Church News and Events

Elder Nelson Teaches and Testifies in Asia North Area

Contributed by  By Marianne Holman, Church News staff writer

  • 18 March 2013

In Tokyo, from left, are Elder Tad R. Callister, Sister Kathryn Callister, Sister Wendy Nelson, Elder Russell M. Nelson, Bishop Dean M. Davies, Sister Darla Davies, Elder Michael T. Ringwood, and Sister Rosalie Ringwood.

Just a little more than two years after an Apostle visited Guam to organize the country’s first stake on December 10, 2010, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve visited the island located in the western Pacific Ocean during his first stop of an almost two-week long visit to the Asia North Area.

Elder Nelson was joined by his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson; Elder Tad R. Callister of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Sister Kathryn Callister; and Bishop Dean M. Davies, Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, and his wife, Sister Darla Davies. Members of the Asia North Area Presidency—Elder Michael T. Ringwood, Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita, and Elder Koichi Aoyagi, all of the Seventy—also accompanied the Church leaders at various times during their visit.

The visit in the area began with a priesthood leadership conference in Guam on February 23 and concluded with a military district meeting in Okinawa, Japan, on March 3.

Following the priesthood leadership meeting in Guam, Elder Nelson held special meetings with members, missionaries, and local Church leaders and met with government leaders in Japan.
“We can learn two things from the [Asian] people,” he said. “First is honesty, and second is a reverence for ancestors.”

Elder Nelson told the Church News that it was a wonderful assignment to be with the people in that area of the world, but that no matter where he is his message remains the same.

“We are here to teach and testify of the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel restored,” he said. “That is the way to find joy and purpose in life. While the world and the people of the world do the best they can in darkness and in despair, they can’t find happiness any other way. So ours is a message of peace and joy, of strengthening families, bonding husband and wife, children to their parents, and people to their ancestors ... that they can all enjoy eternal life in the presence of God when their sojourn on earth is over.

“Most people live from day to day without a thought of what they will do after this life is over, so we try to give them that eternal perspective. This mortal experience is just act two of a three-act play—the best is yet to come.”

Elder Nelson said that one highlight of their visit was when he and Sister Nelson attended the temple in Tokyo.

“It is a great blessing to have two temples in Japan, and a third one (located in Sapporo) is under construction,” he said. “We went to the Tokyo Temple and did an endowment session. We did proxy work for [Sister Nelson’s] ancestors. That’s what we do now—we don’t just go to the temple and draw names of unknown people; we take family names.”

Sister Nelson, along with Sister Callister and Sister Davies, divided up and made special visits to some Church members. “They did a lot of good,” Elder Nelson said. “They accomplished a great work, maybe even more valuable than what we did with the area review. They were in their homes and took pictures—it was pretty tender.”

During his visit to Tokyo, Elder Nelson, along with the Area Presidency, met with two local government leaders—Fumio Kishida, minister of foreign affairs for Japan, and Sadakazu Tanigaki, the minister of justice for Japan.

One unique part of this trip was a special meeting held on March 3 with the Okinawa District—a district for American military personnel and their families.

“It’s pretty rare for us to meet with a military district,” he said. It was also during his visit to Tokyo that Elder Nelson, along with the Area Presidency, met with two local government leaders—Fumio Kishida, minister of foreign affairs for Japan, and Sadakazu Tanigaki, the minister of justice for Japan.

“They spoke in glowing terms of the Church, expressing gratitude for our help following the earthquake, for the high moral standards and responsible citizenship of Japanese Latter-day Saints,” he said. “They were very warm and friendly, and we expressed our gratitude to them for their making it [possible] … for our missionaries and visitors such as us to come into Japan.”

Japan has six missions. Elder Nelson said that just months after President Thomas S. Monson’s announcement of changes to the age requirements for young missionaries there is still a “wave of excitement throughout the entire earth.”

“Everybody is energized and excited about missionary work,” he said. “It’s unparalleled. The young people want to go. They date differently. They’re more anxious to learn the gospel. They teach each other in their youth classes now. They know how to get all the information from the Internet. They are the responsible ones now for their preparation for their missions.”

Elder Nelson said that excitement in Guam and Japan matched the reactions he has seen all over the world.

Prior to a devotional in the Asia North Area administration office for the employees and senior missionaries, Elder Nelson was delighted to be reacquainted with someone he had met many years previous. One of the senior couple missionaries introduced himself as Kan Watanabe. Elder Nelson quickly responded, remembering him from a visit years prior while he was serving as Sunday School general president. Elder Nelson inquired of Elder Watanabe’s family and life in the Church. As he learned more about the missionary’s faithful children and grandchildren, he recognized the growth that has happened in the Church within those years.

“We are getting more and more multiple-generation members in Japan,” Elder Nelson said. “We’re getting that kind of depth that comes with multiple-generation families.”

Describing the next generation of Church members—the youth and young adults—he met on his travels, Elder Nelson said that they are “bright, light-filled young people” who “know who they are, and they know where they are going. ... It is fun to teach them because they are so very receptive. They are the cream of the crop.”

During his visit to Tokyo, Elder Nelson, along with the Area Presidency, met with two local government leaders—Fumio Kishida, minister of foreign affairs for Japan, and Sadakazu Tanigaki, the minister of justice for Japan.