Elder Nelson Visits South Africa
Contributed By Philip M. Volmar, Church News and Events
Continuing his trip to the African continent and Madagascar, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles met with Church leaders, local officials, and missionaries in multiple gatherings held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from October 24 to 28.
In Johannesburg, Elder Nelson spoke at an area office devotional, teaching the Saints of the importance of country dedications, the responsibility of record-keeping, and the power of sacred ordinances.
“What’s it like dedicating a country?” asked Elder Nelson, mentioning the recent dedication of Malawi, which he performed. “It’s like unlocking a door. Doors that have been closed for a long time have been opened for the blessing of the people.”
Elder Nelson, who has been an Apostle since 1984, dedicated the Central American country of Belize in 1992. He told those gathered at the devotional, “The Lord has let me live long enough to see what can happen 20 years later.” He called the growth of the Church across the world a miracle.
Elder Nelson taught that when the restored gospel is established in a country, it becomes vitally important for members to compile records about membership and sacred ordinances there.
He taught that the records assist in the process of salvation and that ordinances and covenants happen to and are made by individuals.
“How wonderful it is to be in this Church, where each individual is a dignified personage,” he said, adding that repentance and baptism are individual responsibilities.
Citing Doctrine and Covenants 84:19–20, which reveals that God’s power is manifest through the greater priesthood, Elder Nelson taught that exaltation is a family process.
“Everything you do here … is to support the sacred ordinances of the holy Melchizedek Priesthood,” he said. “These are the ordinances that qualify people for the highest blessings of the Church.”
He also encouraged Church leaders and other members in South Africa not to be discouraged when callings become difficult or seem routine.
“Focus on the ordinances as you do your rather mundane tasks,” he counseled. “They are not mundane to the Lord.”
Elder Nelson also spoke to local South African officials at a gathering that highlighted the Church’s role in welfare efforts on the continent.
“It’s been wonderful to see the progress of South Africa and the progress of the Church in the countries of Africa,” said Elder Nelson to those who gathered. “The local [Church] leadership is so strong. Wherever we go, the local leaders are from the communities, and they are trusted leaders.”
In a separate meeting, Elder Nelson spoke with missionaries serving in South Africa’s three missions and to those currently in the Johannesburg Missionary Training Center.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for you,” he told the elders and sisters, speaking of the opportunity to serve a mission while in their youth.
He taught that Joseph Smith was stretched in his calling to be the prophet of this dispensation when he was only 14 years old.
“The Lord took him on a tutorial process,” he said, adding that he has read some of the prophet’s writings at that young age. “[Joseph] didn’t know to spell. He didn’t know much about the English language, … but he was willing to do whatever the Lord asked him to do.”
Elder Nelson last visited Johannesburg in 2004, when he and Elder Merrill J. Bateman, then a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, visited six African countries on a two-week tour.
South Africa, which first received Latter-day Saint missionaries in 1853, is home to nearly 50 million people. The Church comprises approximately 150 congregations in the country, with membership totaling nearly 55,000. South Africa is also home to one temple, in Johannesburg, with another, announced during the October 2011 general conference, to be built in Durban.