BUDAPEST, Hungary — As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints look forward to new temples in Hungary and Austria, Elder David A. Bednar shared an important message.
“Let me say this very clearly — it’s not about going to the temple, it’s about having the temple in you. That is Zion, the pure in heart, the covenants and ordinances written on the fleshy tables of our hearts,” said the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
He said that as the Church members prepare to have a temple in their midst, they must not only focus on the building, but also on the covenants and ordinances that connect individuals to the living Christ.
“The living Lord Jesus Christ has authorized the construction of two temples right here, so that you will focus first and foremost on Him through the covenants and ordinances and the promised blessings that will flow into your life.”
Elder Bednar is on a five-country ministry tour in Central Europe. He has met with the Saints in Switzerland and Albania. In Hungary on Thursday, Oct. 13, Elder Bednar acknowledged the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic imposed on the country and on the members of the Church.
“Some who are listening tonight have been away from the Church for some time,” he said. “Come back. It’s time to come back. You need the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we need you.”
Looking over the full pews and seats in the Budapest Hungary Stake center he said, “Every single person here tonight and throughout Hungary, you contribute to the establishment of Zion in Hungary. The temple won’t change that, unless you and I change.”
That message went right into the heart of Anna Nyerges, a young mother who lives in Budapest and who attended the meeting.
“When we go to the temple, we can become closer to Jesus Christ, and we can know Him better,” she said. “It’s not as important where the building is and what it looks like, but the presence of Jesus Christ and how we can strengthen our relationship with Him there.”
The Church in Hungary
The Church gained official recognition in 1988 in Hungary and missionary work and Church activity have continued since then. A temple for Budapest, Hungary, was announced in April 2019 general conference.
Elder Hayden Wilson from American Fork, Utah — who is serving a full-time mission in the Hungary-Romania Mission — said the members in the country are some of the best people he knows.
“They are such strong believers who are waiting for a temple,” he said.
Elder Wilson and his companion, Elder Thomas Adams, from Houston, Texas, rode on the same train to Budapest with Elder Bednar on Thursday morning, but did not know it at the time.
“Hungary sometimes feels like a forgotten country. It means a lot for an Apostle to come here,” Elder Wilson said.
Elder Adams said growing up in the United States, he would hear about pioneer ancestors and what they did.
“Here, you are talking to pioneers. These are the people who were turned away by their family for their choice to believe,” he said.
He met a man who was baptized before there was even a Book of Mormon in his language. He just had a booklet of stories from the Book of Mormon.
“This country may not have as many members as other countries, but the members we do have just have the strongest faith,” Elder Adams said. “They just know this gospel. They hear the stories of pioneers and they relate because it is them.”
Building Zion in Europe
Elder Bednar spoke to members in the Vienna Austria Stake center on Wednesday, Oct. 12, in a devotional that was also broadcast to Czech Republic and Slovakia — where his father’s family is from.
In 2006, Elder Bednar attended the second stake conference for the Budapest Hungary Stake. On that trip, he visited the village in Slovakia where his father’s family came from — and while he was there, the miracle of Slovakia culminated in the Church being recognized in that country.
“My beloved brothers and sisters in Slovakia, in Czech Republic and in Austria, this is Zion. Where you live is Zion. What you are becoming is Zion,” Elder Bednar said.
Leandro Bischoff and Kea Merl are engaged to be married next February. Sitting together in the congregation, they reflected on their lives and how living the gospel and keeping their covenants will draw them closer to the Savior.
Bischoff, 22, made a list of the covenants he has made in his life and what they mean for him.
“The most important thing for me was, in the strength of the Lord I can do everything,” he said. “Studying and working and preparing for marriage is a very interesting or challenging time, and sometimes I get a little discouraged. But in the strength of the Lord, I know I can do everything.”
Merl, 24, heard from Elder Bednar a strong message to put Christ in the center of her life.
“I was thinking about what that meant for me to take His name upon me, and to be a Christian and represent Him,” she said. “I felt I needed to work with that, get to know Him better in order to represent Him better.”
For the Strength of Youth
Elder Bednar spoke with the youth in Austria about the new “For the Strength of Youth” guide. The youth were able to ask questions and discuss what the guidelines meant for them in their lives right now and for their future.
Leticia Ferraz-Leite, 15, had the opportunity to ask a question during the meeting. After the meeting, she described: “What I learned for myself is that, no matter what, the Church is true. I don’t have to doubt it. I can always rely on it and that will be good for me. It will give me blessings.”
Benjamin Wondra, 16, felt an impression to study the new guide more to know for himself what he should do and to live by that as he finishes school and goes on a mission. Trust was an important part of the answers he heard during the meeting.
“God can … help me in times that are tough,” he said.
For Jakob Husz, 16, it was an honor to be in the same room as an Apostle. “I learned that ‘For the Strength of Youth’ is just a great thing for us. The booklet is the best thing in my opinion because there is so much in it [about] how we can be more like Jesus,” Husz said.
Maria Coz Becerra has been praying for help for many months now for her husband who is not allowed to leave Ukraine. They met as students at Cumorah Academy — a school based in Czech Republic.
“Since the beginning of the war it has been hard,” she said, “but we have seen so many miracles.” Including being able to read scriptures together every day, even at times when the electricity was shut off and there was no light.
Thursday morning, Becerra had the opportunity to ask a question during a devotional for young adults at the Vienna Austria Stake Center.
She became emotional when she asked, ”How can I stay positive when my husband is in Ukraine?”
In response, Elder Erich W. Kopischke, a General Authority Seventy who serves in the Europe Central Area Presidency, spoke of the incredible hardships his mother faced during World War II.
“I think about the expression that we believe in Christ,” he said. “There’s another question I ask myself … ‘Erich, do you really believe Christ?’ For every one of us comes the point in our life, where we really have to believe Him,” Elder Kopischke said.
Afterward, Becerra told the Church News: “Maybe I was looking for another answer, probably more like, ‘Everything is going to be fine,’ you know? Everyone says, ‘Everything is going to be fine.’ But besides the Lord, we don’t really know.”
That’s where believing Christ comes in, she said.
Other questions from the young adults included what they should do about family members and friends who have left the Church. Some asked about marriage and traditions that help in drawing closer to Christ.
Elder Bednar continued the pattern from this ministry tour of asking the young adults in turn what they were hearing from his answers. Then one of the Cumorah Academy students asked him what patterns he has learned from these question-and-answer sessions with youth and young adults.
He responded that for years, Sister Bednar has written down every question that they have been asked, and he invited her to share her insights.
“I think young adults are amazing, and you don’t always think you are amazing,” Sister Bednar said. “So many young adults get stuck thinking about their inadequacies instead of thinking of what they do right. You do so many good things all over the world, and you are closer to the Lord than you give yourself credit for.”
She told them the spirit of fear of the future comes from the adversary. But, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Elder Bednar told the young adults he hoped they felt the joy of the gospel from the meeting.
“As we conclude, I invoke this blessing upon you. I invoke the blessing that as you ask, seek and knock, that you may have the patience to wait upon the Lord. And I promise that you will be able to discern His will and His timing in your life.”
The Church in Austria
Elder Orson Pratt of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles came to Austria in 1865, but the Church grew slowly through the early 19th century. Many early Saints here suffered prejudice and persecution for their beliefs. But they kept the faith, and Austria’s first stake was organized in Vienna in 1980; in 1997 a second stake was organized in Salzburg.
A new temple for Vienna, Austria, was announced in April 2021 general conference. Elder Helmut D. Wondra, an Area Seventy in the Europe Central Area, said the members in Austria have been overjoyed — because this will be the fulfillment of the hopes and dreams of generations of faithful Saints.
“The members in Austria have a strong tradition of temple service because they know that temple service blesses their lives and helps to strengthen their relationships to our Heavenly Father and Savior in ways that nothing else does,” Elder Wondra said.
Elder Bednar’s visit to the country was a great blessing, said Elder Wondra.
“I am sure many members see this as an occasion to get spiritual guidance and direction for their personal efforts to be true disciples of Christ,” he said.
Elder Bednar promised the Saints in Europe that when the temple is built near them, “missionary work will accelerate in a remarkable way. Not because of the building, but because of you — Zion is in your heart, and you will have access to the house of the Lord.”