Europe has a great historic past, and it has a wonderful future because of dedicated Latter-day Saints and the great blessings of the gospel, said President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, after returning from a two-week visit to the area.
President Uchtdorf and his wife, Sister Harriet Uchtdorf, visited Europe May 9 through May 24, offering hope to members in cities recently impacted by terrorist attacks, visiting refugees, checking on the status of the Paris France Temple that is under construction and participating in the creation of the first stake in the Czech Republic.
During the trip, President Uchtdorf also visited the place of his birth — Ostrava, Czech Republic — and conducted priesthood leadership meetings and missionary/member devotionals in Brussels, Belgium; Paris, France; Zurich, Switzerland; Manchester, England; and Belfast, Ireland.
“It is a wonderful thing to be assigned by President Monson to go on a trip like this,” said President Uchtdorf, who before his service in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and then the First Presidency, served as area president in Europe.
Paris, France, and Brussels, Belgium
President Uchtdorf said visiting Brussels, Belgium, and Paris, France, was “a testimony of the goodness” of the people in those countries that have recently been impacted by terrorist attacks, but have moved on with courage and hope, and are now reaching out to others.
“Of course we can’t help everyone, but we can help a lot and we can help one fellow human being at a time. That is what the Church and its members do. Sometimes the help is more than temporal. It is also emotional and spiritual. Members are inviting people into their homes with their families. They look into their eyes and talk with them, not down to them, but as fellow beings. We are all brothers and sisters. We are all children of our Heavenly Father.”
He said when bad things happen and people are in need, the Church is there to help. “We are not just there two days after something happens to declare our condolences, our sympathy and our support, but we are there to stay. We come and we stay. When the press and cameras are gone, the Church and the members are still there and continue to help.”
Prague, Czech Republic
Upon arriving in the Czech Republic, President and Sister Uchtdorf visited Karlstejn, the place where Elder John A. Widtsoe of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicated the land for the preaching of the gospel. Then they traveled to Prague and met with Latter-day Saints. There President Uchtdorf created the Prague Czech Republic Stake — the Church’s first in the nation.
“You could feel how ready they were and how desirous they were to receive the full blessings of a stake of Zion,” said President Uchtdorf.
He called the members humble and prepared. He said the history of the area is a testimony of suffering, courage, endurance and hope. Many countries have tried to occupy this part of the world. “They were always struggling for their own identity and had to go through this process. But you can tell this nation and its people are very strong and focused in the European community. The members of the Church know who they are and what they stand for. They feel at home there, and they are a solid part of their communities. It is a great blessing for this nation to have the Church there, especially now with a fully organized stake and wards.”
A strong new generation is building on the efforts of the past generations of Latter-day Saints in the country, he said, as missionaries from the Czech Republic are sent out to all the world.
In Switzerland, President and Sister Uchtdorf met with local leaders in the German-speaking stakes. He answered questions and, on behalf of President Thomas S. Monson, thanked them for their service in this historic part of Europe. “The Church has had faithful members here for [generations],” he said, noting that these leaders have their “feet on the ground” and their heads and hearts “in heaven.”
There are strong families in the area that are growing much as a strong oak tree grows, he said. The Church in Europe “is growing slowly, but it is growing into a strong tree,” he said.
President and Sister Uchtdorf met with Church public affairs representatives during a meeting in Manchester, England. These public relations representatives have built wonderful relations with the governments and the media in Europe, he said.
“We are confident that this is the Church of Jesus Christ,” he said. “He is in charge. It is His Church. In our relationships with government and public officials, we must reflect a natural confidence and humility in our testimony of the gospel. In a humble, natural, but confident manner, we can declare our values and principles as the Church of Jesus Christ. We are there to help our fellowman. We are there to strengthen families and communities. We respect others, and we expect to be respected for our beliefs and our faith, and for what is sacred to us.”
Belfast, Northern Ireland
President Uchtdorf said he was touched by a beautiful Primary choir from the Belfast Northern Ireland Stake. The country has a great history, but also a challenging history that is marked by feuding religious groups in the nation.
“They are not perfect yet, but reconciliation is something we need to find in all places,” he said. “We need to reach out and talk with each other to find a solution. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer. It is the answer for peacefully, lovingly working together and living together.”
President Uchtdorf said he loves the motto of the city of Belfast: Pro Tanto Quid Retribuamus or “What shall we give in return for so much?”
“We as Church members have been given so much,” he said. “We have been given more than eyes can see or that hearts can feel and minds can comprehend. We need to return some of this to our fellow man.”
Many members in Europe said President and Sister Uchtdorf spread hope during their visit.
“That’s the message of the gospel,” said President Uchtdorf. “We should never fear. As Paul said, ‘For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind’ (2 Timothy 1:7). We should always have hope, because God is with us. It is a wonderful thing. We can trust Him.”
[email protected] @SJW_ChurchNews