New LDS Church President Russell M. Nelson has announced plans for his first overseas trip as leader of the world’s nearly 16 million Mormons, and it’s a doozy.
Over two weeks, the vibrant 93-year-old Nelson and his wife, Wendy Nelson, will visit countries on three continents: Europe, Africa and Asia.
The tour will stretch from April 10 to April 23, barely a week after Nelson presides over his first General Conference as head of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Mormon apostle Jeffrey R. Holland and his wife, Pat Holland, will join the Nelsons on the journey.
As an apostle, Nelson visited Africa in 2009, a trek that made headlines when he and his wife were attacked while having dinner with a local LDS leader in Mozambique.
In May 2009, gunmen burst into the home of Mozambique Maputo Mission President Blair Packard. During the robbery, Packard’s wife suffered a broken arm, cuts and bruises.
Nelson, a former heart surgeon, had minor injuries from being kicked in the face during the home invasion, but nonetheless attended a stake conference the following day as planned.
It was not revealed Tuesday whether Mozambique will again be on Nelson’s itinerary. Indeed, LDS Church officials gave no details about which nations, cities or missions would be visited. The news release simply said the contingent would “meet with members and missionaries and visit church sites in these areas.”
Holland, too, has past ecclesiastical experience with Africa. In 2012, as the LDS apostle charged with the faith’s affairs on the continent, he met with members, missionaries and government officials in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ghana.
Earlier this month, the church announced creation of three new missions in Africa: Yamoussoukro in Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast); Ibadan in Nigeria; and Bulawayo in Zimbabwe.
Nigeria in particular has seen rapid growth in converts. According to the church’s website, membership there, at 30,300 in 1997, has mushroomed to nearly 153,000.
Mormonism also has been expanding in parts of Asia, but growth in Europe has generally stalled.