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Keynote Speaker


Elder Gary B. Sabin

Elder Gary B. Sabin was sustained as a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 2, 2016. At the time of his call, he had been serving as a member of the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy in the North America West Area.

Elder Sabin received associate and bachelor degrees from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree from Stanford University. His career focused primarily on commercial real estate as the founder and chairman/CEO of two New York Stock Exchange listed companies, Excel Realty Trust and Excel Trust. He was also the founder and chairman of Sabin Holdings, with a focus on international real estate. He has also served as a director on several public company and nonprofit boards and is the founder of The Sabin Children’s Foundation, which provides children’s health care in third-world countries.

Elder Sabin has served in numerous Church callings, including full-time missionary in the Netherlands/Belgium Mission, elders quorum president, high councilor, bishop, stake mission president, Young Men president, stake president, and Area Seventy.

Gary Byron Sabin was born in Provo, Utah, on April 7, 1954. He married Valerie Purdy in August 1976. They are the parents of five children.

Presenters

Matt Heiss

Matt Heiss was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. At age 19 he was called to serve in the Germany Düsseldorf Mission. Following his mission, in 1980, he studied at Brigham Young University, where he majored in Humanities and minored in German. In 1984, Matt began graduate school at the University of Virginia, where he earned a master’s degree in History of Religion. He began work on a PhD in American Religious History, but ran out of money. Not wanting to go deep into debt for an advanced degree in religious studies, Matt began to look for work. Matt feels very blessed to have been hired at the Church History Department in 1987. Most of his work in the Church History Department has focused on documenting the beginnings of the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as in Africa. Currently, Matt is the Europe/Africa Areas Manager responsible for all Church History operations in the areas in Europe and Africa, as well as the Middle East. In 1980, Matt married Becky Taylor. They are the parents of two adopted children, who are currently 29 and 25 years old. His wife and he currently serve in a branch in their stake that provides Church services to people in a care facility.

Elvi Rwankuba

Elvi Rwankuba is known throughout Slovenia as the happy guy with the huge smile. He fell in love with the gospel and joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2007 when he was a Law student at the University of Ljubljana. Upon completing his degree, Elvi served a full-time mission in Ogden, Utah, from 2010 to 2012. Coming back to Slovenia he had a blessed opportunity to serve as District President and then
as Branch President.

Elvi recently obtained a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from Brigham Young University and is now working as a management consultant at Cicero, a business consulting company, headquartered in Salt Lake City.

Elvi enjoys basketball, logical puzzles, time with family and friends, but most of all, he is deeply interested in trends and growth opportunities of the Church in Europe and he devotes his efforts to finding ways to help others experience the love, peace, and faith that he himself found in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His Church. Elvi and his wonderful wife Lea have been married for 3 years and are parents to beautiful Mia.

Arnold Jones

Arnold Jones holds the Diploma in Training Management from Cardiff University and was in the field of Training and Development from 1981 until his retirement in 2004. He was a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development serving as the South Wales Branch Secretary for five years.

During his career, he has been a vocational trainer, a group training manager with the Road ‘Transport Industry Training Board, an Accredited Training Centre Manager at the University of Wales Cardiff, and a Senior Manager with Mid Glamorgan Training and Enterprise Council, managing its Business Development Division.

In 1995 he set up his own consultancy, specialising in the management of the training and development function, management development, and ‘Investors in People,’ until he was called to serve as a counselor to the London temple president in 2004.

He has six children, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

His callings in the Church have included Branch President, Stake President, and Temple President. He was called as a Country Church History Adviser to Wales in 2010 and then as a Country Church History Adviser for the UK and Ireland in 2013.

James Perry

James is a historian of minority communities and recently submitted his Ph.D. at Lancaster University, which is a study on the history of immigration into Britain. His project utilises big data to map and examine the composition and distribution of the foreign-born population from 1851-1911. James currently works at Newcastle College University Centre as the Achievement Coordinator where he manages the academic and careers support teams. Since joining the church in 2006, he has been involved in researching and promoting British LDS history. As such, James manages the British LDS History group and serves on the UK and Ireland Church History Committee for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He lives in rural Northumberland with his wife, two children, and three chickens.

Uli Rückauer

Masters degree in Civil Law. An experienced Junior Judge; Attorney; Legal Advisor; Coordinator and Regional Director Seminaries and Institutes of Religion of Central and Eastern Europe; Liahona Editor; Europe Central Director Church Magazines; Stake President and Bishop.

Authored Academic Family History texts and townscapes treatise; Daily records of Life History since 1980; Chronicle study of “800 Years of Family History”; “The Mormons in Southwest Germany – on the tracks of their lives and history”; Textbook on two plays from the Church’s pioneering period; and co-author of “Babette Trischler – a pious woman’s life in the time of the 1848/49 revolution”; Volume on Source research of own direct ancestor lines (1000 pages); an essay called “From the Imago of the Joseph City Nauvoo on the Mississippi River in Illinois”; and recently the book called “Religious Education of Young People: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and its Educational System in Europe – History, essence, and Legacy”.

He also wrote a series of poems and literary formats and made 360 drawings.

Uli and Karin have 10 children and 27 grandchildren.

Magdalena Nowak-Dresler

Magdalena Nowak-Dresler is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, baptized in Warsaw, Poland at the age of 15. Later she was called to serve in the England Leeds Mission which she loved. Following her mission, she worked in the sales department for an international company responsible for administrating local and international shipments. This job provided a strong foundation of reliability, diligence, and an openness to learning new skills for future church and career assignments. While working she obtained a bachelor’s degree in English Philology at the University of Humanities and Economics in Łódź which led to her current profession in translations for the Church.

Magdalena has served in various leadership callings in Primary, Young Women’s and Relief Society. However, in 2001 she was called as a family history consultant which sparked her passion for genealogy work. She continues to serve in this capacity but now as the Temple and Family History Consultant with responsibility for the Warsaw Family History Center as well as the Church History Adviser for Poland. Some of the things she enjoys about these callings are the closeness to fellow members she works with and their stories of faith. History plays an important role in our lives.

Adam Miller

Adam S. Miller is a professor of philosophy at Collin College in McKinney, Texas. He earned a BA in comparative literature from Brigham Young University and an MA and PhD in philosophy from Villanova University. He is the author of eight books, including two publications with Deseret Book, Letters to a Young Mormon and An Early Resurrection. He also directs the Mormon Theology Seminar. He and his wife Gwen have three children.

Melissa Bradford

Melissa Bradford is an author (Global Mom: A Memoir; On Loss and Living Onward; numerous articles, anthologized poetry, this blog), a public speaker and international educational consultant, founding member of the refugee relief NPO, Their Story is Our Story, and the mother of four children and wife to Randall Bradford.

She holds a BA in German and an MA in Comparative Literature, (both from Brigham Young University), and speaks, reads and writes fluent German, French, and Norwegian and has studied Mandarin. As a young adult, she studied for extended stretches in Salzburg and Vienna, Austria, where she returned at 21 to serve a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Randall and Melissa have lived in Vienna and Hong Kong, and have raised their four children (Parker, Claire, Dalton, and Luc) in Oslo, Paris, Munich, Singapore, and Geneva, and they currently live near Frankfurt.

Gjergj Bojaxhi

Gjergj Bojaxhi was born in Tirana, Albania in 1974. He completed his university studies at Saint John’s College in Annapolis, US from 1994-1997. In 2001, Gjergj began graduate school at John Hopkins University, where he earned a master’s degree in International Relations and Development.

Gjergj’s professional career began as a risk management analyst at Bankers Trust in 1997. Beginning with Slobodan Milosevic’s rise to power in 1999 and the attendant Kosovar refugee crisis, Gjergj pivoted into development work where he began as the British Embassy’s aid coordinator during said crisis. From 2003 to 2005, he continued such work as a consultant at the World Bank in Washington D.C. Gjergj has also worked as the executive director of KESH, the largest electricity producing company in Albania.

Gjergj has also had an active role in the public sphere beginning with his being named Deputy Minister of Economy, Trade, and Energy in 2005 as well as having a prominent role on the municipal council in Tirana, Albania from 2007-2011. He was also the executive director of the National Urban Planning Inspectorate.

For the last six years, Gjergj has been the administrator of a company, of which he is also a minority shareholder, with Italian-Albanian ownership that deals in the importation of fuels.

Gjergj’s main passion is mountain climbing and he has ascended some of the largest peaks in the world. In 2012, together with 5 other Albanian climbers, Gjergj summited Mt. Everest, raising the Albanian flag in celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Albanian Independence.

Gjergj is married with two children.

Elizabeta Kitanović

Dr. Elizabeta Kitanović is Executive Secretary for Human Rights and Communication of the Church and Society Commission of CEC in Brussels.

She is working as a senior human rights advocate vis-a-vis International Organizations. She is editor of the Human Rights Training Manuel for European Churches and is editor and founder of the first European Churches Human Rights Library and the CSC Annual Report. In 2009/2010 she has been a member of the Advisory Panel of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency and was again nominated for 2012/2014.

Ms. Kitanovic completed her studies in Theology and post-graduate studies in International Affairs of the Political Science Faculty in Belgrade. She graduated from the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Serbian Government.

Prior to her current post she was at first working for the Serbian Orthodox Church and then for the Ministry of Religious Affairs of the Serbian Government as Adviser for Interreligious Affairs and its PR. Ms. Kitanovic is regularly giving lectures and presentations in the area of human rights and communications.

She speaks English, French, Greek and Serbian.

Urška Štampe

Urška Štampe was introduced to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints through music. She received her master’s degree in Choral Conducting from the University of Utah after which she returned to Europe, where she successfully led various vocal groups, produced high profile concerts and won several prizes at international choral competitions. She worked as a lecturer for conducting workshops, choral literature, and vocal technique as well as an adjudicator at choral festivals.

Her family spent the previous two years in Utah, where she was given an opportunity to teach a Slovene language class at BYU, which was the first time the class was offered at the university.

Urška is married to her wonderful husband Uros and they have two handsome sons Luka and David.

Organizers

Christian Euvrard

Christian Euvrard, born in France, has had a long career in the program of Seminaries & Institutes of the Church of Jesus Christ, working as Area Director (Europe West and South), Director of the Paris Institute of Religion (22 years), and Regional Director for the Europe South-East Region (fifteen countries from Italy to Cyprus, Hungary to Albania, etc.). He currently serves as Director of the Rome Temple Visitors’ Center.

He received a BA and an MA in philosophy (University of Paris), an MA in theology of religions (Catholic University of Paris), and a PhD in religious studies from the Sorbonne University (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes). Euvrard is still involved in post-doctoral studies in religions at the Groupe Sociétés, Religions et Laïcités (GSRL), a research laboratory in the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France.

His interests are in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Europe, the relationships between states and churches, interfaith dialogue, and the status of minority religions. He is the author of a book on Louis Bertrand, one of the first converts to Mormonism in France in 1850. He has a two-volume book on the history of the Church in France in preparation. Euvrard has participated in numerous conferences on religion throughout Europe and has organized a few himself.

He and his wife Marie-Françoise (a piano teacher and song translator) are the parents of two boys and enjoy their granddaughter!

Louise Paulsen

Louise Paulsen is a political analyst and researcher at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change in London, UK. Her primary focus is on the democratic consequences of populists in power. She is born and bred in Denmark but took a stint to USA where she graduated from BYU in political science and European studies. While at BYU, Paulsen worked for the Wheatley Institution and got the opportunity to help found the LDS Seminars. She has worked in various organisations across several countries in politics, advocacy, human rights and international relations. She dedicates much of her time to empowering and consulting women and others seeking to make a difference.

Hans Noot

Hans Noot, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, owns the consulting firm European Personnel Analysis & Consulting and runs the Gerard Noodt Foundation for Freedom of Religion or Belief. Noot’s upbringing and activities has taken him all over the world. His time is spent writing books and articles, teaching religion, advocating for religious freedoms and other human rights, consulting organizations, and supporting his wife and children and grandchildren. Noot received a BS and an MOB from Brigham Young University and is currently a PhD candidate in organizational anthropology at Tilburg University in the Netherlands.

Medlir Mema

Medlir Mema is a country coordinator for the Seminaries and Institute program covering Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia, and a visiting research fellow at the Institute for European Studies in Brussels, Belgium. Mema’s doctoral dissertation explores the role of civil society in the drafting of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and is currently working on an examination of the role of the international community in the creation of the Kosovo hybrid court, as well as the political and legal implications of doing so. As a member of a working group on LDS perspectives on war and peace, Mema applies insights from international relations theory to the Book of Mormon narratives on warfare and conflict. He received a PhD in political science from George Washington University.

Frederick W. Axelgard

Frederick W. Axelgard is a Senior Fellow at BYU’s Wheatley Institution. Prior to joining Wheatley, he worked for many years in international affairs, in Washington DC. Most of his career centered on the Middle East, where he had lived as a boy (Iran) and served as a missionary (Lebanon). He worked at the US Department of State from 1989-2002. A high point of this service were the several years he worked on the Arab-Israeli peace process. He later served as a Counselor at the US Embassy in Saudi Arabia and following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as a political advisor at the U.S. Central Command. Dr. Axelgard worked briefly in the US Senate (1980-81) and at Georgetown University’s Center for Strategic and International Studies (1982-89). He completed his Washington career as an international business development specialist for General Dynamics Corporation. He received his BA from Brigham Young University and MA/Ph.D. degrees from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Fred and his wife Robyn have five children and 14 grandchildren.

James Faulconer

James Faulconer, resident senior fellow at the Wheatley Institution and formerly a professor of philosophy at Brigham Young University, does research and writing on the relations of faith and the intellect. Faulconer was the first person in his immediate family to graduate from high school and one of the first, if not the first, in his extended family to graduate from college. He received a BA from Brigham Young University and MA and PhD degrees in philosophy from Pennsylvania State University.

He enjoys contemporary European philosophy and gets a thrill out of teaching both beginning and advanced students. In those classes, his specialties—Heidegger and twenty-first century French thought, especially as the latter concerns religion—come into play. Those may sound like arcane topics, but he is always happy to discuss why they can be important to our intellectual lives and may help improve our spiritual lives.

Faulconer has held several positions in the university, including dean of Undergraduate Studies, chair of the Department of Philosophy, Associate Director of the Faculty Center, and Associate Director of the Wheatley Institution. For five years he was a Richard L. Evans Professor of Christian Understanding, with the remit to help Latter-day Saints and those of other religions understand one another better. Most recently, he spent two years in London working for BYU as the Academic Director of the BYU London Centre, where he worked to create cooperative relations with universities in the UK, primarily by sponsoring or cosponsoring academic lectures and workshops.

He and his wife Janice Faulconer have thirteen grandchildren and four children.

Joel Temple

Joel Temple is a senior at Brigham Young University where he is majoring in Applied Physics with a concentration on International Development and Social Innovation. His interest in international development began when he served a mission in the Adriatic South Mission spanning Kosovo, Albania, and North Macedonia. He learned about the inequalities affecting the population, grew familiar with Balkan culture, and became fluent in Albanian. Following this experience, Joel returned to Kosovo for a summer program in Peace and Conflict Studies as well as interning as Program Manager at VentureUP, a newly launched business incubator servicing 50,000+ students at the University of Prishtina. Upon graduation, Joel aspires to pursue a career in the development community in the Balkans. When he’s not busy studying up about Balkan affairs, he enjoys traveling, exploring the great outdoors, and delving into classic literature.