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Elder Gary E. Stevenson visits and ministers to Latter-day Saints on the island of Carti Tupile in Panama


Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Lesa J. Stevenson, recently traveled to the Central America Area, visiting the countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama. On Thursday, March 17, with Elder Brian K. Taylor, a General Authority Seventy and Central America Area president, and his wife, Sister Jill Taylor, Elder Stevenson visited the island of Carti Tupile in the San Blas Archipelago in Panama.

The island of Carti Tupile is located in the Guna Yala indigenous district about 70 miles northeast of Panama City. The island is one of Panama’s greatest treasures, rich in cultural and historic traditions. The Carti Tupile Branch on the island has 801 members.

This is the first time an Apostle has visited the island of Carti Tupile; it was a historic and special visit for the Latter-day Saints there. At Elder Stevenson’s arrival to the island’s port, members and missionaries were waiting. As he descended from the boat, he was delighted by the colorful outfits worn by those who came to greet him. Two children were blowing into shells, a tradition signifying the arrival of a special person to the island and an invitation for people to come and listen.

During Elder Stevenson’s travel toward the Church’s meetinghouse on the island, people greeted him and welcomed him from the doors of their homes. Some expressed their happiness at being able to greet him personally.

Upon his arrival to the meetinghouse, a group of Latter-day Saint youth, dressed in traditional outfits and with musical instruments native of the region, received him with a traditional dance of the Guna culture. Elder Stevenson said he felt gratitude for the warm and inviting welcome he received as they watched the youth perform.

As he entered the meetinghouse, Elder Stevenson was guided to one of the rooms to listen to a group of over 40 children who delighted him with their voices as they sang in the Guna language. One of the songs they sang, “I Am a Child of God,” helped create a feeling of peace and love. The community recognized the visit as a special event and canceled classes for the children so that they could participate and hear the words of the Lord through Elder Stevenson.

After meeting with the children, Elder Stevenson walked to another room to meet with members of the Church who gathered to listen to his message. The youth in the branch also sang special Guna songs during the meeting.

Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles listens to Primary children from the Carti Tupile Branch on the island of Carti Tupile, Panama, March 17, 2022.

Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles listens to Primary children from the Carti Tupile Branch on the island of Carti Tupile, Panama, March 17, 2022.

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

Elder Stevenson began his message by expressing his gratitude for the opportunity to be with such a beautiful and sacred people. He shared with the members that his heart was filled with joy for being on their island in that little corner of the world, an experience he would never forget and will always carry in his heart.

During his message, Elder Stevenson said he felt a spirit of peace, reverence, gratitude and humility from the Latter-day Saints on the island. Elder Stevenson told the members that they were special children of Heavenly Father and invited them to have faith, pray fervently, fast and hearken to the Holy Ghost.

“This is a sacred people in a sacred land, and your homes are sacred,” he said.

He also encouraged them to read the scriptures and be obedient. He said the children and youth will one day be the leaders of the Church, and that as they kept the commandments in their homes, they would have peace. He reminded them that the Holy Ghost guides, teaches, and comforts them, and that through the power of the priesthood they could receive special blessings of guidance and comfort. Elder Stevenson’s message was translated from English to Spanish, and then to the Guna language.

Elder Taylor expressed his love for the people on the island of Carti Tupile and said that in modern times, this is the first time these people have received such a special visit from an Apostle of the Lord.

“It’s been a blessing and special and wonderful experience for me and Jill to witness this visit and see the love reflecting from these people’s eyes as they saw an Apostle of the Lord who visited them, shared his testimony, and ministered unto them in their land, this beautiful island,” he said. 

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