SANTIAGO, Chile — "It is a grand experience to return to Chile," said President Boyd K. Packer, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve, who visited this land Aug. 21-29. He was accompanied by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve.
President Packer first came to Chile 35 years ago when the Church was in its infancy.
Elder Oaks observed that in the 43 years since the Church was established in Chile, "There is no other major nation in the world that has the proportion of membership [3.1 percent] that Chile has, a proportion that is even greater than that of the United States. Chile is and ought to be an example for Latter-day Saints everywhere in keeping the commandments and maintaining the affairs of the kingdom."
During their eight-day stay in Chile, President Packer and Elder Oaks, accompanied by Elder Dale E. Miller of the Seventy and Chile Area president, visited the president of the Chilean Senate, Andres Saldivar, at his residence, the Red House. They discussed the Church's progress across the world, its missionary work and the welfare program. The solon was presented with a copy of the Proclamation on the Family.
President Packer and Elder Oaks later met with the mayor of Santiago, Jaime Ravinet, and with presidential candidate Ricardo Lagos.
The mayor showed a broad understanding of the Church, having worked with members in the mining sector. In conversation with him, President Packer emphasized, "Strong families keep bad influences to a minimum." Mr. Lagos was elegant in his description of the Church.
During their stay in Chile, President Packer and Elder Oaks also held meetings with members and leaders, including regional conferences in Arica, Antofagasta and Via del Mar.
President Packer recalled visiting in 1974 when the Via del Mar stake was created, and in 1983 when the Santiago Chile Temple was dedicated. His visits have marked the important highlights of the growth of the Church in Chile and, without a doubt, this visit will prove to be another important milestone in the future of the Church in Chile.
President Packer's and Elder Oaks' visit included attending a joint family home evening in Santiago with three families, which became a once in a lifetime opportunity for the families.
Brother Rafael Herrera of the Soltero del Rio Ward, Santiago Puente Alto Stake, said that when he and his wife, Silvana, were notified that two apostles would spend family home evening with their family, "My wife couldn't hold back the tears. Our daughter didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I tried to write the address, but I was shaking so much I had difficulty writing legibly."
At the family home evening, the Herrera and the Oscar and Lorena Chavez family had arrived and the meeting started when President Packer asked the children to share spiritual experiences. As they were speaking, the Pedro and Hilda Correa family with young children entered. As soon as the family was introduced, President Packer gathered the children next to him and put his arms around them.
Marcela Herrera, daughter of Brother and Sister Herrera, said, "The experience was a blessing to have them so close to me, and to shake hands and feel the peace, the humility and the straightforwardness of each."