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Protect your children, President Russell M. Nelson tells Samoans

(L-R) Sister Peggy Haleck, Elder O. Vincent Haleck, the Russells, and Samoa Head of State, His Highness Tuimaleali'ifano Va'aleto'a Eti Sualauvi II.

APIA, Samoa — The expected rain finally fell from the night sky here on Saturday night and made soggier the thousands of people already damp from the smothering humidity that enveloped them as they waited on stackable plastic chairs for the arrival of the first leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to visit Samoa since 2005.

President Russell M. Nelson walked in under an umbrella after meeting with Samoa’s prime minister, but then, as suddenly as the steady drizzle began about half an hour before the May 18 event, it stopped after the opening hymn.

“Thank you for your great faith,” President Nelson said when he spoke at the end of the meeting. “I wondered if you could do it. You turned off the rain.”

The Apia Samoa Temple’s spire served as a backdrop and thousands of crickets provided background music as President Nelson praised and encouraged the Samoan Latter-day Saints and warned them to protect themselves and their families.

“There are difficult days ahead,” he said. “Please protect your children. Help them to know the Lord and love Him and keep His commandments and be free from the shackles of addiction and bondage.”

The Samoan head of state attended the meeting after welcoming President Nelson at his official residence in the afternoon, when he accepted an invitation to speak at the devotional.

“Let’s stick to the foundation of Samoa, which is founded by God,” said His Highness the Honorable Head of State Tuimaleali'ifano Va'aletoa Sualauvi II, who is descended from the nation’s first Christians and is a lay minister in the Congregational Church of Samoa.

He said he had experienced President Nelson’s “loving kindness” at his residence and told him, “I thank God for the opportunity to meet up with you and your good lady.”

Large temporary tents protected about half of the audience from the rain and spurred Elder O. Vincent Haleck of the Church’s Pacific Area Presidency to compare the evening to the Book of Mormon story of King Benjamin inviting his people to bring their tents and pitch them facing the temple, where he stood on a tower erected for the occasion.

President Nelson stood at a podium on a stage constructed for Saturday night’s event and warned about Bible and Book of Mormon prophesies of persecution of those willing to bear the name of Jesus Christ.

“This Church, when restored in its fulness, will prepare the world for the coming of the Lord,” but not before Christ’s followers are persecuted, he said.

“Church members in the Samoan Islands will not be immune from being persecuted,” he said, warning them to “prepare to be persecuted, even every day,” and telling them they have a solemn duty to prepare for it.

“Please protect your families from the deception you will see in your future,” he said. “That’s why we are all busily engaged in this work. We have to fortify our people against attacks of the adversary.”

He told them not to become discouraged. He said God will provide them with revelation, strength and the ability to judge right from wrong.

Read more at Deseret News