By Daniel Jackson
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has dedicated the Laos People?s Democratic Republic for the preaching of the gospel, according to information released by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The dedication, which took place Feb. 23, 2006, comes more than two years after the organization of the Vientiane Laos Branch as part of the Thailand Bangkok Mission.
Elder Lawrence Martin, a humanitarian missionary, said the dedication was ?filled with hope, optimism and promise for the future.?
?It was touching to hear Elder Holland bless the fields and crops, the very earth here, as well as blessing the government and the people,? he said.
Ben Crowder, a BYU student, served as a zone leader in the northeastern Thailand city of Udon Thani in 2004. At the time, he said, Laotians who wanted to learn the missionary lessons obtained temporary visas, and were taken to Udon Thani in a van driven by a senior missionary couple serving in there. There, they were taught all six missionary lessons in two days before being interviewed for baptism on the third day.
?We?d teach them solid through Wednesday and Thursday and break for lunch,? Crowder said. ?We?d do the interview Friday morning and, if they were ready, we?d have the baptism Friday afternoon.?
Crowder said he taught the missionary lessons to five Laotian converts between May and July 2004, and interviewed seven or eight other converts for baptism.
?To see the seeds that you?ve planted start blossoming is tremendous; I wish I was there [at the dedication],? Crowder said. ?I can?t wait to see what else happens in the future.?
Laos, which borders Thailand to the east and Vietnam to the west, was a French protectorate until granted sovereignty by France in 1945. It suffered heavy bombing during the Vietnam War by American forces and was the site of numerous coups until 1975, when the communist Pathet Lao party established the Lao People?s Democratic Republic. The country is still identified in the CIA World Factbook as a communist state.
The establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Laos actually began 10 years ago, Crowder said, when a Laotian couple was baptized in Minnesota. The couple moved back to Vientiane and shared their newfound faith with immediate family members and grandchildren, many of whom embraced the principles they were taught. In fact, Crowder said, many of those family members began living the principles they had been taught for a long time before learning the missionary lessons.
?They were very humble, very ready,? Crowder said of the Laotian converts he taught. ?Many had been living gospel principles for up to a year. There was a light in their eyes, they were soaking it up.?
Two members of the Vientiane Branch present at the dedication have received mission calls to serve in the Thailand Bangkok Mission, according to a church-issued release. Elder Tiengsack Inthavong and Sister Lackhana Keosouphom will be the first missionaries to leave from Laos to serve missions.