In the News
February 2004

“In the News,” Ensign, Feb. 2004, 76–78

In the News

Search Ends for Body of Missing Missionary

A full-time missionary in Samoa is thought to have died in a flooding accident in November. Elder Michael Joshua Bent, from Minot, North Dakota, is missing and presumed dead after a search for his body was called off in mid-December.

Elder Bent was leaving a meeting with seven other missionaries when the van he was driving stalled while crossing a flood-swollen river that was deeper than expected. The force of the river rolled the van several times. The other seven missionaries escaped the vehicle and made their way to land. The flood swept Elder Bent downstream toward the ocean.

The family held memorial services for Elder Bent prior to Christmas. He had served in the field for 14 months at the time of the accident.

President Ezra Taft Benson Honored in Washington, D.C.

President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994), 13th President of the Church, and his legacy were honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., in November 2003. The ceremony celebrated the 50th anniversary of his being named Secretary of Agriculture for the United States.

“Ezra Taft Benson stood on the solid bedrock of his principles. He fought for what he believed was right,” said current Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman.

President Benson, who was an ordained Apostle at the time of his appointment, served under United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953 to 1961. He is credited with implementing several changes in the Department of Agriculture that are still in place today.

Senator Gordon H. Smith of Oregon, who is a Latter-day Saint and whose father served with President Benson at the Department of Agriculture, noted, “I learned many things as a boy and as a man from [President] Benson. But the thing I suppose I learned most from him is that Latter-day Saints could live true to their faith while walking in high places.”

Saints Break Ground for New Samoa Temple

Nearly 1,000 people attended the groundbreaking ceremony on 19 October 2003 for the rebuilding of the Apia Samoa Temple. The groundbreaking took place just three months after the original temple was destroyed by fire.

“With the loss of that great temple, a great emptiness came upon the Saints of Samoa,” remarked Elder Dennis E. Simmons of the Seventy, First Counselor in the Pacific Islands Area Presidency. “We can now rejoice with you once again; on this site, a house will be erected to the Lord.”

Church leaders, government officials, and community leaders attended the ceremony, including Bishop Richard C. Edgley, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric; Elder Beaver T. Ho Ching, Area Authority Seventy; Daniel A. Betham, recently released as president of the Apia Samoa Temple; and the Prime Minister of Samoa, the Hon. Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi.

“The Lord loves the Samoan people. President Hinckley loves the Samoan people. Almost within a week of the burning of this temple, President Hinckley said … we will rebuild the temple in Samoa,” Bishop Edgley told those attending the service. “These holy words ‘Holiness to the Lord’ will again hallow this sacred ground.”

Construction on the new temple is expected to take 18 to 24 months.

Choir and Its Broadcast Honored Nationally

As the Mormon Tabernacle Choir prepares to celebrate the 75th anniversary of its weekly broadcast Music and the Spoken Word in July 2004, the choir and the program are being honored.

United States President George W. Bush awarded the choir the National Medal of Arts in a special ceremony held in the White House on 12 November 2003. Mac Christensen, president of the choir, accepted the honor on behalf of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Craig Jessop, music director; Mack Wilberg, associate director; John Longhurst, Tabernacle organist; Stan Parrish, assistant to the choir president; and Lloyd Newell, announcer for Music and the Spoken Word, also attended the ceremony.

“We congratulate the choir on this significant national honor. The secret of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is that its 360 members sing from their hearts. … We are grateful for this well-deserved recognition of their tremendous efforts,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley.

The National Medal of Arts is the nation’s highest honor for artistic excellence. The medal is awarded annually by the president of the United States to individuals and organizations that have made extraordinary contributions to the creation, support, and growth of the arts in the United States.

Music and the Spoken Word is also being honored. The program—the world’s longest-running continuous radio network program—will be inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame on 20 April 2004.

Music and the Spoken Word began in July 1929 and has been broadcast weekly, with few exceptions, from the Tabernacle on Temple Square ever since.

Sisters in Sierra Leone “Catch the Vision”

Some 220 Relief Society sisters from the Freetown and Wellington Districts gathered in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on 4 October 2003 for their first women’s conference. The two-district conference, with a theme of “Love One Another—Catching the Vision of Relief Society,” included workshops, a reader’s theater, and lunch served by members of the priesthood.

The conference was initially planned to include the Bo District as well, but due to transportation costs, members in the Bo District, 175 miles from Freetown, held their own women’s conference locally on 13 September 2003. Some 200 sisters attended.

Two BYU Rugby Stars Play on National Team

Two members of the Brigham Young University rugby team represented the United States as members of the United States National Team during the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Brisbane, Australia, last November.

Kimball Kjar and Salesi Sika, both returned missionaries, competed during play at the World Cup. This was especially exciting for Brother Kjar, from Bountiful, Utah, because he returned to play in the same city where he served his mission.

“I always hoped on my mission that I would one day be able to see the Brisbane Temple completed. I never guessed that it would be rugby that would bring me back to my mission area,” said Brother Kjar.

Brigham Young University in Provo is known for having an outstanding rugby program. “BYU was one of the first universities in the United States to have a rugby program, starting in 1962,” said Jared Akenhead, BYU’s rugby coach.

Brother Akenhead noted that rugby at BYU is a different experience from anywhere else in the world. “It’s funny because rugby players from around the world have the reputation of being hooligans, yet here at BYU it is the complete opposite,” he said. “We pray before every game and obey the Word of Wisdom. Eighty percent of the team members have been on missions, and the other 20 percent are planning on going. The national championships are held on Sundays, which excludes BYU from participating, yet we still get to play the best teams in the nation, and we are still regarded as being one of the best.”

Church News contributed to these reports.

President Ezra Taft Benson

Church and community leaders break ground for the new Apia Samoa Temple. Nearly 1,000 attended the ceremony. (Photograph courtesy of Pacific Islands Public Affairs.)

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir recently received the United States’ highest artistic honor. The award was presented at the White House by President George W. Bush. (Photograph by Craig Dimond.)