SALT LAKE CITY — Less than a week before his 95th birthday celebration, President Russell M. Nelson returned from a ministry trip across Latin America — his fourth tour since becoming president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about a year and a half ago.
The man Latter-day Saint faithful believe to be God’s prophet traveled to six locations in five Latin American countries, from Guatemala to Argentina, where he met with members, religious leaders of other faiths and political dignitaries alike.
Here’s what President Nelson did during the nine-day trip:
Guatemala City, Guatemala
About 22,000 Guatemalans gathered at the Estadio Cementos Progreso stadium in the country’s capital city to listen to an evening devotional with President Nelson Aug. 24, the Church News reports. Some attendees even began arriving at 10 a.m. to ensure a seat for the devotional nine hours later.
After a few opening remarks in English, President Nelson addressed the congregation in Spanish and urged the members to “keep the commandments of God” and to pray to their Heavenly Father.
“In doing so, he will direct you for good in everything you do,” President Nelson said to the members in the stadium and the thousands watching the broadcast devotional across the country.
Nearly 21,000 people gathered Saturday at the Estadio Cementos Progreso, an outdoor stadium in Guatemala City, to hear President @NelsonRussellM speak. The prophet addressed the people in their native language of Spanish. https://t.co/knZCd8rqrdpic.twitter.com/eiHBA2LoEd— The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (@ChurchNewsroom) August 26, 2019
Before addressing 10,000 Colombian Latter-day Saints in an arena filled to capacity, President Nelson met with a small group of teenagers who were given the opportunity to meet privately with the leader of the church, the Church News reports.
“Anything worthwhile in life is difficult to do,” President Nelson told the teens, reminding them that in the capital city of Colombia, the ratio of Latter-day Saints to the general population is 67 to one. “But you can do hard things as you link yourself to the Lord.”
Just a few minutes before meeting President Nelson, the teens had spontaneously knelt to pray and thank God for giving them the chance to meet the church leader. Soon after, President Nelson addressed thousands of members in a broadcast devotional and spoke in their native Spanish.
The church leader also met with the president of Colombia, Iván Duque Márquez, and spoke of religious freedom and the importance of protecting families, according to a tweet from President Nelson.
For the third time in three days, President Nelson asked a packed venue if he could address the congregants in their native Spanish. He then urged the Ecuadorian members who had come to hear him speak to make their homes “a laboratory of love,” the church’s Newsroom reports.
“Our Heavenly Father wants husbands and wives to be faithful to each other in a home where children are considered an inheritance of the Lord. Thanks to God's great plan of happiness, families can stay together forever,” he said.
President Nelson’s wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, also urged the members to persistently pray for help to “fill the measure of (their) creation.”
President Nelson later met with the president of the South American country, Lenín Moreno, at the Carondelet Palace.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Just a few hours before addressing 12,000 members in a packed stadium and thousands more watching across the country of Argentina, President Nelson visited children receiving new wheelchairs at a local Latter-day Saint meetinghouse, the Church News reports.
Thanks to a partnership between Latter-day Saint Charities and a humanitarian organization in Argentina, those born with a disability are able to receive a mode of transportation that can often be very expensive in the South American country.
Through a long-standing partnership between Latter-day Saint Charities and @CILSAong, a humanitarian organization in Argentina, young individuals in need have new wheelchairs. Learn more about President @NelsonRussellM's special visit with them. https://t.co/GqDQ8p1xxQpic.twitter.com/3HOVst2Iof— The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (@ChurchNewsroom) August 30, 2019
“The wheelchair means respect,” said Argentine Paola Loza, whose disabled son was turned away from school because he didn’t have a wheelchair.
President Nelson’s message, to both those at the meetinghouse and the thousands he later addressed, was quite similar: God will bless those who come to Him with a “willing heart.”
On his second-to-last stop of the tour, President Nelson visited missionaries assigned to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ in Brazil and left them with a new way to teach people about the Book of Mormon — a book faithful Latter-day Saints believe recounts Christ’s visit to ancient people in the Americas.
“Ask if they know about the mission of Jesus Christ to the people of South America,” President Nelson told the missionaries serving in the 35 missions throughout Brazil.
He also reminded the missionaries to be joyful.
“Teach with a smile on your face,” he said. “If you are frowning, who wants to be like you?”
“There are exciting things ahead.” … “This work is moving forward at an accelerated pace. I can just hardly wait to bounce out of bed each morning and see what the day will bring.” —President Russell M. Nelson https://t.co/iya84OQaGfpic.twitter.com/61F6j2HwOt— The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (@ChurchNewsroom) September 1, 2019
Sao Paulo, Brazil
“We have a lot to do before the Lord will come again,” President Nelson told the 1.4 million members of the church in Brazil during a devotional broadcast throughout the South American country.
The man faithful Latter-day Saints believe to be God’s prophet on the earth spoke without a script and asked the children in the congregation to stand, then urged their parents to teach their children to live the commandments of God, the Church News reports.
“I think it’s amazing to have President Nelson go up there without any notes, without any scriptures, with 37,000 people (in the congregation) and deliver such a sacred, profound message that was completely coherent and absolutely met the needs of the people that were there,” said Elder Cook. “This was an experience never to be forgotten for those of us that were here.”
"I think some of these children you have are some of the brightest children that the Lord has ever let come to planet Earth,” said President Russell M. Nelson as he wrapped up his nine-day Latin America ministry in São Paulo, Brazil. https://t.co/TSHPkea9Df@NelsonRussellMpic.twitter.com/RdPhxGkKaJ— The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (@ChurchNewsroom) September 3, 2019
President Nelson completed his first global ministry tour in April 2018 — just four months after becoming the president of the church, following the death of former President Thomas S. Monson. During that tour, he traveled around the world to London, Israel, Kenya, Zimbabwe, India, Thailand, Hong Kong and Hawaii.
At the end of October 2018, he set off on another ministry tour to South America and visited Latter-day Saints in Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile. Just a few months after his tour of South America, he embarked on a tour of the South Pacific in Samoa, New Zealand, Australia, Tonga, Fiji and Tahiti.