Filipino Saints Are Happy and Devoted, Report Elder Andersen and Elder Renlund

Contributed By Gerry Avant, Church News editor; and Valerie Johnson, Church News staff writer

  • 10 December 2015

Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles greets young single adults from Baguio and La Union in the Philippines at a devotional on November 14.

“[Filipino Saints] have cheerful optimism and deep-seated faith. Come what may, they remain faithful and happy and have a devotion to family and Church. They have joy in the Restoration of the gospel.” —Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve

Smiling faces. Optimistic attitudes. Devotion to family. Gospel faithfulness.

These are just a few phrases Elder Neil L. Andersen and Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder Richard J. Maynes of the Presidency of the Seventy used to describe what they saw and experienced while on assignment in the Philippines November 12–23.

Upon their return to Salt Lake City, they spoke with the Church News of the “snapshots captured by the mind’s eye” as they met with and addressed Church members, leaders, and missionaries in a variety of meetings.

“I came away with a feeling of the goodness and genuineness of their culture,” Elder Andersen said. “We love our culture [in North America], but we could learn so much from people in other places.”

He noted “the lack of importance for material things of life” that he saw among the Filipino people at large and Latter-day Saints in particular.

Little things made a big impression on Elder Andersen and his General Authority colleagues. As an example, Elder Andersen pointed to a photo he was given of two children with tithing banks made of bamboo. He then spoke of three children he and his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, met outside a stake center in Baguio.

Elder Neil L. Andersen and his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, met with three children—from left, Allysa, 12, Ashley, 11, and John, 14—who attended the Baguio Philippines Stake Conference on their own.

Two children in the Philippines show their “tithing banks” made of bamboo. Many children use the banks also to save up for their missions.

Many children in the Philippines use bamboo banks to keep their tithing money and to save up for their missions.

Sister missionaries serving in the Philippines, November 15.

The children had come alone to a meeting there, walking some and riding a jeepney, a type of public transportation, the rest of the way. “I thought it was very impressive that those children would come to the stake conference alone,” he said.

Elder Andersen has been on assignment to the Philippines on other occasions, and Elder Maynes and his wife, Sister Nancy Maynes, lived there from 2002 to 2006 as he served as a counselor in the Philippines Area Presidency and as Area President.

This was the first time Elder Renlund and his wife, Sister Ruth Renlund, had been to the Philippines. Also, it was his first foreign assignment as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Of his first impressions of the Filipino Saints, he said, “They have cheerful optimism and deep-seated faith. Come what may, they remain faithful and happy and have a devotion to family and Church. They have joy in the Restoration of the gospel.”

Elder Maynes said that when he and Sister Maynes lived in the Philippines they had many opportunities to see how the people respond in difficult circumstances.

“There were many typhoons, economical challenges, and political uncertainties,” he said. “We saw firsthand how the people of the Philippines overcome obstacles. With big smiles on their faces they push forward. The way they react to hardships is a lesson everyone can learn from. It is such a faith-promoting experience to all of us to see them not only survive but continue to grow in faith under the conditions in which they live.

“It was a thrill to accompany Elder and Sister Andersen and Elder and Sister Renlund back to the Philippines to participate in a series of meetings, devotionals, and conferences with the wonderful leaders, missionaries, and members of the Philippines. The Filipino Saints are faithful, dedicated members of the Church, always willing to work hard and sacrifice to help move the great work of the Lord forward. Their love of family is renowned around the world. The key indicators that reflect true growth in the Church are at all-time highs in the Philippines. It was such a joy to see their progress on this trip.”

Elder Maynes emphasized that members in the Philippines now belong to a multigenerational Church. “At a young single adult meeting, I asked the members to raise their hands if their parents or grandparents had served as missionaries. Many hands were raised. The Church continues to grow. There has been a strengthening in leadership and a depth of understanding of the gospel. That’s what I saw on my return trip nine years later.”

Sister Andersen and Sister Renlund commented on the love the Filipinos have for Jesus Christ.

Sister Andersen said, “I love the tradition in the Philippines of celebrating Christmas from September 1 through December. Christmas is not just a day; it is four months of the year, and they embrace it with their wonderful spirit of joy. There are images of the baby Jesus everywhere and Christmas music. In public places, you hear the music and words, ‘Silent night, holy night, Son of God, love’s pure light.’ The beautiful message of ‘peace on earth, goodwill to men’ rang through the streets. There was a much larger-than-life-sized Nativity with Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, and the wise men as the prominent feature outside our hotel.

“I love the Filipino people and wonder if their belief in Jesus Christ and their public expression of their faith is one of the reasons they are so happy, so kind, and so loving.”

Sister Renlund noted, “Their love for Jesus Christ was evident. I was thrilled to participate in meetings with young adult members, youth, adults, and missionaries. They all love Jesus Christ.”

She described a program in Manila in which the youth showcased music and dances of the Philippines. “The program was virtuous, lovely, of good report, and praiseworthy in every regard,” she said. “I was impressed by the energy, cultural pride, and polish the performers exhibited. We instantly fell in love with the Filipino people.”

 

Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles greets members attending the Antipolo Philippines Stake Conference on November 22. Photo by Edwin Redrino.

Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles greets members attending the Antipolo Philippines Stake Conference on November 22. Photo by Edwin Redrino.

Missionaries from the Philippines Baguio Mission raise their hands during a special conference held November 13 at the Baguio Philippines Stake Center.

Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks to missionaries of the Philippines Baguio Mission during a mission conference on November 13. Elder Dale G. Renlund and his wife, Sister Ruth Renlund, sit on the stand, left, with Sister Kathy Andersen.

A family attends the Baguio Stake Conference on November 15.

A boy sits with his family at the Baguio Philippines Stake Conference on November 15.

Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles greets youth and young single adults from Baguio and La Union at a devotional on November 14.

Children and youth who presented a cultural program in Manila pose with Elder and Sister Neil L. Andersen, second couple from right, Elder and Sister Dale G. Renlund, second couple from left, Elder and Sister Richard J. Maynes, at right, and Elder and Sister Ian S. Arden, at left.

In Manila, children dressed in costumes representing part of the diverse cultures of the Philippines wait their turn to perform during a visit by Elder Neil L. Andersen, Elder Dale G. Renlund, Elder Richard J. Maynes, and other Church leaders.