this is the new law they have passed in russia. If you want to read about it!
The Mission Presidents of the 7 Russian Federation Missions, together with the Area Authority Presidency and its legal counsel recently met again in a video conference to discuss our adaptations to the new Russian law. The following is a summary of the impact of the law upon our volunteer activities. Please remember, this is an evolving interpretation and some of the measures listed below may contradict prior instructions and may be subsequently amended as well. Here are the key points.
1. We will now be referred to as “volunteers” rather than “missionaries.”
2. Volunteers should not engage in street contacting, transportation contacting or other forms of public proselyting. Volunteers may not sponsor or conduct public classes or group discussions meetings of any kind. Branches can sponsor conversation groups, game nights and other ward activities provided invitations are extended by Russian members.
a. The new law does not affect the rights of Russian members. They may continue to hold family home evenings, pursue home and visiting teaching, discuss their religious beliefs with friends and associates and invite non-members they know personally to attend meeting and activities.
b. Native Russian Volunteers can assume the same rights as Russian Members and satisfy the member present and invitation requirement in teaching situations.
i. Go get ‘em Elders Voronin and Strelentskiy
ii. Ex-patriot members (US Citizens, Armenians, etc.) whose primary purpose for being in the country is for employment, education, family interests are not believed to be volunteers subject to the law. As members they satisfy the “member present” teaching requirement.
3. Important Definitions:
a. A follower is a non-member who is currently studying and following the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day and is voluntarily being taught.
i. A follower needs to sign the following statement. It is not a commitment to join the church nor even to take further steps towards baptism. It is simply a statement that they are voluntarily learning about the Church. The Area Authority still has not provided such a statement but it would be essentially as follows:
1. “I am a follower of the teachings and practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I do so of my own free choice.”
ii. Those who have signed the statement are “followers” and those who have not signed such a statement are “non-followers” for purposes of this explanation.
iii. The follower statements should be kept on in the Area Book. They will not be turned into the government except where the government questions whether the person is a follower. We expect this will be extremely rare.
4. Invitations to Non-Members
a. By Volunteers
i. Volunteers may not invite non-members to any religious activities.
1. Exception: If the non-member is a progressing investigator with a set baptismal date and is a follower, the volunteer may invite the Follower to religious activities including the teaching of discussions.
ii. Volunteers may invite non-members to purely secular activities and provide date, time and place information after July 31, 2016. It would be best to have a member make follow up calls for the contacts acquired before the Moratorium.
b. By Members
i. Members may invite all of their friends, associates, family members and personal acquaintances to both religious and secular activities held in public areas, their homes and meeting places. Presently, they may not invite individuals with whom they do not have some type of professional relationship. The key here is get the member and investigator into some type of gathering (e.g. game night, branch activity, church meeting, or service project, etc.) where the investigator may become their acquaintance.
c. Non-Members may invite themselves and other non-members to both secular and religious activities. This would apply to on-going invitations (e.g. weekly sports night, etc.) and to your contacts, investigators, progressing investigators and baptismal candidates up until baptism.
5. Participation by Non-Members in (non-teaching) activities
a. Secular Activities
i. If properly invited as provided above, Non-Members may freely participate in Branch sponsored secular activities that include volunteers.
1. Volunteers are not permitted to transition such activities into religious activities and teachings. The Government will argue that the secular event is just a guise for a prohibited religious invitation.
2. To Transition to a religious event or teaching situation;
a. the Non-Member must request it (“How can I learn more about your church?”), or
b. A member must extend that invitation.
ii. Volunteers should not offer prayers at secular activities. Members may offer prayers at branch sponsored secular and religious activities.
b. Religious Activities
i. If properly invited as provided above (self- or member invitation), Non-Members may freely participate in Branch sponsored religious activities that include teaching and volunteer participation.
6. Teaching of Non-Members
a. Invitation: the Non-Member must be properly invited as provided above (self- or member invitation).
b. Locations -- Permissible:
i. Meeting House
ii. Members home.
c. Required Participants
i. For Non-Followers
1. A member must be present. A member certificate is no longer required. Members can teach at all times.
2. A Volunteer should not teach a non-Followers during the Moratorium Period. Thereafter, they are free to teach.
3. Members, as opposed to Volunteers should sit next to non-followers who come to Church. Don’t be awkward about this but let members answer their questions.
ii. For Followers.
1. Members and Volunteers may teach Followers;
2. Technically a volunteer can teach a Follower without a member present after the Moratorium but it is best to have a member present
d. Shared Teaching
i. As long as a member teaches some of the lesson or offers a prayer, the volunteer may teach the remainder of the lesson. It can be a 90%/10% relationship.
ii. It is always best for the member to do a material part of the teaching.
iii. A member can participate in a teaching situation by Skype.
7. Teaching of Members
a. Members can be taught by other members and by volunteers in their homes and in the meeting place. There are no restrictions for volunteers extending invitations to members.
b. If a non-member is present (family member or otherwise), the teaching should be directed toward the member unless the non-member signs a follower statement.
a. Volunteers and Members may not publicly distribute copies of the Book of Mormon, Pamphlets, I am a Mormon cards, etc.
1. upon request at the meeting house to non-followers
2. To followers at the meeting house and in member’s homes.
b. The use of the internet and social media for proselyting purposes is prohibited. It may be possible to use internet and social media for secular activities but this is still being studied.
c. Volunteers may carry their scriptures with them but PMG should be kept in the apartment except when participating in District Meeting.
9. Secular conversations
a. Volunteers are permitted to hold purely secular conversations with all people.
b. There can be no hidden proselyting effort
c. About the church we can say:
i. We are Volunteers to support the members and the organization
ii. We are not missionaries
iii. The name of the Church. We are Christians. We are members
Iv. Church locations. Date and times of meetings.
v. Limited Secular activities details.
vi. The following memorized script.
1. “I appreciate your interest in my Church. However, I am not here in Russia as a missionary, but as a volunteer to support Church members. If you want to know more about my religion, you will need to go to our meeting places. I can give you the address and a telephone number, if you would like.”
2. Final Script and translation yet to be provided by the Area Authority
vii. The following memorized script to government officials.
1. I am a volunteer of the Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints. I am here to exercise international intra-denominational contacts and ties, to participate in meetings, worship services, ordinances and ceremonies, charitable activities of the Centralized Religious Organization “The Religious Association of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Russia.” I do not engage in missionary activities.
10. Meeting Place Activities
a. Meeting Places should be manned by Volunteers at reasonable times based upon member need, volunteer availability, distance from volunteer’s apartment to chapel. Evenings from Tuesday to Saturday should be covered and times during the day as need.
b. The concept of the meeting place should be expanded to become a member community center or visitor’s centers where both members and non-members may gather to worship, learn, socialize, prepare lessons, perform their callings and attend activities. Volunteers should focus their meeting place activities and schedules to accommodate these purposes.
c. Volunteers can conduct meeting house tours, work on their callings and provide security.
i. Building security should be maintained while keeping the building open for visitors.
ii. Building Tours by volunteers should be secular in nature. Only Members may teach non-Followers.
11. Permitted Volunteer Activities
a. Visit and teach members in their homes and in the meeting place regardless of activity level.
b. Hold callings in the branch
c. Serve as home and visiting teachers
d. Engage in community service.
e. Sharpen Volunteer skills including language and teaching skills.
f. Support Branch Activities, Organizations and Members
g. Participate in occasional cultural activities.
h. Tend to the building so that it can be open to the public during reasonable hours.
i. Volunteer can provide tours of the building but on secular information can be distributed. (This is the chapel. This is the baptismal font. These are the classrooms). Beware of entrapment situations. Members, if present, may lead a gospel discussion and issue proper invitations.
12. Miscellaneous Items
a. The Behind the Walls program is temporarily placed on hold.
b. The Russian Law restrictions do not apply when we are on Visa Trips at the time we are in a foreign country. You may proselyte in Finland.
c. Our adaption to the new laws does not affect our current dress and appearance code.
d. If possible, it is better to have a local member, rather than a volunteer teach the Gospel Essentials class.
e. The performance of ordinances, including baptisms and sacrament are exempt from the law and can be done in member’s homes and in public locations.
f. During the moratorium period, Volunteers should not accept invitation into non-members homes even for secular conversations. Afterwards it will be permissible but Volunteers must be cautious about entrapment.
g. District Leaders should take special measure to insure that sisters tending a building can be kept safe and secure.
Notwithstanding that the impact of the law is now coming into sharper focus, that does not relieve our challenge of re-focusing our efforts. Many of you are wondering what to do next after the apartment is all clean and the area book is in proper order. For the final week of the moratorium, I would should that we focus upon and report upon the following key indicators. Please plan and set goals for the upcoming week in accordance with the following. These may change next week this will do for now.
1. Number of Members (regardless of activity level) visited in their homes.
2. Number of lessons taught to Active Members ______, Inactive Members ______, Recent Converts ______.
a. A lesson of this purpose would be
i. A lesson provided in PMG
ii. The Member Relations Lesson described below.
iii. A lesson specifically planned for an inactive member or new convert based upon need.
3. Prayerfully prepare a special lesson designed to educate members about: i) the limitations of the new law upon Volunteer activities; ii) Member responsibilities to ask and invite non-members under the new law; iii) the role of the meeting house in teaching non-members; iv) the need for branch sponsored activities and member\volunteer support of the activities; v) the fact that you are now volunteers who live in the branch rather than missionaries serving in the branch and that you will have callings as members of the branch (the “Member Relations Lesson”). Include scriptures, appropriate stories, commitment questions and positive testimony as part of your Member Relations Lesson. For the upcoming week please respond whether you have prepared such a lesson.
4. Number of “member extended invitations” (to game night, to church, to be taught the Volunteers, etc.) that you directly participated in (i.e. provided contact information to prior contact, challenged them to contract their friend, etc.)
5. Number of lessons taught to Progressing Investigators with members present ___ and without members present ____.
6. Number of lessons taught to Followers: with members present ___ and without members present _____.
7. Number of signed Follower slips obtained.
8. Number of lessons taught to non-Followers with a member present.
9. If not already done so, in coordination with your district members, meet with the Branch President and presidency members. Discuss; i) the branch sponsorship of all prior activities (game nights, etc.); ii) your future callings in the branch; and, iii) service projects you can render to ward planning or participating in service projects for the general public.
10. Do you have a calling in the branch?
11. Number of hours completed in language study?
12. Number of hours completed in companion study?
Let’s see how the Lord will bless us this week. Pray for and expect miracles. I am convinced the Lord is waiting on us to bless us under this new law. Let us be faithful and diligent. We are up to this challenge. “Oh Lord, Give Me That Mountain.”