SALT LAKE CITY — Just 2 1/2 months after returning from a ministry tour of Latin America, President Russell M. Nelson flew off to Southeast Asia on his fifth tour since he became president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints nearly two years ago.
The 95-year-old, whom Latter-day Saint faithful believe to be God’s prophet, visited four countries in seven days and completed his tour Thursday. He was accompanied by his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson; Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — one of the highest governing bodies of the church; and Elder Christofferson’s wife, Sister Katherine Christofferson.
Here’s what they did during those seven days:
Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
President Nelson’s visit to Vietnam was the first time a church president had visited the country in more than 20 years. Then-Elder Gordon B. Hinckley came to bless the area in the mid-'60s and returned again as church president in the late '90s. In 2016, the Vietnamese government granted the first step toward official recognition of the church.
"President Nelson also noted that he met in Salt Lake City this past summer with a delegation headed by Vietnam’s Committee for Religious Affairs," according the church's Newsroom website. "Just days before President Nelson’s arrival in Vietnam, the government granted the Church another important recognition. On November 14, 2019, Madam Thieu Thi Huong of the Vietnam Government Committee for Religious Affairs presented an official certificate authorizing Latter-day Saints to conduct religious activities in the country, in compliance with a new religious law established in 2018. "
President Nelson then shared his feelings about the opportunity church members in the country have to practice their faith.
“I express to the leaders of the government and to all the leaders of Vietnam our heartfelt gratitude for the opportunity for our members of the Church to worship here in dignity,” President Nelson said.
To those church members, President Nelson spoke of the importance of families during two devotionals in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. He also reminded the members to love God and neighbor, have faith in Jesus Christ, practice “real repentance,” and to take charge of their spiritual learning.
A little over 430 members arrived at the first devotional — a small number compared to the thousands who gathered during President Nelson’s South American tour. But church leaders saw value in each member who attended, and expressed their belief that God was aware of them.
“Even if one person had come (to the devotional), it would have been worth it,” Elder Christofferson told church media later. “They are critical to the future, they are pioneers, and they have a particular place in His heart and in His mind.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
A “wave of delight” rippled through the crowd of 3,000 gathered Tuesday to hear President Nelson as he unveiled an artistic rendering of the future Phnom Penh Cambodia Temple, the Church News reports. The temple will be the first in the Southeast Asian country.
“This is what it will look like — isn’t that beautiful?” President Nelson said.
For members of the church, the temple is a sacred house of worship that only those who live by certain standards may enter. Faithful Latter-day Saints make promises, or covenants, with God inside the temples.
“We don’t know when the temple will be completed,” President Nelson continued. “But I do know this: Difficult as it is to build a temple, it is more difficult to build a people ready for the temple. Now is the time to start preparing for the temple.”
During the trip, President Nelson also met with Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An who oversees the country’s humanitarian and social work.
“She was warm and gracious, accepting,” President Nelson said, according to a report from the church's Newsroom website. “She understood what the Church has been doing to help.”
As in Vietnam, President Nelson’s trip to Cambodia was the first time a church president had visited the country in more than 20 years.
President Nelson’s visit to Singapore marked 50 years since former church president and then-Elder Ezra Taft Benson dedicated Singapore for the church’s missionary work. There are now 3,500 members in the Southeast Asian country, Newsroom reports.
During a devotional, the Latter-day Saint prophet said that he “pray(s) for the day when we will have a temple here in Singapore.”
“Now is not only a time for us to look back, but it is also a time for us to look forward with excitement to the future,” he said, according to Church News.
President Nelson also addressed parents about their need to teach their children about family history and prophets, read scriptures with their families, and “to be exemplary citizens of their community and of their country,” according to the church's Newsroom website.
During their visit, church leaders also met with interfaith leaders in Singapore and members of the Jamiyah Singapore organization, all of whom members of the church had joined with to celebrate the end of the Muslim holiday Ramadan earlier this year.
Nearly 2,000 members greeted President Nelson in the ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, the Church News reports. The Southeast Asian country, like Singapore, was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the church’s presence there.
President Nelson said he experienced “one of those moments that you never forget,” while looking back on the church's presence in the country and interacting with those whose families have belonged to the church for generations, according to Church News.
“You can’t put words to it very well, but it is the Lord telling you that this is His work and He is directing it and we get to participate,” he said.
He promised the gathered members that the church would grow in their country, one family at a time.
President Nelson also met with the vice president of Indonesia whom he described as a “very gentle man.” The church leaders said the meetings with government leaders in Southeast Asia help them create relationships with officials that may build and blossom in the future.
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.
In September, he returned from a ministry trip through Latin America where he visited members in Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina and Brazil.