Historic visit: Apostle tours 8 nations
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During a historic trip through the Middle East on April 6-20, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve visited eight nations and addressed several thousand members of the Church. Growth in the area prompted the division of the former Manama Bahrain Stake into the Manama Bahrain District and the newly named Abu Dhabi Stake.
The original stake from which this growth came was organized 28 years ago by then Elder Boyd K. Packer, now president of the Quorum of the Twelve. Elder Holland is the first member of the Quorum of the Twelve to have returned to the stake since its creation.
Elder Holland reported that growth in the Church has tripled over the years and continues to increase.
"We do not proselytize or engage in traditional missionary service in this part of the world," Elder Holland said. "We respect the conditions established by local governments and are committed to 'obeying, honoring and sustaining the law' (Twelfth Article of Faith). Even without proselytizing, however, many members of the Church continue to move into the area, representing one kind of growth. Plus, some others in the Christian community in these nations have inquired about the Church and have chosen to join the Church, which they are allowed to do."
Elder Holland noted that although this has been a time of very serious political unrest in the region, the members of the Church are doing "wonderfully well and feel very safe."
"Just as anywhere else in the world, our Father in Heaven watches over those who faithfully keep their covenants and strive to obey the gospel. That safety and protection was certainly manifest in the lives of the members of the Church I met with on this trip."
Following the reorganization of the stake and the creation of the district in the region, Elder Holland concluded the trip by dedicating the Church's meeting place in Tel Aviv, Israel.
"The Tel Aviv area has a wonderful history because it includes the ancient city of Jaffa (Joppa), where apostles in Christ's day came and went both by ship and on land carrying out their ministries. It was historic to have a modern apostle in the same area dedicating a meetinghouse for Saints, not of 'ancient days' but of 'latter days.' "
Also included in the trip were visits to congregations in Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Jordan.