QUITO, Ecuador — Hours after discussing the impact of religion on communities and families with the national leader of Colombia, President Russell M. Nelson looked across a crowded arena in Ecuador and thanked 24,290 Latter-day Saints for their great faith.
“My advice today is very simple,” he said. “Please keep the commandments of God.”
A capacity crowd filled the General Ruminahui Coliseum in Quito — the second-highest capital city in the world, sitting at 9,350 feet above sea level — on Monday evening. For the third time in three days, President Nelson asked permission to deliver his remarks in Spanish.
“Remember to pray to Him every morning and night,” he said. “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 direct you for good in everything you do.”
President Nelson promised the congregation that if they would “delight in the words of Jesus Christ and apply His teachings in your daily life,” and “are faithful in keeping God’s commandments,” they will prosper.
Morals and strength
The devotional — the third stop on President Nelson’s five-country, nine-day Latin America Ministry Tour — followed a meeting between President Nelson and Colombian President Iván Duque earlier in the day in Bogota. Accompanied by Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Enrique R. Falabella, a General Authority Seventy, President Nelson said President Duque expressed gratitude for the Church’s influence in his country — including strengthening values and providing relief.
“He made a very strong statement about how the morals and the strength of various religious communities are part of his governmental hope,” President Nelson said. He wants “all the good that he can get” from the Church and from other religions.
Elder Cook said government leaders like President Duque are familiar with President Nelson’s great intellect. But they are surprised that “he’s very kind; he’s humble, and he’s personal, and he’s interested in them.”
They spoke “about family and children and trying to have better homes,” added Elder Cook.
When President Nelson asked President Duque how the Church could help him, he said something very simple but powerful, said Elder Falabella.
“He said, ‘Please pray for me.’ And that’s a sign that he’s a religious man, that he believes in God,” Elder Falabella said.
Drawing closer to God
Before the devotional, President Nelson also spoke to a group of youth about prayer.
Rosa Serrano, 17, is the oldest of three children in her family. Her mother is fighting advanced-stage cancer.
“I have been able to draw closer (to God),” she said. “He has helped me to soften my heart. The Lord gives us trials and He knows we can come out on the other side.”
Now, after meeting President Nelson, “I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true Church,” she said.
Rosa said she also knows that with faith, she can overcome her trials.
Elian Aguirre, 15, said ‘it was magnificent” to meet the President of the Church.
“It was beautiful to feel the Spirit. It felt good to shake his hand. I don’t have words to describe it.”
Elian, the only Latter-day Saint in his family, said President Nelson — who also attended church alone as a teenager — gave him the courage to invite his mother to come to church and to go on a mission.
Sister Wendy Nelson also addressed the power of faith during her devotional address. She told the congregation “to pray for what you need.”
“Brothers and sisters, it is my testimony the Heavens will open when we pray, ‘Please help me fill the measure of my creation.’
“The heavens will open and they will continue to open as we follow through on every impression that comes to us.”
Elder Cook, marking his first trip to Ecuador, asked Latter-day Saints here to “stay tuned to the music of faith.”
Please understand that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and keeping His commandments “is and always will be the defining test of mortality,” he said. “Above all else each of us must realize that when one is tone deaf to the music of faith, he or she is out of tune with the Spirit.”
Quoting President Nelson, Elder Cook said through personal revelation, Latter-day Saints can receive their own witness that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, that Joseph Smith is a prophet, and that this is the Lord’s Church.
“Our doctrine is clear: We are to be positive,” he said. “We emphasize our faith, not our fears. We rejoice in the Lord’s assurance that He will stand by us and give us guidance and direction.”
Sister Mary Cook asked the congregation to teach their children about Christ.
“I testify that our children will be blessed as we teach them in our homes,” Sister Cook said.
Missionaries arrived in Ecuador in 1965, and the Ecuador Mission was created five years later. There are now 249,000 members, 218 meetinghouses and one temple in the country.