Dear St. Petersburg Volunteers,
It is with great sorrow that I announce the death of Alex Hulka. As many of you know, Elder Hulka entered the St. Petersburg Mission two years ago, and had to return home early when cancerous tumors were discovered in his chest. He underwent numerous cancer treatments, but none were effective, and he passed away from the disease last Friday. A week ago Sister Childs and I were able to Skype with him. He maintained his usual positive attitude, and greeted us with a smile from his sick bed. This is a sad day for us, but a sweet day for him. D&C 42: 46 says: "And it shall come to pass that those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them."
Last week I had you share your ideas with your zone leaders and sister training leaders on how to increase baptisms. We discussed those ideas in our MLC , and you will hear about them in your zone trainings this week. However, we decided to act on one idea immediately. This , is Fast , and we invite you all to join in a mission fast where we ask Heavenly Father to send us people to teach who are ready to accept the Gospel.
I also sent an email to priesthood leaders in the stake and the mission branches, asking them to invite the members to join with us if the desire. I sent the email after the MLC , but I think that many members have not had a chance to hear it yet. Would you please personally invite as many members, both active and inactive, as you can to join with the volunteers in fasting for more baptisms. It will make a difference.
For your information, this is the email that I sent to the church leaders:
On next fast ( ), the volunteers in the Russia St. Petersburg Mission will be fasting to ask the Lord to send us more people to baptize. I invite you to invite your members to join with us in this fast, if they wish. We teach our volunteers to do as President Monson has suggested (Ensign, March 2009):
Pray as though everything depended upon God.
Work as though everything depended upon you.
Молитесь так, словно все зависит от Бога.
Трудитесь так, словно все зависит от вас.
We invite the members of the Church in this mission not only to pray and fast with us, but to work together with us as volunteers to find, teach repentance, and baptize converts. I know that God has many children within our mission boundaries who will accept the invitation to come unto Christ and be baptized. If we work and pray together, God will direct us to these people.
The recent Yarovaya laws have changed the way that missionary work can be done in Russia, but the Lord still expects us as members and volunteers to work together to find, teach, and baptize. Elder Brent H. Nielson, the chairman of the Church Missionary Department, recently taught mission presidents that: “It is the Lord Himself who has commanded us, ‘Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.’ You and your missionaries have been called to fulfill that commandment throughout the world. Our purpose is the same in every nation. The commandment from the Lord is clear. Our purpose as missionaries is the same whether you serve in Brazil or Poland or Russia.” (New Mission Presidents Seminar, June 2016)
Another topic we discussed in the MLC was the need for obedience. Without our honest striving to be obedient, we will not have enough spiritual power to be true teachers of repentance. I would like to share a pair of stories about obedience with you in this letter that we did not discuss in the MLC, but which have been meaningful to me and will help you prepare for the zone trainings. Both of these incidents took place in Missouri in the late 1830's when persecution of the Church was very strong. Both involve men who received personal counsel from the Prophet Joseph Smith.
John L. Butler
John L. Butler and his family were faithful Latter-day Saints who were living near Gallatin in Daviess County, Missouri in 1837. Brother Butler had gone into Gallatin to vote in an election and found there a “furious mob” who had come to prevent the Mormons from voting. Brother Butler was a strong man and took a vigorous role in helping to defend himself and the other Mormons by driving off the attackers.
The next day, Brother Butler rode into Far West, about fourteen miles away, to speak with Joseph Smith. Brother Butler recorded this conversation and the subsequent events as follows:
He [Joseph Smith] asked me if I had removed my family. I told him no, I had not. "Then," said he, "go and move them directly and do not sleep another night there." "But," said I, "I don't like to be a coward." "Go and do as I tell you," said he. So I started back again and got home about two hours after dark. I then said to my wife, "We must pack up our things and leave here directly, for Brother Joseph has told me to." My wife was very glad for she had been wanting to move for a long time. So we loaded up one wagonload and took it down to Brother Taylor's about one mile and a half and my wife and Malinda Porter, a young woman that was boarding with us, who was keeping school. They packed up another wagonload by the time I got back and we all started off just about the break of day.
Now about sunrise, or a little while after, Brother Gee saw in the distance a large body of men. He said that he thought there was about thirty-odd. He watched them come toward the house and surround it. He then ran down to Taylor to tell them that we were all killed, I suppose, and when he saw us, he said, "Oh, I am so glad that you are here for there are about thirty men around your house to kill you all." I then saw the hand of the Lord guiding Brother Joseph Smith to direct me to move my family away. If he had not, why in all probability we should all have been murdered, and I felt to thank God with all my heart and soul.” (John Lowe Butler, Autobiography, 1808-c. 1858, http://www.boap.org/LDS/Early-
Jacob Haun founded a small settlement called Haun’s Mill in northern Missouri in 1835. Over 70 LDS families had moved to this settlement by 1838. When tensions ran high in northern Missouri in the fall of 1838, the Prophet Joseph Smith called for all the Saints to gather to Far West for protection. On October 25,1838, Jacob Haun met with Joseph Smith at Far West. Recognizing the volatility of the situation, the Prophet told Jacob to abandon the settlement so as to not risk the lives of the Saints in the area. He instructed Jacob to inform the Saints who were living there to leave and come to Far West. However, Mr. Haun did not deliver the message. Instead, believing that he could judge the danger better than the Prophet could, he lied and told the settlement that the Prophet said that “if we thought we could maintain the mill, it was Joseph’s council for us to do so.”
On 30 October 1838, a mob composed of more than 200 men from the surrounding area attacked the settlement of Haun’s Mill. Fifteen Latter-day Saints were killed during the attack or died shortly afterwards. Two others died within a few weeks. Another fourteen were wounded. None of the mob were killed. The mob then ransacked the homes and temporary shelters, taking household items and food and confiscating animals.
After the incident, the Prophet Joseph recorded in his history: "Up to this day God had given me wisdom to save the people who took counsel. None had ever been killed who [had abided] by my counsel" (History of the Church, 5:137). Then the Prophet recorded the sad truth that innocent lives could have been saved at Haun's Mill had his counsel been received and followed.
Baugh, Alexander L. “Joseph Young's affidavit of the Massacre at Haun's Mill.” BYU Studies v38, Number 1 .
Cowan, Richard, Encyclopedia of Latter-Day Saint History., s.v. “Haun’s Mill
Eyring, Henry B., “Finding Safety in Counsel”, Ensign (CR), May 1997, p.24.
Wikipedia, sv. “Haun’s Mill Massacre."
With gratitude for all that you do,
Sister Childs's letter
Dearest St.Petersburg Volunteers,
President Childs has shared with you the news of the passing of our dear Elder Hulka. We will be forever grateful for the privilege of knowing and serving with this capable, willing, and dedicated missionary. No doubt he will continue to be in the Lord’s service forever. May I share with you a very profound lesson I learned from this humble, and faith-filled, Elder. Through all that he endured during his battle with cancer, he was often asked how he was able to cope with the pain, the uncertainty, and the disappointment of not being able to do the things he had planned to do. With his characteristic huge smile, Elder Hulka simply responded, “I don’t focus on what I cannot control.” My life has been enriched by knowing and learning from Elder Alex Hulka.
I want to share with you some great news from Novgorod. Like each of you, Sister Johnson and Sister Everitt have been working diligently to find service opportunities. After wading through many potential projects, they received a positive response to their offer of service to an organization that helps blind children. This organization wants to create some fabric books that help the children learn Braille. The books have soft shapes of objects for the children to feel and a story written in Braille below the pictures. The organization was in need of help creating the books, and also with the needed materials to make the books. The Novgorod Sisters had just received the word that the Area Humanitarian office has been given instruction that service projects that are found by Volunteers have first priority in receiving funds from the Humanitarian office. The Sisters quickly called Elder and Sister Higley and they got right to work on getting approval for the project and the needed funds. This is the first Volunteer-found service in Russia to be funded by the Humanitarian office! (Way to go, Sister Johnson and Sister Everitt!) The organization will receive a sewing machine and fabric for the books, as well as the help from the Volunteers to create and assemble the books. What adds to this remarkable service opportunity is that this organization is nation-wide. We will be working with the Novgorod volunteers to arrange contact with other branches of this organization here in our mission, as well as throughout Russia.
This service project is a great example of the potential power of service in softening hearts and building the Lord’s kingdom in this area of the world. This seemingly small group of people who work with the organization helping blind children will share with others the positive experience they have had working with the Church. This information will continue to spread, building the esteem of the Church in all parts of this great country. Other projects are also in the works that will help us with positive connections across Russia. Small and simple things do bring about great things! (See D&C 64:33) What a blessing to be a part of this miraculous work.
I’m still in awe of each of you for the way you have embraced the changes in our work and have taken initiative to explore the many possibilities for doing this work in a manner that will make a significant difference in the lives of so many. Thanks to each of you for being such remarkable, quick-to-observe volunteers.
With profound love,