Happy Naadam, Mormon Mongolians!
Mongolia recently celebrated a national holiday, Naadam. In its honor we post a BYU Studies article on the first years of the LDS in Mongolia.
"Nothing Less Than Miraculous: The First Decade of Mormonism in Mongolia," Steven C. Harper, BYU Studies 42, no. 1.
While studying in Germany, Togtokhin Enkhtuvshin, a Mongolian National University professor of Marxist–Leninist philosophy, met Latter–day Saint missionaries. He read the Book of Mormon and joined the Church in mid–1993. He returned home to Mongolia shortly thereafter with mixed emotions. "I was excited because I thought I might be the first Mongolian member," he said, "but I was concerned about returning home and not having the Church." This understated point may be hard for Westerners to grasp. As a Communist party official, Enkhtuvshin consciously traded political, social, and economic status for faith. Indeed he hoped the Church would be there: he had sacrificed everything else.
In mid–1993 the first young elders were called to Mongolia. They had reported to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, to prepare to serve in Russia. While at the MTC, they were invited to accept an assignment to Mongolia instead. On August 14, 1993, Elders Blanchard, Birch, Hansen, Mortinson, Meier, and Pierson arrived in Mongolia to fulfill their commission—and Pierson's mother's threat to send him to Outer Mongolia. They taught English in various colleges and learned Mongolian from private tutors. Their presence intensified curiosity. Attendance at meetings jumped. A few of the curious became converted. By early 1994, nearly fifty Mongolians had joined the Church. A branch was organized with Enkhtuvshin as president on January 16, 1994.