After a whirlwind tour through Central and South American, President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints returned home Monday just in time to unpack and prepare for his 95th birthday bash Friday.

The broadcast of Nelson’s birthday event will be broadcast live in eight languages on various church channels. Nelson was born Sept. 6, 1924.

Latter-day Saint performing artists Jenny Oaks Baker & Family Four, GENTRI, The Bonner Family, Nathan Pacheco and Donny Osmond will join The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square for the evening celebration, according to information released by the church.

The birthday celebration will share insights into the life, ministry and service of Nelson. Videos will focus on how his career, family and ministry have shaped who he is as a special witness of Jesus Christ, the church release said.

Elder S. Gifford Nielsen of the Quorum of the Seventy, a former sportscaster and professional football quarterback, and Ruth Todd, a former television news anchor, will emcee the concert celebration.

Nelson’s party will be open to the public and will begin at 8 p.m. Friday in the LDS Church Conference Center across from Temple Square in Salt Lake City. While the event is free, tickets are required.

Latin America ministry

Before the celebration begins, Nelson and his wife, Wendy Nelson, and Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Mary Cook, finished their world travels to five countries — Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina and Brazil.

The senior church leaders left Salt Lake City on Aug. 24 and returned home Monday.

In the five countries where Nelson was traveling, church records show there are more than 2.6 million Latter-day Saints, 14 temples, including the recently dedicated Fortaleza Brazil Temple, and 65 missions.

Nelson met with members and dignitaries in Guatemala as he embarked Aug. 24 on his nine-day ministry in Latin America. After 90 seconds of introductory remarks in English through an interpreter during an evening devotional, President Nelson then spoke for 15 minutes in Spanish and counseled Guatemalan saints to teach each other about Jesus Christ.

Nelson later met with thousands of members and invited guests of the church in Buenos Aires, Argentina, who learned from Nelson (again speaking in Spanish) about how to obtain peace and calm.

In Bogata, Columbia, the prophet met thousands of saints and had a special visit with the country’s president

“On Monday, President Nelson, Elder Cook and Elder Enrique R. Falabella of the Seventy met with Iván Duque Márquez, President of the Republic of Colombia,” the church release said. “They discussed religious freedom and the importance of protecting families.”

Nelson said Márquez was a thoughtful host who is very grateful for the help of the church.

In his messages to the saints in Columbia, Nelson said, “Please, study the scriptures as families. Pray together. Renew your baptismal covenants by regularly participating in the sacrament [the church’s weekly worship service]. Pay your tithes with grateful hearts. Attend the temple as often as your circumstances allow. There you can receive the blessings God has for His faithful children.”

Thousands of members and invited guests of the church in Buenos Aires, Argentina, also heard Nelson’s message about how to obtain peace and calm, which he gave in Spanish.

“Please teach your children, and also each other, about the Lord Jesus Christ,” Nelson said. “His Atonement is the most important event in the history of the world and is the foundation of our religion. All other things concerning our religion are secondary to it. The Atonement of the Lord assures us of the resurrection of the dead and it provides the way by which we can obtain eternal life.”

During a media interview in Brazil, Nelson said more temples and other announcements will be made in the upcoming October general conference.

Friday, Nelson greeted missionaries in the capital of Brasilia. A devotional was held for the young men and women who are serving full-time missions for the church in an area of the world where membership is growing. The meeting was broadcast to the 35 missions in Brazil, the church statement said.

There are 5,300 missionaries in Brazil — the only nation that has a larger missionary force is the United States, according to the church.

More than 37,000 people, including many families, lined up for up to eight hours before a devotional on Sunday at the Anhembi Convention Center in São Paulo, Brazil. An 800-member choir provided the music for the meeting, which was broadcast to more than 170,000 Latter-day Saints in all congregations in that country. This was the largest gathering Nelson has spoken to outside of the U.S., according to the church.

President Nelson is the fifth church president to visit Brazil. He has been to the South American country as a senior church leader 24 times, including this most recent visit. In May 2008, he was in the country with President Thomas S. Monson for the dedication of the Curitiba Brazil Temple. Other church presidents to visit Brazil include President David O. McKay, President Spencer W. Kimball and President Gordon B. Hinckley.

The church continues to grow in Brazil, with membership in the country now totaling nearly 1.4 million Latter-day Saints. There are 35 missions in the country.

Brazil has seven operating temples.

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can be contacted at gpugmire@heraldextra.com, (801) 344-2910, Twitter

@gpugmire

A 32-year veteran of covering news in Utah County, Genelle covers Provo, Orem, Faith/Religion, including the LDS Church and general assignments.

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