For nearly six years, I have watched General Conference with bated breath. As President Monson announced temple after temple, I waited but the words never came. I was happy for all of the incredible places in the world getting temples, but came away from each conference disappointed.
I served in Novosibirsk Russia under a visionary Mission President- who not coincidentally had been set apart by President Nelson. President Gibbons came to Russia with a single and divinely inspired goal – to help build a district and eventually a stake in Siberia. He promised the members that if they remained faithful, one day they would see stakes and temple dot Russia and specially in Siberia.
After six years, I had lost hope. After years of progress in constructing stakes and districts, the government crackdown was savage. First came anti-Mormon propaganda on TV. Next came an effort to label members of the church tratiors to the national fabric. An aggressive ban on proselytizing followed. And within just the past year, family history centers were shut down and meeting houses raided after evidence of criminal conduct was manufactured and planted.
With each unfulfilled conference prayer, I began to doubt whether God would truly be faithful to the promises he made through his divinely called servant. Today, President Nelson, a true Prophet of God, showed that it is not God that is unfaithful to his promises.
It is so appropriate that President Nelson would be the one to announce the building of a temple in Russia. He was the apostle instrumental in the opening up of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union territories to missionary work in the late 80s and early 90s. One of his many granddaughters served in Russia. He has spoken to the saints there on many occasions and has used their stories in conference.
I can’t begin to express how much this announcement means to me personally and to the saints in Russia. My Siberian Brothers and Sisters are probably currently as far from an operating temple as anywhere in the world. In 2010, the Church dedicated the Kiev Ukraine Temple which somewhat eased the burdens of travel. But worsening socio-political circumstances have dashed that dream. And even with a temple in Kiev, the distance is over 4,000 miles from the center of my mission. Those faithful members ride the trains for days and spend a week at the temple doing work night and day. Their faith and example resembles the early pioneers. It will truly be a glorious day to have a temple in Russia.
There will likely be opposition to the building of the temple. When a temple is built, a portion of the world is sanctified and set apart for the holiest purpose imaginable. Satan rages. But God will triumph.
I also celebrate the announcement of new temples to be built in Argentina, Nicaragua, the Philippines, the USA (UT and VA), and India, but for me the temple announced in Russia makes all the difference!