News Release

Elder Bednar Meets European Pioneers

Apostle concludes visit to five Central European countries

“We're mingling with Saints who are establishing the foundation of the Church that will last for generations,” Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said as he traveled through Central Europe on a ministry tour in October. Elder Bednar was joined by his wife, Susan, and other senior leaders on a visit to five countries: Switzerland, Albania, Austria, Hungary and Romania.

The journey began in Geneva, Switzerland, on Saturday, October 8, 2022, at a meeting with high-level United Nations diplomats and representatives of global organizations that collaborate with the Church on humanitarian projects. It concluded on Sunday, October 16, in Bucharest with special worship services for all Latter-day Saints in Romania.

“We just felt it was time to come back and lift our voices in praise of the faithfulness and devotion of these people and to bear our witnesses to them,” Elder Bednar said.

Albanian Pioneers

Latter-day Saint pioneers in Albania have been waiting for several years for an Apostle to visit their country. “I think most typically we measure growth by numbers. The numbers here are not large, but you feel the strength of [Albania’s] stalwart Saints. It’s been a real challenge to be separated during COVID, and now they’re able to come back together,” Elder Bednar explained during his visit to Tirana, the capital and largest city in Albania.

“You don’t have to push a handcart to be a pioneer,” Sister Bednar said. “You just have to have great faith, especially in an area like this, where there are very few members of the Church.”

On Tuesday, October 11, 2022, a special meeting was held in Tirana for missionaries who are serving in Albania, Cyprus, Greece, Kosovo and North Macedonia, and members filled a conference room for an evening devotional.

Jetmir Hysi, president of the Tirana Albania Stake, said the Church is marking a milestone this year. Missionaries first arrived in the country in June 1992.

“The Church has been here for about 30 years. We have young men and [young] women now that are getting married, you know, just kind of creating their own families. And so, we’re starting that second generation in the Church,” President Hysi said.

Dorjana and Erald Veliu are the first young Albanian couple to be married in the temple. They traveled to Frankfurt, Germany, for their wedding ceremony on August 3, 2005. Today, they are raising their two children in the Church.

“We don’t think much about being pioneers because there are a lot of other people that have done much more than us and have been more involved in the Church than us,” said Erald Veliu, who serves as a counselor in the stake presidency. “When people ask me what it means to be a member of the Church, we say that we try to be that beacon, that small light that will guide others towards the finish line.”

Plans are being made for a 2023 commemoration of the organization of the Church in Albania.

“I think the future is bright here. Upon this foundation of faith in the Savior, a very strong structure will continue to be built,” Elder Bednar remarked.

Focus on the ‘Rising Generation’

The senior leaders focused much of their ministry efforts on the youth and young adults, often referred to as the “rising generation,” as the Church continues to mature in Central Europe.

In Vienna, Austria, Elder Bednar discussed the new “For the Strength of Youth” guide at a special meeting for teens and their leaders.

“What I heard today was that Jesus and God are there for us every single time we need them,” said Jakob Husz, a youth in Austria.

Sister Bednar said it was an exciting time to visit Vienna with the announcement of a new temple in the city.

Students from Cumorah Academy, a school based in the Czech Republic, participated in another meeting in which the young adults were able to ask the Apostle questions.

“The youth of the Church are the future of the Church. And in a world that grows increasingly chaotic and confused, we feel an urgency to help the young people have a solid foundation on the rock of Christ,” Elder Bednar stated.

Temples in Central Europe

While Latter-day Saints in Central Europe are building their faith, plans are underway to build temples in Austria and Hungary.

“Our advice about the temple is don’t focus on the temple as a building, as beautiful as they are, as magnificent as they are. It’s not about the building. It’s about the Lord Jesus Christ and how, through the covenants and ordinances administered in the temple, we can be yoked to and with Him,” Elder Bednar taught.

“The Church is still at the beginning here. Most of us are first-generation members. … Because we are few, I believe that makes us stronger, makes us appreciate all the blessings of the gospel, including the temple, as we don’t have a temple here yet,” said Radu Stoica, a Latter-day Saint pioneer in Romania, who serves as a district president in Brasov.

There are about 3,000 Latter-day Saints who live in Romania, a country full of Orthodox tradition.

“People have faith in God. They were raised with faith in God, but sometimes it is difficult to make some changes,” said President Stoica, who joined the Church of Jesus Christ when he was 9 years old.

Elder Bednar wrapped up his journey with visits to Budapest, Hungary, and Bucharest, Romania, where he met with missionaries and local congregations before returning to Utah.

“The joy of the gospel, the love and the fellowship, it’s just evident in their faces in powerful ways,” Elder Bednar concluded.

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.