SALT LAKE CITY — Nemani Delaibatiki had been to Salt Lake City once before. In 1981, he was working as a reporter for the Fiji Sun and came to the United States as a guest under what was then the U.S. Visitor Program Service.
Last week, Delaibatiki returned to Utah in what he describes as “a significant and historic trip” he’s still trying to digest. Not only did he have the chance to reconnect with old friends, but a lifelong dream came true as he attended the 188th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints live in the Conference Center.
“I always dreamed of attending conference in Salt Lake City, so this is a dream come true for me,” he said. “I’ve just been blown away by my experience.”
Delaibatiki, 65, and his wife were baptized in 1977 in Suva, Fiji. He said he was “the most difficult investigator” and took two years to accept the gospel after missionaries began teaching him.
Throughout the years, he and his wife, who have 11 children and 28 grandchildren, have raised their family in the gospel. They have also helped lead their parents and siblings into the gospel and have been been instrumental in bringing the church to their small village called Muanaira, Vutia, Rewa near Suva, Fiji.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” said Delaibatiki, who was recently released as a group leader of a congregation of 70 that just applied to become a branch.
Delaibatiki attended all five sessions of general conference and said he felt blessed to be present during the historic announcements of priesthood quorum restructuring, the ministering program and the seven new temples. His main takeaway: “less meetings and more work … the Savior’s return is pretty close so we need to hasten the work.”
“I felt the Spirit throughout the conference,” Delaibatiki said. “Like I said, it was a dream, but it was true. I was sitting there and listening to the prophet and the apostles and general authorities.”
One of the highlights of general conference for him was seeing an old friend, Elder Taniela B. Wakolo, who spoke during the Saturday afternoon session. Delaibatiki said he has known Elder Wakolo since Elder Wakolo was converted to the gospel. Prior to his call as a General Authority Seventy, Elder Wakolo was the service center manager at the church’s Fiji Service Center, according to lds.org.
Last week, Delaibatiki also toured Welfare Square in Salt Lake City. He said both members and nonmembers alike in Fiji have received help from LDS Charities and he enjoyed seeing firsthand “the massive operation” of everything from food processing to medical equipment.
“I’ve often wondered how the church is able to do all this, but after I went through the tour I found out that the majority of people who make it happen are members who volunteer their services. That for me is a very touching experience,” he said.
Work did not stop for Delaibatiki during his visit. While in Utah, Delaibatiki wrote a piece for the Fiji Sun bout sustaining President Russell M. Nelson and an article featuring two Fijian players on the Utah Warriors Rugby team.
“It’s been an eye-opener for me,” he said of his time in Utah. “I’ve learned a lot of things. It not only reaffirms some of the things we are doing in Fiji, but it’s something we can build off of when we go back.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the name of the newspaper Nemani Delaibatiki works for. It is called the Fiji Sun not the Fiji Sun Times.