Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve and Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy spent 12 days traveling in the Asia North Area during February. Stops on their itinerary included the Korean cities of Seoul, Busan and Daejeon, and the Japanese cities of Tokyo, Kobe, Okayama, Sizuoka and Nagoya. Elder Cook visited Hanoi, Vietnam, as well.
Accompanying Elder Holland, Elder Cook and Elder Rasband during their travels were their wives, Sister Patricia T. Holland, Sister Mary G. Cook and Sister Melanie T. Rasband. Also joining them for part or all of their travels were Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Seventy and president of the Asia North Area, Elder Yoon Hwan Choi of the Seventy and first counselor in the Asia North Area presidency, and Elder Koichi Aoyagi of the Seventy and second counselor in the Asia North Area presidency and their wives, Sisters Lesa Jean Stevenson, Bon Kyung Koo Choi and Shiroko Momose Aoyagi.
There is a deep sense of the history of the Church in the Asia North Area, Elder Holland said.
"It began with Elder Heber J. Grant who landed in Japan in 1901 to dedicate the land. It continued when Dr. Kim Ho Jik was baptized in 1951 as the first Korean member," said Elder Holland. "The Church and the work here are firmly established. We saw faithful and diligent members of the Church everywhere we went."
Elder Holland and Elder Rasband, along with Elder Stevenson and Elder Aoyagi met with senior officials of the Japanese government. They were received by Mr. Sadakazu Tanigaki — former Minister of Finance, current president of the Liberal Democratic Party, and leader of the Japanese House of Representatives — to discuss topics including strengthening families in turbulent times and creating policy allowing young Japanese university students, including Latter-day Saints, leave of absence status for humanitarian or full-time missionary service.
While in Korea, Elder Cook and Elder Choi met with media representatives of several national newspapers and magazines in a press conference. Questions directed to Elder Cook included: "What do Mormons believe and proclaim and what does one do to attend Mormon meetings?'"
Elder Cook provided a simple and profound answer, "We proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and we open our doors to everyone." A reporter who asked some pointed questions commented following the meeting, "I know more correctly about the Church and I could feel the goodness of Elder Cook."
Thousands of Latter-day Saints were blessed to hear from the visiting authorities in missionary and member meetings, priesthood leadership conferences and special stake conferences.
"This is a historic meeting," declared Elder Ronald A. Rasband as he addressed members of the greater Tokyo area in a devotional presided over by Elder Holland. He then asked each of the seven members of the Seventy in attendance to stand. He noted, "There were only seven members of the Seventy for the whole Church in its early organization, a demonstration of the growth of the Church in the latter days, and blessings that have come to the Saints in Asia."
Finding peace and joy in the gospel emerged as a theme in many of the meetings and gatherings, often culminated by blessings offered upon the Saints by Elder Holland and Elder Cook.
Particularly poignant was a blessing offered by Elder Holland in Nagoya Japan, to not only bless the missionaries, but all the people of the area. In the prayer, Elder Holland blessed the nations of Japan, Korea and the other island locations of the missionaries in the area. He asked that the people would be responsive to the Spirit, and that they would feel a hunger in their hearts to find the truth, recognizing the missionaries as agents from Heavenly Father when they present the gospel truth to them.
"To aid in that I bless political leaders, the economy of the nations and any other forces that sometimes disrupt the work," he said. "May stability and tranquility come in those social and cultural forces. I bless members, priesthood leaders, and investigators ?— including the less active — that a major thrust will go forward from this apostolic visit to this land. I turn the key again, as keys have been turned before, to bring a new chapter, a higher achievement, greater success in this most important work in the world. Such success can only come from heaven. We can work hard to prepare the way and deserve success, but the blessings come only from our Father in Heaven. In that, we honor Him, give praise to Him, vow to be clean and worthy, and diligently labor before Him to see a new era of the gospel rise in this Land of the Rising Sun and neighboring nations."
Following a priesthood leadership conference in Korea, a stake president wrote, "Elder Cook blessed Korea and Korean Saints and said that it is the Korean Saints who can best create a heavenly kingdom in Korea. He blessed each family and advised parents to guide their children with help from the Lord and leaders even if some might be wayward. He also blessed the Saints to have abilities, strength and health so that they can support their families and bless them to receive inspiration in their callings. As I listened to his blessing, I felt the hand of the Lord close to us."
Henry Savstrom commented on his feelings while working as a translator for Elder Holland, Elder Cook and Elder Rasband.
"As I stood next to them, I felt the pure love of our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ," he said. "The Spirit was so strong at the priesthood meeting in Nagoya, and that Spirit continued in the member meeting that night and the special stake conference in Shizuoka the next day. It was so beautiful when he [Elder Holland] taught of the account of the Savior's visit to the Nephites. His promise and blessing were such a great gift for all of us."
At the conclusion of their visit, Elder Stevenson remarked, "Numerous Saints came in contact with, and were touched by, these two apostles of Jesus Christ, for some stakes the first visit in 30 years. They brought, almost as a gift, their special witness of Jesus Christ and left it here for us."