EP 597 – The War in Ukraine | How Latter-day Saints Are Affected and Responding

TWiM_EP597_LDS_War_Ukraine_Help_Responsibility_Jason_Stout
It's been six months since Russia invaded Ukraine. Learn how the Church and its members have responded.

Six months into the invasion of Ukraine, we look back at how the war has affected Latter-day Saints in the country and elsewhere, how the Church continues to function (or not) in Ukraine and occupied territories, and what everyday Latter-day Saints can do to help.

Jason Stout is a husband and father of two who works in sales and marketing for a global Ukrainian tech company while volunteering in his free time for the Responsibility Foundation (responsibilityfoundation.org). His previous experience includes refugee work with Catholic Community Services and educational development work with the US Peace Corps. He holds a BA from Weber State and a Master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Polina Piddubna is a co-founder of the non-profit organization the KLYN Foundation. Originally from Kyiv, Polina is an art director and designer primarily working in fashion. When Russia launched its full-scale invasion opf Ukraine in February 2022, Polina and her husband returned to her home country to provide help. They have since created the KLYN foundation (klyn.foundation) with their close friends and collaborators, and are committed to providing critical help to war-torn Ukraine.

Millions of God’s children have seen their lives upended by senseless violence. They continue to suffer as the world forgets. Help them.

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Transcript

00:00.00
Geoff Openshaw
Everybody how’s it going welcome to another week of this weekend mormons special episode this week with some stuff that’s very near and dear to my heart. But I’ve always felt like a bit of an interloper on the topic because I just kind of. Just kind of jumped into ukraine a little bit and I’ve done work on it professionally but I am not an expert and my life has not been appended by everything going on there. But um, we thought this would be a great opportunity this week roughly six months into the war in Ukraine to kind of take a step back look at what’s happened there look at how it’s affected latter-day saints. Ah, both in the run up to the war. What’s going on now and then to see what we’re also doing currently like what latter-day saints are doing to help fellow latter-day saints and others you know refugees and everyone affected by the conflict. So um, like I said I’m not the expert here but I brought in some very very brilliant people who are going to help us talk through these things and I’ll give them a chance to introduce themselves. Ah, None off with my old friend Jason Stout Stout Jason Stout will you want to introduce yourself to the peeps.

00:55.34
Jason Stout
Yeah, thanks! Jeff it’s ah good to see you again. Yeah, we’ve been spending about 7 years in Ukraine till the start of the war my family and I our none child is born there so we loved it. We built a home there. And we’re forced to leave because of the war and since then we’ve just been trying to do what we can to help so I’m looking forward to discussing. Yes yes, although many people think I must have a really good accent for a ukrainian.

01:17.69
Geoff Openshaw
Yeah, and you’re american by the way for people who just in case it knows so. Yeah, um, and for a longtime listeners if you’re curious Jason Stout served his mission there and he did serve alongside our twin founder Al Doan they go back away as al was trying to join us this week but he had some conflicts and couldn’t do it. So yeah, so Jason Stout we’re glad to have you here.

01:26.15
Polina Piddubna
And.

01:29.23
Jason Stout
What.

01:36.42
Jason Stout
Yeah, good old al done. Yep, Thank you.

01:43.50
Geoff Openshaw
Ah, we’re also joined by ah Paulina pidubna which I will say very poorly and bailiff I assume is part of your married name because that doesn’t seem very Ukraine but Paul it’s nice to have you can you tell us about yourself.

01:46.70
Polina Piddubna
Um, yeah.

01:53.62
Polina Piddubna
Um, hey, um, thanks for having me and um, just so excited to talk to you? Um I’m ah originally from Ukraine I’ve been born there and been living there almost my whole life. Ah i.

01:54.89
Jason Stout
Ultimately and.

02:03.50
Jason Stout
Um, like.

02:13.38
Polina Piddubna
Have been living in us for just couple of years. Ah, and yes, so that’s ah 1 of this story one is a part of a story that why I’m connected to it.

02:16.18
Geoff Openshaw
Okay.

02:23.46
Jason Stout
Um, hope it’s.

02:25.69
Geoff Openshaw
Yeah, and where in Ukraine are you from for context. Okay, so you’re from you’re from yeah ground 0 right? there the central of everything um now both of you of course.

02:33.50
Polina Piddubna
Kiev capital.

02:42.77
Geoff Openshaw
We’ll get into this but you’re both working with nonprofits right now that you’ve started to support ukraine and we can of course get into detail but you want to tell us a little bit about those.

02:47.30
Jason Stout
Um, yeah, yeah, thank you? So when the war started. It was obviously a little bit ad hoc and we were just raising money from our friends and family our personal networks and we were sending that as. Quickly as we could to refugees and bishops and branch presidents that we knew who were driving around helping people we were helping people we knew specifically and then as you know 3 four months into the war. We realized we needed to do something a little bit more. I joined forces with a Utah nonprofit called the responsibility foundation and we’ve been raising money and sending protective gear and we’ve been working closely with Paulina’s organization recently called the Kleen Foundation I’ll have her introduced that. But yeah, it’s been great to work so closely with. So many people in the us and in Ukraine it’s just been amazing to see how many people have been unified especially members of the church and how we’ve all worked together. It’s given us a great opportunity to serve more than we normally would and to stretch ourselves and.

03:57.90
Geoff Openshaw
M.

04:01.83
Jason Stout
Yeah, it’s it’s been amazing. So um, we have a new shipment of None plate carriers going in the next few weeks to a battalion on the front lines and their plate carriers are falling apart so they’ve been begging us to replace their carriers. Um. And so we’ve been working on that and food and and transportation and and paying for fuel and helping people escape from cities that are under siege and occupied like Mariupo and herson. Um, so I have some interesting stories about that I wanted to share today but that’s kind of how I got started.

04:31.79
Geoff Openshaw
Mm.

04:36.43
Geoff Openshaw
Is it. Ah I mean you’re a pacifist by trade is it bizard that you find yourself essentially shipping material to the front lines and this is what you’re doing now.

04:38.77
Jason Stout
It’s not.

04:47.61
Jason Stout
You know it was never really ah a moral issue. You know I believe in you know the just war philosophy and if you look in history. There aren’t a lot of wars that feel like it’s so one-sided as we see today you know Ukraine was. Peacefully working on itself doing its best to improve finding its way in the world and Russia invaded because it didn’t like that and you know Putin is essentially like a toddler with a toy or a jilted lover. You know if he can’t have it nobody can he’s he’s you know the quintessential. Type cast character model of you know Satan in the flesh and it couldn’t be more 1 ne-sided and so for me even though I love diplomacy and peace I’m not really a pacifist you know in the desertet news that. The guy that wrote the article. He’s a great guy but he kind of styled me as this tree hugger I’m more of a Satya Jewel Satya Graha type guy you know, active resistance nonviolent but active resistance and but when it comes to ukraine I think.

05:49.10
Geoff Openshaw
Color.

06:01.80
Jason Stout
The more the better we need to help ukraine as much as possible up to and including everything we have in our arsenal So that’s that’s my position. Um.

06:09.67
Geoff Openshaw
And ah Paulina tell us about your foundation and what you do with the clint foundation.

06:14.90
Polina Piddubna
Yeah, so it’s interesting because I know we never thought that we’re going to create a foundation or to be a part of like kind of sort of this industry. You can say um, but. As the none wave of the war started. We um, we were in the lay. But then for three days non sleeping and not eating we understood that by reading news and just sending money or. Anything like that will not help so we packed everything and we went to Ukraine and that’s how our journey started. We ah traveled by train ah to Ukraine and then. As we came. We were helping with my friends feeding people and most of our help were coming like financial help ah for feeding and helping ah was coming actually from ukrainians who just wanted to help each other and who.

07:16.96
Jason Stout
Um, the type.

07:26.15
Polina Piddubna
Just wanted to support those who fled from the hos ons and it was just amazing and unifying and then we also been receiving a lot of help from our friends from us and other countries. Ah, who been kind of donating at that point to us. Personally just to help refugees like Jason Stout and then as we ah entered a two months you know war stage. We understood that there is has to get like there. We have to get done more and there’s a lot of things that. Been stuck in Poland and like those ukrainians are able to do way more if there is a source and so as we ah, um, saw the problems we saw the solutions that ukrainians are like are able to manage. We.

08:11.27
Jason Stout
None

08:23.78
Polina Piddubna
Felt that we just have to do it and so me and my husband we came back to us and we um set up with the miracle and and big help of our friends as well. A nonprofit organization that. Is focused on the critical help which is mostly means like we’re trying to solve problems that are the most needed right now. Ah and like it’s maybe hard to do but we are focusing on the. On the hotzons we are focusing on the places that are invaded or under attacks right now where it’s hard to get food or water or ah, clean, um, clean water or um. Tactical medicine as well as the tactical equipment that ah we are working together to do ah to provide with Jason Stout and his organization and basically ah we kind of divided our purpose for now as a helping. Military with protection and then helping ah medical like by with medical equipment as tactical and ah medical equipment for the hospitals that take care of those who are ah. Trying to save their lives and also we working with children especially with ah orphans ah, and especially with those that had to um to leave you know the net’s region and. Other regions that are under attack and especially with the situation that they have no parents already some of those children are age 0 to 5 years old and they already experience 8 year war situation in the. In the places they are in so we felt that um we have to provide this help and kind of solution for the better future for those ukrainians and those kids that are our future as well. Um. And just be able to collaborate and work with so many great ukrainians towards the better future for them and protection.

11:04.90
Geoff Openshaw
Wow! Thank you. It’s all it’s weird to see everything that’s gone down you know a year ago a year ago there was the specter of war with Russia. Maybe you know with the exercises near the border and now the the catastrophe that has. Come across this country and obviously there’d been you know there’ve been kind of a grinding war over in the donbas you know for since None and and everything with crimea but it’s a rough time and I’m glad people are rising to the cause if we could back up for some context could either of you if you’re comfortable. Kind of give a brief overview of the history of the church in Ukraine if you know that just just how long have we been operating in Ukraine. What’s the nature of it. What’s it like there I think for plenty of latter-day saints. We assume there’s members around the world. Sure. But. Like what’s it actually like in Ukraine as latter-day saint and when did this all start.

11:58.12
Jason Stout
Well, the brief history is that nothing was really possible till Ukraine gained its independence officially ninety one and the None missionaries were coming through from other nearby european missions like Finland and the baltics I believe and.

12:16.84
Geoff Openshaw
And I think Ukraine was Ukraine was under the Austria mission at first too wasn’t it I think so it’s neither here either. But.

12:17.70
Jason Stout
Um, but ah, yeah, yeah, so so I came in I was a missionary in 2001 so that was 10 years after and so I’d heard many stories from previous missionaries in the mtc and I expected that it would still be kind of the wild west. Ah, but when I got there. It was beautiful. Peaceful I never had any issues at all. Um I served in Kya Odessa Nicolaev and our mission encompassed all of western ukraine and it’s amazing. How things changed but. You know when the church was none dedicated by boyd k packer ah there were some beautiful things in that in that dedicatory prayer and ukraine has grown amazingly from the perspective of the church.

13:00.70
Geoff Openshaw
Um.

13:10.32
Jason Stout
You know it’s it’s the site of the None stake in the entire former Soviet Union the none temple in the former Soviet Union and you know Ukraine has always been growing probably better than any of its former soviet neighbors as far as the church goes and. And doesn’t mean it’s always been easy but you know the ukrainian saints are incredible and resilient. Um I’m not as historical expert on that I don’t know if Paulina you have any more insights into that. But that’s kind of the the gist of it and.

13:42.90
Polina Piddubna
Yeah, ah well I’ve been very lucky to be born in a church but my mom she actually was one of the none members of the church when the church was established there and from her. Um. Stories that she told me before ah it was interesting how they met you know in the movie theaters or like concert halls and they were renting those for Sundays and then there was like a none building I think it was actually in 2000 s like it was a none building they they officially rent just for church and um, it’s interesting because um, the none mission president. Um, he ah um, he was.

14:23.40
Geoff Openshaw
M.

14:36.86
Polina Piddubna
He had that such a big laugh to to like Ukraine to Kiev. Ah yes, yes, it’s actually was him I thanks for reminding? Um, and.

14:41.58
Geoff Openshaw
Yeah, was that was that Howard Biddle is that who you’re referring to? yeah yeah, yeah.

14:44.96
Jason Stout
Um, yeah, bit of.

14:53.71
Polina Piddubna
I Been Unfortunately he passed away recently. But I’ve been able to um, come to his funeral and it was interesting because as I’ve been remembering this story of what was happening they they.

15:09.84
Jason Stout
Um I.

15:11.79
Polina Piddubna
They read one of the like ah journal ah, one of the like they were they were reading his journal and they said that he was sitting on the bench in Kiev in the park and it was. I think 9080 s or something like that was way before the church was established and he was just sitting with a book of mormon and he was like well I’ll I’ll just read and maybe some person will sit with me and ask like what. What are you reading and I can all be able to share the gospel because at that point you were not really allowed to share the Gospel. It was pretty much like and not allowed and so he was very sad because. And then of the day by sitting in this park. He was not able to share the gospel because no one really asked people were so scared but then um in in his mind he was like saying that he loves those people so much he loved this country. And he wants to share this gospel so much. It was amazing because then a couple years later they called him to be a mission president and his mission office was actually across the street of this park.

16:41.37
Geoff Openshaw
Oh well.

16:42.83
Polina Piddubna
And um, and he because of his love to the gospel and because of the the love of the people there were so many as I remember correctly from the stories people were were drawn to learn more. They were. So new to this that they wanted this hope of the gospel and it just was beautiful because when I was born like all I remember it’s like so many people you know Ah the numbers were growing the baptisms the everything and. Then you you grow where ah the dedication of the temple happened. You know there is ah right now. Ah 2 ah official stakes which is like a big number for growing. And missionary work even though the worst continues is happening by the None ukrainian missionaries and it’s amazing because my brother is one of them right now in Ukraine and they had more. Ah.

17:51.10
Geoff Openshaw
Well.

17:57.75
Polina Piddubna
People joining the church tune right now at this time then before like there there was like ah you know a moment year like years and the mission wins like was very hard to share the gospel or for people to accept like the church and. It’s gospel and so it’s amazing. How even though of the circumstances right now people open their hearts for the gospel to believe in God and it’s um, it’s fascinating and um. You again and again understanding that the church is true and ah that he knows what he’s doing So I’ll say that the church grows and God have a big heart for our country.

18:51.54
Geoff Openshaw
Yeah, and I think for my my brief experience there and and professor bitol was our advisor when I was spending time to throw a bu you program a wonderful man and if anyone’s interested. We’ll um, we’ll paste it up here with this video and on our website i’ have a video of him reading the prayer to dedicate the country. From boyd k packrick I went over to the statue of olademia right over there above the negro river and all that and it’s a stunning prayer I mean a lot of these prayers are when we dedicate areas for the gospel but from there to where we’ve come the the main thing that struck me when I was there in 2006 was like. I felt like god had prepared this land for something different and the church was heavily investing in it like that’s what I could not believe like knowing falwell like look the church has probably been there for about 15 years and yet they are investing in infrastructure and the main thing that jumped out at me I remember going to church and I was like they kind of seemed to get it. Here like the saints seem to get it and that’s ah, that’s painting with a broad brush of course and I don’t know if this came from my my mission in Spain and plenty of multi-generational members did not like get it quote unquote like I had like less active bishops and all kinds of fun things that we had to contend with you know so it happens no judging. But.

20:00.43
Polina Piddubna
You.

20:03.31
Geoff Openshaw
For how young the church was in Ukraine I was like wow they’ve like latched onto this and they seem to like like people are all in and they’re living it. It fascinated me from that perspective because I’d never seen anywhere in my life where the church was so young and sort of not fully developed in that sense and yet the saints really seemed to have it together and that just. Just jumped out at me so differently from anywhere else I’ve traveled internationally in my life and that was a real treat that was something really really? ah, really special to see so I appreciate some of the background you provide for the church there and like you said yes stakes the none temple you know that they put in Eastern Europe what I’m curious about is what you know Jason Stout you were out there. What was it like kind of in the run up to the war. Obviously for you personally, but also in a church context I mean it was a kind of business as usual because church is church and were there to church or did the thought of war with Russia kind of dominate. Everything that was going on up to and including Sunday worship.

20:59.40
Jason Stout
That’s a great question. Um, you know one thing that I never ah, get used to is how resilient ukrainians are and um, it’s it’s part of their history. It’s part of their culture. You know Russia to to give a brief history. The russian empire and then later the russian federation have essentially tried to quash the entire idea of ukrainian identity. So starting in the none they tried to outlaw and change and stamp out the ukrainian language. They tried to take what was left and tried to russify it and make it more russian and they tried to make it taboo to speak and if you wanted to get ahead. You had to speak russian and still ukrainian identity is there. They killed none of people in a forced hunger famine in the 30 s still ukrainian identity. Is there. And ah the ukrainian people are so resilient even with 8 years of war in the Don Boss a stolen crimea two revolutions the second of which turned violent because of you know Putin’s puppet dictator in in Kiev ah, all of this. Resulted in ukrainians essentially being able to survive anything and so in the run up to the war. Ah, most of the people in our war didn’t believe it was going to happen most of my friends didn’t believe it was going to happen but they still kind of tried to be prepared. My company is a Ukrainian company. And they didn’t believe it was going to happen but still they made sure all their infrastructure was outside of Ukraine and that is how we survived? Um, but we only left right before the war started because the us embassy was emailing every single us citizen in Ukraine. Like twice a day at least saying get out now get out now get out now and my parents were emailing me saying are you going to leave are you going to leave. We originally didn’t want to leave. We were not going to leave and then I finally felt like you know, maybe we should just do it just in case, we’ll call it a vacation. And so we said okay well we’ll slowly make our way down to greece and spend a month there since I work from home and come back and so we left we headed out through Romania and a few days after we left the war started and so luckily we had brought all of our. Most important documents photos. We didn’t really have any toys for the kids and we ended up spending three months traveling through Europe trying to help our friends I went in back twice to Ukraine after the war started and it’s funny that Paulina mentioned how her journey started by going into.

23:40.65
Jason Stout
Levive after the war started because that’s exactly how I started I left my family in an airbnb in Poland and went over the border because my plan was originally to drive refugees I heard there was a huge shortage a lot of my friends were driving refugees to the border and so I got in my van went over. And then by the time I got there. The trains had been running consistently again and there wasn’t as much of a need to drive refugees and so I was there in the leviv branch and that’s where I met Paulina and her husband who were graciously cooking food for all the refugees. All the rooms in the levive branch house were just filled with mattresses and water. And food that had been donated and it was hard for me even to find a place to stay in in Leviv. Um Boala was there. It was kind of funny the branch president and None of his counselors said hey Jason Stout we have a guy in our branch who is serving. And he’s in kind of a special forces type unit and they don’t have any equipment they’re they’re scheduled to roll out and deploy. But they don’t even have boots. They don’t have uniforms. They don’t backpacks. They don’t have anything and they scoured Ukraine and they’d asked me for help and so I kind of got roped into this and found out. Pretty soon that this is kind of the real reason why I was supposed to be there and we started calling around Poland because Ukraine was totally out of this stuff and as since the law stated that most ukrainian men were not allowed to leave across the borders I was one of the few people who was able to do that.

25:06.25
Geoff Openshaw
M.

25:11.74
Jason Stout
And so we found a military outlet store in Poland I drove into Poland and it took forever ended up taking instead of two days it took ten days to find all the stuff I needed for this group of None guys and then on the way there other members of the church who were volunteering for the Ukrainian Army called me up and said hey Jason Stout can you help us. Ah, we’re trying to make these camouflage nets that the army needs desperately. But we’re out of fishing nets. So can you pick up some for us as well. So I got none of those shoved them in the in the van and headed back across the border. And we we delivered the uniforms and the boots to the army unit. They were so grateful they gave us ah an honorary patch and dropped off the netting and and it was kind of the beginning of the journey for me instead of just giving money to people who were refugees. To think about a long-term strategy of how we can help Ukraine actually win this thing and so after that I came back again and by that time we were already. Um, you know had found a way to bring in protective gear and working with Paulina’s organization to bring in medical equipment and. We’re even doing you know all these things that I’d never even heard of before like iac kits and and vented chest seals and tourniquets and and all these all these things that I never thought I’d have to learn about and now you know I’ve had to have to know all of the not only what it is but where to find it. How much it costs how to put together one of these kits and so it’s been kind of a crazy journey. But that’s that’s a long-winded tangent of course into what you originally asked. But yeah, a lot of ukrainians couldn’t believe that this was going to happen and but even after the war started.

26:52.25
Geoff Openshaw
I Took a.

27:01.10
Jason Stout
They’ve been so resilient many of them went back to Kiyev as soon as the russians left even though it’s still being hit by missiles all the time and my wife’s parents are still there. Luckily they’re at their doch outside the city and so they’re not in as much danger. Um. But the members are amazing. Like for example, they’re still working at the temple grounds I have friends who work for the church. Their job is to maintain the grounds at the temple and the temple was only a few miles away from the the point where the russians got to before they were pushed back and. And our last trip there. My dad and I went to the temple we got to see it was so strange because when we drove into kyev we went through Bucha and eapine and these places that have been totally demolished just horrible horrible atrocities that you can’t even imagine happened there. And just house after house and building after building were destroyed and then after a few miles we get to the temple and it’s like this amazing safe haven. The grass is freshly mowed. The tulips are blossoming all of the grounds are kept immaculate. Even though the temple had to be decommissioned. They’re still keeping it up and it was so amazing to see just a few miles from where the last russian tanks had been bummed and and taken over there was the temple and to me it was it was amazing because partially it was it was a.

28:28.68
Geoff Openshaw
It it.

28:35.35
Jason Stout
A miracle but it’s also kind of interesting that it was built where it was built and I don’t know all the reasons why they chose that spot. But if it had been built just a few miles West or a few miles north It probably would have been destroyed my friends who had connections to the military were saying that the Russians were. Just taking out every building that was more than two stories tall because that could be where Ukrainian snipers were located and so the temple absolutely would have been destroyed if it had just been a little bit in ah in the different location. Um, so that’s kind of what I’ve seen so far. But.

29:06.90
Geoff Openshaw
Well I think you might answer 1 of my follow up questions. Um, so the temple is not currently in operation though. Even though life’s kind of back to quote unquote normal in cave was but actually.

29:21.12
Jason Stout
No I don’t think it’s an operation they’re they’re keeping it up but I don’t know that’s what I’ve been told. Yeah I think and it and it makes sense because you know you don’t want it to be desecrated like they did with church buildings in Eastern Ukraine

29:26.90
Geoff Openshaw
But they actually you you said the decommissioner though they actually undedicate the temple to or.

29:40.65
Jason Stout
Every time they get and overtake a city. There’s pretty much nothing left of you know what we’ve built as far as the church goes.

29:47.37
Geoff Openshaw
Are they targeting our church or just churches in general in the east.

29:51.25
Jason Stout
I Don’t think there’s any evidence that they’re targeting our church I think they are just you know treating it as if they even know what it is I think a lot of the people that are in charge are like goons with an a K You know at the local level.

30:03.70
Geoff Openshaw
There’s just something. It’s just something on the way. Yeah.

30:10.11
Jason Stout
And so if they do know what it is then you know they’ll think of it as some western church that doesn’t need to be respected at all. Um I heard of one and Paulina maybe you’ve heard this I’ve heard that you know some of the things they’ve done in eastern ukraine with church buildings. They’ve either been destroyed.

30:16.37
Geoff Openshaw
Oh.

30:29.34
Jason Stout
Or turned into sports centers or gyms or something like that. Um, it’s hard to get verifiable information. But essentially it’s It’s just a lack of respect generally.

30:42.52
Polina Piddubna
So um, to my knowledge. Even if we go back, you know to 2014 when the worst started ah the russians in the nesk. They actually occupied the churches and they kind of so the church were not. Working like in the donettes region so members were meeting in their homes for the church meeting and for a long time It’s been occupied for by russians for their youth wrong use? Um, but it was interesting when we ah. Um, when we were helping with ah cooking meals for people. There was a lot of people from marupal which is the net scridgeon as well and they showed us. Ah, they were they escaped like almost in the last Moment of ah any impossible way to escape it because right now it’s very like it’s almost impossible to fled from marupal but they showed this picture. How russians stoleed you know, different things extincs. They stole the like mics and all of that and then all the pictures which Jesus Christ and other they were just cut off and this was very sad how it was destroyed the same was we saw a lot of in harship similar thing so they just try and and. There’s it’s not only our church I think it’s all you know anything that is holy anything that is like kind of um, there’s a lot of churches like historical churches that are orthodox that been destroyed and on fire because they will say oh. Military is hiding there so we just ah gonna destroy the church so in a lot of ways they’re tactic their tactics are ah. You can’t explain what they thinking when they do that. But um, that’s the truth that the churches they destroy the churches and they have damaged the church buildings of ours and so the people ah basically doing. Um, meaning at at the Zoom meetings or at home.

33:18.47
Geoff Openshaw
In um, in like non-occupid territories at least is church like functioning, especially if you’re somewhere kind of near near the fronts like what if you’re like from like nipro or somewhere like that closeish or heart get or a heart give as you said is church just kind of going on. Did they suspend services nationwide what? like what’s happening there on a daily basis or on a week. A weekly basis.

33:38.71
Jason Stout
No, and we when we left there was never a week when we didn’t have church and obviously we’re in Kyiv but that was still under severe threat right? Um, in the beginning at least and our ward never missed a single week we we didn’t meet in person and at one point.

33:47.52
Geoff Openshaw
Um, yeah.

33:58.90
Jason Stout
The key of stake presidency actually said hey you can start going back and meeting in the buildings if you want but our bishop said we don’t actually have a bomb shelter and we don’t know what we would do if the hurried sirens went off so we’ve been meeting on Zoom for years now and. It’s it’s really something that the saints have held to even those who fled to Poland are still joining in and we until recently were joining in every single week. You know maintaining our callings and you know my wife from thousands of miles away was you know, preparing the music for primary and you know so it’s it’s amazing to see just how they kept that going in spite of everything so that’s what I’ve seen.

34:43.87
Geoff Openshaw
Yeah, has the church done any like official reorganization of branches or units or anything because of the how spread out refugees are or is that just all kind of on hold. Yeah.

34:54.83
Jason Stout
Um, I’m not aware.

34:56.15
Polina Piddubna
Yeah I don’t think so I think it still stays as it is because there is a hope that everyone will come back. But yeah to the knowledge everyone is just on Zoom as as they show up to church you know and ah they keep doing it and.

35:04.17
Geoff Openshaw
Wrote.

35:15.58
Polina Piddubna
I was able to even participate ah like visit state conference via Zoom and it was amazing. It was amazing. Um, spirit that you felt. Of those sayings that going through war and their testimonies. How strong it is and I feel like everyone grow even more in the faith of Jesus Christ and his power.

35:44.83
Jason Stout
Yeah, one of the craziest most amazing things that I saw in in the first few weeks after the war started. We were literally driving up to Poland as refugees and we were on Zoom listening to sacrament meeting. And this little old lady in our ward who’s probably no more than five feet tall was saying the prayer and she prayed and asked for forgiveness for being angry at the russians and I was so shocked by that because that’s the last thing I would have ever thought to pray for.

36:15.10
Geoff Openshaw
M.

36:23.57
Jason Stout
I would have felt justified in my righteous anger. You know I mean it’s like Moroni he was justified right? but Captain Moroni but I think if if you think about it that is the level of.

36:26.13
Geoff Openshaw
Yeah, yeah.

36:39.90
Jason Stout
Faithfulness and humility and resilience that we’re seeing I mean I’m not saying that it’s None across the board that nobody is feeling anger or is feeling bad for feeling anger I think a lot of people are angry and sad and hurt and. You know there’s going to be so much trauma we’re going to have to do with for generations and generations in Ukraine but it’s it’s still amazing to see examples like that.

37:02.26
Geoff Openshaw
Yeah, ah, ah if you’ll indulge me for an anecdote I remember kind of ah on the outbreak of the war someone in our ward said a prayer and they prayed for the sense of Ukraine but they also prayed for the saints in Russia. And it was very easy in that moment to be like pray for the saints in Russia no pray for the Ukrainian like you know, pray for the victims but at the same time. It kept my perspective where it needed to be to remember like also like pray for the saints in Russia because they’re the ones living underneath. A far more authoritarian regime and have had their freedom to worship curtailed and are part of the same faith as their fellow ukrainians but seeing their country act in a rather aggressive way we could say euphemistically. Um, you know it’s good to remember that. Um, this is not a both sides kind of thing but like yeah pray for the saints in Russia too because they are not. They’ve got a lot of things to sort out in their country in the given and the way things are right now which which also makes me wonder I don’t if you have any knowledge of this. We’ve talked a little bit about how things have been kind of behind in occupied territory like Paulina you mentioned you know in the donbas. Do. We have any idea what’s happened in some of these territories in areas Russia has taken over like like ah like her son for example has been in the news quite a bit lately. Um, we know Russia has their their so-called anti-terrorism law that’s been around since I want to say at this point like what 2015 or so maybe. And it’s made it much more difficult for our church to operate there. It’s why in Russia we don’t officially have missionaries. We have quote unquote volunteers. There are a lot of restrictions about proselytizing if at all and the nature of meeting I think a lot of this this is just pure speculation but I have to guess that this law has also made it complicated. Why the. Temple announced in Russia many many years ago is seen like no action whatsoever on being built. It’s complicated in Russia. So what I’m curious about is what it’s like for the saints behind the lines in that case has Russia I know Russia has gone in pretty aggressively to as you’ve talked about. Jason Stout even in the past and now remove senses of ukrainian identity and if you read the news. You can see how they’ve switched their internet to russian internet. They’ve replaced the the rivena with the ruble the currency you know school they’re doing everything they can to russify the territories they’re in and. What does that mean for the for latter- day saints there. Do. They even have freedom to Zoom. Do they have can they do much of anything at all or they pretty much living like a russian would and you know in in rusto ni you novvaro or somewhere else right? like it’s just kind of the same thing if anybody knows I’m asking you guys.

39:35.55
Polina Piddubna
Um, um I feel like in some regions and it’s not only about the church you know, but it was interesting to see Ah I’ve been following this guy who delivers Humanitarian help in her song.

39:38.28
Geoff Openshaw
I don’t.

39:51.13
Geoff Openshaw
M.

39:53.26
Polina Piddubna
And he ah, um, he shows up on internets. You know, like once in a while sometimes it’s like once a month but he will like show we keep doing it. We keep helping. But as I’m thinking about the Church. Ah, right now I feel like a lot of members that are there are pushed to be in some way as a maroni who had to go through the bottle by himself in the end you know and. Um, I feel like a lot of those people are um, are by themselves like they have to keep to believe they probably read scriptures. But um I don’t think there’s church going On. Um. Especially in those regions right now that are occupied by Russians So It’s all depends on themselves it all depends on their faith and their desire to could continue to do that. But um and it’s been for so long. Um, my friends. Who are from the netsk for a while when the war started in 2014. That’s was None so long the case for them. They just had to do the church in their homes with their families which we learn a lot. Ah, it was the case during the covid for all of us you know around the world but then as well with like I feel like the church kind of um, have been doing this practice that we have to do church in our own Homes. We.

41:29.72
Geoff Openshaw
The.

41:46.48
Polina Piddubna
Have to grow ourselves. So I feel like there’s a lot of um revelations by our prophet and there’s a lot of reasons why it had to be this way.

42:01.80
Jason Stout
Yeah I think the saints I was just going to add I think the saints there just have to keep their head down I haven’t really seen anything and I think that they’re being very careful about what they do publicly because.

42:01.85
Geoff Openshaw
Yeah, it almost seems like good. Good.

42:15.63
Geoff Openshaw
Yeah.

42:18.95
Jason Stout
Anytime the russian army occupies a city then it immediately becomes dangerous to do anything that draws attention even so much is walking outside your house at the wrong time and you know our organization has has helped fund some of these rescue campaigns. And one of these ones I heard about the the family in Mar Upa who was there for none in their basement and the only way they could find water was sneaking out to the well every night and you know there are reports in herson of mobile crematoriums bringing shipped in from Russia to get rid of all the bodies of. Tortured and killed ukrainians along with the killed russian soldiers because Russia doesn’t want to leave behind evidence of war crimes and they don’t want to leave ah send back bodies of killed russian soldiers because that’s proof of how badly they’re doing in Ukraine and so. it’s it’s it’s seriously worse than the wild west in these occupied areas. Anything goes. So I think people just have to keep their heads down.

43:22.90
Geoff Openshaw
Yeah, and of course obviously when you’re in a it’s an active conflict zone too. That’s another wrinkle and ah I am good I mean I know a years ago the church flipped its acknowledgment of Crimea. We. We teased about it a lot on this show because crimea is what we could still consider it. You. Americans here we consider a part of Ukraine right? But functionally de facto. Yeah Russia controls it and has for None ars already and at some point the church flipped and and you saw crimea went underneath the ah Russia rusto of mission and and some of us who are more ardent you know supporters of Ukraine were like church. Come on church take a stand here. You can’t just just you know you can’t just up and do that I have no idea if there’s like missionaries or volunteers in that mission who have been serving in crimea in the in the years since or not or if it’s just been kind of a just a no-go land for a long time. It does bring kind of an interesting issue though when you think about the church. The church for all for as much as I want it to be None the church is not like a democratization ngo we might want it to be like that think that that’s what its job is because we support freedom and people’s freedom to worship just like the articles of faith you know, worship how and what and why they may and all that and it’s easy to get frustrated when the church. Perhaps isn’t more aggressive in that sense I remember when the war broke out and there was a public statement by the church and many people were disappointed with it I’m curious if you had any thoughts on it but it seemed like it was just kind of trying to be a very benign statement and just talking about the conflict. It didn’t like name countries. It didn’t want to say like hey aggressor stop being an aggressor. It was just trying to. Play it nice with everybody and I completely understood the frustration myself emotionally but then logically I also figured like way up, but the church also wants to function in Russia. The church doesn’t want to release public statements necessarily that are just going to make the russian government say yeah, you can’t be here at all anymore. Forget this volunteer thing. I am curious if either of you had any thoughts on the church’s kind of official responses to the conflict.

45:18.50
Jason Stout
Yeah I know a lot of my Ukrainian friends have been disappointed that hasn’t been a more loving Pro-ukrainian response. Um, and I’ve seen a lot of kind of censorship in articles that I’ve either written.

45:19.24
Polina Piddubna
Yeah, yeah.

45:38.23
Jason Stout
For church owned publications or people trying to write articles about me have been very much delayed or very much redacted and at first I was really upset I was really frustrated but the more I thought about it the more I realized the churches has the church has to be more. Benign and more diplomatic than any country or even any ngo not because it lacks resources but because it is not some international temporary organization. The members there. Are the ones they’re worried about I’m sure it’s it’s not just that you can pull out missionaries but the members are in danger literally in danger like you look at what’s been happening with the Jehovah’s witnesses in Russia they literally are being sent to prison for practicing their faith. They’re not hurting anybody they’re practicing their faith and they’re going to prison and the same with the crimean tatars and anything they do that Russia doesn’t like that’s some sort of a symbol of foreign interference or independence they are seriously in danger and so for me that is the.

46:37.60
Geoff Openshaw
Mm.

46:49.65
Jason Stout
The way that I’ve given the church the benefit of the doubt and how I kind of justify what’s been happening because you know if you need to protect None of members of the church who may or may not have the ability to escape Russia I guess that’s a pretty good reason for it. Um.

46:52.48
Geoff Openshaw
Yeah.

47:08.38
Jason Stout
So they have to be extremely careful.

47:08.99
Geoff Openshaw
Yeah, and it’s like if you step back and think if the church on moral grounds was would not operate in Authoritarian regimes or push for regime change. There’s a lot of places where the church is currently able to do business so to speak where it would not be doing Oh I mean that’s yeah.

47:23.20
Jason Stout
Yeah, when I was a peace corps I was a peace corps volunteer in South Africa and I was amazed that the peace corps who which is known for serving in difficult situations will still not even go to certain places where missionaries are called. You know we aren’t being. Weren’t even allowed to go into Johannesburg for example, missionaries serve there all the time you know missionaries serve in more dangerous places than probably anybody but military folks and you know doctors without borders. You know so I think the church has to be extremely diplomatic.

47:53.79
Geoff Openshaw
Does we do and it also makes me kind of laugh. But I think how inadvertently reckless we sometimes are with our missionaries. It’s just like. Yeah yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ll just send them out to that that super dangerous city. They’ll be fine right? They’ll be fine. They’ll be fine then you hear all the horror stories from your friends who served like yeah we got.

48:09.16
Jason Stout
Um, or they are more protected. Yeah obviously she’s turning on the leave.

48:13.36
Geoff Openshaw
Yeah, yeah, um oh we lost Paulina she’s gone oh lights we can still see if I no you’re good. Um Paul has you have anything to say about that. The church’s response.

48:18.60
Polina Piddubna
Sorry I’m too dark. Um I I feel like you know there was a little bit of disappoint like it like ah Jason Stout said it. It was a disappointment and I’m still learning to understand that and grow. You know to understand that. But. Um, it was interesting because we had ah my non-members friends who’ve been helping us since they first at the church building you know and they’ve been learning the gospel and everything and I was like. So excited because we were watching all together general conference and I was like oh they probably going to talk about Ukraine you know they they probably will say something about it and then it was not happening and I was like I couldn’t understand it I couldn’t. Um I was very sad because I feel like even though ah in some way I agree that it is dangerous in Russia you know, but we have to remember also that um it doesn’t mean that it cannot be recognized that their war is. Down for by Russia you know and we also have to like recognize and help those people who are in Russia understand what’s going on that. It’s not made up and um, we also have to help. Those members to send stand up. You know if ah Ukraine and Ukrainian people and members of the church would not stand up in 2004 or in 2014 there will be no Ukraine. It will be probably most likely part of Russia already. But we. There is there is some things that yeah we have to be in some way diplomatic but in some way I think we have to be straightforward. You know like Jesus Christ never said that sin is not sin you know like. He was straightforward with some like some of the things. So I feel like um I’m still growing to understand it and I probably have to trust our leaders but in some way I’m I’m waiting for some more compassion and.

50:36.73
Geoff Openshaw
No.

50:54.16
Polina Piddubna
Deeper understanding to change to be able to change that.

50:59.32
Geoff Openshaw
Thanks, it’s it’s kind of interesting because as the church has gotten more international. We’re a lot more cautious with things like this if you look back to the 70 s and eighty s the church issued very searing language about the Soviet Union like on the record this was no big deal. But we didn’t really have members to worry about in the Soviet Union at the time for the most part right? like it wasn’t as much of a concern back then but now that it is well we aren’t as like aren’t as vocal about it. But I imagine on the flip side though you know you’re both devout members of the church and followers of Christ. How is the principles of the Gospel. I’ve driven you and given you purpose during this difficult time.

51:40.23
Jason Stout
Well I think it’s ah been ah, just for me is very fundamental realization that ukraine is in dire need and the countries of the world even when they finally did start to respond. The response has been so minimal and lacking that it’s it’s it’s it kind of feels like the revolutionary war when you know all hands were needed and you know one person’s little musket one farmer. Could be the difference between winning and losing and you know a lot of the ukrainians have started to develop this term called the rear guard and usually in wars it it means the people that cover your retreat but in Ukraine because so much of this war is essentially grassroots and funded by volunteers. The rearguard has come to be known as all of the people ukrainians and non-ukrainians around the world who are sending ukraine these vital items and support and so for me, you know I look at people in my ward including a member of the bishop Rick. Who have no training military training who are going off to fight whether or not they have protective gear whether or not they have full training and they’re doing it because they are not only fighting for their freedoms and their right to worship. You know it’s it’s almost crazy. It’s it almost sounds cliche to talk about it in these terms but it has become so fundamental you know when is the last time that we had a conflict where members of the church were literally fighting for their right to worship their freedoms of speech their right to exist. As a nationality is is just insane. You know and so I personally know so many people who are fighting right now who have literally written to me saying please Jason Stout send me body armor because I’m going into battle and. You know? So it’s that kind of a thing that you really can’t ignore and and live with yourself and I remember learning about world war two when I was in school thinking. Yeah I would I would absolutely have stood up I would absolutely have been one of those people that would hide and Frank or Cory Tin bones you know jews that she she she hid and and now we all have the chance to really show what we would have done if we were alive in 1944 you know and it’s it’s sad that it has to come to this It’s sad that Ukraine needs. Nobody’s like me.

54:30.62
Jason Stout
To to stand up and and and scrounge for you know, donated money and funds and protective gear. But that’s that’s the truth. You know? and and if I don’t stand up for it then that’s you know that much more that Ukraine needs to find from somebody else. So. That’s how it feels for me at least.

54:54.20
Polina Piddubna
Um, I feel like I learned so much about the law of consecration from those people who have almost nothing but then you know. Even though we ah americans who have everything you know, um I’m still amazed how any grandma any like student that almost don’t have anything they will give everything and more than everything. Ah, it’s their talents. It’s their money. It’s their time and it’s all ah for the freedom. It’s all for um, it’s all for to be who they are and um, it’s very. Humbling to see the faith that they have of who they are they know that they are ukrainians and they know that they have to go through this no matter how hard it will be no matter how. How many lives will be um how many lives will be ah you know lost I ah I have our family neighbors who died I have a family friends who lost their you know. Leg or hand or anything and I had I have so many people who fled their homes or whose homes been destroyed but that brightness of hope. Um and that consecration. To you know there is a there is a book in a ukrainian book by Lena Costtenka and she kind of um compares the evil to the dragon and like those people are trying to um, feed. Ah. Like win the dragon and and so was ah seeing those people and their consecration was there. Um was there hope that. Um. Even though you had anger I feel like right now those people I’m learning from those people I had anger for the work but I’m learning from those people that went through hell that went through the captivity I who.

57:45.69
Polina Piddubna
Keep telling our us. Don’t let the evil take over you you know and when I’m hearing this I’m like wait a minute like I heard this before you know wait a minute like I um. I grow up in like you know with this knowledge but those people are facing the devil in real face and they don’t let them overcome them and I feel like we’re learning it so much in the temple we’re learning it so Much. And other places we’re learning so much through the scriptures but that this war in this period of time shown me even more What does that mean to go to like till the end. You know what does it mean?? Um, to really believe and trust in God Um, and and don’t let the devil get over you So I feel like I grow so much. And the knowledge and confirmation of that through those people.

59:06.37
Jason Stout
Um, and if I can just add None small thing that I I just remembered you know one of my favorite quotes from Joseph Smith is that you know a man who has the the spirit of god is and is anxious, not just to bless his family. But. Ranges throughout the whole world anxious to bless the whole human race and I think as a church you know we need to see each other as near neighbors and not as far away neighbors and a lot of members of the church that I know here in Utah have donated. Incredible amounts. Um, but the most amazing story of unity that I have heard is actually from my own ward in in Kyiv and you know one of the young men in our ward went to serve this was before the full scale invasion during the 8 year war in duas. And when he went off to battle. He didn’t have enough money the ukrainian military even at that time didn’t have enough body armor for everybody and so the war got together and and purchased him a vest in a helmet and he went off to war in his trench his unit was hit by a russian rocket and this type of rocket is called god. In russian which means hail h a I l and he was almost killed but this body armor saved his life. He came back was in the hospital made a full recovery now. He’s married having kids but the funny thing is when he came back. And he bore his testimony in our ward about what had happened to him and about how the ward had saved his life the very next week was general conferson and somebody ah quoted hela in five twelve where it says in all his hail and his mighty stone shall beat against you. You know if you’re built a fund that found the foundation of Christ. It won’t have the power to knock you down it and and hearing it in Russian and ukrainian they use the exact same word god as for the rocket that had almost killed that member of our ward. And it was literally his membership in the church that had saved his life because the ward had gotten together and paid for his protective gear and and I never have seen such a more clear example of literal fulfillment of prophecy you know that.

01:01:28.83
Geoff Openshaw
So.

01:01:32.65
Jason Stout
It did not have power to to kill him because he was literally built upon that foundation and so I think more than anything that I’ve seen personally you know I’ve spent 9 years of my life in Ukraine. So technically I’m an american ukrainian as we would call it. But. Nobody has shown more valor in the idea of being one in the church and relying on spiritual values as the members of the church there who have had to grow up with this looming threat for their entire lives. You know that is sucked away so much of their potential wealth and happiness and peace and you know so they’ve had to literally fight against this every day of their lives and it’s been amazing to see what they’ve done with it.

01:02:21.70
Geoff Openshaw
Thanks Well, where can people go if they want to help you’ve mentioned many people have helped helped but you’re running your foundations. What do they need to do.

01:02:31.91
Jason Stout
Yeah, so I’ll start if people want to donate they can go to http://responsibilityfoundation.org and this is a Utah nonprofit and None of the very few nonprots that I found that’s willing to. Spend money on protective gear and it’s been great. We’ve been working closely together for months now and anything and everything is vitally needed since since the war in Ukraine is kind of out of the headlines. Our funding has essentially dried up unfortunately and we’re kind of. Taking money out of our own pockets to cover the expenses to bridge the gaps. Um and even our Ceo is is in the hole waiting for donations to come in and so anything is desperately needed and you know even the smallest amount could save someone’s life.

01:03:24.35
Polina Piddubna
Yeah, um, so for None of ah our kind of initiative is to learn more like one of our desire as a foundation is please read more about ukraine learn more. Be. Reading the news. Don’t don’t forget that the word is still happening. Don’t get used to it. The second is that um I think um, it’s been interesting to see ah learning how to donate you know. It’s a good habit habit to help someone so each of us can take ah ah take action and be able to be part of something that will be in a history of something that changed the world and so you can um, help. Through our foundation that is also nonprofit in Utah ah by donating towards tactical medicine providing yet tactical jeer and protection as well as helping kits and ah. As well as helping hospitals and I think um by seeing people donating. You know $1 ¢1 and like more we see a big difference. How ah how it’s filling out this hole and. How it’s healing and how it’s we’ve seen how those donations were able to bring hope to ah to those people bring smile and um, healing to so many. So if you want to. You know help if you want if you’re looking for ways to help you. We also encouraging to look into your community. What’s going on because that’s how I feel like we’re learning to help each other and also of None people on the other. Side of the world is if we start from where we are and then we can grow but people are desperate and they grateful for each and everything that ah all the international. People especially in us been able to do.

01:06:00.40
Geoff Openshaw
You can go to a klinfoundation dot org for that right? KaleYNFoundationundationDotOrg correct no sure I’m just you know I’ll finish the plug. It doesn’t matter who does it. It’s all good. That’s all good. Ah, okay.

01:06:04.64
Polina Piddubna
Yes, sorry.

01:06:12.12
Polina Piddubna
Ah, yeah.

01:06:12.61
Jason Stout
And you know and None crazy thing I just wanted to add quickly. None of the one of the donations we got in the beginning that went to me personally was a lady who grew up as a refugee in Germany during World War ii and when she made this small donation from a fixed income. She made a note that said I know how these people feel right now. So that’s why I’m donating and we’ve even had people donate from Ukraine who have lost their jobs and don’t know what the future holds and they’ve been donating because they know that we can get protective gear to their guys on the front.

01:06:38.87
Polina Piddubna
Yeah, yeah.

01:06:51.40
Jason Stout
So I think you know if they can do it. We can do it.

01:06:53.66
Geoff Openshaw
So that sounds good. Um, we’re out of time this week but ah Jason Stout Ballina thank you very much for all your time telling us your stories about the church about what you’re working on and how we can help. We really appreciate it and.

01:07:04.15
Jason Stout
Um, thanks Jeff appreciate it.

01:07:05.83
Polina Piddubna
Thank you so much.

01:07:07.88
Geoff Openshaw
I thank you so that’s ah Jason Stout Stout and Paulina Piduna baliff baliff baliff beli ballli that I’m not saying you’re lot your’re married name correctly I’m sorry I apologize. Okay, just Bali anyway, very nice for them to talk to us this week we hope you’ve all enjoyed this. We know Ukraine’s really important. Don’t let it.

01:07:13.50
Polina Piddubna
Um, yeah da it’s good.

01:07:26.84
Geoff Openshaw
Just subside in your mind. It is still an issue and it’s still happening and it affects latter-day saints and ah just like it affects all ukrainians and people even well beyond that as the refugee community. You know, spreads around the world. So we hope you’ll of course again, go to http://responsibilityfoundation.org and clinfoundation dot org and find ways that you can help out and thanks for taking the time to listen folks. We hope you’ll join us next week for more This Week in Mormons you can find the links to everything we’ve talked about today over at this week in http://mormons.com join us on social. Ah, support us on Patreon by the way if I could put my plugin http://patreon.com/thisweek and mormons help us keep the show going because we tend not to run many ads on here. But it’s still not free to make it so could help us do that thing I’d be really appreciated until then it’s been a good week. We’ll talk to you again next week this has been this week of mormons but bye. Thanks.

 

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