President Howard W. Hunter during a visit to Switzerland Aug. 8-16, paid tribute to "the nature of the people of this glorious land" and expressed gratitude for the opportunity to "be here in this land of peace and goodwill."
The eight-day visit to Switzerland was the first trip President Hunter has made outside the United States since he became president of the Church June 5.In Switzerland for meetings, President Hunter, and his wife, Sister Inis Hunter, visited some sites for which the country is famous. Accompanying President and Sister Hunter to some meetings and on some of their excursions were President Boyd K. Packer of the Council of the Twelve and his wife, Sister Donna Packer; Presiding Bishop Merrill J. Batemen and his wife, Sister Marilyn Bateman; and Bishop H. David Burton of the Presiding Bishopric and his wife, Sister Barbara Burton.
President and Sister Hunter made what was termed an "unofficial visit" to the Lausanne Ward, Geneva Switzerland Stake, Sunday morning, Aug. 14. Later that evening, he spoke at a fireside in the Lausanne Palace Hotel.
On Monday morning, Aug. 15, President and Sister Hunter visited the Swiss Temple at Zollikofen. President Hunter met with the temple president and matron, Pres. Mario V. Vaira and Sister Rosa F. Vaira, and took care of some business relating to temple matters.
President Hunter also met and spoke with missionaries serving at the temple. He expressed to them his appreciation for their service and for the personal sacrifices they are making to serve in the house of the Lord.
As President and Sister Hunter entered the temple, they were greeted by a group of members from Italy. As they left, they were greeted by another group of members from Italy who were visiting the area while on an excursion. The group sang to President and Sister Hunter in Italian.
At the fireside Sunday evening, President Hunter reviewed the history of Switzerland, and spoke of the growth of the Church in this small country "that has become a haven of peace in a world of upheaval and commotion."
President Hunter, noting that Switzerland is only 15,941 square miles (roughly twice the size of New Jersey), said: "An estimated 6.7 million people reside here. There is an amazing cohesiveness in a country where there are three official languages, German, French and Italian. Illiteracy is relatively unknown here - a compliment to a fiercely independent people."
He said that on a per capita basis during the past 80 years, Switzerland has furnished more winners of the Nobel Peace Prize than any other country. "As one of the smallest nations in the world, Switzerland has achieved a good name, respect and fame along with a reputation for precision, excellence and doing good," he said. "Her sons and daughters have become some of the world's greatest benefactors.
"These are people who have opened their hearts and homes to the oppressed and downtrodden, and provided aid to those outside their borders who are suffering."
He described how, when communist tanks rolled down the streets of Budapest in an invasion of Hungary in 1956, the Swiss loaded trucks with food, clothing and medicine and sent convoys to provide relief to the suffering Hungarians.
"Such is the nature of the people of this glorious land," President Hunter said.
He then spoke of the Church in Switzerland, beginning with an account of how Elder Lorenzo Snow of the Council of the Twelve, who was proselyting with others in Italy, sent Thomas H.B. Stenhouse over the mountains into Switzerland. "In February of 1851 Elder Snow crossed the Alps, in a terrible snowstorm, and met with Elder Stenhouse," President Hunter said. "During this visit Apostle Snow dedicated the land of Switzerland for the preaching of the gospel. He reported that Elder Stenhouse had aroused interest among `some intelligent Swiss gentlemen' and `he was much pleased with the prospect of establishing the gospel in Geneva.' "
President Hunter said the early missionary wrote, " `I feel free . . . to prophesy good of Switzerland.' "
President Hunter said, however, that the work didn't always go smoothly, but, over the years, the Church has grown and matured at a slow but steady rate. An estimated 7,000 members now reside in three stakes and two missions. "And, of course, [there is] the beautiful temple in Zollikofen," President Hunter said.
"How thankful we are to be here in this land of peace and goodwill. On this Sabbath Day, our hearts are turned to the Prince of Peace, our Lord and Master."
President Hunter spoke of the Savior's life, ministry and teachings. "How glorious it is that our shared beliefs and experiences bring us together in this beautiful country and city," he said. "Our hearts beat the same on this occasion. Indeed, in Switzerland is a haven of peace. May we find `the peace of God, which passeth all understanding' (Phil 4:7) in following the Master through membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
Of President Hunter's visit to the Lausanne Ward Sunday morning, Bishop Jean Gaston Magnin and his wife, Christiann, said his presence made Sunday "a very, very special day." Sister Magnin said they were notified only a day and a half earlier that President and Sister Hunter would be visiting their ward. "My husband telephoned many members who are less active; he wanted to be sure they would be there for this special visit," Sister Magnin said. "The chapel was filled; 287 people attended."
Twenty minutes were added to the sacrament meeting. President Hunter requested that a regular meeting be held, with usual speakers taking time before he addressed the congregation. Speaking before President Hunter were Bishop Magnin, James Pascale, 14, and Lindsay Angichivi, 16.
Sister Magnin said: "President Hunter took time to meet everyone in the chapel after the meeting. It was a beautiful day. He took all his time to speak to and shake hands with everyone. He did not appear to be in a hurry."
Sister Magnin said one of the highlights of the visit was when President Hunter posed for a group photograph with all the Primary children in the ward.
While in Switzerland, President and Sister Hunter had the opportunity to visit several points of interest, including Mount Stitlhorn, which required that they change cable cars four times before reaching the top. They also posed for a photograph at a look-out point in the Swiss Alps, with the Matterhorn in the background.