MAPUTO, MOZAMBIQUE — Every ministry trip made by members of the Quorum of the Twelve includes opportunities for individuals to hear them bear testimony of the Savior. Few see 518 people who aren’t members of the Church come to hear their message.
That’s what happened on Sunday, Feb. 26, in Maputo, Mozambique, when Elder Quentin L. Cook spoke at a combined stake conference. Missionaries and members of the Church invited friends to learn from a current Apostle, and they came. Many arrived hours early to have a seat at the front of the hotel ballroom where the meeting was held.
“All of the meetings were exceptional, and the leaders were very impressive,” said Elder Cook, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “Because there were so many who were not members of our faith in the Sunday meeting, we adapted our messages to cover doctrinal principles and leave a big picture view of the gospel, introduce the significance of prophets, and build faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement.”
The stake conference was one of many meetings held over three days in the country.
Young adults, local leaders and missionaries all had a chance to learn and participate in different venues.
Elder Cook was accompanied throughout the three days by his wife, Sister Mary Cook; Elder Marcos A. Aidukaitis, General Authority Seventy and first counselor in the Africa South Area presidency; Sister Luisa Aidukaitis; and Elder S. Ephraim Msane, Area Seventy. They were also joined by the mission leaders for the two missions in Mozambique — President Osvaldo R. Dias and Sister Ariane Dias of the Mozambique Maputo Mission, and President Nilson J. Moraes and Sister Keila Moraes of the Mozambique Beira Mission.
Messages over the three days covered topics of building faith in the Savior, the role of prophets, ministering, gospel learning in the home and gathering Israel on both sides of the veil.
Combined stake conference
Knowing that Sunday’s large audience was comprised of a significant number of individuals who weren’t familiar with the Church, the speakers each spent some time focused on foundational principles of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
Elder Cook focused his remarks to the multistake conference on prophets and the Savior.
“In our Church, we proclaim the restored gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said. “Think about prophets like Abraham, Enoch and Noah. They were prophets in their dispensations.”
Many Mozambicans are well-versed in the Bible because it is taught in many primary-level schools. This allowed Elder Cook to build on some common beliefs with meeting attendees who were unfamiliar with the Church.
“In this dispensation, the Savior restored the gospel through His Prophet, Joseph Smith,” he said.
Elder Cook said the Lord taught through Joseph Smith that there would be wars and rumors of wars in these last days. But that was not a reason for past or current generations to despair.
Some prophecies were followed by the same encouraging counsel from the Lord.
“Jesus Christ is the author of eternal salvation,” he said.
From Joseph Smith in the early 1800s to now, there is an unbroken line of prophets who have received revelation that has blessed members of the Church. He talked about President Russell M. Nelson’s emphasis on the covenant path, the revelation he has received and his good health.
“President Nelson has taught that entering the covenant path begins with baptism by immersion and the receiving of the Holy Ghost,” Elder Cook said.
He also talked about the unforeseen circumstances that are mitigated by a prophet’s obedience to the guidance of the Lord.
“One of the remarkable things … before COVID-19 came, he introduced a home-centered, Church-supported curriculum,” Elder Cook said.
That was a blessing that Elder Cook says will continue to benefit families and individuals for a long time to come, not just during the recent pandemic.
“Everything that was being taught at Church could be taught at home, and the curriculum was available to the parents and their children,” he said. “And they could make their homes sanctuaries of faith.”
Elder Cook said the Savior overcame death for every person who would come to this earth and enabled their resurrection. He said the Savior’s Atonement allows each person to choose to repent and return to their Heavenly home. And he taught that the Lord also helps relieve any unfairness experienced in mortality.
Quoting from “Preach My Gospel,” Elder Cook said, “As we rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, He can help us endure our trials, sicknesses and pain. We can be filled with joy, peace and consolation. All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”
Sister Mary Cook bore testimony of the scriptures and the blessings of “Come, Follow Me” to individuals and families.
As an example, she shared insights from this week’s lesson on the wise man and the foolish man, including reading parts of Matthew 7:24-27 and encouraging families to involve their youth and Primary-age children to use the suggested songs in their family’s “Come, Follow Me” discussions.
“When your children participate at home when they are young, they will learn how to build their testimonies throughout their lives,” she said.
Elder Aidukaitis, first counselor in the Africa South Area and General Authority Seventy, talked about that principle as he taught the law of the harvest.
“This law says you harvest from that which you plant,” he said. “But that isn’t all. You harvest what you care for, not just what you plant.”
“Following the commandments isn’t only a good thing for us to do, it is the path to happiness,” Elder Aidukaitis said.
Sister Aidukaitis spoke to all the women present, “to those who might be holding a ‘bebezinho’ or those who are 114 years old.” A “bebezinho” is the Portuguese word for a cute little baby.
“We have a voice that is very powerful,” she said. “We can use it to talk about Jesus Christ and how to follow Him.”
Elder S. Ephraim Msane, an Area Seventy, told members to build strong personal testimonies of Jesus Christ.
“Everything the scriptures say about the Savior is true,” he said.
He said the way for people to learn this is to follow the commandments and to repent. He said those can help build faith and strengthen conversion.
“We should know the gospel is true and be true to the gospel.”
President Osvaldo Dias and his wife, Sister Ariane Dias, leaders of the Mozambique Maputo Mission, bore testimony of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His Church.
“He is the Savior. He is the Messiah,” President Dias said. “… He leads this Church.”
Sister Dias also testified of the Savior leading the Church.
“I will follow Him because He is my Savior,” Sister Dias said.
President Jaime Massango, president of the Matola Stake, encouraged members to take courage from their decision to be baptized and move forward on the covenant path.
Quoting President Nelson, President Massango said, “in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”
After the conference, as rain poured down outside the hotel ballroom where the multistake conference was held, members gathered with excitement to load buses that would take them back home. They were all talking about what they had learned and felt.
Circy Ouana of the Magoanine Ward in the Maputo Mozambique Stake said the conference was inspiring to her.
“It was good to learn how important it is to be unified with the Lord because in moments of adversity we will already be close to Him to gain strength from,” she said.
Dulcidonio dos Santos Jr. from the Mogal Ward in the Matola Mozambique Stake said the conference was good for him because of Elder Cook’s reminders of President Nelson’s counsel.
“This conference helped me remember how important it is to follow the counsel of the prophet,” he said. “When Elder Cook talked about all the things President Nelson has shared since he became Prophet, I realized that every one of them has been good.”
Santos also talked about how touched he was at Elder Cook’s teachings on the Savior’s Atonement.
“He gave His life for us, and we need to give Him time in our life,” he said. “And I could really feel the Holy Ghost when Elder Cook shared his testimony of the Savior and His Atonement.”
As part of the weekend’s meetings, Elder Cook and other leaders met with the young adults in Mozambique, as well. Those in the Maputo region attended in person, and the event was broadcast online for those in other parts of the country.
Elder Cook told the young adults that he and Sister Cook celebrated their 60th anniversary together in November 2022. He noted that no relationship is perfect.
“Everyone has challenges,” he said. “But don’t label yourself when you make a mistake.”
He said that is part of the role of the Savior’s Atonement — to obtain forgiveness and move forward.
At the same time, he encouraged them to repent as needed.
“Don’t make excuses. Don’t rationalize,” he said.
Elder Cook bore his testimony of the Savior and His ability to forgive and alleviate burdens.
“The Atonement of Jesus Christ is real,” he said.
Sister Cook said that one of the things she has learned is that “we don’t give up on people.”
She also said that even when there are limited positive examples in someone’s life, that doesn’t mean they can’t learn from what they see.
“You can learn from a bad example just like you can a good,” she said.
On Saturday, Feb. 25, Elder Cook presided over leadership training meetings in Maputo.
Elder Aidukaitis spoke with the local Church leaders about ministering and shepherding new converts to the Church.
“We need to pour everything we have into our ministering efforts,” Elder Aidukaitis said. “…We should use every resource available to us” to help those who are in need.
Elder Cook said he recognized the challenge faced by many local leaders on the African continent of rapid growth in Church membership as many people are choosing to be baptized each month.
“Please use this counsel … to minister and help them stay,” Elder Cook said of supporting new members of the Church.
“What a time to be in the service of the Lord,” he said. “Especially when so few around the world find Him.”
Elder Msane, Area Seventy, spoke about ministering as part of honoring covenants made with God.
“It is in doing this that we become more like the Savior,” he said.
Sister Edna Baptista Cardoso, the Relief Society president in the Trevo Branch, spoke in one of the leadership sessions, as well.
She spoke of home-centered gospel learning as a way to fill individual’s hearts with the love of the Savior that would enable them to serve and minister like He would.
“When we have His love in our hearts, we can give that love to those who need it,” she said. “We can’t give something we don’t have.”
Baptista said that learning the gospel and being filled with the love of the Savior was a first step in being able to minister with others. She said another step is seeking the help of the Lord in knowing who needs that which they have been filled with.
“In living our covenants, we ask the Lord for help because we can’t do it on our own,” she said.
Likewise, Elder Aidukaitis said repentance is something that can’t be done by one’s self. It requires going to the Lord, he said.
“But some believe they have gone too far to be eligible for salvation,” he said. “I have good news for you. It is never too late to repent.”
Church in Mozambique
The Church was officially recognized in Mozambique at the beginning of 1996 with the creation of a branch in the nation’s capital city of Maputo. The city that became home to the country’s second branch, Beira, will be the home of the first temple in Mozambique.
Nearly 16,000 members of the Church reside in Mozambique today.