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Stories By Gerry Avant

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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Read the 1985 bio of President Eyring when he was first called as a general authority Editor's note: A profile of President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, when he was called to serve in the Presiding Bishopric. This article was written by Gerry Avant and ran in the July 7, 1985, edition of the Church News.
One obituary stood out to President Thomas S. Monson: 'Take an older person to lunch' President Monson said that one obituary he read stood out. It said, “In lieu of flowers, take an older person to lunch.”
President Thomas S. Monson and wife Francis meet with 100 year old Thelma Fetze and her family in Salt Lake City, Utah, Friday, April 9, 2010.  Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
President Thomas S. Monson never lost 'the heart of a bishop' Although he served as a General Authority for 54 years — 9 of them as President of the Church, President Thomas S. Monson always had the heart of a bishop.
President Thomas S. Monson always had the heart of a bishop. When he was bishop of the Sixth-Seventh ward, 1950-55, he had responsibility over slightly more than 1,000 members.
President Kimball: unfazed by disturbance The mayor of Chattanooga, Tennessee, presented symbolic keys to the city to President and Sister Spencer W. Kimball and gave him a certificate naming him an ambassador of goodwill.