President Russell Nelson visits Australia, credits truth of the Book of Mormon for church’s growth

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Wendy, wave to 8,000 Latter-day Saints at a devotional in the International Convention Centre in Sydney on May 19, 2019.

President Russell M. Nelson has seen The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints triple in size in Australia since he became an apostle 35 years ago.

The reason for the growth, he told 8,000 members Sunday night at the International Convention Centre in Sydney, is simple: The Book of Mormon.

It’s true, the 94-year-old leader said of the faith’s signature scripture. “Without the Book of Mormon, there would be no gathering of Israel.”

The visit to Australia, home to nearly 154,000 Latter-day Saints and five of the faith’s temples, marked Nelson’s third stop on his nine-day Pacific tour, according to a news release. He now has trekked to every continent — save for Antarctica — since becoming church president in January 2018.

Nelson urged the assembled Australians to be a “light and attraction to your friends and neighbors” and to follow Jesus Christ to true joy.

“If you want to be happy, you choose the ways of the Lord,” he said. “And if you want to be really miserable, choose the paths and the temptations of the adversary.”

He encouraged Latter-day Saints to heed Book of Mormon teachings and be good citizens.

Nelson launched a campaign last year to extinguish the use of the common terms “Mormon” and “LDS” as shorthand when referring to the Utah-based faith and its 16.3 million members around the globe. His push exempts, of course, proper names such as the title of the church’s foundational text.

Joining Nelson on this trip are his wife, Wendy, along with apostle Gerrit W. Gong and his wife, Susan.

Gong, the first Asian American in the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, instructed members to seek divine inspiration.

“I pray you will have faith in the continuing revelation that comes to the church,” he said. “ … And I pray that you will find and feel and be grateful for the revelation that will come to you in your lives, suited to your needs.”

Susan Gong addressed the value of learning from others.

“This is a time where many things that are precious and true are less understood and less valued — characteristics like courage, sacrifice, repentance, chastity, fidelity, integrity, meekness,” she said. “These are not things unique to the gospel of Jesus Christ — we share them with other faith communities. But they are increasingly rare in our society today. I believe it is by coming together and learning from one another that we are able to learn what these principles should mean in our lives.”

After previous stops in Hawaii and Samoa, the Latter-day Saint leadership entourage will venture Monday to neighboring New Zealand, followed by journeys to Fiji, Tonga and Tahiti.