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Elder Neil L. Andersen Visits Tonga

Mormon Apostle Meets with Church Members, Government Leaders and Journalists

“My most important message is that God lives; He is our Father; we are each His sons and daughters,” said Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to members of the news media soon after arriving in Tonga last Saturday [22 February 2014].

Elder Andersen had come to meet with leaders, missionaries, and other members of the Church in Tonga. He was accompanied by his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, and by Elder James J. Hamula, Latter-day Saint president of the Pacific Area, and his wife, Sister Joyce Hamula.

Members of the Nuku’alofa Tonga Halaliku Stake (diocese) welcomed the leaders to Tonga with a traditional tau’olunga (solo) dance followed by a ma’ulu’ulu (standing) dance outside their hotel.  They were accompanied by singers and drummers. 

That evening, Elder and Sister Andersen and Elder and Sister Hamula attended a cultural celebration involving 3,000 Latter-day Saint youth from the 14 stakes on the island of Tongatapu in Tonga. The evening featured traditional music and dance, was enjoyed by hundreds of spectators, and was broadcast live on the radio throughout the Tongan islands. The event was also video recorded and broadcast over Tongan television the following night.

Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Tonga, Lord Tu'ivakano; the Acting Australian High Commissioner to Tonga, Bronya Cranswick; and the New Zealand High Commissioner to Tonga, Dr. Mark Talbot, were among the dignitaries who attended the event.

On Sunday Elder Andersen spoke to the members of the Nuku’alofa Tonga North Stake.  He praised their singing, saying to the choir, “You could teach the whole Church about singing.”

He also said, “I love the Lord and I assure you that He loves you. He pulls us to Him, to comfort us, strengthen us, and one day to receive us.” 

He told two stories to the children about tithing, and encouraged the parents to help them earn money so they could learn to pay tithing while they are young. 

To the parents he told a story of President Thomas S. Monson ministering to the “one” and of staying faithful and true.  To the senior members he told the story of a 113-year-old Brazilian woman who joined the Church when she was 103.  “You are never too old to learn,” he said.

At the conclusion of the meeting Elder Andersen stayed to shake hands with more than 800 Church members and guests who sought to meet him. 

On Sunday evening more than 1,500 prospective missionaries filled the Liahona High School gymnasium to hear Elder Andersen speak.  He told them of his love for them and then added, “Heavenly Father loves you exactly like He loves me.  As we love others, our capacity to love expands.  Our challenge is to let everyone know who they are, and we must understand who we are.”

Elder Andersen filled the evening with a variety of lessons. 

He told of Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the Kingdom of God starting as a stone cut out without hands and growing until it fills the whole earth.  He illustrated this by asking the choir conductor to sing the first line of the Latter-day Saint hymn, “I Am a Child of God”, solo. Then at the end of each line he asked a section of the audience to join in. At the end, the entire congregation was singing together. 

Elder Andersen compared the changes and growth experienced by youth to the metamorphosis of the monarch butterfly.  After the meeting, Dean Huhane of the Kahoua Second Ward, said, “I like the story of the butterfly, how each of us has our own beauty and we don’t have to think we have to be like someone else.  Everyone is beautiful in one way.”

Stake presidents (leaders of a group of Mormon congregations) were asked spontaneously to tell the strengths they observe when missionaries return from their service.  Sione Ngauamo from Kahoua Second Ward said, “I enjoyed hearing what the stake presidents shared about returning missionaries.  My favourite was that they had ‘improved testimonies of Jesus Christ.’”

Gordon Tealofi, of the Kahoua Second Ward, was impressed with Elder Andersen’s comment that “…even though we speak different languages, we are all one.  We are all sons and daughters of God.  And He has the same love for me as he does for the apostles.”

Elder Andersen told the youth and young adults, “We need you. The prophet needs you. The Lord needs you.

The audience was especially appreciative of Sister Andersen's story of her little grandson who had kicked his brother.  When asked why, he responded, “I lost my CTR [Choose the Right] ring and so I couldn’t choose the right.” Elder Hamula reinforced the importance of the decisions we make: "If you make a decision to begin your day with prayer, it strengthens you. If you open up the scriptures and read, it gives you the vision of who you will become."

During Elder Andersen’s short visit to Tonga he also met with some 500 local Latter-day Saint leaders in a leadership training meeting, as well as 200 missionaries from the Church’s Tonga Nuku’alofa Mission.

Elder Andersen again witnessed of Jesus Christ, as he concluded his visit to Tonga.  “I am His witness.  I know He lives.  I so declare it in his holy name, the name of Jesus Christ.”

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