After a two week delay, Mongolia will finally organize its first stake this weekend. In anticipation of that event, we thought we might share a little of the history of the Church here in Mongolia. This is a mini version, but we hope it will be of interest to you. Some of the details are taken from a book titled, "Mongolia, The Circle In The Clouds".
In 1991, Monte J. Brough arranged for volunteers from the Church to come to Mongolia in response to requests from the Mongolian government for humanitarian assistance. The Russians, after years of providing for every need, had just abandoned Mongolia and turned the country back to the its people. Elder Brough's agreements included providing the requested service and also that the volunteers would, in their free time, teach the doctrines of the Church to Mongolians who requested or desired to hear it. The Humanitarian service first requested was and still is the teaching of English. It was necessary if Mongolia was to participate in a world economy.
In September 1992, the first senior missionary couple arrived in Mongolia. They had no apartment waiting for them as did we and no one to "show them the ropes" here in Ulaanbaatar. And they were soon followed by five other senior couples. Apartments were located as they settled in for their first winter. It was cold and food was scarce. Sosor, an early local convert, cleaned their apartments and stood in lines to buy a head of cabbage, some potatoes, a loaf of bread and a few eggs for the couples. Some nights these first senior missionaries went to bed without having been fully satisfied by their evening's meal.
By August 1993, there were eight Mongolian members of the Church. And during that year, the first six single elders arrived. By May of 1994 there were 80 members of the Church. We now have close to 9000 members of the Church and nearly 200 missionaries serving in Mongolia, and the vast majority of the missionaries are now native Mongolians.
As we serve side by side with these incredible young people and as we invite them into our home where they teach their investigators and testify of the Gospel, it is so plain to see why Helaman called his young warriors his sons, "for they are worthy to be called sons." And we would add as Helaman did, "Never have I seen so great courage, nay, not amongst all the [mormons]." We have become very attached to some of these young warriors and now some of them are finishing their missions. It is difficult for us to see them leave.
Since that small beginning in 1991, many senior missionaries have come and gone. They have left their mark upon the people they have served and Mongolia has left its mark upon them. The membership has continued to grow from those early days. This weekend will mark the creation of the first stake here in Mongolia. There will now
be one stake, two districts and about 20 branches in 11 Church buiildings, all from those humble beginnings just a few years ago.
Often it is challenging to know what or how to teach these good people. The majority of them do not know who Jesus Christ is. They have no concept of heaven or a Heavenly Father. They do not understand that they are of the House of Israel. But they listen and accept anyway.
As they receive the blessing of a stake, they will also be privileged to have a patriarch. To this point, only missionaries serving in foreign countries and a few other members have been blessed to have a patriarchal blessing. But you might be interested to know that among these choice people, their lineage has been declared as belonging to every one of the twelve tribes of Israel. (Ether 13:11 "...and they are they who were scattered and gathered in from the four quarters of the earth, and from the north countries, and are partakers of the fulfilling of the covenant which God made with their father, Abraham"). We sometimes feel that we are "living the scriptures", seeing prophecy come to pass.
When Elder Nelson was here in February, one of the missionaries asked how they should teach about God. He told them to start with what they already knew, as Ammon did with King Lamoni. That pattern is a good one. And in keeping with his pattern, the most important vision to maintain while serving in Mongolia is that of service. We are very literally following the "Ammon" model for building the Church in Mongolia. "We have come to live and serve for a time...."
May we continue to be as successful as he was.