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Boyd Matheson: President Nelson's global ministry tour gives reason to have faith in the future of the world

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds Pierina Risso, 3, while meeting with her three generation LDS family in Montevideo, Uraguay, on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018.
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds Pierina Risso, 3, while meeting with her three generation LDS family in Montevideo, Uraguay, on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Is there any reason to have faith in the future of the world where societies across the globe celebrate the secular and shun faith in the public square? Many argue that there is little faith left in the world. I disagree — completely. While faith is generally described as a belief in something not seen, I have seen faith in the world this week in South America.

Traveling with Russell M. Nelson, president and prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on his global ministry tour to Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile, I have witnessed faith in the world, and that gives me faith in the future of the world.

I have also seen faith in the world in California’s Silicon Valley, not exactly a burgeoning bastion of religiosity. Salesforce.com has discovered the power of faith in the lives and performance of its employees beginning with one woman of faith who was willing to ask, “Would anyone like to pray with me?” Sue Warnke, director of infrastructure documentation at Salesforce, is part of the Faithforce group. What started as a few people praying has blossomed into a group that includes employees from around the world and across the religious spectrum. Warnke said, “I can bring my whole, authentic self, the most important parts of that self, to work. … What a remarkable thing: to allow faith at work!”

I recently interviewed my friend Arthur Brooks, economist and president of American Enterprise Institute. Arthur once asked His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, how to deal with the anger and contempt that seem to be manifest in the angry and divisive rhetoric of the day. The Dalai Lama replied, “The answer to contempt is warm heartedness.” From a tiny and oppressed country, this man of faith influences people the world over because he believes in the goodness of people and has faith that faith can influence everyone, including the leaders of nations and everyday citizens everywhere.

In Bolivia, I saw more than one hundred buses and an array of vehicles, many which would not be street legal anywhere else on the planet, that carried thousands of faith-filled people for many hours and countless, rugged miles to be nourished by a prophet and the good word of God. Most arrived four, five or six hours early so they could be in place for the devotionals.

In order to be on time, two young missionaries, who serve in a remote village of Paraguay, embarked on an adventure that took them 38 hours by boat and another 10 hours by bus. They did it because of their belief. When asked following the meeting if such travel was worth it just to meet and hear President Nelson, one companion replied, “Yes! We would do it all again!” To which his companion quipped, “Yes. Well, we are going to have to do it again.” They were ready to travel another 48 hours back to their area in faith and with faith that they can make a difference. Their faith personified the words of Robert Frost, “I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.”

Such faith in the world isn’t limited to South America. In the past six months alone people of faith have gathered around the world. In one of the seemingly most secular and least religious cities in America, Seattle, Washington, more than 50,000 crowded into Safeco Field to hear their prophet speak. Groups of the faithful have assembled in places like Bangkok, Hong Kong, London, Jerusalem, Africa and in several cities across Canada.

More important than the manifestation of faith required to travel to be in the presence of a world religious leader are the lives these people of faith actually live — because of their faith.

In Uruguay, I had the opportunity to ask a question of Sergio Rubin, the biographer of Pope Francis, who had just finished interviewing President Nelson as a world religious leader. I asked Rubin about his interaction with Mother Theresa and how her faith became such a powerful force and influence in the world. Rubin responded, “Words are carried by the wind. Mother Theresa was a woman of action.” Mother Theresa developed deep faith, spoke little, acted always and as a result the lives of many were blessed, and faith in the world increased.

Elder Gary E. Stevenson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and his wife Lesa are also traveling alongside President Nelson and his wife Wendy on the global ministry tour. In talking about how faith is manifest in the world, Elder Stevenson recently said, “Whenever our neighbors are in distress temporally or spiritually, we run to their aid. We bear one another’s burdens that they may be light. We mourn with those who mourn. We comfort those who stand in need of comfort. The Lord lovingly expects this of us. And the day will come when we will be held accountable for the care we take in ministering to his flock.”

Neighbors helping a neighbor in need, a friend serving a friend, communities coming together to strengthen the weak and the weary is reason to have faith and hope in a better world.

People of faith, regardless of sect or denomination, are blessed with an anchor in their lives. During difficult days or trying times, faith enables individuals to stand strong and ultimately move forward. The Book of Mormon, a book of scripture translated by Joseph Smith Jr. through whom the Church of Jesus Christ was restored, contains the words of a prophet named Ether who lived in the ancient Americas. He wrote, “Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God” (Ether 12:4).

That anchor of faith leads to lives of certainty, resiliency, upward mobility and desires to “abound in good works” through service to others.

Across South America, the church has seen many manifestations emanating from its members’ faith impacting the world in which they live. The nearly 600,000 members living in Chile have been part of that manifestation of faith. The church and its members have rallied, served and lifted their fellow citizens of all faiths, and of no faith, during times of earthquake, tsunami and flood, while continually working to alleviate the plight of the poor, strengthening families, improving communities and providing sustenance to the suffering. These are acts of living faith.

The global ministry tour appropriately concludes in Concepcion, Chile, on Sunday with the dedication of a new temple — a holy place set aside for the highest and holiest expressions of faith. The temple will bless the country and provide an anchor to the people in a challenging, confusing and chaotic society. The temple and the members who will worship there will be witnesses that faith in the future of the world begins with faith being present and flourishing in the world.