At a time when some feel that religion is dying in Europe, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has “an unparalleled future” because of its faithful members, said President Russell M. Nelson.
“You have access to the power — God’s power — that will literally change the future of Europe,” said President Nelson during a special Europe Area devotional, broadcast Sunday, Jan. 23. “As you keep your covenants with increasing precision, you are the hope of Europe and you are the hope of Israel.”
Virtually addressing Latter-day Saints in 48 countries in a meeting translated into 22 languages, President Nelson expressed his “deep love for the countries and people of Europe.” Sister Wendy Nelson and Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, also spoke. The meeting was conducted by Elder Massimo De Feo, a General Authority Seventy.
“My roots lie in your homelands,” said President Nelson. “All eight of my great-grandparents were living in Europe when they became converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They all demonstrated great faith and sacrifice.”
The Lord’s Church would not be doing what it is today without the infusion of “resilient, faithful, covenanted European Saints” who came by the thousands to the United States to bolster the Church, said President Nelson. “Every member of the Church today, in every land, owes a debt of gratitude to the pioneers who came from Europe.”
President Nelson said his personal feelings for Europe grew even deeper when, in November 1985, President Ezra Taft Benson assigned him to be responsible for the affairs of the Church throughout Europe. That assignment included a special charge to open the nations of Eastern Europe that were then closed to the Church. Over the next five years, President Nelson made 26 trips to Europe. “I walked your streets, sometimes pulling my suitcase through deep snow; met with many government officials, most of whom were not initially welcoming; and had my soul lifted by your magnificent art, music, and culture,” he said. “During those five intense years, the countries of Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, and what was then Yugoslavia were miraculously opened to the preaching of the gospel. And approval from Russia followed in 1991.
“During those years, I saw firsthand your remarkable faith and devotion. I don’t think I’ve ever met a more courageous people. I love you!”
Temples in Europe
In the earliest days of the Church, the Prophet Joseph Smith rejoiced over missionary success in Europe, said President Nelson adding that today the Lord has indicated His optimism for the future of Europe by directing that new temples be constructed in Oslo, Brussels, and Vienna.
“There is a feeling among some people that religion is dying in Europe,” said President Nelson. “Secularism is indeed flourishing in many parts of the world, and Europe is no exception. I am not naïve about that reality. But, brothers and sisters, never forget that the Restoration of the gospel commenced so that all men and women might know that it is true! The Restoration took place so that all could have the privilege of understanding the magnificent breadth and depth of the Lord’s gospel in its fulness. The gathering of Israel — foretold throughout scripture — is occurring right now in every nation. That includes those of Europe.”
That may seem counterintuitive, he continued, in countries where a relative few are carrying the weight of local Church leadership.
“However, I know, as do many of you, that the power of Jesus Christ will heal us, strengthen us, comfort us and renew us,” he said. “I understand, with you, the power of His priesthood and its ordinances. When we participate worthily, they allow us to tap into the very power of God. You and I know the power that comes from exercising faith in Jesus Christ and His gospel. The power of the Lord always has exceeded — and always will exceed — the power of any diabolical mischief that Satan can muster. As you believe in Jesus Christ and try to follow Him faithfully, His healing and strengthening power will help you move the mountains in your life.”
The sure antidote for uncertainty and fear is unshakable faith in Jesus Christ, he said.
“The Lord, in His wisdom, has reserved each of you — regardless of age — to come to earth at this crucial time,” said President Nelson. “…He placed you in Europe because you have a mission to perform there. Make no mistake about it: you are here on earth now precisely because you are needed here now. It is no accident that you are living in Salzburg, Kraków, or Dublin. The Lord has never needed His faithful Saints more than right now as He gathers scattered Israel in your area into His fold.”
President Nelson told the virtual congregation that many of their friends are seeking to understand why they are here on earth. “They wonder whom they can trust. Do you realize that you have the answers that those friends are seeking? Just think of what you know. You know that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior and that His gospel is on the earth, restored in its fulness.”
President Nelson asked Latter-day Saints who have questions to put in the effort, ask the Lord, and seek for answers. “The Holy Ghost will testify to you—and to every sincere seeker of truth — that the gospel is true.”
Then he pleaded with the congregation to “stay focused on what you do know.”
“The magnificent breadth of what the Lord has revealed and the spiritual knowledge He has already given us far outweigh any gaps in our present understanding…,” he said. “Having questions does not mean that you don’t have a testimony. If you know that Jesus is the Christ and that His gospel has been restored, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and that prophets walk the earth today, you have a testimony.”
He asked the congregation to “lead out in the gathering of Israel.”
“I invite you to remember this truth: you are perfectly positioned to find the children of Israel who are living in or are coming to Europe. Share the priceless message that can lead them to eternal life.”
Follow the prophet
Addressing the topics of truth and prophets, Sister Nelson testified that prophets of God always speak the truth.
“One of the distinctive features of the Savior’s Restored Church is the presence of prophets,” she said, adding that prophets are called by the Lord to do difficult things.
“The Lord speaks to His prophets, instructing them what to say and do that will bless and protect all of God’s children,” she said. “Therefore, as we choose to follow the prophets, we will be blessed spiritually and temporally.”
Media, social and otherwise, is filled to overflowing with beliefs that are contrary to the teaching of prophets, she added.
“So, how can we protect ourselves amid the war of words that rages all around us?” she said.” I suggest we compare anything and everything we read, view or hear with the teachings of the prophets.”
She invited the congregation to shift their focus for 30 days.
“What would happen to your level of peace, clarity of thinking, joy, experience of love and spiritual prosperity if, for 30 days, you started to question everything the world’s media, and all other sources, offer you — and — instead, prayerfully studied, fully embraced, and lived by every prophetic teaching you could find. What would happen in only 30 days if you chose to follow the prophets with exactness?”
She promised the congregation that as they follow the prophets, “your love for your Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will grow, as will your desire to keep your covenants with Them. Your ability to discern between what is true and what is not will increase.”
Covenants of the Lord
During his remarks, Elder Bednar said that entering into sacred covenants and worthily receiving priesthood ordinances binds Latter-day Saints to the Lord. “This simply means that we trust in Him, rely on Him, and pull our load with Him during the journey of life,” he said. “Our best efforts cannot be compared with His. But when we are yoked to and with the Savior and press forward with steadfastness in coming unto Him, we can receive the cleansing, enabling and healing powers of His Atonement in our lives.”
Elder Bednar promised “direction and strength” will flow from fidelity to gospel covenants and ordinances.
“Sacred covenants and ordinances operate in our lives much like a compass,” he said. “A compass is a device used to indicate the cardinal directions of north, south, east, and west for purposes of navigation and geographic orientation. In a similar way, our covenants and ordinances point us to and help us always remember the Lord Jesus Christ as we press forward on the covenant path.”
The covenants and ordinances of the Savior’s restored gospel direct and instruct His children during the mortal journey, he said. “Our covenants and ordinances help us to look to, learn from, always remember, and strive to become more like Him.”
The covenants and ordinances of salvation and exaltation administered in the Lord’s restored Church constitute authorized channels through which the blessings and powers of heaven can flow into our individual lives, he said.
Just as a Wi-Fi booster receives and amplifies an existing Wi-Fi signal and then transmits a stronger signal, “receiving, remembering and honoring our covenants and ordinances enables the power of godliness to come into our lives, strengthens us to press forward and overcome the various obstructions we encounter on the covenant path, and enlarges our capacity to reach out to, serve, and bless other people.”
Elder Bednar said covenants made in the original Nauvoo Temple in 1846 gave those early Church members strength for their journey to the Salt Lake Valley.
“In their extremity, these devoted disciples in Nauvoo were keenly aware of their dependence upon God and trusted in Him for deliverance…,” he said.
“These remarkable gifts and opportunities are available to every covenant-making and covenant-keeping member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I testify and witness that all these choice blessings are available to you—individually and personally to each of you.”
Elder Bednar invited European Latter-day Saints to “read, study and ponder the Book of Mormon with increased attention to the importance of sacred covenants and ordinances.
“The Book of Mormon restores knowledge about the role and importance of God’s covenants with His sons and daughters on the earth,” he said.
“I witness that gospel covenants and ordinances received worthily and remembered continually bind us to the Savior and open the heavenly channels through which the power of godliness can flow into our lives. I also testify that covenants and ordinances received and honored with integrity are essential to obtaining all the blessings made available through the Savior’s Atonement.”
Faith promoting experiences
During her remarks, Sister Bednar shared three special experiences.
During a trip to Germany many years ago, Elder and Sister Bednar’s 13-year-old son became very ill. After unsuccessful attempts to find medical assistance, their son asked Elder Bednar for a blessing. When his condition did not improve, Sister Bednar prayed with her son. Slowly he began to feel better. “A priesthood blessing coupled with prayer produced a mighty miracle for our son and for me,” she said.
Second, when Elder Bednar served as a young missionary in Germany, he and his companion taught, baptized, and confirmed an older teenage boy, recalled Sister Bednar. Several years later at the missionary training center in England, the Bednars’ son met the son of the man Elder Bednar taught and baptized.
“I know that these two elders meeting … was not by chance or by coincidence,” said Sister Bednar. “Such interpersonal intersections are orchestrated by our loving Heavenly Father to assure us that He loves us, He cares about us, and He watches over us.”
Third, Sister Bednar said in 2005, the Family History Department assisted the Bednars in searching newly acquired records to find their Slovakian ancestors. The effort was very successful and the Bednars felt an urgent need to quickly complete the ordinance work for more than 160 deceased ancestors, she added.
Then in May 2006, the Area Presidency started the task of acquiring more than 20,000 signatures from citizens of Slovakia so the Church could receive official government recognition.
The task was successful. Elder Bednar later learned that the region of the country where the people most readily signed the petition for recognition was the area from which Elder Bednar’s ancestors came, Sister Bednar said. “We realized then why we felt such resolve to accomplish the temple work so rapidly. It would take heavenly help on both sides of the veil to secure the recognition of the Church.”