Jan. 1, 2009: Est. population, 5,250,000; Members, 4,548; Stakes, 2; Wards, 15; Branches, 15; Missions, 1; Districts, 2; Temples, 1; Percent LDS, .09 or one in 1,154; Europe Area.
Located in northern Europe, the Republic of Finland has a population that speaks Finnish and Swedish, and 83.6 percent are Lutherans.
The first known Finnish native to join the Church was Gustaf Wallgren who was baptized 30 Oct. 1860 in Sweden. He left Sweden to work in Finland in 1861. It is not known if he baptized anyone, although he did report sharing his newfound faith with others. The first missionaries were Swedish brothers Carl A. and John E. Sundstrom. They preached in Vaasa and performed the first baptisms in the country: Johanna Berg and Johanna Sundstrom on 5 May 1876. During the first decade in Finland, the missionaries worked among Swedish-speaking Finns, and by 1886 had baptized 25 people. In the mid 1880s the Finnish government tightened restrictions on religious freedom, and little work was done there with the exception of periodic visits from leaders headquartered in Sweden. In 1903, Elder Francis M. Lyman of the Quorum of the Twelve visited Finland and blessed the land. In 1905 Finland came under the stewardship of the Swedish Mission.
Efforts were made to establish branches in several areas, but none were permanent until Anders and Lovis Stromberg were converted in 1910 in Larsmo. A permanent branch was eventually established there. As late as 1941, all Church members in Finland had their records in Larsmo. With the commencement of World War I all ties between the Larsmo branch and the mission were severed. In 1922, a Finnish law was passed allowing full religious freedom. Still, missionaries did not visit the branch until the 1930s. The beginning of World War II effectively halted missionary work. During the war, packages of food and clothing sent by members in Sweden helped sustain members in Finland. On 11 August 1945 the Larsmo Branch was reorganized. In 1946, seven missionaries from Sweden were sent to Finland.
During his 1946 trip to Europe, Elder Ezra Taft Benson then of the Quorum of the Twelve, visited Finland and blessed the land. Up to this time, missionary work was focused only on the Swedish minority that lived in Finland, but that changed with the arrival in Finland of Mark E. Anderson on 3 November 1946. He had been given the assignment to learn Finnish and preach among the Finnish-speaking majority. Other missionaries assigned to learn Finnish were soon to follow.
On 1 September 1947 the Finnish Mission was officially organized with Henry A. Matis, an American with Finnish roots, as president. Membership in Finland was 129 when Matis arrived. During the seven years that he served, the Church gained legal status (1 July 1948), began microfilming Finnish Church records (December 1948-November 1955) and translated and published the Book of Mormon in Finnish (December 1954). English lessons and basketball became effective missionary tools during those years. During the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, President Matis served as liaison for the United States Olympic Committee and missionaries served as interpreters for the various U.S. teams.
Between 1955 and 1958 several plays were staged under the direction of Fred Adams, who went on to found the Utah Shakespearean Festival in Cedar City, Utah. The first meetinghouse specifically built for Church services was dedicated in H?eenlinna on 20 Dec. 1959. The first temple trip to Switzerland for Finnish-speaking Latter-day Saints was made in June 1960 when the temple ceremony in Finnish became available.
In August 1976, President Spencer W. Kimball spoke to nearly 2,000 members at an area conference in Helsinki. The next year, the Helsinki Finland Stake, was organized on 16 Oct. 1977. It was followed by the Tampere Finland Stake in 1983.
Finnish members were the first to introduce the gospel to Estonia and parts of Russia (see Estonia history). The Helsinki East Mission was created in 1990 to serve members in Leningrad and other areas in the Soviet Union. It was discontinued with the creation of the Russia missions in 1991, although Finnish leaders were among those called to serve in Russia.
Nearly half the members in Finland attended the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Finnish Mission, held in September of 1997. Among them was 92-year-old Henry A. Matis.
In general conference on 2 April 2000, President Gordon B. Hinckley announced that a temple would be built in Helsinki, and ground was broken for the temple in the Helsinki suburb of Espoo, 29 March 2003. Two former missionaries have returned to Finland as U.S. ambassadors, Mark A. Austad, who served as ambassador 1975-1977, and Keith Nyborg who served 1981- 1986.
The president of the Republic of Finland, Tarja Halonen, visited Salt Lake City, Utah, during the 2002 Winter Olympics. While there she met with President Gordon B. Hinckley at a private reception prior to the official Olympic Banquet of Finland that featured a 100-voice men’s choir of missionaries who had served in Finland.
The Helsinki Finland Temple is the 124th operating temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (LDS Church) and the 1st temple completed in Metropolitan Finland. Rising above the numerous trees on a rocky hillside along the highway to Turku stands the majestic Helsinki Finland Temple, located in the suburb of Espoo approximately 7 miles northwest of downtown Helsinki.
The Helsinki Finland Temple was dedicated 22 October 2006 in four sessions by President Gordon B. Hinckley, his 95th dedication or rededication of the Church’s then 124 temples. The temple district spanned 12 time zones, including most of Russia, to be the largest temple district of the time. Proceedings of the dedication were broadcast by satellite to 62 sites throughout eastern Europe to an estimated 15,000 members.
Sources: Arnold K Garr, Donald, Q. Cannon, and Richard O. Cowan, eds., Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History, 2000, 376-377; Finnish Mission Society, Suomi Calls, 1957; Kati Hietala, “Finland’s Temple Groundbreaking: Hundreds gather at traditional site for beautiful ceremony,” Church News, 5 April 2003; Finland Helsinki Mission (Finnish Mission), Manuscript history and historical reports, Church Archives; Henry A. Matis Family Society, Muistamme, 1997; “Six Temples Announced,” Church News, 8 April 2000; Shaun Stahle, Temple dedicated in Helsinki, Finland, Church News, 28 October 2006.