Church News viewpoint: 'Go forward'

One year ago, in the wake of the worst tropical storm to ever make landfall in Fiji, President Henry B. Eyring rededicated the Suva Fiji Temple.

No Latter-day Saints or missionaries were reported injured by Tropical Cyclone Winston, which struck Fiji on Feb. 20 with winds up to 175 miles per hour in the hours between the Church’s youth temple cultural celebration and the temple rededication.

The powerful category 5 storm left dozens of people dead, knocked out power and destroyed entire villages as it made landfall along the north coast of Fiji's largest, most populous island, Viti Levu.

When President Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, was traveling to Fiji he learned that the impending storm was increasing in severity. The pilots discussed changing course to land at a more safe location. Faced with the decision to continue forward as planned or divert to another location, President Eyring prayed.

Speaking to a group of missionaries before the cultural celebration, President Eyring said he asked the question: “Should we change plans?” The answer, he felt, was “No.”

President Eyring said he felt at peace with plans to hold the cultural celebration and rededication.

“I got the feeling, ‘Go forward. Don’t be afraid,’ ” President Eyring said, noting that the “Lord is in charge.”

Like the Prophet Nephi, President Eyring moved forward, “led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do” (1 Nephi 4:6).

With youth from across Fiji, President Eyring and thousands of Latter-day Saints gathered in the enclosed Vodafone Arena for the cultural celebration. However, as weather conditions intensified and the government asked everyone to vacate roads by 5 p.m., organizers skipped several numbers and had the 1,300 youth perform their finale.

Participants vacated the arena as mandatory curfews were enforced in Fiji.

During his April general conference address, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about President Eyring's decision to move forward with the cultural celebration and Fiji temple rededication.

“It was a special, sacred occasion,” he said. “President Eyring’s courage and strong spiritual impressions allowed the rededication to proceed in the face of the worst cyclone ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere. Physical and spiritual protections were provided to youth, missionaries and members. The hand of the Lord was clearly evident.”

Because Suva escaped the brunt of the storm — which shifted direction in the hours before it hit the Pacific island nation — members, missionaries and youth brought in from outer islands were housed in safe Church schools and Church buildings and were protected from the worst aspects of Cyclone Winston.

The Savior taught: “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew 17:20).

In his April 2009 general conference address President Thomas S. Monson spoke of “circumstances in the world” which “aren’t necessarily as we would wish.”

It would be easy to become discouraged and cynical about the future, he said. “Today, however, I’d like us to turn our thoughts and our attitudes away from the troubles around us and to focus instead on our blessings as members of the Church. …

“My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith,” said President Monson.

Faith is the basis of testimony, said President Hinckley in his April 2001 general conference address. Faith underlies loyalty to the Church. Faith represents sacrifice, gladly given in moving forward the work of the Lord.

“What a marvelous and wonderful thing it is, this powerful conviction that says the Church is true,” said President Hinckley. “It is God’s holy work. He overrules in the things of His kingdom and in the lives of His sons and daughters. This is the reason for the growth of the Church. The strength of this cause and kingdom is not found in its temporal assets, impressive as they may be. It is found in the hearts of its people. That is why it is successful. That is why it is strong and growing. That is why it is able to accomplish the wonderful things that it does. It all comes of the gift of faith, bestowed by the Almighty upon His children who doubt not and fear not, but go forward.”

Just as President Eyring had the faith to pray and move forward with the Church’s youth cultural celebration and temple dedication in Fiji, we have many opportunities to show our faith in Jesus Christ.

Speaking in the October 2010 general conference, President Eyring said Latter-day Saints show their trust in the Lord when they listen with the intent to learn and then go and do whatever He asks.

“If you trust God enough to listen for His message in every sermon, song, and prayer in this conference, you will find it,” he said. “And if you then go and do what He would have you do, your power to trust Him will grow, and in time you will be overwhelmed with gratitude to find that He has come to trust you.”

In the days after Tropical Cyclone Winston, a reporter met many Latter-day Saints in the villages on Viti Levu. The storm had destroyed many of their homes, but few had been there when the storm struck. They had traveled to Suva to watch in the youth cultural celebration and participate in the temple rededication.

In the hours after the storm, the sun’s first light shined on the Suva Fiji Temple — which stood on a hill as a beacon of hope to the land.

Before the storm, Elder Adolf J. Johansson, an Area Seventy, said he “felt a peaceful calm, a spiritual feeling that everything would work out OK and that the sun would shine” on Fiji.

“You cannot stop the work of the Lord. You cannot. … That is what is giving the people of Fiji courage. … I believe the Lord requires of us not a sacrifice of money but a sacrifice of faith. Their faith through this experience taught the people Who is in charge.”

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