On the same day in June, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic announced official recognition for the Church, and the government of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic gave the Church a plot of land for a building in Yerevan, the republic’s capital.
Official recognition by the Russian republic means the Church now has a legal voice to make requests of government ministries and can establish congregations throughout the republic. The Russian republic covers three-quarters of the Soviet Union’s land area and has a population of more than 140 million.
Alexander Rutskoi, vice president of the republic, announced the official recognition at a dinner following the Tabernacle Choir’s concert in Moscow on June 24 by reading a document that had actually been signed on May 28.
LDS missionaries from the Finland Helsinki East and Austria Vienna East missions have been serving in Russia since the Church was given limited recognition last year. Branches in Leningrad, Vyborg, and Moscow have a total of about three hundred members.
Also on June 24, Elders Russell M. Nelson and Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve were in Yerevan, along with Elder Hans B. Ringger of the Seventy, President of the Church’s Europe Area, to accept a gift of land.
The Armenian government gave the land in appreciation for the humanitarian efforts of the Church and of LDS philanthropist Jon Huntsman, a Utah-based businessman and president of the Salt Lake Monument Park Stake. Both the Church and President Huntsman contributed to medical relief efforts after an earthquake wracked Armenia in 1988.
The land, about three acres, has a view of Mt. Ararat, across the border in Turkey. The Church will construct a four-story building on the site. The building will be used as a meetinghouse, office building, and residential space for Church members who have volunteered to help manage a concrete plant. The plant, using equipment donated by President Huntsman, will be operated jointly by the Huntsman Chemical Company and the Armenian government. It will produce concrete panels to be used in housing for Armenians left homeless by the quake.
Elder Nelson, in expressing gratitude for the gift, promised that the planned Church building will be used to “teach of the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.” Elder Oaks said that while the concrete plant would help provide shelter for the body, the Church building would offer food for the soul.