LDS First Presidency pleads for peace without naming Russia or Ukraine

Jesus “can calm and comfort our souls even in the midst of terrible conflicts,” President Russell Nelson and his counselors write. “He taught us to love God and our neighbors.”

(Emilio Morenatti | AP) Ukrainian soldiers take position on a bridge inside the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022.

The governing First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a news release Friday calling for peace “among nations and within our own hearts,” while stopping short of naming Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We are heartbroken and deeply concerned by the armed conflict now raging,” says the three-paragraph statement from President Russell M. Nelson and counselors Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring. “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has members in each of the affected areas and throughout the world. Our minds and hearts have been turned toward them and all our brothers and sisters.”

The message does not detail the “affected areas,” however, instead pivoting to a message of peace.

“We continue to pray for peace,” the church leaders state. “We know that enduring peace can be found through Jesus Christ. He can calm and comfort our souls even in the midst of terrible conflicts. He taught us to love God and our neighbors.

“We pray that this armed conflict will end quickly, that the controversies will end peacefully and that peace will prevail among nations and within our own hearts,” they conclude. “We plead with world leaders to seek for such resolutions and peace.”

The message comes after the presidency of the Europe East Area issued a statement of its own, acknowledging that “these are difficult times” and that top Latter-day Saint leaders “are fully aware of” the situation.

“Prophets, seers and revelators pray for you and for the hearts of the leaders to be softened for peace,” area President Hans T. Boom and his counselors, Scott D. Whiting and Kyrylo Pokhylko, wrote in a news release dated before Russia’s invasion began but circulated Thursday.

That same day, church spokesperson Sam Penrod confirmed that the Utah-based faith’s temple in Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv has now closed.

The 16.6 million-member church has more than 11,000 Latter-day Saints and about 50 congregations in Ukraine, according to its website.

Last month, the church moved its full-time missionaries out of Ukraine due to the rising tensions, temporarily reassigning them to other parts of Europe.

The church does not list its statistics for Russia, though it reportedly had about 23,000 members there in 2018 scattered among nearly 100 congregations.

Nelson said in spring 2018, during his first General Conference as the faith’s prophet-president, that the church plans to build a temple in a “major city” in Russia. A location has never been announced.

Russian troops invaded Ukraine early Thursday morning.

Tetiana Koval-Ievdokymova is a mother of three young children and a Latter-day Saint who was living in Kyiv when the fighting broke out. She and her family soon found shelter before deciding to pack up and head west, although they are unsure where they will end up.

She said local Latter-day Saints have been active on social media, offering help and checking on one another’s safety. She also has received an outpouring of support from international members, who she said have been reaching out in concern over Facebook — a reassuring gesture for which she said she is “thankful.”