“There’s trouble ahead. … Prepare for attacks from the adversary. Please protect yourself from Satan's traps, including harmful drugs and pornography,” warned President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as he concluded his nine-day Pacific ministry in Papeete, Tahiti, the capital of French Polynesia.
More than 12,000 members and friends of the Church attended the cultural celebration and devotional held afterward in Pater Stadium, which was also broadcast to congregations across Tahiti.
President Nelson was touched by the music he heard during his ministry in the South Pacific. “In some cultures, people feel bashful or reticent to sing. Not so in these islands. They have a great love for God. … They want to sing because it's their way of expressing gratitude and love for their Lord. It's really quite remarkable.”
Prophet Meets and Celebrates with French Polynesian President
President Nelson and his wife, Wendy, met with President Édouard Fritch and the First Lady.
They were accompanied by Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Susan. They also met with other government leaders and dignitaries from the Pacific island, where French is the official language.
President Nelson noted, “The president of the republic was with us from the time our plane touched down until we walked out of the arena. He didn't leave our sight. He just was so hospitable and so courteous and kind.”
President Nelson also hosted President Fitch at the 175th anniversary cultural program celebrating the arrival of the first missionaries to French Polynesia.
“I would like to thank you all for your tremendous contribution to our country,” said President Fritch in opening remarks at the celebration. “It’s a pleasure to be side by side with you all. Happy birthday to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
“Our people should know that the Church was established here in French Polynesia before the pioneers ever got to Utah,' said President Nelson. In May 1843 — just 13 years after the Church was organized in the United States — four men were sent by the Prophet Joseph Smith to be missionaries in the islands of the Pacific.
Tahiti is a major tourist destination. The island, known for its black sand beaches and rain forests, was created by volcanic activity. More than 26,000 Latter-day Saints live in Tahiti.
Pacific Ministry Finds Respect and Love
The Nelsons and Gongs visited seven countries during the Pacific ministry that ran from May 16–25, 2019. Destinations included Kona, Hawaii; Apia, Samoa; Sydney, Australia; and Wellington and Auckland, New Zealand; Suva, Fiji; Nuku'alofa, Tonga; and Papeete, Tahiti.
While in Tahiti, President Nelson and Elder Gong talked with the media about their Pacific ministry to the South Pacific, where they spoke to more than 94,000 people.
“My feelings are of gratitude and love,” said President Nelson. “My goodness, when you think of the outpouring of love we've received and that which we've tried to give. … We're just very grateful.”
Elder Gong expressed his appreciation to President Nelson. “What he's done is something quite magnificent to come and be with the people in a way that brings the Lord's love,” he remarked.
The senior Church leaders met with global government and faith leaders in seven countries as they traveled thousands of miles.
“These leaders respect the Church in a way that is increasing,” said President Nelson, who enjoyed time spent with many government leaders during his travels. He explained,
“The Saints are respected. They're loved.”
Global Church to Add More Temples
The Church, headquartered in Salt Lake City, has more than 16.3 million members worldwide and more than 200 temples in operation, announced, under construction or being renovated around the world.
The Oceania geographic region has 10 operating temples, including the Papeete Tahiti Temple, which was first dedicated in 1983 and rededicated in 2006 following remodeling.
President Nelson concluded, “You now have 10 temples in these nations that we visited, and more coming. So that faith is going to be rewarded with temples and ordinances for these people and their ancestors.”
President Nelson’s travels have taken him to six of the seven continents, excluding Antarctica, since being sustained.