Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 140,041,000; Members, 19,946; Missions, 8; Districts, 15;Branches, 129; Percent LDS, .014, or one in 7,021; Europe East Area.
From early in Church history, Russia was considered a prospective mission field. In 1843, Joseph Smith instructed George J. Adams and Orson Hyde to prepare for a mission to Russia. This mission was never fulfilled, however, because of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and the departure of the Latter-day Saints from Nauvoo, Ill.
In 1887, Joseph M. Tanner, while serving in the Turkish Mission, reported baptizing Russians living in Jaffa, Palestine. The Russians immigrated to Utah shortly after their conversions.
The first baptisms in Russia occurred in June 1895. August J. Hoglund, a native of Sweden, went to St. Petersburg, where he baptized Johan and Alma Lindelof, who had written to the Scandinavian Mission asking for missionaries. Johan Lindelof's mother had been baptized years earlier in Finland. In 1918, after the Bolshevik Revolution, the Lindelof family was arrested and sentenced to imprisonment and hard labor. Only two of the seven Lindelof children are known to have survived. Two daughters died in exile. The fate of the other three children is unknown.
On 6 August 1903, Elder Francis M. Lyman, president of the European Mission and a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, traveled to St. Petersburg and visited members there. Elder Lyman had hoped to use the Lindelof family as a nucleus around which to build the Church. However, political events surrounding the Bolshevik Revolution prevented the establishment of the Church on Russian soil. Nearly 90 years passed before missionary work could begin in Russia.
On 18 March 1918, Andre K. Anastasion, a native Russian, was baptized in London. He translated a number of Church works into Russian, including the Book of Mormon. The manuscript sat unpublished for many years. Finally, after review and revision, the Russian Book of Mormon was completed and published on 3 June 1981.
Elder Ezra Taft Benson, while serving in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, traveled to the USSR in October 1959. While in Moscow, he visited the Central Baptist Church and delivered a message of peace and hope to a full congregation.
During a visit to the Soviet Union in August 1970, Andre Anastasion, met with a member of the Department of Foreign Affairs, T. B. Makartzev, who told him that if there were 20 members of the Church in Moscow, the Church could secure a place to worship. However, at that time, there were no Latter-day Saints in Russia.
In Washington, D.C., Beverly Campbell, who was working for the Church's office for public communications, began to contact Soviet officials about the possibility of Church authorities visiting the Soviet Union. As a result of her work, Elders Russell M. Nelson and Hans B. Ringger went to Moscow in June 1987. They met with the chairman of the Council of Religious Affairs and with leaders of other denominations.
Campbell extended an invitation to the Soviet Ambassador to the United States, Yuri Dubinin, and his wife, Liana, to visit Utah, which they did on 27-29 April 1990. While at BYU, Ambassador Dubinin was asked if the Church would be allowed in the Soviet Union. Without hesitation, Dubinin answered that it would. This would set the stage for the missionary work that was soon to follow.
During the latter part of 1988, missionaries in the Finland Helsinki Mission began to contact Soviet citizens traveling in Finland. Leena Rihimakki and her companion, Carina Mahoney, received permission to contact Russians arriving in Helsinki from Leningrad and Moscow. This Russian contacting program proved to be a training ground for the missionaries who would later enter the Soviet Union.
To accommodate Latter-day Saints working in Moscow, a group was organized in February 1989 with Bruce Wheeler as group leader. Olga Smolyanova, a Muscovite, had joined the Church in Italy and later returned to Moscow. Other Russian investigators, who had contact with American Church members living in Moscow, began attending group meetings. On 10 June 1990, Galina Goncharova, who had been contacted by Latter-day Saints in Moscow, was baptized.
In 1989, the Terebenin family, Yuri, Liudmila, and their daughter, Anna, heard about the Church and were baptized during a trip to Budapest, Hungary. They returned to their home in Leningrad and told their friends about their new-found faith. It was in the Terebenins' apartment on 11 February 1990 that the first branch in Russia was organized by Finland Helsinki Mission President Steven R. Mecham.
To nurture the first Russian converts, the Baltic District was organized in January 1990. Five Finnish couples were called to serve as missionaries to visit Church members in Leningrad, Vyborg and Tallinn, Estonia, which was still part of the Soviet Union at the time. Jussi Kemppainen served as Baltic District president. These missionary couples were Jussi and Raija Kemppainen, Aimo and Nellie Jakko Vesa-Pekka and Minna Kirsi, Arto and Katri Lammintaus, and Antti and Leena Riihimakki Laitinen.
Two missionaries from the Finland Helsinki Mission, David S. Reagan and Kevin A. Dexter, arrived in Leningrad on 26 January 1990. They taught investigators and baptized Anton Skripko on 3 February 1990, the first member baptized in Russia in many years. He later became the first native Russian to fill a full-time mission.
Around this same time, Aimo and Nellie Jakko of Lappeenranta, Finland, met Andrei Semionov, a Russian physician from Vyborg, Russia, while on a canoeing trip. The Jakkos befriended Semionov and introduced him to the Church. Andrei was baptized on 24 February 1990. The Vyborg Branch was organized on 25 March 1990. Semionov was called as the first branch president.
The Finland Helsinki East Mission, which was given specific responsibility for missionary work in the USSR, was officially established on 1 July 1990 with Gary L. Browning as the first mission president. On 3 February 1992, this mission became the Russia Moscow Mission. At that same time, the Russia St. Petersburg Mission was organized. Charles H. Creel, who was serving as a missionary in Kiev, Ukraine, part of the Austria Vienna East Mission, was called to serve as the first mission president.
The first official recognition of the Church in Russia was granted to the branch in Leningrad on 13 September 1990. The Russian Soviet Socialists Republic granted the Church republic-wide recognition on 28 May 1991. The announcement was made by Alexander Rutskoi, then serving as vice president of the republic, at a banquet following the performance of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at the Bolshoi Theater on 24 June.
After the official recognition was granted, the number of missions in Russia increased dramatically: Russia Samara Mission (July 1993), Russia Novosibirsk and Russia Rostov missions (July 1994), Russia Yekaterinburg Mission (July 1995), Russia Moscow South Mission (1997), and Russia Vladivostok Mission (1999).
In June 1996, the Church received unwelcome publicity when Russian national security advisor Alexander Lebed singled out the LDS Church and called for the outlawing of foreign churches. U.S. President Bill Clinton raised concerns about Lebed's statement with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chermomyrdin and was assured by the Prime Minister that Russia would maintain religious tolerance. Lebed later apologized for his remarks.
In March 1998, two missionaries serving in the Russia Samara Mission were kidnapped and held for ransom. Four days later, Elders Travis Tuttle and Andrew Probst were released. And in October of that same year, Elder Jose Mackintosh was attacked by a drunk and killed while serving in the city of Ufa, part of the Russia Yekaterinburg Mission. His companion, Bradley Borden, was wounded in the attack but recovered.
On 14 May 1998, a certificate of registration was issued to the Church, allowing the Church to continue to provide humanitarian and missionary work, and have places for its members to meet. The new approval was needed following passage of a law requiring re-registration of religious organizations that were considered foreign to Russia.
On 1 December 2000, offices of the Europe East Area, including the Area presidency, were moved from its location in Frankfurt, Germany, to new facilities in Moscow, making this the first time that general authorities of the Church maintained a permanent residence within the former Soviet Union.
Viacheslav I. Efimov was the first Russian native to be called as a mission president. He served in the Russia Yekaterinburg Mission from 1995 to 1998.
At the last moment, the Russian government granted the Church a license to set up satellite receivers so that Saints in Russia could participate in the dedication of the Nauvoo Temple on 27 June 2002. According to Europe East Area President Douglas L. Callister, "Only the hand of the Lord – intervening in the last crucial moment – could have made the transmission possible to nearly 6,000 members who had gathered in meetinghouses across Eastern Europe."
President Gordon B. Hinckley visited Russia in September 2002, the first Church president to visit the country. He spoke to a gathering of 2,300 members, encouraging them to adhere to the basic principles of the gospel and promising them that if they did so, the Lord would take care of their temporal needs.
In July 2003, about 250 athletes from Utah, most of them members of the Church, participated in the first Moscow-Utah Youth Games held for 17 days. LDS members of the delegation held a special sacrament meeting July 20. The idea for the games developed from a conversation between Utah's Governor Mike Leavitt and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
In 2003, membership reached 17,284.
President Hinckley met with some 200 members in Vladivostok, Russia, 31 July 2005, as part of a seven-nation Asian tour. They met in a large room in the airport during a 45-minute refueling stop. President Hinckley is the first president of the Church to visit Vladivostok, a port city on Russia's east coast that was closed to foreign visitors during the Cold War until 1992.
In 2005, membership reached 18,785.
Sources: History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1902-1932, 5:417; Gary Browning, Russia and the Restored Gospel, 1997; Turkish Mission Manuscript History, Church Archives; Kahlile Mehr, "The 1903 Dedication of Russia for Missionary Work," Journal of Mormon History, 1986; "A Church Service in Soviet Russia," US News and World Report, 26 October 1959; Bruce A. Wheeler interview, 16 October 1992, Church Archives; Galina I. Goncharova interview, 13 May 1995, Church Archives; "Reliving 'LDS Question' envoy recalls day Iron Curtain was lifted for Mormons," Salt Lake Tribune, 15 October 1995; "Quick action is sought on missionaries," Deseret News 21 March 1998; "Lebed vows to cleanse Russia of religious 'filth,'" Deseret News, 27 June 1996; "Tough words from Russia countered," 28 June 1996; "Clinton taking offense at remarks against LDS," Deseret News, 30 June 1996; "Lebed sorry for picking on Mormons — sort of," Deseret News, 2 July 1996; "LDS missionary slain in Russia," Deseret News 18 October 1998; "Kidnapped missionaries safe; two arrested.," Church News, 28 March 1998; "Members in Europe East Area view Nauvoo Temple dedication," Church News, 13 July 2002; "Choir leaves trail of joyful tears," Church News, 6 July 1991; "Growth of Church in 'that vast empire,'" Church News, 6 November 1993; "Church formally recognized in Russia," Church News, 23 May 1998; "While Church will feel, mourn loss of missionary," Church News, 24 October 1998; "Soviet envoy's Utah visit is 'historic,'" 5 May 1990; Church News, "History making trip - Church leader in Russia," Church News, 14 September 2002, "Athletes hold services in Moscow," Church News, 26 July 2003; Kahlile Mehr, Mormon Missionaries Enter Eastern Europe, 2002; "1989-90, The Curtain Opens," Ensign, December 1993.
Missions — 8
(As of Oct. 1, 2009; shown with historical number.)
(272) RUSSIA MOSCOW MISSION
Galvpochtampt a/ai 257
RUSSIA MOSCOW WEST MISSION
International PO Box 148
(301) RUSSIA NOVOSIBIRSK MISSION
46 Kirova Street
Pochtampt a/ai 146
630102 Novosibirsk oblast'
(302) RUSSIA ROSTOV NA DONU MISSION
Vtoraya Voladarskaya 64
Russia 344008 Russia
(293) RUSSIA SAMARA MISSION
Glavpochtampt a/ai 3007
443099 Samara, Russia
(273) RUSSIA ST. PETERSBURG MISSION
Pr Malookhtinshy 16/1 POM 11-H, 12-H
195112 St. Petersburg, Russia
(333) RUSSIA VLADIVOSTOK MISSION
Vladivostok, Primorskly Kray 690000
(305) RUSSIA YEKATERINBURG MISSION
Glavpochtampt A/YA 250