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Latter-day Saint church president meets with Florida nightclub owner on anniversary of shooting

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Barbara Poma, executive director of the onePULSE foundation, meets with President Russell M. Nelson at a reception in Orlando, Florida Sunday | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

IDAHO FALLS – Russell M. Nelson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, made a stop in Orlando, Florida Sunday to spend a few minutes with the owner of a nightclub where 49 people died in a mass shooting three years ago this week.

“I was moved that he knew what we were doing. He was so kind to me, and that meant a lot,” says Barbara Poma, the CEO and founder of onePULSE Foundation, a nonprofit organization established to create a sanctuary of hope following the tragedy.

Poma says the community is still healing from the shooting at Pulse nightclub, a gay club in Orlando, that occurred June 12, 2016. A memorial at the club includes tributes to those who died and to the 68 who were injured.

“It’s really been an interesting time emotionally for everyone here. Everyone is affected. We come together on June 12th to really stand together in solidarity to comfort one another to help us move through a healing process,” says Poma in a news release.

President Nelson also met with the mayors of Orlando, Orange County, and a school board chairwoman.

“I just happened to have been the sheriff here in Orange County at the time, and we spent quite a bit of time as first responders dealing with the tragedy,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings says. “We learned that love does conquer hate.”

The meeting with government and business leaders was part of a VIP reception held prior to Nelson’s scheduled address to more than 15,000 church members.

During his remarks, President Nelson acknowledged that Orlando is often referred to as the “happiest place on earth,” and that lasting happiness, even joy, comes to those who keep the commandments of God.

The happiest place on earth, Nelson concluded, is wherever the spirit of the Lord dwells in the hearts of the people.

“It is inside any home that has become a sanctuary of faith and is filled with love. It is inside every house of the Lord,” said President Nelson. “It can be wherever you are when the spirit of the Lord is with you.”

Those accompanying Nelson on the trip included his wife, Wendy, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the church’s Quorum of Twelve Apostles and his wife, Harriet.

Florida is home to nearly 159,000 Latter-day Saints in 270 congregations.