Bringing messages of hope, two General Authorities of the Church visited the nations of Russia and the Ukraine April 13-23.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles with his wife, Sister Patricia Holland; and Elder Donald L Hallstrom of the Presidency of the Seventy with his wife, Sister Diane Hallstrom, conducted the visit to the nations within the Europe East Area.
“What a privilege it was to have Elder and Sister Holland as well as Elder and Sister Hallstrom in the countries of Russia and the Ukraine,” remarked Elder James B. Martino, General Authority Seventy and area president, in an email to the Church News.
“These are times of trial and uncertainty,” he said. “These include economic and political difficulties as well as challenges to the basic gospel tenets. More than anything else, the members left their meetings with Elder and Sister Holland feeling hope.”
Elder Holland said that life was meant to have trials but also explained how the gospel gives perspective, hope and encouragement, Elder Martino reported. “The gospel provides to us a roadmap to direct us how to live, how to draw closer to God and how to find joy in the journey.”
Included on the agenda for the visit were meetings with those serving in the Russia Moscow Mission, Russia St. Petersburg Mission, Russia Samara Mission and Ukraine Kyiv Mission.
“Elder Holland taught missionaries that this is their mission and their time, regardless of the challenges,” Elder Martino said. “They should not wonder why and they should not complain; they just need to know that God knows where they are, and no matter how many converts they find, the most important convert is themselves.”
The visiting leaders also conducted a member devotionals in Moscow the evening of Saturday, April 15; in St. Petersburg the evening of Tuesday, April 18; and in Saratov the evening of Thursday, April 20.
A Young Single Adult devotional in Kyiv was conducted by the leaders the evening of Friday, April 21.
That weekend, the leaders conducted stake conference sessions in Kyiv, including a priesthood leadership meeting and an adult meeting on Saturday and a general session on Sunday.
“Elder Holland taught leaders to spend more time in ministering to those in need,” Elder Martino said. “He taught them not to judge who will come back, and he even reminded them that many that are not living the gospel will still accept a calling if they are asked in the spirit of love and sincerity. He explained the need to avoid using the same leaders in a rotation of callings but to invite new people to grow from callings.”
The apostle also taught the members to never give up, Elder Martino said. “He taught them that God knows them and knows why they are here and what they need to learn. He invited the members to stay close to the scriptures, to hold family home evening and to hold meaningful prayers. He talked about the importance of families and the need to love and serve each other.”
Elder Martino remarked, “Members felt empowered and they felt hope, but maybe more than anything they felt love — love from an apostle of the Lord, but also the love that comes from the Holy Ghost.”
In addition to meeting with missionaries and other Church members, the leaders conducted an area council meeting on Sunday, April 16, and an informal area review with the area presidency.