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Stories By Gerry Avant

'Balm for wounded hearts' at memorial As if answering a summons for comfort, accepting balm for wounded hearts, some 10,000 people streamed onto Temple Square Friday, Sept. 14, responding to an invitation from the First Presidency to all who desired to attend one of two identical memorial services, the first at 10 a.m., the other at noon. The services were held in response to U.S. President George W. Bush's call for a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance.
An inside look at President Monson's quiet moments of ministry President Thomas S. Monson loved to be among members of the Church. He seemed to be “at home” wherever he went. This was especially true when he went to Germany,
President Thomas S. Monson, front left, and Elder Dieter F. Uchtforf, at right, Siegfried Sacher and Frank Apel walk toward the grave of Elder Joseph A. Ott in Dresden, Germany, Aug. 26, 1995.
From a bakery to a prison, a prophet retraces the steps of Joseph Smith President Spencer W. Kimball retraced some of Joseph Smith's footsteps in 1978. He walked some of the streets in Nauvoo, Illinois, and spent contemplative moments at the jail in Carthage where Joseph and his brother, Hyrum, were martyred.
President Spencer W. Kimball and Sister Camilla Eyring Kimball are shown on June 29, 1978, by the well near where Joseph Smith's lifeless body fell from an upstairs window in Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844. Sister Kimball dressed in period costume on the occasion of the dedication of the Relief Society Monument to Women in Nauvoo, Illinois.
A glimpse of what President Monson was like during his more casual moments One afternoon in June of 1985, I visited President and Sister Thomas S. Monson in their home. That visit gave me a glimpse of his life "after hours," when he exchanged his suit and tie for casual clothes to relax at home.
During an interview for a Church News article for the week beginning June 23, 1985, President Thomas S. Monson showed off a couple of his Birmingham roller pigeons.
Breakneck Mormon Tabernacle Choir tour pace leaves little room for sightseeing Seeing Rome, or any other destination, with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir would not top any travel agent's recommendation for the best way to have an unhurried tour.
One of venues on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's 1998 concert tour in Europe was El Escorial, the historic Bascilica of the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo, near Madrid, Spain.
Just dropping by — why President Hinckley made a surprise visit to this branch of Church members Church News assignments took me to six continents; I became accustomed to boarding planes to cover the travels of President Gordon B. Hinckley. However, one memorable assignment to a rather isolated locale didn't require a plane ticket.
President Gordon B. Hinckley and his wife, Sister Marjorie P. Hinckley, visit with members of the Promontory Branch after attending sacrament meeting in an area made famous by the driving of the "golden spike" in 1869.
What the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is up to when they're off the stage The Mormon Tabernacle Choir had "no earthly reason" to go to Russia in 1991. It was there for a heavenly purpose.
Two LDS missionaries walk across Moscow's Red Square on June 24, 1991. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir's concert in the Bolshoi Theatre that evening led many people to make appointments with missionaries serving in Russia.
A promise fulfilled: 27 years of blessings for German Saints from behind the Iron Curtain Twenty-seven years after making a promise to Germain Saints far behind what was then the Iron Curtain, President Thomas S. Monson returned to see the fulfillment of his promise.
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The most memorable part of the Mexico City temple dedication was these words from President Hinckley During the Mexico City Mexico Temple's dedication Dec. 2-3 1983, President Gordon B. Hinckley, then a counselor in the First Presidency, welcomed members in the temple district and "a larger unseen congregation" from the other side of the veil.
President Gordon B. Hinckley and his wife, Sister Marjorie Hinckley, pause for a photo on Dec. 3, 1983, the second day of the dedication of the Mexico Mexico City Temple.
How the Mormon Tabernacle Choir changed the Church's role in Russia There's more to a Mormon Tabernacle Choir tour than meets the ear. Much of what makes the choir great touches the heart and soul.
A photo of the cover of the Church News from July 6, 1991, features a photo of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on Red Square in front of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, Russia, during the choir's world tour. Gerry Avant, who took the photo, accompanied the choir on their tours from 1991-2013.
President Monson's revisit to a sacred site in Germany On a hillside overlooking Dresden, President Thomas S. Monson spoke to a small group about the day in 1975 that he offered a prayer on the German Democratic Republic. I was privileged to be among that group.
A photo taken on Aug. 26, 1995, shows President Thomas S. Monson walking from site where years earlier he offered a prayer upon the land of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).
‘There was no question about it’: Reflections on the announcement of the revelation on the priesthood The announcement proclaiming that all worthy male members of the Church could receive the priesthood was met with joy.
After a dedicatory session of the Johannesburg South Africa Temple in August of 1985, Jennifer Tonkin, left, joyfully greets Lydia and Isaac Mbele. Sister Tonkin was instrumental in Brother and Sister Mbele's conversion to the gospel.
President Spencer W. Kimball: A prophet at the piano I heard a prophet playing a piano in "Music City." The prophet was President Spencer W. Kimball and the city was Nashville, Tennessee.
While visiting the home of Robert and Glenda Brady in 1975, President Spencer W. Kimball chose to sit on an old-fashioned piano stool. After a few minutes, he whirled around and played "I Am a Child of God." In the photo are Sister Camilla Kimball and D. Arthur Haycock, President Kimball's executive secretary.
The touch of a prophet's hand In Jackson, Mississippi, for an area conference in 1980, President Spencer W. Kimball met a 5-year-old boy with whom he shared a beautiful and moving moment.
President Spencer W. Kimball caresses the face of 5-year-old Jason Jordan of Biloxi during a visit to Mississippi on May 3, 1980.
Belle S. Spafford, a woman of wit and wisdom Belle S. Spafford was “one of the most outstanding women in the world.” I met her in 1972. Our professional association was brief, but we continued a friendship that lasted until her death a decade later.
Elder LeGrand Richards gives a congratulatory kiss on the hand of Belle S. Spafford after she was released as Relief Society general president during the October 1974 general conference. She had served 29 years, the longest tenure of any Relief Society general president.
Belle S. Spafford, a woman of wit and wisdom Belle S. Spafford was “one of the most outstanding women in the world.” I met her in 1972. Our professional association was brief, but we continued a friendship that lasted until her death a decade later.
Elder LeGrand Richards gives a congratulatory kiss on the hand of Belle S. Spafford after she was released as Relief Society general president during the October 1974 general conference. She had served 29 years, the longest tenure of any Relief Society general president.
Memories of 90-and-counting general conferences This April’s general conference is the 91st for me since I began my journalism career 45 years ago. Recently, someone asked me about some of my conference memories. Several came to mind. Here are some highlights.
Crowds exit the Salt Lake Tabernacle after the first session of general conference Saturday morning.
Memories of a humble parade, moonlight swim on Samoan island A humble, yet majestic parade and a moonlight swim with President and Sister James E. Faust are among treasured memories of an assignment on the Samoan island of Savai'i.
Elder James E. Faust, right, leads a parade on Savai'i with Elder John Sonnenberg, left, and Elder Lueli Te'o during an event in 1988 commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Church in Samoa..
4 General Authorities found perspective in disappointments In one-on-one conversations, four General Authorities told me about their youthful aspirations and disappointments, mainly in the field of athletics, and how life eventually put things in perspective.
Presidents Benson, Faust and Packer along with Elders Perry and Haight reflect on calls as apostles Church News senior contributing editor, Gerry Avant, shares reflections from five Brethren, each now deceased, who spoke with the Church News in 1985-86 about their calls to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
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