Family history given to Bolivian president

In South America for area training meetings, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Council of the Twelve made a courtesy call to the president of Bolivia Oct. 21, and presented to him a copy of his family history.

"He was deeply grateful for the gift," Elder Nelson said of President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada. "He was surprised that we knew so much about his ancestors."Elder Nelson explained the visit to the presidential palace was "a courtesy call, one to let him know how we appreciate the laws of the land that allow for freedom of religion, and to express appreciation to his administration which has given constancy to their people."

During the meeting, the Bolivian president "expressed gratitude to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for what it has done for the people of Bolivia," explained Elder Nelson. "He volunteered the comment that the Church has done much to lift the standards of his people.

"He said he was a devout Catholic but was very much committed to the principle of plurality of freedom of religion."

Accompanying Elder Nelson to the meeting in the presidential palace in the 12,000-foot-high city of LaPaz, the highest capital city in the world, were Elder Jay E. Jensen of the Seventy and president of the South America North Area, and Elder Jorge Leano, regional representative and regional manager for Temporal Affairs for the Church in Bolivia.

During the meeting, which lasted 20-25 minutes, Elder Nelson said the Bolivian president, who was inaugurated on Aug. 6, 1993, for a four-year term, wanted "to know why we have an interest in family history.

"We then spoke to him about the revealed doctrine that has been restored in the latter days about the redemption of the dead and how we believe that our ancestors are still living; they are just located on the other side of the veil. We explained we try to find out who our ancestors are and link ourselves with them through our genealogical research and temple ordinances.

"He was very interested in this," said Elder Nelson.

The Bolivian president's family history was prepared by the Church's Family History Department. "President Sanchez de Lozada has been an educator in the United States. He is a highly educated man. Spanish is his native language, but he speaks English fluently and was a professor of French. There is much about him in the public domain. Our Family History Department started with that and was able to get a great deal of information."

President Sanchez de Lozada also "commented on the importance of the Church's posture in keeping political controversy out of its meeting halls," said Elder Nelson. "He said how helpful that is. He complimented us on the fact that we teach our people to be good citizens and good followers of Jesus Christ without getting into the politically controversial issues of the day."

Elder Nelson explained that wherever he goes he tries to meet with governmental officials.

He said the fact that President Sanchez de Lozada accepted his request to visit, which the local members report is highly unusual, "is a compliment to the Church and to the lives of the members of the Church in Bolivia."

Elder Nelson pointed out the Church "is doing very well in Bolivia." Currently there are 83,000 members in the country, with 13 stakes and two missions, one in LaPaz and the other in Cochabamba.

While in South America, Elder Nelson held area training meetings in Bogota, Colombia, for Church leaders of Colombia and Venezuela; in Quito, Ecuador, for Church leaders of Ecuador; in Lima, Peru, for Church leaders of Peru; and in LaPaz for Church leaders of Bolivia.

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