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

Country information: Switzerland

Published: Monday, Feb. 1, 2010

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Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 7,604,000; Members, 7,939; Stakes, 5; Wards, 23; Branches, 13; Missions, 2; Temples, 1; percent LDS, .10, or one in 958; Europe Area.

In central Europe, Switzerland is a federal republic with a population that speaks German, 65 percent; French, 18 percent; Italian, 12 percent; and Romansch, 1 percent. The Swiss people are 49 percent Roman Catholic and 48 percent Protestant.

In September of 1848, a new Swiss law established freedom of religion for all of its citizens. Two years later, T.B.H. Stenhouse, who had been laboring as a missionary in Italy, arrived in Geneva, and began missionary work there in late November or early December of 1850.

In February of 1851 Lorenzo Snow and Stenhouse dedicated Switzerland for the preaching of the gospel. By March of that year, Stenhouse reported having performed several baptisms. By the fall of 1851 Stenhouse expanded his efforts to Lausanne and by the end of the year reported about 20 converts in Geneva and Lausanne. His success was followed by the organization of the Geneva Branch in the Spring of 1852.

It was not until 14 February 1853 that missionaries T.B.H. Stenhouse, Serge Ballif, and Frederick Roulet preached in Basel, Switzerland, the first missionary effort in the German-speaking portion of Switzerland. Subsequent missionary efforts expanded into the German and French-speaking portions of Switzerland thereafter, but the years 1858 through 1868 were met with increased opposition from local government officials.

In 1864, having investigated the accusations against the Church and its doctrine, a Swiss government official declared that Latter- day Saints were in fact, Christians. On 1 January 1868, the Swiss and German mission was formed having changed it's name from the Swiss, German and Italian Mission. It became the Swiss Mission in 1898, only to revert to the Swiss and German Mission in 1904.

In June of 1886 a police chief published a report on the alleged destitute conditions of Swiss Latter-day Saints living in Utah. Over 300 Swiss Latter-day Saints responded with a petition published in the Bern newspaper stating that the claims of the official were untrue. In 1887, however, the Church leaders discontinued encouraging converts to emigrate to Zion, and in 1899 they began actively encouraging Latter-day Saints to remain in their homelands to build up the Church there.

Moreover, on 7 August 1906 President Joseph F. Smith visited Switzerland where he promised that the time would come when the land would be dotted with temples.

The French-speaking portion of Switzerland came under the jurisdiction of the newly created French Mission on 15 October 1912, but it reverted to the Swiss and German Mission in September 1914 with the advent of World War I. Stewardship of the region returned to the French Mission on 23 December 1923.

With the beginning of World War I, missionaries were evacuated and local branches were left to local leaders. Hyrum Valentine continued to supervise the mission from Basel until late 1916 when Angus J. Cannon arrived as his replacement. In 1919, Cannon purchased supplies for relief of the Latter-day Saints who had suffered the ravages of war in Germany. Some supplies were distributed to Swiss Latter-day Saints who had also suffered deprivations during the war.

In November of 1939, as the non-Swiss missionaries and mission presidents evacuated due to World War II, Max Zimmer was left in charge of the German-speaking portion of Switzerland and Robert Simond became responsible for French-speaking Switzerland. The work progressed in spite of the war and in the spring of 1940 a meetinghouse was dedicated in Basel. In 1944, Max Zimmer received permission from the German government to visit LDS servicemen held in German prisoner of war camps.

In March 1946, Ezra Taft Benson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visited Switzerland in an effort to extend welfare relief to war-ravaged Europe. He was followed on 21 June 1946 by the first missionaries to return from Utah.

In the Spring of 1946, Scott Taggart arrived in Switzerland from the United States and replaced Zimmer and Simond as mission president. French-speaking Switzerland was assigned to the Swiss-Austrian Mission. Stewardship for that portion of Switzerland did not return to the French Mission until 1957.

The Swiss Temple built in Zollikofen, Switzerland, was dedicated on 11 September 1955. Swiss Latter-day Saints no longer had to travel to the western United States to participate in temple blessings. The temple also reduced the number of Swiss Latter-day Saints who emigrated to Zion.

On 18 September 1960, the Swiss-Austrian Mission was dissolved and the Swiss Mission (now the Switzerland Zurich Mission) and Austrian missions were formed. Headquarters for the newly formed French-East Mission (now the Switzerland Geneva Mission) were established in Geneva in January 1961. The founding of the Swiss Stake (now the Zurich Switzerland Stake), the first in Switzerland, came on 27 October 1961. Swiss Mission headquarters were moved from Basel to Zurich on 21 December 1962. This move was due in part to the Church gaining permission for the first time to own property in Zurich.

Missionaries began working for the first time in the Italian-Swiss region in June of 1963. This was to be the beginning of the re-introduction of the Church into Italy. By June of 1968, the Italian-speaking portion of Switzerland was transferred to the Italian Mission.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the Swiss Mission was responsible for countries where the Church had not been fully developed. These years also marked extensive construction of meetinghouses under the building missionary program adding further stability to the Church in Switzerland.

The first French-speaking stake in Switzerland was organized in Geneva on 20 June 1982 with Denis Bony as president. The Swiss Temple was rededicated on 23 October 1992 after extensive remodeling. On 26 March 1996, full-time Latter-day Saint missionaries were allowed to remain in Switzerland for the full two years. Prior to that time, their stay had been limited to 18 months.

By 2002, membership reached 7,418.

In 2003, Swiss Latter-day Saints celebrated the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Church in Switzerland. A video recording of President Gordon B. Hinckley congratulating Swiss members was broadcast to the joy of those attending a gala celebration on July 4.

In 2003, membership reached 7,527.

Sources: Andrew Jenson, Encyclopedic History of the Church, 1941; Dale Z. Kirby, History of the Church in Switzerland, thesis, 1971; "A Marvelous Harvest has Occurred in Switzerland," Church News, 19 July 2003; Donald Q. Cannon and Richard O. Cowan, Unto Every Nation: Gospel Light Reaches Every Land, 2003; Highlights from the German-speaking L.D.S. Missions, 1836-1940, Justus Ernst, Church Archives; Chronik der Kirche Jesu Christi der Heiligen der Letzten Tage in der Schweiz 1850 bis 2003; Swiss and German Mission (Switzerland Zurich Mission), Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Swiss documents relating to Mormons, 1879-1924, 1977, copy in Church Archives, originals in Swiss National Archives.

Stakes — 5

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

No. Name Organized First President

Europe Area

1261 Bern Switzerland 3 May 1981 Peter Lauener

2761 St. Gallen Switzerland 5 May 2007 Curdin Conrad

341 *Zurich Switzerland

Swiss 28 Oct 1961 Wilhelm Friedrich Lauener

(Switzerland, Germany)

1352 Geneva Switzerland 20 Jun 1982 Denis Bonny

2687 Lausanne Switzerland 28 Aug 2005 Bernard S. Ochs

Missions — 2

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

(59) SWITZERLAND GENEVA MISSION

8, Chemin William Barbey

CH-1292 Chambesy (GE)

Switzerland

(8) SWITZERLAND ZURICH MISSION

Pilatusstrasse 11

CH-8032 Zurich

Switzerland