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Russian Mormons: Finding Hope

I just watched an amazing video about a young man in Russia who had a difficult beginning to his life. He was often disobedient and then his parents died within a few years of each other. He found himself getting into more serious trouble and even ended up in jail twice. He told his uncle it was just impossible to live like Jesus in this difficult world, but his uncle told him he could. The young man began meeting with Mormon missionaries and joined the church. Since that time, he’s completely turned his life around and is now a business person and entrepreneur. He says he understands now that life is filled  with both good and bad and that this combination helps you to understand and appreciate the good better. He knows now that his trials were necessary to help him become the person he is.

Mormonism in Russia has a fascinating history. Missionary work there began in 1843, when Joseph Smith sent Orson Hyde and George J. Adams there to serve. He told them this country would play in an important role in the last days concerning the building up of the Church. The first baptism occurred in 1903.

However, as years went on and the establishment of a government that did not support religion came about, progress slowed. When the Berlin Wall came down, it opened new opportunities for people who sought religious freedom. Information flowed more freely and the people of Russia had more contact with people from other parts of the world.

Because there was no official church presence, the Mormon population was disintegrating. There were a few in Czechoslovakia, and there were some German-speaking converts in Poland and the former Soviet Union, but most of these died or moved to Germany and there was almost no church presence outside of Germany by 1975. However, humanitarian missionaries were sometimes permitted to work there and gradually missionary service reopened throughout Eastern Europe.

In 1989, Russia was moved into a new mission, which caused it to get more attention and missionaries were sent there to serve. In 1991, Russia formally recognized the Church and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed in two cities. By 1994, leaders of the mission were noting that the fastest growth was in the former Soviet bloc, part of an overall interest in religion in that area. Materials were beginning to be prepared in the Russian language.

In 2011, there were more than 21,000 members.

To watch the following video, turn on closed captioning. The video is in Russian with English subtitles.