Peruvians' role in miracle of growth

Strength of Church is found in strong leadership and devoted members

Addressing members in 33 stakes throughout Lima in a live satellite broadcast on Aug. 13, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke of a visit to Peru more than 40 years ago, and said, "The Church was not strong in those early days. Now to think that we have 81 stakes, strong leadership, and so very many devoted and faithful people is a miracle."

Others participating in the conference that originated early Sunday morning from Salt Lake City were Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve; Elder Dale E. Miller of the Seventy; Daniel K. Judd, first counselor in the Sunday School general presidency; and Elaine S. Dalton, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency.

President Hinckley recalled that in 1970, as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, he had just boarded a plane to leave Peru when a violent earthquake shook the area of Caraz and Huaraz. "Four missionaries were laboring in the area. It was Sunday. Fortunately, they were doing their duty. They were absent from their apartment in another area doing some teaching. Had they been in their apartment, they would have been killed," he said.

He described the devastation caused when a mountain slipped down to cover the town; only the tops of two palm trees were left standing in the town square. He said that he

and Allen Litster, then the mission president, loaded the mission station wagon with relief supplies and drove to where they were needed. "The loss of lives and the devastation were terrible," President Hinckley reflected.

He spoke of another occasion when he and his wife, Marjorie, went from Lima to Cuzco and then traveled by a small railroad to Puno. He described the journey of the train climbing over high mountains and then descending to Lake Titicaca as "one of the most interesting experiences of my life." When the train arrived at Juliaca, two missionaries met and drove them to Puno for "a brief but inspirational meeting. I think that I was the first General Authority ever to visit Juliaca and Puno, and certainly to hold a Church service in Puno."

After the service, they traveled on a steamboat that ran through the night across Lake Titicaca to Bolivia, where more Church business and meetings were conducted.

"I have had many other wonderful and inspirational experiences in Peru, including the dedication of the beautiful Lima Temple in 1986. I have witnessed the faith of the saints in traveling long distances on treacherous roads to attend the temple.

"How grateful I am for the faith, the devotion, and the strength of you wonderful Peruvian saints. May the Lord continue to shower blessings upon you."

Earlier in his address, President Hinckley said that when he first went to Peru he was a young and vigorous man, and now he is old, having recently had his 96th birthday, so that he is now in his 97th year.

"As one who has been around for a long time I wish to leave with you this morning my witness and testimony of the great fundamental, overarching doctrines of this The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," he said.

Elder Ballard quoted his grandfather, Apostle Melvin J. Ballard, who dedicated the lands of South America in 1925 and, in the spring of 1926, said, "The work of the Lord will grow slowly for a time here just as an oak grows slowly from an acorn. . . . Thousands will join the Church here. . . . "

Today the Church in South America has more than 3 million members organized into 552 stakes. "The three missionaries who arrived in Buenos Aires in 1925, my grandfather, Elder Rey L. Pratt and Elder Rulon S. Wells, have now become an army of 14,956 missionaries serving in South America, 49 percent of whom are native-born South American elders and sisters. And under the inspired leadership of President Gordon B. Hinckley, there are now 24 operating temples throughout Latin America. . . ."

Elder Ballard spoke of two Peruvian missionaries who were shot and killed in 1990. He said that he went to Peru, under direction of the First Presidency, to meet with the families of the slain elders and the leaders of the Church and other missionaries. The families of the slain missionaries demonstrated faith, courage and commitment to the gospel.

On another occasion, Elder Ballard said, he visited with Glen Holley, then president of the Lima temple, who told him of a 107-year-old Quechua sister who had gone to the temple, wanting to receive her endowment and have her family sealed to her although she had been a member only six months. President Holley explained she needed to return when she had been a member for a year. Elder Ballard said that this descendant of the Incas, "wasn't sure she was going to be around for another six months." However, six months and one day later, when she was 108, she received the blessings of the temple.

Concluding his address, Elder Ballard said he rejoiced in the fulfillment of prophecies of his grandfather and Joseph Smith, who said that the Church "will fill North and South America" and the world.

"A miracle has been accomplished in Peru and the rest of Latin America by the power of the Lord's Spirit working through His authorized servants, the missionaries," Elder Ballard said.

Elder Miller, who conducted the meeting, delivered his address in Spanish. He spoke of the duty Church members have to share the "good news of the Restoration" by living a life of personal ministering.

He said that President Thomas S. Monson of the First Presidency and the late Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve exemplified the principle of service that extends beyond Church callings and assignments, having been willing to visit the sick and personally minister to those in need.

"It doesn't matter what calling we will have in the Church, our responsibility as disciples includes personally ministering to others even when we have not been asked," Elder Miller said. "It's our duty to offer ourselves freely to the Lord and His children."

Family should be the central point of one's personal ministry, he added.

"The primary obligation of our personal ministry is to strengthen our families, including those who have gone to the spirit world," he said. "Some of us need to strengthen our family relationships."

In his address Brother Judd He addressed three principles of learning and teaching:

  1. Studying the scriptures. He quoted from President Ezra Taft Benson's counsel that when individual members and families immerse themselves in the scriptures regularly and consistently other areas of activity will automatically come. " 'Commitment will be strengthened. Families will be fortified. Personal revelation will flow' " (April 1986 general conference address, Ensign, May 1986, p. 79).
  1. Preach the gospel by the Spirit. Elder Miller said that teachers must understand that they aren't the most important teacher in the classroom. "That role is reserved for the Holy Ghost. The Spirit is the true teacher. . . . Teachers and class members should keep the doctrine pure by teaching and bearing testimony of the truth. They should be careful not to share stories that may be exaggerated or sensational."
  1. Learn by faith. In addition to faith being a 'hope for things which are not seen, which are true' (Alma 32:21), it is also a principle of action. We must act upon the truth we are taught. The Apostle James wrote, 'Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only. . . . " (James 1:22).

Sister Dalton directed her remarks to the youth and young adults, saying that she met many of them during a visit to Peru several months ago.

"It was clear to me that you are the bright, shining hope of the future of the Church in Peru," she said. "You have the light of the gospel in your eyes and in your countenances. You stand out. You are not only a chosen generation, you are elect. You have been brought out of darkness, into the marvelous light of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. . . .

"Today I would like to say to you what the Lord said to Joshua as he stood at the threshold of his opportunity to lead and make a difference: ' Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest' " (Joshua 1: 9).

She said that when Joshua was told to cross the Jordan, those who went before with the ark of the covenant had to step into the water before they witnessed the miracle of the waters being stopped and standing "upon an heap" (Joshua 3:13).

"Like those who followed Joshua and led the way into the promised land, you will have to move forward with the same kind of faith. You will need to figuratively step into the river — the unknown — and trust in the Lord."

Organ prelude and accompaniment of the intermediate hymn were provided by Herbert Klopfer; Margot Ferrell directed the congregational singing.

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