Thursday, June 4, 2009

Dieter F. Uchtdorf And Neil L. Andersen Of The LDS Church Visit Russia And Ukraine, Check Progress Of Kiev Temple, Encourage The Faithful

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' First Presidency (Second Counselor) and Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are visiting Eastern Europe to speak to church members in the area and to check on the progress of the Kiev Temple. Stories published by the Deseret News, KSL Channel 5, and KTVX Channel 4. KSL news video embedded below:

Video Courtesy of

President Uchtdorf, accompanied by his wife Harriet, and Elder Andersen, accompanied by his wife Kathy, began their journey in Kiev, Ukraine, on Wednesday May 27th, then moved on to Russia's Samara on May 29th, Yekaterinburg on May 31st, and Moscow on June 1st. In Ukraine, the two leaders observed the nearly complete Kiev Ukraine Temple, the first LDS temple in Eastern Europe, where they received the traditional Ukrainian greeting of bread and salt. The temple was announced on July 20th, 1998, but not started until nearly a decade later due to bureaucratic difficulties, with ground broken on June 23rd, 2007. And the leaders were pleased with the progress. "The temple will be a blessing to Ukraine," said Elder Andersen, adding "people will join the church here by the hundreds and thousands."

Near the temple site, President Uchtdorf and Elder Andersen visited Kiev's Automated Diagnostical Center, a medical clinic providing diagnostic services for the low-income and socially at-risk of the area, including victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The church has made donations to purchase advanced diagnostic equipment for the clinic in partnership with the Ukrainian government and other donors. The pair also met with full-time missionaries of the Ukraine Kiev Mission.

In Samara, the two church leaders visited local marketplaces, walked through gardens at a dacha and met with local members. But it was in Yekaterinburg where they made their greatest impact. An estimated 600 Church members, some traveling up to eight hours by car from distances of up 1,000 miles, showed up to see them (in contrast, LDS residents of South Jordan, Utah will have TWO temples within 15 minutes driving distance by August). President Uchtdorf did not disappoint; he said, "You are the gates to the future of the church. You are true pioneers in the best sense of the word, and others will follow. Generations to come will praise your name because you are not ashamed of the gospel and you did not have fear."

In Moscow, President Uchtdorf and Elder Andersen visited a historic Baptist church where Ezra Taft Benson — then the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and later the LDS Church president — spoke a half-century earlier in what was then the Soviet Union. They are scheduled to leave Moscow Thursday for London on their return trip to Salt Lake City. It has not been reported whether or not they will visit with any senior Russian leaders during their visit; which would offer an opportunity to amend the onerous 90-day visa renewal requirement which has hindered the assignment of foreign LDS missionaries to Russia. The wisdom of bringing the German-born and bred Uchtdorf into the First Presidency is truly apparent now; Uchtdorf understands Europe first hand.

An LDS Church press release briefly summarizes the history of the Church in Russia. Current Church statistics show 19,946 members in Russia spread out over eight missions and 129 congregations, while in the Ukraine, there are 10,557 members spread out over three missions and 63 congregations. Read the blog of a former sister missionary in Russia for more insight.

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