International Church History and Culture | BYU Studies

International Church History and Culture

Behind the Iron Curtain: Recollections of Latter-day Saints in East Germany, 1945–1989

Author Garold N. Davis, Author Norma S. Davis,
In 1939 when Hitler's armies marched into Poland, the LDS missionaries marched out of Germany and eventually out of continental Europe, leaving a strong and thriving Church in eastern Germany. Through personal interviews with East German Saints, this volume documents the moving personal faith of those Saints who survived World War II and rebuilt Zion during the communist years. Read the personal... Read more

The Japanese Missionary Journals of Elder Alma O. Taylor: 1901–10

Author Reid L. Neilson,
Alma O. Taylor was called to the Japan Mission at age eighteen, and his parents would have been shocked had they known his mission would last nearly nine years. Alma, the eighteen-year-old lad, would return a twenty-seven-year-old man, having served one of the longest continuous missions in Church history. For eight and a half years (August 1901–January 1910), Alma worked with intense fervor,... Read more

Thoughts on the 150th Anniversary of the Church in the British Isles

Marion D. Hanks writes: "I have had a serious and ill-disguised affection for Britain for many years. Whether that comes because my ancestors were born in Hartley Bridge, Gloucester, England, and Hills Head, Lanarkshire and Fifeshire, Scotland, or from the wonderful blessing of having lived personally in the land for a time, I cannot say. I do not know whether it is heredity or environment. My... Read more

"Securing" the Prophet's Copyright in the Book of Mormon: Historical and Legal Context for the So-called Canadian Copyright Revelation

To read the extended version of this article click here . The 2009 publication of the Manuscript Revelation Books as part of the Joseph Smith Papers makes available, for the first time, the text of a revelation received in 1829 or 1830 by the Prophet Joseph Smith on securing the copyright of the Book of Mormon in all the world and selling a copyright for its publication in the four then-existing... Read more

A Long-Awaited Visit: President Heber J. Grant in Switzerland and Germany, 1937

In 1937, just two years before Hitler invaded Poland, President Heber J. Grant made a memorable journey from Salt Lake City to Europe (fig. 1). President Grant had served as president of the European and British Missions from 1903 to 1906 and was now returning to Europe as prophet of the Church. He was the second Church President to visit Europe while serving in that capacity. His predecessor,... Read more

A Declaration to the World

The opening of the British Mission a century and a half ago was a declaration to the world: it was a declaration of a great millennial vision; it was an expression of tremendous faith; it was a demonstration of personal courage; and it was a statement of everlasting truth. Gordon B. Hinckley says: "The infusion of the blood of Britain into the weakened body of the Church in 1837 and in the years... Read more

The Wreck of the Julia Ann

Between 1840 and 1890, approximately 335 organized companies carried more than eighty-five thousand Latter-day Saints by sea to the United States from around the world. Remarkably, only one of these vessels, the Julia Ann, was shipwrecked and Mormon passengers drowned. A reporter for the San Francisco Herald, upon hearing an eyewitness narrative of the wreck wrote that it exhibited "a picture of... Read more

Building Bridges of Understanding: The Church and the World of Islam (Introduction of Dr. Alwi Shihab)

President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave this introduction of Dr. Alwi Shihab prior to Dr. Shihab's forum address given at Brigham Young University on October 10, 2006. Dr. Shihab's significant governmental experience includes service in Indonesia's Parliament, as Indonesia's Minister of Foreign... Read more

Russia's Other "Mormons": Their Origins and Relationship to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

When Mormon missionaries entered Russia in 1990, they were astonished to hear about "Mormon" settlements already existing in the Samara region. Other evidence of Mormonism appeared: for example, locals used the term "Mormon crosses" to describe a unique style of crucifixes in cemeteries. In this article, the authors delve into the questions of whether or not sects with ties to mainstream... Read more

Mourn with Those That Mourn . . . Comfort Those That Stand in Need of Comfort: Dean Byrd's Diary of the Kosovar Refugee Camps

If you've ever wondered how the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Latter-day Saint Charities responds to emotional aftermath and trauma of human catastrophes, then this original publication of a diary detailing a psychologist's work with Kosovar refugees will comprehensively explain the joy inherent in an effort to share each other's burdens. Operating under the umbrella of Welfare Services and... Read more

Shaping the Stones: Lorenzo Snow's Letters to Priesthood Leaders of the London Conference, November 1842

On the afternoon of Sunday, July 23, 1837, in Preston's Vauxhall Chapel, Heber C. Kimball preached the first Latter-day Saint sermon to be delivered in England. Heber presided over England's first baptisms one week later, after which he and his six companions parted company to cover more territory. People flocked to hear the missionaries' message, and by the time Elder Kimball left England nine... Read more

Execution in Mexico: The Deaths of Rafael Monroy and Vicente Morales

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The Saint and the Grave Robber

Converted in the Australian goldfields, Frederick William Hurst and John de Baptiste became mining partners and fellow emigrants. But in Utah their paths made a Jekyll-and-Hyde split. The colony of Victoria, Australia, produced one-third of the world's gold found in the 1850s; as a result, every imaginable type of person converged on the area. This assemblage, coupled with England's earlier "... Read more

Mormons on the Warfront: The Protestant Mormons and Catholic Mormons of Northern Ireland

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A Faithful Band: Moses Mahlangu and the First Soweto Saints

Having found a copy of the Book of Mormon sometime in the 1960s and sought baptism, a small group of black South Africans were denied admission into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints until 1980. Contemporary documents show that beyond the Church's long-standing policy restricting ordination and temple worship for persons of black African descent, leaders' fears of running afoul of... Read more

The Founding of the Samoan Mission

The establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Samoan Islands has an interesting and unusual history. Two Mormon missionaries, Kimo Belio and Samuela Manoa, were sent to Samoa from Hawaii and arrived there in 1863. They baptized about fifty people, but the Church struggled, in part because the Samoan Mission was not officially sanctioned by leaders in Salt Lake City... Read more

The British Contribution to the Restored Gospel

In 1987, BYU Studies published two special issues on the 150-year history of the LDS Church in Great Britain. Robert D. Hales, then Presiding Bishop of the Church, presented these remarks on January 17, 1987, at a symposium at BYU, “The Church in the British Isles, 1837-1987.” He surveys the role of Great Britain in world history, looks at converts to the Church in the 1800s, and tells the... Read more

Church Growth in the British Isles, 1937–1987

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The Church in Japan

I have been asked many questions like, "Do the Japanese originally come from Hagoth in the Book of Mormon?" or "Why has the economy of Japan developed so rapidly?" or "What kinds of foods do Japanese people eat?" or "Do the Japanese still wear kimonos?" These questions are so diversified that I sometimes find it difficult to answer them all, but I have answered them as best I can in order to give... Read more

Nothing Less Than Miraculous: The First Decade of Mormonism in Mongolia

The Latter-day Saints' assumption of Christ's great commission—the command to teach and baptize all nations—can hardly be overstated as a motivational force for sending missionaries to far-away places to testify of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. An 1831 revelation authorized and empowered Joseph Smith to send missionaries "unto the ends of the world" and "to lay the foundation of this... Read more

Alhamdulilah: The Apparent Accidental Establishment of the Church in Guinea

As I neared completion of my first assignment with the U.S. State Department, a two-year tour in Rio de Janeiro, the department's personnel officers determined that my two years in Rio would be best balanced by an equal amount of time in Conakry, Guinea. Although I had some interest in Africa, I had never given much thought to doing a tour in Guinea. Like a newly called missionary, I quickly... Read more

When Our Enemies Are Also Saints: Response to Claudia W. Harris's "Mormons on the Warfront"

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A Latter-day Saint in Hitler's SS: The True Story of a Mormon Youth Who Joined and Defected from the Infamous SchutzStaffel

In researching and writing the story of Helmuth Hübener, the Latter-day Saint youth who was executed for distributing anti-Nazi literature in Germany during World War II, I learned of several other Hübener-like people in Nazi Germany. One such person, whom I shall call Bruno to preserve anonymity, was a young Latter-day Saint man who joined Hitler's infamous elite force, the SS, and then had a... Read more

An Islander's View of a Desert Kingdom: Johnathan Napela Recounts His 1869 Visit to Salt Lake City

Jonathan (Ionatana) Hawaii Napela (fig. 1) bridged cultures. As one of the first Hawaiian converts to Mormonism, he helped George Q. Cannon translate the Book of Mormon into the Hawaiian language in 1852-53, he instigated the first language training center for foreign missionaries in 1853, and he helped establish the first gathering place for the Hawaiian Saints in 1854. in 1869 Napela visited... Read more

Cradling Mormonism: The Rise of the Gospel in Early Victorian England

"The Gospel is spreading," jubilantly wrote the Mormon Apostle Heber C. Kimball from England in 1840, and "the devils are roaring." Elder Kimball, along with six missionary associates, first landed in England from America in July 1837. Their proselyting efforts produced what seemed to them a remarkable success. In less than a year, they added approximately 1,500 to the handful of members they had... Read more

Strangers in a Strange Land: Assessing the Experience of Latter-day Saint Expatriate Families

The word expatriate is derived from Latin ex , meaning out, and patria , meaning fatherland. In a broad sense, an expatriate is defined as anyone living outside his or her native land. Prominent scriptural expatriates include Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses, Lehi and his family, the Apostle Paul, and Moroni. In a sense, all of us are spiritual expatriates with plans and hopes of ultimately returning... Read more

The Ebb and Flow of Mormonism in Scotland, 1840–1900

The story of Mormonism in Scotland actually begins in Canada—not surprisingly when one realizes that for thousands of expatriate Scots in the nineteenth century, Canada was a second homeland. Two Scotsmen, Alexander Wright of Banffshire and Samuel Mulliner of Midlothian, had settled in Upper Canada (now known as Ontario) in the mid-1830s and shortly thereafter they were converted to the Mormon... Read more

Coming to Terms: The Challenge of Creating Christian Vocabulary in a Non-Christian Land

Because words, in any language, are not actual concrete objects but simply "sounds," "symbols," or "signifiers" that at best can only be a shadowy approximation of reality and truth, we must regard language as one of the slipperiest of the slippery treasures of mortality. If language itself produces, at best, a shadowy approximation of reality and truth, then translating that shadowy... Read more

Humanity and Practical Christianity: Implications for a Worldwide Church

Today Latter-day Saints go into the world, and the Church they represent has expanded well beyond the United States and Europe and is reaching into Asia, Latin America, and Africa for its membership. During the last twenty years, as this demographic shift from the West to the rest of the globe occurred, Latter-day Saints applauded and took pride in the growth revealed by annual statistical... Read more

The Book of Mormon in the English Literary Context of 1837

"Do you know anything of a wretched set of religionists in your country, superstitionists I ought rather to say, called Mormonites, or Latter-Day Saints?" So wrote the great English poet William Wordsworth to his American editor Henry Reed early in 1846. This is the only reference to Mormonism in Wordsworth's surviving letters or other writings, and it may come as a shock to modern Latter-day... Read more

On the Trail of the Twentieth-Century Mormon Outmigration

Beginning around 1900, the Church changed its practice of encouraging all Saints to come to the Intermountain West. And a shortage of jobs and educational opportunities led many young Latter–day Saints to move. These outmigrants put down roots and helped establish the Church in their communities. Over time, the number of Saints leaving the West increased due to the Great Depression and job... Read more

Santa Biblia: The Latter-day Saint Bible in Spanish

The Santa Biblia: Reina-Valera 2009 is the first edition of the Holy Bible to be published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a language other than English. This version is based on the 1909 Reina-Valera, an important Spanish Bible in the Protestant tradition. The LDS Church had a team of translators and general authorities revise the biblical text, conservatively updating the... Read more

Old Wine in New Bottles: The Story behind Fundamentalist Anti-Mormonism

Although ridiculed, plastic grapes and hair wreaths symbolize their maker's religious devotion to community and home, obedience to divine injunction, or belief in the Resurrection. Read more

Halldor Laxness and the Latter-day Saints: The Story behind the Novel Paradisarheimt

On the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Halldor Laxness's Mormon-themed novel Paradisarheimt ( Paradise Reclaimed ), BYU professor Fred E. Woods tells the story of how the Nobel-prize winning author became interested in the topic of Mormon Icelandic immigration to Utah. Woods shares correspondence between Laxness and Latter-day Saints, thus portraying the friendships that developed as... Read more

Mormons in Victorian Manchester

Manchester Mormons were typical of many members of the Church who were baptized between 1838 and 1860, the early years of rapid growth in the British Mission. The Manchester Branch was one of the largest branches in England and was located in an industrial and urban setting, the kind of environment in which the majority of British converts lived. A study of the members reveals many things about... Read more

Behind the Iron Curtain: Recollections of Latter-day Saints in East Germany, 1945–1989

In 1939 when Hitler's armies marched into Poland, the LDS missionaries marched out—out of Germany and eventually out of all continental Europe. The missionaries left a strong and thriving Church in the eastern part of Germany. The major cities of this area—Berlin, Leipzig, Chemnitz, and Dresden—were among the few cities in Europe with multiple branches, many of which were old and well established... Read more

Moritz Busch's Die Mormonen and the Conversion of Karl G. Maeser

Karl G. Maeser's contributions to the education of nineteenth-century Latter-day Saints had a profound impact on the history of Mormonism, an impact that has reverberated to today. The narrative surrounding Maeser's conversion has been told and retold for over a century now in the enculturation of students into Brigham Young University's heritage. This essay seeks to better understand and... Read more

William James Barratt: The First Mormon "Down Under"

Although William James Barratt was an active Latter-day Saint for only a few short years, William Barratt indirectly brought many into the LDS Church through his only known convert, Robert Beauchamp. It is possible that he converted others. Assistant Church Historian Andrew Jenson made a trip to Australia in 1896 and recorded: "From Private sources I have learned that Elder Barret [sic] did... Read more

The Reverend W. R. Davies vs. Captain Dan Jones

In 1838 when forty-year-old William Robert Davies was ordained minister of the Baptist Caersalem Chapel in Dowlais (two miles from Merthyr Tydfil) he had probably never heard of the Latter-day Saints. Halfway into his eleven-year ministry at Caersalem, he would become the most vociferous foe of Mormonism in Wales. In addition to constant sermons against the new religion, Davies also published... Read more

Fire on Ice: The Conversion and Life of Gutmundur Gutmundsson

Gudmundur Gudmundsson was one of Iceland's first converts and missionaries. Born in Oddi, Iceland, he traveled to Copenhagen to work as a goldsmith and joined the LDS Church there in 1851. He returned to Iceland that year to preach the gospel, but his family was unreceptive, and his preaching resulted in public persecution and government orders to cease. He stayed in Iceland until 1854, when he... Read more