With travel restrictions and security concerns preventing him to personally go and meet with Latter-day Saints in strife-torn Venezuela, President Russell M. Nelson took a high-tech approach to impart words of comfort, encouragement and eternal perspective to the struggling South American nation.
“When we face challenges and afflictions, we may feel discouraged or perhaps forgotten,” said President Nelson in his Feb. 2 Venezuela Devotional, which was broadcast across the country. “I assure you that God has not forgotten you. … I testify that the Lord knows you. You are engraved upon the palms of the hands of the Son of God. He will not abandon you.”
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles served as a second witness of the personal peace and progress possible for the Venezuelan Saints, as both he and President Nelson delivered their remarks in Spanish.
“Although we cannot be present with you physically at this moment, we are grateful at least to be able to send you a message of hope and encouragement,” Elder Christofferson said. “Our prayer is that the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, will inspire us and you and carry our words into the heart of each one.”
During his first two years presiding over The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Nelson has crisscrossed the globe extensively in ministry efforts and conducted member devotionals in more than 30 nations and U.S. territories. For the Venezuela Devotional, he and Elder Christofferson prerecorded their videotaped messages, which were transmitted to Venezuela, copied onto thumb drives and then delivered to each stake and district in the country to be shown locally.
Collectively, nearly 24,000 viewed the Sunday devotional in meetinghouses across Venezuela.
Read more: Here’s what Venezuelan Saints said about the devotional with President Nelson and Elder Christofferson
For years, Venezuela has been besieged with economic and social destabilization, travel bans, economic sanctions and hyperinflation, as well as safety and security concerns. Millions of Venezuelans have fled from the country, and the Church there has had to be self-reliant with local leadership and membership growth, with no missionaries assigned from outside.
With some 3,500 miles between Church headquarters in Salt Lake City and Venezuela, “I feel close to you in spite of the distance,” President Nelson said, adding “we have not forgotten you. You are present in our minds, hearts and prayers. … We love you very much.”
He continued: “The Savior loves you and knows you personally. He knows of your challenges. He knows your circumstances. He knows the profoundest concerns of your souls. He knows of the physical and spiritual necessities that you face and that many of you have been separated from your dear ones. And He also knows your faith and your desire to serve Him, even in difficult situations.”
Mortal life is a time to be tested and to demonstrate faith under any circumstance, with physical and spiritual challenges part of one’s mortal probation. “And you have an eternal purpose,” President Nelson said. “The Lord Himself has said, ‘My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them’ ” (Doctrine and Covenants 136:31).
He spoke of Alma the Elder in the Book of Mormon, whose people were under heavy burdens in captivity. Those burdens became light through prayer and faithfulness to their covenants.
“The same applies to us,” President Nelson said. “Prayer and covenants will open the heavens for our good. …
“Remain firm in your covenant path, and your faith will be strengthened. And you will have the strength to face any challenges. And thus, you will see God’s love manifest in your lives. You too are children of the covenant, and therefore God will protect and care for you.”
President Nelson reminded the Venezuelan Saints of the importance of preparing for salvation and exaltation, the former being an individual issue and the latter a family affair. “Future exaltation requires total faithfulness to our covenants today,” he added. “We make many of our covenants through the ordinations in the House of the Lord.”
The prophet underscored the “great blessing” to have a temple in the country — the Caracas Venezuela Temple — and the eternal perspective it provides. “This perspective marks the difference when we face the injustices of life. If we are faithful to the end, we have the promise that we will be exalted together with our family.”
He cited three ways to remain faithful to one’s covenants:
- Sanctify the Day of Rest. “Those who sanctify the Day of Rest demonstrate the place they give God in their lives. Sanctifying the Day of Rest helps us to remodel our homes and convert them into sanctuaries of faith.
- Partake of the sacrament regularly and worthily. “Partake of the bread that is broken in memory of the body of the Son of God. Drink the water in memory of His precious blood that was shed for us.”
- Search the Book of Mormon. “The Book of Mormon will help you deepen your conversion to Christ and to fulfill your covenants.”
President Nelson concluded by calling down a blessing, that the Venezuelan Saints may delight in the words of Jesus Christ and apply His teachings in their personal lives.
“I bless you with power to develop a deeper faith in God and greater devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. I bless you with health and strength to fulfill your missions in this mortal life, according to God’s will for you,” he said.
“I bless you that you may pray with all the energy of your hearts, that you may be heard in heaven. I bless you with the desire to make and keep covenants. I bless you that you may keep the Sabbath Day, partaking of the sacrament, and so that you may attend the temple in Venezuela as often as your circumstances permit you to. In the temple, you will be able to feel peace and to renew your hope.
“I invoke a blessing on this country of Venezuela,” he concluded, “so that its people may become closer to the Lord through your own good examples.”
Elder Christofferson listed key benefits of the Restoration — beginning with the First Vision and including the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and latter-day revelation.
“Despite all the difficulties and trials you may face, cherish this time to be alive,” he said. “Prophets of old have seen our day and wished they could be part of it.”
A knowledge of the plan of salvation fosters the faith and strength to endure the trials that come in life, he said. “We know that God is aware of us, that He will help us, and that He will give us strength to help each other. We know that in the end, we will have all the blessings God can give and that He will wipe away all tears.”
Elder Christofferson expressed the admiration and appreciation of senior Church leaders for the Venezuelan Saints’ ongoing faith in Christ.
“As your brothers and sisters, we will continue to do all we can to minister to your needs, both physical and spiritual, and we will continue to pray and call upon the Lord in your behalf. We have faith that because of your good examples and faithfulness, God will not only bless you, but that He will also bless your neighbors and even the entire nation of Venezuela. Continue to be a shining light to your neighbors.”
Elder Christofferson underscored President Nelson’s emphasis for members to stay on the covenant path and listed three ways that so doing brings strength from God:
- “First, the commandments that are part of the gospel law bring with them promises and blessings. …
- “Second, as we keep our covenants with God and Jesus Christ, our faith in Them increases. …
- “Third, as we stay firm in the covenant path, a divine influence flows into our lives.”
He added: “Our covenants bind us to Christ, who said, ‘In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.’ With Christ we will overcome the world. I bear witness of God’s care and love for you, and that all things will work together for your good as you love and serve Him.”
Elder Efraín R. Garcia, an Area Authority in Venezuela, said hearing the promises and blessings from President Nelson and Elder Christofferson helped renew hope among the members. “Faith is reinforced in an incredible way and gives great courage and strength to move forward,” he said. “It’s like taking a second breath and moving forward when you have little hope and the road becomes challenging.”
Added Elder Guillermo I. Guardia, another of the five Area Seventies serving within Venezuela: “Their teaching and the inspired words of a prophet correlated with the scriptures are evident of their promises. What wonderful words when he said that ‘prayer and covenants open the heavens for our good.’ ”