Friday, June 3, 2011

Chattanooga Residents Phil and Gloria Smartt Called To Serve LDS Mission In Bosnia To Spearhead More Organizational Growth And Missionary Work

In 1985, the original nation of Yugoslavia was dedicated to missionary work by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since that time, Yugoslavia dissolved into the new nations of Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Slovenia; subsequently, the nation of Kosovo was created out of Serbian territory. In May 2010, the Church created administrative branches in Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Montenegro to assist in the preparation of opening these nations to missionary work and formal Church activity. Then in September 2010, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve rededicated the new nations of Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosina-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Macedonia and offered prayers of blessings on the lands and for the people. None of the Balkan nations currently without an official Church presence have any legal obstacles barring the Church's establishment.

Now comes the next step. The Chattanooga Times & Free Press reports that the LDS Church has called a Chattanooga couple, Phil and Gloria Smartt, to serve a two-year mission in Bosnia (officially named Bosnia and Herzegovina) in order to build up the Church and prepare the way for more full-time missionaries. The Smartts will be leaving behind six children and 28 grandchildren. They do not know any of the three official local languages, and will not receive advance language training; they depart Chattanooga on Monday June 6th for five days of orientation at the Provo Missionary Training Center before flying to the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. Like all missionaries, they will pay their own way, although the Church will lease a car for their use. A Mormon who handles housing for U.S. embassy personnel has researched housing for them, but whatever housing they secure will need to be large enough to accommodate church services.

“I’ve been in church administration most of my life,” said Mr. Smartt, 67, who sold his insurance agency to help fund their way. “I know how a church operates. We’re looking forward to it. We know it won’t be easy, but what’s it worth if it’s too easy.” Many people in Sarajevo speak English, and Bosnians tend to be friendly towards Americans because because the U.S.-led NATO bombing helped bring peace to the country in 1995. Bosnia does have one bureaucratic hurdle for LDS organization; a church requires at least 300 adult citizen members to apply as a religious community in order to receive official recognition. The Church can operate without it, but official recognition guarantees it the maximum protection under the law.

According to the Free Press, the only identified Latter-day Saints in Bosnia are several members of the U.S. embassy who have been meeting for church services, although LDS Church Growth reported in January that there was an actual branch in Sarajevo under a Bosnian branch president. One individual, Lucy P. Emma, who identifies herself as a student, documents her experiences HERE; she has an uncle who's a mission president in Berlin.

Visit the LDS Newsroom Fact & Stats page for more information about LDS membership in different countries.

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