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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Happy Birthday, Joanna Stokes Hickman!

The final post I wanted to do today was a shout-out to my older sister, Joanna Stokes Hickman, who celebrated her birthday yesterday. (May 4). Throughout my life, she has been my defender, my friend, my confidant and my sister. She has supported everything I've ever done, even when she may have thought or felt I was doing the wrong thing.

Allow me to share a few memories. I have no recollection of this, but I have been told that when I was born, Joanna was extremely defensive of me. On one occasion, when the doctors were about to take me away for some needed surgery, Joanna put her hands on her hips and asked "What are you going to do to my baby?" No matter when I underwent surgery, Joanna was never far away, cheering me on to a speedy recovery. When Joanna was preparing to marry Lyle Hickman in 2004, I underwent four surgeries in a three-week period. Joanna willingly dropped whatever wedding plans she had left to do just to be sure I was okay through the ordeal. The knowledge of my sister's love was one of many factors that led me to a speedy recovery.

When I received a challenge to make my first date the Homecoming dance held shortly after the start of my Junior Year of High School, Joanna was right there with me. She helped me decide on several girls that I might ask. Then, when I had made my selection, she helped me ask the young lady out. Though she was in college at that time, she offered to double date with me. While that never happened, the offer was there. When I was preparing to get married, she was one of the first people to accept my bride-to-be as part of the family. When my younger brother got married, Joanna selflessly relieved us early from our duties in the kitchen just so Amy would have a chance to talk to her family that was there.

After I had decided on two part-time opportunities (the temple and working with Welfare Services, the Church's Humanitarian program) for my missionary service, my sister and I had a life-altering conversation, during which she expressed her concern about whether or not I was having enough of a spiritual experience as I served. Though at that time it bothered me a little, I now recognize the concern that went along with that, and I am most grateful.

I remember going with Joanna to a Young Single Adult fireside that she was dispatching for (she worked with the BYU police). At one point, I left the meeting feeling out of it and returned to where she was, where I  wound up lying down to take a nap. Joanna made sure I could still hear the fireside while simultaneously ascertaining that no one disturbed my rest.

And this is merely a sample of all the many wonderful things my sister has done for me. I rejoice in the opportunity to be her younger brother. I rejoice in her successful marriage and family life, particularly the way she is raising my nephew Grant to be a wonderful, kind little man. I am somewhat saddened that the next chapter of her life will take place far away from me, but I know she is anxious for the opportunity for her husband to attend medical school. She departed with her family for the British-owned island of St. Kitts and Nevis late last night, and, thanks to me being involved with work, I missed the chance to see her off. I will miss her more than words can say. But I am grateful that modern technology will assure that she will never be too far away. And it is hoped that part of this new adventure will be giving birth to as many new lives as she and Lyle want. I have plenty of nieces and nephews on my wife's side, but only a niece and a nephew on my side, so I am hoping that being in a different place will help her to fulfill her desires in expanding her family.

I want to end this tribute to my sister with a simple declaration: I love you, Joanna, and no matter what may change in your life, I will always be here for you. Best wishes on your brand new adventure. Oh, and thanks for everything. I love you!

Cedar City Temple Groundbreaking announced

The Church also announced today the groundbreaking date for the Cedar City Utah temple. That sacred event that marks the commencement in the building process will take place on Saturday August 8. The event will be broadcasted via satellite to those in the temple district. Attendance at the site is by invitation. Based on the general 2 1/2 year estimate on temple completion, we can anticipate that the temple will be done sometime in early 2018.

So that brings us to the question of who will preside at the Cedar City Utah Temple groundbreaking ceremony. Any of the First Presidency could do it, though it would likely either be President Henry B. Eyring or President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, as President Thomas S. Monson's health may not be very good at the moment. Of all the 12 apostles who might be asked to do it, the most likely candidate is Jeffrey R. Holland, who was raised in St. George, a mere 51.2 miles from Cedar City. It could be any member of the Presidency of the Seventy (who hold joint presiding responsibility for areas in the US and Canada), with the most likely candidate being Elder L. Whitney Clayton, who presides over all areas of Utah. The temple will be in the Utah South Area. It could be any other general authority with ties to Cedar City, though the closest I've come to finding one has been Elder Kent D. Watson, who is a former member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy (released in October 2013), having been born there. So time will tell.

In the meantime, with all the temple news lately, I wanted to post my updated list of temple progress. In addition to the groundbreakings and announced dedications, I have altered the order of announced temples where appropriate so that temples closest to a groundbreaking are listed first. I had that mostly done, but there were one or two in the wrong place. Here's the latest:

Temples Undergoing Renovation:
26. Mexico City Mexico Temple: Scheduled to be rededicated Sunday September 13, 2015.
86. Montreal Quebec Temple: Scheduled to be rededicated Sunday November 22, 2015.
91. Suva Fiji Temple: Anticipated to be completed in early 2016.
33. Freiberg Germany Temple: Anticipated to be completed in mid-2016.
8. Idaho Falls Idaho Temple: Anticipated to be completed in late 2016.

Under Construction:
145. Cordoba Argentina Temple: Scheduled to be dedicated Sunday May 17, 2015.
146. Payson Utah Temple: Scheduled to be dedicated Sunday June 7, 2015.
147. Trujillo Peru Temple: Scheduled to be dedicated Sunday June 21, 2015.
148. Indianapolis Indiana Temple: Scheduled to be dedicated Sunday August 23, 2015.
149. Tijuana Mexico Temple: Scheduled to be dedicated Sunday December 13, 2015.
154. Provo City Center Temple: Projected to be completed in late 2015-early 2016.
150. Rome Italy Temple: Projected to be completed in mid-2016.
155. Hartford Connecticut Temple: Projected to be completed in mid-2016.
156. Fort Collins Colorado Temple: Projected to be completed in mid-2016.
151. Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple: Projected to be completed in mid-to-late 2016.
152. Sapporo Japan Temple: Projected to be completed in late 2016.
157. Paris France Temple: Projected to be completed in late 2016.
158. Meridian Idaho Temple: Projected to be completed in mid-2017.
159. Star Valley Wyoming Temple: Projected to be completed in mid-2017.
153. Fortaleza Brazil Temple: Projected to be completed in 2018.

Announced:
160. Cedar City Utah Temple: Local government approval phase; site plan presented at January 2015 meeting; groundbreaking scheduled for Saturday August 8, 2015.
168. Tucson Arizona Temple: Construction approval phase; general contractor selected; groundbreaking pending.
161. Concepcion Chile Temple: Approval phase; temple and site design plans complete; groundbreaking pending.
165. Barranquilla Colombia Temple: Planning and approval phase; temple and site designs complete; groundbreaking pending.
162. Lisbon Portugal Temple: Planning and approval phase; land purchase finalized; groundbreaking pending.
169. Arequipa Peru Temple: Planning and approval phase; final piece of land for temple site acquired; groundbreaking pending.
164. Winnipeg Manitoba Temple: Planning and approval phase; groundbreaking pending.
167. Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple: Planning and approval phase; groundbreaking pending.
170. Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple: Planning and approval phase; groundbreaking pending.
163. Urdaneta Philippines Temple: Planning and approval phase; awaiting official site announcement.
166. Durban South Africa Temple: Planning and approval phase; awaiting official site announcement.
171. Abidjan Ivory Coast Temple: Planning phase; awaiting official site announcement.
172. Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple: Planning phase; awaiting official site announcement.
173. Bangkok Thailand Temple: Planning phase; awaiting official site announcement.

I am grateful for the mammoth progress on temples that we have witnessed ever since President Hinckley gave us his goal of having 100 temples by the end of 2000. Temple building isn't as fast as it was when we had that temple building boom as a result of that goal, but I have done some figuring. Assuming all the temples under construction were completed by the end of 2018, that would be 3 and 1/3 temples completed per year, or 10 every 3 years. Continuing at that rate, we could easily have 200 temples by or before the 200th anniversary of the Church. I look forward to seeing if that is possible.

Thanks for reading this post, in addition to all the others. Just one more for tonight.

Two Missions to repopen in July

KSL, a local news station, reported that the First Presidency had announced the reopening of two missions in two African nations after the Ebola crisis had been taken care of. Effective July 1, mission presidents that have already been called will reopen the missions in Sierra Leone and Liberia. And missionaries will finally be sent back to those two nations. 274 missionaries and their leaders had been removed from these nations last August. Now that the Church is reopening these missions, missionary work can begin again in earnest. I was touched by this news. I can't wait to see what results from this important development in the works. Miracles abound, and the Lord is so good to His work.

Church gives update on health of President Thomas S. Monson

I came across this next news item about the health of President Thomas S. Monson while I had some down time at work. I'm not sure whether to believe it or not. I'm torn. On the one hand, the article in question makes reference to a Church news release I can't find anywhere, so I don't want to believe it. On the other hand, it appeared in several reputable newspapers (the Salt Lake Tribune being one of them), so how can I do otherwise but believe it? I will let each of you form your own opinions.

The article quotes a Church news release. The release purportedly says, "President Monson is 87. It's natural that he and others in church leadership are feeling the effects of advancing age. However, he spoke publicly at General Conference [last] month and attended all the meetings. He comes to the office every day, attends all First Presidency and committee meetings, leads the discussion and makes decisions."

"The statement, the first to address directly Monson's health, also noted that 'the workload of the First Presidency is up to date.'

"President Monson has always been private about his health, but appreciates the prayers and sustaining support of church members, as do all of the First Presidency and the [Quorum of the] [T]welve [Apostles]."

The news release goes on to state that prophets are called for life and never released simply due to the effects of aging. Some (mostly Church dissidents) have proposed that an emeritus status be implemented for all apostles (at age 90). But this is not the Lord's pattern. Apostles serve to their very last breath. And it is a wonderful system that allows us to draw upon "the wisdom of the ancients" for as long as the Lord wants them to remain with us. I felt certain that President Monson would live to break President Hinckley's record as oldest living prophet, but now, in light of this article, I don't know what to believe or hope for. One thing I am certain of. President Monson will serve until his very last breath, whenever that may be. And I for one still accept and sustain him as our prophet today, no matter what anyone else says.

Now you have the facts about this, insofar as they are in my possession. On to the next post!

Area Leadership Assignments announced for 2015

The Church has announced area leadership assignments for 2015 that will be effective on August 1, 2015. Last year's assignments were highlighted in the August 2014 Ensign. The changes effective will be highlighted in the August 2015 Ensign. But while we wait for that to happen, I wanted to post about them. I only include in my personal list those seventies who will experience a change in their assignment. There are no changes to report in the Presidency of the Seventy. In August, Ronald A. Rasband will mark 10 years in the Presidency, which is significant, as members of the Presidency of the Seventy typically serve 5-7 years. He marked 5 years as the Senior President of the Seventy over April General Conference weekend, which is likewise significant. None of the Presidency are turning 70 or even close this year.

That said, here are the changes, followed by a couple of comments on them.

First Quorum of the Seventy:
Yoon Hwan Choi (who completes a two-year assignment as president of the Seattle Washington Mission in July) will be the new Second Counselor in the Asia North Area.
Edward Dube will be released as Second Counselor in the Africa West Area.
Larry J. Echo Hawk will be released as Second Counselor in the Philippines Area.
David F. Evans will be the new Second Counselor in the Africa West Area.
Carlos A. Godoy will be the new Second Counselor in the South America Northwest Area.
C. Scott Grow will be released as Second Counselor in the South America Northwest Area.
Allen D. Haynie will be the new Second Counselor in the Philippines Area.
Paul V. Johnson will be the new First Counselor in the Europe Area.
Patrick Kearon, the former First Counselor in the Europe Area, will be the new President.  
Jörg Klebingat, the former Second Counselor in the Europe East Area, will be the new First Counselor.
Michael T. Ringwood will be released as President of the Asia North Area.
Jose A. Teixeira will be released as President of the Europe Area and will be the new Second Counselor in the South America South Area.
Francisco J. Viñas, the former Second Counselor in the South America South Area, will be the new First Counselor.
Scott D. Whiting, the former Second Counselor in the Asia North Area, will be the new President.
Kazuhiko Yamashita (who completes a two-year assignment as president of the Japan Nagoya Mission in July) will be the new First Counselor in the Asia North Area.
Jorge F. Zeballos will be released as First Counselor in the South America South Area.

Second Quorum of the Seventy:
Wilford W. Andersen will be a new Co-Supervisor in the Middle East/Africa North Area.
Koichi Aoyagi will be released as First Counselor in the Asia North Area.
Randall K. Bennett will be released as First Counselor in the Europe East Area.
Bruce A. Carlson will be released as Co-Supervisor in the Middle East/Africa North Area.
Larry S. Kacher will be released as Co-Supervisor of the Middle East/Africa North Area and will be the new Second Counselor in the Europe East Area.
Larry R. Lawrence will be a new Co-Supervisor in the Middle East/Africa North Area.

A couple of comments on this.  There will be a likely reshuffle at Church headquarters. Elder David F. Evans, who will take an assignment as Second Counselor in the Africa West Area, currently serves as Executive Director of the Church Missionary Department. Elder Paul V. Johnson, who will take an assignment as First Counselor in the Europe Area, currently serves as the Commissioner of Church Education. In my early predictions for next conference, I predicted that Elder Wilford W. Andersen, who will take an assignment as Co-Supervisor in the Middle East/Africa North Area, would be released from the Second Quorum of the Seventy in October, along with the others who had been called to that quorum in 2009. I guess I was wrong. At least about Elder Andersen. So there you have it. Area Leadership Assignments for 2015. More to come in the next post.