Sunday, July 1, 2018

Mormons May Become Kremlin’s Next Target among Religious Groups

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 30 – Although few in the West appear to be paying attention, the Russian government continues its attacks on the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other non-Orthodox faiths almost unabated. But many apparently assumed that the Mormons were going to escape this wave of anti-religious persecution.

            The reason for their hopes is that the US ambassador to the Russian Federation, John Huntsman, is a Mormon; and so any attacks on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Russia would not only be noticed by the US but would represent a direct slap in the face at Washington’s representative in Moscow.

            Unfortunately, there are no indications that elements in the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian regime are getting ready to attack the Mormons not in spite of Huntsman’s position but because of it, blaming him for the rise in Mormon activism in Russia and thus portraying this group as they have portrayed other believers as foreign “agents.”

            An indication of this danger is offered by an article on the Russkaya liniya portal, a site with close ties to many conservative elements within the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian government (

            The Missionary Department of the Chelyabinsk Bishopric of the Russian Orthodox Church, it says, has announced that the Mormons have in fact acquired a building there that they are converting into a Mormon church, the second such facility on the former Soviet space (the first is in Kyiv), and will use it for missionary and other less religious purposes.

            The Department continues that the Mormons have long sought such a facility and became more active in their successful pursuit of it after the US named a Mormon to be ambassador in Moscow.  It adds that Mormonism is “pseudo-Christian and in essence pagan” and thus entirely alien to Russian traditions.

            Despite all that, however, Russkaya liniya notes, “representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints has become part of the US establishment” and “many of its members have occupied and occupy now responsible posts in the leadership of the American special services.”

            “In Russia,” it continues, “Mormons have often been detained near closed defense sites,” an indication that they are “not only an instrument of ‘soft power’ directed at the reforming of the public consciousness of Russians but as a specific branch of strategic intelligence.” And the Mormons in Russia expand on this by organizing English language courses and sports events.

            “The Missionary Department of the Chelyabinsk Bishopric,” the portal continues, “directs the attention of residents of the Southern Urals to the fact that many destructive cults, especially of foreign origin, at present are in a ‘sleeping’ or ‘semi-sleeping’ state” in which they observe the law but create the basis for undermining the government.

            That is very much the case with the Mormons today, the Missionary Department says; and Russians need to learn “to say ‘no’ to recruiters” from that cult. Given the way the Russian Orthodox Church operates and cooperates with the Russian state, it is unfortunately unlikely that this attack on the Mormons will be limited to that alone.

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