In 1959, near the conclusion of then-Elder Ezra Taft Benson's service as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, he visited Russia. After several days of inspecting exhibits and farms, the visit was nearly over.
On the way to the Moscow airport, the Secretary asked his host about visiting a church. The host reluctantly agreed, and soon the car with the Bensons and American reporters arrived at the Central Baptist Church."When we entered the church," he recalled, "we found it filled; people were standing in the hall, in the entry, even in the street."
A newsman described the group's entry: "Every face in the old sanctuary gaped incredulously as our obviously American group was led down the aisle. . . . Their wrinkled old faces looked at us pleadingly. They reached out to touch us almost as one would reach out for the last final caress of one's most-beloved just before the casket is lowered. They were in misery, yet a light shone through the misery."
The minister of the congregation asked through an interpreter for Elder Benson to speak. He agreed.
"Our Heavenly Father is not far away," he said to the congregation. "He can be very close to us. God lives, I know that He lives. Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world, watches over this earth. He will direct all things. Be unafraid, keep His commandments, love one another, pray for peace and all will be well."
Elder Benson also testified of the pre-existence, the resurrection and the power of prayer. With tears streaming down his face, he concluded: "The truth will endure. Time is on the side of truth."
The congregation began singing in Russian but unmistakably, "God Be With You Till We Meet Again." As the group left, men and women wept, waved handkerchiefs and grasped for the visitors' hands.
Writing about the incident, one newsman commented: "This backslider who occasionally grumbles about having to go to church, stood crying unashamedly, throat lumped, and chills running from spine to toes. It was the most heart-rending and most inspiring scene I've ever witnessed."
President Benson, too, was touched. "The impact of that experience is indescribable. I shall never forget that evening."
Source: Cross Fire: The Eight Years with Eisenhower, pp. 486-88; Ezra Taft Benson, A Biography, pp. 342-44.