The first Norwegian members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (abbreviated LDS), informally ‘The Mormon Church’, were recruited in 1842 in a Norwegian immigrant community that had settled in Fox River, Illinois, USA.
Mormon members of that community joined with other Scandinavian Mormons to travel eastward across the Atlantic to set up a Scandinavian mission mark in Copenhagen in 1850. It quickly spread the faith across Denmark.
A Norwegian ship captain from Risør, Svend Larsen (1816-1886), sailed with a cargo of timber into the Danish port of Aalborg in August 1851. There he met Mormons, was converted, and baptised into the Church the following month. He then sailed home to Risør as a Mormon missionary.
Larsen did well at his new task. Blacksmith Jon Olsen and his assistant Peter Adamsen became the first to be baptised into the Church just two months later, and congregations were formed in Risør, Brevik, and Fredrikstad in 1852.
The spread of the faith disconcerted the local authorities. Østfold County governor Christian Birch-Reicherwald had all the Mormon missionaries arrested and assembled in Fredrikstad to be judged guilty of illegal religious activities. The ensuing fracas concerning the acceptability of Mormons according to the ‘Nonconformist Law’ of 1845 (granting religious freedom for Christian denominations outside the State Church) went all the way to the Supreme Court. Judges declared the Church to be ‘non-Christian’ in 1853.
Nevertheless, the mood of the times apparently was toward greater religious freedom, despite the High Court’s adherence to the letter of the Nonconformist Law. Quakers had been granted nonconformist status in 1842 before this legislation was enacted, followed by Catholics in 1843. After the Law was enacted, Jews were allowed in the country after the Constitutional ban on Judaism was rescinded in 1851.
The Mormon faith spread, and congregations were founded in all the country’s major cities in the latter half of the 19th century. But growth in membership was then slowed by the great emigration of Norwegians to the USA beginning in the 1860s and persisting until the 1920s.
Today, the Church has more than 4,500 members across Norway in 24 cities – from Kristiansand in the south to Hammerfest in the north. The Book of Mormon was translated into Norwegian in 1950 under the title Mormons Bok and now is made available free on the Church website.
The Church also supports 14 genealogy centres and holds the annual Jul i Toner Christmas concerts featuring choirs, soloists and orchestras.
- Membership: 4,556.
- 22 congregations.
- 22 churches (12 owned and 10 leased).
- Further information: Jesu Kristi Kirke av Siste Dagers Hellige, addresses and telephone numbers on website; click on “Menigheter i Norge” to bring up an interactive congregation locater map.
Editor’s note: We invite readers to read our other articles in this continuing series focusing on religions in Norway: The Lutheran Church, Islam, Orthodoxy, Methodism, the Baptist Church and Seventh-day Adventism.