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

Country information: Cambodia

Published: Thursday, Jan. 28, 2010

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Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 14,494,000; Members, 8,359; Branches, 22; Districts, 4; Missions, 1; Percent LDS, .06 or one in 1,733; Asia Area.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, several Latter-day Saints were in Cambodia on assignments with the U.S. military. Small groups of members held Church services in Phnom Penh, but there were no reports of any Cambodian conversions.

In 1982, Book of Mormon selections, translated by Anh Tran, were published in the Khmer language to meet the needs of a growing number of Cambodians who had moved to the United States, Canada, and other countries in the wake instability in their homeland.

In April 1993, Elder and Sister John K. Carmack of the Asia Area Presidency, President and Sister Larry R. White of the Thailand Bangkok Mission, and Vichit Ith, a Church member living in Bangkok, traveled to Phnom Penh and visited with a representative of the government's foreign ministry to discuss the possibility of the Church performing humanitarian service in Cambodia. He informed them that Cambodia enjoyed religious freedom.

The Cambodian government officially recognized the Church on 26 February 1994, largely due to the efforts of Vichit Ith, who served from 1993 to 1997 as an economic advisor to the prime minister, Prince Ranariddh.

On 22 March 1994, Donald and Scharlene Dobson arrived in Phnom Penh as humanitarian missionaries. Pahl Mao was baptized on 9 May, the first convert baptized in Cambodia. Another missionary couple, Ronald and Dawn Oswald, arrived on 27 May. The first young elders arrived in Cambodia on 8 August: Richard W. Henderson, John T. Smith, Jamie T. Hipwell, and Brian W. Strong. All four were transferred from Cambodian-speaking assignments in the United States. By year's end, 27 converts had been baptized.

The Phnom Penh Branch was organized on 19 September 1994 with Shigiyuki Oya, a Japanese member, as branch president. In June 1995, the branch began meeting in two groups, one for Khmer (Cambodian) speakers and the other for Vietnamese speakers. In November, the original Phnom Penh Branch was split to form three branches. The Phnom Penh Cambodia District was organized on 21 January 1996. Two months later, Ohm Borin became the first local member called to serve as a branch president.

On 28 May 1996, President Gordon B. Hinckley, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, Elder John H. Groberg and their wives visited Phnom Penh. President Hinckley spoke at a fireside in the Cambodiana Hotel attended by 439 people, an impressive number considering Church membership totalled 285.

Cambodia was part of the Asia Area Mission until 1995, when it was assigned to the Thailand Bangkok Mission. On 1 July 1997, the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission was organized with Leland D. White as president. Four days later, a military coup began in Phnom Penh. All 22 missionaries were evacuated to Bangkok, Thailand, on 10-11 July, where they remained until 29 August, when political conditions were stable enough for their return.

Over the next several years the Church experienced remarkable growth. At the end of 1998, there were approximately 800 members in Cambodia and over 6,000 by early 2004. Missionaries worked only in Phnom Penh until March 2000, when four elders were sent to Kampong Cham, where they organized a branch in April. The Battambang Branch was formed in December 2003. On 25 January 2004, Bishop Richard C. Edgley dedicated the Cambodia District Center in Phnom Penh, the first Church-constructed meetinghouse in the country.

In September 1999, Elder Cree-L Kofford and President and Sister Leland D. White were given an audience with King Norodom Sihanouk and his wife at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. The king and queen extended the same privilege to a Church delegation in May 2002. Among the gifts that mission President John P. Colton presented to the king was a copy of the newly completed (late 2001) Khmer translation of the Book of Mormon.

On 25 January 2004, Bishop Richard C. Edgley of the Presiding Bishopric dedicated the first meetinghouse in the country. Despite years of strife and conflict, Bishop Edgley noted how peaceful and happy they were, with "faith as strong as any people on the earth."

In 2003, there were 6,089 members. In 2005, membership reached 7,465.

Sources: R. Lanier Britsch, From the East: The History of the Latter-day Saints in Asia, 1851- 1996, 1998; Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Shaun D. Stahle, "Emerging Church in Cambodia," Church News, 14 February 2004; Leland D. and Joyce B. White, "Gospel Gains Foothold in Cambodia," Ensign, January 1997.

Mission — 1

(As of Oct. 1, 2009)

(318) CAMBODIA PHNOM PENH MISSION

PO Box 165, #2B St. 222

Phnom Penh, Cambodia