News Story

Highlights of 2020 in the Pacific

Despite many worship activities and events “postponed,” “cancelled,” “closed,” or “virtual,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Pacific area continued its vital work to share goodness, take care of those in need, support individuals and families, and invite everyone to walk in the light of Christ and hear His voice during 2020.

In January Elder Ian S. Ardern, Pacific Area President of the Church, met with His Excellency Taneti Maamau, President of the Republic of Kiribati. President Maamau accepted an invitation from Elder Ardern to attend the Tarawa East Stake conference the next Sunday.

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In February Church members in Fiji helped spruce up their Methodist neighbors’ place of worship as part of the “Come and Help” service initiative across the Pacific.

Also in February, due to the high number of measles-related deaths in Samoa during the previous six months, most of them children under four years old, the Church sent an emotional response team (ERT). Health care and family services professionals from New Zealand, Samoa, American Samoa, and Tonga were sent to minister to the needs of families who had lost a loved one to measles, offering love and support and grief counseling.

Latter-day Saint Charities, the humanitarian arm of the Church, made a significant donation to families and the community of Kangaroo Island, Australia, in March. The donation was to help many who were seriously impacted by a major bushfire that burnt almost half the landmass of the island off the coast of South Australia.

June brought the groundbreaking of the Auckland New Zealand Temple.  Religious, government, and community leaders were invited to the event commencing temple construction.

Also in June, Church leaders joined with the Prime Minister of Tonga, Rev. Dr. Pohiva Tu'i'onetoa, to invite the nation to fast and pray for blessings as a national response to the COVID-19 pandemic, illicit drug use, and financial struggles of families as well as for better education for young people.

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Faced with social and economic challenges arising from COVID-19, French Polynesian families were in need. In July, the Church, through Latter-day Saint Charities, made a sizeable food donation to the local Red Cross, partnering with the service organization to help these families.

In a video meeting in late August, Elder Gary E. Stevenson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, offered love and encouragement to approximately 600 Australian missionaries and Church leaders serving in the middle of a pandemic. He met with missionaries in New Zealand on 11 September.

In September, encouraging faithful discipleship and temple worship, Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita, counsellor in the Area Presidency, invited Church members to always have a current temple recommend.

October General Conference was especially significant for church members in Kiribati and Vanuatu, as two new temples were announced in their countries. They expressed joyful anticipation and gratitude.

Linahei Dauphin searched her family history to find 150 names or her ancestors to take to the temple. French Polynesia, November 2020.
Linahei Dauphin searched her family history to find 150 names or her ancestors to take to the temple. French Polynesia, November 2020.© 2020 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Commemorating 150 years of the Young Women organisation in November, many young women in the Pacific chose personal “My 150” projects and met in a Face to Face with General Young Women leaders.

President Nelson shared a video message of hope and healing in November, inviting the world to #GiveThanks and share gratitude daily for a week on social media. It was enthusiastically received by peoples of the Pacific, members and friends of the Church. It was widely viewed in many Pacific countries due to radio and television broadcasts, newspaper articles, and social media efforts.

In November and December, across the Pacific, Church leaders hosted government, judiciary and interfaith representatives at “International Law and Religion Symposium Highlights” events to discuss religious freedom. Elder Ian S. Ardern, Elder K. Brent Nattress, and Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita spoke at events in Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington respectively. Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum was one of several distinguished guests who enjoyed presentations and discussions regarding religious freedom in Fiji. Senator Amanda Stoker, Senator for Queensland was the keynote speaker at the Brisbane discussion and luncheon.

Children in Sydney help "Light The World"
A family in Sydney, Australia helps Light The World 2020 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

In December, many church members, individually and as families, participated in service to #Light The World with acts of love and kindness in preparation for celebrating the birth of Jesus. Light the World billboards and newspaper ads invited all to view ‘The Christ Child’ Christmas Nativity video.

Lighting the world with music, a virtual Christmas musical was recorded to celebrate the Christmas season, with soloists and groups from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

Elder Ulisses Soares, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke via video conference technology on Sunday 6 December to congregations in Brisbane, Australia. “Our Heavenly Father is doing everything possible to help us come back into His presence,” he said. “May we do all we can to let God prevail in our lives so we can return to Him.”

Left to right: Elder Ian S. Ardern; Sister Paula Ardern; His Excellency Jesus "Gary" Domingo, Philippines Ambassador to New Zealand, Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Samoa and Tonga.© 2020 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Just before Christmas Elder Ian Ardern and Elder Nattress attended a Christmas luncheon with senior members of the diplomatic corps in Wellington, New Zealand, thanking them for their help repatriating missionaries after the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact countries around the world and discussing future joint recovery efforts.

2020 will be remembered for many things. In the Pacific, leaders and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will remember the increased humanitarian aid given, the heightened efforts to build bridges with community leaders, and their personal growth as they followed Jesus Christ in their personal studies and in their service to their neighbors and communities.

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