News Release

Top Leaders of Women and Children Organizations Minister in the Philippines

President Johnson and President Porter participate in humanitarian, civic and media outreach

Two global leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are concluding a whirlwind 10-day visit to the Philippines. They traveled to multiple islands from November 10-20, 2023.

“It has been a really tender experience to be with the people of the Philippines,” said Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson.

The ministry of President Johnson and Primary General President Susan H. Porter included humanitarian outreach, meetings with civic leaders, including Vice President Sara Z. Duterte, and journalists, and devotionals with Latter-day Saints.

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“The Philippines is a land of faith, faith in Jesus Christ,” said President Porter. “We felt very open no matter if we were meeting with humanitarian or [civic] leaders. We felt so free to express our love of the Savior here in this beautiful country.”

The visit to the island nation known affectionately as the “Pearl of the Orient” was a first for the General Officers. President Johnson was accompanied by her husband Doug and President Porter was joined by her sister Jeanette H. Harris.

Meeting with Samira Gutoc of the Manila Times

On November 13, the Church leaders also met with journalist Samira Dutoc of the Manila Times, one of the country’s oldest leading newspapers, to discuss the Church’s growth, how faith organizations offer hope to those feeling overwhelmed by life’s challenges and the role of women in society.

Gutoc asked the leaders about the challenges they face as mothers and grandmothers in a busy world.

“I don’t see it as a burden. I’ve always seen it as a blessing and an opportunity,” President Johnson replied. “For me, it wasn’t so much striking a balance as making sure that my priorities have always been in order. My love of God first and my family, my neighbor, and those things coming first helps me strike a balance between those things and other responsibilities.”

Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson (middle) and Primary General President Susan H. Porter (left) speak with journalist Samira Gutoc (right) of the Manila Times on November 13, 2023, in Manila. 2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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When talking about their callings as global Church leaders, , President Johnson and President Porter were asked about the role that their families, in particular men, play in supporting them.

“You take on leadership roles … while your partner might not be in that leadership organization,” said Gutoc.

“Yes, and there were times … where I supported [my husband] because he [had] leadership responsibilities,” said President Johnson. “And now he’s supporting me.”

Gutoc later asked President Porter if only women serve in the Primary organization.

“It’s women and men,” President Porter answered. “Women are the leaders [in the Primary] presidencies but we love having the men as teachers. For children to see those role models of kind and loving and gentle men who are teaching them songs about Jesus, It’s a blessing.”

The journalist, a humanitarian and advocate for women’s rights and faith organizations, participated in the 29th Annual International Law and Religion Symposium at Brigham Young University’s International Center for Law and Religion Studies in October 2022.

Humanitarian Efforts

The journalist asked the leaders about the importance of interfaith relationships and advocating for self-reliance initiatives in humanitarian efforts. “It is important,” President Porter answered. “ The Church loves to [collaborate] with other charitable organizations.”

The Church leaders also told the journalist about the Light the World Giving Machines recently launched in Manila and Cebu for the 2023 Christmas season.

“That’s wonderful,” Gutoc said of the Giving Machines’ set up as vending machines to make charitable giving more accessible. “[You can purchase] something for the world.”

“At a time when young people tend to look inward, we hope to project them outward,” President Johnson said. “We hope our children and our youth have a vision for their responsibility to serve.”

Music Outreach

In responding to Gutoc’s questions about the place of music in faith organizations and relief work, President Johnson and President Porter shared with her that the second stop of The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square’s “Hope” world tour will be held in the Philippines next February.

“The concerts will be free …it’s a gift to the community,” said President Johnson, “And we hope people will feel the light and love of Jesus Christ through the music that is sung here.”

“One thing about the Choir when they go on tour is they always make an effort to learn music that is part of the culture they’re coming to,” said President Porter.

Nutrition Initiative

The General Officers participated in nutritional screenings for children organized by local Latter-day Saint congregations on Saturday, November 18 in Manila and Roxas City.

The event was part of the General Relief Society Presidency’s “Caring for Women and Children Through Improved Nutrition” initiative which seeks to improve the nutrition of mothers and their children through local Church networks.

“I love how [local Latter-day Saint] stake leaders and particularly our Relief Society leaders have focused in on collaborating with the community, so we’ve got medical volunteers in here providing personal one-on-one counseling with mothers and their children,” said President Johnson during the screening in Manila.

The program, which first launched in the Philippines in 2019, connects parents to community resources, raises awareness about the importance of proper nutrition for children aged five and younger, and provides support for families in need.

Earlier this month, the Church announced the initiative’s global expansion with operations currently underway in 12 countries.

“There is nothing more gratifying than having the opportunity to work on and participate in an event like this where we’re bringing temporal and frankly spiritual relief to our loved ones, our brothers and sisters around the world,” said President Johnson.

Klee Marleigh Bondoc, 2, attends a nutritional screening with her parents, Peter David and Ronalyn Bondoc, in Manila on Saturday, November 18, 2023. 2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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In total, nearly 200 children were assessed and screened for malnutrition at the events in Manila and Roxas City.

“That was incredible to see mothers who were there at 7 in the morning with their beautiful children wanting to know [about their health] because they all are striving to make sure that their children are growing with strong bodies and strong minds,” said President Porter of the event held in Roxas City on November 17.

President Porter helped children assemble kits with food, clothing, bedding and hygiene items for 30 students who are unable to see or hear.

“That was so fun for children to serve other youth who are not much older than themselves,” said President Porter.

“During the week the [students] come and live in a special home where they can receive schooling, but they need to have their own food, clothing, and supplies,” she explained. “Each of our Primary children were able to give three bags to each of these children. It was very joyful.”

On November 13, the two General Officers of the Church also visited the Rise and Rebuild Foundation, an organization committed to aiding the poor and the malnourished in the Philippine Islands. The Church of Jesus Christ has made financial contributions to support the foundation’s construction of five nutrition centers, or school cafeterias, in the area. The Church leaders went to the Bantog Elementary School, which receives nutritional support from Rise and Rebuild to provide lunch for students experiencing malnutrition.

Another visit took them to the future site of a Lighthouse Sanctuary, an organization dedicated to helping children who are survivors of sexual abuse and sex trafficking in the Philippines. The organization offers counseling services and housing to about 20 residents. The Church has made financial contributions to support the construction of a facility in Tarlac City.

Meetings with Civic Leaders

In Cebu, the General Officers met with Dr. Vivina Chiu, president of the Arts Council of Cebu, to discuss the Church’s commitment to cultural enrichment through the arts and to extend a formal invitation to the Arts Council for the upcoming Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra concert in February 2024.

During a visit to the province of Capiz, President Porter met with Joanne Beatriz del Rosario–Dadivas, wife of Roxas City Mayor Ronnie T. Dadivas, to talk about the humanitarian efforts of Latter-day Saints in the area.

Members of the Philippines Area Presidency accompanied the Church leaders throughout their ministry, including Elder Steven R. Bangerter, Area President, and his wife Susan; Elder Yoon H. Choi, First Counselor, and his wife Koo Bon Kyung; and Elder Carlos G. Revillo Jr., Second Counselor, and his wife Marites.

Saints in the Philippines

The General Officers ministry was dotted with several devotionals for many of the 850,000 Latter-day Saints living in the Philippines.

“I really liked all the messages, especially the one that Sister Johnson [shared],” expressed Kianah Alojepan-Mas after a church meeting in Santa Cruz, Zambales, Philippines on Sunday, November 12. “She said that you can still feel joy regardless of what is happening or not happening in your life, so it was really life-changing for me.”

Children greet Primary General President Susan H. Porter (center) after a children’s devotional outside of Manila on Saturday, November 19, 2023.2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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“One of the sweetest opportunities for me was a chance to express love,” said President Johnson. “They are a beautiful example of optimism. Optimism that we find in our Savior Jesus Christ, hope in our Savior Jesus Christ, peace in our Savior Jesus Christ, even in the midst of the temporal challenges that all of us face.

In addressing Latter-day Saint congregations, President Porter pointed to Church President Russell M. Nelson’s announcements to build 11 new houses of the Lord in the Philippines, in addition to the two currently in operation, as a sign of the Church’s efforts to bless the lives of Filipinos.

“It’s an indication of the love our Heavenly Father has for them,” said President Porter.

“My heart is overflowing,” said President Porter. “I feel this natural love for their kindness, gentleness, openness, their desire to serve. I have been changed.”

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