Restoration and Church History
The Finnish Building Program

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The Finnish Building Program

For many years, Finnish Latter-day Saints held their worship services and activities in homes, apartments, and rented spaces. The only dedicated meetinghouse in the country was a small building remodeled as a chapel in Larsmo, dedicated in 1948. Beginning in the 1950s, however, the Church began a significant effort to build its own meetinghouses in several cities. The first meetinghouse in Finland was completed in Hämeenlinna in 1959. It was dedicated in 1960, along with two other buildings in Lahti and Pori.

Finnish Latter-day Saints contributed to the construction of their meetinghouses by offering financial contributions and providing volunteer labor. Beginning in the early 1960s, the Church called a number of Finnish Saints to serve as building missionaries with the specific assignment to assist in the construction of meetinghouses. These missionaries laid bricks, raised roofs, and installed windows on each new project.

The local branch members joined in the cause as well. Branches were responsible for providing housing and food for the building missionaries, and many Saints spent much of their free time helping with construction. Many found unique ways to contribute. Haaga Branch members, for example, found an old train car and repurposed it as a dining hall where the branch members fed the building missionaries. In the Kuopio Branch, Anna-Liisa Rinne, a working single mother and Relief Society president, acted as interpreter for the construction manager. “At that time, I was the only one in the branch with a driver’s license,” she later recalled, explaining how she “had to take care of business with the hardware supplier” and “oversee the delivery of lunches to the construction workers.”

The building program stretched local Church members, but the work brought a sense of unity. Mission president J. Malcolm Asplund observed, “There was a feeling of willingness and enthusiasm. There was a spirit of cooperation and brotherhood that was infectious. Of course, there were some disagreements, but these were soon forgotten.” With the completion of each meetinghouse, the branches discovered “a deeper sense of community and pride in each other that will last much longer than the bricks and stucco.”