Apostle’s Wife Meets Women of Faith, Devotion in the Philippines
Contributed By Gerry Avant, Church News editor
“Our sisters in the Philippines are humble in the truest sense of the word, meaning teachable. They seize hold of truths immediately and are eager to teach others.” —Sister Wendy W. Nelson
“Our sisters of the Philippines are remarkable!” Sister Wendy Watson Nelson said upon returning home after accompanying her husband, President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, on his travels to the Philippines February 11–22.
While President Nelson, members of the Philippines Area Presidency, and Area Seventies held priesthood leadership conferences with stake presidents and bishops in Naga and San Pablo, Sister Nelson spoke in two women’s meetings for sisters who serve as leaders in the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary organizations. More than 700 women attended the special meeting in Naga, and over 650 attended the meeting in San Pablo.
“It did not feel like the first time I was meeting these women. Many of us felt a premortal association was being rekindled,” Sister Nelson said.
Joining with Sister Nelson in addressing the sisters’ meeting in Naga on February 13 were Sister Paula Arden, wife of Elder Ian S. Arden, a General Authority Seventy and President of the Philippines Area; Sister Mylene Collado, wife of Elder Eleazer Collado, an Area Seventy; and Sister Sharon Reeder, wife of Philippines Naga Mission President L. Barry Reeder.
Sister Nelson was joined at the sisters’ meeting in San Pablo on February 20 by Sister Lynette Bowen, wife of Elder Shayne M. Bowen, a General Authority Seventy and counselor in the Philippines Area Presidency; Sister Helen Tobias, wife of Elder George J. Tobias, an Area Seventy; and Sister Laura Amistad, matron of the Manila Philippines Temple and wife of President Modesto M. Armistad.
“No matter their mode or hours of transportation (buses, jeepneys, tricycles, motorcycles, mopeds), no matter the weather (hot, humid, rainy), our auxiliary leaders arrived early to the meetings with light-filled faces, bright eyes, cheery smiles, paper and pencils or pens in hand to record what they would learn, voices ready to sing and share their ideas, and looking lovely,” Sister Nelson said. “Our sisters in the Philippines are humble in the truest sense of the word, meaning teachable. They seize hold of truths immediately and are eager to teach others.”
She spoke of three examples of faithfulness, commitment, and devotion demonstrated by LDS women she met during her travels:
- The brother of Sister Jocelyn Guanzon, wife of Legazpi Mission President Jovencio A. Guanzon, passed away Sunday night, February 14. “We were with them and their 162 missionaries the very next day, on February 15,” Sister Nelson said. “Though Sister Guanzon longed to be at her brother’s bedside as he departed this life and at his burial, she chose to be an example to her missionaries by staying on her mission. … She spoke at the missionary devotional with clarity and conviction and the power that accompanies a woman who keeps her covenants. I told the missionaries that Sister Guanzon was an example of the kind of woman my husband was speaking of in his October 2015 general conference address, ‘A Plea to my Sisters.’”
- Sister Nelson said that LDS women in the Philippines “are keeping their covenants of sacrifice and teaching their children to do the same.” As examples, she referred to a woman whose son won a national singing award that would have brought him much fame. He chose to serve a mission instead. The woman’s daughter, who desires to become a physician, is serving a mission prior to beginning her medical studies.
Sister Nelson described a tender moment: “A mother thrust a piece of paper into my hand as we left at the conclusion of one meeting. On the note was written, ‘When you come back to Utah, please I would ask a huge favor to please look for my daughter who is serving in the Temple Square Mission and hug her for me.’”
- “An eight-year-old girl demonstrated her courage as she rushed up to me at the end of one of the sisters’ meetings and said, ‘My mom needs to meet with you.’ She then drew on paper quietly while four of the other sisters and I met with her mother, who had grave concerns about her life and requested our counsel. At the end of our meeting with her mother, the little daughter handed me the paper on which she had been so diligently writing. … She had carefully written, ‘When we keep the commandments we receive many blessings. When we do not, we don’t receive many blessings.’ Here was a daughter of the covenant already in action at age eight!”
Of the valuable contributions of women of faith and devotion in the Philippines, Sister Nelson commented, “The first person to join the Church in the Philippines was a woman, Aniceta Fajardo. She was a physician, as was her husband.”
Sister Nelson takes a seat in the front of the congregation after speaking in a women’s meeting in San Pablo, Philippines, on Wednesday, February 17, 2016. Photo courtesy of the Philippines Area.