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First stake organized in the Republic of Armenia

Apostle returns and organizes first stake

More than two decades after meeting with a small group of Church leaders on a mountain overlooking the city of Yerevan in the Republic of Armenia, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve again visited the Eastern European nation for another historic day — to preside over the creation of the country's first stake.

"It is literally a miracle — 22 years ago there was not a Latter-day Saint living in the country in Armenia," he said. "From that dedicatory prayer offered by Elder Dallin H. Oaks with me at his side, it has been built up now to a population large enough and strong enough to support itself. This stake will stand and there will be other stakes here in the future."

Elder Nelson was joined by Elder Per G. Malm of the Seventy and second counselor in the Europe East Area and Elder Arayik V. Minasyan, an Area Seventy, to form the new stake on June 16 in the capital city of Yerevan.

"Many memories came through my mind," Elder Nelson said. "I thought of all of the missionaries and all of the people that have made this miracle happen."

Elder Patrick Kearon of the Seventy and first counselor in the Europe Area of the Church shakes hand
Elder Patrick Kearon of the Seventy and first counselor in the Europe Area of the Church shakes hands with members after a meeting. | Photo by James Dalrymple, IRI
A youth choir in Munich, Germany, performs during stake conference.
A youth choir in Munich, Germany, performs during stake conference. | Photo by James Dalrymple, IRI

Remembering the day of the dedicatory prayer opening the country for missionary work, Elder Nelson said, "I asked [Elder Oaks] if he would give the dedicatory prayer. He had no warning, no notice, no advance preparation. He gave an eloquent, exquisite prayer of dedication for this country and its people opening the door — I think he used the word 'unlocking' the door — to the restoration of the gospel in its fullness.

"We recounted on that occasion that this was the first country in all the world to make Christianity their religion. That happened in the year 300 A.D. and now in the year 2013, on June the 16th, we have a stake. And we have several wards, we have bishops and we even have a stake patriarch."

Members of all ages gathered in meeting places to hear the words of Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Q
Members of all ages gathered in meeting places to hear the words of Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve. | Photo by James Dalrymple, IRI
| Photo by James Dalrymple, IRI

Although the creation of a stake doesn't affect members in regards to their faith and the covenants they have made, it does represent growth, Elder Nelson said. Such growth in a short period of time shows that nothing is impossible to the Lord, he said.

"There is a great, special spirit in this country," he said. "That spirit of Christianity has been here even though the gospel in its fulness has taken a long time to reach this country. They have now become part of the heart of the Church. This is stake number 3,025 in the Church. So you have 3,025 stakes in the ground holding the tent of the kingdom of God. And every stake is important, you can't have a weak one or the tent will crumble."

A choir sings for the meeting held in the Republic of Armenia in which Elder Russell M. Nelson organ
A choir sings for the meeting held in the Republic of Armenia in which Elder Russell M. Nelson organized the nation's first stake on June 16. | Photo by James Dalrymple, IRI
Katharina Hettenkofer attends a meeting in Munich, Germany, where Elder Russell M. Nelson spoke to C
Katharina Hettenkofer attends a meeting in Munich, Germany, where Elder Russell M. Nelson spoke to Church members. | Photo by James Dalrymple, IRI

In addition to his travels to create a stake in Armenia, Elder Nelson with his wife, Sister Wendy W. Nelson, visited with members and missionaries from June 7-16 in the Europe and Europe East Areas of the Church in Munich, Germany; Venice, Italy; and Moscow, Russia. He also went to Ankara, Turkey.

Germany

Just a few days after flooding struck parts of Europe, Church members and missionaries in Germany gathered to hear the words of Elder Nelson during his first stop of the nine-day tour on June 7-9. Although the Church presence has been in Europe for many years, the visit gave Elder Nelson hope for the future of the area.

"The Lord's work is prospering all throughout the world and it will do so here in these countries of western Europe — Italy, Germany, France, and so on. The way will be a little different ... but there's still a yearning in the human soul for knowledge about Heavenly Father, knowledge about heaven, knowledge about life after death; these are important questions about man's search for happiness. They are going to be answered by this Church, and this Church is going to continue to grow and bless the lives of a lot of people in this country."

The skyline of Yerevan, Republic of Armenia. The creation of the Armenia stake marks the 3,025th sta
The skyline of Yerevan, Republic of Armenia. The creation of the Armenia stake marks the 3,025th stake of the Church throughout the world. | Photo by James Dalrymple, IRI
A theater in downtown Yerevan, Republic of Armenia.
A theater in downtown Yerevan, Republic of Armenia. | Photo by James Dalrymple, IRI

Italy

While meeting with members and missionaries in Venice, Italy, on June 10, Elder Nelson said that although they met in a rented hotel, it was if he was walking into a chapel.

"It was quite an unusual feeling as we walked in," he said. The people were reverent, quiet, and although it was not the most comfortable of circumstances because of it being a warm, crowded room, Elder Nelson said that the "great feeling of reverence was almost tangible."

Church members in the Republic of Armenia gathered on June 16 to attend the meeting in which the nat
Church members in the Republic of Armenia gathered on June 16 to attend the meeting in which the nation's first stake was established. | Photo by James Dalrymple, IRI

"The Italian people are very sensitive to the teachings of the Lord," he said. "They aren't the only ones in the world who are, but their faith is very, very evident. They love to sing. They love to pray. They love to know about the Lord. Our reception in Italy has been very great."

Speaking of the temple under construction in Rome, Elder Nelson said that it is going to be "a very busy temple and the Church is going to continue to grow and bless the lives of the people in Italy."

Russia

Elder Nelson's ties to Russia began in 1985 when newly sustained President Ezra Taft Benson gave him an assignment to be in charge of the Church in Europe.

"[He] charged me with specific responsibility to open the doors of the nations in Europe that were under the yoke of communism," Elder Nelson recalled. "I didn't know how to do that, but I had faith that the Lord would help me."

Seeing the growth of the Church in Russia more than two decades after he first traveled there as an Apostle, he acknowledged the help of the Lord. He met with members in Moscow on June 14.

"In a matter of a few years the Lord did it. ... To go from no one to recognition for the whole country in that short interval of time is again an evidence of the hand of the Lord."

mholman@desnews.com

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