Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Manama Bahrain Stake: Elder Jeffrey Holland's Visit To An LDS Toehold Now Numbering 1,950 Members In An Overwhelmingly Muslim Arabian Peninsula

The Arabian Peninisula, dominated by the Wahhabi Muslim Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is overwhelmingly Muslim. And to protect the preeminence and purity of Islam on the peninsula, Saudi Arabia applies severe restrictions on the promotion and public practice of other religious faiths and denominations. Saudi Arabia also happens to be the custodian and protector of two of Islam's holiest sites, Mecca and Medina.

However, some parts of the Arabian Peninsula are a bit more open. These include Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). And it is in these locations that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has gained a toehold, sufficiently so as to justify organizing a stake.

The Church News is currently reporting on an extended stake conference in the Manama Bahrain Stake (also read a related Church News story HERE). Consisting of 1,950 members, the stake includes 16 units (wards and/or branches) extending from Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the UAE to Qatar and Bahrain. The 10-day series of conferences (to be precise) were presided over by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve, who was accompanied by his wife, Patricia, and Elder Gerald Causse of the Seventy and his wife, Valerie. It was the first visit to the stake by a General Authority in 26 years; Elder Boyd K. Packer was the last to visit.

The meetings were conducted daily in different cities and countries over a 10-day period, culminating in a February 27th, 2009 general stake conference session in Dubai and the calling of a new stake president, Waldo D. Galan, who is a Dubai resident and a Ford Motor Co. executive. Elders Holland and Causse conducted interviews of priesthood leaders as well as meetings with the local members, with each meeting including the sustaining of General Authorities. Combining the 636 who attended the stake conference's final general session in Dubai with the other sessions conducted earlier in the various cities, the total attendance was 1,500 for a stake of 1,950 members. Most stake members are actually foreign expatriates.

In speaking at the Dubai general session, both Elder and Sister Holland acknowledged the great gathering of members occurring at this time in this part of the world. "You are making history," said Elder Holland, who oversees the Middle East Area for the Church. "We may not see until later what that will mean. But the Spirit of the Lord is blessing you. This conference is evidence to you that God knows and loves you".

Elder Holland also left an apostolic blessing on those attending the conference, challenging the brethren to live up to their priesthood offices and become true disciples of Christ, counseling the sisters to be proud they are women in the kingdom of God, and the young people to be safe, happy and loved. He blessed the children, the sick, the ill and the grieving, saying his greatest desire was to bear the same witness and extend the same blessings that the Savior would if He were present.

More information on the Manama Bahrain Stake, as well as Church growth in general in the Middle East, can be found on the LDS Church Growth blog. Latter-day Saints believe that the Gospel must be physically carried to all parts of the globe and that each nation must have time to either accept it or knowingly reject it before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ can take place. The Middle East, along with South Asia and China, have yet to be significantly penetrated by the Gospel. But most of these areas have not yet knowingly rejected the Gospel. Only the Lord can effectively judge whether or not a nation has crossed the threshold and irrevocably committed itself one way or another.

Thus the LDS outreach on the periphery of the Arabian Peninsula could eventually be a springboard for greater Gospel penetration throughout the entire Middle East. Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel are the current stumbling blocks in that part of the world. I include Israel because, although they have more freedom that the other two nations, anti-Christian sentiment remains strong within the Orthodox community. Not only have there been incidences of Orthodox Jews spitting on Christians in Jerusalem, but one town in Central Israel conducted a mass-burning of New Testaments. So Israel is not exactly a Christian-friendly environment, despite the fact that Christian Zionists in the United States lavishly promote and support the Zionist entity.

3 comments:

Greg said...

I thought you might enjoy Elder Charles W. Penrose's comments about the Second Coming.

The Jack Mormon said...

Thanks for the reference, Greg. I was aware that the Savior would come twice, first to the Saints in Missouri, and then in glory to the whole world. I was not aware there would be another appearance in the Middle East during the midst of what is referred to as the Battle of Armageddon.

The reference to the Second Coming in my post is in regards to His coming in full glory.

Tony M. said...

Good post.