Here's a brief sketch of the early years of the Finnish Mission. If you have any more on the history of the mission, especially some interesting stories, please send them to us.
Missionary work began in Scandinavia around 1850, shortly after Denmark adopted a new constitution that provided for religous freedom. Unfortunately, the other Scandinavian countries were not so liberal, so missionaries used Denmark as a base from which they attempted to spread the gospel to Sweden, Norway, and eventually Finland.
In 1861 a Mormon elder visited Russia and Finland, which was then under Russian rule. He traveled ostensibly as a businessman, not as a missionary. It wasn't until 1875 that missionaries were called to Finland, Saints from Stockholm. The first baptism was 1876 in St. Nikolaistad (where is this?).
Most of the first converts in Finland were Swedish-speaking. The Church started publishing a magazine in Swedish, Nordstjärnan, in 1877, and printed the Book of Mormon in Swedish in 1878. In 1884 Finnish members complained that the Finnish Post Office opened their copies of Nordstjärnan and forwarded the empty envelopes.
During this time missionaries visited the Saints in Finland periodically, but there were no places where missionaries were permanently assigned. In 1895 the church made several converts in St. Petersburg, and in 1903 Elder Francis Lyman visited Turku (Åbo) and dedicated Finland for missionary work.
The first public meeting in Finland, however, wasn't until May of 1946, two months before Elder Ezra Taft Benson of the Council of the Twelve rededicated Finland for missionary work on a hill in Larsmo (Luoto). The following year, President Henry Matis bought a mission home in Helsinki and a meetinghouse in Larsmo.
Left: the site where Elder Benson dedicated Finland in 1946. Right: the first meetinghouse in Finland (painted white at the time). Photos taken April 25, 1990.
Some Finns who needed a place to live in Stockholm arranged a trade with members there. The church provided them with rooms in Stockholm, and they let missionaries live in their quarters in Helsinki.
A member asked a friend who was a translator to translate some of the church's tracts into Finnish. The friend reluctantly agreed, and set about his work trying to find something wrong with the church's doctrine. Instead, he was converted and became President Matis' counselor.
(Here's a gap of about thirty years. Please help us fill it in!)
President Spencer W. Kimball held an area conference in Helsinki in August 1976, and the first stake was created a year later. The first stake president was Kari Haikkola of Turku.
In 1989 Soviet citizens started visited Finland in greater numbers than before. For many years the church had been calling missionaries to the Finland Helsinki Mission who already spoke Russian. Now was the moment they were needed. President Steven R. Mecham sent them to Leningrad, Vyborg and Tallinn, where branches were organized.
When Pres. Mecham was released, two people who had served missions in Finland were called to be mission presidents. Pres. Gary L. Browning was assigned to the Finland Helsinki Mission, and Pres. J. Lewis Taylor was assigned to the Washington Tacoma Mission. Before they began their assignments, however, the mission was split.
Pres. Browning was sent to the Finland Helsinki East Mission, which had its office in Helsinki, but was responsible for missionary work in Russia and the Baltic states. Pres. Taylor was reassigned and sent to the Finland Helsinki Mission, which had the same office and responsibilities as the mission did before the Russians started coming to Finland. The Finland Helsinki East Mission later became the Russia Moscow Mission.
Andrew Jenson, History of the Scandinavian Mission, Salt Lake City, 1927.
Albert Zobell, Under the Midnight Sun: Centennial History of Scandinavian Missions, Salt Lake City, 1950.
Bruce van Orden, Building Zion: The Latter-day Saints in Europe, 1995.
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Last changed April 17, 1998