Mormons flock to Kiev for temple dedication
Nobody will dare confuse it with Salt Lake City, but the Ukrainian capital city has seen a noticeable upswing in the number of out-of-town and out-of-country visitors this weekend, many sporting white shirts and ties or dresses and stopping by sites of interest to LDS Church members, as well as the typical tourist stops.
"The whole city seems filled with Mormons," said a Latter-day Saint man from Finland, joined by a woman from Romania, as they made their way on the underground metro to visit Pechersk Lavra, the Kiev Monastery of the Caves.
The throngs have amassed this weekend for Sunday's dedication of the Kyiv Ukraine Temple, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' first temple built inside the former Soviet Union.
Besides buying Ukrainian pysanky eggs and Russian matryoshka nesting dolls at the stands along the cobblestone street beside St. Andrew's Cathedral, the LDS visitors have gravitated to sites of church interest, such as the grounds of the new temple or the park overlooking the Dnieper River that hosts the towering monument of Prince Vladimir, who brought Christianity to the region in the late 10th century.
It was in this area where then-Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve pronounced an apostolic blessing on the new nation on Sept. 11, 1991, just two days after the Ukrainian government had given full recognition to the LDS Church.
And less than 20 years later, an LDS temple is being dedicated in Ukraine.
Preceding the dedication was Saturday night's traditional cultural program, staged at the Palats Ukraina — or Ukraine Palace, the 3,000-seat presidential concert hall.
Once again, the Palats Ukraina played host to an LDS president-prophet, with President Thomas S. Monson joined 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 Quorums of the Seventy and the church's Temple Department executive director.
Eight years earlier, President Gordon B. Hinckley had spoken in the same building, the first time an LDS Church president had visited the former USSR.
"I couldn't miss this event," said Svetlana Manolos of Lviv, Ukraine, who attended the 2002 meeting and was in the presence of her prophet again Saturday, with her 1-month-old fifth child in her arms.
"In English, it's too hard to explain what I felt," Manolos said. "It's even hard in Ukrainian."
President Monson addressed the capacity crowd first, acknowledging the temple as the reason drawing all together this weekend.
"It shines as a beacon of righteousness to all who will follow its light," he said.
Before pronouncing his blessing on those in attendance and the evening's proceedings, he encouraged all participants and audience members to make note of the experience and their feelings.
"Tonight will be a night you will never forget," he said. "When you go home, write in your journals what you saw and felt. Years from now, you will be telling your children and your grandchildren about this event."
And the best way to describe the two-hour event? The Eastern European equivalent to the Polynesian Cultural Center.
In fact, Kiev's cultural event was really a multicultural event, featuring music, song and dance from the new temple district — Armenia, Belorussia, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Moldavia, Romania, Russia and Ukraine.
Singers, dancers, musicians and audience members came from these countries to participate, while more from other central European countries, such as Hungary and Poland, came to witness the program and attend Sunday's dedication.
Also, returned missionaries — both young and old — arrived from Australia to America to be in Kiev for the historic event and the start of a temple era in Ukraine and east Europe.
August 28, 2010 Deseret News