During a visit to Temple Square, the senior member of a group of Soviet legislators said the strongest impression he had of the United States "is the singing of your choir."
Konstantin Dmitrievich Lubenchenko was among six Soviet legislators on a three-week trip to the United States in September. During a three-day stay in Utah, they visited Temple Square and attended the weekly Sunday morning broadcast of "Music and the Spoken Word" by the Tabernacle Choir. They were hosted on Temple Square by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Council of the Twelve.After the broadcast, Elder Oaks and others met with the Soviet delegation in a conference room in the South Visitors Center on Temple Square. Elder Oaks told the delegation about the Church, and the Soviet visitors spoke briefly in response, expressing appreciation for what they had learned and what they had felt during their visit.
Elder Oaks told the Church News, "The spirit of the occasion was so touching to me that I felt impressed to invoke a blessing upon these Soviet legislators and their effort to obtain greater freedom through law in the Soviet Union.
"I was most impressed by the comments of Konstantin Dmitrievich Lubenchenko, the senior in the delegation."
Elder Oaks reported that Mr. Lubenchenko, in his remarks, said, "Since I have come to the United States, people have asked me what is my strongest impression of the United States. I can tell you now. It is the singing of your choir. As the TabernacleT choir sang, I had a very strong impression. Although I do not speak English, I felt with my heart that they were sincerely expressing my feelings. My relation with God was expressed in earthly feelings through their singing.
"Before I came here I thought the Mormon Church was a very conservative organization of fanatics. But after seeing the beautiful pictures and the statue of ChristT in your visitors center and the beautiful setting where the choir sang and hearing the choir and organ, I have a new understanding of your Church.
"I hope we can continue our acquaintance beyond the diplomatic character."
Among those accompanying Elder Oaks and the Soviet legislators on their visit to Temple Square were Jon M. Huntsman, president of the Salt Lake Monument Park Stake, and his son, Peter Huntsman, both of whom went to Moscow earlier this year to sign an agreement with Soviet officials allowing the Church to assist in rebuilding in earthquake-torn Soviet Armenia. (See Church News, Aug. 19.)
Also hosting and translating for the Russian guests was Edwin B. Morrell, a BYU professor of political science and former president of the Austria Vienna Mission who speaks Russian.
Elder Oaks said the Soviet legislators' visit to the Temple Square and the comments they made serve as "another reminder that if we are to fulfill our responsibility to preach the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people, we must have the friendliest relations with people of all nationalities. . . .
"This was also a reaffirmation of the fact that there are good people in the Soviet Union striving to acquire greater freedom, to improve their way of life and to reach out for persons in all places of the world with whom they can have friendly relations."
While in Salt Lake City, the Soviet legislators were hosted by Pat Shea, a Salt Lake attorney. They met one morning in the conference room of the Utah Supreme Court. Elder Oaks, a former Utah Supreme Court justice, and Christine Durham, a Utah Supreme Court justice and active Church member, answered questions about the U.S. legal system.
In addition to Mr. Lubenchenko, who serves as deputy chairman of the subcommittee on questions of constitutionality and political reform, the delegation included:
Nikolai Vasillevich Fyodorov, who serves on the committee on Legislation, Legality and Law and Order; Andrei Evgenievich Sebentsov, a member of the Supreme Soviet Committee on Problems of Legislation, Legality and Law and Order; Anatoly Timofeevich Bychkov and Sergi Mikhailovich Shakrai, members of the Supreme Soviet staff; and Natalya Mikhailovna Zavarina, an aide to Mr. Lubenchenko.