Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Russia

The Church is growing in Russia: 1843 - the first missionaries were called to Russia by the prophet Joseph Smith. However the assignmet was not fulfilled.

June 1895 - The first Russians were baptized in Russia. (Russians had been baptized in other countries before then but not in Russia.

1903 - Russia was dedicated for missionary service by Elder Lyman of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
1917 - atheism became the official religion

October 1959 - Apostle Ezra Taft Benson visits the USSR

June 1981 - Book of Mormon in Russian is published

April 1990 - Ambassador Yuri Dubinin visits Utah and allows the Church into the Soviet Union.

April 26, 1990 - Russia rededicated to missionary work.

May 1991 - The Soviet Union Socialists Republic grants the Church republic-wide recognition.

June 1991 - Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs in Moscow and Leningrad (now St. Petersburg)
1992 - Russia Moscow Mission is established
September 2002 - President Gordon B. Hinkley  visits Moscow, Russia, the first time ever a president of the Church visits the Country

June 5, 2011 - the first Stake in Russia is created in June by Elder Russell M. Nelson. . There were 6 wards (1 English speaking) and 3 branches  .

2012 - when we came to Moscow there were 2050 members, 10 branches (the stake had 9 and Lotoshino, a tiny branch outside of Moscow.) 48 young missionaries and 12 senior couples.

July 3, 2012- our numbers have doubled! The Russia Moscow West Mission has been dissolved and has become part of the Russia Moscow Mission. We now have: 19 branches, 88 young missionaries and 20 senior couples. The original Russia Moscow Mission includes the greater Moscow area. The Russia Moscow West Mission included the countries of Kazikstan, Belarus and large metropolitan cities in all directions outside of Moscow. Needless to say, it covers an enormous geographical area. Now the two missions are one. WOW. The mission covers an area about the size of the United States. Obviously, not all of these areas have missionaries in them.Kazikstan and Belarus are not part of other missions.

The Russian Orthodox Church, with its close ties to the government is the main religion today. Sadly Jesus Christ is not mentioned or talked about or taught or known.

The Berlin Wall came down in November 1988 and a year and a half later Russia was re-dedicated to missionary work. However, with the economic chaos of the 1990's following the breakup of the Soviet Union, the government went into default in l998. Many of the members, as well as other Russians left Russia if they could.,weakening the Church and leadership base.

The core strength needed to maintain the growth of the Church was diminished. Well above 50% of the Church members are in Moscow., many having been baptized in surrounding areas but moving to Moscow because of better economic opportunities.
It truly is hard to imagine just how large our mission is. Veronezh, where we have a senior couple and a few young missionaries is 900 miles away!! The senior couple, the Craythorns, just transferred there from Moscow. They are definitely too far away now to attend our Thursday Senior Council nights!

It is truly humbling to be serving in a part of the world where the Church is still very much in it's infant state. There is a small but growing stream of Russian returned missionaries and valiant young adults who are finding each other, getting married in the temple in Ukraine for time and all eternity, and establishing families here in this wonderful land of Russia.

At the last stake conference last month, a young woman who spoke told of how long it took her to be taught by the missionaries. She said they literally had to start from the very beginning because she had never even heard of Jesus Christ. I cannot imagine growing up not knowing of a loving Heavenly Father and His Son who love me and taught by example the way to live. So many of these sweet people are thirsting to know who they are!

Serving in the office gives Elder Sutton (Dave) and I a chance to get to know many of these fine missionaries who sacrifice 18 months to 2 years of their life to come to a foreign land  to spread the joy that come through knowing the Savior and His teachings. We both feel humbled to play a tiny part in this.

21,421 members
140,041,000 people in Russia
.014% of the population is LDS
8 missions throughout Russia
116 branches (congregations)
1 stake (like a diocese)
13 districts (a zone consists of several districts) There are 4 zones in our mission, each zone having several districts. The farthest away is over 900 miles).
After 20 years in Russia, the Church now has a firm foundation and will continue to grow. Our missionaries here in Russia will continue to spread the gospel  to a people too long in the dark, many of whom are looking for light and the joy the gospel can bring. May this proud people be able to shake off the shackles that beset them under Soviet rule!

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