Church News - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Country information: Armenia

Published: Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009

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ARMENIA

Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 2,967,000; Members, 2,748; Branches, 15; Districts 1; Missions, 1; percent LDS: .09 or 1 in 1,080; Europe East Area; Armenia Yerevan Mission.

The gospel has been preached among Armenians living outside of their homeland since the 1880s. In December 1884, Jacob Spori and George C. Naegle were appointed to serve in Constantinople, Turkey, and began to preach to the community of Armenians there. Mr. Vartooguian and three members of his family were baptized on 4 January 1885, the first Armenians to join the Church.

As the Ottoman Empire began to decline, ethnic hatred and acts of violence against Armenians increased. In May 1909, Thomas P. Page attempted to purchase a tract of land in Syria for the Armenian Church members to colonize. This colony, however, never materialized because the Turkish Mission was closed that same year due to political instability in Turkey.

A little over a decade later, in 1921, Elder David O. McKay of the Quorum of the Twelve reported visiting the Armenian Latter-day Saints who were spread across the Near East, having been driven from their homes because of continuing violence and persecution. Church members in the United States held a fast to benefit Church members in need, including Armenians. A portion of the $115,000 collected from the fast offerings was given to Armenian Latter-day Saints by J. Wilford Booth. Booth was president of the Turkish Mission, which was responsible for missionary work in the Near East.

A branch of 59 Armenians was functioning in Aleppo, Syria, in 1946. Many of these people had been assisted by the Church in moving from Aintab, Turkey, where there had been severe persecution, to Aleppo. These Saints were forced to leave Syria between 1947 and 1950 because of threats against Armenians. Some went to Armenia, then a part of the Soviet Union, others to Beirut, Lebanon, and eventually to the United States. Those who went to the Soviet Union lost contact with the Church. In December 1950, the Near East Mission was closed at the request of the First Presidency. President Badwagan Piranian, and his wife Bertha, were transferred to the California Mission to labor among Armenians there.

In the late 1980s, Beverly Campbell, working for the Church's public communications office in Washington, D.C., began to establish contact with Soviet Ambassador Yuri Dubinin and his wife, Liana, who is Armenian. The Dubinins were hosted at various LDS functions in the Washington, D.C., area.

On 7 December 1988, portions of Armenia were devastated by an earthquake. Approximately 50,000 people died and half a million became homeless. One week later, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve met with Ambassador and Mrs. Dubinin in Washington, D.C., to convey the condolences of the Church. Elder Nelson presented the Ambassador with a check for $100,000.

In response to the earthquake, Utah industrialist and Church leader Jon M. Huntsman, working with American philanthropist Armand Hammer, began a relief effort to benefit survivors. They founded the American-Armenian Bridge of Friendship, an organization that helped in the rebuilding effort. On 8 August 1989, Huntsman, Hammer, and Elder Russell M. Nelson, of the Quorum of the Twelve, participated in a document-signing ceremony in Moscow pledging assistance.

Jon Huntsman established a concrete plant in Yerevan in late 1991. It produced reinforced concrete plank used to build homes and apartment buildings. The plant was staffed with LDS humanitarian service couples who had expertise in seismic engineering and plant operations. The first Church-service couples arrived in November 1991.

The humanitarian effort was headed by David M. Horne. Aside from operating the plant, Horne was involved in managing shipments of food and supplies. In light of these efforts, the Church was registered in Armenia on 22 December 1995. The assignment for Horne and his wife, Jeanne, lasted from July 1989 to January 1996. Horne died 21 January 1996 from wounds suffered in an explosion of a kerosene heater in his Yerevan apartment.

Elders Dallin H. Oaks and Russell M. Nelson visited Yerevan in June 1991. In Haghtanak Park, Elder Oaks blessed the land and people of Armenia.

Mikhail Oskar Belousov was baptized in Yerevan on 24 March 1992, the first man to join the Church in Armenia. Nara Sarkissian, the first woman to join the Church in Armenia, was baptized on 4 April 1992.

In November 1993, Armenia was assigned to the Bulgaria Sofia Mission. In July 1994, responsibility for Armenia shifted to the Russia Moscow Mission. The first two young missionaries, Dallas V. Woolf and Cade L. Rindfleisch, went to Yerevan from the mission in January 1995. Armenia was transferred to the Russia Rostov Mission in January 1997. Finally, the Armenia Yerevan Mission was organized on 1 July 1999, with Robert H. Sangster as president.

The Yerevan Branch was organized on 20 January 1994. Prior to this, there were groups of Latter-day Saints who met with the humanitarian missionary couples in their apartments for worship services. On 16 July 1995, the Yerevan Armenia District was organized. Elder Robert F. Orton, a counselor in Europe East Area Presidency, dedicated Armenia's first meetinghouse, located in Yerevan, on 2 February 2002.

In January 2001, Artur Minasyan, the first Armenian missionary called to serve in Armenia began his mission. And later that year, in March, the translation of the Book of Mormon into Eastern Armenian was published. These books were distributed in May 2001, which coincided with the 1700th anniversary of Christianity in Armenia. The Book of Mormon had been translated by Nishan K. Sherinian into Western Armenian, which is spoken by Armenians who were living outside of Armenia. It was published in 1937.

The dedication of the Nauvoo Temple on 30 June 2002 was the first Church event broadcast via satellite into Armenia. Six months later, Armenian Church members and their guests enjoyed the broadcast of the First Presidency Christmas devotional.

In 2003, there were 1,537 members.

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve visited Armenian President Robert Kocharian in the palace in Yerevan in August 2006 as part of a 12-day European mission tour. Elder Earl C. Tingey of the Presidency of the Seventy and Elder Jon M. Huntsman, Area Seventy, accompanied. The Armenian president is a longtime friend of Elder Huntsman following years of contributions to rebuild the country following the 1988 earthquake.

Sources: Armenia Yerevan Mission Annual History, Church Archives; David M. Horne interview, Church Archives; Turkish Mission Manuscript History, Church Archives; Journal History of the Church, 26 May 1909 and 30 December 1909, Church History Library; "Church Section," p. 3, Deseret News, 30 April 1952; Mary Ouzounian Journal [ca. 1978-1991], p. 78, Church Archives; "Church Joining in Effort to Help Armenia Rebuild," Ensign, October 1989, 7; "Church Will Help Armenian Homeless," Church News, 19 August 1989, 3; "Church Gives $100,000 for Relief Efforts in Quake-Stricken Armenia," Church News, 17 December 1988, 5; "97th translation, Armenians receive Book of Mormon," Church News, 5 May 2001; Shaun Stahle, "Dispelling notions," Church News, 16 September 2006.

Mission — 1

(As of Oct. 1, 2009; shown with historical number.)

(332) Armenia Yerevan Mission

Vratsakan #5

Yerevan 0051

Armenia