Cover image: Photo of early missionaries to Korea, circa 1956 via

At dawn on February 24, Elder D. Todd Christofferson stood on a precipice overlooking the churning ocean under a West African sunrise, and dedicated The Gambia for the preaching and establishment of the gospel in that land. Many nations across the world have had a similar spiritually significant moment, but such moments have occurred under a range of circumstances, public and private.

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Elder Christofferson had the chance to meet with the President and First Lady of The Gambia as part of his ministering visit. A meeting that Her Excellency called, “the best meeting I ever had since I became a First Lady.” Adding, “It’s the mighty God [who] works in miracles. I’m happy about this visit and I hope this is a beginning…And we will continue in strengthening and changing the lives of people of this country.”

Reading of the overwhelming support from the government of The Gambia to this visit and this dedication, I couldn’t help but reflect on the private, earnest dedications that took place as part of the missionary efforts of the early Church in this dispensation. They were not preceded by or followed with such grand recognition except in the hearts and the spirits of the people that would later hear the word.

Praying on Mountaintops in the British Isles

With no houses of worship where the early apostles could convene as they preached the newly restored Gospel to the people of the British Isles, they often looked to high places to gather and pray. It was from such a height, at Beacon Hill in Herefordshire, England that Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, and Willard Richards met to pray about the decision to publish the Book of Mormon in England. Wilford Woodruff had written that in “the first thirty days after my arrival in Herefordshire, I had baptized forty-five preachers and one hundred and sixty members of the United Brethren”.[1] They looked out at the homes scattered across the rolling green of the English countryside where waves of new and fervent converts clamored for a chance to read the Book of Mormon. They had written asking Joseph whether they should move forward and felt they should seek an answer from the Lord directly rather than waiting for answer to come all the way across the sea.

After an imploring prayer, they felt they should immediately move forward with the printing.

This moment is vivid in my mind’s eye as, at age seventeen, I climbed Herefordshire Beacon through sheets of English summer rain with my 88-year-old grandmother walking ahead of me with a hood wrapped tightly around her face to shield her from the icy wind. Periodically, she would look up to see how much more walking was left, and then continue on with determination.

“I’m going to make it no matter what,” she told my Dad, who was walking with her. And she did.

It was with similar determination that Elder Orson Pratt stood on top of a grassy rise called Arthur’s Seat overlooking the city of Edinburgh in 1840. His quiet dedication of the land for the preaching of the Gospel was not accompanied by meetings with heads of state or media coverage, but with the bold request for divine assistance in finding two hundred people to baptize in Scotland.[2]

The work in Edinburgh was (comparatively) slow at first with just eighteen people being baptized in the three months that followed. But Orson continued to work hard and refused to be discouraged, often holding as many as seven street meetings in one day. He published a pamphlet called An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, which was the first published account of Joseph’s First Vision. By the time he left Scotland ten months after that first trip to Arthur’s Seat, his prayer had been answered. The converts attending Edinburgh’s spring conference numbered 226.[3]

A Humble Dedicatory Prayer from Buenos Aires

Unlike the immediate and overwhelming success in those early days of teaching in the British Isles, the 1925 arrival of Elder Melvin J. Ballard, Elder Rey L. Pratt and Elder Rulon S. Wells in Buenos Aires, Argentina after a 34-day journey by land and sea was not followed by a wave of miraculous conversion. In fact, after many months of work, they succeeded in bringing just one person into the Church.

It was Christmas day 1925 when Elder Melvin J. Ballard stood in Tres de Febrero park in Buenos Aires and dedicated South America for the preaching of the Gospel.

“Bless the presidents, governors, and the leading officials of these South American countries, that they may kindly receive us and give us permission to open the doors of salvation to the people of these lands,” he prayed.[4]

Six months later in July, as they prepared to return to Utah, and after walking the streets and distributing handbills about the Restoration for so many days and months with no success, Elder Ballard made a prophecy that his grandson Elder M. Russell Ballard would read decades later from his office in Salt Lake City: “The work of the Lord will grow slowly for a time here just as an oak grows slowly from an acorn. It will not shoot up in a day as does the sunflower that grows quickly and then dies. But thousands will join the Church here. It will be divided into more than one mission and will be one of the strongest in the Church. … The South American Mission will be a power in the Church.”

The ”South American Mission” is now 95 different missions with over 5,570 congregations, taking in well over 4 million members.[5]

Korea Gets an Unusual Introduction to the Gospel

The first group of Church members began sharing the gospel in Korea during the 1950s. At that time, Korea was a nation at war. There were Melchizedek Priesthood holders in the country, but they all wore the uniform of the U.S. Military. Latter-day Saint serviceman would gather on Sundays to partake of the sacrament and receive religious instruction and soon, locals became curious and wanted to join them in learning.[6]

The Book of Mormon had not yet been translated into Korean, but the members shared the principles of the gospel with their new friends using the Articles of Faith. Despite the violent backdrop of war, the first Korean members were baptized in 1952. Elder Harold B. Lee, then an apostle, visited the burgeoning group of local members two years later and left certain that the nation was ready for full-time missionaries.

As is so often the case, the Lord was preparing for the growth of the Church in Korea through the conversion of a Korean-born graduate student across the world in America. Kim Ho Jik was in graduate school at Cornell when he found the gospel and felt, almost immediately, a divine charge to preach it back in his homeland.

In July of 1955, when President Joseph Fielding Smith dedicated Korea for the preaching of the Gospel, he called Dr. Kim to be its first district president.

That dedication happened at Clark Air Base in the Philippines and President Smith also dedicated The Philippines and Guam for the preaching of the gospel at that time.[7]

The Power of Persistence in Austria

Elder Orson Hyde passed through Austria on his way to Jerusalem in 1841[8], but it wasn’t until 1865 that another member of the Quorum of the Twelve would be back in the country attempting to open missionary efforts there. Elder Orson Pratt of the Twelve and William W. Riter, then president of the Swiss, Italian, and German mission, hoped to open a mission in Vienna, but were not only unable to proselyte, but were banished from the country for trying. Elder Pratt bore testimony to the authorities before he left.[9]

Twenty years passed before another attempt was made, though some would argue that this one was met with even more opposition. In 1885, Elders Thomas Biesinger and Paul E.B. Hammer began preaching in the country and even baptized a few new members, but persecutions raged and before long, Elder Biesinger found himself serving a 68-day prison sentence for preaching and distributing literature without a license (that the government refused to grant him). The elders were ultimately forced to return to Germany. But the zeal for spreading the Gospel lived on. As late as 1923, Elder Biesinger—then aged 80—still found ways to preach the Gospel in Vienna.

A branch was organized in 1902 with nearly 30 converts. Before the missionaries faced banishment yet again, they ordained two local elders to preside. Seven years later, a second branch was organized. They obtained a meetinghouse and furnished it, but in 1914 the branch was dissolved by the government and all of the property confiscated.

The end of World War I finally brought religious freedom to Austria as it was separated from Hungary, but after the German army invaded Austria in 1938, it was determined that all of the elders still serving there should be brought home.

I do not know the details of any official prayer of dedication opening Austria to the Gospel, but I included it on the list because of the continual dedication it took to keep the spark of the Gospel alive in a country where they were met with constant opposition.

The Church grew rapidly in the postwar years; from about 200 members during the war to more than 2,500 by the end of the 1960s. Today, Austria, which is roughly the size of Maine, has nearly 4,700 members.[10]

The Work Moved Swiftly in Ukraine

I couldn’t help but include the nation that is currently on so many people’s minds of late. Elder Ivan Stratov and Brian Bradbury, who were both serving in Finland at the time, were the first missionaries called upon to venture into Kyiv to begin preaching to the people in October 1990. Though still technically part of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev’s reformist policies in the late 1980s were starting to soften the way for more independence in Ukraine.

The first Ukrainian member of the Church was baptized a month after the borrowed elders arrived.  By the end of the following year, about 160 people in Kyiv had been baptized and the missionary force in the area had grown to 23.[11]

The first branch was formed in June of 1991, with those early members initially meeting opposite a building that had recently been vacated by the Communist Party’s central committee.[12] Missionaries had been working slowly and quietly at first, preaching with no name tags, as the Church had not yet been officially recognized in Kyiv. By the fall of 1991, Ukraine declared its independence. Within three weeks, Elders Boyd K. Packer and Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had dedicated the land for missionary work.

When the Kyiv Ukraine Temple was dedicated in August 2010, it made history. It wasn’t just the first temple in the former Soviet Union, it was also the first time in the history of this dispensation, since Kirtland, that a nation had seen so little time pass between the introduction of the Gospel and the building of a temple.

The swift arrival of a temple in their land fulfilled two different prophecies made of it. One from President George Albert Smith in 1945 who called that area of the world, “one of the most fruitful fields for the teaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

“If I am not mistaken,” he prophesied, “it will not be long before the people who are there will desire to know something about this work which has reformed the lives of so many people. We have some few from that land, who belong to the Church, fine, capable individuals who may be called to go, when the time comes, back to the homeland of their parents, and deliver the message that is so necessary to all mankind.”[13]

In Elder Boyd K. Packer’s dedicatory prayer 56 years later, he said, “We see the day when there will be scattered in the villages here and there a member and yet another member and then a gathering and then a branch and, in due time, stakes of Zion set firmly and permanently upon the fertile soil of the Ukraine,” then-Elder Packer said. “And in due time, the spires of temples will be seen across this great land.”[14]

No one realized how soon “due time” would be.

Now, Ukraine’s temple is temporarily closed and its people are in the midst of an extremely difficult conflict. But I would say of Ukraine the same that Elder Christofferson said of the people of The Gambia two weeks ago during his dedicatory visit:

“…this is an oft times unremembered place, but it’s God’s creation. These are his people. He remembers them.”[15]

Indeed, the Lord remembers his children in every land and studying the history of just how He is ensuring that His work, “will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear,” reminds me of how crucially important every person is to Him and how he can be a support and comfort to them even through the harshest of opposition.

The dedication of various lands for the preaching of the gospel is often done at dawn. As Elder Terence M. Vinson put it on the occasion of Elder Bednar’s 2017 dedication of Senegal, the early morning experience reflects the “symbolism of the gospel bringing [a nation] out of the darkness and into the dawning of a new day.”[16]

What a thrilling prospect that “searching in darkness, nations have wept”[17], but as soon as the Lord is able, He invites them to a new dawn and a new day.

And he extends the same invitation to each of us, if we will only take it.  













[13] Smith, George Albert, Conference Report, Salt Lake City: LDS Church, October 1945, 119.

[14] Avant, Gerry, “Kyiv Ukraine Temple fulfills 1991 prophecy: Elders Packer and Oaks recall dedicating nation,” Church News, August 25, 2010.



[17] Hark, All Ye Nations, Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.