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  , 2004

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President Bateman and Dale Murphy Team Up for Atlanta Fireside

 By Richard Dilworth Rust

A fireside featuring BYU president Merrill J. Bateman and baseball star Dale Murphy was held September 20th at the Glenridge meetinghouse next to the Atlanta Temple. A special musical rendition of "American the Beautiful" was sung beautifully by Rebecca Arenas.

Dale Murphy related a number of his experiences as mission president in the Boston area, and shared his testimony. At one time, a reporter from the Boston Globe wanted to follow two missionaries around for three days. With clearance from Elder Marlin Jensen, the area president, President Murphy sent the reporter with elders Engemann and Ward. (At one time, Bret Engemann, BYU quarterback, was one of President Murphy’s assistants.) The reporter came to a zone meeting as well, and afterward, Elder Jensen said, "You’re going to have a great story—and when you find out why these missionaries serve, it will be a whole lot better."

Former Braves star Murphy told how he had an LDS friend Ernie who typically said the prayers for their high school baseball team and set a good example for him. Then, when Dale was 19 years old, his friend Barry set up a meeting with the missionaries. In the meeting as he heard about the gospel, Dale could feel the Spirit. Many years later, as mission president, Dale Murphy enjoyed being with the missionaries as they taught. "There is nothing like that spirit as they testified of the restoration; a special feeling came—it was indescribable." To those in the audience not of the LDS faith, Murphy appealed: "Listen to the missionaries. They teach what I am grateful is called ‘The Plan of Happiness.’ We can be forgiven of our sins; life does have a purpose." He also expressed gratitude for President Hinckley—who is a prophet. "Stay close to the Lord," he admonished in closing.

President Bateman related how he and Sister Bateman were scheduled to give the BYU devotional on the 11th of September last year, and how he revised his plans completely when he heard and saw the catastrophes of that day. Seventeen thousand students and faculty gathered to hear the devotional, which began with the Pledge of Allegiance and was carried forth with inspired counsel. It was a great spiritual experience.

The growth of the Church was a major theme of President Bateman’s talk. He recounted how the Church in the 1920s was mainly confined to the west. In 1834, however, Joseph Smith gave a prophecy that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would fill both North and South America. President Bateman gave some statistics to show how we are now seeing that prophecy fulfilled.

Growth has also been astounding in the construction of temples. In a March 1997 temple meeting of General Authorities, they were talking about the dedication of the 50th temple, and President Hinckley said, "I want 100 operating temples before I die." Since it took 167 years for the first 50 temples to be constructed, Elder Bateman was stunned. Then in the September 1997 meeting, President Hinckley related his experience in returning from the Mexican LDS colonies and thinking about the faithfulness and important service of the saints there. He started sketching a smaller temple on an envelope, and the Lord gave him direction. We are now at 114 temples. And in respect to the smaller temples being connected with stake centers, President Boyd K. Packer shared with his brethren his new understanding of the meaning of Doctrine and Covenants 124:36 that says stakes are "places for your baptisms for your dead."

The previous evening, President Bateman and about 200 others saw a preview of Lee Groberg’s film on the construction and reconstruction of the Nauvoo Temple, Sacred Stones. The film will show in October on BYU television, and is excellent for all, and is a good way to introduce non-members of the Church. In bringing about the reconstruction of the Nauvoo Temple, President Hinckley has fulfilled Brigham Young’s prophecy that the saints will come back and build the temple in memory of Joseph.

The first Latter-day Saint Batemans came from England and were on the initial shipload of LDS emigrants docking in New Orleans. President Bateman’s ancestors made their way to Illinois, and arrived in Nauvoo on April 6, 1841, to witness the laying of the cornerstone of the Nauvoo Temple. Before his martyrdom, Joseph Smith urged Brigham Young, "Whatever you do, finish the temple!" Thanks to that, President Bateman’s great-great-grandparents and others were able to receive their endowments and be sealed. For these saints, this gave them the courage to make their treks westward. They had the "fire of the covenant." President Bateman ended with the charge that we be receptive to God’s blessings—that we will remember who we are.