“A Mormon in Moscow,” Ensign, Mar. 1987, 34–35
On a beautiful April day in 1984, I stood in the center of Red Square in my blue jeans, button-down collar shirt, and cowboy boots, representing everything that is American.
In front of me, standing at attention, was a young soldier dressed in a long gray overcoat and a fur hat displaying red star, hammer, and sickle, representing everything Russian.
All around me were the symbols of hundreds of years of Russian history. I was flanked on one side by the rainbow-colored domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral. On the other side stood the towers of the Kremlin. And in front of me, just behind the soldier, was Lenin’s tomb.
As I watched the thousands of people quietly file past the tomb, my eyes met those of the soldier. In that instant a barrier went up between us. A mental Iron Curtain created by decades of misunderstanding separated us, though we stood only a few feet apart.
I asked myself, “What am I doing here? A Mormon in Moscow!”
Then I felt another pair of eyes watching me. As I turned, I realized the young man was looking at my cowboy boots. “From what state are you?” he asked.
When I said Utah, he said, “Oh! Salt Lake City. You are then a Mormon!”
And with that my visit in Moscow took a dramatic turn. For the next four days, 28-year-old Ivan was my guide to a side of Russia I never knew existed—a nation of believers in Jesus Christ.
On the fourth night, as Ivan and I sat in an out-of-the-way restaurant watching a group of village women dance, Ivan turned to me, and above the music and laughter said, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ?”
At my positive response, he leaned forward and said, “I, too, am a believer.”
The next morning we made our way to a small domed church tucked away among concrete apartment buildings.
Inside the candlelit church I saw the heart of Russia. Old and young stood before ancient icons with heads bowed, mumbling prayers to Mary and her Son.
Together Ivan and I took the beeswax candles and lighted them in honor of the brotherhood we had felt during the past four days. That morning, in the candlelight of a thousand-year-old Russian Orthodox church, I told my new friend the story of a young man kneeling in prayer in a grove of trees, and the spirit of truth bore witness of the Restoration.
With tears in his eyes, Ivan embraced me and gave me the traditional European kiss on each cheek. He then reached into a small pack and pulled out a beautiful fur hat. Placing it on my head, Ivan said, “There. Now you too are Russian.”
As I watched my friend leave through one door of that ancient sanctuary, I made my way to another. But first I turned to the place where Ivan and I had lighted our candles. No longer were there two candles burning. Instead, the soft yellow beeswax had melted together, and burning brightly toward the heavens was one flame where there had been two.