HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam —Diem Thuy Nguyen entered the waters of baptism on Nov. 18, 2012 — seven years to the day that President Russell M. Nelson spoke to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints here in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Gathered in a hotel ballroom with more than 600 Latter-day Saints, Nguyen was filled with a powerful feeling: “There are blessings in store for us in Vietnam,” she said.
A pioneer member who would serve as one of her country’s first full-time missionaries, Nguyen found the Church — and purpose in her life — after attending English classes taught by Latter-day Saint missionaries.
Now, she talks about the prophet in her nation; unable to contain her excitement, she embraces Tam Thi Minh Pham, a fellow Latter-day Saint. “President Nelson’s visit is a great help to Vietnam,” Pham said. “My faith is stronger.”
A sense of value
The Church is in its infancy here in Vietnam, a land of 97 million where the Church is relatively new and growing.
In addition to participating in numerous humanitarian projects in the nation, the Church enjoys rewarding relationships with Vietnamese government leaders — including Chairman Vu Chien Thang, chairman of the Government Committee for Religious Affairs, and Hanoi Mayor Nguyen Duc Chung, President Nelson said.
Before leaving Hanoi on Monday morning, Nov. 18, President Nelson, accompanied by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, met with Mayor Chung.
“He knows that there is a sense of value that we teach, and he wants that in his country,” said President Nelson of the mayor. “Our meeting was brief, but he was very cordial.”
Mayor Chung thanked the Church leaders “for the work that our people are doing in conjunction with the need for wheelchairs,” said President Nelson.
A partnership between Latter-day Saint Charities and the government’s Ministry of Labor — Invalid and Social Affairs is working to address Vietnam’s mobility crisis; the organizations signed a two-year “memorandum of understanding” on Nov. 15 in the country where some 2 million people need a wheelchair or a walking devise to maintain mobility.
“We are guests in their country in a way,” said President Nelson. “No matter where the country is, what language they speak or what flag they wave, (Latter-day Saints) obey the laws of the land, and they become good citizens. We get thanks for their good behavior.”
Southeast Asia Ministry
As part of President Nelson’s Southeast Asia Ministry, he is visiting four countries in seven days, Nov. 15 through Nov. 22.
Accompanied by his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, and Elder Christofferson and his wife, Sister Kathy Christofferson, President Nelson also spoke in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Sunday evening, Nov. 17, before traveling to Ho Chi Minh City.
Elder David F. Evans, a General Authority Seventy and Asia Area president; and his wife, Sister Mary S. Evans; and Elder David P. Homer, a General Authority Seventy and counselor in the Asia Area presidency; and his wife, Sister Nancy D. Homer; are also participating in the devotionals.
The visit marks President Nelson’s first trip to Vietnam, a “special land” where President Gordon B. Hinckley offered “a significant prayer” in 1966. Asking the Lord then to “pour out (His) Spirit” on the land, President Hinckley returned to Ho Chi Minh City in 1996 and offered an addendum to the original prayer.
In addition to President Hinckley, President Nelson becomes the second prophet to visit the Southeast Asian nation.
This is “a tender time, a beginning for the Church here,” Elder Christofferson said. “But it will happen. It will grow. It will be strong.”
Thy Tran Vo, 17, is an example of that growth. The young man, who joined the Church seven years ago when he noticed missionaries attending a meetinghouse by his home, started filling out his missionary paperwork yesterday.
He learned from President Nelson that there “are blessings that we will have for Vietnam.”
The congregation sang, “God Be With You Till We Meet Again,” as President Nelson left the hotel ballroom on Monday. Immediately Vo thought of the missionaries who taught and baptized him and realized he has witnessed a miracle unfolding in Vietnam.
Young people who have trusted God
President Nelson met with 13 young single adults in Ho Chi Minh City before the member devotional Nov. 18.
They asked the leaders questions about discerning the Lord’s will, agency, and finding a spouse.
Trucuy Hoai Nguyen asked how Church leaders feel about young single adults, who make up the majority of the Church’s membership in Vietnam.
“I think you are fabulous …,” said Elder Evans. “I have never seen another group of young people in the Church who have trusted God as much as you.”
Duy Thanh Nguyen joined the Church in 2006; his parents and grandparents followed him into the waters of baptism. They consist of a rare, three-generation family in Vietnam.
“The gospel completely changed me and my family,” he said, adding that President Nelson’s visit to the country is proof that the Church in Vietnam will continue to grow and develop. “This is the chance for me to strengthen myself with the gospel and stand for the gospel as well.”
Duy Nguyen served a mission to Cambodia from 2008 to 2010. He met his wife, Tuyen Bich Nguyen, in Cambodia and the pair studied at BYU-Hawaii. When Tuyen Bich learned President Nelson would be traveling to Southeast Asia, she immediately began praying for the prophet.
“God loves His people, and He is sending the prophet to come here and pray and bless us,” Duy Nguyen said.
‘You are a new generation’
Vietnam’s young adults were eager to learn from the Nelsons, Christoffersons, Evanses and Homers during the devotional.
Sister Homer told the congregation that while there is much good in the world, there is also much negativity and distraction. “Working to make and keep covenants will be worth every effort,” she said. “I know this is true.”
Elder Homer said when he and his wife are in Vietnam, they feel like they have come home.
In April 2019, President Nelson invited Latter-day Saints to live a “higher and holier way.” “He did it not just because he is the prophet. He did it because that is who he is,” Elder Homer said.
Sister Evans said sometimes we all ask the question, “Am I special?”
“I believe Heavenly Father has inspired President Nelson and Elder Christofferson to come to Vietnam because you are all special to our Father in Heaven.”
Elder Evans also told the congregation they are special and that will lead them to the temple. “I can safely say, all of you who have the desire and the worthiness to go will find a way to go to the temple in your lifetime.”
He said leaders look forward to growing the Church in Vietnam and asked members to tell their family and friends how they feel “about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Lord’s gospel.”
Sister Christofferson promised the congregation that they can be a source of gospel knowledge for those around them. “You can share what you know and more than that, you can talk about what a difference the gospel of Jesus Christ has made in your life.”
Elder Christofferson called the Book of Mormon a crucial part of the Restoration. “It is the instrument of conversion for all of us. If the Book of Mormon is true we know what the prophet Joseph Smith taught is true. And we know that Jesus is the Christ, because that is what the Book of Mormon teaches. This is the instrument the Lord has created to gather Israel.”
Sister Nelson spoke about gathering Israel on both sides of the veil and asked the congregation to engage in missionary, temple and family history work.
She also addressed those who may have been abused. “From the depth of my heart, if you have been the victim of any kind of abuse — physical abuse, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse — please know this: You are just as clean and worthy after such abuse as you were before the abuse. The abuse did not and cannot make you unworthy. You were a victim. … We are so grieved about that.
“My dear brothers and sisters, no one understands our pains or our wounds like the Savior does. No one can heal us like He can.”
President Nelson closed the meeting by assuring the congregation that he has been rewarded by being with them. Displaying a photograph of President Gordon B. Hinckley’s visit to the country in 1996, President Nelson spoke of the storied past and miraculous future of Vietnam.
“So you are a new generation, empowered to carry forth the work of the Lord here in this country.”
President Nelson closed his remarks by looking back at the First Vision 200 years ago this April. And then, characteristically, he looked forward. “This is going to be a great year,” he said. “People can have enduring joy, regardless of their difficult circumstances. We all have challenges. That is part of life. The covenant path … that leads to the temple … makes it possible to have joy.”