In December of 1963, 10-year-old Benjamin Sinjoux and his family were part of a group of 64 Church members who traveled from Tahiti to the New Zealand Temple in Hamilton. Most in the group — made up of the first Tahitian Latter-day Saints to do temple work — had saved for many years to be able to make the nearly 5,000-mile round trip.
The group arrived in Hamilton on Christmas Eve. Sinjoux said the temple, viewed through thick fog collected at the bottom of the Hamilton hills, looked as if it were floating. He recalled that as the Church members got their first glimpse of the temple, they asked the bus driver to stop. At the very moment they comprehended the blessings in front of them, every member of the group knelt down on the bus and prayed.
Even at 10 years old, Benjamin Sinjoux understood the historical significance of the experience: More than 100 years after the first missionaries arrived in Tahiti — the Church’s first foreign-speaking mission — Tahitian Latter-day Saints had finally reached the temple.
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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is filled with a history of sacrifice and gratitude. This week, while covering President Russell M. Nelson’s Latin America Ministry Tour, I saw a sweet example of gratitude that reminded me of the Tahitian Latter-day Saints’ response to the temple.
A small group of teens assembled in Colombia’s Movistar Arena awaited the opportunity to shake hands with President Russell M. Nelson on Sunday, Aug. 25. Selected by their stake presidents, the youth received instruction and sat silently, contemplating the blessing before them. Then, in the quiet room as Church media bustled around them, they decided to pray. The youth knelt together, asking for help to be calm and expressing gratitude to the Lord for His Church and His prophet.
A few minutes later, President Nelson and Sister Wendy Nelson — accompanied by General Authority Seventy Elder Enrique R. Falabella and Sister Ruth Falabella — entered the quiet room. President Nelson explained that in Bogota — Colombia’s capital city of 7.1 million people — the ratio of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the general population is one to 67. “You live in a world where there is a lot of opposition, yet you remain strong,” he told them. “How do you do it?”
I knew the answer before 16-year-old Leilany Rios spoke up. “We pray,” she said.
“Anything worthwhile in life is difficult to do,” President Nelson told them. “But you can do hard things as you link yourself to the Lord.”
As President Nelson arrived in Latin America a day before, he had expressed his desire to be among the people here.
“Simply stated,” he said, “[the Lord] loves these people, and they love their Savior, their Redeemer and their Lord. The Church is growing in all of Latin America, and we are honored and blessed to serve along with them.”
You can do hard things as you link yourself to the Lord.
As President Nelson spoke, I looked at Elder Falabella, who was raised in humble circumstances in Guatemala City. In his youth, there were only six branches in the city. His father, Udine Falabella, served as the first stake president in the country and organized the first temple trip by bus from Guatemala to Mesa, Arizona. I wondered if Udine Falabella could have imagined then that his son would serve one day as a General Authority.
I began to glimpse the blessings the Lord has in store for His faithful children. That is what I know now that I didn’t know before watching faithful Colombian youth offer a prayer of gratitude. President Nelson asked the Colombian Saints “to delight in the words of Jesus Christ and apply His teachings in your personal lives.
“In doing so, you will prosper on earth and will have joy in your posterity, if you are faithful in keeping the Lord’s commandments,” he promised.
It is a promise — “to have joy in your posterity” — that Benjamin Sinjoux’s parents realized in Tahiti.
While visiting Tahiti in May during his Pacific Ministry Tour, President Nelson and Benjamin Sinjoux — now Elder Sinjoux, an Area Seventy — stood together at the Papeete Tahiti Temple. Recalling Elder Sinjoux’s description of his first glimpse of the New Zealand temple and of his parents’ gratitude, I wondered if they could have imagined then the blessings that would be born of their sacrifice, if they could have known that one day their son would stand with a prophet of God at a temple in Tahiti.
And then I thought of the 11 faithful youth in Colombia. I wondered if they — like the Tahitian members who prayed after reaching the temple almost six decades ago — understood the fruits that would come from their commitment, testimony and gratitude for the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Lord’s prophet.
Someday, I hope to return to Colombia and see for myself.