Time and Intensity

Growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Greece

Mary Jane Woodger and Sarah Romney

Mary Jane Woodger and Sarah Romney, "Time and Intensity: Growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Greece," Religious Educator 23, no. 2 (2022): 108–139.

Mary Jane Woodger (maryjane_woodger@byu.edu) is a professor of Church history and doctrine at BYU.

Sarah Romney is a recent bachelor of science graduate from Brigham Young University.

In the late 1970s, missionary work was reinstated in Greece after Latter-day Saint missionaries not having been in the nation for nearly one hundred years because of political unrest. In time Greece became part of the Austria Vienna East Mission, which covered much of Eastern Europe, with Dennis B. Neuenschwander as mission president (1987–1991). In 2019, while reflecting on his service, Neuenschwander discussed an inherent relationship between intensity and time: “Some of our experiences can be very intense, focused in a relatively short period of time. However, the consequences, implications, and applicability of such powerful experiences and moments must often be worked out over time.” He then shared the example of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Restoration. Joseph Smith’s First Vision was an intense experience, but the consequences and implications of that event have been unfolding for over two hundred years. Both intensity and time are important and necessary in the growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[1]

photo of an amphitheater in GreeceThe history of the Church in Greece illustrates the importance of Dennis B. Neuenshwander's perspective on the relationship between intensity and time. Photo by Iuliia Isakova, Unsplash.com.

Intensity and time are likewise important factors in the growth of the Church in Greece, where Neuenschwander presided. He stated, “Sometimes it is possible to think that we can achieve results without including the ingredient of time. What you teach out of your intensity and what I did out of mine may take a period of time on the local level to work out, understand, and apply.” As he served in Eastern Europe, Neuenschwander saw this firsthand when he observed that the successes of younger generations were often a result of the efforts of parents and grandparents. He explained that “such experiences can only unfold with the passage of time, the faith of generations, and the patience to let things grow at their own pace.”[2] In Greece, the efforts of current pioneering generations may also result in the more consequential success of the Church in the future. Though success has been slow in coming, members and missionaries alike continue to lay a foundation for the growth of the Church to continue in Greece.

In the history of the Church in modern Greece, there have been occasional bursts of intensity in missionary work. In 1975, right before Latter-day Saint missionaries were once again sent to Greece, there were 177 members. In 1990 membership had increased by only 23. These figures, however, are not accurate because of undercounting. Many members were unaccounted for because they were foreign converts who left Greece after they were baptized. So conversions were taking place, but the converts were not remaining in the country. Ten years later, at the turn of the century, membership had more than doubled to 515. However, subsequent growth was slow:

Membership grew slowly in the 2000s and 2010s, numbering 591 in 2002, 631 in 2005, 693 in 2008, 751 in 2012, and 802 in 2017. Annual membership growth rates decreased from 6–8% between 2002 and 2012 to 0–5% for most years since 2003. Foreigners constitute the majority of Church members in Greece. For example, in early 2010 only one native Greek member was active in the Thessaloniki Branch.[3]

And Independent Latter-day Saint demographer Matt Martinich observed in 2011 that “the LDS Church in Greece has arguably experienced some of the slowest membership growth and outreach expansion in Europe over the past two decades.”[4]

As explained by Neuenschwander, it may take a long time to see the results of missionary work in Greece. The Greece Athens Mission was closed in 2018 when Greece was made part of the Adriatic South Mission. However, Neuenschwander maintains hope that continual and diligent efforts will lay the foundation for future results and that the fruits of previous missionary work are yet to be seen.

The Church’s Early Connections with Greece

In 1832 the possibility of modern missionary work in Greece was set in motion when Greece was freed from the Ottoman Empire’s oppressive rule and became an independent country. During the preceding centuries, the Greek people endured harsh control and political instability. In this environment, Christian orthodoxy became the only consistent institution in Greek society. Because of this, the Greek Orthodox Church was declared the official state church in 1822 while Greece was still under the control of the Ottoman Empire, which continued to increasingly exercise strong control over governmental and other entities as Greece became independent. However, by the end of the nineteenth century, many Greeks were pressing the government for increased religious freedom, which has been slow in coming.[5]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was introduced in Greece through Rigas Pofantis, an affluent businessman in Athens who operated a small printing press and stationery store. In 1895, when Pofantis and his friend Nicholas Malavetis became dissatisfied with the Greek Orthodox Church, they started publishing pamphlets about their own religious beliefs. Then one night Malavetis had a dream in which he was reading from a newspaper published in 1859. When he awoke, he searched for this 1859 newspaper and, upon finding it, discovered an article written by an American about the “Mormon” religion. In addition, weeks later, Malavetis discussed his beliefs with an American who told him that they were similar to the beliefs of the “Mormons.”[6]

Meanwhile, Pofantis also had a dream in which he saw a man in a European suit wearing a fez (a traditional Turkish hat). In his dream, Pofantis believed that this man would come from Turkey and show him the “perfect church.” After their dreams, Pofantis and Malavetis wrote a letter to Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, inquiring for more information about the “Mormon Church.” As a result, the Church sendt President Ferdinand F. Hintze of the Turkish Mission on a visit to Athens in March 1899. When Hintze knocked on Pofantis’s door, Pofantis recognized him as the man in his dream. Both Pofantis and Malavetis believed Hintze’s message of the gospel of Jesus Christ but wanted to wait to be baptized until the ten-year anniversary of when they first decided that the Greek Orthodox Church was not the true church. Unfortunately, as they waited for the anniversary date, Malavetis passed away in June 1903, but Pofantis was eventually baptized in October 1905 by President Joseph Wilford Booth (successor to Hintze) of the Turkish Mission. Four other converts whom Pofantis taught were also baptized that day: Andromache Malavetis, Constantine Theodoseau, George Zdralis, and John Lazas. The sacrament was then administered for the first time in modern Greece to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While in Athens, Booth knelt on Mars’ Hill, where the Apostle Paul had taught anciently, and offered a prayer dedicating the land of Greece for missionary work.[7]

The Turkish Mission, which opened on December 30, 1884, and closed on October 1, 1909, encompassed most of southeastern Europe (including Austria, Hungary, the Balkan region, Greece, and Ukraine) and portions of the Middle East (including Iraq, Syria, Israel, Egypt, and parts of the Arabian Peninsula) along with North Africa as far west as Algeria. Booth commented on the expansive boundaries at that time: “We have now only one branch and, I think, fewer members than any other mission in the world, yet we have almost as many square miles in our unbounded territory as all the other missions put together.”[8] In September 1889 the first Armenian converts were baptized in Aintab.[9] Although the mission’s size was massive and the work difficult, over forty missionaries served faithfully in the Turkish Mission from 1895 to 1909, when the mission closed owing to political unrest in Armenia and Turkey.[10] At that time Ottoman sultan Abdul Hamid II attempted to reinstate his power in the collapsing Ottoman Empire. The subsequent revolts mainly came from the long-persecuted Armenian community, who demanded civil reform and better treatment from the government.[11] The mission then remained closed for many years as a result of the Balkan War and then World War I. In 1933 the mission was reopened as the Palestine-Syria Mission but was closed again in 1939 because of World War II.[12] For almost thirty years, Church growth in Turkey was slow, but efforts during the following three decades led to the organization of several new congregations. The first of these was organized in Ankara in October 1979.[13]

Following World War II, the Church provided humanitarian aid by donating eighty thousand pounds of wheat seed to Greece. Then, after a terrible earthquake in the Greek islands in 1953, the Church again provided help to those in need. As a result of these humanitarian efforts on behalf of the Church, President David O. McKay was awarded the second-highest honor bestowed by the Greek government—Cross of Commander of the Royal Order of the Phoenix by John Tzounis, Greek Counsel representing King Paul of the Hellenes, on November 29, 1954.[14] This honor is bestowed on foreigners who have supported Greece’s international prestige. Upon receiving this award, President McKay stated that the earthquake “gave the Church the opportunity to express [to the Greek people] in a slight degree some of the principles and purposes of its organization.”[15]

The Church in Greece saw very little growth until the 1950s “when Greek-American Church members in Salt Lake City, Utah, organized the Hellenic Latter-day Saint Society to retain their heritage and maintain ties with their homeland. Latter-day Saints participated in a number of diplomatic exchanges over the following decades, including visits to Greece by Ezra Taft Benson in 1965 and then in 1967 to organize a small congregation in Athens.”[16] The Athens branch that was organized had just 8 Greek members and almost 70 American members, including US servicemen, embassy officials, and their families. The branch would eventually grow to about 150 members by 1975, including 13 Greek families.[17]

In September 1972 President Harold B. Lee and Elder Gordon B. Hinckley of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles made a three-week tour in England, Europe, and the Middle East, marking the first official overseas tour by President Lee as President of the Church. They also visited Greece to formally dedicate the land for missionary work, once again on Mars’ Hill.[18] In this dedication Elder Hinckley prayed that the “hearts of the leaders of this nation would be softened . . . [and] the restored gospel may be taught here with power and testimony.”[19] In the mid-seventies, the Church began assigning missionaries to labor in Greece, beginning with missionary couples James C. and Tina S. Nakos, Angel K. and Mary S. Caras, and Phillip V. and Gwen J. Christensen. The first young elder, Clark H. Caras, arrived in 1978.[20] Then in 1979 parts of the Book of Mormon were officially translated into Greek, with the help of Greek convert Sissy Campbell, and then distributed to members.[21] There was also the organization of an official branch; however, because the Church was not recognized as an official religion by Greece at this time, the branch was initially formed as a house of prayer with associated limitations. It had taken nearly seventy years, but with increasing membership numbers, the translation of parts of the Book of Mormon, and newly assigned missionaries, seeds were planted in Greece for the Church to start growing.

The Austria Vienna East Mission: Accelerating the Work

On July 1, 1987, the Austria Vienna Mission was split and the Austria Vienna East (AVE) mission was formed with Dennis B. Neuenschwander as president. The new mission covered the countries of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Greece, with Egypt, Cyprus, and Turkey added two months later.[22]

Previously, Neuenschwander resided in Europe while he was the Family History Department acquisitions manager for Eastern Europe; he had also served as a counselor in the Austria Vienna Mission presidency. With this background, he was well acquainted with the countries and members. In addition, he was gifted in the Slavic languages, with the ability to understand and connect with Eastern European peoples. Spencer J. Condie, president of the Austria Vienna Mission at the time felt that Neuenschwander was an inspired choice.[23]

When Neuenschwander received his call as AVE mission president, Elder Hans B. Ringger, his supervisor as the first counselor in the Europe Area Presidency, gave him a unique task: to eventually “destroy the mission.”[24] While this sounds like strange counsel for a mission president, the idea was that if missionary work grew quickly in the AVE countries, more missions would be created and the AVE mission would no longer exist. By 1990, four separate missions were created from the AVE—Poland Warsaw, Czechoslovakia Prague, Hungary Budapest, and Greece Athens, with Moscow and northeastern Russia added to the Finland Helsinki East Mission. Neuenschwander had successfully accomplished this task. In 1991 more missions were added, including Bulgaria, Romania (added to the Hungary mission), and Yugoslavia (reassigned to the Austria Vienna Mission).[25] Within twenty years, the AVE mission had become twenty-two separate missions.[26]

Invaluable to this growth of the Church in Eastern Europe at this time was the inspiration of Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. At a mission presidents’ seminar in October 1989, Elder Nelson declared, “Now is Europe’s time.” The Iron Curtain was beginning to loosen, and not long after, the Berlin wall fell, marking a pivotal moment in history when access to many Eastern European countries became possible.[27] During the five years of Elder Nelson’s assignment to Europe, he visited Europe more than thirty times, each time working to make connections in different countries and to establish a presence for the Church.[28] On December 15, 1985, Elder Nelson visited members in Greece. He had previously studied Greek while in medical school at the University of Utah, but forty-two years later, with this new assignment, he again took up lessons in the Greek language. After the first lesson, he remarked, “To say I need a little brushing up is a mild understatement.” He studied and practiced diligently, and when he met with the members in Greece, he successfully bore his testimony in Greek without the help of a translator. Hearing an apostle speak in their own language was deeply meaningful and an experience to be remembered for those in the congregation.[29]

The AVE mission grew quickly, both in converts and missionaries with what missionaries were able to do in some countries. Neuenschwander commented that “every year the baptisms doubled and tripled as the missionaries became aware of how they could work in the culture.”[30] As reporter Scott Taylor informs, “Missionaries spread out in the countries, often not wearing nametags and sometimes not even typical missionary attire. They were starting conversations and making connections—investigating the cities and the possibilities as much as finding investigators.”[31] However, not all countries experienced the same rate of growth. For instance, at that time, the Hungarian missionaries had a three- to four-week waiting list of people wanting to be taught, which eventually resulted in wards and stake being established in that country fairly quickly. Yet in some countries like Greece, missionaries could serve their entire missions without teaching someone who made the commitment to be baptized.

By the end of 1987, there were 58 convert baptisms from the creation of the mission, in 1988 there were an additional 108, and in 1989 there were another 204. When the AVE mission opened in 1987, there were a total of 34 missionaries assigned to the mission; by 1989 there were 54. While there was intense growth during this short time period, Neuenschwander recognized that this success was a result of a long era of work and preparation.[32]

Initial Organizational Challenges

Because the AVE mission was created without much preparation or disclosure, there were some initial logistical challenges in setting it up. For instance, at first there was no mission home in Greece or Vienna, so Neuenschwander supervised Greece from afar while living in Viennese hotels. A mission home and office were eventually obtained for the Austria Vienna Mission, which shared its space with the Austria Vienna East Mission (though Neuenschwander had to work out of the kitchen). This arrangement posed challenges for both missions.[33]

In Greece specifically, additional complications in beginning missionary work arose because of government regulations. For example, the mission president could not regulate the arrival of missionaries in Greece because getting visas approved by the government was a complicated process.[34] Initially, most missionaries called to Greece were Americans. One particularly difficult situation took place with Elder Troy Christopoulos, who because he had Greek ancestors was caught in a situation in which Greek officials wanted to require him to complete the mandatory military service before he could leave the country. It would not be until 2002, when Greece joined the European Economic Union, that many European missionaries were called to Greece.[35]

Neuenschwander worked to regulate the visa process so missionaries could be called more regularly and from more countries. At first the missionaries had to be classified as students on their visa applications, but the Greek government eventually allowed them to put the word missionary under their profession or reason for being in Greece.[36]

In 1989 the first sister missionary was called to serve in Greece. Stacie Lindsey, from the United States, was excited to receive her call but surprised to discover that there were no other sister missionaries yet in Greece. Her companion in the missionary training center, also called to Greece, was unable to embark on her call. However, Neuenschwander requested that Lindsey arrive without a companion. Lindsey spent her first three months in Greece without a companion, traveling with elders during the day and staying with member families until another companion was called and arrived in Greece.[37]

Later, another complication was that the Church was not recognized as an official organization by Greek banks. Senior missionary Elder Stuparich (representing Greece Athens Mission president R. Douglas Phillips) met with the president of the Bank of Greece and succeeded in obtaining a stamp of authorization that would be crucial for many transactions, including transferring foreign money into the Greek banking system, renting mission apartments, and purchasing furniture, appliances, and vehicles. Later the missionaries acknowledged “Heavenly Father’s hand in [the] design and the success of the stamp.”[38]

Furthermore, because the Church was new to Greece and had few members there, it took awhile to acquire a chapel. At first, members met in two small apartments. Eventually, in 1987 missionary couple Alonzo and Ranae Plumb obtained permission to remodel the two apartments into a sort of makeshift chapel—tearing down a wall, adding a pulpit, and hanging drapes.[39] It was not until much later, in May 1999, that the first official meetinghouse built by the Church was dedicated in Athens by Elder Charles Didier of the Seventy. Members felt that this first Latter-day Saint meetinghouse in Greece was more significant than the Temple of Athena Parthenos because more than two hundred people attended the services, with 20 percent of the congregation being investigators. At the time, Greece mission president Tagg B. Hundrup said, “This chapel will be an anchor for the Greek people—as anchors are to many different ships that dock in the harbors of Grecian waters—and will help the Church grow.” After dedicating the building, Didier observed, “This building is a gift of the law of sacrifice by members of the Church. It is an investment of faith. As you continue to live righteously and pay your tithing, other meetinghouses will be built.”[40]

In any country with a small number of members and tight government regulations, these kinds of initial challenges are inevitable. But during the few years Greece was part of the AVE mission, there was some progress in overcoming these barriers so missionary work could continue.

Greece Athens Mission Established

In 1990, just four years after its creation, the AVE mission was divided into various missions because of the growth that had taken place, including the Greece Athens Mission, which was formed on July 1 with R. Douglas Phillips as mission president. Before his call, Phillips was a professor of Greek and Latin at Brigham Young University involved in building the nascent Classics Department. He had also served a mission in Japan, and during the Korean War he had worked at General Douglas MacArthur’s Tokyo headquarters.[41] Regarding Phillips, Greek member Mina Sorensen remarked, “I think he had a very great impact during that time because he was also a classics professor for ancient Greek and Latin. . . . The Greek people felt like he cared about them because he loved the history and the country so much.”[42] Sister Margarete Ruth Waschulczick Phillips, a native Greek of German/European descent, was also well accepted among the Greek Latter-day Saints. Under Phillips’s presidency, the work moved forward and the missionary complement grew from one zone and two districts of missionaries (sixteen elders, two sister missionaries, and two missionary couples)[43] to two zones and six districts after just one year.[44] Starting with two branches, in 1990 the Greece Athens Mission increased to four, and then to seven in 1994.[45]

An indication of growth was the expansion of missionary work to Thessaloniki, a city in northern Greece. For almost a decade there was only one member there, Antje Panagiotidou, who had moved there in 1979 with her nonmember husband and three children. In 1987 missionary couple Elder and Sister Arthur Arvanitas and a pair of elders were sent to Thessaloniki to organize a group and meet with Panagiotidou for church. In the spring of 1990 Elders David Garrett and Cary Orton were sent to reopen Thessaloniki.[46] In 1991 missionary couple James William and Diane H. Pyper and another pair of elders were sent to Thessaloniki, and on February 9, 1992, the Greece Thessaloniki Branch was organized. Interestingly, Thessaloniki was one of the places where the Apostle Paul taught two thousand years before, as told in the Epistles to the Thessalonians. James Pyper was sustained as branch president, and his wife, Diane Pyper, was called as Relief Society president. At the first meeting there were thirty-two people in attendance, including twelve investigators and the minister of a local Seventh-day Adventist Church. The next day, the area building representative for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints authorized $22,000 to be allocated toward converting the Pypers’ apartment into a meetinghouse. These funds were used for furniture, a piano, a kitchen remodel, a TV, a typewriter, and a vacuum. The branch of twenty-five members continued strong, with attendance sometimes up to thirty people. Eventually, in 2006, a new building would be dedicated as the meetinghouse for the Thessaloniki Branch.[47]

Other Church programs have been developing in Greece. All Latter-day Saint scriptures are available in Greek with “many unit, temple, priesthood, relief society, Sunday School, young women, primary, missionary, and family history materials available in Greek. . . . The Church has translated its . . . Come, Follow Me guidebooks and manuals in Greek.” In June 2004, more than forty young adults attended a youth conference. Church education began to make inroads in Greece. By way of illustration, during the 2007–2008 school year twenty-three members enrolled in institute courses.[48]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was slowly growing in Athens, and in other cities, such as Thessaloniki, branches were established over time. By 2000 there were five branches in Greece. However, during the 2000s and 2010s the Church in Greece experienced some decline. For instance, in the 2000s a group began meeting in Kavala, but by 2009 this city was closed to missionary work and the group disbanded; and though another group met for many years in Patra, by 2009 there were fewer than twenty attending meetings there. By 2010 there were fewer than fifteen active members in Thessaloniki.[49] Many Greek members left Greece for areas such as Utah or Canada, where there was stronger Church membership. In addition, there were many baptisms of non-Greeks who did not help to lay a strong Greek foundation for the Church. Though these statistics are discouraging, hopefully missionaries’ intense efforts during these first few years of the Greece Athens Mission were influential and will in time lead to progress.

Proselyting: A Gray Line

Missionaries who served in Greece faced many challenges in the work owing to government regulations and the strong political and cultural control of the Greek Orthodox Church. The Greek law of 1938 targeted both the proselytizer and the object of proselytizing. This law “set out the criminal penalties for proselytizing,” and a person attempting to “amend the content of the religious conscience of another, even ‘indirectly’, was liable to imprisonment.” Though the “criminalization of proselytizing” was somewhat vague and open to interpretation, there were cases of people who were prosecuted and convicted of evangelizing friends through religious discussions. In 1938 the government’s objective was to promote the “dominant religion” of Greek Orthodox Christianity and to fight in particular against Protestant movements.[50]

The Greek government even went one step further in its Greek Constitution, which in 1975 explicitly stated that “proselytism is forbidden.” This constitutional prohibition and criminalization of proselytizing in Greece violated several freedoms: the State was given “power to assess the legitimacy of religious beliefs or the ways in which those beliefs are expressed.” The Greek Constitution also denied the right in religious matters “to try to convince one’s neighbor.” The law “not only suppresses the freedoms of believers, but also penalizes the religious conversion of individuals.”[51]

As one can see from these two laws, when missionary work restarted in Greece in the late 1970s, proselyting was technically illegal. Missionary Dion Kapetanov described how strange it was to wear a nametag for two months in the missionary training center and then be required to take it off as soon as he arrived in Greece. He recalled, “Although we were a small group of twelve missionaries, who didn’t knock on doors, teach discussions daily, wear nametags or take part in other stereotypical activities, we testified of Jesus Christ, taught the Gospel, gave service and love [to] the people of Greece, and laid a foundation for future work.”[52]

What constituted “proselyting,” however, was somewhat unclear. David Garrett noted that “it was considered legal to proselyte to a point.” He added, “We got tired of not doing a whole lot so we just kind of started knocking doors, and we just tested the waters. It was not necessarily legal—but not illegal—and so we were free to talk to people.”[53] Because there was such a gray line, missionaries were often briefly incarcerated for proselyting illegally. One missionary remarked, “I ended up in prison three times.”[54]

With these legal limitations, “street boarding” became a common activity for missionaries in Greece. Missionaries would set up large display boards on a street or in a busy area and hope that the displays would attract interested people to stop and talk. Street boarding was more effective than tracting door to door.[55] Though it was supposed to be nonthreatening, it often still caused commotion and drew police officers.[56] For instance, Curtis Sandy was street boarding when a woman brought the police, claiming that the missionaries were proselyting. The police officers took the elders in for questioning. After explaining that they were talking about the Book of Mormon without imposing any obligations, they were let go.[57]

To avoid the appearance of proselyting, missionaries had to come up with creative ways to find investigators. Cary Orton recalled walking around “surveying” people about their religious beliefs.[58] And Chad George recounted another method: “We went to a few different places in the park and played John Denver tunes on our instruments while Elder Stevens sang. I remember he had a very good singing voice. We turned plenty of heads as people walked by, looking at the two oddballs playing folk music in the park wearing business suits. There were always several who actually stopped to listen to the music and a few who stayed to chat. I recall some nice conversations with friendly people using that strategy.”[59] Furthermore, since regulations at one point prevented missionaries from giving away copies of the Book of Mormon for free, missionaries would sell the books at a low price of twenty drachmas, the equivalent of a few American cents.

Another creative activity was a community open house held in the Athens Branch building. Ten thousand flyers distributed and hours of preparation resulted in the attendance of three investigators and the baptism of one convert—Elias Louvaris.[60] On a hot afternoon distributing the flyers, missionary Curtis Sandy and his companion went to a plaza where they found Louvaris sitting in the heat, waiting for a tram. He told them he had seen their flyer and wanted to know more. Being a former Jehovah’s Witness, Louvaris was knowledgeable about the scriptures and had the urge to argue with the missionaries but said he felt prompted by the Spirit to just listen. Later, he told the missionaries that when they found him in the plaza he was having financial trouble, his wife and children had left him, and he was close to committing suicide. After being taught, Louvaris decided to join the Church and was later called as branch president in Athens.[61]

Proselyting was eventually legalized in the mid-1990s when Greece became a part of the European Union.[62] Unfortunately, not everyone in Greece was aware of this change, and so missionaries still ended up in prison for proselyting and had to be bailed out.[63] In one significant trial held in June 1991, four missionaries were charged with illegal proselyting; all were declared innocent. This case was a defining moment for the Greek mission that confirmed that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had a legal right to do missionary work in the country of Greece.[64]

Greek Orthodoxy: An Uncompromising Obstacle

As previously noted, the most prominent obstacle for missionary work in Greece is the strong political and cultural presence of the Greek Orthodox Church. Through five hundred years of Turkish occupation, the Greek people were able to preserve orthodox Christianity, at times worshipping in secret.[65] Since Greek independence from Turkish rule in 1832, “every Greek constitution has recognized the Orthodox Church as the ‘prevailing religion.’ Such recognition [is] grounded in the traditional Byzantine understanding of church-state ‘harmony’ as well as in recognition of the important role played by the Greek Orthodox Church in preserving Greek identity during the period of Ottoman rule. This is a source of pride that many Greeks hold close to their heart. In addition, orthodox churches are seen as what preserved the Greek culture including art, language, and literature.”[66] Understandably, Greek orthodoxy is seen not just as a religion but also as a symbol of the Greeks’ heritage and endurance. It has become part of their identity.[67] Orthodoxy has consistently overlapped with the Greek national identity. Scholars Georgios Karyotis and Stratos Patrikios note that “the first constitutional texts of modern Greece did not distinguish between the notions of ‘Greek citizen’ and ‘Greek Orthodox Christian,’ thus highlighting ‘the crucial role of Orthodoxy in identifying “Greekness” in a rather exclusionary manner.’”[68]

However, Greek orthodoxy is primarily a cultural identity, so most Greeks do not attend regular worship services but participate only on holidays such as Christmas and Easter.[69] Member Paulos Karampoulas shared that when he was growing up, he would attend Easter services at the Greek Orthodox Church. His mom would tell him that they attended to be a part of the Greek culture, not because they believed in the religion.[70] This was the case with many other Latter-day Saints in Greece before they joined the Church.

In addition to culture, the political and social systems are also structured around Greek orthodoxy. Citizens needed to be Greek Orthodox in order to vote, go to the hospital, or go to school.[71] So even those who were not Greek Orthodox would have their children baptized into the Greek Orthodox Church to get the certificate necessary for registration for these purposes.[72] In schools, students are taught the subject of Greek orthodoxy, and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are often bullied by their classmates for their beliefs. One member remarked, “[Students] will be put in the corner. They begin to say all those false doctrines and . . . ‘Oh, you are Mormon. What are you doing taking a lot of wives?’”[73] Adults, too, face social repercussions for membership in the Church. For instance, landlords often refuse to rent to members of the Church.[74] Young or old, members face intense social pressure to conform with social norms.

The Pypers shared an experience they had with a member named Liliana Adamaku, whom they visited in order to read the Book of Mormon together and to administer the sacrament. The visits always took place during the day while Adamaku’s husband was at work and her children were at school. Adamaku gave the Pypers instructions on how to arrive at her house without drawing attention from the neighbors. Being a well-respected English teacher, she did not want anyone to know she was a Latter-day Saint, because if people found out she could have been fired.[75]

In addition to societal pressures, persecution can come from within members’ own families. In most Greek families, there is a strong expectation that one be faithful to the Greek Orthodox Church. Abandoning that church is like betraying one’s family and country.[76] Bill Heder, who was mission president from 2015 until 2018, observed, “It’s as if their families say, ‘It’s alright—you can have your funny little religion as long as you stay Orthodox.’” He explained that sometimes converts are baptized “and then their parents find out and they threaten to disown them unless they keep their names off the records of the Church and come back to the Orthodox Church.”[77] Because family is such an important part of Greek culture, many investigators and converts find this pressure difficult, and some will conceal their Church involvement from friends and family while others become inactive.[78] Occasionally, converts have to sacrifice relationships with family members in order to follow spiritual promptings. One such instance was with Sotiraq Todi, a thirty-five-year-old man introduced to the missionaries by his sixteen-year-old cousin, who wanted Todi to go with her to church. He felt good at church, and when the missionaries asked whether they could teach him, he agreed. At first Todi’s mother liked the missionaries visiting her home because they taught about Christ, but when they invited the family to be baptized, his mother emphatically refused because the family was Orthodox. Both Todi and his cousin still wanted to be baptized, so they continued meeting elsewhere with missionaries. His mother was still not happy and told Todi that if he got baptized she would throw him out of her house. Todi recalled, “I decided to pray about that, and I got my answer that . . . it was the true church, and I decided that if she would throw me out, whatever would happen, I was going to be baptized,” and on February 25, 1995, Todi was baptized.[79]

This kind of opposition is an unfortunate reality. Heder acknowledged the difficulty that members face in being ostracized in Greek society: “It is very, very sad. I wish there was something we could do to give them more support, but I think that they understand that they are pioneers, and they understand that it is not going to be this way forever in that country, but it may be that way during their lifetime, so they know they are building for future generations.”[80]

Conversions: Seeking for Truth

Vangelis Koutouri

As a twelve-year-old, Vangelis Koutouri began to question the Greek Orthodox Church because he noticed that it taught the Ten Commandments but had icons in the churches. He also questioned some of its teachings in school. Koutouri’s parents had given him freedom to believe whatever he wanted, so he was determined to search for the true church.

Five of Koutouri’s friends were also searching for the truth. They set out to visit all the different churches in Greece with a pact that whoever found the true church would tell the others. Many years of searching passed without success. One summer afternoon years later, when Koutouri was forty-five years old, he knelt and prayed for God to show himself. Koutouri related the following:

I remember the words that I told Him, “God, your name doesn’t matter to me—if you’re Jesus, if you’re Buddha, if you’re Muhammad. Whatever is your name, that’s not what I want, but I want to feel that love that you have—to know that you exist, to have a sign that you exist, please.” And then I got up and I went out on the balcony. . . . Then suddenly, there came two people. They were coming towards me. And I don’t know what I was feeling—like joy. And they were drawing nearer to me, and I said I should speak to them whoever they are. . . . And they came close and I said, “Hello, come over here.” And they said, “Who are you?” And I said, “I am Vangelis. And so, who are you?” And they said, “We are from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” And I said, “I was searching for you in the heavens and I found you here on earth. Take my phone number and . . . call me so that we can organize a time to meet.”

Every day for six months, Koutouri met with the missionaries, spending nearly the entire day discussing his questions. His family supported him, and shortly after his baptism, his sister and mother were also baptized. From then on the family was persecuted and ostracized from society. Neighbors even threw rocks at their house. But Koutouri and his family stayed strong, reminding those that persecuted them that Christ is a God of love.[81]

Antonios Chondronikos

When Antonios Chondronikos was in his twenties, he wanted nothing to do with religion or spirituality. Born into a Greek Orthodox home, he was taught the religion in school, but, like most Greeks, he attended church only on Christmas and Easter. At the time, Chondronikos was the youngest CEO in the banking system in Greece and enjoyed an affluent lifestyle with his wife and a small child.

However, some serious mistakes in his business decisions led him into a very difficult position at work. None of his professional colleagues were willing to help him, and his wife did not fully understand the gravity of the situation, so he felt completely alone. One night, when he was by himself and unable to sleep, he said a prayer in desperation asking God for help. After praying, Chondronikos felt that something would happen, but he did not know what it would be. Later, he received a spontaneous phone call from a friend who had not spoken to him in seven years. This friend, a powerful CEO of a large banking group, offered him a solution to his problems. Chondronikos knew there was no logical explanation for this occurrence, and in gratitude he prayed again, asking God what he could do to serve him and come to him.

Not receiving an answer immediately, Chondronikos decided to try out different churches. However, none of the churches seemed to align with his beliefs; none were what he believed to be like the “primitive church” of Jesus Christ. While reading books about theology and Christianity and trying to adhere solely to New Testament teachings, Chondronikos resolved to just be a Christian.

One day around Christmastime, Chondronikos was walking home in the cold when he heard some singing coming from a nearby train station. Approaching the choir, he asked what they were doing. They responded, “We are missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ.” Chondronikos began to ask the missionaries about their beliefs, but he was deterred upon hearing that the missionaries were from the United States and had a prophet. The missionaries still gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon and their card in case he became interested. After only a week, he finished reading the Book of Mormon and called the missionaries: “Hello, I am Antonios. You gave me the Book of Mormon; can you give me the pearl?” After realizing he meant the Pearl of Great Price, they gave him a copy, followed by the Doctrine and Covenants and other Church documents.

The missionaries then met with Chondronikos to answer question after question but soon decided to include the mission president in the visits. Chondronikos had a list of ninety-seven questions that he asked, spending hours with the mission president. Though he still had concerns with some Church doctrine that conflicted with Greek culture, such as abstaining from coffee, Chondronikos agreed to be baptized.[82]

God was preparing people to receive the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and in many cases those who were humbled by their circumstances eventually found answers in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Rosa Dimiopolou

Rosa Dimiopolou, a Greek convert, remained faithful despite opposition. Living in a small apartment, she had access to a shared room with garden space where she loved to go and plant flowers and vegetables. When her landlord found out that Rosa had been baptized, he locked her out of that room and took away her garden space. “Things were thrown at her after her baptism that would make anyone who was lukewarm or half-hearted in their testimony to have taken the highway,” Diane Pyper commented. Undeterred, Dimiopolou would still get on the bus and come to the church each week. Later, at the age of seventy-five, she was able to go to the London temple.[83] Dimiopolou was an example of sacrifice and devotion in her commitment to being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Integrating a Variety of Cultures

In addition to the native Greeks who, despite opposition from Greek orthodoxy, joined the Church, there were also many converts who were not native to Greece. As of 2021, expatriates constitute the majority of Church members in Greece. For example, in early 2010 only one native Greek member was active in the Thessaloniki Branch.[84] Since Greece has open borders, people from all over the world take refuge there, including those from Armenia, Saudi Arabia, and Russia.[85] One missionary, David Garrett, recounted that in 1989 “our teaching pools included people from many countries and varied backgrounds. . . . In a sacrament meeting, the invocation was in French, the meeting in Greek [and] English, the sacrament prayers in Polish and Spanish, and the benediction in an African language offered by a member from Ghana.”[86] Similarly, Diane Pyper recalled that when she was Relief Society president, she would teach a simple principle, such as “I am a child of God,” and it would be translated “like whispering down the lane” into about seven languages.[87]

One immigrant who joined the Church in Athens in 1990 was Gordon Kallay from Sierra Leone. He had been living in Greece for four years and was feeling lonely. Kallay was “looking for something more” when he met the missionaries. He read everything the missionaries gave to him and was very interested, but he had to go back to his home in Sierra Leone for a month. While he was home, he read the Book of Mormon and felt the Spirit. He was baptized nine months later in Greece.[88]

Another instance of a foreign convert was Tano Ends, who was a refugee from Albania, where there was little freedom of religion. He walked all the way from Albania to Greece, and when he arrived, he had no family and no job. When he began searching for truth, he met the missionaries. Ends reflected, “I felt such a light inside them, and I saw that like angels coming up to my life [sic].” He felt that what they were teaching was true, and when he prayed about the Book of Mormon, he felt the truth confirmed by the Spirit. He was baptized and immediately noticed changes in his life, including finding a job as a taxi driver, which was uncommon for foreigners in Greece. Since then, he has never worked on a Sunday or missed Church meetings, and his taxi business thrives.[89]

Such a diverse Church membership in Greece is both a blessing and a challenge. One positive aspect is that converts from other countries helped the branch membership grow.[90] Furthermore, the foreign converts are often seeking a new life and are committed to the Church when they find it.[91] The diverse membership, however, is also a challenge because immigrants frequently move. Since there are so few Greek members, it has been difficult to maintain a stable foundation of members.[92] Even strong Greek members often move to other countries. Member Kim Pomares reflected, “The stalwart members, the ones that you thought were going to be a strong foundation for the church, emigrated—went to Canada, . . . [to] Australia, to the United States. . . . And so the members that were left are the ones who were too poor to go.”[93] The tendency of both immigrants and native Greeks to leave Greece after joining the Church makes it difficult to establish strong roots.

The variety of cultures and backgrounds of members is a unique characteristic of the Church in Greece and throughout Europe. While there are challenges owing to the lack of stability in membership, Garrett made an important point when he commented that as a missionary there he “learned to love many types of people” and “came to know of the ease of sharing a common gospel.”[94]

Effective Methods for Missionary Work

Amid all the challenges, members and missionaries in Greece have recognized effective ways to connect with the Greek people and do missionary work. One aid in missionary work is the help and support from members. One family for whom missionaries have expressed gratitude is the Nassopolous family. Kapetanov remarked, “They supported the missionaries, both in the work and in meals!”[95] James Stanley also reflected, “Paulos [Nassopolous] consistently arranged to have his friends and neighbors taught by the missionaries and spent time with us while out and about in the community, helping to provide a very positive image of what it meant to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”[96] Another generous member was Stavros Leporos, who would prepare meals for the missionaries every day and let the missionaries use his washing machine on preparation days. Stanley said, “Stavros was a true gentleman and a tremendous example of a Latter-day Saint in this part of Athens.”[97] These stalwart members and others helped support the missionaries as well as the work of spreading the message of the restored gospel.

Another effective strategy for the missionaries is to focus on family history because Greeks are very family oriented. The family history program in Greece has a Facebook page with over twenty-four thousand people on it. Carol Patroness commented, “It’s just been very heartwarming. The bridges that we’ve built are amazing; the priests are so incredibly kind and gracious and grateful. . . . So, we are doing wonderful, wonderful things over in Greece.”[98] However, for many Greeks, family history records are very hard to obtain because in the past invading countries destroyed them, and those that were preserved by the Greek Orthodox Church are subject to access and copying restrictions.

Other ways to connect with the Greeks and create a positive image for the Church include service and humanitarian work. Patroness said, “I would say service is really the only way to make any inroads there.”[99] Missionaries get involved with a variety of service efforts in Greece, including picking up trash, sweeping streets, painting fences, and serving at soup kitchens. Heder said that this has “led to many more gospel conversations, a much better feel in the neighborhoods, [and] an acceptance of who we are.”[100] In 2004 missionaries volunteered to help out at the Summer Olympics that took place in Greece. The event manager of the Olympic basketball arena said that, of all the volunteers, he “felt something different about these young men, something different in their countenance.”[101] Missionaries and members have also helped teach classes in English, Greek, and other languages.[102] In 2015, when a large wave of refugees came to Greece, Church members were involved in emergency relief efforts, including making hygiene kits and running soup kitchens.[103] Although members in such service opportunities are limited as to what they can discuss about the Church[104] because most of the service is under the name of other organizations, people are noticing the friendliness and goodness of Church members. “We’ve had a number of stories of people who have been served in Greece that have moved on into Europe and joined the Church later because they saw us as they came into Greece, . . . so our service has made a big deal [sic].”[105]

Another effective means of building up the Church in Greece has been strengthening the youth and young adults. Most converts baptized in recent years have been under thirty years old. One reason for this is that the younger generations do not trust as much in institutional religions, such as the Greek Orthodox Church, so they are more open to change.[106] Whether or not they are Latter-day Saints, youth find friendship and upliftment in Church programs such as seminary, institute, and For the Strength of Youth (FSY) retreats. Paulos Karampoulas, a young member in Athens, commented on his experience with seminary: “I like starting my day off with seminary; it . . . helps you get the right mindset for the rest of the day.”[107] Another young member, Josh Kallay, shared how he enjoyed having seminary combined with the youth of another branch because it gave him the opportunity to meet and grow up with other youth of the Church.[108] In 2018 a young lady who was not a member of the Church began attending seminary “because she was impressed with the friends she could have there.”[109] FSY is also a wonderful opportunity for youth to meet other members their age, not only from Greece but from all over Europe. After attending FSY in Germany, Paulos commented, “It was really fun, . . . probably one of the best experiences of my life.”[110] These kinds of Church programs and experiences are highly impactful for the youth in Greece.

For all ages, focusing on friendship is an important aspect of missionary work. Some early missionary couples called to Greece were encouraged to “just go and make friends,” and some of the first conversions after Greece reopened to missionary work were a result of those casual friendships.[111] One convert, Ioannis Klopsakis, said, “The factor that was the most important one during my conversion was the human factor. And by that, I mean the people I met there, the senior couples and the missionaries that embraced me from day one.”[112] This social aspect could not be found by going to other churches, where it was a lot harder to meet people.[113]

A final important method for expanding Church growth in Greece is activation. Even though members there often become less active, many return to activity when they are reminded of their previous spiritual experiences. One member, Doris Brandis, had such an experience when the missionaries reached out to her after she had been less active for six years. Brandis reflected, “I felt again the Spirit when they called me. And it was that emotion that I really need[ed] so much.”[114] The missionaries retaught her gospel lessons, and she returned to activity in the Church. Another member, Hawa Sankoh, was reminded of the importance of her going to Church by her faithful and patient husband. She had become less active shortly after joining the Church when the missionaries that had taught her left the area. On the Sunday her husband was to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, Hawa said she would attend, but she did not show up. When asked whether he still wanted to receive the priesthood that day, her husband said no because he wanted his wife to be there. When he returned home after church, he felt inspired about how to handle the situation. He told Hawa, “We [were] waiting for you today; you didn’t come.” She reacted defensively, but her husband maintained a peaceful and loving tone: “I know you prayed and fast[ed] for the Lord to give you [an] answer. Don’t you think this is the answer the Lord [gave] you?” After that her heart began to open again, and from that day she started going to church every Sunday.[115] Although it is not always easy, missionaries and members reach out to less-active members, and some return when they are reminded of the spiritual feelings they once had.[116]

Although Greece is a unique and challenging country for the Church to grow in, missionaries and members have worked hard to connect with the Greek people and strengthen members in the ways that best reach them.


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Greece has certainly come a long way since the 1970s, when the first few Greek members were baptized into the Church. However, there are still many challenges for both missionaries and members. In 2018 the Greece Athens Mission was closed and combined with the Adriatic South Mission, which included Albania, Kosovo, Northern Macedonia, and Cyprus. This closure suggests that the Church in Greece has stagnated in growth statistically and diminished, which is true for much of Eastern Europe. Despite what may be seen as a discouraging step backward, members look forward with hope for the future. Hawa Sankoh expressed her hope as follows:

[The Lord] is well aware, and we just have to leave it until it’s opened up to the Greeks in their time again. They’ll have another chance because everyone’s going to have that chance. . . . [The Lord] knows their hearts and they’ll be found whether in this life or the next. But the Church is growing. . . . It’s slow, but it’s growing. . . . I’m seeing the handful of faithful members. And that’s what we need now in Greece, to have strong, faithful members.[117]

The history of the Church in Greece illustrates the importance of Dennis B. Neuenschwander’s perspective on the relationship between intensity and time. As he explained, time is often an essential component of missionary work, as it brings about progress and learning that could not occur without it. Intense experiences may be a catalyst, but lasting change comes slowly over a long period of time as friendships are formed and foundations are laid for future growth. While there have been bursts of intensity in the growth of the Church in Greece, of equal importance is the gradual growth that has developed as a result of diligence, patience, and time. And more important than the measured progress are the individuals who have been brought to Christ “along the way. . . . Joy is centered in something much deeper and more significant than numbers, statistics, and goals. In the end, . . . we work with people.”[118]

photo of the Greek flagWhile there have been bursts of intensity in the growth of the Church in Greece, of equal importance is the gradual growth that has developed as a result of diligence, patience, and time. Photo by Dim Hou, Unsplash.com.

From the very first introduction of the Church in Greece to the present day, there have been occasional periods of intense growth in the Church, but those bursts have not given the Church deep roots in the country. Native Greek citizens are generally unwilling to change their religion, members of the Church are persecuted and ostracized, and many converts choose to leave the country. However, as missionaries and members continue to be patient, serve the people, and forge lasting friendships, knowledge of the Church will expand and the Church will eventually establish a strong foundation in Greece. The Greek experience of slow growth with intense moments of progress extends both to the growth of the Church elsewhere and the growth of individual members. Oftentimes gaining a testimony is a long process with a few bright moments of light and clarity, but persistence in efforts brings success in manifold ways.

These same principles are applicable to missionary work everywhere, even in areas where the Church already has a strong presence. Focusing on long-term growth requires patience and diligence but will make all the difference in gathering scattered Israel. If both missionaries and members focus on the conversion of every individual more than on statistics of growth, intense spiritual conversions will occur in time and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worldwide, including Greece, will see eventual progress with far-reaching blessings.

Appendix: Statistical Profile of the Church in Greece

The following statistical information gives a helpful overview of membership growth in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Greece for the years 1975–2019 (courtesy of Cumorah Project, https://www.cumorah.com/countries/viewStats/Greece). It is interesting to note that some of the decreases and increases in membership growth seen here are related to the influx and outflux of military and embassy personnel during the Persian Gulf War Era and to the expansion and delimiting of Air Force personnel in Athens.

Membership Growth Graph

graph of membership growth in greece

Comparative Growth Table

table of the different congregations in greeceNote: One reason for the growth of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Greece is their nonparticipation in mandatory military service.

Congregational Growth Graph

graph of greece's congregational growth over 20 years

Average Number of Members Per Ward or Branch

graph of members per ward/branch in greece

Percent Latter-day Saints in the Population Graph

graph of the percentage of members in the population of greece


[1] See Dennis B. Neuenschwander, “Time and Relationship” (presentation to the Quorums of the Seventy, October 24, 2019), transcript in Mary Jane Woodger’s possession.

[2] Neuenschwander, “Time and Relationship.”

[3] See David Stewart and Matt Martinich, “Reaching the Nations: Greece,” s.v. “Membership Growth,” https://www.cumorah.com/countries/viewReports/20/Greece.

[4] Matt Martinich, “LDS Growth Case Studies: Greece,” s.v. “Overview,” https://www.cumorah.com/articles/ldsGrowthCaseStudies/456.

[5] See Ferdinand F. Hintze, “Among the Greeks,” Deseret Evening News, April 22, 1899, 17.

[6] See Joseph Wilford Booth, “How the Gospel Came to Greece,” Millennial Star, February 22, 1906, 114–5. (This article can be found in O Aster Tea Anatoles (Athens newspaper), September 18, 1859, 705–7.)

[7] Booth, “How the Gospel Came to Greece,” 114–15.

[8] Joseph W. Booth, “The Armenian Mission,” Improvement Era, October 1928, 1048–52.

[9] See “Facts and Statistics: Turkey,” Newsroom, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/facts-and-statistics/country/turkey.

[10] See Booth, “Armenian Mission,” 1048–52.

[11] “Adana Massacres 1909: Unknown Scenes of the Tragedy,” The Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute Foundation, http://www.genocide-museum.am/eng/online_exhibition_7.php.

[12] See John G. Kinnear, “Bearing Testimony Where Paul Preached,” Church News section, Deseret News, October 4, 1997; and James A. Toronto, “Middle East, the Church in the,” https://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Middle_East,_the_Church_in_the.

[13] See “Facts and Statistics: Turkey.”

[14] See Jenny Hunt, “Missionaries on Mars Hill and Church Near the Acropolis: What It’s Like to Be LDS in Greece,” LDS Living, May 17, 2016, https://www.ldsliving.com.

[15] “Pres. McKay Given Royal Award by King of Greece,” Church News, December 4, 1954.

[16] See “Facts and Statistics: Greece,” Newsroom, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/facts-and-statistics/country/greece.

[17] See Dennis B. Neuenschwander, “Greece,” in Austria Vienna East Mission, 1987–1992: 20 Year Anniversary (Salt Lake City: printed by Joseph Lyon & Associates, 2007), [42].

[18] See Hunt, “Missionaries on Mars Hill.”

[19] Kinnear, “Bearing Testimony Where Paul Preached.”

[20] See Neuenschwander, “Greece,” [42].

[21] See Hunt, “Missionaries on Mars Hill.”

[22] See Scott Taylor, “Vienna Mission Set Stage for LDS Growth,” Deseret News, September 9, 2010; and “Elder Dion Kapetanov, 1987–1988,” in Austria Vienna East Mission, 1987–1992, [58].

[23] See “Elder Spencer J. Condie: Mission President of the Austria Vienna Mission,” in Austria Vienna East Mission, 1987–1992, [11].

[24] Dennis B. Neuenschwander, “Some Reflections,” in Austria Vienna East Mission, 1987–1992, [14].

[25] See Scott Taylor, “Vienna Mission Set Stage for LDS Growth,” Church News, September 9, 2010.

[26] See Dennis B. Neuenschwander, letter to missionaries and families of the AVE mission, October 1, 2007, in Austria Vienna East Mission, 1987–1992, [6].

[27] Hans B. Ringger, “The Beginnings of the Austria Vienna East Mission: ‘Go East Young Men, Go East,’” in Austria Vienna East Mission, 1987–1992, [4].

[28] See Spencer J. Condie, Russell M. Nelson: Father, Surgeon, Apostle (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003), 279.

[29] See Condie, Russell M. Nelson, 198–99.

[30] Dennis B. Neuenschwander, interview by Mary Jane Woodger, September 24, 2019, transcript in Woodger’s possession.

[31] Taylor, “Vienna Mission Set Stage for LDS Growth.”

[32] See Neuenschwander, “Some Reflections.”

[33] See Neuenschwander, “Some Reflections.”

[34] Neuenschwander, interview.

[35] Dave Garrett, communique to Religious Educator Review Committee, February 11, 2022.

[36] Garrett, communique.

[37] Stacie Lindsey, interview by Mary Jane Woodger, September 24, 2019, transcript in Woodger’s possession.

[38] Michael Bagley, “The Story of the Greece Athens Mission Stamp,” in Austria Vienna East Mission, 1987–1992, [70].

[39] See “Elder Alonzo and Sister Ranae Plumb, 1985–1988,” in Austria Vienna East Mission, 1987–1992, [57].

[40] “Meetinghouse Is Dedicated, First in Greece,” Church News, June 14, 1999.

[41] R. Douglas Phillips, obituary, Daily Herald (Provo, UT), September 14, 2012, https://www.heraldextra.com/lifestyles/2012/sep/14/robert-douglas-phillips.

[42] Mina Sorensen and David Sorensen, interview by Mary Jane Woodger, July 2018, transcript in Woodger’s possession.

[43] See Neuenschwander, “Some Reflections.”

[44] See “Elder Michael Bagley, 1989–1991,” in Austria Vienna East Mission, 1987–1992, [69].

[45] See Stewart and Martinich, “Reaching the Nations: Greece,” s.v. “Membership Growth” and “Congregational Growth.”

[46] Dave Garrett, communique to Religious Educator Review Committee.

[47] A copy of the dedicatory prayer, dated June 11, 2006, is found in the Thessaloniki Branch history, Greece Athens Mission, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; copy in Mary Jane Woodger’s possession.

[48] See Stewart and Martinich, “Reaching the Nations: Greece,” s.v. “Activity and Retention” and “Language Materials,”

[49] See Stewart and Martinich, “Reaching the Nations: Greece,” s.v. “Congregational Growth” and “Activity and Retention.”

[50] ECHR, Kokkinakis v. Greece, no. 14307/88, May 25, 1993, as cited in Nicolas Bauer, “The Offence of ‘Proselytising’ in Greece Before the ECHR,” European Center for Law and Justice, https://eclj.org/religious-freedom/echr/the-offence-of-proselytising-in-greece-before-the-echr.

[51] ECHR, Kokkinakis v. Greece.

[52] “Kapetanov, 1987–1988,” [59].

[53] David Garrett, interview by Mary Jane Woodger, September 2019, transcript in Woodger’s possession.

[54] Kim Pomares, interview by Mary Jane Woodger, July 2018, transcript in Woodger’s possession.

[55] See “Kapentanov, 1987–1988,” [5].

[56] See “Bagley, 1989–1991,” [69].

[57] Curtis Sandy, Mission Reunion Interviews, October 13, 2019, transcript in Mary Jane Woodger’s possession.

[58] See “Elder Cary Orton, 1989–1991,” in Austria Vienna East Mission, 1987–1992, [49].

[59] “Elder Chad George, 1988–1990,” in Austria Vienna East Mission, 1987–1992, [49].

[60] See “Elder Dave Nelson, 1988–1990,” in Austria Vienna East Mission, 1987–1992, [66].

[61] Curtis Sandy, interview.

[62] Pomares, interview.

[63] Pomares, interview.

[64] See Neuenschwander, “Greece,” [42].

[65] Pomares, interview.

[66] Shawn Stevens, interview by Mary Jane Woodger, October 2019, transcript in Woodger’s possession.

[67] Carol Patroness, interview by Mary Jane Woodger, July 2018, transcript in Woodger’s possession.

[68] Georgios Karyotis and Stratos Patrikios, “Religion, Securitization and Anti-Immigration Attitudes: The Case of Greece,” Journal of Peace Research 47, no. 1 (Winter 2010): 47.

[69] Nancy Karampoulas and Paulos Karampoulas, interview by Mary Jane Woodger, July 2018, transcript in Woodger’s possession.

[70] Paulos Karampoulas, interview.

[71] Stevens, interview.

[72] Mina Sorensen, interview.

[73] Antonios Chondronikos, interview by Mary Jane Woodger, July 2018, transcript in Woodger’s possession (lightly edited here for clarity).

[74] Jess Christensen, interview by Mary Jane Woodger, November 2019, transcript in Woodger’s possession.

[75] Diane Pyper, interview by Mary Jane Woodger, October 2019, transcript in Woodger’s possession.

[76] Karampoulas and Karampoulas, interview.

[77] Bill Heder, interview by Mary Jane Woodger, July 2018, transcript in Woodger’s possession (lightly edited here for clarity).

[78] See “Elder James W. Stanley, 1990–1992,” in Austria Vienna East Mission, 1987–1992, [54]; and Karampoulas and Karampoulas, interview.

[79] Sotiraq Todi, interview by Mary Jane Woodger, July 2018, transcript in Woodger’s possession.

[80] Heder, interview, July 2018.

[81] Vangelis Koutouri, interview by Mary Jane Woodger, July 2018, transcript in Woodger’s possession.

[82] Chondronikos, interview.

[83] Pyper, interview.

[84] See Stewart and Martinich, “Reaching the Nations: Greece,” s.v. “Membership Growth.”

[85] Lindsey, interview.

[86] “Elder David Garrett, 1989–1991,” in Austria Vienna East Mission, 1987–1992, [63].

[87] Pyper, interview.

[88] Gordon Kallay, interview by Mary Jane Woodger, July 2018, transcript in Woodger’s possession.

[89] Tano Ends, interview by Mary Jane Woodger, July 2018, transcript in Woodger’s possession.

[90] Pyper, interview.

[91] Thessaloniki Branch history.

[92] Ioannis Klopsakis, interview by Mary Jane Woodger, July 2018, transcript in Woodger’s possession.

[93] Pomares, interview.

[94] Garrett, interview.

[95] “Kapetanov, 1987–1988,” [59].

[96] James W. Stanley, in Austria Vienna East Mission, 1987–1992, [54].

[97] Stanley, in Austria Vienna East Mission, 1987–1992, [55].

[98] Patroness, interview.

[99] Patroness, interview.

[100] Heder, interview by Mary Jane Woodger, May 2018, transcript in Woodger’s possession.

[101] “Mission Reflections: ‘Sweet Experience’ in Greece Athens Mission,” Church News, September 23, 2006.

[102] Bukhara Tehn, interview by Mary Jane Woodger, July 2018, transcript in Woodger’s possession.

[103] Geoff Wilmott and Susan Wilmott, interview by Mary Jane Woodger, July 2018, transcript in Woodger’s possession.

[104] Tehn, interview.

[105] Heder, interview, July 2018.

[106] Heder, interview, July 2018.

[107] Paulos Karampoulas, interview.

[108] Josh Kallay, interview by Coulton Woodger, July 2018, transcript in Mary Jane Woodger’s possession.

[109] Heder, interview, July 2018.

[110] Paulos Karampoulas, interview.

[111] Pyper, interview; and Garrett, interview.

[112] Klopsakis, interview.

[113] Sorensen and Sorensen, interview.

[114] Doris Brandis, interview by Mary Jane Woodger, July 2018, transcript in Woodger’s possession.

[115] Hawa Sankoh, interview by Mary Jane Woodger, July 2018, transcript in Woodger’s possession.

[116] Chondronikos, interview.

[117] Sankoh, interview.

[118] Neuenschwander, “Time and Relationship.”