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Elder Cook visits South America

While visiting the Church’s South America South Area, Elder Quentin L. Cook asked local leaders in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay to make as their primary goal “building faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Atonement.”

“If we will start out by getting on our knees before we go into any [Church assignment] and we pray that we can build faith in our Father in Heaven and our Savior Jesus Christ, something very special will happen,” he promised.

The address, which was broadcast to ward and stake council members in the South America South Area, where more than 25,000 participated, was part of a trip to the area Nov. 12 through Nov. 23. Elder Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was accompanied on the trip by his wife, Mary; by Elder Ulisses Soares of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Rosana; and by members of the Church’s South America South Area Presidency — Elder Walter F. González, Elder Francisco J. Viñas, and Elder José A. Teixeira, and their wives.

As part of their assignments, Elder Cook and Elder Soares conducted a review of the Church’s South America South Area; held priesthood leadership conferences, member devotionals, and missionary meetings; participated in a seminar for mission presidents; and met with government leaders.

“These are great countries and there are faithful members in each of them,” Elder Cook said of the area.

During the trip, Elder Cook met with the President of Uruguay, Tabaré Vázquez. The president posted a message about the meeting on social media, noting that he and Elder Cook “discussed the values, the family as the basis of society, education and respect and the importance of people.”

Elder Cook said that President Vázquez “received us very warmly and invited Church participation on a commission formed to strengthen families.”

In addition, Elder Cook, Elder Soares and the Area Presidency were pleased to visit “a very special, sacred site” in the area — a memorial that was built to honor Elder Melvin J. Ballard. As an apostle, Elder Melvin J. Ballard — the grandfather of Elder M. Russell Ballard — opened up missionary work in South America in 1925 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Great leaders carry on today the work that Melvin J. Ballard started in South America 90 years ago, Elder Cook said.

Elder Cook expressed his love for the Area Presidency. “They are united and work together in a wonderful way,” he said. “They are great brethren. They love the gospel. They are joyful in what they do.”

Elder Cook said he was “impressed with the strength and commitment of the local leaders and feels the Saints are progressing in a meaningful way.”

He addressed priesthood leadership in Salta, Argentina, and Antofagasta, Chile, and met with missionaries in those cities. “The missionaries looked wonderful,” he said.

In addition, Elder Cook also spoke to 28 mission presidents and two MTC presidents. He was impressed “with the spiritual magnitude of these great leaders.”

He asked the mission presidents to help their missionaries be “ward and branch builders.”

He asked them to invite those they teach to participate in the gospel and promised them that when they invite they succeed regardless of the outcome.

Elder Cook told the mission presidents that investigators will sense “Christ-like attributes” and asked them to remind missionaries to “bring spiritual power to their teaching, planning and purpose. “You need to bless these young people … and prepare them for what is ahead,” he said.

One of the principal subjects covered by Elder Cook and Elder Soares in many of the meetings was to emphasize the importance of sacrament meetings that are focused on the Savior. It was noted that the need for reverence, sacred music and uplifting talks will help members have a spiritual experience.

Elder Cook and Elder Soares also stressed the need to honor the Sabbath day and make it a delight. Elder Cook said, “Each family will achieve this in different ways. The Church will not prescribe specific activities. Joyful family time, visits to grandparents and other relatives, service to friends and neighbors, family history research, and many other activities are being reported across the Church as helping to make the Sabbath a delight.” Elder Cook added, “If we honor the Sabbath day, we will provide protections to our families in these perilous times.”

While speaking during the broadcast to ward and stake council members in the area, Elder Cook said the Church operates under a council system. “Those on the council give their best counsel and their best thoughts,” he said. “They listen to each other. They learn from each other. They seek a revelatory experience. As they do so, in many circumstances, there is a great unity achieved.”

He called Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-42 a “constitution for ward councils” — “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile.”

The Church needs to be a joy and a delight in the lives of its members, he said. “This gospel is a plan of happiness.”

Sister Cook said members can find happiness in their Church service — whether it is fulfilling their family responsibilities, their callings or working in the temple or on their family history. “If we want to feel His love, if we want to feel His peace, we do it in His service,” said Sister Cook. “It doesn’t matter where we serve. … Whatever it is and however we do it, we make a difference in the lives of our brothers and sisters. We bring them closer to our Savior.”

During the broadcast, Elder Soares quoted Handbook 2, chapter 4, and explained that councils are fundamental to the order of the Church.

“Church council members labor to help God’s children to receive all essential priesthood ordinances, keep the associated covenants, and qualify for exaltation and eternal life,” Elder Soares said.

“Leaders counsel together for the benefit of individuals and families; they plan the work of the Church inviting full expression from council members and unify their efforts in responding to the individual and family needs.”

Quoting Elder Cook’s April 2011 general conference talk, Elder Soares said that much of what the Church accomplishes is due to the selfless service of women. “Whether in the Church or in the home, it is a beautiful thing to see the priesthood and the Relief Society work in perfect harmony. Such a relationship is like a well-tuned orchestra, and the resulting symphony inspires all of us.”

Elder Soares said the meeting with council members left an impression on those in the congregation. “They feel like they need to be a part of what is being built.”

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