1995 to 2005 at a Glance

3 million

Increase in membership from 9.1 million in 1995 to 12 million in 2005


Temples dedicated, rededicated, or announced


Additional languages into which all or part of the Book of Mormon has been translated, reaching 106 total languages

641 million

U.S. dollars provided in humanitarian assistance, including $105 million for emergency response in 111 countries


Wheelchairs donated to people in 95 different countries


Countries where clean water systems have been installed

1 million +

Miles (1.6 million km) traveled by President Hinckley to visit more than 70 countries

[photo] President Gordon B. Hinckley, center, and the counselors in the First Presidency, President Thomas S. Monson, left, and President James E. Faust, have served together for 10 years.

[photo] Since President Hinckley was called as President of the Church in 1995, 87 temples have been dedicated, rededicated, or announced. (Photograph by Ravell Call, courtesy of Church News.)

Church Fourth Largest in United States

"News of the Church," Ensign, June 2005, 75
While a lot of attention is paid to worldwide growth, Church growth within the United States continues as well.

According to the 2005 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, of those churches providing figures, the Church is now the fourth-largest denomination in the United States, with more than 5.5 million members reported in 2004. The Church, which was the fifth-largest faith in the country one year ago, "continues to grow remarkably," according to the yearbook, experiencing a 1.71 percent growth rate in the United States during 2004.

The growth of the Church worldwide is also noteworthy. According to the statistical report given during April general conference, membership worldwide had nearly reached 12.3 million at the end of 2004. More than 240,000 converts were baptized during 2004, and children of record increased by nearly 100,000.

The growing number of members led to the creation of 41 new stakes, 1 new mission, 2 new districts, and 433 new wards and branches during 2004. Three new temples were also dedicated.

President Gordon B. Hinckley, who has seen Church membership increase by more than three million members since he was sustained as President of the Church in 1995, said the work of the Lord will continue to go forth.

"A new day has come in the work of the Almighty," he said. "That work has grown and strengthened and moved across the earth. It has now touched for good the lives of millions, and this is only the beginning" ("The Dawning of a Brighter Day," Ensign, May 2004, 83).

Four Temples Set to Open by October Conference

"News of the Church," Ensign, June 2005, 76
In March the First Presidency announced the open house and dedication dates for four temples on three different continents. The San Antonio Texas, the Aba Nigeria, the Newport Beach California, and the Apia Samoa Temples will be dedicated before general conference in October.

San Antonio Texas Temple

The open house for the San Antonio Texas Temple was held from April 16 through May 7. Following the open house, the temple was formally dedicated on Sunday, May 22, in four dedicatory sessions.

The San Antonio Texas Temple is the fourth operating temple in Texas and serves nearly 50,000 members of the Church who reside within the temple district's boundaries.

Aba Nigeria Temple

The Aba Nigeria Temple's open house will take place from June 18 through July 2. A cultural celebration will be held on August 6. The temple will be dedicated in four dedicatory sessions the next day, August 7. The temple will be open for ordinance work on August 8.

The Aba Nigeria Temple will join the Johannesburg South Africa Temple and the Accra Ghana Temple as the third temple in Africa.

Newport Beach California Temple

The open house for the Newport Beach California Temple will be held from July 23 through August 20 every day except Sundays. A cultural celebration will be held Saturday, August 27. The temple will be dedicated in four dedicatory sessions on August 28. The temple will open for ordinance work the next day, August 29.

The Newport Beach California Temple will be the sixth dedicated temple in California.

Apia Samoa Temple

After being destroyed by fire more than two years earlier in 2003, the rebuilt Apia Samoa Temple will be dedicated on September 4, in four dedicatory sessions.

The temple, which was gutted by flames while it was being renovated and enlarged in July 2003, will open its doors to the public every day except Sundays from August 6 to August 27.

A cultural celebration will be held on September 3, the day before the dedication. The temple will open for ordinance work on September 5.

Mormon Tabernacle Choir Getting Acquainted with Conference Center

By Adam C. Olson, Church Magazines

Adam C. Olson, "News of the Church," Ensign, June 2005, 76
Until the renovation of the historic Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square for seismic upgrades and additions to the choir facilities is complete in late 2006, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has had to move to the Conference Center.

For many members, their only opportunity to see the choir perform is during general conference, which has been held in the Conference Center since 2000. So it is easy for members to assume that over the past five years, the choir has become accustomed to performing there.

However, aside from general conference and a handful of other performances each year, the majority of the choir's performances, including the weekly Music and the Spoken Word broadcast, have continued to take place in the Tabernacle. That changed with the decision to renovate the choir's namesake and home since the building's dedication in 1867.

Aside from the logistical challenges associated with moving-the choir's library and wardrobe remain across the street under Temple Square-the choir and organists have had to make some adjustments to meet the challenges presented by a building with drastically different acoustics.

Whereas the Tabernacle seats about 5,000 people, the 21,333-seat Conference Center auditorium is believed to be the largest theater-style auditorium ever built. The second-largest, the Auditorio Nacional in Mexico, has about 11,000 seats. But the very thing that makes the Conference Center unique has created one of the greatest challenges.

Large enough to comfortably hold a Boeing 747, the auditorium has a volume of 8.5 million cubic feet. The Tabernacle's volume is 1.5 million cubic feet. The famed London Royal Albert Hall is just over one-third the volume of the Conference Center with 3 million cubic feet.

What's more, the auditorium is carpeted, its seats are upholstered, and its ceiling and walls are acoustically treated to reduce reverberation-ideal for the spoken word, the building's primary purpose, but a challenge for the choir and its accompanists.

Sound is made by moving air. There is so much air to move inside of the auditorium that Craig Jessop, music director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, says performing there "is like singing outside."

Even a choir as large as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir can't fill that space properly without some amplification-a process requiring continual adjustments depending on each performance. Not only is amplification necessary for the audience to enjoy the musical experience, but speakers are located throughout the choir seats because the singers need to be able to hear each other.

The room's size also required an organ capable of filling the space with sound when performing without the choir, but still capable of accompanying the choir without overwhelming it. And while many organ-playing techniques remain the same from one organ to the next, each organ is unique with different sounds and different console layouts.

"Every organ has its own personality," says John Longhurst, Tabernacle organist. "Each is designed and built specifically for the room in which it is housed. The organist has to become acquainted with each instrument on its own terms." (See accompanying sidebar on the Conference Center organ.)

However, Brother Jessop feels the choir's extended stay in the Conference Center is actually helping them solve these challenges.

"These acoustic issues have to be addressed every time we perform there," he says. "Performing there on a regular basis has forced us to solve some problems that we didn't have time to address before because we were only there two to three times a year."

In spite of some of the building's challenges for the choir, those involved believe the Conference Center was "absolutely inspired," according to Brother Jessop.

"The Conference Center was as revolutionary in 2000 as the Tabernacle was in 1867. Tens of thousands of members who want to attend general conference can sit and listen in the physical presence of the apostles and prophets," he says. He also points out that the building "is a powerful tool for presenting the gospel message around the world," equipped with state-of-the-art studio and broadcasting equipment.

"Culturally, the world is slowly discovering that this is one of the great halls of the world. Even the greatest cities in the world do not have a facility like the Conference Center."

Conference Center Organ Unique in Own Right

Aside from the buildings' sizes, one of the most notable differences between the Tabernacle and the Conference Center for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is in the two organs.

The Tabernacle organ is famous for its history, sound, and size-on most lists it is ranked among the 15 largest organs in the world with more than 11,600 pipes in 206 ranks.

While the Conference Center organ is smaller (7,667 pipes in 130 ranks), it is still a commanding instrument. In order to fill the enormous Conference Center auditorium, many of the instrument's pipes use higher than usual wind pressure, provided by six blowers totalling 38 horsepower, to power it notes. It is one of only a few organs in the world to have two stops that descend into the ground-shaking 64-foot range, reaching GGGGG# (roughly an octave below the range of a grand piano). And its five-manual (or keyboard) console puts it in an unusual class.

"There aren't many five-manual organs built," says Clay Christiansen, Tabernacle organist. "And in our lifetime, there hasn't been an organ built with so grand a bass section as this instrument. It's a remarkable instrument."

The creation of the organ was a seven-year project from conceptualization to the final "voicing" (or acoustical testing) of each pipe in the auditorium. Installation of the thousands of pipes was a three-year process by itself, one that the organ's builder, Schoenstein & Co., didn't complete until 2003, well after the first general conference held in the building in April 2000. During that conference, the choir was accompanied by an electronic organ.

"During that first conference, the only pipes installed were the ones you can see," says John Longhurst, Tabernacle organist. "That's about 170 out of the 7,700."

But the organ was worth the work and the wait.

"To anyone who sees it, it makes a statement," says Brother Christiansen. "To those who hear it, it does the same."

[photo] The Conference Center organ is made up of 7,667 pipes, most of which are housed behind the 170 pipes that can be seen by the audience. (Photograph by John Luke.)

[photo] The organ's pipes come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from about 3/4 inch (44 mm) to nearly 40 feet (12 m) in length. (Photograph by John Luke.)

Daily Organ Recitals Continue through Renovation

Since 1900, few days have gone by when visitors to Temple Square haven't been treated to an organ recital on the Tabernacle organ. Though renovation to the Tabernacle has made the organ unavailable, no one wanted to give up the daily recitals.

Until the Tabernacle reopens, the half-hour daily organ recitals will be open to the public in the Conference Center at 2:05 p.m. on Sunday, and at 12:05 p.m. from Monday through Saturday. An additional recital will take place each Monday through Saturday at 2:05 p.m. between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

"Organ recitals have been taking place in the Tabernacle for more than 100 years," says Brother John Longhurst, Tabernacle organist. "But now we have another magnificent instrument across the street, and people owe it to themselves to hear it live. I think they will not be disappointed."

In the News

Hinckleys Help Create Endowed Scholarship at LDS Business College

"News of the Church," Ensign, June 2005, 78
President Gordon B. Hinckley visited the campus of LDS Business College in March to participate in a ceremony honoring his parents, Bryant S. and Ada Bitner Hinckley, who made significant contributions to the school. President Hinckley's parents were both employed by the school from 1899 to 1910. His father became principal in 1900, and his mother was a teacher.

The highlight of the ceremony was the announcement of the Bryant S. and Ada Bitner Hinckley Faculty Scholarship. The scholarship, which was originally created in 2000 by faculty members, became an endowed scholarship last year, meaning that all scholarship money awarded is taken from the interest accrued in the fund.

In the past, the fund provided about four partial or full scholarships annually. Upon learning of the fund last year, President Hinckley requested that it become an endowed fund and made the first contribution. The scholarship has now grown to U.S. $260,000 and will provide about eight full scholarships or 16 partial scholarships annually.

More than 100 descendants of Bryant S. and Ada Bitner Hinckley attended the ceremony.

Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit Travels Across Europe

Brigham Young University's Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) sponsored a traveling exhibit on the findings and importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which exhibit has proven to be an effective missionary tool in Europe.

The exhibit helped strengthen relations with leaders and dignitaries in European countries and allowed Church members to share their beliefs with those of other faiths. More than half of those who visited the exhibit were not members of the Church.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, which is a collection of biblical and nonbiblical writings found in caves along the Dead Sea in 1947, contain writings dating as far back as 300 B.C. In the early 1990s, the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation approached BYU to discuss the possibility of supplying an electronic version of the writings. The initial database was finished in 1999.

The exhibit's tour, which ended in May, included Austria, Belgium, the British Isles, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland.

New DVDs Cater to Home and Family

"News of the Church," Ensign, June 2005, 78
In an effort to provide families greater access to Church videos for use in the home, in personal study, and in home evening groups, the Church has created the new Home and Family Collection of DVDs.

The first installments of the Home and Family Collection, which is a compilation of previously released films and programs that were originally found only on VHS, are currently available for purchase.

The first three DVDs are To This End Was I Born (the full-length version of The Lamb of God), Book of Mormon Stories, and The Mountain of the Lord.

To This End Was I Born tells the story of the last hours of the Savior's life on earth, His visit to the spirit world, and His Resurrection. While the other Home and Family Collection DVDs are currently available only in English, To This End Was I Born is available in 18 languages, including American Sign Language. Because of DVD technology, all languages are available on one disc.

The Book of Mormon Stories DVD provides still pictures and text from Book of Mormon Stories, a simple, illustrated version of the Book of Mormon designed for children. The four-hour DVD is designed to supplement family home evening and Church lessons.

The Mountain of the Lord, a film that recalls the history of the construction of the Salt Lake Temple, is available in English and ASL. The DVD includes a bonus feature: black-and-white photographs taken when the temple was under construction.

Church History, the fourth installment in the collection, is scheduled to be released shortly. This three-disc set contains 27 feature videos on the history of the Church.

Although not a part of the Home and Family Collection, the Church has also made Legacy available on DVD, a film about the travails of the early Saints who were driven westward. Legacy is available in English, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Samoan, Spanish, and Tongan.

The DVDs are available at distribution centers or may be ordered online at


"A Balanced Life"

"Comment," Ensign, June 2005, 79
Thank you so much for "A Balanced Life" by Brent L. Top in the April 2005 issue. I read it with grateful tears. His article was refreshing and uplifting. It came as a beautiful answer to desperate prayers. I am immensely grateful for the help and hope it brought me.
Valerie Stephens, Brigham City 16th Ward, Brigham City Utah South Stake

Adoption Blessings

I just finished reading the Comment section of the March Ensign. I would like to reply to the mother who put her baby up for adoption three years ago. I hope the Lord blesses you abundantly for making such a wise and loving choice. I want to thank you in the way I know your daughter will thank you when she is my age. I was adopted through LDS Family Services nearly 24 years ago. Every day I wish I could thank my birth mother for the great sacrifice she made. My adoptive parents waited seven years for me. They are wonderful parents. Because of their great love for me, I have grown to understand Heavenly Father's great love for me.

Nine months ago they joined me in the temple as I was sealed to my husband. If it were not for my birth mother's wise choice, my parents would not have had the chance to experience such joy in their posterity in this life. I hope, wherever she is, that she knows through the Comforter that she made the correct choice, that I am happy, and that I love her dearly for what she has gone through for me.
Suzanne Fei, Market Street Branch, Beaverton Oregon Stake

Single Sisters

I am a single senior sister serving a proselyting mission in England. My companions and I have become a bit puzzled over the fact that whenever the Ensign publishes articles about senior missionaries, all references to such are of senior couples-never any mention of single sisters who go away from their families, out into unfamiliar places, most having recently lost a spouse. I don't know how many senior sisters actually do proselyting missions, but for me it is truly a wonderful experience. Other senior sisters serve temple or family history missions; their work is of great value to those they serve. Thank you for a wonderful publication. I look forward to reading it every month.
Sister T. Fernstrom, England London South Mission

Grateful for Newel Whitney

Thank you for the article about Newel K. Whitney in the April 2005 Ensign. In 2003 I reached the point in my life where I believed that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was true. I prayed to God to show me somehow that the Church was true. While I was visiting Newel Whitney's store, the Holy Ghost came upon me for the first time in my life and confirmed to me that the Church is true. I am extremely grateful for Newel K. Whitney.
Ken Sisler, Newmarket Ward, Brampton Ontario Stake

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