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Mormon apostle visits Venezuela and Peru, says LDS Church is strong and growing (+photo gallery)

Published: Thursday, Sept. 12 2013 1:20 p.m. MDT

He noted that almost every young Latter-day Saint in Venezuela, who serves a mission, does so in Venezuela. "They need the missionaries here and they serve here."

Many of those young people become leaders in the country when they complete their missions.

Elder Cook called the local leaders "strong."

In addition, the Caracas Venezuela Temple has been a great blessing, Elder Cook said, noting that he and Elder Callister met one group of local members that had traveled eight hours to get to the temple. "They looked wonderful and they were so excited," he said. "They are focusing on the covenants they've made and they're renewing those in their sacrament meetings. ... They are going forward in a wonderful fashion there."

Peru

In Peru, a country rich with history, Elder Cook and Elder Callister held numerous member and priesthood leadership meetings and visited seven of the 12 missions in the country during their travels Aug. 19-26.

Peru, located in western South America, was once home to many ancient cultures, including the Norte Chico civilization (one of the oldest in the world) and the Inca Empire. The Spanish came to the area in the 16th century. "The unique thing about Peru is that they have a history that they understand," said Elder Cook, noting that Church members honor their rich history.

That history also makes local Latter-day Saints more aware of the Book of Mormon. Peruvian church members "relate to the principles in the Book of Mormon because those teachings could also be found, in many respects, in their own history," he explained.

Elder Cook's visit to Peru came shortly after Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve organized the 100th stake in Peru, which took place on June 30.

Peru has more than a half-million members, 12 missions, a temple in the capital city, and plans to build two more — one in Trujillo and one in Arequipa. Only three other nations — the United States, Mexico and Brazil — have reached the 100-stake milestone.

Elder Callister said one of the highlights of the visit to Peru was participating in an area review with the Area Presidency and Area Seventies in the country. "They each made a report on what they are doing in their areas," he said. "They are men who are articulate and devoted. It was pleasing to see how seasoned the leaders are for the time the gospel has been in Peru."

During member meetings, Elder Cook told the Peruvian Latter-day Saints that there "needs to be cohesion and love and unity in the family" and that the family needs to sacrifice to help the rising generation.

In addition, he said, the local members not only need to prepare missionaries to enter the mission field, but they also need to help the missionaries assigned to serve in their own areas find teaching opportunities.

"I thought the response was remarkable," he said.

He taught members that the cooperation between missionaries and Church members is one way the Lord is hastening the work, noting that there will probably be 85,000 missionaries in the field by the end of the year.

"There has never been, in this dispensation or any other dispensation, anything like that," Elder Cook said.

Elder Cook noted that despite recent economic success in Peru, there are still large numbers of Latter-day Saints who are very poor. "They recognize that what is really important is to have the gospel and to have the blessings of the temple and to know that you can be reunited with your family, with God the Father and Jesus Christ," he said. "They have that. They know that."

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