"Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is beautiful to see in every nation and culture of the world," Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve told the Church News after a two week visit to the Church's Asia Area.
"Even in countries where the name of Christ is spoken by only a few, the faith of the members of the Church shines like a light on a hill. Our members believe in Him. They trust in Him. They believe in the Resurrection. They look to Him for forgiveness and they receive peace and happiness in their lives through Him."
Accompanying Elder Andersen on his travels were his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen; Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Sister Kathy Clayton; as well as members of the Asia Area presidency, Area Seventies and their wives.
"This is the beginning of a great work," Elder Andersen said. "We are in the very early stages. Think of all of the people in the Asia Area. We are insignificant to the world, but the day will come when we are throughout all the countries of Asia."
Elder Andersen's and Elder Clayton's travels — some together and some apart — were from May 14-27, beginning in Thailand and continuing to India, Cambodia, Laos, China and Hong Kong.
While in Thailand, the visiting Church leaders spoke at a meeting for young single adults and parents, a priesthood leadership training meeting, a missionary meeting and a conference of the Bangkok Thailand Stake and the North District. Elder Andersen challenged members to speak to others about Jesus Christ and to strengthen the Church by sharing hope for eternal life.
"Thailand has strong multi-generational families," Elder Andersen said of his visit. "There were 1,500 people at the stake conference in Bangkok — the children were just beautiful."
During the meeting Elder Andersen called on members to minister to others as Christ would: "As disciples of Jesus Christ we know things which others do not know. We must profess Him and speak of Him and be proud of Him. The apostle Paul had to preach to a non-Christian nation, not unlike Thailand today. One day every living person will kneel at the feet of the Savior."
Elder Clayton asked leaders to encourage members to strengthen their families, help them understand gospel principles and to teach them to pray and teach with the Spirit, adding that leaders should set a good example and fulfill their Priesthood duties.
Elder Kent D. Watson of the Seventy and Asia Area president, Elder Larry Y. Wilson, second counselor in the Asia Area presidency, Sister Andersen and Sister Clayton also spoke. A highlight was Sister Andersen sharing her testimony of Jesus Christ, and of the apostles and prophets in Thai. Sister Andersen then related an experience she had while reading the Book of Mormon multiple times as a seminary student in high school.
"I loved it," Sister Andersen said of reading the Book of Mormon. "[It] made a significant difference in my life. ... That year, I had a testimony of Jesus Christ that I didn't have before. It blessed my life in extraordinary ways. Each time I read it, my faith in Jesus Christ is strengthened."
In Sister Clayton's comments, she shared the story of her conversion to the Church and stated that the Book of Mormon taught her she is a daughter of God.
"My testimony of who I was grew strong and I learned to hear the whispering of the Spirit, and I learned to pray," she said.
Elder Andersen visited New Delhi, India, beginning on Sunday, May 19. After arriving at the Sri Satya Sai International Center, he held a special meeting with the missionaries of the India New Delhi Mission.
Accompanying Elder Andersen on his visit to India were his wife; Elder Kent D. Watson of the Asia Area Presidency, his wife, Sister Connie Watson; and President Peter E. Sackley, India New Delhi Mission President and his wife, Sister Kelly Sackley.
That evening, missionaries serving in the India New Delhi Mission and members of the New Delhi District braved 113 degree temperatures and the infamous New Delhi traffic and filled the Satva Sai International Center to hear a message from an apostle.
This was Elder Andersen's first assignment to India and he expressed his gratitude to be in such a wonderful setting with the Saints. He expressed the love and best wishes of President Thomas S. Monson and said that when he returned to Salt Lake, "the prophet will surely ask about the missionaries and the saints in India."
Elder Andersen referred to the saints in India as "pioneers in a work that will be an important part of the Church."
He spoke of the many countries he has visited and lived in and some of the very special people he has met. He mentioned a man who joined the Church at the time Elder Andersen was a young missionary in France. Returning to France as a mission president 20 years later, Elder Andersen saw the impact this man had in establishing strong leadership in a district. The man then postponed a planned move so that he could serve until a stake was formed. This faithful brother and his wife continued to put their personal plans behind the work of the Lord.
"This is the spirit of this great work happening throughout the world," Elder Andersen said, reminding members that "the Lord's work is done by the weak and simple, not the powerful or famous."
Elder Watson, speaking of the members in India said, "I would use the phrase, 'Their hearts are knit together.' In India, there are proselyting restrictions and our Church respects and obeys the law. Our missionaries and members, therefore, work together. The large majority of the converts in New Delhi are because of the enthusiasm of the members who are proud to be Latter-day Saints."
On Wednesday, May 22, Elder Clayton and his wife visited Phnom Penh, Cambodia, along with Elder and Sister Wilson. Joining them was President David C. Moon, president of Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission, and his wife, Sister Kathryn Moon. The leaders met with the missionaries after they had visited with members in their homes.
One highlight for Elder Clayton was visiting a family with two children who live in a village outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia. Along the walls of their one-room home were pictures of the First Presidency and the Salt Lake Temple. He encouraged them to qualify to go to the temple.
The final leg of the 11-day assignment was Hong Kong where, in addition to meeting with the Hong Kong missionaries, Elder Andersen and Elder Clayton taught local priesthood leaders in an area council meeting and at a priesthood leadership conference. They were joined by the the Asia Area presidency.
On Sunday morning, more than 1,250 Saints from Hong Kong China Stake and an international district packed the first, fourth, fifth and sixth floors of a building to hear counsel from an Apostle of the Lord. Elder Andersen was accompanied by his wife and Elder Gerrit Gong and his wife, Sister Susan Gong.
Elder Gong reminded the congregation that "exactly 17 years ago today, President Hinckley dedicated the Hong Kong temple. ... President Hinckley said that if he ever felt the inspiration of the Lord, it was in conjunction with this building, [the Hong Kong temple]. This is the way revelation comes — in our heart and in our mind."
Elder Andersen spoke of the role of Hong Kong in the development of the Church in Asia, reminding members of the importance of remaining strong and true so the area can grow and prosper. Sister Andersen bore her testimony in Cantonese.
"We each have a responsibility to the Savior and His kingdom," Elder Andersen taught. "He cares about our discipleship, our love of God, obedience, prayer, unselfishness and building the kingdom of God. ... Put your hand out to the downcast. Tell someone you love them. Strengthen one another. Life is not easy, but the Savior has overcome the world. One day, every person who has lived on this earth will kneel at His feet and declare Him to be the Son of God."
— With contributions by Brenda Post Frandsen, Linda Manning, Stephanie Goodson, Kandi James, William L. Black and Rebecca Black.