For the first time in the history of the restored Church, all of the members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were gathered together in one place outside of the United States, when all of them traveled to Italy for the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple in March 2019. (See article “Dedication Signals ‘Unprecedented Future’” in this issue.)
In other ministering assignments during the last six months:
After visiting North and South Carolina, USA, President Dallin H. Oaks and Elder David A. Bednar spoke to storm-weary hurricane victims at an evening devotional in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. President Oaks reminded listeners that adversity and afflictions are part of mortal life, but that “If we are faithful and prayerful, the Lord will help us get through them.”
In Chicago, Illinois, USA, Elder Oaks counseled young married Church members that, “Conversion to the Lord precedes conversion to the Church. And conversion to the Lord comes through prayer and study and service.” And in Arizona with President Russell M. Nelson, President Oaks reminded youth and young adults that, “Our single best quality to characterize ourselves is that we are a son or daughter of God.”
Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles also fulfilled additional assignments throughout the world:
In England, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was the lone speaker in a Christmas program at the Pembroke College Chapel at Oxford University, where he taught that the joyous meaning of Christmas centers not just on Christ’s birth but also on His life, death, and “His triumphant atoning sacrifice.”
In São Paulo and Salvador, Brazil, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf ministered to large groups in meetings but also to small groups and individuals, including consoling the family of a recently deceased full-time missionary, attending two wards’ sacrament and Sunday School meetings, accompanying several companionships of missionaries as they visited part-member families, and being recognized by a recent convert while riding the São Paulo subway. He said that Brazil is a “place where the thought that we are all children of Heavenly Father is really visible and practiced.”
In the United Arab Emirates, Elder David A. Bednar conducted a special meeting with youth and young adults of the Abu Dhabi Stake. He toured a learning center for African refugees in Egypt and a center for internally displaced persons in Iraqi Kurdistan. “We are all sons and daughters of God,” Elder Bednar said after meeting with the refugees. In Israel, he presided over a conference of the Jerusalem District and a devotional at the Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center. During the RootsTech family history conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, Elder Bednar presented a $2 million donation on behalf of the Church to the International African American Museum Center for Family History.
In Ukraine, Armenia, France, Hungary, Switzerland, Romania, and Czechia, Elder Quentin L. Cook addressed the theme of living the restored gospel of Jesus Christ every day and sharing it through example and by reaching out to others. In New York City, USA, Elder Cook spoke about the common ground that exists between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Jewish communities. “We share with our Jewish friends the concern for oppressed people and those who face special challenges,” he said.
In Mexico City, Mérida, and Cancún, Mexico, Elder Cook ministered to Church leaders, members, missionaries and religious, government, and business leaders. A youth devotional attended by 800 youth from eight stakes in Mexico City was broadcast to 38,000 youth throughout Mexico. And Elder Cook also spoke at a forum in the auditorium of the Mexican Senate, where he called for people of faith to stand firm and united in defending religious freedom.
In Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, Elder D. Todd Christofferson found that despite destruction from hurricanes, members are bouncing back. He said that the area is “energized,” knowing that there will soon be three temples in the Caribbean (in Haiti, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic). He also spoke at a business ethics conference and a religious freedom conference. At a news summit in Washington, D.C., USA, Elder Christofferson addressed the importance of truth and integrity. And while on assignment in Guatemala and El Salvador, in addition to other meetings, Elder Christofferson participated in broadcasts seen throughout Central America, stressing the importance of gospel study in the home.
In South Africa and Zimbabwe, Elder Neil L. Andersen counseled members to remember the Savior and embrace the concept of home-centered, Church-supported learning. In England, Wales, France, and Austria, he noted the strength that comes when families in the Church become multi-generational and said that European members continue to play an essential role in the growth and stability of the Church. They are, he said, defenders of the faith.
The Church takes teen suicide seriously, Elder Ronald A. Rasband emphasized as he spoke to seminary and institute teachers in Salt Lake City, Utah. Seminary and institute teachers can help those at risk by using the many Church-provided suicide-prevention resources and by reminding students that divine assistance and ministering is found through the Savior.
In Rwanda, Elder Gary E. Stevenson visited a genocide memorial, where he said that despite past troubles, today the Rwandan people are filled with “a kindness, gentleness, reconciliation, and forgiveness” that exemplify the best of humanity. He presented a donation to the memorial on behalf of the Church. Elder Stevenson also visited Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Madagascar, conducting priesthood leadership conferences, speaking to members and missionaries, participating in a youth and young single adult devotional, visiting government officials, and answering media questions.
Elder Dale G. Renlund visited remote locations while on assignment in Argentina and Chile, such as Antofagasta in the desert region of northern Chile; a conference for the Argentina Comodoro Rivadavia Mission; the El Calafate Branch in Argentina, where a small chapel was filled with people far beyond the 30–40 who were expected to attend; and a gathering in Ushuaia, Argentina, where the 600 in attendance represented the majority of active members throughout the entire region of Tierra del Fuego. In places like Rio Gallegos, Argentina, Elder Renlund spoke about the blessings of the home-centered, Church-supported curriculum and how families will be blessed by observing the Sabbath day.
In Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina, Elder Gerrit W. Gong shared principles from the scriptures and from the teachings of President Nelson—including themes of ministering, staying on the covenant path, personal revelation, proper use of the name of the Church, and using the gospel to find answers and overcome challenges and obstacles.
At the missionary training center in Guatemala, Elder Ulisses Soares shared lessons he learned from his parents’ conversion. He used those lessons to encourage missionaries to remain faithful and strong. He also visited Costa Rica and Panama and said members in Central America “want to serve the Lord. They want to do what He has asked them to do.” In a later visit that included the Dominican Republic and Trinidad and Tobago, he said that in the Caribbean, “the people are enjoying the gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives.” He also dedicated the island nation of Curaçao for the preaching of the gospel. “The Church has a great future in Curaçao,” he added. “The people are faithful and willing to receive the gospel.”