Elder Stevenson celebrates 50th anniversary of Church in Thailand during visit to Asia

In 1966, then-Apostle Gordon B. Hinckley and Elder Marion D. Hanks of the Seventy stood in Lumpini Park in Bangkok, Thailand, and dedicated the country for the preaching of the gospel.

Fifty years later, the Church has 20,730 members, three stakes, three districts, 19 wards, 20 branches and 33 owned or leased meetinghouses in Thailand.

During a recent trip to Asia, Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stood on the exact location in Lumpini Park and contemplated the growth of the Church in Thailand during the last half century.

Elder Stevenson and his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson, traveled to Asia Feb. 18 through Feb. 28 — visiting Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam and Macau.

They were accompanied by Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Presidency of the Seventy, and his wife, Sister Susan Gong, and members of the Asia Area presidency — Elder Randy D. Funk and Elder Chi Hong (Sam) Wong, both General Authority Seventies, and Elder Siu Hong Pon, an Area Seventy.

Elder Stevenson and Elder Gong conducted a review of the Church’s Asia Area; held a priesthood leadership conference, member devotionals and missionary meetings; and met with government leaders. Their wives participated in a devotional with the sisters in the area.

“For me, this trip served as another testament of the gospel rolling forth to the four corners of the earth,” said Elder Stevenson.

He added that it is amazing to read the dedicatory prayer offered in Thailand 50 years ago by President Hinckley, then of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and “see how prophetic it really was.”

In addition to the 50th anniversary of the dedication of Thailand in 1966, the trip also marked other important anniversaries for the Church in the area, including the 50th anniversary of a prayer offered for the Church in Vietnam.

This year also marks 20 years since the 1996 Hanoi dedicatory addendum for Vietnam and 1996 Hong Kong China Temple dedication. “At the May 1996 dedication of the Hong Kong China Temple, President Thomas S. Monson told us, ‘We may shed a tear or two today’ – and we did,” said Elder Gong, who attended the dedication.

Of the recent trip, Elder Gong added, “We were humbled to witness dedicatory prayer pleadings and promises being literally fulfilled in the blessing of peoples and countries, families and individuals. This also marks 40 years since the Book of Mormon was translated into the Thai language — a preparatory blessing for President Thomas S. Monson’s April 2014 announcement of a Bangkok Thailand Temple.”

More than 3,000 members attended a 50th anniversary conference in Thailand on Sunday, Feb. 21. “It was a thrill to see all of the saints gathered,” said Elder Stevenson. “The recent announcement of the Bangkok Thailand Temple by President Monson coupled with the 50th anniversary commemoration are significant indicators of the establishment of the Church in Thailand, and a testament of the devotion and faithfulness of the members there. It is an exciting time to be a Latter-day Saint in Thailand! ”

In addition, Elder Stevenson and Elder Gong also participated in a member devotional with local Church leaders and members in Hanoi, Vietnam. The meeting was broadcast to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

During the trip, Elder Stevenson and Elder Gong also met with senior Vietnam government officials — including the Vice Minister of Public Security HE Pham Dung, Chairman of the Hanoi People’s Committee HE Nguyen Duc Chung, and Vice Chairman of the Government Committee for Religious Affairs (CRA) HE Bui Thanh Ha.

In 1966, then-Elder Hinckley became the first Apostle to visit Vietnam; he returned in 1996. Vietnam officially recognized the Interim Representative Committee of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in May 2014. During Elder Stevenson’s and Elder Gong’s visit, the Vietnam Hanoi Mission was officially created from the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission.

In Macau, Elder Stevenson visited the Church’s new meetinghouse space — built “to accommodate a growing member population” — and participated in a special district conference.

“There is an eclectic mix of English, Cantonese and Portuguese spoken by the residents and members which made the meetings very interesting, however the language of the spirit seemed to be understood clearly by everyone,” said Elder Stevenson.

Of the trip, Elder Gong said: “In a marvelous way, Elder Stevenson instructed, testified, blessed, and met with members, priesthood leaders, missionaries, and government officials as part of hastening the work of salvation in Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Macau.”

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