KYIV, Ukraine A beautiful summer morning provided the setting for the groundbreaking of the Kyiv Ukraine Temple in a former grain field on the outskirts of Kyiv on Saturday, June 23.
The groundbreaking marks a major milestone in the development of the Church in the Europe East Area as the first temple to be constructed in the countries of the former Soviet Union.
The Kyiv Ukraine Temple was announced by President Gordon B. Hinckley on July 20, 1998. Intervening years required persistent and diligent efforts to find the appropriate site and receive governmental approvals. Such persistence was rewarded when Elder Paul B. Pieper of the Seventy and president of the Europe East Area presided over a small groundbreaking ceremony on the five-hectare site.
About 100 invited members and guests gathered in a chapel built on the temple site and listened quietly to prelude music prior to the dedication meeting. One sister told how she felt a powerful spirit descend upon the assembled saints and the veil seemed very thin. Another brother recounted how he felt a powerful spirit when he walked onto the temple lot that morning.
Twenty minutes before the dedication meeting, the group moved outside to a location over the future foundation of the temple. The former grain field had become a field of wild flowers chamomile, bluebells and others.
Elder Alexander N. Manzhos, the first Ukrainian called as an Area Seventy, conducted the meeting and spoke. He shared his testimony of the power of temples to change lives and bless families. He recounted his wife's conversion.
He had been a member for two years when he attended the temple for the first time. His wife was a non-member and had not wanted to be baptized. When he returned, he told her of the wonderful feelings and spirit he had experienced in the temple.
He told how he dearly wanted to be sealed to her and their family for eternity.
"Do you really love me that much?" she asked.
He said he did.
"Then call the missionaries," she replied. They now hope other Ukrainian families will feel the power of the temple in Kyiv.
Other speakers included President Sergey Mikulin of the Kharkiv Ukraine District who spoke of the changes that have occurred and will occur as the result of the gospel light that is shining in Ukraine.
President Volodymyr A. Kanchenko of the Kyiv Ukraine Stake spoke of the Lord's command to establish a house of order. Elder Pieper offered a few remarks about the power of temple doctrines and ordinances and then pronounced a prayer of dedication of the land on which the temple will be built.
He expressed gratitude for the restored priesthood keys that were turned to open Ukraine to the preaching of the gospel in September 1991 by President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve. He thanked the Lord for the many who have accepted the gospel in Ukraine and for the work they have done for their kindred dead.
He blessed the site to be a place of peace; to radiate the light of truth throughout Ukraine and its neighboring countries. He blessed that quarter of the city surrounding the temple that it would grow in beauty and would prosper and become one of the most beautiful parts of Kyiv.
There were few dry eyes at the conclusion of the dedicatory prayer. Members found great joy as they participated in the ceremonial groundbreaking and discussed their feelings about events of the day.
Maria Vashenko attended with her husband, Viktor, second counselor in the Kyiv stake presidency, and their six children. She spoke of a feeling of darkness being lifted and light being poured out during the meeting. The children seemed especially pleased and many roamed the temple site after the ceremony collecting bouquets of wildflowers.
The dedication was announced the following day in a letter read in sacrament meetings throughout the Europe East Area. Many wept openly, realizing that the long-awaited day had arrived.
Many said they felt the responsibility to try a little harder to be a little better because of the important blessing they have received.
Three missions are organized in Ukraine, with one stake, five districts and approximately 10,500 members. Ukrainian members currently attend the Freiberg Germany Temple, a bus ride of more than 24-hours for most members.
Additional trips were added to the Frankfurt Germany Temple in 2007 to accommodate member interest.
Family history work has accelerated as interest in temple work grows. There are 28 Church-operated family history centers in Ukraine. Microfilming of archives is also expanding and the first two digital cameras in the former Soviet Union were set up recently in Ukraine.
Members are eager to begin indexing records next year. By the time the Kyiv temple opens, it is anticipated that there will be tens of millions of Ukrainian names available to those doing family history research.