In chapels, in homes and as individuals, “we can find peace,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, speaking to Latter-day Saints in the Middle East during a recent visit.
The address to Church members in Jerusalem was one of many during a 17-day assignment to six countries Nov. 6 through Nov. 22.
During the trip, Elder Holland presided at a district conference and two stake conferences; met with other members, missionaries and government leaders; and gave counsel regarding the tensions that exist in the region.
Elder Holland was accompanied on the trip by his wife, Sister Patricia Holland; Elder Larry R. Lawrence of the Seventy and his wife, Sister Laurel S. Lawrence; and Brother R. David McMillan of the Church’s Middle East Desk and his wife, Sister Brenda McMillan.
In addition to Jerusalem, the leaders visited Istanbul, Turkey; Amman, Jordan; Beirut, Lebanon; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; and Manama, Bahrain.
In Istanbul, Elder Holland addressed 150 Church members gathered in the Marriott hotel on Nov. 8. In addition, he met with missionaries from the Central Eurasian Mission, which was created in July of this year.
In Jordan, Elder Holland and Elder Lawrence met on Nov. 11 with five couples representing LDS Charities in the region. Rex Allen said the meeting was extraordinary. “We had a wonderful period of instruction from Elder Holland regarding the Book of Mormon as a ‘revelation about revelation,’ and then a sweet testimony meeting,” he said.
Ron and Sandi Hammond, country directors for LDS Charities in Jordan, said Elder Holland’s presence will be felt in Jordan for many, many months to come. The Hammonds said Elder Holland taught the couples representing LDS Charities principles from the Book of Mormon and principles of humanitarian service.
Elder Holland “is known and loved in the Middle East and he loves this area,” Brother Hammond said.
That night Elder Holland addressed members of three branches of the Amman Jordan District. The gathering of 160 people also included many who are not Latter-day Saints. Brother Hammond said Elder and Sister Holland and Elder and Sister Lawrence shared weeks worth of teachings during their brief time there.
For members in Jordan, the visit “was inked on their hearts,” said Brother Hammond. “They were touched. They were lifted.”
Elder Holland’s impact on the area was broad and deep.
During a priesthood leadership meeting in Jerusalem, Elder Holland spoke of the importance of the priesthood.
“The power of God is the priesthood, which is necessary in the true Church of Christ. We can have the true Church without all of the programs, without perfect people or perfect administration, but we cannot have it without the keys of the priesthood.
“In essence, God is saying, ‘You give me your heart, your integrity and your determination and I will give you the priesthood, revelation and truth. Together we will change the world.’ This may not be easy, but this is how it will be done.”
In Lebanon, Elder Holland and Elder Lawrence participated in a special family home evening with some 70 members of the Beirut Branch and their friends on Nov. 16.
“Elder Holland opened to our minds and hearts the love and anguish of the Lord as He watches over His children,” said Brother Allen. “He closed by suggesting that we can begin with ourselves by turning to the Light, choosing to obey the Lord, and reaching out in love. That will affect individuals, and then a family, and then a neighborhood, and then wider circles from there. He urged us to thus turn and to thus love.”
In the United Arab Emirates, Elder Holland reorganized the Abu Dhabi Stake on Nov. 20, calling Jeffrey H. Singer as president, with Wesley S. Tibbitts and Richard A. Salvador as counselors.
The significance of the meeting was [the opportunity for Elder Holland] “to meet with the members,” said Elder Gary S. Price, an Area Seventy. “It was an amazing event.”
Members filled the building to overflowing. They were waiting in the hallways and stairwells for a chance to see and hear from Elder and Sister Holland, Elder Price said.
Before the general session of the stake conference, the group divided into men’s and women’s meetings. Sister Holland, Sister Lawrence and Sister McMillan spoke to the women, young women and girls and Elder Holland, Elder Lawrence and Brother McMillan to the men, young men and boys. “The meetings were so successful,” said Elder Price. “Those meetings really touched the members.”
During the general session Elder Holland bore testimony of the Savior and promised the members that the Lord had brought them to the area for a purpose.
Elder Holland and others with him also had the opportunity to join with leaders of non-Muslim religions from Abu Dhabi, and meet with Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, head of the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Social Development. The event received significant press coverage.
Elder Price said being able to meet with the minister was significant. Elder Holland spoke to him about the Church and thanked him for his graciousness in honoring the Church and its leaders at the event.
A stake conference was held also in Manama, Bahrain on Nov. 21. “Members came from all over,” said Elder Price. “We had just as significant attendance as in other meetings during the trip.”
Elder Holland reminded the members that their efforts and dedication have not gone unnoticed.
“We know that as the Church grows it will be less frequent that we have an apostle in the Middle East,” Elder Price said. “The Church in the Middle East continues to grow. It was such a blessing to the members to hear Elder Holland and personally interact with him. It strengthened them in a way that they will rarely be strengthened. It was not just what was said but what [the members] felt.”
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