Matters related to Mormonism are most often viewed through the North American perspective. This means that the general history of the Mormon movement, its intellectual history, and also the history of opposition to Mormonism is filtered through a narrative centered on North America. This is quite understandable for many reasons, such as Mormon headquarters being located in the United States and foundational events taking place there. While this narrative unquestionably holds the most valuable keys to understanding Mormonism, I believe there are vital things to learn by viewing the Mormon experience from different frames of reference.
In this paper I will concentrate on the history and content of societal opposition to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mormonism’s largest branch, in the northern-European country of Finland. With the word opposition I refer to any activities that aim to create negative mental images of the Latter-day Saints or that seek to counteract the aims of their church. This opposition may take forms such as books, newspaper articles, public interviews and lectures, and more recently, internet websites. It may originate with any number of actors in society, with some of the most common being former Mormons, active adherents of other churches and religious movements, politicians, and journalists. From the organizational point of view, opposition mostly comes from a countercult movement arguing from a religious perspective or an anticult movement arguing from a secular perspective. Examples and in some cases combinations of all these various forms and actors can be found by taking a look at the Finnish scene. Although a lot of similarities to happenings in Mormonism’s home field can be found on that scene, there are also many things that have played out differently in Finland.
A major thrust of this paper is to establish the general lay of the land in this particular corner of the larger research field related to the societal response to Mormonism in Finland. Because a large time period of over 150 years is surveyed, analysis is not a prime objective and the overview is of necessity mostly descriptive and generalizing, bringing together in one place a large amount of data. However, I hope that the examples and characterizations will provide a useful contour and a basis for deeper analyses in the future. Before embarking on a journey through history, I will first provide a general context for the rest of this paper by describing Finland as a country and by recounting the basic outline of Latter-day Saint history in Finland.
Finland as a country
The Republic of Finland is located in the northern hemisphere around the Arctic circle between Sweden and Russia. Finland currently has about 5.2 million inhabitants, most of whom speak Finnish as their native language. There is also a sizeable Swedish-speaking minority living mostly in the southern and western coastal areas. Finland has been referred to as “the football of neighbor nations through the centuries:”1 in recent history, it has been under Swedish rule and under Russian rule. In 1917, Finland declared itself independent and sovereign. During World War II the Finns fought against the Soviet Union to retain independence. The goal was accomplished, but due to Finland’s proximity to the Soviet Union, the influence of this large eastern neighbor was felt in both internal and external politics for a long time. As of 1995, Finland has been a member of the European Union, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union has changed the political atmosphere in the country to even more western ways of thinking than before.
As to the religious landscape in general, Finland is very homogenous—at least on the surface. Finnish law privileges two churches, with the Evangelical Lutheran church being the main national church and having a right to collect church tax from its members. Over 80% of the population are Lutherans. Due to historical reasons, the Finnish Orthodox church also has a privileged status. Finland is a highly secularized country, and Lutheran church membership numbers have been declining year after year. Although levels of private religious activity are relatively high, Finnish people don’t seem to want to associate religiosity with institutions. However, some sociologists of religion think that Finns still “believe in belonging.”2 This means that while levels of institutionally connected religious activity have waned, Finns still believe that belonging to the church is important. Thus while the Lutheran church is not strong in the religious sense, it still has a very strong place in the culture.
Various surveys have been made concerning the attitudes of Finnish people towards different churches and religious movements. The latest poll was done in 2003, with the most popular movements being the Lutheran church, the Salvation Army, and the Orthodox church. Those thinking positively of these groups consituted 77%, 65%, and 62% of those polled, respectively. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has usually been situated at the lower end. According to the latest survey, 57% of the Finns think negatively about the Mormons, with 8% having a positive attitude. The researchers proposed strong missionary orientation, the desire for publicity, and strong group commitment as possible reasons for the negative image.3
Mormon History in Finland
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been present in Finland to various degrees since 1860. The first Mormon missionaries were sent to Finland in 1875. These missionaries were instrumental in the conversion of a few people and organized a Latter-day Saint branch on the west coast, although it turned out to be somewhat short-lived. A few years later, however, another missionary further north baptized persons who, together with their descendants, became some of the Mormon pillars in Finland for a decades-long survival period. This period spanned from about 1890 to 1945 and is marked by highly sporadic missionary visits from Sweden.
In the 19th century there was no religious freedom in Finland, and thus Mormon missionary work was not legal. This had consequences for how the early missionaries were treated both in real life by clergy and civil authorities and in printed media by journalists. A law on religious freedom became effective in 1923, and the Finnish Mission of the Latter-day Saints was established after World War II in 1947.4 Apart from a short period at the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s, Finland has never been a very productive mission field for the Mormons.
Today The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reports about 4,400 members in Finland, meaning that just below one Finn in every 1,000 is a Latter-day Saint. The church is organized into two stakes and a mission with a few independent branches and two mission districts, making a total of about 30 wards and branches in towns and cities around the country. The highest amount of Mormon activity is located in the southern parts of the country, where also the general population of the country is concentrated. There are about 70 missionaries in the country, with mission presidents and most missionaries always having been American.
With this basic context in place, I now proceed with discussing opposition to the Mormons in Finland. My treatment is chronologically divided and begins briefly with the period 1845-1875. This was when there was no official Latter-day Saint presence in Finland and when information about the Mormons came from abroad through books and newspaper reports. I then move on to the time when missionary activity in Finland began and describe the opposition that this activity and Mormonism in general met from society during the years 1876-1890. Moving on to more modern times, I review the initial response to permanent missionary work and to the permanent establishing of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Finland during the years 1946-1977. The most extensive discussion concerns the years from 1978 to this day. This period is mostly characterized by modern anticultism and countercultism and their attendant dynamics. A final overview of oppositional activities related to the new Latter-day Saint temple in Finland brings us up to the present.
The News Comes from Abroad: 1845-1875
During this earliest time period, there was no official Mormon presence in Finland. The material that was published in Finland about Mormonism consisted mostly of newspaper reports from Scandinavia (after 1850) and other parts of the world. The 1850s also mark the time when Finns could purchase the first books dedicated to and critical of Mormonism, written in Swedish. This period is generally characterized by information coming from abroad and not being generated in-country. The year 1845 has been chosen as the start in this chronological division because according to current knowledge, that is when the first piece of oppositional writing appeared.5 Perhaps not surprisingly, it was published in a paper read largely by the clergy of a Lutheran diocese in southern Finland.
In addition to newspaper reports, the more educated Finns could begin reading books about the Mormons during this period. According to advertisements in newspapers of the time, available were titles such as Austin Ward’s Male Life Among the Mormons and Maria Ward’s Female Life Among the Mormons,6 C.M.J. Petrelli’s Swedish book Joseph Smith and Mormonism,7 and Swedish ex-Mormon Carl Erik Malmstrˆm’s The Secret is Discovered! Or a True Account About What Mormonism is in Doctrine and Living.8 In 1872, a lady who had become a Mormon abroad visited her former home town on the west coast of Finland. “But because of that we are most probably not threatened by missionaries from Salt Lake City, the glory of which is strongly declining,” wrote a newspaper correspondent.9
Latter-day Saint Activity in Finland Begins: 1876-1890
The beginning of the final quarter of the 19th century marks the time when Mormon missionaries from the Scandinavian mission first entered Finland, then part of Russia. The number of missionaries in Finland was never high, with the normal crew consisting of only one or two at a time. As Swedish-speakers they worked mostly on the coast and did thus not reach the Finnish-speaking majority population of the country. At this time there was no religious freedom in Finland, and thus the missionaries’ work was illegal and they sometimes had to suffer the consequences. This meant that they could be harassed by local officers and local clergy and that their books could be confiscated. The high level of societal resistance eventually led to the missionaries being taken away from the country for a longer time.
There were a lot of newspaper articles depicting reactions to these early missionaries. When one of these first missionaries arrived back with a new companion after a time of absence, the infuriated Lutheran parish minister wrote a letter to the local newspaper:
Who would have thought that this injurious sect, of whom somebody has said that it is a distorted and horrid caricature of all that is holy, would find its way even to our sequestered country? We have heard it spoken of Baptists, Methodists, Hihhulites, and other such, but at least from the Mormons … one has hoped to be spared … These both Mormon missionaries, who wisely enough have settled their arrival to the area at such a season that they wouldn’t need to be anxious about being swiftly sent packing to Sweden on a steamer, have, also they, settled down in Klemetsˆ, which thus seems to be in danger of becoming a furnace for Mormonism … Sent out as missionaries they have with oversight of the law begun giving official doctrinal presentations, whereafter they have even let themselves spread scriptures …10
After the Mormon conversion and departure to the USA of two Finnish women, another writer asked: “Shall nothing be done to prevent unskilled and ignorant people from becoming victims to [the Mormons]?”11
Perhaps the epitomizing example of opposition to Mormon activities in Finland at this time comes from the life of a lay Latter-day Saint, the Swedish man Johan Blom. He had joined the Mormons in Sweden in 1878 and could have emigrated to Utah in 1880. After speaking with a church leader who told of the missionaries’ great difficulties in Finland, Blom chose to move to Finland instead of the Utah Zion. He was a gardener by trade and became employed by the baron Edvard Hisinger in southern Finland in May 1880. According to later newspaper reports, it was agreed between Blom and Hisinger that the former would confine his religious activities to his home.
As time went by, however, interested listeners came to attend Blom’s religious devotions. He spread some tracts and eventually baptized two persons on a Sunday, the sabbath, because the missionary in the country was ill. The baron became angry and took the matter to court. Blom was charged with baptizing on the sabbath, with spreading the religious literature of a foreign faith, and with leading people away from the Lutheran faith to foreign doctrines. The court decided that Blom was guilty and ordered him to pay certain fines or spend 28 days in prison. Blom appealed, but the imperial senate agreed with the lower court, and Blom eventually spent his time in prison on bread and water.12
Scandinavia apart from Finland was a highly successful mission field for the early Mormons, and the Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish immigrants came to play a large role in the settlement of Utah. A Finnish newspaper reported that these countries “enjoy the questionable honor of being the Mormon peddlers’ best fishery.”13
On the international scene, reporting on plural marriage continued in the newspapers, with legal developments against and reactions of the Mormons in the United States being described to the Finns with some delay. Although the majority of newspapers unquestionably opposed plural marriage, the opposition could sometimes be presented in a humorous vein. One example comes from 1888 under the title “How is One to Work Against Mormonism?”: “The best way would be to send some fashionable milliners and tailors for ladies to Salt Lake City. The number and sums of the invoices would soon convince every Mormon that one wife is good enough.”14 When the announcement about ending plural marriage came, some papers were quick to predict Mormonism’s gloomy future, as it was seen to have signed its own death warrant. “The nineteenth century that has seen Mormonism being born will probably also see its death.”15
The population was also being informed about the Mormons in general terms. This happened for example through public lectures16 and through general newspaper and magazine articles concerning Mormon history and doctrine. These were sometimes more balanced and successful at depicting doctrines, and sometimes negative experiences also entered the picture and affected the public mind. When missionaries had turned up in Finland, for example, one newspaper reporter gave the following information as a warning: “Among the 4 000 to 5 000 Scandinavian Mormons that live in Salt Lake City, I met many who admitted they were disappointed in their hopes concerning ‘Zion,’ while others, especially women, with tears in their eyes spoke of their home on the other side of the ocean … They are here involved in the worst slavery imaginable – slavery under fanaticism and unskillfulness and slavery under a gang of crooks, thieves, and murderers … [In the temple] they are initiated into the gloominess of plural marriage and human sacrifices (‘bloodatonement’) [sic] and come out thus ‘initiated.'”17
Due to the current scarcity of data, I will at this point jump over the period 1891-1945.
Church Established, Society Responds: 1946-1977
After World War II, the Mormon church became serious about regularizing missionary work and establishing itself on a stronger footing in Finland. Various Mormon missionaries serving in Sweden along with church leaders from Sweden and the United States came to Finland in 1946 and held public meetings. In 1947, the Finnish mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was established.
One of the first waves of opposition came from communists and left-wing circles who were suspicious about the activities of the newly arrived Latter-day Saints. This was sometimes seen in their newspapers, and in fact the Finnish Communist Party created a six-page memorandum about the activities of the Mormon missionaries in Finland. Among other things, the memo accused the missionaries of being the warring USA’s secret “fifth column.” The Soviet Union accused the Mormon missionaries that operated in Finland of being American spies operating close to the Soviet border. The microfilming of Finnish parish records by the Mormons also raised suspicion in the leftist circles.
While there had been books in Swedish available in Finland already in the 19th century, the first Finnish-language books dedicated to dealing with Mormonism appeared during this era. This was probably a reaction to the increased activity of the Latter-day Saints in Finland. The first book was published in 1958 by dentist Laila Saarenmaa in the southern-Finland city of Lappeenranta, called A Layperson’s Thoughts About Mormonism.18 In December 1958, the Lutheran parish of Lappeenranta informed its membership that Saarenmaa’s book was going to be distributed into peoples’ homes, because “Mormon doctrine had been spread in the parish.”19 A commentator further north recommended that people should give Saarenmaa’s book “to their deluded friends.”20
Saarenmaa’s work was followed three years later by Doctor of Theology Uuras Saarnivaara, a very respected scholar. He wrote the book The Mormons or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Light of the Bible.21 Kirsti Kena was another theologian that was active in opposing the Latter-day Saints. In addition to public lectures on the topic, she published under the imprint of the Lutheran church the pamphlet What Should One Say About the Mormons in 1963. Another very respected theologian, Aimo Nikolainen, published a book a little later. It is called Demarcation and devotes one chapter to Mormonism, or more precisely to the Mormon concept of modern-day prophets.22 Although Nikolainen thought that individual Mormons could be fine people, he felt that Mormonism was an inferior religion and certainly didn’t mince words in his condemnation in another publication: “I don’t know of a more pitiable or childish religious movement than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which was established in 1831 in Ohio … ‘The Book of Mormon,’ which Mormons elevate to the same level as the Bible, is based on plates that never were in existence and on imaginings which at every turn contradict historical truth.”23 Opposition in general was mostly written or verbal, although at least two missionaries were stoned and spat upon after they left a Lutheran anti-Mormon meeting in the 1950s.24
The more extreme religious circles certainly did not hold back in their condemnations of Mormonism either. One magazine in 1975 published an article under the title “The Plural Marriage and Blood Atonement Mormons.” Among other things, the writer denounces the Mormons categorically as non-Christian, and alleges that Mormon men give their wives as “heavenly spouses” to church elders in their temples. In summary he wrote: “Mormonism is more than a false religion. It is a deception risen from the depths, where satanic currents flow freely, where the lusts of the flesh are divinized, where grace and truth mean nothing … In Mormon connections, there are spiritual powers at play that can work their permanent harm on a person who voluntarily has to do with the Mormons. Mormonism is the worst kind of occultism …”25
Modern Anticultism and Countercultism: 1978-2006
The beginning of the modern period is marked by the formation of the Helsinki Finland stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in October 1977. This coming of age for Mormonism in Finland occurred approximately simultaneously with the onset of a period that could be called that of modern countercultism and anticultism. The 1980s turned out to be an especially turbulent decade.
Non-Mormon historian Lawrence Foster has called Jerald and Sandra Tanner “career apostates,” signifying persons who devote their lives to the destruction of their former faith.26 In the 1980s, Finnish Mormonism was to produce its own career apostates, although perhaps not committed to the cause quite to the extent of the Tanners. This couple is Pentti and Terttu Maljanen (surname now changed to Forsell). They joined the Mormon church in the eastern-Finland city of Kuopio in 1965 after having met with Latter-day Saint missionaries and listened to their religious teaching. They became active participants in their branch (although Pentti was inactive for a period of a few years) and served in various capacities, Terttu as Relief Society President and Pentti as a counselor in the branch presidency.
The final turning point in their membership was the year 1975, when they first attended the Latter-day Saint endowment ceremony in the Mormon temple near Bern, Switzerland. After this trip, especially Pentti became increasingly critical of Mormonism, and in 1979 he and Terttu returned to membership in the Lutheran church. The modern criticism of Mormonism in Finland can be said to have begun from this event, and the opposition became personified in the Forsells. They have continued their activities up to this day. Pentti is no longer active in his opposition, but Terttu still gives interviews to newspapers.
In 1982 Pentti published the book I Got Away from the Mormons. In it he details his and his wife’s story in Mormonism and portrays various Mormon doctrines and practices in a generally very negative light, although he also had some positive things to say. His message was to stay away from the Mormons: when the missionaries come “to your doors, don’t open. Don’t ask them in, don’t ask them to come again. Even a small friendly gesture and unbeknownst to yourselves you will be ‘investigators.’ Investigators, who won’t be left in peace until you have been led into eternal deception, to being members in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”27
The book was widely reviewed in newspapers around Finland.28 Pentti also began to speak about the Mormons and his Mormon experience at Lutheran religious gatherings, with Terttu accompanying him. In these gatherings, they shared their “atrocity story” and portrayed Mormonism in a very negative light. At some point they also began to exhibit Mormon temple clothing to the gathered audiences. Over the years, the Forsells have been featured in various newspaper and magazine articles.
In 1987 the Forsells were on national radio telling about their experience as former Mormons. This and the experience recounted by the former member of another faith resulted in a flurry of telephone calls to the radio station. Calls began to be forwarded to the Forsells and the situation finally led to the organization of Finland’s only anticult organization, Uskontojen uhrien tuki ry (Support for the Victims of Religions). This organization is active up to this day and its website deals with Mormonism as one dangerous religion, although the treatment is brief. The experience of the Forsell couple has no doubt had a significant effect on how Mormonism is portrayed by the organization.
One serious matter that the Forsells helped create and bring to the forefront in the early 1980s was suspicions of Latter-day Saint missionaries being involved with furthering American political goals. More exactly, it was alleged that missionaries gathered information on Finnish peoples’ political opinions and that this data was possibly forwarded to the United States. Naturally, this did not go over well in leftist circles and even led to two questions being asked of the government on the floor of parliament. The matter was publicized mostly in left-wing newspapers because those on the political left were more suspicious of matters connected to the United States, but negative reporting in national mainstream newspapers also appeared.
In any case, the Mormons were exonerated in parliament and no real evidence backing up the suspicions ever surfaced. In fact, the most publicized alleged evidence that Pentti Forsell used and gave to the media consisted of some of his son’s mission-time papers that Pentti had copied without permission. The impact of this highly controversial episode is difficult to assess.29 However, it is not unlikely that some Finns felt the same way as this particular leftist columnist: “After the news in Helsingin Sanomat the Mormons no longer have any business in Wallu’s apartment.”30 This matter is not currently an issue for the Mormons in Finland, however.
The Finnish school system includes religion in its curriculum. The Forsells were asked to visit school religion classes in the 1980s and 1990s to explain Mormon beliefs and sometimes to inform the students about other minority religions that were regarded as suspicious. One non-Mormon student remembers a high school class where the Forsells exhibited Mormon temple clothing and even warned the students against reading Donald Duck, because it might contain Mormon symbolism. Such classes could also include warnings about speaking with Mormon missionaries.31
One of the issues surely producing most sympathy towards these former Mormons and antagonism towards Mormonism was their later depiction of their still-Mormon son’s missionary experience. “When our son left to the USA for his mission, we got a letter where we were told that the boy now has new parents. Fortunately it at least said where he had been adopted to.”32 In reality, their son served as a Mormon missionary in Finland.
In general one can say that a lot of the Forsells’ material came from American sources. They were clearly influenced by the wave of religious opposition to Mormonism that came from Evangelical Christians in the United States in the 1980s, most notably from Ed Decker. Importing some of the arguments of these “postrationalists,” as Massimo Introvigne has called them,33 they sometimes let their listeners or readers understand that Mormonism has something satanic behind it. At other times they painted a dismal picture of Utah by using negative-sounding suicide and teen pregnancy statistics that were also being used by countercultists in the United States.
When analyzing the activities of the Forsell couple, it is interesting to note that their approach varies depending on the venue. In newspapers, their Mormon-critical rhetoric is often focused on secular arguments, accusing Mormonism of too strong control of the membership’s lives and the withholding and step-by-step disclosure of information related to more advanced Mormon doctrines and practices. At religious gatherings, they also bring religiously colored arguments to bear. For example, they may complain of satanic influences in Mormon temples and speak about how the Mormon view of God is distorted and blasphemous due to the Mormon doctrine of human deification.
Although they are certainly the most well-known critics, the Forsells aren’t the only persons publicly related to the opposition of Mormonism in Finland in modern times. Two of the other personalities on the current scene are Dennis and Rauni Higley in Sandy, Utah. Rauni is originally a Finnish citizen and served as a Mormon missionary in Finland. Dennis is an American who also served as a Mormon missionary in Finland. They eventually met up in Utah and were married. While working as a translator for the church, Rauni began to doubt church teachings. Her husband eventually followed suit. They left the Mormons together in the 1980s and became Evangelical Christians. They later established He Is Savior (HIS) Ministries, which among other things focuses on informing people about Mormonism. They have been active in sending material to Finland to the Forsell couple, and their anti-Mormon tract can be read in Finnish on the internet.34
Similarly to the Forsell couple, the Higleys have been highly influenced by the Evangelical countercult arguments of the 1980s. During Rauni’s stay in Finland in 1984, for example, she was instrumental in the inception of a highly sensationalistic article on the Mormons in a religious magazine. The material was heavily drawn from arguments in the book and movie The God Makers, with in-temple screenshots provided as illustrations. Some of the article’s statements convey the mood: “The truth is kept secret on purpose. It is not meant but for the few and chosen, for Mormonism is a pagan religion tied to secret doctrines, mysteries, and occultism. On its most secret levels, a Luciferian doctrine is unveiled as the background … Mormonism is based on a secret for the simple reason of the truth being too gruesome for a normal, ordinary person. Joseph Smith founded his religion based on completely mindboggling tales.” The next issue of the magazine contained another article on the Mormons, including a large picture of a contemplative Pentti Forsell in Mormon temple garments. The Christianity of the Mormons is explicitly denied by the Forsells: “Grace is not known in Mormonism. It is a law religion, in which the atonement of Christ doesn’t matter. A Mormon pays with his own blood.”35
Another important figure in contemporary opposition is Matti Liljeqvist, an academically trained theologian who has also worked as a Lutheran pastor. He has been active on the anti-Mormon scene since the 1980s, working together with the Forsell couple and giving presentations and interviews. In 2004 he published a book called The Tower and the Temple: Meeting Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons.36 His general attitude regarding Mormonism is perhaps summed up in the following statement about Latter-day Saint temples: “… we can define the temple not only as an unnecessary but as a harmful establishment. It leads people to worship a false god, far away from Christianity and God.”37
One of the more colorful actors on the modern scene is Leo Meller, a controversial Finnish Evangelical Christian and author of the above-mentioned article on blood atonement and plural marriage. He has a tendency to focus on various conspiracy theories and has some history of personal legal difficulties. In addition to presentations of other movements he regards as subversive, he has spoken on Mormonism and written a very radical book chapter on the Latter-day Saints. Among other things Meller has claimed that Mormons are seeking world domination and that the results will be terrible, thus following a popularized countercult charge. For example, when Ezra Taft Benson was to become president of the Mormon church, Meller predicted that the time would come when all of those hundreds of millions of people that would not follow the Mormon prophet’s orders would be killed.38
Finally, another person who has written and given public presentations on Mormonism is pastor Hannu Nyman. He deals with the Mormons from the Evangelical Christian perspective and has published a book about Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, called A Different Kind of Gospel.39
The internet has come to play an important role as a medium to disseminate information during the modern period. While the Mormons use the internet in order to proselytize for their faith, their detractors have also found this easy way of publishing. On the Finnish scene, by far the largest internet website related to Mormonism is explicitly critical of the Latter-day Saints. Founded in 1998 and maintained by a former Mormon living in Sweden, it approaches the subject from a secular point of view and contains vast amounts of both original and translated material. The site is easily found through internet search engines and has most probably been highly influential due to its comprehensive nature and straightforward manner of presenting subjects less flattering to the Latter-day Saints.40
The most significant recent issue concerns the new Latter-day Saint temple being built near Helsinki, Finland, scheduled for dedication in October 2006. The temple was announced in April 2000, but not much was said in the media during the early stages of planning.41 Some time later one can read the minutes of the Espoo city planning board and Espoo city council, where it was noted that thirteen individuals had opposed the intrusion of the “Mormon false doctrine” into their home area.42 However, the real opposition began in the spring of 2004, when nationwide tabloid newspaper Ilta-Sanomat printed a large article headlined “The Deceased Will Soon Be Baptized Here.” The article sparked off a small-scale “war” over proxy ordinances by describing the Latter-day Saint practice of proxy baptism and showing pictures of several Finnish historical figures who were said to have been thus baptized. Describing the large baptismal register of the Mormons, the reporter mentioned the inclusion on the list of persons such as Anne Frank, Adolf Hitler, and Eva Braun. One of the interviewees was Terttu Forsell, who was said to be “looking at the arrival of temple solemnly.” A degree of frustration is evident in her statement “The Lutheran church in Espoo awoke to the newcomer too late.” She also repeated her frequent claim of her husband having been married in a Mormon temple to four unmarried deceased women in order to bring exaltation to them in the life after.43
In a few days, a short article on a Finnish Lutheran bishop’s feelings was published. He characterized proxy baptisms as next to “desecrating graves and tampering with the deceased.”44 A smaller newspaper commented shortly on proxy baptisms and the sealings of Hitler and Braun as “hair-raising rituals” on its frontpage,45 and a later newspaper writer mused:
How big a heavenly war is the Mormon religion’s founder Joseph Smith planning to be waged in the future, when the deceased have to be baptized as Mormons like from a conveyor belt? Hairs bristled, when one read the report in [Ilta-Sanomat] … I wonder whether it was necessary to allow the building of such a temple here in our area? As to the joys of heaven, I would like to be at the chink of the door listening to what [former Finnish president] Juho Kusti Paasikivi says when he hears he is on the Mormons’ baptismal list. Horrendous! I absolutely forbid this, the old-timer says … The Kuopio bishop Riekkinen already complained and so should the whole church through official channels. Already the fact that the sect has married by proxy Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun should ring the warning bells.46
After a similar nationwide magazine article the next month, criticism around proxy ordinances died down for a while until a new wave came in the summer of 2005. This wave was begun by an article in the semi-official Swedish-language Lutheran weekly newspaper. The article recounted the shock of a Finnish genealogist, who is a long-time friend of the Forsells, when he found out that his ancestors had received Mormon proxy baptisms and marriage sealings, saying that “it is completely unbelievable that activity of this kind is allowed.” Included was a general and partly erroneous description of the ideology behind Mormon proxy ordinances and a few comments from a Mormon Church Public Affairs representative saying that Mormons baptize by proxy only their own ancestors.47
This article was followed a few weeks later by an interview of Terttu Forsell, who cautioned people to be wary of the sects and described some of her story as an ex-Mormon. Both articles together sparked a long string of comments in the letters to the editor section. From the Mormon point of view the situation was complicated by repeated Latter-day Saint insistence that temple ordinances are performed only for Mormons’ own ancestors, making the Mormons seem insincere.48 At this point it remains to be seen how things will develop and what will happen during the open house and dedication of the Mormon temple in Finland in around two months from now.
Summary and Conclusion
To contextualize all of the above, it should not be thought that the Mormons in Finland have never received neutral or positive treatment in the press or by representatives of other religions. At times the reporting on Mormonism in newspapers has been very complimentary and has certainly shaped positive opinions in the minds of many individuals.
However, at the same time it is important not to underestimate the power that opposition to Mormonism has had. It is not inconceivable that oppositional writings and lectures have played and continue to play a significant part in forming negative attitudes towards Mormonism in Finland. Although knowledgeable non-Mormon observers elsewhere than in Finland have noted that a great deal of published Mormon-critical material has been “uninformed, misleading or otherwise inadequate,”49 it is also important to realize that not all criticism of Mormons is or has been without merit and that the critical material is at times distributed widely to an audience that has little prior knowledge of Mormonism, thus giving important first impressions.
The advent of the internet has brought a completely new dimension to Mormon-targeted opposition. No longer is a vocal person dependent on newspapers and publishers, but rather one can easily create a website devoted to criticizing Mormonism or any other religious movement. Although some apologetics has been done by lay Latter-day Saints, in general “for most religious organizations, if they engage in it at all, answering criticism and misrepresentation online is at best a secondary agenda.”50 For the Latter-day Saints and many other religious movements, this is sometimes a real problem. Increasing numbers of Finnish people use the internet as their primary source for information and are thus likely to encounter anticult websites as they research the Mormons. According to researcher Douglas Cowan, “[i]t is naive to think the Christian countercult [and the anticult movement] and those who depend on it for information about new and controversial religious groups will do less.”51 What the situation on the internet and in general will be in the future remains to be seen.
1 Spencer W. Kimball in Conference Report, October 1955, p. 75.
2 Grace Davie, Religion in Europe: A Memory Mutates (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 3.
3 Kimmo K‰‰ri‰inen, Kati Niemel‰, and Kimmo Ketola, Religion in Finland: Decline, Change and Transformation of Finnish Religiosity (Tampere: Church Research Institute, 2005), p. 78-79.
4 Name changed to “Finland mission” on June 10, 1970, and to “Finland Helsinki Mission” on June 20, 1974. See Deseret Morning News 2006 Church Almanac (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 2005), p. 489.
5 Kim ÷stman, “Early Mormonism in Finnish Newspapers, 1840-1849,” BCC Papers 1/1, http://www.bycommonconsent.com/bcc-papers (Accessed August 2, 2006).
6 Austin N. Ward, Mannen bland mormonerna (Stockholm: Expeditionen af Konversations-Lexikon hos Sch¸ck & Josephson, 1857) and Maria N. Ward, Qvinnan bland mormonerna (Stockholm: Expeditionen af Konversations-Lexikon hos Sch¸ck & Josephson, 1857).
7 C.M.J. Petrelli, Josef Smith och Mormonismen (Linkˆping: C.F. Ridderstad, 1858). I have translated book titles, article titles, and quotations in the body text of this paper from Finnish or Swedish into English.
8 Carl Erik Malmstrˆm, Hemligheten ‰r uppt‰ckt! Eller en sann skildring af hwad Mormonismen ‰r i l‰ra och leverne (1862).
9 “Wasa-bref XVI,” Hufvudstadsbladet, July 26, 1872, p. 3.
10 “Mormonism,” Morgonbladet, December 11, 1876, p. 2.
11 “Mormoner i Helsingfors,” Finland, September 20, 1888, p. 3.
12 “MormonmÂlet i Pojo,” Folkw‰nnen, September 7, 1883, p. 1-2, September 8, 1883, p. 1-2, and November 2, 1883, p. 1-2. “Ett religionsmÂl,” ≈bo Tidning, July 5, 1884, p. 2. “MormonmÂlet afgjordt,” Folkw‰nnen, November 18, 1885, p. 2. Anna-Liisa Rinne, Kristuksen kirkko Suomessa: kertomus Myˆhempien Aikojen Pyhien Jeesuksen Kristuksen Kirkon juurtumisesta t‰h‰n maahan (Turku: privately published, 1986), p. 9-10.
13 “Mormonerna i Skandinawien,” Helsingfors, November 1, 1879, p. 3.
14 “Huru skall man kunna motarbeta mormonismen?,” Finland, July 27, 1888, p. 4.
15 “En dˆende religion. Mormonismens undergÂng,” Finland, October 15, 1890, p. 2.
16 One such was given in a school building in Nurmij‰rvi, southern Finland, on April 27, 1879. For an advertisement, see “Suomalaisia kansantajuisia luennoita,” Suomalainen Wirallinen Lehti, April 22, 1879, p. 2.
17 “Mormonismen,” Helsingfors, December 2, 1881, p. 3-4.
18 Laila Saarenmaa, Maallikon mietteit‰ mormonismista (Lappeenranta: privately published, 1958).
19 A note signed by the church council of Lappeenranta and spread to parishioners. Copy in LDS Church Archives in H‰meenlinna, Finland.
20 Unidentified newspaper published in Kokkola, September 1, 1958. English translation found among newspaper clippings in LDS Church Archives in H‰meenlinna, Finland.
21 Uuras Saarnivaara, Mormonit eli Myˆhempien Aikojen Pyhien Jeesuksen Kristuksen Kirkko Raamatun valossa (Helsinki: Suomen Kirkon Sis‰l‰hetysseura, 1961).
22 Aimo T. Nikolainen, Rajank‰ynti‰ (Helsinki: Suomen Kirkon Sis‰l‰hetysseura, 1964), p. 43-61.
23 H‰meen Sanomat, July 19, 1959.
24 Missionary journal of Fred E. Adams, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah.
25 Leo Meller, “Moniavioisuuden ja veriuhrien mormonit,” Popari 1/1975, p. 83-92.
26 Lawrence Foster, “Apostate Believers: Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s Encounter with Mormon History,” in Roger D. Launius and Linda Thatcher, ed., Differing Visions: Dissenters in Mormon History (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994), p. 343-365.
27 Pentti Maljanen, P‰‰sin irti mormoneista (Helsinki: SLEY-kirjat, 1982), p. 135. See this work for the Forsell couple’s story.
28 For a fairly comprehensive list of the reviews, see Kim ÷stman, K‰sittelyss‰ “P‰‰sin irti mormoneista” (Tampere: privately published, 2004), p. 13-14.
29 Kim ÷stman, “The Mormon Espionage Scare and its Public Coverage in Finland, 1982-1984,” unpublished manuscript. A shortened version was presented at the Salt Lake City Sunstone Symposium, August 2006.
30 Wallu Rauta, “Vapaus uskoa,” Ahjo 23/1984.
31 Communication to author by former student (identity withheld), July 20-21, 2002.
32 “Risti-riita tarkasteli hengellist‰ v‰kivaltaa: Tiet‰m‰ttˆmyys ñ askel orjuuteen,” Kangasalan Sanomat, April 25, 1989. For the two opposing viewpoints on this missionary issue, see Pentti Maljanen, “Mormonit, miksi hajotatte perheit‰,” Sana, January 20, 1981, and Jari Maljanen, “Mormonien n‰kemyksi‰,” Sana, February 10, 1981. On the son’s missionary service, see Muistamme, 1947-1997: Puoli vuosisataa uskoa joka askeleella Suomessa (Henry A. Matis Family Society, 1997), p. 199.
33 Massimo Introvigne, “The Devil Makers: Contemporary Evangelical Fundamentalist Anti-Mormonism,” Dialogue: a Journal of Mormon Thought, vol. 27, no. 1 (Spring 1994), p. 153-169.
34 Dennis and Rauni Higley, “Mit‰ Mormonit Oikein Opettavat?,” at http://www.exmormon.org/finnish.htm (accessed May 15, 2006). This is a shortened and slightly modified translation of Higley and Higley, The Truth About Mormonism (Bend: The Berean Call, 2004).
35 Olli Valtonen, “Salamenoilla jumaluuteen: Mormonismilla on kahdet kasvot,” Askel 7/1984, p. 38-43, and P‰ivi Autere, “14:n vuoden kokemus: Mormonismi ei tunne armoa,” Askel 8/1984, p. 40-41.
36 Matti Liljeqvist, Torni ja temppeli: Jehovan todistajien ja mormonien kohtaaminen (Kauniainen: Perussanoma, 2004). For interviews around his book, see “Kulttuuri vai kristillinen kirkkokunta,” Kouvolan Sanomat, January 23, 2005, and “V‰‰ristyykˆ suomalainen usko halpakopioksi?,” Sanansaattaja 20/2005 (May 19, 2005).
37 Liljeqvist, Torni ja temppeli, p. 127.
38 A gathering titled “Mormonien veriset askeleet,” held at the end of 1985. Audio recording and partial transcript in my possession. For the book chapter, see “Mormonit” in Paavo Hiltunen and Leo Meller, Eksytt‰j‰t (Helsinki: Kuva ja sana, 1992).
39 Hannu Nyman, Toisenlainen evankeliumi: N‰kˆkulmia Jehovan todistajien ja mormonien opetukseen (Helsinki: Karas-Sana, 1988).
40 See http://www.mormonismi.net. Uskontojen uhrien tuki ry also has a webpage on the Mormons, see http://www.uut.fi/mormon.html.
41 The following brief notices appeared in the nationwide Helsingin Sanomat: “Mormonit rakentavat kirkon Espooseen,” May 23, 2001, “Mormonit rakentavat kirkon Espooseen,” January 30, 2002, and “Espoon mormonien kirkko tulee Karakallioon,” November 14, 2002.
42 Minutes of the Espoo city planning board, September 11, 2002. Minutes of Espoo city council, November 11, 2002.
43 Juha-Pekka Tikka, “Vainajia kastetaan pian t‰‰ll‰,” Ilta-Sanomat, April 17, 2004.
44 Juha-Pekka Tikka, “Haudan h‰p‰isemist‰ ja vainajiin kajoamista,” Ilta-Sanomat, April 21, 2004.
45 “Vainajakaste,” Satakunnan Kansa, April 23, 2004.
46 Maija Dahlgren, “Kastettavana vastoin tahtoaan,” Metro, April 29, 2004.
47 Stig Kankkonen, “Sl‰ktforskaren fick en chock: Mormonkyrkan hade dˆpt och vigt dˆda anhˆriga,” Kyrkpressen 24/2005 (June 16, 2005).
48 Stig Kankkonen, “Var inte fˆr blÂˆgda med sekter: Terttu Forsell varnar fˆr slutna religiˆsa samfund,” Kyrkpressen 29-30/2005 (July 21, 2005). For the discussion in the letters section, see issues 27, 29-30, 32, 34, 36, 38, 40, and 41.
49 Douglas E. Cowan, Bearing False Witness? An Introduction to the Christian Countercult (Westport: Praeger, 2003), p. 141.
50 Douglas E. Cowan, “Contested Spaces: Movement, Countermovement, and E-Space Propaganda,” in Lorne L. Dawson and Douglas E. Cowan, eds., Religion Online: Finding Faith on the Internet (New York: Routledge, 2004), p. 268.
51 Cowan, Bearing False Witness?, p. 129.