Elder Oaks tours LDS Church's South America South Area

Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ recent visit to the South America South Area offered him an opportunity to visit and build friendships with several of the region’s key religious, education and judicial leaders.

But the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told the Church News that those historic meetings were just a few of his trip’s many highlights. He also enjoyed spending time with and counseling Latter-day Saints — including hundreds of missionaries, local priesthood leaders and thousands of area youth.

Elder Oaks’ tour (from April 16-27) included stops in cities in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. His wife, Sister Kristen Oaks, joined him in his travels.

“It was a very valuable visit to the area,” he said. “The trip offered us a chance to strengthen relationships with the Catholic Church, with prominent judicial officials and with an organization devoted to religious freedom.”

On April 23, Elder Oaks delivered a lecture in Buenos Aires on religious freedom at the Argentina Council for International Relations. (See Church News, May 5, 2015, p. 5.)

He also visited with Catholic Cardinal Daniel Sturla in Montevideo, Uruguay, and had meetings with Judge Jorge Chediak and Judge Ricardo Luis Lorenzetti, presidents of the Uruguayan and Argentinian supreme courts, respectively.

Both chief justices, he said, “expressed strong appreciation for the Church.”

Elder Oaks noted that being a former judge offered him a natural connection in his meetings with the two nations’ ranking justices. An official in the Argentinian office was thrilled to learn Elder Oaks had been a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren.

“He told me Earl Warren was his hero.”

Elder and Sister Oaks, along with Elder Walter F. Gonzalez and Sister Zulma Gonzalez, also visited with leaders at Argentina’s Austral University — a prestigious, private university sponsored by Opus Dei, a Catholic institution.

Austral officials expressed interest in participating in family and marriage conferences with Brigham Young University.

Elder Oaks and Sister Oaks were uplifted by an area-wide devotional broadcast to the youth in the four countries that make up the South America South Area — Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Originating from Resistencia, Argentina, the April 25 youth devotional was relayed, via satellite, to 240 locations, with 10,800 total attendance reported.

“We spoke to the youth about the issues that confront them in their lives,” he said. “For example, how do you stand up for truth and gospel values when your friends have different views?”

Other counsel focused on handling peer pressure, appropriate use of technology and the importance of education. The youth were also warned about the dangers of pornography and drugs.

Elder Oaks also presided over priesthood leadership conferences in Santiago, Chile, and Resistencia. During each of the conferences, Sister Oaks and the wives of other participating General Authorities conducted leadership meetings for Relief Society sisters in the nearby stakes.

The visiting apostle’s itinerary included speaking in person or by broadcast with the missionaries in eight missions, as well as stake conferences in Resistencia and Quilicura, Chile.

The southern nations of South America have, for decades, been a power in the Church. It’s essential, said Elder Oaks, that members there continue to accept the responsibility to be different because of the principles and promises of the restored gospel, but at the same time be loving and harmonious with their fellow citizens.

“They should also work to rescue those not currently enjoying the blessings of full Church participation, as President Monson has taught us to do.” @JNSwensen

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