Cover Story: Pres. Hinckley in Chile marks largest LDS gathering
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SANTIAGO, Chile A great meeting of an estimated 57,500 members believed to be the largest number of members ever gathered for a Church meeting assembled in a soccer stadium to hear President Gordon B. Hinckley speak at a regional conference April 25.
President Hinckley was accompanied by his wife, Marjorie, and by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife, Dantzel. The Chile Area presidency, composed of Elders Dale E. Miller, Jerald L. Taylor and Eduardo A. Lamartine, all of the Seventy, and their wives also attended.
The members gathered from the Santiago area, and from points throughout the lengthy nation as they traveled to see the Church president. Those assembled represented nearly one-fifth of the nearly 500,000 members in Chile, who are members of some 116 stakes and eight missions.
"I can scarcely believe what I see," said President Hinckley upon looking out on the vast, full stadium. "I have trouble holding back the tears. I feel so profoundly grateful for your presence, for the great effort you have made to be here, for your sacrifice in coming, for your willingness to sit here in the cold. May the Lord bless you because of your love for Him."
President Hinckley's reference to the coldness of the morning was also significant. Before that Sunday, Chile had experienced a severe drought and members had prayed that rain might come when President Hinckley arrived in Chile.
On that morning, residents in Santiago were awakened by the sound of falling rain. Members, realizing that their prayers had been answered, felt a great desire to attend the regional meeting, said leaders. And they came with additional joy in their hearts. Members gathered from throughout greater Santiago and some from distant areas of Chile to the stadium in the rain and waited reverently in their seats for President Hinckley to speak.
When President Hinckley arrived in the stadium, the members, many, with tears in their eyes, stood to wave their love and welcome to the Church leader. The many children who were present also stood reverently, evidence that they, too, had prepared themselves for a special occasion. They whispered to their parents: "Is that the prophet? Is he the one who speaks with the Lord?"
The rain slowed so that the members were able to remain comfortably seated during the meeting. After the meeting, President Hinckley said, "Now it can rain," and after he left the stadium, the drizzle grew to a downpour. Even in the downpour, members stood waving handkerchiefs.
Although the meeting was short, President Hinckley's words during the two-hour meeting had a strong impact on the members, and left impressions that will last their lifetimes, said leaders.
President Hinckley recalled coming to this land in 1969 when there had been "a terrible drought in Chile. There had been no rainfall for a very long time." He dedicated two meetinghouses, pleading for rain in each dedicatory prayer. The day after he left, rains arrived throughout Chile.
"I remember that occasion 30 years ago this April. I remember the plea for rain and I remember the reports that rain fell upon the land. That was not my doing. That was the work of God our Eternal Father in behalf of the people of this land. I believe it was an answer to the faith and the prayers of the Latter-day Saints, then few in number, whose very faith came to bless the entire nation.
"I want to say to every one of you that if you will live the gospel, if you will live in faith, if you will do what you ought to do, not only will you be blessed, but this entire people will be blessed because the God of heaven will smile upon you with love for you and for the land of which you are a part."
A commercial slogan in the stadium, "Just do it," provided a theme for his address and emphasis for his points.
President Hinckley recalled coming in 1972 to create a stake, but found the prospective leaders were not paying their tithing. He told the people that he would return in six months and see how they were doing then. Upon his return, "I found that faith had replaced doubt and the people were paying their tithing and we organized the stake with Brother Carlos Cifuentes as president, a very humble and wonderful man who was called to preside over that stake."
President Hinckley noted in the Sunday morning address that he had just dedicated the Bogota Colombia Temple and soon would dedicate the Guayaquil Ecuador Temple. "This land is being blessed with holy temples," he said. "The time is not far distant when every nation of South America, except the Guianas and Suriname, there will be holy houses of the Lord to bless the people."
While there are many members who attend temples faithfully, there are also many who do not go, he said.
"To you, my brothers and sisters, to you whom I love so much, I make a plea this morning to get your lives in order, to qualify for a temple recommend, to go to the House of the Lord, this beautiful house in Santiago, for blessings which can come in no other place of this great nation."
He observed the many children in the congregation and asked, "Are they yours? "Are they sealed to you? Will they be yours forever, even when the hand of death strikes? Will they be yours through time and eternity? My brothers and sisters, you who have not been to the House of God, I plead with you this morning with all the power that I have to begin today to repent of the past, get your lives in order so that you may go there and bind to you those whom you love most dear to you."
He encouraged members to hold family home evening, read the scriptures together, pray as a family, and pay tithing. "I don't know how He can bless you if you don't live worthy of these blessings," he said.
Members should trust in the Lord, he said, and added, "As His servant, I promise you that He will bless you and there will be opened to you the doors of the temple of the Lord that you may go and enjoy these rich and marvelous blessings and you will be bound together as a family of husband and wife, of parents and children living together in love and respect one for another."
President Hinckley reminisced that he has traveled across the world for many, many years. "I have gone forth in the holy apostleship among the Latter-day Saints and how I have come to love them! I don't care about the color of their skins. I don't care about the slant of their eyes. I don't care what language they speak. I just care about their goodness, their faithfulness, their love of the Lord."
He encouraged the members to be kind to one another, for fathers to honor their priesthood and to treat their wives well. He encouraged honesty, and he testified of the restoration of the gospel.
President Hinckley concluded: "I will always carry with me love in my heart for the great and good and wonderful and humble people I have known in Chile, in this great city of Santiago and down south to Concepcion, all the way down to where the wind blows so hard, and all the way north across the great desert lands between here and Antofagasta and on up to Arica."