Fifty years after a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offered a prayer of dedication on the land and people of Vietnam, Elder Quentin L. Cook, Elder Gary E. Stevenson and Elder Gerrit W. Gong participated in a ceremony during which government leaders in Vietnam granted recognition to the Church in Vietnam.
“Our great desire is that the divine attributes of faith, hope, and charity will strengthen each family and individual,” said Elder Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the recognition ceremony in Hanoi, Vietnam, on May 31. “May there be peace, prosperity, and happiness for families and individuals across this great country of Vietnam is my hope, and my prayer and blessing today.”
During the ceremony, Elder Cook said Latter-day Saints rejoice that the door has been opened for religious activities of Latter-day Saint believers in Vietnam, under the laws of Vietnam. He told those gathered that 50 years earlier, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke of a “small silver thread” woven in anticipation of this day.
On Sunday, Oct. 30, 1966, more than 200 members of the Church gathered on the roof of the Caravelle Hotel in the heart of Saigon. With Elder Marion D. Hanks of the Seventy and mission president Keith E. Garner, Elder Hinckley spoke. At the conclusion of that service, he said that President David O. McKay had authorized him if he felt impressed to dedicate the land for the preaching of the gospel. Two years later he spoke about that prayer and the Vietnam War, which had taken many Latter-day Saints to Vietnam.
“I make no defense of the war from this pulpit,” Elder Hinckley said. “There is no simple answer. The problems are complex almost beyond comprehension. I seek only to call your attention to that silver thread, small but radiant with hope, shining through the dark tapestry of war — namely, the establishment of a bridgehead, small and frail now; but which somehow, under the mysterious ways of God, will be strengthened, and from which someday shall spring forth a great work affecting for good the lives of large numbers of our Father’s children who live in that part of the world. Of that I have a certain faith.”
In 1996, President Hinckley returned to Vietnam, addressed local members and prayed for a now-unified Vietnam. He expressed his faith that in “the due time of the Lord, this land will be opened, and many wonderful people will become the beneficiaries of the gospel.”
On May 31 — 50 years after the first dedicatory prayer and 20 years after the expanded prayer — Elder Cook witnessed the tapestry that has been woven from the small silver thread of the gospel in Vietnam.
“On behalf of the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members here in Vietnam and across the world, we express gratitude and appreciation for the official full recognition of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its Representative Committee in Vietnam,” he said.
Over the decades since the first dedicatory prayer, members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — who hold the keys for the opening of nations (Doctrine and Covenants 112) — have visited the country.
In addition to President Hinckley, listed in the order of their visits, are Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Elder Quentin L. Cook, Elder David A. Bednar, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Elder Gary E. Stevenson.
Elder Gerrit W. Gong has accompanied many of them during their visits. He said the recent recognition event in Vietnam was a “joyous celebration for all those who have loved and been concerned for Vietnam and its people.”
In addition to members from Hanoi, where the event was held, Latter-day Saints from Ho Chi Minh City traveled to participate in the recognition event.
The event was also important to the government in Vietnam; more than 30 government officials attended the recognition event including those representing the Government Committee for Religious Affairs, the Vietnam Fatherland Front, Central Mass Mobilization, Home Affairs, Hanoi People’s Committee, and Hanoi Public Security.
In addition to the recognition ceremony, the Church hosted a reception during which they greeted government leaders and addressed Latter-day Saints in the country during an evening devotional. Elder Cook, Elder Stevenson, Elder Gong and their wives spoke at the devotional, as did Elder Randy D. Funk, a General Authority Seventy, and President Lewis A. Hassell of the Vietnam Hanoi Mission. A choir of local members provided the music.
At the end of the devotional, members sang “The Spirit of God.”
“It was a way the members could express their joy on that occasion,” said Elder Gong. He said singing of the hymn was a resounding testimony of the faith of the members in Vietnam and their “appreciation for what had transpired that day.”
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