Latter-day Saints are ‘volunteers’ because Russian law prohibits proselytizing

Salt Lake Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Photo: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, March 6, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — The father of one of two volunteers for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are being detained in Russia shared his concern on Facebook.

“Everyone – Please Pray for our Son and his companion,” the Facebook post said.

He explained that the two young men were in the church building in Novorossiysk, a Russian city on the Black Sea, and were arrested during their English class.

Church spokesman Eric Hawkins issued a statement Tuesday, saying:

“While we are grateful these young men are reportedly in good condition and are being treated well, we are troubled by the circumstances surrounding their detention. They have both spoken to their parents. We will continue to work with local authorities and encourage the swift release of these volunteers.”

The young men are considered volunteers rather than missionaries because, in 2016, Russia passed what is often referred to as the Yarovaya law — so named for Irina Yarovaya, who crafted the bill — which amended the existing counter-terrorism law — and included a ban on proselytizing and other missionary activities.

Volunteers in Russia are expected to focus more on community service work, while any discussion of faith or religious beliefs is prohibited outside of a church.

A 2016 news article in LDS Living reported on a statement by Eric Hawkins regarding six volunteers from the Russia Samara Mission who were briefly detained by local police checking the status of their visas.

The volunteers were released a few hours later, but three of them were reassigned to a mission outside of Russia “because of technicalities related to their visas.”

“This event comes after Russia recently enacted a new law aimed at combating terrorism that restricts the ability of religious organizations to preach outside of houses of worship,” the LDS Living article said.

“As a result of this new law,” it continued, “missionaries in Russia are now called volunteers and the Church made an official statement, saying, ‘The Church will honor, sustain and obey the law. Missionaries will remain in Russia and will work within the requirements of these changes. The Church will further study and analyze the law and its impact as it goes into effect.'”

Two LDS volunteers have been detained in the Russian city of Novorossiysk, on the Black Sea and 918 miles south of Moscow. Image: Google Maps

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