We attended church at BYU’s Jerusalem Center today for the first time in many years. (Although I’ve been in the Center numerous times since we lived here in 1993, I can’t remember our finding ourselves in Jerusalem on a sabbath since then.)
It was a very good experience.
Today was district conference, and an American Area Authority Seventy, a convert and former Switzerland Geneva mission president based in Abu Dhabi, was on hand to reorganize the district presidency. As one might expect under the circumstances here (proselyting being prohibited), local leadership changes frequently as people, mostly expatriates, come and go. The two counselors in the presidency had already left, and, now, the district president is being transferred by his very large corporation from Tel Aviv to Shanghai.
The opening prayer was given in a Slavic tongue that I didn’t recognize. One testimony was given in Spanish, with a translation into English. Another was given by a Palestinian woman, the district Relief Society president, who lives in Bethlehem. (I remember her from her graduate-student days at BYU; she ultimately went on elsewhere to receive a doctorate in something or other.) She was very grateful to have gotten past the Israeli checkpoint for this meeting, as the guards at the border between the West Bank and Jerusalem often prohibit entry to Palestinians on fairly whimsical and arbitrary grounds. She thought perhaps the heat today made them lax and indifferent. She related a dream that she had had some time ago, in which she saw temples in both Jerusalem and the Palestinian city of Nablus to the north. (What a wonderful thing that would be!)
The new second counselor in the new district presidency is a recent Arab convert from Catholicism who lives in Nazareth. He first learned of the Church by working with a Latter-day Saint foreign service officer whom I know, who carefully refrained from answering his questions about Mormonism but opened up very effectively when this Palestinian man visited him where he is now retired in Utah.
I ran into several former students and a number of present and former University colleagues. It was great to be there.
Posted from Jerusalem, Israel.