SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico In his first ever visit to "La Isla del encanto" (enchanted island), President Gordon B. Hinckley thrilled members of the Church on the island of Puerto Rico during a special fireside held at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan.
Thousands of Church members and friends, young and old, from locations around this island in the heart of the Caribbean, gathered on Dec. 13, for an early Christmas gift to hear words of counsel and blessing from the Church leader. For most, this was their first time to see a prophet of God. Members traveled from as far as the U.S. Virgin Islands for the devotional.
Among those accompanying President Hinckley on his visit to Puerto Rico were President James E. Faust, his second counselor in the First Presidency, and Sister Marjorie P. Hinckley. They were joined by Elder Richard D. Allred and Elder Gordon T. Watts of the North America Southeast Area presidency and their wives, Gay Allred and Connie Watts.
Many of those in attendance at the meeting were recent converts to the Church or from first-generation member families. Puerto Rico was formally opened to missionary work in 1979.
Becky Fraticelli of Aguas Buenas, a small mountain town, was one of the first to be baptized on the island. She commented: "It is a thrill to feel the Spirit when a servant of the Lord speaks."
President Hinckley began his remarks saying, "You look so good, you look so happy, you look so clean and so wonderful thank you for your effort to come here.
Part of 11-million member family
"I'd like to give each of you a big 'abrazo' " he said. "You look like members of the Church around the world you all look so good and wonderful."
"You are part of an 11-million member family of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. How proud we can all be of membership in this Church," President Hinckley said. "I congratulate everyone who has become a member of the Church."
Continuing, President Hinckley said, "Your lives have been enriched smiles of heaven have come upon you."
President Hinckley invited non-member friends to "come and learn and pray about the things you have learned."
Addressing the joyous Christmas season, President Hinckley encouraged the congregation to honor the birth of the Son of God as he spoke of the Savior's life, brief ministry, atoning sacrifice and resurrection.
"I hope that everyone here can stand and say that Jesus Christ is our Savior, our Lord, our Leader and King all hail to His name," he said.
President Hinckley asked those in attendance to pause during this Christmas season and quietly think about the Savior's sacrifice.
He spoke of the Prophet Joseph Smith's birth 195 years ago, whose birthday is also commemorated during the month of December. He encouraged everyone to get down on their knees and thank the Lord for the restoration of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith. President Hinckley asked members to "occasionally sit and think about the marvelous things that came through the Prophet Joseph Smith." President Hinckley quoted the words of Nephi from the Book of Mormon, saying, " 'we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, and we prophesy of Christ' how can anyone doubt that we are a Christian people?"
Each can serve in Church
"Each of us can serve in the Church in our own way. God will bless us for all we do. He has so promised and His promises never fail," he said. Reminding the fathers and priesthood holders of their great responsibilities, President Hinckley asked: "Do you realize what you have? Do you think of what priesthood means to you? It is the power of God unto salvation."
President Hinckley told the fathers that any man who holds the priesthood is under great and solemn obligation to live worthy of it. "Treat your wives and children with kindness and love it becomes a man who holds the power of God within his hands," President Hinckley said.
He spoke of the new Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple and said that he regretted that not everyone has been able to go to the temple. "And, I say to every man and woman here tonight, live for the day when you can go to the House of the Lord." President Hinckley encouraged all members to be worthy to hold a temple recommend. "You must do it; the gospel is not complete without the ordinances of the temple," he added.
"Brother and sisters, I don't know how the Lord can bless us unless we live worthy of His blessings. And, I urge you to prayerfully, prayerfully think of that."
Overwhelmed with great sense of love
With emotion, President Hinckley said, "I am overwhelmed with the great sense of love for each of you. You are my people, I am of your family, and I thank the Lord for you and for the goodness and strength of your lives and the faith that you carry in your hearts.
"I hope and pray that you will remember this meeting when you heard me stand before you and declare my testimony of the truth of this great cause and kingdom. God our Eternal Father lives, Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. I know that and so do you."
President Hinckley concluded his remarks by invoking blessings upon the congregation.
"May you grow in faith, may you grow in love and appreciation, may you have love and harmony and peace in your homes. May you be the kind of people who can be pointed to with pride as being Latter-day Saints those good Mormons."
In his remarks, President Faust told the gathered members that he believes that there is a great future for the Church in Puerto Rico and, that they were "the ones who can make it happen."
President Faust spoke of the great things that will have happened in the Church during the past year, including the completion and dedication of the new Conference Center and the dedication of 34 new temples.
"By the end of this month, we will have 102 operating temples in the Church," he said.
President Faust issued a challenge for more missionaries. He asked mothers to prepare their sons for missionary service as his mother did for him and his brothers. "It was the faith she instilled in young hearts that caused all five Faust sons to serve missions and be married in the temple," he added.
President Faust witnessed that his testimony is no longer a matter of belief it is now knowledge as he has had thousands of spiritual confirmations.
Brief comments and testimonies were also offered by Elder Allred, Elder Watts, and Dean M. Davies, president of the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission.
Tears filled the eyes of members of the congregation as President Hinckley left the stand following the conclusion of the historic meeting saying, "I love you," and waving, as a gesture of farewell, a white handkerchief.
President Hinckley stopped in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Dec. 13, on his way to dedicate the Recife and Porto Alegre temples in Brazil. (See page 3.) On his return, he stopped in Panama City, Panama, on Dec. 18, where he addressed another member meeting. Coverage of this meeting will be in the Dec. 30 Church News