The Russian Republic, the largest republic in the Soviet Union, has granted official recognition to the Church.
Alexander Rutskoi, vice president of the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic, made the announcement at a banquet following the June 24 concert of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Moscow's Bolshoi Theater - the high point of the choir's eight-country European Tour.The recognition gives the Church a legal voice to make requests to various ministries of the Russian government. The republic is the largest of 15 republics in the Soviet Union.
The Church has grown to about 300 members in Russia since receiving limited recognition last year. With formal recognition, the Church will now be able to establish congregations throughout the republic, Church spokesman Don LeFevre said in Salt Lake City. Missionaries are currently serving in the republic.
Earlier that day, three General Authorities accepted a gift of a plot of land in the city of Yerevan from officials of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic. The site, near the Turkish border, has a prominent view of Mount Ararat.
The land was given to the Church by the Armenian government as a way to thank the Church and Utah businessman Jon Hunstman for their humanitarian efforts following a 1988 earthquake that devastated the republic.
A four-story, marble-faced multipurpose building will be constructed on the site, which will be used as a meetinghouse, offices and a residence for Church volunteer workers who will assist in managing a concrete plant operated jointly by the Huntsman Chemical Co. and the Armenian government.
The factory will produce high-grade cement panels for use in rebuilding earthquake-ravaged Armenian housing.
Representing the Church in Armenia were Elder Russell M. Nelson and Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Council of the Twelve, and Elder Hans B. Ringger of the Seventy and president of the Europe Area.
Elder Nelson expressed thanks to the people of Armenia for the gift of land and pledged "to use the building on this site to teach of the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man."
Elder Oaks told the crowd of Utahns and Armenians gathered under the hot mid-morning sun, "The concrete plant provides shelter for your body and at this site will be a building providing food for your soul."
Two plaques were unveiled at the Children's Republican Hospital, recognizing medical relief efforts organized by Hunstman and the Church in the aftermath of the earthquake.
For many Soviets, the Tabernacle Choir concert in Moscow was their introduction to the choir, which began winning hearts early in the program by singing "The National Anthem of the Soviet Union" in Russian.
The choir's appearance in Moscow is labeled "nothing short of a miracle," by choir administrators and members.
The singing of such Latter-day Saint standard hymns as "Come, Come ye Saints" and the Tabernacle Choir's distinctive rendition of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" from the stage of the Bolshoi is historic.
Choir President Wendell M. Smoot told choir members before the concert, "This is the most important concert of the tour."
Earlier on the tour, on Saturday, June 22, Elder Nelson, who is traveling with the choir, dedicated the first LDS meetinghouse constructed in Poland since pre-World War II days. The meetinghouse in Warsaw was dedicated as "a refuge of peace for troubled souls and a haven of hope for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness."
The dedicatory ceremony was attended by more than 400 people including representatives of Warsaw's city government and Polish government officials.
In the prayer, Elder Nelson invoked a blessing "upon the present and future leaders of this great nation who have known so much of adversity." He asked that Poland's leaders be blessed with "thy holy light, that they may lead in righteousness and preserve the privilege of individual freedom and liberty."
Elder Ringger offered brief remarks during the dedicatory ceremony. Also attending was Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander, recently sustained as a new member of the Seventy.
In the choir's June 20 concert in Berlin, just a few blocks from the remains of the Berlin Wall, the choir sang its clarion call, "Come, Come, Ye Saints." And come, they did. LDS Berliners, many in tearful gratitude, came by the hundreds to hear the choir sing in two concerts, a matinee and an evening performance.
If a Church conference and a music festival could be wrapped together in a celebration of freedom, that would come close to describing the package in Berlin's opulent Schauspielhaus, a concert hall used as a cultural showcase in the former German Democratic Republic.
An almost tangible sense of history stirred among choir members and those traveling with them as they entered eastern Berlin for what only a few years ago would have been "an impossible dream" of a concert series.
The choir's final concert of the trip was to be in Leningrad June 27.