Important visits with government and religious leaders and the use of social media to interact with Latter-day Saints highlighted Elder David A. Bednar’s recent trip to the South America South Area of the Church. Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, visited Chile, Argentina and Uruguay on Feb. 18 through Feb. 29.
He was accompanied during the visit by Elder Walter F. González of the Seventy and Area President and his counselors in the South America South Area presidency — Elder Francisco J. Viñas and Elder José Teixeira, both of the Seventy.
Elder Bednar’s visit “to our area has had a huge impact,” said Elder González. “The scope of his visit was unprecedented due to the use of technology to reach so many members in our area. I would say the impact of Elder Bednar’s visit was a bounteous outpouring of the Spirit in all of the meetings and through his interactions with members.”
In addition to participating in youth, young single adult and priesthood leadership meetings, originating in Buenos Aires and enhanced by the use of social media, Elder and Sister Bednar met with important government and religious leaders in the country — including Argentina’s Vice President Gabriela Michetti.
Elder Bednar said the vice president was welcoming and well informed about the role and influence of the Church in Argentina. “We discussed the importance of both religious freedom and the free exercise of our religious beliefs,” Elder Bednar said of the visit. “We also reviewed the contributions the Church has made to the country of Argentina, both in terms of assisting with national disasters that have occurred, and in helping to teach our members to be good citizens.”
During his visit, Elder Bednar also met with Catholic leaders Monsignor José Maria Arancedo and Monsignor Carlos H. Malfa.
“There is a history of the Latter-day Saints and the Catholics working together to pursue common causes,” said Elder Bednar. “They are very interested in the things we are doing to teach and strengthen our young people.”
In addition, Elder Bednar said that he spoke with the religious leaders about a common goal shared by both the LDS and Catholic churches to “devote efforts to help the poor and the needy.”
The trip also marked an important return of Elder Bednar to the area.
One of the first international assignments he had as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 2005 was in Viña del Mar, Chile. During his recent visit, Elder Bednar participated in a priesthood leadership conference in Viña del Mar.
“The Church is growing stronger in Chile,” Elder Bednar said. “It is not simply the numbers that are impressive; it is the strength you see in these faithful Latter-day Saints.”
In Uruguay, in what Elder Bednar described as a “companion reunion,” he and Elder González participated in a priesthood leadership conference in Montevideo — Elder González’s home town.
“It was a great blessing for me,” said Elder Bednar. “As many assignments as we have had together, as much as we have traveled the world together, the highlight for me was being in his home country serving together as companions in a priesthood leadership conference.”
“Having a chance to team teach with Elder Bednar in my home country, among my own people, was a personal gift that I received from heaven,” Elder González agreed. “It was one of the Lord’s tender mercies for me. I have had assignments before with Elder Bednar, but this one was loaded with special feelings. It was like a personalized missionary reunion. I imagine my feelings were similar to those of Amulek serving alongside Alma in the Book of Mormon. These kinds of feelings add power to any teaching situation.”
Elder Bednar commended the Area Presidency for extending the reach of his visit through social media and providing opportunities for many more of the members of the Church to participate in the gatherings.
During his visit, the youth, young single adults and local priesthood leaders from the area were invited to ask Elder Bednar questions.
Elder Teixeira, of the Area Presidency, said the words of the youth, who participated in a live-streamed question and answer session, sum up the feelings expressed in a multitude of posts during the events.
“The rising generation in these events felt they were with an Apostle of the Lord that was visiting their lands, felt they were part of a great gathering and a historic event as this is the first time such technology was used in this scale. Yet they were assembled, for the most part, in small groups in the homes of their leaders, with friends and with their families,” said Elder Teixeira.
For youth today who “communicate, share and learn via social networks,” these events provided a unique opportunity to strengthen faith, he added.
Belen Mayor said: “There are no words to define what I feel in this moment. I can only say that as I listen to the inspired words in this historic event, I received what I needed — I felt the love of God and of our Savior.”
Celeste Branco wrote: “I felt lots of peace. I thought I had no questions to ask, ... however, I can say I received answers!”
And Juan Galvan Utreta said: “The greatest blessing that God imparted to us is the easy access to the teachings of our wise prophets. Thank you, Elder Bednar, for your humility and for answering our questions.”
In addition to the broadcast enhanced by social media for the youth, Elder Bednar participated in similar sessions with young single adults and priesthood leaders in the area.
Elder González said the Spirit that accompanied Elder Bednar during his visit “showed divine approval for all of the gatherings that took place.”
“These experiences have led and will continue to lead members to a deeper conversion unto the Lord,” he said.
Elder Bednar summed up his love and admiration for the Latter-day Saints in the South America Area: “They are bright — both intellectually and spiritually. Their countenances are happy. They are eager to be together. And they are eager to learn basic principles of the gospel so they can live them effectively in their daily lives.”
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