Guðmundur Guðmundsson, an Icelander converted in Denmark while working as a goldsmith, returned to Iceland in 1851 to serve as a missionary with fellow convert Þórarinn Hafliðason. Despite public admonitions to avoid the two missionaries, they converted a few Icelanders on the Westman Islands, a small group of islands off the southwest coast of Iceland. Among these converts was Loftur Jónsson, who was a parish clerk and member of parliament.
Loftur was quickly released from the parliament. The missionaries were taken to court and banned from preaching publicly, and Guðmundur was removed from the islands and forbidden to return. Contending with frenzied opposition from his wife in addition to the legal prohibition, Þórarinn ceased missionary work. A few months later, Þórarinn was out fishing on a small boat when a terrible storm arose, engulfing the boat and claiming the lives of all those aboard.
Guðmundur, who had been ordained a teacher, was left with 24 investigators desiring baptism but no authority to perform the ordinance. He boldly returned to the islands and, for the two years until the mission president could send help, persevered in preaching privately despite continuing hostility. “I was often rebuked and spit on and mocked,” he reminisced, “but I was full of the love of God, my heart felt anxious for all the human family.”
A district president finally arrived and ordained Guðmundur an elder in a secret meeting held in the countryside. He then set apart Guðmundur as president of a branch of six members. Guðmundur remained in this position until departing to serve a mission in Denmark in 1854. Loftur Jónsson succeeded Guðmundur, serving as branch president until he immigrated to Utah along with the other converts. In 1858 missionary work in Iceland was suspended due to a legal prohibition against missionary work.