News Release

"Healing comes in the Lord's time and in the Lord's way" Elder Ulisses Soares 

In a message from Salt Lake City, Elder Soares urged the Saints in Puerto Rico to view trials as opportunities to learn to overcome by faith.

A historic special conference, broadcast from the Guaynabo meetinghouse to all wards and stakes in Puerto Rico, was held this weekend with the virtual presence of Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who was accompanied by his wife, Sister Rosana Soares. Sister Reyna Aburto, Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, and her husband, Carlos Aburto also participated virtually. 

About one hundred and seventy members of the Church were present at the meetinghouse and more than two hundred others joined the broadcast from their chapels to hear messages of inspiration. The meeting was conducted by Elder Tomás E. Román of the Seventy and included the participation of Elder Brent H. Nielson of the Presidency of the Seventy, along with his wife Marcia, and Elder Eduardo Gavarret of the Seventy and President of the Caribbean Area, and his wife Norma, as well as other authorities in the area. 

Elder Román shared a message focused on the opportunity for Church members to help “gather Israel on both sides of the veil” and that young people in particular can “be part of the Lord's battalion” to carry out this purpose. 

“The Savior is inspiring us to strengthen our faith in Him, to make and keep our own sacred covenants, and to prepare the world for His Second Coming; he let us know that there is nothing more important on earth for members of the Church than to gather Israel on both sides of the veil,” Elder Román paraphrased President Russell M. Nelson, President of the Church. 

For her part, Sister Aburto indicated that she had been doing research about Puerto Rico, “the Island of Enchantment.”  She learned that the word Borinquén, which means “great land of the brave and noble” and that the meaning of the term Borinqueño is “brave people of the sacred house”, using them as a way to highlight the faith and nobility of the Puerto Rican people: 

“Puerto Rico is an island rich in charm, beauty, but, above all, rich in courage to follow Jesus Christ. You are the brave people of the holy house preparing to worship God in a soon-to-come temple. This made me think of the gathering of Israel in which our prophet is inviting us to participate, the most noble and sublime cause that is carried out on earth,” she affirmed. 

Considering the trials and difficulties that the saints have faced in the face of the natural phenomena that annually affect the island, and more particularly in recent years, added to the current impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sister Aburto invited the members of the Church to remember their baptismal covenants, to care for and watch over one another, and in the process to see their faith strengthened, especially as they share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

“I am grateful for those who felt so much love for me when I was twenty-six, they loved me enough to invite me to come to the Lord. We can do the same, seeing those around us and inviting them to come unto the Lord so that He can heal them,” added Sister Aburto, who is a convert in the Church and she prayed as the prophet has taught us to let" God prevail in their lives." 

Elder Nielson, who was physically in the meetinghouse, expressed his sincere desire that he would one day be able to communicate with the Saints of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean in their own language. His message focused on what he had learned from the pandemic and invited everyone to ponder how the pandemic has taught them lifelong lessons, especially lessons to help them strengthen their faith in and love for Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. 

"I have learned two things from the pandemic, which we still find ourselves in the midst of," he said, referring to chapter 32 of the book of Alma in The Book of Mormon, which he called "one of the best lessons on faith.” He indicated that at times, like those of old, “we suppose [we] cannot worship God except in our synagogues and only once a week” (Alma 32:11). He highlighted how, thanks to the authority of the priesthood and the revelation of the organization of the Church, members were able to continue to hold their meetings and, in many cases, partake of the sacrament in their own homes. 

Likewise, he highlighted as a second lesson that, through divine inspiration, "prophets and apostles can see the future," and he shared that just months before the pandemic broke out, a process began to equip every missionary in the world with smartphones, which eventually allowed missionary work to continue, despite the state of the world because of the virus. 

“I worked in the missionary department trying to give missionaries smartphones. They started with twenty missions, and then eighty missions, then one hundred and sixty missions, all under the direction of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. In January 2020, two months before everything closed, they approved smartphones for all the missionaries in the world, so that in March, when everything closed, the missionaries were able to continue working from their apartments,” said Elder Nielson. He reported that furthermore, despite these circumstances, and thanks to this decision, one hundred and twenty-five thousand people joined the Church through baptism last year. "This is a testament to the leadership we have in the prophets and apostles," he concluded. 

Sister Soares spoke a few words prior to the apostle's message, in which she spoke of the importance of being obedient to the Lord's commandments in all circumstances, and she referred to a message from Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. 

“Sometimes people feel confused and think they don't have a strong testimony about certain gospel principles. My advice is that if you think your tithing testimony is weak, pay your tithing. If your testimony of the importance of studying the scriptures is not so strong, read the scriptures. If your testimony of the temple is weak, go to the temple. I promise you that if you do, little by little, your testimony about these things will come,” said Sister Soares. 

“My husband and I decided that if something comes from the prophets and the leaders, and we don't understand it very well, we always obey, and we have seen that the understanding of the principle often comes later. The Lord will never take our will by force, but he needs our voluntary obedience,” she declared. 

The meeting concluded with the words of Elder Soares, who expressed his desire to meet in person with the members. He invited each member to review President Nelson's message from the last General Conference and emphasized, as in a recent meeting with the leaders, the crucial role of faith in the lives of Latter-day Saints. 

His review of the prophet's teachings during the last General Conference was an invitation to “activate the power of God in our lives through faith” and to let “God prevail in their lives.” He then added: “What did [President Nelson] mean by these two invitations combined? He meant that the voice of the Lord and our covenants take precedence over any other influence in our lives. It is the model that our Heavenly Father has to bless our lives.” 

Elder Soares recognized the faith of the Saints in the Caribbean, especially in Puerto Rico, as they faced various difficulties, atmospheric phenomena, loss of family, friends, and neighbors, as well as great physical losses, who in the midst of tribulation, continue forward with faith in God and serving in His Church. He compared the members of the Church in Puerto Rico to Nephi of old, who “having seen many afflictions in the course of [his] days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord” (1 Nephi 1:1), noting that one can feel joy and hope in the midst of affliction. 

For Church leaders and members who participated in the special conference, Elder Soares's message was greatly appreciated. It was “like a balm and a particular and specific answer to my prayers,” said Carmen Yolanda Morales, stake Relief Society President of the Ponce Stake, who like many other members on the island has had to face various difficulties. 

Elder Soares encouraged the Saints to accept trials as opportunities to learn. “No pain that we suffer or any test that we experience is in vain, rather it builds our education in the development of virtues such as patience, faith, courage, and humility. When we do it with patience, it purifies our character, and it makes us more charitable and worthy to be called children of God,” teaching us about the importance and the role of trials in the development of faith. 

“How useless it is to dwell on the whys of many of the things that happen to us in life, because it is possible that we will not be given answers until after this life. The questions 'why me?' or ‘why my family?’ often have no answer, and they affect our spirituality and weaken our faith. However, our faith and trust in the Lord can help us leave behind the 'whys' and 'what would have happened' and feel the comfort of the Spirit of the Lord,” he noted. 

Using various examples from the scriptures, Elder Soares emphasized the importance of seeing the learning opportunities in trials and overcoming them through the power of faith. He shared how in his own life and in his wife's, they have learned to trust the Lord and His promises, even in times of doubt, concern, and insecurity. 

“May we center our lives on the Savior Jesus Christ and receive from Him the healing that we all need in these days. President Nelson has taught that the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and much more to do with the focus of our lives. We can feel joy regardless of what is happening or what is not happening, for joy comes from Him, for He is the source of all joy. To Latter-day Saints, Jesus Christ is joy,” he concluded. 

This special conference, which was historic in its format because of the unique way in which it combined technological resources to enable Elder Soares to deliver his message from world headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah (United States) and to add in-person involvement from various leaders locally in Guaynabo which reached hundreds of members gathered in different meetinghouses throughout the island, concluded the activities of the area review in Puerto Rico, the Isla del Encanto. 

Next activities 

Other similar activities that will be attended by Elder Soares, Elder Nielson, and Church leaders in the region, are scheduled for members, leaders, and missionaries in the Dominican Republic, particularly in the cities of Santo Domingo and Santiago. They will also have a meeting with the hundreds of employees of the Church in the Caribbean Area, whose headquarters are in Santo Domingo, and where they have recently remodeled a new building in the center of the capital city. 

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