A Short History
The EuroSeminar series began in 2016. It was conceived by a group of European and U.S. Latter-day Saint scholars and teachers in the belief that young Latter-day Saints have a key role to play in the future of Europe. The series was initiated with support from the Wheatley Institution at Brigham Young University as a way to gather young European Latter-day Saint scholars and professionals in an intellectually stimulating environment, allowing them to explore together how their religious faith can be an active part of living in European society.
The first EuroSeminar took place at the BYU London Centre in December 2016. Forty participants, from 18 countries and varied academic and professional backgrounds, engaged with panels made up of Latter-day Saint scholars and professionals from Europe, BYU faculty, and other guest lecturers. They gained in-depth perspectives from Latter-day Saints who believe in the life of the mind and the life of the Spirit and are actively engaged in European society. Keynoting the seminar were Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Europe Area Presidency and noted Latter-day Saint scholar Terryl Givens. Energetic small-group sessions took place each day where wide-ranging discussions were led by seminar participants, the results of which were shared in presentations on the last day. There was wide support was to build a network connecting European Latter-day Saints interested in public affairs.
The second EuroSeminar took place in December 2017, also at the BYU London Centre, under the title “Mormons in Europe: Religion, Refugees, and the Public Sphere.” The forty participants hailed from almost twenty different countries in Europe, and discussion centered heavily on a prevailing concern for refugees and displaced persons in Europe and the Middle East. Keynote speakers were Europe Area President Paul Johnson, and Baroness Emma Nicholson, member of the UK House of Lords and founder of AMAR, a humanitarian organization devoted to assisting displaced persons in Iraq. Panelists from Denmark, France, and the UK exemplified “European Mormons in the Public Sphere,” and a 2016 EuroSeminar participant led a panel on the Latter-day Saint experience with refugees. A key takeaway from this session was the need to prepare to offer a similar opportunity for young Latter-day Saints in eastern Europe.
The third EuroSeminar took place in July 2019, at the Hotel Stamberk - a venue outside Prague provided generously by Patrick Sedivy. Thirty-five young Latter-day Saints gathered together from all across western and eastern Europe, as well as Russia, Turkey, and several countries of the former Soviet Union. Fittingly the session was entitled “New Saints In New Lands.” President Gary Sabin, newly called Europe Area president, was the keynote speaker. A key theme was to build an appreciation of the history of the Church in the ‘new’ lands of eastern Europe while also challenging participants to consider making new history. Church history experts from Salt Lake and the United Kingdom led this discussion. Other panelists came mainly from Europe and included alumnae from past seminars, such as Elvi Rwankuba of Slovenia and James Perry of the UK. Adam Miller, a well-known Latter-day Saint scholar, gave a stimulating presentation on agency and doubt, which generated keen discussion. Medlir Mema, stake president from Tirana, Albania, challenged participants to be involved in making significant changes to their world, and Gjergj Bojaxhi, a former government minister from Albania, also encouraged active involvement in society on the basis of religious and humanitarian values. Once again, a highlight of the seminar was the small-group roundtable discussions held throughout. There was a remarkable, warm, and engaging spirit among this widely diverse group of people who had never met before.
Pandemic-era (2020) Online EuroSeminar Sessions
Owing to the global COVID-19 pandemic, EuroSeminar sessions in 2020 were held online via Zoom meeting technology. Three such sessions were held. Those conducted in July and early October were offered to European audiences, while the third (held in late October) was a joint session between the EuroSeminar and the Seminario SUdAmericano. The July seminar session centered on a presentation by President Hikombo Hitoto, a widely respected specialist in infectious disease and counselor in the Paris South Stake, who highlighted opportunities to respond constructively to the pandemic. Roughly 60 young people attended, and active breakout sessions were held on civic engagement, mental and emotional health, and career preparation. The October seminar featured a powerful presentation on Living Without Fear, by Dr. Melissa Inouye, a researcher in the Church History Department. Her remarks were followed by an extensive and well-used question-and-answer period. Speaking at the joint Europe-South America session were Elder Carlos Godoy of the Seventy, and Ms. Lola Ogunbote, a UK Church member and humanitarian who is globally active in strengthening young women through sport. Almost 150 young Latter-day Saints participated in this online session. Despite the limitations of online interaction, these three zoom-version seminars responded to a deeply felt need in a very difficult period. They also maintained momentum for continuing the face-to-face EuroSeminars as soon as circumstances permit.