HTown Publishing - LDS History - Indochina

HTown Publishing produces books that document portions of the modern history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To date our focus has been on Southeast Asia, with particular emphasis on Thailand. Founded in 2006, HTown Publishing is located in Sandy, Utah, USA.

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Synopsis of “The Light Breaks on Southeast Asia”

About the Author: Reed B. Haslam

Publication Details:
ISBN: 978-0-9777964-2-7 (Soft Cover)
ISBN: 978-0-9777964-3-4 (Hard Cover)
Pages: 758
Publication Date: 12/14/2012

The Light Breaks on Southeast Asia

The Light Breaks on Southeast Asia is “The Work and the Story” of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Indochina: Viet Nam, Thailand, Burma/Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos. The work of Elders Levi Savage Jr. and Elam Luddington in Burma and Siam in the 1850s, the war in Viet Nam that drew the church back to Southeast Asia, the story of Srilaksana Suntarahut, the translator of the Thai Book of Mormon, the baptisms at the Burmese Waters of Mormon, the rapid growth of the Church in Cambodia, and the success of many humanitarian service missionaries throughout this region, where that program had its beginnings in 1980.

The title comes from the forty-fifth section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse twenty-eight, which reads:

And when the times of the Gentiles is come in, a light shall break forth among them that sit in darkness, and it shall be the fullness of my gospel.

It is about the stories of the events that shape the history of the LDS Church in Indochina. While there are historical facts and figures to be found here, the emphasis is on the people and the stories that form the fascinating history of this area.

Young missionaries are preaching the gospel today in only two of the five countries (Thailand and Cambodia). Given this fact, one might think that the history of the area would be minimal at best; however, such is not the case.

For example, Burma's story goes back to the 1850s when Levi Savage Jr. and Elam Luddington served there as missionaries of the East India Mission. They were called to Siam (Thailand), but only Elam Luddington made it there in 1854.

It was the war in Viet Nam that finally brought the Church back to Southeast Asia more than 100 years later. Fifteen missionaries served in Viet Nam from 1973-1975, but left in a hurry as the advancing army from the north moved to take control of Saigon.

Many Saints were stranded there for years after the war, but one home teacher, Virgil N. Kovalenko, did not forget his family. He and others worked throughout the 1980s to bring many saints out of Viet Nam.

Thailand was the first country to accept full-time missionaries in 1968. Missionary work there has continued since that time, but not without challenges such as visas, two missionaries sent to prison in 1972, the translation of the Book of Mormon in Thai (1970-1976), and the first stake in the region created in 1995.

The Church has grown rapidly in Cambodia, particularly during its "Golden Era" (1999-2003) when baptisms easily surpassed 1,000 per year. With two stake sized buildings in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's the country's first stake may not far off.

Proselyting missionaries are now working in Laos and Myanmar as part of the Bangkok Thailand Mission.

Additinal information about "The Light Breaks on Southeast Asia":
LDS Church History Library - Salt Lake City Utah

The author, Reed B. Haslam, at the Church History Library where he found his book on display in the library's public area.
The purpose of the new library (dedicated June 20, 2009, by President Thomas S. Monson) is preserve the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The library's public catalog can be accessed on-line.

The author spent over 200 hours doing research at the library, located east of the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. Other research was done by visiting or contacting people who had served in Southeast Asia. The whole experience was one of endless discovery, with unanticipated twists and turns. He originally expected the book to be 450-500 pages in length, but that all changed when he learned that Burma/Myanmar had an incredible history, all achieved with very few missionaries.

The photo at the left was taken at the Church History Library, on the main floor, in the public area. It was here the author found "The Light Breaks on Southeast Asia - A History of the LDS Church in Asia's Ancient Kingdoms" on display adjacent to several volumes of "The Joseph Smith Papers." The shelf was marked "Featured Titles."

The book has six sections: Introduction, Viet Nam, Thailand, Burma/Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. The author's favorite chapters in each section are:

  • Introduction - The East India Mission (Missionaries of the 1850s)
  • Viet Nam - The Home Teacher who went the Extra 50,000 miles
  • Thailand - The Thai Book of Mormon
  • Cambodia - How to Open a New City
  • Laos - Across the Mekong

While the number of members in Southeast Asia is not large, the faithful members there are remarkable people. The Lord has blessed the work in numerous ways, opening doors, providing for translation and gathering Saints from many traditions. Six stakes can be found there today. Thailand (4), Cambodia(2).

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