“In the News,” Ensign, July 2004, 78–79
Interfaith Relations Strengthened by BYU Records Preservation
After he heard about Brigham Young University’s Dead Sea Scrolls database project, Bishop Mar Bawai Soro of the Assyrian Church of the East approached the school’s Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts about digitizing 33 ancient Christian texts housed at the Vatican Library. In May, that proposal came to fruition as BYU and the Vatican Library released a DVD with some 14,000 pages of Syriac (a dialect of Aramaic) texts dating back to the fifth and sixth centuries.
The texts include the writings—many of them previously unpublished—of early Christian writers. The texts contain the theologies of the Syriac Christian churches and chronicles their emerging culture. “These manuscripts really tell our ‘lost’ story,” says Bishop Soro.
But wide-scale records preservation isn’t the only thing the seven-year project has created. The effort has also established relationships among the Church, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Vatican, introducing the possibility of similar collaborations in the future.
“This was somewhat of a pilot project to demonstrate how the different parties could work together,” says Kristian Heal, a research associate for the institute and a specialist in Syriac studies. “When the Assyrian Church put us forth as the party to collaborate with, the Vatican was initially reticent because they had no prior relationship with us. However, as they asked around, they received very positive comments about us as a people and about the credibility of our work.”
This particular project focused on the writings of a branch of Christians who lived in what is modern-day Iraq. Although they faced heavy taxation and pressure to assimilate with their Muslim neighbors, they struggled to retain their identity as followers of Christ.
Brother Heal explains, “This project [has given] us an opportunity to get to better know some of the Christian groups, and in particular, … a group of people who have been resolutely Christian under difficult circumstances. … There has to be something good and useful and true and inspiring in their story.”
The project has generated significant scholarly enthusiasm. Lucas Van Rompay, a noted Syriac Christian scholar and professor at Duke University, says he was impressed by the quality of the digital images. “I haven’t seen anything of the same level, of the same expertise, and of the same breadth,” Professor Van Rompay says.
Church Recognized for Humanitarian Contributions
For the first time, the Church was invited to participate in the International Aid & Trade Europe 2004 Conference & Exhibition, held in Geneva, Switzerland, on 28–29 January.
While Church representatives had attended the annual exhibition before, this was the first time the Church was asked to formally present information about its programs, said Garry R. Flake, director of the Church’s humanitarian emergency response.
During the conference, Brother Flake made several presentations outlining the Church’s focus on emergency response and its other major humanitarian initiatives. In addition, the show provided an opportunity to learn about other agencies’ causes and to form potential alliances. One particular benefit from the conference was interacting with the World Health Organization, headquartered in Geneva. The Church and the WHO had previously formed a partnership to help eliminate measles through inoculation, Brother Flake said. Besides offering financial assistance from the Church, Brother Flake hopes to provide field support later this year in the form of members helping with vaccination campaigns, especially in regions where immunization levels are low.
Anchorage Week of the Family
The first-ever Week of the Family in Anchorage, Alaska, was held in April, promoting the belief that healthy family relationships are a benefit to communities and nations.
“[Families are] your first place to learn about human relationships. It’s your jumping-off point,” Felicia Paskett, one of the presenters, told the Anchorage Daily News. The family unit allows children to learn values and traditions while flourishing as individuals, she added.
The seven-day conference included a series of seminars on topics such as creating a stable family and building a support network.
The Family Fair kickoff, held at a Latter-day Saint meetinghouse, was attended by Anchorage mayor Mark Begich. Booths at the fair were staffed by members of the Church and other local groups and included information on topics such as self-reliance, family home evening, and combating rape.
Aid Effort a Highlight of Women’s Conference
An estimated 17,000 attendees at Brigham Young University’s 2004 Women’s Conference rolled up their sleeves and assembled more than 44,052 hygiene kits, 16,138 school kits, and 5,016 newborn kits during the conference, held on 29–30 April. They also made 1,000 topical sore bandages, painted 1,000 toys, tied 210 quilts, and stuffed and sewed 350 teddy bears.
Some attendees crocheted quilt squares in the Marriott Center at BYU while listening to such speakers as Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and BYU President Elder Cecil O. Samuelson of the Seventy and his wife, Sharon. Others prepared kits, tied quilts, made greeting cards, assembled toys, and completed fleece blankets in various areas around the BYU campus.
In two major service projects, conference attendees were also asked to cut out patterns for children’s clothing and to use old airline seat covers to make school bags for children.
The quilts were to be sent to Chile as part of a request from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to send 4,000 quilts to the poor citizens of the country, where many families have only one blanket. The kits with bandages will be sent to Africa to help those suffering from leprosy to cover their sores.
Baseball Team Welcomes Saints to “Pioneer Night”
More than any other church, foundation, school, or corporation, members of the Church are the single largest group-ticket client the Los Angeles Dodgers has.
To celebrate this relationship, the Dodgers organization will be hosting “Pioneer Night at Dodger Stadium” on 23 July. All Latter-day Saint families, wards, and stakes will be able to buy tickets for that evening’s game at a discounted rate.
The event is intended to honor the Church and the role that Latter-day Saint pioneers played in the settlement of California. Latter-day Saints settled San Bernardino County, and the Mormon Battalion helped build roads and settle other parts of California.
At the game, fans will be able to visit a display including pioneer crafts, costumes, and historical documents. A tribute to the pioneers and salutes to outstanding members of the Church will take place during the pre-game activities and game-time breaks.
“Our hope is that there will be a greater awareness of the Latter-day Saint community in the Los Angeles area, and [awareness] that we are good neighbors,” says Elder R. Randall Huff, Area Authority Seventy.
Church Invites Youth to Monthly Devotional on Temple Square
Devotionals for youth and their parents and leaders will now be held monthly on Temple Square. Following the success of the April devotional featuring Elaine Dalton, Second Counselor in the Young Women general presidency, and Brazilian singer Liriel Domiciano, a similar event will be held each month in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
In May, Charles W. Dahlquist II, Young Men general president, and Eclipse, a popular a capella performing group, participated in the devotional.
Upcoming devotional dates are 14 July, 10 August, and 1 September. Speakers and performers had not been announced at press time. Tickets are required but can be obtained free of charge. For tickets or more information about upcoming devotionals, call the Conference Center ticket office at 1-801-240-0080 or go online at www.lds.org/events.