Boyd Matheson: A look at some of the most meaningful lessons from President Nelson’s Pacific tour

Those who live upon the isles of the sea understand the importance of harbors. Harbors are a place of safety and security. Harbors provide a haven from the fierce winds and the tempestuous waves of the sea. Harbors are the passageway home — home to the love and welcoming arms of family.

As President Russell M. Nelson, Elder Gerritt W. Gong and their wives traveled on the Pacific Ministry Tour, it is noteworthy that every nation on their itinerary includes a harbor. The president and the apostle transformed these harbors into havens where heaven could draw near, members could unite and empowering principles of the gospel could be shared.

In one of the most iconic harbors in the world, the restored Church of Jesus Christ has become a harbor, haven and home for Latter-day Saints from around the world. Sydney, Australia, is a melting pot of humanity, a place of diversity where many young people come to pursue education, employment and opportunity. Few recognize what belief in God and an understanding of the gospel can mean to their lives.

The young single adults who meet in downtown Sydney are a virtual United Nations of souls. Many commented on how the Church was their harbor and home — a place that was safe, that strengthened them individually and gave them a sense of belonging not found in the bustling city.

On Sunday night, May 19, President Nelson electrified a devotional crowd of 8,000 with a message focused on the power of the Book of Mormon. He deftly demonstrated how the scriptures provide not only a refuge from the challenges but also a spiritual map for navigating the seas of life.

Earlier on the tour in Samoa, Latter-day Saints gathered under stormy skies. Rain fell right up until the choir sang “Master, the Tempest Is Raging” as an opening number. President Nelson later said: “Thank you for your great faith. I wondered if you could do it. You turned off the rain.”

He then challenged the members to, in essence, create a safe harbor in their homes as difficult days and trying times are certain to come.

Elder Gong spoke of three important centers, or harbors, that members should attend to — the temple, their homes and their families. These harbors will have increased significance and importance in the days ahead, said the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

In a unique and powerful moment in a meetinghouse in Auckland, New Zealand, President Nelson provided a refuge from tragedy to Muslim leaders from across New Zealand.

There he hosted leaders from the two mosques targeted in the senseless and horrific attacks on March 15. Their sanctuaries became a pair of scenes of sorrow and suffering. Fittingly, it was within a simple Relief Society room — a harbor-like weekly meeting place for sisters worldwide — that President Nelson, Elder Gong and area leaders ministered to their Muslim brothers.

“Charity never faileth” — it never fails to provide a spiritual and temporal harbor for those in need. In addition to the financial contribution to help restore the mosques, President Nelson pledged members would help perform the work needing to be done.

Local leaders in Christchurch already are creating “boxes of love” to be delivered to all who have been impacted by the mosque tragedy.

While we typically think of “sailing into harbors,” faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, who minister in the Lord’s way, can personally deliver a harbor of hope and love to anyone in need.

President Nelson concluded his New Zealand visit by counseling the 12,000 Latter-day Saints gathered in Spark Arena to provide a safe harbor for their children and families, with Sister Wendy Nelson sharing a powerful testimony of and guide to personal prayer.

As the Pacific Ministry Tour continues to harbors in Tonga, Fiji and Tahiti, the words of American novelist Luanne Rice drift across the sea: “A safe harbor is a state of mind. … It’s the place — in reality or metaphor — to which one goes in times of trouble or worry. It can be a friendship, marriage, church, garden, beach, poem, prayer or song.”

As the prophet, President Nelson will continue to point to the lighthouse — the Lord Jesus Christ — while reminding us all that the Savior has given us charge to be the lower lights upon the shore. Together we can help those we love, our fellow travelers — especially those who might be struggling on life’s stormy seas — find the passageway to the gospel harbor of safety, joy and the still waters of Christ’s peace.