Elder Christofferson Counsels Members to Rely on the Lord
Contributed by By Elder Don Searle, Church News contributor
The work of the Church today is to prepare a people who will be ready to receive and serve the Lord when He comes, and all members have the responsibility to help prepare the world for that day, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve told members of the Arraijan Panama Stake on January 20.
Members must lift their lights high and raise their voices so that others may know where to find the truth and join, he added, emphasizing the importance of example. “This is the duty of the stake. It is the responsibility of everyone in the stake.”
It was a theme that Elder Christofferson sounded several times during a tour of Central America January 11–20. Speaking to gatherings of youth, to young single adults, to missionaries, to local leaders, and to members in stake conference meetings, he and other visiting General Authorities talked of the members’ responsibility to be worthy of their opportunities and ready to serve others. This, they said, is the way to happiness, though it may not be the way the world sees it.
Elder Christofferson visited the Central America Area for an annual review of the growth and progress of the Church and its leadership. He was accompanied by Elder Richard J. Maynes of the Presidency of the Seventy. As he traveled first to Costa Rica, then Guatemala, and last to Panama, Elder Christofferson was joined in different places by the members of the Area Presidency: Elder James B. Martino, Elder Carlos H. Amado, and Elder Kevin R. Duncan of the Seventy.
Elder Maynes also traveled to Honduras and Belize to visit with leaders and members there.
Elder Christofferson spoke twice to hundreds of young people gathered at Strength of Youth conferences in Costa Rica and Panama; to groups of missionaries in San Jose, Costa Rica; Guatemala City, and Panama City; to large groups of young single adults in the three countries; and to gatherings of priesthood and auxiliary leaders.
He also had the opportunity to visit with the presidents of Costa Rica and Guatemala to help cement important relationships with national governments.
With his wife, Sister Kathy Christofferson, and Elder Maynes and his wife, Sister Nancy Maynes, Elder Christofferson began his visit with members of Central America at the Strength of Youth conference in Guapiles, Costa Rica, where some 500–600 youth were gathered.
Members have a responsibility to live the commandments, he declared. The commandments are not restrictive; they lift people and bring them higher, Elder Christofferson told the youth. He told them it is very important to understand that God our Father knows and loves them. He urged them to read the scriptures every day and seek to receive all that the Spirit will give them as they read. “The Lord gives according to our desires,” and it is important to read seeking revelation, a divine gift.
That afternoon, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla extended the time allotted for Elder Christofferson’s visit in order to talk at greater length about the importance of the family and the need to strengthen that most basic institution of society. Elder Christofferson expressed thanks to President Chinchilla for ways in which the national government has made it easier for the Church to do charitable work in the country, such as donating wheelchairs, donating school and hygiene kits for children and families, and other endeavors. He gave the president a small copy of the Christus statue as an expression of gratitude.
In the evening, Elder Christofferson spoke to a gathering of young single adults at the Los Yoses meetinghouse in San Jose. He told them, too, that the Lord will direct each one of them in the way He knows is best. He urged the young people to “dedicate a part of each day to the scriptures,” commenting, “What a blessing it is that in our era each one of us has our own copy of the Book of Mormon and other scriptures.”
He called on them to be happy and have gratitude for the great blessings of the Father, saying, “What a great Being is our God, who has loved us so much that He gave His Son.” Elder Christofferson bore a strong testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and of Jesus Christ. “I pronounce a blessing upon you that you may receive this same testimony I am expressing,” he said, and added, “He is real. I invoke upon you this night His blessings.”
On January 12, Elder and Sister Christofferson and Elder and Sister Maynes met with the missionaries of the Costa Rica San Jose Mission. In the afternoon, Elder Christofferson and Elder Maynes, together with Area President Elder Martino, held a priesthood leadership conference with stake presidencies, bishops, elders quorum presidents, and high priests group leaders from the five stakes in Costa Rica. The four-hour session featured both instruction and an extended question-and-answer session.
The next day, he spoke at the conference of the San Jose Costa Rica La Paz Stake. Then he traveled to Guatemala to review the state of the Central America Area with the Area Presidency and to meet with members and local leaders.
On January 16, he spoke to a gathering of young single adults in Guatemala City. Telling them of the difficult circumstances he faced in marrying as a young law student, he described how the Lord blessed him and his wife as they were obedient, and said, “I want to tell you that the Lord keeps His promises.
“I know that in the world there are fewer and fewer people who believe in the family,” he said. “Too many put other things first. But in creating family, we fulfill our greatest purpose on earth.”
In his January 17 meeting with Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, Elder Christofferson discussed the impact of Guatemalans in the Church both within the country and outside. There are almost 1,000 missionaries serving in Guatemala, and an equal number of missionaries from Guatemala serving in other countries. They also discussed the Guatemalan initiative, sponsored by the Ministry of Education, to encourage reading by Guatemalan children and youth and in Guatemalan families. Elder Christofferson gave President Perez a small statue of a family reading together.
Later in the day, he met with missionaries in Guatemala City, with Church employees, and in the evening with priesthood and auxiliary leaders—and the members involved in stake, ward, and branch councils. Elder Christofferson reminded them that in councils, leaders are not simply trying to come to a consensus; they are trying to receive inspiration. He said that if he were a stake president again, he would run a stake council meeting differently. He would make the administrative portion of the meeting shorter and then turn to counseling together to find spiritual solutions for challenges in the stake.
After flying to Panama, he spoke to youth at the Strength of Youth conference about Peter, who had to overcome weakness—even denying the Christ—and told them, “Each one of us needs to do the same.”
He testified “that the leader of this Church is our Lord Jesus Christ. He is a very involved leader and is personally active in guiding His Church.”
That afternoon, with Elder Maynes and members of the Area Presidency, Elder Christofferson conducted a four-hour priesthood leadership conference attended by the stake and district presidencies, bishops, branch presidencies, elders quorum presidents, and high priests group leaders from the seven stakes and five districts in Panama. The emphasis there was focusing not on tasks and being busy but on the outcomes of priesthood service, principally individual conversion.
During his visit to Central America, Elder Maynes presided at a variety of meetings, including young adult and missionary meetings in Belize and Honduras, and offered counsel and spiritual direction to hundreds in those Central American lands. There he was able to witness the hope and opportunities offered to those who live the principles of the gospel and obey the Lord’s commandments.
He noted that the Central American members have developed a deep love for the temples in their respective lands. Many have become involved in family history research and are doing their part to submit names for temple work.
Being in the presence of one of the Lord’s Apostles had a deep spiritual impact upon the members in Central America, he added.
“I saw it in the faces of all those who were able to exchange a hug or a handshake with Elder Christofferson,” Elder Maynes said.
— Jason Swensen contributed to this report.