SANTO DOMINGO, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC — “Con su permiso, quisiera hablar en español.”
A simple phrase, translated: “With your permission, I would like to speak in Spanish.”
But when uttered by President Russell M. Nelson on Sept. 1 to a standing-room only audience of Dominican Latter-day Saints, those words assumed unexpected, even historic significance.
They marked the beginning of what’s believed to be the first time a Church president delivered an extended message in a language other than English.
President Nelson’s gentle opening words prompted an audible response, and many began dabbing their eyes listening to his words: “Mis queridos hermanos y hermanas” — “My dear brothers and sisters.”
The Latter-day Saints gathered inside the Santo Domingo stake center — along with many others across the Caribbean Area watching live via broadcast — were already thrilled to have their prophet present in their corner of the world. President Nelson’s decision to speak in their native tongue made his visit even more meaningful.
“It was wonderful listening to the prophet in our language,” said Santo Domingo resident Michel Acosta, who helped with the security team at the event. “I felt such happiness. … I’ll never forget it.”
President Nelson began with a few words of gratitude for the Dominican and Caribbean members.
“I would like to thank you for your great faith and your devotion, and for your tithes and offerings. (Thank you) for your sons and daughters who serve as missionaries for the Church and for your kindness. Thank you very, very much.”
His counsel for the day was simple: Keep the commandments.
“Remember to pray every morning and every night. Pray with your families. Pray in private. Pray to our Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit. In doing so, He will guide you for good in everything you do.”
He continued: Remember to keep the Sabbath Day holy. By doing so, a person signals his or her respect for a Heavenly Father who commanded His children to remain “unspotted from the world” by observing the Day of Rest. Regularly partake of the sacrament to remember the Son and His atoning sacrifice.
“If you do this, you will always have the Spirit with you,” President Nelson said. “What a blessing.”
The 93-year-old leader said when he and his late wife, Sister Dantzel Nelson, were a young married couple, they once found themselves without enough money to pay their tithing, so Sister Nelson went to the hospital where she traded her blood for money. The Nelsons used that money to pay their tithing “and have continued to do so ever since.”
President Nelson counseled the Caribbean members to remain worthy to enter the temple and to remember that the ordinances of the temple are eternal, allowing families to be together forever.
He shared an experience from traveling on a small plane. One of the engines caught fire and exploded, sending the aircraft into a spiral dive. Many of the passengers began screaming in fear.
But then a miracle happened. The speed of the fall extinguished the fire and the plane was able to land safely. President Nelson said he expected to die at that moment. But he was not afraid. He remained calm.
“I knew my wife and I had married in the temple. We were sealed to each other and to our 10 beautiful children. I realized that our temple marriage was more important than any other achievement in my life.”
It’s also essential that parents teach their children and others about Jesus Christ.
“His Atonement is the most important event in world history and is the foundation of our religion,” he said. “All other things concerning our religion are secondary to it.”
The Atonement opens the door to eternal opportunities and, through faith and repentance, a person can live with his or her family in the presence of Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, forever.
President Nelson concluded his remarks in Spanish by invoking an apostolic blessing on his vast audience, assuring them that they would “prosper in the land and have joy in their posterity” by keeping God’s commandments.
In his remarks at the Sept. 1 gathering, Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles share personal insight on traveling with the prophet: “No matter how good you think he is, he’s better.”
Like the prophets of old, President Nelson directs people to the Savior. He is supported by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Elder Renlund admitted to being a mischievous boy when he was 8 years old. Once, shortly after he was baptized, his father pulled him from the path of an oncoming truck. Young Dale wondered at that moment if maybe it would have been best if he had been killed because he knew he would make mistakes in the future.
He wrongly assumed that the cleansing benefits of baptism, along with the gift of the Holy Ghost, was a singular event.
“That is not the doctrine of Christ,” he said. Instead, Christ’s followers endure to the end “by repeating those steps over and over,” by exercising faith, repenting, listening to the Holy Ghost and partaking of the sacrament.
“We can be as clean as we were on the day of our baptisms.”
Continue on the covenant path, he added. Remember, the Savior made the atoning sacrifice and became the Advocate.
His Atonement is the most important event in world history and is the foundation of our religion.
“He did this for you and for me so we could follow His gospel and return to our Heavenly Father,” said Elder Renlund.
Caribbean Area President Walter F. Gonzalez, a General Authority Seventy, joined Sister Ruth Renlund and Sister Zulma Gonzalez in also offering brief remarks at the Santo Domingo member devotional. Sister Wendy Nelson, President Nelson's wife who has spoken previously at such devotionals this year, did not accompany him on this trip to the Caribbean.
Elder Gonzalez testified of the Book of Mormon and the sacred call of President Nelson and Elder Renlund. He encouraged all to follow the Church president’s counsel to seek personal revelation.
Sister Renlund spoke of hiking recently with her husband and their daughter, Ashley. The family was able to arrive safely to their desired destination because others had correctly marked the path.
God’s commandments and the words of the prophets are proven “path markers” to spiritual safety, she said.
Sister Gonzalez testified of the priceless power that comes from the gospel.