LDS Church sending humanitarian aid to Ukraine
Courtesy Intellectual Reserve
As more than 1 million Ukrainian’s are now refugees in Poland and other border countries the cry for help for these mostly women and children is loud. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has joined with several other organizations in getting help to these war torn individuals.
In a statement Thursday, the church released information on what they are doing to help in Eastern Europe.
“Many are asking how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been helping with the developing humanitarian crisis resulting from the current armed conflict. From the earliest hours, the Church began contacting friends and collaborating organizations in the region to assess needs and purchase food and other necessities,” reads the church statement. “Through decades of experience in providing assistance during natural disasters, refugee crises and other humanitarian conditions, we have developed a tested and proven model for identifying needs and providing assistance. This model includes empowering local leaders to use the Church’s financial resources to purchase goods and services in the local economy to provide what is truly needed.”
Following this pattern, the Europe Area Presidency is working with the church headquarters teams to identify and address needs. Relief supplies — including sleeping bags, cots and tents — are being delivered to local government agencies, the Red Cross and other NGOs who are assisting Ukrainian refugees arriving in bordering countries.
Additional aid is being organized. Church members and friends have also been invited to fast and pray for those personally impacted. More will be shared about their efforts in the coming days and weeks, according to the church.
Courtesy Intellectual Reserve
“Church members around the world have inquired about how to help or contribute. We invite them to do so through the Church’s Humanitarian Aid Fund, which will be used to address this and other crises,” read the statement.
Sunday is considered a day of fasting and prayer for members of the church and, while regular offerings are made to help the welfare needs of members locally on the first Sunday of the month, members are also encouraged to donated to the Humanitarian aid arm of the church.
There are 11,242 members of the church in Ukraine, which includes one stake and 48 congregations with eight wards and 40 branches of the church along with 35 Family History Centers. The country has one temple and two missions, according to church statistics.
A history of the church in Ukraine says that, “When the Kyiv Ukraine Temple was dedicated, nearly 20 years had passed since the arrival of the first missionaries to Kyiv in October 1990. In 1991 a small branch of Ukrainian Saints gathered in a rented hall in Kyiv. From those obscure beginnings, the Church in Ukraine grew in number and in faith across the country as the Saints there lived the gospel in small and simple ways.”
According to church information, the first church stake in Eastern Europe was organized in Kyiv.
On Aug. 28, 2010, thousands of Saints crowded into the National Palace of Arts “Ukraine” in Kyiv to watch performers from seven countries across Eastern Europe join in dance and song to celebrate the completion of the Kyiv Temple, the first temple in Eastern Europe. The next day, the temple was dedicated in several sessions broadcast to Saints throughout the region. For many present, it was also a time to reflect on the past and ponder the future of the Church. Since the temple dedication in 2010, Ukrainian Saints have continued on the gospel path and made the Church more widely known and respected, according to church information.
For now, missionaries and temple work have ceased in Ukraine as well as in Russia due to the current war between the two countries.
Sam Penrod, a spokesman with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, released the following statement to media on Jan. 24:
“Due to ongoing uncertainty in Ukraine, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is temporarily reassigning full-time missionaries assigned to both the Ukraine Dnipro and Ukraine Kyiv/Moldova missions to locations outside of Ukraine. The decision is made out of an abundance of caution, as some government embassies in Ukraine are preparing to move certain personnel and their family members.”
Many of these missionaries are being reassigned to missions in Europe, and a few missionaries who are approaching their planned release date will complete their missionary service and return home. Missionaries who have recently been called to Ukraine will receive a temporary assignment elsewhere. Some missionaries will serve in Moldova, which is away from any potential conflict areas, Penrod noted.
“We pray for a peaceful resolution to the tensions in Ukraine and look forward to when the missionaries may return.”
Since this information was released, all “volunteers” — as missionaries are referred to in Russian missions — have been reassigned to other countries.
The history of the church in Russia is not new, but as with other churches and organizations it is a strained relationship.
Missionary work was changed by the 2016 Yarovaya law, which prohibits proselytizing outside of official church property. Current membership statistics are not available for Russia, but the church reported 19,946 members in 2009. As of 2021, there were three stakes and five missions in Russia. In 2018, President Russell M. Nelson announced that a temple would be constructed in a major city in Russia.
LDS church history notes that as many Russians sought renewed spirituality in their lives in the late 1980s, some found answers in the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In 1990, these Russians formed the first Russian Latter-day Saint congregations in St. Petersburg and Vyborg. Over the course of the 1990s, other congregations were established across the country, from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok. In 2011, the first stake in Russia was organized in Moscow.
Yet the LDS Church’s ties with Russia go back further. Joseph Smith called missionaries to Russia in 1843, and leaders visited the country in 1866. In 1895, the Lindlöf family joined the church in St. Petersburg. Starting in the 1920s, Russian emigrants translated LDS literature to share with Russian-speaking people. In 1903 and 1990, Elders Francis M. Lyman and Russell M. Nelson then of the Quorum of the Twelve, respectively, offered special prayers for Russia and its people.
In a few cases, LDS missionaries have had difficulties serving in volunteering in Russia.
In March 1998, Elder’s Travis Robert Tuttle of Gilbert, Arizona and Andrew Lee Propst of Lebanon, Oregon, were kidnapped for ransom in Saratov, Russia.
LDS leaders in Saratov, about 450 miles southeast of Moscow received a ransom note demanding $300,000 with a threat that the two elders would be killed if the church called police.
The elders were held captive and brutalized for a week. In 2013, a movie called “The Saratov Approach” was released recounting the experience.