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

Country information: Sweden

Published: Monday, Feb. 1, 2010

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Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 9,060,000; Members, 8,966; Stakes, 4; Wards, 24; Branches, 18; Missions, 1; Districts, 1; Temples, 1; percent LDS, .10, or one in 1,010; Europe Area.

Located in northern Europe on the east side of the Scandinavian Peninsula, the kingdom of Sweden is a constitutional monarchy. Its population speaks Swedish, Finnish, and Sami, and is 87 percent Lutheran. Other religions represented include Roman Catholic, Baptist, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Latter-day Saint.

The first missionary to Sweden was John Erik Forsgren, a Swedish seaman who joined the Church in Boston, Mass., in 1843 and then moved to Nauvoo, Ill., to be with the Saints.

At the October 1849 General Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, Elder Erastus Snow of the Quorum of the Twelve was assigned to establish the Church in Scandinavia, and Peter O. Hansen was called as a missionary to Denmark. When these assignments were announced, Forsgren petitioned for an opportunity to join in the work. He was called to go to Sweden. The three men left Utah in October 1849. Snow and Forsgren arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark, in June 1850. Forsgren continued on to his home town of Gavle, Sweden, where he immediately commenced preaching the gospel. His first convert was his brother Peter Adolf Forsgren who was converted after a priesthood healing of a severe illness. His baptism on 26 July 1850 was the first in Sweden. A few additional converts were baptized before Forsgren was arrested and banished.

In 1853, Anders W. Winberg and others began missionary labors in southern Sweden. On 24 April 1853, the Skonaback Branch was established. Within a short time, small branches were also established at Malmo Loma, and Lund. These four branches were organized into the Skane Conference on 25 June 1854.

From a base of strength in the south, missionary work pushed northward where the Stockholm Branch was organized on 31 December 1854, followed by Goteborg, 5 September 1857, Norrkoping, 12 May 1858; and Sundsvall or Norland 12 June 1859.

In 1878, the Book of Mormon was printed in the Swedish language. The translation had been prepared by John C. Sandberg and August W. Carlson. Translations of the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price into Swedish were published in 1888 and 1927, respectively.

In 1904, the Church purchased a large apartment building in Stockholm that provided space for a meetinghouse and offices. It was the first building owned by the Church in Sweden and the only Church-owned property in the country until small meetinghouses were purchased in the 1930s in Goteborg and Vingaker.

In 1905, Sweden was taken from the Scandinavian Mission, and the Swedish Mission was organized with four conferences. From humble beginnings in Sweden, from 1850 to 1930, the centennial year of the Church, 19,147 Swedes joined the Church. Of that number, 8,545 immigrated to the United States to join the Saints in the intermountain west.

In 1904, the First Presidency encouraged members outside of the United States to remain and build the Church where they live. For Swedish Saints, this counsel was personalized in 1910 when Church President Joseph F. Smith, while attending a Church conference in Stockholm, encouraged the members not to immigrate to Utah. Also in 1910, the Swedish government completed a study of Mormon immigration which incorrectly assessed that it was a vehicle of the white slave trade and recommended that Mormon Swedes be barred from immigrating.

Continuing concern about Mormon plural marriage and immigration caused Sweden's two houses of Parliament to address the issue in legislative sessions between 1912 and 1915. Each year from 1912 through 1914 Parliament allocated funds to counter Mormon missionary activities through printing of anti-Mormon publications and in any other ways deemed effective. During this period missionary work was still allowed but missionaries met with significant opposition as anti-Mormon information was widely distributed. The Parliament in 1915 questioned the accuracy of some of the critical reports about the Church and refused to fund further anti-Mormon campaigns.

Sweden was not a participant in World War I, but the effects of the war impacted the Church there. In October 1914, the Swedish Mission sent 37 American elders back to the United States in keeping with instructions from the European Mission. The few remaining missionaries and a number of members filled the leadership positions vacated by missionaries. Theodore Tobiason, for instance, served for a time simultaneously as branch, district, and mission president.

In 1920, Sweden's Department of Foreign Affairs restricted the issuance of visas to Mormon missionaries. Swedish Church members filed an appeal with the king, and on 11 April 1921, the American Minister to Sweden informed the government that the Church was willing to pay expenses of any investigative body the Swedish government might wish to send to Utah. In 1923, the American Consulate petitioned the Royal Minister for Foreign Affairs, this time accusing the Swedish government of discrimination against American citizens based on religious affiliation. He assured them that the Church no longer practiced plural marriage. In June 1924, Sweden relented and began issuing visas to Latter-day Saint missionaries. The effects of an economic depression in the 1920s and of continued anti-Mormon articles published in influential Swedish newspapers caused difficulties for the missionary work in the 1920s-1930s.

In 1936, mission President Gustive O. Larsen initiated a public relations program to correct misconceptions about plural marriage and other issues. He visited with Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf in the Stockholm Castle in March 1938 in connection with the tercentenary of Swedish settlement in America. Newspapers began printing articles that included positive content about Mormon contributions to cultural, financial, and academic fields. During August 1937, President Heber J. Grant held meetings in Stockholm, Goteborg, and Malmo increasing positive exposure and contacts for the Church. Missionaries were organized into exhibition basketball teams and a singing group, "The Harmony Singers," performed for clubs and associations.

Even though Sweden positioned itself as a neutral country during World War II, it nevertheless mobilized for war. All missionaries were evacuated from Sweden in October 1939 and local missionary C. Fritz Johansson was set apart as president. During the war, Swedish Saints sent packages of food and clothing to Saints in Russian-occupied Finland and German-occupied Norway. Member missionaries continued to do missionary work during the war.

By 1946, missionaries from America were again serving in Sweden, which received 66 missionaries that year. Within a few years, the mission had a full complement of about 100 missionaries. Anti-Mormon prejudices were largely forgotten, but missionaries struggled to generate interest in the gospel among a people that was becoming less religiously inclined. Even so, a number of converts were baptized, and growth of the Church justified creation of districts in Lulea and Sundsvall in May 1947 and Gavle and Karlskrona in 1948.

In 1952, Sweden passed a law guaranteeing religious freedoms for all non-state churches. This greatly aided the Church in its efforts to purchase property and meetinghouses. Properties bought previously were held in the name of real estate trusts signed by local members. This development was well timed for the Church in Sweden which purchased, remodeled and dedicated 22 meetinghouses during the 1950s.

Sweden participated in the Building Missionary Program in the early 1960s. In a two-year period, 1963-1965, 25 Swedes were called as building missionaries. During the same period, just 13 were called as proselyting missionaries. It was through this program that the first Latter-day Saint meetinghouse built by the Church was erected in the Stockholm suburb of Gubbangen. During the same period, brick meetinghouses were also built through the program in Goteborg and Malmo.

The Church hosted a Nordic Area conference on 16-18 August 1974 in Stockholm. Increasing Swedish membership necessitated creation of the Stockholm Sweden Stake on 20 April 1975 and the Goteborg Sweden Stake on 20 November 1977. Additional stakes were created in the 1990s in Malmo and Stockholm.

The Stockholm Sweden Temple was dedicated on 2 July 1985 by Gordon B. Hinckley.

On 24 March 1988, President Thomas S. Monson, then second counselor in the First Presidency, took part in Sweden's observance of the 350th anniversary of the first Swedish settlement in the United States. He exchanged greetings with King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia. Also taking part in the event was Church-member Gregory J. Newell, U.S. ambassador to Sweden. On 23 August 1995, President Monson hosted King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia on a visit to the Stockholm Temple grounds.

The 150th anniversary of the first baptism in Sweden was observed on 25-26 July 2000 in a series of events in Gavle, Sweden. The event received national attention. As a follow-up to that celebration, a monument memorializing John E. Forsgren, the first missionary to Sweden, was dedicated on 26 July 2001 in a city-owned park in Gavle adjacent to the Forsgren family home.

Goteborg, Sweden was one of eight seaports in Europe visited by the Sea Trek 2001 sailing ships that commemorated in August 2001 the 19th century emigration of European converts to Zion.

In 2002, membership reached 8,678.

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; Lyn R. Jacobs, Mormon non-English scriptures, hymnals, and periodicals, 1830-1986, 1986; A. Dean Wengreen, History of the Church in Sweden 1850-1905, 1968; Carl-Erik Johansson, History of the Swedish Mission of the Church, 1905-1973, 1973; "The Saints in Scandinavia," Ensign, July 1974; John L. Hart, "Sweden: Members Mold Lives to Gospel Ideals, Look to Growth," Church News, 21 November 1987; Gerry Avant, "Royal Couple Visits at Swedish Temple with Pres. Monson," Church News, 2 September 1995; "Sweden Festivities Note 150-Year Anniversary," Church News, 19 August 2000; R. Scott Lloyd, "Sweden's First Missionary Memorialized," Church News, 4 August 2001; David M.W. Pickup, "Zion's Call Answered by 'Torrent' of Saints Crossing Sea," Church News, 4 August 2001; "CD-ROM a Treasury of Scandinavian Family History," Church News, 4 August 2001; David M.W. Pickup, "Largest Family History Exhibition in Sweden," Church News, 18 August 2001.

Stakes — 4

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

No. / Name / Organized / First President

Europe Area

880 *Goeteborg Sweden

*Goeteborg Sweden 7 Jan 1991

Goteborg Sweden 20 Nov 1977 Arne Lennart Hedberg

2226 Malmo Sweden 1 Sep 1996 C. Urban Girhammar

691 Stockholm Sweden 20 Apr 1975 Evert W. Perciwall

2088 Stockholm Sweden South 20 Aug 1995 Ulf Arne Gilhammer

Mission — 1

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

(145) SWEDEN STOCKHOLM MISSION

Box 2087

S-183 02 Taby, Sweden