“Elder Nelson Speaks in Ukraine, Establishes First Stake,” Ensign, Aug. 2004, 78
“Nations that cultivate freedom of religious expression will produce finer individuals, changed for good. Their families will be stronger and more secure. They will be better citizens who honor the laws of the land, who are more charitable, more peaceful and prosperous,” Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said as the keynote speaker at a conference on religious freedom in Kiev, Ukraine, on 27 May 2004.
At the two-day conference, Elder Nelson addressed governmental representatives from 24 nations who have responsibility for religious affairs in their countries.
“Governments are established for the benefit of their citizens, who should be equally protected and equally obligated under the law, be they believers or nonbelievers,” he said. “Our Creator and Judge holds government leaders accountable for their acts in relation to their citizens.”
Focusing on rights that should be established in every nation, Elder Nelson said, quoting from a UN declaration, “Fundamental religious rights include: the right to believe or disbelieve; the right to worship, either alone or with others; the right to assemble for religious purposes; the right to own or occupy property for the purpose of worship; the right to perform religious ceremonies; the right to possess and distribute religious media; and the right to establish rules for fellowship in a religious society.”
Elder Nelson shared how he has grown by following the values of his religion. “It requires me to strive to live a constantly improving life. … My faith gives me hope. And it assures me that each blessing comes not by chance but by obedience to the law upon which that blessing is predicated.”
Elder Nelson shared his testimony with the delegates, saying, “God lives! … There is no direction in which we can turn, no philosophical shield behind which we can hide, no parliamentary edict we can assert which will evade God’s exacting gaze, or excuse us from obedience to His commandments.”
The next day, Elder Nelson organized the first stake in Ukraine. Thirteen years after missionaries entered the country in 1991, membership there has grown to about 8,500.
“Now you take your place among the stakes of Zion,” Elder Nelson told the gathered members. “You are now a part of the heart of the Church.”
Elder Nelson blessed the members and asked them to love their neighbors as Christ loves them, to share the gospel with others, and to prepare for the temple by doing their family history work.
Church News contributed to this report.