Prior to the 1978 revelation that gave all people full access to the blessings of the priesthood and the temple, the Church was all but non-existent in the Caribbean—a region with a large population of people of African descent.The Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple is expected to be dedicated this year. Meanwhile, hurricane-battered Latter-day Saints in Puerto Rico are still celebrating last fall’s announcement to build a temple in the capital city of San Juan.“They asked about how they could become closer to Christ and how they could show Christlike love to one another. They wanted to know how they can utilize the power of the Holy Ghost. They asked questions about issues related to their families and their youth,” reported Elder Teixeira. Elder Soares and other visiting Brethren and their wives with the Santiago Dominican Republic Mission on February 16, 2019.Dedicating the country and worshipping with the Curaçao members “was a beautiful experience,” said Elder Soares.Reviewing plans for the future temples were key highlights for the visiting Brethren during their annual area review of the Caribbean Area (February 18-19). Elder Soares and Elder Teixeira also participated in ministering-focused leadership meetings for local priesthood and auxiliary leaders. They presided over member meetings and met with missionaries serving in various nations—including a tender gathering of missionaries in the Dominican Republic mourning the recent death of Elder Brennan Conrad.Elder Soares’ and Elder Teixeira’s recent travels came at a dynamic moment in the Caribbean Area.During the meeting, a pair of Curaçao “pioneers”—Ingeborg Zielinski Reni and Yvonne Antersijn—shared experiences from their decades of resolute Church service and dedication in a “corner of the vineyard” still young and largely undeveloped.A traveler can drop in on a Relief Society or Sunday School lesson in, say, the Dominican Republic, and hear the gospel taught in Spanish. Drive across the border into Haiti and expect to hear that same message in Haitian Creole or French.History was also made in the Caribbean during an Apostle’s visit. Families gather for a February 17 member meeting in Santiago, Dominican Republic, presided over by Elder Ulisses Soares.The region’s linguistic diversity signals its rich history and culture. Many Caribbeans will greet you with a Buenos dias—while others will offer a Bonjou, a Good morning, or even a Goedemorgen.The February 16 leadership meetings in Santiago, Dominican Republic, offered further glimpses into the hearts, minds, and capacity of the Caribbean Area members. They are “happy people” focused on the gospel and the guidance offered by President Russell M. Nelson and their other leaders.Dedicating CuraçaoElder Soares noted the relative “newness” of the Church in the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean nations. Elder Ulisses Soares offers counsel during February 16, 2019, meeting with elders and sisters from the Santiago Dominican Republic Mission.Elder Soares’ 11-day tour (February 14–24) marked his first visit to the Caribbean Area. The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles member was accompanied by Elder José A. Teixeira of the Presidency of the Seventy, along with their wives, Sister Rosana Soares and Sister Filomena Teixeira.That mixture reflects the rich wonders defining the tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints living across the vast Caribbean Area, Elder Ulisses Soares told the Church News following his recent visit to the region.“It was beautiful to see how many of the members have received the ordinances of the temple, and I praised them for their sacrifices,” he said.Planning a Latter-day Saint-themed tour across the Caribbean? You’d be wise to download a versatile translation app.“The Church has a great future in Curaçao,” he added. “The people are faithful and willing to receive the gospel. ... I could see in their eyes the hope that the gospel brings to them.”
Sister missionaries enjoy a February 16, 2019, devotional in Santiago, Dominican Republic, presided over by Elder Ulisses Soares.Enjoying Christ’s gospelThat island culture, he added, is embodied by kindness, families, and hard work. It’s an ideal, promised land for the gospel to flourish and grow.Dynamic moments for Caribbean SaintsFor many Latter-day Saint Caribbeans, traveling to the Santo Domingo temple “is not easy,” said Elder Soares. Members from Trinidad and Tobago, for example, often have to fly to Miami, Florida, and then boomerang back to the Dominican Republic and visit the temple. Such travels exact both time and money.“I see a great future for the Church in the Caribbean Area. They are good people who are dedicated to their families and their desire to serve the Lord.”A former Miss Curaçao, Zielinski Reni joined the Church in Holland in 1970. When she returned to her native land she hosted an hourly radio program, frequently drawing upon family home evening lessons and other gospel messages. She became the face of the Church for many on the island.English, meanwhile, is spoken in Jamaica, Barbados, The Bahamas, and several other island nations. And in the baseball-mad lands of Aruba and Curaçao, you will hear chatter in both Dutch and Papiamento.“When we read in the scriptures about the ‘isles of the sea’ we tend to think of, maybe, the Pacific or other parts of the world,” said Elder Teixeira. “But the Caribbean Area is also truly the ‘isles of the sea.’ With the exception of the three countries on the northern tip of South America (Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana), everything else is an island.”But most important, the diverse Caribbean members remain anchored to their shared devotion to the Lord’s Church. “We learned of their faith and their desire to learn the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Elder Soares.On February 20, Elder Soares dedicated the island nation of Curaçao for the preaching of the gospel. Members, missionaries, local journalists, and many others from the community gathered in the branch meetinghouse in the capital of Willemstad to listen to the visiting Apostle’s dedicatory prayer and counsel.
A young man attends February 21, 2019, member meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, presided over by Elder Ulisses Soares.“The Caribbean members are focused on strengthening their family in the gospel,” he said. “There is great joy—the people are enjoying the gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives.“You can see the influence of these two great sisters on the island,” said Elder Soares. Elder Ulisses Soares bids farewell to Latter-day Saints who gathered for a February 21 member meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.The area’s only temple—the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple—was dedicated almost 20 years ago. But that’s about to change.Missionaries first arrived on Curaçao in 1978 and the island’s first branch was created in October of 1979. Growth followed the 1982 decision to conduct Church meetings in Papiamento. The Curaçao meetinghouse was dedicated in August 1988.“There is a diversity in that area that is very attractive and beautiful to see,” he said. “There is a mixture of cultures—you have influences from all over the world.”They were joined at many events by the Caribbean Area Presidency—Elder Walter F. González, Elder José L. Alonso, and Elder Eduardo Gavarret. Elder José A. Teixeira and Elder Ulisses Soares greet missionaries from the Santiago Dominican Republic Mission to a February 16 missionary meeting.
Lighting in the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple. Exterior doors of the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple. Recommend desk in the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple. Baptistry in the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple. Brides room in the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple. Recommend desk in the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple. Sealing room in the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple.The free public open house for the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple begins today, March 12, and will run through Saturday, March 30, 2019, excluding Sundays. The exterior of the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple.Three other temples in Africa currently in operation are located in Johannesburg, South Africa; Accra, Ghana; and Aba, Nigeria. Three more temples have been announced for Harare, Zimbabwe; Nairobi, Kenya; and Abijan, Côte d'Ivoire; and the Durban South Africa Temple is under construction. Celestial room in the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple. Door detail in the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple. Instruction room in the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple. Instruction room in the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple.The Kinshasa temple will be the 163rd operating temple in the world and the fourth operating temple on the African continent. It was announced by President Thomas S. Monson during October 2011 general conference and the groundbreaking ceremony was held on February 12, 2016. The groundbreaking was presided over by Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple.Following the open house, dedicatory services for the Kinshasa temple will be held on Sunday, April 14. Additionally, a devotional for youth will be held prior to the dedication on Saturday, April 13, and will be broadcast to all the congregations of the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple District.Sitting on nearly five acres located in the Quarier Bosoko, Ngaliema, area of Kinshasa, the exterior of the temple is constructed of white plaster with a zinc roof and the surrounding temple grounds feature a variety of local plants and flowers. The more than 12,000 square feet of interior flooring is constructed of stone from Egypt and tile from South Africa which accompanies the geometric and diamond motifs featured in the interior design.
We dedicate this beautiful temple — from its footings to its spires — to be a house of the Lord, raised up unto Thy Son for His holy redemptive work. We dedicate each room for Thy sacred use. We dedicate the furnishings, fixtures, and supporting systems for their specific purposes. Fountain and doors at the Rome Italy Temple.We thank Thee for Thy Son, Jesus Christ, who assures us of immortality and invites us to repent and have enduring joy here and hereafter. We are grateful to Thee for providing us with Thy great plan of happiness, that enables us to return to live with Thee.We pray for members of Thy Church who reside within this temple district. Please bless them and their families with faith in and devotion to Thy Son. Bless the youth that they may be valiant in their testimonies of Jesus Christ. Bless the parents that they will be exemplary and committed covenant keepers who strive to follow Thy Son and become more like Him.Bless all workers who have helped to prepare these beautiful buildings and grounds. Wilt Thou protect these facilities from natural disasters and any human acts of evil intent.We thank Thee that Thou hast called Apostles in these latter days to bear special witness of the name of Jesus Christ throughout the world. We pray for Thy blessings to be upon them as they teach and testify of Thy Son and His gospel. We are grateful that all living Apostles are participating in these dedicatory services. The Rome Italy Temple in Rome, Italy, on Monday, March 11, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Now, Beloved Father, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, and by the authority of the holy Melchizedek Priesthood, we hereby dedicate unto Thee and unto Thy Son the Rome Italy Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Bless Thy children that they may be imbued with an earnest desire to learn of Thee. Help them to be receptive to the promptings of Thy Holy Spirit, seek the path of righteousness, and choose to be blessed by obedience to Thy commandments. Window detail in the Rome Italy Temple.We are grateful for the support of church, government, and civic leaders who have offered much-appreciated goodwill in our desire to build this holy temple here in Rome. Wilt Thou bless them for their kindness and fortify their continued desire to preserve religious liberty for all. The Rome Italy Temple Visitors’ Center.We dedicate each of the ancillary buildings. We dedicate the adjacent landscaping and grounds, that they may be attractive and kept safe from harm. As we dedicate the beautiful visitors’ center, we are mindful that Jesus Christ and His early Apostles are magnificently memorialized there in marble sculpture. May Thy blessings be upon all who visit the center, that they may desire to come closer to Thy Son, learn more of His life and teachings, and be numbered among the Lord’s devoted disciples.We are thankful for the early missionaries of this dispensation who dedicated this part of Thy vineyard for the preaching of the restored gospel. We give thanks for those who have labored here ever since. May Thy work continue to flourish and righteousness prevail in this important part of the world.Beloved Father, we honor Thy holy name and that of Thy Son. We pray that Thy great plan of salvation will continue to roll forward throughout the earth in accordance with Thy desire to bless Thy children everywhere. On this sacred day, we express unto Thee our love and gratitude for the privilege of dedicating this, the Rome Italy Temple, and do so in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.We thank Thee for the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ through Thy Prophet Joseph Smith. We are thankful that keys of the priesthood have been restored that enable sacred ordinances to be performed on earth for the benefit of Thy children on both sides of the veil. One of the olive trees found on the piazza of the Rome Italy Temple grounds. Stained glass in the Rome Italy Temple depicts scenes from the Savior’s life.Wilt Thou bless the temple presidency and matrons who will render consecrated service. Protect them and their families as they fulfill their callings. Bless all who serve here, that their efforts may be extended with love and kindness as they assist patrons who come to receive exalting ordinances for themselves and for their ancestors. Bless all those who come here seeking to know Thy will in their lives, that they may receive needed inspiration and revelation. The Christus is illuminated in the Rome Italy Temple Visitors' center with a reflection of the temple in Rome, Italy, on Friday, March 8, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.
The Christus is illuminated in the Rome Italy Temple Visitors' center with a reflection of the temple in Rome, Italy, on Friday, March 8, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.In this ancient and great city that has stood since biblical times — in this historic nation of Italy — we acknowledge the ministry of two of Thy Son’s early Apostles, Peter and Paul, who once blessed this land with their labors. May the influence of their abiding testimony of Jesus Christ continue to be felt among the vital values of this great country. We express gratitude for the feelings of faith in and service to Jesus Christ that have long established this area as a bastion of Christianity.May all Latter-day Saints in this area — young and old — be drawn frequently to this holy temple. Bless them to feel Thy Spirit as they participate in the great redemptive work performed here. May they be infused with the spirit of the gathering of Israel. May they receive and perform sacred ordinances here with a commitment to stay on the covenant path that leads to eternal life with their families.O God, our Eternal Father, Thou great Elohim, we come before Thee on this sacred occasion in the name of Thy Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to dedicate the Rome Italy Temple.Following is the text of the dedicatory prayer of the Rome Italy Temple offered by President Russell M. Nelson on Sunday, March 10, 2019. Replicas of Thorvaldsen’s Christus statue and his 12 ancient Apostle statues—from originals found in Copenhagen, Denmark—are featured in the Rome Italy Temple Visitors’ Center.
The Rome Italy Temple is pictured at sunset on Tuesday, January 15, 2019. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.
Every member of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posed in front of the Rome Italy Temple Visitors' Center in Rome, Italy on Monday, March 11, 2019. Front center are President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors in the First Presidency, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring. Also included are members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: President M. Russell Ballard, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Elder David A. Bednar, Elder Quentin L. Cook, Elder D. Todd Christofferson, Elder Neil L. Andersen, Elder Ronald A. Rasband, Elder Gary E. Stevenson, Elder Dale G. Renlund, Elder Gerrit W. Gong, and Elder Ulisses Soares.In the moments before and after the photograph, the senior Church leaders displayed an obvious connection of energetic unity and friendship as they greeted and interacted together. All expressed deep gratitude for the invitation President Nelson gave them to participate in the historic events surrounding the dedication of the Rome temple. Every member of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, dressed in white temple clothing, posed for an iconic photograph in the Rome Italy Temple Visitors' Center in Rome, Italy on Monday, March 11, 2019. Front center are President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors in the First Presidency, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring. Also included are members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: President M. Russell Ballard, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Elder David A. Bednar, Elder Quentin L. Cook, Elder D. Todd Christofferson, Elder Neil L. Andersen, Elder Ronald A. Rasband, Elder Gary E. Stevenson, Elder Dale G. Renlund, Elder Gerrit W. Gong, and Elder Ulisses Soares. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf said a living prophet and living Apostles have the same call as Apostles did anciently, “to proclaim the gospel to all the world,” adding, “we are here with the prophet to do just that in our modern times.”“In our day, the Lord’s Church has been restored. The Savior stands at the head of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As modern-day Apostles of Jesus Christ, the message we share today is the same message that Apostles shared long ago—that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ.”Photographers captured two versions of the historic photograph. In the first photograph, the senior leadership of the Church wore street clothes; in a second version, they wore white temple clothing, a symbol of purity, worthiness and cleanliness in Latter-day Saint temples.President Nelson said the Lord told him to take the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to Rome for the dedication. “I was just following the instructions I received,” he said. “It was very clear to me.”Elder Jeffrey R Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said it is unprecedented for the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to be together “in such a remarkable setting for such a splendid reason.”An additional photograph of President Russell M. Nelson was taken in front of the statue of Peter. The keys held in Peter’s hand are symbolic of Matthew 16:19, where Christ promised Peter, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Every member of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posed in front of the Rome Italy Temple Visitors' Center in Rome, Italy on Monday, March 11, 2019. Front center are President Russell M. Nelson and his counselors in the First Presidency, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring. Also included are members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: President M. Russell Ballard, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Elder David A. Bednar, Elder Quentin L. Cook, Elder D. Todd Christofferson, Elder Neil L. Andersen, Elder Ronald A. Rasband, Elder Gary E. Stevenson, Elder Dale G. Renlund, Elder Gerrit W. Gong, and Elder Ulisses Soares. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stood together Monday in the Rome Italy Temple Visitors' Center for iconic photographs—symbols of their unified testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ.There are only a few times in history when the entire senior leadership of the Church have been together outside of Utah, the most recent being the Nauvoo Illinois Temple dedication in 2002.
Being together “is a remarkable and historic moment that touches our hearts deeply,” said Elder Ulisses Soares, joining other fellow members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in commenting on the experience.Elder Ronald A. Rasband said he is “enjoying every minute of this precious experience.”The gathering in Rome—a significant city in the history of the world and in the history of Christianity—marked the first time in Church history that every member of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had been all together outside the United States. Every senior leader also participated in the Rome Italy Temple dedication.Thorvaldsen, a Danish sculptor born in 1770, was accepted into the Royal Danish Academy of Art and later studied in Rome. He died in 1844—the same year as Joseph Smith.Elder Dale G. Renlund added: “We know that two former-day Apostles, Peter and Paul, were here, and then to have modern-day Apostles here, all of us, is just a moving experience, in some ways paying homage to them and homage to the gospel that we all preach.”“More than 2,000 years ago, our Savior Jesus Christ ministered to the world, establishing His Church and His gospel,” wrote President Russell M. Nelson in a Facebook post sharing the photograph. “He called Apostles and gave them the decree to ‘go ye therefore, and teach all nations.’Taken in front of the statues of the Christus and the 12 ancient Apostles by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, the photographs connect the work of the ancient Apostles with the work of Latter-day prophets.
Sister Sara Dini Ciacci grew up attending the Bern Switzerland Temple. “For us it was important. We did it with pleasure,” she said.He was joined by his wife, Sister Wendy W. Nelson; President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; and Bishop Caussé.The three-story, 40,000-square-foot temple will serve more than 27,000 Church members living in Italy and in neighboring countries.President Russell M. Nelson dedicated the temple, located in one of the most influential cities in the history of the world and in the history of Christianity, on Sunday, March 10. Attendees shoot photos during the cornerstone ceremony for the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rome, Italy, on Sunday, March 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News. A choir sings at the cornerstone ceremony of the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rome, Italy, on Sunday, March 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Elder Dini Ciacci was translating for general conference when he heard the news. “I wanted to shout for joy, but I could not,” he said. “I will never forget that moment.” Tools used for the cornerstone ceremony for the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rome, Italy, on Sunday, March 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News. Attendees stand in line for the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rome, Italy, on Sunday, March 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Elder De Feo joined the Church in 1971 at age 10. During his lifetime, he has watched the Church in Italy grow from a handful of members to more than 27,000 today. “With a temple, we believe the Church will grow even more,” he said. “People all around us will look at the magnificent temple. They will see it is a light in the darkness.”“The Rome story has been a long story,“ said Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé. “We were expecting this to be faster. But sometimes to have a long process is to have an opportunity to learn and to experience the miracles of the Lord.Located in northeast Rome near the village of La Cinquina Bufalotta, the temple was announced by President Thomas S. Monson in October 2008. The news was met with awe and thanksgiving by members of the Church in Italy and thousands of others throughout the world who have been waiting for almost a decade for its completion and dedication.
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, pose with Elaina Malara and Mateo Cordani during the cornerstone ceremony for the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rome, Italy, on Sunday, March 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“We are grateful for the support of Church, government, and civic leaders who have offered much-appreciated goodwill in our desire to build this holy temple here in Rome,” President Nelson said in the dedicatory prayer. “Wilt Thou bless them for their kindness and fortify their continued desire to preserve religious liberty for all.”The completion of the temple will be a “turning point” for the growth of the Church in Italy, he said.Scott Dunaway served as a missionary in the Italy Rome in the mid-1970s and was president of the Italy Milan Mission when President Thomas S. Monson announced on October 4, 2008, plans to build a temple in Rome. Stuart Kimball talks with Marcel Mema during the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rome, Italy, on Sunday, March 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“I think there are few projects that have had more miracles than this one. We can see the hand of the Lord in the fact that there is such a beautiful temple in Rome today.” Attendees get their shoe covered before entering for the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rome, Italy, on Sunday, March 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Much-appreciated goodwillJames Lund served in the Italy Padova Mission in the early 1980s. “When I was an 18- to 19-year-old missionary, very few envisioned there would be a temple in Italy. It was the sono d’oro—the golden dream.”“We had no idea the prophet would announce a temple in general conference,” said Elder De Feo. “When we heard … we jumped all over the place and we shouted in joy. I remember we actually stopped watching general conference. We were just hugging each other. It was a day of rejoicing. … This was a dream. The dream then became a vision of faith.”Dunaway returned to Rome with his wife, Ruth, to attend the temple dedication.Elder Dini Ciacci joined the Church at age 18, entering the waters of baptism in a portable font in an apartment building. “It is indeed a miracle, a dream come true,” he said, pointing to the stake center located on the Rome temple piazza. “We have buildings like this all over Italy now.” Stephanie Hibo sits outside the temple waiting for the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rome, Italy, on Sunday, March 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Neither will Elder Massimo De Feo, a General Authority Seventy—the first from Italy, called in April 2016—and currently a member of the Europe Area presidency. Children wait for the cornerstone ceremony during the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rome, Italy, on Sunday, March 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“When I was a young missionary it was hard to imagine we would have stakes, let alone a temple.”Perceptions of the ChurchThe sono d’oro—the golden dreamNow—two, three, and four generations after he served there—he sees how the Church has “come out of its fledgling standing” and is taking root, just as was prophesied by Elder Lorenzo Snow 170 years ago on the day the first member joined the Church in Italy.Built in the land where ancient Apostles Peter and Paul preached and died, the temple is the Church’s first in Italy and 162nd worldwide. President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, place mortar during the cornerstone ceremony of the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rome, Italy, on Sunday, March 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News. Bosco Marco looks over the statues of the ancient apostles in the Rome Italy Temple Visitors' Center during the temple's dedication in Rome, Italy, on Sunday, March 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“We were just elated to hear the news,” he said. “It had been a dream for anyone who had served in Italy and loved the people and the work and was anxious to see the Church grow there.”Nearly 170 years later, the deep Italian roots of the gospel are clearly evident on the grounds of the Rome Italy Temple. Douglas Ricks attends the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rome, Italy, on Sunday, March 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.ROME, Italy Visitors wander through the visitors' center during dedication of the Rome Italy Temple in Rome, Italy, on Sunday, March 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Inside the cornerstone, local members placed, among other items, the scriptures, a hymn book, a history of the Church in area, and the dedicatory prayer.When the temple was announced in the October 2008 general conference, Sister Dini Ciacci thought she had misunderstood. She turned to look at the other members but instead saw two missionaries jumping on their chairs in excitement.
Attendees stand in line for the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rome, Italy, on Sunday, March 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.Cornerstone ceremonyWith architecture inspired by ancient Rome, the temple is part of a 15-acre piazza that includes a meetinghouse, a visitors’ center, a family history center, and temple patron housing.With both the past and future of Italy on his mind in 1850, Elder Lorenzo Snow walked to a riverside in northeast Italy, performed the first baptism in the country, and “opened a door which no man can shut.”“It was amazing,” said Jacob and Luke’s mother, Stephanie Olmo. “It was tender to see them meet a prophet of God.”Elder Alessandro Dini Ciacci, an Area Seventy and chairman of the local temple open house and dedication committee, said the temple—which was toured by 52,000 people during the public open house—is changing the way Italian perceive the Church.Members have “always felt this urgency to be good examples and share the gospel,” he said. Now, however, members are not afraid to share the gospel. “Now being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Italy is something you … want to share.” Alyse Goodard attends the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rome, Italy, on Sunday, March 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News. Attendees line up for the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rome, Italy, on Sunday, March 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“In this ancient and great city that has stood since biblical times—in this historic nation of Italy—we acknowledge the ministry of two of Thy Son’s early Apostles, Peter and Paul, who once blessed this land with their labors,” said President Nelson in the dedicatory prayer. “May the influence of their abiding testimony of Jesus Christ continue to be felt among the vital values of this great country.”Crowds gathered on the temple grounds to watch President Nelson symbolically complete the temple by adding mortar to the temple cornerstone, a public part outside the building early in the first dedicatory session.Elder Dini Ciacci said some members in Rome may view the new temple “as the arrival point.” “I hope that the temple in Rome to the Italian Saints will mean the Lord has seen our faith and he wants us to increase our service in the temple.”At the temple’s entrance, a floor-to-ceiling stained-glass wall depicts a scene from the life of the Savior Jesus Christ. Stained-glass windows are inspired by the olive tree. Emma Laura Celestini, left, hugs Eleonora Caravella outside the Rome Italy Temple during the building's first dedicatory session on Sunday, March 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“We have been thrilled to see a temple in Rome. All who have been involved in the work of the Church in Italy will see the hand of the Lord in this temple coming to fruition. … Photos are shot during the cornerstone ceremony for the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rome, Italy, on Sunday, March 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“In the past when we told our friends or strangers that we were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we usually had to explain what that meant,” said Elder Dini Ciacci. “Now they are all aware of what this means. They have a lot of questions for us. There has been heightened interest in who we are and what we do.” President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints places mortar during the cornerstone ceremony for the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rome, Italy, on Sunday, March 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“This temple is a symbol of the growth of the Church in all of Europe,” added Bishop Caussé. “It is a sign of the gospel settling here in Europe and touching more and more hearts across this beautiful continent.”President Nelson greeted the crowd and media members and thanked the choir for their music. He then invited three children—Jacob Olmo, age 9; Luke Olmo, 6; and Emma Salerno, 7; Scott Cordani, 5; and Elena Malara, 7—to participate.—Gerry Avant contributed to this report.“The work here is slow and tedious,” he wrote in a record of the Italian Mission published in 1851. “Nevertheless, the Church has been established. The tree has been planted and is spreading its roots.” President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claps during the cornerstone ceremony for the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Rome, Italy, on Sunday, March 10, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.
Speaking during the Rome temple youth devotional, President Nelson told a capacity congregation gathered in the Church’s stake center located adjacent to the temple, that he wants them to know the Savior, too.First President Nelson shared five things to know:“If they can just continue to see the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ and live it and strive to do what Heavenly Father wants them do, they will carry on the leadership of the Church. They will build the kingdom of God here in the great country of Italy and other parts of Europe.” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland waves after the youth devotional in Rome, Italy, on Saturday, March 9, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.In her remarks, Sister Nelson likened the youth devotional to Christmas Eve. “This is the evening before the Lord’s first temple in Rome will be dedicated,” she said.Looking at the Rome temple, he reflected on the years he has spent in general Church leadership. “I think this is one of the most exciting times,” he said. “This is has got to be one of the great moments.”“Can you imagine the feelings that all of the Twelve have, all of the Apostles have. We are standing at the base of this beautiful temple. This is the same place where Peter and Paul carried on their ministry. … They have to be smiling down upon this activity, in my judgment.”Speaking to the youth, President Nelson said he wanted to help them by sharing what they should know and do. Attendees listen to President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during a devotional in Rome, Italy, on Thursday, March 7, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.With his grandson, Elder James Huntsman of the Italy Rome Mission, serving as his translator, President Ballard promised the youth they will never forget this time in the history of the Church.5 things to know“Look around and see how many there are of you—the future generations of the Church.” President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, meets with youth in the Rome Temple Visitors' Center prior to a youth devotional in Rome, Italy, on Saturday, March 9, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News. President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, greet Raymond and Anita Castellani after the youth devotional in Rome, Italy, on Saturday, March 9, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.“It is my testimony that President Russell M. Nelson is foreordained to be the prophet on the earth today to help gather Israel on both sides of the veil and to prepare the Church and the world for the second coming of our Savior Jesus Christ.”President Nelson also shared five things to do:The devotional was held just hours after President Russell M. Nelson met the Pope Francis and became the first leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to have a formal audience with the head of the Roman Catholic Church at the Vatican. (See related story.)
Elder DeFeo said that President Nelson, President Ballard, and Pope Francis “seemed to be like old friends after a minute. There was a fantastic, incredible, very positive feeling that gives us hope. I surely felt a great hope for the future because we have so much in common.”“The differences in doctrine are real,“ he added. “They are important. But they are not nearly as important as things we have in common—our concern for human suffering, our desire for and the importance of religious liberty for all of society, and the importance of building bridges of friendship instead of building walls of segregation.”
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican in Rome, Italy, on Saturday, March 9, 2019. Photo courtesy of The Vatican. Photo courtesy of The Vatican.Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Pope Francis also was pleased to know that President Nelson and President Ballard have grandchildren who have lived and served in the country. In addition, President Ballard’s grandfather started the work of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Argentina in 1925.“He was kind to us,” added President Ballard. “We could not have asked for a more fulfilling experience. We were grateful that he would receive us.” Lines of people are waiting to tour the Vatican in Rome, Italy, March 9, 2019. Joining President Nelson at the Vatican were President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elder Massimo De Feo, the Church’s only Italian General Authority Seventy; and Elder Alessandro Dini Ciacci, an Area Seventy in Italy. President Nelson's personal secretary, Mark Woodruff, also attended the audience.Speaking of the temple youth devotional that evening, President Nelson told Pope Francis that “we were going to meet with hundreds of his Italian youth” and “he cheered for that. He said, ‘You teach them to love their grandparents.’”The leaders presented Pope Francis with the Church’s proclamation on the family and a Lladro Christus. They spoke on the importance of religion in a secularized society.In an “unforgettable and historic” meeting Saturday with Pope Francis at the Vatican, President Russell M. Nelson became the first leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to have a formal audience with the head of the Roman Catholic Church. President Russell M. Nelson and President M. Russell Ballard brief the news media following their visit with Pope Francis in the Vatican on Saturday, March 9, 2019. Elders Massimo De Feo (left) and Alessandro Dini-Ciacci (right) of the Seventy accompanied them to the visit.President Ballard said Pope Francis compared belief to a tree and encouraged the Latter-day Saint leaders to “get the roots [of belief] down deep into the hearts of our children.”
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elder Massimo De Feo, General Authority Seventy, left; and Elder Alessandro Dini Ciacci, Area Seventy, right, walk near the Vatican in Rome, Italy, on Saturday, March 9, 2019, after meeting with Pope Francis. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican in Rome, Italy, on Saturday, March 9, 2019. Photo courtesy of The Vatican. President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican in Rome, Italy, on Saturday, March 9, 2019. Photo courtesy of The Vatican. President Russell M. Nelson greets Latter-day Saints from Switzerland on the street leading to the Vatican in Rome, Italy. President Nelson met with Pope Francis on Saturday, March 9, 2019. The family came to Rome to participate in the dedication of the first temple in Italy.The private meeting took place one day before the dedication of the Church’s Rome Italy Temple. Pope Francis spoke mostly in Italian. President Russell M. Nelson and President M. Russell Ballard visited with Pope Francis in the Vatican on Saturday, March 9, 2019. They discussed mutual concerns—religious freedom, helping people in need, and the family.The Church has worked “side by side” with Catholic Relief Service in 43 countries, said President Ballard. “We have been shoulder-to-shoulder as partners in trying to relieve suffering.”The significance of the meeting was getting to know Pope Francis and for His Holiness “to know us and finding we have so many points in common,” said President Nelson. VATICAN CITYElder Dini Ciacci called it inspiring to witness two world religious leaders “share brotherhood.” That feeling of brotherhood, love, and respect is an example to all who interact with those of other faiths, he said.“How fortunate the Catholic people are to have such a gracious, concerned, loving, and capable leader,” said President Nelson.“The connection that the president made with His Holiness was a wonderful thing,” said President Ballard. “They were friends from the first words.”“We both shared the feelings of the importance of freedom of religion and the stability that faith in God brings to a society,” said President Nelson. “If we have a Godless society, we have a rudderless ship.”President Nelson said Pope Francis was not only interested in the temple, but also the patron housing, the stake center, and visitors center on the “Italian temple square.” President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican in Rome, Italy, on Saturday, March 9, 2019. Photo courtesy of The Vatican.
Read the full update by the Deseret News here.After being arrested and detained for a week by local authorities in Russia, two young Latter-day Saint volunteers will be deported following a decision from the Novorossiysk's Primorsky District Court, which found the two volunteers guilty of violating Russia’s enter and exit rules on March 2.Since 2016, when Russia implemented an anti-terrorism law, Church missionaries in the country have been redesignated as volunteers and all proselytizing can only occur in houses of worship.Following the arrest, the president of the Russia Rostov-na-Donu Mission—where the two are assigned—traveled to Novorossiysk to visit the volunteers on Monday, March 4, and they were able to call home.The volunteers were arrested on March 1, during a meeting at a Church meetinghouse in Novorissiysk.According to their attorney, Sergei Glizuntsa, as reported by Tass—Russia's state-run news agency—the two young volunteers have no complaints about the conditions of their detention.Hawkins noted that the Church is working with Russian authorities, and they are hopeful the volunteers will be allowed to leave the country soon.Eric Hawkins, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said, “Many people have reached out regarding the status of our two volunteers in Russia. At this time, they remain in custody while their deportation is being processed. The young men are in good spirits, are being treated well, and are in regular contact with their mission president and their families,” the Deseret News reported.Following their detention, a Deseret News reporter spoke with the father of one of the volunteers and he reported that the two young men are doing well.
“When I think of the power and protection that comes from this great work, I know that Heavenly Father is aware of our children, of our youth,” Sister Jones said. And the women of the Church have an essential role in helping move this work forward and bringing the children into it.While serving as her ward Primary chorister last year, Sister Kirsten Wright felt that something was missing. She wished there was a song that would help connect the children to their ancestors and draw them into the “gathering of Israel” through family history and temple work.Hoping to fill this gap, Sister Wright felt prompted to begin composing a song. After a bit of personal revelation and help from fellow members and musicians, she produced the song “All Because of Love.” She premiered the video during the Light Keepers event.“The Lord started teaching us about what we needed to be sharing, and it’s really about keeping the light of your family,” Sister Farrer said. “We’re all light keepers, … and our living histories become our family history.” But each person has to discern what that means for them individually, she explained. Sister Jones meets with attendees following the Light Keepers workshop at RootsTech on Friday, March 1, 2019. Photo by Aubrey Eyre.“These kids were excited to teach each other about who their ancestors were, and I could tell that they felt the purpose of their ancestors,” Sister Wright said.Global gatherers“I don’t think many of us realize the access we have to marvelous tools that make this work so much easier,” Sister Jones said. “But as that word begins to spread, it will draw more people in and interest them in participating in the work.”During the Light Keepers workshop, the four global social media missionaries shared the ways they have seen family history and temple work strengthen them and their families.Power and protection in the work“We’ve heard from our leaders and they’ve told us the wonderful blessings that will come as we participate in family history, and I’m just so thrilled to see that [the women of the Church are] recognizing that,” Sister Jones said. “I hope everyone goes and spreads [that message] far and wide and that it can be shared all around because it is so important.”Quoting President Russell M. Nelson, Sister Farrer said, “This gathering is the greatest challenge, the greatest cause, the greatest work on the earth today.” And it is one that all have been asked to participate in, Sister Farrer said. Rhonna Farrer, a social media missionary for the Church, speaks during the Light Keepers session at the RootsTech conference. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.Of the new FamilySearch apps and the new activities available in them, which the social media missionaries helped to develop, Sister Jones said they offer exactly what families need to help get their children involved in the work.Since the beginning of the year, when the age-group changes for 11-year-old youth went into place allowing them to begin attending the temple earlier, Sister Jones said that the baptistries at temples all around have been filled with youth bringing their own family names to the temple. They are eager to be a part of this work, she said, noting that prophecies are being fulfilled through all those participating in the gathering of Israel.Sister Wright added, “We are just expanding the view of what family history is. Because we’re younger and we’re moms, we have the knack to use the technology and our hearts are turning to the more seasoned people who may not have the know-how to do research.”Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President, who also attended and spoke at the Light Keepers event, shared in affirming the power of music.“Once people learn they can do it on their phone through apps and different things, it becomes more exciting and more accessible,” Sister Farrer said. “And all the blessings and promises of the Lord can be realized.”“Music has always taken me back to my roots,” said Sister Wright, one of four women called as a global social media missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sister Wright, along with the other global social media missionaries, presented at the Light Keepers workshop at RootsTech on March 1.While producing the video, Sister Wright said the thing that meant the most to her was seeing the children involved become excited about their family history.Sister Rhonna Farrer, one of the first women to be called as a global social media missionary, works closely with FamilySearch to develop new and engaging tools to help involve women and families in their family history and temple work. She explained that family history and temple work are perhaps the greatest ways members of the Church can be involved in moving the work of the Lord forward today. Julie Ilene Koch and her daughters, Mckinsey Koch, left, and Rebecca Koch, right, listen to a speaker during the Light Keepers session at the RootsTech conference on Friday, March 1, 2019. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.It can be difficult for individuals, especially busy mothers, to find ways to engage in family history and temple work and to bring that work to their families, Sister Farrer said. But that is their purpose as global social media missionaries: to help women from everywhere to engage in the gathering of Israel with all the tools available to them.“We saw a need,” she said. “There was a certain demographic that wasn’t really doing family history, and part of that was the women on social media.”Using her background in social media and apps, Sister Farrer, along with a few friends, wanted to get the message out that family history work doesn’t have to be boring—it can be done right on a phone, just like social media.“Everywhere I go, at least one person, usually more, will come and tell me, ‘Sister Jones, it’s a Primary song that kept me active in the Church,’” Sister Jones said. “The doctrine that is taught in this music, … it will bless our children, it will bless us, and it will bless all the new members who are coming into the Church who haven’t had the opportunity to learn the simple doctrine of the gospel.”After launching their personal social media campaign to get mothers and women involved in family history work, Sister Farrer and three other women were called as official missionaries for the Church. Their role as Church-service missionaries is to work closely with FamilySearch and online through social media to share the message of the gospel and family history work.Moms are busy, Sister Wright admitted, but participating in this work is essential in helping build a nest of love and protection for children and families in the world today.At first, she had been hesitant to take on such a task. But at every step of the process, she felt guided by the Spirit and, eventually, everything fell into place.Speaking of the concerns that the Primary presidency often has for children around the world and in the Church, Sister Jones said, “All of the things we talk about and the concerns we have for children, these wonderful young mothers are addressing them. They understand and the Spirit is guiding them to understand what a blessing this work can be in protecting our families.”Explaining how the call of global social media missionaries and the Light Keepers workshop developed, Sister Farrer said that several years ago, she recognized a gap in family history work.
She is the only Latter-day Saint on the Razorback squad. But she said her coaches and teammates have welcomed her faith and religious convictions.
Latter-day Saint Danielle Gibson is a lifelong Church member and a home run-hitting infielder for the University of Arkansas softball team. Photo by Walt Beazley.“My teammate Hannah [McEwen], our leadoff hitter, told me, ‘You’re about to hit for the home run cycle!’”Deciding to play at Arkansas, she said, was an answer to many prayers.When Danielle stepped to the plate on February 23 for her first inning at-bat against Southern Illinois University–Edwardsville, she wasn’t swinging for the home run cycle—she didn’t even know what that was. She simply wanted to help the Razorbacks erase an early 2-0 deficit.She posts Book of Mormon passages in her locker to keep her grounded during the ups and downs of the college softball season and feels comfortable talking to her team about her Latter-day Saint beliefs.With a runner on base, she knocked the ball over the fence at Arkansas’s Bogle Park to tie the game with a 2-run home run.She’s also grateful for the Latter-day Saint friends and connections she has made with the small but strong young single adult community in Fayetteville.“A lot of the girls have been super supportive. … I feel really blessed to be part of this group.”It didn’t take long for news of the oh-so-rare home run cycle to spread across the sports world. Danielle’s historic game continues being covered by a variety of news agencies—including the Washington Post, ESPN, and SiriusXM radio.Hannah was happy to educate: “You’re going to hit every type of home run that can be hit in one game.”For the uninformed or indifferent, a home run cycle is hitting a solo, a 2-run, and a 3-run home run—and a grand slam—all in the same game.“The stars were aligning. … I told myself to go for it,” she told the Church News.Danielle won’t hit for the home run cycle every game, but she’s eager to help the Razorbacks win games and conference championships. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to win a ballgame—whether it’s [laying down] a sacrifice bunt or hitting a home run or make that diving catch to end the game.”And her lifelong connection to softball won’t end when she graduates in a few years. Danielle plans to become a college coach when her college playing days end.For sports fans and stats nerds, a home run cycle is a mythical, seemingly unattainable feat—the stuff of video games and cheat codes. Major League Baseball has been around for 150 years and not a single player has hit a home run cycle.Danielle returned to the plate the next inning, this time with two runners on. Again, she drove the ball out of the yard for a 3-run home run.But the next time Danielle Gibson—a lifelong Church member and a University of Arkansas softball player—hits for the home run cycle, it will be a repeat performance.“We couldn’t believe what was happening,” said Ruth.“It’s been crazy,” admitted the 19-year-old psychology major, who has juggled interview requests in between classes and softball games and practices.The gospel offers Danielle eternal perspective, allowing her to step away from the pressures and demands of school and softball. “I’m so grateful to be able to have that in my life.”“For some reason, Heavenly Father guided me here,” she said.Then a bit of magic (fate, maybe?) happened. Perhaps unnerved facing Danielle, the pitcher threw a wild pitch, allowing the baserunner on third to come home, emptying the bases.By this point, the Razorback dugout was buzzing.Latter-day Saint teenage slugger Danielle Gibson lists a highlight on her “long ball” resume that no big leaguer (not Babe Ruth, not Bryce Harper, not even Hank Aaron) can claim: a home run cycle.That final pitch arrived well off the plate, but Danielle swung big, made solid contact, and the ball drifted over the outfield wall and into the college softball history books.But when Danielle stepped to the plate in the 4th inning for what would be her last at-bat, the home run cycle didn’t appear possible. She had a teammate on third base and she needed to hit a solo home run to complete the cycle.Ruth Gibson was in the stands that evening watching her daughter play. After each home run, she excitedly called her husband, Todd Gibson, who was at the family home in Murrieta, California.Danielle said she’s also grateful. The past several months have been sometimes challenging. After earning all-conference honors last season at Arizona State, she made the tough decision to transfer. Initially, she wasn’t sure where she would continue her college career—so she relied upon the Lord and the guiding words of her patriarchal blessing.Danielle became just the second NCAA Division 1 softball player to hit for the home run cycle—and the first to do it in four innings. (And, for the record, Arkansas notched the win, 15-3.)The bases were loaded in the 3rd inning when the sophomore returned to the batter’s box. Grand slam.Danielle had no clue what she was talking about.
Some of the earliest Christians lived in Rome, Bray explained. While it is unclear who originally took the gospel to Rome, there had been a branch of converts in the city for “many years” by the time Paul wrote his epistle to them in about A.D. 57 (see Romans 15:23).The First Presidency
President Russell M. Nelson
President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor
President Henry B. Eyring, Second CounselorROME, ItalyGathering here in one of the most influential cities in the history of the world and in the history of Christianity, every member of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will participate in the Rome Italy Temple dedication this coming week.The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Italy has a long and rich history “that unfortunately included long periods without the gospel,” said Bray.Participating in the March 10-12 dedication of the Rome Italy Temple will be: The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.In addition, between 1839 and 1841, “nine of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles served a mission to the British Isles, while the First Presidency remained in Nauvoo. The nine apostles traveled in various groups overseas and were together briefly for a conference in Liverpool before separating to serve in various parts of the British Isles.”“It is significant that the full First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will be together for the Rome Italy Temple dedication,” said Justin Bray, a historian for the Church History Department. “It is rare that they are all together outside of Church headquarters.”Bray said it is also significant that the senior leadership of the Church is gathering in Rome, “an important city in world history and the history of Christianity.”President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Elder David A. Bednar
Elder Quentin L. Cook
Elder D. Todd Christofferson
Elder Neil L. Andersen
Elder Ronald A. Rasband
Elder Gary E. Stevenson
Elder Dale G. Renlund
Elder Gerrit W. Gong
Elder Ulisses SoaresFrom 1971 to 1980, the Church held area conferences in various places around the world, such as England, Mexico, Germany, Argentina, South Africa, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. Attendance at these conferences usually consisted of two members of the First Presidency and anywhere between two and seven members of the Twelve. The full First Presidency sometimes attended these conferences, but never the full Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said Bray.There are only a few times in history when the entire senior leadership of the Church have been together outside of Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah, where the annual Seminar for New Mission Presidents takes place. They all attended the Idaho Falls Temple dedication in 1945, the Los Angeles Temple dedication in 1956, and the Nauvoo Illinois Temple dedication in 2002, said Bray.“In fact, Paul’s epistle to the Romans was the longest of his letters that were later canonized in the New Testament,” said Bray. “Tradition holds that the apostles Peter and Paul both preached in Rome and were imprisoned and martyred in Rome. The Roman Empire went on to become one of the most influential political, military and social structures in the world and made lasting contributions to virtually every aspect of western civilization.”The Quorum of the Twelve ApostlesDuring World War II, Latter-day Saint servicemen were stationed in cities throughout Italy. “Over the next two decades following the war, Italians living and/or traveling around the world learned about the Church, converted to the gospel, returned to the homeland and helped build up the small branches in Italy,” said Bray. The Christus and statues of the apostles in the Rome Italy Temple Visitors’ Center.
The Christus is illuminated in the Rome Italy Temple Visitors' Center a with reflection of the temple on Friday, March 8, 2019. Photo by Jeffrey R. Allred, Deseret News.It wasn’t until 1966 that the Italian Mission was reestablished with headquarters in Rome. In 1972, Harold B. Lee became the first president of the Church to visit Italy. In 1981, the Milan Italy Stake became the first stake in the country. In 2005, the Rome Italy Stake was organized. And in 2008, the Rome Italy Temple was announced by President Thomas S. Monson in October general conference.“While the landmark dedications of the Laie (Hawaii), 1919; Cardston (Alberta), 1923, and Bern (Switzerland), 1955, temples saw several members of the First Presidency and the Twelve in attendance, none of the events saw both quorums gathered together in their entirety,” he said. The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.In 1843, Joseph Toronto became the first known Italian convert to the Church when he was baptized in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1849, Toronto accompanied Elder Lorenzo Snow, then of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, on a mission to Italy. They found some initial success, but the mission was closed in 1867 and the Church in Italy lay dormant for decades, said Bray.
“I strongly urge you to determine now in which direction you will head,” Elder Vinson said.The third temptation was for the Savior to feel entitled to all the good things of the world. As the Creator of the world, He was entitled. However, “He realized that any reward He would receive must be based on His finishing His work on earth,” Elder Vinson explained. “There would be no shortcuts.The second of the two great commandments is to love others, which is done through lifting and helping others. This is ministering. “It is what the Savior did all His earthly life, and it is what Heavenly Father does by loving us and answering our prayers,” Elder Vinson said.The first temptation was for the Savior to turn stones into bread after having fasted for 40 days. The Savior had the power to do so, but He would have needed to use His priesthood power.“How often do we look for shortcuts to our goals, instead of knuckling down and doing what’s required to earn them for ourselves?”Integrity, humility, and hard work need to be developed and honed by each person over a lifetime, Elder Vinson said. “They are essential if we are to become like [the Savior].”Elder Vinson shared his hope that those in attendance at the devotional would have the faith to follow God’s two great commandments for the rest of their lives.That night, when Sister Vinson knelt to pray, she thanked Heavenly Father for the answer to Jess’s prayer but added, “But it was only a button. It wasn’t important.”The temptation to be proud will be ever present. “Always remember who it is who is the source of every blessing we receive in this life,” he said, “and of how fragile and slippery is our hold on those things that might tempt us to be prideful, but which are really just on loan from God.”The couch cushion was never repaired. Instead, Sister Vinson sewed that button to a piece of material with the words “The button wasn’t important, but you are.” It now hangs behind a glass covering in a frame and has been everywhere the Vinson family has lived. Elder Terence M. Vinson of the Presidency of the Seventy, left, joins his wife, Sister Kay Vinson; LDS Business College President Bruce Kusch; and his wife, Sister Alynda Kusch, in greeting students and faculty as they enter the Conference Center Theater for a March 5, 2019, devotional. Photo by Valerie Johnson, Church News.“May you, both now and always, feel the importance of loving God and acting on that love, including nurturing your integrity, maintaining your humility, and being prepared to dig in and do the hard work. And may you strive to look for every opportunity to love, lift, and help others. In these ways, you will face and move in the right direction to have a joyful, fulfilling life and you will change for the better by growing in your discipleship.”As an example, he shared an experience his wife, Sister Kay Vinson, had many years ago. While cleaning their home, she noticed that a button on a couch cushion had fallen off. She picked it up with intention of sewing it on later. As she continued her cleaning, she realized that she had lost the button.Speaking to LDS Business College students and faculty in a Tuesday, March 5, devotional held in the Conference Center Theater, he urged all to live the two great commandments—“to love God (first and foremost), and to love others as He does.” The LDS Business College Singers perform during a devotional held in the Conference Center Theater on March 5, 2019. Photo by Valerie Johnson, Church News.Just then, their eldest daughter, Jess, came to visit. When Sister Vinson told her about the missing button, her daughter asked if she had prayed for help to find it. Sister Vinson said she didn’t want to pray about something so trivial.College students are at a critical stage in their lives, and while they undoubtedly will change in coming years, they shouldn’t just let such changes happen, said Elder Terence M. Vinson of the Presidency of the Seventy.Examining the temptations Satan used against the Savior in Matthew 4:2–9, Elder Vinson explained how an individual’s determination to follow the first commandment might be threatened.Sister Vinson continued searching and had a feeling to go into the laundry room and look in the rubbish basket. “To her surprise, she found the button under some rubbish in the basket,” Elder Vinson said. When Sister Vinson returned to her daughter, Jess had a knowing smile on her face, as she had prayed that her mother would find the button.“Now, I hold the priesthood, as do many of you, and as such, I have the power to bless anyone in the world with that priesthood, member or nonmember,” Elder Vinson said. “I can lay my hands on their head and give them a blessing. But there is one person in the world that I cannot do that to: me. I can never use the priesthood to bless myself. Its purpose is to bless others and not to be turned for one’s own benefit.”Elder Vinson taught that there will come times when we will be tempted to compromise our own integrity the way the Savior was. “Decide now that you will never succumb to such a temptation, that you will protect your integrity with all your might and strength, at whatever cost,” he said.“She was moved to tears when she felt these words in reply: ‘No, the button wasn’t important, but you are,’” Elder Vinson said.The second temptation was for the Savior to cast Himself from the pinnacle of the temple to show the people His power and receive their praise. This was a temptation of pride. “But the Savior had no pride,” Elder Vinson said. “He was the epitome of humility.”“I’ve sometimes wondered why we even need the second commandment, because if we live the first, we will develop the same qualities and attitudes the Savior showed,” Elder Vinson said. “We will feel the same love for others that He did and does. I wonder, then, whether one reason for the Savior to have stressed this second commandment may have been because it serves as something of a barometer of how well we are really living the first commandment.”
Rendering of the Lima Peru Los Olivos Temple.The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced groundbreakings for the Quito Ecuador and Lima Peru Los Olivos Temples.This will be the second temple in the country. The first one, the Guayaquil Ecuador Temple, was dedicated August 1, 1999.Lima Peru Los Olivos TempleElder Enrique R. Falabella, South America Northwest Area President, will preside at both ceremonies.Quito Ecuador TempleThe groundbreaking for the Lima Peru Los Olivos Temple will be held Saturday, June 8, 2019. This is the first time two temples have been located within one international city.The Church has two other temples in this South American country—the Lima Peru Temple was dedicated January 10, 1986, and the Trujillo Peru Temple was dedicated June 21, 2015.The groundbreaking for the Quito Ecuador Temple will be held Saturday, May 11, 2019.Attendance at the groundbreaking ceremonies is by invitation only, with the general public invited to view the proceedings live from local meetinghouses. Rendering of the Quito Ecuador Temple.
Elder Bednar explained that covenant-keeping Latter-day Saints are the seed of Abraham and are to assist in the latter-day gathering on both sides of the veil. This is accomplished as they bear witness of Christ, preach the gospel worldwide, and link families together by completing temple work for deceased ancestors. He said, “We have been given much, and much is required of us. We are the gatherers.” Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, speak during the RootsTech conference, held at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 2, 2019. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.“I learned I’m related to a lot more people than I thought I was,” Buttars said afterward. “I thought my family (research) was all done because we have an aunt who that’s all she does, but I got to see that I’m related to over 900 people here, and it was kind of an ‘ah-ha’ moment.”Elder Bednar promised divine help to do the work. “I promise that as you consistently act and do the very simple things you know you should do, you will become ever more effective in the work of gathering Israel and you will help many individuals and families on both sides of the veil. Your capability and service will be magnified,” he said. “I promise the doors will open, heavenly help will be available to you, and you will be blessed to know that you can do this.”The Bednars guided Discovery Day attendees to open the Family Tree app on mobile phones, first to the “Find A Relative” feature. Elder Bednar said that of the 7,822 attendees using the app feature, he was related to 3,702; Sister Bednar noted her relatives totaled 4,152. Shari Kone takes notes as Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, speak during the RootsTech conference, held at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 2, 2019. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.“Apostasy from the truth occurred in each previous dispensation,” said Sister Bednar. “The work of salvation … continues into this final dispensation.” She added that the purpose of this final dispensation is to gather God’s family together on both sides of the veil.“Our message today is: You can do this,” added Sister Bednar. “We have a tremendous responsibility to help others gather God’s sons and daughters, and He is providing resources and tools to accomplish this great latter-day work.”Sister Bednar testified: “I know God lives. I know that He is anxious to help us discover, gather, and connect. It is part of His plan for this latter day, and we are the gatherers.” Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, speak during the RootsTech conference, held at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 2, 2019. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News. People listen as Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of The Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, speak during the RootsTech conference at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 2, 2019. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.Eric Chamberlain of Kaysville, Utah, shared the story of his own third-great-grandfather, Josiah Miller Hoyt, to his twin 11-year-old daughters, Alexis and Raya, during the session. “He had some struggles with friends that were not faithful and he wanted his children to be faithful,” he said afterward. “I want nothing more than to have my children be faithful and experience the gospel like I have.”
Sister Susan Bednar, wife of Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, speak during the RootsTech conference, held at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 2, 2019.
Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
This is the capElder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during the RootsTech conference at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 2, 2019. Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret Newson.The brief exercise impressed Julianne Buttars and Holland Miller, two 15-year-old young women from Spring Creek, Nevada, attending Discovery Day with the Elko Nevada East Stake.Elder David A. Bednar and his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, taught together in the March 2 opening session of RootsTech’s Family Discovery Day.Elder Bednar also demonstrated the app’s Ordinance Ready feature that helps Church members to take names to the temple for ordinance work such as proxy baptisms and sealings of spouses and of children to parents.Sister Bednar asked Elder Bednar to summarize his feelings in two or three words after sharing that story. “Gratitude, simplicity, and love,” he responded.Sister Bednar then discussed some practical aspects of how to do the work of gathering, demonstrating a few of the simple “non-tech” and “high-tech” methods. She first asked her husband to share something meaningful about one of his ancestors.Elder Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and chair of the Church’s Temple and Family History Executive Council, explained that a gospel dispensation is a period of time in which priesthood authority, saving ordinances, and doctrinal knowledge are found on the earth. “In every dispensation gospel truths are revealed anew—or dispensed—so that the people of that period are not entirely dependent upon past dispensations for knowledge of Heavenly Father’s plan.”“Notice how these very simple conversations—stimulated by inspired questions—can invite our friends and family members onto a path of discovery, giving them an opportunity to act and thereby open their hearts to the power of the Holy Ghost and the spirit of Elijah,” Elder Bednar said.She then invited members of the audience to share one of their own relative’s story with someone sitting nearby and then summarize their feelings about the experience in a word or two. Valerie Luoma looks at historical books that are no longer in print for family history research during RootsTech at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, February 28, 2019. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.Sister Lynn Schlick, a senior missionary from Birmingham, Alabama, who specializes in family history support by answering worldwide calls to the FamilySearch help desk, underscored the “You can do this” message. She serves at home while helping care for her husband, Donald, a four-year cancer survivor. “There are different people in different circumstances,” said Sister Schlick of those she helps, “and I can feel the Spirit give me the message they need. Truly they can do it, no matter what the circumstances are. The Lord provides the way.” Pat Petersen trims a laminated genealogy chart at Genealogy WallCharts at RootsTech at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, February 28, 2019. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.
To learn more about their visit, read the full article on Newsroom.She gave an outline of many of the Church’s humanitarian programs as well as education and literacy programs like BYU–Pathway Worldwide, which can serve to strengthen families.“We have so many interests that are the same,” Sister Bingham said. “We would love to be in communication with you. There are many things we can do.”Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society General President, and Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women General President, met with Rebecca Naa Okaikor Akufo-Addo, the first lady of the Republic of Ghana, in Accra on Friday, March 1, Newsroom reports.Sister Cordon added, “There’s so much that we can help with and move forward her vision, and she’ll be able to help those sisters that are struggling.”“We preach the gospel of Jesus Christ that improves their lives,” Sister Cordon said. Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, left, and Sister Jean B. Bingham, right, visit Rebecca Naa Okaikor Akufo-Addo, the first lady of the Republic of Ghana, at North Ridge in Accra, Friday, March 1, 2019.“I am so happy that you are here today,” the first lady said during the meeting. “My main focus is for the women and children, especially for their health. … My vision is to empower women to take care of their families.”Sister Bingham and Sister Cordon will travel to Lagos, Nigeria, and Abidijan, Côte d’Ivoire, before returning to Utah. Leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints visit Rebecca Naa Okaikor Akufo-Addo (center), the first lady of the Republic of Ghana, at North Ridge in Accra, Friday, March 1, 2019.After meeting with the first lady of the Republic of Ghana, Sister Bingham said, “You could feel her genuine caring for the people. She has done so much to bless the women, the children, and I felt such an affinity with her.”The two general presidents are visiting Ghana, Nigeria, and Côte d’Ivoire in an 11-day visit to West Africa. They began their trip in Accra, Ghana, by meeting with the wife of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the president of Ghana.
Barratt suggested Australia and India.“We were honestly very excited to hear that RootsTech will be hosting an international event in London,” Kung said. “We are looking forward to meeting our U.K. customers in person just because there has been an increased interest and awareness of genetic testing around the world. This is an opportunity to reach more people beyond the U.S. who are interested in learning about their ancestry and how their genetics can influence their health wellness.”When David Nicholson and Hannah Morden-Nicholson first learned that RootsTech was coming to London, the husband-wife cofounders of LivingDNA.com, based just outside of England’s capital city, were more than thrilled.Bennett doesn’t think RootsTech will have any problems attracting a crowd.Ben Bennett, the managing director of family history for FindMypast.com, said “it was about time” for RootsTech to come to Europe.SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH“It just made sense,” Hannah said. “This is the next step for RootsTech. Let’s unite the U.S. and the U.K. and the European offering. We were like, great, bring it on.”“RootsTech is lucky. We’ve seen a lot of success. We’ve seen a lot of people come into our doors and experience something that helps them connect with others, feel that sense of belonging, as we know,” Allen said in the video. “We’re excited to now bring that to another part of the world and hopefully let those people share that same experience.”The Nicholsons’ reaction is typical of most in the global genealogy/family history industry.The conference will look much like the one in Salt Lake City, with a large number of informative classes and presentations by experts, an exhibition hall featuring the latest family history technology products, entertainment, and keynote speakers.“RootsTech has a strong brand among U.K. genealogists, coupled with its presence in Salt Lake City as the ‘home’ of genealogy,” Barratt wrote in an email to the Deseret News. “To have it come to London is very exciting.” Pat Petersen trims a laminated genealogy chart at Genealogy WallCharts at RootsTech at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, February 28, 2019. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.Barratt agreed.Tamsin Todd, the CEO of FindMyPast.com, not only liked London as a central “hub” but also as a place people can visit their ancestral homeland.“I think they’ll initially be like, ‘I have to pay to go to a conference? What’s this about?’ I think that’s going to be a challenge,” Nicholson said. “But I think once they get there and see the value, then that will be great. But it’s going to be like, ‘Well, why would I do that?’ … They will bring in a great crowd. I think it will be interesting the first few years to get the following. That’s like anything new in a different country. You have to be like, this is who we are and this is what we’re doing, and it takes time to build.”One of the event’s featured speakers will be Nick Barratt, an author and broadcaster most recognized for his work with BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? television series.“Sydney, if only because Who Do You Think You Are? is entering its 11th season, so there’s a strong interest in genealogy,” Barratt said. “However, an exciting ‘wild card’ would be India, given the rising economy and focus on family connection.”“We are so excited to take RootsTech to London and to spread the enthusiasm and passion that RootsTech ignites in our friends across the United Kingdom and throughout Europe,” Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch, said in a news release. “People all over the world are experiencing a growing desire to learn more about their heritage, and this event will provide many people with the tools, learnings, and motivation to discover more about their families and themselves.”Alison Kung, a product manager for 23andMe.com, said outside the United States, the United Kingdom is its largest market.“In the end we decided London was the best,” Allen said in the video. “All roads lead to London. It’s easy to get to for a lot of people all over the world. It will be able to get people from even the Middle East, Africa, and all of Europe to join us. We also expect a lot of people from America to come over as well.”“If you look at the U.K. in many, many ways, family history became big there first and then it was for people in the United States who wanted to figure out where they came from. The hobby sort of migrated here,” Bennett said. “It’s always been important in the U.K. They keep records about everything. So there’s a significant amount of interest … and I think it just brings together so much of what’s been needed, this desire to connect, and for people to do what happens here, to learn from each other, to share and benefit from each other.”Else Churchill, a genealogist at the Society of Genealogists in London, is planning to attend the event.Barratt said he was “absolutely thrilled” to hear the news.In a FamilySearch video interview last January, event director Jen Allen echoed Rockwood’s thoughts.While there’s been nothing like RootsTech in London, one aspect that might be unexpected for some London attendees is the cost. A typical conference in London might cost around $10, Nicholson said.“We’re over the moon and will be heavily involved,” she said in a tweet message to the Deseret News. “We’ll have a stand, of course, and experts at the event, but obviously keen to show off the wonderful Society of Genealogist Library—the biggest and the best genealogy society library in the U.K.”Another collective cheer went up at the ninth annual RootsTech family history conference last week when FamilySearch International announced that registration had opened for RootsTech London.“I think it will go down well,” Barratt said. “I think the emphasis on teaching and learning is welcome, as well as the latest advice and support for the rise of genetic genealogy and DNA testing.”Other challenges might include nearby attractions, like the British Library and National Archives a few train stops away, or London’s expensive taste, Bennett said. Valerie Luoma looks at historical books that are no longer in print for family history research during RootsTech at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, February 28, 2019. Photo by Kristin Murphy, Deseret News.The first international version of RootsTech is scheduled to take place October 24–26 at the ExCel London.“There will be so many things to do, and really, for people to go deeper than just coming to the show,” Bennett said, “but to take advantage of so many things around and see history.”“For those of us who do British and Irish genealogy, it’s going to be an amazing opportunity,” Todd said. “This gives them a chance both to go to RootsTech but potentially to also take some time and go explore Scotland, Wales, whatever country they are from.” Vendors for England-based company LivingDNA.com and attendees move around the exhibit hall as RootsTech opens at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, February 27, 2018. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.An early-bird three-day pass costs 89 euros or about $100, similar to the Salt Lake City price. A single day pass is 49 euros or about $55, according to FamilySearch.org.“FamilySearch has done a good job with where they’ve decided to locate it at the ExCel Center. It’s in the heart of London, very easy to get to. I think that’s going to be positive,” Bennett said. “I actually think the bigger challenge is going to be what happens when they get the response that I think they’re going to get, and they start to say, ‘OK, how do we accommodate a larger crowd and a larger audience?’”RootsTech has considered expansion for some time and scouted various locations before selecting London, Allen said.Beyond London, where else should RootsTech consider expanding?
A Deseret News reporter spoke with the father of one of the volunteers, whose names have not been released. The father reported the two young men as doing well.The Church has continued to provide volunteers in the country to support its congregations.Because Russian officials believed the volunteers were teaching English without a license, the court was not able to resolve the issue, which likely means the two men will remain in detention throughout the week.He added that the president of the Russia Rostov-na-Donu Mission—where the two are assigned—traveled to Novorossiysk and has met daily with the volunteers. On Monday, March 4, he was allowed to bring his cellphone into the detention facility, with the volunteers then calling home.“While we are grateful these young men are reportedly in good condition and are being treated well, we are troubled by the circumstances surrounding their detention,” said Eric Hawkins, spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “They have both spoken to their parents. We will continue to work with local authorities and encourage the swift release of these volunteers.”Russian police officers arrested two Latter-day Saint volunteers in a Church meetinghouse on Friday, March 1, with the Deseret News reporting the pair being currently detained in Novorossiysk, a city 930 miles south of Moscow.Since then, Russia has banned or deported several missionaries, who were subsequently reassigned to neighboring Russian-speaking missions.“We’re doing a little better,” the father, who lives in the United States told the Deseret News reporter. “We talked with the elders, with our son, yesterday, last night. … It was such a relief and so nice. It was really, really a sweet moment. I think he is fine. He told us that they are fine. They’re getting food.”When Russia implemented an anti-terrorism law in July 2016, it included a provision banning public missionary work. In complying with the provision, the Church redesignated young missionaries in the country as volunteers, directing them to follow the stipulation that all proselyting occur in houses of worship.
Members of the El Calafate Branch in Argentina gather for a meeting with Elder Renlund on February 20, 2019.Focusing on the Area Presidency’s vision to deepen conversion and strengthen the faith of the Saints, Elder Renlund spoke specifically about the blessings of the home-centered, Church-supported curriculum and how families will be blessed by observing the Sabbath day.Despite the differences of landscape and culture between the two countries, “the one thing they have in common is their dedication to the gospel of Jesus Christ and their desire to serve one another,” Elder Renlund said. Members of the El Calafate Branch in Argentina gather for a meeting with Elder Renlund on February 20, 2019.At nearly every meeting, attendance far exceeded the expectation and, in some cases, the capacity of the meetinghouses.Blessing the outliers Members gather in a chapel in Antofagasta, Chile, for a leadership conference with Elder Dale G. Renlund on February 16, 2019.But from the remote areas in northern Chile—where the land is so dry and barren that water has to be piped in from Bolivia to create sustainable living environments—all the way down to the southern part of Argentina—where the climate and scenery are entirely different with extreme cold conditions for much of the year, there are people “partaking of living water and following the Savior,” Elder Renlund said. “The members are committed Latter-day Saints who exemplify the best in gospel living.” Elder Dale G. Renlund and Sister Ruth Renlund arrive at a missionary meeting for the Comodoro Rivadavia Mission in Argentina on February 19, 2019.A vision for growthFollowing a tight, nine-day travel schedule (February 15 to February 24), Elder Renlund and his wife, Sister Ruth L. Renlund, along with members of the South America South Area Presidency, visited some of the most remote areas of Chile and Argentina.“There is great diversity, even within one country,” Elder Renlund said.Despite their grueling schedule, which often had them traveling long distances on small planes and eating boxed lunches as they went directly from one meeting to the next with barely any time to rest or recuperate, Elder and Sister Renlund took all the time necessary at each location to minister to the “one.”Speaking of a gathering in Ushuaia, Argentina, Elder Bragg noted that more than 600 people attended—representing the majority of active members throughout the remote southern district of Tierra del Fuego. “It was an incredible sight,” Elder Bragg said. Even the vice governor of Tierra del Fuego rearranged his schedule to attend the meeting after having visited with Elder and Sister Renlund earlier in the day.“All the people could feel their love and concern,” Elder Bragg said of Elder and Sister Renlund. Members of the Rio Gallegos District in Argentina gather to listen to Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at a member meeting on February 21, 2019. Elder and Sister Renlund sing while attending a member meeting in the Rio Gallegos District in Argentina on February 21, 2019. Members gather in a chapel in Antofagasta, Chile, for a leadership conference with Elder Dale G. Renlund on February 16, 2019.Guided by the SpiritMany of the meetings were held “off the beaten path,” Elder Bragg explained, but Elder Renlund emphasized the universal access of the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ that are available to all, regardless of circumstances or location. He said a major theme of the visit was that no matter where members are in the world, the saving ordinances available through the covenant path can help guide all of God’s children back into His presence. A young boy sits near his family while attending a member meeting in the Rio Gallegos District in Argentina where Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke on February 21, 2019.Attending one of the member meetings was a young couple who had traveled more than 600 miles to meet with Elder and Sister Renlund in person. At another meeting, in the remote area of El Calafate, Argentina, a small chapel was filled far beyond the 30 to 40 members who were expected to attend. The members of the small branch brought friends and neighbors to the weeknight meeting with the Apostle and nearly tripled their normal Sunday attendance, Elder Renlund noted. Elder Dale G. Renlund and Sister Ruth Renlund greet members of the Church following a devotional for women in Antofagasta, Chile, on February 15, 2019.At each location, Elder and Sister Renlund and the members of the Area Presidency emphasized the teachings of President Russell M. Nelson, stressing that the Savior’s Atonement is the only enduring path to happiness.Elder and Sister Renlund prepared for each meeting, Elder Bragg said. “They prayerfully considered the needs of each group; they counseled together and followed the Spirit in each meeting so that no meeting was the same as another.”Over the past few decades, the growth of the Church in Argentina and Chile has been nothing short of miraculous, Elder Renlund said. “It is evidence of Heavenly Father and His Son gathering scattered Israel.”“I love seeing the way the gospel blesses people regardless of where they live. It strengthens families and improves their perspective on handling the trials and challenges of life,” Sister Renlund said.“Elder and Sister Renlund’s desire to meet with the Saints in these outlying districts will bless the area immensely,” Elder Bragg said.There was visible joy and peace among the people at every gathering, Elder Bragg said.“The Area Presidency and their wives are outstanding in every way,” Elder Renlund said. “Elder and Sister de Hoyos, Elder and Sister Bragg, and Elder and Sister Villar are remarkable disciples of the Savior and great examples to me of consecration and dedication.”“Their faith and faithfulness brought a remarkable spirit to the meeting,” Elder Renlund said.It would be a mistake to visit one place in South America and believe it represents the whole of South America, Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said after returning from a recent visit to Chile and Argentina.“[They] asked to visit with members that may not have had the opportunity to have a visit from a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the past,” Elder Mark A. Bragg, a General Authority Seventy and counselor in the Area Presidency, said of Elder and Sister Renlund. “It was incredible to watch as [they] took each opportunity to greet people personally.”“Our purpose is to testify of the of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Atonement, majesty, power, compassion, and desire to bless. That purpose, that apostolic charge, remains constant,” Elder Renlund said. “What is impressive is that the Holy Ghost tailors direction for the congregation and the individuals with whom we interact.”
Once local priesthood and Relief Society leaders get the “all clear” from civil authorities, they plan to dispatch volunteers to tornado-impacted communities such as Beauregard and Smiths Station and do whatever they can to help.The disaster “has brought our entire community together,” he added.Latter-day Saints living in southeastern Alabama say they are anxious to begin serving and assisting their neighbors affected by a recent string of deadly tornadoes.The tornado that devastated the Lee County community of Beauregard on Sunday, March 3, was the deadliest tornado in the United States in nearly six years. With winds estimated a 170 mph, the twister chewed an almost mile-wide path of destruction in Alabama for nearly 27 miles, the Associated Press reported.Rescue crews were “still in a search and rescue mode” on Tuesday, March 5—trying to find missing people, said Columbus Georgia Stake President Steven Brown.The stake president added he is also grateful that communication was generally reliable in the minutes and hours after the tornadoes. He was able to receive almost immediate text messages from his bishops updating him on the status of members across the stake.Sunday's disaster caused widespread destruction—decimating houses, businesses, and other structures. The homes of about a half-dozen Latter-day Saint families in Alabama suffered varying levels of damage to rooftops, said President Brown. No Church properties were damaged.In one ward, a bishop was conducting his Sunday ward council meeting when he got word that fallen trees had destroyed a member’s car and were blocking his driveway. The bishop immediately ended the meeting, organized an impromptu chainsaw crew, and began clearing out the debris.A tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, in May 2013 killed 24 people.A few member families displaced by the storm were staying with relatives or fellow members.“We hope they can find comfort and peace,” he said.President Brown said Latter-day Saints are experiencing a mixture of feelings in the days following the tornado. They are grateful no fellow stake members were harmed, but also grieve for friends and neighbors who lost loved ones or homes.No members or missionaries were injured in the tornadoes, which claimed 23 lives and injured dozens more.
When a mission call suddenly finds you a world away from your son or daughter, you may not be able to walk side-by-side with them, but you can still share the spiritual journey. You may not share a meal, but you can still feast together on the word of God.Remember, and please remind them, their mission president and companion love them. —President Chase is president of the Honduras Tegucigalpa Mission