Closing—and reopening—a beloved edifice President M. Russell Ballard, second from left, was joined at the April 22, 2018, rededication of the Houston Texas Temple by, from left, Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, Elder Larry Y. Wilson, and Bishop W. Christopher Waddell. Photo by Jason Swensen.
Participants in the April 22, 2018, rededication of the Houston Texas Temple file out of the temple following the ceremony. Photo by Jason Swensen.Much of the refurbished edifice “is just like new,” said Elder Larry Y. Wilson, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Church’s Temple Department.Elder Nielsen seemed to always be smiling Sunday. Participating in the temple rededication was no routine assignment. Yes, the Utah native grew up in Provo, but he spent over 30 years in Houston playing pro football and developing his career as a television journalist. Texas Houston South Mission President Aaron Hall and his wife, Kimberly Hall, spent countless hours assisting missionaries in clean-up projects following Hurricane Harvey. They participated in the April 22, 2018, rededication of the Houston Texas Temple. Photo by Jason Swensen.At one stop, a local minister asked President Ballard to offer a prayer for his parishioners. At another, an elderly man began to cry when the veteran Mormon leader took his hand before saying: “We’ve come here to help you.”Almost 1,000 Latter-day Saint homes were damaged to varying degrees. Then came the all-but unimaginable closure of the Houston Texas Temple. For local Latter-day Saints, it was like the proverbial left hook a boxer never sees coming. For almost two decades, the temple has been their spiritual anchor—a fortress from the cares of the day.Temple officials and contractors enlisted equal measures of capacity and dedication to restore the temple quickly “and well under budget,” he added.Restoring the temple to working order in about seven months “is nothing short of a miracle,” said Bishop W. Christopher Waddell of the Presiding Bishopric.When President Ballard toured Houston after the hurricane, he pulled on his own “Helping Hands” vest and began visiting the gutted homes of several families who had lost almost all they owned to the flood. Some of the affected were Latter-day Saints. Others were not. No matter. At each work project he reassured people that they were not alone.The recovery is not complete. Many here are still dealing with the damage wrought by Harvey. But the reopening of Houston’s only temple—dedicated in 2000 by President Gordon B. Hinckley—doubles as a symbol of resilience.Many members and missionaries chose to keep the lessons of the temple open and alive by forgetting their own troubles, looking ahead to better days, and serving others. Volunteer work crews adorned in yellow “Mormon Helping Hands” t-shirts became ubiquitous, welcome sites across Harris County.The continuing emergence from the disaster “is a tribute to the people of Houston,” he told the Church News. “It’s a tribute to the Church and to many other churches—and to the volunteers who have donated so much of their time to clean up this mess.”Houston’s recovery stretches beyond rebuilding homes and even reopening the temple. There is spiritual ministering to be performed. “We still have many souls to recover,” he said. “There are many that need to come back to this temple.”It pained him to witness a wounded community and a damaged temple. Rededicating and reopening the Houston Texas Temple marks a key moment in the region’s ongoing recovery, he said.Elder S. Gifford Nielsen beams as he shares a favorite post-Harvey memory personifying “the spirit of Texas.”At a Church-sponsored work project the visiting Brethren encountered two sister missionaries clad in yellow “Mormon Helping Hands” t-shirts and mucking out a waterlogged home. Standing face-to-face with a veteran apostle was thrilling, unexpected moment for the sisters. But they still had a job to do.Souls to recoverSunday, April 22, signaled another key moment in Houston’s ongoing recovery when now-President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, rededicated the Houston Texas Temple.President Ballard emphasized “everything President Hinckley pronounced” in his dedicatory prayer in 2000 remains in full effect.“An honor” to preside“When you walk into this temple, you see the beauty of what can happen if you work hard and stay the course.”Compared to most temple dedications and rededications, Sunday’s event was quiet and understated. There was only one session and the majority of Houston-area Mormons participated in their traditional Sunday meetings in their local meetinghouses. A small group of Latter-day Saints arrive April 22, 2018, for the single-session rededication of the Houston Texas Temple. The temple was closed after being severely damaged last year by Hurricane Harvey. Photo by Jason Swensen.New artwork throughout the temple celebrates the life of Jesus Christ and uplifting moments from the scriptures.“We raised our family here … this is home to us,” he said.That Christian spirit—adhering to sacred impulses “to brighten the lives of people who were suffering”—continues to lift a devastated community in the aftermath of last year’s historic catastrophe.The events of the day mark “a rededication of our own hearts and minds and spirits,” said his wife, Sharon Goodman. “What a blessing it is to again have this beautiful temple to remind us of heaven.”President Ballard called his return to Houston to rededicate the temple a personal privilege. “It’s an honor to be able to preside at this rededication and get this temple operating again.”The General Authority Seventy and longtime Houstonian was accompanying then-Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on a tour across Houston shortly after Hurricane Harvey inundated the region.HOUSTON“They both said, ‘Elder Ballard, it’s great to meet you—but now I’ve got to get back to work,’” said Elder Nielsen.In the moments after the rededication ceremony, Conroe Texas Stake President Robert Goodman called the temple’s reopening “a renewed blessing for our saints—we’ve been waiting a long time for this.”The rainfall of Hurricane Harvey began falling upon southeast Texas in late August. Then it kept raining and raining and raining—damaging more than 200,000 homes, claiming dozens of lives, and temporarily shuttering many schools and businesses. The images of people being rescued from their suburban homes by a volunteer armada defined the disaster’s perilous breadth.President Ballard would never wish for another Hurricane Harvey. But in an era defined by bickering and division, unity and fellowship has emerged. Originally opened in 2000, the Houston Texas Temple was rededicated on April 22, 2018. Photo by Jason Swensen.“When people are in trouble, it’s amazing to see what others are willing to do to help them,” he said.
“Christ’s perfect love overcomes temptations to harm, coerce, bully, or oppress.President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, then of the First Presidency and now of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, noted: “Fear rarely has the power to change our hearts, and it will never transform us into people who love what is right and who want to obey Heavenly Father.Fear is a natural emotion meant to protect us from impending danger or pain, but, like Peter experienced, it can also be debilitating, overwhelming, and cause us to figuratively “sink” under its weight.God has given an abundance of reasons to rejoice, he said. “We just need to find and to recognize them. The Lord often reminds us to ‘be not afraid,’ to ‘be of good cheer,’ and to ‘fear not, little flock’ (Luke 12:32).”“In our homes, in our places of business, in our Church callings, in our hearts, let us replace fear with Christ’s perfect love. Christ’s love will replace fear with faith!”Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that godly fear can help dispel mortal fears. Godly fear, he explained, is both edifying and spiritually helpful. “[It] encompasses a deep feeling of reverence, respect, and awe for the Lord Jesus Christ, obedience to His commandments, and anticipation of the Final Judgment and justice at His hand.”To which Peter responded: “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” And Jesus said, “Come.”Although the Lord frequently admonishes in the scriptures to “fear not,” fear is prevalent throughout the earth, said Elder Derek A. Cuthbert (1926–1991), then a General Authority Seventy. “It stifles initiative, saps strength, and reduces efficiency. It weakens faith, brings doubts, and begets mistrust. Indeed, it tends to impede the very business of being. How negative, frustrating, and futile is fear” (“The Futility of Fear,” New Era, Nov. 1985).Making a decision from a place of fear can often lead to outcomes that are misguided, self-centered, or defensive rather than proactive. In some cases, it may even paralyze us, effectively stunting our progress and growth.“People who are fearful may say and do the right things, but they do not feel the right things. They often feel helpless and resentful, even angry. Over time these feelings lead to mistrust, defiance, even rebellion” (“Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear,” Apr. 2017 general conference).Peter immediately jumped down out of the ship and began to walk on the water to go to Jesus. But perhaps noticing the height of the waves and ferocity of the wind, “he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.To those who grapple with such feelings, President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “Let us recognize that fear comes not of God, but rather that this gnawing, destructive element comes from the adversary of truth and righteousness. Fear is the antithesis of faith. It is corrosive in its effects, even deadly” (“God Hath Not Given Us the Spirit of Fear,” Ensign, Oct. 1984).For those “sinking” under the weight of fear and anxiety in their lives, President Uchtdorf said, “I pray with all the strength of my soul that we may become liberated from this fear by the divinely appointed antidote to fear: the pure love of Christ, for ‘perfect love casteth out fear’ (1 John 4:18).The world will continue to be imperfect, President Uchtdorf taught. “Far too many innocent people suffer because of circumstances of nature as well as man’s inhumanity.”We can overcome fear and doubt in our lives by replacing them with love—love of God, family, friends, Church leaders, and our neighbor. For, as it says in 1 John 4:18, “perfect love casteth out fear.”“And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:27–31).The antidote for fear, President Hinckley continued, is found in 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”When the Lord’s Apostles were on a ship in the midst of the sea, Jesus went to them, walking on the water, and they were afraid. Some suffer from the fear of criticism, failure, death, ridicule, or loneliness. Others experience a real fear of catastrophic events, such as natural disasters or accidents. Some fear the past, while others worry about the future. And some are burdened with anxiety concerning change.“Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.”This kind of fear is loving and trusting in Him, Elder Bednar said. “As we fear God more completely, we love Him more perfectly. And ‘perfect love casteth out all fear’ (Moroni 8:16). I promise the bright light of godly fear will chase away the dark shadows of mortal fears as we look to the Savior, build upon Him as our foundation, and press forward on His covenant path with consecrated commitment” (“Therefore They Hushed Their Fears,” Apr. 2015 general conference).But despite the hardships and the challenges of life, President Uchtdorf said, “I don’t believe God wants His children to be fearful or dwell on the evils of the world.”“Christ’s perfect love allows us to walk with humility, dignity, and a bold confidence as followers of our beloved Savior. Christ’s perfect love gives us the confidence to press through our fears and place our complete trust in the power and goodness of our Heavenly Father and of His Son, Jesus Christ.
“I’m really excited to see the prophet myself, in my own eyes, in [the] India Bangalore Mission,” said her brother, Jerry Lyuas.“The temple is coming. I’m so happy,” said Mercy Lyuas, who also expressed her excitement to see President Nelson.“The influence of the temple will be felt not only by the people here in this particular part of India, but it will bless the people of the entire nation and neighboring nations,” said President Russell M. Nelson as he reached Bengaluru, India, Thursday, April 19, 2018.“It was a thrill for me to receive the real impression that I should announce that there will be a temple here in India,” he explained in an interview. “The temple is our ultimate destination here on planet earth. All the blessings that God has in store for His faithful people come in the temple.” Happy with their visit to members in India April 19-2018, the Nelsons and the Hollands wave good-bye. Latter-day Saints in India attending the special meeting with President Russell M. Nelson, April 19, 2018, had much to think about as he encouraged the members to be prepared to attend their own temple in a few years. He announced the first temple in India at the recent general conference. “It was a thrill for me to receive the real impression that I should announce that there will be a temple here in India,” said President Russell M. Nelson of his announcement in the recent general conference. He spoke to Latter-day Saints in Bengaluru, India, April 19, 2018, the location of the new temple. The meetinghouse in Bengaluru, India, was filled with excited Latter-day Saints to listen to their prophet April 19, 2018. President Russell M. Nelson and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles talked about how the temple, President Nelson announced at the recent general conference, would bless the lives of everyone in India.Bengaluru, the capital of India’s southern Karnataka state, is the fifth of eight cities on his global ministry tour. The Latter-day Saint prophet traveled to Asia following a series of meetings in Europe and Africa.The global ministry tour runs April 10–23, 2018. The next stop on the tour is Bangkok, Thailand, where President Nelson will meet with members. Other destinations include Hong Kong, China, and Honolulu, Hawaii, United States.“I think our Church is growing fast in our country, and this will bring many blessings to our nation,” said Paul Vijayakumar, who served a mission in the area in 1988. “Those days here, very few people [were] able to bless the sacrament and pass the sacrament and partake [of] the sacrament. So today I’m happy that this hall was filled with a lot of members. And it was a dream for us that our prophet, President Nelson, came here.” Members of the Church in India line up for an opportunity to see and listen to President Russell M. Nelson April 19, 2018.India is home to more than 13,500 Mormons in 43 congregations. Unofficial missionary work began in India in the 1850s. The country’s first meetinghouse was dedicated in February 2002.The senior Mormon leaders are traveling to eight cities on three continents in 11 days. The tour began in the United Kingdom with a stop in London on April 12. Other cities have included Jerusalem, Israel, and the African destinations of Nairobi, Kenya, and Harare, Zimbabwe.This is the first official trip for President Nelson outside of the United States since he was named the Church’s 17th prophet in January.Global Ministry TourPresident Nelson is joined on the worldwide tour by his wife, Wendy, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Patricia.“In a way, it’s easier for us to build a temple than it is to build a people who are ready for the ordinances and covenants of the temple,” said President Nelson at a meeting for Latter-day Saints, missionaries, and visitors in Bengaluru. “It’s going to take you a little while to get ready. It will take us a little while to build it as well. … Now, I’m 93 years old. You better hurry.”“Our approach is to take the poverty out of the people, not the people out of the poverty, as we teach them that God loves them and that if they’ll keep His commandments, they will have joy in life,” said the prophet. President Russell M. Nelson and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland discuss sites for the first temple in India. President Nelson met with and spoke to Latter-day Saints in India April 19, 2018.“It’s going to be a national treasure,” added Elder Holland. “It will be revered and admired and loved by these millions of people and bless them in a wonderful, wonderful way.”The Church has 159 temples worldwide with 30 others announced or under construction, which includes the newly announced temple in Bengaluru. Latter-day Saints in India attending the special meeting with President Russell M. Nelson, April 19, 2018, had much to think about as he encouraged the members to be prepared to attend their own temple in a few years. He announced the first temple in India at the recent general conference.“They love God, and I love them,” expressed President Nelson, who first came to India in 1966 as an experienced cardiologist to attend a professional meeting in New Delhi. In 1992, he returned to India as an apostle.“I met President Nelson in the year 1992, and with Elder Neal A. Maxwell,” said Joshua Thamizhmaran. “That time, there was only one branch in Bangalore. Now a stake.” Speaking of the announced temple for Bengaluru, India, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “It's going to be a national treasure.” He spoke during President Nelson’s Global ministry tour April 19, 2018.Prabhu continued, “It’s been a great thing being amidst all of you and meeting some of your officials here and the brothers, sisters, and bishops.” A choir of Latter-day Saints added to the sacred nature of the special meeting with President Russell M. Nelson in India April 19, 2018.Elder Holland first visited the country in 1977 as the Church’s commissioner of education. “The glory of the gospel comes, and they become motivated and industrious and seek for education, and they yearn for better employment and they want a better life for their children,” he said.Prior to the meeting, the delegation looked at potential sites in the area for the new sacred structure.“It was wonderful to meet up with him and shake hands and say, ‘Welcome to India,’” said Pericho Prabhu of the United Christian Forum for Human Rights. “Keeping him in our special prayers, and he’s globetrotting, he’s traveling today, tomorrow, the day after.”There are nearly 1.2 million Latter-day Saints in Asia.During the recent general conference, President Nelson announced that a new temple would be built in Bengaluru, the first Mormon temple to be built in India, a country with more than 1.3 billion people of many faiths, including Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity.
Children enjoyed face painting, bounce houses, and egg hunts. Photo by Mackenzi Gilmore.Easter is a celebration that brings people of all faiths together—and that was certainly the case for the Boynton Beach Florida Stake. On March 30, more than 800 members of the public joined 500 members of the Boynton Beach Stake for a family-fun festival celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.Rick Williams, a member of the West Boca Ward, said, “I have lived all over the United States and I have never seen a Church event draw together so many members of the community and [people] other faiths. I’m looking forward to next year already!”During the festival, full-time missionaries offered tours of the chapel to nonmembers using the Chapel Tours app and answering questions. Booths were set up to provide information about three Church-sponsored programs: JustServe.org, FamilySearch.org, and self-reliance. The event was so successful that it attracted media attention. Photo by Mackenzi Gilmore.Other members remarked on how much fun their own families had. “It was an amazing activity with lots to do,” said one participant, Cristina Kelly. “Seeing so many families having such a great time was fun. We will definitely be attending next year.”Bounce houses, cotton candy, face painting, a live DJ, and egg hunts enthralled children of all ages as their parents listened to speakers discuss the importance of Easter and what the Atonement of Jesus Christ means for us. Smiling families—with parents and children alike—danced to music and hunted candy-filled plastic eggs.The event was covered on a local Fox News station and appeared on the Channel 5 evening news. This media coverage shed a positive light on Latter-day Saints and their efforts to unify their communities, including all individuals and groups. Because the Boynton Beach Stake’s Easter festival invited the entire community to participate, many friends of other faiths learned who Mormons are and what they’re about: loving Christ and loving others.The festival was free and promoted to the public, inviting friends of other faiths to become acquainted with the Church. Shaun Vickers, a nonmember who attended with his 6-year-old daughter, explained that his daughter enjoyed the bounce houses at the celebration. “We had a really great time. We will definitely come back next year.” Those who attended the festival were invited to try fresh popcorn, cotton candy, snow cones, and other treats. Photo by Mackenzi Gilmore. Many young women in the stake volunteered to do face painting for festival goers. Photo by Mackenzi Gilmore. A speaker discusses the importance of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Photo by Mackenzi Gilmore. Hundreds in the community gathered to enjoy a day of bounce houses, treats, and uplifting messages about Jesus Christ. Photo by Mackenzi Gilmore.The activity was a collaborative event organized by the stake public affairs committee with help from hardworking volunteers from the stake.
A live DJ provided music for families to sing and dance along. Photo by Mackenzi Gilmore.Kristi White, a member of the Boynton Beach Stake, emphasized the importance of sharing faith-building experiences with friends and neighbors: “I feel like those one-on-one conversations really showcase what our faith is all about. The backdrop of happy families of many faiths made it such a perfect event to remember Christ’s miraculous Resurrection—as celebrated with our South Florida flavor [and understood through] the true Church on earth today.” Stake members set up information tents for nonmembers to learn about a few of the Church’s programs, including JustServe, FamilySearch, and self-reliance. Photo by Mackenzi Gilmore. Missionaries smile with a family attending the stake Easter celebration. Photo by Mackenzi Gilmore.
But when she and her husband, Zak, stepped into their backyard the dark skies above were beginning to percolate. “And then we saw it—a tornado forming in the clouds. And it was close to us.”The Church-directed Helping Hands service projects are continuing even as traditional missionary work is returning in full. Young elders and sisters who spent months offering sweat, muscle, and smiles across flood-weary communities are now going about the work of offering the gospel.“The Lord never left us”Noisy reports of the twister’s violence were soon filling the house. From inside their flashlight-lit closet, the Vermillions heard the menacing crack and thuds of heavy objects slamming against the outside walls.A temple shift coordinator, Criddle has spent a good chunk of his life in recent years inside the walls of the Houston temple. It’s both a personal sanctuary and a quiet gathering place for loved ones and friends. “The temple is a place that feels like home,” he said. “So when it closed, we felt displaced.”“Plus, Harris County is huge, we never thought a tornado would hit near our home.”But Latter-day Saints here say it will be a joyful day of rededication. The temple will be open for patrons two days later.“But that amount of rainfall, in that short period of time, was just unprecedented,” he said.And they also prayed for the beloved temple that stands just a 20-minute drive from their wind-damaged home.“We found out on Facebook about what was happening at the [Houston Texas Temple],” said Vermillion. “We saw the photos of a guy kayaking to the entrance of the temple. We couldn’t believe it.”They immediately rounded up their three children—ages 4, 9, and 12—rushed inside their home and huddled inside the closet of their main floor master bedroom.Watching Harvey’s waters encroach upon the beloved temple caused “an awful lot of angst and disappointment,” said Elder Jones, an Area Seventy and resident of southeast Texas. The Houston Texas Temple is surrounded by water after Tropical Storm Harvey hit Houston on Wednesday, August 30, 2017. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“But we are so excited to once again be with our brothers and sisters in the temple,” he said.And, like Vermillion and many other Texas Latter-day Saints, he’s looked to the day when the Houston Texas Temple would be open again for the work of the eternities.The countywide tornado warning began firing at staccato-like intervals on Bethany Vermillion’s cell phone on what was becoming an unforgettable Saturday afternoon in late August 2017.For Mormons worldwide, the haunting images of filthy flood water lapping at the front door of Houston’s 17-year-old temple became synonymous with the disaster. The rains breached the edifice on August 16, flooding the temple annex building, the basement, and the main floor, with water rising more than a foot.Now, Criddle is counting down the days until he can report back for duty. A few things have changed since the Houston temple’s closure. Youth are performing an enhanced role in temple service and new workers will need to be trained.“My 9-year-old daughter, Storey, said, ‘Let’s pray’ because we were all panicking,” said Vermillion. “I dragged out that prayer for the entire time that we could hear the tornado.”President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, will preside at the ceremony. It’s expected to be a low-key event. No open house or cultural celebrations are being staged, and the rededication will not be broadcast to meetinghouses in the temple district. Local members will attend their normal three-hour block meetings.Maybe the tornado lasted 30 seconds. Maybe it lasted three minutes. Vermillion’s not certain.Sadly, the House of the Lord was closed for a time. But he’s quick to add, “the Lord never left us.”“A place that feels like home” Two of the Vermillion Family children stand in the flooded street of their Cypress, Texas, neighborhood after a tornado damaged their home. Photo courtesy of Bethany Vermillion.No worries, thought the lifelong Houston-area native. She’d seen plenty of disaster warnings. Even at that moment she was methodically finalizing her family’s preparations for the fast-approaching Hurricane Harvey.“I knew we needed to keep our cool.”HOUSTONThe Vermillions offered many more prayers in the hours, days, and weeks that followed Hurricane Harvey and its destructive deluge. Like countless other Houstonians, their solemn entreaties were offered for their families, their friends, their neighbors, and legions of strangers.Clyde Criddle almost lost his breath upon learning floodwater was filling the temple. He’s lived in the Houston area for more than four decades. And he’s watched hurricane seasons come and go. Surely, he thought, the deluge couldn’t reach the high-sitting temple.Meanwhile, folks across the temple district have continued their temple work. Many organized excursions to surrounding temples in San Antonio, Dallas, and Baton Rouge. For others, the temple closure functioned as a season of personal family history work and research. They’ve discovered, researched, and indexed the names of ancestors to prepare for the soon-to-be-reopened temple.Church leaders decommissioned the Houston Texas Temple for extensive repairs and refurbishments. Almost eight months later, Houston’s first and only LDS temple has made its own hurricane comeback. It will be rededicated on Sunday, April 22, in a single session.“But it sure felt like a long time,” she said. “I asked in our prayer that we would be protected and that we would be ok with whatever we found once we walked from that closet.Meanwhile, new temple workers are being called to meet anticipated increased staffing needs.Elder Daniel W. Jones’ life was changed by the events of the past eight months. He’s watched friends and neighbors abandon flooded, mold-infested homes. And he’s found strength watching yellow-clad waves of Mormon Helping Hands volunteers from across the country, stepping forward to help.
President Nelson said he had symbolic reasons for planning the global trip as he did.Holly Castleton, 22, a BYU Jerusalem Center student from Mesa, Ariz., said she finds great significance in the fact that President Nelson came to this place that is “so familiar” to the Savior. “President Nelson is the mouthpiece of the Lord,” and this is the place “where it all started,” she said.JERUSALEM, ISRAEL President Russell M. Nelson looks over the grounds at the BYU Jerusalem Center.Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.President Nelson told the members that words couldn’t express his gratitude to be in Jerusalem and “feel of your faith. It is a special joy for us,” he said.“Living in Israel is tough,” she said. “You are always on your toes.” Worshippers gather at the Western Wall in Old City in Jerusalem.Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“We wanted to start in Jerusalem to fortify ourselves with the message of the Lord Jesus Christ right from its very inception, here where he was born, where he lived, where he ministered, and where he was crucified,” President Nelson said. “His message is for all of God’s children.”Cassidy Heaton, 24, a BYU Jerusalem Center student from Ogden, Utah, called it historic to have President Nelson and Elder Holland in the Holy Land.Due to rapidly diminishing available airspace, the group determined to forgo visits to the Western Wall, the Garden Tomb, and the Sea of Galilee. President Nelson left Jerusalem with plans to commence the Africa portion of his tour sooner than expected. (See related story.)Jerusalem is a city brimming with hurried activity. The market in the Old City smells of fresh bread and za’atar, a fragrant seasoning made of sesame seeds, thyme, salt and sumac. Women sit on ancient cobblestone streets and sell grape leaves, sage and parsley.“He wanted to walk where the Savior walked and stand where prophets have stood and feel what we all feel here,” said Elder Holland.From the BYU Jerusalem Center, President Nelson and Elder Holland continued with plans and addressed more than 300 Church members and BYU students gathered for the Jerusalem District Conference. The men spoke in the priesthood and general sessions; Sister Nelson and Sister Holland addressed a women's session and also spoke during the general session.Defined by mild temperatures, blue skies, a slight breeze, and the smell of newly planted flowers, the quiet, peaceful moment is only interrupted by the audible chirping of birds, occasionally heard above President Nelson’s own voice.When asked about the conflict—which by the end of the day would force President Nelson and Elder Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, to cut short their time here—the leaders spoke with confidence. President Nelson and his wife, Sister Wendy Watson Nelson, listen to the branch choir sing during Jerusalem District Conference.Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Jerusalem was the central location of President Nelson’s global ministry tour, which began April 10 and will commence April 23. After visiting London, England, and Jerusalem, President Nelson—accompanied by his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, and Elder Holland and his wife, Sister Patricia Holland—visited Kenya, Zimbabwe, and will also visit India, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Hawaii.Both Bautista and Zaionce attend a small branch so diverse that it is not uncommon to see testimonies translated and then translated again to reach a common language.“Everyone has challenges in the world. That is why we are here,” said President Nelson. “This part of the world has always been contested. … But whether you live here or anywhere else in the world, there are going to be challenges. That’s why the gospel of Jesus Christ is so very important. Because it will help fortify an individual to face whatever challenges he has in life.”John Rey Bautista of Tel Aviv added, “It is a great privilege to be here in Israel and see the living prophet speak to us.”Elder Holland said President Nelson “decisively and instantly” determined that his first major gesture beyond LDS Church headquarters would be a visit to Jerusalem. Cassidy Heaton and Chelsea Neubert, students at the BYU Jerusalem Center, look over the view of the Old City in Jerusalem.Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“You don’t have to come to a scene, a setting, to appreciate the Savior, or the prophets, or the events. You could do that in the privacy of a missionary apartment in South America or Asia or you could do it in a primary class in Eastern Europe,” said Elder Holland. “But to add to the privilege of being in the land that [the Savior] loved and on the soil that He walked, it really is a magnificent personal experience and I will never grow tired of that.”Students at the Church’s BYU Jerusalem Center, who were excited to welcome a prophet to the eight-level building set on five acres on Mount Scopus—and more excited at the anticipation to sit at his feet on the shore of the Sea of Galilee—spoke little about the conflict or the change in President Nelson's schedule. They will remain at the center and continue their studies. Sister Wendy Watson Nelson shared her testimony during a Jerusalem District Conference sisters meeting. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“The message of the Lord Jesus Christ is a message of hope, it is a message of love, it is a message of joy,” said President Nelson. “It is underlined in this time of a little heightened tension.”The walls surrounding the Old City were built almost 500 years ago, yet the markets inside those walls also bear the signs of a modern era, including air conditioning ductwork and armed guards.Here, amid this iconic and historic backdrop from the Church’s BYU Jerusalem Center, it’s hard to remember that hours earlier the United States, together with British and French allies, launched airstrikes against Syrian military targets. The strikes came in retaliation for a suspected chemical attack by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad near Damascus, only 135 miles away. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland speaks during a Jerusalem District Conference priesthood meeting at the BYU Jerusalem Center. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“The message is the same wherever I go,” said President Nelson. “We invite all of God's children to come unto their Savior and receive His blessings that are available in the holy temple and have enduring joy and qualify for eternal life with their Father in Heaven.” Sister Wendy Watson Nelson, wife of President Russell M. Nelson, speaks during a Jerusalem District Conference sisters meeting at the BYU Jerusalem Center.Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.President Nelson said he is looking forward to sharing his witness of the Savior as he continues his global ministry tour and outreach with a worldwide Church.These times of rising conflicts make the message of Jesus Christ to all God’s children more important than ever, he added.This land, considered sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, creates a paradox, explained President Nelson. There is “contention and competition,” in the very place the Savior taught “love one another as I have loved you” (see John 13:34).Elder Holland first visited Jerusalem in 1972 and has returned so many times since that Jerusalem “now feels like home” because “the rich, powerful influence of this land is palpable.” He said the Church would never put President Nelson, those traveling with him, or students at the BYU Jerusalem Center at risk. President Russell M. Nelson speaks during Jerusalem District Conference at the BYU Jerusalem Center. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.President Nelson’s message had special significance for Mariette Zaionce of Tel Aviv. President Russell M. Nelson and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland are on a global tour of eight countries. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News. President Russell M. Nelson speaks with Ella Bautista at the BYU Jerusalem Center. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“This is where it all happened. The most important person to ever live on the Earth … lived here and died here and was resurrected here,” she said. While he did not preach from the Sea of Galilee, President Nelson continues Jesus Christ’s ministry in the Holy City, she said.“We face this week what we have faced many, many times here, some difficulty in the region,” he added. “We are always very, very conservative. We are very safe.” “The gospel of Jesus Christ is so very important because it will help fortify an individual to face whatever challenges he has in life,” said President Russell M. Nelson. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.The city bustles as some answer the “Call to Prayer” and others follow the “Stations of the Cross.” Many here begin their day praying and touching the sacred Western Wall, while thousands more visit the Temple Mount, Dome of the Rock or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.From a vantage point on Mount Scopus, President Russell M. Nelsonand Elder Jeffrey R. Holland look over the Mount of Olives and the Old City in Jerusalem, on April 14, and ponder this ancient place where the Savior walked and prophets stood. “The message of the Lord Jesus Christ is a message of hope, it is a message of love, it is a message of joy,” said President Nelson. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.
There are three operating temples in Africa (Aba, Nigeria; Accra, Ghana; and Johannesburg, South Africa), two under construction (Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Durban, South Africa) and two more announced, in addition to Harare (Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and Nairobi, Kenya), for a total of eight temples in Africa.“These precious children, how I love them,” said President Nelson. “Help them to understand about the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, … to know how to pray to Heavenly Father, … to understand why we partake of this sacrament on the Sabbath day. … Help them to understand about prophets. … I would like to suggest that you read the scriptures to your children. … I hope you’ll teach these children to be good citizens of this wonderful country.”
President Russell M. Nelson holds a young Latter-day Saint girl in Harare, Zimbabwe. President Nelson and his wife, Wendy, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and his wife, Patricia, met with members of the Church in a devotional Tuesday, April 17.“This is a sight that I shall always remember,” said President Russell M. Nelson during a visit to Harare, Zimbabwe, Tuesday, April 17, 2018. Latter-day Saints in Harare, Zimbabwe, were excited to attend the devotional, Tuesday, April 17, where President Russell M. Nelson Elder Jeffrey R. Holland encouraged parents to teach their children about Jesus Christ and to be good citizens.“I don’t know when it will be completed.” remarked President Nelson. “You deserve a temple here in Harare because that’s where we get the highest of all the blessings that God can give to His faithful children. I want to be here to see that happen.”Church membership is growing in Africa, where there are about 540,000 Latter-day Saints.His remarks were given at a devotional that was broadcast to congregations throughout Zimbabwe. This is his second stop in Africa and fourth destination on his global ministry tour. On Monday, President Nelson was in Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi. (See related story.) Members of the Church in Harare, Zimbabwe, gathered to listen to President Russell M. Nelson on Tuesday, April 17. President Nelson’s wife, Wendy, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and his wife, Patricia, spoke to the people.Pretty Mukweya said, “I can’t even express it, I’m just super excited. I couldn’t even sleep. I couldn’t wait.”President Thomas S. Monson announced plans to build a temple in Harare, Zimbabwe, in the April 2016 general conference. Latter-day Saints in Harare, Zimbabwe, were excited to hear the teachings of their prophet, President Russell M. Nelson. The attendees began arriving at 8:00 a.m. before the scheduled 5:00 p.m. devotional Tuesday, April 17.Attendees began arriving at 8:00 a.m. before the scheduled 5:00 p.m. devotional. “That shows that everyone is ready and doesn’t want to miss this historic event,” said Gibson Guzha of Harare.Phiri was impressed with the prophet’s message for parents to guard their children. “Today we have seen a lot of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and we’ve also seen a lot of substance abuse, including [offensive] language among the youthful people. … That to me was a very important and kind message because the future lies in the hands of the youth.” Members of the Church in Harare, Zimbabwe, gathered to listen to President Russell M. Nelson on Tuesday, April 17. President Nelson’s wife, Wendy, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and his wife, Patricia, spoke to the people.“I have had an experience to see how you worship,” said Sam Phiri, who works for the Times of Zambia newspaper in the country of Zambia, 250 miles away from Harare. “It’s quite exciting and it clears all the myth and misunderstanding which was also in my mind.”President Nelson is joined on the worldwide tour by his wife, Wendy, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Patricia.
Concluding the devotional in Harare, Zimbabwe, President Russell M. Nelson leaves a blessing on the Latter-day Saints. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles participated in the meeting Tuesday, April 17.A Latter-day Saint choir provided the music as President Russell M. Nelson spoke to and greeted members in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Tuesday, April 17.More than 4,000 people gathered to hear President Nelson speak, including hundreds of children who sang a verse of “I Am a Child of God” at the beginning of his address.Lovemore Tenganani added, “I’m really excited because when a prophet visits a nation, better things start happening. Most of us haven’t had the opportunity to have a prophet grace our great nation.”Nearly 32,000 Latter-day Saints in 79 congregations reside in Zimbabwe, one of the most Christian countries on the African continent. Missionary work began in what was then Southern Rhodesia in the early 1930s.Lovemore Tenganani is one of the many Latter-day Saints looking forward to the new temple. “We’re really excited and we’re really optimistic that things are going to change for the better in Zimbabwe, especially as we are about to have a temple in this nation.”Elder Holland acknowledged the rapid growth of the Church in Zimbabwe. “What a wonderful, wonderful growing, dramatic, significant component you are of this Church, the restored Church of Jesus Christ. Your history has only begun, and really the Church’s history has only begun in terms of what it will yet be. But I’m thrilled to be with you, observing history.”The senior leaders, who stand as witnesses of the Savior, are traveling to eight cities on three continents in 11 days. The tour began last week with meetings in London and Jerusalem.
Pungwe S. KongoloAriel E. Chaparro, 50, Lomas de Zamora, Argentina; recently released as president of the Argentina Salta Mission; former bishop, mission presidency member, mission president, and stake president; wife, Ana Scazzina; five children.
Virgilio GonzalezJeffrey K. Wetzel, 59, Salt Lake City, Utah; president, Wetzel Enterprises; currently serving as president of the Salt Lake Monument Park Stake; former bishop, bishopric member, high councilor, stake mission president, and stake president; wife, Molly; four children.Michael L. Staheli, 60, Smithfield, Utah; business owner, TFI Holdings Inc.; currently serving as president of the Smithfield Utah North Stake; former bishop, bishopric member, high councilor, and stake presidency member; wife, Linda; seven children.Isaac K. Morrison, 40, Tema, Ghana; area materials management manager, Africa West Area; currently serving as president of the Ashaiman Ghana Stake; former bishop, bishopric member, stake presidency member, and stake president; wife, Hannah; three children.
Kenneth J. FirmageHelmut Wondra, 45, Vienna, Austria; manager, Freelance (music events, choir tours); currently serving as president of the Vienna Austria Stake; former bishop and bishopric member; wife, Julia; two children.Aretemio C. Maligon, 54, San Pablo City, Philippines; area physical facilities manager, Church Physical Facilities Department; currently serving as president of the San Pablo Philippines Stake; former bishop, high councilor, and stake presidency member; wife, Arlene; four children.David L. Wright, 56, Central Point, Oregon; vice president/owner, All-Ways Trucking Inc.; currently serving as Sunday School teacher; former bishop, high councilor, mission president, stake mission president, and stake president; wife, Cynthia; six children.
John N. CraigSilvio Flores, 56, Tampico, Mexico; executive, Tiendas Autoservicio; currently serving as president of the Tampico México Chairel Stake; former branch president and stake presidency member; wife, Sandra; three children.
David L. WrightLincoln P. Martins, 38, Campinas, Brazil; CEO, Sforza Grupo; currently serving as president of the Campinas Brazil Castelo Stake; former bishop; wife, Bianca Marcelina; six children.George Kenneth G. Lee, 45, Pasig City, Philippines; area welfare assistant manager, Philippines Area; currently serving as high priests group leader; former mission presidency member and stake presidency member; wife, Angelica; three children.Edgar Flores, 56, Puebla, Mexico; employment resource center manager, Puebla, Mexico; currently serving as Sunday School teacher; former bishop, high councilor, mission president, stake presidency, member and stake president; wife, Gabriela; four children.Daniel Córdova, 50, Monterrey, Mexico; coordinator, Seminaries and Institutes; currently serving as high priests group leader; former bishop, high councilor, mission president, stake presidency member, and stake president; wife, Teresa; two children.
Mark A. Gilmour
George Kenneth G. Lee
Glen D. Mella
Daniel S. Mehr IIAlberto A. Álvarez, 57, Lecheria, Venezuela; currently serving as president of the Venezuela Barcelona Mission; former bishop, district presidency member, mission presidency member, stake presidency member, and stake president; wife: Aurora; three children.
Michael S. WilsteadPungwe S. Kongolo, 53, Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo; assistant director, General Hospital/Ministry of Health; currently serving as a high councilor; former bishop and stake president; wife, Séraphine; two children.Michael D. Jones, 53, Arvada, Colorado; owner/chairman of board, Sonsio Inc.; currently serving as Public Affairs director; former bishop, bishopric member, high councilor, and stake president; wife, Kay; eight children.Sean Douglas, 53, The Woodlands, Texas; executive vice president/chief financial officer, Huntsman Corporation; currently serving as stake missionary preparation teacher; former bishop, bishopric member, and mission president; wife, Ann; four children.Allistair B. Odgers, 62, Rangiora, New Zealand; counselor, R13 Trust; currently serving as stake institute teacher; former bishop, bishopric member, district president, mission president, and stake president; wife, Noeline; four children.
Ariel E. ChaparroRichard Holzapfel, 63, Salt Lake City, Utah; senior manager, Missionary Department; recently released as president of the Provo Utah YSA 1st Stake; former bishop, high councilor, mission president, and stake president; wife, Jeni; five children.
Carlos A. Genaro
R. Jeffrey Parker
David J. Harris
Jeffrey H. Singer
Richard K. Ahadjie
Edgar FloresGlen D. Mella, 60, Orem, Utah; chief executive officer, Axcend; recently released as president of the California San Jose Mission; former bishop, high councilor, and stake presidency member; wife, Elizabeth; eight children.
Kevin J. HathawayVictor P. Patrick, 60, Tampa, Florida; retired; currently serving as assistant Public Affairs director; former bishop, bishopric member, mission president, and stake president; wife, Elizabeth; eight children.Peter M. Johnson, 51, Tuscaloosa, Alabama; associate professor, University of Alabama; currently serving as president of the Bessemer Alabama Stake; former bishopric member; wife, Stephanie; four children.
Kylar G. DominguezHenrique S. Simplicio, 54, Fortaleza, Brazil; self-reliance services manager, Self-Reliance Services; currently serving as president of the Fortaleza Brazil Stake; former bishop, high councilor, mission president, and stake presidency member; wife, Ester; three children.
Edgar A. MantillaR. Jeffrey Parker, 62, Firle, Australia; currently serving as president of the Australia Adelaide Mission; former bishop, bishopric member, high councilor, and stake president; wife, Lisa; four children.
Michael D. JonesClement M. Matswagothata, 38, Gaborone, Botswana; general manager, Barloworld Motor; currently serving as president of the Gaborone Botswana Stake; former bishop and bishopric member; wife, Busisiwe Novelty; three children.Carlos A. Genaro, 51, Sorocaba, Brazil; contractor, self-employed; currently serving as high councilor; former bishop, high councilor, mission president, stake presidency member, and stake president; wife, Andréia Espelho; two children.
Henrique S. Simplicio
Carl R. MaurerKevin J. Hathaway, 43, Idaho Falls, Idaho; CEO, Touchstone Medical Corporation; currently serving as president of the Idaho Falls North Stake; former bishop and bishopric member; wife, Kali; six children.
William H. DavisMichael A. Dunn, 60, Salt Lake City, Utah; general manager, BYU Broadcasting; recently released as president of the South Africa Johannesburg Mission; former bishop, bishopric member, high councilor, mission president, and stake president; wife, Linda; three children.
Richard HolzapfelRichard J. DeVries, 62, St Joseph, Michigan; regional president, Chemical Bank, South Region; currently serving as ward Sunday School president; former bishop, bishopric member, mission president, stake presidency member, and stake president; wife, Dyana; six children.
Spencer R. GriffinMichael S. Wilstead, 60, St. George, Utah; consultant, self-employed; currently serving as priests quorum adviser; former branch president, high councilor, mission president, and stake presidency member; wife, Denise; four children.
Peter M. JohnsonWilliam H. Davis, 61, Latte Heights, Guam; real estate supervisor, Guam International Real Estate Office; currently serving as national director of Public Affairs for the Federated States of Micronesia National Public Affairs Council; former branch president, district president, and mission presidency member; wife, Wanda; four children.Denis E. Pineda, 41, Villa Nueva, Guatemala; sales representative, Importación Imercadeo; currently serving as president of the Linda Vista Guatemala Stake; former bishop, stake presidency member, and stake president; wife, Glenda; three children.Spencer R. Griffin, 63, Billings, Montana; owner, Auto Auction of Montana; currently serving as Sunday School teacher; former bishop, branch president, mission presidency member, mission president, and stake president; wife, Jeannie; six children.
Denis E. Pineda
Michael A. DunnSergio A. Gómez, 53, Buenos Aires, Argentina; temple recorder, Buenos Aires Argentina Temple; currently serving in the presidency of the Argentina Buenos Aires North Mission; former bishop, branch president, district presidency member, high councilor, mission president, and stake presidency member; wife, Alejandra Maria; six children.Richard K. Ahadjie, 63, Adenta, Ghana; managing director, Rema-Alma Co. Ltd.; currently serving as a sealer in the Accra Ghana Temple; former bishop, branch president, high councilor, mission president, and stake president; wife, Emelia; six children.Saulo G. Franco, 47, Navarrete, Spain; research director, Resins and Polymer Department, Barpimo S. A.; currently serving as president of the Vitoria Spain Stake; former branch president and high councilor; wife, Kátia Cristina; three children.Church members sustained 55 new Area Seventies during the Saturday afternoon session of the 188th Annual General Conference on March 31.Glenn Burgess, 53, Glen Eden, New Zealand; police officer, New Zealand Police Service; currently serving as institute teacher; former bishop, bishopric member, high councilor, and stake president; wife, Tracey Fay; three children.Roberto Gonzalez, 48, Fraijanes, Guatemala; director, Funval - Fundet Latin America; currently serving as institute teacher; former branch president, high councilor, mission presidency member, stake presidency member, and stake president; wife, Lilian; six children.
Alberto A. Álvarez
Jeffrey K. WetzelJohn N. Craig, 58, Calgary, Canada; currently serving as president of the Canada Winnipeg Mission; former bishop, high councilor, and stake president; wife, Carol; seven children.David J. Harris, 64, Siloam Springs, Arkansas; director, quality assurance, Simmon Foods, Inc.; currently serving as patriarch of the Springdale Arkansas Stake; former bishop, branch president, high councilor, stake presidency member, and stake president; wife, Lisa; four children.
Yutaka NagatomoDjarot Subiantoro, 58, Tangerang, Indonesia; chairman, Indonet; currently serving as president of the Jakarta Indonesia Stake; former branch president, district presidency member, and mission presidency member; wife, Julinda; four children.
Michael L. Staheli
Aretemio C. MaligonEustache Ilunga, 44, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; service center manager, LDS Church; currently serving as president of the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of Congo Stake; wife, Mamie; four children.Matthew S. Harding, 55, Raleigh, North Carolina; general counsel, Trail Creek Investments; currently serving as president of the Raleigh North Carolina Stake; former bishop, bishopric member, high councilor, and stake mission president; wife, Reneé Dawn; two children.Duane D. Bell, 46, East London, South Africa; sales representative, Space Television; currently serving as institute teacher; former bishop, bishopric member, branch presidency member, district mission president, and stake president; wife, Jocelyn; four children.
Lincoln P. MartinsOkechukwu I. Imo, 46, Tema, Ghana; area physical facilities manager, Africa West Area Physical Facilities Management Office; currently serving as stake temple and family history consultant; former bishop, bishopric member, high councilor, stake mission president, and stake president; wife, Ogechi Adaku Mayjoy; four children.
Matthew S. HardingKenneth J. Firmage, 51, Star, Idaho; senior director of national accounts, PetIQ; currently serving as president of the Star Idaho Stake; former bishop and bishopric member; wife, Sonja; four children.
Sergio A. Gómez
Clement M. MatswagothataEdgar A. Mantilla, 58, Medellin, Colombia; regional coordinator, CES; currently serving as Sunday School president; former bishop, bishopric member, branch president, high councilor, mission president, and stake president; wife: Claudia; four children.
Silvio FloresCarl R. Maurer, 58, Moorooka, Australia; self-reliance services manager, Australia Adelaide/Brisbane/Perth Self-Reliance Services Region; recently released as president of the Australia Perth Mission; former bishop, high councilor, mission president, stake mission president, and stake president; wife, Karen; six children.
Duane D. Bell
Allistair B. Odgers
Saulo G. Franco
Sean DouglasMark A. Gilmour, 42, Romsey, England; director, Portfolio Strategy - Mobile, Ciena Ltd; currently serving as a ward young single adult adviser; former bishopric member, high councilor, and stake president; wife, Lisa Ann; four children.Michael Cziesla, 45, Griesheim, Germany; attorney (senior partner), McDermott Will & Emery; currently serving as president of the Frankfurt Germany Stake; former bishopric member, high councilor, and stake president; wife, Margret Anne; five children.
Eustache IlungaVirgilio Gonzalez, 43, Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico; attorney; currently serving as president of the Tuxtla Gutiérrez México Mactumatzá Stake; former bishopric member and stake presidency member; wife, Cristina; three children.Víctor R. Calderón, 57, Medellin, Colombia; currently serving as president of the Colombia Medellin Mission; former bishop, branch president, high councilor, and stake presidency member; wife, Patricia; two children.
Okechukwu I. ImoKylar G. Dominguez, 48, Tlalnepantla, Mexico; insurance agent, GNP; currently serving as a Sunday School teacher; former bishop, branch president, stake presidency member, and stake president; wife, Claudia; three children.
Victor P. PatrickDaniel S. Mehr II, 63, Highland, Utah; retired; currently serving as president of a Provo MTC district; former bishop, bishopric member, high councilor, and mission president; wife, Rebecca; six children.Jeffrey H. Singer, 53, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates; professor, American University of Sharjah; currently serving as president of the Abu Dhabi Stake; former bishop, bishopric member, and high councilor; wife, Sandy; seven children.Yutaka Nagatomo, 65, Miyakonojo, Japan; currently serving in the presidency of the Kagoshima Japan District; former branch president, district president, and mission presidency member; wife: Eiko.
Víctor R. Calderón
Richard J. DeVries
Isaac K. Morrison
The global ministry tour runs April 10–23, 2018. The senior Church leaders are visiting eight cities in 11 days in Europe, Africa and Asia. The next stop on the tour is Harare, Zimbabwe, where President Nelson will participate in a devotional meeting that will be broadcast to all members in that African country. Other destinations include Bengaluru, India; Bangkok, Thailand; Hong Kong, China; and Honolulu, Hawaii, United States.Global Ministry TourGlobal Church“You're so kind to invite us into your home,” said President Nelson as he arrived at the Makau household with his wife and the Hollands. “We brought a photograph of the new First Presidency for your home.” President Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Wendy, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and his wife, Patricia, met the Mercy Makau family in Nairobi, Kenya, April 16, 2018.“Today is a great day to have the prophet be with us,” said Solomon Luvai of Nairobi, who has been a member of the Church since 1994. “You know, most of the time we just see him in pictures and on tapes, but this time it's still a great day to see him face to face.” Mormons from in and around Nairobi, Kenya, attended a special meeting with President Russell M. Nelson on April 16, 2018. Wendy Watson Nelson, wife of President Nelson, attended and spoke at the meeting, as did Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Patricia.Elder Holland encouraged the congregation to gather their family history in anticipation of the new temple. “It will be a while before it's up, but plan to attend when you can; plan to make that a highlight of your life as often as circumstances and finances and transportation will allow. Nothing will bless you more.”The first African Latter-day Saints in Kenya were baptized in 1979. The first two missionaries, Elder Farrell McGhie and his wife, Sister Blanch McGhie, arrived in 1980, and in 1981 two branches were created in Nairobi and Kiboko. The Church received official recognition in 1991, and that same year missionary headquarters were established in Nairobi. The first Latter-day Saint stake was created in 2001, and former Church President Thomas S. Monson (1927–2018) announced that a Church temple will be built in Nairobi.“I know with a temple being established in Kenya, we will have peace in Kenya. That would be my prayer,” shared Makau. There are three operating temples in Africa (Aba, Nigeria; Accra, Ghana; and Johannesburg, South Africa), two under construction (Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Durban, South Africa) and two more announced in addition to Nairobi (Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and Harare, Zimbabwe), for a total of eight temples in Africa. President Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Wendy, are greeted by Latter-day Saints Mercy Makau and her family in Nairobi, Kenya, on his world tour, April 16, 2018. A choir of members of the Church in Nairobi, Kenya, provided sacred music for the visit and meeting of President Russell M. Nelson and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland April 16, 2018. Their wives, Wendy Watson Nelson and Patricia Holland, also attended and spoke.“It's never occurred to me in my wildest dream that I would be able to be even near the prophet, considering that I'm in Kenya,” explained Mercy Makau, who joined the Church a dozen years ago. She was excited to have President Nelson visit her home and meet her children.This is the new president’s first official trip outside of the United States since he was named the Church’s 17th prophet in January. President Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Wendy, meet a young Latter-day Saint from Nairobi, Kenya. President Nelson and his wife, Wendy, along with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and his wife, Patricia, spoke to the assembled members of the Church on April 16, 2018.“You perhaps don't think of yourself as pioneers, but you're just as much pioneers here now as Brigham Young and his associates were following the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith in the 1800s,” said President Nelson. He spoke to Latter-day Saints and invited guests at a meeting that was broadcast to congregations throughout Kenya.“Membership in the continent of Africa is about the same as it was for the whole Church in the year I was a boy,” he added.Church membership is growing in Africa, where there are about 540,000 Latter-day Saints.President Nelson, his wife, Wendy, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Patricia, flew to Africa following a visit to Jerusalem during their global ministry tour of three continents.“I think you've prayed a temple here,” said Elder Holland. “The announcement has been made and the work is yet to be done, but I'm sure it was your faith and your devotion that the Lord would smile on you.”Those in attendance included civic, government, business, and academic leaders, as well as media.“Our message to the world is that Jesus is the Christ and that His way of life is the way of joy and happiness not only in this life but in the life ahead,” said President Russell M. Nelson as he arrived in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city, Monday, April 16, 2018.The Church has 159 temples worldwide with 30 others announced or under construction.
President Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Wendy, are greeted by Latter-day Saints Mercy Makau and her family in Nairobi, Kenya, on his world tour, April 16, 2018.The first African converts in Kenya were baptized in 1979. There are now more than 13,000 members in Kenya.Kenya, home to nearly 14,000 Latter-day Saints and a future temple, is President Nelson’s third destination on his worldwide tour to cities in Europe, Africa, Asia and Hawaii. The tour began in London, England, Thursday, April 12.
Rabanes, studying in the Philippines, said, “The Benson Scholarship is a beautiful opportunity, because there are so many students struggling financially in the Philippines.”
A student prepares land for her crop science class. Photo courtesy of Jenelyn G.Funding for international food securityThe Facebook group’s administrator also invites field experts to post from time to time. Students can consult with these professionals about questions they have and projects they are working on.Many students see their studies as an opportunity to grow spiritually as well as educationally.Oke said that she feels agriculture is the key to helping her country prosper. When she was accepted for the Benson Scholarship, she described her reaction: “I was overwhelmed. … I thought, ‘Wow, this is really God’s plan.’ He’s not going to allow us to suffer forever.”“One thing that I really enjoy about the Benson Scholarship Facebook page is that it gives me feedback and inspiring experiences from other Benson scholars around the world,” Jarwee said.Jarwee said, “One of the posts that really touched me was from a brother … from the Philippines. He expressed gratitude for the opportunities that the Benson Scholarship has given to him that he may not have gotten [otherwise].”Successful applicants of the Benson Scholarship live in a developing country and plan to use their education to work in their homeland.“There’s a Primary song that says, ‘Faith is like a little seed: If planted, it will grow,’ Rabanes recalled. “Just like I have to take care of a little seed to make it grow into a big plant, I also have to take care of my faith,” she said. “I have to pray every single day, read the scriptures, and help everyone I can. It makes my faith grow, just like the plants I’m learning about.”“This is such a glorious opportunity that many Liberians yearn for. I am a fortunate young man to have been a part of this program,” Jarwee expressed. “The Lord knows why I was chosen.”Their efforts are made possible, in part, because of the Benson Scholarship.Another Benson scholar from the Philippines, Maurisse Rabanes, discovered that her father passed away suddenly during her third year at Visayas State University. Even though her university is far from home on another island, Rabanes bravely persists in her studies in the wake of her loss.Administrators plan to identify more approved schools and expand the program into several new areas based on agricultural interest in the area.
“Agriculture has the power to fight out poverty.” —Nwobodo V. Photo courtesy of Nwobodo V.
A student harvesting a fresh fruit bunch. Photo courtesy of Eugene B.Macdonald described the attitude of scholarship applicants: “These are people who are saying, ‘I can’t bear to watch my people go hungry. I want to help develop the resources we have, like land, and find people willing to work it. I want to help my family, my community, and my country to use these resources to feed itself and generate income.’”“In Liberia, agriculture has suffered as a result of the 2014 Ebola outbreak and prolonged civil crises,” Jarwee said. He explained that the lack of agricultural professionals, among other factors, contributes to food scarcity in Liberia.“There are bright, capable, committed Latter-day Saints [in places] you might not expect … rising to the challenge of feeding their people. To improve the lives of people living in extreme poverty, one of the most effective things to do is to enable them to go from eating one meal a day to eating two meals a day. These Benson scholars are learning how to make that happen,” he explained. “And they’re doing it optimistically.”Upon acceptance to the scholarship program, students are invited to join a large online community of other Benson scholars. On the Ezra Taft Benson Agriculture and Food Scholarship Facebook page, LDS students from around the world share project stories, ask questions, lend support, and bolster each other’s faith.“That same spirit that Ezra Taft Benson had of responding to crisis situations and figuring out how to help those in need is the spirit that many of these young people have,” Macdonald remarked.When Abraham Lincoln Jarwee from Liberia found out about the Ezra Taft Benson Agriculture and Food Scholarship, he quickly applied—hoping that an agricultural education would help him feed his country.“To most people, agriculture is hard, hot, and backbreaking, but these young Latter-day Saints look at the land and see potential,” he said.“It’s been hard because I miss my dad a lot, and it can be hard to focus sometimes,” she said. “Right now, I’m studying as hard as I can, because I know that all challenges are there to make us stronger.”
Students at an internship training learning how palm oil is processed into crude palm oil and palm kernel oil. Photo courtesy of Eugene B.About the scholarship
A student preparing housing for poultry. Photo courtesy of Jenelyn G.Jarwee intends to use his agricultural education to feed his family and his community, whether that be through self-farming or farming through governmental or private entities.
A student rearing catfish in plastic tanks. Photo courtesy of Adeniji C.She added, “On the Facebook page, I like to see how agriculture is done in other countries. I can learn from what they’re doing to help my community.”As a beneficiary of the Benson Scholarship, Jarwee is able to attend Stella Maris Polytechnic to study general agriculture.Macdonald explained that the Facebook page connects students in Africa, Asia, Central America, and South America who are interested in beating hunger in their countries. Because the Ezra Taft Benson Agriculture and Food Scholarship far exceeded its goal for 2017, administrators are setting their sights high for 2018. “This year, we hope to fund about 125 scholarships,” said Macdonald.The scholarship was named after President Ezra Taft Benson, who used his expertise in agriculture to help others around the world—both as an Apostle of the Lord and as the United States Secretary of Agriculture.Networking through an online community“I learned that everything happens for a reason—even the strike,” she said. “Because I knew it was in Heavenly Father’s plan, I had the courage to keep going, and I eventually changed schools.”With the help of the Benson Scholarship, more young Latter-day Saints are addressing poverty and food security in their home countries than ever before.Despite the personal and national trials they experience, tenacious students like Jarwee, Oke, and Rabanes make the scholarship initiative a success, one crop at a time.Students use the scholarship to study a wide range of agricultural disciplines, including agribusiness management, agriculture engineering, agriculture technology, agronomy, horticulture, animal science, nutrition, entomology, and range and pasture management.She described how she plans to use her horticultural studies to fight poverty: “Agriculture is the mother of all other industries. By studying hard now, I can learn to use my resources, produce plenty of food, start a business, hire people, and eventually lessen the effects of poverty in my community.”Food security is one of the basic building blocks of a country’s development and graduation out of poverty, said Brett Macdonald, administrator of the Ezra Taft Benson Agriculture and Food Scholarship.“Liberia needs professional agriculturalists to help improve … the economic development of our country. And as that begins to happen, the Church will also begin to flourish in every part of the country,” he explained.According to Macdonald, the Philippines is seeing an exodus of young people choosing agriculture as a career because it seems like a step into the past instead of a step into a technology-driven future. “And yet, here you have a dozen or more Latter-day Saints in the Philippines who are rushing into the problem instead of away from it,” he said.The Philippines is rich in natural resources, Rabanes explained, but those resources are not properly cultivated for adequate food security. “Our farmers here are very poor, and they have a hard time switching from old agricultural practices to new ones,” she said.For many Benson scholars, the road to an education isn’t easy, even after they receive funding. When Grace Oke from Nigeria first enrolled in school to study crop production and soil science, her professors went on strike for months at a time, hindering her academic progress.The Ezra Taft Benson Agriculture and Food Scholarship provides financial aid for Church members seeking higher education in agricultural studies and related fields. In 2017, the Benson Scholarship program planned to allot scholarships to 15 students. Amazingly, the program granted nearly 100 scholarships, making it a banner year for the fund.
Sure enough, a few months later my companion and I were knocking on her door. During our visit she asked me if I had a good, warm coat for the approaching winter. I told her I had only brought along an all-purpose overcoat, and that I thought it would be sufficient. She then said she wanted to make me a coat. My memories immediately returned to the beautiful, red wool of my dreams, and I fancied I would be wearing it very soon.Though my dreams were dashed, I did not let my disappointment show. I kept that ugly, unfashionable coat, not only while I served in this dear lady’s city, but throughout my mission. Layered over sweaters and under my overcoat, it kept me toasty throughout the cold, wet winter, and every time I wore it I thought of the sacrifice of this sweet grandmother and the humility and extreme gratitude her gift taught me.Fast forward, about 10 years. I had joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I was serving as a missionary in the Argentina Rosario Mission. A friend’s grandmother was from Argentina, and we had gotten well acquainted when she visited her family on vacation. She admonished me to come to her home if I ever got to her city.I was about 12 when I went on an unforgettable shopping trip with my mother and grandmother. As we completed our purchases, we walked by a more exclusive area of the department store and saw racks of beautiful winter coats. Our favorite was a gorgeous, red, curly, wool coat with black trim, and I was urged to try it on. As with Cinderella’s shoe, it was a perfect fit, but we could only laugh and dream together as it was far too expensive.—Rochelle R. Hale is from the Simi 5th Ward, Simi Valley California Stake.A week or so later, we visited this elderly sister again in eager anticipation of shopping together to pick out a coat pattern and fabric. That was not to be. From out of the back room she proudly brought out an ugly, brown coat that looked like it had been made from old car-seat upholstery and insulation. My heart sank as I graciously accepted her gift. It fit well, except the sleeves were too short. I was hoping the brown coat would be “only temporary,” but the subject never came up again. It was all I could do to fight off the tears and realize that, once again, I would not be wearing my dream coat.
Trisha B. and Axel H. LeimerSister Southward serves as a Primary teacher and is a former ward Young Women president, ward Primary president, and ward missionary. Born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to Tony Gustin and Cherryl Lynn Gustin.
Marina E. and Jorge L. RomeuMichael Burke Cowan, 55, and Amelia D. Cowan, four children, Groves Ward, Mesa Arizona Mountain View Stake: Dominican Republic Santiago Mission, succeeding President Lorenzo A. Castillo and Sister Jenny Elizabeth Castillo. Brother Cowan is a former stake president, stake presidency counselor, bishop, high councilor, elders quorum president, and missionary in the Dominican Republic Santo Domingo Mission. Born in Los Angeles, California, to William Burke Cowan and Charlotte Arlene Cain Cowan.
Finau and Lucy HafokaIdaho Pocatello MissionStephen Michael Southward, 41, and Heather Denise Southward, three children, Cleveland Ward, Bartlesville Oklahoma Stake: Idaho Pocatello Mission, succeeding President Gene E. Hancock and Sister Diane H. Hancock. Brother Southward serves as a bishop and is a former elders quorum president, ward Young Men president, and missionary in the Indiana Indianapolis Mission. Born in Drumright, Oklahoma, to Michael Lynn Southward and Victoria Marie Crowder Southward.
Michael B. and Amelia D. CowanGermany Berlin MissionMatthew Scott Holland, 51, and Paige Bateman Holland, four children, Sunset Heights 2nd Ward, Orem Utah Sunset Heights Stake: North Carolina Raleigh Mission, succeeding President Dennis R. James and Sister Jan James. Brother Holland is a former bishop, ward mission leader, high councilor, ward Young Men adviser, Sunday School teacher, and missionary in the Scotland Edinburgh Mission. Born in Provo, Utah, to Jeffrey R. Holland and Patricia Terry Holland.Sister Barrón serves as a ward temple and family history consultant and is a former stake Young Women president, ward Primary president, and missionary in the México México City South Mission. Born in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaupilas, México, to Pedro Hinojosa Zuñiga and Martha Imelda de Hinojosa Flores.Sister Marquis serves as Primary music leader and is a former ward Young Women president and ward Primary, Relief Society, and Young Women presidency counselor. Born in Provo, Utah, to Wayne Sabey Clarke and Margaret Ann Sumsion Clarke.Chile Viña del Mar Mission
Derek A. and Colleen C. Marquis
Stephen M. and Heather D. SouthwardSister Romeu serves as a ward Primary presidency counselor and is a former ward Relief Society presidency counselor, ward Young Women president, seminary teacher, and missionary in the Argentina Rosario Mission. Born in Bahia Blanca, Argentina, to Ireneo Frol and Martha Matteazzi.Dominican Republic Santiago MissionSister Holland serves as a Relief Society teacher and is a former ward Young Women president, ward Primary and Young Women presidency counselor, and ward Relief Society teacher. Born in Salt Lake City to Dennis Bateman and Caryll Wilson Bateman.Sister Cowan is a former temple ordinance worker, stake Primary presidency counselor, ward Young Women and Relief Society president, Gospel Doctrine teacher, and stake family history consultant. Born in Roosevelt, Utah, to Danniel Stewart Dennis and Joyce R. Dennis.Jorge Luis Romeu, 49, and Marina Edith Frol de Romeu, five children, Quilmes 1st Ward, Quilmes Argentina Stake: Chile Viña del Mar Mission, succeeding President Raúl Díaz Navarro and Sister Jean Wall de Díaz. Brother Romeu is a former Area Seventy, stake president, bishop, high councilor, ward clerk, and missionary in the Argentina Rosario Mission. Born in Pocito, San Juan, Argentina, to Armando J. G. Romeu and Herminia A. Adrover Romeu.The following new mission presidents and their wives have been called by the First Presidency. They will begin their service in July of 2018. Biographies of other mission presidency couples will be published throughout 2018 on news.lds.org. Find other published biographies.Raul Barrón Ahumada, 43, and Brenda Merit Hinojosa de Barrón, five children, Bosque Ward, Gómez Palacio México Stake: México Puebla North Mission, succeeding President Eric W. Nelson and Sister Deborah L. Nelson. Brother Barrón is a former stake president, bishop, high councilor, ward executive secretary, seminary teacher, and missionary in the México México City North Mission. Born in Tampico, Tamaupilas, México, to Lazaro Barrón Sanchez and Sabina Ahumada de Barrón.Sister Leimer is a former stake Young Women presidency counselor, ward Primary president, ward Relief Society and Young Women presidency counselor, and institute teacher. Born in Provo, Utah, to Richard E Bird and Twila Davis Bird.Finau Hafoka, 59, and Lucy Fakalata Hafoka, five children, Kahuku 3rd Ward (Tongan), Laie Hawaii North Stake: Papua New Guinea Port Moresby Mission, succeeding President Voi R. Taeoalii and Sister Ronette K. Taeoalii. Brother Hafoka serves as a mission presidency counselor and is a former stake president, stake Young Men president, bishop, high councilor, and temple sealer. Born in Fo‘ui, Hihifo, Tonga, to Sosaia Pulupulu Hafoka and Olinita Kalotia Talia‘uli.North Carolina Raleigh MissionAxel Herbert Leimer, 55, and Trisha B. Leimer, five children, Frankfurt 2nd Ward, Frankfurt Germany Stake: Germany Berlin Mission, succeeding President Christian H. Fingerle and Sister Sibylle E. Fingerle. Brother Leimer serves as an Area Seventy and is a former stake president, bishop, high councilor, and missionary in the Washington D.C. North Mission. Born in Frankfurt, Germany. Son of Karl-Heinz Leimer and Ursula Hedwig Leimer.
Brenda M. and Raul BarrónDerek Allan Marquis, 54, and Colleen Clarke Marquis, five children, Lindon 6th Ward, Lindon Utah Central Stake: Australia Adelaide Mission, succeeding President R. Jeffrey Parker and Sister Lisa A. Parker. Brother Marquis serves as a high councilor and is a former bishopric counselor, ward clerk, ward Young Men president, stake mission president, elders quorum president, and missionary in the Brazil São Paulo North Mission. Born in Hampton, Virginia, to Louis Philip Marquis and Doris Geraldine Edwards Marquis.Papua New Guinea Port Moresby MissionAustralia Adelaide MissionMéxico Puebla North Mission
Matthew S. and Paige B. HollandSister Hafoka is a former ward Young Women and Primary president, seminary supervisor, and Primary teacher. Born in Nuku‘alofa, Tonga, to Moana ‘Ofahengaue and Faleola Fakalata.
“But not only was it rare, if there was anyone least inclined to make such action, it would be Martin Van Buren,” he added, noting that the U.S. president was a staunch advocate of states’ rights. “So the question is, what are they asking Van Buren for? I can’t say this with 100 percent certainty, but looking at the corpus of the documents together, there’s a real sense that they are asking for his support with Congress.”Volume editor Christopher J. Blythe displayed a letter written by Joseph Smith to members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on missions in Great Britain during this period, answering some of their questions and sharing news from Nauvoo.The Latter-day Saints had endured outrageous oppression in Missouri, been driven from the state by order of its governor, been taken in as refugees by generous Illinoisans, and had reclaimed swampland to establish a new settlement on the bank of the Mississippi River.In this they were disappointed. There was no mention of the Church’s petition in Van Buren’s address. Matthew C. Godfrey, with fellow volume editor Spencer W. McBride in background, displays petition from Joseph Smith to the high council in Nauvoo. It is one of 129 documents contained in latest Joseph Smith Papers release. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.Also included, as an appendix to the book, is the report of the Senate Judiciary Committee, essentially stating that Congress lacks jurisdiction in the matter and that the Mormons must seek “relief” through the courts in the state of Missouri.Thus, over the years, the onus has been on Van Buren for the federal government’s refusal to help the Saints.The episode, he said, amounts to the “shattering of Joseph Smith’s American idealism. He hadn’t really engaged in federal politics before. There wasn’t much need. But here, it’s out of necessity, out of desperation that he enters the federal political sphere, and it’s disappointment after disappointment after disappointment.”And so it is that documents in this latest Joseph Smith Papers volume convey a formative period of Church history.In addition to the document are minutes of three high council meetings in which the petition is considered. Ultimately, they decide to take no action, “but Joseph seems to feel better after these three meetings, maybe because he was allowed to have his voice be heard,” Godfrey said.One of the most striking items in the letter, Blythe said, is a one-paragraph description of the then-new doctrine of baptism for the dead. The doctrine was so new, in fact, that when the contents were later published in the Millennial Star, the Church’s periodical in Great Britain, the paragraph about baptism for the dead was left out, awaiting a formal, written revelation.Documents in the new volume convey the character of Joseph Smith as a man deeply concerned about the spiritual as well as the temporal welfare of his followers.Well known in Church history is the November 29, 1839, visit of Joseph Smith and Elias Higbee to U.S. President Martin Van Buren for that purpose and Van Buren’s reported response, “I can do nothing for you—if I do anything, I shall come in contact with the whole State of Missouri.”It was time for a period of recovery, covered in the latest Joseph Smith Papers release, volume 7 in the Documents series, September 1839 to January 1841.It seems they were hoping, McBride said, that Van Buren, in spite of his rebuff, would change his mind and include this support in his annual written message to Congress, an earlier counterpart to today’s State of the Union address.
Petition from Joseph Smith to the high council in Nauvoo is one of 129 documents contained in latest Joseph Smith Papers release. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.Joining them after his recent five-month confinement in the jail at Liberty, Missouri, in the winter of 1839–40, the Prophet Joseph Smith named the settlement Nauvoo and looked ahead to making it “the greatest city in the world.”Taken as a whole, McBride said, the documentary record suggests that the two Church leaders were hoping to get Van Buren to use his influence with U.S. Congress to gain support for a petition, or “memorial,” they planned to submit to Congress the following week.The new volume contains 129 documents—personal correspondence, discourses, minutes, a revelation, even a memorial to the United States Congress appealing for help in obtaining compensation for their losses. Christopher J. Blythe, volume editor, displays cross-written letter sent by Joseph Smith to members of the Twelve serving missions in England. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd. Spencer W. McBride discusses latest volume in Joseph Smith Papers project. Photo by R. Scott Lloyd.The letter, written in the hand of scribe Robert B. Thompson, is cross-written to preserve paper. It shares news of the death of Joseph Smith Sr., father of the Prophet, and the arrival of the first company of converts from Great Britain.“It’s one of the general misconceptions, and it’s largely based on the readings of History of the Church out of context with the rest of the documents,” said Spencer W. McBride, one of the four volume editors who, along with two of his colleagues, recently spoke with writers and bloggers about the new book.For example, volume editor Matthew C. Godfrey displayed a petition written by the Prophet to the high council at Nauvoo. “He basically asks them if there is any way they can relieve him of the responsibility for land sales in Nauvoo because his spiritual leadership of the Saints is suffering in the meantime. … He would much rather be spending his time translating the Egyptian records or the Bible and waiting upon the Lord for such revelations as may be suited to the condition and circumstances of the Church.”The memorial signed by Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Elias Higbee and presented to Congress on their behalf by U.S. Senator Richard M. Young of Illinois is reproduced in full in the new volume.“We’ve long thought that executive action on behalf of the Saints was rare at this time,” McBride explained.“It’s so easy for us, looking back on Mormon history, to put all the blame on Van Buren as we divide history into bad guys and good guys,” McBride said. “But the record shows they were equally frustrated by Congress. In the political culture of the time, they saw Congress as the group that’s able to bring about this redress.”
But true friendships, they agree, are eternal.On a Sunday morning in the late 1990s, Lanenga and his wife, Teri, arrived for their Church meetings. As always, they kept their eyes out for would-be dinner guests. Waiting in the foyer was a couple visiting with their family from Brazil.In the decades since that meaningful Sunday in central Florida, both Elder Soares and Jon Lanenga have shared the details of their unexpected friendship with many groups and congregations. Both men say they were visited that day by “angels unawares.” They traced the Lord’s hand working in their lives.Lanenga insists he felt no premonition at that moment that the young father would one day serve in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. They just looked like nice folks.“Then, in our hotel room, my eyes fell upon the business card of this good brother,” he said. “I called him and Jon said, ‘We will be right there—we’ll take care of your wife.’ ”As they were leaving, Lanenga pressed his business card into his new friend’s palm.“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” — Hebrews 13:2Jon Lanenga’s family prayers on Sunday mornings never include the plea: “Bless us today that we might befriend a future Apostle.”“Both of us cried, and I was able to finally express my thanks to this wonderful man,” said Elder Soares.Years after the Lanengas stepped forward to help a family in need, Elder Soares helped shepherd Lanenga in his own life. Lanenga said he found himself on the business end of his own caring angel. The roles had reversed.They sat with their new friends during church before joining them around the Lanenga dining room table for dinner. “We spent a beautiful afternoon talking about the gospel,” recalled Elder Soares, “it was like an informal family home evening.”Unbeknownst to the Lanengas, the Soares’ had begun that Sunday morning with a prayer of their own to know where to worship.His hometown of Orlando, Florida, is a global tourist destination. Over the years, the family has hosted dinner guests from as far away as England, South Africa, and Australia.While serving in the Presidency of the Seventy a few years ago, he was assigned to reorganize a stake in central Florida. He shared with his hosts the details of his life-altering weekend in Orlando from years ago. Presiding over that stake was President Allen Pratt, who remembered caring for a young Brazilian family in need.“It was not by coincidence that we were guided to that ward to meet those people,” said Elder Soares. “The Lord was providing for our needs because we decided to attend church on the Sabbath Day.”“Wherever we are, we always attend Church to try and keep the Sabbath Day holy,” Elder Soares said a few days after being called to the Twelve. “We felt inclined that morning in Orlando to go the 11 a.m. meeting.”But as the scripture foretells, strangers can sometimes be “angels unawares.”“I went to Brazil on my mission, [so] I get particularly excited to have Brazilians come to dinner,” wrote Lanenga in an email. “We extended the invitation and they accepted.”“Jon told me, ‘If you need anything during your stay, we are here for you,’” said Elder Soares. “This man and his family were like angels to us.”Dr. Allen Pratt, a local physician and the bishop of the Orlando ward the family had attended the day earlier, was soon caring for Sister Soares.Sister Soares had become seriously ill. They were in a foreign city, far from home and her husband didn’t know where to go. He didn’t know what to do.Several hours later, a phone call awakened the Lanengas.They simply follow a long-held family commitment to remember to “entertain strangers” on the Sabbath Day. “We always prepare enough food on Sundays to invite guests that we meet at Church to our house afterwards for dinner,” Lanenga said.Meanwhile, Elder Soares had always hoped he would one day be able to thank Dr. Pratt for overseeing his wife’s successful treatment. Again, he credits God for their eventual reunion.Teri first smiled and extended her hand of fellowship to the visitors, and her husband introduced himself to them shortly thereafter. The guests introduced themselves as Ulisses and Rosana Soares.Their reward? Plenty of memorable Sunday dinners and scores of new friends.
Speaking on several Christlike attributes they would need following graduation, Elder Vern P. Stanfill, General Authority Seventy, spoke to newly minted alumni of Brigham Young University-Idaho in his commencement address on April 13.
Elder Stanfill taught graduates, “By your following the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, your lives will be better than you can even imagine.” Photo by Cami Su, BYU-Idaho.Inviting the graduates to stand, Elder Stanfill had them each look to someone who had helped them in their journey of education, face them and wave, blow kisses, and let them know how grateful they are.He advised that students set aside a regular time of introspection in order to understand and feel Heavenly Father’s love and see what each of them must still learn and do in order to become more like He is.4. KindnessTo aid their future success, he shared four characteristics and qualities they would need.“What we learn when we reach out to those in need, lift those who are faced with adversity, or spread happiness in the face of despair is that we are engaged in the work of a loving Heavenly Father, doing exactly as He would have us do. Brothers and sisters, if your desire is to change the world, change a life by helping someone feel closer to the Savior.” BYU-Idaho graduates in the BYU-Idaho Center listen to the commencement address. Photo by Cami Su, BYU-Idaho.“As you leave BYU-Idaho, it is with power, perhaps more than you recognize.” Utilizing a video illustration of BYU-Idaho President Henry J. Eyring miming his mind being blown, Elder Vern P. Stanfill expressed how, when he was a recently graduated student, he “could not have imagined being on this side of a commencement speech.” Photo by Cami Su, BYU-Idaho.While kindness and understanding are growing increasingly rare in the world, Elder Stanfill reminded the students, “Never underestimate your ability to spread the light and love of Jesus Christ.Those who live by a higher standard of integrity are immediately recognizable in communities and in the workplace, Elder Stanfill said. “If you decide now to be such a person, you will appropriately represent yourself, this university, and the Lord’s Church throughout your life. Your mind will always be at peace, and you will be left spiritually whole, undiminished, and unimpaired.”Integrity is a quality that cannot be half-lived. It's impossible to be kind of honest, Elder Stanfill said. “But by living the gospel of Jesus Christ, we can become full of integrity.”“True gratitude produces a clarity of thought that can guide us forward, define our relationships with others, and help us in times of trial. It is key to our understanding of the Atonement of the Savior and our eternal success and happiness.”When one realizes that his or her life has been blessed by many others, the desire to bless others increases. “The family of God truly depends upon one another, and our Heavenly Father relies upon us to be active participants in blessing the lives of His children,” Elder Stanfill said.Opening the commencement, which was held in the BYU-Idaho Center in Rexburg, Idaho, President Henry J. Eyring congratulated the graduates and shared that there were 2,297 associates and bachelor’s degrees awarded that day—587 of the graduates were online students, 401 of whom were Pathway students. “You are prepared to do great good in a world with great needs,” he said.“It is paramount in our spiritual progression to recognize that we move through this life not alone but with the rest of God’s children and that we have a responsibility to lift and help all around us,” Elder Stanfill said. “In short, there are no unkind people in the celestial kingdom.”“Yet legality had little to do with the moral rightness of the decision,” he said. “We should hold ourselves to a higher standard of complete and perfect integrity. Integrity demands that we consider not only ourselves, but all with whom we may associate and all who may be affected.”1. GratitudeElder Stanfill said that he hoped everyone would leave the proceedings with hope, excitement, determination, and love for others. “May you be grateful for all things, full of integrity and humility, and especially, brothers and sisters, be kind.”2. Integrity3. HumilityElder Stanfill explained, “Such introspection is not meant to make us feel inadequate or unworthy, but should help us to understand that, even in our seemingly insignificant place in the universe, we are individually valued by a loving Heavenly Father and Savior and that we are an important part of an eternal plan to exalt us all.”Students and graduates of BYU-Idaho are a “product of an amazing and unique experience,” Elder Stanfill said. “But what will make you extraordinary ... and set you apart in this world is a humble heart.”Elder Stanfill commended the graduates for their achievements. “You have passed Life 101 and are now ready for new, challenging experiences. By your following the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, your lives will be better than you can even imagine.”“Doesn't that make you feel happy?” he asked. “Gratitude is an important gateway to joy. Recognizing from whence our blessings flow will lift us, open our hearts to others, and remind us of our worth in the eyes of our benefactors, primarily our Heavenly Father.”In his career, lawyers have told Elder Stanfill that a potential decision or action was technically legal.
Lake said that he and his wife, Margene, wanted to serve a full-time mission but because they have two disabled daughters, one of whom requires around-the-clock care, they were able to find a Church-service mission with FamilySearch on Temple Square manning a reception desk twice a week. “This was a wonderful experience for us all, he said, “as both daughters were able to serve with us for two years.” (Read more about the Lakes’ mission.)A desire to serveFull-time missionsAccording to Arthur Johnson, senior missionary services manager in the Church’s Missionary Department, seniormissionary.lds.org helps combat two common misconceptions about senior missionary service that can sometimes be stumbling blocks for senior members who want to serve a mission: “One, most senior missions involve knocking on doors or tracting (they don’t), and two, it is improper for senior members to search and review available opportunities (it’s perfectly OK to do so).”Members don’t have to log in to seniormissionary.lds.org or even let their priesthood leaders know they are considering a mission until they are ready to begin the recommendation process. “[The website] allows a couple in their very own home to sit down at their own computer and the world opens up to them,” said Elder Nielson. Instead of having to go to their bishop or stake president and ask, ‘What are the options?’ They can see at a glance all the opportunities all around the world.”Those calls are made possible, according to Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve, “by the great love of the Savior that His servants know where these wonderful young men and women, senior missionaries, and senior couple missionaries are to serve” (“The Divine Call of a Missionary,” Apr. 2010 general conference). A senior missionary couple sits on a tractor on a farm where they serve.Once an individual or a couple enters their preferences, the website generates a list of the available opportunities, as well as particular opportunities Church leaders have identified as being most critical to the work. A senior missionary couple helps with a young single adult activity.Seniors encouraged to explore service optionsSenior missionaries are needed in unique ways“We really need [senior missionaries] in places where the Church is growing,” said Elder Nielson. “And when they go out with their experience, it’s unbelievable what happens. Our 18- and 19‑year‑old missionaries are wonderful, but to have the experience of a person who has been in the Church for many years and has served in other leadership positions to come into an area that’s a developing area, it makes all the difference. They can teach these new priesthood leaders how to do their callings.”“Senior missionaries are absolutely critical to our work,” agreed Elder Brent H. Nielson, General Authority Seventy and Executive Director of the Church’s Missionary Department. “And we have thousands of them serving. But we only have about half of what we need.”Church-service missionsChurch leaders have encouraged seniors who are able to leave home to consider full-time, away-from-home missionary service as their first choice.The new website also has 20 different videos highlighting various missionary opportunities, which Lake said “show what senior missionaries are doing in various assignments around the world … [and] really help others see what they can do as a senior missionary.”For those members unable to serve full-time away from home due to health, family, or financial constraints, Church-service missionary service offers a fulfilling and worthy experience.“Our hope is that exploring the site will help create a revelatory experience for the potential missionary that complements the revelatory experience of his or her priesthood leaders and, later, that of the Apostle issuing the call,” said Johnson.“If you are tempted to think you’re not needed, let me reassure you that you are,” said President Russell M. Nelson. But rather than tracting, the Lord uses senior missionaries to bless others in ways other missionaries cannot. “Seniors strengthen the younger elders and sisters. They provide support that helps others to serve better in their own responsibilities. And can you imagine what it means to a leader who has only been a member for a few years to have ready access to seasoned Church members? Senior couples are often a literal answer to the prayers of bishops and branch presidents” (“Senior Missionary Moments,” Ensign or Liahona, Apr. 2016). A senior missionary couple serves at a mission office. A Church-service missionary offers a warm hat to a patron.“I promise you will do things for [your grandchildren] in the service of the Lord that, worlds without end, you could never do if you stayed home to hover over them,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “What greater gift could grandparents give their posterity than to say by deed as well as word, “In this family we serve missions!” (“We Are All Enlisted,” Oct. 2011 general conference). Senior members are encouraged to explore missionary service options and then be open about how and where they would like to serve. A senior missionary at a family history center explains to two boys where their family came from. A senior missionary couple serves at the Mexico City Temple Visitors’ Center.As part of the “investigation” phase, senior members visiting the website consider a variety of different service experiences, such as working with mission presidents, humanitarian aid, Church education, self-reliance, family history, temples, or others. Members who are available to serve immediately or in the future may search, mark their favorites, and access additional resources, such as a cost breakdown for each full-time service assignment. In addition to searching based upon individual preferences, visitors can search for missions indicated as a a critical need. Opportunities are updated continuously.“So many seniors want to serve but just don’t have a very good feel for what they can do,” said David Lake, a senior missionary who served a Church-service mission with FamilySearch in Salt Lake City. The website helps them see the options and possibilities.So that the website can identify appropriate opportunities, seniors also share information about themselves—when and how long they are available to serve, where they prefer to serve, available finances, family support, and the level of healthcare they would require. Senior members visiting seniormissionary.lds.org consider a variety of different service experiences, such as working with mission presidents, humanitarian aid, Church education, self-reliance, family history, temples, or others.If you are considering serving a senior mission but have concerns that keep you from taking that first step, a new website can help you explore various options that fit your particular situation.Seniormissionary.lds.org helps match an individual’s unique abilities, availability, and interests with current service opportunities, while taking into account any limitations or concerns the potential missionary may have.
A senior sister missionary walks with an elderly woman on the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.Church-service senior missionaries serve at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City. A senior missionary couple teaches a BYU Pathway Worldwide class.Regardless of the type of mission, President Nelson offered this advice and assurance: “Couples [or individuals] might get on their knees and ask Heavenly Father if the time is right for them to serve a mission together. Of all the qualifications, a desire to serve may be the most important (see D&C 4:3)” (“Senior Missionary Moments”). A senior missionary helps an institute student answer a question.David Ellefson, a senior missionary who served with his wife, Linda, at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City, Utah, said the one of the website’s most valuable resources is the “contact person [for each service opportunity] and their phone number so that any questions can be answered by a knowledgeable person.”For additional questions and information, call 1-833-767-6477 (USA and Canada) or 801-240-0897. Callers will be connected to a senior missionary who can answer questions about senior missionary service. Email support is also available at email@example.com. Seniormissionary.lds.org allows a couple to sit down at their own computer and see at a glance all of the missionary opportunities around the world.Exploring the site allows members to find ideal service experiences without feeling pressure. Members may recognize opportunities they know they could do but also some they haven’t thought of before. Some members may be surprised at the variety of available missionary assignments that would suit them very well.“Another common myth is that seniors have to wait until the bishop asks them to consider serving a mission,” Johnson said, when in reality, “we encourage them to reach out first and feel free to speak up and be open about how they want to serve.”Members are also asked to include any worries they may have about serving a mission.After individuals mark all the assignments that interest them, adjustable search filters help refine the list of opportunities currently available, or visitors can search the list by personal budget, availability date, name, role, mission, country, or language. Adjustable search filters on seniormissionary.lds.org help refine the list of opportunities currently available, or visitors can search the list by personal budget, availability date, name, role, mission, country, or language.“We’re not saying that couples can pick and choose their own missionary assignments,” explained Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “A call is still a call. … [But] we talk to our senior couples about their service preferences, and every consideration is given to letting them serve where and how they want to serve” (in “Senior Missionaries: Needed, Blessed, and Loved,” Ensign or Liahona, Apr. 2016).
Explaining why she decided to carry her baby with her for the graduation procession, Baker said, “[He] was a big part of my education. He motivated me to finish it and do excellently.”“Gaining an education, skill, or trade is a wonderful way to prepare for your future,” Elder Renlund said. But even more important, he added, is the need to remain loyal to Jesus Christ and to be receptive to the Holy Ghost.Giving the graduates four points to focus on for their futures, Elder Renlund said, “First, be loyal to Christ and what you know to be true. … Second, be receptive to the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. … Third, magnify your God-given talents. … Fourth, serve and bless God’s children.” Elder Dale G. Renlund is photographed with students before addressing them as the keynote speaker. Photo by Laura Seitz, Deseret News. Students walk to the Tabernacle during the LDS Business College graduation. Photo by Laura Seitz, Deseret News.Reflecting on the words of Elder Renlund, Baker said the ceremony reminded her of how much she has been able to “rely on the Holy Ghost to seek for inspiration.” LDSBC graduate Rosa Baker explained that her son was “a big part of my education. He motivated me to finish it and do excellently.” Photo by Ashlee Larsen, LDSBC.As graduates followed these steps, Elder Renlund said they would be “prepared for whatever [they] face in this life.”Elder Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who offered the keynote address, and Elder Clark, Commissioner of the Church Educational System, who also spoke, encouraged graduates to seek the guidance and companionship of the Holy Ghost and to trust in the Lord and serve one another.With plans to continue her studies at Utah Valley University next year, Baker, like many of the recent graduates from LDSBC, has taken seriously the charge of Apostles of the Church to seek out education and continue in the paths of learning provided.“We are excited for this wonderful blessing and opportunity for our graduates to continue their education from any location,” President Kusch said.“I urge you to stretch beyond your current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation,” Elder Renlund said. Quoting President Russell M. Nelson, Elder Renlund then promised students that by doing so, they would be provided with the “knowledge and understanding [they] seek.”As one of 335 graduates honored at LDS Business College’s graduation ceremony held on Temple Square on April 13, Baker stood out as she walked across the stage with her baby in her arms. But the small gesture was symbolic of the family- and faith-centered community that the Church’s 131-year-old college provides for its students.And to help offer their students access to more learning opportunities, President Kusch announced during the ceremony that the Board of Trustees of the Church Educational System has given approval for all LDSBC associate degree graduates to receive direct acceptance into the BYU–Idaho online program.Speaking of why he loved his time at LDSBC, Ricard Sanz from Brazil said, “The environment is totally different than another regular school. You can combine the Spirit from God and the knowledge, the secular knowledge. This combination was good for me.”Now, having completed three degrees and one certificate in her time at LDSBC, Baker explained that her challenges have also served as blessings that have stretched her and have helped her to grow.Originally from Guatemala, Baker said she was blessed with the opportunity to study at LDSBC thanks to the kindness and support of family and friends who sponsored her financially and helped with balancing her time as a student, wife, mother, and employee. Elder Dale G. Renlund speaks with James Cabanatan at the LDS Business College graduation. Photo by Laura Seitz, Deseret News.With students from more than 35 different countries, LDSBC offers a uniquely gospel-centered learning environment. And as LDSBC President Bruce C. Kusch said in his address to the graduates, LDSBC is “a global community of Saints, learning from and lifting one another.”
Elder Renlund instructed students to prioritize Christ and experience blessings in the spiritual and temporal areas of their lives. Photo by Laura Seitz, Deseret News.“Sometimes the Lord’s plan for stretching us is hard,” Elder Clark said during his address. But as Baker has proved to herself, that stretching process is worth it. Elder Kim B. Clark shakes hands with LDSBC graduate Rosa Baker, who carried her son on stage with her. Photo by Ashlee Larsen, LDSBC.With her 9-month-old baby in one arm and her new diploma in the other, Rosa Baker walked proudly across the stage of the Salt Lake Tabernacle, smiling as Elders Dale G. Renlund and Kim B. Clark waited to shake her hand.“It was completely worth it, I think, looking back,” she said. And she hopes her example will serve her son in the future when he too faces challenges.Like most international students, Baker faced challenges due to language and cultural barriers, but she said that with hard work and a reliance on the Spirit to help her work even harder, she knew she could get through it.“If he ever finds it difficult to finish school or whatever difficulty he may have, he can look back and know that he can do it,” she said. “I did it, so he can too.” Brielle Buchanan waves to friends during the LDS Business College graduation. Photo by Laura Seitz, Deseret News.
President Nelson is traveling with his wife, Sister Wendy W. Nelson, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Patricia Holland. This is Pesident Nelson’s first official trip outside of the United States since he was named the Church’s 17th prophet in January.During their visit to the Holy Land, the senior Church leaders shared their feelings and witness of the Savior. “Gethsemane is a significant name because it means place of the oil press,” President Nelson said. “On the Mount of Olives, olives were brought to be pressed for their precious oil, so symbolically, under the weight of the sins of all mankind, Jesus was pressed. He sweat drops of blood, His precious oil, as our Redeemer, our Savior. So Gethsemane is very important. It's where the agony of the Atonement began,” he continued. President Russell M. Nelson speaks in Jerusalem from the BYU Jerusalem Center April 14, 2018. The visit is the second stop on his global ministry tour. The view of the Dome of the Rock from the BYU Jerusalem Center on April 14, 2018.
President Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Wendy, along with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and his wife, Patricia, prepare to depart the BYU Jerusalem Center following a district conference held April 14, 2018.President Russell M. Nelson greets attendees at a district conference held at the Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center, April 14, 2018. Global Ministry TourJerusalem was President Nelson’s second destination on his worldwide tour to cities in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Hawaiian Islands. The tour began in London, England, on Thursday, April 12. (See related story.) President Russell M. Nelson and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland at the BYU Jerusalem Center April 14, 2018. The visit is the second stop on his global ministry tour. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Elder Holland was instrumental in the establishment of the Jerusalem Center when he was president of Brigham Young University. He spoke Saturday of the tremendous symbolic importance of President Nelson’s presence at the center and in a city with such significant biblical heritage.Elder Holland continued, “Our living testimony today is we have a living prophet this very hour on this soil standing in this land teaching that same doctrine. The significance of that for Latter-day Saints and for the world cannot be overstated. That's at the heart of the thrill I feel today.” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks at a Jerusalem district conference in the BYU Jerusalem Center on April 14, 2018. He and President Russell M. Nelson made the visit as part of their global ministry tour. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland speaks in Jerusalem from the BYU Jerusalem Center April 14, 2018. The visit is the second stop on his and President Nelson’s global ministry tour. The north side of the BYU Jerusalem Center. President Russell M. Nelson and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke to Latter-day Saints here April 14, 2018.“This is a legendary land,” Elder Holland said. “It's a spine-tingling thrill for me to realize that I'm in the company of President Russell M. Nelson, a modern prophet in every sense that they were ancient prophets [in Jerusalem in biblical times] with the same authority and the same priesthood and teaching the same gospel.”Due to concerns pertaining to tension in the region and available airspace following the air strikes on Syria by the US, UK, and France on April 14, the Church leaders left Jerusalem ahead of schedule and are now commencing the Africa portion of their trip.The “Global Ministry Tour” runs from April 10-23, 2018. where President Nelson will participate in a meeting in Nairobi, Kenya that will be broadcast to all members in that African country. Other destinations include Harare, Zimbabwe; Bengaluru, India; Bangkok, Thailand; Hong Kong, China; and Honolulu, Hawaii, United States. President Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Wendy, greet Latter-day Saints at the BYU Jerusalem Center April 14, 2018. President Russell M. Nelson at the BYU Jerusalem Center April 14, 2018. The visit is the second stop on his global ministry tour. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News. President Russell M. Nelson peaks with Ella Bautista after the Jerusalem District Conference at the BYU Jerusalem Center in Jerusalem on Saturday, April 14, 2018. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News. President Russell M. Nelson talks with Kendall, Maren, and Reese Branson after the Jerusalem District Conference at the BYU Jerusalem Center in Jerusalem on Saturday, April 14, 2018. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.
Elder Gerrit W. Gong, newly sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and his wife, Sister Susan Gong, in Salt Lake City. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News. Members of Elder Gerrit W. Gong’s family stand in front of a mural project with the children who assisted them in Vietnam. Photo courtesy of the Gong family.Elder Gong was with Elder Quentin L. Cook and Elder Gary E. Stevenson in Vietnam when the Church received official recognition. He witnessed how “the Lord touched many different people in Vietnam.” (See related story.)
Elder Gong said everywhere they go, people relate to Sister Gong. “Susan is other-oriented and down-to-earth wherever she is,” said Elder Gong.
Sister Gong is a “compulsive gardener” who loves to cook and “bring people together.” She has authored Chinese language children’s readers and was the first coordinator for Utah’s Chinese language dual-immersion program.
The couple hosts “grandkids camp” every summer, which includes crafts and adventures, and loves to travel with their sons.
Elder and Sister Gong said it was wonderful to join members from across the world for general conference, to sustain President Russell M. Nelson and the First Presidency, and “to witness continuing revelation bless the members of the Church in all their many circumstances.”
Of his new assignment, Elder Gong said it was overwhelming to have President Nelson tenderly take “my hands in his” and extend a call to the apostleship.
At that moment “you feel very humble, but you are certain in your confidence and love for President Nelson as the Lord’s prophet and Church President.”
Elder and Sister Gong said they have also felt the outpouring of support from members throughout the world. He said they have had an opportunity to “weep together and pray together.”
“I spent part of the weekend looking for synonyms for ‘overwhelming’ because ‘overwhelming’ doesn’t seem to cover it,” said Sister Gong. “I am just grateful to know that this comes one day at a time and that when you are on the Lord’s errand, you receive the Lord’s help.”
Elder Gong said he and Sister Gong love being with the members in every place they have the privilege to go. “Their circumstances are different, but their faith and testimonies are in many ways the same,” he said.
That is something the Gongs also learned from the children involved in their mural projects, undertaken during the Christmas season.
Every member of the Gong family had a special role in the project, from creating the sketch to mixing the paint to organizing the children.
Some places wanted to send only the best and most artistic children to participate. But the Gongs explained their project was an opportunity for all the children. “We’ve always been struck by the enthusiasm and skill of children who come together to beautify their environment,” Elder Gong said.
Elder Gerrit W. Gong and his wife, Susan, participate in a Christmas mural project in Vietnam. Photo courtesy of the Gong family.Bright colors and vivid images filled the once-blank cinder block wall of the soup kitchen in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia.
“I was called to be a servant, a representative of Jesus Christ, and Apostle,” he said a few days after he was sustained to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on March 31. “It so happens that I am Brazilian and from South America—but I could be from anywhere in the world.”“President Nelson walked in and his eyes were very penetrating,” said Elder Soares. “He sat down in front us, knee to knee. He held my hand and my wife’s hand … and then he extended the call. He told us the Savior wanted to me to serve as one of His Apostles.”Sustaining and working alongside her husband “is a marvelous privilege to serve God—He has done everything for us,” added Sister Soares.“If you consistently do the simple things, you will be blessed,” she said.One of the missionaries asked their visitor about dealing with the often-hostile online discussions about the Church, its leadership, and its history.The latter-day Apostles, he said, “give themselves to this cause because of their testimony of Jesus Christ. It is beautiful to see.”Besides his native Portuguese, he speaks English and Spanish.A son of South America now sits for the first time in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.Elder Soares’s service in the Seventy afforded several opportunities to work closely with members of the Twelve he now counts as associates. He said he has learned from their instruction and example. He’s watched as the Apostles and their wives travel across the world, endure flight delays and travel hiccups, hustle from airports to hotels for quick showers—and then rush to be with members and missionaries who are eager to hear from the Lord’s “special witnesses.”“But President Nelson was so kind,” said Elder Soares. “He told us the call is not about us but about loving and serving, being a representative of Jesus Christ.”The Soares’s companionship changed forever during an office visit with President Russell M. Nelson a few days before general conference.Last June, Elder Soares dedicated the Sixth Crossing Visitors’ Center in western Wyoming. He stuck around for a few hours afterward to enjoy dinner with the senior couples serving missions at the pioneer-themed locale.Elder Soares’s 13 years as a General Authority, including his most recent tenure in the Presidency of the Seventy, has made him the public face of the family. But he knows even the most prominent ship drifts without an anchor.It was a humbling moment. Emotions gripped the couple. They didn’t feel up to the task.“Any good thing that happens in our lives is because of my faithful and loving wife,” he said. “She’s devoted to Jesus Christ and His Church. … She is our mentor and blessing.”The gifts of the gospel are as certain as a mathematical equation, said Sister Soares. Just as 2+2 always equals 4, prayer+scripture study+temple worship+sacrament meeting attendance always add up to blessings.But the 59-year-old said he won’t be compartmentalized. His apostolic calling, he said, knows no borders. Like his counterparts from ancient and modern days, his new ministry is a global charge. Elder Ulisses Soares and Sister Rosana Soares answer questions in Elder Soares’s office. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.
Sister Rosana Soares and Elder Ulisses Soares pose for a portrait outside of the Church Administration Building in Salt Lake City. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.A prophet’s clarifying words immediately instilled comfort and confidence. They understood God qualifies whom He calls. “We are simple people,” said Elder Soares, “but we are available to serve in the Lord’s kingdom, no matter the calling.”A gospel-centered “team”“We feel very unqualified, but we will do what the Lord asks us to do,” he said.Sister Soares said her husband—“my eternal boyfriend”—lives “for our family and our three children and grandchildren.” Their comfort and happiness are his comfort and happiness. “When he sees I’m tired he will tell me, ‘Go rest, I’ll do whatever needs to be done,’” said Sister Soares.It is a vehicle to the divine, a catalyst for personal revelation. “And if you feed your faith through revelation you will not fall away,” he said. “You just keep going, and you will feel the love of the Lord encircling you.”An unexpected callIt’s the same apostolic guidance he says he would give any of the Church’s 16 million-plus members when their faith buckles a bit. “When you study the Book of Mormon, as our prophets have taught, you receive the influence of the Lord,” he said.Despite his busy work and family duties, Elder Soares served as an elders quorum president, counselor in a bishopric, high councilor, stake executive secretary, regional welfare agent, stake president, and president of the Portugal Porto Mission (2000–2003).
David Souza shakes hands with Elder Ulisses Soares outside of the Church Administration Building. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.Elder Ulisses Soares takes a selfie with Marcell Pragana, Matheus Pragana, Marcus Pragana, and Maria Pragana. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.That historic fact works as a first-day news headline—and Elder Ulisses Soares is quick to say he’s grateful to hail from a land “where the gospel is growing and the Lord is bringing so many blessings to our people.”Elder Soares brings rich professional and ecclesiastical experience to his new calling. He received an undergraduate degree in accounting and economics from the São Paulo Pontifical Catholic University, School of Economic Science, in 1985 and later received a master of business administration degree. He was an accountant and auditor for multinational corporations in Brazil and, later, director for temporal affairs in the Church area office in São Paulo, Brazil.Seek revelationHis five word response: Read the Book of Mormon.Their partnered dedication to the Lord has defined their adult identities. The couple rarely says “I” and “me” when discussing their respective lives—opting for the pronouns “we” and “us.”Seated at his side was his wife, Rosana Fernandez Soares. They served at the same time in the Brazil Rio de Janeiro Mission and began dating following a chance meeting at a stake dance in São Paulo after Sister Soares had completed her missionary service.Elder Soares was settling into his new office at the Church Administration Building when he spent a few minutes with the Church News. While reflecting on his new, worldwide calling he uttered the word “overwhelming” several times.