Missionary Monday: Elder Christofferson In the Pacific Islands

Original article posted HERE.

Elder Christofferson Makes Historic Visit to Church’s Pacific Area

Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles greets children attending a stake conference in Hamilton, Samoa.  Photo courtesy of Pacific Area.

 

Elder D. Todd’s Christofferson’s recent travels to three countries in the Pacific Area offered the Apostle a glimpse of three stages of Church development: beginning, emerging, and established.

In the Solomon Islands, he witnessed an island nation still taking its maiden steps in the gospel.

The islands of Samoa (including the U.S. Territory of American Samoa), continue to emerge and grow as Latter-day Saints embrace principles of spiritual and temporal self-reliance.

Meanwhile, the well-established congregations in New Zealand remain a proven power in an area of the Church defined by it geographical vastness and diversity.

The Pacific Area “is continuing to develop,” Elder Christofferson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said of his assignment there January 21–31. “I was encouraged; we’re heading in the right direction. The corps of leaders in the area—both men and women—is getting stronger each year.”

Sister Katherine Christofferson accompanied her husband to the Pacific Area. The Christoffersons were also joined at various stops in their travels by the Pacific Area Presidency—Elder Kevin W. Pearson, Elder O. Vincent Haleck, and Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, along with their wives, Sister June Pearson, Sister Peggy Ann Haleck, and Sister Wendy Nielsen.

Elder Christofferson’s travels began in American Samoa, marking his first visit to the Samoas. In an interview with the Church News, he noted Samoa’s long and rich Church history that stretches back to the 19th century.

“Initially, those who joined the Church were expelled from their villages and had no place to live,” he said.

Since then, the Church has become both visible and influential in Samoa. The island nation has one of the highest concentrations of Latter-day Saints anywhere in the world, with about one in three Samoans being Mormons.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson greets priesthood leaders in Pago Pago, American Samoa.

“Our people are well known in Samoa—we have had members serving in all levels of government,” he said.

On January 21, Elder Christofferson was met at the airport by the territory’s lieutenant governor, Mr. Lemanu Peleti Mauga. Elder Christofferson presided over a priesthood leadership conference for stake presidents, bishops, and other local priesthood leaders serving in American Samoa.

Later he traveled to Samoa for additional meetings with priesthood leaders, members, and missionaries.

“We had priesthood leadership trainings on all three islands (Tutuila, Savaii, and Upolu),” he said. “It gave us an opportunity to be in person with local leaders from a total of 25 stakes.”

Priesthood leaders in Pago Pago, American Samoa, attend a meeting with Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

He also presided at a January 24 conference of the Upolu Samoa Aleisa Stake.

In Samoa and throughout his travels, Elder Christofferson and the other visiting Brethren focused their instruction and counsel on key gospel principles—including missionary work, observing the Sabbath, temple work and family history, and temporal and spiritual self-reliance.

The Church’s Perpetual Education Fund continues to make strides in several regions in the Pacific Area. The program, said Elder Christofferson, “is helping people set up their own businesses and receive training in [employable] trades.”

Elder D. Todd Christofferson visits the Upolu Aleisa Stake in Samoa.

Priesthood leaders in Savaii, Samoa, wait to greet Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

The Apostle concluded his time in Samoa with meetings with the Samoan prime minister, Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi, and later with a group of missionaries from the Samoa Apia Mission.

From left to right: George Sola Hunt; Elder S. Gifford Nielsen of the Seventy and a member of the Pacific Area Presidency; Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; the Honorable Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegao; Elder Meliula M. Fata, Area Seventy; and Denny Afualo in Apia, Samoa. Photo courtesy of Pacific Area.

Elder Christofferson’s visit to the Solomon Islands was the first by a member of the Twelve since Elder James E. Faust dedicated the country in 1987. There, in the capital city of Honiara, Elder Christofferson counseled with members and missionaries, was interviewed by local media, and visited with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.

“He is a devout Christian and was anxious for our prayers,” Elder Christofferson said.

Prime Minister Sogavare expressed appreciation for the Church’s humanitarian efforts in his country and discussed the Perpetual Education Fund. He also told Elder Christofferson that he had read James E. Talmage’s Jesus the Christ twice and was impressed by its divine teachings.

Elder Christofferson concluded his Pacific Area travels in New Zealand.

The Church has long enjoyed a rich, stable presence in that island country. More than 100,000 Mormons call New Zealand home, and the Hamilton New Zealand Temple—the first temple in the Southern Hemisphere—remains a beloved local edifice.

On January 30, Elder Christofferson met with missionaries from Auckland and Hamilton. “That meeting was really a high point,” he said. “There was a great spirit.”

Stake Relief Society Service

Thank you to all of the Relief Society sisters who participated in the service project at the recent Relief Society conference. Several hundreds of pounds of food were collected and donated to the Lone Tree Fresh Harvest Food Bank.

Thank you also to the scout troops from the Westridge and Northridge Wards who helped sort, donate, and deliver the food to the Food Bank!

IMG_1031IMG_1033

Missionary Monday: Church Growing In Central America

Originally posted HERE.

Contributed By Sarah Jane Weaver, Church News associate editor.

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other Church leaders participate in a special missionary meeting in El Salvador during the January 21–31 trip to Central America.

 

After returning from a trip to the Church’s Central America Area, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reported that faithful Church members there are receiving the blessings of living the gospel of Jesus Christ.

That is manifest in the fact that the number of members attending the temple and doing family history work has increased in Central America, as has tithing and fast offering faithfulness.

“The members and missionaries were extremely reverent and responsive,” said Elder Cook, after returning from the January 21–31 trip.

Elder Cook said effective local leaders and members are helping and guiding the rising generation and working on increased religious devotion in their homes. Missionaries serving in the area are safe and effective, he added.

Elder Cook and his wife, Sister Mary Cook, were accompanied on the trip by Elder Craig C. Christensen of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Sister Debbie Christensen, and members of the Central America Area Presidency—Elder Kevin R. Duncan, Elder Adrián Ochoa, and Elder Jose L. Alonso, all of the Seventy.

Elder Cook said, “The Area Presidency and their wives, Sister Nancy Duncan, Sister Nancy Ochoa, and Sister Rebeca Alonso, are providing incredible service.”

The leaders visited El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. In addition, Elder Cook traveled to Belize and portions of the Cobán Mission in Guatemala—visiting Latter-day Saints who have rarely been visited by an Apostle. Elder Christensen visited Panama and Nicaragua.

The Church has 19 missions and six temples in Central America.

As part of their assignments in Central America, Elder Cook and Elder Christensen conducted a review of the Church’s Central America Area. They also held priesthood leadership and stake conferences, member devotionals, and missionary meetings; participated in an adult broadcast that originated in El Salvador; and met with government leaders.

Elder Christensen said in every setting members arrived early in anticipation of learning from Elder Cook.

“With the emphasis on strengthening Sabbath observance at church and in the home, we are seeing great progress,” he said.

Elder Cook said the leaders also emphasized ministering through ward councils. “A lot of effort has been devoted to helping ward councils and priesthood quorums minister to members,” said Elder Christensen.

Elder Cook said he emphasized the help and support the Church in Central America gives, and must continue to offer, to the rising generation.

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve speaks to Church members in El Salvador on Sunday, January 24, 2016.

Sister Debbie Christensen speaks to missionaries in El Salvador during the January 21–31 trip to Central America.

During the visit, the leaders met government leaders, including El Salvador President Salvador Sánchez Cerén. “He was very respectful and enthusiastically talked about faith, family, and religious freedom,” said Elder Cook.

In addition, Elder Cook and Elder Christensen met with the former president of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias. Dr. Arias is a 1987 Noble Peace Prize winner.

“He is recognized for his efforts to help establish peace in Central America. He provided both background and good counsel on security issues,” Elder Cook said.

Of missionary work, Elder Cook said despite reports in the media about security in Central America and the Zika and Chikungunya viruses, “everyone we talked to—including stake presidents, mission presidents, and other leaders—report the same thing: the missionaries are safe.”

The missionaries also reported feeling safe, he added.

On February 1, the World Health Organization declared that birth defects and other neurological conditions are possibly linked to the mosquito-borne Zika virus. However, the virus only mildly affects those who are not pregnant. Elder Cook said the Zika virus is not different from what the Church has experienced in other parts of the world with dengue fever. “The Missionary Executive Council is on top of this issue, and our primary message is that our missionaries in Central America are safe,” he said.

Missionaries serving in Central America come from broad and diverse backgrounds, Elder Christensen said. “The work is progressing.”

He added that the number of missionaries serving in other parts of the world from Central America is an indicator of the strength of the Church in Central America. “Families are preparing missionaries to faithfully serve elsewhere.”

Despite living in situations that can be precarious, Latter-day Saints are keeping their families together, Elder Cook said.

“It is very clear that any time there is a disintegration of families—whether it be because of civil war or migration—the impact on the rising generation can be significant.”

Elder Craig C. Christensen speaks to members in Nicaragua during the January 21–31 trip to Central America.

From left are Elder Craig C. Christensen, former president of Costa Rica Oscar Arias, Elder Quentin L. Cook, Elder Kevin R. Duncan, and Elder Valeri V. Cordón. Dr. Arias is a 1987 Noble Peace Prize winner.

Members gather for a devotional with Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in Guatemala in January 2016.

Members in Guatemala gather to hear Elder Quentin L. Cook address them during his January 21–31 trip to Central America.

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles greets missionaries in Guatemala in January 2016.

Latter-day Saints gather in El Salvador for a member meeting with Elder Quentin L. Cook during the January 21–31 trip to Central America.

Elder Quentin L. Cook greets a young man after a member meeting in Belize on January 26, 2016.

Elder Quentin L. Cook, center, and his wife, Mary, and Elder Adrian Ochoa, left, meet with El Salvador President Salvador Sánchez Cerén and his wife, Margarita Villalta de Sánchez, right, during the January 21–31 trip to Central America.

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve greets members after a member meeting in Belize on January 26, 2016.

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve greets members after a member meeting in Belize on January 26, 2016.

Sister Mary Cook participates in a special missionary meeting in El Salvador during the January 21–31 trip to Central America.

Elder Quentin L. Cook speaks to missionaries in El Salvador during the January 21–31 trip to Central America.

Elder Craig C. Christensen speaks to missionaries in El Salvador during the January 21–31 trip to Central America.