“Elder Oaks Meets Members in India, Pakistan, and Thailand,” Liahona, Feb. 2008, N1–N3
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spent time visiting Church members in India, Pakistan, and Thailand on August 17–26, 2007. He was accompanied by Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Seventy, First Counselor in the Asia Area Presidency, and their wives.
In New Delhi, the capital of India, the visitors taught in a district conference with 347 members from three branches, constituting 54 percent of the 641 members in this northern city.
Nearly 7,000 members reside in this mostly Hindu and Muslim country. Most live in two districts in the south, including Bangalore, where the India Bangalore Mission is headquartered. Membership is smaller in New Delhi, a twin city to Delhi, with its common images of narrow streets and cows that roam freely.
“When I last visited India,” Elder Oaks said, “there were only a few hundred members in the entire country. Now it thrills me to see how our membership has increased in numbers and maturity.
“While our membership is small in numbers, they are very faithful. When I visited New Delhi in 1989, there was one struggling branch with only one returned missionary. Now we have three branches and numerous returned missionaries, including a 34-year-old district president, Praveen Beesa. He and his wife and many other members have been sealed in the Hong Kong [China] Temple.”
While they are not without their challenges, members of the Church in India, like many other Christians, are permitted to practice their religion. “They treasure their temple sealings,” Elder Oaks said, noting that 93 percent of the 344 endowed members in India hold current temple recommends.
Elder Oaks and his wife, Kristen, and Elder Hallstrom and his wife, Diane, met with three families in their homes. The John family is notable for their four sons who have served full-time missions. Family members recounted how one of their most thrilling moments was attending the meeting two years ago when President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke in New Delhi.
“The people of India are beautiful and vigorous,” Elder Oaks continued. “They enjoy a working democracy and are thriving economically. They have a great future in the family of nations.”
From India, Elder and Sister Oaks and Elder and Sister Hallstrom flew to Pakistan to meet with members there. They visited the homes of various members, including a family of five who were baptized four months before. They also conducted a weekday fireside attended by some 475 people.
Only native Pakistani missionaries serve in this Islamic republic of about 170 million people, a number that includes about 3 million Christians. “It is not easy to be a Christian in Pakistan,” said Elder Oaks. Many Christians live together in colonies.
From Pakistan, Elder and Sister Oaks and Elder and Sister Hallstrom flew to Thailand for a district conference. Most of the more than 15,000 members in Thailand reside in the south. The Chiang Mai district in northern Thailand has some 875 members.
Thailand is an economically thriving country. Approximately 95 percent of its citizens are Buddhists, though religious freedoms are granted to others.
To the members in India, Pakistan, and northern Thailand, Elder Oaks and Elder Hallstrom emphasized gospel fundamentals such as a testimony of the Savior, strengthening families, priesthood keys and temple ordinances, and the need to focus on training the youth as future leaders.
During their trip Sister Oaks distributed more than 1,000 “Testimony Gloves” for Church leaders to use in teaching children in Primary. Testimony Gloves are visual aids for teaching. On each finger is a picture depicting an element of a testimony. Accompanying materials were distributed in English, Hindi, Thai, and Urdu.