Read the Church News staff’s favorite stories from 2021

Every day the Church News staff works to chronicle a “Living Record of the Restoration” for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Our goal is to share content that amplifies the voices of Church leaders and connects Latter-day Saints to Church headquarters and to one another. Most days the task feels huge.

In addition to daily web publishing, the Church News staff produces a weekly print newspaper, manages social media accounts and sends daily and weekly newsletters. We also produce a weekly podcast and videos and translate much of our content into Spanish and Portuguese. It is a labor of love by people who love journalism and the Savior’s restored Church. We never forget that the Church’s logo accompanies our work and why that is both an honor and a responsibility.

In 2021, many experiences strengthened each of us and our faith. Following we share a few of our favorite moments:

Sarah Jane Weaver
Sarah Jane Weaver Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Sarah Jane Weaver, editor

After inspecting the renovation and preservation efforts underway on the Salt Lake Temple and recording a video message that would become part of his October 2021 general conference address, President Russell M. Nelson made a powerful statement: “It is really easier for us to build a temple than it is to build a people worthy of the temple,” he said.

The Church is engaged in a “massive, amazing and inspiring” project at the temple. President Nelson cares so much about the work that he was personally inspecting it.

Yet, when he took a few minutes to answer questions for a Church News video, his response revealed his heart and priorities. President Nelson not only spoke of building and strengthening the sacred edifice, but also of building and strengthening God’s children. “Remember,” he said, “it is not the building, it is the ordinances and covenants in the building that really matter.”

Watch: After inspecting Salt Lake Temple renovation project, President Nelson says we should all be ‘worthy of the temple’

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints tours the Salt Lake Temple renovation site on Saturday, May 22, 2021.
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints tours the Salt Lake Temple renovation site on Saturday, May 22, 2021. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Scott Taylor
Scott Taylor Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Scott Taylor, managing editor

After the Dec. 3 shooting of their missionary son, Elder Michael Fauber, in an Alabama meetinghouse, I spoke with David Fauber about his and his wife’s feelings and hopes. They expressed gratitude for a “sense of peace” and miracles of bullets missing fatal entry points. When Elder Fauber returned home before Christmas to continue his recovery, the Faubers spoke of forgiveness and faith : “We pray for healing for the young men accused in this crime and hope that the time will come when they will become a great credit to their families and community. Above all, we are thankful for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate this week. He saved our son, and for this we will be eternally grateful.”

Read: Parents of missionary who was shot in Alabama are grateful for blessings and ‘sense of peace’

Elder M. Michael Fauber, injured in a Dec. 3 shooting near Birmingham, Alabama, is photographed with his parents, David and Rachel Fauber, after returning home to Dayton, Ohio, on Dec. 21, 2021.
Elder M. Michael Fauber, injured in a Dec. 3 shooting near Birmingham, Alabama, is photographed with his parents, David and Rachel Fauber, after returning home to Dayton, Ohio, on Dec. 21, 2021. Credit: Provided by the Fauber family
Jon Ryan Jensen
Jon Ryan Jensen Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Jon Ryan Jensen, director of audience

Two months after the Bogotá Colombia Temple was dedicated, I started my mission just a few miles down the road from it.

During my mission, I heard stories of sacrifice to travel and make temple covenants in sacred temples. Some Saints traveled to Peru and Argentina. But some had traveled all the way to Mesa, Arizona. I failed to understand then, something I learned this month as I covered the rededication of the Mesa Arizona Temple.

That temple in Mesa was the first in the world to provide temple ordinances in a non-English language when it offered them in Spanish in 1945.

Now, when I think of those pioneering members in Colombia and other parts of South America or Central America, I’m that much more grateful for their dedication to the Savior that led them to make temple covenants in a distant temple in Arizona.

Read: One family, many languages — and the Mesa Arizona Temple led the way

Crowds line up to enter the Mesa Arizona Temple for its rededication on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Mesa, Arizona.
Crowds line up to enter the Mesa Arizona Temple for its rededication on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Mesa, Arizona. Credit: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Jason Swensen poses for a photo at the Deseret News in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 3, 2021.
Jason Swensen poses for a photo at the Deseret News in Salt Lake City on Thursday, June 3, 2021. Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Jason Swensen, associate editor

Drought continues to parch the western United States.

So when I reached out to Church agricultural specialist Wade Sperry late last summer to check on conditions at several large Church-operated farms and ranches, I expected sobering news.

Sperry was direct in his report, acknowledging that the extended dry spell was “far from the ideal” on several Church welfare properties that help feed people in need.

But miracles at the welfare farms and ranches were just as evident as the drought. Despite the arid conditions, many agricultural properties were reporting above-average yields. Unexpected rainfall and inspired property management blended to sustain welfare crops that would sustain struggling families. The story doubled as a reminder that the divine hand of providence can be found — even during seemingly dire periods.

Read: How ‘heaven’s windows’ are opening to quench drought-parched Church welfare farms/ranches

Rustic wagon wheel sign welcomes visitors to the Church-owned Geraldine Montana Crops welfare farm in northwest Montana. Despite ongoing drought parching the western United States, the Montana farm expected an abundant wheat crop in 2021.
Rustic wagon wheel sign welcomes visitors to the Church-owned Geraldine Montana Crops welfare farm in northwest Montana. Despite ongoing drought parching the western United States, the Montana farm expected an abundant wheat crop in 2021. Credit: Jason Swensen
David Schneider
David Schneider Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

David Schneider, copy editor

One of my duties at the Church News — in addition to copy-editor-type stuff like knowing the difference between “that” and “which” — is compiling information for maps and charts. One project was a map of Latter-day Saint temples in Mexico, along with information on three newly announced this year. With Mexico not being as large geographically as Canada, the U.S. or Brazil, I assumed that with 17 temples the country would be pretty much covered. I was wrong. I learned that there are gaps of hundreds of miles. That became a humbling moment and caused me to reflect more on the blessing many of us have of being close to several temples, and on appreciation for the dedication of Saints in other areas of the world.

Read: Learn about the 3 areas in Mexico where temples have been announced this year

Map of Mexico showing status of Latter-day Saint temples as of October 2021.
Map of Mexico showing status of Latter-day Saint temples as of October 2021. Credit: Aaron Thorup, for the Church News
Vanessa Fitzgibbon
Vanessa Fitzgibbon Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Vanessa Fitzgibbon, translation coordinator

All temples are remarkable for me, no matter how big or little they are. But when I heard the announcement of the dedication scheduled for the Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple, after months of delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all my memories from the São Paulo Brazil Temple dedication, the sacrifices, and blessings of the members came back, and I couldn’t hold my joy. São Paulo was the 17th temple of the Church dedicated globally, and Rio will become the eighth in the country. This dedication answers the prayers of so many faithful Saints in Rio and other places who have to travel so far to receive the blessings and make covenants with the Lord. 

Read: First Presidency announces Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple open house, dedication dates — see interior, exterior images of new temple

The Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple
The Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Rachel Sterzer Gibson
Rachel Sterzer Gibson Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Rachel Sterzer Gibson, reporter

When I first met Rangi Parker and her husband, Vic Parker, at their home in Temple View, New Zealand, in 2017, she welcomed me with a hug like a long-lost friend even though we had never met. We spent more than two hours in her living room discussing the role she and her husband played in amassing an extensive treasure trove of the history of the Church in New Zealand

This year in writing about the new exhibit at the Matthew Cowley Pacific Church History Center — where Rangi and Vic’s collection is now housed, cataloged and digitized — I caught a glimpse of how their efforts are continuing to bless people in the Pacific. It was a reminder to me of the tremendous good one individual can accomplish as they seek to follow the Spirit, and it was sweet to recall happy memories with these faithful, selfless Saints. 

Read: Sacrifice and consecration — How the labor missionary period was the Nauvoo experience of New Zealand

In her home in Temple View, New Zealand, Rangi Parker holds a sign bearing the name of Elder Matthew Cowley’s motto, Kia Ngawari. Over the last 40 years, she and her husband, Vic Parker, collected many of the histories, photos and other items used in the creation of the new exhibit “Sacrifice & Consecration: The Lord Builds a People for the Temple” at the Matthew Cowley Pacific Church History Center. "Kia Ngawari" means: Be loving, be gentle, be kind.
In her home in Temple View, New Zealand, Rangi Parker holds a sign bearing the name of Elder Matthew Cowley’s motto, Kia Ngawari. Over the last 40 years, she and her husband, Vic Parker, collected many of the histories, photos and other items used in the creation of the new exhibit “Sacrifice & Consecration: The Lord Builds a People for the Temple” at the Matthew Cowley Pacific Church History Center. “Kia Ngawari” means: Be loving, be gentle, be kind. Credit: Rachel Sterzer Gibson
Megan McKellar
Megan McKellar Credit: Thane Zeeh

Megan McKellar, reporter

Did you know that the current Finland Helsinki Mission president and the Helsinki Finland Temple president were mission companions 40 years ago? The story seemed like a fun coincidence at first. President Ville Kervinen, who presides over the Finland Helsinki Mission, and I managed to coordinate a time for the two of us to talk over Zoom, in spite of the nine-hour time difference between Salt Lake City and Finland and the erratic nap schedule of my 3-month-old baby.

As President Kervinen told me about Ismo Määttä, his former mission companion who now serves as the Helsinki Finland Temple president, I realized that the many ways their lives have intertwined — they also share three grandchildren! — are a testimony of how Heavenly Father orchestrates each of His children’s paths with great care and intention.

Read: How 2 former mission companions from Finland continue to share the gospel together more than 40 years later

Former mission companions Ismo Määttä and Ville Kervinen reminisce on their time serving together in Helsinki, Finland, from 1980 to 1982.
Former mission companions Ismo Määttä and Ville Kervinen reminisce on their time serving together in Helsinki, Finland, from 1980 to 1982. Credit: Courtesy Ismo Määttä
Christine Rappleye
Christine Rappleye Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Christine Rappleye, reporter

Helping to cover Church history while studying the Doctrine and Covenants with “Come, Follow Me” has been a convergence that has helped me understand and appreciate more the early Church members.

These articles that I’ve helped with or others wrote have ranged from tips and resources from historians, photos of sites in Palmyra, New York, and in Pennsylvania; Kirtland, Ohio; and Nauvoo, Illinois; taking virtual tours of historic sites, to learning more about the history of the Doctrine and Covenants and artifacts connected to pioneers.

While visiting Nauvoo, Illinois, in the fall, I learned more about the Saints who worked in a variety of ways to rebuild their lives and construct a temple as they faced challenges and how their lives and work connects to me today. 

Read: A visit to Nauvoo: President Bingham and President Johnson share pioneer connections and instruction with leaders, missionaries

Primary General President Camille N. Johnson, left, and Relief Society General President Jean B. Bingham pause for a photo outside of the Sarah Granger Kimball home during a tour in historic Nauvoo, Illinois, on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021.
Primary General President Camille N. Johnson, left, and Relief Society General President Jean B. Bingham pause for a photo outside of the Sarah Granger Kimball home during a tour in historic Nauvoo, Illinois, on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Mary Richards poses for a photo at the Deseret News in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021.
Mary Richards poses for a photo at the Deseret News in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021. Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Mary Richards, reporter

I was so grateful to join the Church News staff in November of this year, because I had been praying for many months about how I could use my journalism skills and experience to share the work of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And my first assignment became my favorite story that I did in 2021 — on Elder Neil L. Andersen’s visit to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and his devotional to Latter-day Saint cadets and their friends. The responses from the cadets touched my heart so much that I also later wrote about what I learned from them. I am now writing stories that are part of “A Living Record of the Restoration” (our motto and mission statement).

Read: What Latter-day Saint cadets learned from Elder Andersen’s visit to the U.S. Air Force Academy

Sister Kathy Andersen and Elder Neil L. Andersen with Lt. Gen. Richard M. Clark, superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Oct. 22, 2021.
Sister Kathy Andersen and Elder Neil L. Andersen with Lt. Gen. Richard M. Clark, superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Oct. 22, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Sydney Walker
Sydney Walker Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Sydney Walker, reporter

One of my favorite parts about writing for the Church News is sharing the stories of Church members and the humble — and often quiet — ways they live their faith. One such story is that of the McKendrick family in Gilbert, Arizona. When I interviewed them in April, Kelly and Christina McKendrick had 24 children, ranging in age from 5 to 40 years old — 17 of whom were adopted. Five had served or were serving service missions. I will never forget what 22-year-old Chad, who has cerebral palsy and was adopted from Taiwan, told me about his mission: “I’ve wanted this since I was a little kid in Primary.” His sisters Ashley, Amy, Caroline and Hailey expressed similar enthusiasm about their missions.

Read: How 5 service missionaries from one family have made an impact in their Arizona community

When the COVID-19 pandemic kept her at home, Ashley McKendrick made more than 100 baby hats and donated them to a local hospital. She finished her service mission in March 2021.
When the COVID-19 pandemic kept her at home, Ashley McKendrick made more than 100 baby hats and donated them to a local hospital. She finished her service mission in March 2021. Credit: Kelly McKendrick
Valerie Walton at the Deseret News in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019.
Valerie Walton at the Deseret News in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Valerie Walton, editorial assistant

I knew when I started writing the story about the refurbished Joseph F. Smith rooms in the Beehive House that I needed President M. Russell Ballard’s voice because of the important role the Smith family played in making this project possible. After reaching out to his office, I was surprised to find that not only he, but also Sister Kristen M. Oaks were willing to contribute. But the moment I was in front of them for our short interview, my mind completely blanked as to what to ask them. Fortunately, President Dallin H. Oaks jumped in to help me with a suggested question — something I am incredibly grateful for — and my mind reset enough for me to continue our short interview. Additionally, what I learned from President Ballard about revelation was something I needed to hear.

Read: See what Joseph F. Smith’s rooms in the Beehive House might have looked like in 1918

President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Sister Kristen M. Oaks; and President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, tour Joseph F. Smith’s bedroom in the Beehive House in Salt Lake City on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. President Ballard and Sister Oaks are descendants of Joseph F. Smith.
President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Sister Kristen M. Oaks; and President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, tour Joseph F. Smith’s bedroom in the Beehive House in Salt Lake City on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. President Ballard and Sister Oaks are descendants of Joseph F. Smith. Credit: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News