More than six months after President Russell M. Nelson proclaimed that Europe has “an unprecedented future,” Massimo De Feo, a General Authority Seventy with a half-decade leading an area in Western Europe and central, sees opportunity and growth.
“From my perspective, President Nelson’s devotion has given new energy to all the members in Europe,” said Elder De Feo, the 61-year-old Italian who served in the Europe Area Presidency as as a counselor beginning in 2017, then Area President. Last year.
President Nelson addressed Latter-day Saints in 48 European countries during a devotional broadcast Jan. 23 from Salt Lake City. “You have access to power – the power of God – that will literally change the future of Europe,” he said. “As you keep your covenants with increasing precision, you are the hope of Europe and you are the hope of Israel.”
Elder De Feo said local Church leaders throughout Europe frequently remind Latter-day Saints of devotion. “Many refer to this as a framework for what needs to happen and how we should see things in the Church and the future,” he said, adding, “It gave us a new purpose. … It was very, very specific, even in some of the promises and blessings.
And the devotion was also timely, just four weeks before the start of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. “We went back to [the] devotional, and we immediately recognized the hand of the Lord,” said Elder De Feo.
Elder De Feo said he tries to see beyond the tragedies of conflict and the challenges of refugees.
“I think we need to look at the opportunities…so many members are helping each other in a united effort, at every level, in every country,” he said in a recent Church News podcast. “I saw the solidarity. I saw the sincere love for others, the desire to help in any way possible. I’ve seen it all—really, the gospel in action and in practice.
The conflict created an unprecedented unity among members across Europe, with many standing up to help the arriving refugees. During this time, Latter-day Saint refugees from Ukraine have integrated and helped strengthen local neighborhoods through their testimonies, dedication and resilience, he said.
So, although the temporal impacts of the conflict have been tragic, Elder De Feo said, “certainly the spiritual effects are very positive at all levels – in every place, country and unit of the Church in Europe.”
Since the January devotional and the start of the conflict in late February, there have been several notable announcements for the Church in Europe.
During the April 2022 general conference, new temples were announced for Barcelona, Spain, and Birmingham, England, UK, joining previously announced temples for Vienna, Austria; Brussels, Belgium; Oslo, Norway, Budapest, Hungary; and a site yet to be determined in Russia. The continent is already home to 14 dedicated temples.
And later in April, the Church announced a realignment of the Europe and Eastern Europe zones, resulting in the Central Europe, Eastern Europe, and Northern Europe zones, headquartered in Frankfurt, Germany, respectively; Moscow, Russia; and London, England. Brother De Feo now chairs the Europe Central Area.
For decades, waves of immigrants have crossed Europe, from neighboring countries within the continent as well as elsewhere. “It’s not new; it’s our story. … Europe has a long history of immigration and how to help immigrants,” said Elder De Feo.
The Church is on the front line, eager to help and work with local government and charities.
“We are truly all brothers and sisters, children of God, and because of this, we must do everything we can to help anyone in need, regardless of their personal circumstances, citizenship, language or culture. “, did he declare. “The gospel is always inclusive and never exclusive.”
Elder De Feo noted that a prophet’s invitations and promises of January 2022 lead European Latter-day Saints to look to a new day with a vision of faith. “If we believe in this, if we change our mindset and increase our faith…we can do it, and the Lord will move the work forward,” he said.
The main challenge for members in Europe, he added, is “how to survive spiritually in a changing world that is trying to diminish faith and the role of Jesus Christ in our lives.”
The gospel of Jesus Christ provides answers to all of the world’s problems – from conflict to pandemics and the challenges faced in individual life, Elder De Feo said. He pointed to Luke 15 and the famine in the land that caused the prodigal son to return to his father.
“It was an opportunity for the Lord to transform a tragic circumstance, a tragic event into an opportunity to return to the Father,” he said, adding that in times of war, pandemic or personal challenges, “we must act quickly and help and then look at the opportunity to turn this into a spiritual advantage, a spiritual opportunity to return to the Father.
Elder De Feo sees a spiritual future in Europe that can rival the region’s past – from the mass conversions and emigration of pioneers in the early days of the Church to the strength of the last days to survive political upheavals and two world wars.
“There is a spiritual legacy which, if understood from a spiritual perspective, can truly make a difference to the Church again, as it did in the early stages of the growth of the Church. Church restored.”