History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 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 Indochia (Thailand, Cambodia, Viet Nam, Loas and Myanmar.) Founded in 2006, HTown Publishing is located in Sandy, Utah, USA.
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.
No proselyting missionaries have as of the time of publication been assigned to Laos, but humanitarian work has been going on there since 1994. That has not stopped a branch with over 200 members from developing in Vientiane, the capital city.
The purpose of the 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 by very few missionaries.
The Church history in Laos and Myramar was largly based on the experiences of adult humanitarian missionaries. Their stories were no less facinating than the stories from proselyting missionaries. Leland White and his wife were early service missionaries in Indochina. When he was called as the first mission president in Cambodia, he was also given responsibility for missionary work in Viet Nam, Loas and Myanmar, where at the time missionary work was limited to adult Humaniarian Service 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."Questions may be directed to sales@HTown-Publishing.com