SALT LAKE CITY — Just seven months after returning from a 10-day tour through South America, Latter-day Saint prophet President Russell M. Nelson went on another ministry tour — this time to visit members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Pacific.
He returned Saturday after making seven different stops, from Hawaii to Tahiti. Here’s what he’s been up to during the last nine days.
Hundreds of Hawaiian Latter-day Saints greeted President Nelson, his wife, Wendy Nelson, church apostle Elder Gerrit W. Gong and his wife, Susan Gong, when they arrived in Kona, Hawaii, a news release from the church reports.
During an evening devotional on the island, President Nelson spoke of 10 spiritual lessons he learned by the “10th decade” of his life, according to Church News. He believes that “God is our Father,” “Jesus is the Christ,” that “we are created in (His) image” and that “God communicates with His children through prophets,” among other things.
“He told the simple pure truths of the gospel,” church member Audrey Veloria told Church News.
About 10,000 Samoans gathered in an outdoor field to hear President Nelson speak just a few days later, though the venue had recently been drenched with two weeks worth of rain, and more fell during the event.
There are 82,000 Latter-day Saints on the island of Samoa, making up 42 percent of the country’s population, KSL TV reports. The last time a president of the church came to the island was in 2005, so members prepared diligently to welcome President Nelson with open arms.
“They sing about the prophet, they pray for the prophet, they speak about the prophet, we learn about the prophet. So it’s a blessing for Samoa to actually have the prophet come here,” church member Ronia Kaio Aiono told KSL TV.
After meeting with the country’s prime minister, President Nelson joined the members on the field and urged them to be strong in the face of persecution and to protect their families in the “difficult days ahead,” Church News reports.
President Nelson shared similar words of hope soon after with members of the church in the “increasingly secular” city of Sydney, Australia, the church reported. There are only about 150,000 Latter-day Saints in the land down under — a country of nearly 24 million. But President Nelson encouraged the members to press forward with faith.
“If you want to be happy, choose the way of the Lord,” he said. “If you want to be miserable, choose the paths and the temptations of the adversary.”
The man faithful members believe to be God’s prophet also said he felt directed by the Lord to speak about the Book of Mormon — an additional book of scripture that Latter-day Saints believe is also the word of God in conjunction with the Bible.
While in the small country of New Zealand, President Nelson met with prime minister and former Latter-day Saint Jacinda Ardern — a young mother whose global profile has risen significantly because of her strong leadership following the terrorist attack in Christchurch that killed 51 people two months ago.
“I think the world will discover a real leader here,” President Nelson said, according to a church news release.
President Nelson also pledged a donation of $100,000 from the church to the two mosques involved in the attack, spoke to a group of 2,500 missionaries and announced the site of a new temple in Auckland — New Zealand’s largest city.
Just 24 hours before President Nelson met with Fijian Latter-day Saints, torrential rain hit Nausori — a large city on one of the country’s lush islands where a devotional with the local members would be held, the church newsroom reported.
When President Nelson arrived, however, the rain stopped. He thanked the members for their faith.
“I wondered if you could do it and you did it. You turned off the rain,” he joked.
The Latter-day Saint prophet then spoke of the importance of The Book of Mormon and temples — special houses of worship — while Elder Gong encouraged the members to stand strong against the wave of illegal drugs entering the country.
“We can decide today that we will not use any of them. We can decide today to stand in holy places,” he said.
Wind, rain and a late night Wednesday didn’t keep members of the church from lining the road to welcome President Nelson to Tonga — a country where over 60 percent of the population claims church membership, according to a church news release.
The next day, the Latter-day Saint prophet met with the king and queen of Tonga and thanked them for allowing the people of Tonga to practice the religion of their choice.
“How many days do you get to wake up and say, ‘I’m going to meet the queen today’?” Wendy Nelson told church newsroom reporters. “This is a woman ... who has a heart that’s focused on the people of Tonga and who has the ability to make a difference.”
Just a few hours later, President Nelson and his wife met with thousands of Latter-day Saints who were thrilled their prophet had come to visit their beautiful island.
“I would stand out in the snow if I had to just to see the prophet,” church member Sione Folau Langi told KSL TV, adding that it was a “great blessing” to have him come to Tonga.
“There’s trouble ahead. … Prepare for attacks from the adversary. Please protect yourself from Satan's traps, including harmful drugs and pornography,” President Nelson warned members as he concluded his nine-day Pacific ministry in Papeete, Tahiti, according to a news release from the church.
Despite his grave warning, the Latter-day Saint prophet left the 12,000 people who attended the devotional and cultural celebration with a message of hope, and reminded them of the rich history the church has in the area.
“Our people should know that the church was established here in French Polynesia before the pioneers ever got to Utah," President Nelson told French Polynesian President Édouard Fritch when he met with him Friday.
“I would like to thank you all for your tremendous contribution to our country,” Fritch said. “It’s a pleasure to be side by side with you all.”