In the News
March 2004

“In the News,” Ensign, Mar. 2004, 78–79

In the News

Elder Nelson Dedicates Republic of Tanzania

Overlooking Oyster Bay on the Indian Ocean, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicated the United Republic of Tanzania on 18 November 2003, and pronounced a blessing upon its leaders, citizens, missionaries, and members of the Church. Meeting with a small number of members on a promontory near Dar Es Salaam, Elder Nelson dedicated the land and asked God to bless the nation’s leaders “that they will lead in righteousness, mercy, and compassion,” and the country’s citizens “that they may pursue righteous endeavors. … Bless them to learn Thy commandments and prosper in the land. Help them to raise righteous families with honesty, integrity, and love for Thee and one another.”

Elder Steven E. Snow of the Seventy, President of the Africa Southeast Area, observed: “It was thrilling to be present as an Apostle gave this special blessing to the country of Tanzania. While the gospel has been established here, it will now firmly take root and grow and flourish.”

Elder Nelson later spoke to about 300 of the approximately 500 Tanzanian Church members. There are currently three branches in Tanzania, organized under the Kenya Nairobi Mission: the Kinin Doni, Changombe, and Ubungo Branches.

Church Member Killed in California Earthquake

Marilyn Southam Zafuto, 55, of the Paso Robles Second Ward, San Luis Obispo California Stake, was killed on 22 December 2003 in a central California earthquake.

Zafuto, a retired schoolteacher from Vernal, Utah, was found along with another woman amid the debris of a 19th-century clock tower building in Paso Robles, a town of 25,000. Several stores within the building collapsed, while the structure’s roof vaulted into the street, crushing numerous cars.

The 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck 20 miles west of Paso Robles near the coastal town of Cambria, affecting areas from San Francisco to Los Angeles. It was the largest California quake in four years.

California Ventura Mission President David J. Henderson reported that no missionaries were harmed and that they had been instructed on earthquake safety in recent zone conferences. Two member families were displaced from their homes due to structural damage. Two Church buildings in Paso Robles and Morro Bay required minor repairs.

LDS Soldier Killed During Ambush in Iraq

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stephen Bertolino was killed during an ambush on his military convoy on 29 November 2003 in Haditha, Iraq. Brother Bertolino, a member of the San Diego 19th Ward, San Diego California East Stake, leaves behind a wife and four children. Brother Bertolino was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Meritorious Service Medal during funeral services.

Church Aids Survivors of Quake in Iran

Latter-day Saint Charities was among the first non-government organizations to respond to the earthquake in Iran that killed 37,000 in late December 2003. The Church sent four and a half tons (4,500 kg) of emergency medicines, including enough antibiotics and allergy medicines to treat 90,000 people.

Church Humanitarian Emergency Response worked with M. Javad Zarif, ambassador from Iran to the United Nations, to assess needs, then collaborated with a company in Holland to rush the supplies to Iran. Garry Flake, director of the Church’s Humanitarian Emergency Response, said the shipment was an initial response and that the Church will monitor the need for additional aid.

In a letter to Brother Flake, Ambassador Zarif wrote: “I have been aware all along of the sincere efforts of Latter-day Saint Charities. … Such support provides an invaluable source of comfort to those bereaved quake survivors and the whole Iranian people as they note that the outside world shares in their sorrow.”

Eastern Malaysia Teens Gather for First Conference

Three years ago there was no organized Young Men or Young Women program in the Miri Branch in Malaysia. Now 10 young women attend regularly, know the Young Women theme, and are working toward completing the Personal Progress program.

These young women are some of the 80 teenagers from various parts of Malaysia who attended the year-old Kuching East Malaysia District’s first youth conference last December.

The remarkable growth of the Young Women program in Miri is mirrored by the success of the Bintulu Branch’s program, which has grown from one to 14 young women in the past year.

“These wonderful young women … cried tears of joy when the Young Women program was explained to them,” said Sharon Bray, district Young Women president. “Their personal growth has been tremendous. These young people are hungry for the gospel.”

The youth of the district prepared for months to perform in a variety show as part of the 2003 youth conference. The show featured singing, dancing, and acting that represented how the youth’s cultural roots had helped prepare them for the gospel. The Kuching East Malaysia District is one of four districts covering the country of Malaysia.

Stephen Bertolino. (Photograph courtesy of Church News.)

Youth in the Kuching East Malaysia District held their first youth conference in December. (Photograph by Sharon Bray.)