Sister Linda K. Burton, general president of the Church’s Relief Society, and Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, general president of the Church’s Primary organization visited the Kingdom of Tonga this week.
They were accompanied by their husbands, Craig P. Burton and B. Jackson Wixom, as well as Elder Kevin W. Pearson of the Pacific Area Presidency and his wife, Sister June Pearson.
Sister Wixom told reporters at a media conference in Nuku’alofa on Thursday [21 February 2013]: “We came to learn about Tonga. We have seen your beautiful children and their loving parents. Yesterday we heard the beautiful voices of the children.”
She added, “We came to learn and to share what we learned with others. We are all Heavenly Father’s children and we share common desires and hopes. We all love our children. We desire to love and to be loved. We have witnessed that here.”
Sisters Burton and Wixom spoke about education of children, education of women and the importance of the family.
Asked by a Tongan reporter if they “liked it in Tonga,” Sister Burton replied: “Like it here? We love it here! We love this people. We have felt the love and a part of your culture. We appreciate your rising generation. We’re impressed with what they know and how well they articulate it.”
Another reporter who had read of Sister Burton’s visit earlier in the week with Latter-day Saint New Zealand woman Ailsa Coutts, asked her to share her feelings about that experience.
“I will tell you what I noticed,” Sister Burton said. “She was bright and cheerful. She is a 100-year-old woman whose husband died in his 20’s. An eight-year-old boy saw the plane that shot him down in the war and wrote down the plane’s number. The pilot, a German, later came and apologized. She holds no ill will.”
Sister Burton continued: “When we can freely forgive, we do not have to carry those burdens with us. It was delightful to meet such a person.”
Addressing the responsibility to teach children, Sister Wixom said: “Everyone who has experienced a baby coming into the world and held that child will recognize the feeling of love for children. We seek Heavenly Father’s help in teaching our children.”
“Helping our children,” she said, “comes through families uniting on that path where parents work together and respect each other and each other’s roles. We’re made different, and there’s a reason for that. But together we raise our children well.”
“We have divine natures. Parents help children become their best selves. Children watch their parents. They need their parents to be good, so that they show them the best way.”
Sister Wixom explained why she and her counselors in the general presidency of the Primary organization meet with children, parents and teachers around the world.
“When we travel we learn about the needs of children throughout the world,” she said. “We have fallen in love with the people here,” Sister Wixom said.
Earlier in the day the visitors spoke at a special devotional for students and staff at the Church’s Liahona High School.
Sister Wixom told the audience: “You are a sight to behold! Looking into your faces I see the future of Tonga and the Pacific.”
Sister Burton shared with the audience that as a teenager she lived in New Zealand and attended the former Church College of New Zealand.
“As I look into your faces,” she said, “I can picture myself sitting where you are.”
She told the students that she has wonderful memories of high school, but there were also times when she was homesick and missed her family.
In her English class she said that she “felt safe and loved.”
“In my Seminary teacher’s class I had that same feeling. And I felt close to Heavenly Father. One good memory was babysitting for this teacher, and he invited me to kneel [with them] for family prayer, and his thanking God for his tender wife and children.”
“That was important to me,” she said. “The memory of that experience has influenced my life. I wanted a family like that.”
She also recalled that she loved to look at the Hamilton New Zealand Temple at night, from her school dormitory. “Seeing and remembering that image helped me feel safe and loved,” she said.
“I know Heavenly Father loves me. He loves you. Keep the image of the temple with you, always.”
Elder Pearson told the students: “I feel like I am your friend and I love you. I feel such power when I am with you. Sister Pearson, my best friend, came with me. I hope you will someday have a best friend, someone to share your triumphs and someone to share your bad times.”
“The most important thing to know,” he said, “is that you are a child of God. He loves you. You belong to Him. There is a lot to learn, but this is the most important one. It is also the foundation of a testimony.”
“The first thing people need to learn and feel — just like you — is that God is their loving Heavenly Father. Knowing this, deep down inside yourself, is the first step in changing your life.”
Liahona High School student body president, Uinisi Fonua, also spoke at the devotional. He talked about Jesus in the temple as a youth, stressing the importance of seeking knowledge early in life. He encouraged his peers to follow the example of Jesus Christ by continuing to learn “precept by precept.”
After the devotional Liahona High School student Annnika Faapoi said she agreed that “nothing is more important than knowing who we are, that we are children of God.”
Fellow student Sauliloa Tuipulotu said “we should make big plans for our life and do the best in everything we do because it’s one way of discovering who we truly are.”
Clifton Neiufi said “I learnt from this special assembly that learning is important. If I don’t have the ability to learn there will be no use for my future. I also learnt that learning requires much faith. Having much faith will [help you] accomplish your goals.”
Another student said it was important to “never try to be someone else. Always be yourself. Never lose hope, have faith, know that you’re a child of God.”
Sisters Burton and Wixom and their husbands will visit with Latter-day Saints and community leaders in Samoa and American Samoa in the coming days, accompanied by Elder F. Michael Watson and Sister Watson.