[Official Statement] LDS Church To Send Fewer Missionaries To Russia

On Monday, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released the following statement:

The Church has reassigned 30 volunteers in the Provo Missionary Training Center (MTC) who were originally called to serve in Russia. These volunteers were reassigned to serve in different missions in Russia or to other Russian-speaking missions in Eastern Europe. The remaining 47 volunteers currently in the MTC will proceed to their originally assigned missions in Russia.

With recent changes in the law, volunteers in Russia may not proselyte publicly, but instead focus on supporting the Church and its members, and on engaging in community and humanitarian service. This has decreased the number of volunteers needed and has made it necessary to adjust some assignments.

The Church continues to operate its seven missions within Russia—seeking to comply with every requirement of Russian law—and will continue to call additional volunteers as required to support the Church there.

I can relate somewhat to the 30 missionaries in the MTC who were reassigned to different missions. In 2008 I was originally called to serve in the Russia Samara Mission. Then, I was called in by my Stake President and told I was reassigned to serve in the Argentina Neuquen Mission (due to Visa difficulties, I believe).

I had a wonderful mission in Argentina- it was perfect mission assignment to help me grow and learn. I have a testimony that mission call reassignments are inspired and that the Lord can make your mission a wonderful experience, wherever you serve, if you let Him.

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Resource about LDS Missions in Russia:

10 thoughts on “[Official Statement] LDS Church To Send Fewer Missionaries To Russia

  • I wonder what the 47 other missionaries aka “volunteers” who are still being sent to their original missions in Russia are suppose to do over there. They can’t proselyte in any way, shape, or form. All they can do is provide service (with their mission presidents approval) and work with members. It would seem to me that it makes more sense to reassign all of them to proselyting missions, since that is what they are called to do. The D&C says that they are to teach, preach, invite all to come unto Christ through baptism, etc. Since this is no longer possible, why have them even go to Russia.

    Also isn’t it a bit reckless to merely change the way we refer to them as “volunteers” and not missionaries. I doubt the Russian authorities are going to buy that. They know what we’re trying to do in Russia, which is bring convert souls unto Christ and build up the church. If that’s not what we’re doing anymore then we should evacuate all the missionaries from Russia.

    At this point leaving them there and even sending more over there doesn’t make much sense, and it’s putting our young men and young women in harms way since the Russian government clearly doesn’t want us there anymore.

    • MC, let me help you to have a more clear view of what is going on here in Russia. Changing the status of “missionaries” as it is stated in the new anti-terrorizm law to volunteers removes Church’s obligation under that law to file a contract with each of them, which would also require business visa instead of humanitarian visa. Volunteers are then forbidden to proselyte only publicly, they can still teach, preach and invite all to come unto Christ within church buildings (owned or rented). And, you know, it’s not only for nonmembers, but for members too. So, they are needed here, especially needed for support of the members and their efforts to invite their friends and aqcuantances to know of the Gospel. We just can’t do that publicly. But…. No unhallowed hand can stop this work from proceeding. We’ll keep the laws, and the Lord will proceed His work. And the Legal Councel of the Church is working very hard to make that smooth and right. Russian government and Russian Orthodox church didn’t want us here since the beginning in 1994. I’m fine, that’s their business. Government now just implies more control to dictate its will, which is the goal of every government, they just differ in their ways of doing it throughout the world. But our goal is to wait for Our Governor to come and prepare a way for Him.

      • Alex, I’m not suggesting that missionaries/volunteers can’t be a big help to the members in Russia. Of course they are a huge support to the membership over there. The question is can the fulfil their calling to teach, preach, baptize, and invite ALL to come unto Christ? The answer is no they can’t. In order to do that they have to be able to proselyte.

        It sounds like you know more about the situation in Russia than I do, but as far as I know the only place they can proselyte in ANY way is inside of an LDS church building. So I suppose they can sit around at church and wait for someone to come. Perhaps the Lord will send people to them to teach. However any who do come will not come through the membership in Russia. The new laws also prohibt them from doing any proselyting (including in their own homes). This means that anyone who the missionaries/volunteers or members teach will have to come to church all on their own and also be taught all on their own. Again neither members or missionaries/volunteers can reach out to them in any way or anywhere besides at church.

        This makes the situation in Russia much different than back in 1994. Back then missionaries were not wanted, but at least they were allowed to proselyte. Not anymore. The Russian officials have already been detaining missionaries/volunteers and deporting them.

        I’m all for moving the work forward. I served a mission myself in Germany. It was tough over there. Not a lot of success in the way of baptisms, but we could proselyte and call as many people as possible to repentance. That is the calling of a missionary. The calling is not to do humanitarian service, assist the local membership, and in one’s spare time hang around church waiting for someone to pop in. Of course providing service and supporting the local membership are important, too and part of missionary service, but the primary purpose is to proselyte. Everyone knows this.

        The work in Russia can’t move forward until the situation changes. Pull the missionaries out and let them fulfill their calling to preach, teach, and baptize. If and when things change send them back. In the mean time why not send more senior couples to serve in the Russian branches strengthening the membership and hanging around change church waiting for some one to pop in.

        • MC, the answer is Yes, they can teach, preach, baptize, and invite ALL to come unto Christ, but not directly on the street or other public place. They will have to involve local members in every way possible. And they will have to have a member present on every discussion with guests. Let me just quote Area Presidency message, and I hope that would convince you: “The new law does not restrict the rights of worship and freedom of speech for Russian citizens. Our Russian members are free, as before, to hold family home evenings, and to talk about their religious beliefs with friends and associates. They may continue to conduct home and visiting teaching visits. They may invite non-members of the Church whom they personally know to attend Church meetings and activities as guests. The law requires licenses in some cases for the teaching of religious beliefs, but this pertains primarily to individuals who are specifically authorized to engage in such activities by religious associations. It does not apply to ordinary members, nor restrict their rights of religious worship, speech and association….[Volunteers] may visit members in their homes and teach them both in their homes and in our meetinghouses. However, they may not teach non-members about our beliefs, except in meetinghouses and other Church facilities. Even then, a member must be present, as the primary role of the young volunteers is to support members….We see this new law as an opportunity to build the Church on a stronger foundation in Russia. The growth of the Church will require a closer relationship between members and young volunteers than ever before”.
          I think that expalins the situation a bit better. And I can tell you that the work in Russia will move forward with this support from missionaries. It would be wrong to pull them out from here, it’s clear from the message above that this is not the Lord’s intention to do that. Their role now is to be like Ammon for lamanites and their king – be an example, build trust. Proselyting is not done by words only, but also by deeds and by the light in their eyes, by their attitude. Yes, it is much harder then just saying a testimony. They will have to learn. I have learned that lesson throughout my life, and on the mission field too. I know that proselyting is not the only purpose of the missionary, but most of all to be a disciple of Christ in every way. Love towards people, obedience and faithfulness are most expected, so that they can recieve most preciuos guidance from the Spirit. Picture is clear for me, I see sense and purpose. And I’m glad to share it.
          And by the way, deporting and detaining wasn’t based on that anti-terrorism law, there were other reasons implied. And of course, there was no lawful reason for deportation.

          • The statement from the Area Presidency sounds like a very good thing, at least for the current church members in Russia.
            In much of the United States and some other countries, members are happy to forget President McKay’s message of “Every member a missionary.” They convince themselves that missionary work is what the missionaries do and excuse themselves from the work. Russian Saints won’t have the luxury to ignore the commandment to be a missionary, and I hope they step up to fulfill their obligations so the “volunteers” can teach and baptize!

  • Alex,

    Thanks for sharing that little excerpt from a message by an area seventy over Russia. Very interesting. According to that message Russian members can still do member missionary work just like normal. They can talk to their friends about the church, give them a copy of a Book of Mormon or other church publications, and even invite them to have the missionary lessons at the church building. This is news to me.

    All the on going reports I’ve read (and I’ve read dozens since July) say just the opposite. They say that neither missionaries or Russian members can proselyte to Russian citizens not of our faith. The reports even mention heavy fines and possible imprisonment for attempting to discuss the gospel with those not already of one’s faith, in any location other than an authorized church building. This restriction is reported to even extend to people’s homes and on the internet. I had heard that a few people aware of the situation claim that missionaries could still proselyte, but that the members were the ones who couldn’t. That last report wouldn’t make any sense though.

    It sounds like you are saying that the reports we are getting here in the US are completely false and that really the only change is that the missionaries will have to rely solely on the members to find investigators. That’s the first time I’ve heard that. Perhaps you’re right and the work will move on pretty much unabated.

    On the other hand, perhaps the church is trying very hard to get around this new law in Russia and is trying to put a positive spin on the situation. The reality is that it would be a tough sell to the church membership at large that the missionary work in Russia will have to stop for the time being. That would be in direct contradiction to the current emphasis that the Lord is hastening his work since the missionary ages were lowered. To pull the missionaries out would call that mandate into question. I hope this is not the reason the missionaries are still in Russia.

    Hopefully you are right and all the reports on the religious situation in Russia are either false, distorted, or exaggerated. I guess we’ll see how things play out.

    • MC, the thing is with missionary work definition in the law: “Missionary activity under this law is recognized as activity of religious association aimed at spreading of information about its creeds among the people who are not members (followers, disciples) of this religious association, in order to involve mentioned persons to become a part of the community of members (followers, disciples) of religious association, and immediately under way by religious associations or their publicly authorized citizens and/or legal entities by means of mass media, information and telecommunications network (Internet), or by other lawful means”. So, as you see, the restrictions are on legal entities and representatives authorized by public document, like missionaries or local representatives of religious organization. And then there are specific areas where “missionary activities” are allowed: lands and buildings owned or rented by religious organization and its legal entities for their activities; in the places of pilgrimage; in graveyards and crematoriums; in educational organizations’ buildings historically used for religious rites. Yes, “missionary activity” in this term is forbidden at homes, but worship, church services, ordinances and ceremonies are still allowed at homes according to the law. So, that gives us some room. And “missionary activity” is not allowed in other churches and their lands or buildings, and we never did that anyway. The big problem still lies with those mentioned in Alma 10:27. Because we usually do what is said in Alma 10:26, but they are in a state noted in Alma 10:25.
      As for the Church in Russia, it seems like the olive trees had grown too fast for the strenth of the roots, so some fruits had become wild, and our natural branches of the tree still need grafting (as everywhere) with branches of the natural tree to bring forth natural fruit. And missionaries will help in digging about, pruning and dunging the trees, that all may be nourished once again to allow the rootes to become stronger.

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