JONKOPING, Sweden For only the second time in its 35-year history, the annual Bolliaden youth conference was visited by a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Dec. 29-30. Elder L. Tom Perry, who is president of the Europe Central Area, was featured at the conference and, in local news media interviews, took the opportunity to highlight efforts of the Church and its members to help in the wake of the devastating tsunami in Thailand.
"This conference was held in Jonkoping, organized by the Gteborg Sweden Stake," said Per Nilsson, the Church's national director of public affairs in Sweden. "Approximately 300 young adults from several countries, but mainly Scandinavia, attended this three-day event."
Elder Perry and his wife, Barbara, visited for a day and a half. They were interviewed by a writer for the newspaper Jnkopings Posten and live on Radio Jnkping, reaching some 300,000 listeners, Brother Nilsson said. "This was set up by the local director of public affairs in Gteborg stake, Sture Nilsson. Stake President Leif Mattsson hosted the Perrys and attended as well."
Topics covered in the radio program included Church administration, the calling of apostles, and what the Church is doing to help with disaster relief in Thailand. "Sister Barbara Perry was asked what it's like to be an LDS woman in a patriarchal church," Brother Nilsson said. "The Perrys replied very well, and local LDS people who met after the live interview were impressed and proud."
With an accompanying photo of the Perrys and President Mattson, the newspaper article (written in Swedish) was headlined "Mormons are fasting to help." It contained some information about the youth conference but mostly dealt with the Church's relief efforts. "Mormons have a worldwide church and a readiness to help people in dire situations," wrote reporter Gunnar Aren. "The first Sunday in every month, members fast, and the estimated cost savings from abstaining from two meals is given to an assistance fund for the poor.
"In this acute situation, the Church in Sweden has suggested to its 5,000 registered members that the second Sunday in January should also be a fast day and that the money they save should go toward the tidal wave donations."
Brother Nilsson said: "There was a special note made at this time that besides the actual countries in the Asia area, Sweden was the one single western country reporting the most missing people, making it a national disaster. At the interview, Elder Perry displayed a national newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet, showing an article about two LDS young adults, Lotta Wingardh and Ulrika Olsson, miraculously saved and now back home in Sweden.
At the following morning's gathering, the young adults saw a compiled CNN and Swedish news relay put together by Bolliaden organizers shown on a big screen, where these two LDS young women were interviewed. This was a great relief to many attending the youth conference, as these two LDS girls had lots of friends amongst the Bolliaden participants caring and worrying for their safety and well-being."
As of Jan. 8, there were still more than 2,200 Swedes missing, but no Church members have been reported killed or missing.