Additional Resource

A History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ukraine

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been established in Ukraine for nearly two decades. The year 2010 marks the 20th anniversary of the arrival of Elders Ivan Stratov and Brian Bradbury, the first missionaries to Ukraine. Transferred to Ukraine from the Finland Helsinki East Mission, the missionaries were accompanied by President Dennis B. Neuenschwander of the Austria Vienna East Mission.

They arrived in Kyiv on 7 October 1990 with a list of Ukrainian referrals. They quickly made enough contacts to gather 17 people for a “fireside” meeting (an informal devotional gathering) held in the Writers’ Union Hall, where the first formal Church sacrament meetings were later held.

Valery Stavichenko, baptized on 25 November 1990 in the icy waters of the Dnieper River by Elder Ivan Stratov, was the first Ukrainian to join the Church in Ukraine. Two years later, in November 1992, Stavichenko, his wife Tatyana and their children became some of the first from Ukraine to receive the blessings of the temple, the nearest temple at the time being in Freiberg, Germany.

The Kyiv branch was organized on 9 June 1991 with Valeriy Stavichenko as president. By the end of the month there were 44 members in the branch. Ukraine remained under the jurisdiction of the Austria Vienna East Mission, with Howard L. Biddulph as president, until February 1992 when the Ukraine Kyiv Mission was organized and the Austria Vienna East Mission was discontinued. A year later, in July 1993, the Mission was divided to create the Ukraine Donetsk Mission with Leo Merrill as president.

Prior to this time, an attempt had been made to register the Church in Kyiv. By August 1991, no word on the application had been received. Concerned about the delay, Biddulph made it a matter of prayer. On the first Sunday of August, Viktor Cherinko, a Deputy of the City Soviet (the legislative assembly for Kyiv), attended Church services.  Cherinko had heard good things about the Latter-day Saints and wanted to investigate. President Biddulph explained his desire that the Church be registered and Cherinko agreed to help. A few weeks later, Mr. Cherinko introduced a bill to register “The Kyiv Community of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” which was passed at midnight on 9 September 1991.

Two days later, on 11 September, Elders Boyd K. Packer and Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve (the second highest-governing body of Church leadership), accompanied by Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander, newly called to the Seventy (another high-ranking body of Church leaders), visited Ukraine and met with about 40 people, including Church members, missionaries and investigators. The following day, Elders Packer, Oaks and Neuenschwander, together with Church members and missionaries, went to a park overlooking the Dnieper River and Elder Packer offered a blessing over the land.

By April 1994, the Church had grown and branches had been established in several cities. Church leaders desired to have national recognition of the Church in Ukraine. Ukrainian law required that the head of the Church’s national organization be elected. Alexander Manzhos was elected to be the Church’s representative to the nation. Documents for national registration were filed on 6 April 1994, and two years later registration was granted. Later Alexander Manzhos served as president of the Ukraine Donetsk Mission and was the first Eastern European called to serve as an Area Seventy (regional Church leader).

The Church’s first meetinghouse in Ukraine was dedicated in Donetsk on 28 June 1998. On 7 September 2001, the first meetinghouse in Kyiv was dedicated. The following day a second meetinghouse in Kyiv was dedicated.

History was made in July 1998, when then-Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, presiding at the dedication of the Monticello Utah Temple, announced that a temple was planned for Kyiv. This was very welcome news to Ukrainian Latter-day Saints as it meant they would no longer be required to travel 30 hours one way to get to the temple in Freiberg, Germany.

President Hinckley became the first president of the Church to visit Ukraine in September 2002. He met with about 3,200 Church members in the Palace Ukraine Concert Hall in Kyiv. Members came from across Ukraine, spending in some cases the equivalent of a month’s income for train or bus tickets. The meeting was the largest assembly of Latter-day Saints in Ukraine history to that point. Church membership in late 2002 reached 8,627.

The first stake (similar to a diocese) of the Church in Eastern Europe was organized in Kyiv by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve at a special conference held on 30 May 2004. Vladimir Kanchenko was sustained as president of the new stake. In his remarks, Elder Nelson, reflecting on the time when he was given responsibility for establishing the Church in Eastern Europe said, “The Lord had accomplished a miracle.”

A third Ukrainian mission, the Ukraine Dnepropetrovsk Mission, was organized July 1, 2007. In April 2008 Elder Sergei N. Mikulin from Kharkiv was the second Church member called to serve as an Area Seventy. By the end of December 2009 Church membership in Ukraine reached 10,722, organized into a total of 64 congregations. 

*Some information provided courtesy of the Deseret News 2010 Church Almanac.

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