Church Leaders Visit Heads of State in Croatia and Bosnia
Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy and Elder Kent F. Richards, Second Counselor in the Europe Area Presidency, met with heads of state in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina during their recent three-day visit to those countries.
On September 10, Elder Rasband and Elder Richards met with Croatia’s president, Ivo Josipovic, in Zagreb. They were accompanied by President Edward B. Rowe of the Adriatic North Mission; Miljenko Babic, Croatia District president; and Fatima Hamsic, Croatia District Relief Society president.
In this historic meeting, Elder Rasband noted that this year marks the 40th anniversary since the late BYU basketball legend Krešimir Cosic introduced the Church to his beloved country.
On behalf of the Church, Elder Rasband thanked President Josipovic for the government’s support of religious freedom, which the Church has enjoyed over the past 40 years. Elder Rasband pledged the Church’s ongoing commitment to strengthen the family, to offer humanitarian service, to encourage education and self-improvement, and to foster high moral standards—centered in the teachings of Jesus Christ.
President Josipovic thanked Elder Rasband and Elder Richards for traveling to Croatia to meet him. He spoke of his government’s commitment to religious freedom and its desire to promote tolerance among all faiths and peoples. He also expressed his appreciation for the humanitarian aid the Church has provided his country, including the aid sent to address the devastation of the Balkan war in the 1990s.
Croatia District President Babic told President Josipovic how his experience as a young missionary in Manchester, England, had helped prepare him to return and contribute to Croatia as a successful husband and father and in his profession as a businessman working for an international company.
After the meeting, Elder Rasband observed, “We were very pleased with the warm reception we received. I was particularly impressed with President Josipovic’s views on religion and religious tolerance and his knowledge of the origins of our Church in Croatia 40 years ago. He seemed appreciative of the Church’s positive role in Croatia.”
Later that evening, in the Church’s chapel in Zagreb, Elder Rasband and his wife, Sister Melanie T. Rasband, and Elder Richards and his wife, Sister Marsha G. Richards, were warmly welcomed by members and guests from Croatia and Slovenia. The visitors were touched by the many faithful members who had traveled several hours to meet them and to receive their counsel and encouragement. More than 160 people attended this special devotional.
The next day, Elder Rasband and Elder Richards conducted a training meeting with the missionaries serving in Croatia and Slovenia, after which they headed to Bosnia and Herzegovina for more historic meetings there.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
On the night of September 11, Elder Rasband presided at a meeting for new members of the Church in Bosnia. The meeting was held in the first meetinghouse leased by the Church in Sarajevo and conducted by Adam Lamoreaux, president of the Sarajevo Branch. Many Bosnian guests and media were also present. Elder and Sister Rasband and Elder and Sister Richards delivered messages about faith, the reality of the Restoration of the gospel, the sanctity of family, and the worldwide scope of the Church.
This was the first meeting in Bosnia presided over by a General Authority since the Church was officially recognized there; that official recognition occurred earlier this year. Now the Church has official status, Church units, and proselytizing missionaries in all of the countries in the former Yugoslavia—and in all of Europe.
The next morning, on September 12, the missionaries from Bosnia, Serbia, and the eastern part of Croatia gathered in Sarajevo to be instructed by Elder and Sister Rasband and Elder and Sister Richards. This was a first meeting of its kind in Bosnia: missionaries from Bosnia, hosting a meeting with their neighboring elders and sisters, being taught by the senior member of the Presidency of the Seventy and a counselor in their Area Presidency.
After the meeting, Elder Rasband and Elder Richards met with Željko Komšic, one of the three-person presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This was also a historic event, being the first time Church leaders had met with a head of state from Bosnia. Also in attendance were President Rowe of the Adriatic North Mission and mission counselor Elder Phillander Smartt, who, along with his wife, Sister Gloria Smartt, were called as the first missionaries to Bosnia.
Elder Rasband expressed to President Komšic his appreciation for the many government officials who assisted and supported the registration of the Church as a religious association under the laws of the country. Elder Rasband explained that this was especially meaningful because of the Church’s history in the former Yugoslavia, having been first officially recognized by that government in the 1970s.
President Komšic described the diverse religious community that exists in Bosnia and welcomed the Church as a member of that community. He described the challenges families face in today’s society and his concern for the success and well-being of families in his country.
Elder Rasband explained that the family is a high priority in the Church and that its members look forward to supporting this shared objective in Bosnia and Herzegovina, just as the Church does in the other countries where it is established around the world. He said that the Church also looks forward to contributing in other positive ways to Bosnia’s society.
After the meeting, a reception for government officials, religious leaders and other dignitaries was held. There, Elder and Sister Rasband and Elder and Sister Richards greeted many of Bosnia’s leaders on behalf of the Church. James Lyon, who served as a missionary to Yugoslavia in the 1980s and is now a member of the Sarajevo Branch, assisted with organizing this important function and interpreted for Elder Rasband.
Of the events in Sarajevo, Elder Rasband said, “On September 8, 2010, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve came here and offered a dedicatory prayer for this country. He concluded that prayer by prophetically stating, ‘We thank thee, O Father, for this dawning of a new day for this nation.’ We have witnessed, during our short visit here, the partial fulfilling of that apostolic prayer.”