Missionaries Foreign Lands
While Mormon missionaries never ceased preaching in Canada, the United States, and the British Isles, the next major change in Mormon missionary work came in the 1840s, as Mormons went beyond the English-speaking world. In 1843, Joseph Smith sent Mormon missionaries to the Society Islands (now French Polynesia). Joseph Smith’s death in 1844 at the hands of a mob did not slow Mormon missionary efforts, nor did the difficult Mormon exodus from Illinois to Utah in 1846 to 1857. Dan Jones, whom Joseph Smith (mere days before his own death) had prophesied would serve a mission to Wales, did so in 1845. Thousands of Welsh citizens joined the Mormon Church and brought with them their musical tradition, which has shaped Mormon musical history. It was, in fact, Welsh Mormons who began the choir that evolved into the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
However, once the Mormons began to be settled in their new home in Utah, they ventured out even further. From a mere 16 missionaries sent out in 1830, by the 1850s hundreds were sent out; at least 50 a year left to serve full-time missions, and hundreds of others preached as they traveled from area to area. The Mormon Church had continued to grow, reaching a membership of 50,000 by 1850, the same year that the Mormons began translating the Book of Mormon into foreign languages. In 1850 Mormon missionaries were sent to Scandinavia, France, Switzerland, and Hawaii. The first foreign translation of the Book of Mormon was published in 1851 in Danish followed quickly by German (1852), French (1852), Italian (1852), and Hawaiian (1855). Before 1860, Mormon missionaries had preached in Australia, Chile, India, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, Hong Kong, and Siam (now Thailand). The Mormons had great success in Scandinavia, where thousands joined and came to settle in Utah. Mormons in other countries like Germany and Australia faced fierce persecution, and so fled to America. In those places, Mormon missionaries were routinely arrested and jailed, books were confiscated and burned, and converts were threatened and expelled. In other places like Chile, Siam, and India, few converts were made, but the first inroads were established and the voice proclaiming the restored gospel of Jesus Christ was heard. In most places, because the Mormons immigrated to America, the Mormons established little lasting presence at this time, except in New Zealand and Hawaii where large congregations of native peoples remained in their homeland. The Mormons had tremendous success among the Maori of New Zealand and the Hawaiians. Over the next several decades the Book of Mormon would be translated into Spanish, Samoan, and Tahitian.
Following the American Civil War (1861-1865), the U.S. Federal Government severely persecuted the Mormons because of polygamy. Clashes with non-Mormons living in Utah over economics and political control, in addition to the issue of polygamy, severely hampered Mormon missionary efforts. The Mormons lost nearly everything. Thousands were jailed, homes were randomly searched; Mormons lost the right to vote or hold political office and so came under the thumb of hostile Federal appointees. Despite all this, the number of Mormon missionaries actually grew in this period and each year about 100 missionaries were sent out. By the end of official government persecution in 1890, the membership of the Mormon Church had grown to nearly 200,000, even in the midst of severe persecution. Moreover, Mormon missionaries had established new permanent missions in Mexico, Samoa, Tahiti, and the Ottoman Empire (now Turkey). The Mexican mission was aided by Mormons who fled to northern Mexico during the dark days of persecution by the federal government.