The first Latter-day Saint converts in Finland were baptized in the 1870s and ’80s as leaders and missionaries from the Scandinavian Mission ventured eastward from Sweden. Finland was ruled by the Russian Empire at the time, and legal restrictions on minority religions made preaching a difficult and dangerous undertaking. Despite these obstacles, a number of people who heard the missionaries’ message embraced the restored gospel and remained committed to it for decades to come.
Early Finnish Latter-day Saint communities emerged in Swedish-speaking areas along the coast. In 1875 Swedish brothers Carl and Johan Sundström were sent as missionaries to Finland, and in 1876 they baptized converts and formed a branch in Nikolainkaupunki (modern-day Vaasa). In 1879–80 missionary Per Olof Pettersson (later known in Utah as Peter O. Peterson) visited the area of Jakobstad (Pietarsaari), where a branch was formed in 1877, and found new converts in Larsmo (Luoto). Among these converts were Anders Johansson; his wife, Lovisa Eriksdotter; and other relatives. Anders immediately believed the gospel, claiming, as his words were later repeated, that “it went through the marrow of his bones.”
For several decades, these Latter-day Saints had little contact with the Church because of the difficulties missionaries had encountered in Finland and the wars that engulfed Europe in the early 20th century. Yet some like Anders and his family held to their faith and shared it with others. Anders had been ordained an elder, but he was unsure of his authority to baptize his friends Viktor Berg and Herman Ronnkvist. Determined to do things right, he traveled to Stockholm to confer with mission leaders in 1910. Assured that he could baptize, he returned and performed the ordinances.
Although Elder Francis M. Lyman of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had dedicated Finland for the preaching of the gospel in 1903, the Church continued to maintain only sporadic contact with local Church members. When Anders passed away in 1926, the Saints in Finland remained isolated and few, but their faith remained resilient. Their experiences exemplified the Lord’s promise “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).