A meeting in Maputo, Mozambique, this week marked the first time an Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints met with a head of state in that country.
Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi met Thursday, May 19.
Their meeting began with prayer at the invitation of Nyusi. Elder Rasband prayed for the country, for the Lord’s guidance to come to all leaders of the nation, and for the peace of Jesus Christ to be brought to existing conflicts in the land, reported the Church’s Africa Newsroom.
Elder Rasband thanked the president for allowing religious freedom in the country. “It’s no small thing to us that you and your government have created such a wonderful spirit of freedom of religion,” he said.
The Church of Jesus Christ has grown from 50 members in Mozambique in 1991 to more than 15,000 members today, with a temple to be built in Beira.
The temple, which is in planning and approval stages, is a beacon of hope to people in the country, who have dealt with challenges from COVID-19, political unrest, tropical storms and unemployment, Africa Newsroom reported.
Nyusi said they await the temple. “It will add physical beauty, but above all, it will be a place of peace and humility and coexistence between cultures, between people and between generations,” he said.
Elder Rasband also spoke in the meeting about the Church’s commitment to help alleviate suffering in Mozambique. The Church has spent $17 million on humanitarian projects in the country over the past 10 years, including disaster relief, building classrooms and schools, and training farmers in rural areas.
Nyusi said those efforts give skills and empower the individual, while adding to the fabric of society. In its humanitarian endeavors, the Church can contribute “values of solidarity, values of peace, tolerance, forgiveness, and values of work,” he said.
Also present at the meeting were Elder S. Mark Palmer of the Presidency of the Seventy, Elder Edward Dube, General Authority Seventy who is serving in the Africa South Area presidency, Sister Melanie Rasband, Sister Jacqui Palmer and other local Church representatives.
Samo Paulo Gonçalves, a counselor in the Mozambique Maputo Mission presidency who works as a technical adviser to Nyusi, said the meeting was a great honor for the Church and a historic moment. “There are a lot of leaders in Mozambique, and the president doesn’t meet all of them, but he decided to meet us,” he said.
His wife, Albertina Gonçalves, said: “We are going to work hard as Church members to make sure that the commitments that Elder Rasband made to the president will all take place as he promised.”
‘This is just the beginning’ for Mozambique
Elder Rasband and the other general authorities also met with other dignitaries and opinion leaders while in Mozambique, and held a meeting with nearly 3,000 Church members both in person and virtually.
Elder Palmer said Apostles are called to go out in the name of the Lord and under the direction of the First Presidency to build up the Church and preach the gospel as special witnesses of Jesus Christ.
“To have Elder Rasband come to Mozambique in that capacity … is a great blessing to this country. Not only for our members, but for the country as a whole,” Elder Palmer said.
Elder Dube said the Spirit was powerfully felt on several occasions during the visit: “It has been confirmed to me over and over during this trip that we are led by prophets, seers and revelators,” he said.
In social media posts about the experience, Elder Rasband said he was told the gathering was the largest gathering in the history of the Church in Mozambique, and he told the members “this is just the beginning.”
“As we turn our hearts to the Prince of Peace, the sun is always on the horizon. Despite our very real challenges, we have infinite reasons to hope,” Elder Rasband posted.
He also wrote about giving Nyusi a copy of the Book of Mormon in his language of Portuguese. “I was privileged to share this sacred book with him as another sign of hope of the opportunity for good things to come in this country,” wrote Elder Rasband.
Instruction for leaders throughout Africa South
Before the meetings in Mozambique, Elder Rasband led an instruction meeting with Elder Palmer and the Africa South Area presidency — Elder Christoffel Golden and his counselors, Elder Dube and Elder Ciro Schmeil — for leaders throughout the Church’s Africa South Area.
District presidents, stake presidents, mission presidents and temple presidents from Angola to Zimbabwe were at the Sandton chapel in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Elder Rasband has traveled to Africa six times in the past few years, and was thrilled to meet in person with members as COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease, reported Africa Newsroom.
“Technology is wonderful, but nothing can replace looking into someone’s eyes,” Elder Rasband said following the meeting on Saturday, May 14. “It just feels wonderful.”
COVID-19 was a theme in many of the challenges that were raised in the session.
“Leaders come to a meeting like this and they’re looking for hope. Just meeting is hopeful, and being able to be with each other and ask these questions — it’s hopeful,” said Elder Rasband.
“[W]hat is wonderful is that we all serve the Prince of Peace, which is Jesus Christ. He is the great Healer, and He’s going to help families and He’s going to help people. And His underservants — the leaders of the Church — are going to do that too.”
President Gabriel Chinomwe of the Blantyre Malawi District told Africa Newsroom that many questions that leaders often struggled with were addressed.
“At the same time, I noted that the challenges that were shared by brethren from other units are common in our units,” he said. “It helped me to see that this work is one. We all have common challenges.”
Elder Dunstan G.B.T. Chadambuka, an Area Seventy from Zimbabwe, said the experience was “exceptional,” and inspired of the Lord. “We felt a new brotherhood, a new love for one another, and a desire to go and do better and do more. This has really lifted the brethren up.”
Elder Amândio A. Feijó, an Area Seventy from Angola, said it was an enlightening session. “We’ve been taught things that we already know, but it was so spiritual in a very simple way.”
President Lebohang F. Mosia of the Phuthaditjhaba South Africa District said, “There were moments when I felt like the Lord was literally speaking.”
When Elder Rasband expressed the love of President Russell M. Nelson for each of the leaders present, “it felt so real,” said President Mosia. “It felt like the Savior was saying he loves me.”