As freedom comes to Middle Europe and the Baltic nations, the gospel is being taught, learned, loved and lived in many parts of the world once in darkness, said President Thomas S. Monson.
"The work of the Lord goes forward," said President Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, at a Brigham Young University 18-stake fireside March 3.In an account of the highlights of the Church in 1990, President Monson shared "a glimpse of what has taken place" the past year in Middle Europe and the Baltic nations. President Ezra Taft Benson directed the distribution of Church welfare assistance to the citizens of many of those nations after World War II.
President Monson recounted that years ago President Spencer W. Kimball talked to the General Authorities about his philosophy concerning nations where the gospel had not been preached.
At that time, recalled President Monson, President Kimball said members should pray for the hearts of leaders of nations to soften and for the doors of nations to open. President Kimball also said the Church must be prepared to walk through those doors when they open.
"Prayers were offered and there was fasting throughout the Church," President Monson said. "God heard those prayers and recognized the fasting in His own way and His own time frame and softened the hearts and opened the doors."
First came the test of faith and then blessings followed, President Monson continued.
He spoke about the once-divided Germany, with a mission now organized in what was formerly the German Democratic Republic.
"Missionaries from that nation are serving all over the world. A miracle has truly taken place," declared President Monson. He said missionaries have reported seven to 10 convert baptisms a month, with four out of five people welcoming them into their homes.
A mission has also been re-established in Czechoslovakia, President Monson said.
He related the experience of one Church leader in that country, Jiri Snederfler, who, when it was decided to seek recognition there, offered his help in doing so.
President Monson reported, "The government leaders had said to us, `Don't send an American, a German or a Swiss. Send a Czech.' "
Because admitting one was a Church leader during the prohibition of religion was tantamount to imprisonment, Brother Snederfler put everything on the line as he went before government leaders to seek official recognition for the Church.
He had asked for the prayers of the members and had told his wife he didn't know when or if he would come back but said he loved the gospel and knew he must follow the Savior, President Monson said.
"With that spirit of faith and devotion, he acknowledged to the government officials that he was a church leader and was seeking for a restoration of the recognition the Church had once enjoyed."
Government leaders deliberated and then told Brother Snederfler they had decided to grant recognition. "Once again missionaries could come back and the Church could provide a haven for freedom of worship in that nation," President Monson remarked.
Missions in Poland and Hungary have also been created, and the country of Romania has been dedicated where missionaries are serving with medical teams to bring aid to children suffering in orphanages and assist in finding homes for them.
Missionary couples are serving in Bulgaria as well. The Church has also grown in Yugoslavia, with missionaries now serving there.
A mission was organized in Greece and branches of the Church have been established in Estonia and in Leningrad.
"The world is simply opening up, and the blessing of President Kimball is once again coming to fulfillment that God may open the doors of nations and touch the hearts of people," President Monson said. "The gospel in all of the areas mentioned is now being taught, learned, loved and lived.
"The work of the Lord moves on, not only in these nations which I have mentioned, which are the fulfillment of prophecy and the evidence of prayer and the testimony of faith, but in many other parts of the world. This is an exciting time for all of us to live."
He said he believes it began, in part, when the Freiberg Temple was dedicated in a communist country.
"Why did that light from the temple of God bring such blessings to these people?" He quoted Isaiah 9:2 to describe what has taken place: "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined."