Author’s Note: These are some of my thoughts and a summary from a recent visit from Elder Gerrit W. Gong, who addressed my stake at a recent special conference. This is Part Two of a Two-Part Series. Read Part One here.

Elder Gong shared with us some of the numbers of the Restoration. Currently, the United Nations recognizes 224 countries (a number that changes fairly regularly). Of those 224, the Church has an organized unit in 189. There are currently 23 countries with more than 100,000 members of record. The Church currently has more than one million members of record in The United States, Mexico, and Brazil.

Basing the growth and happenings of the Church on the faithlessness and apostasy you may be encountering in your local Utah congregation is as ignorant as measuring the size of the Amazon river at it’s headwaters.

Elder Gong then shared with us two stories from his recent travels with President Nelson. In Samoa, it is a drive of 17 miles from the airport to the government center. The streets were lined the entire way with members waiting to greete President Nelson and him, the visiting apostle. He observed the prophet had his head and hands out the window for the entire 17-mile trip greeting and waving to the Saints.

In Tonga, President Nelson and Elder Gong met with the King and Queen. After their meeting, the King invited President Nelson to address the media from the Royal Grounds. It was the first time non-royalty had spoken publicly on the grounds in over 100 years. The queen asked President Nelson to stand on her royal tapa during the address.

Much has been said by the Lamans and Lemuels among us regarding President Nelson’s emphasis on properly utilizing the name of the Church. Elder Gong addressed the Prophet’s correction to the world and explained the inspiration and the results behind the prophetic correction. In the past when a member stated they were Mormon, it would generally lead to a discussion about how many wives they had, the history of the restored Priesthood, or why we don’t drink coffee. NOW when a member states they are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the conversation is naturally led to the member sharing how they feel about Jesus Christ. He asserted the name correction in our “casual, everyday” missionary work has been phenomenal.

Elder Gong closed by bearing testimony of the Book of Mormon and then of the Lord Jesus Christ. No evil person could have written it and no good person could have written it with the intent to deceive. We were challenged to learn of Christ’s love for us personally and as a people. He smiled and told us Doctrine & Covenants 45 was a great way to start.

It was a wonderful meeting and all who were there felt of his special witness. I echo his final statement and testimony to us. “Brothers and Sisters it is true. It’s all true.”

Supplemental Reading:

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6 thoughts on “Keeping Perspective: Words from Elder Gong

  1. Elder Gong is an inspiring man.

    I attended the Saturday regional leadership training he was giving for multiple Idaho stakes on this same trip and was impressed by his love, thoughtfulness, and humility.

    One thing I find interesting is your assertion that “Basing the growth and happenings of the Church on the faithlessness and apostasy you may be encountering in your local Utah congregation is as ignorant as measuring the size of the Amazon river at it’s headwaters.”

    I appreciate the the point I think you are trying to make—that the church is strong. However, this kind of defensiveness and judgementalism is frankly antithetical to the optimism and kindness that I felt from Elder Gong. I am glad that in the leadership training he urged us to reach out to those in our congregations who are struggling, rather than writing them off as faithless or apostates. I appreciated that he emphasized that ministering involves meeting our fellow saints and neighbors where they are, not physically or spiritually quarantining them until the conform to our standards (or until their testimonies are “this big” as Elder Uchtdorf would say). It was indeed inspiring to learn from him. I think he brings a new and exciting energy and perspective to the Q15.

    1. Hi there. Thank you for your reply. My point with that statement you referenced comes from numerous messages I receive almost daily on Twitter of our fellow members disheartened with the faithlessness all around them. Lifelong members that they once looked up to leaving the Church over social issues or disputes with Church policy and things that the Brethren say. In NO WAY was I stating that we should write ANYONE off.

      One of the things I have stated to help these disheartened people that message me is that we are truly a part of a WORLDWIDE CHURCH!! The growth overseas is phenomenal. Don’t lose faith or believe that the sky is falling because of (supposedly) stalwart lifelong members dropping all around you.

      Thanks for reading!

      1. Social Media is a cesspool and a place for the malcontents to openly spew their hatred. I am very encouraged in my real life efforts as I see the Zion being established in my local ward and stake. I’m confident the Lord’s Kingdom will win out.

      2. The online world is a weird alternate universe, right?

        One of the things I find fascinating about Jana Reiss’s recent research is her discovery that the large majority of inactive members of the church are not disaffected due to historical or cultural issues, but rather just drifted away during the period of late adolescence/early adulthood due to lack of interest or family engagement, etc. This caused quite an angry reaction among some disaffected ex-members online because it contradicts their narrative, but—to her credit—Reiss followed where the numbers led.

        I am always amazed by how different my local congregation looks from the hostility and combativeness that dominates online. I am blessed to live in a ward family with a pretty wide range of opinions and approaches to the gospel for a congregation in the “Mormon corridor.” And yet the kindness and love in this ward family trumps the petty differences in a way that the online community of church members can never accurately reflect. It really is like building a little corner of Zion.

        And, hey, I actually like online spaces to the degree that they allow us to connect beyond the borders of our wards. I personally have found ways to replenish my faith and enthusiasm for the gospel in online communities. I just think that as a people (meaning the whole human race, not just members of the church) we SUCK at communicating online when we disagree. It doesn’t surprise me that church members fail at this. I just wish we held ourselves to something above the gleefully contentious and hostile standard of the world.

        1. I couldn’t agree more on your communication point. With so much of communication done in a non-verbal fashion, it does make the productivity of online discourse less than stellar in many cases.

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