Elder Holland’s Visit and Testimony Inspire Asia Area Saints
Contributed By Gerry Avant, Church News editor, and Asia Area public affairs
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles delivered messages of hope, faith, testimony, and inspiration to several thousand Latter-day Saints as he addressed member meetings in Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia August 15–23.
In Bangkok, at a member meeting held in Sukhothai University Convention Center on Sunday, August 16, Elder Holland looked over the congregation of 2,140 members and commented, “This looks like a session of general conference.”
He noted that at times members in more remote places such as parts of Southeast Asia might feel lonely inasmuch as there are not many Latter-day Saints in the region. However, in such gatherings they can see they are part of a large, wonderful, growing Church.
Elder Holland asked for a show of hands of members who had served as, or are now supporting, missionaries from Thailand. A large number raised their hands. He spoke of a sister missionary from Thailand whom he met in Palmyra, New York, while visiting there with his grandchildren just a month earlier. He commented on the beautiful and strong testimony she bore.
Elder Holland gave the members in Thailand two tasks:
1. Help the Church grow by introducing their friends to the missionaries.
2. Plan and prepare to embrace the temple, to “have that beautiful house of the Lord become a veritable beacon in this land.” (President Thomas S. Monson announced during the last general conference, on April 4, 2015, plans to build the Bangkok Thailand Temple.)
Elder Holland reminded the members that responsibilities come with having a temple: that local members will need to attend regularly, that they will be needed to serve as leaders and ordinance workers, and that they will need to provide names for work to be done.
During Elder Holland’s visit he made two significant mid-week stops—first in Vietnam and later in Timor-Leste.
Vietnam is the setting for impressive new beginnings for the Church. Elder Holland spoke to filled-to-capacity member meetings in the Hanoi Branch and in the Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) branches. Hanoi government meetings included Madam Tong Thi Phong, vice chairman of Vietnam’s National Assembly, and Mr. Pham Dung, chairman of Vietnam’s government committee for religious affairs. In this 20th anniversary year of Vietnam-U.S. diplomatic relations, both commended the Church for teaching its members to be good parents and good citizens, noted LDS and Vietnamese traditional values have much in common, and encouraged Elder Holland in his declaration that “we as Latter-day Saints are in Vietnam to stay and to grow.”
Members of the Ho Chi Minh Branch pose for a photograph with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Photo by David Anthony.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, center, and representatives of the Church from the Asia Area and Vietnam meet with Mr. Pham Dung, chairman of Vietnam's government committee for religious affairs. Photo by Canh Pham.
Later the country of Timor-Leste was dedicated for the preaching of the gospel and the establishment of the Church. Timor-Leste is the eastern-most tip of the Indonesian chain but was settled by the Portuguese and has Portuguese as one of its principal languages. It has the distinction of being one of only two Christian nations in greater Asia, the other being the Philippine Islands.
In his dedicatory prayer Elder Holland commented on the benefit of a Christian tradition on which the missionaries could now build and the hope that this country of a million people would follow the same success pattern that the Church has seen in the Philippines for more than 50 years. The missionary work serving Timor-Leste will be a Portuguese-speaking extension of the Indonesia Jakarta Mission, which is already in place.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
In Phnom Penh on August 23, Elder Holland addressed more than 2,000 members in the largest gathering of Latter-day Saints in the Church’s 20-year history in Cambodia. Members arrived by numerous bicycles, motorbikes, tuk tuks (carriages pulled by motorcycles), buses, and other vehicles.
Latter-day Saints and friends arrive for a meeting held in a hall on Diamond Island in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on August 23. Photo by Gerry Avant.
In his remarks, Elder Holland quoted the prophet Amos and the latter-day famine that would exist in the world—“not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11).
Elder Holland stated four reasons he would join the Church if he were hearing the gospel for the first time or looking for a church or religion that truly blessed his life. “The whole world would join this Church if they knew what I know,” he declared. “There are many reasons, but I’ll focus mainly on four.”
1. God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, have appeared on earth in this dispensation, called prophets again, and gave authoritative priesthood power to the Church. “The condition of the world without God and the priesthood is hungry, thirsty, and cold,” he said. “Your country has had difficult times with hunger, thirst, and sorrow.” He referred to difficult times during Cambodia’s history. “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can change all of that,” he said.
2. The Book of Mormon has been translated and given to the world. “I would walk, climb, swim, run, overturn any stone, and move any forest to obtain a ‘new’ book of Jesus’s teachings. The Book of Mormon has 532 pages which teach me more about Jesus Christ than I can find in any other non-Biblical text.”
3. We can have our families after death. “I do not know of any other church on earth that can tell me how to do that,” Elder Holland said. “This Church teaches that we can live again together as families through the blessings of the temple. For that gift alone I would join this Church.”
4. The programs for youth in the Church bless the rising generation. “This Church has the Primary, Aaronic Priesthood, and Young Women programs. Some young children know more of the gospel than many adults who did not have the advantage of such instruction in their youth. As parents, we need all the help we can get. I want help raising my children.”
A single adult choir, which had performed prior to Elder Holland speaking, closed with “I Know That My Redeemer Lives.”
A choir performs during the member meeting held in a hall on Diamond Island in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on August 23. Photo by Gerry Avant.
Priesthood leadership conferences
In Thailand and Cambodia Elder Holland presided over and addressed priesthood leadership conferences. In the leadership conference held in Bangkok, priesthood leaders gathered from three stakes and three districts in Thailand. In the leadership conference in Phnom Penh, priesthood leaders assembled from two stakes and five districts in Cambodia and Vietnam.
With Elder Holland were Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Seventy and President of the Church’s Asia Area and Elder Hoi Seng Leonard Woo and Elder Wisit Kahanakham, Area Seventies.
Elder Holland’s primary message was for the priesthood leaders to focus their efforts on the core doctrine of the Atonement, and he challenged them to review every meeting and activity, asking whether it built people’s faith and contributed to righteous living. He also conducted question-and-answer sessions, addressing several key concepts.
On Saturday morning, August 15, Elder Holland met with missionaries serving in Thailand, and on Sunday afternoon, August 23, he met with those serving in Cambodia. On Tuesday afternoon, August 18, Elder Holland met with young branch builders and senior couple branch builders serving in Vietnam.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland poses for a photo with missionaries serving in Cambodia. Photo by Gerry Avant.
Missionaries take notes during a meeting with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on August 23. Photo by Gerry Avant.