History of the Church in Italy

David R. Crockett

During October 1849 General Conference, it was "moved and carried" that "Lorenzo Snow and Joseph Toronto go on a mission to Italy." Elder Lorenzo Snow had recently been called as a member of the Twelve. Joseph Toronto was a native of Sicily, a natural choice to introduce the gospel for the first time to Italy. In less than two weeks, Elder Snow made the necessary arrangements and bid good-bye to his family. On October 19, 1849, a company of missionaries left the Salt Lake Valley, heading east for their various missions. Shadrach Roundy was appointed captain of the company crossing the plains.

Elder Snow wrote:

In solemn silence, I left what, next to God, was dearest to my heart  my friends, my loving wife, and little children. As I pursued my journey, in company with my brethren, many conflicting feelings occupied my bosom  the gardens and fields around our beloved city were exchanged for the vast wilderness which lay spread out before us for a thousand miles . . . but we knew that the work in which we were engaged was to carry light to those who sat in darkness, and in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and our bosoms glowed with love and out tears were wiped away. (Lorenzo Snow, The Italian Mission).
When the missionaries arrived in Kanesville, Iowa, the Saints greeted them with shouts and fired cannons in celebration. As the elders traveled on, they felt deep sadness when they visited Nauvoo and Carthage, Illinois. (Eliza R. Snow, Biography of Lorenzo Snow, 112-13)

On March 25, 1850, Elder Lorenzo Snow sailed on the ship "Shannon" and arrived in Liverpool, England on April 19. While laboring in England, Elder Snow felt impressed to call Thomas B. H. Stenhouse to accompany himself and Joseph Toronto to Italy. Elder Stenhouse accepted the call and left behind his wife and friends in England. Elder Snow watched this parting moment and thought, "Did the people of Italy but know the heart-rending sacrifices we have made for their sakes, they could have no heart to persecute."

On June 15, 1850 the elders departed for Italy. They traveled through Paris, and the south of France. They sailed on the waters of the Mediterranean and on June 25, 1850, the three elders arrived at their destination, Genoa, Italy. They saw the influence of Catholicism throughout the city and realized that the work would be challenging. Five days later, Elder Snow assigned Elders Toronto and Stenhouse to labor in Piedmont Valley, at the foot of the Alps. In this region was a Protestant community of about 21,000 people known as the Waldenses, or Waldensians. These people spoke French with a mixture of Italian.

Elder Lorenzo Snow remained in Genoa. The work quickly became discouraging. He wrote:

I am alone and a stranger in this vast city, eight thousand miles from my beloved family, surrounded by a people whose manners and peculiarities I am unacquainted. I am come to enlighten their minds, and instruct them in principles of righteousness; but I see no possible means of accomplishment this object. All is darkness in the prospect.
Elder Snow did meet a man from England who he had met before, who was very interested in Elder Snow's labors. But after learning that Elder Snow was a Mormon who believed that baptism was essential for salvation, the man became reluctant to hear any more.

Again somewhat discouraged, Elder Snow wrote: "I am now in a Roman Catholic country. Its inhabitants are before my eyes continually. My heart is pained to see their follies and wickedness--their gross darkness and superstition." Elder Snow soon received a letter from Elders Toronto and Stenhouse in Piedmont Valley. The elders were already experiencing some success! Elder Snow decided to join them. "I believe that the Lord has there hidden up a people amid the Alpine mountains, and it is the voice of the Spirit that I shall commence something of importance in that part of this dark nation." (Eliza R. Snow, Biography of Lorenzo Snow, 120-21)

Elder Lorenzo Snow arrived in Piedmont Valley on July 23, 1850. The beauty of the valley was striking and reminded Elder Snow of the Salt Lake Valley. Elder Joseph Toronto asked Elder Snow if he could visit his relatives in Sicily. Elder Snow approved of this idea and Elder Toronto departed the valley in early August.

For missionary work to progress among the Waldensians, Church literature written in French was needed. Elder Snow wrote a work he entitled "La Voix de Joseph" (The Voice of Joseph) which contained the Joseph Smith story and accounts of persecution against the Saints. Elder Snow was unable to find a person to translate the tract into French, so he sent it to Elder Orson Pratt in England. Elder Pratt had the work translated by a professor from the University of Paris.

During September, 1850, Elders Lorenzo Snow and Thomas Stenhouse prepared to take the gospel openly to the Waldensian people living in the Piedmont Valley of Italy.

It is believed that this Protestant community was founded by Christian missionaries as early as the first century. It later became a refuge for those who were opposed to changes in the Christian Church. In 1655, the Piedmont governor ordered all Waldensian families in the valley to convert to Catholicism or move from their homes within three days. Sadly a massacre ensued. About thirty years later they again fled from their homes, this time leaving the valley deserted for three years. Finally, in 1848 King Carlo Alberto of Sardina, granted these people complete freedom of religion, which prepared the way for the Mormon elders who arrived in the valley two years later. (Whence & Whither Origins and Descendants of Michael and Marianne Beus).

See page on Piedmont: http://www.initaly.com/regions/piedmont/intro.htm

The elders boarded with the Grey family. On the morning of September 6, 1850, they learned that little three-year-old Joseph Grey was critically ill. Elder Snow related:

I went to see him in the afternoon, death was making havock of his body  his former healthy frame was now reduced to a skeleton, and it was only by close observation we could discern he was alive. As I reflected on our situation, and beheld this effort of the Prince of Darkness, to raise a barrier against us, and the establishment of the Gospel, my mind was fully awakened to a sense of our position. For some hours before I retired to rest, I called upon the Lord to assist us at this time. (Biography of Lorenzo Snow, 128).
On the following morning, Elders Snow and Stenhouse fasted and went to the mountains to pray. As they left the house, they saw Mrs Grey sobbing and Mr Grey saying, "He dies, he dies." In the mountains the two elders called upon the Lord in solemn prayer, requesting Him to spare the life of the child. Elder Woodruff understood that this matter was very important as they prepared to proclaim to these people that the Gospel, including gifts of the Spirit, had been restored to the earth.

The elders returned that afternoon, annointed the child with consecrated oil, and blessed him to be restored to health. A few hours later Mr. Grey visited the elders and told them that his son was much better. That night the parents were able to rest for the first time in many days. On the following day when the elders came to visit the little boy, Mrs. Grey rejoiced that his health had been restored. Elder Snow testified that he had been healed by the God of heaven.

Elder Snow realized that more help was needed in order to begin proselyting. He wrote to England requesting that Elder Jabez Woodard be sent to help with the work in Italy. He arrived on September 18. On the following day, September 19, 1850, Elder Lorenzo Snow proposed that they begin formal missionary work for the first time in Italy and that the Church be organized.

The three elders climbed a high mountain near La Tour. On a "bold projecting rock" they sang praises to the Lord and offered a prayer. Their petition to the Lord included: "From the lifting up of this Ensign, may a voice go forth among the people of these mountains and valleys, and throughout the length and breadth of this land; and may it go forth, and be unto thine elect as the Voice of the Lord, that the Holy Spirit may fall upon them, imparting knowledge in dreams and visions concerning this hour of their redemption."

The elders formally organized the Church in Italy with Lorenzo Snow as the president. The brethren sang, prayed and prophesied regarding the work in Italy. Elder Snow laid hands on Elders Stenhouse and Woodard, blessing them with comfort and power.

As they were about to descend from the mountain, Elder Snow proposed the mountain would be known to the Saints as "Mount Brigham" and the rock on which the stood would be called "Rock of Prophecy."

The elders started to attend small Protestant worship meetings held in homes. At times they were allowed to share some of their beliefs. This started to create a stir among the ministers. The elders were asked to attend a public meeting at which they were confronted by many ministers interested in stopping their efforts. The elders answered questions and preached for three hours. After the meeting one man, Jean Antoine Box, believed that the elders were servants of God. On October 27, 1850, he was the first person baptized in Italy.

Elder Lorenzo Snow shared his feelings about this historic and sacred occasion: "It was with no small degree of satisfaction I went down to the river side to attend to this ordinance. . . .I rejoiced that the Lord had thus far blessed our efforts and enabled us to open the door of the Kingdom in . . . Italy. My brethren stood on the river bank -- the only human witnesses of this interesting scene. Having long desired this eventful time, sweet to us all were the soft sounds of the Italian as I administered and opened a door which no man can shut." (Biography of Lorenzo Snow, 134-35).

During the latter part of the year 1850, Elder Lorenzo Snow and his companions continued their missionary labors among the good people of the Piedmont Valley in Italy. Elder Snow wrote to Franklin Richards:

Think not, dear Franklin, that we are amid the marble palaces, nor surrounded by the choice productions of art which adorn many portions of this wondrous land. Here, a man must preach from house to house, and from hovel to hovel. Here, many a dwelling has no glass in the windows; and from the scarcity of fuel, there is often no fire upon the hearth; and during the long winter evening, the family are huddled together in the stable, among the cattle, for the sake of a little warmth which they cannot find elsewhere. (Lorenzo Snow, The Italian Mission.)
The elders had been treated with respect by the local clergy, but none of them had any serious interests in the restored gospel. On a Sunday during November, one of the ministers warned his congregation to not consider leaving the church for which their fathers had died. Elder Snow mentioned in his letter: "What would have been his feelings if he had known that, in a few hours afterwards, I baptized one of his flock who had been listening to his admonition."

Despite their challenges, Elder Snow remained confident that the work would progress in Italy. "The time has now arrived when the Gospel must be sounded through the Earth, and Italy will hear its announcement! . . . The work here is slow and tedious. The spiritual atmosphere around us is like the Egyptian darkness which might be felt. Nevertheless, the Church has been established. The tree has been planted and is spreading its roots." (Ibid.)

Elder Lorenzo Snow decided to send Elder Thomas Stenhouse to labor in Switzerland. Elder Snow planned to visit England, to start making arrangements for the Book of Mormon to be translated into Italian. He decided to appoint Elder Jabez Woodward to lead the Church in Italy. On November 25, 1850, the three elders again climbed "Mount Brigham." This time their journey was hampered by snow. They finally reached the "Rock of Prophecy" and gazed over the valley.

Ancient and far-famed Italy, the scene of our mission, was spread out like a vision before our enchanted eyes. Light and shade produced their effect in that vast picture to a surprising degree; for while the clouds flung their shadows on one part, another was illuminated with the most brilliant sunlight, as far as the eye could reach. But there was one hallowing reflection which threw all around a brighter lustre than the noon-tide firmament: it was in that place, two months before, that we organized the Church of Jesus Christ in Italy. If we had stood upon a pavement of gold and diamonds, it would not have produced an impression like the imperishable remembrance of that sacred scene. (Ibid.)
The elders sang praises to the Lord and then Elder Snow ordained Elder Woodard as a High Priest and set him apart to lead the Church in Italy. Elder Stenhouse was likewise ordained and set apart to take the gospel to Switzerland. The elders returned to the valley and a few days later Elder Stenhouse departed.

Prior to leaving Italy, Elder Snow was finally able to find someone to publish his pamphlet, "The Voice of Joseph." It was a unique Mormon tract in that on the first page it displayed a woodcut of a Catholic nun, anchor, lamp, and cross. On the last page was a picture of Noah's ark, a dove, and an olive. This new work, written in French, told the story of the restoration. The elders immediately started to circulate it throughout the community. Another tract was published named, "The Ancient Gospel Restored."

In January 1851, Elder Snow left Italy in the capable hands of Elder Jabez Woodard. The work continued to progress. John Malan became interested in the gospel and allowed Elder Woodard to hold meetings in his home. At one meeting, as many as twenty-five people were in attendance. Soon the Malan family accepted the gospel and were baptized.

On February 24, 1851 two young men were baptized in the Angrogna River. During the service the clouds parted and "Mount Brigham" was in view from top to bottom. Elder Woodard exclaimed, "The veil over Italy has burst!" On the following day ten more people were baptized into the Church.

In May 1851, Elder Woodard reported that the Church in Italy consisted of twenty-one members. He had ordained several brethren to the priesthood and they were called to assist in the missionary effort. He called John D. Malan to be the president of the Angrogna Branch. Families who came into the Church about this time included: Beus, Cardon, Chatelain, and Goudin.

In the summer, Elder Joseph Toronto returned from Sicily after an unsuccessful missionary effort among his relatives. He joined with Elder Woodard in the Piedmont Valley. An anti-Mormon tract started to be circulated, but it had little impact on the work. In England, Elder Snow made good progress in his effort to publish an Italian translation of The Book of Mormon.

In February, 1852, Elder Lorenzo Snow crossed over the Alps and returned to Italy. He greeted Elders Woodard and Toronto in Turin. On the following day they met with the Saints of the Angrogna Branch. Elder Snow was very impressed with the members who had come into the Church since he left Italy. They had strong testimonies and had been blessed with dreams, visions, and healings. He marveled at the missionary success experienced in the valley despite restrictions on preaching in public. Elder Snow reflected:

The Waldenses were the first to receive the Gospel, but by the press and exertions of the Elders, it will be rolled forth beyond their mountain regions. At this season they are surrounded with now from three to six feet deep, and in many instances all communication is cut off between the villages. Our labors in such countries will be eminently blessed when we can have persons in the Priesthood who are not under the same disadvantages and liabilities as foreign Elders, and such are rising here. (Biography of Lorenzo Snow, 209)
Elder Snow decided to send Elder Jabez Woodard to Nice and leave the Saints in Piedmont Valley under the capable leadership of one of their own, John D. Malan. Brother Malan had only been a member of the Church for one year. Elder Snow made plans to take the gospel to Malta and decided to have Elder Woodard accompany him. They arrived in March, 1852. Elder Woodard returned to Piedmont Valley in July. The branch was still thriving.

After being away for three years, Elder Lorenzo Snow returned home to Salt Lake City, arriving on July 30, 1852. It was a bitter-sweet homecoming because one of his wives, Charlotte Merrill Snow, had died while he was away. She had died on September 25, 1850. [When Elder Snow's sister, Eliza R. Snow, compiled his biography many years later in 1884, she wrote that she believed Charlotte died on the very same day that Lorenzo Snow was on "Mount Brigham" dedicating Italy for the preaching of the gospel. However, it appears that Elder Snow ascended that mountain six days earlier, on September 19th. Others have claimed that she died on the same day that Elder Snow healed the child, but this was not the case. The child was blessed on September 7th.]

Three branches of the Church existed in the Piedmont Valley, Angrogna, St. Germain, and St. Bartholomew. The Book of Mormon became available in Italian, but only 192 copies of the 1000 printings were bound in 1852. The remainder of the copies would not be bound until many years later. (Michael W. Homer; BYU Studies Vol. 31, No. 2, pg.85)

In 1852 the Church leaders officially announced to the world that the Church practiced polygamy. Critics arose against the Church in Italy. Stephen Malan, son of John D. Malan wrote that one of the Waldensian ministers "announced to the people that [the Latter-day Saint missionaries] were a set of liars, that [they] were wolves in sheep's clothing, that [they] were hired by Brigham Young, to convert them as a bait to bring them to western deserts of America and, the recruits would be slaves, and your young women taken possession by that infamous polygamist and his associates to satiate their lust and debauchery." Nevertheless, such attacks did not seem to slow the work and more people desired to learn about their teachings. (Ibid.)

More missionaries were sent to help. In December, 1852, George D. Keaton and Thomas Margetts were sent from England. George W. Burridge joined them in 1853. The First Presidency's 1853 Epistle to the Church reported, "Elder Woodard has been banished from Italy, for teaching the truth, and passed over into Switzerland, according to the command of the Saviour to his disciples sent forth to preach his Gospel - When they persecute you in one place, flee to another."

In January, 1854, Elder Thomas Stenhouse, who had been presiding over the Swiss Mission, was appointed to take charge of the work in Italy. The two missions were combined into the Swiss and Italian Mission. Elders Margetts and Keaton continued their labors in Italy under the direction of President Stenhouse.

On Feb. 22, 1854, a company of fifty-eight Saints from Switzerland and Italy left Geneva for Utah. They traveled via Paris to Liverpool, England, accompanied by President Stenhouse. They then sailed to New Orleans on the ship "John M. Wood" under the direction of Robert L. Campbell.

On May 8, 1854, a new branch of the Church was organized in Piedmont, with nineteen members. Persecution was raging in the area.

At a special Priesthood meeting held in Geneva on October 1, 1854, Daniel Tyler was sustained as successor to President Stenhouse as the president of the Swiss and Italian Mission. At that time there was a total membership in the mission of 292.

In September, 1854, Samuel Francis was appointed by President Tyler to preside over the Saints in Italy. A year later, in September, 1855 Franklin D. Richards, president of the European Mission visited Italy. Daniel Tyler recorded:

President Richards now decided to visit Italy, where there were a few Saints in the Waldensian valleys under the presidency of Elder Samuel Francis. These Saints were very poor, and the most of them lived very hard. Some of them having to subsist five months in the year on roasted chestnuts, and, perhaps, a little sheep's or goat's milk, without any other food, having to winter in stables in order to receive warmth from the animals in the absence of fuel. Brother Richards was accompanied by Elders William H. Kimball, John L. Smith, John Chislett, and myself.

About the time of our arrival one of the native brethren had by mistake eaten poison mushrooms, taking them for the variety often used as food in that country. He reeled as he walked to a chair, or stool, to receive the ordinance of laying on of hands. President Richards rebuked the poison, and he recovered. Shortly afterwards an outsider collected some of the same variety, which were cooked, and the man with his wife and children, died through eating them. (Daniel Tyler, auto in Classic Experiences, Pg. 45)

Many of the Italian Saints continued to emigrate to Utah. In November 1855, Elder Samuel Francis accompanied a small company of Saints as far as England. The Beus family, Sussana Goudin, and Peter Stalle were among this company. The group traveled by carriage, by railway, by sleds drawn by mules, and by foot to France. They then traveled by steamer to London. While in London, little Samuel Beus died. The company continued their journey by rail to Liverpool. On December 12, 1855, they sailed on the ship "John J. Boyd" bound for New York City. The Italian Saints became part of the Edmund Ellsworth handcart company which arrived in Salt Lake on September 26, 1856. Peter Stalle died on the trail. These Saints settled with other Italian Saints in the Ogden area. (Our Pioneer Heritage, 2:312, 14:298-99)

In 1856, there were three branches of the Church in Italy with a membership of sixty-four. During the previous three years about fifty members of the Church in Italy had emigrated to America. (Andrew Jenson, Encyclopedic History of the Church, p.369.)

In September 1857 Jabez Woodard was called to return to continental Europe. He succeeded John L. Smith as president of the Swiss and Italian Mission. In January, 1861, the name of mission was changed to Swiss, Italian and German Mission. During these years only a few more converts came into the Church. In May, 1861, John L. Smith again took over the leadership of the mission. Several Italian Saints went to America with Jabez Woodward. When he left there was only one branch (St. Germain) in Italy with eighteen members. In 1862 formal proselyting work ended in Italy.

In 1863, Brigham Young Jr. concluded his service as the president of the European Mission. Prior to returning home, he visited Italy. He wrote a letter home to his father which included this observation of Bologna:

I did not like this place at all. They show their vices a little too plain. As soon as we had arrived and fairly got the dust of from us, several ladies dressed in white presented themselves for us to pick from. They waited long and patiently but were disappointed at last. Such things as these make me disgusted with society as it exists at the present time, and long more earnestly for the society of virtuous men and women, which are only to be found as a community in my own loved home. (Letters of Brigham Young to his sons, p. 47)
In 1867 the Italian Mission was closed. The mission name was renamed to the Swiss and German Mission. During its seventeen-year history, about two hundred people were baptized in Italy.

In February-March, 1873, a company from Utah visited the Holy Land. On their way they visited Italy. This group included Elders Lorenzo Snow, George A. Smith, Sister Eliza R. Snow, and others.

In 1875, Joseph Toronto again went on a mission among his relatives in Sicily. He labored for two years and found success. On his return, he brought back, at his own expense, fourteen relatives and friends. (Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 19, p.470)

In 1882, John Henry Smith served as president of the European Mission. When he returned in 1885, he reported his attempt to reopen Italy for missionary work:

I went to Italy in the hope that I might see some chance of making an opening in that country. I came very near having two of the Elders starved by staying there. I was determined, however, to try and introduce the Gospel. There are some sections of the country that are Protestant, and I trust there may be a time come when the Gospel will spread among that people. But I regard Italy as in such a condition that there are but few chances at the present time for any opening to be made. The Italians are bound up in the religious faith that they have been reared in, or they are infidel almost entirely. I noticed in my attendance at the churches, that they are usually well filled with priests and beggars, and that few, comparatively speaking, of the well-to-do classes, or the middle classes, were paying any attention whatever to religious observance. (Journal of Discourses, 26:177, April 6th, 1885).
During the latter part of the 19th century, some of the original Waldensian members returned to their Italian home to do missionary work among their relatives and friends. Jacob Rivoire and his wife, Catherine Jouve were in Piedmont from 1879-1880. James Bertoch and Jules Grague spent a portion of their German-Swiss Mission in Piedmont between 1891 and 1893. Daniel Richards and Paul Cardon went among the Waldensians in 1900. Elder Cardon was successful in gathering many genealogy records. (Michael W. Homer; BYU Studies Vol. 31, No. 2, pg.89)

In 1903 Sylvester Q. Cannon reported in April General Conference that he had recently visited Italy with President Francis M. Lyman of the Twelve. He said the people of Italy "are a fine people, a people of intelligence, a people of hospitality and kindness in every respect, and a people many of whom, I believe, will accept the Gospel in the future. There are no missionaries in that field at the present time." In 1905 Hugh Cannon, who had recently returned from Europe expressed his optimism that missionaries would soon be sent again to Italy. But the mission remained closed. Any members who remained in Italy had little or no contact with Church leaders.

During the early part of the century, a few Church leaders visited Italy but apparently did not come in contact with any members of the Church there. In 1906 Elder Heber J. Grant, who later became president of the Church, visited Italy for thirty days. He said: "I thoroughly enjoyed myself and saw many things to make me truly grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ." Andrew Jenson, Assistant Church Historian, visited Rome during his European tour in 1912. During the World War I years, members of the Church serving in the military were in Italy for a time.

In 1926 Elder Melvin J. Ballard expressed a hope that the gospel would someday again be taken to Italy.

I do not feel we are justified in the opportunity we have given to either Spain or Italy or France or China or to other nations to hear the gospel; so I am looking forward for the time to come in the very near future when those lands shall be fully given the opportunity. Not many of them may come into the fold, and yet I believe that there is some of the blood of Israel in Spain and in Italy, and that the people are entitled to the opportunity of hearing the gospel before the day of judgment shall come. I bear witness to you that the Lord is already beginning the work for the redemption of the house of Israel. (General Conference, October 1926.)
In 1927 and 1930 the Church bound the remaining eight hundred Italian copies of the Book of Mormon which were originally printed in 1852. (Michael W. Homer; BYU Studies Vol. 31, No. 2, pg.86.)

The conversion of Vincenzo di Francesca was a notable occurrence. His conversion story was later the subject of the 1988 Church film, "How Rare a Possession." About 1910, in New York City, he found a book without a title page in a trash heap. The book was a copy of the Book of Mormon. He took the book home and began to read it. He later wrote:

I felt as though I was receiving fresh revelation and much new light and knowledge, I was also charmed to think of the source by which I had obtained the book. . . . The next day I locked my door and knelt with the book in my hands. First, I reviewed the 10th chapter of Moroni, and then I prayed to know if the book were of God. . . . While I was in that pose, awaiting a positive answer, I first felt my body become cold and my heart palpitate as if it would speak, and then I felt a gladness as if I had found something of extraordinary preciousness. It left in my memory sweet consolation and supreme joy that human language finds no words to describe. (Hartman and Connie Rector, No More Strangers, Vol 1 p. 85)
Vincenzo di Francesca, a Protestant minister, gained a strong testimony of this book of scripture. He taught its teachings to his congregation. His ecclesiastical leaders insisted that he burn the book. He would not, so they stripped him of his position as a pastor of the church.

In 1914, he was called home to Italy, to serve in the Italian army. Many years later, in May, 1930, he noticed the word "Mormon" in a dictionary and soon figured out the source of his precious book. He wrote to the "University of Provo" and his letter was passed on to President Heber J. Grant. President Grant sent Vincenzo a copy of the Book of Mormon in Italian and also wrote to John A. Widtsoe, president of the European Mission.

On June 5, 1932, Elder Widtsoe of the Twelve traveled to Naples hoping to baptize Vincenzo but hostilities in the country prevented Vincenzo from making the trip to Naples. Later he was again drafted into the army. In 1937, Hugh B. Brown traveled to Rome, hoping to perform the long-awaited ordinance, but they were not able to connect because of the outbreak of World War II. In 1949 Vincenzo again corresponded with Elder John A. Widtsoe and finally, on January 18, 1951, Vincenzo was baptized by President Samuel Bringhurst of the Swiss-Austrian Mission, in Sicily.

Brother Francesca wrote:

You can see that I have toiled hard to find the salvation in the kingdom of God which was spoken of in the remainder of the pages of the book without title page or cover. I pray earnestly that my story will be copied into the historical record of the Italian District so that future converts can learn clearly that man does not live by bread alone but lives also by the word of God. To all the saints in Zion I clasp hands across the ocean in true brotherhood." (Hartman and Connie Rector, No More Strangers, Vol 1 p. 89. See also "I Will Not Burn The Book," Ensign, January 1988.)

In 1937 Spencer W. Kimball and his wife Camilla, visited Italy during a European trip. Brother Kimball had recently been released as stake president after twelve years of service. The Kimballs travelled to Europe to participate in an international Rotary convention in France. Afterward, they visited Italy, and witnessed Mt. Vesuvius during an eruption. "Here we saw a high, conically-shaped mountain, and at night for nearly a hundred miles we could see the display of fireworks in the heavens. . . . We climbed this mountain with its cinders and lava, and when we came into the great crater at the top, we were amazed to find that a few inches beneath our feet was molten lava, still flaming." (General Conference, April, 1948).

The Kimballs also toured Genoa, Pisa, Rome, and Florence. They took a gondola ride in Venice. Brother Kimball wrote: "How romantic to sit cozily in a comfortable upholstered seat under a canopy with someone you love and glide smoothly through the water, down little side canals, under bridges, hearing voices from the houses as you pass along." (Spencer W. Kimball, p. 114)

In 1939 Elder Joseph Fielding Smith and his wife Jessie toured the missions of Europe. They visited Italy and found some expatriate members there, but no Church organization. While in Florence, Italy, on July 4, 1939, they woke to the sound of the "jackboots of Mussolini's Brownshirts" as they marched beneath their hotel window. Tensions grew in Europe and in August the missionaries were pulled out of Germany as war was about to break out. Elder Smith helped with the removal and finally returned to the United States in November. (Dynamic Disciples, p. 229)

During World War II, many LDS servicemen fought in Italy. Franklin L. West reported in April 1945 General Conference: "I was proud to get a picture of four of our seminary men, all chaplains who met together in Italy, in a similar undertaking. And many of these boys were not drafted, they volunteered, knowing the great hazards of the work they were about to perform."

After the end of the war, French Mission President, James L. Barker sent missionaries into Italy in an attempt to locate members of the Church. LDSWorld-Gems subscriber Phares Horman was among these missionaries. Brother Horman recalled: "It was against the law to proselyte in Italy. A few members were known to be in Italy having survived World War II as they had written our mission. Paramount in the letters received were requests to send Book of Mormons and visit them to give them updates of the church and fortify them with the spirit of the gospel." A few members were located but traveling through war-torn Italy was very difficult for the young elders who spoke very little Italian.

In September 1947, the Church received permission to microfilm parish records in Piedmont Valley. This was joyous news to the Saints who had ancestors join the Church in Italy nearly one hundred years earlier. Archibald F. Bennett traveled to the valley by car with President and Sister Barker and James M. Black, the film editor. During their three-week stay, they were able to film more than eighty thousand pages of records. The pastors of the various churches were very helpful. Brother Bennett reported: Everywhere in these valleys we found worthy people living moral lives, who were sincere lovers of the Bible truth. . . . Their homes are simple; their living is frugal; their lives are humble and filled with sincere devotion to their ideals. . . . All of us have been highly impressed with the gracious courtesy and sincere friendliness of all the pastors and their families. Everywhere they were eager to help us in our objective. In no case did they evince the slightest hesitation or objection. Before leaving, Brothers Bennett and Black climbed Mount Brigham (Vandalino) and stood on the "Rock of Prophecy." "For here [Lorenzo Snow] had stood and dedicated the land of Italy for the preaching of the gospel. Vaudois families had been brought into the Church. In our hearts, as we stood there, was the prayer that the prophecies uttered on that hallowed occasion would soon come to fulfilment." (Improvement Era, December, 1948)

In 1951 President David O. McKay said: "I sincerely pray for the blessings of the Lord on the world, that peace may be restored (we now have war) and that no further wars will break out, that the Gospel may be carried to the rest of the world and in particular to Spain, to Italy, to Greece, to the Mediterranean countries, countries that were once the only ones where missionaries worked in the propagation of the Gospel and wherein were the early centers of the Christian Church." (General Conference, October, 1951.)

United States LDS serviceman stationed in Italy after World War II, helped to again establish the Church in Italy. During the early 1960s these servicemen and their families organized into branches and groups under the direction of the Swiss Mission. The first branch was organized in Naples on April 28, 1963. The Vicenza Branch soon followed on May 3, 1964. These two branches and other groups were organized into the Italian District on November 22, 1964. Leavitt Christensen was the district president. During this time these members were able to bring a few converts into the Church. In the early 1960s the Church began retranslating the Book of Mormon into Italian. The Italian Book of Mormon was available in 1964.

In 1964, missionaries serving in the South German Mission (Stuttgart), Bavarian Mission (Munich), and Swiss Mission were asked to work with Italian "Gastarbeiter" (guest workers) in the various countries. Gems subscriber, Jon Wright explained:

At the time, the German "Wirtschaftswunder" (economic miracle) was underway, as Germany rebuilt from the war. This rebuilding created more jobs than the war-decimated work force could provide, so temporary workers were imported from Italy, Turkey and other countries. Our mission president, Blythe M. Gardner, saw a great opportunity among the tens of thousands of Italian men working in Germany.
These missionaries learned both the Italian and German languages (without any MTC). One of these elders was Marcellus Snow, a descendant of Lorenzo Snow. Elder Snow was particularly gifted in languages and was called to lead the Italian district in the South German Mission. Elder Snow translated pamphlets and other materials into the Italian language. The district experienced good success and many Italian converts were found.
Unfortunately, the majority of the investigators and converts were males, who were working for better wages in the respective country without their families. This made it difficult for family teaching. Often these converts would become inactive when returning to Italy because of family pressure, Catholic pressures, and the lack of established LDS church buildings there. Because of this, the Italian missions in German speaking areas were closed in the year 1965. (From Kent Hauck, khauck@sisna.com).
But this core of Italian "Gastarbeiter" converts formed a membership base in Italy which made it possible for the Church to again be established in the country. Elder Ezra Taft Benson help to lay ground work for the mission to be reopened in Italy. The Minister of Italian Agriculture arranged for him to meet with the four senior officials in the Italian Department of Church Affairs. (Dew, Sheri, Ezra Taft Benson, 377).

On February 27, 1965 the Swiss Mission organized the "Italian Zone." There were about 230 members in Italy, mostly U.S. service personnel. The Church had been given legal status in Italy so missionary work could resume. Many of these fulltime missionaries who had been learning Italian were sent to Turin, Milan, Bescia, Verona, Vicenza, Pordenone, and other cities. The first Italian convert was said to be Leopoldo Larcher. (Searle, Don L. "Buon Giorno!" Ensign, July 1989 and Church Almanac).

During July-August, 1966 Elder Ezra Taft Benson created the Italian Mission with John Duns Jr. as President. The mission headquarters was established in Firenze (Florence). During his visit to Italy Elder Benson met with the U.S. Ambassador and the Italian Minister of Religon in Rome. Sister Wanda Duns recalled: "Much to the surprise of our group President Benson was greeted with open arms. It was evident he had the love and respect of both men and a friendly exchange took place, as well as assurance that our missionaries would be welcome to proselyte in Italy." (Dew, Sheri, Ezra Taft Benson, 377).

On 10 November 1966, on "Mount Brigham," Elder Ezra Taft Benson of the Twelve rededicated Italy for the preaching of the gospel. He prophesied that thousands of Italians would be brought into the Church. One of the missionaries who witnessed this event was LDSWorld-Gems subscriber, Kent Hauck . Kent recalled:

In the year 1966, President Benson met with all the Italian missionaries in the city of Torino. We boarded a bus and rode into the area where the Waldenses were known to live. President Benson looked at a secluded hillside and declared words to the effect that "this was the right place." We all climbed the hillside, knelt in prayer and the Italian Mission was rededicated to the preaching of the gospel, under the prayer and vision of President Benson. It was a wonderful moment.
Sister Wanda Dunns, wife of mission president John Duns, added:
As we traveled [Elder] Benson sat with his lap full of papers, scanning the territory and reading from a historical description of the first dedication. He was anxious to rededicate in as close a proximity to where [Lorenzo] Snow had stood. . . . Suddenly [Elder] Benson said, 'Stop here!' He got out of the car, pointed his finger up the mountain, and said, 'I think we'll climb right here.' About three-fourths of the distance to the top, [Elder] Benson stopped and waited for the rest of us to catch up. Then he announced, 'This is it, this is the spot!' (Dew, Sheri, Ezra Taft Benson, 390-91).
In 1966 there were two Italian branches and seven serviceman/Italian branches with 66 members. On November 18, 1966, Don Vincenzo Di Francesca died at Gesta Gratten (Palermo), Italy.

During early November, 1966, the "Great Firenze Flood" struck Florence, Italy. See pictures at: http://www.catpress.com/flood/index.htm Many of the local missionaries were stranded in their apartments for three days as the river Arno flooded the city.

In January 1967 the first primary was organized in Palermo with nine children. On March 27, 1967, the Catania Branch was established with Luigi Brucchieri as the first branch president. President Brucchieri had joined the Church in Germany, later moved back to Italy, and requested that missionaries be sent to Catania. ("Catania Italy Saints: Profiles of Faith," Ensign, July 1994).

During 1967 the Church established and Italian international magazine called "La Stella." This magazine reported that at the end of 1967 there were 149 missionaries serving in twenty-one cities. By May 1968 there were 260 Italian members of the Church. During April, Elder Ezra Taft again visited Italy and met with missionaries and members. By the end of the year there were five hundred members. (Italy Milan Mission History, alumni home page)

About 1968, Giuseppe Pasta, a young college student, felt there must be more to the gospel than he found in the Catholic Church. He went to work in a charity hospital and found "the pure love of Christ." One day he met two missionaries outside the hospital manning a street display. He began to study with the missionaries and after a long period joined the Church. When his family learned about his conversion they were devastated.

Friends presented him a petition, with hundreds of signatures, begging him to come back to the "true church." An interview was arranged for him with the cardinal of Turin, in the hope that the cleric could persuade him to change his mind. They became friends. Convinced at length that young Giuseppe was sincere in his beliefs, the cardinal counseled him to be true to them. (Searle, Don L. "Buon Giorno!" Ensign, July 1989).
Giuseppe Pasta was one of the pioneer members of the Church in Italy. He later served as president of the Italy Rome Mission.

During 1969 Hartman Rector Jr. of the Seventy served for a few months as president of the Italian Mission and then was followed by Leavitt Christensen. In 1969, the Language Training Center in Provo, Utah, was used for the first time to train missionaries in the Italian language. (Italy Milan Mission History, alumni home page)

In 1971 the Italian Mission was divided into the Italy North (later renamed to Italy Milan) and Italy South Mission (later renamed to Italy Rome). The South Mission's headquarters was in Rome. During that year Elder Howard W. Hunter assisted in negotiations for the Church to microfilm genealogical records in Italy.

On September 22, 1972, President Harold B. Lee, the president of the Church, visited Italy. He and his party, including Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, and their wives flew into Rome and arrived at their hotel late in the evening. Elder Hinckley felt very uncomfortable about the elaborate hotel suite that he had been booked into.

Early the next morning he went to the front desk to request a standard room. President Lee happened to walk by at that moment, and he asked his colleague what he was doing. 'I'm changing my room,' Elder Hinckley responded. 'The President of the Church deserves a suite, but I don't.' President Lee immediately responded, 'While you're changing your suite, change mine.' (Sheri Dew, Go Forward With Faith, 321-22).
During the morning they visited the Vatican and then spoke at a youth conference. Italian youth from the two missions gathered at a coastal resort town near Rome to hear the prophet speak. That evening the brethren spoke at a priesthood meeting while Sisters Lee and Hinckley addressed a meeting of sisters. On the following day they met with members of the Rome Branch. During the week, President Lee traveled to Florence, Pisa, and Milan, meeting with members and visiting historic places. His last meeting in Italy was at the Dow Chemical auditorium in Milan. President Lee and Elder Hinckley spoke to 140 missionaries. ("Italy Italia," Ensign, August 1973, and Gibbons, Harold B. Lee, 467).

During 1972 Church membership in Italy increased by twenty-five percent, and in 1973 there were 3,000 members. The two missions consisted of seven districts, including the islands of Sicily and Malta. The Italian missions at that time were among the fastest growing missions in Europe.

In 1973 Mario Moro felt drawn to buy an unusual book in a bookstore. It was a copy of the Book of Mormon. He carried it everywhere to read. One day two missionaries came to his office and noticed the book. They were delighted to find out that he had already read it and was starting it over. They elder taught Mario and challenged him to be baptized. For a month Mario struggled with this decision.

Then one day he closed his office door and knelt in prayer to ask what to do. The answer was strong. He went immediately to the missionaries -- he doesn't remember being aware of anything around him until he arrived -- and they baptized him in the font they had kept filled for days, awaiting his decision. As soon as he was dry, Brother Moro was off to do member-missionary work with the elders that afternoon.("How They Came into the Church," Ensign, July 1989).
Brother Moro later, in 1989, served as second counselor in the presidency of the Sardinia District, Italy Rome Mission, and was the mission leader in the Sassari Branch.

In 1973 several Italian Saints journeyed to Munich, Germany, for the area conference of the Church. It was thrilling for them to hear the First Presidency speak and to hear and meet many other Church leaders. Luigi Pittino was one of these members who made the journey to the conference. He joined the Church in 1956 after being introduced to the gospel by two Italian members who met together for Sunday School. Elder J. Thomas Fyans later shared:

For 17 years Brother Pittino had met on Sunday with one or two other Saints. They would have an opening prayer, read and discuss the scriptures, and partake of the sacrament. In these last few years they were all in their 70's and 80's. There was loneliness and a feeling of isolation. Imagine the thrill for Brother Pittino to sit with 14,000 other Saints at the Munich conference! (General Conference, October 1974).
On June 8, 1974, Piera Bellaviti, a former nun, was baptized into the Church in Milan. She had met two missionaries on a bus who later visited her convent and presented her a copy of the Book of Mormon. Her conversion story can be read at: http://www.ldsworld.com/gems/wws/display/0,2624,7653,00.html

On July 27, 1974, property for the first meetinghouse in Italy was purchased in Pisa. It would serve the Saints in such cities as Livorno, Pistoia, and Florence. The Saints began to rally around organizing projects for a building fund. (Ensign, December 1974).

During the fall, 1974, the BYU baseball team went on a four-city Italian tour that had been arranged by Bruno Gerzeli, the coach of the BYU soccer team. The baseball team was composed of students from eleven countries. The tour promoted favorable attention to both the school and the Church.

On July 1, 1975, a third mission was created in Italy -- the Italy Padova Mission. A year later, in July 1977 a fourth mission was created. The Italy Rome was split to form the Italy Catania Mission. The headquarters of this mission was located on the Mediterranean island of Sicily.

In August 1977 President Spencer W. Kimball toured seven European nations including Italy. On August 16, President Kimball met with 800 members and investigators in Milan. He spoke about the basic principles of the gospel using the Articles of Faith. He said, "We are all sons and daughters of God and the gospel is free to all men. But we must live according to the laws of Christ. We cannot change the program to suit our convenience." ("Pres. Kimball ends tour of 7 countries, Church News, September 3, 1977).

LDSWorld-Gems subscriber Richard Weeks was a missionary at this meeting. He recalled hearing the prophet say that Italy would "blossom as a rose" and that missionary work would at some future time accelerate dramatically. President Kimball also held an afternoon meeting at the mission home with the missionaries.

President Kimball next visited Padova and spoke to 1,000 people about the importance of the Book of Mormon. He counseled the members to support the laws and authorities of the country. Missionaries were not to get involved in any political discussions. "With these teachings in mind, we feel governments everywhere should open their doors to our missionaries." (Church News, September 3, 1977).

On August 18, the national television station covered an evening meeting in Rome. President Kimball said, "There are larger churches, but none are growing as fast as ours. We have some four million members, more than when Jesus was upon the earth." (Ibid.)

The last city he visited in Italy was Catania. On August 19 he held a special meeting with the missionaries. "This is a million-year mission. When you go home you work for the Lord. As soon as you get home, go visit your bishop and say, 'I'm home and ready to serve.'" (Ibid.)

By 1978 there were 7,271 members in Italy.

On August 2, 1980 a terrorist bomb exploded in a Bologna, Italy train station, killing eight people and injuring two hundred others. Three BYU students were seriously injured including Peter Bergstrom of Sweden [former missionary companion of Dave Crockett.] Twelve full-time missionaries in Bologna were assigned to help with clean up efforts and to assist the injured.

On June 7, 1981, President Ezra Taft Benson of the Twelve organized the first stake in Italy -- the Milan Italy Stake. Mario Vaira was called to serve as the first stake president. A two-story rented building was used for the new stake center.

In 1982 the Italy Padova Mission was absorbed back into the Italy Milan and Italy Rome missions, leaving three missions in Italy.

On August 31, 1982, President John Lahaderne, from San Francisco, California, president of the Italy Catania Mission died. President Gillespie, from Rome came to the mission for a week to handle arrangements and mission duties. Soon Samuel Boren, former president of the Italy Milan Mission, arrived to serve as temporary president for several months. In January 1983, President Normon Turner came to preside. "Upon his arrival in early 1983, President Turner quickly settled in and won the affection and respect of members and missionaries alike. This closed the chapter on an upsetting and unsettling time for the mission." (David Pimentel, from the Italy Catania Mission home page.)

In 1984 a conference of the Church was held in Milan, presided over by Russell M. Nelson, new member of the Twelve. A leadership meeting was held Saturday night. A general session was held the following Sunday morning in an old theater. The visiting General Authorities used translators to assist them. During Elder Nelson's address, he excused the translator and announced that he wished to address the congregation in Italian. Chris J. Frogley was Chiropractor in the town of Perugia at that time witnessed this event. He wrote:

For the next fifteen minutes Elder Nelson addressed the congregation in perfect Italian. To those of us that were Americans he spoke grammatically correct but was obviously an American speaking in good Italian. The spirit was electrifying and we knew that we were experiencing a rare experience of the gift of tongues. While speaking to the members the next Sunday in church we mentioned the choice experience of the conference. They quickly agreed expressing their delight at having experienced such a miracle but what was amazing to them was that Elder Nelson, to them, had spoken without an accent! Not only grammatically correct, but no American accent.
Milena Montrasio gained a strong testimony of the gospel while participating in the missionary discussions. Her husband also sat through the discussions but he showed no interest in religion. When Milena said that she planned to be baptized, he threatened to leave her. Milena said she would not be baptized in the Church but said, "I will live as if I were baptized, because the testimony I have received is too strong to deny." Her husband's heart was softened and he again listened to the missionary discussions. In 1985 the Montrasios were baptized. Brother Montrasio later served as bishop of the Monza Ward. Sister Montrasio has served as the Young Women president. (Searle, Don L. "How they came into the Church" Ensign, July 1989).

In 1985 the Venice Italy Stake was organized, the second stake in Italy. Claudio E. Luttmann was called as the president. By 1985 there were 12,000 members of the Church in Italy.

Doctor Mario Ottaviano of Rome, was a noted researcher in biophysical genetic engineering. He considered himself to be an atheist but was looking for a Church for his children to be associated so they would no longer be taunted by schoolmates. His methodical search occupied many months. A friend from Naples gave him some Church literature. The information instructed him to pray for answers. "No one had ever told me you should kneel down to pray, but I did it spontaneously. So then I began to search for this church. Where was the Mormon church?"

He found the address for the local LDS chapel, visited there one Sunday morning, and was introduced to the missionaries. He asked them to come teach his children but warned them that he and his wife were not interested in religion. The missionaries taught the children but Dr. Ottaviano declined invitations by the missionaries to participate. Finally he started to read the Book of Mormon. "The more I read, the more terrorized I was, because it was as though the voices of my ancestors came out of those pages." He subjected the Book of Mormon to various intellectual tests. He even read all of it in a twelve hour period. He took segments to learned scholars, not telling them about the origin of the text. They concluded that the words were of ancient origin.

On December 4, 1986, his two daughters were baptized. At that time Dr. Ottaviano met mission president Dwight B. Williams for the first time. President Williams had many long discussions with him. Dr. Ottaviano became so earnest in his investigation of the Church that he quit his job while he studied. One day President Williams told him that he had studied long enough, it was time to seek help from the Holy Ghost. Doctor Ottaviano agreed. During a missionary discussion he was frustrating a sister missionary so much that she slammed to Book of Mormon down on the table in disgust. It pained him to see her treat the Word of God that way. At that point he knew he had his answer, he knew the Book of Mormon was true. The following day he set a baptismal date with President Williams and he was baptized on March 18, 1987. His wife was baptized two months later. ("The Book Convinced Him," Ensign March 1990)

In 1988 the Church released the award winning film, "How Rare a Possession -- The Book of Mormon" which featured the conversion story of Vincenzo Di Francesca.

In 1989 the Ensign magazine featured the Saints in Italy in its July issue. It reported on a recent stake conference held in Milan in a large rented theater. The mayor of Milan visited the meeting and spoke briefly about his warm feelings toward the Italian church members. The other stake in Italy was the Venice stake, led by President Claudio E. Luttmann who had to travel nearly one hundred miles from his home to the stake center. The Ensign further reported:

Some members and leaders turn to Italy's efficient, modern trains to travel to meetings and activities, spending many hours en route. Others may go by car, but gasoline is very expensive; it can cost well over fifty-five thousand lire (more than forty U.S. dollars) to fill the tank of a medium-sized Fiat. How do they pay the cost? "Faith does, many times, what money and the pocketbook cannot," President Luttmann answers, smiling. (Searle, Don L. "Buon Giorno!" Ensign, July 1989).
During 1989 Elder Carlos E. Asay of the Seventy spoke to a gathering of 270 people at the Siracusa Branch chapel, in the Catania District. The congregation included government officials and media representatives. Elder Asay testified of Joseph Smith, the First Vision, and the Book of Mormon. Government officials expressed gratitude for the Church's positive influence in the area. Later in the year, the Relief Society leaders in the Catania District helped organize Italy's first National Poem Competition. (Ensign, May, 1989 and October 1989)

During 1990, the Italy Padova Mission was recreated from the Italy Milan and Italy Rome missions, bringing the total number of missions back to four. The new mission consisted of 3,000 members. Vincenzo Conforte was called as the mission president. He had previously served for three years as president of the Italy Catania Mission. In 1990 there were 14,000 members in Italy.

In 1991 the Church News featured a family living in the historic Piedmont Valley, where the gospel had been introduced to Italy 141 years earlier. Gianni and Bruna Berzano D'Amore and their children were the only members living in Torre Pellice. They attended the Torino Branch. Brother D'Amore said, "It is exciting to live in the area where the Church was started in Italy. We often take missionaries or visitors to Mount Brigham where President Lorenzo Snow dedicated the land. Growth has not been great, but big blessings have come to our lives." ("Family enjoys living near historic Italy site," Church News, October 5, 1991).

During early 1992 President Gordon B. Hinckley of the First Presidency, his wife Marjorie, and Elder Spencer J. Condie of the Seventy visited the Vatican. They were in Europe for a regional conference. They met with Reverand Leonard Boyle, prefect of the Vatican Library, and presented the library with a set of the five-volume Encyclopedia of Mormonism. (Ensign, May 1992).

In 1993 Mario V. Vaira was called as the president of the Swiss Temple. President Vaira had previously served as the first stake president of the Milan Italy Stake. He had also served as president of the Italy Catania Mission.

Also during that year, the Church in Italy was officially granted legal status after many years of negotiation. This act granted to the Church the right to own property and local leaders were authorized to perform marriages. Elder Spencer J Condie explained: "The neighbors and business associates of Italian members of the Church in 58 regions of the country were interviewed by the police regarding what kind of people the Italian Mormons are. The reports came back unanimously positive and this was part of the basis for the legal recognition. Our Latter-day Saints are a credit to their country and are outstanding citizens." ("Milestone reached in Italy; Church gains legal status," Church News, June 12, 1993).

Missionary work in Italy was slow but sure. During 1992 there were about 70 baptisms in the Italy Rome Mission, with about 150 missionaries. In 1993 the number increased to 99.

In December, 1993, a missionary choir performed at a Christmas Mass in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. In early December a group of elders decided to go to Vatican Square to sing Christmas carols. A "fairly reasonable" crowd gathered to listen and some nuns encouraged the group to move closer to the pope's window. The police stopped the choir and explained they needed a permit to sing on the square. That evening President Parker of the Italy Rome Mission and two elders went to the Vatican offices to obtain the necessary permit. The Vatican Music Chairman helped them select hymns. During the coming week, all the missionaries in the Rome area met together for several practices, and the following Sunday evening they went to the square.

Full-time missionary, Elder Flandro recalled, "President Parker anticipated that we would probably be singing in some small chapel in an obscure part of the Basilica, where a Sunday evening Christmas Mass was about to begin." But their expectations were greatly exceeded. "We were lined up according to the parts we would be singing and were then led into the choir box adjacent to a large organ console similar in appearance to that in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. We were the only choir for this Christmas Mass, and at prescribed times during the service, we stood and sang four different Christmas carols, all in Italian: 'Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful'; 'Hark! the Herald Angels Sing'; 'Silent Night' and Joy to the World.'" The Vatican music chairman thanked the missionaries and they presented him with a tape of the Tabernacle Choir. ("Missionary choir sings in the Vatican," Church News, January 15, 1994).

During the summer of 1994 the BYU men's basketball team, coached by Roger Reid, went on a five-game European tour. During their stay, they visited Rome, Florence and Venice. The Church News reported: "The tall Cougars were noticeable wherever they went, including a humorous incident at the Vatican. BYUs tour guide was interrupted by a fellow guide who relayed an Italian message that these tall people were blocking others' view of 'Pieta,' Michelangelo's statue portraying Mary cradling Jesus after the crucifixion." ("2 wins and many memories for BYU on European tour," Church News, September 10, 1994).

In August 1994 missionaries of the Italy Rome Mission started hosting a weekly radio program in Ascoli. The 45-minute program aired on Saturday morning and was called, "Per Saperne Di Piu" (To Know More About It). They shared basic gospel principles and information about the Book of Mormon. The first branch in Ascoli was organized in December, 1994, with eleven members.

In August, 1995, Raimondo Castellani of Milan was called as an area authority. Elder Castellani had previously served as a Regional Representative in Italy and as stake president of the Milan Italy Stake.

In 1995 there were about 16,500 members in Italy.

In 1996 the Torino District, in northwestern Italy, held an anniversary celebration to recognize thirty years of the gospel in Torino. Festivities included an inauguration ceremony, numerous cultural and recreational activities, a performance by BYU's "Lamanite Generation," and the district's semiannual conference. Leone Michelini, his wife, Almerina, and their two children were the first to be baptized in 1964. Meetings were held in the Michelini home. In 1996 the church in Torino had grown to five branches and two chapels. ("Members celebrate 30 years of gospel in Torino, Italy," Church News, November 1, 1996.)

On October 22, 1996, President Leone Flosi of the Rome Italy Mission and his wife, Jeanne, met with the President of Italy, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, in the Quirinale Palace. The meeting lasted about thirty minutes. President Flosi said: "We presented him a framed Proclamation on the Family, which he placed on his credenza, then we got involved in a gospel discussion and talked another fifteen minutes." These two men had previously been acquainted when President Flosi worked for the U.S. government as legal attache and President Scalfaro served in the cabinet of the Italian government. Shortly after becoming the mission president, President Flosi wrote a congratulatory letter to President Scalfaro on his election as president. Shortly after, the Flosis were invited to visit the grand palace. President Flosi said, "That we could meet with the president of Italy is evidence that the Church is coming out of obscurity. This meeting would not have been possible a few years ago." ("Mission president visits with Italian leader," Church News, December 7, 1996).

On March 9, 1997 the Puglia Italy Stake, the third stake in Italy was created by Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Seventy. It was created from the Puglia Italy District. Giovanni Carlo Dicarolo was called to be the stake president.

On March 14-15, 1997, Church leaders in Italy assisted with the evacuation of thirty-five missionaries from Albania because of civil unrest in that country. They were airlifted by helicopter and transported aboard a U.S. Navy ship across the Adriatic Sea to Brindisi, Italy. Elders Neil L. Andersen and F. Enzio Busche of the Seventy went to Brindisi to meet with the missionaries. Brindisi was part of the newly created Puglia Italy Stake. Elder Busche told the missionaries that they were "safe in a stake of Zion." On Monday the missionaries were taken to Rome. Some left for new mission assignments that day, while others awaited assignments elsewhere. ("'Reluctant refugees' leave Albania," Church News, March 22, 1997).

During April 1997 General Conference, Elder Raimondo Castellani, of Milan, was sustained as a member of the Third Quorum of Seventy. Also during this conference, President Monson shared an experience he had in Italy around 1977.

A visible and tender act of fellowshiping was witnessed in the ancient city of Rome. Some years ago, Sister Monson and I met with over 500 members there in a district conference. The presiding officer at that time was Leopoldo Larcher, a wonderful Italian. His brother had been working as a guest employee in the auto plants in Germany when two missionaries taught him the gospel. He went back to Italy and taught the gospel to his brother. Leopoldo accepted and sometime later became the president of the Italy Rome Mission and then the Italy Catania Mission.

During that meeting, I noticed that in the throng were many who were wearing a white carnation. I said to Leopoldo, "What is the significance of the white carnation?" He said, "Those are new members. We provide a white carnation to every member who has been baptized since our last district conference. Then all the members and the missionaries know that these people are especially to be fellowshiped."

On July 13, 1997, a very unusual sight was seen parading through the streets of Rome. Members organized a pioneer parade with horse-drawn wagons to recognize the sesquicentennial celebration. Italo Pannone, a member for less then three years said, "I have the feeling that I'm a pioneer, too. That feeling has had such an impact on me that when they asked me to be a part of this event, I put myself into it with big emotions." Elder Raimondo Castellani, Area Authority Seventy, said, "This celebration, which was promoted and developed by the members in Rome, is their statement that they have planted the gospel deep in their hearts and they have a sense of their own purpose in their pioneering labors here." Mission President Leone Flosi commented, "Rome is the only major western European city where a stake is not organized. The members in this city want to have a stake and the pioneer parade was a kind of rallying cry. It was a way of saying - we can do it."

The Church News reported on the procession: "The pioneer caravan included the five wagons representing the pioneers, followed by the American Folk Ensemble, and the Blue Grass Band from Ricks College. The singing Goodman family of Salt Lake City, also participated. . . . Church members from around the country traveled to Rome to join in the procession. Missionaries walked the parade route while talking with spectators and giving short discussions. The caravan took two hours to wind through Romes famous streets and around the ancient edifices, including the scarred face of the coliseum, the decaying remains of the Forum, and pausing for a moment in the Piazza Venezia, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where members joined in a spontaneous rendition of 'We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet.'" ("Overcoming odds, wagons trek down streets of Rome," Maurine J. Proctor, Church News, July 19, 1997.)

In July 1997, members in Italy participated in the Church-wide Pioneer Heritage Service Day. Members of the Cagliari Branch helped nuns of the Order of Mother Teresa of Calcutta fix and serve food to needy people. In the Como district about eighty members cleaned a public garden near Como Lake. In Milan members picked up garbage, removed weeds, and planted trees in a city park. (Ensign, October, 1997).

During June, 1998, the Tabernacle Choir performed an historic concerts in Italy. The choir had two performances, one in Turin on June 20, and another at Accademia Santa Caecilia, in Rome on June 22. At the end of the concert in Rome, the audience sprang from their seats to give a standing ovation. They cheered and shouted, Bis! Bis! (Italian for encore.) Sister Maren Byrnes, a missionary in the Italy Rome Mission, said:

It was amazing. I love Italy; part of my heart is here, and this choir is also part of my heart. There are a lot of members who came to the concert, and they don't have a lot of money, so they went to a great expense to come. They're pioneers of the Church here. To hear the Tabernacle Choir sing about a pioneer experience and to sing that pioneer song, "Come, Come, Ye Saints" in Italian was incredible.
Elder Gene R. Cook commented:
There was outstanding news coverage. The choir has been playing on radio across all Italy the last couple of days. . . . Theyre waiting for it to be on television, which is supposed to happen in the next week or so. There were two reporters at that reception who approached some of our missionaries to get some news from them, quizzing them, asking them some questions. Those reporters have had two missionary discussions so far. There were 1,900 at the concert. ("Choir tour: 'a missionary journey,'" Church News, July 11, 1998.)
Italy Rome Mission President Leone J. Flosi said:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been under a cloud of obscurity in Rome. Even though the Church has continued in its missionary efforts here for more thirty years, it has remained relatively unknown by the general public and public officials. The wonderful spirit that the choir brought with it touched the hearts of numerous individuals, and many journalists and other prominent figures sought out our missionaries after the concert and were able to arrange with them to hear the standard discussions of the Church. ("Tabernacle Choir edifies, inspires many at concerts," Church News, July 18, 1998.)
Franco Messina, adviser to the President of Italy, attended the concert and was very impressed. He arranged for Church leaders to meet with President Scalfaro in December 1998. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Seventy presented the Italian president with a copy of the Book of Mormon and a porcelain statue of the family. President Scalfaro expressed his interest in the Church's support of families. ("Italian president greets leaders," Church News, January 9, 1999.)

At the end of 1998 there were more than 18,000 Church members in Italy.