Elder Kent Richards of the European Area Presidency visited Hungary on November 14 and 15, 2012 for a missionary conference. Our missionaries either attended a meeting with him on Wednesday, Nov 14th or Thursday, Nov 15th. Elder Richards has an impressive resume: he is a former surgeon, has served in another area presidency in Chile and has held other important Church callings. He served his first mission as a youth in Mexico. He was sustained a Seventy in 2009. And he is everything you would expect of a General Authority – bold yet not mean or demeaning, knowledgeable (he seemed to be quite a scriptorian, in my opinion), and most importantly, had the Spirit and knew how to teach us with it.
Our meeting with him was from 10 AM to 2 PM. This was followed by a lunch and then the women missionaries had a meeting with his wife, who is also very accomplished – mother of 8 children, former Young Women General Board Member.
For some background information, Hungary is the only of the Eastern European Bloc nations to have a Stake (like a diocese)! [The Eastern Europe Bloc nations are Poland, East Germany, Bulgaria, Romania, the former Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia and the Czech Republic), Albania, Yugoslavia.] We have one Stake – the Budapest Stake, with 5 or so wards, and two districts, with branches (smaller congregations) in the outlying areas south, east and west of Budapest.
So President Richards impressed on us how important Hungary is to this part of the world, as far as the Church growth goes. He quoted President Monson and said, “The Lord is hastening his work. You are the ones. You were reserved for this moment.” And then President Richards quoted Elder Rasband, “if not now, when? If not you, who?” Later President Richards said we have to change our mindset if we are to build up the Kingdom of God in Hungary. Using scriptures, he talked about having the power of the Holy Spirit to gather the elect in these latter days. It would not be easy because Satan is trying to tell people that you (missionaries) do not have the power. The Spirit was in abundance at this meeting.
Sister Richards then talked about the many examples of youth being leaders. Apostle Holland was the first 19 year old called to serve a mission (when the age was changed to 19), Mormon was 15 years old when called to be a General over his people, Alma the Younger, Nephi, the son of Lehi, Captain Moroni (all examples from the Book of Mormon). She encouraged studying of the scriptures, as this allows the Spirit to allow us (the missionaries) to use our knowledge of the scriptures to help with the discussions. Also she encouraged obedience (love what happens to you when you obey) and repentance (it is about love).
President Smith also instructed us. He quoted some scriptures, including D&C 88: 73, “Behold, I will hasten my work in its time.” which reminded us of the statement made at our recent General Conference when the age of missionaries was lowered.. He also reminded us that concerning strict obedience to the mission rules, we can ask, what are we willing to lay on the altar?
Elder Richards continued with the “Nitty Gritty” and gave us several scriptures that showed the pattern of humility, prayer, obedience results in remarkable changes in ourselves, that allows the Holy Spirit to do the Lord’s will. He went over the steps that missionaries do to find those who are seeking the truth and said the missionaries do some of those steps very well, but need to work on some of the other steps. He emphasized that the missionaries need to be simple and brief and let the Holy Spirit testify of the pure and simple truths. He used 1 Corinthians 14 to emphasize that point. And he gave other advice to our young proselyting missionaries.
The most dynamic point he made is when he called up Adri, currently a mini-missionary and who was our YSA President, to the front of the group and asked her to tell the story of the First Vision (when Joseph Smith prayed vocally in the grove and was answered by seeing God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ). Adri does not normally speak English and she was at a complete loss of words. I was bawling my eyes out and wanted to stand and shout out – say it in Magyarul! But I held my peace during the long 5 minutes or so that she just stood there. She understands English and finally he said – say it in 5 words. She said very softly, Joseph Smith saw God! And President Richards said, that is perfect! That is exactly what you need to do – be brief in your testimony of what you believe and the Spirit will testify to your investigator the truth of what you say. It was a powerful lesson!
All in all, it was a very edifying experience to be taught so powerfully, yet humbly, how we need to have the self-discipline to improve ourselves. And it was another testimony that our General Authorities have been called of God to do what they are doing – everyday and all over the world. Elder Richards and his wife are gong to all the missions in this area and giving similar encouragements for the next few months.