Two decades ago as a newly called General Authority, Elder Quentin L. Cook served in the Philippines. Twenty years later, Elder Cook — now of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — returned to the country, where he observed meaningful Church growth, youth engagement in family history work and an increasing number of temple marriages among young adults.

“We loved our first assignment there 20 years ago and are so pleased much of what we loved and appreciated is still evident — the love and the warmth of the members, the love Latter-day Saints have for the Savior, and their commitment to kindness and modesty and other Christlike virtues,” said Elder Cook after visiting the country with his wife, Sister Mary G. Cook, Nov. 8 through Nov. 21.

“Much has also changed,” he added. “The Church has almost doubled in size. Where there were branches there are now stakes. Children we knew then are now returned missionaries. Returned missionaries are now stake presidents. It is incredible to see the growth of the Church.”

During the two-week trip to Bacolod, Iloilo, Quezon City, Manila, Urdaneta, and Cebu, Philippines, Elder Cook conducted a review of the Church’s Philippines Area, held priesthood leadership and stake conferences, youth devotionals and several missionary meetings; and addressed missionaries at the Philippines Missionary Training Center. “The Area Presidency are providing exceptional service,” remarked Elder Cook.

He was accompanied by Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Sister Jan E. Robbins; Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric and his wife, Sister Carol S. Waddell; and members of the Philippines Area Presidency — Elder Shayne M. Bowen, Elder Allen D. Haynie, and Elder Evan A. Schmutz, all of the Seventy, and their wives, Sister Lynette M. Bowen, Sister Deborah H. Haynie, and Sister Cindy S. Schmutz.

While Elder Cook has been to the Philippines in more recent years, he noted this return marked almost two decades after beginning service in the Area Presidency in August 1996. He is impressed with the dramatic growth; Church membership in the country has nearly doubled in the past 20 years and sacrament meeting attendance has significantly increased, especially in recent years as the Church has emphasized Sabbath observance.

Filipinos “inherently love the Savior,” said Elder Cook. “The emphasis on sacrament meeting and being brought to the table of the Lord to feast on His word, has resonated with them.”

“Members have also responded to President Thomas S. Monson’s invitation to rescue,” commented Bishop Waddell.

Elder Robbins said the Philippines is a country that is open about their love for Jesus Christ. “They show their Christianity everywhere — on buses and billboards,” he said.

Elder Robbins said when looking at Church growth over several decades in the Philippines, “you clearly see the hand of the Lord upon the work.”

Elder Cook said many members pioneered the work of the Church in the country. Today their posterity spans four generations of Latter-day Saints.

“It is also wonderful to see what has happened to the cities in the country — where there is now a modern airport and an economy that is growing faster than any in Asia. But it is the people that are the country’s greatest resource,” he said.

That can be seen in the faces of the missionary force — where young men and women enter service well prepared. Elder Cook said everywhere he went he saw young women wearing their Young Womanhood Recognition medallion.

“The Philippines is the land of beautiful smiles,” said Elder Robbins.

“They are a happy people,” added Bishop Waddell.

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“They are also resilient,” said Elder Cook.

Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) — one of the world’s strongest and deadliest typhoons — struck the country in 2013. But Typhoon Pablo (2012), Typhoon Pepeng (2009), Typhoon Pedring (2011); Typhoon Frank (2008) and Typhoon Juan (2010) have also greatly impacted the country in recent years — taking lives and destroying property and crops.

“They have learned to overcome traumatic circumstances,” said Elder Cook. “They come out of them with a smile and a commitment to serving the Lord.”

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