The image would have seemed inconceivable just a few years ago: the Tabernacle Choir standing on Red Square in the Soviet Union. Perhaps better than any other scene, it reflected the wave of freedom that has swept over the world and hastened the spread of the gospel in 1991. The frequency of nations being dedicated this year by apostles for the establishment of the Lord's Church is an indication of that hastening.
Besides being a year of growth and accomplishment, 1991 was a year of adversity for many Church members. The conflict in the Persian Gulf touched many LDS military families in the United States and Europe. Latter-day Saints were among victims in areas hit by natural disasters. The disasters included flooding in Laie, Hawaii, in March; heavy ash fallout from a volcano near Manila, Philippines, June 9; a wildfire in Oakland, Calif. Oct. 20-22 that engulfed entire blocks of homes; a typhoon in Ormoc, Philippines, Nov. 5 that killed more than 5,000, including 16 Church members; and a hurricane in Samoa Dec. 6-10.
Church members in the United States joined other Americans in remembering their national heritage through observance of the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor Dec. 7 and the 200th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights Dec. 15.
Here is a month-by-month summary of key events in the Church in 1991.
Many Church members were involved in or affected by the conflict in the Persian Gulf, "Operation Desert Storm," which began Jan. 15. Latter-day Saints were among the servicemen and women who were mobilized as part of "Operation Desert Shield" in late 1990. More than 100 LDS groups spread out across the Arabian peninsula saw to the needs of LDS servicemen and women.
Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan spoke to the BYU student body Feb. 15 and later paid a courtesy visit to Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, where he was greeted by President Gordon B. Hinckley, President Thomas S. Monson and members of the Council of the Twelve. "BYU is strong, a birthplace of many talented leaders and athletes," he told the students.
- The Tabernacle Choir presented a special program saluting the armed forces and observing Presidents' Day at its regular "Music and the Spoken Word" broadcast Feb. 17. The program was carried by Armed Forces Radio to military personnel serving in the Persian Gulf.
Local service projects were promoted as a means of celebrating the Relief Society's 149th anniversary on March 17.
- Creation of five new missions in South America was announced March 16, effective in July. The new missions are Brazil Porto Alegre North, Brazil Sao Paulo East, Brazil Sao Paulo Interlagos, Ecuador Guayaquil North and Venezuela Caracas West.
- Creation of six new missions in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and the United States was announced March 23, effective in July. The new missions are Dominican Republic Santo Domingo East, France Marseille, Germany Berlin, Idaho Pocatello, Kenya Nairobi and Trinidad Tobago.
- Assignments for 77 new mission presidents were announced March 23. At year end, the number of missions had grown to 267, with the creation of 11 new missions. The new presidents assumed their duties in July.
- The addition of three new buildings to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, was announced, and the proposal was approved by the Provo City Planning Commission March 27. President Gordon B. Hinckley broke ground for the facility Oct. 24.
At the 161st Annual General Conference, six men were sustained to the Second Quorum of the Seventy: Julio E. Davila P., Graham W. Doxey, Cree-L Kofford, Joseph C. Muren, Dennis B. Neuenschwander and Jorge A. Rojas O. Five already serving in the Second Quorum were sustained to the First Quorum of the Seventy: Elders Monte J. Brough, Harold G. Hillam, L. Lionel Kendrick, Alexander B. Morrison and L. Aldin Porter. Called to the Sunday School general presidency were Elders H. Verlan Anderson, first counselor, and Rulon G. Craven, second counselor.
- A new publication, Providing in the Lord's Way: A Leader's Guide to Welfare, was introduced at the annual Regional Representative's Seminar April 5 held in conjunction with general conference. President Thomas S. Monson said publication of the booklet was a landmark because it was distributed simultaneously in many languages. A supplement, Church Welfare Resources, was also published in the United States and Canada, to explain the appropriate use of welfare resources in those countries.
- Recognition of the Church in the Ivory Coast, the center of French West Africa, was announced at a special meeting of Church members April 19. Elder Richard P. Lindsay, a member of the Seventy and president of the Africa Area, met a few hours previously with the minister of the interior, who signed the document granting recognition.
- Fifty years after the Church began keeping individual membership records, it has automated – or computerized – membership records worldwide, according to a Church News article of April 27.
About May 1, the 500,000th full-time missionary in this dispensation was called.
- Construction workers unexpectedly unearthed the foundation and lower walls of Social Hall built in 1852 in Salt Lake City, providing a glimpse of the Church's pioneer past.
- Creation of the Bulgaria Sofia Mission – the second in the year to be created in eastern Europe – was announced May 18, effective in July.
- A milestone was reached May 26 with creation of the 1,800th in the Church, the San Francisco de Macoris Dominican Republic Stake.
Cleaning of the Salt Lake Temple exterior commenced preparatory to its 100th anniversary April 6, 1993. The project is scheduled to be completed by October 1992. It is the first time since 1962 that the exterior has been cleaned.
- Steven D. Nadauld and Han In Sang were called to the Second Quorum of the Seventy, effective June 1.
- Honduras in Central America was dedicated June 1 by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Council of the Twelve for the preaching of the gospel.
- The Tabernacle Choir embarked June 8 on a historic, 21-day tour of eight countries, including Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland and the Soviet Union.
- The Alberta Temple, after three years of renovation, was rededicated in 12 sessions June 22-24
- The Russian Republic, the largest in the Soviet Union, granted formal recognition to the Church, it was announced June 24 following the Tabernacle Choir's concert in Moscow's Bolshoi Theater. The Church had received limited recognition in the republic the previous year.
- The Republic of Armenia was dedicated June 24 by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Council of the Twelve for the preaching of the gospel.
Sam K. Shimabukuro of Honolulu, Hawaii, was called to serve in the Second Quorum of the Seventy, it was announced July 13.
- The 100th anniversary of the founding of the Church in Tonga was observed with events in Hawaii July 5-7 and Salt Lake City July 28. Centennial events were held in Tonga in August.
The term Mutual was designated for the weekly activity in Young Men and Young Women programs, whether in combined or separate settings. The name was used in the past, and its re-introduction coincided with a reaffirmation by the First Presidency that regular weekday activities for the Aaronic Priesthood and Young Women should be held at a uniform time on the same day of each week.
- President Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated a statue in Cedar City Utah Aug. 2 to Ellen (Nellie) Pucell Unthank, a member of the ill-fated Martin Handcart Company of pioneer immigrants to Utah in 1856. Despite severe hardships, including the loss of her legs due to frostbite, she remained true to the gospel for the rest of her life.
- The newly renovated Smith Family Cemetery in Nauvoo, Ill., was dedicated Aug. 4. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve spoke at the dedication ceremony. The cemetery contains the graves of Joseph, Emma and Hyrum Smith among others.
- President Ezra Taft Benson commemorated his 92nd birthday Aug. 4. Many Primary children in the Church observed the event with their own activities and celebrations.
- Hundreds of gospel singers from throught the United Stated joined the Tabernacle Choir in song Aug. 11 at the choir's weekly broadcast and at a worship service afterward. The occasion, the first of its kind in the Tabernacle, was the annual convention of the Gospel Music Workshop of America.
- The 100th anniversary of the founding of the Church in Tonga was observed with events in Tonga Aug. 13-27.
- Panama was dedicated Aug. 24 by President Howard W. Hunter of the Council of the Twelve for the preaching of the gospel.
- Membership in the Church reached 8 million about Sept. 1. The milestone was reached just 22 months after membership hit the 7 million mark in December 1989.
- Creation of the Asia North Area and the Europe/Mediterranen Area of the Church was announced Sept. 7, along with new asignments in area presidencies worldwide. With the new areas, the total number of areas worldwide is 22.
- The Republic of the Ukraine in the Soviet Union was dedicated for the preaching of the gospel Sept. 12 by Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Council of the Twelve.
- At the 161st Semiannual General conference Oct. 5, Elder Robert K. Dellenbach was sustained as first counselor in the Young Men general presidency and Elder Stephen D. Naduald as second counselor. Called to the Sunday School general presidency were Elder Hartman Rector Jr. as first counselor and Elder Clinton L. Cutler as second counselor. Released from the Second Quorum of the Seventy were Elders H. Verlan Andersen, George I. Cannon, Francis M. Gibbons and Gardner H. Russell.
- Guatemala was dedicated for missionary work Oct. 19 by Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Council of the Twelve.
- Three African nations were dedicated in October for the preaching of the gospel and the establishment of the Church. On Oct. 23, Elder James E. Faust of the Council of the Twelve dedicated Uganda. He dedicated Kenya on Oct. 24 and Zimbabwe Oct. 25.
- A 37,000-square-foot Welfare Center in Ogden, Utah, was dedicated Nov. 21 by Prresident Thomas S. Monson. Included in the canter are a bishop's storehouse with adjacent office and warehouse space, an LDS employment center and the Ogden LDS Social Services agency.
- The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, promoted by its New York publisher as "a landmark reference work," was released in December. A 13-member board of editors at BYU compiled the encyclopedia under commission from Macmillan Publishing Co.
- The 75,000-square-foot Joseph Smith Memorial Building, the newest structure at BYU, was dedicated Dec. 10 by President Gordon B. Hinckley.
- Formal recognition of the Church in the Congo in West Africa was announced Dec. 23.