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Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles greets members in Taipei, Taiwan, during his visit to Asia May 19-28, 2017.

After visiting Latter-day Saints in Asia — a vibrant, growing area of the Church — Elder Quentin L. Cook said he feels “extremely optimistic.”

“The members are excited about the Church, focusing on temple and missionary work, and living the principles of the gospel,” said Elder Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “The work is moving forward.”

Elder Cook and other General Authority leaders visited the Asia Area May 19-28. They all met members and missionaries in Taipei, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Elder Cook also held member and missionary meetings in Bangalore, India, and Bangkok, Thailand. Elder Ulisses Soares of the Presidency of the Seventy had meetings in Singapore and Jakarta, Indonesia, and Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, had meetings in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and Hyderabad and Bangalore, India.

The area is incredibly diverse and culturally rich, they reported. It is complex and interesting and filled with religions, languages and cultures.

The trip marked one year since government leaders in Vietnam granted official recognition to the Church in Vietnam during a historic ceremony on May 31, 2016. Elder Cook, who participated in the event, said the ceremony “opened religious activities of the Latter-day Saint believers in Vietnam, under the laws of Vietnam.”

The trip also marked two decades since Elder Cook first visited Hong Kong in the period immediately following the July 1, 1997, transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China. “At that time 20 years ago it felt like there was a bit of uncertainty among the members,” recalled Elder Cook. “Today, I sense no uncertainty among the members.”

Elder Cook, Elder Soares and Bishop Waddell were accompanied by their wives: Sister Mary Cook, Sister Rosana Soares and Sister Carol Waddell. They were also accompanied by members of the Church’s Asia Area Presidency — Elder Randy D. Funk, Elder Chi Hong (Sam) Wong, and Elder David F. Evans and their wives, Sister Andrea Funk, Sister Carol Wong and Sister Mary Evans. Elder Peter F. Meurs, who will begin service in the Area Presidency on Aug. 1, and his wife, Sister Maxine Meurs, also participated in the meetings.

Elder Cook said the Asia Area Presidency is doing a “marvelous job.”

During the trip, Elder Cook, Elder Soares and Bishop Waddell conducted a review of the Church’s Asia Area; held priesthood leadership and stake conferences, member and young single adult devotionals, and missionary meetings. Elder Cook and Elder Funk also met with the Thailand Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In addition, all the leaders visited the Taipei Taiwan Temple and the Hong Kong China Temple and checked on the progress of the Bangkok Thailand Temple, announced April 5, 2015, and currently in the planning stages.

The Church’s Asia Area is vast and diverse, said Elder Cook. The area includes eight of the top 25 of the world’s most populated nations: China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar. The Church has many areas of strength in Asia. Taiwan, which includes 40 percent of the total of Church members in the area, is a “long-term strength,” said Elder Cook.

“Taiwan has been such a strong, stable force for the Church in Asia for a very long time,” said Elder Cook. “The multi-generational membership has impressive commitment, leadership and strength.”

In India, “the majority of Latter-day Saints are first-generation Church members,” said Elder Cook. “Many of the young, educated membership in India speak English and have jobs in the high-tech industry.”

Members in Thailand are excited about the future temple in their nation, he said. Elder Cook encouraged them to compile their four-generation family history.

Elder Soares said he had “extraordinary visits” to Indonesia and Singapore and met with members and missionaries in both countries.

“We left with the impression that the Lord has so much in store for these people,” Elder Soares said. “The local leaders are very focused in establishing the Church and are willing to bless the lives of the people there. The Church leadership in these countries is very mature and strong. Many of them are returned missionaries and they are establishing faithful future generations.”

In Mongolia, said Bishop Waddell, Church members are among 3.5 million people living in a large geographic area. Half the population lives in Ulaanbaatar, he said.

“The city is modern and clean, and the people were kind and friendly and open,” Bishop Waddell said. “We had a devotional with the members. They filled the chapel. The people were reverent and focused.”

The people are faithful, he continued. “Their sacrament meeting attendance is solid. Like other faithful members across the Asia Area, they go to the temple when they can (in Hong Kong or Taiwan). They make sacrifices to do that.”

In India, Elder Cook said the Church is growing rapidly “because of the personal commitment to missionary work by the members.”

The members “are as strong as any we have in the Church,” Bishop Waddell added. “They are devoted and diligent. ... They know the gospel. You can see how the gospel is blessing their lives.”

The Lord “is opening doors,” said Bishop Waddell. “You can see His hand in the work there. ... The Church will be a strength and [a blessing] in those countries where the Church is growing. It will be marvelous to see in another generation or two.”

Across the area, Church leaders and members — who are filled with faith — have set high goals and are enthusiastic about the work, said Elder Cook.

“The people are wonderful and very willing to share their goodness with everyone,” said Elder Soares.

The Church is prominent and respected, and does much good among the people, he added. “The diversity in the area is very attractive. Although the gospel is in the beginning stages in some parts of the area, it is uplifting and encouraging to contemplate the future of the gospel in Asia.”

In 1949 Elder Matthew Cowley of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles opened the Hong Kong Mission with a prayer from Victoria Peak — the highest point overlooking the city.

The Cooks, Soareses and Waddells, together with the Asian leaders, had the opportunity to stand on that peak and appreciate the spiritual significance of that historic location.

Elder Cook said, “It was very tender to see that spot and feel strong spiritual impressions about the work. We could see how the Lord is blessing His saints and hastening the work, not only in Hong Kong, but across all of Asia.”

sarah@deseretnews.com @SJW_ChurchNews

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