Missionary Work 3

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Reaching the Deaf with American Sign Language

Mormon ASL

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been providing American Sign Language (ASL) translation for more than 30 years. Now it is increasing its efforts to provide Church documents, pamphlets, manuals, and videos in ASL to aid the Deaf as they learn the gospel.

The Mormon Church considers ASL a foreign language. Thus, experts follow the same process used to translate into any other language.

Although many Deaf people read and understand written English, ASL does not follow the same sentence structure that English does. Rather, it follows the pattern of most romantic languages. For this reason, printed material and closed captioning services do not always provide the Deaf with clear understanding. [1]

Some deaf people read English very well, while others prefer to actually read ASL. Written ASL is more like a romance language than pure English, and uses more imagery. Many deaf people feel the holy spirit more easily when reading ASL.

“The Book of Mormon translation into ASL has made a huge impact on the Deaf community in terms of being able to learn and have access to the gospel.

ASL is just one of many sign languages used throughout the world. Most languages—and even countries—have their own sign language. Eventually, the goal is to translate church materials into the various worldwide sign languages, beginning with ASL. The patterns established will help make translating into other sign languages more efficient.

A few products, like the movie Legacy, offer more than ASL. Legacy is translated into both British and Japanese sign language as well.

To begin, translators transform English sentences into a series of keywords and symbols. The symbols indicate what types of emotions and movements that the signer should make to convey the meaning of the words. This translated piece is called a gloss.
The gloss is then put on a teleprompter, and a native Deaf signer is filmed signing what is indicated on the screen. The end result is a visual product that Deaf people can watch.
The growing list of materials available in ASL includes items like the Book of Mormon, selected hymns, the Gospel Principles manual, general conference, and many other faith-building films, pamphlets, and documents. The ASL page on LDS.org (http://lds.org/asl) also provides translated materials and broadcasts.

These products are useful both to Deaf members of the Mormon Church and their families, and to missionaries who teach Deaf investigators.

LDS Church Growth in South America

More and more people in South America are converting to Mormonism. Since the church built its first Latin American temple in Säo Paulo, Brazil, in 1978, 31 new temples have been built in Latin America and nine others are underway.

Recently, the Mormon Church announced plans to build new temples across the world, including one in Barranquilla, Colombia. The church builds temples based on the number of Latter-day Saints living within a certain geographic area, so the construction of new temples means the church is growing. The goal of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to make Mormon Temples easily accessible to all members of the Church.

"It is very exciting because when a new temple is announced, it indicates there is a real growth happening, not just in numbers," said Brad Wilcox, who served two volunteer missions in Chile, once as a child and once as an adult. "A new temple reflects a growth in meeting attendance, tithe paying and overall spirituality." [2]

The growth in Latin America is one of the reasons that there are more members of the LDS Church outside the United States than in it. Much of the growth is driven by missionary work, and Latin American is like a field ready to harvest. For example, the city of Santiago, Chile, contains four separate missions.

According to University of Florida religion professor Dr. Manuel Vásquez, the success of the Church in Latin America is due to several factors:

"It comes from the combination of effective outreach of well trained missionaries who know the culture and the languages of the society they are missionizing in. Mormons propose a lot of beliefs that really fit the Latin American culture. Mormons place emphasis on family, ancestors, self-improvement, cleanliness and respect for the law, and this hits home for many Latin Americans whose culture already reflect those values.

LDS Church Recognition in Hungary

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been added to a list of eighteen faiths formally recognized by the new coalition government of Hungary. [3] Mormon missionaries have been proselyting in the country without formal government recognition since 1986. The recognized churches include Buddhist and Islamic groups, as well as Christians.

Under a new law that went into effect in 2012, only 14 Christian and Jewish congregations were granted official status. This latest action expands that list to 32 churches, although a total of 82 churches, congregations and religious groups petitioned Parliament for formal recognition status. One of the purposes of the law is to block business ventures posing as churches.

The new list of officially recognized churches was approved by a two-thirds majority of the Hungarian Parliament. Sixty-six other petitioning religious groups were rejected, which means they will be allowed to function as associations in Hungary and can reapply for recognition next year. "Formal recognition gives churches tax-free status, qualifies them for government support and allows them to collect donations during services and do pastoral work in jails and hospitals," the Associated Press reported.
On June 1, 1988, the church was given full recognition by the government. The first Hungarian meetinghouse was dedicated in 1989. The Hungary Budapest Mission of the LDS Church was created in 1990, and the Book of Mormon was published in Hungarian in 1991. At that time, there were about 75 members of the church worshiping in several small congregations. Fewer than 15 years later, church membership in Hungary had grown to 4,147. In 2006, the Budapest Hungary Stake — an ecclesiastical unit consisting of a number of congregations, similar to a Catholic diocese — was created. As of Jan. 1, 2011, LDS membership statistics indicate there were 4,738 Latter-day Saints in Hungary living in 22 individual church congregations.

175 Years of Mormon Missionary Work in England

Festivities at the Preston England Mormon Temple will mark the 175th anniversary of Mormon missionary work in England. About 10,000 people were expected to attend a commemorative concert in July 2012 at Avenham Park. In 1837 Mormon missionaries arrived in Liverpoole and made their way to Preston by the River Ribble. About 8,000 onlookers greeted them and thousands of converts were won by early Mormon missionaries. The early converts had been counseled by Mormon prophets to gather to the United States and then to Utah Territory. They gathered in droves, and became the backbone of the Church of Jesus Christ, lending strength during times of bitter persecution, the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the building of Zion in the west.

The concert will be addressed by LDS church leaders and will also feature a choir of church members from around the North West who will be singing well known Christian hymns. Dr Holt said: "This will be a wonderful opportunity for the Mormons in Britain to remember their heritage and celebrate the history of the church on these islands. It will be a time to look back, a time to rejoice together as hymns are sung by the congregation and a large LDS choir. We shall also have the opportunity to enjoy the words of past and present church leaders. We want people from all over Lancashire to bring their blankets, bring their picnic baskets and join us in the park." [4]

New Mormon Stake in India

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often referred to as the Mormon Church) is a global faith that continues to grow in number. Through the prophet, Joseph Smith, The Church of Jesus Christ was organized with only 6 members on 6 April 1830 in Fayette, New York. [5] In a little over 182 years Church membership has grown exponentially. According to the 2011 Statistical Report for 2012, presented at the April 2012 Annual General Conference of the Church, there are 55,410 missionaries serving full-time missions around the world, and Church membership numbers 14,441,346 members throughout the world, with more members living outside of the United States than inside. The Church of Jesus Christ is ranked by the National Council of Churches as the fourth largest Christian denomination in the United States [6], and is the largest Church originating on American soil. [7]

Another sign of Christ Church's worldwide outreach came on 27 May 2012 in Hyderabad, India, the capital of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, located on the banks of the Musi River in the Deccan Plateau in southern India. The momentous event that occurred on that day was the organizing of India's first stake (an administrative unit composed of multiple congregations called wards and branches, approximately comparable to a diocese in the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations), the Hyderabad India Stake, by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Elders Donald L. Hallstrom and Anthony D. Perkins of the Seventy joined Elder Oaks in this important action. It is of noteworthy interest that the Church currently operates 2,946 stakes worldwide.

Maintaining a Church presence in India has not come without its challenges. Among other things, struggles with missionaries learning the native language hampered Church efforts to some extent. The first interest in establishing any contact with the Church in the country dates backs to 1849.

In 1849, two British, Thomas Metcalf and William A. Sheppard, wrote to the British Mission from India requesting information about the Church. At about the same time two recently baptized Mormon sailors, George Barber and Benjamin Richey, arrived in Calcutta, where they shared their limited gospel knowledge. Upon returning to England, Barber and Richey asked that missionaries be sent to Calcutta to teach and baptize several interested people.

Missionary Joseph Richards arrived in Calcutta in June 1851. He performed the first Latter-day Saint baptisms in India and organized a branch. William Willes replaced Richards in Calcutta later that year and Hugh Findlay began missionary work in Bombay. By May 1852, there were 189 baptized members in Calcutta, comprised of a few European converts and many local farmers. A short time later in August, James P. Meik was installed as Branch President in Calcutta. Over the next several months Meik built a small chapel, the first Church building in Asia. Findlay had little success in Bombay, but by September, had established a small branch of 12 members in Poona, where he also built a small chapel. (Source: Church News, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Country Information: India, Published: Friday, 29 January 2010.)

A few other missionaries were called from the Utah Territory in the 1850s, but their efforts did not thrive.

In a special conference held August 1852 in Salt Lake City, Brigham Young called 108 missionaries to serve throughout the world, nine of them in India: Richard Ballantyne, William F. Carter, William Fotheringham, Nathaniel V. Jones, Truman Leonard, A. Milton Musser, Robert Owens, Robert Skelton, and Samuel A. Woolley. They arrived in Calcutta on 25 April 1853 and found that the branch had largely disintegrated, with no more than eight members still active. On 29 April, they held a Church conference and appointed Nathaniel V. Jones as president of the East India Mission and the Calcutta Branch. The other elders were assigned to labor in Calcutta, Chinsura, Dinapore, and Madras. Other missionaries who had accompanied the group to India, departed for Burma, Siam, and Ceylon. [8]

Few people were baptized and the number of missionaries dropped after July 1854. Robert Skelton was the last missionary to leave in May 1856. At that time he estimated that there were a total of 61 members in India and Burma. James P. Meik presided over the Church in India from the time the missionaries left until 1869, when he immigrated to Utah. [9]

Most of the missionary teaching in India has been in English. However, the Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ) was translated in 1981 into the Telugu language. In 1981 government regulations allowed a missionary couple to establish a branch, and in 1993 a mission was created in Bangalore. Gucharan Singh Gill, a native of India, was called to serve as President of the mission. At that time there were 1,150 members in 13 branches, which increased to 2,000 members in 18 branches five years later. The first meetinghouse in India was dedicated on 2 February 2002, housing the Rajahmundry Branch. Today, approximately 10,000 Latter-day Saints live in India. [10]

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