EL ALTO, Bolivia — Defying altitude sickness common for visitors to El Alto, Bolivia, President Russell M. Nelson addressed Latter-day Saints in the world’s highest major metropolis on Sunday night, Oct. 21.
Sitting at an elevation of 13,615 feet, El Alto — Spanish for "the tall" or "the high" — is located adjacent to La Paz in the country's Altiplano highlands.
"You've come great distances to be here tonight, and so have we," said President Nelson while visiting Bolivia, the second country on his five-country South America ministry tour.
During a devotional held in the Polideportivo Heroes de Octubre, President Nelson spoke in both English and Spanish in an address that was broadcast across Bolivia.
Although altitude sickness is common in the area, the 94-year-old prophet showed no sign of illness nor slowing his pace. The 13,615-foot elevation is nearly 100 feet beyond Utah's Kings Peak, which — at an elevation of 13,534 feet — is the highest point in the state of Utah. Salt Lake City sits at just 4,225 feet.
Sunday's visit had special significance to the members in Bolivia, said Elder Enrique R. Falabella, a General Authority Seventy and president of the South America Northwest Area, which includes Bolivia.
President Nelson, then as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was scheduled to visit Bolivia earlier this year. But the Jan. 2 death of President Thomas S. Monson prevented him from fulfilling that assignment.
“The Bolivians were rejoicing with the news of the arrival of an Apostle of the Lord, and they were sad upon learning that this could no longer happen,” said Elder Falabella. “Imagine their joy when they heard the news that President Nelson — now as President and prophet of the Church — would be visiting Bolivia after having received an impression to do so. This act of divine goodness has filled them with joy and recognition of the goodness of God, to know that He knows them.”
The prophet’s visit gives hope to a people who need to know the Lord is with them, said Elder Falabella. "Their lives will never be the same as a result of the great love they are now feeling in their hearts, and it will be something to remember and tell generations to come.”
During the devotional, President Nelson had the children in the audience stand and sing one verse of "I Am a Child of God."
"You parents and teachers have a great responsibility to teach these children,” President Nelson told the audience. “Teach them what it really means to be a child of God. They're made in His image. ... Teach them to pray to Him. ... And teach them about the Savior of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us."
Traveling with his wife, Sister Wendy W. Nelson, he also encouraged parents to teach their children about the sacrament, to help them qualify for the blessings of temple and to honor their parents.
Also speaking during the devotional were Sister Nelson; Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson; and Elder Falabella and his wife, Sister Ruth A. Falabella.
Bolivia is a country of great geographic and climatic diversity, Elder Falabella said. “Rich in natural resources, its inhabitants can be described as believers and respectful of God.”
While poverty remains in some areas of the country, in general terms Bolivians are happy people, he said. Humility is also one of the characteristics of Bolivians.
“Members in Bolivia have a willingness to believe, to follow their leaders and have great respect for the leaders who preside over them,” Elder Falabella said. “Their willingness to serve and their love for God and His Son Jesus Christ defines the lives of the Saints. ... In their hearts they have no doubts about the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, about the veracity of His Church and the power of the priesthood.”
The next day, before departing for Bolivia from Peru, President and Sister Nelson attended a sacrament meeting in Lima and with others visited a potential temple site in the Los Olivos area of the capital city.
President Nelson continues the South America ministry tour with visits to Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile. The ministry tour concludes Oct. 28 with his dedication of the Concepcion Chile Temple.