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

Country information: Norway

Published: Friday, Jan. 29, 2010

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Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 4,661,000; Members, 4,164; Stakes, 1; Wards, 7; Branches, 15; Missions, 1; Districts, 0; percent LDS, .09, or one in 1,119; Europe Area.

In western Scandinavia, on the Norwegian Sea, the kingdom of Norway is a hereditary constitutional monarchy. Its people speak Norwegian with a small Lappish minority speaking Sami. The majority of the people are Evangelical Lutheran (86 percent). The remainder are Roman Catholic, Protestant or other faiths.

Missionary work among Norwegians began in the Fox River settlements of La Salle County, Illinois, in March 1842. Missionary George Parker Dykes, traveling from Nauvoo, met with great success there, baptizing dozens of Norwegians and establishing the La Salle Branch. Included in the harvest were Canute Peterson who would later serve as president of Sanpete Stake in Utah, Christian Hyer who would preside over the Richmond, Utah, Cooperative Mercantile Institution, and Shure Olson who helped build the Salt Lake Tabernacle organ.

Missionary efforts in Norway grew out of the work begun in Denmark. In 1849, Apostle Erastus Snow was asked to open a mission in Scandinavia. To accomplish this goal, Peter O. Hansen was called to work in Denmark and John E. Forsgren in Sweden. Stopping in England en route to Copenhagen early in 1850, Elder Snow met George Parker Dykes who was working as a missionary there. Elder Snow knew of Dykes' earlier experiences with the Norwegians in Illinois and of his language abilities and asked him to accompany the group to Copenhagen.

Dykes was assigned to work in Aalborg, Denmark. In April 1851, he preached to a large group there, including Svend Larsen, a Norwegian ship captain who expressed interest in the gospel and purchased several tracts. Four months later, after a long meeting with Erastus Snow, Larsen was converted and, in September 1851, traveled in company with missionary Hans F. Petersen to Larsen's hometown of Risoer, Norway. There, engaging in the first official missionary activities in Norway, they distributed tracts and held gospel discussions until Petersen was found to be without a valid passport and was forced to leave the country. The two returned to Aalborg, Denmark, where Svend Larsen was baptized on 23 September 1851, the first resident Norwegian to join the Church. In October, he returned with missionaries Hans F. Petersen and Johan August Aahmanson to continue the work. John Olsen and Peter Adamsen were the first to be baptized in Norway on 26 November 1851.

Branches were organized at Risoer on 16 July 1852 and at Fredrikstad on 25 July 1852. By June 1852, missionaries had also begun to labor in Brevik, forming the core of the Brevik (later Christiania and then Oslo) Conference which was established on 14 August 1852. On 8 December 1853, the Brevik Branch was formed, followed by the Christiania Branch on 29 September 1854. There were 309 people baptized in Norway from 1851-1854.

Although the Norwegian constitution granted religious liberties to non-Lutheran religions, Mormon missionaries and converts encountered strong opposition, occasional acts of mob violence, and numerous legal challenges. On 4 November 1853, the Norwegian Supreme Court ruled that Mormonism was a non-Christian faith and, therefore, did not enjoy protection under an 1845 statute called the Dissenter Law which protected minority Christian religions from prosecution. For many years this decision hampered the work in Norway. Even so, 7,907 Norwegians joined the Church in the period of 1851 to 1919, with 3,292 of that number immigrating to the United States. Elder John A. Widtsoe, who served in the Quorum of the Twelve from 1921-1952, was born in Norway and was among the Norwegian converts during this period.

Growth of the Church in Norway necessitated division of the Christiania Conference on 8 May 1899 to become the Christiania, Bergen, and Trondheim conferences. Church units in Norway remained part of the Scandinavian Mission until July 1905 when the Danish-Norwegian Mission was organized. Norway was separated from Denmark to form the Norwegian Mission on 1 April 1920.

The first Church-owned meetinghouse and mission office was built in Oslo by members in 1871. It was torn down and rebuilt in 1903.

Until 1950, members and missionaries in Norway used the Danish translation of the Book of Mormon. That year, a Norwegian translation was published, and Norwegian translations of the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price followed in 1954 and 1955, respectively.

Norway's only stake was created in Oslo on 22 May 1977. In 1988, the Church was registered for the first time with the Norwegian government.

Norwegian Latter-day Saints knighted by the king include John Langeland (1983) and Erlend D. Peterson (1997). Other prominent Norwegian Latter-day Saints include concert pianist Grant Johannessen and sculptor Thorleif Knaphus.

In 2002, membership reached 4,102.

Sources: Andrew Jenson, Encyclopedic History of the Church, 1941; Gerald Myron Haslam, Clash of Cultures: The Norwegian Experience with Mormonism, 1842-1920, 1984; Arnold K. Garr, Donald Q. Cannon, and Richard O. Cowan, eds., Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History, 2000, Erlend D. Peterson, s.v. "Norway"; Norway Oslo Mission, Manuscript history and historical reports, 1920-1977, Church Archives; Lyn R. Jacobs, Mormon non-English scriptures, hymnals, and periodicals, 1830-1986, 1986; Curtis B. Hunsaker, History of the Norwegian Mission from 1851-1960, thesis, 1965; "The Saints in Scandinavia," Ensign, July 1974; Harold Ecker, "Norway Saints Note Anniversary," Church News, 19 July 1950; A. Dennis Mead, "Beyond the Arctic Circle," Church News, 17 January 1959; "First Stakes for Norway, Venezuela" Church News, 11 June 1977; John L. Hart, "To be a Mormon Here, You Need a Testimony," Church News, 16 January 1988; R. Scott Lloyd, "'Field is White' in Norway's Arctic Region," Church News, 16 March 1991; John Floisand, "Inner Peace can Come in Time of War," Church News, 26 February1994; R. Scott Lloyd, "Leaving an Impact in Scandinavia," Church News, 18 August 2001.

Stake — 1

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

No. / Name / Organized / First President

Europe Central Area

835 Oslo Norway 22 May 1977 Osvald Bjareng

Mission — 1

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

(24) NORWAY OSLO MISSION

Postboks 94

1306 BPT, Norway