Monday, October 12, 2015

Mission Newsletter

The Truth Will Go Forth Boldly, Nobly and Independent
Ukraine Kyiv Mission
12 Oct 2015
Quote: And I give unto you, who are the first laborers in this last kingdom, a commandment that you assemble yourselves together, and organize yourselves, and prepare yourselves, and sanctify yourselves; yea, purify your hearts, and cleanse your hands and your feet before me, that I may make you clean;” D&C 88:71
Dear Elders and Sisters,
This month marks 25th anniversary since the first missionaries entered Ukraine. These missionaries didn't know what to expect; they moved forward with faith relying on their love of the gospel and their desire to share the truth with people who desperately needed it. The apostasy was in full force in this land at that time. There was a great outpouring of the Lord’s Spirit on this area. People were open and looking for truth. There were many who were brought into the church in those early years. The apostasy for those who learned of the truth was overcome through a knowledge of the restoration. Unfortunately, the apostasy still exists for all those who have not accepted the restored gospel. How do we help these people who are still in the darkness to overcome the effects of the apostasy in their personal lives? We can use Joseph Smith’s experience as a model. Joseph was driven to a grove of trees because he was worried about the state of his own soul. He had been pondering the scriptures and believed that he could receive an answer if he prayed in faith. In answer to a sincere inquiry, Joseph learned the truth about the nature of God and that there wasn’t a true church on the earth at that time. He then was given the Book of Mormon as the next importation task in the restoration of truth. Once the Book of Mormon was printed the church was officially organized and things began to grow upon this foundation. The Book of Mormon was essential for overcoming the apostasy in this last dispensation. It is the convincing evidence that the Lord’s work has begun for the last time on the earth. It plays the same role in the lives of each of your investigators as it did in the opening of this dispensation. The first missionaries here in Ukraine had to rely on the Lord to know what to do. You have to rely on the Lord in the same way. We must also, under the direction of the branch president or bishop, help to bring back those jewels (less actives) who have already been gathered in but who have become lost. We must also believe that the Lord has prepared many more to come into the church and that our own disbelief only serves as a stumbling block to his work. May we have the same courage, faith, hopes, desires, obedience, dedication, and hard work, as these first laborers in the Lord’s last kingdom.
Below is the content of a letter written by Elder Mehr in commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of the First Missionaries in Ukraine. You are a special generation of missionaries and are here at this time not by chance. You are here to do a GREAT work. We love you and pray for your success.

President and Sister Packer

25th Anniversary of the First Missionaries in Ukraine
In October 2015 we ought remember the arrival of the first missionaries to Ukraine. In late November 1989, President Dennis Neuenschwander of the Austria Vienna East Mission visited Kiev, the capital city, with his traveling companion, Lynn Carson. They visited the churches in the city and found them resurgent in the new environment of political and religious freedom. At the hotel room President Neuenschwander gazed out the window contemplatively and after a while he stated simply and conclusively, "I can see missionaries here."1 He returned in October 7, 1990 with elders Ivan Stratov of Melbourne, Australia, and Brian Bradbury of Seattle, Washington, transferees from the Helsinki Finland East Mission. They arrived with a list of Ukrainian referrals. They made enough contacts to gather a group of seventeen on October 9 for an evening meeting at the Writers' Union Hall.
October 1990 was momentous for Ukraine. Political liberty was being contested on the streets and religious liberty hung in the balance. During the month, thousands of students and then the workers of Kiev agitated against Communist party attempts to squelch a Ukrainian nationalist opposition group known as Rukh (Hand). The first Sunday service was held the following weekend while demonstrations raged in Parliament mere blocks away.2
Regardless of the turmoil, the key Church leaders of the future in Ukraine were converted before the close of the first year. Among the six who were baptized in Kiev before the end of 1990 were the first branch president, Valery Stavichenko; the first Ukrainian missionary, Aleksei Roms; the first national representative of the Church to the Ukrainian government and a future mission president, Aleksander Manzhos.3 During 1991, the total number of missionaries grew to twenty-five.4 Ukrainians quickly responded to message of the young missionaries. By June 1991 there were forty members and a regular attendance at church of about a hundred.5 The first Ukrainian branch was organized in Kiev on June 9, 1991.6
President Howard Biddulph (visiting from Vienna where the mission home was then located) was in Kiev in August when a coup was attempted against the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. He listened to the radio announcement that all political gatherings were banned and the human rights enactments of the Gorbachev era suspended. Cut off from the outside world he gathered with the missionaries to assess their situation. He became aware that Kiev had been surrounded by Soviet troops who might advance at any moment. Opening his scriptures in order to address the missionaries his eyes fell on Doctrine and Covenants, section 35, verses 24-27, which concluded with the phrase, "Fear not, little flock, the kingdom is yours until I come." He realized by inspiration that the crisis would pass, that they need not fear, and that they should stay. The missionaries asked if they should proceed with baptisms scheduled for the week. He assented. He knew the coup had failed on the third day when he heard an old man shouting outside his window: "Thanks be to God; we are free!"7
The missionaries assembled again in fasting and thanksgiving. Elder Stratov stood and with no pretension or melodrama but in simplicity cited from memory words of Joseph Smith written a century and a half earlier: "The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done."8
1. Lynn Carson, telephone interview, January 6, 1997.
2. Howard L. Biddulph, The Morning Breaks: Stories of Conversion and Faith in the Former Soviet Union (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1996), pp. 38-42.
3. Biddulph, The Morning Breaks, pp. 42-43.
4. Austria Vienna East Mission, historical records and minutes, 1991 report, LDS Church Archives.
5. Karl Mueller to parents, June 15, 1991.
6. Austria Vienna East Mission, 1991 report. Also a source for the next paragraph.
7. Biddulph, The Morning Breaks, pp. 46-53.
8. Biddulph, The Morning Breaks, p. 54. 

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