In case you missed it: 4 temples moving to Phase 3, President Ballard speaks to South American Saints

During the week of Dec. 7-Dec. 13, the First Presidency announced the first four temples moving to Phase 3, and President M. Russell Ballard spoke to Latter-day Saints in South America and was featured in a Church News video about a new monument honoring Joseph Smith’s ancestors.

Elder Gary E. Stevenson spoke to BYU-Pathway Worldwide students, Sister Harriet Uchtdorf and her daughter helped organized a service project to help Navajo Nation and general officers recently held virtual visits to the Philippines, Caribbean and Europe East areas. Ground was broken for the Harare Zimbabwe Temple.

The Primary general presidency emphasized the need for at-home Primary, and Tabernacle Choir director Mack Wilberg joined this week’s Church News podcast.

Here are summaries and links to those nine articles below:

1. First 4 temples moving to Phase 3

The Apia Samoa Temple.
The Apia Samoa Temple. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Four temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will soon open for proxy work for the dead, nine months after all temples were closed in late March due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the First Presidency announced Monday, Dec. 7.

The Apia Samoa Temple, Brisbane Australia Temple, Nuku’aolfa Tonga Temple and Taipei Taiwan Temple will be the first of the Church’s 168 dedicated temples to advance to Phase 3 of the Church’s four-phase reopening plan. They will reopen for proxy work as soon as Dec. 21.

Watch videos from three Apostles explaining principles, adjusted procedures and protocols for Phase 3

2. President Ballard speaks to Church members in South America

President M. Russell Ballard, seated at right, and Elder Mark A. Bragg participate in an online Christmas-season seminar with Latter-day Saints in South America on Dec. 12, 2020.
President M. Russell Ballard, seated at right, and Elder Mark A. Bragg participate in an online Christmas-season seminar with Latter-day Saints in South America on Dec. 12, 2020. Credit: Zoom conference screenshot

Almost a century ago, on Christmas Day in 1925, Elder Melvin J. Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visited a park in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and dedicated all of South America for the preaching of the gospel.

On Saturday, Dec. 12, Latter-day Saints in Argentina and beyond once again gathered to hear the prophetic words of another latter-day Apostle named Ballard — President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Melvin J. Ballard’s grandson.

Why the Ballard family’s legacy of faith continues to bless South America

3. New monument honoring Joseph Smith’s ancestors

About 20 miles northeast of Boston’s frenetic pace sits a quiet, well-kept New England village adorned with colonial architecture and rolling hills. Today, the quaint town of Topsfield, Massachusetts, is home to some 6,500 residents. 

Almost four centuries ago, Robert Smith — the Prophet Joseph Smith’s third great-grandfather — settled on a farm in Topsfield after emigrating from England. The next four generations of Smiths would live, serve and worship in Topsfield. The Prophet’s father, Joseph Smith Sr., would be born here.  

Learn more about the significance of Topsfield and why a new monument was built there

4. Elder Stevenson speaks to BYU-Pathway Worldwide students

Elder Gary E. Stevenson speaks to BYU-Pathway Worldwide students during a devotional broadcast on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson speaks to BYU-Pathway Worldwide students during a devotional broadcast on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. Credit: Screenshot byupathway.org

Elder Gary E. Stevenson’s message to BYU-Pathway Worldwide students was encapsulated by a promise. “If you hear Him, if you listen to the voice of the Lord and listen to the promptings that the Lord is giving you, … you will be blessed,” he said during a devotional broadcast to the student body of the Church’s online university.

In a prerecorded message that was broadcast on Tuesday, Dec. 8, Elder Stevenson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, reiterated and emphasized President Russell M. Nelson’s invitation to “Hear Him” and discussed with the students how they can hear the voice of the Savior Jesus Christ.

Here’s what Elder Stevenson promised those who strive to ‘hear Him’

5. Ground broken for Zimbabwe’s first temple

Exterior rendering of the Harare Zimbabwe Temple
Exterior rendering of the Harare Zimbabwe Temple Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

With the president of Zimbabwe joining the selected number of leaders and invited guests, ground was broken Saturday, Dec. 12, for the Harare Zimbabwe Temple, the first in that nation for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and one of 13 on the African continent.

Elder Edward Dube, an Area Seventy and Zimbabwe native who serves as first counselor in the Africa South Area presidency, presided at the groundbreaking. He offered remarks and a dedicatory prayer on the property and construction process.

Read more about the Church’s history in Zimbabwe and the new temple now under construction

6. Sister Uchtdorf and daughter participate in service project for Navajo Nation

Sister Antje Uchtdorf Evans, left, and Sister Harriet R. Uchtdorf, right, executive board members of the Christkindlmarkt SLC, answer questions about the St. Martin's Project in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Tuesday, Dec. 8 2020.
Sister Antje Uchtdorf Evans, left, and Sister Harriet R. Uchtdorf, right, executive board members of the Christkindlmarkt SLC, answer questions about the St. Martin’s Project in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Tuesday, Dec. 8 2020. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

As Antje Uchtdorf Evans thought about the many challenges that have emerged in 2020, she said simply, “It’s been a tough year.”

Evans, who is the daughter of Church Apostle Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf and Sister Harriet Uchtdorf, recently joined her mother and others in the community in turning some disappointment from this year into an uplifting experience as they helped to organize and execute a large service project to bless the Navajo Nation.

What this service project is, how it started and what it means to the community

7. How general leaders are connecting to Church members virtually

During virtual meetings with general Church leaders from Nov. 20-30, 2020, members in Russia shared photos of their service and sisterhood.
During virtual meetings with general Church leaders from Nov. 20-30, 2020, members in Russia shared photos of their service and sisterhood. Credit: Screenshot Europe East Area

Thanks to technology and the ability to meet with large groups of people from various places virtually, Church leaders are able to regularly conduct devotionals, focus groups, trainings, and even occasional home visits with specific families and members, much the same way they would if they were traveling from country to country and city to city.

Throughout November and December, general leaders — including President Joy D. Jones, Primary general president; President Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women general president; Sister Sharon Eubank and Sister Reyna I. Aburto of the Relief Society general presidency; and Sister Michelle D. Craig and Sister Becky L. Craven of the Young Women general presidency — joined with area leaders in the Caribbean, Europe East and Philippines areas of the Church to meet with members and missionaries virtually. 

Read a summary of these virtual area visits

8. Gospel learning has not stopped for Primary children amid COVID-19

Heidi Valente of the Mount Ensign 2nd Ward said, "While it may be that they are playing with slime at the table and having snacks, this is our virtual primary time, singing songs and learning about the gospel! It’s always fun to be together as a family."
Heidi Valente of the Mount Ensign 2nd Ward said, “While it may be that they are playing with slime at the table and having snacks, this is our virtual primary time, singing songs and learning about the gospel! It’s always fun to be together as a family.” Credit: Courtesy Heidi Valente

For the last several months, members and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have navigated the challenging task of creating a Sabbath-day worship experience for children in the home, as well as resuming Primary activities in accordance with local COVID-19 guidelines and regulations.

The Primary general presidency expressed their hope that families with children will create a simple at-home Primary experience, in conjunction with the family’s weekly “Come, Follow Me” lesson.

What wards and branches worldwide are doing for at-home Primary

9. Mack Wilberg joins Sarah Jane Weaver in Church News podcast

In episode 8 of the Church New Podcast, Tabernacle Choir director Mack Wilberg talks about the history of "America's Choir."
In episode 8 of the Church New Podcast, Tabernacle Choir director Mack Wilberg talks about the history of “America’s Choir.” Credit: Church News Podcast

For many audiences around the world, the annual Christmas concerts hosted by The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square have been a cherished way to celebrate the Christmas season each year. But with the current coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 holiday season will be a bit non-traditional, even for “America’s Choir.”

In the latest episode of the Church News Podcast, Tabernacle Choir Music Director Mack Wilberg and Choir President Ron Jarrett explore the extensive history of the choir and how their award-winning melodies can continue to warm listeners’ hearts this winter, despite the precautions that have canceled live concerts this year.

Listen to the interview with Mack Wilberg and Ron Jarrett