“You are precious to us and to the Lord. We love you. We miss you when we are away from you,” said President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as he visited the Kingdom of Tonga during his nine-day Pacific ministry to seven countries. “[The Lord] has special feelings for the covenant people on the isles of the sea,” he said.
President Nelson arrived in Nuku‘alofa, Tonga’s capital, late Wednesday to minister to Latter-day Saints and to meet with government and interfaith leaders in the Pacific nation, where more than 60 percent of the population claims Church membership.
On Thursday afternoon President Nelson and his wife, Wendy, visited the King and Queen of Tonga, His Majesty King Tupou VI and Her Majesty Queen Nanasipau’u in the Royal Palace in Nuku’alofa, Tonga. Elder Gerrit W. Gong and his wife, Susan, and Elder Vincent O. Haleck and his wife, Peggy, also met with the King and Queen. The three Church leaders met with the king while their spouses met with the queen.
Following their visit with the king, President Nelson, Elder Gong and Elder Haleck spoke with members of Church media on the lawn outside the palace.
President Nelson said, “We spoke of our love for Tonga, and the Tongan people, our gratitude for their freedom of religion. He stressed the importance of education and a healthy lifestyle.” As an indication of the unusual access, a palace official said it’s been more than a century since anyone not of royal blood has been given permission to be interviewed inside the gates of the royal palace.
President Nelson said they also spoke with the king about the importance of family. “He understands … the significance of the family and God’s eternal plan. As we work for strong families, we will have strong nations in a kinder world.”
After meeting with the queen for nearing a half hour, Sister Nelson, Sister Gong, and Sister Haleck met with Church media as well. Sister Nelson said, “How many days do you get to wake up and say, ‘I’m going to meet the queen today’?” Of the queen she said, “[She] is everything and more than we could ever imagine. This is a woman of royal birth and born to change the world, I think. She’s going after the true men who are born to be true men and doesn’t want them being caught up in the world. This is a woman … who has a heart that’s focused on the people of Tonga and who has the ability to make a difference.”