Editor’s Note: The author is in the St. Petersburg Russia Branch. He interviewed the district Young Men president, Nikolai Aparin, about his conversion.
How did you come into the Church? Was it a chance discovery or a final stopping point after a period of soul searching?
My road to the Church was a long one. For a long time I had been searching for peace for my soul. I became interested in yoga and practiced it. I did find some peace of mind. But later my anxiety renewed, and I felt a desire to join a church. I began to have the same question as did Joseph Smith. Which church? I tried many different churches but felt no particular sympathies toward any of them. I didn’t know then about the existence of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the depths of my soul I heard an answer, “You must visit a church with representatives from America.” I was very surprised by this; nevertheless, I felt reassured. In the spring I bought a ticket to a concert by the Young Ambassadors from Brigham Young University. After the concert I met missionaries who invited me to church. Elder Wood taught me the six discussions. From the very start of the discussions, I felt that this was the very church for which I had been searching.
I am grateful to the Lord that he led me to his church. I was baptized and received the gift of the Holy Ghost. My life greatly changed. I have gained joy, happiness, and peace. I have found the very life for which I was searching.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Russia is new. Many simply don’t know about it. Have your relationships with friends and acquaintances changed since your baptism?
When my friends found out that I am a member of the Church, they became very interested. I was able to bring many of them to the Church, and I’m still trying to bring more.
Working with youth can be difficult. How is your relationship with the young people of the Church?
Our youth in Russia seem to lack initiative, self-esteem, and confidence in social situations. We must develop all of these things in our youth and be able to reach their hearts. Going on picnics together, I felt a mutual understanding grow, and we became friends. The same thing happened when I began to invite youth from all the six St. Petersburg branches. Now our youth gladly come out to activities.
In other countries where the Church has been established for a long time, there are definite programs set aside for the spiritual and physical development of the youth. What do we have here at present?
In St. Petersburg, there are some difficulties in organizing the youth programs, including absence of translated materials, the high prices in the country, and lack of free time. Because we don’t have a church building, we must rent rooms for games and rent low-quality equipment. There is also a problem in meeting because the young people are so busy with their education. Nevertheless, they try to take an active role in church life. In winter we go cross-country skiing. In the summer we go on picnics and outings. We hold dances and firesides as well.
What plans do you have as district Young Men president?
We are organizing a district youth conference. And we are now originating the Scouting program here. I want to unite the youth from all the branches. I want to hold more activities which will help the youth grow closer together. I also think it’s necessary to devote much attention to spiritual growth.
The 1992 Russia St. Petersburg Mission youth conference was held in a St. Petersburg University dormitory. Seventy-five young people attended. They were excited to be together and talk about their Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. The theme of the conference was “Choose the Right.” The conference included dances, games, singing, and workshops. But everyone’s favorite moments came during the testimony meeting where, as the author reported, “my heart was filled with love and my eyes with tears.”