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First two stakes mark milestone as LDS Church continues to grow in Cambodia

Published: Thursday, July 31 2014 9:00 a.m. MDT

On that occasion, Elder Groberg said, he was talking with the missionaries when he received a call from a Cambodian military official saying a general wanted to meet him. The military leader soon arrived, accompanied by vehicles with mounted machine guns.

Things were tense for a few minutes until the general understood the church's purpose in sending missionaries. Instead of guns, the missionaries carried books, the general said in the article.

"Word must have traveled quickly that the missionaries had the general's approval and protection," Elder Groberg said in the article, "because the missionaries were welcomed and didn't need to fear for their lives.

"It's amazing to me what the Lord has accomplished in Cambodia," he continued. "To me it is verification that the Lord wants to be there and has people in Cambodia ready for the gospel. From that tense moment with the general when dark suddenly turned to light has come strong roots of the church that will someday become a stake. It's absolutely amazing."

Another turning point for the church in Cambodia came when President Gordon B. Hinckley visited and left his blessing in May 1996. Following Pol Pot's death in 1998, the political turmoil began to subside.

Fish soup

The Towers described the Cambodian people as humble and faithful. They told of one older woman who invited them to her home for family home evening. The Towers accepted but told the woman not to prepare a meal because they knew she lived in humble circumstances and didn’t have a job.

When the Towers arrived at the appointed time, the woman greeted them with a big pot of fish soup, rice, vegetables and fruit. When they asked why she had prepared the meal, the woman related a story.

Despite their request that she not make a meal, the woman wanted to provide one anyway. Inspired by a Book of Mormon scripture verse, she prayed fervently to be able to find food for her guests. Two days before the appointment, she was walking down the street and came upon a pair of green pants with $5 in the pocket. No one was around, so she claimed the $5 (a “huge fortune,” the Towers said) as answer to her prayers. She bought a fish, rice and vegetables, and a neighbor shared some jackfruit.

“She told us that if you believe in the teachings of the Book of Mormon you will be blessed. She had no idea how it would happen, but it did,” Myrna Towers said. “I told David I’m not a big fish soup lover, but fish soup never tasted so good as it did that night. That woman was amazing. She had such faith.”

No records

During the Pol Pot era, many records were destroyed, presenting a great challenge for Cambodians interested in researching their family history. Cambodian genealogy is also somewhat complicated because each person has a different last name; women don’t take a husband’s name, and children are named after their mothers. Last names are also listed first, the Towers said.

Even so, the Towers were inspired by the faith of one church member who was determined to at least have his four generations recorded. When he failed to find any documents, the man went into a room and prayed for guidance.

“A little while later, he came out with his four generations, received by pure inspiration,” David Towers said. “He was able to do his genealogy because he had faith.”

Tender expression

Another precious memory for the Towers came one spring when a senior missionary composed an Easter cantata to help the Cambodian people understand Easter and Jesus Christ’s resurrection.

During one of the evening performances, an adult was standing near the choir of Primary children and overheard two boys talking. One boy related that when he was singing “I Am a Child of God,” he was overcome by a happy feeling that he described as “My heart opened and water came out of my eyes.”

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