“Find just one.” That is the message Elder M. Russell Ballard shared with Church members during his visit to three European countries this October.
Elder Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder L. Whitney Clayton, senior president in the Presidency of the Seventy, shared this message during two priesthood leadership conferences and two satellite broadcasts, one for all of the adult Church members and the other for all young men and young women in the Europe Area.
Their trip to Finland, Germany and Italy included a visit to the Vatican, where they met with Catholic officials.
Elder Ballard said their message in all of the meetings with Church members was the same. “We need to exercise our faith, we need to believe in miracles, we need to talk to people wherever we find them, and we need to strengthen and build the Church in the native countries.”
To help accomplish that, Elder Ballard said, the leaders gave Church members a simple formula: “If everyone would agree to talk to just one person — just to find one — between now and Christmas that they could introduce to the missionaries, we could change the face of the domestic Church in those countries.
“So we worked very hard to get the missionaries to talk to more people, and encouraged them to get out and work hard to find them. But we also asked every member of the Church in both those satellite broadcasts as well as other congregations to pray and ask Heavenly Father for guidance to find one, just one.”
Elder Clayton, who was accompanied by his wife, Sister Kathy Clayton, said adult members who gathered in stake centers and other locations in the Church’s Europe Area participated in a satellite broadcast originating in Friedrichsdorf, Germany, on Oct. 15.
Young Men and Young Women in the Europe Area participated in another satellite broadcast, which originated from Rome, on Thursday, Oct. 19.
Elder Clayton noted, “It’s astonishing to think that technology today makes it possible to speak to so many members of the Church wherever they live, and on an age-differentiated basis, with the young men and young women hearing a message for them and the adults hearing a message that was tailored to them.” He noted that all the Church members post-Primary age were invited to one or the other of the broadcasts.
Two priesthood leadership conferences also highlighted the journey.
Local priesthood leaders from the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden participated in the first conference, held in Helsinki, Finland.
Leaders from stakes in the Alpine-German-Speaking Mission, which includes the southern areas of Germany and all of Switzerland and Austria, attended the second in Munich, Germany.
In addition to the above gatherings, Elder Ballard and Elder and Sister Clayton met with missionaries in the Finland Helsinki Mission, the Germany Frankfurt Mission, the Italy Rome Mission and the Alpine German-Speaking Mission.
“We shook all of their hands, greeted them, encouraged them,” Elder Ballard said.
Also, the first Sunday of the trip, Elder Ballard presided over a stake conference in Helsinki, Finland, while Elder and Sister Clayton attended one in Stockholm, Sweden.
A week later, Oct. 22, the two leaders together were present for a stake conference in Stuttgart, Germany, attended by some 1,200 people, “hundreds more than they’ve ever had before,” Elder Clayton said.
Elder Clayton said people responded very warmly to Elder Ballard’s invitation to introduce just one person to the Church between now and Christmas.
“We emphasized that invitation everywhere we went and encouraged the missionaries to be very affirmative about their responsibility to help find people.”
They encouraged each missionary, in addition to routine efforts such as tracting, to contact 10 people per day as they work together in their companionships.
“If each one in the companionship does that as they’re working together, they’ll have contacted 20 people a day, and they’ll find people to teach,” Elder Clayton said.
A benefit to that, he said, is that it will help keep the missionaries involved in missionary service all of the time, wherever they might be.
Elder Ballard said that in speaking to young people, the leaders tried to open their vision to the fact that they are sons and daughters of God, “that we lived with Him in the pre-mortal world, that we are learning a lot of things in mortality about how to control our physical bodies, that when we die we’re going to be in the spirit again, and then we’ll really appreciate the resurrection and look forward to the blessings that the Savior has made possible for us.”
Joining Elder Ballard and Elder Clayton on their trip were the members of the Europe Area presidency: Elder Paul V. Johnson, president; Elder Gary B. Sabin, first counselor; and Elder Massimo De Feo, second counselor. All three are General Authority seventies.
“The visit by Elder Ballard and Elder Clayton left a deep impact on many in the Europe Area, including me,” said Elder Johnson in an email to the Church News. “I have spoken to a number of people who felt the same way I did, that we can reach out to bring a friend to the Savior so they can receive all the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The visit will have a lasting impact on the Church in Europe.”
President Samuel Koivisto of the Tampere Finland Stake said of the leadership meeting held in his country, “It was a joyful meeting. Elder Ballard and President Clayton took time personally to meet with everybody and shake their hands. Priesthood leaders from Nordic countries came to the meeting prepared, ready to listen and act accordingly. One particular message was clear — be prepared to share the gospel more.”
Of the stake conference held the following day, President Koivisto said, “Approximately 1,200 people attended in Helsinki and close to 1,000 persons attended in local chapels around Finland from Turku to Rovaniemi via broadcast sending. Members truly enjoyed the messages which were shared and returned homes uplifted, edified and more committed to stay on the track.”
President Harri Karumo of the Helsinki Finland Stake said his stake held a special fast a week before their stake conference “so that we as members would be ready to receive and act upon promptings of the Spirit as we are listening to our prophets and now especially Elder Ballard as he was addressing us.”
President Karumo added, “We were impressed by his friendly and warm way of addressing and instructing us.
“I remember vividly his comments to me as I was about stand up to address the audience as it was my time to speak at the conference. ‘Now go and have fun. Enjoy.’ The gospel is to be enjoyed has been echoing on my mind since that moment.”
President Michael P. Auras of the Munich Germany Stake reflected, “I personally really appreciated the genuine love and empathy that all of the brethren showed to us. The Church is not easily built in our area, as people are so distracted from what is really important.”
President Auras said Elder Ballard counseled members “to lean back and find moments of peace in our lives, to better enable us to listen to the promptings of the Spirit and to know, what is really important. He invited us to strengthen our individual conversion by going to Gethsemane in our minds and to think about what the plan of happiness really means for us.”
After the meeting with Elder Ballard, President Auras called all the bishops in the stake together to discuss their impressions. “As we knelt in prayer as leadership in the Munich Germany Stake that day, there was clarity and unity in what needed to be done,” he said.
Regarding the invitation from Elder Ballard to bring one friend to Church between now and Christmas, President Auras said, “He told us to start praying both morning and night for inspiration whom to invite, and to find the one who has been prepared to accept our invitation. During a stake youth conference we asked the youth to follow this counsel, and also to find the faith to see miracles happening from that.”
President Steen B. Kreiberg of the Århus Denmark Stake said of the priesthood leadership meeting in Denmark: "We were blessed with uplifting gospel teaching and some very good and specific leadership training. The Saviors atonement was explained in some very personal ways, and I believe, that the faith of every priesthood leader participating was strengthened. Elder Ballard shared experiences from his life-long service and he really comforted the leadership by showing his appreciation of what is being done rather than pointing at things that could be better."
President Kreiberg said he and his counselors decided after the meeting to work at improving reverence in sacrament meetings in their stake for the rest of the year in order to better invite the Spirit fo the Lord.
"I went home after this meeting with a very distinct feeling, that an apostle of the Lord had not just talked to me – he had talked with me," President Kreiberg said. "The whole setting was very close and personal. Just watching the brethren interact and Elder Ballard delegating the teaching was in itself an experience. Elder Ballard told us to just relax and enjoy, and he really managed to make me do just that. What a wonderful way to invite the Spirit.”
While in Rome, Elder Ballard and Elder Clayton visited the Vatican. Catholic Archbishop John Wester, formerly bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City and now archbishop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, arranged for Elder Ballard and Elder Clayton to meet with Bishop Brian Farrell, currently president of the Pontifical Council for promoting Christian Unity.
Bishop Wester also arranged for Elder Ballard and Elder Clayton to meet with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of state for the Vatican.
“We were very warmly received in both offices,” Elder Clayton said.
“The Catholic Church is concerned in many ways about the same things we are,” Elder Ballard noted. Thus, topics of discussion during the meetings included concerns about youth, social media, pornography, people’s neglect of God in their lives, humanitarian service and religious freedom.
“I think it’s wise for us to build these relationships wherever we are, because, for the sake of religious freedom, people of faith have to stand together,” Elder Ballard said.