President Schmutz, president of the Cebu Philippines mission, looked around the room at the four senior missionary couples seated around the tables in his living room. One couple had been in the mission six weeks, another four weeks, and the other two had just arrived. The President had called all the senior missionaries together for a training session.
I’d like to tell you some things about the Philippines. The Philippines is the only Christian nation in Asia. It is the only democratic nation in Asia. It is the only nation in Asia where the Church has made significant progress.
American soldiers in World War II influenced the nation, but the first mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was not opened until 1967. In 1973, an official from the Church visited Cebu City. There was one small branch in the city at that time. The official looked at the member who was driving him around, and surprised him with a question:
“If you were going to pick a place for a temple in Cebu City, which places would you consider?”
The young man was shocked. “But we only have one branch here! We don’t even have a building where we can meet.”
“I know. But the Lord has a more long term view than we do.”
The Church purchased large acreage on a hill. There were only a couple of small structures on the acreage. The lot sat empty for nearly 40 years. The city grew and buildings large and small crowded all around the lot. In 2010 the Cebu Temple was completed. In addition to the temple, the lot was large enough for a large mission home, a stake center, homes for the mission president and for the temple president, and for parking and beautifully landscaped grounds. The high walls and the hilltop location cause the temple grounds to be a spacious, peaceful sanctuary in a crowded, noisy city. Entering through the gate is like entering a new beautiful world.
The President continued.
In addition to the temple here and in Manila, the Church had made a tremendous investment in church buildings and curriculum.
There are now 680,000 Church members in the Philippines. Church population here is the third largest after the United States. Only Mexico and Brazil have more.
The President paused. Then he asked:
What are the Lord’s plans for the Philippines?
He looked again around the room.
You have been called as missionaries to the Philippines as a direct fulfillment of prophecy.
We opened our scriptures to read a prophecy written by the Prophet Nephi. Nephi’s father was a prophet in the land of Jerusalem in the years preceding 600 B.C. He was a contemporary of the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. When the Jews attempted to kill Lehi, the Lord instructed him to take his family and flee into the wilderness near Jerusalem. His family and friends were later led across the ocean to the land of America where Nephi was also called to be a prophet.
Nephi quoted the prophet Isaiah from the records that they had brought with them:
“Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people; and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.
And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens shall be their nursing mothers…” (1 Nephi 21:22-23; compare Isaiah 48)
Gentiles, as referred to here, are non-Israelites who join the restored Church in the Latter Days. At the time of the gathering of scattered Israel, Israel will be carried in the arms of the Gentiles and on their shoulders. Kings and Queens shall be nursing mothers and nursing fathers.
The term “nursing” indicates a loving, intimate and caring relationship. I thought of Elder Hall caring for his newborn granddaughter during the first two years of her life. Isaiah says that both men and women will care for these scattered children of our Heavenly Father.
After Nephi read the scripture to his brothers, they asked him:
What meaneth these things which ye have read? Behold, are they to be understood according to things which are spiritual, which shall come to according to the spirit and not the flesh?
And I, Nephi, said unto them: Behold, they were manifest unto the prophet by the voice of the Spirit; for by the Spirit are all things made known unto the prophets, which shall come upon the children of men according to the flesh.
Wherefore, the things which I have read are things pertaining to things both temporal and spiritual; for it appears that the house of Israel, sooner or later, will be scattered upon all the face of the earth, among all nations. (Ibid. 22:1-3)
The prophecy is both temporal and spiritual; or in other words, will be literally fulfilled, but is also symbolic.
And behold, there are many who are already lost from the knowledge of those who are at Jerusalem. Yea, the more part of all the tribes have been led away; and they are scattered to and fro upon the isles of the sea; and whither they are none of us knoweth, save that we know that they have been led away. (Ibid. 22:4)
The Ten Tribes had already gone and had been scattered to and fro upon the isles of the sea. There are 7,107 islands in the Philippines, making it the largest group of islands in the world.
Nevertheless, after they shall be nursed by the Gentiles and the Lord has lifted up his hand upon the Gentiles and set them up for a standard, and their children have been carried in their arms, and their daughters have been carried upon their shoulders, behold these things of which are spoken are temporal; for thus are the covenants of the Lord with our fathers; and it meaneth us in the days to come, and also all of our brethren who are of the house of Israel. (Ibid. 22:6)
The Lord lifted up the Gentiles as a standard to which to rally. The prophecy is to be literally fulfilled. It includes the seed of Nephi and his brethren, who, according to prophecy, must be found.
And it meaneth that the time cometh that after all the house of Israel have been scattered and confounded, that the Lord God will raise up a mighty nation among the Gentiles, yea, even upon the face of this land; and by them shall our seed be scattered. (Ibid. 22:7)
The United States is a mighty nation without equal. In its early history, a remnant of the descendants of Nephi and his brethren were scattered. Now it is the country that the Lord has raised up for the purpose of providing the Church (Gentiles) to become a gatherer of Israel. The hand of the Lord has created wealth in the United States that it can be sent to the isles of the sea to gather his scattered children.
And after our seed is scattered the Lord God will proceed to do a marvelous work among the Gentiles, which shall be of great worth unto our seed; wherefore, it is likened unto their being nourished by the Gentiles and being carried in their arms and upon their shoulders. (Ibid. 22:8)
A marvelous work has been brought forth by the Lord in the restoration of the gospel in our day. Just as we care for and provide for the needs of an infant, the Church has invested heavily to provide church buildings and curriculum for the people in the Philippines. The tithes and offerings of the people in the Philippines cannot even pay the electricity bills for the buildings. The people in the Church in America, and particularly those in the Wasatch Front, are carrying the members in the Philippines upon their shoulders. They need to be nursed. They cannot do it on their own.
The land of the Philippines is filled with scattered Israel. They need to be sought out and nourished. The people in the Philippines respond to the Spirit more easily than any other people in the world. But like children, they have difficulty remaining responsible and being accountable to the doctrines.
There are now more than 3000 missionaries in the Philippines. But the chapels and the temples are significantly underused. The Lord has great plans yet to be fulfilled. Many more missionaries are needed. The people need the members from the richest and mightiest nation of the world to carry them in their arms and upon their shoulders and to nourish them.
Years ago, when we were expecting our first grandchild, Elder Hall had a dream. He dreamed of a dark haired young lady calling, “Grandpa, Grandpa, don’t forget me!” He thought that our first grandchild would be a girl. Our first grandchild was a blue-eyed, blonde baby boy. It wasn’t until twenty years later that we had a dark haired granddaughter that he recognized as the one in his dream.
But perhaps there is another meaning to the dream. Perhaps the dark haired young lady is symbolic of others who need to be found and “nourished by the good word of God.” (Moro. 6:4)