Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

75 years of Church News

Details the growth, development of Church
Published: Saturday, April 1, 2006

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In April 25, 1936, the cover of the Deseret News "Church Section" announced the "Launching of a Greater Church Objective" — or a formal welfare program to assist in emergency situations of needy or unemployed Church members. Called the Church Security Program, the effort stated a simple goal: "to take care of our people."

Photo by Dell Van Orden and Howard C. Moore
President Spencer W. Kimball in first satellite address.

In the following decades, Church News readers followed the growth of that program, from the Church's vast effort to send supplies to the Latter-day Saints in post-war Europe in the mid-1940s, to its undertaking to help Africa's hunger victims in the mid-1980s. In 2005 alone, the Church News reported dozens of stories on humanitarian projects and disaster relief in Southeast Asia, Africa, Pakistan and the Southern United States.

And the growth of the Church's welfare program is just one of countless major stories relating to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to unfold on the pages of the Church News, started on April 4, 1931, and published weekly since then.

The stories mark Church anniversaries, such as the 100th anniversary of the Word of Wisdom revelation that was celebrated by members in 1933, or the 200th anniversary of the Prophet Joseph Smith's birth celebrated last year. They record important dedications, including the dedication of the Hill Cumorah Monument in 1935 or the new 21,000-seat Conference Center in 2000. And they document notable milestones, such as the Church reaching the 1 million-member mark in 1947, the 5 million-member mark in 1982, and the 10 million member-mark in 1997.

In the past 75 years, the Church News has featured reports on Church growth, internationalization of the Church, family history, missionary and temple work, and the travels of Church leaders. Following is a brief snapshot of some of those reports.

President Heber J. Grant and counselors, Presidents Anthony W. Ivins and Charles W. Nibley, comprise First Presidency in 1931.

Temples

On Sept. 23, 1945, the Idaho Falls Temple was dedicated by President George Albert Smith — the first temple dedication covered in what is now the official Church News. The publication has covered all subsequent temple dedications, including the 1955 dedication of the Swiss Temple, the first temple to offer sessions in numerous languages; the 1985 dedication of the Freiberg Temple, located in the then communist-controlled German Democratic Republic; and 1985 dedication of the Johannesburg South Africa Temple, giving the Church one temple on every continent except Antarctica.

The Church News covered President

Kimball's 1981 announcement to build nine "smaller temples" and President Hinckley's 1997 plan to construct "small temples" in remote areas of the Church of small LDS populations. By the year 2000, the Church had 100 operating temples, with the dedication of the Boston Massachusetts Temple Oct. 1, 2000. A team of Church News reporters traveled to Nauvoo, Ill., in 2002 — filing stories on the historic temple dedication from the Times and Season building.

Church leader travels

On Sept. 12, 1937, President Heber J. Grant returned to Salt Lake City after a three-month tour of Europe, where he visited Church members and missionaries in 11 countries. He dedicated nine meetinghouses and gave some 55 addresses. Since that time, other Church presidents have duplicated his rapid pace.

In 1952, for example, President David O. McKay made a six-week tour of European missions and branches in Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Wales, Scotland and France. Two years later he visited South and Central America and became the first Church president to visit South Africa.

After becoming president in 1995, President Hinckley set out to visit members worldwide, becoming the first Church president to visit mainland China, going there in May 1996; the first Church president to visit West Africa, in February 1998; and the first Church president to visit Russia and Ukraine, former republics of what was once part of the Soviet Union, in September 2002. Because of his vast travels and rapid pace, the Church News has at times had to send multiple reporters to cover his trips. In the summer of 2005, for example, Church News reporters traveled to West Africa, Korea and Hong Kong to cover his "around the world trip."

Undated 1930s photo shows men and teams harvesting crops during the Depression. They were part of a new general unemployment relief plan that included labor, raising crops, and storehouses, forerunner to today's vast Welfare Services.

International Church:

In 1947 — the year the Church began the vast project of translating the scriptures into additional languages — President George Albert Smith announced that the Church had the responsibility to carry the gospel to the people at home and abroad, a missionary posture leading to the internationalization of the Church.

In 1952 a Systematic Program for Teaching the Gospel was published for use by the missionaries of the Church. This inaugurated the use of a standard plan of missionary work throughout the Church. Then in 1959, President David O. McKay issued his famous "Every member a missionary" slogan.

In 1961 — the same year the first non-English-speaking stake of the Church was organized at The Hague in The Netherlands — a Language Training Institute was established at Brigham Young University for missionaries called to teach in other languages.

Today the Church boasts more than 12.5 million members, including more members living outside the United States than within and more non-English speaking members than English. The Book of Mormon was printed in its 100th language in 2000.

Although living across the globe, those members are united by the Church satellite system, started in 1981 with a network of 500 satellite dishes. That system has allowed Church leaders to reach out to the membership of the Church through electronic means. On Jan. 11, 2003, the first global leadership training meeting was held for priesthood leaders and transmitted by satellite in 56 languages to more than 97 percent of the Church's priesthood leaders. And the first satellite broadcast for children commemorated the 125th anniversary of the Primary organization Feb. 8, 2003.

Photo courtesy Church Historical Department
President David O. McKay speaks intently in 1958, about a year before his famous "every member a missionary" address of 1959.

In addition, members worldwide participated in the dedications of Palmyra New York, the Nauvoo Illinois, and the Winter Quarters Nebraska temples via the Church satellite system. Today, members of the First Presidency participate in stake and regional conferences throughout the world via satellite broadcasts.

Out of Obscurity:

Church News reporters have also witnessed the Church emerge from obscurity. Since June 1, 1933, when the Church opened a 500-foot exhibit in the Hall of Religions at the Century of Progress World's Fair in Chicago, Ill., the Church has become increasingly recognizable throughout the world. Compare, for example, the 1947 caravan of wagon-canopied automobiles following the Mormon Pioneer Trail with the 1997 sesquicentennial celebration of the same event. The 1997 recreation of the pioneers trek west prompted thousands of positive news articles to appear around the globe. The media took interest in the Church again in 2002 when Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

Reporters covering those events found something Church News reporters always knew — there are more great stories relating to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than can ever be covered on the pages of a single newspaper.

Photo Dell Van Orden and Howard C. Moore
President Spencer W. Kimball is with President Gordon B. Hinckley and Elder Hugh W. Pinnock in Fayette, N.Y., for first satellite address.

Church News file photo
President Joseph Fielding Smith, 10th president of the Church, relaxes with the Sept. 19, 1970, Church News in his office. The Church News continues to enjoy a close working relationship with Church leaders.

Photo courtesy Church Historical Department
Then-Elder Ezra Taft Benson visits branch in Duesseldorf, Germany, in 1946.

E-mail to: sarah@desnews.com