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Wondrous history

Elder Nelson recounts details during visit to Russia

Editor's note: Elder Russell M. Nelson visited Russia recently, speaking to members in Voronezh on Oct. 20, (Please see: Growth of Voronezh Branch is story of faith) in Nizhniy Novogorodon Oct. 21, and in Samara, Oct. 24-25. (Please see: 'Something amazing happened today').

NIZHNIY NOVOGOROD, RUSSIA

"You mean he's not going to Moscow? He came to see us in Nizhniy?" a tearful member said. She was one of the 169 people, including more than 20 investigators, who listened as Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve addressed them in Nizhniy Novogorod, Russia.

Elder Russell M. Nelson, center left, and Elder Gregory A. Schwitzer and his wife, Jo Ann, right, are greeted by President Pavel A. Koltsov of the Samara District and other members dressed in native costumes.
Elder Russell M. Nelson, center left, and Elder Gregory A. Schwitzer and his wife, Jo Ann, right, are greeted by President Pavel A. Koltsov of the Samara District and other members dressed in native costumes. Photo: Photo by Alexander Stalnov

Many of the participants came from the cities of Tver and Yaroslavl, some driving six to nine hours each way, to hear an apostle of the Lord. Their reverence before the meeting was an expression of their gratitude and love for Elder Nelson's visit.

Touched by their devotion, Elder Nelson looked over the audience and expressed regret that he could not take a photo of all in attendance to share with his son who was among the first missionaries to open that city to the preaching of the gospel after the Church was granted recognition in 1991.

Elder Nelson expressed gratitude for members who stood in long lines during those difficult years when food was in short supply so missionaries, like the young Elder Nelson, could use their time sharing the gospel.

Elder Nelson told how he visited the city many years before, using his son as interpreter. This time, Vladimir Shabonov, a member from Moscow, was his interpreter. Elder Nelson asked Brother Shabonov to relate his conversion. A surprised and emotional Brother Shabonov told of how he had joined the Church and how he felt a strong influence of the Spirit when his wife needed a blessing.

Elder Nelson related the wondrous history of registering the Church in Russia. He told how, as the Church's emissary, he began petitioning the government in 1986 for recognition. On one occasion, able to obtain an appointment to speak with the minister of religion, he waited all day in an outer office.

Eventually, the minister met with him and said the Church needed evidence that 20 adult citizens from the same district were baptized members. The task seemed hopeless and impossible, since proselyting was not permitted.

Members and missionaries in Nizhniy, Russia, gather to hear Elder Russell M. Nelson, Oct. 21, 2009. Elder Nelson expressed appreciation for the members in the early 1990s who stood in long food lines so the first missionaries, including his son, had more time to share the gospel.
Members and missionaries in Nizhniy, Russia, gather to hear Elder Russell M. Nelson, Oct. 21, 2009. Elder Nelson expressed appreciation for the members in the early 1990s who stood in long food lines so the first missionaries, including his son, had more time to share the gospel. Photo: Courtesy of Europe East Area

About that time, a couple from Leningrad joined the Church while vacationing in Budapest. Shortly afterward, a young mother from Leningrad met the wife of the district president in Helsinki and joined the Church.

Soon, relatives and friends of these early members in Leningrad joined the Church and formed the necessary cadre of membership.

"I testify the Lord gave us great help," Elder Nelson said. "God helped us accomplish the impossible."

The importance of the restoration of priesthood, of temple work, of living the Word of Wisdom, of continually gaining education, of obeying the law of the land, as well as the blessings of paying tithing, were all part of his apostolic counsel.

The congregation was deeply touched when Elder Nelson pronounced an apostolic blessing and bore his testimony in Russian.

Sister Yelena Danshina of the Nizhniy Novo-gorod Lower Branch, expressed appreciation in her benediction for Elder Nelson's ability to bear testimony in the Russian language.

Attendees gathered around Elder Nelson after the meeting, grateful for the special occasion.

"It was fantastic," said President Sergey Kozhevatov of the Tver Branch. "It was my first meeting with an apostle. His message was especially important to a branch president."

An investigator, responding to feelings he felt during the meeting, decided to be baptized and said, "Now I want to serve a mission, too."

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