A latter-day Apostle made a life-defining declaration Saturday that will surely be logged in the journals of scores Peruvian youth:
“You are the hope of Zion and the hands of God.”
Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared that message of hope, trust and expectation in a youth devotional on the eve of Sunday’s dedication of the temple in Arequipa, Peru’s second-largest city.
Hundreds of youth squeezed into the Umacollo meetinghouse to hear the counsel of Elder Soares and his wife, Sister Rosana Soares, along with other visiting Brethren and their fellow youth. The gathering was broadcast to meetinghouses across the new temple district.
“I perceive that you are special spirits who were preserved and preordained to come into the world at this moment,” he said. “I admire, love and trust you.”
Elder Soares repeated President Russell M. Nelson’s certainty that “the youth of this generation” can change the world. They have a duty to defend divine truths by “living the gospel.”
The South American-born Church leader also marveled that the Church’s 167th temple would be dedicated on Sunday. When he was a young man growing up in Brazil, there were no temples anywhere in Latin America prior to the dedication of the Sao Paulo Temple in 1978.
“The temple is a place where heaven and earth can come together and we can feel close to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.”
President Nelson, he added, has promised that serving in the temple brings miracles to one’s personal life. Increased personal revelation is another precious fruit awaiting those who worship in the House of the Lord.
The youth of Arequipa and throughout the Church can realize even more blessings by obeying the Lord’s commandments and by following the counsel of the Lord’s prophets and apostles.
Elder Soares said the Lord promises to “shake the heavens” and protect all those who follow Him and His prophets.
“We will also find answers to the promises to the most profound questions of our souls,” he said, adding encouragement to always remain worthy of a temple recommend and prepare to teach and minister to future generations of young Latter-day Saints.
At one point in Saturday’s devotional, Elder and Sister Soares sat among a small collection of Arequipa-area youth. With customary warmth, the couple conversed with the young men and young women about their experiences during the recent public open house of the Arequipa Peru Temple.
“Can you share some of your experiences from visiting the temple?” asked Sister Soares.
A teenage girl named Camila spoke of their excitement of being in Arequipa’s first temple, adding, “I had an impression that I needed to work harder in family history research.”
A young man named Melvin said he could “feel the love and compassion of Jesus Christ” as he walked the halls of the temple.
When Sister Soares asked if the youth invited their friends and family to visit to join them at the temple open house, a young woman spoke of the peace and joy of being in the celestial room with her grandparents, who are not Latter-day Saints.
Another young man said he relished answering the questions of several of his school classmates who accepted his invitation to tour the temple and learn of its sacred purposes.
Elder and Sister Soares also queried the youth on what they planned to do to be best prepared to serve in the Peru Arequipa Temple.
The youth answered that they were committed to paying their tithing, following God’s commandments and finding joy in family history research and temple work.
Elder Soares was “profoundly impressed” by the the Arequipa-are youth. After interacting with young men and young women at both Saturday’s devotional and Sunday’s temple dedication, the apostle is certain the Church’s future in southern Peru “is brilliant” because of the capacity, commitment and devotion of its youth.
The Church, he noted, “is in good hands.”
In his devotional remarks, Elder Enrique R. Falabella, a General Authority Seventy who presides over the South America Northwest Area, taught that the gospel can bring comfort and light to even the darkest moments of one’s life.
One “candle of light” is the Book of Mormon.
Elder Falabella invited the youth to “jump into the Book of Mormon” and experience its many lessons alongside heroes such as Nephi and King Benjamin.
A second “candle” is the soon-to-be-dedicated Arequipa temple. The Church’s newest temple will radiate new levels of illumination to all who worship and serve within its walls.
“Imagine the joy you will feel performing ordinances for your ancestors,” he said.
Meanwhile, sharing the good news of the restored Church can bring light to others.
“Pray and ask the Lord to help you find someone you can share the gospel with,” he said.
Elder Falabella assured the young men and young women that they are treasured “sons and daughters” of God.
In his remarks, Bishop Dean M. Davies, first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, drew upon President Nelson’s counsel to young people to choose now to follow the Lord and be His disciple.
“Now is the time to hold to the iron rod and decide you will be dedicated to the battalion of Christ,” he said.
Happiness and joy await young people who decide early in their lives to follow the Lord.
“You will be blessed in ways that you cannot understand completely,” said Bishop Davies.
A pair of youth speakers — Nashira Maron and Raul Vienna — spoke of the joy of being able to serve in the Arequipa temple and sharing the gospel with others.
For many Arequipa-area youth, Saturday’s devotional enriched the magnitude of a weekend already defined by dedication and revelation.
“Tonight’s devotional was a beautiful experience,” said Matthew Bernedo Gonzalez, 16, of the Mirador Ward, Peru Arequipa Umacolla Stake. “I felt the Spirit very strongly when participating in the choir and with the opportunity I had to be one of the pianists. That filled me with joy.”
Listening to Elder Soares made Matthew even more determined to focus on Christ and His temple, the young man added.
Alejandra Villena of the Satélite Ward, Peru Arequipa Central Stake, said she was uplifted by Elder Soares’ promise that miracles await those who follow the Lord.
“I am very blessed to have a temple so close to my home — and the promise that if I attend I will see miracles in my life.”
“The words spoken by Elder Soares made me feel like the daughter of God that I am,” said 14-year-old Sofia Ticona of the Peru Arequipa Central Stake. “Even though those words were for everybody, I felt that those messages were meant for me. I felt that I am of infinite value and that my Heavenly Father listens to me when I seek Him.”
Earlier Saturday, Elder Soares met with elders and sisters serving in the Peru Arequipa Mission. He began by testifying of President Nelson’s prophetic calling.
“President Nelson is one of the friendliest and most gentle people that I now in this world,” he said. “His tender eyes express the love that the Savior has for all the children of God. He is truly a servant of God and is duly authorized to lead the Church under the direction of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Serving in Arequipa, he added, is a special blessing for each missionary.
“You represent a generation of missionaries who have been foreordained to preach the gospel at this time.”
Full-time missionaries everywhere share the same charge as Elder Soares and his fellow Apostles: to take the gospel to people across the globe.
During his own full-time mission, Elder Soares said that serving a mission in his youth was the starting point of his life to get to know his Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ. He discovered that blessings come through obedience to the gospel and by overcoming sin.
“I believe that the greatest lesson I learned on my mission was the pattern of service of the Lord and His kingdom as taught by the Savior to His disciples.” (Matthew 16:24-26).
Elder Soares reminded the missionaries that success in their labors would come by learning to receive and listen to personal revelation.