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

Country information: Lithuania

Published: Friday, Jan. 29, 2010

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Jan. 1, 2009: Est. Population, 3,555,000; Members, 847; Districts, 1; Branches, 5; Percent LDS, .024, or one in 4,197; Europe East Area; Baltic States Mission.

Lithuania, located on the Baltic Sea, is a parliamentary democracy made up of various ethnic groups. Based on the 2001 census, the major religions in Lithuania include Roman Catholics (79 percent) and the Orthodox Church (4 percent). An estimated 9.4 percent of the population does not identify with any religious denomination.

One of the first Lithuanian converts was Irute Meskiene of Vilnius. She heard the gospel preached in Szeged, Hungary, and was baptized there in 1988.

Robert and Ruth Rees were called to Lithuania as missionaries in October 1992. They labored as humanitarian (teaching) missionaries in Kaunus, where they taught English, consulted with the Ministry of Education and worked with the media to have Church-produced programs broadcast on Lithuanian television.

On 21 December 1992, the first four young missionaries were sent from the Russia St. Petersburg Mission to work in the city of Vilnius: Neil Checketts, Greg Lorenzon, Spencer Glende and Jason Swenson.

On 11 July 1993, the city of Kaunas was opened by Shane Allred, Brandon Rohrer, John Dobbs and Jason Riggs. On 17 December 1995, Arunas Tankus became the first native branch president in Kaunas. Missionaries were sent to a third city, Klaipeda, on 3 December 1995. Before World War II, Klaipeda was the German city of Memel and once had a branch of German-speaking Latter-day Saints. The Klaipeda Branch was organized on 9 June 1996. In December 2001, the city of Siauliai was opened.

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve visited Lithuania in May 1993. The country had been suffering from a drought. He left a blessing that there would be moisture for Lithuania. Not two days passed before rain fell.

The Latvia Riga Mission, created on 1 July 1993, included Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The first mission president was Robert W. Blair. On 16 April 1996, the mission office was transferred and the name changed to the Lithuania Vilnius Mission. The mission resumed its earlier name of the Latvia Riga Mission on 13 December 2001, and was then changed to the Baltic Mission on 1 July 2002. It is now headquartered in Riga, Latvia.

In July 1993, missionaries in Vilnius began to study Lithuanian. Prior to this time, the missionaries had spoken Russian.

In late 1993 and 1994, Lithuanian television presented Church-produced programs and also focused on missionaries and their work. In November 1994, Marek Vasilkov of Vilnius became the first native Lithuanian to be called on a mission. He served in the Utah Salt Lake City Mission. In 1995, the Church was registered in Vilnius and Kaunas. The Vilnius Lithuania District was organized on 18 January 1998. Seminary and institute began in the late 1990s.

In January 2001, copies of the first Lithuanian translation of the Book of Mormon were delivered. Membership was 640 in 2001, and 735 in 2002. In 2005, membership reached 791.

Source: "4 European lands dedicated," Church News, 12 June1993; Correspondence from Robert A. Rees and Gabriele Sirtl, Church News files, 2 May 1994; Correspondence from Nathaniel Currey, Lithuania Vilnius Mission, Church News files; "Church Education," Church News, 17 August 2002; Baltic Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Kahlile Mehr, Mormon Missionaries Enter Eastern Europe, 2002; and Internet site on 15 March 2004, U.S. Department of State, International Religious Freedom Report, 2003, www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2003/24419.htm (accessed 26 April 2004).

Mission — 1

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

(288) BALTIC STATES MISSION

A/D 3016

LT-2026 Vilnius, Lithuania