4 European lands dedicated

By the authority vested in them, four members of the Council of the Twelve "turned keys and unlocked doors" as they dedicated four European nations for the preaching of the gospel.

Under the direction of the First Presidency, Elder James E. Faust dedicated Latvia on March 17, Elder Dallin H. Oaks dedicated Albania on April 23, Elder Russell M. Nelson dedicated Belarus (formerly Byelorussia) on May 11, and Elder M. Russell Ballard dedicated Lithuania on May 20.The apostles pronounced the dedicatory prayers upon the lands while traveling in Europe on other Church assignments. Until 1990-91, each of these nations had been under Communist rule.

Following are accounts of each dedicatory service:


Standing with his back to the Baltic Sea on a bitterly cold morning on March 17, Elder James E. Faust dedicated Latvia for the preaching of the gospel. The site of the dedication was at Dzintari, a surburb northwest of Latvia's capital, Riga.

Elder Faust was accompanied by Elder Robert K. Dellenbach of the Seventy and a counselor in the Europe Area presidency, and Pres. Charles H. Creel, president of the Russia St. Petersburg Mission, and their wives, Ruth Faust, Mary-Jayne Dellenbach and Susann Creel. About 30 people attended the dedication. Among those present were several sets of missionaries and Latvian and Russian members of the Church. (There were 40 Latvian members of the Church at the time the land was dedicated.)

Among those present were the missionaries who opened the work in Riga on June 17, 1992, Elders Matthew H. Lyman and Michael G. Van Patten, and the missionary couple who arrived two weeks later, Elder Boris A. Schiel and Sister Liselotte Schiel. The first convert in Latvia, Gunars Kavals (baptized July 25, 1992) also attended.

Latvia is a former republic of the Soviet Union. "The history of Latvia goes back many centuries, but there was only a brief period between World War I and World War II that these people had complete freedom. Otherwise, for the last several hundred years they have been under the domination of other countries. But they have maintained their ethnic customs. The country is Third World, but the people are a very bright group, and progressive," Elder Faust said.

In the dedicatory prayer, Elder Faust said: "We stand in awe of the long history of the intrepid people of this country. They have been a believing people over the centuries of oppression and subjugation. The people of this land have toiled to wrest a living from the land, from the forests, and from the Baltic and factories. . . . Recently they have raised their heads in courage and dignity and have sought to overthrow and be relieved of the subjugation of the oppressive rule of the Communist influence of another country. This has permitted them, in thy providence, once more to establish their independence in this land as a free people."

Elder Faust prayed that peace and freedom would continue to be found in Latvia. He asked that the leaders of the nation be just, honest, fair and God-fearing.

"Let this land continue to be productive and forests be re-invigorated so that they may provide beauty and also wood for construction and fuel. May the great eastern Daugava River continue to flow, and the many lakes and streams be unpolluted so that they can continue to provide beauty and support for the life of the people of this country. May the Baltic Sea continue to provide its fruits to help feed the people. May the people of this country have listening ears and humble hearts to the end that they may be gathered in to thy kingdom."


A small mountainous country in southeastern Europe's Balkan Peninsula, Albania was dedicated April 23 by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Council of the Twelve.

Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander of the Seventy and a counselor in the Europe Area presidency and Austria Vienna Mission Pres. Kenneth D. Reber accompanied Elder Oaks to Albania. Elder Oaks' wife, June, and Pres. Reber's wife, Janet, also were present. Seventy-eight people were present, including 55 Albanian members, 18 missionaries, and the four people traveling with Elder Oaks.

The dedicatory service, which began at 7 a.m., was held on a hillside overlooking the capital city of Tirana near a national memorial, "The Monument of the Heroes."

Pres. Reber gave a brief history of the Church in Albania, a history that goes back only to 1991 when he visited the land with Elder Hans B. Ringger of the Seventy and president of the Europe Area. In June 1992, four full-time missionaries arrived in Albania: Elders Matthew Wirthlin, Mark Slabaugh, Paul McAlister and Jonathan Jarvis. In addition, Elder George Niedens and Sister Nancy Niedens were transferred from Austria to assist in agriculture.

Elder Neuenschwander, in addressing the group assembled for the dedication, said: "As Elder Oaks dedicates this land, may we all dedicate ourselves that the gospel may be full in our lives, that the fruits of the gospel will reach into future generations, and as many of you here are young, that this day may be bright in your memories. . . .

"As we pray that the gospel takes root in this wonderful country, may that gospel take root in our lives that it will grow to a full tree, unshakable, which brings forth much fruit, that your influence may have good influence wherever you are in this country, in your families, and in your schools, and in your work, and in your community."

In the dedicatory prayer, Elder Oaks asked for a blessing upon the land, its leaders and its citizens. He prayed that they would be blessed with "wisdom and strength that the light of freedom may be preserved in this land, that those who are hungry may be fed, that those who are suffering may be comforted." He asked that the land may produce an abundance for its people, that its industries may flourish.

"We pray that peace may be preserved in this land for the blessing of its people," Elder Oaks petitioned. "We pray that thou wilt forestall the forces of evil and frustrate every effort that would interrupt the peace and freedom and prosperity of this land."

Further, he prayed, "We bless this land that the spiritual gifts may be rich here, that the gifts of communication and understanding may be felt in abundance, and that the gifts of blessing and healing and translating may be here."


Belarus, formerly Byelorussia [also spelled BelorussiaT or White Russia, was dedicated May 11 by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Council of the Twelve.

Before the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, Byelorussia was one of the Soviet Socialist republics. It is located in the western part of the former Soviet Union, just east of Poland.

The history of Minsk, the capital, dates back some 900 years. However, because of extensive bombing during World War II, the city's buildings are mostly modern, having been built since the war.

"The nation of Belarus is young," Elder Nelson noted. "Independence was declared Aug. 25, 1991, and it became a sovereign state four months later - significantly - on Christmas day. Prior to that time, the area had been identified with neighboring nations while still holding to unique language and cultural traditions."

Elder Nelson pointed out that the dedicatory service was held in Yanka Kupala Park, named for a famous poet. "Throughout its history, this republic has earned a rich cultural heritage," Elder Nelson told the Church News. "Architectural and literary monuments date back many centuries. The poetry of Yanka Kupala, and the prose of Goretsky and Bogdanovich, for example, are widely acclaimed. Yet this precious land has been abused as a theater of war. The land has been like a carpet, trampled by armies of nations."

Elder Hans B. Ringger of the Seventy and president of the Europe Area and his wife, Helen, and Elder Nelson's wife, Dantzel, attended the dedication with Elder Nelson. Also present were Pres. Howard L. Biddulph of the Ukraine Kiev Mission and his wife, Colleen, six missionaries (all elders), two missionary couples and six Church members.

The service began at 7:15 a.m. Elder Ringger described the day as "a nice sunny morning, fresh and pleasant."

In the prayer of dedication, Elder Nelson prayed: "May this be the dawning of a new day. May this be a hinge-point in history, that the full potential of this country and its heroic people may be realized."

He expressed gratitude for those who have been searching for truth and happiness, and prayed there might be "a rich harvest of souls" who can come unto Christ. Further in the prayer, he said: "This land is rich with the blood of Israel. Let that choice lineage be gathered here and find refuge and strength in stakes of Zion. As thy children learn and obey thy commandments, let them prosper in this land."

He invoked blessings upon the nation's leaders in their righteous endeavors, and upon the country as "a haven of peace, a sanctuary of faith, and a land where religious liberty may exist without discrimination."


The dedicatory service for Lithuania took place on May 20, a clear spring day, at 7:25 a.m. on the top of a prominent hill overlooking the city of Vilnius (also spelled Vilna). The 27 people attending the dedication stood about 100 feet from a partially renovated castle at the crown of the hill.

Elder M. Russell Ballard, who dedicated the land, noted that the hill is of historic significance in Lithuanian development and was a fitting site for the dedication of the land for the preaching of the gospel. "From Gedimino Hill one overlooks the `old town' district of the city," Elder Ballard said. "The steeples of numerous church buildings are clearly seen from this vantage point."

Accompanying Elder Ballard in Lithuania were his wife, Barbara; Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander of the Seventy and first counselor in the Europe Area presidency and his wife, LeAnn; and Pres. Charles Creel of the Russia St. Petersburg Mission and his wife, Susann.

Before offering the prayer of dedication of the land of Lithuania, Elder Ballard addressed the gathering, which included eight full-time missionaries assigned to Lithuania from the Russia St. Petersburg Mission: "From this small beginning, you will see the Church grow and prosper here. There will be many branches and then a district and, in the Lord's due time, there will be stakes. Who knows, if we could look out 50 years, perhaps a small temple. That all depends on us, really, and how diligent we are willing to be, and how wise and prudent we are willing to be as we proceed to establish the kingdom of God in Lithuania."

Although Lithuania, which is located on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea, was claimed as a republic of the Soviet Union, the United States and some other countries regarded it as a separate nation.

In the prayer of dedication, Elder Ballard asked that peace and prosperity be granted to the people of Lithuania. He further asked, "Help them, Heavenly Father, as they make this great transition to freedom, which freedom has brought to the people the privilege of missionaries of thy Church to be here to teach the gospel of thy Son Jesus Christ to the people.

"Bless this people . . . that they may put aside tradition and forget the past repression. Give them the vision of the blessing of freedom so in the future they may prosper in this land. Lift this people so they can receive all of the blessings that thou wouldst have them receive."

The prayer noted, "The people of this land have a goodness and many of them have righteousness in their hearts. Let that be touched by the missionaries so thy work may move forward."

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