ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — One hundred years after Elder Francis M. Lyman of the Quorum of the Twelve dedicated the vast land of Russia for the preaching of the gospel on Aug. 6, 1903, members of the current-day Church, along with government officials, commemorated the anniversary by gathering for special services near the site of the dedication in the scenic gardens surrounding Peter the Great's Summer Palace.
"The very peace of Heaven was upon us," wrote Elder Lyman a century ago in his report to the First Presidency describing his feelings of the event. "A more perfect spirit or occasion could not be conceived. Our hearts were melted within us for joy."
On the rainy evening of Aug. 6, 2003, the 100th anniversary of Elder Lyman's dedicatory prayer, hundreds of Church members and guests recounted the events of the dedication. In addition to the 100-year celebration of the dedication, this year marks the 300-year anniversary of the founding of St. Petersburg by Peter the Great.
The commemoration was a memorable part of a summer that was filled with other events during which members helped mark the 300-year anniversary.
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve visited the same location in St. Petersburg's Summer Garden 13 years ago when he offered a special prayer over the land of Russia.
Presiding at the centennial celebration was Elder Robert F. Orton of the Second Quorum of the Seventy and first counselor in the Europe East Area presidency. "This is a very significant milestone for all Russians and especially for the members who live in this wonderful region," Elder Orton said. "You are the product of prayer, of prophecy, and of the Spirit of the Lord, which has been poured out upon the people of this land."
The Summer Garden was created nearly 300 years ago by Peter the Great. It is not far from the world-famous Hermitage museum, the Tsars' Winter Palace. The 20-acre park is surrounded by waterways and contains shaded paths lined with beautiful 18th century sculptures.
When Elder Lyman selected the dedicatory site, he said the location was chosen because no "retired wood could be found where we could be shut out from the eyes of the people."
Nonetheless, he continued, "It was as glorious a quiet and peaceful moment as I remember ever to have experienced. It was a spiritual feast."
The garden was closed to the public during the centennial celebration. "We are grateful for the cooperation offered by those responsible for this beautiful site," said President John Kennedy of the Russia St. Petersburg Mission. Missionaries and local members spent many volunteer hours working in the Summer Garden earlier this year.
"All Church members in this area feel that the Summer Garden has special spiritual importance for us," he said.
The commemoration services were conducted by Mikhail Zaretsky, a local cardiologist and president of the St. Petersburg District.
Participating dignitaries included Rusty Hughes, U. S. Consul General for St. Petersburg; Sebastian Fitzlyon, the city's Honorary Australian Consul General; and representatives from the St. Petersburg's Department of Religion and Culture.