Sunday, September 22, 2013

Elder Cook - Africa South East Area

I was impressed by the talk given by Elder Cook, 1st counselor in the African South East Area  Presidency at the fireside.   He's a member of the 1st Quorum of Seventy. When he opened up the meeting for questions I asked him to explain area assignments.   He quoted from D&C 107; 21, 23, 33, 35, a revelation describing how the church was to be organized.  It is a testimony to me that this works as well today with a church membership of 15 million as it did when the revelation was given on 28 March 1835.  This is the same organisation that existed in previous dispensations and when Christ organised his church upon the earth.

Jesus Christ is the head or "chief corner stone" of the church.  He is assisted by
1.  President Monson who holds all the priesthood keys needed to administer the affairs of the church.  The president is assisted by two counsellors, the twelve apostles and the first quorum of 70.  All are "prophets, sears and revelators."  Some will be giving talks in general conference next month. 
2.  Twelve Apostles are special witnesses and missionaries responsible for spreading the gospel throughout the world.
3.  The First Quorum of 70 are missionaries and special witnesses. Under the direction of the twelve, they build and regulate the affairs of the church.  Each is assigned to a specific area of the world.  They serve until age 70, then become "emeritus" (or retired general authorities.)  They work to strengthen members.  Elder Cook was told, "Serve until you are 70 and we will tell you when to come home."
The following assist the first Quorum but they are not general authorities:
4.  The Second Quorum of 70 - assists the first quorum and serve five or six years.
3.  The Third Quorum of 70 - assist on a part-time basis working mostly week ends.
5.  Additional quorums may be organised to "labor in the Lord's vineyard" as the work requires.

There are fifteen International areas world wide presided over by 45 members of the First Quorum of 70.  Assignments are rotated every four or five years.  Elder Cook lives in Johannesburg.  He serves as 1st counselor in the Africa South East Area Presidency.  There are 185,000 members in this area, 35 stakes, 13 missions and 560 wards and branches.  His job is to visit and give counsel and strengthen the members.  He has a weekly conference call with Elder Bednar and Elder Clayton, the general authorities over Africa.  They discuss various concerns and regulate the work here.

Peter Deng Galuak
Since Deng is going home to South Sudan in January,  I asked if there were plans to send missionaries there?  Elder Cook explained that there is a branch in Juba which he can attend but South Sudan has not yet been opened for missionary work.

The country is under the the spiritual guidance of the Ugandan mission president.  It will be up to the twelve to decide when the time is right to "turn the key" and send missionaries.  Deng has a strong testimony.  He came in contact with the church when Phutikazi Swapi, a member and an engineering student at Nelson Mendela University, invited him to join her at Institute.  Deng was baptised in 2010.

After the fireside Elder Cook and President Neku toured the wards and branches of Port Elizabeth Stake.  They spent three hours talking with President Zitsu in Motherwell.  The brethren are concerned about real growth.  They counseled him to strengthen the roots (branch members) rather than focusing on more baptisms.  Elder George, who was just transferred from Cleary Estates Branch, talked in sacrament meeting on sustaining our leaders.  He explained that the church is organized like a pyramid. Jesus Christ is at the top.  President Monson and his counsellors come next followed by the twelve apostles and the First Quorum of 70.  Below these leaders are mission presidents, stake and ward leaders and leaders of Relief Society, Primary and the Young Women.  All work for the growth and development of members.  It is important to sustain them, follow them and pray for them.

President Zitsu explained that mission, stake and ward leaders receive inspiration for their various callings.  He receives inspiration for the members of his branch.  He loves everyone and gives guidance and counsel for their spiritual growth and development.  

As "The Life and Teachings of Jesus and his Apostles" was the subject of our Institute class this year, we look forward to our tour of Turkey and the Holy Land from October 18 - November 4th so we can compare the church established in ancient times with the one in our day.

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