President Nelson Assures Hurricane Survivors in Caribbean of Better Days Ahead

Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News associate editor

  • 4 September 2018

After speaking to Latter-day Saints in the Dominican Republic September 1, 2018, President Russell M. Nelson greeted members of the congregation.

Article Highlights

  • President Nelson said that members can find peace during difficult times through Christ.
  • He counseled members to keep their families united and strong in faith.
  • The Caribbean islands are a vital part of God’s promises and prophecies pertaining to the gathering of Israel.

“By keeping God’s commandments, we can find joy even in the midst of our worst circumstances.” —President Russell M. Nelson

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO

For Esteban Ojeda and his wife, Anali, Hurricane Maria will always be regarded as a family paradox.

They vividly remember the violence of the deadly storm as it tossed and churned outside their home in southern Puerto Rico on September 20. “It was starting to get really scary,” said Esteban.

But even in that moment of primal terror, the family discovered spiritual peace. Just days earlier, a special visitor to the island—President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency—promised the Puerto Rican members that if they prayerfully read the Book of Mormon all would be well.

So with Maria raging outside, Esteban and Anali gathered their family about and opened the Book of Mormon.

“We felt at peace inside our house,” said Esteban. “The words of the prophets and apostles rang true.”

On Sunday, September 2—almost a year after Hurricane Maria’s arrival—Esteban and Anali traveled under sunny skies to San Juan to hear the counsel from another of the Lord’s prophets, President Russell M. Nelson. From their shared vantage point in the member choir, the couple watched as the Church’s 17th President entered the Coliseo de Puerto Rico arena and began teaching divine lessons of peace during a Sabbath-day member devotional.

Find safety and joy by living the commandments, he counseled. Be kind to one another and protect your family. And then the 93-year-old leader graciously dismissed his interpreter and shared his testimony and apostolic blessing in Spanish.

President Nelson “taught us today that we could find peace during difficult times through Christ,” said Anali after the devotional. “That’s how we overcame this past year, through Christ.”

Tomorrow’s great optimism

Better days await, he promised.

“As you individually grow to become more of the person God wants you to be, you can know for yourself that better days are ahead for the people of Puerto Rico,” he said. “You can face your tomorrows with great optimism, knowing that the best days of your life are ahead for you and for your loved ones.”

During his remarks, the Church President noted his deep admiration for the Puerto Rican Latter-day Saints who served and remained faithful during the awful weeks and months following the hurricane.

President Russell M. Nelson greets a young mother and her child following a member devotional in San Juan on September 2, 2018. Photo by Jason Swensen.

President Russell M. Nelson spent the weekend, September 1–2, 2018, consoling and encouraging Church members in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles accompanied President Russell M. Nelson on his visit to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, September 1–2, 2018.

A young Latter-day Saint girl was thrilled to see the prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Russell M. Nelson, following his remarks in the Dominican Republic Saturday, September 1, 2018.

Listening to their 93-year-old prophet testify in Spanish triggered smiles and tears for many in the audience. Many others scribbled vigorous notes in their journals and notebooks as they listened to the messages of President Nelson, Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Caribbean Area President Walter F. Gonzalez (a General Authority Seventy), Sister Ruth Renlund, and Sister Zulma Gonzalez.

“It’s been nearly a year since Hurricane Maria came,” said President Nelson. “You have not given up. We are proud of you. You faithful Saints have lost much, but through it all, you have fostered your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. You have learned that He is aware of you and that He loves you. And He will continue to help you as you keep His commandments.”

Members of the Church worldwide have prayed for the Puerto Rican people, he said. Many have volunteered in relief efforts. The leaders of the Church at all levels remain mindful of the Puerto Rican members and are committed to their care.

“Most important, the Lord knows you,” he said. “Puerto Rico and other islands of the sea are very important to the Lord. These islands are rich with the blood of Israel. You are a vital part of God’s promises. Those promises are to be fulfilled by people from the islands of the sea. Those prophecies pertain to the gathering of Israel.”

That “gathering” is spiritual, he added. People of the world are being gathered “into the fold of Jesus Christ” in each of their respective lands. And in their native lands, they take upon Christ’s name, are baptized, and faithfully keep God’s commandments. But even with those blessings, God’s children can expect difficulties. “That is part of life. It’s why we’re here. We are here to have a body and to be tried and tested. Some of those tests are physical, some are spiritual, and your trials here have been both physical and spiritual.”

President Nelson testified of Christ’s role as the Atoner. Through His sacrifice, the Savior made immortality a reality for all. Meanwhile, the exalted blessings of eternal life are available to all who seek and follow Him. “By keeping God’s commandments, we can find joy even in the midst of our worst circumstances.”

After speaking to Latter-day Saints in the Dominican Republic September 1, 2018, President Russell M. Nelson greeted members of the congregation.

Take care of one another

The Church President counseled the Puerto Rican members to keep their families united and strong in faith. Husbands should be kind and considerate of the wives. “The best thing you can do for your children is to love their mother. Your highest priesthood duty is to care for your wife.”

And to the wives: “Love your husbands. You are partners.”

Even those dealing with harsh personal difficulties can find strength in Christ, declared Elder Renlund. Joy and hope reside in Christ, who gives life direction and purpose.

“Christ being the center of our lives changes everything,” he said. “It gives us power, stability, and direction. And no matter what’s going on in our lives, if we focus on [Christ], we’re safe.”

Life offers many choices, he added. Seek and follow the direction of the Holy Ghost. Do what God “would have you do.”

“That is the course to follow,” said Elder Renlund.

Personal revelation is essential in times of difficulty and trial, he added. “I don’t need to tell you that life doesn’t always turn out the way we expected.”

In their brief devotional remarks, Elder and Sister Gonzalez and Sister Renlund encouraged the Puerto Rican members and their friends to watch closely the example of President Nelson and the other prophets and apostles. There is safety in following their lead while seeking personal revelation.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints line up to attend a special meeting with President Russell M. Nelson, Sunday, September 2, 2018. The meeting was held in the Coliseo de Puerto Rico José Miguel Agrelot.

People arrive early outside the Coliseo de Puerto Rico on September 2, 2018, for a member devotional featuring President Russell M. Nelson. Photo by Jason Swensen.

Members from across hurricane-weary Puerto Rico gathered at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico in San Juan to listen to counsel from President Russell M. Nelson and other Church leaders. Photo by Jason Swensen.

President Russell M. Nelson, far right, listens intently to a choir perform at the beginning of a September 2, 2018, member devotional in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo by Jason Swensen.

Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles encourages members in Puerto Rico on September 2, 2018, to center their lives on Christ. Photo by Jason Swensen.

Young women of the Latter-day Saint choir sang for the special meeting with President Russell M. Nelson. He spoke to the congregation gathered in the Coliseo de Puerto Rico José Miguel Agrelot and acknowledged that they had lost much during Hurricane Maria.

Latter-day Saint youth in Puerto Rico wave to President Russell M. Nelson. He spoke to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Coliseo de Puerto Rico José Miguel Agrelot Sunday, September 2, 2018.

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spent the weekend, September 1–2, 2018, consoling and encouraging Church members in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Latter-day Saints sang sacred hymns of the Church and listened to their prophet, President Russell M. Nelson. He spoke to congregations in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic September 1–2, 2018.

President Russell M. Nelson traveled to the Dominican Republic to extend a message of love and encouragement to Latter-day Saints Saturday, September 1, 2018.

President Russell M. Nelson traveled to the Dominican Republic to extend a message of love and encouragement to Latter-day Saints Saturday, September 1, 2018.

Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles joined President Russell M. Nelson in the Dominican Republic Saturday, September 1, 2018.