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

Country information: Cyprus

Published: Thursday, Jan. 28, 2010

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Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 796,000; Members, 337; Branches, 4; District, 1; Percent LDS, .04, or one member in 2,362; Europe Area; Greece Athens Mission.

Located in the Mediterranean Sea off the Turkish coast, the republic has groups speaking Greek and Turkish, and follow the Greek Orthodox and Muslim religions. The island has biblical significance as the birthplace of Barnabas, a companion of the Apostle Paul, and as a refuge place for persecuted saints in the early Church.

In 1960, Britain granted Cyprus its independence. Disagreements and violence between the country's Greek and Turkish citizens led to a coup in 1974 and the invasion of Cyprus by Turkey which took possession of the northern third of the island. A guarded wall, the "green line," has separated the Greek and Turkish sections of the country since that time. The Church does not have a presence in Turkish Cyprus.

By 1961, the Nicosia Cyprus Group was functioning as part of the East Mediterranean District of the French Mission. The 20 members were servicemen and their families stationed at the British Akrotiri Sovereign Base. The group was discontinued in 1969 after transfer of LDS servicemen from the base.

On 6 May 1971 Switzerland Mission President M. Elmer Christensen visited southern Cyprus and re-established the Nicosia Cyprus Group. This group held regular meetings for eight Latter-day Saints and participated in interdenominational protestant meetings, some of which were under the direction of LDS leaders.

In 1972, Linda Mylona, a Latter-day Saint originally from Ayrshire, Scotland, moved to Nicosia, Cyprus with her non-member Greek husband and four sons. As the only permanent resident of the island who was a member of the Church, she sought out and fellowshipped other Latter-day Saints. In the decade that followed, several other members, including Avelina Marvilla from the Philippines, emigrated to Cyprus adding strength to the fledgling congregation.

In 1987, Elders James O. and Evelyn H. Henrie became the first missionaries to work in Cyprus.

On 10 September 1989, 28 members gathered at the Henrie home in Nicosia to witness the creation of the Nicosia Cyprus Branch under direction of Austria Vienna East Mission President Dennis B. Neuenschwander. James O. Henrie was set apart as branch president. Linda Mylona was set apart as Relief Society president.

In August 1990, Robert L. and Melpha L. Kane were assigned to labor in Cyprus. After working there for over a year, immigration officials who were concerned about the establishment of the Church in their country insisted that they leave. Although the Kanes were forced to finish their mission elsewhere, another couple, David and Ruth I. Ririe were allowed to take their place, serving from 1990-1992. Through the 1990s a number of missionaries were detained and questioned by the police and their passports and other papers were often taken. Eventually as the Church became better-understood, these occurrences of legal trouble lessened and the Cypriot constitution which grants broad religious freedoms to individuals and churches became an aid to the establishment and defense of the Church.

In July 1990, Cyprus came under the direction of the newly-created Greece Athens Mission. That same month Elders Bruce L. Alder and Ryan L. Risenmay began working in Nicosia, the first young missionaries to be assigned to Cyprus.

By 1991, the Nicosia Branch had 29 members along with four elders serving in Cyprus and one missionary couple.

On 29 February 1992, Georgia Philippou, a 67-year-old Greek Cypriot was baptized by Elder Blaine F. Steele, becoming the first Cypriot member. Five weeks later Maria Zenieri, also a Greek Cypriot, became the second native convert to be baptized. A few years later, Sister Zenieri visited Church headquarters in Salt Lake City. Her visit coincided with that of the Cypriot Ambassador to the United States and she was able to act as a Cypriot Latter-day Saint hostess during a banquet the Church provided in his honor.

In April 1993, branch members living in Limassol began meeting at the home of Kenneth and Catherine Clulow, British saints permanently settled in Cyprus. On 30 July 1994, a meetinghouse was rented and the Limassol Branch was established with Clulow as branch president.

On 14 September 1993, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve and Elder Hans B. Ringger of the Seventy and their wives visited Cyprus.

In 1997, there were 90 members of the Church in Cyprus meeting in branches in Nicosia and Limassol and another group of seven saints in Larnaca.

In 2003, there 202 members.

Sources: Greece Athens Mission, Historical files, Church Archives; Cyprus Group, History, Church Archives; "A Church for All Lands: Cyprus Nicosia Group," Church News, 21 October 1978; Joan Farbus, "Report from Cyprus," Ensign, December 1981.