In what is being called a "historic visit," the Soviet Union's ambassador to the United States and his wife made a whirlwind trip to Utah April 27-29, receiving "a cross section of who [the Latter-day Saints] are."
It was the first visit to Utah by such a high-ranking Soviet official. During the visit, Ambassador Yuri V. Dubinin and his wife, Liana, visited Temple Square, attended a Tabernacle Choir broadcast, toured the Family History Library, met with faculty and students at BYU's David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, and visited the Missionary Training Center in Provo, where they attended a Portuguese language class.Capping off their visit, the Dubinins spoke to some 2,700 members at the Sunday session of conference in the Salt Lake Monument Park Stake. Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Council of the Twelve presided over and addressed the conference. Also addressing the gathering were Elder David B. Haight and Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve, and Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy.
The ambassador and his wife were invited to visit Utah about a year ago by directors of BYU's Kennedy Center. Beverly Campbell, the Church's East Coast director for international affairs, said the invitation had been issued on a "come-any-time-you-can" basis.
"He accepted the invitation on the spur of the moment when everything just came together late Thursday [April 26]," explained Sister Campbell, who, with her husband, Pierce, accompanied Ambassador and Mrs. Dubinin from Washington, D.C., on the visit to Utah. Traveling with the Dubinins were Valery Sorokin, economic counselor in the Soviet Embassy; and David Chikvaidze, an aide and chief of staff to the ambassador.
Upon their arrival Friday evening, April 27, the ambassador and his wife were guests at a dinner at the home of Salt Lake Monument Park Stake Pres. Jon M. Huntsman and his wife, Karen. Pres. Huntsman became acquainted with Ambassador and Mrs. Dubinin while working on humanitarian relief efforts after an earthquake devastated a portion of Armenia in the Soviet Union in December 1988.
Among those attending the dinner were President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Marjorie; and Elder Packer and his wife, Donna. Utah Gov. Norman Bangerter also attended, as did Utah Sen. Jake Garn and Salt Lake Mayor Palmer De Paulis and their wives.
On Saturday evening, the ambassador and his wife were hosted by BYU Provost Bruce C. Hafen at a dinner, attended by about 30 of BYU's senior administrative officials, faculty members and their spouses.
Ambassador Dubinin spoke Saturday, April 28, to a gathering of faculty and political science students at the Kennedy Center at BYU. In comments there and at Sunday's stake conference, Ambassador Dubinin praised the Church for its assistance to Armenia during the aftermath of a devastating earthquake that struck in December 1988.
At the stake conference, Ambassador Dubinin further said, "I would like to take this opportunity to thank the American people and your Church, which was one of the first to come to our aid."
He spoke of the "world that is changing at a tremendous pace," and of challenges that emerge as "science and technology draw the world together."
"People are faced with new challenges," he said. "We have to preserve our planet to assure the survival of human kind, the prosperity of human beings. Apparently, these problems can be solved only jointly. . . . We are convinced that the key lies in recognizing the priority of universal human values."
The ambassador continued, "Another thing is obvious today. It is impossible to build a new world only by means of governments. A direct participation of peoples is necessary for this to occur."
Elder Packer, in introducing the Dubinins at the conference, listed titles they have earned through their many achievements, and said, "I think we should add the title that we revere the most in the Church - and that is
Brother' andSister.' "
In her remarks, Mrs. Dubinin said, "I would like to see our small planet one day inherit [the titles] of `Brother, Sister and Friend.' "
She spoke of friends she has made among Latter-day Saints, and expressed gratitude for their efforts in assisting her in creating a foundation to help American and Soviet children who are victims of natural disasters. "I am very happy to have these people helping me in such an important work," she said.
In his address at the conference, Elder Packer commented that those attending stake conference were witnessing the fufillment of a prophecy that goes back to Old Testament days. He quoted Isaiah 2:2-4, which speaks of all nations flowing unto the Lord's house established in the top of the mountains, and of the day when people "shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks."
Further, Elder Packer said, "We are not a political organization. This is a church. And while our headquarters are here, it is a world church. And our missionaries go to live among the people and then they come back, never to forget." He explained that missionaries who have served in foreign nations return to their homes as ambassadors to those nations.
"I think our guests here will have seen something of a cross section of who we are," Elder Packer told the congregation. "We have scriptural obligations to teach people to take care of themselves. We teach one another to be honest, to work hard and then, for all of us, to live the gospel and teach the gospel. . . . That is why our feelings were so deep when certain things happened in Armenia and we knew that people were suffering. The Lord has commanded us in the scriptures to look after the poor and the needy and to `lift up the hands which hang down' (Heb. 12:12) and to do good. So it was something of an obligation, what we did in Armenia. We wish we could do more. But it's a big world and there are people suffering all over the world. But the thing that is of most worth is that which can be done in the mind and spirit of man."
Elder Packer spoke of the positive things that happen when "the gospel of Jesus Christ enters into the hearts of our brothers and sisters across the world." To Ambassador and Mrs. Dubinin, he said, "May you remember us here and remember that we love you. We love all mankind. We are brothers and sisters and what we have, we will share with you."
Elder Haight referred to the stake conference as a "historic occasion as we all join with our hearts, our love and our emotions" to welcome Ambassador and Mrs. Dubinin.
"Miracles do happen in the world, and on this spring day we have witnessed, I think, another miracle because here in the gathering place of the saints we are witnessing a further evidence of the Lord's hand as He directs this work, and the expansion of it throughout the world. We are witnessing . . . on this historic day the fulfilling of His words."
Elder Haight spoke of the prophecy regarding the converting of swords into plowshares, and commented on the "turning of man's enmity to love and friendship, knowing and realizing that we are all children of God."
In his remarks, Elder Ballard told members to pause and think about the unique experience of being in a stake conference with the ambassador and his wife. "Let us not forget, brothers and sisters, that it was a prophet of God, Spencer W. Kimball, who ignited in the minds and hearts of the people over 16 years ago the importance of the Latter-day Saints all over the world in their family prayers and in their personal prayers, pleading to our Heavenly Father to open the doors of friendship with all the nations of the earth.
"I think we pause this morning in gratitude to our Heavenly Father to His Beloved Son for the fulfillment and the answer to our prayers. May this be a wonderful beginning of friendship with all of those who have had anything to do with the building of the bridge of friendship between the United States and the Soviet Union, and more particularly between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Soviet Union."
Before the stake conference, the Dubinins were hosted by Elder Ballard at the weekly Sunday morning Tabernacle Choir broadcast. After the broadcast, the Choir sang a hymn in Russian for the Soviet visitors. Mr. Dubinin, having been invited to speak to the Choir, said, "We were familiar with your wonderful choir, this national treasure of the United States, before coming here. But it was a special pleasure to admire your art in this magnificent Tabernacle. . . . My wish to you is that you continue to touch hearts all over the world."
Ralph Hardy of the Church's special affairs committee in Washington, D.C., also accompanied the party from Washington. Representing the hosting division of the Public Communications Department in Salt Lake City were Dale and Elaine Ensign.
On the evening the Dubinins arrived in Utah, they commented about how delicious the apples are in the Soviet Union. As a goodwill gesture of their visit, they were served apple pie as dessert at a luncheon after the stake conference. At that luncheon, they joined others in singing "Happy Birthday" to Elder Haight's wife, Ruby, who observed her 80th birthday on Saturday, April 28.
`Honored with visit'
"His Excellency Ambassador Yuri Dubinin and Mrs. Dubinin are remarkable and gracious representatives of the USSR," said Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Council of the Twelve. "Their recent expressions of hospitality and welcome in the USSR are gratefully appreciated. We were honored with their visit to world headquarters of the Church in Salt Lake City.
"We are very grateful for their concern for human suffering among victims of the earthquake in Armenia, and for their efforts to promote mutual understanding among men and women of good will throughout the world.
"President Hinckley recently repeated that the Church feels an obligation to take the message of the gospel to all who wish to hear the precious words of the Lord. When considering the question of entering nations where the Church has not previously been established, the First Presidency is committed to the principle that members of the Church should obey, honor, and sustain the laws of those nations.
"Laws and policies are changing within the USSR. Leaders of the Church are carefully considering those matters and are communicating with responsible officials in the Soviet Union.
"Statements regarding activities of the Church in any nation are announced to the membership by the First Presidency after carefully considering legal requirements and other factors that must be mutually satisfactory to both leaders of the Church and officials of the governments concerned."