Sarah Jane Weaver, IRI
It is a wonderful time for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Asia, said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland during a recent trip to Asia.
“The spirit of the Lord is moving over this vast area,” he said. “It would be undeniable, it would be impossible not to grasp, not to feel that there is a great work unfolding here.”
Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visited Asia Feb. 19 through March 2 with Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Presidency of the Seventy and Presiding Bishop Gary E. Stevenson. They were met in Asia by members of the LDS Church’s Asia Area Presidency: Elder Gerrit W. Gong, Elder Larry Y. Wilson and Elder Randy D. Funk.
The men were accompanied by their wives: Sister Patricia Holland, Sister Diane Hallstrom, Sister Lesa Stevenson, Sister Susan Gong, Sister Lynda Wilson and Sister Andrea Funk.
The leaders visited Beijing, Hong Kong, Macau, Taipei, and Bangalore — holding priesthood leadership, missionary and members meetings, conducting an area review, and attending a devotional commemorating the 65th anniversary of the church in Hong Kong.
The church in Asia is doing wonderfully well, Elder Holland reported. “It is very different in each of these locations — different circumstances, different relationships and different history — but all of them are doing well.”
Elder Hallstrom said it was a privilege to accompany Elder and Sister Holland and Bishop and Sister Stevenson. “For Sister Hallstrom and me, it was a homecoming as I previously served in the Asia Area Presidency and we lived in Hong Kong for four years,” he said. “Observing leaders and members on this visit, it is clear that the church is maturing well in every location. We were inspired by the faith and devotion of the Saints in every setting.”
Bishop Stevenson also met with members, missionaries and staff in Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand as he inspected facilities and properties.
“I found the light of the gospel shining brightly in their eyes, and the church being firmly established,” he said.
Speaking of his trip, Elder Holland said visiting Beijing was a “wonderful experience.”
“It is a delight to meet people, see growth, know of faith and learn of testimonies,” he said, noting that the church is “absolutely resolute and very precise” in respecting and honoring the important laws and traditions of the Peoples’ Republic of China.
During the trip Elder Holland also visited the two Special Administrative Regions of the People’s Republic of China — Macau and Hong Kong
In Macau, he offered a prayer on the land and the people. “It was a sweet experience,” he said. “We felt something of China’s past and saw something of its future.”
In Hong Kong, he participated in a devotional held to commemorate the 65th anniversary of Matthew Cowley, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1945 to 1953, dedicating Hong Kong for the preaching of the gospel.
Local pioneer members participated in the local commemoration, celebrating the beginning of the church’s work in Asia, said Elder Holland. A young boy and older church members shared their testimonies. “It was a wonderful evening for me,” said Elder Holland. “How appropriate to have on that occasion local flavor, local history, and the impact of local faces and testimonies. It was very much a taste of local history, a tribute to how much has been done in 65 years.
“I haven’t lived in Hong Kong to see that happen day after day, but I have been coming to Hong Kong for 30 years. It is all very impressive and a tribute to those who have served here.”
In Taiwan, Elder Holland found a growing and maturing church. He held a priesthood leadership conference and presided over the Taipei Taiwan West Stake conference.
“Those priesthood leaders were the equal of any you would find anywhere in the church,” Elder Holland said, noting that local leaders in Taiwan are very wise and experienced. Most, he added, are returned missionaries and are second-, third- and fourth-generation Latter-day Saints.
During the four-hour priesthood leadership conference in Taiwan, Elder Holland answered questions and took the time to shake hands with those in attendance.
Although he has been to Taiwan before, he felt something “fresh and bright” about the church in the country today.
“I have never been in a meeting where there were better questions asked than in Taiwan,” he said. “That suggests the maturity of the church there. I also felt that when I shook their hands, when I looked them in the eye. I saw a wonderful generation of young people giving faithful, devoted missionary service. It was for me a new, fresh, bright look to the church in Taiwan.”
Through attending the meetings, talking with the leaders and individual members, Elder Holland said he got “a macro look and a micro look” of the Church in Taiwan. “Both looks were inspiring,” he said.
In addition to visiting China, the church leaders also had the opportunity to visit India. At least in terms of population numbers, China and India are “the anchor posts of a growing and developing church in Asia.” Many of the challenges in Asia are common to challenges in many other parts of the world. The people wrestle with poverty and have hopes and dreams of obtaining an education, he said.
“In Asia, many of our institutional challenges are related to starting the church, giving the church birth, and seeing it grow in its very early stages.”
That means working with the governments, getting visas, establishing centers of strength, and working to help the church “come out of obscurity.” The area is large in geography. “Geographically speaking, we are just getting our feet on the ground,” said Elder Holland. “However, the challenges we have seem to be met. We are succeeding, we are rising above local limitations and restrictive circumstances.”
Elder Holland said in India there is a large Hindu community, a large Muslim community, and a healthy, growing Christian community.
The church has one stake and six districts in the country and a growing membership — who in many cases deal with poverty and a need for health and education.
But “one miracle at a time” is taking place in centers of strength in the country.
“We move steadily into the future. India will be one of our miracles,” he said. “We will live to see a remarkable work unfold in India.”
Another challenge for members across Asia is temple attendance.
“People take the temple seriously here,” Elder Holland said. “They go whenever and wherever they can. They return to the temple as finances and circumstances allow. They keep current temple recommends even though they may be great distances from the temple.”
They also participate in and value family history work, he said.
Members in Asia, he said, are all spiritual pioneers for the church and for Christianity.
Each day they work “to take a stand, to be loyal devoted Latter-day Saints. They are courageous, they live the gospel and square their shoulders to be what they ought to be.”
Concluding, Elder Holland reported that there is a hastening of the work in Asia. “We will live to see miracles there — as we see them now. Our children and our childrens’ children will be as comfortable talking about the church in Asia as they have historically been talking about it in Utah and Idaho and Arizona.”