Registration of the Center for Cultural and Educational Affairs of The Church Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a legal entity has been approved by the kingdom of Jordan, the First Presidency announced this week.
The registration, which was effective Aug. 1, gives the Church "full capacity to operate in Jordan in accordance with its statutes.""This means," explained Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Council of the Twelve, "that we have authorization to function in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Our members there can meet and pray and worship. We can conduct our branch meetings and it allows us to operate in full compliance with the 12th Article of Faith."
As part of the registration, Vernon Tipton and his wife, Norma, have been recognized by the Ministry of Interior as the authorized administrator of the Church in Jordan, "with full powers to represent and act on behalf of the center in all matters pertaining to the center's activities in Jordan."
The center is located in Amman, Jordan, "in a house that has been converted for our purposes," including educational and cultural activities, said Elder Nelson. The center will be available for students wishing to study in Jordan and for cultural activities, such as BYU performances.
Elder Nelson said there is a small branch of the Church in Jordan, composed mostly of persons working in industry or affiliated with the American Embassy in Amman.
He further explained that the majority of the population in the kingdom of Jordan are members of the Islamic faith. "We do not proselyte in an Islamic country, but we are free to answer questions and carry on our activities there through their policy of religious tolerance."
Request for possible recognition was made in June 1988. At that time, Elder Nelson; Elder Carlos E. Asay, president of the Europe Area; David M. Kennedy, special representative of the First Presidency; and Blaine C. Tueller, an assistant to Brother Kennedy, met with Jordanian leaders, including Crown Prince Hassan, Prime Minister Zaid Rifai, and several other officials.
"We were given a very warm and cordial welcome," Elder Nelson related. "We told them that we had members of the Church there and tourists who would like to come through Jordan and meet in worship service. We also said we would like to get a place in which to meet and have permission to do so according to the laws of the land."
Final papers of application were submitted by the Church this past May and notification of the approval was received in a letter dated Aug. 8.
Elder Nelson said that the Jordanian leaders were aware of the Church. BYU groups, he explained, have performed in the kingdom and have been well received and have created a climate of friendliness and warmth. "The queen of Jordan," he continued, "has attended performances of the BYU groups there and has been very favorably impressed - so they knew us very well."
In addition, Elder Nelson explained, Jordanian scholars have come to BYU. "The Church is known and respected in Jordan."
Elder Nelson said the Church of Jesus Christ has a desire to bring peace in the world, and to promote the feeling that all of God's children are equal in His sight.
Church officials expressed appreciation for the efforts of government officials, especially those of Jordanian Senator Mohamed Kamal, a former ambassador to the United States.
Sen. Kamal has worked closely with Elder Nelson, Elder Asay, Brother Kennedy and other Church representatives.
Dr. Tipton, administrator of the center, recently retired from BYU where he was a professor of zoology and director of the Center for Health and Environmental Studies. He joined the BYU faculty in 1968 after a career with the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps. He is a BYU graduate and earned his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.