WELLINGTON, New Zealand, May 20, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints met with New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern Monday as he reached the midway point of his nine-day Pacific ministry visits to seven countries.
The New Zealand prime minister has been in office since October 2017, and is also a former Latter-day Saint, according to Wikipedia and other sources. After being raised LDS, Ardern left the church in 2005 because, she said, it conflicted with her personal views, in particular her support for gay rights, according to her Wikipedia page. In January 2017, Ardern identified as agnostic.
“I think the world will discover a real leader here,” said President Nelson concerning his visit with the prime minister. “It’s an unlikely scenario — a young mother leading a great nation, a peacemaker, a policymaker, consensus giver. We’re very impressed with her. She’ll have a great future.”
Nelson expressed his condolences to the prime minister following the terrorist attacks on two mosques in Christchurch in March, the news release said.
“We will be making contributions to those mosques to help them repair from their damages,” Nelson said.
Pacific Area President Elder O. Vincent Haleck added, by way of the news release: “We’re clearly sensitive to what happened there, and our hearts were broken when we heard about the tragedy that took place and the loss of life, and so the Church is reaching out … to lend a hand, to be there for our brothers and sisters who are another ethnicity and another religious group.”
Nelson arrived in Wellington to meet with the prime minister after speaking to a capacity crowd Sunday evening at the International Convention Centre in Sydney, the news release said.
Nelson’s wife, Wendy, and Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Gong’s wife, Susan, are traveling with him.
From Wellington, Nelson traveled to Auckland, where a devotional at Spark Arena will be held Tuesday evening. It will be broadcast to all congregations in New Zealand.
Prior to the devotional, the senior Church leaders will meet with missionaries in Auckland in a chapel located next to the Missionary Training Center. The meeting will be broadcast to all missions in the Pacific Area.
Latter-day Saints greeted President Nelson in Kona, Hawaii, last Friday on the first stop of his visits, the news release said. From there, he traveled on Saturday to Apia, Samoa, for an outdoor devotional and meetings with government and faith leaders.
The Pacific ministry runs May 16–25. Other scheduled stops include Suva, Fiji; Nuku‘alofa, Tonga and Papeete, Tahiti, where Nelson will attend a 175th anniversary cultural program celebrating the arrival of the first missionaries to French Polynesia.
New Zealand is home to nearly 115,000 Latter-day Saints, officials said. The Hamilton New Zealand Temple is currently closed for renovation. A new temple has been announced in Auckland.
Back in September 2018, Church leaders presented Ardern with a two-volume family history in her Wellington office, according to a previous news release.