Country information: Czech Republic
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Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 10,212,000; Members, 2,093; Branches, 14; Missions, 1; Districts, 2; Percent LDS, .02, or one member in 4,879; Europe Area.
In east-central Europe, the Czech Republic's people speak Czech and Slovak, both of which are official languages. Some 65 percent of the population is Roman Catholic.
Thomas Biesinger, was the first missionary to enter what was then Austria. He arrived in Prague on 26 February 1884. He labored there for less than a month when he was arrested for preaching and held for two months before he was brought to trial. He served another month in prison before he was released, but before his departure in June 1884 he baptized and confirmed Anthon Just. No other missionary work was done for some time, although in 1919 Frantika Brodil, who was baptized in Vienna in 1913, moved back to Prague with her two daughters.
At the age of 84 Thomas Biesinger returned to Prague where on 2 February 1928 he petitioned authorities for permission to preach and on 7 March of that year permission was granted. The Czechoslovak Mission was organized 24 July 1929 with Arthur Gaeth as president.
The Book of Mormon was translated into Czech in 1933. A shortage of missionaries during the Great Depression slowed the work. Missionaries were evacuated in September 1938 because of a political crisis that ceded some of Czechoslovakia's border lands to Germany. Missionaries returned in December of that year and were not evacuated during the 15 March 1939 occupation by Germany.
However, in August 1939, missionaries left prior to the beginning of World War II. The mission was left under the direction of a young convert, Josef Roubicek. During the war, he kept the Saints together, added 28 members, and published a mission circular letter.
Missionary work resumed in June of 1946 and continued until 6 April 1950, when the mission was closed. During that time the communist government increased legal restrictions against the Church and other religions, culminating with the arrest and imprisonment of two LDS missionaries for nearly a month between January and February 1950. Latter-day Saints had little contact with the outside world until 1964 and 1965 when several Church leaders visited including Austrian Mission President J. Peter Loscher and former Czechoslovak mission president Wallace F. Toronto.
The Czechoslovakia District was organized on 3 February 1982. Local missionaries began having success in the 1980s. After the democratization of the nation in 1989-90, the first full-time missionaries arrived 2 May 1990. About that time, the Church applied for recognition. According to President Thomas S. Monson, then second counselor in the First Presidency, "The government leaders had said to us, 'Don't send an American, a German, or a Swiss. Send us a Czech.' " Eventhough acknowledging that he was a Church leader during the prohibition of religion was tantamount to imprisonment, Jiri Snederfler, Czechoslovakia district president, and later the first Czech president to preside over a temple (Freiberg Germany), answered the call and faced the risk as he applied for government recognition.
Snederfler met with Deputy Prime Minister Josef Hromadka in Prague on 6 February 1990 and recognition, first granted to the Church in 1928, was officially renewed on 21 February 1990. The Czechoslovakia Prague Mission was reorganized 1 July 1990, with Richard W. Winder as president. Soon Czechs began to receive greater exposure to the Church. The Tabernacle Choir performed in Prague in 1991 and in 1993, Czech broadcasters visited Salt Lake City and televised a nationwide feature on the Church.
In April 1993 the mission name was changed to the Czech Prague Mission. The first meetinghouse built by the Church in the Czech Republic was dedicated in Brno on 11 November 2001.
In 2003, membership reached 1,877. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, born in Ostrava, Moravia, was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on 7 October 2004.
Sources: Thomas Biesinger, Experiences of missionary life, 24 July 1929, Church Archives; Austrian Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Gaeth, Arthur, Relating Czechoslovak Mission history, 2 October 1981, Church Archives; Czechoslovak Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Martha Sharp Toronto Anderson, A Cherry Tree Behind the Iron Curtain, 1977; "First Czech Meetinghouse Dedicated," Church News, February 2002, 79.
Mission — 1
(As of Oct. 1, 2009; shown with historical number.)
(236) CZECH PRAGUE MISSION
Milady Horakove 85/95
170 00 PRAGUE 7 - Holesovice,