A week after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, Elder Ulisses Soares asked Latter-day Saints in the Caribbean to “view disappointment and discouragement through the eyes of faith.”
“Faith unlocks the power of God in our lives,” he said.
Speaking of overcoming the challenges of the day, Elder Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Rosana Soares, addressed French-speaking members in Haiti, Guadeloupe, French Guiana and Martinique on Saturday, Aug. 21.
The devotional, originating from Salt Lake City, followed an Aug. 14 earthquake that claimed more than 2,100 lives, injured more than 12,000 and left some 600,000 in need of assistance in the nation already affected by poverty and political unrest.
In response to the disaster, the Church sent aid to the most-affected communities — providing food, water, hygiene kits, newborns items, flashlights, tents, tarps and protective helmets.
Over a week, Elder Soares and Sister Reyna I. Aburto, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, also virtually addressed members in leadership meetings and stake conferences, broadcast to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, and Elder Soares conducted a review of the Church’s Caribbean Area.
Elder and Sister Soares were joined in the French-speaking member devotional by Sister Aburto and Elder Hubermann Bien-Aime, an Area Seventy in Haiti.
The devotional marked the internationalization of the Church as Elder and Sister Soares, Brazilian leaders who speak Portuguese as their native language, and Sister Aburto, born in Nicaragua and a native Spanish speaker, joined Elder Aime, a French-speaking Haitian, to offer hope and comfort to Latter-day Saints in the Caribbean.
During his remarks, Elder Aime recalled working with local Church leaders to respond to flooding in his nation in 2019 — another disaster that claimed many lives. He also spoke of the political unrest and other major disasters that have impacted Haiti for more than two decades and forced Latter-day Saints there to move forward with strength and faith in the Lord. “Challenges in this life allow us to draw closer to Heavenly Father,” he said. “The stronger the wind, the stronger the tree becomes.”
Local Church leaders, he added, are doing everything they can to lift the burdens of those who are suffering. “We are people of covenant,” he said. “We need to see our trials as opportunities to spiritually move forward.”
Sister Aburto recalled a personal experience with an earthquake as a 9-year-old child; the disaster claimed the life of her 10-year-old brother.
“Through that experience I learned so much about how weak we are as human beings. But at the same time I learned so much about how much our Heavenly Father loves us,” she said.
In dark times, “we can remember who we are; we can know we are children of God and that He loves us,” she said.
Seventeen years after the disaster, Sister Aburto found The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. With a foundation based on the doctrine of Christ, “we can stand strong, even if the winds come and the earth shakes around us,” she said.
The Lord invites all to place their burdens before Him, so He can heal them, she said.
Sister Soares said Latter-day Saints can find peace through prayer. “We may not have all the answers now, but we can live by faith,” she said.
Elder Soares, who delivered his remarks in French, said the Church is blessed to be guided by a prophet of God who extends invitations to act on the principles he teaches.
During April general conference, President Russell M. Nelson invited Latter-day Saints to consider ways to increase their faith. The invitation followed another invitation six months earlier to let “God prevail in our life.”
Elder Soares asked the Caribbean Latter-day Saints to ponder what President Nelson meant with these two combined invitations.
“According to President Nelson, letting God prevail in our life means allowing God’s voice, commandments and covenants to take precedence over every other ambition or influence in our life,” he said. “This pattern is a way our Heavenly Father has to bless us in our needs in this life.
“If we act in faith on his invitation, President Nelson promised that ‘many decisions can become easier, and that many issues can become nonissues for each of us.’”
These promises bring peace to our souls — especially during turbulent times, he said.
“We are living in a very interesting moment in human history. All of us, in one way or another, are still feeling the sobering health and economic effects of COVID-19.”
In addition to the pandemic, the world has also dealt with unemployment, racial disharmony, challenging political processes, violence and many other things, he added.
“For sure, all of these circumstances generate fear and uncertainty.”
This is also a time of waning values, he said. “There are many people who are forgetting who Jesus Christ is, and what He did for us. I think this is a great part of the reason why the world is so confused.
“Furthermore, the adversary is taking every opportunity to create confusion in the minds of people. He does that through his attacks on faith, on us and our families at an exponential speed.”
Life, he said, is not perfect for anyone. Challenges can be overwhelming and dim a person’s spiritual light.
President Nelson said, “Faith in Jesus Christ is the greatest power available to us in this life. All things are possible to them that believe.” Faith, he added, “will move mountains.”
Elder Soares said in this mortal life, and as part of eternal progression, all of God’s children will experience pain in one form or another.
The scriptures teach that when the Lord sent us to the earth, He expected that we would learn lessons that would help us to become like Him, said Elder Soares.
“But I can assure you that no pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted,” he said.
However, to receive the Lord’s comfort, God’s children must exercise faith.
“The questions “Why me?” “Why our family?” “Why now?” are usually questions with no answers,” he said. “These questions detract from our spirituality and can destroy our faith. We need to spend our time and energy building our faith, by turning to the Lord and asking for strength, to overcome the pains and trials of this world, and to endure to the end for greater understanding.”
The Savior “is always aware of the adversities we face in mortality,” he said.
“Through faith and trust in the Lord, and obedience to His counsel, we make ourselves eligible to be partakers of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, so that one day we may return to live with Him.”
Elder Soares said he has learned through his own experiences that healing comes in the Lord’s time and in the Lord’s way.
After he and Sister Soares were married, they learned a powerful lesson in faith when their second child was stillborn, said Elder Soares. Elder Soares remembered holding the baby, putting him to rest in a small white coffin and carrying it himself to the cemetery for the burial by himself. While walking in the cemetery and pleading with the Lord for help to endure through that trial, “a great feeling of love, peace and confidence came from the heavens. That feeling was a reassurance of God’s love for me and that I should put my trust in Him and that everything would work all right in my life.
“Brothers and sisters, that feeling gave me the courage and the strength to go forward in life and not become a victim of my trials. As I humbled myself before God, I received the strength to carry on and not give up.”
But the Lord took care of “me and my family and healed our hearts in that difficult moment in our lives.”
“This and many other challenges helped me and my wife to turn my heart to the Lord in faith and trust in Him and in His wisdom. Turning to Him did not inhibit our progression and our confidence in God’s plan for us.”
During those “moments of trials in our life, a great portion of our healing came from the love expressed from our family and members of the church,” said Elder Soares.
“We need each other,” he added. “Becoming disciples of Jesus Christ through learning and living His gospel and then enduring to the end requires that we help one another in that process.”
Elder Soares asked the Caribbean Latter-day Saints to consider how to increase in their faith and let God be more prevalent in their lives so they may receive the blessings that He has in store for them.
“In doing so, we will show our desire to live the covenants we have made with the Lord and the measure of our appreciation toward Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane, His death on the cross and His Resurrection from the dead.
“Furthermore, we will show the measure of our conversion to this wonderful gospel of Jesus Christ.”