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Elder Gong encourages looking to the future with faith at nationwide Philippines YSA devotional


While acknowledging challenges young adults face, Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared encouragement with the young single adults in the Philippines to stay close to the Savior and look to the future with faith. 

In this 60th anniversary year of the Church in the Philippines, young adults can look forward with faith and optimism to the 100th anniversary — “at a time when there are so many things which are challenging and, yet, when the future is so bright,” Elder Gong said. 

Devotional discussion questions included keeping balance and priorities in life, seeing themselves and their families in the plan of salvation, helping all seek and find belonging and hope in Jesus Christ, preparing for or transitioning home from missions, and ways to face the future with faith rather than fear. 

Read more about how Church members mark 60th anniversary of missionary work in the Philippines

Elder Gong was joined by his wife, Sister Susan Gong; Elder Steven R. Bangerter, a General Authority Seventy and counselor in the Philippines Area presidency, and his wife, Sister Susann A. Bangerter; Elder Julius F. Barrientos, Area Seventy, and his wife, Sister Malou Barrientos; and five young single adults — Ruth Navarro of Paniqui, Tarlac; Aries Maligon of San Pablo City, Laguna; Earl Queena B. Along of Caloocan City, Metro Manila; Patricia Kaye Catubay of Laoag, Ilocos Norte; and Jairod Alday of Naga City, Camarines Sur. The devotional was broadcast on Sunday, Feb. 20, from the Philippines Missionary Training Center auditorium and shared virtually throughout the Philippines. 

It’s the first time an Apostle has been to the country in two years, due to pandemic-related restrictions.

The devotional had a conversational, question-and-answer format, with Elder Gong inviting comments and discussion among the panel on questions gathered by the area young single adult council, which includes YSAs from across the Philippines. 

Priorities and balance

With Church callings, work, school, family and other obligations, how do you keep a sense of balance and priorities?

Establishing — and prioritizing — “holy habits” including prayer and scripture study has helped Navarro as she has transitioned from being a full-time missionary.

Through “those important habits — having sincere prayers every day, reading my scriptures, studying the scriptures — I’m really having a time with the Lord,” she said. 

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during a Philippines Area wide young single adult devotional on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. The panelists are, from left: Sister Malou J. Barrientos; Elder Julius F. Barrientos, Area Seventy; Earl Queena Along, of the Camarin Stake; Aries Maligon, of the San Pablo Stake; moderator Ruth Navarro; Elder Gong; Sister Susan L. Gong; Jairod Alday, of the Naga Stake; Patricia Kaye Catubay, of the Laoag Stake; Elder Steven R. Bangerter, a Gene…

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during a Philippines Area wide young single adult devotional on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. The panelists are, from left: Sister Malou J. Barrientos; Elder Julius F. Barrientos, Area Seventy; Earl Queena Along, of the Camarin Stake; Aries Maligon, of the San Pablo Stake; moderator Ruth Navarro; Elder Gong; Sister Susan L. Gong; Jairod Alday, of the Naga Stake; Patricia Kaye Catubay, of the Laoag Stake; Elder Steven R. Bangerter, a General Authority Seventy and a counselor in the Philippines Area presidency, and Sister Susann A. Bangerter.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

As she and her roommates were talking about prioritizing scripture study in their busy schedules, she wrote down “read your scriptures Heavenly Father wants to talk to you.”

Queena Along, who served in the Los Angeles California Mission, said it has helped her to continue to keep up habits she established on her mission — daily and weekly planning — to help stay on track. 

Elder Bangerter pointed to an example from Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles about how keeping life in balance is like the center of gravity on an airplane. If the center of gravity is balanced, the flight will be under control. At times the plane will change altitude or have the nose go up or down to maintain balance, just as in our lives education, Church callings, family or work demand adjust in their demands on a person’s time. 

“If the Savior and Christ-centered living is always at the center of our lives, we can better maintain that sense of balance,” Elder Bangerter said.

Sister Gong shared how her smartphone can be her best friend and worst enemy. 

She has noticed that when she wakes up in the morning and her phone is nearby, the first thing she does is look at email, social media and news on her phone. 

She is working on a new habit of charging her phone in another room at night, so that she prays first thing in the morning. Then she makes a list for that day, assigning items a time and priority level. 

“Find a way to be in charge of the phone, rather than it be in charge of you,” she said. 

Welding links for families

Another question the panel discussed was: “Why is it sometimes hard to trust the plan that families are forever? Especially if we see that our families are not enduring inside the Church?”

For Along, whose mother and sisters are members of the Church, she recognized that she was the starting point for an eternal family. 

Doctrine and Covenants 128:18 mentions the need for a welding link that connects families. 

“That welding link can begin with each of us,” Elder Gong said. 

Elder Gong’s mother joined the Church when she was 16 and, for many years, was the only member of her family. 

“How grateful I am for her becoming a welding link for our family,” he said, as they’ve been able to connect their ancestors through family history and temple work in addition to having a family in the Church. “When you have one righteous link, that future is changed.” 

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during a Philippines Area wide young single adult devotional on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. The panelists are, from left: Sister Malou J. Barrientos; Elder Julius F. Barrientos, Area Seventy; Earl Queena Along, of the Camarin Stake; Aries Maligon, of the San Pablo Stake; moderator Ruth Navarro; Elder Gong; Sister Susan L. Gong; Jairod Alday, of the Naga Stake; Patricia Kaye Catubay, of the Laoag Stake; Elder Steven R. Bangerter, a Gene…

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during a Philippines Area wide young single adult devotional on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. The panelists are, from left: Sister Malou J. Barrientos; Elder Julius F. Barrientos, Area Seventy; Earl Queena Along, of the Camarin Stake; Aries Maligon, of the San Pablo Stake; moderator Ruth Navarro; Elder Gong; Sister Susan L. Gong; Jairod Alday, of the Naga Stake; Patricia Kaye Catubay, of the Laoag Stake; Elder Steven R. Bangerter, a General Authority Seventy and a counselor in the Philippines Area presidency, and Sister Susann A. Bangerter.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Alday shared how his father isn’t a member of the Church and it takes effort on his part to remember the potential that families can be forever. 

“Families are one of the greatest blessings. And to have that bond be forever with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is very heartwarming,” he said. 

Sister Bangerter’s father wasn’t always part of her family after she was 7 years old. “I had a great Young Women’s leader that told me: ‘Love your family, stay connected to all of them. Be a connection between them and heaven. Plan for your future family and follow the covenant path.’ And I’ve cherished that advice ever since.”

Finding hope and belonging in Jesus Christ

“How do we help each other find hope and belonging in Jesus Christ?” Elder Gong asked as he noted the concerns of people who feel like they stick out or feel judged. 

Catubay, a student at the University of the Philippines in Manila, has seen in her life how Heavenly Father has helped her find ways to get to know people and talk to them. 

“By talking to them and trying to understand their background … I think that’s what we can do,” she said. 

Maligon said he’s admired the example of President Russell M. Nelson in reaching out to others of different faiths and nationalities and his teachings that all are brothers and sisters. 

“I think once we really understand what that really means — that we are all brothers and sisters — that it becomes more natural for us to love and to accept whatever differences they may have,” Maligon said. 

Sister Gong encouraged the young adults to take the time to listen to each other, to ask questions and to better understand each other. 

“Heavenly Father is not waiting for you to find your Prince Charming or lose some pounds or to be perfect to be fully engaged in His work right now and to be engaged in building His kingdom,” she said. “One of the things that will be a blessing in this kingdom is to realize how important the gospel is and how important you are, to each other. You can play important roles as gospel friends.” 

She also testified that “our No. 1 identity is as a child of a loving Heavenly Father who cares about us and is counting on us.

“If we prioritize our lives around that role, that identity, we will know more clearly what that means day by day. And we will feel His love and it will strengthen and bless us,” she said. 

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gives Jairod Alday, of the Naga Stake, a 4,600 bracelet during a Philippines Area wide young single adult on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. In May 2021, the Philippines Area leaders launched an initiative with the goal of 4,600 Filipino full-time missionaries serving in the country by December 2022. Jairod Alday is preparing to serve a mission.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gives Jairod Alday, of the Naga Stake, a 4,600 bracelet during a Philippines Area wide young single adult on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022. In May 2021, the Philippines Area leaders launched an initiative with the goal of 4,600 Filipino full-time missionaries serving in the country by December 2022. Jairod Alday is preparing to serve a mission.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Four scriptures and temples

Elder Gong pointed to four scriptures and a statement from President Nelson as the devotional concluded. 

“These are familiar verses, but in the context of what we’ve been saying tonight, I hope you’ll see and feel that they are speaking to you to give you hope, to give you confidence, to give you strength,” he said. 

Quoting Doctrine and Covenants 64:33-34, he noted how we should not be weary in well-doing as out of small things proceedeth that which is great. “If we do our best, the Lord will bless us,” he said. 

Mosiah 4:27 reminds us to do “things in wisdom and order.” Some things don’t always happen quickly, but we can continue with faith and courage. 

Citing 1 Corinthians 2:9, Elder Gong said: “In the next 40 years, as we come to the 100th anniversary of the Church in the Philippines, you will be astounded by things you’ve never seen. Because you’ll be diligent and faithful, loving and kind, because you’ll find belonging and hope in Jesus Christ for yourself and those around you, you will see miracles.”

Doctrine and Covenants 68:6 is a promise and testimony. Our Savior Jesus Christ assures: “Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come.”

“That’s what we do when we take upon ourselves His name, bear record of Him at all times, in all places in whatever circumstances we may be in,” Elder Gong said. 

Eight temples are dedicated, under construction or announced in the Philippines — an opportunity and blessing for Philippines Saints to come unto the Savior through temple covenants and ordinances.  

Elder Gong, quoting President Nelson, said, “Everything we believe, and every promise God has made to His covenant people come together in the temple.”

“In the coming days, as more temples bring us closer in our hearts and homes to our Savior, I pray the Lord’s blessing on each of you,” Elder Gong said.

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