Don LaVange is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Don LaVange is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Mormon missionaries remain in Russia despite new restrictions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently signed an anti-terrorism legislation, known in the country as the “Yarovaya law.” It was co-authored by Irina Yarovaya, a prominent member of Putin's United Russia party, hence the name. Even though the aim of “Yarovaya law” is to counter terrorism, it will restrict the LDS Church missionary works in Russia. The law makes it mandatory that the people who do missionary work in Russia be attached with a registered organization. Also, religious works should be restricted to houses of worship and other related religious sites.

Fines ranging from $15,500 for an organization and $780 per missionary will be levied upon organizations and missionaries caught praying and distributing religious materials in private residences. This basically means that the LDS missionaries or any other missionaries from different religious groups will not be able to share their faith through the internet or in a home to which they have been invited.

According to Julie Emmons, an LDS Church missionary, who recently completed her missionary work in Moscow and is now back in the United States, Russian Mormons regularly invite the Mormon missionaries to their homes to teach people about the faith. The new law will put an end to this practice. Emmons also said that in Russia, the Mormon missionaries carry a “testimony” with them all the time. The testimony includes information about activities the missionary is taking up and a copy of his or her passport. Also, while spreading faith on the streets, the missionaries usually do not wear their badges as a safety precaution.

Garry Borders, who has been the president of the Moscow Mission for three years and at present in the U.S., said that the LDS missionaries in Russia are very brave. They will find a way to spread the faith while complying with the requirements of the new law.

The LDS Church, last Friday, issued a statement that said that the Church will honor, sustain, and obey the new Russian law. The missionaries will remain in Russia and perform their duties remaining within the boundaries of the law. The Church will also further analyze and study the law and its impact on the Church's mission works. There are over 22,700 LDS Church members in Russia. It was in 1991 that the Church gained official recognition in the country. Ever since, the Russian government, has been putting obstacles in its path, says Matt Martinich, project manager of the Cumorah Foundation and an independent LDS researcher.

The “Yarovaya law” was condemned by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, tagging it as an instrument to curtail civil liberties.

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