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

Country information: Romania

Published: Monday, Feb. 1, 2010

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Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 22,215,000; Members, 2,736; Missions, 1; Districts, 2; Branches, 19; Percent LDS, .012, or one in 8,120; Europe Area.

Romania is a republic in southeast Europe located on the Black Sea. Its people are Romanian with a Hungarian minority. Most are Romanian Orthodox with a small percentage of Protestant and Roman Catholics.

The first Latter-day Saint to set foot on Romanian soil was Elder Orson Hyde, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. In 1841, while traveling to Palestine, Hyde took a steamer on the Danube River from Vienna, Austria, to Galati, now Galai, Romania, on his way to the Black Sea. Hyde later wrote, "I am a witness that the gospel has been proclaimed all along the Danube."

Years later Mischa Markow, shortly after his 1 February 1887 baptism in Constantinople, Turkey, went to Romania, where he stayed until January 1888. Markow did not record what he did in Romania during these months. However, the following year he returned and preached the gospel in four cities that are now part of Romania. In July 1899, he worked in Constanta, where he baptized one person. The following month, he preached in Bucharest, where he labored for six months and baptized several people. While in Bucharest Markow was arrested, jailed and eventually banished from the city for preaching the gospel.

In September 1900, Markow began preaching in Temesvar, Hungary, now Timisoara, Romania, where he had his greatest missionary success. There he met a group of Catholics who were seeking spiritual guidance. Markow and his companion, Hyrum M. Lau, baptized nine people from this group on 24 January 1901. On 30 March that same year, the missionaries baptized 12 converts, increasing the Latter-day Saint group to 31 members. The next day, the missionaries left the city on orders of the local supreme court. On his second mission in 1903, Markow worked in Brasso, Hungary, present day Brasov, Romania.

In January 1904, due in part to Markow's success, Hugh J. Cannon, president of the German Mission, created the Austro-Hungarian Conference, that included the branches in Temesvar, Brasso and Vienna, Austria.

Missionary work continued in these cities that would later become part of Romania for the next decade in spite of police harassment and persecution. However, on 5 March 1913, under the direction of European Mission president Rudger Clawson, the conference was closed and missionary work was discontinued in this area. Missionaries in Vienna periodically visited the few Church members in Temesvar and Brasso until World War I.

Between World War I and World War II missionaries visited the few Latter-day Saints who remained in Romania or who moved there after being baptized elsewhere. In 1926, missionaries Thalman Hasler and Obert C. Tanner visited Church members in Brasso and gave them the sacrament, something they had not had for 12 years. President Arthur Gaeth of the Czechoslovak Mission also visited the scattered Latter-day Saints living in Romania in the late 1920s and 1930s. World War II, however, ended contact with these Church members. Missionary work would not resume full force in Romania until 1990.

In 1968, Church member Bud Halderman traveled to Romania as a security guard for a prominent California businessman. While there, Halderman met a young translator, Consuela Icleanu, to whom he gave an English copy of the Book of Mormon. The book sat on Icleanu's bookshelf for more than 20 years until the missionaries arrived at her home. Consuela, her husband George, and their two children were baptized on 29 November 1992. Shortly thereafter, Consuela became part of the team that translated the Book of Mormon into Romanian.

Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve and Elder Hans B. Ringger of the Seventy made their first visit to Bucharest in October 1987. They held preliminary talks with government officials exploring possibilities to place humanitarian missionaries in Romania. Over two years later, in February 1990, Elders Nelson and Ringger, together with Peter Berkhahn, Europe Area director for Temporal Affairs, met again with Romanian officials to make plans for humanitarian relief. While in Bucharest, on 9 February, this small group visited Cismigiu Park, where Elder Nelson felt to bless the country.

The first team of humanitarian missionaries arrived in Romania on 2 September 1990: Beverly Cutler, Virginia Bruse, Harold and Enid Davis, Alvin and Barbara Price, and Reed and Dorothy Fife. The missionaries worked in orphanages and institutions for the disabled. Perhaps the most successful humanitarian effort accomplished by the missionaries was the institution of Special Olympics for disabled children in June 1991, the first ever held in Romania. Handicapped children were often shunned and neglected in communist Romania. The missionaries' efforts to begin the Special Olympics publicized the plight of these children and began to change attitudes towards the disabled.

Romania became part of the Austria Vienna East Mission in 1990, where it remained until the mission was discontinued in 1992. Missionaries serving in Romania then reported to the Hungary Budapest Mission. The Romania Bucharest Mission was created on 1 July 1993 with John R. Morrey as president.

In December 1990 the first young missionaries arrived in Romania: Christopher Jessop, Ryan Osborne, Raymond Van Wagoner, all transferred from the Italy Padova Mission, and Dan Peterson, whose call was changed from Yugoslavia to Romania. The first young sister missionary to serve in Romania was Lanette Payne who arrived in October 1991.

In 1990, Steve and Cheryl Worsley traveled to Romania to adopt children. While in Bucharest they hired a translator and driver, Octavian Vasilescu. On 18 November 1990, the Worsleys and Vasilescu attended worship services. Vasilescu accepted a Book of Mormon from the humanitarian missionary couples and was also impressed by the talk given by Austria Vienna East Mission President Dennis B. Neuenschwander. The Worsleys also invited another of their newly-made friends, Doina Biolaru, to attend Church services. As a result of their experiences, Octavian Vasilescu and Doina Biolaru were baptized on 24 March 1991.

Another significant humanitarian project occurred in August 1991. During the revolution that toppled the communist regime, the Central University Library in Bucharest was burned and many books were lost. Retired Brigham Young University professor George S. Barrus and Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve encouraged BYU students to sponsor a book drive for the library. They collected over 20,000 volumes. These books represented the single largest book donation from the United States.

The first branch in Romania was organized on 28 July 1991 in Bucharest with Octavian Vasilescu as president. With the slow but steady growth of the Church, the branch was divided on 1 September 1992. Work began in a second city, Ploiesti, and shortly thereafter a branch was organized on 15 February 1993. In early 1995 two districts were organized in Bucharest with Octavian Vasilescu and George Icleanu as presidents. Three years later, in February 1998, in order to strengthen the Church members, the two districts were reorganized into the Romania Bucharest District.

In 2002, there were 2,146 members. In 2004, there were two districts in Romania, one in Bucharest and the other in Ploiesti.

Missionary work accelerated and Church members were strengthened when the first complete Romanian translation of the Book of Mormon was released in December 1998 and when the first two meetinghouses were built and dedicated: the Bucharest meetinghouse was completed in December 1999 and the Ploiesti meetinghouse in February 2000. Both were dedicated by Area Authority Seventy Johann A. Wondra in May 2000.

All the cities where Mischa Markow first preached the gospel were once again open for missionary work. On 14 May 1995 a Church meeting was held in Timisoara. Missionary work began there the following February. On 5 June 1995 missionary work began in Brasov. In March 1998 missionaries began to preach in Constanta, where Markow baptized his first Romanian convert. And finally, a branch was organized in Galati in December 2000. This was 159 years after Orson Hyde disembarked in Romania on his way to Palestine.

In 2003, membership reached 2,196. In 2005, membership reached 2,483.

Sources: Myrtle Stevens Hyde, Orson Hyde: The Olive Branch of Israel, 2000; Mischa Markow's missionary journal, edited by Matthew K. Heiss and published in Mormon Missionaries Enter Eastern Europe, Kahlile Mehr, 2002; Helene Bernhardt, History of the saints in Roumania [sic], 1933; Church Archives; Doina Biolaru, Conversion story, 1992, Church Archives; Carmin Clifton, Come Lord, Come, 2002; Consuela Icleanu Interview, 1999, Church Archives; Octavian Vasilescu Interview, 1993, Church Archives; Romania Bucharest Mission Annual historical reports, Church Archives.

Mission — 1

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

(292) ROMANIA BUCHAREST MISSION

Sos. Pipera Nr. 41 Et. 7

Sector 2

COD 014254

Bucharest, Romania