SANTO DOMINGO – Elder Ulisses Soares, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, participated in a private lunch with Her Excellency Milagros Carina Soto Agüero, Cuban ambassador to the Dominican Republic, in the company of other authorities and Church officials in the region.
“Mrs. Ambassador, it is a pleasure to meet with you to share as friends and have a closer relationship through you, with the courageous people,” Elder Soares told the ambassador upon her arrival at the office facilities of the Church in the Caribbean Area.
Also participating in the meeting was Elder Brent H. Nielson, of the Presidency of the Seventy, and members of the Caribbean Area Presidency, who spoke with the diplomat about the progress of the Church in Cuba, the affable reception of the people and the good disposition shown by the state to guarantee the operations of the Church in that country.
“Cuba is a culturally and religiously diverse country, where different expressions of people's spirituality are manifested, and that richness is welcome in our country. The Cuban people believe in love, unity, peace and service to others, values that I understand we share with you and that is manifest in the message that you bring to the people,' said the ambassador, who took advantage of the occasion to share with the participants details about the history, culture and several traits that characterize Cuba as a nation.
For their part, Elder Soares and Church leaders were very interested in learning more about Cuban culture and customs, and said they hope to have the opportunity to visit the country on a future occasion.
Elder Soares is the third member of the Quorum of the Twelve to have official contact with Cuban authorities, the first being Elder David A. Bednar, who dedicated the nation for the preaching of the gospel in 2012, and then Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, who visited the country in 2014, accompanied by Elder Donald L. Hallstrom, then of the Presidency of the Seventy.
It is the second time that the ambassador has had contact with the Church authorities. Elder Eduardo Gavarret, president of the Caribbean area of the Church, made a courtesy visit to the Cuban diplomatic headquarters in Santo Domingo during December 2021.
Through its charitable services organization (LDS Charities), the Church has carried out multiple humanitarian aid projects through various non-profit organizations that operate in Cuba. In addition, it has promoted several cultural events with the participation of outstanding performing arts groups from Brigham Young University, including the dance and singing group Young Ambassadors (2011) and the Jazz Synthesis Big Band (2019).
“Of course, sometimes political issues come up. However, Church leaders always communicate the role, nature, and genuine intent of the Church to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, invite all to come unto Him, and serve families, just as we do in every other country where we live. The Church operates as an entity of relief and spiritual consolation for those who need it. This is the Church of the Lord, and His mission is to bring the work of the Lord to His sons and daughters wherever they are, without distinction,” said Elder Gavarret.
After lunch, the authorities accompanied the ambassador on a tour of the temple gardens and shared the purpose of temples and the activities that take place inside them, explaining the eternal nature of the family and the importance of living a life in harmony with the laws and commandments of the Gospel.
The ambassador was very pleased to receive, as a souvenir of her visit, a statuette symbolizing family unity, a central value in the doctrine, beliefs and practices of Latter-day Saints.
'We hope that this humble reminder of your visit on this day is also a symbol of the importance of the family in God's plan, as well as the great need we have to safeguard it as a fundamental element in the development of people in society, which is why it is so sacred in nature to us,” Elder Soares concluded.
The ambassador, for her part, was gladdened by the kindness and expressed her desire to continue strengthening the relationship of friendship and respect between the Church and the Cuban people, as well as collaborating in different areas of mutual interest.
This meeting was part of the agenda of Elder Soares, who visited the Dominican Republic this weekend to participate in several training meetings for Caribbean leaders and members. It continues the effort to strengthen ties of brotherhood with the Cuban people, in order to promote the growth of the Church and the preaching of the gospel in the largest island in the Caribbean. The Church currently has a District organized in the country with congregations located in Havana, El Cotorro, Holguín and La Portada.