Elder Stevenson Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Church in Thailand during Visit to Asia

Contributed By Sarah Jane Weaver, Church News associate editor

  • 29 March 2016

Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visits the Church's Asia Area.

Article Highlights

  • Elder Stevenson traveled to Asia February 18–28—visiting Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, and Macau.
  • The trip marked several important anniversaries, such as the 50th anniversary of the dedication of Thailand.

In 1966, then-Apostle Gordon B. Hinckley and Elder Marion D. Hanks of the Seventy stood in Lumpini Park in Bangkok, Thailand, and dedicated the country for the preaching of the gospel.

Fifty years later, the Church has 20,730 members, three stakes, three districts, 19 wards, 20 branches, and 33 owned or leased meetinghouses in Thailand.

During a recent trip to Asia, Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stood on the exact location in Lumpini Park and contemplated the growth of the Church in Thailand during the last half century.

Elder Stevenson and his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson, traveled to Asia February 18–28—visiting Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, and Macau.

They were accompanied by Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Sister Susan Gong, and members of the Asia Area Presidency—Elder Randy D. Funk and Elder Chi Hong (Sam) Wong, both General Authority Seventies, and Elder Siu Hong Pon, an Area Seventy.

Elder Stevenson and Elder Gong conducted a review of the Church’s Asia Area; held a priesthood leadership conference, member devotionals, and missionary meetings; and met with government leaders. Their wives participated in a devotional with the sisters in the area.

“For me, this trip served as another testament of the gospel rolling forth to the four corners of the earth,” said Elder Stevenson.

He added that it is amazing to read the dedicatory prayer offered in Thailand 50 years ago by President Hinckley, then of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and “see how prophetic it really was.”

Newspaper from Vietnam reports on Elder Gary E. Stevenson's visit to the country.

In addition to the 50th anniversary of the dedication of Thailand in 1966, the trip also marked other important anniversaries for the Church in the area, including the 50th anniversary of a prayer offered for the Church in Vietnam.

This year also marks 20 years since the 1996 Hanoi dedicatory addendum for Vietnam and 1996 Hong Kong China Temple dedication. “At the May 1996 dedication of the Hong Kong China Temple, President Thomas S. Monson told us, ‘We may shed a tear or two today’—and we did,” said Elder Gong, who attended the dedication.

Of the recent trip, Elder Gong added, “We were humbled to witness dedicatory prayer pleadings and promises being literally fulfilled in the blessing of peoples and countries, families and individuals. This also marks 40 years since the Book of Mormon was translated into the Thai language—a preparatory blessing for President Thomas S. Monson’s April 2014 announcement of a Bangkok Thailand Temple.”

More than 3,000 members attended a 50th anniversary conference in Thailand on Sunday, February 21. “It was a thrill to see all of the Saints gathered,” said Elder Stevenson. “The recent announcement of the Bangkok Thailand Temple by President Monson coupled with the 50th anniversary commemoration are significant indicators of the establishment of the Church in Thailand and a testament of the devotion and faithfulness of the members there. It is an exciting time to be a Latter-day Saint in Thailand!”

In addition, Elder Stevenson and Elder Gong participated in a member devotional with local Church leaders and members in Hanoi, Vietnam. The meeting was broadcast to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visits the Church's Asia Area.

Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visits the Church's Asia Area.

During the trip, Elder Stevenson and Elder Gong also met with senior Vietnam government officials—including the vice minister of public security HE Pham Dung, chairman of the Hanoi People’s Committee HE Nguyen Duc Chung, and vice chairman of the Government Committee for Religious Affairs (CRA) HE Bui Thanh Ha.

Vice Minister Pham Dung of the Public Security Ministry (right) and Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles met In February 2016.

President Hoang Van Tung (a local Church leader in Vietnam), Elder Randy D. Funk, Elder Gerrit W. Gong, and Elder Gary E. Stevenson are greeted by Vice Minister Pham Dung of the Public Security Ministry.

Elder Gary E. Stevenson (center) of the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Gerrit W. Gong (left of Elder Stevenson) of the Presidency of the Seventy recently returned from Vietnam, where they met with Vice Chairman Bui Thanh Ha of the Government Committee for Religious Affairs (right of Elder Stevenson).

In 1966, then-Elder Hinckley became the first Apostle to visit Vietnam; he returned in 1996. Vietnam officially recognized the Interim Representative Committee of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in May 2014. During Elder Stevenson’s and Elder Gong’s visit, the Vietnam Hanoi Mission was officially created from the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission.

In Macau, Elder Stevenson visited the Church’s new meetinghouse space—built “to accommodate a growing member population”—and participated in a special district conference.

“There is an eclectic mix of English, Cantonese, and Portuguese spoken by the residents and members, which made the meetings very interesting; however, the language of the Spirit seemed to be understood clearly by everyone,” said Elder Stevenson.

Of the trip, Elder Gong said, “In a marvelous way, Elder Stevenson instructed, testified, blessed, and met with members, priesthood leaders, missionaries, and government officials as part of hastening the work of salvation in Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Macau.”

Elder Gary E. Stevenson and his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson, center, and Elder Gerrit W. Gong and his wife, Sister Susan Gong, right, and President Kelly R. Johnson of the Bangkok Thailand Mission and his wife, Sister Teressa Johnson, re-create historic 1966 photograph taken when then Elder Gordon B. Hinckley offered a prayer on the land of Thailand (see below).

Elder Gordon B. Hinckley and his wife, Sister Marjorie Pay Hinckley, center, with Elder Marion D. Hanks and his wife, Sister Maxine Hanks, right, and Southern Far East Mission President Keith E. Garner and his wife, Sister Marilynn Garner, at left, pose in Thailand in 1966.

Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visits the Church's Asia Area.

Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Presidency of the Seventy recently returned from Vietnam, where they met with Chairman Nguyen Duc Chung of the Hanoi People's Committee and his senior staff.

Elder Stevenson and his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson, greet missionaries from the Vietnam Hanoi Mission.

A young boy plays the piano during a priesthood leadership meeting in the Asia Area.