News Release

Elder and Sister Stevenson invite Filipino youth to become disciples of Jesus Christ

Elder and Sister Stevenson invite youth to develop 3 traits of disciples; youth and young single adults dance and sing during cultural celebration

Originally Published By Church News

Inspired by the spirit of Filipino youth during a cultural celebration in Manila, Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints invited the rising generation to become disciples of Jesus Christ.

He explained traits of discipleship include: “Pray over and over, read the scriptures time after time, and obey the commandments again and again.”

Alongside his wife, Sister Lesa Stevenson, Elder Stevenson was on an 11-day ministry to the Philippines. On May 31, he presided over an area-wide devotional and cultural celebration for youth and young single adults in the activity center of the Philippines Missionary Training Center. The in-person event and online broadcast were viewed live by over 12,000 Filipino youth and young single adults at local meetinghouses and during watch parties throughout the Philippines.

Elder and Sister Stevenson were accompanied by Elder Marcus B. Nash of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Sister Shelley Nash. They were joined by Elder Steven R. Bangerter, General Authority Seventy and the Philippines Area president, and his wife, Sister Susann Bangerter; Elder Yoon Hwan Choi, General Authority Seventy and first counselor in the area presidency, and his wife, Sister Bon Kyung Koo Choi; and Elder Carlos G. Revillo Jr., General Authority Seventy and second counselor in the area presidency, and Sister Marites Revillo.

Disciples of Christ

The Stevensons invited the youth and YSAs to become disciples of Jesus Christ and focused on three of the traits of a disciple: Praying, reading the scriptures and obeying the commandments.

Pray: “The most amazing thing about prayer is that we do it over and over and over again,” Sister Stevenson said. “And you can pray to your Heavenly Father at any time, at any place and about anything. He will be there to help you.”

Read the scriptures: Elder Stevenson noted that everyone who has a smartphone can carry their scriptures with them. He invited attendees to spend time reading the scriptures every day, whether on their phones or in a different format.

Obey the commandments: When a person is obedient, they receive blessings. “Obedience is going to lead us all to happiness,” Elder Stevenson said.

Cultural celebration

More than 200 youth and young single adults from 10 stakes in Metro Manila performed Filipino folk dances from deeply rooted cultures in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao — the three major island chains of the Philippines. Complete with traditional costumes and musical instruments, the youth and YSAs shared their culture with a flair of Filipino joy, unity and love for life.

The devotional was broadcast live to stake and district centers, meetinghouses and watch parties across the country, connecting thousands of youth and young single adult members of the Church in the Philippines. Additionally, many of these watch parties featured pre-devotional programs that highlighted the talents of their youth and young single adults, complete with festive decorations, traditional attire and refreshments.

They also invited many of their neighbors, including key opinion leaders in their local areas and friends from other faiths, to share in the experience as disciples of Jesus Christ.

“We have been thrilled to see your enthusiasm, to see your love for the Lord and your love for one another,” Elder Stevenson said. “We are deeply touched to see disciples of Jesus Christ. The Philippines will forever be in our hearts.”

The same group of youth and young single adults also reprised their special presentation “Hawak Kamay” (“Holding Your Hand: I’m By Your Side”) they had performed during The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square’s “Hope” World Tour at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City in February 2024. The presentation features a group of young people imagining what it must have been like to experience the biblical story of Jesus Christ and His apostles during a storm at sea, where Peter’s faith was tested as he was commanded by the Lord to walk on water.

Sister Stevenson said: “We can see it in your eyes and your faces. You are truly disciples of Christ. I know that if you had the opportunity when you were asked, you would be one of those with enough faith to walk on the water.”

Elder Stevenson said: “A blessing to you, you who are gathered here, and to all of you who are in your watch gatherings throughout the Philippines, the Lord will bless you. He will sustain you. He will give you the power to pray, to read and to obey, to stay on the covenant path and to find happiness and joy.”

Following the cultural presentation, the young performers were invited to sit at the front of the stage and were in the front rows as Elder and Sister Stevenson spoke with them. Elder Stevenson hoped all who witnessed the event felt the love of Jesus Christ through an Apostle of the Lord.

Several of the youth and young single adults shared how they were strengthened from hearing an Apostle of the Lord.

“Listening to Elder and Sister Stevenson at such a close distance comforted me,” said Renz Labado, a young single adult from the Camarin Philippines Stake. “I felt in my heart that truly I am from the divine, that I am a child of a loving God, and I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I felt the Spirit telling me that if I focus on the Savior and His teachings, I can do hard things because He overcame hard experiences as well.”

Danika Mascardo, a young woman from the Cavite Philippines Stake, said it was an experience she will never forget.

“The lesson and invitations shared by Elder and Sister Stevenson really hit home for me. I felt it was said to me personally. I am beyond grateful that I got to hear them, perform for them and shake their hands,” she said.

Yevgeny Sarical, a young single adult from the Bacoor Philippines Stake, said: “The devotional was impressive and inspiring. I know that if we pray always, read the scriptures and obey the commandments, it will be easier for us to stay on the covenant path. I know that Elder Stevenson’s counsel will help me keep the presence of the Spirit as I go through what Heavenly Father prepared me to be.”

Elder Stevenson said, “By obeying God’s commandments, we will experience remarkable blessings, including a state of never-ending happiness.”

Following the devotional, the participants and audience had the opportunity to shake hands with Elder and Sister Stevenson and other Church leaders.

In 2018, the Stevensons hosted a Face to Face event for youth in Asia, which originated from the Philippines. The youth moderators from that event — Charlene Lee and Austine Fernando — were also at the cultural celebration. At the cultural celebration, Augustine and Charlene Fernando, who married in April, were helping to host the cultural celebration.

Also during their ministry, Elder and Sister Stevenson met with missionaries and members, visited several temples, including the Cebu City Philippines Temple.

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