The Tabernacle Choir's tour to Europe ended July 2, but the effects of its three-week-long musical ministry are still evident and will be felt for a long time, according to mission presidents serving in areas where concerts were held.
Following are excerpts from telephone interviews the Church News had with some of the mission presidents. (Not all mission leaders were available for comment; some were away from their offices on zone tours or other mission business.)Switzerland Geneva Mission Pres. Rex J. Allen said: "The concert was edifying; it lifted everybody. It helped everyone catch a vision, that the Church is real, good, wholesome and beautiful. It helped people feel and see what the Church is all about.
"I know of at least two people who are very serious now about joining the Church, who want to become part of it, because of what they saw and felt at the concert in Geneva. I'm sure there are many more.
"The members were so thrilled, so uplifted, and many of our sophisticated friends in the city were touched. At a reception after the concert, I heard a lady who is a high-ranking official who works at the UN here tell a member of the choir,
This must be the true Church; nothing bad could generate feelings of good this strong.' I watched tears come to the choir member's eyes as she replied,It is the true Church.' "
France Marseille Mission Pres. Elbert M. Dansie said that the choir's visit was "a great morale booster."
"It gave our members a chance to see the magnificent quality of the choir," he said. "We had some marvelous publicity after the concert."
He said that a pair of sister missionaries sat with a non-LDS couple at the concert. "During the intermission, one of our members who was seated next to them was so moved by the music that she just leaned over and began bearing her testimony to them."
Belgium Brussels Mission Pres. H. Ray Hart said that a choir member gave the missionaries a referral and that, as of July 15, the missionaries were teaching that individual the third discussion. "More doors are opening to the missionaries and the people are recognizing and receiving us in their homes because of the powerful influence of the choir upon the hearts of the people," he said. "They came from Brussels, Liege and Antwerp and many other cities. As they returned to their homes they left with the songs on their lips and the spirit in their souls, having been lifted and edified. Non-members said they had never attended such a beautiful event. Some former investigators have called our missionaries and invited them to come back."
Italy Rome Mission Pres. Leone J. Flosi said: "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been under a cloud of obscurity in Rome. Even though the Church has continued in its missionary efforts here for more 30 years, it has remained relatively unknown by the general public and public officials. The wonderful spirit that the choir brought with it touched the hearts of numerous individuals, and many journalists and other prominent figures sought out our missionaries after the concert and were able to arrange with them to hear the standard discussions of the Church.
"It is obvious that the Lord has blessed the mission by touching the scores of individuals who were in attendance, among whom were officials of the Italian republic and representatives of the United Nations. Our greatest benefit and the most profound blessing that the Tabernacle Choir has left us was to build upon the foundation we have laid and to bring a light into Italy that will bring us out of obscurity."
Spain Madrid Mission Pres. Steven R. Shallenberger said that missionaries had been teaching an investigator who had attended Church meetings, but had been reluctant to commit to baptism. The mission leader said that the missionaries reported that they took the man and his wife to the concert. Afterward, the man told them that he was sure that he had a testimony. He was baptized July 11; his wife is preparing for baptism.
"The concert was a tremendous uplift of the spirit with the members and missionaries, and not only for proselyting purposes, but also as a strengthening of the Church," Pres. Shallenberger said. "They felt the spirit of the choir. They didn't want the choir to leave. They clapped and clapped and clapped. It was more of a way of saying, `We love you.'
"The spirit the choir brought has stayed with our members here. Missionaries took close to 100 investigators, and many others who attended the concert learned about the Church for the first time. We'll see the impact of the choir's visit to Madrid over a period of months. It was grand in every sense. We saw this as an experience of a century."
Portugal Lisbon Mission Pres. Calvin C. Clegg said that missionaries had been teaching a family before the choir arrived. "After attending the concert here in Lisbon, one of the family came to the missionaries and said, `Would you hurry up and finish teaching us the discussions? I want to be a member of the Church.' "
Pres. Clegg said that he observed some music critics as they arrived for the concert. "I could tell by their body language that they were approaching the concert very casually. But after the second selection on the program, they began to sit up straight. They were taking notes. At the end of the concert, they were the first to jump up and shout
Bravo!' andEncore!' "
He said that as much good as the choir did for investigators and other non-members, "it was even better for the members. Here in Portugal, they're pioneers. This is a church where they truly are in a very small minority. With the exposure of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performance, all of a sudden, they felt part of something much bigger. It made them feel good. These members came in from all parts of our mission. The camaraderie and seeing so many other Latter-day Saints around them gave them a tremendous boost, a feeling of prestige. It was something they really needed."
Famous choir performs in 10 European cities
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir toured Europe June 12 through July 2, performing concerts in London, England; Brussels, Belgium; Geneva, Switzerland; Turin, Italy; Rome, Italy; Marseille, France; Barcelona, Spain; El Escorial, Spain; Madrid, Spain; and Lisbon, Portugal. For earlier reports on the choir's tour, please see the June 20, June 27, July 4, and July 11 issues of the Church News.