First stop: London — President Nelson addresses missionaries, members as global tour begins

LONDON, England — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles knew exactly what it would be like for the missionaries of the England London Mission when President Russell M. Nelson met with them Thursday, April 12, at the Hyde Park Chapel.

Elder Holland was among the missionaries in attendance when another prophet of the Lord dedicated the chapel in 1961.

“To this day I can remember with crystal clarity anticipating the arrival of President David O. McKay,” Elder Holland once said, “and I can picture him walking into Hyde Park Chapel to dedicate it.”

President Nelson and Elder Holland first met with the 170 members of the England London Mission in the afternoon at the chapel next to London’s historic Hyde Park, then spoke at the chapel that evening in a meeting broadcast throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland.

“To have the prophet of God here to deliver a message of strength to these missionaries and members is energizing,” England London Mission President Mark Stevens said.

The April 12 events constituted the first stop on President Nelson’s global ministry tour, which includes Sister Wendy Watson Nelson and Sister Pat Holland.

On Friday, April 13, the delegation was to travel to Jerusalem to meet with members, missionaries and students at Brigham Young University’s Jerusalem Center over the weekend.

President Nelson’s first international trip as the new Church president is being called a “global ministry tour.” In all, he will visit six countries.

Prior to his remarks, President Nelson told the Deseret News that he chose to begin in London in part because of its diversity. “It’s a melting pot, and ours is a global ministry, so at least we can get a sample. Most of the nations of the world are here in London.”

Jerusalem is next because of its significance. “We want to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “That’s where His mortal ministry was. That’s where He was born, That’s where He was killed. … We felt that was where we wanted to be rooted.”

After London and Jerusalem, the delegation’s final six stops are in Nairobi, Kenya; Harare, Zimbabwe; Bengaluru, India; Bangkok, Thailand; Hong Kong; and Honolulu, Hawaii.

The tour concludes on April 23.

Four cities on President Nelson’s trip are places where Church leaders have announced temples will be built — Nairobi, Harare, Bangkok and — as announced by President Nelson at general conference on April 1 — Bengaluru, the first temple in India.

“The Lord’s message is for everyone,” President Nelson said. “This is a global work. Whenever I’m comfortably situated in my home, I’m in the wrong place. I need to be where the people are. We need to bring them the message of the Savior.

President Russell M. Nelson greets Juan David Vargas Saavedra, left, and Joseph Daniel Vargas Saavedra at the Hyde Park Visitors Center in London on Thursday, April 12, 2018.
President Russell M. Nelson greets Juan David Vargas Saavedra, left, and Joseph Daniel Vargas Saavedra at the Hyde Park Visitors Center in London on Thursday, April 12, 2018. Credit: Ravell Call, Deseret News, Deseret News

“The message is to invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior and enjoy the blessings of the temple, have enduring joy and qualify for eternal life. And that will bring hope, help and lift to all people.”

The Church has 185,000 members in the United Kingdom in 333 congregations. Some of those congregations have been in existence since the 1840s. Another 3,800 members live in Ireland. More than 65 million people live in the U.K.

“The Church is strong here, but gosh, there’s a lot of work to do,” said Richard West, a patriarch in the Chelmsford 2nd Ward.

The England London Mission has 170 missionaries from 67 countries.

Elder Mason Peters of Draper, Utah, said the bishop of the Brittania YSA Ward in downtown London provided a ticket to the April 12 evening devotional meeting for an investigator from Asia. His companion, Elder Patrick Diener of Bonn, Germany, said other investigators and recent converts looked forward to President Nelson’s visit with great anticipation.

“When I heard he was coming, I started to think about seeing him in person and my heart started to beat so fast in anticipation,” said Sister Chang Chiang of Taiwan.

Sai Stephenson, 21, who is studying fine art at Goldsmiths’ College, part of the University of London, had a ticket to the Thursday night meeting. The first counselor in the Hyde Park Stake Young Women presidency, Stephenson arrived early with friends to seek a good seat.

“It’s humbling to meet someone who communicates with God and is a prophet to all of us,” she said. “A prophet to me is such a blessing. Prophets help us focus our plan and refine it.”