President Monson dedicates Kyiv Ukraine Temple, first in former Soviet Union
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"A landmark in the maturation of the Church in Eastern Europe."
That phrase defines the Kyiv Ukraine Temple, which President Thomas S. Monson dedicated Aug. 29. By doing so, he opened a new chapter in the history of the Church and, by extension, all the world.
The Church is less than 20 years old in Ukraine. Not since the early days of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ has a temple been built so soon after the Church has been established in a nation.
"How pleased and honored I am to have the opportunity to be here in Kyiv with our faithful members and to dedicate this magnificent temple — the 134th in the Church," President Monson said.
"As this temple is dedicated, I would hope that each one in attendance today would pledge to rededicate his or her life and to make the promise, 'As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord' " (Joshua 24:15).
President Monson was accompanied to the dedication by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency; Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve and Elder William R. Walker of the Seventy. Sisters Harriet Uchtdorf, Wendy Nelson and Vicki Walker accompanied their husbands to the dedication of the temple.
The cornerstone ceremony was held as part of the first dedicatory session. President Monson placed the first dab of mortar to seal the temple's symbolic cornerstone, in which was placed a box that included written copies of the scriptures, hymnals, histories, photographs and other items pertaining to the Church here. The box also contained Russian translations of books by President Monson, Live the Good Life, and President Henry B. Eyring, his first counselor in the First Presidency, To Draw Closer to God.
At the cornerstone ceremony, President Monson said, "There is a nice spirit here among you. I'm sensitive to the Spirit. I feel it today. There is no place else I would rather be."
He noted that his thoughts were on President Spencer W. Kimball who said, " 'If you can't gather the people closer to the temple, bring the temples to the people.' " The Church's temple-building era, as some have called it, began during President Kimball's administration, 1973-1985, when 31 temples were announced, 21 dedicated and five rededicated.
President Monson described the day of the dedication as "a day of freedom, a day you will have all the ordinances of the gospel."
It is a time, he said, to do ordinance work for ancestors, for people who cannot do it for themselves.
"I promise, when you come to the temple, you will have a feeling in your heart that you have given the greatest gift to them." That, he said, is what temple work is about.
Before leaving the cornerstone area, he told the members who had gathered, "You will always remember that you were here the day the temple was dedicated. It is your temple now, but in a few minutes, we will give it to the Lord."
Three sessions were held to dedicate the Kyiv Ukraine Temple. President Monson presided over, spoke in and offered the prayer of dedication in all three sessions. (Please see page 5 for the text of the prayer.)
In the temple district, practically every Latter-day Saint bears the honorable title of "pioneer," since the gospel came to their countries only 20 or so years ago. In Ukraine itself, the Church is just 19 years old.
Many Latter-day Saints attending the temple dedication brought with them memories of political pressures, dictatorships, revolutions, ravaged cities, bombings and other atrocities experienced before "the fall of communism" in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
With a temple – the greatest symbol of peace – now standing in what had been part of the USSR, newer and happier memories are being built.
The statue of Angel Moroni capping the temple's spire is an exalted complement to another statue in Kyiv that many in this region have admired, that of Prince Vladimir who more than a thousand years ago proclaimed Christianity to be the religion of his realm.
The Kyiv Ukraine Temple District includes the former Soviet Union countries of Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine; the Balkan or Southeastern European nations of Bulgaria and Moldova; and Romania, which was occupied by the Soviets.
In an interview, President Uchtdorf spoke of the Church members in these countries, saying, "The wonderful thing now is there is an overlaying spiritual connection for them that is above political or other worldly matters – a unity in spirituality, in brotherhood and sisterhood — that will somehow feed the spiritual strength of the people in different countries who will come to the light that is being established now in Ukraine. This temple in Kyiv will have great impact on the rest of the countries in Eastern Europe."
President Uchtdorf is very familiar with the countries comprising the new temple district. He came to Kyiv – then Kiev, which was more Russian than Ukrainian — in 1994 as a member of the Europe East Area presidency and toured the mission and met with members. He traveled also to other countries now in the temple district.
In an interview, President Uchtdorf spoke of a Ukrainian tradition of welcoming visitors with bread and salt. "If you come down to the weightier matters, to things that matter most, the temple is where you get your bread and salt, and you can live on that for a long time. This is the spiritual food that these people will receive.
"Ukraine was once the 'breadbasket of Europe;' it supplied the other countries with wheat. You could say that it will now be the spiritual breadbasket because of the temple."
Elder Nelson said, "This is a glorious day for a lot more than Ukraine."
He spoke of difficulties members in Eastern Europe have faced in traveling to a temple and mentioned the members whose travels from Kazakhstan have been especially long and difficult. He spoke also of those from parts of Russia that are in the new temple district.
"The dear people of Russia who wanted to be endowed had to go to Sweden and Finland," he said. "Traveling to Ukraine will be easier politically and economically. It will be a long trip for them, but a temple in the former USSR — no one can underestimate the significance of that."