SANTIAGO, Chile — On a recent Saturday afternoon, scores of local priesthood and women leaders from across the capital city here claimed their seats early inside a suburban stake center, eagerly anticipating their rare opportunity to share a live audience with a latter-day Apostle.
It’s late summer in central Chile and the days remain warm and dry. You’d be foolish to step outside without a hat and a generous application of sunblock. But the spiritual climate inside the chapel on Feb. 15 could be aptly called pleasant — with plenty of “sentido común.”
That’s Spanish for common sense.
Much of the three-hour leadership training conference was dedicated to questions from branch, ward and stake leaders serving in 10 participating Santiago stakes.
It was open mic, and the questions were not screened. If any were determined to ask Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf a far-flung question about, say, doctrinal mysteries or some other obscure subject, this was their chance.
But instead, each audience query posed to Elder Uchtdorf and Elder Benjamin De Hoyos, a General Authority Seventy, were grounded in “sentido común.”
— What can we do to help the Church grow in our communities?
— How can we make our ward councils more effective?
— How can we utilize the gospel to navigate social problems staggering the country?
— How can we help the people we love prepare to return to the temple?
Elder Uchtdorf, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and his friend, Elder De Hoyos, appreciated their questions. Each seemed prompted by a Christian impulse to care for others and help strengthen Christ’s Church in Chile.
Elder Antonio Faundez, an Area Seventy, also offered instruction at the training about the importance of utilizing the correct name of Christ’s restored Church.
Answers to most of the questions offered at the leadership training were perhaps best answered with another earnest question: “What can we do to uplift?”
Local leaders forming a stronghold in Chile
In his remarks, Elder Uchtdorf saluted the many women participating in a lengthy leadership meeting that included traditional instruction from the pulpit, questions and answers, and informal discussions about Church-produced ministering videos.
“It is so wonderful to have the sisters with us,” he said. “My hope is that we will continue to have the sisters with us in these meetings because all of their questions and comments are so important.
“We are all in this together and we need to help each other.”
The veteran Church leader is often taught by his own wife, Sister Harriet Uchtdorf, who attended the conference. “Her insight is so valuable to me. Oftentimes, when I have mixed feelings or thoughts, I hear her thoughts on something and I think: ‘Why didn’t I realize that?’
“That’s why we counsel together.”
Helping others — especially young people — grow deep-rooted testimonies is everyone’s divine calling.
“When children leave Primary, they should have a testimony,” he said. Even at that young age, they can know joy in the gospel. They can be examples to all around them.
Chile’s Latter-day Saint families, wards and stakes can be repositories of confidence for young people. They can feel self-assured speaking with others about the Church and sharing their testimonies with their friends.
Encourage the youth to invite their friends to participate in the important gospel moments of their lives.
If a young deacon is preparing to pass the sacrament for the first time in next Sunday’s services, ask him to invite a friend.
If a young woman is sharing a talk in sacrament meeting, include her friends.
“We need to build confidence in our youth early on,” he said.
Growing up in Europe during the tumult of World War II, young Dieter Uchtdorf experienced danger and fear. But he was also a Latter-day Saint who was fortified by his fellow Saints.
“It helped me knowing that I belonged to something that was much higher than anything around me.”
He remembered feeling emboldened by simply gazing upon pictures hanging in his humble chapel of the First Vision and Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. His growing testimony provided a Christ-anchored identity during a period marked by global disarray.
“I was not afraid to talk about the Church.”
Such spiritual confidence served him well as a teen and, later, as a young adult.
Today’s parents and youth leaders in Chile, he added, have essential roles in helping young people develop their own spiritual surety.
“Sometimes it’s more important that young people know how to properly use a smartphone than learning how to cross the street. … So be sure that they know who they are.
“They need to know that you know that God is there; that Christ is there. And that He asks us to serve Him. And you are serving Him. You are the stronghold here in this country.”
Care for people in need, he added — especially those who are new to the gospel.
“And help the missionaries to find new people, and then minister to all,” he said.
The Holy Ghost: a priceless translator
Elder Uchtdorf stressed the importance of ward councils across Chile developing new levels of maturity. Ministering to children and young people remains one of the key responsibilities of the council.
“When our children look to us, they will know where to find peace.”
Learn to be an example to others “in a normal and natural way.”
“We need to be confident and courageous. We have to sacrifice and make our ministering visits. God is with you, and miracles will happen in every aspect of your lives.”
The visiting Apostle spoke to his Chilean audience using a translator, who converted his English words into Spanish.
“But the best translator in my life is the Holy Ghost,” he said. “Trust the Holy Ghost and He will translate the messages you need to receive out of the scriptures, out of talks and out of your prayers and communications to help to grow the Church.”
Elder Uchtdorf concluded by offering a blessing that the Santiago leaders “will find joy and confidence in serving the Lord. Then trust your youth and children to be able go in that same direction and be strong.”