Church Presents Family History to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott

Contributed By Sarah Jane Weaver, Church News associate editor

  • 10 June 2015

From left, Judge Philip Taylor SC of the District Court of New South Wales; Elder Quentin L. Cook; Senior Judge J. Clifford Wallace, Chief Judge Emeritus, United State Court of Appeals; and Dean Michael Quinlan, professor of Law at the Sydney School of Law, University of Notre Dame Australia.

Article Highlights

  • Elder and Sister Cook visited Australia and New Zealand, where they had lived for three years.
  • Elder Cook and area leaders presented Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott with a framed family tree and three folders of his family history research.
  • Elder Cook spoke on religious freedom at the Annual Religious Liberty Lecture—the first time the lecture was delivered by an expert in the area of religious freedom from overseas.

“Prime Minister Abbott’s history is rich with examples of faith, love of family, leadership, and service.” —Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve

An assignment that took Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Mary Cook, to Australia and New Zealand was, in many ways, a homecoming for the couple.

“We met many friends from the past,” said Elder Cook. “We also got to see this part of the world that is very beautiful but also has a special place in our hearts.”

Elder and Sister Cook, who lived in New Zealand for three years while Elder Cook served as President of the Church’s Pacific Islands Area, visited the countries from May 22 through May 31—meeting with government and religious leaders and speaking to priesthood leaders, members, missionaries, temple workers, and Church employees. Elder Cook presented a personal family history to Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott; met with the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Colin Fisher; and delivered the Notre Dame Sydney School of Law 4th Annual Religious Liberty Lecture.

Accompanying Elder and Sister Cook on the visit were two members of the Pacific Area Presidency—Elder Kevin W. Pearson and his wife, Sister June Pearson, and Elder S. Gifford Nielsen and his wife, Sister Wendy Nielsen.

On May 22, Elder Cook and Elder Pearson, President of the Church’s Pacific Area, presented Prime Minister Abbott with a framed family tree and three folders of research that details Abbott family history over hundreds of years. Elder Cook said he was honored to present the family history to the government leader. “Prime Minister Abbott’s history is rich with examples of faith, love of family, leadership, and service.”

Elder Cook said the meeting, held in the prime minister’s home, went well. Prime Minister Abbott was pleased with the family history, spent a significant amount of time reviewing it, and was excited to share it with his father.

After the presentation Elder Pearson explained that the “Church has been involved in genealogical research since 1894, and its vast family history resources are available to the public for free at FamilySearch.org.”

A framed family tree and three folders of family history research were presented to Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbot on Friday, May 22, 2015, by Elder Quentin L. Cook, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Kevin W. Pearson of the Seventy and President of the Church’s Pacific Area.

Prior to presenting the family history to the prime minister and speaking at Notre Dame Sydney, Elder Cook met with Archbishop Fisher. The prime minister and the archbishop knew each other well and knew Elder Cook was offering the lecture on religious liberties during his trip. This led to a discussion about the importance of religious liberty, said Elder Cook.

Elder Cook addressed students, faculty, and staff at the Sydney campus of the University of Notre Dame Australia School of Law, a private Catholic university in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, on May 27.

In a news release, Professor Michael Quinlan, dean of the School of Law Sydney, said it was the first time the Annual Religious Liberty Lecture was delivered by an expert in the area of religious freedom from overseas. “Religious liberty is one of the most pressing issues facing the world today, so for this reason four years ago the School of Law Sydney introduced an Annual Religious Liberty Lecture,” said Professor Quinlan, who introduced Elder Cook.

After returning to Salt Lake City, Elder Cook told the Church News that the discussion of religious freedom is important because it impacts agency. “Will people of faith be able to preach repentance and the plan of salvation?” he questioned.

Elder Cook, who has spoken on the subject frequently, joins two other Apostles who have recently addressed religious freedom. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addressed the Argentina Council for Foreign Relations on April 23, and Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was in Brazil on April 29 to deliver an interfaith address on the topic.

On Sunday, May 24, Elder and Sister Cook attended the Sydney Australia Mortdale Stake conference, telling Latter-day Saints how much they love the area. “I love diversity and unity,” Elder Cook said. “It’s a wonderful thing to have all this diversity committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Elder Cook encouraged the congregation to build faith in the Father and Jesus Christ. “We all need love, unity, and devotion to the Savior Jesus Christ so that our children will see that commitment and learn from it. This is His Church; this is the message I want to give to the people of the Mortdale stake.”

Sister Cook spoke about the importance of holding regular family home evenings. “We need to share activities and sing the songs of the gospel together. Whatever the lesson, find beautiful songs to go with it.” Sister Cook engaged the children at the conference when she had them all wave to her. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful,” she said, “when it is your turn to give the lesson [in a family home evening] if every person in your family could be taught the words to ‘I Know That My Savior Loves Me’?”

The evening of May 24 Elder and Sister Cook spoke at a devotional for adult members that was broadcast across the country. They encouraged Church members to “be an example in your communities.”

“Now is the time when those who feel accountable to God need to be more forthcoming about their beliefs,” Elder Cook said. “It is time for us to come out of our camouflage, to let people know who we are.”

He asked members to build Zion in their homes and in their hearts. “Focus on the temple, focus on the Savior, focus on the Sabbath day, and focus on the sacrament. Jesus Christ lives. Focus your life on His life, and you will live in love and kindness.”

On May 26, Elder and Sister Cook met with 372 missionaries from the Church’s Sydney North and Sydney South Missions. “I am thankful for the sacrifices you are making to be missionaries of the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “When you help build the Church, you are doing exactly what you should be doing.”

Elder Pearson also spoke at the conference. “Be a disciple of Jesus Christ,” he said. “Serve Him with all your might, mind, and heart. As you do this, the Holy Ghost will change you, day by day and hour by hour.”

Elder Cook was particularly impressed with the priesthood leadership conference in New Zealand; 776 leaders from 24 stakes in the Auckland and Hamilton coordinating councils participated. Prophetic priorities were addressed by Elder Cook, Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, Elder Paul R. Coward, and Elder David J. Thomson. Elder Cook was impressed with the spirituality and commitment of all the leaders. He asked those who were born after President Thomas S. Monson was called to the Twelve in 1963 to stand, and at least 75 percent stood up.

In a special devotional meeting in Auckland on May 30, which was broadcast to the rest of New Zealand, Elder Cook encouraged Latter-day Saints to strengthen their faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ by more thoughtfully and consistently keeping the Sabbath day holy.

He also invited New Zealand Latter-day Saints to make their faith and values known to others in their neighborhoods and communities.

Also on May 30, Elder Cook met with more than 400 missionaries in Manukau, New Zealand. Elder and Sister Nielsen accompanied Elder and Sister Cook on Saturday.

“You are faith builders,” Elder Cook told the missionaries. “You are not selling, you are building. You are the Lord’s helping hands. You are the message!” Elder Cook reminded the missionaries that what they are doing is the most important thing they could be doing at this time in their lives.

Elder Nielsen discussed how missionary work benefits those being taught and those who are teaching.

“The work you do will help soften the hearts of those you teach,” Elder Nielsen said. “Exercise faith; become great teachers now and throughout your future. The positive changes you make now will become a pattern for the rest of your lives.”

Elder Quentin L. Cook, left, Elder Kevin W. Pearson of the Seventy and President of the Church’s Pacific Area, and Elder Gifford S. Nielsen of the Seventy shake hands with Church members in Australia.

Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott, center, receives a framed family tree and three folders of his family history research on Friday, May 22, 2015, from Elder Quentin L. Cook, left, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Kevin W. Pearson of the Seventy and President of the Church’s Pacific Area.

Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott, center, receives a framed family tree and three folders of his family history research on Friday, May 22, 2015, from Elder Quentin L. Cook, left, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Kevin W. Pearson of the Seventy and President of the Church’s Pacific Area.