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President Nelson finishes 7-day, 4-country Southeast Asia ministry in Indonesia

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints talks with 86-year-old Tumini as he meets with multigenerational families in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Nov. 21, 2019.
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints talks with 86-year-old Tumini as he meets with multigenerational families in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Nov. 21, 2019.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

JAKARTA, Indonesia — After visiting four countries in seven days, speaking to Latter-day Saints in five cities and meeting with government leaders, President Russell M. Nelson completed his weeklong Southeast Asia Ministry in Jakarta on Thursday night.

Looking across the crowded ballroom to a multi-generational congregation gathered in the Ritz-Carlton hotel, President Nelson reflected on the 50th anniversary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Indonesia, a country of 267 million.

“You can’t put words to it very well, but it is the Lord telling you that this is his work, and he is directing it, and we get to participate,” he said.

Accompanied by his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, and Elder D. Todd Christofferson and his wife, Sister Kathy Christofferson, President Nelson said the church in the area will grow through families.

“It is interesting that in many places, the work does begin with a few key families, and the Lord builds the gospel on their foundation,” said Elder Christofferson of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “And it seems very slow at first and then, all of a sudden, you have five generations in a time that seems so brief. … And so it goes. The Lord does His work one by one.”

The meetings in Southeast Asia stood in stark contrast to the stadiums and convention centers filled with tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints in large-scale gatherings that previously have been part of President Nelson’s worldwide ministry.

Watching the prophet travel so far to minister to just a few “is a testimony that every soul is precious. They are remembered,” said Elder Christofferson.

As part of the Southeast Asia ministry, President Nelson and Elder Christofferson met with government leaders in Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore. They met Thursday with Ma’ruf Amin, vice president of Indonesia.

The vice president thanked the leaders for what Latter-day Saint Charities has done to assist the country after previous disasters and for what they are doing now.

“He was very gracious and warmly welcomed us,” said President Nelson of the meeting.

Elder Christofferson said the meetings with government leaders held in Southeast Asia — as well as others like them that take place across the globe — “clear up misconceptions in many cases and establish relationships.”

A day earlier, President Nelson spoke at a devotional in Singapore in the Bukit Timah Stake center. Church members in Singapore are also celebrating 50 years of the church in their country.

“Now is not only a time for us to look back, but it is also a time for us to look forward with excitement to the future,” said President Nelson.

President Nelson first visited Singapore in 1966 as a heart surgeon, just after the nation became an independent republic in 1965.

President Nelson spoke about the church’s 166 temples across the globe. “The strength of the Church comes from great families. Good families come from the endowment and blessings from the temple,” he said.

In both Singapore and Indonesia, President Nelson acknowledged members who want the church to build a temple in their homelands. “You will determine when that happens,” he said in Indonesia.

It takes a long time, sometimes years, to build a temple, President Nelson explained. “But it takes even longer to build a people ready for the temple. You do your part, and we will do our part.”

The Nelsons and Christoffersons also participated in devotionals in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam — where the church is relatively new and growing — and in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where the church has announced a temple.

“The gospel is young in these lands, and so those who do accept it against tremendous odds, in some cases, and challenges are pioneers,” said Elder Christofferson. “They truly are pioneers in the full sense of the word.”

Church leaders admire these members who “set an example, lay a foundation, just keep going forward day by day by day,” he added.