There is “a simple steadiness and a goodness” that defines Latter-day Saints in the Church’s Pacific Area, said Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Elder Bednar said every time he visits the Pacific he is impressed with the faithfulness and loving nature of these good Latter-day Saints. “These people are strong.”
Elder Bednar and his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, visited the Church’s Pacific Area Feb. 18 through March 1. They were accompanied on the trip by Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Sister Jan Robbins, and members of the Church’s Pacific Area Presidency — Elder Kevin W. Pearson, Elder O. Vincent Haleck and Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, all of the Seventy.
As part of their assignments in Australia and New Zealand, Elder Bednar and Elder Robbins conducted a review of the Church’s Pacific Area, participated in an interim seminar for mission presidents and held youth and missionary meetings, priesthood leadership conferences and member devotionals. Elder Bednar also rededicated the recently expanded Church’s missionary training center in Auckland, New Zealand.
There is tremendous diversity among the members of the Church in the area. “The rich mix of peoples and backgrounds and cultures is remarkable,” Elder Bednar explained. Church units include native Australians and New Zealanders, members from the various Pacific islands such as Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Vanuatu, and members who have emigrated from other parts of the world to Australia and New Zealand.
The diversity of the area is reflected in the missionary work. Missionaries serving in some of the major cities might speak Mandarin Chinese, Tongan, Samoan or English, for example.
“The missionaries were very eager to learn. They have tremendous mission presidents and wives,” Elder Bednar stated. “We thoroughly enjoy every opportunity we have to be with the missionaries.”
In response to a question from a young sister missionary, Elder Bednar invited her to read a specific passage in the Doctrine and Covenants. After reading the verse, the missionary said, “That answers my question well. This is the very verse that my grandfather read to me shortly before he died.”
“Heaven orchestrated the response from the scriptures to this young woman — a spiritual exclamation point, if you will,” said Elder Bednar. “She had been taught by her grandfather, and in this setting that verse was exactly the reminder she needed.”
During the interim mission presidents’ seminar, Elder Bednar highlighted Alma 5:7 — “Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God.” Inviting all to come unto Christ and awaken unto God is the purpose of missionary work, he emphasized.
Elder Bednar also met with the youth during his visit to the area.
The youth in Australia and New Zealand face challenges that are “universal in an increasingly secular world,” he said. “They encounter many beliefs and practices that are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ, yet they stand firm and strong, by and large, when they encounter opposition.”
There is also tremendous strength in the priesthood leaders, he said. They have an energy, a vitality and a determination to accomplish the work of the Lord.”
A highlight of his trip was “to be with these good men, to feel of their honesty and devotion and to counsel together on concerns and challenges. Looking into the faces and shaking the hand of each of these brethren, one by one, is rewarding,” Elder Bednar said.
As in many areas of the Church, Latter-day Saints in the Pacific Area have strong cultural traditions, said Elder Bednar. He emphasized that racial, cultural and economic traditions are superseded by “the gospel plan.” The units of the Church really are laboratories that allow us to see and experience the truth that we are all sons and daughters of Heavenly Father.”
“Regardless of their background or traditions, these people love the gospel and the Lord. They are devoted and faithful. As a result of my interactions with these wonderful people, I returned home with an even stronger faith in the Savior and a desire to be a more devoted disciple of Jesus Christ.”
Elder Robbins said it was a joy to travel with “a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and witness the high esteem in which the members of the Church hold them.”
“To witness tears shed and the reverence and regard that members show when they are in the presence of, or shake hands with, someone who bears the apostolic mantel is a humbling thing,” Elder Robbins said. “It is a very tender and visible manifestation of their testimony and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and of their love of Him and of His special witnesses.”
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