LDS Church’s weak statement on Russia’s invasion falls flat

It’s time to take an ethical stance — regardless of the political difficulties.

(Ed Kosmicki | Particular to The Tribune) Contributors maintain flags, indicators and sunflowers, the nationwide flower of Ukraine, throughout a rally on the Utah Capitol steps Saturday, Feb. 26 2022. An estimated 500 folks attended the rally in solidarity with Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia.

On Feb. 25, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints launched an announcement so anemic that it wasn’t totally clear whether or not it was purported to be addressing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine the day earlier than.

“We’re heartbroken and deeply involved by the armed battle now raging. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has members in every of the affected areas and all through the world. Our minds and hearts have been turned towards them and all our brothers and sisters.

“We proceed to wish for peace. We all know that enduring peace could be discovered by Jesus Christ. He can calm and luxury our souls even within the midst of horrible conflicts. He taught us to like God and our neighbors.

“We pray that this armed battle will finish shortly, that the controversies will finish peacefully, and that peace will prevail amongst nations and inside our personal hearts. We plead with world leaders to hunt for such resolutions and peace.”

Each the assertion’s timing and its observe that the church “has members in every of the affected areas” definitely counsel that it was supposed to sentence (softly, feebly, unsteadily) what Russia did and is doing. However because the nations in query are nowhere named, we’re left to guess.

On Monday, the church’s Europe Space Presidency additionally issued an announcement, asking members to quick for peace this Sunday, the church’s common month-to-month day of fasting. Once more, nonetheless, it didn’t title names. Russia and Ukraine usually are not talked about.

Now isn’t the time to be like Switzerland, refusing to take a stand in opposition to an unprovoked assault. (Apparently even Switzerland feels this manner, since earlier Monday it introduced it was setting apart its ordinary neutrality and imposing financial sanctions due to “the unprecedented army assault by Russia on a sovereign European state.”)

I’m all for praying for peace and for church buildings that make such prayers a daily and pointed a part of our worship. We Latter-day Saints may do extra with that, daily and week to week. It’s not that I disagree with something within the church’s official “assertion on armed battle.” What’s there to disagree with, actually? It’s extra that its sweeping, all-inclusive nature removes any actual influence it may need had. Because the historian Ardis Parshall expressed it on Twitter, it was imprecise and lacked coronary heart.

So why is it so generalized? It’s an fascinating query, particularly contemplating the church’s deep anti-Soviet sensibilities of the second half of the twentieth century. Vladimir Putin has accomplished greater than every other chief to return Russia to these occasions of dictatorship. In 2020, for instance, he pushed by laws that can allow him to stay in energy till 2036, voiding the two-term restrict that had prevailed since a fragile democracy was established within the 1993 structure. He has labored to curtail freedom and promote authoritarianism. But the church has mentioned subsequent to nothing by means of criticism of him or of those actions.

I think that is because of the church’s personal self-interest. In 2018, President Russell M. Nelson introduced the creation of Russia’s first-ever Latter-day Saint temple. The truth that the placement for the temple has not been introduced suggests it’s nonetheless a delicate matter of negotiation. It appears probably that church leaders don’t have any want to antagonize Putin, no matter what he has accomplished in Ukraine and at dwelling.

It’s a fragile state of affairs for the church in Russia, fraught with rising pressure. Throughout Putin’s reign, missionaries there have been forbidden from non secular proselytizing; they should be known as “volunteers” as a substitute of missionaries and are restricted to service alternatives. And even with that proviso, two missionaries-cum-volunteers have been arrested in 2017 and detained for 3 weeks in an immigration facility as a result of they have been allegedly instructing English with out a license.

If Latter-day Saint leaders want a cautionary story, they want look no additional than what has been occurring with the Jehovah’s Witnesses to whom they’re typically in contrast. In 2017, Russia banned Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Putin’s regime has spent the previous a number of years cracking down on them, raiding their homes and imposing typically harsh jail sentences. As a result of Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to salute nationwide flags or interact in army service, their historical past has been characterised by frequent conflicts with totalitarian states, most famously in Nazi Germany.

However right here’s what I can’t cease serious about. Latter-day Saints, to our everlasting disgrace, had a extra amicable relationship with the Nazis within the Nineteen Thirties earlier than battle broke out. Because the guide “Moroni and the Swastika” reveals, the church was very involved at the moment about not being expelled from Germany when its mission applications have been gaining steam, so members did what they may to accommodate Hitler’s insurance policies. For instance, members utilized their genealogical experience to assist Germans show their Aryan ancestry and even inspired Latter-day Saint missionaries to show German younger males methods to play basketball prematurely of the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Hitler hoped, the Deseret Information indicated, for a “Nordic win” on the Video games, and the missionaries may assist with that.

It might be marvelous if Latter-day Saints may study one thing from our personal historical past. Our shortsightedness in Nineteen Thirties Germany enabled us to look the opposite manner when nice evils have been being dedicated, so long as our missionaries have been allowed to proceed evangelizing.

Our priorities have been incorrect then, and I worry we could also be committing the identical mistake once more. Whereas I can perceive why the church right this moment may be reluctant to talk out in opposition to Putin — that may imply saying goodbye within the quick time period to a brand new temple and presumably inserting Russian church members in a precarious place vis-à-vis the state — it’s an ethical disappointment when the perfect we are able to give you is the equal of “ideas and prayers.”

(The views expressed on this opinion piece don’t essentially mirror these of Faith Information Service.)

LDS apostle makes historic move in Gambia

Christofferson dedicates the nation, with solely 23 Latter-day Saints, to the preaching of the religion’s gospel throughout West African tour.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)
Apostle D. Todd Christofferson along with his spouse, Kathy, and different senior church leaders make their option to the overlook close to the Atlantic Ocean in Gambia on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, the place the Latter-day Saint chief would dedicate the West African nation to the preaching of the religion’s gospel.

The variety of Latter-day Saints in Gambia practically doubled in someday this previous week — to 23.

However leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints count on that tiny tally to multiply now that apostle D. Todd Christofferson has devoted the small West African nation to the preaching of the religion’s gospel.

“Dedication opens the likelihood now for us to be registered to determine the church formally,” Christofferson mentioned in a video, “and to start to plant the seed and to develop.”

In the course of the journey, Christofferson, his spouse, Kathy, and others within the church delegation met with Gambian President Adama Barrow, his spouse, Fatoumatta Bah-Barrow, and Vice President Isatou Touray within the capital of Banjul.

“The assembly is the very best assembly I ever had since I grew to become a primary girl,” Bah-Barrow mentioned in a information launch. “It’s the mighty God [who] works in miracles. I’m completely satisfied about this go to, and I hope it is a starting. … And we are going to proceed in strengthening and altering the lives of individuals of this nation.”

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)
Apostle D. Todd Christofferson and his spouse, Kathy, meet with President Adama Barrow in Gambia’s capital of Banjul on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.

On Thursday at daybreak, Christofferson, the primary Latter-day Saint apostle to tour West Africa in two years, provided a prayer at an ocean overlook to formally dedicate Gambia.

“Because the solar begins to come back now, we see it as a brand new dawning for the nation. Not only a new day, however a extremely a brand new day, a brand new period,” Christofferson mentioned within the launch. “I discussed in my dedication prayer that that is an oft occasions unremembered place, nevertheless it’s God’s creation. These are his folks. He remembers them.”

Christofferson and the church delegation additionally attended a baptism for 11 folks, the discharge famous, giving the Utah-based religion 23 members within the nation of about 2.5 million.

Earlier within the week, Christofferson visited a West African nation with exponentially extra members: Nigeria, house to 210,000 Latter-day Saints and three working or deliberate temples.

Within the capital of Abuja, he huddled with Vice President Oluyemi Oluleke Osinbajo.

“You’ve bought to understand a gathering that begins and ends with prayer,” Christofferson mentioned in a separate information launch. “…We talked about a number of the historical past of the church, particularly in Nigeria, mentioning the expansion that we’ve seen.”

The church has targeted its humanitarian efforts within the nation on imaginative and prescient, clear water and neonatal care.

“I recognize the social service works that the church is doing within the space of fresh water, immunization and a number of other different issues,” Osinbajo mentioned within the launch. “For faith-based organizations, it’s an article of religion that you should contribute to the event of society.”

Earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic, apostle Neil L. Andersen toured West Africa, the place the religion has seen a few of its most dramatic development.

LDS First Presidency pleads for peace without naming Russia or Ukraine

Jesus “can calm and luxury our souls even within the midst of horrible conflicts,” President Russell Nelson and his counselors write. “He taught us to like God and our neighbors.”

(Emilio Morenatti | AP) Ukrainian troopers take place on a bridge inside town of Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022.

The governing First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a information launch Friday calling for peace “amongst nations and inside our personal hearts,” whereas stopping wanting naming Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We’re heartbroken and deeply involved by the armed battle now raging,” says the three-paragraph assertion from President Russell M. Nelson and counselors Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring. “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has members in every of the affected areas and all through the world. Our minds and hearts have been turned towards them and all our brothers and sisters.”

The message doesn’t element the “affected areas,” nonetheless, as an alternative pivoting to a message of peace.

“We proceed to hope for peace,” the church leaders state. “We all know that enduring peace could be discovered by way of Jesus Christ. He can calm and luxury our souls even within the midst of horrible conflicts. He taught us to like God and our neighbors.

“We pray that this armed battle will finish rapidly, that the controversies will finish peacefully and that peace will prevail amongst nations and inside our personal hearts,” they conclude. “We plead with world leaders to hunt for such resolutions and peace.”

The message comes after the presidency of the Europe East Space issued a press release of its personal, acknowledging that “these are troublesome instances” and that high Latter-day Saint leaders “are absolutely conscious of” the state of affairs.

“Prophets, seers and revelators pray for you and for the hearts of the leaders to be softened for peace,” space President Hans T. Growth and his counselors, Scott D. Whiting and Kyrylo Pokhylko, wrote in a information launch dated earlier than Russia’s invasion started however circulated Thursday.

That very same day, church spokesperson Sam Penrod confirmed that the Utah-based religion’s temple in Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv has now closed.

The 16.6 million-member church has greater than 11,000 Latter-day Saints and about 50 congregations in Ukraine, based on its web site.

Final month, the church moved its full-time missionaries out of Ukraine as a result of rising tensions, briefly reassigning them to different elements of Europe.

The church doesn’t checklist its statistics for Russia, although it reportedly had about 23,000 members there in 2018 scattered amongst practically 100 congregations.

Nelson stated in spring 2018, throughout his first Common Convention as the religion’s prophet-president, that the church plans to construct a temple in a “main metropolis” in Russia. A location has by no means been introduced.

Russian troops invaded Ukraine early Thursday morning.

Tetiana Koval-Ievdokymova is a mom of three younger youngsters and a Latter-day Saint who was dwelling in Kyiv when the preventing broke out. She and her household quickly discovered shelter earlier than deciding to pack up and head west, though they’re not sure the place they are going to find yourself.

She stated native Latter-day Saints have been lively on social media, providing assist and checking on each other’s security. She additionally has acquired an outpouring of assist from worldwide members, who she stated have been reaching out in concern over Fb — a reassuring gesture for which she stated she is “grateful.”