MOSCOW — The LDS Church's first stake in Russia — its second in the former Soviet Union — was created Sunday.
Elder Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Quorum of the Twelve Apostles organized the Moscow Russia Stake in a meeting attended by more than 1,100 in the Moscow's Amber Plaza auditorium.
A Mormon stake is a geographic organizational and administrative unit comprised of local congregations called wards and branches. With a stake similar to what other faiths call a diocese, the LDS Church has 2,926 stakes worldwide.
The LDS Church counts more than 21,000 members in Russia spread throughout 116 congregations in the country.
The Moscow Russia Stake contains six wards and three branches. The new stake presidency includes Yakov Mikhaylovich Boyko as president, Vladimir Nikolaivich Astashov as first counselor and Viktor Mikhaylovich Kremenchuk as second counselor, with Vyacheslav Viktorovich Protopopov as stake patriarch.
The first stake in the former Soviet Union was created in Ukraine almost exactly seven years previously, with Elder Nelson organizing the Kyiv Ukraine Stake on May 30, 2004.
The Kyiv Ukraine Temple — the first Mormon temple in the former Soviet Union — was dedicated in August 2010 by LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson.
Early LDS Church leaders were mindful of Russia. In 1843, Joseph Smith appointed Orson Hyde and George J. Adams to prepare for a never-fulfilled mission to the "vast empire" of Russia, to which "is attached some of the most important things concerning the advancement and building up of the kingdom of God in the last days."
Russia's first Mormon converts were Johan and Alma Lindelof, baptized in St. Petersburg's Neva River in June 1895, many years after Lindelof heard the gospel in his native Finland, married, moved to Russia, worked as a goldsmith and petitioned the church's Scandinavian Mission.
Other missionaries occasionally visited the Lindelofs over the years, with Elder Francis M. Lyman of the church's Quorum of the Twelve offering dedicatory prayers in 1903 in both St. Petersburg and Moscow. Following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, the wealthy Lindelofs were persecuted and exiled to labor camps or deported to Finland.
Some Soviet-era Russians converted to the Mormon faith outside their homeland. It wasn't until the late 1980s that Elder Nelson of the Twelve and Elder Hans B. Ringger of the Quorums of the Seventy made historic visits to Soviet Union leaders, with the Leningrad (St. Petersburg) Branch created in 1990 and the church afforded initial recognition in 1991.
In May 1998, the LDS Church was formally recognized by the Russian Federation's Ministry of Justice as a centralized religious organization.