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Ministry in Africa: Blessing the lives of the people

Church growth is rapid, level of faith is high

Elder Russell M. Nelson conducted a ministry in Africa from Oct. 21-30 that could be described as the fulfillment of scripture.

Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve speaks during a conference session in Madagascar.  His translator is Roger H. Rakotomamonjy, president of the Antananarivo Madagascar Manakambahiny Stake.
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve speaks during a conference session in Madagascar. His translator is Roger H. Rakotomamonjy, president of the Antananarivo Madagascar Manakambahiny Stake. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

In the company of Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy and Bishop Richard C. Edgley of the Presiding Bishopric, Elder Nelson dedicated Malawi and visited several other countries in which he presided over area reviews, addressed priesthood leadership conferences and spoke to members in various meetings.

"During the trip, a scripture kept coming to mind," said Elder Rasband. "That scripture is found in Doctrine and Covenants 107:35: 'The Twelve being sent out, holding the keys, to open the door by the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. ...'

"We were literally able to witness this verse in action as Elder Nelson dedicated the country of Malawi and as we visited the various nations," Elder Rasband said.

Elder Nelson, Elder Rasband and Bishop Edgley were together for various meetings held in Johannesburg, South Africa; Antananarivo, Madagascar; and Blantyre, Malawi. While Elder Nelson was presiding over stake conferences in Nairobi, Kenya, Elder Rasband was in Kampala, Uganda, and Bishop Edgley was in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Antananarivo, Madagascar.
Antananarivo, Madagascar. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Also with the Brethren in various places were members of the Africa Southeast Area Presidency: Elders Dale G. Renlund, Ulisses Soares and Carl B. Cook, all of the Seventy.

During their visit to several African nations, Elder Russell M. Nelson, Elder Ronald A. Rasband, Bishop Richard C. Edgley and Elder Carl B. Cook met with leaders and missionaries during a number of meetings with missionaries and members.
During their visit to several African nations, Elder Russell M. Nelson, Elder Ronald A. Rasband, Bishop Richard C. Edgley and Elder Carl B. Cook met with leaders and missionaries during a number of meetings with missionaries and members. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
Members pose for a photo in front of a Latter-day Saint meetinghouse in Blantyre, Malawi.
Members pose for a photo in front of a Latter-day Saint meetinghouse in Blantyre, Malawi. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Traveling with their husbands were Sisters Wendy Nelson, Melanie Rasband, Pauline Edgley, Ruth Lybbert Renlund, Rosana Soares and Lynette Cook. While the General Authorities conducted priesthood leadership conferences, their wives met with and taught leaders of the Primary, Young Women and Relief Society organizations.

"We were trying to bless the lives of as many people in as many countries as possible," Elder Nelson said after his return to Salt Lake City.

While Elder Nelson had been to many countries in Africa, his visit Oct. 21-24 was his first to Madagascar, which is located in the Indian Ocean east of Mozambique. It is the world's fourth largest island. The first branch of the Church was established in Madagascar in 1990, nearly a year before missionaries were assigned to serve there full-time. The Church received legal status in 1993.

Alexandre Andrianarvio, a group leader from the village of Ambrositra, attends the priesthood leadership conference for the two stakes in Madagascar. He is the oldest male member of the Church in Madagascar.
Alexandre Andrianarvio, a group leader from the village of Ambrositra, attends the priesthood leadership conference for the two stakes in Madagascar. He is the oldest male member of the Church in Madagascar. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

"They told me I was the first apostle to visit Madagascar since Elder Richard G. Scott was there to dedicate the country [on Oct. 27, 1999]," Elder Nelson said. "For them to know about prophets and apostles is an abstraction; to see one gives them a connection to the leadership of the Church, which they really appreciate. I wish we could get around more often. However, they're blessed to have an area presidency, members of the Seventy. They are so good, so competent. We fulfill our scriptural responsibility through these men."

Sister Wendy Nelson, left, speaks Oct. 22 during a women's conference held in the Manakambahiny Stake Center, Antananarivo, Madagascar. Sister Lucia Rabemalanto, a returned missionary from the South Africa Johannesburg Mission, serves as translator for Sister Nelson.
Sister Wendy Nelson, left, speaks Oct. 22 during a women's conference held in the Manakambahiny Stake Center, Antananarivo, Madagascar. Sister Lucia Rabemalanto, a returned missionary from the South Africa Johannesburg Mission, serves as translator for Sister Nelson. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

While the first branch of the Church in Malawi was organized in 1999 and there are now about 1,000 members in four branches, the land had not been formally dedicated. Elder Nelson and others met as a small group for that purpose on Oct. 25.

Blantyre, Malawi
Blantyre, Malawi Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

"We have a chapel in Blantyre," he said. "That is where we chose to dedicate the land, thinking that this was probably the most sacred spot in the country. After we dedicated the country, we held a meeting for the members and missionaries."

Of his visit to Kenya Oct. 29-30, Elder Nelson said, "We were there for a priesthood leadership conference. We taught men from five countries: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Rwanda.

"I dedicated Ethiopia and Tanzania on earlier trips there, so for me to meet priesthood leaders from those countries was personally a real thrill."

Asked what impressions he brought home of the members in Africa, Elder Nelson paused a moment to collect his thoughts. "I would say reverence and competence would be at the top of the list."

In most places he visited, the Church is seeing its first generation of members; in other areas there are second-generation members. (In South Africa, where the Church has been long established, there are multi-generation members.)

Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve speaks at a dinner held in his honor in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve speaks at a dinner held in his honor in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Young men and young women are being called to serve as missionaries, not only to their own countries but also to other nations.

Bishop Edgley said, "Everywhere I went I found wonderful saints who were eager to learn and to do things right. I found great faith and great levels of activity among the people. There is a maturing leadership.

"In certain areas of Africa, especially in Congo and DR Congo, the Church is growing rapidly with a high level of faith. Everywhere we went, they were excited about the temple [to be built in Kinshasa, DR Congo; a temple is to be built also in Durban, South Africa], even if it will be inconvenient to get to. It is a symbol to them that the Church is growing in Africa and that at some time there will be a temple closer to them."

Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve in Johannesburg.
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve in Johannesburg. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Elder Nelson said, "We also see the fruits of the humanitarian efforts of the Church. You and I contribute dollars to the humanitarian fund. We see women who used to walk three hours a day from their village to where the water is and then walk back, day after day. Now the humanitarian efforts of the Church have brought clean water to their communities. When Elder Rasband went to a community without any Latter-day Saints, the women danced around him with thanks for clean water."

Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy addresses a priesthood leadership meeting in Madagascar. Lalarivelo Rakotondrasoa, member or the Mission presidency translates at the priesthood leadership conference, Saturday, Oct. 22, held in the Ivandry Stake Centre, Antananarivo, Madagascar.  There were 150 church leaders present from the Indian Ocean islands of Madagascar, Reunion and Mauritius.
Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy addresses a priesthood leadership meeting in Madagascar. Lalarivelo Rakotondrasoa, member or the Mission presidency translates at the priesthood leadership conference, Saturday, Oct. 22, held in the Ivandry Stake Centre, Antananarivo, Madagascar. There were 150 church leaders present from the Indian Ocean islands of Madagascar, Reunion and Mauritius. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Of their meetings during their visit to Africa, Elder Rasband said, "The leaders and members were very receptive to the teachings and messages given by all in our group."

From left, Brother Stephen R. Harms, Church public affairs director in Johannesburg, South Africa; The Premier of the Eastern Cape Province, Noxolo Kiviet; and The Acting Deputy Director-General of Basic Education, Mr. Matanzima Mweli.
From left, Brother Stephen R. Harms, Church public affairs director in Johannesburg, South Africa; The Premier of the Eastern Cape Province, Noxolo Kiviet; and The Acting Deputy Director-General of Basic Education, Mr. Matanzima Mweli. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
Jacques F. Ferrier, center, of the St. Marie Branch on Reunion Island, is among brethren attending a priesthood leadership conference in Antananarivo, Madagascar.
Jacques F. Ferrier, center, of the St. Marie Branch on Reunion Island, is among brethren attending a priesthood leadership conference in Antananarivo, Madagascar. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Asked what he foresaw for those African nations where the Church has been established for only two decades or less, Elder Nelson used one word: "Hope."

Then he said, "After centuries of cycles of poverty, with no relief in sight and every generation doing what the previous generation did in poverty and squalor, there is now a way up and out; there's light and education, the promise of prosperity — both spiritual and economic — as they learn the commandments of God and learn to keep them. So it is hope that the Church can provide for this new generation."

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Members attend a priesthood leadership meeting in Madagascar.
Members attend a priesthood leadership meeting in Madagascar. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
Tanjambato, a city in the Manakambahiny Stake, Madagascar.
Tanjambato, a city in the Manakambahiny Stake, Madagascar. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
School children play on a sports field in the Andohalo area of Antananarivo, Madagascar.
School children play on a sports field in the Andohalo area of Antananarivo, Madagascar. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
Brother Tatasoa's sons, from Ivandry Ward Futura Park Andranomena attend stake conference where Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve.
Brother Tatasoa's sons, from Ivandry Ward Futura Park Andranomena attend stake conference where Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
Members in Madagascar listen to leaders during a conference over which Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve presided.
Members in Madagascar listen to leaders during a conference over which Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve presided. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
Members from the Antananarivo and Manakambahiny stakes in Madagascar attend a combined conference held in a convention center.
Members from the Antananarivo and Manakambahiny stakes in Madagascar attend a combined conference held in a convention center. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve, left, meets with Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Seventy and president of the Africa Southeast Area.
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve, left, meets with Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Seventy and president of the Africa Southeast Area. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
Andriamihaja Miaratiana Pascale from Ambohibao Ward attends stake conference in Madagascar.
Andriamihaja Miaratiana Pascale from Ambohibao Ward attends stake conference in Madagascar. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
A member takes notes during a priesthood leadership session.
A member takes notes during a priesthood leadership session. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve, his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, and other Church leaders pose with missionaries in Madagascar.
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve, his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, and other Church leaders pose with missionaries in Madagascar. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
Antananarivo, Madagascar
Antananarivo, Madagascar Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
Elder Nelson Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, give some attention to a young LDS child in Malawi.
Elder Nelson Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, give some attention to a young LDS child in Malawi. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
Bishop Richard C. Edgley, left, of the Presiding Bishopric speaks in one of several meetings while in Africa.
Bishop Richard C. Edgley, left, of the Presiding Bishopric speaks in one of several meetings while in Africa. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.