The government of Slovakia granted the Church official recognition on October 18. The Church had been recognized in Czechoslovakia and retained its status in the Czech Republic when the Czechs and Slovaks went their separate ways, but Slovakia wanted a new legal foundation for its dealings with religion. Especially for smaller, foreign religions. Without official recognition, the Church could not own property, build chapels, apply for missionary visas, or have full access to the media. The new Slovak law required all churches seeking legal status to submit a petition with 20,000 signatures.
The church has three branches with 120 members in the entire country.
The leaders of Slovakia’s established church called on their members to oppose the Mormons’ petition drive. Even without that opposition, there was no way the local LDS congregations could collect enough signatures on their own, so the Church printed brochures and enlisted the services of a public relations agency. The signature-gatherers were not members of the Church, but they planned to appeal to their fellow Slovaks’ respect for the Church’s values and to the value of religious diversity in their country. The public relations agency was confident that a couple dozen specialists would have the job done in a few weeks.
Two weeks pass. Total number of signatures gathered: 200.
It was time for a new tactic. For a week, all 70 missionaries in the Czech Republic are sent to Slovakia to gather signatures. They were mostly young Americans with varying levels of fluency in Czech, and Czech is not identical to Slovak.
A week passes. Total number of signatures gathered: 34,000.
The easy part is over, and the members and missionaries in Slovakia have much hard work ahead. But they are not entirely alone in their labors.