The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Hungary is small in numbers but has experienced significant growth through the years and in modern times. Last Monday, the Hungarian government officially recognized the Church.
There are 4,738 church members in Hungary, which has a population of 9.9 million. The first missionaries of the Church came to the area in 1978. An official mission was not formed until 1990. The acceptance of the Church has been a tug of war throughout the years.
“I guess I am a little bit surprised but I think the members are doing a good job of engaging in community involvement,” said Trent Leinenbach, an English major from Richfield, Wash., who served as a missionary in Hungary. “There would be no reason for Hungary to resent the LDS Church in the community. [The church’s recognition] is surprising and encouraging.”
Others agree the LDS Church will benefit from the Church’s official recognition.
“I think it will help out a lot because a lot of people call us a sect,” said Michael McRae, an exercise science major from Beaverton, Ore., who served as a missionary in Hungary. “Being called a sect — it is looked down on. As the government now recognizes us as a church, the missionaries can use that to support them.”
The main religion of Hungary is Roman Catholic; however, atheism is also common.
“Hungarians seemed wary at first about talking to us [missionaries],” Leinenbach said. “I consistently found that they were very warm and generous and willing to listen once you got to know them. They just need a little warming up.”
The first stake in Hungary was formed on June 4, 2006. Although the Church is a small minority, the members are reaching out to their friends and neighbors.
In 1991, the Hungarian edition of the Book of Mormon was released. The Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price was released in 1995. In 2005, the triple combination became available for the more than 14.5 million Hungarian speakers scattered throughout Hungary and 10 other countries in Central Europe.
The Church currently has two districts, one stake and many small units. There are approximately 75 missionaries proselytizing in Hungary.
“There are a lot of misunderstandings about Mormons,” McRae said. “Many people think Mormons are Amish. They use the terms interchangeably. As the Church has been growing, people are beginning to understand it more.”
The LDS Church’s growth will give church members greater opportunities.
“It’s definitely a period of growth where the Church is gaining a lot of members and opening up new areas,” said Brett LeFevre, an exercise science major from Bountiful who served as a missionary in Hungary. “There’s a lot of really good leadership. They just got their first patriarch a couple months ago. They used to have to go to Austria to get their patriarchal blessings in English or German and get it translated into Hungarian.”
The Hungarian members of the Church include mostly converts who are excited to share their faith.
“There are lots of amazing members who are involved through going to programs and reaching out,” McRae said.