English immigrants William Barratt (1840) and Andrew Anderson (1841) first introduced the gospel to Australia. Barratt baptized Robert Beauchamp, who later served as president of the Australia Mission (1869-74), and Anderson established the first branch of the Church in 1844 near Wellington, New South Wales. The first American missionaries, John Murdock and Charles Wandall, arrived in Sydney 30 October 1851.
Establishment of the Church in Australia progressed slowly. Early missionaries struggled with vast distances and a lack of printed materials; they competed with people’s preoccupation with “the gold fever” and often had to put their missionary work on hold while they earned money to support themselves. A monthly periodical, The Zion’s Watchman (1853-56), was published in an effort to counteract false statements in the press and to defend Church policies.
Many of the early converts eagerly worked towards emigration to Zion. During the nineteenth century, an estimated 45% to 55% of the Australian Saints participated in the gathering (Newton, 134). Noteworthy among the Australian immigrants was a company of 28 Saints who set sail on the ship Julia Ann for San Francisco 7 September 1855. Twenty-six days into the voyage the ship struck a reef off the Society Islands and broke apart. Stranded on a small island for 60 days, the survivors were miraculously rescued.
Those who remained behind provided the nucleus for Church growth in Australia. The first chapel was built in 1904 on Gibbons Street, Brisbane. Eighteen years later the second chapel was built in Melbourne, facilitating the Victorian government’s decision to recognize Latter-day Saint marriages the first Australian state to do so. Between 1929 and 1958, the Austral Star provided members with Church news and instruction. The first Australian stakes were created in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane during 1960. Nine years later, the first international seminary and institute program was organized in Brisbane.
At the beginning of the year 2000, the Church in Australia had grown to include 99,121 members in 31 stakes and 7 missions. While Church meetings are predominantly conducted in English, there were also wards and branches that catered to speakers of other languages: Spanish, Tongan, Samoan, Vietnamese, Chinese (Mandarin), and Filipino (Tagalog). The first aboriginal meetinghouse was dedicated in Elliott, Northern Territory, in 1984. That same year Australia’s first temple was dedicated in Sydney on 20 September. In 1998 the Church announced plans to build a temple in Brisbane, and by the year 2000, the Church had begun construction on temples in Adelaide, Melbourne, and Perth.
Prominent Australian members of the Church include Joseph Harris Ridges, builder of the original Tabernacle organ; William Fowler, author of the hymn “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet”; and Robert E. Sackley, a member of the Quorums of Seventy (1988-93).
[Year-end 2005: Est. population, 20,090,000; Members, 111,098; Stakes, 32; Wards, 190; Branches, 95; Missions, 7; Districts, 11; Temples, 5; Percent LDS, 0.5, or one LDS in 224; Source 2007 Church Almanac.]
Eggington, William G. “The Church in Australia” Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Edited by Daniel H. Ludlow. 4 vols. New York: Macmillan, 1992. 1:86-88.
Newton, Marjorie. Southern Cross Saints: The Mormons in Australia. Mormons in the Pacific series. Laie, Hawaii: Institute for Polynesian Studies, 1991.
“Pioneering the Gospel in Australia.” Ensign 16 (October 1986): 32-41.
Smith, John Devitry. “The Wreck of the Julia Ann.” BYU Studies 29 (Spring 1989): 5-29.
From Arnold K. Garr, Donald Q. Cannon, and Richard O. Cowan, eds., Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), 63-65. Used with the permission of the Deseret Book Company. Copies prohibited by law.