Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles made a special visit to the Church's Caribbean Area that included meetings with local leaders and many other members in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy accompanied the Apostle on the March 9–15 trip. Also participating were members of the Caribbean Area Presidency—Elder J. Devn Cornish, Elder Claudio D. Zivic, and Elder Hugo Martinez, all of the Seventy—and Elder Julio C. Acosta, an Area Seventy. The Brethren conducted a review of the Caribbean Area, an annual function to monitor the growth and activities of the Church across the region, where membership is approaching 200,000. Seventy-eight percent of those members live in Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic.
“I am extremely impressed to see the growth, development, and maturity of the Church in the Caribbean Area. Much has happened since my first visit here in 1989,” said Elder Holland. “These beautiful buildings, the maturity of the leaders, the strength of priesthood holders, the wonderful sisters and auxiliary leaders with whom we met on this visit—everything is evidence of the remarkable growth of the Church in less than 30 years.”
Elder Holland presided over several meetings with missionaries, priesthood leaders, the youth, and other members in several areas.
“We are very happy with what we have seen during this visit,” he said.
He also praised the work of local Church leaders and highlighted the love of the people and their genuine interest in their spiritual and temporal welfare.
Meanwhile, Elder Clayton said he was impressed by the strength and maturity of the local leaders.
”The bishops and members of the stake presidencies are all men of deep faith and have a solid understanding of the principles of the gospel and have leadership experience,” he said.
The Church in the Caribbean Area, he added, “is built on a solid foundation of capable men and women who are good leaders. “
Elder Holland noted his admiration for the “new generation of families in the Church” that, despite the political, economic, and social conditions that would drive them to migrate to other countries, decide to remain in their homeland to build the Church.
”I am particularly impressed by the quality of the young leaders who say they will stay,” he said. “Young families—husbands and wives with young children—have decided to stay in the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico or Jamaica or the many other islands in the region, in order to build the Church.”
Such dedication to the growth and maturation of the Church in their own countries of origin will have a tremendous impact in the future, he added.
Many young adults in the Caribbean Area were uplifted by Elder Holland’s comforting words of counsel. He encouraged them to “do the right thing, even if they are the only ones doing it,” and noted that through their worthy efforts and deeds “an individual can become a crowd.”
In his message to the bishops and stake presidents, Elder Holland said that the main role of Church leaders is to “build faith and spirituality of people.”
Local leaders, he said, must ask themselves after each meeting, “Have we built the faith of the people and helped them become better disciples of Jesus Christ because of what we have done and discussed in this meeting?“
In meetings with leaders of the auxiliary organizations, the visiting Brethren stressed the importance of effective gospel teaching in classrooms and Church meetings. They also emphasized the crucial role of teachers in the Church.
“The Apostle Paul taught the Corinthians that ‘teachers’ were God’s gift to the people, immediately after ‘apostles and prophets,’” said Elder Holland.
As part of the visiting delegation, Sister Kathy Clayton, wife of Elder Clayton, along with local Relief Society leaders and the wives of General Authorities living in the Dominican Republic, led a special meeting of women.
The Caribbean Area sisters were invited to ”find motivation, joy, and happiness—not only in external matters, but within themselves.“
After completing a busy, five-day schedule, Elder Clayton expressed his appreciation and satisfaction.
”The [Caribbean members] are people of faith, spiritual strength, devotion, and affection, and they take the gospel of Jesus Christ in their hearts. It has been an honor and a blessing to be with them.“
In his familiar, gentle tone, Elder Holland said to the Caribbean members at the conclusion of his visit: ”It is your faith and spirituality that has touched us. … I'm part of you, I am one with you—a true Dominican, Puerto Rican, Jamaican, or any other nationality in the Caribbean. What a wonderful blend of God’s children you are.
“We hope we can return soon.“