News Release

Bacolod Devotional Shines Light on Temple Blessings and Faithful Service

The profound love that Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, have for all people, serving as a source of strength and encouragement for personal growth and resilience, was the core theme that resonated throughout the devotional gathering held on June 17, 2023, at the Bacolod Stake Center.

Around three hundred members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, spanning different age groups, warmly welcomed Bishop L. Todd Budge, accompanied by his wife, Lori. They were joined by Elder Steven Bangerter, the Philippines Area President, along with his wife, Susann, and Elder Jose Antonio San Gabriel, an Area Seventy, accompanied by his wife, Sariah Mia. The gathering also included leaders of the Bacolod Stakes and mission.

To ensure inclusivity, technology specialists provided a virtual participation link, allowing members from other stakes and districts in Negros Island to join the devotional remotely. This brought people together beyond geographical boundaries, facilitating a shared experience of spiritual inspiration and fellowship.

Filipinos are Resilient People

Because of the countless disasters and calamities that the Filipino people experience in their lives year after year, Bishop Budge said it is conclusive that “the Filipino people are the most resilient people in the world.” Resilience, he said, means to “bounce back and to keep believing... to keep believing even when things are tough." He emphasized that to come to know God and to know Jesus Christ takes resilience.

In his talk, Elder Bangerter reminded that “upon partaking of the sacrament during Sunday, we recommit ourselves to the promises we made with the Lord. This act, he said, “strengthens our faith and provides us with the power to overcome the difficulties and trials we face.”

Following the Savior’s Example Through Ministering

Expounding on the second great commandment of loving our neighbors as ourselves, Bishop Budge pointed out how Alma in the Book of Mormon exemplified ministering. He highlighted how Alma ministered to Amulek, who was struggling and facing rejection from his family and friends, as well as losing everything when he served God with Alma the prophet. Alma took him to his house and “strengthened him in the Lord.” (Alma 15:16, 18).

Ministering is a higher and holier way to care for God’s children. As we minister, “we help people achieve deeper individual conversion and become more like our Savior Jesus Christ. We also help them understand God’s love for them and will help them gain a desire to love God by keeping his commandments,” he continued.

Elder Bangerter encouraged members of the Church to keep their “eyes firmly focused upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and to come unto Him” in all aspects of their lives. Sister Bangerter, on the other hand, shared her testimony that “ministering focused on one can bless many.”

Dinah Lourence Boiser, young women secretary of Bacolod 6th Ward, Bacolod Philippines Stake, shared her thoughts on the importance of following Jesus Christ by ministering to others. She firmly believes that to earnestly choose to follow the Savior, “I first need to trust more in Him and strive to better live life as He would. By doing so, my testimony strengthens as I prepare myself and others through prayer, scripture study, and active participation in ministering. This guides those we minister in discovering the truth of the gospel and ultimately experiencing the blessings promised to those who seek Him.”

Recently set apart to serve a full-time mission, Elder Frances Sedayon Labarte emphasized, “By serving on a mission, I can minister to other people and be closer to my Savior. I will strive to be more worthy and to always have the Holy Ghost so that I can feel God’s love and help others feel it, too.” He centers his life around drawing closer to God to be worthy of the blessings he will receive in the temple and to share the blessing of love with the people he will associate with on his mission.

Commit to Keep the Commandments

God also gave us our agency, "so we could choose to keep the commandments," Bishop Budge emphasized. He further stated, "We come to know Him by keeping His commandments... and by serving Him." Emphasizing the importance of the two great commandments, he explained that we love God by keeping His commandments and then love one another, one by one. He highlighted that it is impossible to love God if we do not love one another. This is how we show our love for God.

President Rossen Bon Chong Escobar of the Bacolod Philippines Stake expressed his gratitude for relearning the meaning of the two great commandments - to love God and to love our neighbors. "To me, this means magnifying my calling extensively to help and lighten one's heavy load, to cheer someone up, and to avoid burdening or adding guilt to those who are already struggling or facing overwhelming problems. Instead, I strive to love them more, love them more than we did before."

JR Suarez, a young man from Bacolod 1st Ward, shared how deeply inspired he was when he learned about the importance of keeping the commandments. "I have learned that when I do, I will receive blessings and, in turn, bless others as well." Attending this devotional event for the first time, JR felt humbled by the inspiration he received as he listened to the messages. "I have no regrets about coming; in fact, I have learned so much. I hope this becomes a turning point in my life, a commitment to keep the commandments, especially as I prepare to serve a full-time mission."

Gratitude for Learning Experiences

Attending the devotional alongside his wife Sariah, Bishop Edren Sese of Magalona Ward, listened intently as Elder Bangerter shared a sudden childhood memory that resurfaced just before he and his wife entered the chapel door to begin the devotional. This memory held great significance for Elder Bangerter, as it recalled a moment from his youth when his parents brought him and his siblings to their empty chapel on a weekday. It was there, at the sacramental table, that their father imparted to them the purpose and sacredness of the sacrament and the chapel itself. Elder Bangerter expressed deep gratitude for learning these vital lessons from his father, a cherished moment that he vowed never to forget.

Bishop Sese acknowledges that "there are small and simple flashbacks in our lives that instill within us a spirit of gratitude for the many blessings we currently enjoy. Gratitude towards our family, for the multitude of learning experiences, and gratitude towards our Maker." He emphasized that in order to become better disciples of the Savior, it is essential for us to consistently repent, renew our covenants, and recommit our lives to the building up of the Kingdom of God.

Teaching a seminary class for the first time, Joanne Patria Sumadia of Bacolod 5th Ward shared that she had learned to pray with great sincerity, seeking the guidance of the Holy Ghost in her new calling. Attending the devotional provided her with the opportunity to "grasp the significance of never doubting the love our Heavenly Father has for us." She firmly believes that "if we approach Him with a contrite spirit, ready to forsake our sins, He will undoubtedly strengthen and assist us in overcoming any obstacles that hinder our return to His fold..."

Antoni Espinos, who had been baptized just a year ago, conveyed profound sentiments regarding the boundless love that Heavenly Father has for all His children, irrespective of their circumstances, social status, or moral ideals. When asked how he could apply the lessons learned from the devotional, he responded, "Through steadfast adherence to the greatest commandment, I plan to let the learnings acquired during this event fill my daily life and be actively implemented."

Temple Blessings

"It takes a heart to walk on the covenant path and towards eternity," expressed Sister Lori Budge when envisioning the completion of the Bacolod Temple and its significance as a beacon and a source of light for everyone.

Mace Plaza, a young single adult and a returned missionary from Paglaum Ward, shared her perspective, saying, "Having a temple in our area brings great responsibility to us, members of the Church. I am grateful for the blessings that temple ordinances have brought into my life. I feel a sense of responsibility to encourage other Church members to visit the temple as often as possible, not only to enjoy the blessings it brings into their lives but also to witness the manifestation of miracles." Reflecting on her emotions, Mace continued, stating that the devotional reminded her that "we can catch a glimpse of heaven when we honor our covenants in the temple."

Sister Budge urged members to prepare themselves to enter the temple and receive the divine power available within its sacred walls.

As the devotional came to a close, members exchanged insights on how the messages had strengthened their faith in the Savior and reinforced their commitment to faithfully minister, particularly to those who have been mentally, emotionally, and spiritually affected by abuse. Some members were deeply impressed by the blessing of having a temple nearby, which would enable them to attend ordinances more frequently, with reduced expenses and travel time. Others affirmed that blessings were evident after faithfully keeping the commandments of the Lord.

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