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

Country information: Austria

Published: Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009

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AUSTRIA

Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 8,210,000; Members, 4,215; Stakes, 2; Wards, 12; Branches, 5; Percent LDS, .05, or one in 1,948; Europe Area; Germany Munich/Austria Mission.

Austria, a parliamentary democracy located in south-central Europe, is 98 percent German-speaking. Some 78 percent of the people are Roman Catholic, 5 percent are protestant with 17 percent comprising Muslim and other faiths.

The first Latter-day Saint to visit Austria was Orson Hyde who passed briefly through Vienna on his way to Palestine in 1841.

Orson Pratt and William W. Riter arrived in Austria on 18 January 1865. They remained there until September when they were banished and returned to London reporting that missionary work would be difficult because of exising laws. The first Austrian convert, Joseph A. Oheim, was baptized on 22 January 1870, in Munich, Germany, by Karl G. Maeser. The first convert in Austria was Paul Haslinger, who was baptized on 25 November 1883. Thomas Biesinger and Paul E. B. Hammer arrived in Vienna in November 1883 and baptized a few converts. Fearing arrest, Biesinger went to Prague and Hammer left Austria a few months later.

In 1899, an Austrian convert, Martin Ganglmayer came to Haag am Hausruck and met Johann Huber, who was baptized on 27 April 1900 in Munich. Through Huber's influence, several others were baptized in Haag am Hausruck, and by 1902 a branch was established there.

In 1903, missionaries returned to Vienna as well as in several other cities. In 1909, Royal Eccles formed a branch in Vienna which was closed by police in January 1914.

Because of World War I missionaries were evacuated and many local members enlisted for military service leaving the branches with few members. Consequently, Church activity for those years diminished dramatically. Missionaries returned in 1920 and reorganized the branches. The years between World Wars I and II marked an era of dramatic growth for the Church in Austria as the Church enjoyed full religious freedom and missionaries found people more receptive to their message.

Missionaries were withdrawn again during World War II and local members carried on. Full-time missionary work resumed in 1946 when Ezra Taft Benson established the Austrian District. The Austrian government officially recognized the Church in 1955. In 1960 the Austrian Mission was created. During the 1960s many meetinghouses were built and dedicated to hold the growing branches. In 1965, the centennial of the Church in Austria was celebrated.

In the 1970s, Austria became the center for fledgling Church work in Eastern European countries, including Czechoslovakia and Hungary and particularly, Yugoslavia. It was in Vienna in 1974 where missionaries first worked among Yugoslavian guest workers. A Yugoslavian Sunday school was formed in January 1975. To accommodate the large number of international workers in Austria, the Vienna International Branch, now the Vienna 4th Ward, was formed in March 1975. Austrians celebrated the founding of the first stake in Vienna on 20 April 1980.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Austria Vienna East Mission supervised developing areas in Eastern Europe. During the subsequent difficult economic times in various countries, including the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, members donated food and clothing for relief.

The Church's 2,300th stake was created in Salzburg 19 January 1997. The Austria Vienna Mission was consolidated on 1 July 2002, with the Germany Munich Mission to form the Germany Munich/Austria Mission.

Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve, serving as president of the Europe Central Area, joined with members in Vienna to commemorate 50 years of religious freedom in the country and official recognition of the Church granted on 27 September 1955. Elder Perry's two-day visit, May 6-8, 2005, included meeting Dr. Heinz Fischer, president of Austria, in the famed Hofburg Palace.

Membership in 2003 reached 4,038.

Sources: Andrew Jenson, Encyclopedic History of the Church, 1941; Donald Q. Cannon and Richard O. Cowan, Unto Every Nation: Gospel Light Reaches Every Land, 2003; Austrian Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Vienna International Branch, A Short History of the Vienna International Branch, Church Archives; "Meets president," Church News, 21 May 2005.

Stakes — 2

(Listed alphabetically as of Oct. 1, 2009.)

No. / Name / Organized / First President

Europe Area

2300 Salzburg Austria 19 Jan 1997 Gerold Roth

1126 Vienna Austria 20 Apr 1980 Johann Anton Wondra