On August 21, 1955, Joseph Fielding Smith, then the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, gathered with a few members of the Church at Clark Field and dedicated the Philippines for the preaching of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, the words he used during that blessing were either never recorded or any such record of the dedicatory prayer has been misplaced or lost. Six years would pass before the priesthood power inherent in that dedicatory prayer would begin to be manifest in the Philippines.
On April 28, 1961, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, then an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, came to the Philippines to finalize the registration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with the Filipino government and obtain visas for missionaries to come to the Philippines and share the message of the restored gospel. Elder Hinckley also felt prompted to gather at the American War Memorial with the members of the Church, less than 100 in number and of which only a handful were Filipino, and offer a powerful prayer that has proven to be prophetic. It is a prayer that anyone who lives in or loves the Philippines should carefully and prayerfully read. I would like to highlight just a few words of that inspired prayer:
We pray that there shall be many men, faithful, good, virtuous, true men who shall join the Church and who shall receive the blessings of the Priesthood, and who shall accept and grow in leadership, under direction of those who hold the keys in this day and time, according to the law and order of Thy Church.
That prayerful plea from Elder Hinckley has only been partially fulfilled.
We have many worthy men in the Philippines who hold the Melchizedek priesthood, who use that priesthood to bless their families, and who magnify their callings in that priesthood. But we need more such men, men who realize that they were in fact “called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works” to receive the Melchizedek in this life and help build His kingdom in the Philippines. (Alma 13:3) We need more men who hold the Melchizedek priesthood to increase in their effort to magnify their callings through personal righteousness and service.
In addition to wanting more families to be presided over by worthy men who hold the Melchizedek priesthood, we want more such men because without them we cannot form additional stakes in the Philippines. As an Area Presidency, we never find ourselves unable to recommend the formation of a stake to the Brethren because there is a lack of sufficient righteous women. We do not lack for righteous women. What often stands in the way of our recommending the formation of a new stake is a sufficient number of worthy men who hold the Melchizedek priesthood.
We need more “faithful, good, virtuous, true men” who are prepared to lead out in righteousness, both in their homes as well as in positions of leadership in the stakes of Zion.
On September 10, 2017, at a meeting presided over by Elder Neil L. Andersen, an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, the 100th stake of Zion was organized in the Philippines. The Philippines is only the fifth country in the world in which 100 stakes have been organized. That is a remarkable accomplishment, particularly since the Church was only formally established in the Philippines just over 50 years ago.
The blessing of having more stakes organized in the Philippines includes a greater ability to “perfect the saints” because of the availability of the “full Church program . . . for the benefit of the members.” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Strengthen Thy Stakes” Ensign January 1991) Only when a stake is formed can a stake president be called and given priesthood keys to direct the work in that geographic area, which keys include the authority to gather in scattered Israel and open the doors of the temple to those who are prepared to make the most sacred of covenants. Only when a stake is formed can a stake high council be established to be a “corner-stone of Zion” (D&C 124:131). Only when a stake is formed can a patriarch be called to give patriarchal blessings, which include the revealing of lineage. Only when a stake is formed can wards be created and bishops called and given priesthood keys. Only when as stake is formed can a high priest quorum be created and high priest groups organized at the ward level. Only when a stake is formed can the following promise from the Lord come to pass: “And that the gathering together upon the land of Zion, and upon her stakes, may be a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth.” (D&C 115:6)
In the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple, the Prophet Joseph Smith prayed to the Lord that the people of his day might be blessed by the formation of more stakes. “We ask thee to appoint unto Zion other stakes besides this one which thou hast appointed, that the gathering of thy people may roll on in great power and majesty, that thy work may be cut short in righteousness.” (D&C 109:59) It was fitting that the Prophet Joseph Smith included a plea for more stakes in the dedicatory prayer of the first temple because, as Elder Dallin H. Oaks has taught in our day, “Every stake created improves the probability that there will be a temple. As people show worthiness and commitment, a temple follows.” (Kellerstrass, J. & P., “First Stake in India” Liahona October 2012) We need more temples in the Philippines and the formation of more stakes qualifies us in part to receive such a blessing from the Lord.
So, my prayer is like the prayer offered by Elder Gordon B. Hinckley in 1961. I pray that those who read this will realize how important it is to “prepare young men to receive the priesthood office appropriate to their age,” so that when they turn 18 they will be ordained an elder and “increase the number of young men serving missions.”
I pray that we can “increase convert baptisms and confirmations” and thereby “increase Melchizedek priesthood holders.” (Id.) I pray that a renewed and revelatory effort will be made by stake and district presidencies, high councils, district and stake councils, branch and ward councils to “advance prospective elders to the Melchizedek priesthood.” (Id.) I pray that all Melchizedek priesthood holders will “pay a full tithe and generous fast offering” and prepare themselves to “hold a current temple recommend.” (Id.) I pray for more stakes in the Philippines. I pray for more temples.