Sunday, June 5, 2011

Report from the New Moscow Stake

June 5, 2011: (Bob writing)

This weekend KLynn and I witnessed the creation of the first LDS stake in Russia. Elder Russell M. Nelson came and organized the Moscow stake. KLynn and I feel very privileged to be here at this time. It is now a Russian Church in Moscow. It was an unforgettable experience.

Elder Nelson recounted how in 1985 President Benson assigned him to open the doors of the Communist countries for the preaching of the gospel. At the time, the Church was not well received, to put it mildly. Elder Nelson told how he and Elder Hans Ringer came to Moscow in 1987 and attempted to meet with the Minister of Religion of the Soviet Union. The Minister would not return their phone calls, so they went to his office and refused to leave until he finally agreed to talk to them as he was leaving for the day. The Minister of Religion said that to be registered the Church needed eleven members within a single political district. Elder Nelson asked if the Church could open a reading room or something of the sort to gain the required number of members, and the Minister responded, "No, you need to be registered to do that." Elder Nelson asked, "But how can we get the required number of members?" The Minister responded, "That's your problem." Elder Nelson and Ringer went to the Kremlin and sat down to think, but they couldn't see a way out of the "chicken and egg" problem. Then Elder Nelson told how the Lord accomplished it for them. Without going into the truly remarkable details, which are recorded in published histories, within a short time eleven people had joined the Church who lived within a single political district in Leningrad. This enabled the Church to establish a National Religious Association. The Vice President of the Russian Federation announced the registration of the Church at a concert by the Tabernacle Choir in the Moscow Bolshoi Theater in June 1991 - twenty years ago this month. Elder Nelson recalled other remarkable experiences he had in the early years establishing the Church in Russia. I took notes in my journal as fast as I could write. Elder Nelson's son, who was one of the first missionaries to Russia, came with him and bore testimony. Also present today was Elder Dennis Neunschwander, who was the former president of the Vienna Austria East Mission when the gospel was first being introduced into the Communist countries. The area covered by the Vienna Austria East Mission now contains 22 separate missions. Elder Neunschwander later became the Area resident of the Europe East Area. He is now an emeritus general authority, and he and his wife are serving an 18 month service mission preparing the history of the Church in Eastern Europe. Today was a faith promoting, exhilarating, and emotionally draining experience. KLynn did a beautiful floral arrangement for the podium, which added significantly to the meeting. There was a feeling of excitement in the air, as the members sensed this was a significant step in the advancement of the Church in this part of the world. As I looked at the large assembly of people gathered for the conference I thought of the hundreds of missionaries who have served here over the past twenty years, and the tremendous investment of time and resources to bring the Church to this point. There is much more work to be accomplished, but today was a great milestone.


  1. What an amazing day! Can't wait to talk to you tomorrow and hear more about it!

  2. I've been thinking all day about what you said on the phone this morning. From now on there will be a Russians (not American mission presidents or patriarchs from Bountiful) leading the Church in Russia. And I've also been thinking about how the first stake in Indonesia was just formed last weekend. What a privilege it is to see the stone rolling forth.

    And some of the "remarkable details" such as the woman finding a Russian Bible (Bibles were forbidden in the U.S.S.R.) in a park while vacationing in Helsinki and then happening to meet the wife of the District President who gave her another book about Christ. Amazing.

  3. Yes, Elder Nielson told also about that story. A woman from then Leningrad was in Helsinki. She had praying that someday she would be able to have a bible of her own, and as she was walking through a park in Helsinki--there on the ground was a Bible--in Russian. She was so overcome and happy she went to a complete stranger--a woman also that was in that same park to tell her about her amazing discovery. This stranger not only happened to speak Russian, but like Becky said, was also the wife of the District President of the LDS Church, and was able to give her another testament about Christ, the Book of Mormon. The missionaries from Finland would then take a train into Leningrad for a couple of hours to teach her-and then need to come back to Finland. She came to Helsinki to get baptized and then went back and shared the Gospel to others of her friends and family. Bob forgot to mention that when the minister talked about needing members in a district--their are like 11 district's just in Moscow--so it is a relatively small area. There were two others from Leningrad that went to Hungary and accepted and were baptized there. So now there were 3 members in Leningrad--and it started to grow. It was a wonderful experience to be here and even though the progress is slow because these countries don't have the religious freedom we are used to in America--it is progressing. Bob and I have gained such a strong testimony that the Lord wants these people to learn more about our Savior and feel of His love. Love to all our friends and family!

  4. It's wonderful that you got to participate in this historic event. Amazing! Thank you for recording your impressions and some of the details of the day. We were thinking of you all weekend, knowing the stake was being organized. It will be great to someday read the history the Neunschwanders are writing. There must have been so many miracles all along the way.