Elder Evan A. Schmutz
I hope that the beginning of the New Year has been as beautiful as the ending of 2018. We pray for the blessings of the Lord on each of you in the coming year. We are overwhelmed by the many wonderful reports we have received about the multitude of meaningful acts of service performed by individuals, families and Church units who participated in last month’s Light the World Christmas Initiative. May we all continue to follow the example of the Savior and “give as He gave” throughout the year.
As an Area Presidency, we are grateful that the Church decided to renew the Light the World Christmas initiative for the third consecutive year. We have seen joyful participation in this initiative has improved the desire of our members to serve and has directed and refined our focus on
Jesus Christ during the Christmas season.
Another thing we have been doing for the three consecutive years is following the Philippines Area Plan. The Area Plan was initially introduced to the members in an Area-wide broadcast by the Area Presidency in January of 2016. The Area Plan places Jesus Christ at the center of all we do. The plan encourages Filipino Latter-day Saints to work together in accomplishing the work of the Lord by focusing on three personal commitments: “Obey, Covenant and Establish.”
Under each of these Headings, Filipino Latter-day Saints were asked to keep specific goals, such as keeping the Sabbath day holy, paying our tithes and offerings, keeping a current temple recommend and sharing the gospel message with our family, friends and neighbors. We believe our dedicated emphasis on the Area Plan has had a great impact in contributing to the marvelous growth of the Church in the Philippines during the last three years.
Brothers and Sisters, as we have taken the words of our living prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, down into our hearts, we as an Area Presidency have felt the need to make some modifications to the Area Plan which we believe will faithfully follow President Nelson’s revelatory instruction to the Church and help each individual member, from the very young to the very old, and all ages in between, to become more individually responsible to fulfill the Lord’s vision for the Philippines. We have not replaced or retired the Area Plan. But we do feel that these small but significant modifications will help all members and leaders of the Church faithfully follow the most recent inspired counsel of our living prophet.
In the last two General Conferences, President Nelson has shared sacred revelations he has received from the Lord to introduce a new and holier way for us to minister to and care for one another; he has revealed a reorganization of the Melchizedek Priesthood to form a combined Elders Quorum and has introduced a new Sunday meeting schedule with an emphasis on Home-centered, Church-supported gospel learning. President Nelson has promised us that our faithfulness in implementing greater gospel learning in the home will bring about deeper individual conversion and increased faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. While, this new emphasis on gospel learning at home may have lessened the amount of time we spend in the meetinghouse on Sundays, it has increased the time we should spend learning the gospel and feasting on the words of Christ at home.
They are doing this through family scripture reading, Family Home Evening, and by talking to their children about the gospel whenever the opportunity presents itself.
As the Ward Primary President, Sister Tolentino always heard her bishop refer to the Area Plan during ward council meetings. The goals they set for the ward were patterned after the Area Goals and each auxiliary contributed to help reach those goals. It was easier to achieve their goals because they were based on things that they could count and keep track of. Under the direction of the Bishop, their ward goals are specific, measurable and attainable.
Brother Tolentino shared how they identified prospective elders who attended Church sometimes, but needed help to take the necessary steps to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. They assigned ministering brothers who visited these prospective elders at home and formed friendships with them. Working under the direction of the Bishop, the Elders Quorum President helped some of these brothers prepare for Melchizedek Priesthood and set a goal to receive it at the next stake conference.
Those are beautiful examples of how we can understand and apply the Area Plan to OBEY, to COVENANT and to ESTABLISH.
The Tolentinos showed us in small and simple ways a pattern for how we can learn about, follow and be blessed by the Area Plan in our own lives and within the wards and branches where we live.
The Area Plan reminds us of the pattern given by the Lord to OBEY, to COVENANT and to ESTABLISH the Kingdom of God on earth. As we act individually in our families and with other members to apply the principles and goals of the Area Plan in our lives, the Spirit of the Lord will guide and protect us.
For the rest of this broadcast, President Teh will share with us valuable lessons learned from a good Bishop’s experience as he taught and inspired the ward council to use ministering brothers and sisters to strengthen the ward. President Wakolo will instruct and inspire us as we help our families make the most of the new Sunday worship service schedule and truly respond to President Nelson’s invitation to make Home-centered, Church-supported gospel learning and conversion become a daily part of our lives.
I hope you will learn things that will allow you to maximize the blessings of the gospel in your lives. I am so grateful to have the Philippines as my second home and you Filipinos as my second family. It is such an exciting time to be a Latter-day Saint in the Philippines. And if what our living Prophet has been telling us is any indication, the things the Lord will reveal in this time have barely just begun!
I cannot wait for the day when we will have six operating temples all over the country, with the membership of the Church anxiously engaged in bringing souls unto Christ on both sides of the veil. We live in a land that is favoured of the Lord. This is His Church and we are building His kingdom. This is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and He guides us as the living Son of God. I so bear my witness in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. ◼︎
Elder Michael John U. Teh
I love welcoming a New Year! It signifies hope and a new beginning. It also speaks of opportunities to continue improving the things that we are doing well. So in many ways, it reminds me of the gospel. After all, the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about growth, improvement and new beginnings.
That is why it is also the best time for us to revisit the Area Plan and figure out ways we can do better in building up the Kingdom of God here in the Philippines.
At the very center of the Area Plan is our commitment to exercise our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And to work together in accomplishing His will. As you are all aware, we have identified three major ways we plan to show our faith. We will OBEY His commandments, make COVENANTS with Him and we will ESTABLISH the Church.
One of the best ways we can show our love for God is by obeying His commandments. The Lord simply stated: “If ye love me, keep my keep my commandments” (John 14:15), this also happens to be the 2019 Mutual Theme for the Youth. Of course we will obey all of Gods commandments, but we will also give particular focus to the following:
- Keep the Sabbath day holy and partake of the sacrament weekly.
- Pay a full tithe and a generous fast offering.
- Submit our ancestors’ names for temple ordinances.
Closely tied to obeying commandments is making covenants. God’s expectations for us, His children, is that we will make, honor and renew sacred covenants. In fact we make covenants with God every time we receive ordinances including baptism, confirmation, priesthood ordinations, and temple ordinances.
Behind me is the Manila Philippines Temple. A temple is a house of God. Within its walls we enter into higher covenants with Him. As applicable, we invite everyone to:
- Hold a current temple recommend.
- Be sealed in the temple.
- Assist prospective elders to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood.
By so doing, we will increase the number of Priesthood holders.
Finally, as we learn to obey and make covenants, we will build strong, self-reliant Filipino families. The real strength of the Church is in multi-generational families. This is how we ESTABLISH the Kingdom of God. So we will:
- Help all young men to receive the priesthood office appropriate for their age.
- Help prepare all young men, and young women who desire, to serve missions.
- Become better member missionaries so we can help increase convert baptisms and confirmations.
I have learned through experience that often times before a principle or doctrine is learned and applied, it needs to be taught over and over again. As we focus on the same priorities, we will begin to see progress. That is why we have kept the same Area Plan for the last four years. I love this statement often quoted by President Heber J. Grant:
“That which we persist in doing becomes easy to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed, but that our power to do has increased.”
That is exactly what has happened over the last few years. It is amazing! We have seen our power to do increase in remarkable ways.
During the April General Conference, President Nelson presented to us a new and holier approach to caring for our brothers and sisters. He called it ministering. We rejoiced in that inspired direction. In a way, he has given us a means by which we can implement the Area Plan more effectively and more powerfully.
In other words, ministering is is the key to effective implementation of our Area Plan.
WHAT IS MINISTERING?
Putting it simply, ministering is finding out what our brothers and sisters need and doing our best to meet those needs. It is doing the work of the Lord. When we minister, we represent Jesus Christ and act as His agents to watch over, lift, and strengthen those around us.
Ministering is also best initiated from the heart. There are no set parameters or strict guidelines to ministering. As members, we communicate with those to whom we minister and seek the inspiration of the Spirit to determine in what manner and how often we reach out to them. As we build relationships with those under our care, and counsel regularly with our leaders regarding their needs, our ministering will bless the loves of individuals and families.
Let us learn from the experience of Bishop Mark Espedilla of Tacloban 1st Ward who used ministering to help his ward grow by seeking out the less active members and finding ways to help them.
He realized that ministering means giving love and care to our members, not just sharing a monthly message. We should ask ourselves: “how do I help this member become a better person? How do I help this member obey the commandments, fulfill his covenants and establish his family?”
Bishop Espedilla also learned that the good thing about ministering is that he can use the entire ward council in seeking ways to help the less active member to come back.
The bishop’s experience clearly illustrates what the prophet wants all of us to do. He wants us to follow the Lord’s example and reach out to our brothers and sisters in love and with a sincere desire to help. We do what we can with a cheerful heart, and without expecting anything in return.
That is that kind of love that melts away years of inactivity, removes the walls of guilt and banishes any feelings of shame. Warm and caring relationships are established and the rescued soul will develop the desire to follow the Savior’s example. He will then be willing to OBEY, COVENANT and ESTABLISH.
I know and believe that ministering with love is the best way we can accomplish our individual portions of the Area Plan. Elder Gary E. Stevenson said: “Done in the Lord’s way, ministering can have a far-reaching influence for good that ripples throughout all eternity.” (October 2018 General Conference).
May we all minister in the Lord’s way is our prayer as your Area Presidency, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. ◼︎
Elder Taniela B. Wakolo
Brothers and sisters, I rejoice with you in the gospel or the doctrine of Christ. We thank you for what you do but mostly we thank you for who you are.
Thank you, President Schmutz and President Teh for your messages.
President Schmutz said: “We believe our dedicated emphasis on the Area Plan has had a great impact in contributing to the marvelous growth of the Church in the Philippines during the last three years.”
President Teh said: “A new year is always a season of hope and a time for renewed commitments. That’s why this is the best time to revisit the Area Plan and see how we can improve the way we apply it to our efforts in building up the Kingdom of God here in the Philippines.”
To put this into perspective: In less than 60 years of the Church’s existence here in the Philippines and there are 107 Stakes, 68 Districts, 22 Missions, 1 MTC, 2 operating Temples, 4 others announced – beyond all these, there are individuals and families.
I am sure it is now easier for everyone to see how the Area Plan applies to us as individuals, as families, and as members and leaders of our wards and branches. It is also inspiring to see how ministering not only touched the hearts of those who ministered and were ministered upon, but it also bolstered the growth of an entire ward.
Since everything we do in the Church is meant to strengthen the family, I will now talk to you about recent changes in our Sunday worship schedule and how it can benefit you and your family.
In the October 2018 General Conference, President Russell M. Nelson announced adjustments to help balance and connect the many different ways that members learn and live the gospel and how they worship the Savior both at home and at church. The announcement came as part of ongoing efforts to help members of the Church to “learn doctrine, strengthen faith, and foster greater personal worship.
President Nelson said: “As Latter-day Saints, we have become accustomed to thinking of “church” as something that happens in our meetinghouses, supported by what happens at home. We need an adjustment to this pattern. It is time for a home-centered Church, supported by what takes place inside our branch, ward, and stake buildings.” (Pres. Russell M. Nelson, “Opening Remarks,” October 2018 Gen Conf.)
The prophet is calling for a greater focus on increased participation in both personal and family religious observance in the home, including gospel study at home on Sunday and throughout the rest of the week. The time we are spending at Church on Sundays may be shorter by an hour, but that hour should be spent learning the gospel, worshiping at home or ministering to each other.
This set up will help parents fulfill their responsibility to their children as stated in Doctrine and Covenants: it is their duty to teach their children “the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost” (D&C 68:25).
As the essential center of gospel learning and living, it is in the home that individual and family gospel study on Sunday and throughout the week provides opportunities to find spiritual strength on a daily basis and allows greater flexibility for personalized study and revelation. What do you think will happen if we rely on the few hours we spend at church for gospel instruction, and then live the rest of the week with very little gospel learning at home? This will create an imbalance that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to achieve the deep and lasting conversion that is necessary to stay on and progress along the covenant path.
The Escobedo family from Angeles City in Pampanga takes advantage of the home-centered gospel learning approach. Jurdan and Glenda gather their children before dinner and have prayer before they discuss the events of the day. After going through announcements and plans for the following day, they proceed to study the scripture block they have scheduled for that night.
Their nightly scripture reading and family discussions allow them to enjoy a more meaningful Sabbath day experience as they share insights and open their hearts and minds to receive more inspiration from the Holy Ghost.
In addition to enhanced gospel study, they should also heed the call of our Church leaders for everyone to participate on the Sabbath day—and throughout the week—in family councils, home evening, family history and temple work, ministering, personal worship, and joyful family time.
This approach will help them and us to realize the purposes and blessings mentioned by Elder Quentin L. Cook:
- Deepening conversion to Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthening faith in Them.
- Strengthening individuals and families through home-centered, Church-supported curriculum that contributes to joyful gospel living.
- Honoring the Sabbath day, with a focus on the ordinance of the sacrament.
- Helping all of Heavenly Father’s children on both sides of the veil through missionary work and receiving ordinances and covenants and the blessings of the temple.
The first two items were already demonstrated by the Escobedo family. With their Sunday worship experience more focused on the gospel lessons they are learning, they will be able to honor the Sabbath day more fully and consider the ordinance of the sacrament as the highlight of the day.
With a more spiritual mindset brought about by living the gospel with exactness, they become better examples to neighbors and friends who are not of our faith. Their capacity to share the things they are learning at home will not only be used at Church but will also come in handy when missionary opportunities arise.
Following the prophet’s challenge to have a home-centered, Church-supported curriculum will more powerfully influence the religious observance and behavior of families and individuals. The spiritual impact and the deep and lasting conversion that can be achieved in the home setting will lead the family to the temple.
Can you now see how this change in the curriculum will go hand in hand with the Area Plan and help individuals and families achieve their adaptations of the Area Goal?
When we become doers and not just hearers of the things we learn, we OBEY God’s commandments; we keep the Sabbath day holy, pay our tithes and offerings, and engage in family history and temple work. We then make, honor and renew sacred COVENANTS with our Father in heaven. Finally, we will ESTABLISH the Kingdom of God living the gospel, sharing its message and inviting others to come unto Christ.
As an Area Presidency, we invite you to apply the Area Plan in your lives. Let us heed the words of the prophet as he encourages us to show genuine love for our brothers and sisters by ministering to them. Make your homes the center of gospel learning and experience the wonderful blessing of having the spirit bear witness to your soul that you are on the right covenant path, following God’s plan for your eternal happiness, as taught in His only true and living Church. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. ◼︎
Read the Area Plan 2019 in Tagalog
Read the Area Plan 2019 in Cebuano