Restoration and Church History
Iceland: Church Chronology

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Iceland: Church Chronology

1851 • Westman Islands, Iceland

Icelanders Guðmundur Guðmundsson and Þórarinn Hafliðason, who had been baptized in Denmark, were the first missionaries called to preach in Iceland.

May 1851 • Westman Islands

Benedikt Hansson and his wife, Ragnhildur Stefánsdóttir, became the first converts baptized in Iceland. Their baptism generated intense local opposition.

June 19, 1853 • Westman Islands

The first branch in Iceland was organized with Guðmundur Guðmundsson as president.

1854 • Reykjavík, Iceland

Samúel Bjarnason; his wife, Margrét Gísladóttir; and Helga Jónsdóttir left Iceland and moved to Spanish Fork, Utah. Over the next 60 years, at least 379 others would do likewise.

1858–72 • Iceland

No missionaries were sent to Iceland, and the immigration of Icelandic Saints to America essentially halted.

July 1873 • Westman Islands

Magnús Bjarnason and Loftur Jónsson returned to Iceland as missionaries. From 1873 to 1914, 19 Icelandic missionaries who had immigrated to Utah returned to preach in their homeland.

May 29, 1874 • Westman Islands

A new branch with eight members was organized. Einar Eiríksson served as branch president for the next six years.

1879 • Spanish Fork, Utah

Three years after his mission to Iceland, Þórður Diðriksson, a native Icelander, wrote the first known Icelandic missionary tract, A Voice of Truth and Warning, which was still in use 100 years later.

1880 • Westman Islands

Branch president Einar Eiríksson and 19 others from the Westman Islands immigrated to Utah. With their departure, the last remaining branch in Iceland was closed.

1883 • Copenhagen, Denmark

The royal council in Copenhagen declared it illegal to impede the activities of Latter-day Saint missionaries in Iceland.

1885–87 • Reykjavík

Nearly 50 Icelanders, more than at any other time in the Church’s first century in Iceland, were baptized. Nearly all of these converts immigrated to Utah as part of a larger exodus due to historically frigid weather.

1906 • Reykjavík

Missionary Loftur Bjarnason reported that all members of the Reykjavík Branch were faithfully “paying their tithing and attending to their duties generally.” A Relief Society, the first in Iceland, was organized in the Reykjavík Branch.

1914 • Iceland

As World War I began, missionary work in Iceland was discontinued.

1930 • Iceland

James C. Ostegar and F. Lynn Michelsen, missionaries from the Danish Mission, preached in Iceland.

April 29, 1945 • Keflavík, Iceland

NATO servicemen based in Keflavík organized a Church group under the leadership of Farrell A. Munns.

1947 • Keflavík

A servicemen’s branch was organized in Keflavík.

1966–73 • Iceland

The Keflavík Branch prayed that missionaries would be sent to the Icelanders, and Church leaders began evaluating the feasibility of again sending missionaries to Iceland.

March 23, 1974 • Keflavík

Þorsteinn Jónsson became the first Icelander to be baptized since World War II.

April 18, 1975 • Reykjavík

The Iceland District of the Denmark Copenhagen Mission was opened by Byron T. Geslison from Spanish Fork, Utah. Bryon and his wife, Melva, served alongside their twin sons, David and Daniel, both of whom had recently served missions in Asia.

July 25, 1976 • Kópavogur, Iceland

With more Icelanders attending church, missionaries began holding Sunday meetings in Icelandic.

August 8, 1976 • Reykjavík

A branch was created in Reykjavík, with Gary M. Boekweg as president.

May 8, 1977 • Reykjavík

María Rósinkarsdóttir was called as the first Icelandic Relief Society president.

September 18, 1977 • Reykjavík

From Öskjuhlíð in the center of Reykjavík, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, then a member of the Seventy, dedicated Iceland for the preaching of the gospel. The Church in Reykjavík had 56 members at the time.

May 20, 1979 • Westman Islands

Gerhard Guðnason and Hlynur Óskarsson were called as the first modern district missionaries, serving for three months in the Westman Islands.

July 15, 1979 • Reykjavík

The Reykjavík Branch was placed under Icelandic leadership with the call of Þorsteinn Jónsson as the first native Icelandic branch president.

1980 • Reykjavík

Þórstína Ólafsdóttir and Jóhann Karlsson were the first members living in Iceland to be called as missionaries. Both served in Canada.

1981 • Reykjavík

The Book of Mormon, translated by Sveinbjörg Guðmundsdóttir and Halldór Hansen, was published. Sveinbjörg’s translations of the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price were published a year later.

January 10, 1982 • Reykjavík

Helen Hreiðarsdóttir graduated from early-morning seminary, the first Icelander to complete four years of seminary.

August 1982 • Lingfield, England, and Zollikofen, Switzerland

Páll Ragnarsson and his wife, Klara, and their son, Ragnar, accompanied by Sveinbjörg Guðmundsdóttir, Þora Reimarsdóttir, and Ronald Guðnason, traveled to both the London England and Bern Switzerland Temples, the first temple trip by Icelanders.

January 1, 1983 • Reykjavík

Reykjavík Branch president Páll Ragnarsson and his counselor Gunnar Óskarsson were killed in a climbing accident. Their tragic deaths devastated the branch.

September 17, 1983 • Reykjavík

A meetinghouse complex in Reykjavík was dedicated by Elder David B. Haight. It included a visitors’ center, baptismal font, and distribution center in the basement. The second floor had translation, branch, and district offices. The third floor held the chapel, classrooms, and a genealogy library.

November 1, 1983 • Reykjavík

The Church was legally recognized in Iceland. Elder Robert D. Hales, then a member of the Seventy, attended the ceremony that made it official. Baptisms and marriages would now be honored and recorded by the Icelandic government.

August 3, 1986 • Reykjavík

Guðmundur Sigurðsson became the first Icelandic president of the Iceland District.

November 1, 1987 • Akureyri, Iceland

The second Icelandic branch was established with Gerhard Guðnason sustained as president.

March 1988 • Reykjavík

An agreement was reached to transmit Music and the Spoken Word in Icelandic over radio free of charge.

August 14, 1988 • Reykjavík

For the first time, video of a general conference of the Church was viewed with Icelandic subtitles.

October 15, 1989 • Reykjavík

Speaking at the general session of the Iceland District conference, President Russell M. Nelson, then serving in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, invoked an apostolic blessing that Iceland would become “a lighthouse to all of Europe.”

June 1991 • Salt Lake City, Utah

Sveinbjörg Guðmundsdóttir and Guðmundur Sigurðsson completed the translation of the temple endowment into Icelandic. In 1995, it was first recorded for use in temples.

June 1995 • Lingfield, England

Thirty-eight Icelandic members spent a week at the London England Temple, Iceland’s largest temple excursion.

June 30, 2000 • Westman Islands

The Icelandic Association of Utah donated a monument honoring the Icelanders who immigrated to America from 1854 to 1914. The monument was dedicated in the presence of Church and government officials.

July 4, 2000 • Garðabær, Iceland

A newly constructed Latter-day Saint meetinghouse was dedicated by Elder William Rolfe Kerr of the Seventy. Iceland’s president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson attended the dedication ceremony.

September 11, 2002 • Reykjavík

After visiting with Iceland’s president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, President Gordon B. Hinckley met with Church members and visitors.

2006 • Reykjavík

The Iceland District was discontinued due to the imminent closure of the Keflavík military base.

January 28, 2007 • Selfoss, Iceland

The Selfoss Branch was organized with Bárður Gunnarsson as president.

November 18, 2010 • Iceland

Icelander Kristján Mathiesen was called as the first counselor in the Denmark Copenhagen Mission presidency.