Church History
Temple Pilgrimages

“Temple Pilgrimages,” Global Histories: Ukraine (2018)

“Temple Pilgrimages,” Global Histories: Ukraine

Temple Pilgrimages

For nearly two decades, Ukrainian Latter-day Saints traveled in groups to Freiberg, Germany, to worship in the temple. The trip was long and expensive, but many tried to go at least once. The very first trip took place in November 1992. A group of Saints received the necessary exit visas as religious pilgrims and set out by bus just as an early winter storm set in. For most, it would be their first experience outside the former Soviet Union, and to preserve the spiritual nature of the trip, their leaders decided they would consecrate the journey exclusively to temple worship and avoid sightseeing or shopping. In the bus, the Saints were organized like a mobile branch: they sang hymns, prayed, and worshipped together until at long last they saw the illuminated spire of the Freiberg Germany Temple in the night sky. During the two-day stay at the temple, Valeriy Stavichenko wrote, “This is the kind of place that one would wish to spend all his time. I unwittingly began to dream and imagined such a place in Kyiv.”

The idea of a temple in Ukraine became a dream for the Saints. As additional trips to Freiberg were organized in the 1990s, more Church members like Valeriy wondered when they would see a house of God in their own country. They received encouragement in their yearnings from Church leaders. Elder Boyd K. Packer’s 1991 dedicatory prayer promised that the spires of the temple would be seen in Ukraine. And in March 1994, Elder Dallin H. Oaks told thousands of Saints gathered in Kyiv that if they were faithful, they would see a temple in Ukraine in their lifetime. Then in 1998, before even a stake had been organized, the Church announced plans to build a temple in Ukraine.

Construction didn’t begin until 2007. In the meantime, local leaders like Kyiv Ukraine Stake president Volodymyr Kanchenko urged the Saints to prepare spiritually and travel when possible to the temple in Freiberg. Larysa Shyshkanova from Bila Tserkva had joined the Church in 1998 and dreamed of going to the temple. For her, an older woman who used a wheelchair, the bus trip to Germany presented a serious physical and financial challenge. Still, in 2004, supported by her fellow branch members, she made the trip and found sustaining spiritual strength in the temple.

members participate in cultural celebration at Kyiv Temple

Members participating in the cultural celebration held at the Palace “Ukraine” in Kyiv, 2010.

Finally, on August 29, 2010, the long-awaited day came for Saints like Valeriy, Volodymyr, and Larysa. In a display of spiritual unity, Church members from across Ukraine and beyond gathered in Kyiv and in meetinghouses far and wide as Church President Thomas S. Monson dedicated the Kyiv Ukraine Temple. A spire of a house of the Lord was now visible in Ukraine, fulfilling the promises of Apostles and the dreams of the local Saints.