Elder Christofferson Visits Members in Central America
By Katie Harmer, Church News and Events
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve visited Church members and met with the presidents of Costa Rica and Guatemala during a recent trip to Central America January 10–20, 2013.
“The profile [of the Church] is rising,” said Elder Christofferson of his meetings with Costa Rica’s president, Laura Chinchilla, and Guatemala’s president, Otto Pérez Molina, to discuss the work and purpose of the Church in those areas, which include offering spiritual direction and humanitarian aid.
“They are becoming more aware of our presence and activities,” he said. “They’re often, though, not aware of the full extent of the Church’s presence and activities in a given country,” he said. “We’re still somewhat invisible.”
During a young single adults’ conference in Costa Rica, Elder Christofferson remarked that he told President Chinchilla, “I don´t know exactly why, but I have the strong impression that the Lord smiles upon Costa Rica.”
Elder Christofferson, along Elder Richard J. Maynes of the Presidency of the Seventy, also met with local leaders and members in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Panama.
With the number of temples in the region doubling in recent years, the Church has seen large growth rates in Central America. The Tegucigalpa Honduras Temple will become the region’s sixth temple when it is dedicated March 17.
Elder Christofferson, who speaks fluent Spanish, was able to interact with members across the region. While attending stake conferences, youth conferences, firesides, and other meetings, he focused on encouraging individuals to become truly converted to the gospel of Christ.
“Our desire is that all will come to know the Lord and that they will not depend on others for a testimony,” Elder Christofferson said at the Arraiján Panama Stake conference.
While Central America has a high rate of growth, many members struggle with inactivity. Members who are faced with poverty spend so much energy on simply subsisting that full participation may often appear to be just another burden.
Elder Christofferson told members that the gospel “is the root solution to the issues they face. It’s not another thing to worry about. It’s not another thing to carry. It’s the solution to all the rest.”
As part of the focus on true conversion, the Central America Area Presidency is encouraging members to apply five principles in their lives:
1. Participate in daily family and individual scripture study.
2. Offer daily family and individual prayer.
3. Hold meaningful family home evening.
4. Pay an honest tithe and generous fast offering.
5. Participate in a meaningful fast.
Elder James B. Martino, president of the Central America Area, said that these principles, while basic, help members become truly converted and willing to fully participate. He also stressed that when serving and rescuing our fellow brothers and sisters, the emphasis needs to be on individuals and not programs.
“We can reach out to a lot of people here who really just need someone to put an arm around them, someone just to say, ‘I care about you,’ someone to say, ‘Won’t you come back?’” he said.
Elder Christofferson spoke often of the strong faith of the members in Central America.
“It’s refreshing to my faith to see the faith of members,” he reflected. “They don’t feel abandoned by the Lord in times of hardship but rather borne up and sustained. That affects not only them, but anyone who knows them or has an association with them, and that includes me.”
He recalled the feelings he had while visiting a small village on the edge of Lake Atitlán, a pristine lake in the highlands of Guatemala. The native villagers live simple but hard lives. He remarked that as he looked in their faces he was able to see the love of God.
“I got a sense of just how precious they are in the Lord’s sight, just how much they matter to Him. There was a certain innocence—a certain purity—even though most of them face pretty hard lives. … They were beautiful. They were beautiful faces, and the love of God was obvious to me.”
He testified that the Lord remembers His children, no matter where they live.
“I know that the Lord is aware of them. I know that He’s real. I know that He lives, that He’s constantly concerned with their prayers, their needs, their lives, and that He hears those prayers and answers them.”