A few months after he was the first Apostle to visit the twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve became the first Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to visit the small Caribbean island of Bonaire on Jan. 28.
The visit fulfilled a promise Elder Soares made in 2019 when he was at the neighboring island of Curaçao and said he would someday visit all three islands of the Church’s ABC District in the Caribbean — Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, according to an article on ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
“It is a wonderful blessing for me to have this privilege,” Elder Soares said in a video interview. “I loved meeting the people of Aruba and Bonaire and seeing how they are close to each other through the gospel.”
As part of his trip to Bonaire, Elder Soares traveled to the island of Aruba, where he presided at a devotional for Latter-day Saints living on the three islands. Members on Bonaire and Curaçao participated in the devotional through a digital broadcast.
Elder Soares was joined by his wife, Sister Rosana Soares, as well as Elder Moisés Villanueva, a General Authority Seventy who serves as second counselor in the Church’s Caribbean Area Presidency, and his wife, Sister Leticia Villanueva.
Elder Soares encouraged Caribbean members to “think celestial” through daily study of the Book of Mormon, citing President Nelson’s October 2020 general conference message — “Let God Prevail” — and by following the prophet’s counsel to “overcome the world and find rest.”
“Through the challenges and trials of life we can become better disciples,” Elder Soares said. “Experiencing these circumstances with faith during our mortal journey can help us to turn our hearts to the Savior, and see how the power of divinity can be manifested in our daily life. This is also thinking celestial.”
Elder Soares concluded meetings in both Aruba and Bonaire by taking time to personally greet each member in attendance. One member he met was 87-year-old Sister Josefa Silie Rijo, the first Latter-day Saint on the island of Bonaire.
“It was very special to meet Sister Josefa,” Elder Soares said in the video interview. “She is 87 years old, but she has energy, love and joy for the gospel that is contagious. I could see that she is like a mother to all the members of the Church here.”
The late President Gordon B. Hinckley and then-Elder Dallin H. Oaks visited Aruba and met with 180 members in March 2001 on their way to the Montevideo Uruguay Temple dedication, the Church News reported.