One of the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with about 15 million members wordwide, made a special visit to Columbus Sunday and spoke to a full house at the church on Reese Road.
Elder Neil Linden Andersen also met with soldiers at Fort Benning.
Andersen is a member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, the second highest governing body in the church with only the First Presidency, consisting of three members, ranking higher.
According to church literature, the 12 apostles are special witnesses of Jesus Christ who are called to teach and testify of him throughout the world. They travel frequently, addressing and encouraging large congregations.
When they are not traveling, they counsel together and with other church leaders on matters affecting the church such as missionary work, temple building, spiritual and temporal welfare.
Andersen, 62, became an apostle in 2009. The graduate of Brigham Young University, a married father of four children, has previously served as president of the church's France Bordeaux Mission and president of the Brazil South area. He has also assisted in serving the work of the church in Mexico and Central America.
The occasion for his appearance was the 37th Semi Annual Conference of the Columbus Georgia Stake which includes congregations, from Columbus, Phenix City, Fort Benning, Pine Mountain and LaGrange in Georgia and Auburn, Opelika and Lanett from Alabama.
He said he came to bear the testimony of Jesus Christ, to "share his love."
Andersen said he was exhorting church members to "do better."
"I am telling them to be more unselfish, be kinder to their neighbor and to be more committed to family," he said. "I am telling them to stay strong in their commitment to Jesus Christ."
While some churches have reported problems with membership numbers the last few years, Andersen said his church, of which more than six million members are in the U.S., is "continuing to grow."
He said the church has 75,000 missionaries around
the world and that they are declaring the love of Jesus to the world.
Andersen said he was excited about coming to Columbus.
"We have a lot of believers here and we honor them," he said.
Members were honored to have Anderson here.
In announcing that he would be coming, Francis T. Holton, director of public affairs for the stake, said that for many, this will be a "once in a lifetime opportunity."
On Sunday, church member Chris Bennett agreed and said members had been excited since hearing the news a couple of months ago.
"There has been a lot of talk," he said.
"It is great to have someone such as Elder Andersen here to give us some direction," Clay Coleman, another church member, said.
Coleman said it was surprising that someone of Andersen's stature would visit.
"It is a great thing to get to meet one of the apostles," he said. "It is very special to me."