For LDS Church President Russell M. Nelson, the welcoming voices of a Zimbabwean children’s choir both warmed his heart and underscored the need to teach the gospel to future generations of Africans.
“This is a sight that I shall always remember,” the 93-year-old Mormon leader said Tuesday during a visit to the southern African nation’s capital, Harare.
Hundreds of children, singing the classic Mormon Primary song “I Am a Child of God,” were among a crowd of 4,000 members and missionaries who gathered to hear Nelson speak.
“These precious children, how I love them,” said Nelson, whose address was broadcast to Mormon meetinghouses throughout Zimbabwe.
Nelson, who succeeded LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson in January, went on to encourage the faithful to help their young ones “to understand about the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, [and] to know how to pray to Heavenly Father.”
He added: “I would like to suggest that you read the scriptures to your children [and] I hope you’ll teach these children to be good citizens of this wonderful country.”
Nelson, accompanied by his wife, Wendy, and apostle Jeffrey R. Holland and his spouse, Patricia, is halfway through an April 10-23 globe-trotting tour that next takes the delegation to Bengaluru, India. From there, Nelson and his entourage will visit Bangkok, Thailand, and Hong Kong before making their last stop in Honolulu.
In his remarks, Holland praised the rapid growth of the church in Zimbabwe, which today has nearly 32,000 Latter-day Saints in 79 congregations. In April 2016, Harare was announced as a planned site for a new Mormon temple.
“What a wonderful, wonderful, growing, dramatic, significant component you are of this church,” Holland said. “Your history has only begun, and really the church’s history has only begun in terms of what it will yet be. But I’m thrilled to be with you, observing history.”
Members began arriving at 8 a.m., nine hours before the devotional with the LDS leaders.
“That shows that everyone is ready,” Gibson Guzha of Harare said in an LDS Church news release, “and doesn’t want to miss this historic event.”
Pretty Mukweya echoed that eagerness. “I can’t even express it, I’m just super-excited. I couldn’t even sleep. I couldn’t wait.”
Lovemore Tenganani hopes that Nelson’s visit will lead to “better things” happening in Zimbabwe.