During a weeklong ministry in the Middle East, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles encouraged members to find hope in the Savior and prepare for the temple announced in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
“You can look around the world and say, ‘Oh things are getting hard.’ And you shouldn’t be afraid of that. Because you’re not alone, and if you are one of the covenant people of the Lord, you will be armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory. … Then, in the midst of all the turmoil, you will have peace,” Elder Bednar taught in Jordan, reported the Church’s Middle East Newsroom.
“You will have hope. You will more fully understand the great purpose that you have living on the earth at this time. The Savior is the source of solace and peace through the covenants and ordinances of His gospel,” he said.
Elder Bednar ministered in Jordan. Relief Society General President Jean B. Bingham, and first counselor Sister Sharon Eubank, who is also the president of Latter-day Saint Charities, and Elder Randy D. Funk, a General Authority Seventy and first counselor in the Middle East/Africa North Area, were in Egypt. The leaders also ministered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where the Bednars and Funks visited Expo 2020, which includes the temple site, according to Newsroom. In northern Iraq, President Bingham and Sister Eubank also visited a refugee camp and with local leaders.
In Jordan, Elder Bednar and his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, visited with about 100 people in the Amman Branch on Friday, Oct. 22. The branch includes Jordanians, those from other Middle Eastern countries and families of employees who work at various government embassies in Jordan.
Elder Bednar encouraged them to study the Book of Mormon and learn how it applies today.
“The Book of Mormon is not a book of history. The Book of Mormon is a book about the future,” he said.
“It describes episodes in the lives of people thousands of years ago, but the writers of the record and especially the compilers of the record were inspired by the Lord to include the things that we would need for the world in which we live today.”
Nash’at Haddad, the elders quorum president in the branch, said that Elder Bednar’s emphasis resonated with him.
“The main thing that touched my heart is the Book of Mormon is not a history book, it is a future book.” He continued, “It supports my belief in it. It’s important then, when I look for answers to my questions, I can find [them] in the Book of Mormon.”
Prior to Elder Bednar’s visit, the most recent Apostle to travel to Jordan was President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, in March 2017. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles also visited in November 2015.
In Egypt, President Bingham; her husband, Brother Bruce Bingham; Sister Eubank; and Elder Funk and his wife, Sister Andrea Funk, met with about 60 Latter-day Saints in the nation’s capital of Cairo on the Sabbath, Friday, Oct. 22. There are two branches of the Church there — one is English-speaking, and the other is in Arabic.
During a sacrament meeting, Elder Funk encouraged members to act with faith in Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father as they encounter the challenges of life. The leaders taught the adults and youth about preparing for the temple that is announced for Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
President Bingham said the Relief Society sisters met in a combined meeting with the young women in the congregation.
“I was particularly impressed with the Relief Society presidents of both branches, that they were strong but humble leaders and loved the sisters and were willing to do anything and everything to help them learn to become true disciples of Jesus Christ,” President Bingham said.
President Bingham said she also felt “the genuine love that the Saints had for one another.”
She was surprised to learn that many in the branches, particularly the Arabic branch, were fairly new members. “And yet they have strong testimonies,” she said.
Elder Funk said many of the members of the Arabic-speaking branch are from South Sudan, Nigeria or other parts of Africa.
“Though the two congregations there in Cairo were small, they are known, and we love them and we’re grateful for them,” he said. “The people were so kind and so welcoming and so loving, and I will long remember the experience of being with them and feeling of that.”
President Bingham said that they also met with government leaders in Egypt and the discussion included the announced temple for Dubai.
United Arab Emirates
In the United Arab Emirates, Church leaders met with the leadership of the Abu Dhabi Stake and also visited the site of the announced temple in Dubai.
During a meeting with stake leaders, Elder Bednar taught, “The focus of everything we do in this Church is helping people to become yoked to and with the Savior through the covenants and ordinances of His restored gospel. Period. Exclamation point. End of sentence. That’s it. That’s all we do.”
Elder and Sister Bednar were joined by Elder Patrick Kearon of the Presidency of the Seventy, his wife, Sister Jennifer Kearon; Elder and Sister Funk; President and Brother Bingham; and Sister Eubank. Elder Bednar invited the visiting leaders to provide their witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ as the meeting concluded.
While in Dubai, the Bednars and Funks also visited Expo 2020, which includes the site of a Latter-day Saint temple announced in April 2020. The temple there is at the invitation of the United Arab Emirates’ government, and it will be the first to be built by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Middle East. The site will include both a temple and a meetinghouse.
Amanda Fristrom, who was raised in South Dakota, looks forward to the closeness of the temple.
“I’ve never lived in a place with easy access, and so my involvement with the ordinances and covenants is going to completely change. I look forward to feeling the spirit of the temple and to be able to sit and ponder in the temple,” she said.
Georges and Sylvie Mojica moved to the United Arab Emirates from France in 1987. They never expected to see a temple in the country in their lifetimes.
“Having the chance to go to the temple is also something so important for all of us,” Sylvie Mojica said. “We love the temple and having the temple here. We just can’t wait for that.”
The temple will serve 8,000 Latter-day Saints living in two stakes in the Gulf states and a number of congregations in the Middle East, northern Africa, eastern Europe and western Asia. Currently, members who want to worship in temples need to travel to places such as Ukraine, Italy and Germany.
In the Kurdistan region of Iraq, President Bingham and Sister Eubank, president of Latter-day Saint Charities, met with government officials and visited Camp Sharya, which is in northern Iraq just south of Turkey. They also visited Erbil, the capital in the Kurdistan region, where they were hosted by humanitarian missionaries, the on-the-ground team responsible for logistics. They met with a few members of the Church in Duhok and hosted a virtual devotional with Latter-day Saints in Duhok and Sulaymaniyah.
In Camp Sharya, the Relief Society leaders walked through some of the thousands of tents that are home to 2,350 families, including many women with children, according to the Church’s Middle East Newsroom. The camp was built seven years ago and is home to 12,000 Yazidi people, who were relocated against their will after experiencing violence and political unrest.
“They have faith, and they have trust that God will help them. And that’s something that we have in common with those who were in this area who have a different faith than we do,” said President Bingham.
In June, part of the camp burned and almost 200 tents were destroyed. Latter-day Saint Charities and Barzani Charity Foundation partnered to replace the lost homes with concrete structures.
Sister Eubank visited with people in the camp, asked about conditions and talked with the prime minister. “You absolutely can’t replace sitting in somebody’s new home, asking about their children, looking at their new sewing machine that they’ve just bought with their little savings. You just can’t ever get that without being here in person,” she said.
In Duhok, the Church members whom President Bingham and Sister Eubank met included Valentina Merezaoiam, the first returned sister missionary from Iraq.
“I never looked at it the way that I’m the first. But I think that … I was focusing on the way that … the gospel will change me as a person,” said Merezaoiam.
After meeting Sister Hanaa — mother of three, including a son who was the first missionary from the area — President Bingham said, “The Saints in Duhok are pioneers.”
“I was so impressed with Hanaa, who was the first member of the Church in this part of the world, and the way she has taught her children the gospel in her home [even though she] hasn’t been able to gather with Saints very much at all,” said President Bingham. “She is a true pioneer of the gospel.”
Elder Bednar visited Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan, in February 2019. In 1961, then-Elder Spencer W. Kimball and Elder Howard W. Hunter traveled to Iraq.
Note: This article was update on Nov. 1, 2021, with information about President Bingham and Sister Eubank visiting Iraq.