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A raft blasts through Time Zone Rapids on the Salmon River near Riggins.

Mormon church president Monson dies at 90, local members say he helped church grow in southern Idaho

SALT LAKE CITY — For more than 50 years, Thomas S. Monson served in top leadership councils for the Mormon church — making him a well-known face and personality to multiple generations of Mormons.

A church bishop at the age of 22, the Salt Lake City native became the youngest church apostle ever in 1963 at the age of 36. He served as a counselor for three church presidents before assuming the role of the top leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in February 2008.

The night of Jan. 2, 90-year-old Monson died at his home in Salt Lake City, according to church spokesman Eric Hawkins.

As president of the nearly 16-million member faith, Monson was considered a prophet who led the church through revelation from God in collaboration with two top counselors and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

The next president was not immediately named, but the job is expected to go to the next longest-tenured member of the church’s governing Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Russell M. Nelson, per church protocol.

Monson’s presidency was marked by his noticeably low profile during a time of intense publicity for the church, including the 2008 and 2012 campaigns of Mormon Mitt Romney for President. Monson’s most public acts were appearances at church conferences and devotionals as well as dedications of church temples.

Monson will also be remembered for his emphasis on humanitarian work; leading the faith’s involvement in the passage of gay marriage ban in California in 2008; continuing the church’s push to be more transparent about its past; and lowering the minimum age for missionaries.

Mormons considered Monson a warm, caring, endearing and approachable leader, said Patrick Mason, associate professor of religion at Claremont Graduate University in California. He was known for dropping everything to make hospital visits to people in need. His speeches at the faith’s twice-yearly conferences often focused on parables of human struggles resolved through faith.

He put an emphasis on the humanitarian ethic of Mormons, evidenced by his expansion of the church’s disaster relief programs around the world, said Armand Mauss, a retired professor of sociology and religious studies at Washington State University.

Monson often credited his mother, Gladys Condie Monson, for fostering his compassion. He said that during his childhood in the Depression of the 1930s their house in Salt Lake City was known to hobos riding the railroads as a place to get a meal and a kind word.

“President Monson always seemed more interested in what we do with our religion rather than in what we believe,” Mauss said.

A World War II veteran, Monson served in the Navy and spent a year overseas before returning to get a business degree at the University of Utah and a master’s degree in business administration from the church-owned Brigham Young University.

Before being tabbed to join the faith’s church’s governing Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Monson worked for the church’s secular businesses, primarily in advertising, printing and publishing including the Deseret Morning News.

Monson married Frances Beverly Johnson in 1948. The couple had three children, eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Frances died in 2013 at the age of 85.

Throughout his life, Monson was an avid fisherman who also raised homing pigeons, specifically, roller pigeons who twirled as they flew. He was known for his love of show tunes, Boy Scouts and the Utah Jazz.

Monson’s legacy will be tied to the church’s efforts to hold tight to its opposition of same-sex marriage while encouraging members to be more open and compassionate toward gays and lesbians as acceptance for LGBT people increased across the county.

At Monson’s urging, Mormons were vigorous campaign donors and volunteers in support of a measure to ban gay marriage in California in 2008. That prompted a backlash against the church that included vandalism of church buildings, protest marches and demonstrations outside church temples nationwide.

In subsequent years, the church began utilizing a softer tone on the issue. In 2015, the church backed an anti-discrimination law in Utah that gave unprecedented protections for gay and transgender people while also protecting religious freedoms.

But the faith came under fire again in the fall of 2015 when it banned baptisms for children living with gay parents, and instituted a requirement that those children disavow homosexual relationships before being allowed to serve a mission. The changes were designed to avoid putting children in a tug-of-war between their parents and church teachings, leaders said.

The revisions triggered anger, confusion and sadness for a growing faction of LGBT-supportive Mormons who were buoyed in recent years by church leaders’ calls for more love and understanding for LGBT members.

One of the most memorable moments of Monson’s tenure came in October 2012, when he announced at church conference that the minimum age to depart on missions was being lowered to 19 from 21 for women; and to 18 from 19 for men. The change triggered a historic influx of missionaries, and proved a milestone change for women by allowing many more to serve.

Taking the lead from the previous president, Gordon B. Hinckley, Monson also continued the church’s push toward being more open about some of the most sensitive aspect of the faith’s history and doctrine. A renovated church history museum reopened in 2015 with an exhibit acknowledging the faith’s early polygamous practices, a year after the church published an essay that for the first time chronicled founder Joseph Smith’s plural wives.

Other church essays issued during Monson’s tenure addressed other sensitive topics: sacred undergarments worn by devout members; a past ban on black men in the lay clergy; and the misconception that Mormons are taught they will get their own planet in the afterlife.

The growth and globalization of the church continued under Monson, with membership swelling to nearly 15.9 million, with more than half outside the United States.

The Mormon church was founded in 1830 in upstate New York by Joseph Smith, who claimed he was visited by God and Jesus while praying in a grove of trees and was called to found the church. Members are known as Mormons because of the keystone scripture, the Book of Mormon.

Mormons believe they are called to share the word of God, specifically their own message of the restored Gospel, through their missionaries. There were 71,000 church missionaries serving around the world at the end of 2016.

Like his predecessors, Monson traveled the world, visiting countless countries to give speeches, dedicate temples and preach to Latter-day Saints. Under his watch, 27 new temples were planned or built.

Monson chose five new members to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a top-governing body that sets policy and runs the worldwide faith’s business operations. All five were white and from Utah — a fact that disappointed some Mormons who wanted to see a minority or person from outside the U.S. selected to acknowledge the globalization of the church.

The man expected to take Monson’s seat, the 93-year-old Nelson, has been a church apostle since April 1984. Out of respect for Monson, his appointment will not be officially named until after his funeral services.

In keeping with tradition, Nelson will choose two new counselors from the Quorum of the Twelve who will join him to form a three-person “presidency” that is the top of the church’s governing hierarchy. Monson’s two counselors were Henry Eyring and Dieter Uchtdorf. They will go back to being regular members of the Quorum unless they are chosen again.

If you do one thing

If you do one thing: The Twin Falls Public Library will host Teen Game Day activities for students in sixth through 12th grades at 4:30 p.m. at the Twin Falls Public Library, 201 Fourth Ave. E. Free.


The spray from Shoshone Falls is seen in the distance in this Clarence E. Bisbee photograph. Pillar Falls is in the foreground. In 1919, Twin Falls County commissioners considered building a rim-to-rim bridge over the canyon about one-third mile below Shoshone Falls.   

Jerome County Sheriff McFall submits resignation while still under AG investigation

JEROME — Sheriff Doug McFall will turn in his badge Feb. 28, even as an investigation by the state attorney general into the sheriff’s office is ongoing.

McFall handed a two-sentence letter of resignation to county commissioners Jan. 2 after Tuesday’s regular meeting, Commissioner Charlie Howell said.

McFall told the Times-News just before Christmas that he planned to retire in February. He and his wife are building a home in Twin Falls County.

The Jerome County Republican Central Committee will soon ask for resumes from anyone interested in replacing McFall until the end of his term, committee Chairman Jack Nelsen said Wednesday. Nelsen plans to run a legal notice in the Times-News explaining the qualifications for sheriff and how to apply.

“I don’t want to get the cart before the horse by giving out information that may change,” he said. The committee, however, would like to hold candidate interviews Jan. 25.

The committee will recommend three candidates from the pool of applicants, from which the county commissioners will choose a new sheriff.

Meanwhile, the AG’s office is investigating McFall, spokesman Scott Graf said late Wednesday. But because the investigation is ongoing, Graf was unable to elaborate.

In May, McFall asked county commissioners for an attorney to represent him in an investigation by the AG’s office. County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Seib denied the request, saying the request was “premature,” according to the meeting’s minutes.

McFall denied any wrongdoing.

“Most of it’s just (untrue),” he told the Times-News in late June. “But it looks poorly on your record.”

The investigation began about the time a former employee with the sheriff’s office was accused of taking money intended for undercover drug buys. Former-Lt. Dan Kennedy pleaded guilty to the charge in September.

“Right after the Kennedy deal, the AG’s office got an anonymous complaint,” McFall said Wednesday. “They had a bunch of questions for me about my travel for the sheriff’s office. I get calls day and night — I’m in my county vehicle all the time.”

McFall began his career in law enforcement in 1984 with the Idaho State Police. He retired in 2008 and ran for sheriff that fall. McFall was re-elected in 2016 to his third term by beating out challenger Jon Lenker, a former police officer, 1,208 to 583.

McFall said he ran for his third term so he could see the Jerome County Jail finished.



More commercial projects coming in 2018

TWIN FALLS — Salt Lake City-based Woodbury Corp. sees the value of the Twin Falls market.

In 2017 alone, the company announced half a dozen new businesses that planned to come to the city. A few of them have already opened — Eyemart Express, Charming Charlie and Blaze Pizza. But it won’t stop there. In 2018, Twin Falls can expect to see the arrival of The Habit Burger Grill, Sports Clips and HomeGoods.

Woodbury Corp. also owns and operates the Magic Valley Mall, and has big plans this year as the retail climate continues to change. The company learned in 2017 that Macy’s will be closing its doors at the end of March.

“We have to be quick and responsive,” said Trevor White, the property manager who also handles the mall’s marketing. “It hurts to go through change, but in the end I think it’s a lot better.”

Here are a few of the changes Magic Valley residents can expect to see in the business climate over the course of 2018.

1. Renovation at the mall

Just as downtown businesses were pleased to see Main Avenue’s rejuvenation, Woodbury Corp. also saw it as a positive sign.

“We’re all in the same town,” White said. “It’s great to see downtown Twin Falls thrive. It’s great for them and the community.”

And now, it’s the mall’s turn. The Magic Valley Mall, which opened in 1986, had been undergoing a renovation in 2017. It began with a remodel of the restrooms, addition of family restrooms and replacement of tile. In 2018, those efforts will continue with new seating, furnishings and light fixtures.

Regional Manager Brent White said malls of 30 years ago were designed to help customers move from store to store as they shopped intensely.

“The design today is to create comfort,” he said.

The remodel will include softly upholstered seating with all-new seats and tile in the food court.

Twin Falls’ mall could also have different tenants. After Macy’s announced its intended closure, Woodbury Corp. began searching for new opportunities.

“Space to us is really merchandise,” Brent White said. “Department stores have been a prominent part of what people have wanted for many years. But department stores are less interesting — especially to young people.”

So Woodbury Corp. is looking beyond department store offerings to see what other types of retail or entertainment could come in. There’s always interest in apparel, Brent White said, but there’s also a lot of those vendors in the market.

“Retail typically is one that they do love — it’s almost recreational,” Brent White said.

Macy’s decision, he said, was a reflection of its choice to focus more on large markets.

In place of Macy’s, what may come to Twin Falls — as early as 2018 — could include a department store or other retailer, or even cafes.

It all depends on what will best serve the market, Trevor White said.

“I think we’re excited for the opportunities that will come,” he said.

On top of those changes, Woodbury Corp. is also working with the city to update the document that governs the development. Around the U.S., Brent White said, shopping centers are adapting to allow for multiple uses. There’s less emphasis on apparel, and more centers are welcoming office spaces and even residential development.

“In some respects, it’s urbanization,” he said.

The new agreement, Brent White hopes, will allow the mall to adapt to current trends and the city’s comprehensive plan.

2. Restaurants on Cheney Drive West

Just south of Walmart, a new development broke ground in 2017 with plans to bring more restaurants and retail to Cheney Drive West. Burger King, the first building to be completed, had been scheduled to open Dec. 30.

Winter weather has delayed construction on two other buildings that will soon house a Kneaders Bakery and Beans & Brews Coffeehouse.

“Both those will open toward the end of March,” said Gary Moore, vice president of HB Boys.

A total of five buildings are planned to go into the development.

3. Chobani innovation center

In November, Chobani broke ground on a 70,000 square-foot innovation and community center just outside its Twin Falls plant. The building sends a message of transparency, with 30,000 square feet of glass and a lobby for visitors to learn about the company. You can even see a 3-D aerial video of the future center on YouTube.

The center was scheduled to open in summer 2018 as a place for Chobani to host its global research and development center. But CEO and founder Hamdi Ulukaya plans to also allow other food startups to begin research and development right inside.

4. Historic Elks Lodge upgrade

Summit Creek Capital, a Ketchum-based developer, has begun a $3.5 million project to remodel the Historic Elks Lodge at Shoshone Street North. The work is expected be complete in the spring or early summer.

The partners of Elevation 486 are using the building for their latest venture. A pub-style restaurant and brewery will take up portions of the first floor and basement, said Tyler Davis-Jeffers, managing director for Summit Creek Capital. Brewing equipment will be visible at both levels.

Cycle Therapy is no longer planning to move into the building, so a portion of the first floor is planned for another retail-type tenant. There’s additional space in the basement, and professional offices on the second floor.

The remodel will help bring the historic building back to what it originally looked like, with the original ceiling heights, Davis-Jeffers said.

5. Economic development in Jerome

Twin Falls isn’t the only Magic Valley city that’s expected to see big changes in 2018. The city of Jerome will likely some large economic development projects.

“I feel like 2018 is going to be a real banner year for us,” City Administrator Mike Williams said.

He’s expecting several industrial investments in Jerome in 2018. Commercial Creamery, for example, is planning a multimillion-dollar expansion across the street from its facility in downtown Jerome. The work will require the city to vacate a right-of-way on a road that it owned half of, and a sewer line will need to be moved.

“It’s exciting to see that type of investment in our downtown,” Williams said.

He also anticipates the completion of a truck stop just outside of town that will be “giving more people an excuse to jump off the interstate” and come downtown. Water and sewer expansions will also open up potential for three future developments.

Mr. Gas President Nick Lynch said the convenience store with 16 gas and diesel pumps is on schedule to open in mid-April. A restaurant, which has not been finalized, will likely open the following month.