President Nelson Reflects on Growth in Philippines

Contributed By Gerry Avant, Church News editor

  • 4 March 2016

President Russell M. Nelson greets a member of the press during a recent assignment to the Philippines January 11–22.  Photo courtesy of the Philippines Area.

Article Highlights

  • There are now 96 stakes, 21 missions, and 610,000 members in the Philippines.
  • Construction is under way to double the capacity at the Manila MTC.

During the past 27 years, President Russell M. Nelson has fulfilled five assignments to the Philippines, witnessing firsthand evidences of the growth of the Church in this Pacific Rim nation.

He said that when he visited the first time, in 1987, the Philippines had 32 stakes, five missions, and 150,000 Latter-day Saints. There are now 96 stakes, 21 missions, and 610,000 members.

President Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and his wife, Sister Wendy W. Nelson, traveled to the Philippines January 11–22, visiting with and addressing members in Manila, Naga, Legazpi, Bacolod, Quezon City, and San Pablo.

President Nelson and members of the Philippines Area Presidency—Elder Ian S. Arden, Elder Shayne M. Bowen, and Elder Allen D. Haynie, all General Authority Seventies—held priesthood leadership conferences in Naga and San Pablo. While those meetings were being held, Sister Nelson, Sister Paula Arden, Sister Lynette Bowen, and Sister Deborah Haynie met with sisters in special women’s meetings (please see accompanying article).

President Nelson and members of the Philippines Area Presidency—Elder Ian S. Arden, Elder Shayne M. Bowen, and Elder Allen D. Haynie, all General Authority Seventies—held priesthood leadership conferences in Naga and San Pablo. While those meetings were being held, Sister Nelson, Sister Paula Arden, Sister Lynette Bowen, and Sister Deborah Haynie met with sisters in special women’s meetings (see accompanying article).

President Russell M. Nelson waves as he arrives at one of the locations he visited during his recent travels to the Philippines January 11–22. Photo courtesy of the Philippines Area.

President Russell M. Nelson and Elder Shayne M. Bowen of the Philippines Area Presidency (left) greet leaders at a priesthood leadership conference. Photo courtesy of the Philippines Area.

Elder Eleazer S. Collado and Elder George J. Tobias, Area Seventies, and Manila Philippines Temple President Modesto M. Armistad also participated in some of the meetings.

Special stake conferences were held in Naga and San Pablo.

Young single adults gathered in special meetings in Legazpi, Bacolod, and San Pablo.

Upon being asked about his latest assignment, President Nelson said, “For us as Church leaders the marvelous part was meeting the members. Seeing their great devotion and consecration, in spite of their challenges, was really inspiring.”

He spoke of many challenges Filipino Saints face, including destructive storms and poor living conditions. He then flipped open his iPad and scrolled to show one of his favorite photos from his latest travels. “I peeked into a classroom, which was the overflow from one of the young single adult conferences we held,” he said. “The people in the room weren’t young single adults. There are older folks and children, just jammed into that room to hear the word of the Lord.”

Pointing to the photo, he said, “Look at those happy faces. Whatever their living conditions are, they are smiling. They’re so dedicated and faithful. … You look at these dear people. You just want to love them. They have gone through so much.”

Speaking of the growth of the Church in the Philippines, President Nelson mentioned that he dedicated the Manila Missionary Training Center in 2012. “Now, four years later, construction is under way to double the capacity at that MTC. In four years what I dedicated is inadequate,” he said.

They were joined at six missionary meetings by President L. Barry Reeder of the Philippines Naga Mission, President Jovencio A. Guanzon of the Philippines Legazpi Mission, President Christopher A. Barredo of the Philippines Bacolod Mission, President Scott B. Clark of the Philippines Angeles Mission, President Kim C. Bertin of the Quezon City North Mission, and President Richard J. Trask of the Manila Missionary Training Center. All the brethren were accompanied by their wives: Sisters Mylene Collado, Helen Tobias, Laura Amistad, Sharon Reeder, Ana Barredo, Jocelyn Jovencio, Jennifer Bertin, and Genevieve Trask.

From left: President Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson; President Richard J. Trask of the Manila Missionary Training Center and his wife, Genevieve Trask; and Sister Deborah Haynie and Elder Allen D. Haynie, a Seventy and a member of the Philippines Area Presidency.

Members of various ages crammed into an overflow area to listen to President Russell M. Nelson speak during his recent travels to the Philippines January 11–22.

Missionaries pose with President Russell M. Nelson, his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, and other leaders during a visit to the Philippines January 11–22. Photo courtesy of the Philippines Area.

Missionaries pose with President Russell M. Nelson and other leaders during his assignment to the Philippines January 11–22. Photo courtesy of the Philippines Area.

President Russell M. Nelson greets missionaries during his assignment to the Philippines January 11–22. Photo courtesy of the Philippines Area.

Sister Wendy Nelson and President Russell M. Nelson greet missionaries during his assignment to the Philippines January 11–22. Photo courtesy of the Philippines Area.

Sister Wendy Nelson and President Russell M. Nelson greet missionaries during his assignment to the Philippines January 11–22. Photo courtesy of the Philippines Area.

President Russell M. Nelson and Elder Shayne M. Bowen of the Philippines Area Presidency (right) greet leaders at a priesthood leadership conference. Photo courtesy of the Philippines Area.

Young single adult women arrive by jeepney to attend a YSA meeting to hear President Russell M. Nelson speak during his assignment to the Philippines January 11–22. Photo courtesy of the Philippines Area.

President Russell M. Nelson waves to members at a meeting in the Philippines January 11–22. To his right are his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, Sister Deborah Haynie, and Elder Allen D. Haynie of the Seventy and a member of the Philippines Area Presidency. Photo courtesy of the Philippines Area.

Young single adults attend a YSA meeting to hear President Russell M. Nelson speak during his assignment to the Philippines January 11–22. Photo courtesy of the Philippines Area.

President Russell M. Nelson speaks during an assignment to the Philippines January 11–22. Photo courtesy of the Philippines Area.

Young single adult women attend a YSA meeting to hear President Russell M. Nelson speak during his assignment to the Philippines January 11–22. Photo courtesy of the Philippines Area.

Young adults attend a YSA meeting to hear President Russell M. Nelson speak during his assignment to the Philippines January 11–22.

Young single adult women attend a YSA meeting to hear President Russell M. Nelson speak during his assignment to the Philippines January 11–22. Photo courtesy of the Philippines Area.

Members gather to hear President Russell M. Nelson speak during his assignment to the Philippines January 11–22. Photo courtesy of the Philippines Area.