Meetinghouse dedicated in Hungary

Stately home adapted for use as LDS facility

The first LDS meetinghouse in the Republic of Hungary was dedicated Tuesday, Oct. 17, by President Thomas S. Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency.

The meetinghouse is a remodeled stately home, which is owned by the Church, in Budapest.Participating in the dedicatory service with President Monson was Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Council of the Twelve. Sister Frances Monson and Sister Dantzel Nelson accompanied their husbands to the service.

Attending the 6 p.m. dedication were some 125-150 people, "a mixture of Church members and serious investigators."

In a Church News interview after his return to Salt Lake City, President Monson referred to the progress the Church has made in Hungary since April 19, 1987, when Elder Nelson dedicated the land for the preaching of the gospel. At dusk that day, which was Easter, Elder Nelson went to the top of Mount Gellert, a peak on the west side of the Danube River in a park in Budapest, to offer the dedicatory prayer. Only one Hungarian member of the Church, an orthopedic surgeon who had been baptized a few weeks earlier in Austria, was available to accompany Elder Nelson and other Church leaders.

A little over a year later, on June 1, 1988, the Church was granted full recognition by the Hungarian government. This enabled the Church to teach and to baptize without any restrictions. Elder Nelson attended a ceremony on June 24, 1988, where government officials signed the papers granting recognition to the Church. (See Church News July 2, 1988.)

Since then, missionaries have been permitted to serve in Hungary. A missionary couple and eight other full-time missionaries, serving under direction of Austria Vienna East Mission Pres. Dennis B. Neuenschwander, are now laboring in Hungary.

"We are very happy that we now have legal recognition in the land of Hungary and that we have full-time missionaries laboring there," said President Monson. "Pres. Neuenschwander has performed a remarkable work in the introductory phases of the work in Hungary."

President Monson described the new meetinghouse as "a lovely large home that has been brought to a state of almost perfection. It's commodious and the rooms are well adapted to classrooms. What was once a large living room and dining room area make a nice assembly area for the saints, and can also be utilized as a teaching facility. When the missionaries meet people they can invite them to come to this facility where they have their visual aids and where they have the opportunity to sit in a quiet setting and teach those who are investigating the principles of the gospel.

"The missionaries," President Monson continued, "have been so diligent, so effective, and so inspired and guided by the Lord that they have been having wonderful success."

President Monson said he was pleased at the dedication of the meetinghouse. The congregation overflowed the assembly area into the hall. "I saw fathers and mothers there with little children. They were right up front. I shook hands with quite a number of children and teenagers. I was particularly impressed that many of the Church members are young in years with their futures before them."

President Monson described the Hungarian members as "outstanding" in their faithfulness and commitment to the gospel. He spoke of his interpreter, Atilla Felso, a young member of about 18 years of age, who he said "is going to be an excellent missionary. He has to fill a commitment in the army first, but then he will be a wonderful missionary. He now goes out with the elders."

Continuing, President Monson said: "Our district president, Dr. Gedeon Kereszti, a surgeon, is a marvelous man. He speaks fluent English, as well as Hungarian. The branch president in Budapest, Ferenc Csapo, is totally devoted and totally committed. He's like a branch president or a bishop in any of our other branches or wards.

"The Hungarians are a handsome and intelligent people," President Monson continued. "They are anxious for a knowledge of the truth and they seem to be attracted by the message of the restoration and the plan of salvation particularly."

Expressing joy and satisfaction over the progress of the Church in Hungary, President Monson said: "I have had a long assignment with the nations in Eastern Europe. This pleases me immensely."

President Monson said the land of Hungary "is a fertile field" and "the work will unfold ever more rapidly, with certainly large numbers of fine citizens of that nation to be taught the gospel by the missionary force."

Dedication of the meetinghouse took place on the second day of a five-day seminar in Budapest for 26 mission presidents from the Europe Area. In addition to President Monson and Elder Nelson, General Authorities attending the seminar were Elder Hans B. Ringger of the First Quorum of the Seventy and president of the Europe Area, and Elders Spencer J. Condie and Albert Choules Jr., also of the Seventy and counselors in the Europe Area presidency.

"We held a meeting with the missionaries, and I was much impressed with their faith and dedication," said President Monson. "They were standing at the dock side of the river with their missionary badges and singing Church hymns to welcome us to Hungary. It just caused tingling feelings of satisfaction."

Elder Nelson told the Church News there are members scattered throughout Hungary, as far east as Debrecen and as far south as Szeged, and elsewhere. Some are organized in branches, others in family groups. The principal branch is in Budapest.

"It's a small branch by Church standards," said Elder Nelson, "but it's going to grow."

Elder Nelson said he thought it was significant that "while we were there, the Hungarian Parliament amended its constitution, enabling the country to become a full republic. The name of the country was changed from the Hungarian People's Republic to the Republic of Hungary."

"We feel it was a remarkable thing," said Elder Nelson. "To me, it was a fulfillment of the statement made in the dedicatory prayer 2 1/2 years before. In that prayer was this statement: `I invoke an apostolic blessing that this may be the dawning of a new era.' The Lord has honored the prayer of His servant."

Elder Nelson said: "We have a good, stable foundation for solid growth of the Church in Hungary. We are now permitted to have full Church activity. We may have meetings, conduct baptisms, and even have street displays if we want."

The interest many Hungarians have in the gospel was reflected during a television interview after the meetinghouse was dedicated.

"I accepted an invitation that was extended for one of the Church leaders to appear on national television to be interviewed," said Elder Nelson. "Elder Trevor Andreason, from Sandy, Utah, speaks fluent Hungarian; he went with me. The focus was on me because I was a high official in the Church, but pretty soon the emphasis switched to Elder Andreason, this handsome, typical LDS missionary, speaking fluent Hungarian.

"The bilingual lady who was the television hostess couldn't get over this young man, that he doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, doesn't use drugs, doesn't date girls. She said, How come you are so happy?' He said:Because I'm doing what the Lord has asked me to do. I'm teaching people a better way of life, and I'm making them happy.' He so completely enthralled the people, the interviewer, and the staff and camera crew and engineers. After the interview, they crowded around Elder Andreason to get better acquainted with him.

"The interview began on television with the hostess asking me about the dedication of the building, so I explained a little about that. But I said that even more significant was that 2 1/2 years ago, the living prophet of God on the earth sent one of the 12 apostles here to this land to dedicate the land and its people for a better way of life, and the preaching of the gospel.

"I told her I was the one who had received the assignment to deliver that prayer on Easter Sunday, 1987.

"She was deeply moved. Then, she got her composure and said: `Well, thank you! Things have been getting better ever since.' It was really a moving experience."

Elder Nelson observed: "What is happening is that the Lord is touching the hearts of the people. I think we see that in many countries of the earth.

"This is really a great day," Elder Nelson continued, "and I feel very strongly that the Spirit of the Lord is being poured out on the people of this area.

"They are having a real resurgence of spiritual activity. The work is hard, of course. The language is difficult, the cultural differences are real, but through it all, missionaries are coming with a real message of hope for these people. It is exciting."