Government leaders welcome Elder Nelson with formal reception

Participating in the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Church here, Elder Russell M. Nelson accepted an invitation May 11 from Gaston Flosse, president of the Territory of French Polynesia, to visit government headquarters here.

At the meeting, Elder Nelson of the Council of the Twelve was formally introduced to the cabinet of ministers. This is the first time such an invitation has been extended to an LDS Church leader.Accompanying Elder Nelson were Elder Rulon G. Craven of the Seventy and Pacific Area president and Elder Jean-Michel Carlson, regional representative.

They were first taken into an adjacent office of the president, where President Flosse showed them some of his personal mementos. They were then taken into the Fare Potee (Oval Office), the elegant cabinet meeting room patterned after a traditional Polynesian home. There, the cabinet ministers and three advisers stood as the Church leaders were presented.

During a brief meeting and luncheon afterward, the government leaders thanked the Church for its contributions to youth and families and for its high moral values.

Elder Nelson, in turn, thanked them for maintaining freedom of religion, and stated the Church's belief in obeying the law of the land and remaining neutral in partisan politics. He also thanked them for allowing LDS missionaries to come, and expressed appreciation for the commemorative postage stamp issued by the government. (See separate story on page 3.)

The Church leaders were presented with enlarged, mounted copies of the stamp with the signatures of the president and his cabinet ministers.

The visit to government headquarters followed a monument unveiling at 8 a.m. at which Elder Nelson and the French Polynesia president spoke, and a visit to the mayor of Papeete at 10 a.m. The Church leaders were cordially received by Mayor Louise Tehea Levy. The mayor, who is not LDS, is the mother of Elder Carlson.

The unveiling of the monument in front of the Fautau'a meetinghouse, located behind the Papeete Tahiti Temple, was a highlight of the sesquicentennial. The monument consists of an aluminum shaft - a miniature of the nearby meetinghouse steeple - emerging from craggy stone slabs. The monument symbolizes the springing of truth from the earth, penetrating hearts of stone and rising to prevail over the earth.

After the monument was unveiled, Elder Nelson and President Flosse placed commemorative plaques on the top of metal boxes, permanently installed at the monument. The boxes contained testimonies of French Polynesia members and memorabilia of the sesquicentennial. About 200 people, including radio, television and newspaper reporters, attended the ceremony.

In his remarks delivered in French, President Flosse said: "A land of many religions, French Polynesia gets along well with the 14,000 members that you have here. I pay tribute to the high moral behavior of those members, to their contributions to education, and the building of a better society, to the maintenance, and even the reconstitution of the family, and to the active, fruitful involvement in Polynesian social life."

He also commented that "the spirit of sacrifice and support, which you teach the young people that they try, with the help of their elders, to put into practice, is undoubtedly what our society and many other societies need most today.

"Our society . . . surely has great need of men and women sincerely desirous to serve our community, fully aware that no great work can be accomplished without effort, a lot of determination, work and perseverance."

He concluded, "I wish you all a happy anniversary."

Elder Nelson said: "We've been thrilled by the marvelous message of the president of the government, President Gaston Flosse. We thank him for his participation and for his complimentary remarks. We shall always try to be worthy of such confidence in us."

Elder Nelson drew a comparison with the Church and with a coconut tree, such as one shading the group. "We praise the coconut tree for its fruit and its great value," he said. "But a tree cannot bear good fruit without good roots. So it is with the Church. While we may praise the fruits of the gospel, we must acknowledge the roots. Members of this Church are rooted to the Rock of our salvation, who is Jesus Christ. He is the source of our strength. His is the love that nourishes us. He is the Son of the living God. We have accepted His gracious invitation extended to all mankind to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him.

"Deny yourselves of all ungodliness that would erode your eternal potential. Then you will have the strength needed to withstand the storms of life. Then you will enjoy the fruits of the gospel. Then you will have bounteous gifts to share with others. Then you will have the promise of glory, immortality and eternal life."

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed