At the October general conference of 1849, President Brigham Young called Elder Erastus Snow of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to open the work of the gospel in the lands of Scandinavia. He was to be accompanied by Elders Peter O. Hansen, John E. Forsgren, and George P. Dykes. Hansen’s sailor brother had joined the Church in Boston and wrote to Peter, who was still in Denmark, of his conversion. With no Latter-day Saints at the time in Denmark to teach him the restored gospel, Peter traveled to America and was baptized in Nauvoo. Later in Nauvoo, Peter was assigned by Brigham Young to work on a Danish translation of the Book of Mormon. Forsgren, from Sweden, had also joined the Church in the East and moved to Nauvoo to be with the Saints. He was called to labor in Sweden. Dykes had been a missionary in the Wisconsin territory among Norwegian immigrants. Many were converted, and a branch was established. Because Dykes knew the language and the customs of the people, he was called to labor in Norway.
Elder Snow and his companions arrived in Denmark on 14 June 1850 (Peter Hansen had arrived in Copenhagen a month earlier) and dedicated the lands of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway for the preaching of the gospel. Although the Danish parliament had passed a freedom of religion law in 1849, the early missionaries and converts faced considerable opposition. Despite severe persecution, the first baptisms occurred in August 1850, and the first branch was established 15 September 1850. Several other branches were subsequently established in various parts of the country.
In 1851 the Book of Mormon was published in DanishÃ¢â‚¬â€the first foreign language edition. Many other tracts and publications were also published in Danish that assisted in missionary work and bolstered the faith of the Danish converts. In 1852 the first group of Danish converts emigrated to America. With the encouragement of the Church leadership and the financial assistance of the Perpetual Emigrating Fund, about 14,000 Danish Saints eventually gathered with the Church in Utah. The 1860s saw unparalleled growth in Church membership in Scandinavia generally, and Denmark specifically, despite continuing persecution.
In 1905 the Scandinavian Mission was divided to become the Swedish Mission and the Danish-Norwegian Mission. In 1920 the Danish Mission was created (now called the Denmark Copenhagen Mission). During World War I and again in World War II, virtually all American missionaries were called home. Missionary work continued, however, through the faithful service of full-time Danish missionaries and local Saints. After the wars, missionaries were again called to Denmark, and the work resumed. Although convert baptisms in the country were relatively fewÃ¢â‚¬â€from 50 to 200 a yearÃ¢â‚¬â€the Church grew spiritually, and members increased in faithfulness. On 16 June 1974, the Copenhagen Denmark Stake was created by President Ezra Taft Benson. It was the first stake not only in Denmark but in all of Scandinavia. In 1978 a second stake was formed in DenmarkÃ¢â‚¬â€the Aarhus Denmark Stake. In 1999 construction began on a temple in Copenhagen, which would serve the Saints and bless the Church in Denmark and southern Sweden. By the beginning of the year 2000 the country had 4,527 members and 25 wards and branches.
[Year-end 2005: Est. population, 5,432,000; Members, 4,336; Stakes, 2; Wards, 13; Branches, 10; Missions, 1; Temples; 1; Percent LDS, .08, or one in 1,227; Source 2007 Church Almanac.]
Christensen, Marius A. “A History of the Danish Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1850-1965.” Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1966.
Jenson, Andrew. History of the Scandinavian Mission. Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1927.
Mulder, William. Homeward to Zion: The Mormon Migration from Scandinavia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1957.
Van Orden, Bruce A. Building Zion: The Latter-day Saints in Europe. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1996.
BRENT L. TOP
From Arnold K. Garr, Donald Q. Cannon, and Richard O. Cowan, eds., Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), 284-85. Used with the permission of the Deseret Book Company. Copies prohibited by law.