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An apostle in Eastern Europe - Elder Christofferson visits five countries

Missions are succeeding and real growth is made

Like the apostles of New Testament times, today's members of the Quorum of the Twelve travel the world bearing witness of the Master.

An example is the recent journey of Elder D. Todd Christofferson to some of the nations of Eastern Europe: Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary and Germany.

In addition to meetings with members and missionaries, Elder Christofferson visited government officials and was featured in various interviews with print, radio and television media.

In Budapest, Hungary, for example, Elder Christofferson was asked in an interview what an apostle does in this day and age.

From left to right: Elder Erich W. Kopischke; Sister Elisabeth Pietsch, National Director of Public Affairs; Federal President of Austria Dr. Heinz Fischer; Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve; Helmut D. Wondra, president of the Vienna Austria Stake.
From left to right: Elder Erich W. Kopischke; Sister Elisabeth Pietsch, National Director of Public Affairs; Federal President of Austria Dr. Heinz Fischer; Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve; Helmut D. Wondra, president of the Vienna Austria Stake. Photo: Photo by Franz Helmrich

"I said the same three principal things the apostles did anciently," he said in a recent conversation with the Church News. "First, they bear witness of Jesus Christ in His true character as the Son of God. Second, they are commissioned to take the gospel to all the world, and third, to feed the sheep, as the Savior instructed Peter."

Reflecting on the trip after his return, Elder Christofferson said, "This is one of the frontiers of the Church in Europe, where our beginnings (or renewed beginnings) are the most recent. We've been there for some years now, but much of this area — Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary — was behind the Iron Curtain for a very long time, and our ability to work there was obviously limited."

Still in its initial phases, the Church in the area has shown real progress, he said. "The missions are succeeding; it's growing."

With that growth, it is important that the members see the Brethren in person once in a while, Elder Christofferson said, "to know that they're remembered by having one of the Twelve visit. It goes back to what I said about feeding the flock. We want to strengthen them and to strengthen the missionaries in what they're doing, and to invite guests and investigators to come and be a part of the Church of Jesus Christ."

Elder D. Todd Christofferson and Sister Katherine Jacob Christofferson in front of monument of Mozart.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson and Sister Katherine Jacob Christofferson in front of monument of Mozart. Photo: Photo courtesy Elder D. Todd Christofferson

Accompanied by his wife, Sister Kathy Christofferson, and area Church leaders, Elder Christofferson at each destination met with the missionaries in the respective missions and encouraged them to continue in their great work. He asked them to labor under the influence of the Spirit, testify as directed by the Spirit and be a worthy representative of the Lord. He emphasized the importance of investigators' attendance at sacrament meetings and the importance of the Book of Mormon as a divine instrument of conversion.

In each locale, Elder Christofferson held meetings with priesthood leadership and encouraged building priesthood strength and building and fortifying families.

With him were Elder Erich W. Kopischke, Europe Area president, and his wife, Sister Christiane Kopischke, Europe Area president; Elder Gérald Caussé, first counselor in the area presidency, and his wife, and Sister Valérie Caussé; and Elder Manfred Schütze, an Area Seventy, and his wife, Sister Helga Schütze. (Elder Kopischke and Elder Schütze were present in Poland and through the next week, and Elder Caussé accompanied the Christoffersons in Prague.)

The journey covered March 1-13. Elder Christofferson said one of the main purposes was to strengthen the Saints by holding combined district conferences, first in Warsaw and later in Prague. It was the first time that Church members in the respective missions had all met together in one congregation and the first time for nearly all of them to be in the presence of and be instructed by an apostle.

Normally the members there meet in only small units. By contrast, about 700 met in Warsaw and 570 in Prague (with members coming from both the Czech Republic and Slovakia). "Members gained a sense of belonging, of togetherness, of the realization that they are larger than they thought in their respective countries," he said.

Elder Christofferson taught the priesthood leadership, while Sister Christofferson instructed auxiliary leaders. In a typical stake-conference-type format, adult members met on Saturday evening and the entire membership on Sunday.

Among other topics, Elder Christofferson focused on ministering to the one and basic gospel principles. He reiterated President Thomas S. Monson's call to rescue those who have drifted from Church activity.

During the week between the two mission-wide conferences, the Christoffersons visited Austria, Hungary and Germany, holding devotionals in Vienna, Budapest and Dusseldorf. Each chapel was filled to overflowing, with total attendance of about 2,000.

In Vienna, a special devotional was held for young single adults, with about 100 in attendance. And in Frankfurt, the Christoffersons attended the concluding session of the semi-annual mission presidents' seminar for the Europe area.

Also in Vienna, Elder Christofferson visited the Federal President of Austria, Heinz Fischer. During the meeting, it was noted that the Church has been officially registered in Austria since 1955 and is held in high esteem.

In Budapest, the Christoffersons had lunch with Tamás Lukács, a member of Parliament who played an important role in the recent completion of the re-registration of the Church in Hungary. A law was passed that decertified many of the religions previously recognized, the Church being one of them. Mr. Lukács helped with the challenging process to regain recognition.

Also in Hungary, Elder Christofferson was the focus of a positive television interview. And in Vienna, interviews with print, radio and television media included a TV report of Elder Christofferson's visit to the Church's young single adult center there.

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