SALT LAKE CITY — The LDS Church’s First Presidency has announced a merger of two of its seven missions in Russia, with the Russia Vladivostok Mission folding into the Russia Novosibirsk Mission.
According to Saturday’s church statement, the change will be effective July 1 — a date common for much of the expansion and contraction of missions and their boundaries by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The merging missions are the church’s two eastern-most missions in Russia — Novosibirsk in south-central Russia and Vladivostok in the country’s southeastern corner bordering North Korea and the People’s Republic of China.
The other five LDS missions in Russia are based in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Samara, Rostov-na-Donu and Yekaterinburg. All missions in Russia are under the supervision of the church’s Europe East Area, headquartered in Moscow.
The LDS Church counts 23,180 members and 103 congregations (wards and branches) in Russia.
Changes in Russian law in July 2016 — described as an anti-terrorism tool for the country — resulted in broader definitions of what is missionary work and resulted in more restrictions and widespread concerns about the future of missionary work in Russia among Christians, Muslims and Jews.
LDS Church officials said they would adhere to the new directives, and Mormon missionaries — known as "volunteers" since then — were allowed to remain in the country.
Some Russia-assigned volunteers were deported a month after the new law took affect, and the LDS Church slightly decreased the number of Russia-assigned volunteers a month after that.
Hence, Saturday’s First Presidency announcement speaks of “volunteers” in the missions, rather than “missionaries.”
The statement said that those serving in Vladivostok who were to be released in July will now return home later this month, while those who were to return home in August will be reassigned and complete their service in missions in the United States.
Also, President John W. and Verna Perkinson, of Mesa, Arizona, who have presided over the Russia Vladivostok Mission for the past two years, have been released, with the First Presidency expressing appreciation for their service.
The Russia Vladivostok Mission was created in March 1999 and was parent to two member districts, one each in Vladivostok and Irkutsk. The Russia Novosibirsk Mission is parent to a district based in the same city.
The first LDS Church branch was organized in 1990 in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), with the first missions created in Moscow in 1990 (initially named the Finland Helsinki East Mission) and the Russia St. Petersburg Mission in 1992.