Good evening my dear Filipino Saints,
Thank you for attending this evening. While I can’t be with you in every location this evening I see you meeting in chapels from the north in Laoag to the south in Zamboanga. I hope your Christmas celebrations were all that you wanted them to be and that you will enjoy this New Year. As an Area Presidency we have prayed, planned and prepared so that this broadcast will be helpful to you individually, as families and in the branches, wards, districts and stakes you belong to. As you listen carefully this evening you will find something that will help you grow personally nearer to God and that you can do to help others draw nearer to God.
We thought it would be helpful if you were able to see how your efforts over the last year have contributed to the growth of the Church in the Philippines. You belong to a growing Church, a Church that has the Priesthood authority and the necessary ordinances to enable all people who are willing to fulfill their duty to return to live with God once more.
The Lord restored His Church through the prophet Joseph Smith on beautiful spring day in 1820.
141 years later, on April 28, 1961, President Gordon B. Hinckley gathered with a small group of servicemen, American residents and one Filipino Latter-day Saint at the American Cemetery and Memorial in Manila to offer a prayer for the country. He said, ‘What we will begin here will affect the lives of thousands and thousands of people in this Island republic, and its effect will go on from generation to generation for great and everlasting good.’ The first official missionaries reached the shores of the Philippines soon thereafter. Today we see the proof of that prophetic prayer in a growing and vibrant Church.
Comparatively, we are a young Church and our membership is also young with the greatest percentage of our members being 30 years of age and younger. As young and old gather together we learn from one another, we are able to partake of the sacrament to renew our covenants and fellowship one with another as fellow citizens of the household of God.
The Lord is grateful for your weekly attendance at your sacrament service. Your attendance is a demonstration of your desire to keep the Sabbath day holy. Over the last five years there has been a 24 percent increase in the number of people attending sacrament meeting which means that each and every Sunday you are at Church with approximately 146,000 members of the Church in the Philippines. The Lord wants the Sabbath to be a delight for you and your family and keeping it holy will help it to be a delight.
More of our Young single adults are choosing to serve full time missions than at any other time in the Philippines. President Monson has made it clear that every young man is under priesthood obligation to prepare to serve an honorable full time mission and sisters, who so desire, are also invited to serve. President Monson’s invitation over the years he has served has not changed and so let us hear it once more.
The graph shows, when the prophet announced the lowering of the age for missionaries to serve there was a surge in the number serving from the Philippines.
I know the Lord is grateful to all those who have and are serving missions. Currently there are about 4,200 missionaries serving in the Philippines and almost three thousand of those serving are Filipinos and we are in need of more. They begin their service in the Manila Missionary Training Center where they are warmly greeted and cared for by President and Sister Trask. At the completion of their training they depart for their respective missions. The benefits of missionary service are life long and reach well beyond their missionary years.
The first Missionary Training Center and the very best one is the home where a caring mother and father live and teach gospel principles. This is the ideal and not all of you come from the ideal home situation but that does not prevent you from actively preparing to serve an honorable mission. Today is the day of preparation young people and I encourage you not to waste it on endless hours of video games and like activities. I encourage the youth to enroll and attend Seminary as part of your effort to build your testimony and to be better prepared for your mission. Please note that some countries are now requiring completion of seminary in order for someone to be a missionary in their country. Don’t limit what the Lord can do with you tomorrow by making poor choices today.
We invite you to save for your mission, to pay enough towards the cost that it is a sacrifice and to then as a family honor financial commitments towards the cost of missionary service. To fully fund a mission in the Philippines costs about 11,500 pesos each month and if you can afford to pay that amount you should and if you can’t then pay what you can afford. Whatever amount you commit to should be a sacrifice on the part of the missionary and his or her family and the commitment must be honored. Honorable people keep their commitments.
I recently became aware of a young man from Bulacan who embarked on saving for his mission. Opening the bamboo bank was a family affair. Saving always begins with one coin and then another and then another and with discipline, soon enough you will have a bamboo bank full of coins and some notes to help cover missionary costs.
For our young men, temple marriage follows missions and dating always precedes marriage. I encourage our young single adults (YSA) to be brave, especially you elders who have returned from your missions. You learned while you served to invite people to action and so invite these single sisters on a date and you might just be surprised to hear one of them say yes in return. It could be the beginning of a whole new adventure. I hear you wondering where you might find that special girl and I reply that you will find her at Church attending to her duty and enrolled in one of our Institutes of Religion.
From my office I can see the beautiful brides and handsome grooms coming out of the temple on their wedding days. They look happy and little wonder for they have just made covenants with one another and the Lord, which are eternal. Over the last five years we have had a steady increase in the number of YSA marrying in the temple and the Lord will be pleased to see this number to continue to grow in the future. In 2016 we hope to see at least 600 temple marriages in our two temples. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and it should not be postponed unnecessarily. It is possible to attend school, have part time employment and be married all at the same time and many Filipinos have done just that. You can too.
Thank you for the attention many of you have given to family history work. Temple attendance and family history work go hand in hand. Of course, to attend the temple you will need a current temple recommend. Regrettably, too many of our members allow their recommends to expire as they feel they live too far from a temple to use it. A temple recommend is required to enter the temples of the Lord but please remember that having a current one is a reminder of who you are and the covenants you have made in that holy edifice. If you have not yet qualified for a recommend I encourage you to act now so you can always have that most precious possession.
Because you have a current temple recommend you are able to take your family names to the temple to have ordinances performed on their behalf. The request that you find and take family names to the temple and then share the joy has generated a lot of support for which your ancestors and the Lord are grateful.
I make a special mention of the Filipino youth as they submit more names to the temple than any nation outside of the United States of America. Our youth are leading the way. We can all do something to bless the lives of our ancestors who live beyond the veil. You can do for them what they cannot do for themselves.
You can begin with the My Family brochure. You will be amazed at what you will discover as you fill in the blanks.
This evening I have touched on keeping the Sabbath day holy, missionary service, temple marriage, and family history and of course there are other areas that need attention. I encourage you to look at your own life and how you are living and decide what more you can to do to draw nearer to your Heavenly Father. Lasting happiness is found in drawing nearer to God.
Tonight we also introduce to you the Area vision and goals, which will remain relatively unchanged over the next five years. I will share with you the overview statement and the vision statement and Elder Bowen will introduce the objectives. He will be followed by Elder Haynie who will discuss the goals.
Our overview statement serves to give a foundation to where we have come from and where we want to be. It reads:
In just five decades, we have seen the establishment of the Church in the Philippines through the faithful and diligent efforts of many members and missionaries. It is an effort that has brought forth fruit, which is almost without parallel in the modern Church and it is not yet finished. This Asian cradle of Christianity has a role to play in further establishing the Church throughout Asia. To this end we must strengthen our faith in Christ, be true to our covenants, become self-reliant, and share the Gospel. Now is the time, this is the place and I will be the one!
Our vision statement is the work of our eleven Area Seventy and the additional input of some sisters and we believe it captures what we want to achieve.
It reads: By exercising faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement, members will obey the commandments, make, honor and renew sacred covenants and more fully establish the Kingdom of God in the Philippines.
In Tagalog it reads:
Sa pagsampalataya kay Jesucristo at sa Kanyang Pagbabayad-sala, susundin ng mga miyembro ang mga kautusan, gagawa, igagalang at sasariwain ang mga sagradong tipan at mas lubusang itatag ang Kaharian ng Diyos sa Pilipinas.
Brothers and sisters, Sister Ardern and I have now been in the Philippines for almost five years and we have grown to love you very much. We can now say that some of our dearest friends are Filipinos. Thank you for all you continue to teach us.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God's restored Church. I testify that as we follow the commandments and stay true to our covenants we can, through the atonement of Jesus Christ, live as eternal families once more.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen
Area Objectives: Obey-Covenants-Establish
By Elder Shayne M. Bowen
I will now discuss the area objectives, which, as has been mentioned, are centered in Christ. The area objectives are three fold: 1.We will show our love to God by obeying His commandments. 2. We will live worthily, receive the blessings of the temple and be true to our covenants. And finally, 3.We will build strong, self-reliant multi-generational Filipino families and share the joy of the Gospel with others.
An easy way to remember these objectives is to remember OBEY-COVENANT-ESTABLISH.
As we discuss these objectives, I want you to keep in mind that these are not only our area objectives, but more importantly, they must be our eternal objectives.
God has provided the path for all of his children to return home. This path is through Jesus Christ our Savior. As we repent, make, honor and renew all of our covenants we follow this path, we build and strengthen our families and we establish the Kingdom of God on earth and in heaven.
As an Area Presidency, our ultimate objective is to assist our Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ in bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. How do we accomplish that objective?
Obedience is the first law of heaven. It is an act of faith.
If we are to return to the presence of our Father in heaven we need to be able to say:
I will obey all of God’s commandments because I love Him.
I am able to make, honor and renew eternal covenants with Him because He loves me.
Because we love each other and want to return home, we will help establish His Kingdom on earth and in Heaven.
In Doctrine and Covenants section 52 verse 14 we read,
14 And again, I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations.
—God said that he would establish a pattern in all things so that we would not be deceived. One of those patterns is obey, covenant and establish the kingdom.
An example of this pattern is found with Father Adam and Mother Eve as we read in Moses chapter 5. Here we learn that Adam and Eve had been given a commandment to obey God and to sacrifice.
4 And Adam and Eve, his wife, called upon the name of the Lord, and they heard the voice of the Lord from the way toward the Garden of Eden, speaking unto them, and they saw him not; for they were shut out from his presence.
5 And he gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord.
6 And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.
7 And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.
8 Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.
Adam and Eve had entered into the covenant path which would return them home to Heavenly Father. They had been obedient to the two commandments that they had received; that of calling upon the Lord and the law of sacrifice. Because of their obedience they were prepared to enter into the law of the Gospel, which opened up to them the possibility of the making and keeping of additional covenants. We read in verse nine that Adam was baptized. And that the power and gifts of the atonement of Jesus Christ were all made available to him according to his obedience to his covenants.
9 And in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son, saying: I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will.
10 And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.
Adam and Eve also received the covenant of eternal marriage, which would make possible the gift of Eternal life, which is the life that God lives. They also receive the promise of eternal increase.
11 And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.
After Adam and Eve received the saving ordinances that are only found in the temple, after they had been married and promised to live the law of chastity as a married couple, after consecrating themselves to the building of the Kingdom their greatest desire was to share all that they knew and all that they had received with their children.
12 And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.
They became the parents and grandparents of a multi-generational family many of whom have enjoyed the fullness of the gospel.
This ancient pattern applies as much today as in the time of Adam. God’s promises apply to all people who are willing to become his covenant people. He is no respecter of persons.
The cyclical pattern of having faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, being obedient, as demonstrated by a willingness to sacrifice prepares us to enter into the covenant path which leads to culminating covenants in the temple and the establishment of the kingdom of God by establishing strong, self-reliant multi-generational families. This pattern has repeated itself over and over again since the time of Adam.
If you and I are to inherit eternal life and establish the kingdom of God through multi-generational families, we too must be willing to make and keep sacred covenants. We too must be willing to be obedient. We too must exercise our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
These are not only our area objectives, but more importantly, they must be our eternal objectives.
William Law, an English clergyman of the 18th Century said, 'If you have not chosen the Kingdom of God first, it will in the end make no difference what you have chosen instead.'
As we exercise faith in Jesus Christ by obedience to God’s commandments, He allows us to make, honor and renew covenants with Him.
He has given us a plan, a plan of happiness. This plan of happiness includes the covenant path, which begins with baptism and leads to the eternal sealing of families in God’s holy temple. Ultimately this covenant path will lead us to Eternal Life in the presence of the Father and the Son.
Even though they did not have all of the answers to all of the questions, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ Adam and Eve knew enough to be obedient.
Because of their obedience they were able to enter into covenants with God and receive the fullness of the gospel.
They were sealed together for time and all eternity. They were the beginning of the establishing of the Kingdom of God on the earth and were the first parents of a large covenant keeping multi-generational family.
May we Obey-Covenant and Establish in like manner is my prayer and the prayer of your Area Presidency.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen
By Elder Allen D. Haynie
In April of 1961, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, then an assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, came to the Philippines to secure legal recognition of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and permission for missionaries to proselyte in this most remarkable of places. As mentioned by President Ardern, he gathered with a handful of Church members at the American War Memorial Cemetery and offered what has proven to be an amazingly prophetic prayer. During that prayer he petitioned “Our Father, and our God” that, among other things, “there shall be many men, faithful, good, virtuous, true men, who shall join the Church and receive the blessings of the priesthood and who shall grow in leadership that thy work here shall be handled by local brethren under the direction of those who hold the keys in this day and time.”
A couple of months ago we gathered as an Area Presidency in a conference room with eleven such “faithful, good, virtuous, and true” Filipino men who previously had been ordained to the priesthood office of a Seventy, eleven men who are special witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ, eleven men who counseled with us and shared insights unique to this place and this people, eleven men who participated in the revelatory process that produced the Philippines Area Plan presented to you tonight.
Having sat in that conference room, I witness that this Area Plan is the result of inspiration from the Holy Ghost. As a result of that fact, I also witness that God approves of this Area Plan. That is why it merits your becoming familiar with what it says and your best efforts to achieve the vision it contains.
President Ardern and President Bowen have discussed the Overview Statement, Vision Statement, and Objectives of the Area Plan, which include the concepts of Obey, Covenant, and Establish. I would like to share some thoughts with you about the Area Goals that are included in the Area Plan. If the Church is going to become truly established in the Philippines, if the membership of the Church is going to grow to 1 million members, to 2 million members, and then to even more in our lifetimes, if temples are going to be scattered upon these isles of the sea, if covenant keeping multi-generational families are to become commonplace, we will need to embrace inspired goals and then exercise great faith in our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ in order to achieve them. A limited vision and a modest effort simply will not do.
Several years ago, the Priesthood Department of the Church determined that it was important to select certain key indicators that would be the best measure of both personal conversion and Church growth. After more than two years of counseling together, including multiple presentations to the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, the leadership of the Church felt inspired to select what today are called the Nine Key Indicators of Conversion and Church Growth. These should be familiar to all of you because they were included in last year’s Area Plan and have been taught and retaught to the priesthood and auxiliary leaders during this past year. As we counseled about what the goals of the new Area Plan should be, we strongly felt that the Nine Key Indicators of Conversion and Church Growth would still provide the best measure of our progress here in the Philippines, with one additional goal being added to address the recent emphasis of the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles to better honor the Sabbath Day and make the sacrament a more meaningful spiritual experience.
The ten goals of the Area Plan have been organized in such a way as to emphasize the concepts in the Area Plan’s Objectives, which as previously mentioned are to Obey, Covenant, and Establish.
To obey the commandments, the Area Plan includes the goals of keeping the Sabbath day holy and partaking of the sacrament weekly, paying a full tithe and generous fast offering, and submitting our ancestors’ names for temple ordinances.
To make, honor and renew sacred covenants, the Area Plan includes the goals of holding a current temple recommend, being sealed in the temple, advancing prospective elders to the Melchizedek Priesthood, and increasing the number of Melchizedek Priesthood holders.
To establish the Kingdom of God, the Area Plan includes the goals of preparing young men to receive the priesthood office appropriate to their age, increasing the number of young men serving missions, and increasing convert baptisms and confirmations.
With this list of Area Plan goals in mind, we invite each individual, family, branch, ward, district, and stake to set specific goals that can be achieved during this year. Not all of the Area Plan goals will be relevant to each individual and family. For example, the goal of being sealed in the temple may not be relevant to a family that already has been sealed, but holding a current temple recommend and submitting ancestors’ names for temple ordinances could be relevant. Each individual and family will need to decide which goals they should focus on during the upcoming year. Branches, wards, districts and stakes are invited to set numeric goals for each of the ten Area Plan goals. Such numeric goals should be the product of revelation rather than just mathematics or a review of statistics from prior years. Goals should require our best efforts in order for them to be achieved, but they also must be realistic. As Elder M. Russell Ballard has taught, “[s]et goals that are well-balanced – not too many nor too few, and not too high nor too low. . . . Pray for divine guidance in your goal setting.” (“Keeping Life’s Demands in Balance,” M. Russell Ballard, Ensign, May 1987, at 14.)
As inspired as a goal may be, it serves little purpose if it remains just a paper goal and is never broken down into specific actions that will lead to the accomplishment of the goal. How to accomplish the goals will require additional revelation because each individual, family, branch, ward, district, and stake is unique. As an Area Presidency, we cannot receive that revelation for you. Even if we could, it would not be sufficient because it is the experience of the revelatory process that produces faith sufficient to accomplish the goal.
One of the best tools that we have to help us receive the required revelation is the system of councils that exists in the Church. In family councils, branch and ward councils, and district and stake councils, goals can be divinely selected and the steps necessary to achieve those goals can be identified and monitored until they are effectively implemented. For example, a family council could be held to discuss the goal of keeping the Sabbath day holy. Such a council should be held at a time when everyone in the family is available to participate. The family council could be held around a table, in the living room, or under the shade of a tree. An opening prayer would be appropriate, and then perhaps something like what is show in the following video of a family council might occur. Please pay close attention to how the parents provide guidance concerning the importance of the Sabbath during the family council without dominating the discussion.
The decisions made by this family on how they might better honor the Sabbath are unique to this family and what results from the family council you hold may be similar or different. The most important thing is to be led by the Spirit and to counsel openly and honestly together as a family. The doctrines and principles concerning councils spelled out in Handbook 2, Chapter 4 will be helpful to all members of councils who will be meeting to receive revelation concerning the setting of goals consistent with the Area Plan. Continual review of our goals and the specific steps we will take to achieve them is essential if the Vision and Objectives of the Area Plan are to be achieved.
When I was nine years old, my two older brothers began building model rockets. The first rockets they built were small and simply tumbled back to earth after the rocket engine was exhausted. They then built larger rockets that fell back to earth aided by streamers and parachutes. By the time I saved up my money and built my first rocket, it seemed puny when compared to the rockets my two older brothers were then building. So I decided to jump from a skill level one rocket to a skill level five rocket. The rocket was beautiful and stood more than three feet tall. It was not just a one-stage rocket with a parachute but rather a three stage rocket with two parachutes. When it was ready to be launched, the entire neighborhood came to watch. When the rocket blasted off, everyone oohed and awed. The first stage took the rocket high into the sky and when the second stage ignited, rather than go yet higher the rocket simply blew up. For a moment everyone was quiet and then, almost as if on cue, everyone started to laugh. I was devastated and never built another rocket.
When I got older I realized how foolish I had been. As a skill level one builder of rockets, I should have been content to move on to skill level two. I certainly should not have been motivated to try and jump all the way to skill level five just because I wanted to exceed that which had been accomplished by my two older brothers. If I had been patient, eventually I could have progressed to where I would have been ready to build a skill level five rocket, and then the result might have been completely different.
As we set goals, we need to be wise and unaffected by the goals of other individuals, families, branches, wards, districts, and stakes. The goals we set should make us stretch and require us to exercise our faith without comparing our goals to the goals of others. After all, as Christ taught in the parable of the talents, the key is to multiply the talents regardless of whether we start with one or five talents because if we do, then the reward is the same – “entering into the joy of the Lord.” Matthew 25:21, 23. As we work to achieve our goals we should remember that “all these things are done in wisdom and order, for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might with the prize” or in our case achieve our goals. Mosiah 4:27.
I testify that we will be inspired and helped to achieve the goals in the Area Plan by He who always has been and forever will be a God of miracles, which miracles have not ceased among us because we have faith in Him. (Mormon 9:15, Moroni 7:29) And so it shall be in the Philippines as He has declared, “I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea . . . 2 Nephi 29:7 [and] the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust.” 2 Nephi 8:5.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.