ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands — President Gordon B. Hinckley met with members on the Caribbean islands of St. Kitts and St. Thomas, and Sal Island in Cape Verde, off the western coast of Africa, as part of his travels to and from West Africa to dedicate the Accra Ghana Temple.
On his way to Africa, President Hinckley stopped to dedicate the new Basseterre meetinghouse and spoke to members of the St. Kitts-Nevis Branch on Thursday, Jan. 8. Then, following the temple dedication on Sunday, arrangements were made for President Hinckley to visit with members of the Sal Branch on Sal Island in Cape Verde during a fuel stop there Monday, Jan. 12. Later that day, President Hinckley spoke in St. Thomas to about 150 members and friends from the islands of St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix, Tortola and Puerto Rico.
President Hinckley and his wife, Sister Marjorie Hinckley, were accompanied on the trip by their daughter Kathleen Barnes and by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve.
Among the 100 who attended the meeting in St. Kitts & Nevis were top government officials including Governor General Sir Cuthbert M. Sebastian, Prime Minister Dr. Denzil L. Douglas, Minister of Social Development Rupert Herbert and Commissioner of Police Calvin Fahie.
President Hinckley, in his remarks prior to offering the dedicatory prayer for the new meetinghouse, thanked the government leaders for their interest and attendance. He spoke of the importance of living the elements of the gospel of Jesus Christ and emphasized that the doctrines and practices of the Church carry with them an inherent witness of their validity, which can be known through obedience to these principles.
In his remarks, Elder Nelson told the St. Kitts-Nevis congregation, "The home is the most important sanctuary of the members of the Church." He urged the members to take the blessings of the Church into their homes to exalt their families.
Elder H. Aldridge Gillespie of the North America Southeast Area presidency and his wife, Virginia, bore their testimonies.
Prime Minister Douglas also spoke at the beginning of the meeting, expressing the government's support of the expansion of the Church and welcoming the St. Kitts-Nevis Branch congregation. "We believe that the secular leadership cannot do it alone," he said. "There is a need for continual spiritual and religious guidance so the people will be able to take advantage of their opportunities with full recognition of their allegiance to God. We need to unite among ourselves and to call upon God Himself to guide, protect and lead us in these days."
Norma Stapleton, a prominent local member, was commended for her efforts in public affairs that resulted in the attendance of the governmental dignitaries.
From St. Kitts, President Hinckley continued on to Ghana.
During a fuel stop in Cape Verde on the return trip, about 40 members of the Sal Branch met with President Hinckley in a room at the refueling service center. He spoke to the group, with his remarks translated into Portuguese by President Daryl Hobson of the Cape Verde Praia Mission.
"You are here by yourselves on this island far from Church headquarters, but still in sight of Heavenly Father," President Hinckley told the members. "You can enjoy the Holy Spirit as much as we can in Salt Lake City. You can pray to Him with assurance that He will hear and answer your prayers. I hope you will always be prayerful, every morning and night, and thank the Lord for His blessing and for a true understanding of the gospel. Ask that He will bless you to be productive and to have a good life in every respect.
"You are very important in His sight. You are His sons and daughters; sons and daughters of God. How very, very important that is."
He encouraged them to to read their scriptures, including the Book of Mormon, so they can become well acquainted with the doctrines of the Church, "so your little boys will grow up to be missionaries of the Church."
He also encouraged them to pay their tithing so they could receive the Lord's blessings for obedience. "If you pay your tithing, He will open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings upon you."
President Hinckley continued, "Share the gospel. Tell your friends about the Church. Let them see the difference it has made in you, how happy you are as members of the Church. Make the Church grow here so you will become a strong branch of the Church. Let's grow strong, so we can have a building of our own. We need a building and it will come."
He cited the rapid expansion of the Church in Ghana, with its new temple and stake center, as an example of the way growth can come.
Elder Nelson, when asked to speak, said, "I have only three words: follow the prophet. That's my speech."
As their return to Salt Lake City continued, the Church leaders made their final stop at St. Thomas.
At an evening meeting there, President Hinckley gave specific instruction, admonishing all to obey the commandments and live the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Elder Nelson bore witness of the divine calling of prophets through the ages and urged the people to listen to and "follow the prophet."
At her father's invitation, Sister Barnes spoke regarding the normalcy of her upbringing. Elder Keith Crockett of the North America Southeast Area presidency and his wife, Kathleen, also spoke briefly.