“Witnessing in All the World,” Ensign, May 2018
Prophets and apostles, as “special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world” (D&C 107:23), continue their ministry in many nations. Here are some of their activities since the October 2017 general conference.
President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency, spoke at the RootsTech Family Discovery Day in Utah, USA, with his wife Kristen M. Oaks. “Family history offers a healing influence and an assurance that each person is precious in the eyes of our Heavenly Father,” President Oaks said.
President Henry B. Eyring, now Second Counselor but at the time serving as First Counselor in the First Presidency, dedicated the expansion of the Provo Missionary Training Center in Utah. He was accompanied by then-Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. President Eyring said the expansion “marks a new era in the work that will accelerate.”
President Eyring and Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, who at the time was serving as Second Counselor in the First Presidency, participated in a video thanking Church and community members for their unprecedented humanitarian outreach following numerous catastrophes throughout the world. “In the midst of this suffering, people throughout the world have rallied to come to the aid of their brothers and sisters,” President Eyring said. (See the video at lds.org/go/gratitudeE518.)
President Eyring welcomed U.S. president Donald Trump, who visited Church welfare facilities in Utah. After a tour, President Eyring said, “This is simply an example of what we do across the world, the idea being that we think we have an obligation to God to look out for the people who, without our aid, have tragedy in their lives, be it poverty or hunger.”
Accompanied by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, President Eyring dedicated the Cedar City Utah Temple (USA). President Eyring stated that the temple stands as a tribute to the early Saints who settled the area. “We honor them,” he said.
While still serving as Second Counselor in the First Presidency, President Uchtdorf dedicated the Meridian Idaho Temple (USA). He was accompanied by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. President Uchtdorf said the temple is a place “where we can focus our celestial navigation way beyond this life.”
During a fireside broadcast for young adults, then-President Uchtdorf and his wife, Harriet R. Uchtdorf, encouraged listeners to come to Christ and follow His path. If we trust in God, President Uchtdorf said, “we will see that He has amplified our talents, prepared opportunities, and introduced us to possibilities far more glorious than we ever could have imagined or accomplished on our own.”
For the first time in more than two decades, an Apostle visited the small country of Belarus, when President Russell M. Nelson, at the time President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, visited Eastern Europe, including Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Russia. President Nelson said the Latter-day Saints in Eastern Europe “love the Lord, they keep His commandments, and they find joy even through days of hardship.”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks (before his call as First Counselor in the First Presidency) and Elder M. Russell Ballard (before his call as Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) responded to questions from young adults during a worldwide Face to Face event originating from Utah. Groups in Mexico and Peru were also linked into the broadcast and participated live. A video of the event is available at lds.org/go/eventE518.
In Finland, Germany, and Italy, then-Elder Ballard counseled members, “We need to exercise our faith, we need to believe in miracles, we need to talk to people wherever we find them, and we need to strengthen and build the Church.” He urged members to share the gospel, encouraging them to start by finding “just one person … that they could introduce to the missionaries.” Elder Ballard also met with Catholic Church officials at the Vatican.
Elder David A. Bednar dedicated the new missionary training center in Accra, Ghana. Speaking of missionaries there, he said, “You have heard these young people pray and say things and sing in a foreign language they did not know four weeks ago. That is a manifestation of heavenly help. It is a miracle, which is replicated at … missionary training centers around the world.”
At a devotional assembly at the Utah Valley Institute of Religion in Utah, Elder Bednar and his wife, Susan Bednar, answered questions from students. Elder Bednar commended the young adults for the spiritual maturity, appropriateness, and depth of their questions.
Elder Bednar also met with members and leaders in Brazil, a nation that is “posed to become an important contributor to the Church in all the world,” he said. In São Paulo, he offered the keynote address at a Church-sponsored interfaith religious freedom gathering that included some 50 religious and opinion leaders.
Elder Quentin L. Cook visited Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Nicaragua, Panama, and El Salvador. “Central America is an example to other areas of the world,” Elder Cook said. “At this moment in time when the future is so bright, we need to do everything we can while we can.” He also met with Catholic archbishop Nicolas Henry Marie Denis Thevenin and other faith leaders at a religious freedom conference in Guatemala.
In California, USA, Elder Cook joined scholars and religious leaders at a symposium on religious liberty and the law, where he said that “we will not always win every attack that is made on faith and religious liberty; but there should not be a vacuum of positive voices.” At the J. Reuben Clark Law Society Conference in Utah, he said, “My plea is that all religions join together to defend faith and religious freedom in a manner that protects people of diverse faith as well as those of no faith.”
Elder also Cook spoke at the Family History Leadership Session at RootsTech in Utah. “The combination of greatly increased numbers of temples and advanced technology for family history work make this the most blessed time in all history,” he said. Elder Dale G. Renlund also spoke. “We encourage everyone to get on the covenant path as soon as possible—even, especially, when they are new and tender in the gospel—and then stay focused on the blessings of the temple,” he said.
In New York, USA, Elder D. Todd Christofferson delivered the keynote address at the New York Latter-day Saint Professional Association meeting, where an award was presented to Eric Shneiderman, the state attorney general. “As people appreciate the meaningful good that stems from the exercise of religious beliefs,” Elder Christofferson said, “they will better understand why the right to exercise such beliefs should be protected.”
Elder Christofferson also spoke to Latin journalists from many of the largest media outlets in 24 countries, who had gathered at the 73rd Annual Assembly of the Inter American Press Association in Utah. He told reporters, editors, broadcasters, and publishers that they are ambassadors of freedom and human rights and that he hoped God would protect and bless them. “Safety does not come from stifling speech,” he said, “but from giving it a chance to breathe.”
Following three hurricanes, four tropical storms, and two major earthquakes in Mexico, Elder Neil L. Andersen visited survivors to offer comfort and support. Accompanied by other Church leaders, he heard stories of hope and faith as they toured damaged areas. “The devotion, faith, and unselfishness of the Mexican Saints are examples to the Saints around the world,” Elder Andersen said. He also met with government officials who thanked him for the Church’s help in cleaning up areas where homes were destroyed.
In Australia, Elder Andersen surprised missionaries when he brought Tony Abbott, the country’s former prime minister, as a guest to speak to the missionaries about his belief in Christ. “There are so very many good and honorable men and women in the world,” Elder Andersen said. “Without diminishing the truthfulness of the Restoration, we can learn much from them.” Elder Andersen also met with the Right Honorable Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand, for a discussion about tending to the needs of the poor, needy, and homeless. In meetings with members in both countries, Elder Andersen stressed the thought that we need to act on our faith. “Life is not only believing; it is also doing,” he said.
In New York, where he served as a full-time missionary and later as a mission president, Elder Ronald A. Rasband visited Harlem to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Church in the community. “The Harlem Branch, now three wards, is an example of people having vision,” he told the members. “Look what has now happened in Harlem. Dream big.” In California, Elder Rasband toured areas ravaged by wildfires. He met and prayed with families, reminding them, “We can go forward with hope and with faith in our Savior.” Elder Rasband also met with government officials in Utah as they announced the creation of a task force on youth suicide prevention (find updated Church resources at suicide.lds.org).
At a nationwide gathering of LDS youth in Brazil, Elder Rasband responded to a young man who held up his hands and made a heart symbol by making the same symbol back from the pulpit. Thousands of young people, watching in 92 locations, lifted their hands and responded in unison by forming the same symbol. “We all adopted the heart symbol that day as a symbol of unity and love for our Savior, Jesus Christ,” Elder Rasband said.
In the Philippines, Elder Rasband felt prompted to “go live on Facebook” and joined in a seven-minute video session, the first of its kind broadcast in the Asian nation by a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “The Lord has great plans in store for the Church in the Philippines,” he said. The video prompted tens of thousands of views within a 24-hour period and has now been viewed more than 117,000 times. Elder Rasband also met with members, leaders, and missionaries. At one event he reminded members, “Your faithfulness will flow on to future generations.”
Elder Gary E. Stevenson met with and comforted the family of a Latter-day Saint teenager, Alaina Petty, who was killed in a school shooting in Florida, USA. He visited Maddy Wilford, another Latter-day Saint teen seriously wounded in the same shooting, and gave her and her family an apostolic blessing. Elder Stevenson also presided at a youth devotional, where he said, “Heavenly Father is aware of us. He loves His children. What a blessing it is to have the gospel.”
Elder Stevenson also visited Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, Myanmar, and Vietnam. Elder Stevenson was present two years ago when the Vietnamese government officially recognized the Church. At that time, the Vietnam Hanoi Mission included the mission president, his wife, and 12 missionaries. “To return and meet with now 60 missionaries and speak to members from branches of the Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City districts is very special,” he said. He witnessed similar growth in Myanmar. “Only a few years ago, around 25 people attended sacrament meeting each week, and there are currently 130 attending,” he said. “At the member devotional over 175 members and investigators were in attendance — the most ever gathered in Myanmar.”
Elder Dale G. Renlund visited the Church’s Caribbean Area, including stops in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. He also dedicated the island nation of Barbados for the preaching of the gospel. In one of many meetings, Elder Renlund taught about Lehi’s vision of the tree of life and urged members to “hold to the iron rod, the word of God.”