Latter-day Saints living in the Church’s Europe and Europe East areas — which include 50 countries and almost as many languages — are looking forward to implementing a new home-centered curriculum, are eager to use the full and inspired name of the Church, and are following President Russell M. Nelson with intensity, reported Elder Quentin L. Cook after an Oct. 19 to Oct. 28 visit.
“They love President Nelson as president and prophet, and they love the Church,” said Elder Cook, noting that many Latter-day Saints in the areas feel “they knew President Nelson personally because he has had responsibility for Europe and Europe East in the past.”
European Latter-day Saints are committed to helping the Church grow in their own countries, said Elder Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Sister Mary G. Cook accompanied her husband on the visit to Ukraine, Armenia, France, Hungary, Switzerland, Romania and the Czech Republic. They were met by members of the area presidencies: Elder Paul V. Johnson, a General Authority Seventy, and Sister Jill Johnson; Elder James B. Martino, a General Authority Seventy, and Sister Jennie B. Martino; Elder Christoffel Golden, a General Authority Seventy; Elder Gary B. Sabin, a General Authority Seventy, and Sister Valerie P. Sabin; and Elder Mathieu Bennasar, an Area Seventy, and Sister Natacha Bennasar.
“Elder Cook lifted the Saints everywhere he was,” said Elder Martino. “He bore a very strong testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ and taught how we are blessed with peace and joy when we follow the gospel of Christ.”
Elder Johnson said Elder Cook helped the leaders understand the intent and potential of the new family-centered, Church-supported curriculum and the associated changes.
Because of Elder Cook’s assignment as chairman of the Priesthood and Family Executive Committee his insights were enlightening, Elder Golden said.
“Elder Cook addressed the general theme of living the restored gospel of Jesus Christ every day of our lives,” said Elder Golden.
“In this connection he emphasized the proper use of the name of the Church. Elder Cook encouraged the people to live the gospel and to share through example by reaching out to others. He took particular time to address how the change in the schedule on Sunday should be used to worship the Lord and serve Him and our fellowman.”
Elder Sabin said, “He spoke about some of the history of the areas. However, a common theme to the members was that those who follow the new prophetic home-centered teaching will be blessed. He prophesied that 20 years from now those families that have listened to the prophet will weather the coming storms.”
An inspiring transformation
The members are the strength of the Church in the Europe Area, a region consisting of 38 countries and 29 languages with diverse laws and cultures.
“The area has experienced economic crisis, refugees, political upheavals, terrorism and seems to be in a state of constant change,” said Elder Sabin.
“The biggest challenge, however, is the increased secularism where many fail to see the need for God in their (lives). ...
“We are blessed with many members and missionaries who, despite the challenges, are full of inspiring faith. I feel we are on the verge of a wonderful transformation as members working with missionaries reach out to returning members to invite them back.”
Elder Johnson said, “It was wonderful to see Elder and Sister Cook interact with the Saints. They were very open and loving. The Saints were touched and felt the power of being with an Apostle of the Savior.”
Europe has many “dedicated, powerful Saints who love the Lord and are committed to Him,” said Elder Johnson. “They attend the temple, love their families and help bring the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ to others.”
People of faith
Elder Cook visited two countries in the Europe East Area — Ukraine and Armenia — countries that for many years were part of the former Soviet Union.
“The members in both of these countries truly are a people of faith,” said Elder Martino. “The vast majority of people now strongly profess Christianity and they are learning how to grow their faith by personal religious habits like scripture study and prayer. They are learning to become self-reliant. Sometimes they must gain more self-confidence of their own abilities and the gospel helps them see that better than anything.”
The Church helps the people to “learn who they are,” Elder Martino said. “It does not matter where we are born or where we live, the Lord’s chosen are scattered throughout the world. The Church is helping Saints here to understand their divine nature and their potential to live in eternal families with our Heavenly Father. It allows them to face economic and political challenges and realize that they can grow through these trials. This eternal perspective allows the members to see that they can grow, particularly as they learn to serve as the Savior would serve. These were themes of Elder Cook.”
Elder Golden said that “although the Church is still relatively new and small, the Church and the restored gospel are very important to these members who are the pioneers.”
Armenia was the first nation in the world to declare Christianity as its national religion. “The Armenian people have been conquered by pagans, Muslims, atheists and others, and they have never converted away from Christianity,” Elder Martino said. “They have a strong pride in who they are. There are only 3 million Armenians in Armenia, with about 12 million Armenians living around the world. …
“Life is not easy in some of these countries, but the gospel of Jesus Christ will always bring joy and hope when we are filled with faith.”
A profound impact
Elder Cook had the opportunity to visit the Kiev Ukraine Temple and hold missionary and member meetings in the areas, where missionary work is challenging.
“The missionaries looked so good and they were working so hard,” said Elder Cook. “They are loving the opportunity to serve.”
Elder Golden said missionaries and members were “attentive, reverent and responsive” during the meeting.
Elder Cook testified these missionaries were called to serve in their particular missions by inspiration through the Holy Ghost. He testified that they should not be discouraged even when it was hard. He said, “I hope you are feeling a sense of urgency. Never lose that!”
The missionaries were touched Elder Cook took the time after the meetings to shake hands, said Elder Golden.
Elder Martino said Sister Cook brought great energy to the missionaries as she would lead them in a hymn.
Sister Cook spoke to the missionaries about developing the attributes of Christ using "Preach My Gospel," Elder Sabin said. She effectively used music in the local language to teach the missionaries and taught the members the importance of strengthening their families.
“The highlight for me was Elder Cook’s witness of the Savior and the apostolic blessing he left for the missionaries and members,” said Elder Sabin. “Sister Sabin and I felt personally uplifted by their visit and ministering; not only to the missionaries and members, but to us as a couple as well.
“They loved their messages and were very excited for their visit. One stake president was in tears as he turned to me on the stand and commented how glad he was to see the large turnout for such a special meeting even though it was a national holiday.”
Elder Johnson said Elder Cook’s witness of the Savior Jesus Christ “had a profound impact on me and on those who heard and felt that witness. I heard members and missionaries make comments afterward concerning the powerful effect it had on them. The members and the missionaries felt loved, instructed and edified from the visit of Elder Cook.”
Elder Martino agreed. “I will not forget Elder Cook’s powerful witness of the Savior. He taught how the Atonement (of Jesus Christ) overcomes sin and death, but that it also overcomes everything that seems unfair. … There are many challenges that members and missionaries face in this area, but they left the meeting feeling hope and direction for life.”